Archive for "Ms. Nathalie’s Corner" Category

  • 5 Ideas for Transitioning Your Child From School to Summer - 2016.06.02 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    5 Ideas for Transitioning Your Child From School to Summer

    The lazy days of summer are nearly upon us again and many families may feel a sense of excitement at the thought of holiday fun and enjoying a slower pace of life. Yet some parents report feeling a sense of dread at the lack of the predictable structure and routine the school year offers them. In case you fall in the latter group, here are 5 ideas for transitioning to the school-free days of July and August:

    1. Create a Bucket-List:

      School-aged children love to contribute to this type of activity. Creating a bucket-list of activities to do (or sights to explore, activities, foods to try) can be a fun way to plan your summer and serve as a base for strengthening any parent-child relationship. I know of one family who loves chalk-board art and they spend considerable time artfully displaying their family bucket list for each summer. It truly can be a fantastic way to create memories and expose your children to new and enriching opportunities.

    2. Sleep:

      School-aged children still require a solid 10 hours of sleep per day, so aim to keep this part of your child’s routine consistent throughout the months of July and August. Consider keeping the same bedtime cues (i.e. bath, story, snuggle) as your child is used to during the school year so that these powerful signals will still be associated with sleep. It will also set them up for a more successful star to the school year in September.

    3. Prep:

      If your child leans more towards a sensitive temperament, they will benefit from family conversation related to the summer plans and routine. Envisioning this ahead of time and co-creating a plan may help them feel more at ease as they say goodbye to friends and activities that organize how their world is set up. Maybe there are summer camps to be looked forward to, or the annual trip to visit grandma. Whatever it may be, meeting your child’s need for a sense of predictability will go a long way in easing the transition.

    4. Take a Tech Holiday:

      Yes, this may seem crazy in today’s world…but think of the countless benefits for you and your child. We are so reliant upon our technology that we have forgotten how to simply be without it. A tech holiday doesn’t have to mean zero screens for the entire summer, but could be a decision to reduce screen time, or leave screens at home when going out. For one family I have worked with, this meant the children were able to watch their favourite shows on 1 day per week, as opposed to having a daily dose of tv. For another family it could mean, the phones go in the tech bucket for the evening. The key is to have a plan for replacing screen time with something else, such as face to face connection, outdoor activity, reading, bike rides, etc. You know your family best and use this knowledge in your planning ahead.

    5. Be Okay with Boredom:

      This relates to our propensity to engage in technology/social media and live highly structured lives during the school year. We tend to have endless entertainment at our fingertips and this can be a wonderful thing. But when we resist the urge to structure every single hour of the day, and allow our child to feel bored, it creates opportunities for them to begin engaging their creative juices in ways that technology or structured activities can never afford them. Here’s to more fort-building, more game playing and more time for connection with your loved ones.

    6. Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer of 2016!

      Nathalie Scott MSW, RSW, RPt

      Reg. Clinical Social Worker

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  • 5 Ways to Cultivate Family Rituals - 2016.03.28 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    5 Ways to Cultivate Family Rituals

    The benefits of having regular connecting time with your children are endless. As the primary caregiver, consider the value in creating a space that feels emotionally safe for your child. Their world outside of the home can be full of stress-filled experiences so coming home to a sanctuary with you as their nurturing anchor will help soothe and calm their beings so there is room and energy for all the growing up that they are busy doing! Here are some thoughts on intentionally creating this soft nest for your child to land in at the end of each day.

    1. Meals: Whenever possible, eat together without distractions. There’s no need to fuss over fancy food, but focus instead on creating a warm, nurturing environment for family meals to take place. Your children will grow up with these memories as part of their blueprint for family life and will feel more connected to you, both now and in the adolescent years.
    2. Upping the Fun Factor: With school-aged children it can include a weekly games night, baking your traditional cinnamon buns, or Sunday trips to the local library. The bottom-line is that if it is a time where you and your little one(s) can spend quality time together, it really means the sky is the limit. What makes rituals so meaningful, is that there is a repetitive aspect to it. Children (and adults) find comfort in repeatedly engaging in these ordinary (yet extraordinary) moments and we, as parents, have the privilege of helping them create these experiences.
    3. Avoid a sense of obligation, when carving out time for your family’s rituals. Try to find a way to meet the needs of all your family members so that you all enjoy being together as opposed to doing things you may feel obligated to engage in.
    4. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness. Any excuse to highlight their budding strengths or interests will help your child feel loved and reinforce a healthy self-image. Perhaps this is done simply with a mention over dinnertime or in a more concrete way by writing it out as a complement on a family chalkboard.
    5. Bedtime reading is still an invaluable connecting activity in the school-aged years. Even though your child may be an independent reader, reading to them at bedtime is such a fantastic way to bond with your child at the end of each day.

    Lastly, holidays are typically already filled with rituals and traditions and if the emphasis remains on togetherness and a sense of unity, these rituals will go a long way in creating your own family’s unique culture. If it gives you a sense of “this is who we are”, you are on the right track!

    Nathalie Scott MSW, RSW, RPT

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  • Helping Your School-Aged Child Make Sense of the Recent Terrorism Attacks - 2015.12.09 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    Helping Your School-Aged Child Make Sense of the Recent Terrorism Attacks

    It has been a few weeks since the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the media coverage on the aftermath continues on a daily basis. Parents often wonder how to help their children make sense of such horrifying events, particularly if they have already been exposed to some news coverage or social media.

    As a general rule, I would recommend leaving the TV off during the news hour so that children are not unnecessarily taking in graphic content that may be frightening or disturbing to them.

    Children under age six are best off not knowing about these events. They are much less likely to be hear or see any details of these events and there is no need to discuss this with them, unless they are directly affected by the event or have already heard about it.

    School-aged children are more likely to hear about big world events, includ-ing terrorist attacks. This can happen in a myriad of ways, whether through friends at school, viewing a news article or photo on the Internet or around the dinner table when older siblings may be inquiring about the bombings. The urge may be to shield your child from the entire event. This instinct is something many parents grapple with and is worth paying attention to. In my practice with families, I remind parents that they know their child best and that it is worthwhile listening to this instinct. You know what your child’s distress tolerance is and if you determine that your child has no knowledge of the events yet, it may be just fine to shield them from hearing about it (at least for the time being).

    If your school-aged child has already heard about it, you can take this as an opportunity to be your child’s compass point in the process of making sense of the Paris terrorist attacks.

    Here are some points to consider:

    • If you can initiate a conversation with your school-aged child, this would be ideal, because it allows you to set the stage and provide simple facts. It also means that if your child hears erroneous details at school, they will recall what they have been told by you and can come back and process this with you.
    • Less detail is better than more. Try to gauge what your child may know already and fill in gaps where needed. A clear, simple narrative is adequate.
    • Give your child the time and space to express all their feelings. You can reassure them that feelings are neither good nor bad, but that feelings just are. It is totally normal to be sad, scared, angry, indifferent or what-ever else your child may be feeling. The important thing is that your child will benefit from your kind and strong presence as they process.
    • Your child will need to hear a sense of confidence in your voice as you convey to them that they are safe with you. While terrible things have happened far away from home here in Canada, they will benefit from being reassured that their world is safe.
    • It is very likely that their primary concern will be their own (and their family’s safety. Your child may need to hear your reassurance but may not articulate this need to you. Listen to your child and read between the lines what they may be most concerned about.
    • Emphasize the good that is happening after the attacks. You can describe the helpers (neighbours, medical professionals, community centres) and the efforts to ‘catch the bad guys’.
    • Lastly, with the holidays around the corner, there may be a variety of ways to “give back” within your own community. Finding tangible and creative ways for you and your child to be altruistic together, can be real reminders of all the good that exists in our world.

    Nathalie Scott MSW, RSW, RPT

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  • Supporting your Highly Sensitive Child - 2015.11.13 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    Supporting your Highly Sensitive Child

    We hear a lot about the sensitivity in children; many parents report feeling a sense of urgency in helping their child ‘get over’ being sensitive so that they can cope better with the ups and downs of life. Temperament refers to individual differences in behavioural style and is not something we can get rid of or change. Temperament is present at birth and determines in part, how we respond to the environment around us.

    Sensitive children are highly attuned to the world around them, having a heightened awareness of one or more of the following: the emotional climate in their surroundings, sound, touch, taste or smell coming their way. Research has shown that there are neurobiological distinctions in these children. They may be easily overwhelmed, irritable and very empathic to others around them. No two highly sensitive children are the same, and each one will be somewhere along a continuum in terms of receptivity to each sense. For example, one child may become undone in a loud and busy shopping centre, while another child may be cognizant and bothered by the tags on the inside of their clothing.

    What is most important to remember is that it is the quality of the child’s relationship with his or her caregivers that sets the stage for optimal child development. The neurobiological differences are indeed very helpful to keep in mind for your child, because knowing the nuanced ways in which your child operates will enhance your capacity to be attuned to their needs. But above all, it is your child’s relationship with you, their very own big person, that is the context within which they can flourish and grow into their full potential.

    Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

    1. Be a nurturing “hulk” in your relationship with your child. Establish a sense of caring dominance within your relationship that invites your child to rely on you and know that you have got their back in all situations. When your child senses they can rest in the loving relationship they have with you, they are less likely to be susceptible to a low self-esteem or experience shame. When you introduce them to new situations or people, it helps your child adjust when these introductions are done in a thoughtful and planned way.
    2. Many parents tell me they feel embarrassed with their child’s low frustration tolerance, especially when this occurs in a public setting. When parents can consistently stay in charge of difficult situations by using empathy and delaying the processing about the incident to a later time when the child’s (and parent’s!) big feelings have subsided, children can be regulated in more adaptive ways. Never use disconnection as a method of discipline so that the child can know that nothing (no misbehaviour, no tantrum or outburst) can divide them from your love and acceptance.
    3. 3. Less is more. Sometimes the temptation may be to fill the child’s schedule with a variety of stimulating extra-curricular activities. A sensitive child will need down time to re-charge their batteries and process all their experiences. Intentionally carve out time for child-led play, time outdoors or other non-structured activities in the comfort of your own home. You know your child best and should determine how much your child can handle in terms of activities.
    4. 4. Regulate your own feelings. We can all become undone or lose our temper but it will be especially important to remain in charge of our own strong feelings or at least appear that way to our child. We need to model healthy coping to our children because they learn so much about regulating their own emotions from the grown-ups around them. Sometimes we may need to take a short break and remove ourselves from a heated situation. You can make up an excuse like you have just remembered you need to make a quick phone-call or use the washroom. If this is not possible, some reflection on what went on for us after the incident has passed can provide insight and help us stay in charge of our feelings the next time.
    5. 5. Help your child feel safe enough to have their tears and share their vulnerable selves with you. This is essential for all those times they cannot get their way and are facing frustration or a sense of disappointment. When children learn that they can move past experiences of frustration and be okay afterwards, they develop resiliency. Your child can do this best with you! You are their kind and strong big person who will help them move through their angry feelings towards feelings of sadness and acceptance. A big embrace, empathic words and a gentle touch can all go a long way in this delicate process.

    If you have questions or concerns relating to your child’s temperament, feel free to call our office to book a parent consultation with one of our skilled clinicians. In addition, a useful resource for parents is Elaine N. Aron’s book, “The Highly Sensitive Child”.

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  • Back to School! Easing the Transition - 2015.09.01 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    Back to School! Easing the Transition

    Summer is rolling on by and back-to-school season has already arrived. Going back to class can conjure up all sorts of thoughts and feelings for our children, let alone ourselves as parents! Excited anticipation or dreaded angst, September signifies a major time of adjustment for children and parents alike.The period from 5 to 8 years of age can be seen as a major turning point, as children experience separation from their parents in a more structured, formal way. Increasing pressure and expectations around academic and social functioning can make this a stressful time for children. Besides preparing for school with new backpacks and school supplies, there are many social and emotional ways we can support our children during this time of transition.

    Bedtimes tend to be later and more relaxed during the summer months, but gradually making your way back to a more realistic bedtime before school starts can be extremely helpful for starting school refreshed. School-aged kids need 10-11 hours of sleep at night so keep this in mind as you plan for restful nights in the weeks before the first day of school. Good, consistent sleep habits will set the tone for a successful start to a new academic year.

    Since your child’s teacher will be the primary adult responsible for your child during the daytime, it will be essential that you help your child develop a connection to their new teacher. Also known as matchmaking, introducing your child to their teacher and facilitating an emotional connection can reduce any anxiety about being in a new class (and away from you). It sends the message to your child that you and the teacher are working together and are both part of the nurturing village involved in their growing up process. Perhaps seeing a photo of the teacher in advance can be helpful, if this is available. Being intentional about setting up an introduction, however short, can facilitate the start of a caring relationship

    Developing (or reintroducing) some rituals around hellos and goodbyes can also be helpful. Maybe a special way of saying goodbye, surprise love notes in lunch boxes, a special item your child can take with them as a small memento that serves to help them feel close to you while apart, these can all make the long days go by more easily. Special family dinners can also create a sense of anticipation for your child while they are at school (i.e. taco Tuesdays). Looking forward to reconnecting with you (their safe haven) after the separation is key to softening the process of being apart.

    Finally, it will serve your child well if you are connected to their teacher too. Making a point of meeting them and having regular communication will help the teacher understand the ins and outs of what makes your child tick can help set the stage for more growth and development to occur and for your child to flourish.

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  • Discovering Treasures during the School-Aged Years - 2015.08.03 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    Discovering Treasures during the School-Aged Years

    This warm summer weather is a lovely invitation to linger and enjoy the outdoors. What better way to unplug and connect with your child by inviting them to join you in an outdoor adventure? Hit up the playground, build some sand castles at the beach, or go for a bike ride with a surprise ice cream stop! Whatever suits your family’s interests, connecting with your child through playful outdoor activities can be a superb way to strengthen your emotional connection.

    The research is clear; free play helps build a child’s imaginative play skills, which can boost brain development in a variety of ways. Social problem-solving, self-regulation, executive function and language development are all areas of a child’s cognitive development that can be strengthened through regular unstructured play experiences. The health benefits of outdoor physical play are also well documented. As parents, we tend to know these things intuitively.

    But regularly playing with your child in an unstructured way can also benefit your relationship and strengthen the emotional connection between you and your child. Children need to feel connected to their ‘big people’ in order to thrive and be able to do all the work of growing up. Life can be so full of distractions and a sense of busy-ness, so it is important to remember that the onus remains with us as parents to re-collect our child to maintain our emotional connection. Recollecting just means getting our child’s attention in a loving way.

    The best way to invite your child into a playful experience is to focus your attention exclusively on them. Unplug the electronics and take a break from the screens. Pre-empt your child and surprise them with the invitation to spend some quality time together. Maybe it’s going for a nature walk, or a picnic in the backyard. Display empathy to your child by meeting them where they are at emotionally. If they are tired from a day at camp, perhaps they need some downtime on the couch with you beside them before you can transition into a playful activity. Laughter, a sense of playfulness and warmth are all ingredients for building and strengthening the relationship with your child. The relaxed pace of the summer months can be the perfect reason for exploring new ways of bonding with your growing loves so get outside and have some fun!

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  • Coping with Loss - 2015.06.03 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    Supporting Your Child after the Death of a Loved One

    When a loved one passes away, children may experience a broad range of emotions including sadness, guilt, anger and longing. Depending on their age and developmental stage, children may have a limited ability to verbalize their feelings. Similarly, their understanding of death and corresponding grief responses also change and expand as they develop. Childhood grief appears different from the grief experienced by adults, and can often occur in spurts.

    Supportive tips for parents

    • Find ways to have your child feel connected to the loved one that has passed.This connection might be a shared interest (e.g. “you love singing just like your grandpa did”), a physical commonality (e.g. “you have her smile”), a way to send messages, and a focus on the afterlife if your belief system incorporates this. Storytelling and memory sharing are also ideal ways of inviting connection.
    • Talk to your child about death in a simple, clear and direct manner because this will aid in their understanding of death as irreversible, inevitable and universal. Open space for increased dialogue, particularly if your child is indicating a need to process verbally. At the same time, don’t be surprised if he/she appears ‘fine’ and unaffected.
    • Dispel any misconceptions (i.e. magical thinking about being to blame for a family member’s death) they might have. Check in with the child to see if they have understood your explanation, and reassure that they are not the cause of their loved one’s passing.
    • Increase nurturing activities for physical and emotional comfort will be helpful for soothing your child. Think about extra cuddles, reading together, baking and enjoying favourite snacks.
    • • If your child is feeling angry and is engaging in more disruptive behaviours, it is important to validate and accept his/her anger and set clear boundaries as needed. Think of yourself as a big container – large enough to hold all his/her tricky feelings. The disruptive behaviours may be a way to express underlying needs for increased nurturing, reassurance, or a need to feel in control.
    • Providing the child with some ways for expressing their angry feelings. Physical activity, drawing, singing or writing can all be creative avenues to express anger and keep it from becoming bottled up inside.
    • • If your child is expressing a feeling of guilt, normalize that many children feel this way, but accept his/her feelings and reassure that the child did not say or do anything to cause their loved one to die. Your child might need to hear these reassurances many many times so that they can integrate this into their understanding.
    • Engage in meaningful experiences of remembering and celebrating the life of the deceased. Looking at photographs, talking with family members, or creating a special ritual for your family can all be helpful ways to memorialize a loved one.
    • A child who did not have a chance to say goodbye, may benefit from writing a letter to their loved one who has died or from visiting a memorial site. These types of rituals together with other family members and friends can also increase the connectedness and cohesion between your child and yourself and other supportive people in your lives.
    • Your experiences with grief may not be the same as your child’s. Be gentle with yourself and seek your own support for coping.
    • If you have more questions or specific concerns about your child’s coping, you can consult a mental health professional to address your concerns and unique circumstances. Together with a mental health professional, you can explore how therapy may help your child express their grief in healthy ways.

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  • Promoting Your School-aged Child’s Self-Esteem - 2015.04.11 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    Promoting Your School-aged Child’s Self-Esteem

    As a child and family therapist, parents regularly ask me how they can boost their child’s self-esteem. We all want the very best for our children including a sense that they are happy and confident. But how can we go about promoting a healthy self-esteem in our children in the day-to-day?

    First of all, self-esteem can be defined as the way we look at ourselves. A healthy self-esteem is the sense that one is good, capable and secure. It is not a sense of entitlement or superiority(this is a different concept all together).The primary way in which we can build our child’s self-esteem is through loving them unconditionally. This is by far, the most foundational element for a child’s emotional health. A child who feels worthy can have the confidence to tackle challenges that come along in life. Conveying this with your words and actions will truly make this a felt experience for your child. The development of self-esteem in the school years is related to a history of being accepted and supported by parents or other primary caregivers.

    Secondly, in order for self-esteem to flourish, a child does need to experience some successes or a sense of achievement. Excelling in a school subject, learning a new skill or thriving in a sport are all examples of real accomplishments school-aged children can experience. Like adults, a child will evaluate herself by what she does, which in turn, informs her understanding of who she is. So finding ways for your child to excel at something (i.e. being a friend, enjoying ballet classes, reading to a Kindergartener) will help pave the way to a healthy self-esteem.This does NOT mean that we need to push our child beyond her capabilities but rather, set the stage for her to experience reaching her own goal and experiencing a sense of being capable. If your child is struggling, you will want to consider how to create situations where they are set up for success to get the ball rolling.

    To summarize:

    • Accept and appreciate your child just the way she is. This will her accept and appreciate herself too.
    • Create expectations that are developmentally appropriate so that your child can feel competent in her efforts. This will help positively influence her motivation to get after the doing!
    • Celebrate and encourage her efforts (i.e. "you worked really hard on that!"), rather than giving your child empty praise (i.e. ‘you are so smart!’). The key is to provide opportunities for realistic self-appraisal.
    • Provide your child with some scaffolding for the skills on which she is working and find ways to connect with her learning experiences at home.

    If you have concerns about your child’s self-esteem or want to discuss any parenting challenges in detail, please call our office at 778-294-8732 to book an appointment with one of our child and family counsellors/psychologists.

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  • Sibling Rivalry - 2015.02.24 ( Ms. Nathalie's Corner )
    "It’s mine!" And Other Common Proclamations Among Siblings. Ideas For Inviting Cooperation Amongst your Brood.

    It’s past six o’clock and you are finishing the final preparations for dinner, your spouse is stuck in traffic and the kids are exhausted from a long day at school and karate lessons. In the background, you can hear their voices slowly begin to escalate and you sense some conflict arising over a highly coveted toy. Sound familiar? It seems we have all been there.

    The same little ones who can be ever so endearing can also lead you to feel completely exasperated with their bickering. Sibling rivalry spans from the early childhood years and well into the school-aged years and is a relatively normal part of family life. Various factors can influence the amount of fighting between siblings, including, child temperament, birth order, age of the children and times of family transition.

    Siblings may be fighting as a way of getting more attention from parents, as a way of connecting with their brother or sister, to experience a sense of fairness/justice or as a way of combatting boredom. Whatever the reason(s) may be, here are some general guidelines that can act as lampposts along the windy road of parenthood.

    As parents, our aim is to use discipline primarily to teach new skills and gain cooperation. It may be tempting to fall into the trap of using discipline primarily for punishment. However, in the long run, our hopes are most often connected to instilling particular values and morals into our children that they will take along with them on life’s journey. It is important to take your children’s rivalry seriously, primarily because you are in the position to help manage and contain conflict that could become harmful to them. As their parent, you have their backs and are their ‘big person’. It is so important to appear to have all the answers, even when you feel you may not. This is especially the case when they become emotionally undone. :)

    Avoid the trap of favouring one child over the other. It is not necessary to play referee and determine who started it, but more critical to figure out what is behind your child’s actions: "What is my child trying to convey about his or her needs?" When you can see this, it can be much easier to connect with your child on an emotional level, before delving into problem-solving.

    Secondly, conveying empathy to your children while they are at odds helps them become more skilled at showing genuine care and concern for each other. "Susie, it looks like you are frustrated because you didn’t get to have your turn." An empathic statement, and soft tone of voice can often defuse a tricky situation. When we model reflective listening, we help our children learn how their actions impact those around them. An added benefit is that your children will feel understood and cared for, which will lead to more receptivity when it is time to problem-solve and set limits.

    Once they have calmed down, it is time to help them problem-solve their way through an issue. It is important to remember that this process only works well when both children are calm. If they are still emotionally escalated, it will be nearly impossible to access the thinking part of their brains and begin negotiating or creating some ground rules. It will be helpful to creatively approach the challenges they face and come up with win-win scenarios or invitations to respect each other. It is key to do this in a manner where you come alongside them, inviting their ideas and suggestions.

    Lastly, it can be a wonderful buffer to engage the whole family in activities that are fun for everyone. An outing to the local swimming pool, a walk on the beach or a games night may be just the type of activity your children will enjoy. When they enjoy each other’s company in a shared activity, it can act as a lovely antidote to the fighting and may make it a faster turn-around when they do come across another hurtle.

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