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Halifax’s Family Magazine ourchildrenmagazine.ca

Spring 2021

Break o h c r r a M

Bust !

The joys of at-home vacations this spring

The Lost Art

Old-school communication skills for real conversation and connection

plus Health & Wellness Nutrition Book Reviews


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5

March break or bust

12

PHOTO: SUGAR MOON FARM

With pandemic travel precautions, families are rediscovering the joys of at-home vacations

Spring 2021

DEPARTMENTS 7 Editor’s note March break memories

8 Nutrition Are your eating habits disordered? Serve up some healthier attitudes

18 A Different Rooute The elephant in the chatroom: cyberviolence

20 Health & Wellness How a snap decision enhanced the health and well-being of Nova Scotia youth

22 Book reviews Highlighting local authors and illustrators, Trevor J. Adams recommends books for kids and parents

CONTENTS

15

A lost art Reconnecting kids and communication


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Sabine Morris is ready to pack in a week of March break fun and make the best of a holiday close to home. Photo: Bruce Murray/VisionFire

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EDITOR’S NOTE

The March break reset

7

Crystal Murray, Editor in Chief

Our Children Magazine

@OurChildrenMag www

ourchildrenmagazine.ca

tadams@metroguide.ca

www

And just like that, next year is here. Last March, our sand and surf holiday did a quick pivot to Netflix and www

nacho nights www

L

ots of people are saying lately that they can’t recall the last time they had to pack a suitcase. I actually can remember, but it's the anticlimactic unpacking that stands larger in my memory. It was March 13, the day before my husband, youngest daughter, and I were to depart to tropical climes for a week of sand and sunshine. Those well-worn carry-on bags have been in our attic ever since. In the days before our holiday, as we counted down the sleeps to take off for our much-anticipated destination in the sunny south, the reasons for cancelling our trip were mounting. The UN had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, our prime minister was asking for March break travelers to rethink their plans and we had a good idea that if we did choose travel, we’d face a two-week quarantine when we returned. The reality of our new world set in. The only solution for our family was to surrender our trip and unpack those suitcases filled with sunscreen and flip-flops. “Oh well,” we said. “There is always next year.” And just like that, next year is here. Last March, our sand and surf holiday did a quick pivot to Netflix and nacho nights. We did end up in quarantine for two weeks because one of our kids flew in from South Africa and we decided to hunker down together. At the time of writing this message all of the directional arrows point towards a bit more freedom than last year, but the dream of sandy beaches and drinking out of coconuts is on hold for a little while longer. But we Nova Scotians have staying close to home down pat. We have lots of great options for local adventures. Contributing editor Janet Whitman frees up some of your search engine time and does everything but make the snacks and load up the car for your March break fun. Check out her feature on page 12 for some of the best activities in the HRM and easy day trips not too far out of town. We didn’t travel far for March break when I was a kid. It was a treat just to stay up a little later, sleep in a little longer, and find

our own fun. My parents didn’t spend weeks planning a family getaway. I grew up in Pictou County, a trip to the city for a new pair of jeans and a stop for KFC in Stewiacke on the way home was about as exotic as it got. And we were happy. Somewhere along the line, the expectations for March break morphed from a few days without homework to trips south, to the ski hills of New England, or a full list of activities to keep the kiddos busy. As I start to count down the sleeps before another March break and wish that I could dust off those suitcases in the attic, I am reminded of those school holidays from my childhood when getting outside to play, skate on the neighbours’ pond, make cookies, and just hang out with my friends was all I needed for a great vacation. We’ve hit the reset button many times in the last year and with tremendous success! I would love to hear what you and your family have planned to pack in your own March break fun. Send us your photos and a short description, insert, or tag us in a post, and we will share on our social platforms. We will also send you one of our cozy fleece blankets to cuddle up in while the days are still chilly. Email crystalmurray@advocateprinting.com. Have fun, stay safe, and make some memories. n

PHOTO: STEVE SMITH/VISIONFIRE

PHOTO: NORTHOVER PHOTOGRAPHY

The pressure to travel is gone, setting the stage for a return to the simple pleasures of a week away from school


8

NUTRITION

Our Children | Spring 2021

Stop feeding diet culture Serving up healthy attitudes for our children By Crystal Murray

R

ecently I talked with a couple friends about a diet plan one of them was following. One had lost a few pounds and said she really didn’t have trouble keeping to the plan. There were lots of recipes, she never felt hungry, and she liked the results. The other friend piped up that she would be interested in trying but she was careful not to engage in any disordered eating, which could impact her teenage daughters. Her statement lingered with me and even stung a bit as I thought about my own eating behaviour. Are they disordered? Has my relationship with food had an impact on my children?

Good Food vs. Bad Food I’ve long tried to be conscious about what I eat. That’s because I was diagnosed with Celiac disease about seven years ago, but also a general part of my effort to be what I considered to be fit and healthy. One of my sons has Type 1 diabetes. When he was diagnosed at the age of three, it piqued my interest in nutrition and the way our bodies respond to different foods. I also became vigilant about foods that I labelled as either good or bad, as

they related to stabilizing blood sugar. My other son, who doesn’t have diabetes, is also studying nutrition at university. He tells me he grew up thinking about foods as good or bad. This had nothing to do with blood sugar control for him. It suggests that even though I have no recollection of openly categorizing food this way, perhaps my kids were getting an unhealthy message. I wasn’t restricting my children from having treats, but I did have limits and made sure that they understood what

WHY SO STRICT?

“The culture of restricting kid’s foods, treats in general, has become so prevalent,” says Dr. Cheryl Aubie, who has vast knowledge of the impacts of food restriction from her clinical practice. “Kids for the most part eat foods that are good for them and they tend not to overeat these treats if they are not always restricted from them. If you make these types of food less scarce then in most cases the kids, when they have access to them, will not overeat. Categorizing foods as good or bad for you can also get in the way of kids eating for nutrition and there are also a lot of outside influences that determine how young people choose to eat.”

healthy food really was. I thought I was educating my family on good nutrition but was I unintentionally and quietly exposing my children to the toxicity of diet culture and disordered eating?

Diet Culture It’s almost impossible to escape diet culture. Dr. Cheryl Aubie is a Halifax psychologist who also works with the province’s Eating Disorder Clinic. She believes that our culture venerates diet and weight loss. “It is absolutely true that many people have a disordered approach to eating.” says Aubie. Disordered eating isn’t an eating disorder diagnosis. Aubie explains that disordered eating is a concept explaining when people are on the verge of unhealthy food attitudes and behaviours. Diet culture that feeds disordered eating suggests that people are worthy based on their body size. It vilifies some ways of eating and celebrates others. Dr. Phillip Joy, assistant professor in applied human nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University adds that diet culture


9 limits acceptable bodies to certain types. “This often leads to feelings of inadequacy if your body deviates from these standards,” Joy says. Aubie says that there is a greater risk for people who have (or are exposed to) unhealthy eating behaviours to develop serious eating disorders. “When fat phobia exists, you are more likely to see problems but if you are mentoring the right behaviours the risks are lower,” she explains. According to the Canadian Eating Disorders Strategy released in 2019, approximately a million Canadians meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder. Equally concerning is the number of young Canadians engaging in risky dieting behaviour. Eating disorders can develop throughout a child’s development, with or without the modelling of good eating behaviour. Joy, who has partnered with Eating Disorders Nova Scotia to study disordered eating in the local LGBTQS+ community. He thinks all children are vulnerable. “The pressure to look a certain way and change the way we eat are very high, especially for young people,” he says. “It’s typically thought that boys are not as vulnerable, but this is not the whole story. There are different pressures for different groups of children and people.”

When change is good Not all changes to eating patterns are cause for concern. Sometimes a health condition requires dietary changes. As a parent, planned weight loss that will have positive implication on health and longevity are many times the catalyst for change— that’s not disordered eating. Science has revealed a lot about how nutrition is an important factor in disease prevention, health, and life span. Barb Brennan, a registered holistic nutritional consultant and owner of Honey and Ginger, a wellness shop with two locations in the HRM that provides nutritional counselling, health supportive foods, supplements and a host of other services for healthy body and mind, says that it’s important to remember that no one diet fits everyone. “I live and work in a world where people are in and out of our business looking for advice for all types of diets. It’s all about finding what is best for you,” says Brennan. “For example, we might have a client that is following the keto diet. For them they just feel better and they think clearer. A lot of people want quick result to lose weight. We caution people that what is good today has to be good in the long term and what it all comes down to is balance and focusing on real food.” “When you are making changes for health reasons talk about this with your children,” says Aubie. “This is also an opportunity for the family to make these healthy choices together. It’s also is easier when you are preparing the same meal so that when everyone sits down to eat together it doesn’t draw as much attention to the person that is eating the different meal. From a nutritional perspective, communication is key and allows your kids to ask questions and be curious about healthy eating guidelines. “I would recommend people to follow Canada’s Food Guide as an approach to wellness and longevity,” adds Joy. “You have

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10

NUTRITION

Our Children | Spring 2021

to be careful to ensure your sources of information come from credible sources when it comes to nutrition. These approaches would be to eat a varied and balanced diet with an emphasis on eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain food and protein foods that come from plants more often. Limit highly processed foods and if you choose these foods, eat them less often.” Government updated the guide in 2019, based on the latest research. “Until

recently, a lot of people in the nutrition world were not happy with Canada’s Food Guide but the new guide is a much more realistic vision and more on track for wellness than before,” says Brennan. “We also have to remember that nutrition and wellness is not just what we eat. It’s what we breath, what we put on our skin and how we cope with stress.” Diet culture and disordered eating are rooted in self-worth. Brennan encourages people to seek more positivity.

REDUCE THE RISK OF DISORDERED EATING • One of the best tools is eating together as a family. When kids grab a plate and go to their room you don’t know what is happening with their food. • Try not to comment on weight or body size. • Mentor through your own eating practices by eating according to Canada’s Food Guide recommendations. Also, mentor through cooking more often and together, exploring different foods, eating and enjoying together.

When you eat with others, it’s important to remember to: • Take your time and be with each other • Put away distractions like the TV or electronics. • Talk to those around you and share what is going on in everyone’s life.

“All food has energy,” she explains. “Fresh local food is best for this. There are a lot of people who have never made a trip to their local farmers’ market. There is something that happens when you hand pick your vegetables, or you pick up fresh eggs. There is a good energy in this, and people benefit from that.” Shifting away from diet culture takes a change of mindset. “There is an important mental health component here,” says Brennan. “I think trying different ways of eating can be a healthy thing to explore, especially if you are trying to find the right food for what your own body needs. A change in diet can open up opportunities to try new foods but in the end it all comes down to balance.” n

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The best gifts Settlealways in for some have been cozy winter reading made at home. time with kids. Here are some great options for your winter reading. TOGO TO THE RESCUE Laura King

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MI’KMAW DAILY DRUM $14.95 A baby board book that teaches young readers Mi’kmaw concepts and a Mi’kmaw word for each day of the week. Nimbus Publishing nimbus.ca


Ma

or k a e r B h c r

! t s u B

Sabine Morris, Esja Nener, and Scarlett Stevenson gear up for their second pandemic March Break. With plans for lots of fresh air and activities close to home, the three students appreciate a week away from a school routine that was anything but routine this year.

A

fter almost a year of home-schooling stints, physicaldistancing, mask-wearing, bubbling, and other onand-off measures to grapple with COVID-19, March break won’t be like we remember. Trips to warm and sunny Walt Disney World, or even cold and snowy New Brunswick, are off the table. But there’s no shortage of things to do around the province and right here in Halifax. “People are discovering just how great it is here and how much there is to offer right on our doorstep,” says JanSebastian LaPierre, author of the A is for Adventure children’s book and co-founder of a local business of the same name, which aims to inspire people to get outdoors and explore. “The amount of people who have gotten out is at an all-time high. I hope post-COVID this continues.”

With pandemic travel precautions, families are PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

rediscovering the joys of at-home vacations By Janet Whitman

PARENT PRO TRIP While they’re pretty good about getting kids outfitted properly for the elements with scarves, mitts, hats and waterproof boots, parents aren’t always so savvy about dressing themselves, which can take the fun out of a day outdoors. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a bundle at an outdoor gear shop, says LaPierre, who likes layers and has been sporting his 18-month-old son on his latest hiking adventures. There are plenty more affordable options at big box retailers like Costco or Walmart, or even better deals at Value Village and Frenchy’s.


Our Children | Spring 2021

COVER STORY

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

LEARNING ADVENTURES

A skate on the Oval on Halifax Common or a sledding excursion are great ways to fill up with a few hours of fresh air. Top spots around the city for sledding include Citadel Hill, Merv Sullivan Park (AKA “the Pit”) in the North End, Gorsebrook Field in the South End and Flinn Park in the West End, Dartmouth Common, the Mother Hill behind Mount Saint Vincent in Clayton Park, and Bedford’s De Wolfe Park to name a few. The Adventure Earth Centre, part of HRM’s parks and recreation service, offers free snowshoes. Families can get outfitted with pairs at Chocolate Lake Recreation Centre the head off to try out the trails at Sir Sandford Fleming Park along Purcell’s Cove Road or Shubie Park on the north side of Lake Micmac in Dartmouth.

For a bit more structure, Earth Adventures has 30-funfilled trails in and around Halifax and the Annapolis Valley that are geared toward children from ages five to 12. On 1.5-hour, 1.8-kilometre trip on the Halifax waterfront, kids can learn how wild creatures survive in an urban landscape, or head to Woodens River for a “wizards and potions” two-hour hiking adventure. Find details at earthadventures.ca. Geocaching is another activity that appeals to all ages. There are at least a half a dozen Facebook groups around the province for the GPS-enabled outdoor treasure hunts, a craze that started in 2000. With GPS, participants navigate to a specific set of coordinates and then try to find the hidden “geocache,” typically a hidden container with a logbook. There are countless apps to enhance the outdoor experience. Consider Seek by iNaturalist, which helps identify flowers, trees, birds and animals. For an evening outing, apps such as SkyView or Star Walk 2 offer a more illuminating experience, teaching about the nighttime sky and constellations. Fisherman’s Cove in Eastern Passage and Hubbards Beach are prime spots for stargazing.

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FEATURE

Our Children | Spring 2021

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

14

OUT-OF-TOWN ADVENTURES

A 1.5-hour drive from Halifax, 30 kilometres of hiking trails surround Sugar Moon Farm. The family-run maple syrup operation has snowshoes to rent, with a book-in-advance option, and a takeout menu of sandwiches, maple mac and cheese, and other carb-filled fair to keep the kids fuelled for the adventure. A little further afield is Keppoch Mountain, a recreational hub near Antigonish with groomed areas with cross-country skis and snowshoes for rent and hilly trails for “fat-biking” with mountain bikes equipped with wide tires (between 4” and 5”) that can handle snowy conditions.

NOT A FAN OF THE OUTDOORS?

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

Downtown Halifax has an array of indoor options for March Breakers looking to get out of the cold. The Discovery Centre is free on Wednesday nights, while the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has free admission on Thursday nights. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 are free for children five and under.


FEATURE

Love Struck Lettering calligrapher Lyndsay Hubley has published a workbook to help kids learn to write in cursive.

PHOTO

: CONTR

IBUTED

Our Children | Spring 2021

A lost art Reconnecting kids and communication— back to the basics with writing and phone skills By Sara Ericsson

C

ommunicating used to take one of three forms: talking in person, chatting over the phone or corresponding through hand-written notes and letters. The family phone was a hot commodity, with parents and their children competing for access so they could phone friends and talk about nothing in particular, and the mail arriving brought with it the exciting prospect of opening a personally written letter. Communication looks a little different these days. The family phone has vanished since the advent of the BlackBerry in 1984 and the PalmPilot in 1996, devices which were followed by pagers and cellphones weighing more than a kilogram. And now, children use smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other smart devices where, with the tap of a few keys or buttons, they write out and edit texts and messages before sending.

It’s been a long while since we or our children have kept in touch with more traditional forms of communication and, the more time passes, the less familiar we become to these. Reconnecting with communication can be as simple as penning a thank-you note or phoning a friend, so consider one of the following lessons to get started.

Make the call Mary Jane Copps has made a career out of teaching people to speak on the phone as The Phone Lady, and this is thanks to the number of people in need of a phone-skills refresher. Whether smart or landline, making a phone call is a fast fading skill. “It’s a skill that takes time to develop, but with the family

15


FEATURE

Our Children | Spring 2021

phone having largely disappeared, people are starting careers and finding they suddenly have to use the phone for the job when they are completely without any knowledge of that skill,” she says. Copps says this is a drastic change from past generations for whom the family phone was an institution, and using it to connect with friends and family wasn’t a skill, but rather a given. Copps says this has slowly started changing since the BlackBerry’s launch in 1984 and, with young children now having access to their own smartphones, people have become more comfortable using phones with their fingers rather than with their voice. “When communicating over messaging or email, we have time to edit, whereas in real-time conversation, everything is spontaneous, and this causes stress,” she says. But while this disconnect has never loomed larger, Copps says getting kids comfortable with phone conversation needn’t be complicated, and can start with a parent or guardian reconnecting with it themselves, as an example for the child to look up to. She recommends that families set up something like a Sunday family phone call, or a three-day no texting challenge, to get started. “A conversation is how we create ideas, share jokes and really stay in touch. In the world we currently live in, where people are more and more isolated [due to COVID-19], a conversation is a fabulous way to really stay in touch with people,” she says.

But the practice also seems to be on the rise in other age groups, as Smith has also noticed parents buying writing-related products from her store as they encourage their children to write. She says more should consider getting back in touch with sending personalized thank you cards after receiving gifts, mailing a friend a postcard, or writing notes in birthday cards. It’s a trend she feels will continue for the foreseeable future, as a greater reliance on tech—including children using laptops or tablets for school— means people will continue searching for ways to disconnect from it and reconnect with things like penning letters. “It’s a way for kids to do something a bit more personal, and it’s showing them something a little more old-school. It’s a turn back to something that has a different kind of value, something you can hold onto. You can’t hold onto a text in the same way,” she says.

The art in writing

Note it down A sense of nostalgia has long kept people attached to the notion of hand-written notes and letters. And while the practice has generally dwindled, there has always been a small percentage of

PHOTO: SARA ERICSSON

16

Duly Noted Stationery owner Nicole Smith says she has noticed more people engaging with writing over the past couple years, and among them parents who are reconnecting their kids with writing.

people who’ve kept it going. Those people, these days, are largely millennials, according to Duly Noted Stationery owner Nicole Smith, who’s seen a spike in sales at her Halifax store over the last few years that she credits to people reconnecting with handwritten notes and millennials in particular, who she says “are supporting the stationery industry as they purchase more greeting cards than their previous generations.”

The next nostalgic step in reconnecting with writing personal notes would seem to be learning cursive, which Lyndsay Hubley has loved ever since she watched her grandmother write letters and cheques. “I fell in love with the art of writing, and that was it for me,” she says. Now, she works as the calligrapher behind her Love Struck Lettering business and has published a workbook teaching children how to write in cursive. The workbook, available for order online or digital purchase and download through her Love Struck Lettering Etsy page, is something she’ll share with each of her four kids, including 11-year-old daughter Willa, who has already mastered some cursive writing. Hubley says that in addition to the motor skills and language comprehension that cursive writing promotes, she feels strongly that children should learn the practice as it requires concentration and separates kids from their devices. “The workshop I taught had these kids so engaged. Cursive writing is an artform: it takes focus and concentration, and you have to be present while you’re practicing,” she says. Her second main reason for teaching her own children is so that they too can one day watch in awe as the grown ups in their lives write notes in curvy script, and so they can read the handwritten cards her grandparents send. “In this digital age, kids are growing up in world where they don’t carry those same memories that we do of watching a person sitting down with paper and pen,” she says. “This is why cursive will always win out: there’s a human element attached to something that’s handwritten.”

Foster creativity with kindness Foregoing technology isn’t always the answer to reconnecting with communication, according to freelance writer and editor Stephanie Domet, who has been teaching kids how to write over video calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. Domet teaches her Tiny Empire Writing Workshop, which


PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

17

Lyndsay Hubley’s niece, 10-year-old Brynn Mykietiuk, practises writing in cursive.

fosters children’s writing interests with writing prompts and personalized feedback on their stories, and has grown the workshop from a small number of kids to two different age groups: one for kids under 11, and one for those who are 11 and older. Domet now teaches children from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and attributes this growth in interest to moving her classes online, which is a move she says has also revealed how writing has acted as a creative outlet to help relieve kids’ stress. “During the pandemic shutdown, writing was doing for these kids what it does for others: giving them a place to work out their feelings, whatever their anxieties might be. This is one of the gifts reading and writing can give us: it teaches us about being human,” she says. n

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Willa Loving the loops

Willa finds the fun in fancy letters

Willa Hubley, 11, started getting curious about cursive at the age of four. She has since learned to write and has perfected her name, with her favourite letters to write being ells. She wanted to be able to write like her mom, calligrapher Lyndsay Hubley, with “fancy letters.” “My favourite letter is L because I love doing the loops. My mom taught me the W,” she says. Willa says there are lots of writing lessons at her school, mainly in printing, and that she writes her journaling assignments with some letters in cursive. Her friends have tried out some cursive letters too, but for Willa, cursive is becoming her go-to script. “It’s the only way I’ll write my name,” she says.


A DIFFERENT ROOUTE

Our Children | Spring 2021

The elephant in the chatroom: cyberviolence Prepare yourself and your children for the difficult conversations By Fawn Logan-Young

W

e hear the term “cyberviolence” more in this age of intensified social media. It refers to online behaviour that can lead to physical, emotional, or psychological harm to the victim’s well-being. Examples include online bullying, threats, blackmail, hate speech, luring, and non-consensual image sharing. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Online actions have realworld consequences. You may wonder why I am talking about cyberviolence when your child is in elementary school. If you read until the end, I promise you will take something from the insight I gained working and observing the experiences of junior-high students in HRM. A few years ago, YWCA Halifax contracted me to create and facilitate a workshop to address the evolving issue of cyberviolence. In the junior-high where my colleague and I worked, many parents and their children were having difficulty engaging in open, honest conversations about cyberviolence experiences. Parents wanted guidance on where to draw the line between trusting their children to be responsible online and censorship. However, to even approach this issue, many were unaware what their children were encountering. Although I am not an expert in the topic, I knew where we could be effective and was attempting to open lines of communication between adults and students. We invented the project knowing there would be a parent

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A personal profile created by one of the youth participants at the Y Cyberbullying workshop.

night where we would be able to present our insights. After some small group discussions with the students about their encounters with cyberviolence, we asked them to make a character profile. These profiles included physical and interpersonal characteristics. Following this step, the groups created life-sized drawings of their

character using paper rolls. Each depiction embodied a collage of magazine cut-outs and drawings to interpret the experience the character was going through in relation to cyberviolence. Next, the groups created background stories to further illustrate their depiction of their role. They may have been a bystander, a perpetrator, or a victim of cyberviolence. These stories did not necessarily have to be true, but many admitted to me that the stories they created were inspired by true events. They would later place the stories somewhere on the character they made, hidden by a paper flap. Fast forward to the parent night. As parents and teachers walked into the gym that hosted the presentation, they saw dozens of teen characters hanging sporadically along the walls. Some were tall, some were short. Some had long hair, some had no hair. One was depicted as a “nerd,” while another one was a new student who had just immigrated to Canada. The diversity of the characters was endless. When it was our time to present, we had the parents take 10 minutes to walk around and observe the characters without reading the stories hidden under the paper flaps. They were to pick one or two of them and attempt to interpret what they believed the character was experiencing. After 10 minutes, they were to go back to their chosen character to read what their true experience was under the flap. Here are a couple of examples:


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A 14-yearold girl who was chatting with a boy online and wanted to meet him in person without her parents knowing. Luckily, she said, she found out before she went to meet him that he was older than he had said. She didn’t follow through with the meeting. A 13-year-old girl wanted to play a joke on her friend. When the two were in the changing room for gym class, she secretly took a video of her and sent it out to a group chat of four other friends. By the following day, the video had been leaked and many of the victim’s classmates had seen it. The victim left school, not returning for two weeks. Many parents were amazed about how different the story under the flap was to their initial interpretation of the character. Many seemed hesitant to accept that such

actions were truly happening to teens in their community. A Halifax Regional Police officer who specializes in youth cyberviolence also spoke at the event. She confirmed that each story reflected cases she had worked. From the comments of parents that followed, many were coming to grips with the realities their children were facing and openly shared their epiphanies. Their takeaway from the project was a better understanding of the experiences of children and youth online. My hope was for the parents to truly embrace the realities of cyberviolence. Although there is no one solution to protecting children online, the project demonstrated that there is at least an opportunity to open lines of communication at a young age. Some kids are oblivious to how their actions online can be harmful, while others are oblivious to the threats that

they may find themselves in. This is where parents can help, through guidance and transparency with their children. If parents make their children aware of online etiquette and create an environment where their child would be comfortable approaching them with an issue in the future, it would be a step in the right direction for the upcoming generation of social media and cellphone users.

Fawn Logan-Young is a Haligonian currently studying at the University of Ottawa. She writes about nature, travel, and social phenomena. differentrooute.com n

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PARENTING HEALTH & WELLNESS

Our Children | Spring 2021

Speaking the language How a snap decision enhanced the health and well-being of Nova Scotia youth By Jill Chappell

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s Joe Biden’s team rolled out inauguration-themed Snapchat lenses, Finley Tolliver was prepping for his afternoon group chat on the same social platform with LOVE Nova Scotia’s Leadership Program. Tolliver has spent the past year establishing a virtual experience to keep LOVE youth together while apart. “Today is the circle theory; it looks like a bullseye,” says Tolliver. “The inner circle represents family, close friends, or supporters. The outer circle would be people who’ve done you wrong. I throw out a question, something provocative or something really deep and the conversation goes from there.” LOVE Nova Scotia works to help youth thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence to overcome challenges The group chat started last spring when the pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person programming, compelling the youth worker and hip-hop artist to reimagine his approach, setting the stage for new connections. Noticing an uptick in stress, food insecurity, and mental health problems, Tolliver knew he had to act fast. Wanting to create a safe place for youth that felt like home, he stepped outside his comfort zone and into theirs with weekly Snapchat check-ins. “The kids did not want to do it on Zoom. They’re all really connected to their phone and they wanted to do it on Snapchat,” says Tolliver “I can be on stage and perform in front of a thousand people but being on screen was petrifying. If there’s a conversation that’s risqué or something really, really heavy, I have to be able to have that conversation in real time.” Learning the new language of Snapchat, Tolliver has become proficient in snap streaks, cameos, slang, and acronyms. Between the lines it was all about managing anxiety and depression, providing strategies for preventing negative selftalk and conflict resolution during uncertain times. Because of that emotional investment, he can now Snap with ease, and understands the intricacies of emojis, like the significance of each colour heart. (For example, red means “I love you,” orange signifies best friends, black means “I hate you.”) “I used to use red but it’s too close,” laughs Tolliver. “They all have different meanings. So sometimes I have to use purple or sometimes I use yellow.” The purple heart emoji is often used to represent love, support, or close bonds. The yellow means friendship and happiness: values he strives to bring to his work at LOVE Nova Scotia.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

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LOVE Nova Scotia Senior Program Coordinator Finley Tolliver delivers special packages to youth as part of the one-on-one work he does with LOVE youth.

A recent study of youth participants by Saint Mary’s University psychology department shows an overwhelming majority feel they’ve gained emotional intelligence and coping skills, have access to a supportive group of peers, and have positive adult role models to look up to all as a direct result of their participation at LOVE. “I like that I feel safe around my friends, and the food,” says one LOVE participant. “I learned to be more open about myself.” “LOVE helped me to be more self-aware in terms of identifying what I want and what I need to be healthy,” says another. The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is proud to help fund this organization that instills youth with leadership skills empowering them to build healthy relationships and lead meaningful, productive lives. While Tolliver looks forward to the day when the youth can meet in person again, he says the group chats will likely remain. Even though at times the style of texting appears disjointed, he says no communication has really been lost. “We’re communicating at the speed of light, really,” explains Tolliver. “Because of this new wave of conversation, we’re creating something that’s meaningful to them, that’s in real time. I am 100% down with this type of communication. It makes sense to me, it makes sense to them and has really broadened our relationship.” “Going outside, hanging with my friends couldn’t happen


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so it was awesome to be able to connect with everyone in this group,” says a 16-year-old participant. “I think our relationship has grown pretty well and Finley can relate to a lot of the things that we are going through.” By opening his mind to Snapchat, and learning to speak their language, Tolliver has created a social and emotional support system that will no doubt benefit their mental health and wellbeing for years to come. “LOVE taught me to be empowered,” says one participant. “To understand that I have value and I have a lot to offer the world, whether other people see it or not.” Another shares, “I don’t know if I’d still be here without LOVE.” Finley and others like him are providing hope and newfound optimism reflective of the post-Trump era and more than anything, heartfelt LOVE for 70 deserving Nova Scotia youth. Jill Chappell is the marketing and communications lead for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. She is a regular contributor to Our Children and Senior Living, and previously worked as anchor/producer at Global Halifax and CTV Atlantic. When the laptop closes, Jill loves to get outdoors: hiking, biking, swimming, and making the most of Canada’s Ocean Playground with her husband and twin boys. n

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BOOK REVIEWS

Our Children | Spring 2021

By Trevor J. Adams

A Beginner’s Guide to Goodbye By Melanie Mosher Nimbus Publishing Ages 8–13

When Melanie Mosher was writing this middle-grade novel, she had no idea of the impending April 2020 mass shooting, which would rock all of Nova Scotia, but particularly the North Shore. So it’s fitting as our province continues to recover, this heartfelt story of grief, fear, loss, and healing, is set in the North Shore community of Tidnish Beach. With clean, straightforward storytelling, she shares how 10-year-old Laney learns to cope with her little sister’s death. Such stories can often be saccharine and clichéd—jarringly superficial or manipulatively tear-jerking—but Mosher strikes just the right note, with writing that is relatable and challenging, but still within reach of less experienced readers.

Keith Among the Pigeons

Kiwi’s Shopping Adventure

Peeoh PaTANG!

By Katie Brosnan Child’s Play Ages 4–8

By Shanda Cameron Illustrated by Stacy Veno Self-published Ages 4–6

By Michelle Thornhill Readosaurus Press Ages 5–8

Keith was born a cat, but he’s never truly felt feline. He tries to do cat things, but scratching posts and chasing birds just doesn’t feel right. What he really wants is to get to know the pigeons, live amongst them and explore their lives. Veiled just enough to be subtle to its young readers, this story is an instructive metaphor about acceptance and identity. Author Katie Brosnan avoids sanctimony with a quirky, clever story and surprisingly moving and evocative illustrations that add depth and personality.

Long before her foray into writing children’s books, Shanda Cameron was a veterinary technician, working for 20 years to help animals like the very ones she now writes about. In this sweet little story, she imagines her real dog Kiwi’s trip to the mall with a pack of canine friends, shopping for their loved ones. With whimsy and absurdity, it’s sure to delight young animal lovers. Stacy Veno’s colourful buoyant illustrations perfectly complement the tone.

When Zorgan the alien vacations on earth, he faces one misunderstanding after another. He has to learn to communicate with the locals, so he innocently signs up for a language-arts class, not realizing he’ll be studying poetry. The vivid, energetic illustrations evoke the spirit of Richard Scarry and perfectly capture the ensuing mayhem. Young readers will laugh themselves hoarse at nonsense poetry like “Boing! Er er rrr. OooOOOoooo. Pop. Nnnnnnnnnneep. Zzzzzzooop-a-dooby nerg. Zoink!” An all-around fun book by Dartmouth author and educator Michelle Thornhill.


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Our Children Spring 2021