Posts Tagged "Family Matters"

2Nov

‘Normalize it’: How to discuss adoption, donor conception with your child – National

by BBG Hub

Your child will eventually pop the big question — “where do babies come from?” — and your answer will have a lasting impact on the way they think about what it means to be part of a family.

This is especially true if your child was adopted or conceived with donated sperm or egg (also known as third-party reproduction), because their origin story will affect them in many ways as they age,

That’s why, in Shelley Steenrod‘s opinion, it’s crucial to be open and honest with your child. She’s a professor of social work at Salem State University in Massachusetts.

READ MORE: How to build a growth mindset in your kids: ‘They are going to be unstoppable’

“It’s essential for kids to know who they are and where they have come from,” she said. “It’s very important for them to integrate all aspects of themselves and their history into their whole self.”

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If you choose not to tell your child the truth, you run the risk of them finding out later in a different way — like through a DNA test.

“We live in such a high-tech world, children are going to find out one way or another,” said Steenrod. “As the holder of that information, you want to be somebody who shares it with your child in a way that’s going to be loving and nurturing and not surprising.”

Here, Steenrod and other experts share tips for telling your child their unique origin story in a loving way.

Tell the truth from the beginning

Keeping your child’s story a secret can inadvertently associate adoption and third-party reproduction with feelings of “guilt and shame,” said Steenrod.

“Families can be created in all different kinds of ways, and that’s something to be celebrated.”


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That’s why it’s critical to tell the truth from the outset. For Steenrod, this means talking openly about your child’s origin story long before they ask questions about it.

“You’re building it into the narrative of your family’s story and planting seeds that later, can become flowers … you can then tug on and pull on to talk about more complex pieces of adoption,” she said.

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Why a 27-year-old Canadian woman chose to be single and pregnant


Why a 27-year-old Canadian woman chose to be single and pregnant

Nikki Martyn, program head of early childhood studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Ontario, agrees: “We need to start having these conversations with children right away,” she said.



“We are where we came from.”


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Martyn recommends building the story in a physical way, using something like a scrapbook. This will give your child an item they can go back to and say, “this is where I came from.”

“Emphasize how important they are, how much they were wanted and how much they were loved,” she said. “If this is what they are told early, they’re never going to question it.”

Expect to talk about it often

Your child’s origin story is a big part of who they are, so they’ll likely have questions about it for years to come.

At first, said Steenrod, focus on the basics. “Say ‘I want to tell you how families are made’ and then include all the ways out there,” she said. “Totally normalize it.”

Slowly and when you think they’re ready, reveal to your child a little bit more of the story.






Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea


Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea

As your child grows up, they’re going to develop the cognitive and emotional resources necessary to have more advanced conversations about it.

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“There may come a time when they start to think, ‘If my birth mom could choose not to keep me, she could have chosen to keep me. Is there something wrong with me?’” said Steenrod.

That’s when you want to re-emphasize “the child’s strengths and how lovable they really are.”

READ MORE: How to stop a bully when it’s your own child

If your child’s origin story contains trauma or some other adult subject matter, it can be tricky to find a good time to tell them the whole truth.

According to Martyn, it’s up to you and your empathy to know when it’s the right time.

“At a very young age, it would be [something along the lines of] ‘your biological mom wasn’t able to take care of you because she was having a hard time,’” she said.






Challenges of parenting highly sensitive kids


Challenges of parenting highly sensitive kids

When the child gets old enough, you can elaborate on struggle and pain — feelings that children understand. If their biological mother suffered from addiction, for example, you can explain the science behind addiction.

“All the while, you’re emphasizing that [the child] was your greatest gift,” Martyn said.

Emphasize love, connection and commitment

Many parents worry how this news will affect a child.

Parenting expert Caron Irwin suggests focusing on “tangible examples of the love and connection and commitment that your family has” during and after each discussion.

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“The thing that makes a family is the traditions and the rituals and the love and the connections and the things that you have that are unique among you all,” she said.

If you’re worried, try following the conversation with a “photo album of a special vacation” or “finish up … with the special hug that you have with your child.”

“Those kinds of things are going to … give them security,” she said.

READ MORE: Sisters ‘pre-create’ wedding photos with dad who only has months to live

Martyn backs this up — it can feel like the truth might hurt them, or it might make you less of a parent, but that’s not the case.

“They don’t need to be protected from their origin story,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong. That’s why we have to re-frame it and celebrate these differences.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.






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29Oct

More pregnant women are using cannabis despite its dangers: study – National

by BBG Hub

More pregnant women are using cannabis, research shows, despite warnings of its danger from health officials.



According to a recent U.S. study, the number of women who use cannabis while expecting has increased, and the number of women who use cannabis in the year before pregnancy has nearly doubled.

Researchers surveyed 276,991 expectant mothers in northern California and found the number of women who said they used cannabis in the year before their pregnancy grew from 6.8 per cent in 2009 to 12.5 per cent in 2017.

READ MORE: More Ontario women using cannabis while pregnant despite warnings

While the number of women who reported using the drug while pregnant was smaller, it still increased from 1.9 per cent to 3.4 per cent during the same time.

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Among the women who reported using the drug while expecting, daily cannabis use increased from 15 per cent in 2009 to 21 per cent in 2017.

The findings, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, suggest that increased acceptance of cannabis use and a lack of awareness around fetal harm are factors in the uptick.

The researchers point out that evidence suggests heavier cannabis use might be “associated with worse neonatal health outcomes.”

“Despite this risk, however, U.S. data suggest that 71 per cent of pregnant women who used cannabis in the past year perceive no or slight risk in using cannabis once or twice a week,” the researchers wrote.






One year of legal cannabis


One year of legal cannabis

Another study by the U.S.’s National Institute on Drug Abuse yielded similar results.

Data collected from 467,100 pregnant women across the U.S. showed past-month cannabis use, daily cannabis use, and occurrence of cannabis use had all increased over the last 15 years.

Between 2002 to 2003 and 2016 to 2017, past-month cannabis use increased from 3.4 per cent to seven per cent among pregnant women overall.

During their first trimester, 12 per cent of women reported using the drug as of 2017, up from just under six per cent in 2003.

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What are the risks of using cannabis while pregnant?

The FDA recently released a warning about women using cannabis while expecting or breastfeeding, saying that “marijuana use during pregnancy may affect fetal brain development.”

If a woman uses the drug while pregnant, THC — a cannabinoid found in cannabis — can enter the fetal brain from the mother’s bloodstream, the FDA says.

READ MORE: Cannabis during pregnancy linked to higher risk of pre-term birth

The government agency also said if a mother uses cannabis while breastfeeding, it can remain in breast milk. This exposure can affect a newborn’s brain development and “result in hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences.”

The U.S.’s National Institutes of Health also raised concern around expectant moms and cannabis.

“Cannabis use during pregnancy has been associated with effects on fetal growth, including low birth weight and length, and these outcomes may be more likely among women who consume marijuana frequently during pregnancy, especially in the first and second trimesters,” the NIH wrote.

A recent study out of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute found that cannabis use in pregnancy was associated with “significant increases in the rate of preterm birth.”

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Why are women using cannabis while pregnant?

Canadian researchers say more women are using cannabis during pregnancy because they are not informed of its risks.






Study shows students driving after consuming cannabis


Study shows students driving after consuming cannabis

Research out of the University of British Columbia found that around one-third of pregnant women think it’s safe to use cannabis while expecting and are unaware of potential health risks to their child.

The findings, published earlier this year in the journal Preventive Medicine, looked at data from six U.S. studies and found that “more women seem to be using cannabis during pregnancy than ever before, even though evidence of its safety is limited and conflicting.”

The UBC researchers found that one of the main reasons women may think cannabis is safe is because there’s not enough communication between patients and doctors when it comes to the drug.

READ MORE: Study finds ‘scarce evidence’ to support cannabis as a treatment for mental health disorders

“We know that from other types of research that when there’s no communication and there is lots of uncertainty in literature — which is true for cannabis use — then it is very important that health-care providers … educate [patients] about risk,” Hamideh Bayrampour, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at UBC’s Department of Family Practice, previously told Global News.

“When there’s no communication, women may feel like [cannabis use] is not significant or important.”

Bayrampour added that her findings also indicate that many women don’t consider cannabis to be a drug, or that it’s a harmful one.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.






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29Oct

How to stop a bully when it’s your own child – National

by BBG Hub

Parents naturally want to protect their children from bullying, but what happens when your own kid is the one doing the taunting?

“For children who do the bullying, [their] parents very rarely know that it’s happening,” said Dr. Wendy Craig, the head of the psychology department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. and the scientific director of PREVNet, a bullying prevention organization.

“They’re not going to hear it from their children.”

Bullying is a real problem in Canadian schools, research shows, and it can have serious consequences.

READ MORE: Grieving Toronto mother questions whether bullying led to son’s death ruled suicide

In a classroom of 35 students, between four and six kids are bullying others and/or are being bullied themselves, according to research published by PREVNet.

While it takes different forms, bullying is targeted abuse that is often repeated. Children who bully use power and aggression to hurt or control their peers.

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Bullying has negative affects for both victims and perpetrators: children who are bullied can develop mental health issues, suffer low self-esteem, have academic problems and even attempt suicide.

For those who bully, the harmful behaviour can lead to academic problems, difficulty in relationships, substance use and delinquency, PREVNet noted.

Warning signs your kid is bullying others

While most parents don’t realize their child is bullying, experts say there are warning signs.

Craig says kids who bully tend to be aggressive with others, or have combative ways of solving conflict.






B.C. father says more action needed to stop bullying


B.C. father says more action needed to stop bullying

“They might be become emotionally disregulated,” she said. “So they get angry quickly, and they might have a perception that is ‘everybody’s out to get me.’”

They may also have items in their possession that do not belong to them, Craig said.

“They may not be able to give you a good explanation as to why because they might be involved in extorting or taking things from other students,” Craig explained.

Because bullies abuse power to exert influence over others, child and teen bullies may be socially skilled or popular at school.

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READ MORE: Experts say zero-tolerance policies aimed at stopping bullying aren’t working

Parents should watch out for “asymmetrical relationships” with peers, said Tracy Vaillancourt, the Canada research chair of children’s mental health and violence prevention at the University of Ottawa.

These unbalanced relationships mean a child may have friends who seem “to give in” to all their requests and demands, Vaillancourt said.

There’s also factors that put kids at risk for engaging in bullying. These including challenging home situations, witnessing bullying or coercive behaviour modelled by others, or being victims of bullying themselves.

It’s important to note, however, that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to identifying bullying behaviour in your child, said Toronto-based child psychologist Joanne Cummings.






Ontario education minister responds to boy’s tragic death, reportedly victim of bullying


Ontario education minister responds to boy’s tragic death, reportedly victim of bullying

A lot of parents only discover their child is bullying when school staff informs them, Cummings added.

“Every person who bullies is different,” Cummings said.

“That’s a really big point because we sort of stereotype and think bullies do it because they are insecure or they feel gratified [from it], but that may or may not be true in every case.”

How to deal with your child if they’re bullying others

Before you talk to your kid about bullying, it’s important you process your own emotions, Cummings said. It can be very hard for parents to hear their kid is harming others, and they often are in denial.

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READ MORE: Family, friends of Hamilton teen fatally stabbed gather to mourn at funeral

Vaillancourt adds parents may also become defensive, which inadvertently rewards their child’s behaviour.

“You cannot fix what you don’t acknowledge,” she said.

If a teacher or principal is the one informing parents of a kid’s behaviour, it’s important caregivers work with the school to solve the bullying problem, Craig said.

“Engage with the school — they’re experts and know how to deal with it. They can also refer and support you in getting the supports in place that you need for your child,” Craig said.

“You should also come up with a progressive discipline approach so that your child has a clear idea of what your expectations are and what will happen if they violate these expectations.”






Calgary Board of Education releases independent review on school bullying


Calgary Board of Education releases independent review on school bullying

You may also want to talk to the parents of the child your kid is bullying, Vaillancourt adds. Though this rarely happens, she says reaching out to parents can help deal with the situation.

“The parents of [bullying] targets would be comforted to know that you acknowledge that your child’s behaviour is not appropriate, and that you are taking steps to remedy the injustice,” she said.

Listening to your child and having an open and honest conversation is key, said Craig. Talk to them about what bullying looks like and why it’s wrong.

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These conversations should not be one-offs, but ongoing.

READ MORE: Back to school raises concerns about bullying

“We need to be open to what our children do and recognize children as individuals who are learning how to engage in relationships in positive ways,” Craig said.

“You need to be observant of your child’s behaviors and how they treat others… Have you noticed a shift in their behaviors? Have you noticed that they’re aggressive? Do you intervene? You need to be consistent and supportive.”

Will bullying stop?

These conversations can help reduce the risk that a child will continue to engage in bad behaviours. Cummings says many children partake in bullying behaviour at some point in their development, and most outgrow it.

“They get caught, they get lectured, then their empathy is raised,” she said. “They come to an appreciation of why what they did was wrong and they move off that behavior.”

Still, to ensure a child does outgrow bullying, parents need to be engaged in their lives. It’s not enough to assume a kid will stop on their own — especially if they’ve repeatedly bullied others.






Family friend speaks at vigil for Hamilton teen fatally stabbed outside high school


Family friend speaks at vigil for Hamilton teen fatally stabbed outside high school

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“When you have a student who has been identified as bullying others in at least three situations, that’s when you should start thinking about if it’s chronic,” Cummings said.

In such cases, a child should see a professional such as a psychologist to address the underlying issues. If the bullying continues, victims can be seriously harmed.

“Kids who have had real peer victimization — they’ve been injured or humiliated in a really severe way — it becomes as adverse of a stressor as child abuse or other forms of abusive relationships,” Cummings continued.

“The child’s coping mechanisms for stress in their brain and nervous system get reset. They’re always looking for great danger.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.






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26Oct

How old should a child be before they can trick-or-treat on their own? – National

by BBG Hub

There comes a point in every child’s life when trick-or-treating with their parents is no longer “cool.” Instead, they want to go out with friends.

As a parent, this moment can be scary and full of unanswered questions: Are they old enough? Can they handle the responsibility? Can I trust them?

Unfortunately, said parenting expert Vanessa Lapointe, the answers to those questions won’t be the same for everyone.

READ MORE: Celebrating Halloween can get expensive. Here are easy ways to cut costs

“It’s not always as easy as [saying] a straight-up age,” Lapointe told Global News.

Whether your child is ready to go door-to-door without you will depend on a variety of factors, including your location, their personality type and more.

Here, Lapointe offers some things to consider before approving your child’s first solo adventure.

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Factors to consider

The first thing to think about is the size of your neighbourhood and how many people would go out on Halloween.

“I grew up in a really small town … so it would’ve been really normal for us [to go out alone] at quite a young age,” Lapointe said.

Now, Lapointe lives in a suburb of Vancouver, where she receives an average of 400 kids at her door on Halloween. “It’s like mayhem.”






Candy or cannabis: can you tell the difference?


Candy or cannabis: can you tell the difference?

Once you’ve given thought to the kind of environment your neighbourhood will present for your child, consider how it could affect your child.

“We have to map that onto, developmentally, where your child is at and what they’re going to have to be able to manage in order for that to be a fun experience for them,” said Lapointe.

“Ultimately, what we need is for kids to be able to be independent and out enjoying Halloween night in the same kind of way.”

READ MORE: Fake cobwebs and other Halloween decorations could be hurting wildlife

Development happens at a different pace for every child, according to Lapointe.

“If you have a kid who’s not quite as mature, they’re not going to be able to manage a particularly chaotic environment really well until closer to 11 or 12 years of age,” she said.

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“Are you dropping them off in a neighbourhood unfamiliar to them or are they trick-or-treating around their home neighbourhood? Are there checkpoints along the way if something were to happen? How busy do you expect it to be?”






How to carve pumpkins like a pro


How to carve pumpkins like a pro

For Lapointe, it also matters who the child is going to be out with. She has two sons, ages 12 and 15.

“Even for my 15-year-old, sometimes the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ in terms of the activity that he’s requesting independence around depends on who he’s going to be with,” she said.

“Ask yourself what kind of tone that group of friends will set [for your child].”

Independence can be a good thing

Experts say autonomy, even experienced in small bouts, can be a great way for children to develop confidence in themselves.

“It’s a wonderful thing for kids to be able to face a challenge, rise to the occasion and conquer,” said Lapointe.


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“It gives them a boost in terms of self-esteem. We’re really doing right by them to give them those kinds of opportunities.”

READ MORE: ‘Sexy’ burgers and ‘hot’ Mr. Rogers: The designer behind those viral Halloween costumes

Lapointe advocates for a “ladder up” approach, increasing the amount of independence your child is allowed over time.

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“You could allow your 9-year-old to go with their friends and walk ahead of the parents, maybe even half a block,” said Lapointe. “Then you kind of linger behind from far away, you’re watching [and] you can get a sense of where they’re at.”

This can play into what happens next Halloween, when your child asks to go trick-or-treating alone again.

“You don’t have to sink or swim.”


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Parenting Playbook: How to keep your kids safe in crowds


Parenting Playbook: How to keep your kids safe in crowds

Parenting expert Caron Irwin agrees  — you should be preparing your child slowly over time, if trick-or-treating without you is something they’re set on doing.

“If they haven’t had any experience doing anything independently, like walking to a friend’s house to play or walking to school … I’m not sure that Halloween would be a great first sort of foray,” she said.

“Previous experiences really help signal whether your kid has the skills and the strategies to manage and cope with the environment.”

READ MORE: RIE parenting: An alternative way to raise kids that’s about ‘perceiving a child as a person’

As an added bonus, Irwin says promising your child small moments of autonomy can give them something to strive towards in all the other months of the year.

“They would have to earn that privilege by representing that they have the respect, understanding and maturity to understand and uphold the family rules,” said Irwin.

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How to prepare your child for trick-or-treating alone

It’s important to make your child aware of potential danger, but sometimes, this can paralyze them with fear.

Lapointe knows the double-edged sword all too well. “We’re giving our kids all of our anxieties. We’re the ones that wire that into them,” she said.

“As a parent, think about how to not be fear-based in the way you share that kind of information with your children.”






Family Matters: Cultivating a Growth Mindset in kids


Family Matters: Cultivating a Growth Mindset in kids

When speaking to your kids about potential danger, Irwin recommends using the term “tricky people.”

The term gives you a chance to explain that there are “people in the world who have different behaviours, say things and will respond in different ways to children or people who are vulnerable,” said Irwin.

“[Tricky people] will try to trick others into doing something outside of their values, their comfort, their norm. I think that’s a very tangible way to define it for kids.”

This will make it easy for your child to identify “tricky people” when you’re not around, said Irwin.

READ MORE: Riding solo: What age should a child take transit alone?

Lapointe focuses on empowerment.

“Give them the idea that the world we’re living in is big and exciting and okay to be adventuring around in, and then have your conversation flow from that kind of energy rather than … from this fear-based, scary kind of place,” she said.

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“Give them the road map, let them know what the rules are, but you don’t have to load them with fear.”


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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.






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9Oct

The honeymoon phase in your relationship is over. Now what? – National

by BBG Hub

If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, chances are you’ve been through the honeymoon phase.

It’s feelings of missing your partner throughout the day, wanting to spend every second with them and still feeling butterflies in your gut every time you see them.



Toronto LGBTQ+ matchmaker Claire AH tells Global News the honeymoon phase often happens in the beginning of your relationship, regardless of whether you are married or not.

READ MORE: More millennial couples are going to marriage counselling early on – here’s why

“It’s characterized by intense feelings of infatuation brought on by changes to brain chemistry such as increased levels of dopamine,” she said.

“They tend to level out in a year to two years.”

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She adds that the honeymoon phase itself doesn’t necessarily put pressure on people, and most couples experience this type of romantic love in the beginning.

“People often think that when everything calms down, the love is gone,” she said. “In actuality, we are able to explore a deep, rich long-term connection.”

When it ends

All good things come to an end, but for couples, the honeymoon phase ending doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Speaking with Bustle, Jonathan Bennett, certified counsellor and founder of Double Trust Dating, says the phase ends when partners lose some of their “newness.”

“Although it sounds negative, the ending of the honeymoon phase can be positive. It allows you to both see each other openly and honestly and decide if the relationship is worth continuing,” he said.

READ MORE: 9 old-fashioned marriage tips that still work today that every couple should follow

“In addition, you can prolong the passion and happiness; it just takes more work. If you’re dating a great person, [they] should be more than willing to put in that effort.”

There are clear signs when the phase ends, Bennett continued, adding that people often start noticing their partner’s negative traits.

“You’re so in love that you are blind to your partner’s faults. However, as the honeymoon phase ends, you begin to more clearly see your partner, warts and all. For example, the little things that used to be ‘cute’ might quickly become annoying.”

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Others will feel the passion in the relationship starts to fade.

“However, as the honeymoon phase draws to a close, you feel less excitement about your partner, and this includes between the sheets,” he told the site.

Why do we love momentum?

Claire says we should enjoy every aspect of the honeymoon phase.

“Enjoy the honeymoon period, but don’t devalue the trust, intimacy and mutual respect that comes after it,” she said. “Temper the feelings of security by still trying new things together, allowing each other space to be yourselves and to do your own things, and keep time to really connect.”

She says the intense, almost “obsessively limerent view of love in pop culture” is very different than what we experience in our own relationships.

“[It] is very unlike the established long-term connections we see in relationships outside of the honeymoon period so we barely recognize it as love,” she said. “We think the spark is gone when our brains have just moved on from one phase of love to the next.”

READ MORE: Stuck in a sexless relationship? What it could mean and how to fix it

If you’re feeling like the end of the honeymoon phase is approaching or you’re already past the phase, there are ways to keep the romance in your relationship alive, Claire says.

“You can make sure to value novelty/adventure together, to spend quality time together without distraction and to make sure to keep aspects of your life apart from one another to enjoy the comfort while not succumbing to doing the same thing every night and basically melding together,” she said.

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It doesn’t take much to keep things interesting in a relationship.

“Research indicates that these are real things we can do to maintain relationship satisfaction.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.






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22Sep

Canada’s health-care system isn’t designed for parents with disabilities: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Jessica Vliegenthart was 20 years old when she became paraplegic after suffering a severe spinal cord injury.

Doctors said she was still able to have children, but she struggled to see how parenting could fit into her new life.

“I always sort of thought, you know, at some point in my life, I would probably [want kids]… but after my injury, I immediately wrote it off,” she told Global News.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to add to this nightmare.’”

READ MORE: Children with disabilities were excluded from B.C. schools more than 3,000 times last year: report

Vliegenthart says it took five years after the accident before she felt like herself again. “Spinal cord injuries are a massive physical trauma,” she said.

“I was lucky, I escaped a lot of the psychological trauma that can go along with it — I never experienced depression or anxiety or fear or anything like that — but it took me five years to re-calibrate.”

Around that time, Vliegenthart married her husband. Slowly, having kids was back on her mind.

“It was almost just like the next thing to do in life,” she said.

WATCH (Sept. 2, 2019): Kingston teen creates app to help open doors for people with disabilities





But starting the process to have children was more complicated for Vliegenthart because of her disability.

“I had to go off some medication I’m on that makes my life livable. That was really hard.”

She was also worried about re-learning things as a mom who is also paraplegic.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t believe it’: Why disability claims for mental health are often a struggle

“I’m a super active person… I had been travelling the world playing sports, now I have a full-time demanding legal career. I had gotten my life dialed in so well with my disability,” Vilegenthart said. “I was worried I was setting a bomb off.”

It didn’t help that, throughout her pregnancy, she had a lot of questions her doctors couldn’t answer.

“For moms with disabilities, especially when the mom has a (physical) disability and is carrying the child, trying to get the answers to questions about what’s going to happen and how things work… that data simply doesn’t exist,” she explained.

WATCH (Aug. 24, 2019): What to know before withdrawing from RESP savings





She had the pre-baby jitters like most other expectant mothers, but they were compounded by fear about how her disability could affect her pregnancy.

“Not being able to look it up and have an answer sitting there was really frustrating.”

Lesley Tarasoff can attest to a major lack of data about pregnancy and disability in Canada.

For her research as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Toronto, she has interviewed dozens of Ontario women with different types of disabilities about their pregnancy care experiences. One common thread exists: there’s very little information about it.

READ MORE: New rules present some greater barriers to air travel, disabled passengers say

“Just in general, a lot of health-care providers don’t receive a lot of training (or) education around disability broadly,” said Tarasoff.

Nearly 12 per cent of Canadian women of reproductive age has a disability… (but) we know very few doctors, nurses, social workers, et cetera have training around disability and pregnancy, specifically.”

This can contribute to feelings of confusion, fear and anxiety in expectant mothers who have a disability. It also makes it difficult to advocate for better health-care services — ultimately, it can perpetuate the barriers to adequate care that disabled parents sometimes experience.

Barriers to access

The needs of a parent with a disability will vary depending on the kind of disability they have, but one thing is clear to Tarasoff: most maternity care settings “aren’t really set up for women with disabilities in mind.”

“This is in terms of physical accessibility, but also around the different ways (people) communicate in learning and reading levels,” said Tarasoff.

Each time Vilegenthart saw a doctor, she was frustrated to find that the bed height wasn’t adjustable.

“For some reason, they don’t exist. Trying to get gynecological (and) obstetrician care… when you can’t get up on those beds is a challenge,” she said.

WATCH: Half of fathers admit to being criticized about parenting: poll





“I want to make it clear that my medical team did the best they could. I don’t want to make it sound like it was their fault, because, to be honest, they were kind of pioneers.”

The physical barriers continued after Vilegenthart had her son. She quickly realized that she couldn’t wear her baby in a carrier and also push her wheelchair — a reality which confined her to her house.

“The first six months was really challenging for me. It was like a force… I had to slow down,” she said.

READ MORE: Cancer patient was cut off from work disability benefits for 10 months — his story has warning for everyone

Access is worse the farther away you live from major cities.

“I’ve interviewed women as far as two and half hours away from Toronto who (…) come to Toronto for care because their community doesn’t have a specialist,” said Tarasoff.

Living in Kamloops, B.C., Vilegenthart had to travel to Vancouver for appointments regarding her pregnancy and her spinal cord injury. “You have to live in those places (or) you’re kind of stuck making it up as you go,” she said.

Everyone’s needs are different

“People with disabilities often make really great parents,” said Kristy Brosz, a medical social worker in Calgary.

She works with patients and their families after there is a diagnosis of disability or chronic illness.

“They’re very thoughtful about their priorities… they’re used to having to prioritize their day and be vulnerable.”

But these parents have unique needs, and Brosz says the medical system rarely provides specialized support for the pregnancy and parenting phases in a patient’s life.

“Often, patients are looking long-term (and want help) making choices about having kids or not… but a lot of times, the medical system is just saying ‘let’s focus on your diagnosis and treatment.’”

WATCH (Aug. 6, 2019): How to world school





In her work, Brosz tries to prioritize concerns like these, but it can be difficult to provide resources for people with lesser-known disabilities and illnesses. “In some ways, it does depend on what your diagnosis is (when it comes to) how much support you’re going to get.”

In reality, the needs of two patients with the same disability will be drastically different, which is why Brosz says there needs to be a more individualized approach to treatment.

“How do we capitalize on the strengths of a loving family?” she said. “A lot of patients have been living (with these symptoms) for a while, so they already know what they need,” and any external supports should focus on maximizing the systems a family already has in place.

READ MORE: Expert raises disability over proposed single-use plastics ban 

In Vilegenthart’s experience, having a community of other parents with disabilities has been life-changing.

“The single greatest resource out there is other people who have done it in your situation. Once I found a network of women with spinal cord injuries who had young kids… it was amazing,” she said.

“We ask each other questions about everything from labour and delivery to how to handle a kid’s birthday party when the place isn’t accessible to you.”

“Find other parents with disabilities who have figured it out, because somebody has figured it out.”

 

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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19Sep

‘No means no’ consent training overlooks nuances of sex: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Most campuses across Canada now require students to take consent training, in an effort to better protect students.

Research has found one in five women studying at a post-secondary institution in North America will be the victim of sexual violence over the course of her studies, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.

However, some experts say the traditional “no means no” curriculum is no longer sufficient because it overlooks the ways young people communicate during sex.

READ MORE: Schools tackle sexual assault even before students hit campus

A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research asked 615 university students to describe a time when they refused sex in the past.

Authors found a surprising number of young adults never used the word “no,” and some didn’t use any words at all. Roughly 53 per cent of the reported refusals included some variation of the word “no,” but 37 per cent involved excuses or non-verbal cues.

Among the wide range of responses were actions like telling their partner they weren’t in the mood, lying about not having a condom and physically pushing their partners away to signal that they didn’t want to have sex.

WATCH BELOW: Universities struggling to confront sexual harassment reality, prof says





As a result, researchers are calling for consent training that includes less explicit and non-verbal refusals, too.

The new way to talk about consent

Educator and sexual violence support worker Farrah Khan says calculating for nuance during sex is a step in the right direction — and several Canadian campuses have already begun to do so.

As the manager of Consent Comes First Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University in Toronto, she is responsible for awareness, education, training, support and response to sexual violence on campus.

READ MORE: Man’s decision not to wear a condom, after agreeing to, is sexual assault: Ontario judge

Campaigns like “no means no” and “yes means yes,” she adds, fail to see that consent can also be communicated in other ways, like through body language.

It also makes consent seem static, which it isn’t. Consent should be “freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific,” said Khan.

Part of teaching this to students is teaching them that “it’s a normal part of a relationship to have rejection,” she said.

“Somebody saying to you ‘actually, I’m not feeling this’ or ‘this doesn’t feel good to me’ isn’t saying ‘the sum of you is horrible’ or ‘I don’t want to be with you,’” she said.

“It’s saying, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”

WATCH BELOW: How to talk to your partner about your STI and the legalities around disclosing





Khan also worries about treating consent as a “checkbox,” because she worries it makes consent “an obstacle that you just have to get over to get to the sex.”

In her view, sex education needs to move beyond risk aversion to include pleasure, too. Students need a place to find answers to questions like, “How do I know that something feels good? [or] How do I know that I want to have this sexual activity?” Khan said.

She believes this is starting to happen on campuses across Canada. “Students and educators are starting to recognize that it doesn’t resonate to just say ‘OK, you need to know what consent is… this is the law… don’t do it.”

READ MORE: What the Brett Kavanaugh allegations reveal about alcohol and sexual assault

Consent training also needs to discuss sexual stereotypes.

“For young men, there’s a sexual stereotype that they’re always up for sex,” said Khan. She frequently receives messages from young men across the country asking if it’s OK that they don’t want to have sex sometimes.

“We have to demystify the things we’ve been told about sex,” she said.

Not everyone can just say ‘no’

Uche Umolu is the founder of the Consent Workshop, a Canadian organization that provides education and resources so youth can make healthier, sex-positive decisions.

During training with the Consent Workshop, it’s assumed that “not everyone can just say no,” Umolu said. “Lots of university students find themselves in very complicated types of situations,” and they aim to address the subtle differences that can arise.

To do so, they prioritize an “interactive approach” with activities and conversations designed to reflect possible scenarios — and appropriate reactions to those scenarios.

WATCH BELOW: STI rates in Canadian teens going up; how to talk about safe sex





Instead of using what she calls “cliche lines” like “consent is sexy,” Umolu aims to help students arrive at these understandings on their own.

For example, training focuses on “body language… and how to know when you’re making someone uncomfortable,” she said. “Only then can students start to realize the difference between, let’s say, sexual coercion and rape.”

The Consent Workshop also works to dispel stereotypes about perpetrators and victims. “Traditional consent training has this stereotype… but both come in different forms,” she said.

READ MORE: Even in a #MeToo climate, only 28% of Canadians understand consent

Khan and Umolu both agree: consent training needs to focus less on risk aversion and more on healthy relationships.

“We actually teach people how to recognize positive body language and… how to always check in with your partner,” said Umolu.

“Nobody is having a conversation like, ‘should we go ahead and have sex?’ before they have sex. Now, we should be teaching kids how to foster positive relationships and how to be more aware of other people’s needs and wants.”

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

Ending Violence Association of Canada, Assaulted Women’s Helpline (Ontario) and the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

— With files from Mike Le Couteur

 

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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14Sep

Imaginary friends can have ‘real life’ benefits for your child, experts say – National

by BBG Hub

Whether it’s an alien from another planet, a stuffed teddy bear come to life or just a play pal from summer camp who lives far away during the school year, it’s very common for children to have imaginary companions in their lives.

In fact, a study by psychologists at the University of Washington and the University of Oregon found that, by age seven, 65 per cent of kids have had one.

And, according to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, they’re also completely normal. “Oh, the beauty of a young mind that’s still fresh and open and creative!” she told Global News.

READ MORE: ‘You’re going to see a different kid’: Why sleep should come before activities

“Play is the language of understanding for children. They learn through play and they’ll turn anything into play, if you give them the opportunity,” said Schafer.

For some kids, this could mean “typical” play activities, like building blocks or dolls. For other kids, their creativity is so strong that they create a brand new persona out of thin air.

“This is a creative choice that they make… they don’t need a physical object, much like a favourite stuffed bunny or a love blanket,” Schafer said.

“There’s nothing abnormal about it — it’s really brilliance, because they’re not constrained by other social norms.”

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Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and professor at the University of Victoria, agrees. “Kids are highly imaginative… one of the wonders of childhood,” she said.

According to Roberts, a child’s capacity for imagination increases a great deal in the pre-kindergarten years (roughly between the ages of two and four).

“It actually helps to eventually build the foundation for abstract thought, which comes to fruition in the tween to early-teen period of time,” said Roberts.

“Imaginary friends give [kids] an opportunity to practice their budding social skills in a safe environment they can control.”

However, there’s no reason to worry about your child’s imagination if they don’t have a pretend friend. “All sorts of children with varying levels of creativity may develop imaginary friends,” she said.

Should I be concerned if my child has an imaginary friend?

In Schafer’s view, imaginary friendships are to be encouraged.

“If you watch how they interact with their imaginary friend, a lot of times, because they have to play both themselves and create the world of their imaginary friend, they’re learning different perspectives,” she said.

READ MORE: Meet the parents who homeschooled their kids while travelling the world

“They’re problem-solving and learning to deal with one another, because the imaginary friend often takes a different perspective.”

In situations when the imaginary friend gets in trouble or plays cooperatively, your child is actually rehearsing real social situations.

WATCH BELOW: Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea





“That’s wonderful practice for social skills in life and trying on different outcomes,” said Schafer.

“They’re getting these enriched experiences through this form of play… it’s something to be celebrated.”

However, Roberts believes there could be cause for concern if your child struggles to make friends in “real life.”

READ MORE: Caring for the caregiver: Raising children with a disability or chronic disease

“If that were the case, I would work to build their social network and also work on the development of social [and] friendship skills,” she said.

“Scouts and Brownies and Beavers… are all good programs for that purpose. You can also speak to the school counsellor.”

If your child has an imaginary friend beyond the age of 10, Roberts recommends a psychological consult “to ensure that overall development is on track,” she said. “But overall, I wouldn’t worry.”

Pay attention to the content of the play

Imaginary friends offer endless opportunity to your child: opportunity to practice playing nicely with others, to flex creative muscles and to deal with confusing emotions.

Schafer encourages caregivers to pay attention to the content of a child’s imaginary play, because if they’ve been traumatized, it will likely come through in their play.

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“For example, children who have been traumatized [by] seeing [things like] domestic violence or sexual abuse,” said Schafer. “You’re going to see that in their play. That’s something that would set off alarm bells.”

She also warns that sometimes, children can use imaginary friends as a means to manipulate parents or caregivers — and that’s when a line needs to be drawn.

“It can get in [the way] of relationships in the family,” said Schafer. “If a child wants to bring an extra chair to the table and feed their imaginary friend, I’m fine with that. What I’m not OK with is wasting food.”

READ MORE: The cost of raising a child? Now there’s a calculator for that

In her view, if the imaginary friend starts to disturb the family order, something needs to change.

“You don’t want to give the child so much power for the reality of their imaginary friend that their imaginary friend is no longer being a co-operating member of the family,” she said. “They can’t be used as an alibi.”

How to treat your child’s imaginary friend

There are some things parents can do to further encourage curiosity and imaginative play.

For Roberts, this means not making a big deal out of the new imaginary friend.

“If your child wants to talk about their imaginary friend, fine,” she said. “But don’t force them to.”

WATCH BELOW: Should dodgeball be banned from schools?





Schafer takes this one step further and recommends asking questions about the imaginary friend.

“Tell me about your friend. What do they look like? What does your friend like?” she said.

“There’s no right or wrong.”

[email protected]

 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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10Sep

Why more teens are turning to pornography to learn about sex

by BBG Hub

When you walk by a high school, or even many junior highs, you’ll notice a trend. Students with cellphones in hand.

Technology has made almost anything and everything easily accessible. Including pornography.

“I felt very disconnected to my own sexuality just seeing porn for the first time,” said Teela.

Teela was 13 years old when she first watched pornography. Global News has agreed not to use her last name. She says she was curious about sex, and the information she was seeking wasn’t being taught in school or talked about at home.

“There’s a communication barrier between a lot of parents and teenagers,” Teela said. “Pornography shouldn’t be the first place teens go to to find education, which they often do because it’s so accessible.”


READ MORE:
Talking with your kids about porn: how to do it and what to mention

Teela is not alone. A 2014 study by MediaSmarts surveyed students Grades 7 to 11. It found 23 per cent of teens — nearly one in four — were seeking out pornography online. And 88 per cent of boys who look at porn do so at least once a month. Some studies show the numbers are even higher.

“We can sensor teens all we want as parents,” said Mark Lenyk with Mankind Project.

“But in the end there’s going to be some friend or some point where they’re going to have access to the internet and they have questions nobody is talking to them about.”

Another study found adolescents who watch pornography are sexually active at an earlier age, have higher numbers of partners and have increased casual sex. It also found girls who watch pornography feel less attractive than the women portrayed in pornographic material and boys are afraid they will not measure up to the performers in the media.

“It causes teens to make decisions – reckless and shallow decisions – about their sexuality,” Teela said. “Boys feel like they have to have this sort of stigma. They have to be tough and emotionless, and girls have to be submissive.”

Teela eventually went to see Sabrina Souto, the owner of Fertile Way. Souto works with people of all ages struggling with their sexual well-being.

“When you watch something over and over again it becomes familiar,” Souto said. “So as a woman you learn how to act a certain way, how to talk a certain way, how to sound a certain way. As a man, the same exact thing.”

WATCH: What to do when your kids stumble on sexual content online





Souto believes it all comes down to having open and honest conversations with your children.

“Talk to your teens. Getting educated in what intimacy really looks like is key.”

Souto says it’s the lack of communication that is the biggest issue and she knows it’s not an easy topic to discuss. She recently held a screening of Brain, Heart, World a documentary looking at the harmful effects of pornography.

In 2017, another documentary, Over 18, was released, also looking at the porn industry and how easily children can become addicted.

WATCH: Documentary dealing with the effects of pornography on children and youth in Canada





Teela is now 17 years old and when she talks to her mom, nothing is off limits.

“When you tiptoe around difficult topics like sex it becomes a forbidden topic. You can’t expect the teen to come forward and be honest with you if you’re not being honest with them.”

It’s a message she hopes other parents will take to heart.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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27Aug

‘You’re going to see a different kid’: Why sleep should come before activities

by BBG Hub

Between after-school soccer practice and early morning swim meets, parents of active children may be exhausted.

But what about the kids themselves? Children involved in too many extracurricular activities may be low on sleep — and that can hurt them during the school year.

“Sleep really needs to be protected,” says Andrea Loewen Nair, a parenting expert and co-founder of London, Ont.-based Infinity School.

“When you’re not sleeping well enough and you don’t feel well, it affects every part of your life.”

READ MORE: Children who watch ‘Sesame Street’ may perform better at school, study finds

According to Robina Uddin, a parenting and sleep coach at Nanny Robina, extracurricular activities can be the cause of late bedtimes — especially if they run into the evening.

“If a child then goes to bed and misses the holy window of sleep, they can possibly get a second wind, resulting in actually falling asleep at a much later time, too,” Uddin said.

“They need downtime, just like you and I.”

How to tell if your child is exhausted

Loewen Nair says elementary school-aged kids really need their sleep. The Hospital for Sick Children says kids from the age of five to 10 need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night.

WATCH BELOW: Ask an Expert — Back to School Parenting





When kids don’t get enough rest, they can act in ways that are unlike themselves.

Loewen Nair says she’s worked with clients who were concerned with their child’s behaviour and discovered they were acting out because they were doing too many activities.

“In some cases, I could see that their [extracurricular] schedule was preventing their child from sleeping enough,” she said. “If you just fix how much sleep they have, you’re going to see a different kid.”

Another common telltale sign a child is low on sleep is when they have a hard time getting out of bed.

READ MORE: What happens when children don’t take sex-ed classes

“Elementary-age children generally wake up being happy in the morning before they go to school, so if you can’t wake them up and then they wake up angry, you know they’re [experiencing] a sleep deficit,” Loewen Nair said.

Other symptoms of low sleep include forgetfulness, frequent yawning, irritability, crying easily and frustration.

What’s more, if your child says they are too tired to go to guitar lessons or gymnastics, they could be overloaded. Listen to their cues — parents often know when their child has had enough, Loewen Nair said.

What happens when kids lack sleep

Not only is a child’s behaviour affected by a lack of sleep, so is their ability to perform in school.

One 2016 study showed a child’s developing brain regions are “hardest hit by sleep deprivation.” Another study found poor sleep was tied to lower academic performance.

WATCH BELOW: Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea





“Research shows that having a clear mind is worth more than sometimes studying,” Loewen Nair said. “Being able to think requires a good amount of rest.”

Loewen Nair says children who have packed schedules can also experience social repercussions. If kids are so busy running between lessons and clubs that they don’t have enough time to see family and friends, their relationships can suffer.

READ MORE: ‘Snowplow parenting’ is preventing young adults from learning ‘basic life skills’

Uddin agrees.

“Quality dinner together, homework and free play time should not take a backseat to extracurriculars,” she said. “Balance is key.”

Scaling back

Extracurriculars are an important part of many children’s lives, and they offer invaluable skills. Research shows partaking in sports has physical, social and psychological benefits for children.

That being said, kids can suffer when they are exhausted.

Loewen Nair says it’s important for parents to weigh the pros and cons of extracurricular activities: does your child enjoy them? Do they work with your schedule? Does your kid have time for homework?

WATCH BELOW: How to raise mindful children





If your child can manage soccer twice a week and gets enough rest, this may be the right amount for them. On the flip side, if your child is signed up for several activities and is burning out, scale back.

On top of maintaining academics, it’s also important to ensure your child has enough time for the other things they enjoy. When extracurriculars take over another aspect of a child’s life, Uddin says it may be time to reevaluate.

Uddin suggests parents draw up schedules that incorporate all of their children’s daily activities. That way, you can see how much more your kid can handle.

“Add homework, dinner, free play time (free play time is not TV or screen time), then add an age-appropriate bedtime,” she said. “Now decide what kind of time you have to incorporate for extracurriculars.”

READ MORE: The stigma of more children after one is sick — Why some parents feel guilty

Boundaries are also key, Loewen Nair said. Parents should have rules around how late their child can stay out. For example, if your kid’s bedtime is 9 p.m., you may not let them partake in an activity that runs past 7 p.m.

Children also should enjoy the activities they are partaking in. If they are thrilled to run to singing class, it’s a good sign they are enjoying it.

“They have to be willing to go and make the effort to go every day, every single time,” Loewen Nair said.

“If they become unfriendly and frustrated, then you know that they’re too tired.”

[email protected]

 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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