On Montreal's Breakfast Television this morning, Joanne Vrakas and I talk about how to make the task of choosing a high school for your tween a little less daunting.
On Montreal's Breakfast Television this morning, Joanne Vrakas and I talk about how to make the task of choosing a high school for your tween a little less daunting.
Here is a report from CTV Montreal's Kevin Gallagher featuring a group of young boys from the Beaconsfield area who insisted on forming their own syncro team.
As someone who grew up trying to fit in as young male figure skater, I think this is a fantastic example of how shifting gender roles can empower both sexes.
Don't fret! These tips for preparing for the start of the school year begin by emphasizing getting the most out of your summer...especially if you're a parent who has been putting themselves second since the end of June.
During my July segment on Breakfast Television, I talk with Joanne Vrakas about how to deal with a sticky situation. How do you handle your child's friend when that friend is a baaaad influence.
On my latest BT Montreal segment, I talk with Alex Despatie about homework, and how the amount of arguing and stress - for you and your child - can be reduced with some simple tips:
Last March, I spoke with Lisa Dixon-Wells, M.Ed. about bullying. This year, the founder of Dare to Care, a prevention, awareness, and early intervention program, was including sexting as part of her address to elementary school students and their parents.
Sexting? Elementary school? Not my kids.
As I discovered throughout our conversation, my 'Not my kids.' perspective is not unique, nor will it be helpful in preventing my children from participating in what is becoming a common form of communication among today's youth. Sexting can also have disastrous emotional and legal consequences which last a lifetime.
Near my hometown of Montreal 10 teenagers were recently arrested on charges of possession, production and distribution of juvenile pornography. According to the Montreal Gazette they were released--with restrictions--until they reappear in court in January of 2014.
IT'S JUST THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON
Ms. Dixon-Wells highlights the problem, which is kids who act on impulse:
(Sexting is) just so easy to do, and they can do it in a fraction of a second. They don’t even have time to think of the consequences, which is a problem.
A lot of it, too, does start off more innocently. It’s the boyfriend asking the girlfriend--of extremely young age--saying 'I love you, I love, you. Please send me a picture; I won’t share it with anyone.'
In the Laval case, the teens shared the photos within a closed group, supposedly with no ill intent. However, given the fickle nature of adolescent relationships sexting can be perverted into a tool for moral destruction. Kids have to be made aware of the worst case scenarios:
In another week they’ve broken up, and there are some bad feelings, and now (their ex) owns this picture. That’s where the education is; it doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend you’re sharing it with. It is, the moment you share it--as we’re seeing in the paper and in the news--it is distribution of child pornography.
Sexting is...I share a picture with somebody, innocently thinking it’s just for them. They get mad at me, they share it with one person—and maybe their intent is only to share it with one person, but then that person shares it with someone who then shares it again.
Lisa gave as another example a case from a town in Alberta, Canada:
(A girl) ended up... breaking up with her boyfriend and he was mad. So, he shared (a photo) with one friend, who then posted that picture on Facebook. He set up a whole new Facebook account about this girl using that picture. Within thirty seconds, they had nine hundred likes...900 people going to that within 3 seconds.
THEY'RE NOT TOO YOUNG TO TALK TO
As with so many parenting dilemmas, Lisa emphasizes open dialogue with your children as a primary defence. Asking your children whether they understand what sexting is, or what they've heard about it. The talk may not only be preventative, but may also provide parents with some surprising insight into how much their children have been exposed to.
I spoke to grade 3, 4 ,5 and 6 kids and used the word sexting. You know what was interesting? The kids didn’t even flinch. They were just listening and taking it in.
There might be a grade 6 student there, who’s in a relationship who goes “Whoa, okay, my boyfriend has been asking me to do that.” or “My girlfriend has been asking me to do that.” I know that, for right or for wrong, not all parents are going to talk to their kids.
Parents are naive to think (their kids) don’t know about these things, or that some of these things are going on. Not all of them know, but enough of them know that they could get themselves in serious trouble.
Compounding the problem, texts and pictures are being used more and more as tools for bullying, because they are more instantaneous, more hurtful, and longer lasting than the traditional method of insults or hitting.
HOW TO BEGIN THE CONVERSTION
My children are 9-and-six-years-old respectively. How do I being to have a conversation about sexting with someone so young?
"I would start by asking 'Have you heard of the term sexting?' They will probably say no.
'Well I want you to hear about it from me, because you’re going to hear about it. You’re going to hear about it in the news; you’re going to hear about it from other kids.
Sexting is sharing inappropriate pictures, sexual in nature--meaning not having very many clothes on. Sharing it with a friend, or later on in life with a girlfriend or boyfriend, thinking that they are the only ones that are going to see it. They’re not. Other people are going to see it. Do you really want other people to see it?'"
The Laval teenagers are being tried as juveniles. They face a maximum of 3 years in prison. But, as Lisa explains, carrying a child pornography conviction can alter the course of a lifetime.
"These are really silly stupid mistakes these kids are making, and by putting the term 'sex offender' by their name for the rest of their life completely changes everything for them. They’ll never, ever be able to go to their child’s Christmas concert. They will never be able to go into the school for parent-teacher interviews. They will never be able to take their children to playgrounds. They will never be able to have a job where they work with children, for some very silly decision they made when they were uninformed."
Talk to your children about sexting, as uncomfortable as it may be. Lisa Dixon-Wells talks about developing a moral compass in your children. You cannot protect them from all of life's potential traps, but you can provide them with information and encourage them to come to you first, if they have any doubts.
Next post: Lisa talks about 3 websites children flock to, and that parents need to be aware of.
Last week's post discussed a study by the Canadian Women's Foundation, which highlighted the disproportionate number of young girls (ages 9-16) who described themselves as fat, or as being on a diet, or thought of themselves as ugly. In each of those categories the girls outnumbered the boys by an average of 3 to 1.
In a recent interview Beth Malcolm, Director of the Girl’s Fund at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, went into greater detail with me as to why young girls develop such feelings of shame in reference to themselves. She also offered some advice for parents to help counteract the development of self-scrutiny in children as young as 5-years-old.
CHILDREN PICK UP ON PATTERNS AT HOME & ONLINE
Weight and beauty have become such focuses of our daily lives, and such a part of mass-media, that making passing comments about our own body image, or poor nutrition, has become part of our daily lexicon. Ms. Malcolm points out how that kind of flippant bombardment registers very easily with young girls, and quickly leaves an impression:
"Kids hear parents talking about 'I need to cut back on this', or 'I need to diet this way'...They are hearing it from the adults in their lives, as well as the advertisement that’s out there. Even for the kids who are on Facebook, there are ads popping up all the time targeted to them. The advertising is there all the time about 'Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight'."
BODY-IMAGE BOMBARDMENT CAN LEAD TO DISORDERED THINKING
This type of constant bombardment can create a fixation which can threaten a young girl's physical and mental health to the point of creating a disorder. She referred to a McCreary Centre Society study which found that 60% of girls who were objectively evaluated as being too thin, described themselves as being 'fat'.
"That’s an extreme example of what kids are facing on a regular basis in terms of magazines and billboards and videogames...and even the clothing they buy. Even when they go into store, the mannequins are size 4 and 6, and lots of kids aren’t that size. They try on the clothes that they thought looked great on the mannequin, and they don’t look that great (on themselves). But rather than questioning ‘Well, wait, that mannequin was exceptionally thin', they start to criticize themselves and be to critical of their own bodies."
HOW DO YOU TEACH YOUNG WOMEN TO THINK CRITICALLY?
Being at such an impressionable age, it is vital all young people--and especially young women who are most affected by these messages--learn to understand how the message is being manipulated. For many of them, they are unaware of advertisers' Photoshopping and airbrushing of images, which creates unrealistic expectations in their young readers.
Ms. Malcolm explained how one of her friends agreed to allow her 12-year-old daughter to subscribe to a teen magazine under the condition the two of them would sit down and look through each issue together. Her friend acknowledged that, should she refuse the subscription, her daughter would resort to reading these publications outside the home with her friends. She realized this was an opportunity to take control of a situation and use it to teach her daughter think critically.
HOW TO YOU BEGIN BODY-IMAGE DISCUSSIONS WITH VERY YOUNG CHILDREN?
The CWF study specifically dealt with girls aged 9-16. How do you approach such an abstract topic with an even younger girl? I was particularly interested in some guidance; my 6-year-old daughter had recently commented on how her snowsuit made her look fat.
"I think it’s being honest with your kids. When you put on a snowsuit you tend to look large, you can’t help it. But you can change the language a little bit.
You can say 'You don’t look fat, the snowsuit makes you look larger.' You have to be honest. If they say they look fat in their snowsuit, you can talk about 'Yeah, but you are really special inside. You have this strength or that strength’ or ‘You’re amazing at this activity.’
You can shift the language. You don’t have to get into a whole lecture about body image or body weight, because they're 6."
MAKE CRITICAL THINKING PART OF EVERYDAY LANGUAGE
Even better than using that type of encouragement solely as a defense against self-deprecating comments. Ms. Malcolm suggests a preventative measure of teaching your children to have a realistic profile of their real-word surroundings on a daily basis.
"When you’re walking around, or at the movies, show them that people come in all shapes and sizes.
I think it’s important to shift that language and talk about getting more active or eating healthy."
She referred to two books by Lyn Mikel Brown & Sharon Lamb: "Packaging Girlhood" and "Packaging Boyhood" (also with Mark Tappan). She relayed how Ms. Brown, one of the authors, once told her how some of the most poingnant conversations between her and her daughter took place while watching a movie or a television show. They would turn entertainment into an opportunity to learn about unrealistic body image portrayals for the purposes of entertainment.
PARENTS SHOULD LEARN WHAT TO TALK ABOUT & WHAT TO STOP SAYING
Ultimately, Ms. Malcolm says, it's up to parents to be more aware of their own language patterns, while at the same time teaching their children not to fixate on the unrealistic messages from outside the home.
"Accept who you are and how you look and stop being critical of yourself. It’s probably a long slow shift we have to make. We have to teach kids to be critical about what they’re seeing and maybe turn off the TV at that time...You have to listen to the kids and let them take the lead. Really listen to what they’re saying and you’re going to start to hear things. As you start to hear things, have the conversation when they come up.
That’s the big challenge: kids have to understand that what they’re seeing isn’t necessarily real."
Tags: Beth Malcolm, blog, body issues, Canadian Women's Foundation, dad, dad blog, daughter, girls, Kenny Bodanis, kids, Lyn Mikel Brown, Mark Tappan, McCreay Centre, Men Get Pregnant Too, mengetpregnanttoo, Packaging Boys, Packaging Girls, parenting, self-esteem, self-image, Sharon Lamb, stereotype, women's issues, women's studies
My 6-year-old daughter put on her new snowsuit yesterday. "It makes me look fat." she said.
Where does that language come from? Why does she care? Is she picking it up from school?
For anyone who has a daughter, language like this may not be surprising. A new study released by the Canadian Women's Foundation highlights how "relentless body shaming puts girls at risk".
The study "reveals the impact of the constant scrutiny of women's bodies has on girls aged 9 to 16".
Here are some of the findings:
Notice these facts have to do with how girl's feel about themselves, not how others view them.
The CWF says "We would like to believe society is changing their approach to women's and girls' body image. However, Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson's recent comments about how some women's bodies 'just don't actually work' with his company's pants, highlight how far we have to go."
As with most patterns and lessons absorbed by your children, learning confidence and resilience begins at home, with their parents.
Here are the CWF's Top 7 Do's and Don'ts which will nurture resilience in your daughter:
1. DON’T bite your tongue. If people say things you disagree with or treat you in a disrespectful way, speak up. She needs to know it’s okay to stand up for herself, even at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings or causing disagreement.
2. DON’T talk about how fat you look. Never criticize your appearance in front of her or make negative comments about the way she or other females look. Let her know you value people’s inner qualities - like curiosity and courage - more than outward appearance.
3. DON’T put yourself down. Never make jokes about how incompetent you are, or make light of your own skills and abilities. She will learn to minimize her own accomplishments and may lower her future ambitions.
4. DO let her lead. When choosing school or social activities, ask her opinion and provide genuine choice. Rather than saying, “Do you want to take dance or singing?” ask open-ended questions like, “What interests you these days?”
5. DO let her take risks. Assuming her physical or mental health isn’t at stake, try not to be over-protective. Don’t rob her of the chance to be accountable for her own decisions and to learn from her own mistakes. If she fails, congratulate her for trying but don’t rescue her.
6. DO validate her experience. If she has ‘negative’ feelings or is having problems with her friends, don’t say “It’s not that bad” or try to cheer her up. Listen with respect, acknowledge that things sound difficult, and ask if there is anything you can do. Don’t pressure her to talk when she doesn’t want to. Instead, find lighthearted ways to strengthen your connection with her, like going for a walk or bike ride. If she is having problems with friends, encourage her to think more critically about the situation; suggest she pretend she is watching the conflict on TV or in a movie; what motivations and solutions does she see? If she is in genuine distress, get outside help.
7. DO provide fair and consistent structure. Presented in the spirit of love and caring, rules help young people feel protected and connected. Adolescents are less likely to engage in problem behaviours when adults know what they’re doing, and who they’re with. Set clear expectations for behaviour related to attending school, doing homework, sharing chores, and abiding by curfews.
Next week, I will post part two relating to this topic. It will include excerpts with the Director of the Girl's Fund at the Canadian Women's Foundation, Beth Malcom.
We'll talk more specifically about the girls outside this age range, and how to better correct patterns which may have already started to take hold.
Tags: blog, body issues, Canadian Women's Foundation, Chip Wilson, dad, dad blog, daughter, girls, Kenny Bodanis, kids, lululemon, Men Get Pregnant Too, mengetpregnanttoo, parenting, self-esteem, self-image, stereotype, women's issues, women's studies
Tags: back to school, blog, bullying, cjad, cjad, computers, daddy blog, elementary school, fatherhood, homework, interview, Kenny Bodanis, kids, kids movies, men get pregnant too, mengetpregnanttoo, movies, new years, new years resolutions, online bullying, online safety, parenting, parenting, radio, ric & suzannne show, ric peterson, school, self-esteem, suzanne desautels, The Atlantic
Her newborn son was feverish, lethargic and irritable.
Her doctor initially told her not to worry, but her instincts told her something was not right.
She insisted on a further examination of her child, after all, at one week old, there was little margin for error.
It was after a second exam that Furakh Mir's son, Sulayman, was diagnosed with bacterial Meningitis.
The little boy recovered after receiving a course of aggressive antibiotics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
This was the story Ms. Mir told during the opening minutes of yesterday's webinar organized to help raise awareness of the dangers, signs, and preventative measures associated with meningitis.
Today is World Meningitis Day.
Being a parent means being constantly vigilant. But it also means managing your attention - focusing on what's important, and prioritizing.
Meningitis was not high on my priority list.
Like so many parents, I keep a watchful eye when sitting by the local pool; make sure my kids eat don't eat too much junk food; and see to it they complete their homework.
Why would I attend a webinar related to World Meningitis Day?
The startling facts I learned yesterday about the disease answered that question.
Before I relay that information, here's a video produced by Meningitis Relief which encapsulates the reasons our focus should shift to include Meningitis:
Hearing loss, brain damage, learning disability and possibly death within the first 24 to 48 hours.
We take such precautions to get the flu shot, and wear our bicycle helmets, yet we barely hear of Meningitis from our doctors or our children's schools.
It is not yet part of the lexicon. Yet it presents a grave danger.
While it first presents with flu-like symptoms: fever, nausea, headache, neck pain and vomiting; it can spiral quickly downwards.
About 1 in 10 with the disease will not survive.
These are some of the facts put forth by the World Health Organization on their information sheet.
Dr. David Greenberg suggested yesterday that one of the best ways of assuring your concern about your child's health is being taken seriously by your doctor is to point out changes in your child's behaviour.
He points out, as many parents have experienced, that one child may have a fever of 40 degrees and still be energetic and active; another may register 38.2 and be grey and lethargic.
Trust your instincts. You know your child, don't shy away from letting your doctor know you feel there is more going on.
Meningitis is spread through direct contact with an infected person through the droplet route by means of respiratory secretions when air or liquid secretions are shared. - Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada
It does not spread through casual contact.
In other words, similar to flu prevention. Hygiene is key.
No shared drinks, or lipsticks; cough into your sleeves, wash your hands.
While younger children may respond more easily to an adult warning them not to share a water bottle with their friends at the park, teenagers can be more of a challenge.
Refusing a shared cigarette, or telling a friend: "No, you can't have a sip of my drink" may result in a teen being teased by their peers. This naturally discourages young adults from putting hygiene first.
During our one-on-one conversation after the webinar, Parenting Expert Alyson Schafer stressed that getting rid of this sort of stigma is exactly why meningitis prevention must become part our daily conversation.
She pointed out how, at one time, proper hygiene - even after a visit to the washroom - wasn't something people focused on. Now, washing your hands before leaving the bathroom is (hopefully) routine.
Ms. Schafer pointed out that meningitis awareness and prevention should become as much a part of routine conversations as flu vaccines, and washing your hands during cold season.
It's never too early to being that conversation.
Talk about meningitis vaccines, and prevention with your family, your friends and your schools
When it comes to meningitis - knowledge is power.
Here is a short survey, where you can discover how much you know, or don't know about the disease - it is live until April 29th, 2013.
Visit the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada, or Meningitis Relief Canada in Facebook website for more information.
Tags: alyson schafer. David Greenberg, blog, children, dad, daddy blog, fatherhood, furakh mir, hospital for sick children, Kenny Bodanis, kids, Men Get Pregnant Too, MenGetPregnantToo, meningitis, Meningitis Relief, meningitis vaccine, meningitis video, parenting, prevention, sick children, treatment, webinar, world meningitis day