Posts Tagged "kids"

30Dec

Instead of putting kids on a diet, teach them healthy habits: experts – National

by BBG Hub

If you’re working on a list of New Year’s resolutions, you might be considering a new diet for yourself, your spouse or even your children.

Dietitians and health experts have long warned about the inefficiency and potential harms of restrictive dieting, but now, experts are worried about weight loss plans aimed at kids and teens — and their concerns aren’t unjustified.

READ MORE: New Weight Watchers app for kids could cause ‘body dissatisfaction,” expert says

From 2013 to 2016, nearly 38 per cent of adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 said they had tried to lose weight during the past year, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics released in July.

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The data found that among those who had tried to lose weight, the most common ways were through exercise (83.5 per cent), drinking a lot of water (52 per cent) and eating less (nearly 49 per cent). Over 82 per cent of teens said they had tried to lose weight using two or more methods.

In August, there was widespread backlash from body-positive activists when weight loss company WW (formerly Weight Watchers) launched an app called Kurbo targeting youth aged eight to 17.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia dietitians concerned by new weight loss app for kids

WW’s chief scientific officer, Gary Foster, said that the program was designed to be “part of the solution to address the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity,” according to a statement released earlier this year.

‘Complicated relationships with food’

The shift towards encouraging weight loss in young people concerns experts like Dr. Valerie Taylor, head of psychiatry at the University of Calgary.

“It starts people on this very complicated relationship with food,” Taylor previously told Global News. “If you eat the bad food, you’re a bad person. That is the message. If you do eat them, you have a problem, you have issues with willpower, with self-control, you’re weak. [Children] very much internalize this.”

The focus should instead be on making sure your child regularly eats a nutritious, balanced diet.






Can you reverse Type 2 diabetes by changing your diet?


Can you reverse Type 2 diabetes by changing your diet?

“Every person needs a vitamin D supplement. For children over one year, this is 600 IU of vitamin D3 daily,” registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen previously told Global News.

Beyond that, Nielsen said that whether a child needs an omega-3 supplement or a multivitamin, for example, really depends on how balanced their diet is and “how accepting they are of a wide variety of healthy foods.”

“If a child eats a wide variety of healthy foods, a basic multivitamin or calcium supplement isn’t necessary,” she said.

READ MORE: How early is too early to talk to your kids about weight and exercise?

Health professionals are also concerned because a focus on weight loss can have lasting negative effects into adulthood.

Disordered eating in the future



Viewing food as either “bad” or “good” can cause serious problems with disordered eating in the future, said Taylor.

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“It’s going to follow these kids long into adulthood, whether that’s going to be a manifestation of an eating disorder or intense body dissatisfaction,” she said. “[It makes] the act of eating miserable.”

Amanda Raffoul, a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, agrees. Raffoul researches disordered eating and dieting, largely in adolescents.






UN report: Changing your diet can help save the planet


UN report: Changing your diet can help save the planet

Developing unhealthy dieting behaviours as an adolescent puts people at a greater risk of having disordered eating habits as an adult, she said. This is particularly true for women.

“Eating disorders are obviously very complex and have a lot of factors that contribute to them,” Raffoul previously told Global News. “But dieting at a young age is a pretty major risk factor.”

Focus on being healthy instead

One-third of children worldwide under age five — roughly 200 million kids — are either undernourished or overweight, according to a recent report by the UN children’s agency.

In Canada, childhood obesity rates continue to rise. In fact, they’ve nearly tripled in the last 30 years, according to Statistics Canada.

That’s why, in the opinion of parenting expert Alyson Schafer, it’s never too early to teach kids about healthy eating habits and the benefits of regular exercise. However, there is a right way to go about it.

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Red meat health impacts: Dietitian weighs in on recent study


Red meat health impacts: Dietitian weighs in on recent study

“Modelling good habits and attitudes while discussing health from an educational perspective is key,” Schafer previously told Global News.

When it comes to getting your kids to exercise, Schafer says to make sure that you just don’t put on a YouTube video and let them follow along alone.

“That is not social enough for youngsters,” she says. “They don’t need more screen time alone. If you are doing yoga, ask them to join you … Be active and inspire them. Discuss the health benefits in an age-appropriate way.”

READ MORE: ‘Incredibly concerning’ — More U.S. teens are trying to lose weight

It’s crucial to have healthy conversations about weight. According to Raffoul, it’s important for youth to see messages that promote health — not weight loss.

“If we continuously focus on needing to lose weight as an indicator of health, then people will do whatever they can, or feel like they need to do, to lose that weight without focusing on not only their physical health but also their mental health and social well-being,” she said.

— With files from Global News’ Meaghan Wray, Laura Hensley, Arti Patel and Dani-Elle Dube

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






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4Nov

Sweeteners can be ‘hidden’ in your kids’ food — and parents may not even know – National

by BBG Hub

Allidina says these sweeteners can be found in a variety of products children consume, including everything from Jell-O to some juices like Sunny D to ice cream. Other items include pop, cereal bars, yogurt and more.

She says anytime you see labels like “low sugar,” “reduced sugar” or “no sugar” should be a red flag.

“Technically, artificial sweeteners are not sugar and sometimes food companies mix them with real sugar to decrease the total sugar in the food.”

When your child loves sweetness

But some children just love sugar and sweet-flavoured food and often, parents struggle to remove it from their diet. And when sugar or sweetness is hidden, it can be even harder to monitor what your child eats.

“Navigating sugar with kids is tricky, but not impossible,” Allidina said.

“Skip the artificial stuff — especially for kids. We get the sweetness but with 0 calories, which can lead to more sugar cravings to fill the void.”

Parents should also focus on introducing whole foods without packaging or wrappers.

“These foods include, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and lean protein as much as possible.”

READ MORE: What happens to your body when you stop eating sugar?

And besides carefully reading labels, look at the ingredient list.

“Try to stay clear of foods that have sugar listed as the first three ingredients – sugar has many names,” Allidina continued. “If these foods are your kid’s favourite, you can still offer it but less frequently.”

When you can, be a role model yourself.  “If your child sees you consuming soft drinks and sugary foods daily, then you need to change,” she stressed.

“Remember, kids learn by example. So make sure you are doing your part.”

Sometimes, though, you can’t escape sugar. Children end up consuming sugar at school or at birthday parties with friends. It’s important to look at a child’s diet overall, Allidina said.

“Start with simple swaps such as replacing or diluting juice for water or milk and cut back on the frequency of sugary treats.”




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14Oct

Impetigo is a contagious skin infection — here’s how to ensure your kids don’t get it – National

by BBG Hub

If you have a young child in daycare or preschool, you’ve probably heard of the skin infection known as impetigo.

It’s a common and contagious bacterial contamination that typically affects kids ages two to five, although anyone can get it.



Impetigo can be uncomfortable and unsightly. Here’s what you need to know if you think your child might have it:

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

Signs and symptoms

The infection typically starts as “red sores on the face, especially around the nose and mouth, and on hands and feet,” according to Dr. Dina Kulik, a pediatric health expert and founder of kidcrew.com.

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The sores will quickly rupture and ooze for a few days, developing “honey-coloured crusts.”

“Sometimes, the lesions leak clear or yellow fluid,” said Kulik.






Meghan Markle, Prince Harry bring baby Archie to meet Tutu on Africa royal tour


Meghan Markle, Prince Harry bring baby Archie to meet Tutu on Africa royal tour

Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the infectious diseases division with McMaster University’s department of pediatrics, considers impetigo to be a “mild” infection.

In his experience, impetigo can begin as “bumps that then turn into small blisters.”

“It doesn’t cause pain, but the areas of impetigo can spread if not treated,” he said.

What causes it?

The culprit behind this infection is typically bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (commonly referred to as staph) or Streptococcus pyogenes (known as strep), according to Kulik.

“[They] live on the surface of the skin [and] enter the skin where the skin is broken,” she said.

“The bacteria that cause impetigo often enter the skin through a small skin injury such as a cut, insect bite or rash.”

Eczema can have a similar effect.

READ MORE: Your washing machine may be harbouring bacteria — here’s how to clean it

“Less commonly, it can also occur on healthy skin,” she said.

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Since it’s highly contagious, the infection is spread easily throughout schools and daycare settings.

“It can spread to other people if they touch the lesions or by touching things that the infected person recently touched,” said Pernica.

Thankfully, unlike the flu, it’s more common during the summer months because “bacteria thrive in warm and humid environments,” he said.

How to treat it

Antibiotics are “very effective” in treating impetigo, Kulik said.

“Most cases … will respond very well to topical antibiotics applied for seven days.”

It’s unlikely, but if an infection is more widespread, growing to multiple parts of the body, or if the child also has a fever, oral antibiotics are recommended.






Canada records its first case of vaping related illness


Canada records its first case of vaping related illness

Pills can also be prescribed if sores appear on the face, Pernica said.

Impetigo typically isn’t dangerous, and the sores will generally heal without scarring.

However, if left untreated, “a child may develop bigger or more sores, and the infection can lead to more serious infection, such as a blood infection,” Kulik said.

In rare cases, it can lead to more severe complications.

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“If the impetigo is caused by Group A Streptococcus … rheumatic fever or kidney problems can occur after the infection,” said Pernica.

The best ways to avoid it

As with most bacterial infections, the best way to avoid catching impetigo is practicing good hand hygiene.

“Wash your hands frequently. Gently wash any cuts, rashes or bites with mild soap and running water and then cover lightly with gauze or a bandage,” said Kulik.

“Minimizing open skin can decrease the risk of impetigo by healing rashes, such as eczema, and minimizing the scratching of bites.”

READ MORE: Does cold weather make you sick?

If someone in your house catches it, be sure to “wash [their] clothes, linens and towels every day,” she said.

“Don’t share them with anyone else in the family,” Kulik explained.

For Pernica, there’s really only one way to steer clear: “Avoid being in close contact with people who have impetigo.”

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






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8Oct

‘Fire challenge’ leaves 12-year-old boy with 2nd-degree burns – National

by BBG Hub

Jason Cleary, 12, is recovering from second-degree burns after being set ablaze for something called the “fire challenge.”

The Michigan boy was said to be playing at a friend’s house when he poured flammable liquid on himself and ignited it. His chin, chest and stomach were all severely burned, according to his mom, Tabitha Cleary.

“My son got burned second degree, and it could’ve been way worse,” Cleary said in an interview with CNN affiliate WDIV.

READ MORE: Internet ‘fire challenge’ leaves girl, 12, with critical burns to half her body

“I just want everybody to know that these challenges, or whatever they’re watching on YouTube, is not worth your risking your life.”


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According to Jason, he and his friends tested the challenge once with a small fire before things escalated.

“The first time it was, like, a little, tiny fire, and they swatted it off,” he said. “Second time, they kept spraying [the nail polish remover] on me.”






Videos show parents throwing cheese slices at their babies’ faces


Videos show parents throwing cheese slices at their babies’ faces

With nail polish remover all over Cleary’s body, the flame quickly engulfed him. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for four days.

Cleary has since been released and continues to recover at home. The local police confirmed to CNN that they are investigating the matter.

The “fire challenge” first made headlines in 2014, but people continue to experience severe injuries from it years later. The “fire challenge” is commonly attempted with the goal of filming the spectacle and uploading it to YouTube or another social media site.



READ MORE: Netflix urges people to stop hurting themselves with ‘Bird Box’ challenge

In August 2018, a 12-year-old girl was placed in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns after attempting the challenge.

In 2014, a mom in North Carolina was arrested and charged after allegedly facilitating her 16-year-old son’s attempt at the “fire challenge.” She was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

In a statement regarding the August 2018 incident, YouTube said: “YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm or death. We remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”

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Tide pod challenge a dangerous trend on social media


Tide pod challenge a dangerous trend on social media

Dangerous internet challenges

This isn’t the first time the desire to go viral has led people to attempt dangerous internet challenges.

After the Netflix film Bird Box was released earlier this year, fans of the film concocted the “Bird Box challenge,” wherein they — or their children — were blindfolded and tried to do everyday things, despite not being able to see.

Netflix caught wind of the Bird Box challenge and issued a message to all users thinking of trying it, telling them to “not hurt themselves.”

READ MORE: How to talk to your kids about the ‘Tide Pod challenge’

In early 2018, social media feeds were consumed by one of the most terrifying challenges yet: the “Tide Pod challenge,” which saw teens eating laundry detergent pods and posting videos of their reactions to YouTube.

Toxic ingredients in the pods include ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and polymers, and ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, drowsiness and nausea, as well as irritation and conjunctivitis if it gets in the eyes. If any of the detergent manages to get into the lungs, it can also cause respiratory distress.

In the end, both Facebook and YouTube pulled any and all videos relating to the challenge, citing an “inherent risk of physical harm.”

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The hot water challenge is the latest thing for parents to be worried about


The hot water challenge is the latest thing for parents to be worried about

It might be shocking to hear that someone would willingly light themselves on fire or eat a toxic amount of laundry detergent, but according to Dr. Tony DeBono, a clinical psychologist at McMaster Children’s Hospital, young people’s brains are susceptible to these kinds of challenges.

“Teens are going through a tremendous amount of development, cognitively, biologically, so their ability to regulate impulses is somewhat impacted, and then there’s this issue around social connectedness,” he previously told Global News.

“People can do some pretty incredible things when they are doing it within the guise of wanting to be connected socially, both in terms of positivity and negativity. Social media can sometimes provide the illusion of that sort of connectedness.”

READ MORE: With social media, you don’t have to grieve alone

DeBono added that social media sends mixed messages about what’s acceptable for teens.

“You get an enormous amount of reinforcement through the ideas of likes and followers if you do participate so the idea of not participating can sometimes be a real challenge for people’s decision-making.”

DeBono suggests parents need to help their children see the bigger picture when it comes to using social media.

“I think the bigger questions that we need to face as a society are what are our values? What do we stand for? Are we having conversations with our teens about their values as opposed to some sense of fame or popularity?”

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He added: “The question shouldn’t be why are teens consuming poisonous laundry detergent, the question should be what’s next? And why are folks searching for connectedness in these potentially dangerous ways?”

— With files from Global News’ Chris Jancelewicz and Slav Kornik

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






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2Oct

How to talk to kids about climate change without scaring them – National

by BBG Hub

Helping your child understand the world can be challenging enough as it is, but when it comes to climate change, it can feel overwhelming.

“As a parent and through working with parents, it is something that is constantly on people’s minds,” said Harriet Shugarman, a New York-based climate advocate and founder of Climate Mama.

“You have to make dinner and get life going, but [climate change] is also an emergency so we need to figure out how to bring it into our lives, not in a paralyzing way but in a positive way.”

READ MORE: Youth rally around the world in global climate strike

Because climate change is one of the biggest issues facing our planet right now, Shugarman says it’s vital parents talk to their kids about global warming — now.

But how? The first step, Shugarman says, starts with self-education.

Educate yourself first

Shugarman says parents should become informed about the depths of the climate crisis. How can you talk to your kids about the realities of climate change if you don’t understand them yourself?

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WATCH: Election promises, costs and the upcoming federal debate






Election promises, costs and the upcoming federal debate


Election promises, costs and the upcoming federal debate

When climate change is understood, Shugarman says adults can not only explain the science to their kids, but they can also give themselves time to process the emotions that come with realizing our planet is in need.

It can be very upsetting to think about dying species and destroyed wildlife, and what the future holds.

“It’s like going through the steps we experience with grief: you can’t believe it, it can’t be true, sadness — all of those five stages — but then we move [to] hope and showing our children that we’re doing what we can,” she said.

This sense of optimism is what will help children realize they can be part of the solution, Shugarman explained.

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians believe in climate change — here’s why some still don’t

It’s also good for parents to know what their child’s school is teaching them about climate change so they can answer any additional questions their kid may have, Shugarman added.

Start early and speak often

Talk to your kids about global warming at an early age and have ongoing conversations — not one-off talks.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, to speak to your children in age-appropriate ways, Shugarman said. An eight-year-old will have a different understanding of the environment than a high schooler will.

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WATCH: Trudeau meets Greta Thunberg before climate march in Montreal






Trudeau meets Greta Thunberg before climate march in Montreal


Trudeau meets Greta Thunberg before climate march in Montreal

For very young kids in preschool or lower elementary school, Shugarman suggests reading them stories about protecting the environment. Another good way to incorporate climate conversations into everyday life is by showing children — at every age — the importance of the environment.

“Whether you’re at the beach or in a park, use all those opportunities to point out how wonderful our planet is and then help them understand that there are threats to it,” Shugarman said.

“Showing children what it is that we need to protect is really critical.”

What’s also important, Shugarman says, is assuring kids that parents are doing what they can to help protect the environment. It can be incredibly overwhelming for kids to learn about the dire aspects of climate change so you want to offer them comfort.

READ MORE: Plastics in our oceans — How one Canadian is trying to clean up

One way to do this is by developing a “climate plan” at home. This can outline actions that family members will take to engage in greener practices or activities that the family will partake in together.

“Let them know that you’re doing everything that you can to move solutions forward and slow down what’s happening [to the planet],” Shugarman said.

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Lead by example

“Actions speak louder than words,” Shugarman said.

Explain to your kids why you are doing something when you do it. For example, if you’re bringing a reusable coffee cup to a cafe, tell them it’s to help eliminate waste. If you’re not buying a certain brand’s products because of their environmental practices, let kids know why.

WATCH: More municipalities declaring climate change emergency






More municipalities declaring climate change emergency


More municipalities declaring climate change emergency

If your child wants to get involved in environmental action, help them find groups or organizations. Bring them to climate strikes, too, if it is age-appropriate.

“Help them write a letter to their member of Parliament or city mayor,” Shugarman said. “Help them use their voice.”

Be honest but optimistic

Many people experience climate change anxiety, and it can be incredibly hard for kids who are concerned about the future of their planet to feel at ease.

Parents should not lie about climate change, Shugarman says, but be realistic while maintaining optimism. Remind children that the responsibility of global warming doesn’t fall just on their shoulders and that many scientists have been working hard to combat this crisis for years.

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READ MORE: Canada positioned itself as a world leader on climate change — is it?

Children can also find inspiration from other youth, like Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. Seeing how powerful their voices are can offer hope to both children and adults.

“Especially in the last little while with these organized [strikes], we are listening because our kids are speaking truth to power,” Shugarman said.

“They’re sharing their concerns, and people know that the way kids present it, it’s the truth. They’re speaking the truth.”

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




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17Sep

‘Failure to launch kids’: Canadian students aren’t prepared for adulthood – National

by BBG Hub

This is the first story in a four-part series about the transition between high school and “the real world” — whether that’s college, university, the workforce or something completely different. Failure To Launch examines the gaps in Canada’s education system.

When Pearlia Veerasingam was in high school, she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation.

She was in Grade 11 and remembers being told to talk to the school’s counselor for guidance, but it wasn’t a quick solution to her problem.

“I remember feeling so discouraged after that conversation,” Veerasingam told Global News.

Veerasingam was asked what degree she wanted, which type of institution she wanted to attend and if she had any experiences with apprenticeship. This left the 21-year-old even more overwhelmed.

WATCH: Every year, thousands of Canadian high school students are asked to figure out what they want to do after they graduate, and what these 16- to 18-year-olds choose has repercussions for the rest of their lives. Unsurprisingly, most teens don’t feel confident to make these decisions on their own. Global News asked 10 students to share their experiences.





“She was asking me what degree I saw myself getting, what my grades were, [if I even had the] grades to qualify for the programs I was looking at,” she continued.

“For someone who doesn’t know what they want, and then being asked all these questions, it makes you feel so pressured.” 

Not going to university was out of the question — an expectation she attributes, in part, to her Sri Lankan upbringing. But the Toronto-native didn’t want to waste her time or her parents’ money by making the “wrong” choice either.

“In the South Asian community, taking time off or going to college… you’ll get the support eventually, but it will be a choice that’s criticized at first,” she said.

“One of the biggest things you always hear is ‘you’re going to find your calling,’ but I feel like a lot of students are still trying to find themselves at that age.”

That same year, her law teacher had suggested a politics degree and that’s when things started to make sense: she always had a passion for it.

“It was my teacher who said, ‘you’re great at advocating for policies and procedures… you should really look into something like that,’” she said.

Illustration: Laura Whelan

Veerasingam, who graduated from Ryerson University earlier this year, is confident she made the right choices in Grade 12.

According to a recent study by think tank Canada 2020, the average student spends roughly $29,568 on higher education. The report found 70 per cent of all new Canadian jobs will require post-secondary education or skills training.

Like Veerasingam, thousands of teenagers in Canada will be asked to make the same decisions about their futures in the next few months. 

Often, students feel pressure to make the “right” choice — a decision that can lead to anxiety and confusion. With all of this at stake, experts wonder if teens are actually prepared to move forward. 

The impact of a big decision on a young brain

One of these experts is Erin O’Rourke, a teacher in the Toronto District School Board and a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) at the Toronto Counselling Centre for Teens. She worries about the pressure the education system puts on young people. 

She says many students haven’t figured out what they want to do with their lives: “I guess you could call them the ‘failure to launch’ kids,’” she said. 

In her experience, asking teenagers to make life-changing decisions about their education and career is problematic for a number of reasons. 

READ MORE: Teenage brain powerful yet vulnerable, and it affects behaviour: child psychologist

“We live in a world where [these kids] have been socialized from a very young age to [believe that they] can be anything,” O’Rourke said. 

“How, in a world where you’re told that you can do anything or be anything, could you choose one thing that you want to be?”

O’Rourke is also concerned about the ongoing brain development of a teen that age. 

“They are in a stage of redevelopment unlike any other, since they were first conceived. The [part of the brain] that’s involved in long-term decision-making, problem solving, managing time, weighing out consequences — that takes well into the twenties to really develop,”  she said. 

“So for them to try and make a long-term decision at that point is a hard thing to do, for sure.” 

Illustration: Laura Whelan

Although there isn’t enough research to suggest the pressure to make tough decisions about education or careers is directly linked to mental health issues, experts like O’Rourke says there could be a relationship between the two.

“Not knowing what you want to do with your life [can make you feel] really anxious, which could lead to depressive symptoms,” she said. 

The stress of not knowing 

Neel Shah, 16, just started his final year of high school in Toronto, and he’s already consumed with anxiety about what he’ll do when he graduates. 

“I don’t feel prepared to leave high school at all, in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I’m absolutely terrified of the future.” 

Shah is unsure of what he wants to study, and, subsequently, where he wants to work. 

In a dream world, he would pursue a college program in music and entertainment. But like others in his age group, Shah also needs to consider his parents’ opinion and the state of the workforce right now. 

READ MORE: Struggling to connect with your teen? Here’s how to get that special relationship back

“I don’t really want to go to university … but I feel like there’s a big stigma around choosing college,” Shah said. “I mean, I’m fine with it — I’m interested in business and law and a few other programs — but my true passion lies somewhere else.” 

He’s prepared to lean on family and friends for guidance during the next year, but is scared to be on his own as an adult.

“I know how to solve a derivative, but I have no idea how to do tax returns or set up an account at the bank or anything like that,” Shah said. 

“The whole idea that you have to have your whole life decided at 16, 17 years old, it’s terrifying,” he said. 

Instead, he wonders if students his age should have alternative experiences before post-secondary education.

“We should be trying out new things, trying to taste as much as possible and gaining insight about what the world can offer us and what we can offer the world.” 

Watch below: Education advocates discuss if high school lesson plans go far enough in preparing students for 21st-Century careers. Laurel Gregory reports.





Preparing for change

Although graduation rates in this country are higher than they’ve ever been, experts say this doesn’t necessarily mean students are prepared for what comes next. 

Between 1997 and 2010, Canada’s high school completion rate increased by roughly 11 per cent — from 77 per cent to 88 per cent. 

“This is one of the biggest unsung successes of our school system,” said Kelly Gallagher-Mackay. She’s a professor in public law, inequality and educational opportunity at Wilfred Laurier University. “It’s a huge change, and it’s important for preparing people for the future.”

The co-author of Pushing the Limits: How Schools Can Prepare Our Children Today for the Challenges of Tomorrow thinks that’s only half the story.

“The starting line has moved. Jobs you used to be able to do with only a high school credential either don’t exist now or they ask for many more academic qualifications,” she said. 

“The vast majority of the jobs that we think could lead to anything like a stable, middle-class life require post-secondary education.” 

The onus isn’t entirely on high schools to prepare students for their post-secondary education. Gallagher-Mackay believes employers, community organizations and families all play a part. She argues that high schools need to do better. 

Part of this is emphasizing the need for teaching social-emotional skills — the ability to work with others, adapt and commit to lifelong learning. “Your job isn’t going to stay the same no matter what. We can no longer assume that and we need to prepare students for that,” she said. 

Illustration: Laura Whelan

Gallagher-Mackay said good work is happening in some provinces, but there’s definitely room for improvement. 

“B.C. has grown a lot closer to having a curriculum that explicitly talks about what they mean by ‘social-emotional learning.’ … But in Ontario, there’s very little assessment around social-emotional skills, and I think there’s reason to worry about that,” she said. 

In July, the Ontario government announced a new financial literacy curriculum for Grade 10 students in an effort to better address the needs of students. It was widely lauded as a step in the right direction, but Gallagher-Mackay is skeptical. 

“Students should understand some basics of consumer finance, but it’s not a solution if they have uncertainty ahead,” she said. 

“If you think teaching people to budget in Grade 10 is going to be a silver bullet, you’re overselling what you’re teaching.” 

Transferring skills into the real world

When it comes to helping students determine what career they would like to pursue, Vancouver resident John Horn is of the opinion that Canadian high schools need to focus more on career-integrated learning.

He’s the board chair at CERIC, a national charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development. 

This means having career or experiential learning opportunities woven into the school curriculum. “When you’re studying things like biology, math or literature, how are we making sure that educators are always putting those into real world examples?” 

He also emphasizes the need for internship and co-op opportunities as a way to expose high school students to the “real world” applications of their studies. 

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take a combination of [these] things and counsellors, teachers and parents having these conversations in real time, all the time,” he said. 

Illustration: Laura Whelan

Veerasingam did a co-op term at a law firm during high school, which helped her figure out what she wanted to do as a career — but it hardly prepared her for the difficulties of actually finding full-time work after university. 

“After completing my Bachelor’s degree, I believed I had the correct skills and knowledge that could be applied to the workforce … but that wasn’t enough,” she said. 

She said she felt the same confusion leaving university as she did leaving high school, except on another scale. “Leaving high school, I felt [a lack of] confidence in my skills and knowledge to enter the workforce. Now, after university, I felt an extreme amount of pressure and isolation.

“The lack of opportunities and a crazy amount of competition has made me feel defeated.”

Veerasingam is frustrated — she graduated in June and has yet to find a job in her preferred field.

“I don’t think universities fully prepare students with the right tools to get started,” she said. “Most of the curriculum focuses on theoretical knowledge rather than practical knowledge that can be applied to the every-day.” 

READ MORE: Too much time on social media can hurt teens’ mental health: study

This is why Horn also advocates for more time spent on teaching students about change and resilience throughout high school. 

“I think the number one thing to know and to prepare for is the rate of change in the world,” Horn said. “It’s been constant — the work has always been changing, generation by generation — but it’s never changed this much, this quickly.” 

To prepare students for this reality, Horn recommends honing two distinct buckets of skills: human skills and technical aptitude. 

The technical aptitude means being able to unlearn a particular skill and learn a new one, once that old skill becomes obsolete.

Human skills are things like “being resilient, being open-minded and having a growth mindset [or] a focus on always learning,” he said. “Even though the world might change a lot, these are things that are always going to make you relevant” to an employer. 

The open-minded community approach

Like Gallagher-Mackay, Horn is a proponent of the community approach. 

“For starters, we need to support the very overtaxed high school guidance counsellors,” he said. 

School boards need to be better at identifying and providing the “resources and tools that counsellors need to be able to have those really simple, straightforward but also enriching career conversations.” 

Illustration: Laura Whelan

Beyond that, parents need to help students make meaning of those conversations. Parents need to ask questions like, “What does that mean to you?” and “What interests you?”

“Even the simple act of shifting the conversation from ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ [to] ‘What kind of work interests you right now?’” will help students better prepare, Horn said.  

Ultimately, every member of a student’s support system needs to remain open-minded. 

“Try and cultivate a bit of empathy by thinking about your [own] experience,” Horn tells parents. “Usually, when [you] reflect on their story, it’s not as linear as [you] might think.” 

[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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3Sep

Woman’s 2-year-old son wears dress to her wedding: ‘Let kids be kids’ – National

by BBG Hub

When Joanna Minuzzo’s two-year-old son didn’t want to wear a suit or kilt to her wedding, she decided to compromise.

In a series of heartwarming wedding-day photos, her then-fiancé Najee helped their son — who she refers to as “Master S” — put on a periwinkle blue dress.

It was as simple as seeing his big sisters “Miss H,” 7, and six-year-old “Miss M” wearing their own dresses that made him want to partake.

READ MORE: Toronto summer camp aims to attract more girls to world of gaming

“He saw his sisters dressed and wanted one,” Minuzzo, 39, told Global News. “He wanted to know where his dress was. He wants to be just like them.”

“I was worried about what he will think when he’s older, [but] this is real life for us and I don’t want to sugarcoat it for the sake of some photos,” she continued.

Being a mom of three, Minuzzo knows how important it is to raise her children with a strong sense of self, and part of that comes with letting her kids wear what they want to.

READ MORE: Dad challenges ‘BS gender norms’ by letting his son wear nail polish [2018]

“I’m raising him to be confident in himself and to know the only opinion that matters is his own,” she said. “I’m not adverse to him wearing what he wants. Like any toddler mom will tell you, pick your battles.”

One photo in particular captured hearts worldwide. It features Najee smiling at his son, beaming from ear-to-ear after first putting on the lace and tulle dress.

Joanna Minuzzo’s two-year-old son didn’t want to wear a kilt or suit to her wedding day.

Maria Nguyen/Zen Photography

“That photo that Maria captured on your wedding day brought tears to my eyes,” Minuzzo remembered. “Not many men would help their son into a dress. It was just a beautiful moment between father and son.”

Unfortunately, not everyone took well to the photos, Minuzzo said. Some had a lot to say about her parenting, with one, she said, even saying it might “make him gay.”

READ MORE: Why some men are taking their wife’s last name — and giving up their own

“For the most part, people have been kind and accepting, [but] I’ve heard the other side,” she said. “To those people I say, ‘be a good role model to your kids, to your friends’ kids, grandchildren, be kind.”

She continued: “Let kids be kids. Let them express themselves, teach them kindness and teach them about different families and lifestyles. Love them as they are and how they want to express themselves.

“Don’t quash who they are on the inside, or pigeonhole them for [societal] acceptance.”

[email protected]

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




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18Aug

Farah Nasser: Seven flights, three weeks, two kids — how to travel with children – National

by BBG Hub

Before kids, travelling and immersing myself in a different culture was my favourite thing to do.

As soon as I had our first child six years ago, like most parents, my husband and I put our travel fantasies on hold.

It seemed too hard with kids, we told ourselves, and maybe it would work when they get older. But this also meant when we got older.


READ MORE:
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Last year, we decided to change this notion and give travelling a try with our son and daughter.  We booked a three-week vacation in Portugal — and driving around the beautiful country with our two favourite people was incredible and much less stressful than we imagined.

So this year we took it up a notch and went to four countries:  Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.

Credit: Farah Nasser

Seven flights in three weeks, with two kids aged three and six. Most of our friends thought we were crazy. It was ambitious, not always perfect, but we have no regrets.

And along the way, we also also picked up some lessons. Here are five questions parents often have when travelling with kids — and how we dealt with them.

How do you handle the long flights?

This was originally the part I was the most stressed out about, but it turned out to be the easiest after I forced myself to let go.

I’m super strict with screen time at home, but I’m pretty sure my six-year-old spent seven hours in a row on an iPad during the flight. My daughter occupied her time drawing with pen on her leg (then my leg, then her leg).

I packed a backpack of 24 small activities for our first 24-hour journey which were only used during a longer than expected layover.

We did make two highly-recommended purchases. The first was a large inflatable foot pillow which sandwiches between the kid’s seat and the one in front of you.  It allows them to stretch out their legs.  The littlest one was almost able to lie completely flat.  We had the kid’s seatbelts on the entire flight which didn’t seem to bother them.


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These pillows were a lifesaver (note: not all airlines allow them and they only work in economy). The second was a fleece headphone/headband/sleep mask in one.  As the kids dozed off it was pretty easy to slide the headband over their eyes to help them get a deeper sleep.

Credit: Farah Nasser

We ordered kids’ meals which were super helpful.  Still, sometimes they didn’t eat.  Sometimes they didn’t sleep.  We let go. The only rule we had was you don’t kick the seat in front of you or disturb other passengers.

Bonus tip: Stay away from booze and caffeine so you stay alert, but sleep whenever you have the opportunity.  We both took many power naps on the long flights.

What about jet lag?

Our trip was a worst case situation (night is day, day is night).  That’s why we started our trip in Singapore; it was the perfect place to beat jet lag. We picked a place where everyone spoke English, transportation was simple and there were tonnes of wonderful things to do with kids.  We also picked a nice hotel in the middle of the action, so no matter what time it was, there was something to do.

Thankfully, we found jet lag was worse for us than the kids.  The issue is when it hits them, it hits them hard.  My 50 lb. son was bouncing off the walls as we jumped in a taxi taking us to a night market.  As soon as we sat down, he fell into deep sleep mid-sentence in my lap forcing me to eat a delicious curry above his head.  Our daughter woke up in the middle of the night convinced it was time to party until we took her to the lobby to show her it was empty, which seemed to work.

We gave ourselves a good four days to get used to the time change and made a conscious effort not to make a big deal about it to the kids.

Bonus tip:  Pack a lot of snacks and/or keep them in your room.  You never know when the kids will be starving.  Also, keep them well-hydrated. Plane and hotel air can keep the kids pretty parched.

WATCH: (Aug. 15, 2019) Benefits of exploring Canada on a vacation





What about picky-eaters?

This was tough.  I had fantasies of my children downing durian and eating sushi from Japan instead of just singing about it.  The trip started off with some sampling but once one of them ate something a little spicy, every spoonful was served with fear of a fiery bite.

My son who loves pad Thai here wouldn’t touch it in Thailand for the first few days.  It got better but this was something I also had to let go.  Like many moms, I wanted to make sure they were fed so if the noodles were plain, so be it.  Breaded chicken was a God send to get in some protein and of course fries, lots of fries.

Restaurants aren’t typically fun at home with kids and being away it can be worse.  We kept our phones far away and gave the kids our undivided attention by playing games while waiting for meals.  We also learned  that even though we get bored with games and food (I’m looking at you pizza), the kids don’t and enjoy something they know well in an exploratory situation.

WATCH: Tips for travelling with kids





What worked well for us were the kitschy restaurants Asia is known for. In Tokyo, our best meal was at a ninja restaurant and funny enough we ran into Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at a Monster/Hello Kitty Café! Kanye, like my husband, wasn’t a fan of the food but he told me his kids ate well.


Credit: Farah Nasser

Bonus tip:  Trying new food doesn’t have to be a big restaurant meal or street food, it could be a different flavour of chips from the convenient store or a unique fruit ice cream they haven’t tried before.

How much can you pack in?

Everything will take almost twice as long, there is no getting around that but we forced ourselves to slow right down.  After we got a handle on jet lag, I packed our itinerary right up.  After a full day at Legoland in Malaysia I thought it would be the perfect time for a night safari at the Singapore Zoo.  I learned then that physically being there and truly experiencing things aren’t the same thing.

We settled on doing two activities a day. Two in a row if they were easy and didn’t require a lot of walking, or two with a trip to the hotel between them to rest, read or watch local cartoons.


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

We took the stroller on the trip but didn’t really take it out with us, but this meant taking taxis short distances when needed.  We found the subway systems Singapore and Tokyo better than any North American city, which made things easy.  In Bangkok, the tuk-tuks were a wonderful (though at times smoggy) way to see the city.

Bonus tip:  We bought a carry-on suitcase in Bangkok which my son completely took ownership of since he helped pick it.  Though he was a little slower than we would be, it kept him busy and feeling like he was helping the team.

Will they remember it?

I’m sure many of my incredible and well-meaning friends thought we might as well have flushed thousands of dollars down the toilet because the kids won’t remember any of this.  For us, it wasn’t about the memories as much as the experience.

Much of my work surrounds diversity and inclusion — what better way to instill that in my children than to expose them to a completely different culture?  It melted my heart to see them interact with other kids who barely understood them while bonding over Pokémon characters.

Credit: Farah Nasser

Our six-year-old asked us why people in Japan all looked the same and not like us and moments later witnessed the kindness of a complete stranger pulling out his phone to help us find a restaurant we were looking for.

This was real life-education for them that we are all the same inside — something some adults still have to learn.


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They also experienced poverty. My son wrote in his journal how he felt seeing a small child asking for money on the side of the road on a sweltering hot day.  We rushed inside a nearby market to get her a fan and some food.  That one encounter led to so many questions about how the world worked.

Credit: Farah Nasser

This trip showed them that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. There are many different places and ways to live.

From mastering chopsticks because there was no fork to politely standing in lines to get into a subway car, my children have become more flexible and adaptable.  They picked up how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in two different languages and could teach adults a thing or two about going through security at the airport.

My three- and six-year-old may only remember key moments of our trip like feeding elephants in Koh Samui or praying for the school year at a shrine in Tokyo, but this trip instilled a sense of adventure that has them constantly asking — where are we going next?

Bonus Tip:  One of the few rules we had on this trip was journaling.  It was consistent, daily but tough to sit down and do on vacation.  After coming back, the writing and drawings from the trip are just as important as the photos.

Farah Nasser is anchor of Global News at 5:30 and 6 p.m.

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




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15Aug

New Weight Watchers app for kids could cause ‘body dissatisfaction,’ expert says – National

by BBG Hub

Following its overhaul in 2018, WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) released a new weight-control program called Kurbo this week, targeting children and teenagers aged eight to 17.

The company added the app had a goal of helping youth “reach a healthier weight.”

WW’s chief scientific officer, Gary Foster, said that the program was designed to be “part of the solution to address the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity,” according to a statement released earlier this year.

The program includes three features: an app called Kurbo, a Traffic Light System that sorts foods into red, yellow or green categories, and a personal coaching option.

Though the free Kurbo app is available on iOS and Android phones, it appears the actual program is not available in Canada at the moment. The programs through the app in the U.S. have a one-month, three-month and six-month subscription fee of US$69, $189 and $294.

Global News reached out to WW for comment but did not hear back by publication.


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While Foster claimed the methods used in the program are backed by science — citing the World Health Organization report that childhood obesity is one of “the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” — not all experts agree.

‘Very complicated relationship with food’

In 2017, Kurbo shared before-and-after photos of a seven-year-old named Kacie, who “learned healthy habits and dropped eight BMI points” using the program.

Dr. Valerie Taylor, head of psychiatry at the University of Calgary, finds this type of marketing problematic.

“Weight loss prevention products and pathways haven’t seemed to work for those over 18, so it’s perplexing to me that it would work for those under 18,” she said.

Her research focuses on the intersection of obesity and mental health. In doing so, Taylor’s work focuses on weight management with compassion by removing societal pressures to look a certain way.

“There’s significant shame involved for these kids. I hear stories from adults about being dragged to Weight Watchers meetings as a child … and how embarrassing that was,” she said.

“I understand that this is different, but it’s still shaming.”

WATCH BELOW: Children with food insecurity more likely to have low self-esteem





Much of this shame Taylor mentions comes from classifying foods as “good” or “bad” — the major component of the app’s Traffic Light System. She added that, in turn, food choice becomes linked to morality.

“It starts people on this very complicated relationship with food,” she said. “If you eat the bad food, you’re a bad person. That is the message. If you do eat them you have a problem, you have issues with willpower, with self-control, you’re weak. [Children] very much internalize this.”

This binary way of viewing food can cause serious problems with disordered eating in the future, she said.

“It’s going to follow these kids long into adulthood, whether that’s going to be a manifestation of an eating disorder or intense body dissatisfaction,” she said. “[It makes] the act of eating miserable.”


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Programs like these also sit at an intersection of privilege — eating healthy is more expensive, especially for those on a fixed income.

When looking at green light and red light foods on the Kurbo system, there is a huge discrepancy in price and volume. A Big Mac meal at McDonald’s, for example, costs $5.99 before taxes, while a nutritious meal of broccoli, rice and chicken purchased from a grocery store can cost double to make at home.

“Food insecurity and poverty is a big contributor and and the cost of eating healthy this way [is high]. This program is not free,” she said. “For people who are already struggling with trying to figure out how to eat healthy on a fixed income, this is not going to be accessible to many of them.”

While Taylor says society does face an obesity problem, it’s not something that should be addressed at such a young age. Dieting, after all, has adverse consequences.


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“If dieting worked, these individuals wouldn’t be having a such a problem with adverse health consequences of being overweight,” she said.

“It’s not about going on a diet; it’s about making behavioral changes, making healthy food affordable and changing the lived environment.”

BMI can have limitations

Much of the app’s focus is also on the body mass index (BMI) measurement system. It combines factors like weight and height to classify people as underweight, healthy weight, obese and morbidly obese. But for years, this known to be an inaccurate portrayal of overall health. 

In 2015, Dr. Frank Nuttall of the University of Minnesota wrote that BMI doesn’t take into account changing populations in terms of height, adding that it “was not originally developed for use specifically as an index of fatness.”

It also fails to measure body fat percentage versus muscle mass, rendering measurements inaccurate.

“BMI has serious limitations when used as an indicator of per cent of body fat mass. Indeed, it may be misleading in this regard, particularly in men,” he said.

“The terminology currently used also is prejudicial. By definition, one-half or more adults in the recent past and currently are overweight (preobese) or obese in Western, industrialized nations.”

When signing up for Kurbo, parents can pinpoint their child’s BMI and, knowing so, can choose a goal for their child. This could mean losing weight, feeling better in clothes or even making parents happy.

Setting examples as parents

Heather Jones, a Toronto-based writer, remembers how her five-year-old son reacted to a weight-loss commercial during family TV time.

“He immediately said he was done eating his lunch and it horrified me,” the 39-year-old said. “Each time the commercial came on after that, he noticed. He used the commercial to tell me I needed to lose weight.”

Her life, she says, has been a constant flux of dieting and over-eating — but she’s determined to stop that trend in her household.

WATCH BELOW: How confident do you feel about your body this summer?





For Catherine Aldona, a Toronto-based reflexology student, it’s always been a priority that her teenage sons grow up with healthy self-image.

“I always tried to put more emphasis on the importance of accepting yourself in all ways,” she said. “There seems to be a certain almost unattainable standard of appearance within the media that doesn’t take into account genetics and body type.”


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Aldona, 51, has noticed her youngest son trying to emulate what he sees in regards to having a perfect physique.

“If [use of the app] is completely voluntary and the child feels empowered by their choice to use it, [it could be positive]” she said. “Or it could make a child feel they aren’t accepted at the weight they are at, as if there is something wrong with them as they are.”

[email protected]

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




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