The Holistic Parent - Summer 2017

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Summer 2017 /

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THE SQUEAKY WHEEL by April Scott-Clarke



OUR TEAM Meet the writers that make this magazine awesome PAGE 4

UP FRONT Litterless lunch and a “cherry” good smoothie PAGE 6

PRODUCTS An exploration of natural beauty in our region PAGE 8


MIND Lovely Messy Life PAGE 10

BODY Food Fighters PAGE 12

SPIRIT Positive Conception PAGE 14




Helping your children with a positive body image PAGE 23


Reassessing how to view your child’s report card PAGE 26


Five money lessons for children ON THE COVER The cover image is an illustration by the team from Made By Emblem. The story images were shot at Waterloo Skatepark featuring Sheena and Quin Bounsanga by Trent Sluiter of Fedora Media.






TINA BARNES Traditional Medicine Practioner Tina has been working as a personal support worker for the differently abled for over 15 years and studied Chinese Medical Acupuncture at the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Toronto, graduating in 2009. She is currently studying osteopathy at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy. She is based out of Kitchener at Perfect Balance Wellness Centre ( Read her piece Complimentary Care on PAGE 20.

Volume 03, Issue 03 | Summer 2017


SYDNEY BELL Social Worker | Body Image Coach Sydney Bell is a social worker and body image coach. Her community engagement, advocacy and private practice are grounded in the Health at Every Size® approach to weight and health. She has developed a framework for healing that embraces self-compassion, mindfulness and discernment. Sydney believes these three elements bring a sustainable energy to efforts for better health and well-being. Check out her article Body Love on PAGE 23.

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HEATHER HEARTFIELD Financial Professional Heather Heartfield has been helping families save securely for education with Knowledge First Financial since 2006, and is a busy mom of 13-year-old identical twin girls and one precocious 5-year-old boy. She loves being a connecting resource to assist new and expectant parents to find the supports they seek in our community. Heather’s article entitled Money Matters can be found on PAGE 28.

April Scott-Clarke CONTRIBUTORS

Tina Barnes, Sydney Bell, Dr. Jen Forristal, Krista George, Heather Heartfield, Tania Heinemann, Nicole Schiener, Jamie Reaburn Weir PROOFREADER

April Scott-Clarke


TANIA HEINEMANN Registered Holistic Nutritionist | IBCLC Based in Waterloo and Cambridge (, Tania sees clients for a wide range of support with food sensitivity testing, food intolerance evaluation, digestive issues, thyroid (metabolism concerns), pre and postnatal nutrition and mood disorders. She also offers breastfeeding support, infant feeding, toddler health and wellness. ( See Tania’s recipe Cherry Antioxidant Smoothie on PAGE 6.

JAMIE REABURN WEIR High School Teacher | Department Head Jamie is first and foremost a mommy to two beautiful little girls, but also an educator with the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB). She is passionate about life-long learning and strives to encourage both her own children and students alike to see the potential for learning in all experiences. Read her article Beyond the Grades on PAGE 26.


THE HOLISTIC PARENT Summer 2017 The Holistic Parent magazine is published three times per year. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher © 2017 Single copy price is free to all patrons of the Growing Up Healthy Show and is available through our over 50 community partners in the Waterloo Region, Wellington County and surrounding areas. Visit for a list of distributors. ISSN 2368-6790 Publications Mail Agreement No. 42845523

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LOVELY MESSY LIFE Letting go of the ‘shoulds’ Story by NICOLE SCHIENER


f there is one thing for certain about the parenting journey, it’s that it is messy. No matter how much we prepare, how present we try to be or how much we love our children, I think at some point, all parents can feel like emotional messes; trying to keep it all together when on the inside we might feel more like we’re falling apart. I felt this way at times, especially in the early years when I had two under five and had not yet discovered the life changing practices of daily mindfulness, self-compassion and gratitude. In between the tears and tension, there is more joy and love than my heart can contain. But it’s still hard sometimes. By remembering there is magic in the perfectly imperfect messy moments when we genuinely apologize and wholeheartedly forgive, we can release the guilt. When we affirm that nothing is stronger than our love and we can all learn from our mistakes, we foster resilience. When I began writing this article, I was feeling increasingly frustrated with myself for how messy and unorganized I’d let my house get over the past decade since becoming a mom. As a minimalist, I prided myself on having a place for everything. But as I looked at our tiny house overflowing with so much stuff, I had to keep reminding myself there is magic in the physical mess too. It represented important steps I have learned to take to be fully present for my family and prioritize my own self-care and desires over “shoulds.” I’ve learned as a sensitive soul, how much my body, mind and spirit crave to be outside where I feel nourished and



Summer 2017

take away ...

By remembering there is magic in the perfectly imperfect messy moments, we can release the guilt.

recharged. Sometimes I chose to inspire my children to break free of the confines of the four walls and stale air, while other times the mess symbolized my loving acknowledgement of their invitations to play basketball or soccer or be their companion for adventures on the nearby path or at the local park. I am grateful to have active children who would stay out until after dark even if it means their rooms are sometimes a bit messy. Sometimes I sit on my porch and stare at the clouds or setting sun, calming myself to prepare for helping them unwind for the night. While I love saying yes to self-care and family time, my anxiety grows if I let the pendulum swing too far to the other side. Working to get rid of things from the past that no longer serve me and teaching my children to do the same is not always easy but it helps save my sanity. Taking time to organize my papers and placing my journals and notebooks all together helps keep me focused on starting and ending my day nurturing my heart and creative spirit. While I’ll probably never be a fan of cleaning, instead of complaining, I’m trying to express gratitude for the time and break up the work with fun. When we listen to music or inspiring videos, everyone realizes it’s not so bad. Ultimately, I’ve started to embrace cleaning and organizing my house as acts of love we are all worthy of. While I’m forever grateful for the beautiful blessings the messes represent, I believe we need to teach our children to balance work and responsibilities with fun and be there for them while also honouring our own desires, including rest. Being gentle with ourselves when we mess up and celebrating the wins, no matter how small is how we keep making magic as we grow alongside our children. NICOLE SCHIENER M.Ed, RP, CCC blends professional

counselling and public speaking experience with personal insights from raising two passionate little people. Follow her on Facebook at “Peace and Possibility.”

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FOOD FIGHTERS Pack a punch for back-to-school bugs Story by DR. JEN FORRISTAL


old and flu season can have a big impact on family well-being. Every parent knows the feeling of waking up to a sick child and scrambling to rearrange yet another day. Hoping for fewer sick days this year? Try these lesser known tips for a happy and healthy school season! SIP YOUR WAY THROUGH THE DAY

If any of you have ever been inside of a school, you will realize that bacteria and viruses unavoidably make their way into our children. The amazing part is that our bodies are designed to deal with these foreign invaders. Small sips of water or other liquids throughout the day wash pathogens into our stomach where our stomach acid can kill them. Just by getting these invaders down into the stomach before they can set up shop can reduce susceptibility to infections. HAVE A SIDE OF DIRT WITH THAT

Soil is filled with important microorganisms that have been shown to reduce allergies and improve our immune response. Now I’m not advocating that children eat the mudpies they so lovingly make for us but small doses of dirt increase the diversity of our gut bacteria, which is essential in preventing a huge range of health concerns, including colds and flus. Start by having your children play outside more. This naturally exposes them to micro doses of a broad range of good soil bacteria. Second, stop sanitizing organic vegetables. That little bit of dirt left on your carrot, lettuce or potato can provide a much needed boost. Third, scrubbing up surgeonstyle before meals should be avoided. Antimicrobial hand soaps and sanitizers not



Summer 2017

take away ...

This fall, have some fun boosting your family’s immune system. Not only will you feel healthier, but happier too.

only kill bad bacteria, they kill the good ones too. Research shows these good bacteria are essential to optimal immune health. Stick with a simple, natural soap for the best clean. SPICE IT UP

The typical childhood diet does the immune system no favours. Bland diets are often void of herbs and spices that have wonderful immune boosting properties and can keep us healthy throughout the year. Amongst the best are garlic, turmeric, ginger and cayenne pepper. Slowly work these powerful herbs and spices into your daily diet. Building a child’s palate takes time, patience and repetition but can have wonderful effects on their health and well-being. COZY IN WITH A CUP OF BONE BROTH

The super hero of chicken soups, bone broth is loaded with collagen and is a great way to strengthen the gut lining, an important barrier to bacterial invasion. Our guts are loaded with immune cells designed to protect us and if we don’t take care of that barrier we become more vulnerable to colds, flus and all of the other bugs that go around. Cozy in together at the end of those chilly fall days and sip on a warm cup of bone broth. As an added bonus, this cozy time is another way to boost oxytocin, lower stress and improve resilience. It’s easy to get caught up in our crazy, busy lives and forget the simple joys, so this fall, have some fun boosting your family’s immune system. Spend less time on meal prep and more time outside, challenge each other to try some new flavours and then cozy up together at the end of your busy days. Not only will you feel healthier, but happier too. DR. JEN FORRISTAL is a naturopathic doctor specializing in family medicine and pediatrics. She practices at True Wellness Integrative Health Centre by Fiddleheads in Waterloo.

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POSITIVE CONCEPTION Learning to live in the wait Story by KRISTA GEORGE


am one in six; I am and will always be an infertility warrior. I don’t think you ever really leave your fertility journey behind. It’s part of your story, your journey, your entire life. You may eventually reach your destination, like when you finally get to meet your baby, but you are so often thrown back onto the rollercoaster as you continue to move through life. I was blissfully unaware of the world of infertility prior to getting married and trying to conceive, as I am sure many of us are. You never think you could be one of those stats you hear about until one day you are. I spent the first year hoping to see those two pink lines and eventually I did, but I never met my baby. At 11 weeks I suddenly became another stat — one of the one-in-four pregnancies that miscarry. In the years to follow I got lost down the rabbit hole of infertility. I felt like I lost myself. I was overwhelmed, frustrated and felt alone in my struggles. But about two and a half years in to my own journey, I had my “ah-ha” moment, and it changed my life. I was done letting infertility dictate my life, my worth and my self-confidence. I took a break from the fertility clinic and spent the next few months focusing on me. I did things I love and took better care of myself, which changed my attitude towards my journey and from this experience Positive Conception was born! Positive Conception™ is a program, support network and a bit of infertility advocacy all rolled into one. I think women like myself who are experiencing infertility never really leave it behind, and so it’s important to take care of yourself in order to create the proper



take away ...

I don’t think you ever really leave your fertility journey behind. It’s part of your story, your journey, your entire life.

mindset and lifestyle to support you through what is often a very challenging and unpredictable life. I have spent over four years learning these lessons myself. I have wept over negative tests each month; I waited and waited for the result I wanted, but it never came. I did the natural support route and was also a patient at two very different fertility clinics for cycle monitoring, testing, intrauterine inseminations (IUI) and eventually in vitro fertilization (IVF). I firmly believe the changes in my attitude, outlook, lifestyle and relationships after my ah-ha moment made a huge impact on how I felt about myself. I think this shift in my life was ultimately what led me to get, as we say in the infertility world, my Big Fat Positive — a daughter through a frozen embryo transfer! I still have embryos in the freezer. There are more chapters to write, so I will continue my journey now as a mom, advocate, supporter, miscarriage survivor and life-long infertility warrior. My mission is to help other women going through infertility live their best life while on their own journey. Positive Conception is a reminder to keep living in the wait. The focus is ultimately living your best life and creating positive changes by finding your inner courage, and regaining the confidence lost during the struggles of infertility. If you would like to join a community of women who understand the struggle, I invite you to join Positive Conception’s private Facebook group the TTCTribe ( KRISTA GEORGE is the founder of Positive Conception, a wellness journey that helps women struggling to conceive live their best life in the wait. She is also a registered acupuncturist practicing in Kitchener.

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THE SQUEAKY WHEEL Becoming your child’s best advocate post-diagnosis Story By APRIL SCOTT-CLARKE


heena Bounsanga’s son Quin is eight years old and in grade 3 in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB). He has a core group of friends that he’s had since kindergarten; he likes cars, skateboarding, and busting out breakdancing moves. He enjoys school and does well, achieving As and Bs in most of his subjects, but that wasn’t always the case. Bounsanga noticed red flags when Quin was in kindergarten, but she was told that the issues she was concerned about — trouble reading, transposing words and letters — were appropriate for his age. “Reading and spelling were huge difficulties,” she recalls. By the time Quin reached grade 2, despite working with teachers and working with him at home, Quin still wasn’t reading at grade level and was struggling in other areas. And these issues were having a serious impact on his confidence. “Academically, he wasn’t failing, but he wasn’t excelling,” she says. “He labelled himself as dumb.

The curriculum really changes in grade 4 and I knew he was going to hit a wall. The methods he had developed to get by wouldn’t work anymore.” Bounsanga knew her son wasn’t dumb. Meetings with teachers, research, doctors appointments and consultations with specialists led Bounsanga to seek a private practicing psychologist and pay out of pocket for a psychological evaluation. The assessment found that Quin is dyslexic and would benefit from special education and learning aids. While each school in the board does have access to psychological services, Scott Miller, superintendent of student achievement and wellbeing, special education with the WRDSB, explains that those resources are very limited. “A number of families access psychological evaluations through the community,” he says. He stresses, though, that having a formal diagnoses isn’t a prerequisite to accessing special education resources in the school board. Having a diagnosis does help to access funding provided by




Sheena and Quin Bounsanga hanging out together at one of their favourite spots, the Waterloo Skatepark.

grants to purchase support equipment for students if needed, but Miller says the school doesn’t get any more funding to support that child from a resource perspective. Before any diagnosis, Quin’s teacher had already made some in-classroom accommodations. The diagnosis allowed the school to apply for funding for equipment — a Chromebook — which Bounsanga says has been a huge factor in Quin’s new-found success. “He uses it because it has words-to-text, and it types his words on the screen for him. It highlights things and reads it back to him,” she explains. Having a diagnosis in hand didn’t mean that was the end of Bounsanga’s mama-bear approach to her son’s schooling because having one doesn’t send you to the front of the class or make you more of a priority. For example, getting the Chromebook for Quin still took some work. Quin received the diagnosis in March 2016, the application for the funding grant to purchase his device at the school was to be submitted in April. Come September when Quin got back to school, Bounsanga found out that there was no Chromebook waiting for him. Unfortunately, the application was never submitted. With the teacher’s approval, Bounsanga bought a personal Chromebook for Quin to use at school. Quin received the school provided Chromebook in October. None of this is to point fingers, it’s merely the result of an overtaxed system. “As a parent you need to stay on top of it,” she says. “I put a lot of pressure on [the school] and pleaded with them to stay on top of it.” Bounsanga says this applies to anyone who has a child with any type of



“learning exceptionality” in the school system. “You have to be the squeaky wheel for your child.” Jennifer Lake, a private occupational therapist that worked within the school system for almost a decade couldn’t agree more. “You know your child best; you are your child’s best advocate,” she says. “Know that you have to go in and advocate for your child and know what the school is obligated to do. You don’t need to go in guns blazing, but know what your rights are. That can be empowering.” Advocacy groups and associations related to your child’s condition are an excellent resource when it comes to knowing what help is available to you and where to find it. As per the Ontario Education Act and Ministry of Education, if parents feel that their child has a special need they can ask the school to refer their child to the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC), which is the body that determines if a

student is an “exceptional pupil.” Upon receiving a written request from a student’s parent or guardian, the school principal must refer the student to an IPRC. For students whose needs cannot be met entirely in the regular classroom, options are available, which range from having consultative support for teachers to meet the needs to having in-classroom support. In theory, it’s all cut and dry, but in practice it doesn’t always play out the way the official documents read. “It is frustrating at times because when we were advocating for scribing for Quin, we got the answer ‘but he’s not failing,’” says Bounsanga. “[The system] is a waitto-fail method.” But just as it’s frustrating for her, Bounsanga knows that it’s frustrating for everyone involved. What at times can seem like a lack of interest or dedication to your child is mainly the result of cutbacks and limited resources. The WRDSB serves approximately 62,000 students, making it one of the

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COMPLIMENTARY CARE Alternative therapies to assist with the transition of integration Story By TINA BARNES

Integration into the school system can be an exciting and scary transition for the individual, as well as for the people who love them. Being able to adapt to changes in routine and environment can be difficult for anyone, especially for those with special needs. The physical and emotional challenges faced on a daily basis can make coping challenging, leaving people anxious and stressed, affecting one’s well-being. Thankfully there are many alternative therapies that can help ease the transition. Of course, we have our usual suspects like massage therapy, naturopathy, chiropractic care and nutrition. Although they all have their own respective strengths, I’m going to talk about a couple of lesser known modalities.


Although osteopathy is widely practiced by MDs in the US, many in Canada are still unsure of what it is and what they do. The term “osteo” is typically used to refer to issues around bone, but in this case its reference is to “structure” — not just the hard tissue of bone, but the softer tissues of ligaments, fascia, muscle and organs. In other words, the entire structure as a whole. Osteopathy states that the body is a dynamic unit of function, that everything is connected and functions at its best when all structures are in proper position so that its functions can flow freely. Our functions operate via our nerves, arteries, veins and lymphatics so if any of those avenues become obstructed they cannot deliver their substances to where they need to go, therefore affecting their function. Think about when your hose gets a kink. It prevents the water from getting through the hose to nourish your plants. And depending on how bad the kink and how long it persists will determine how well those plants will flourish. Practitioners will diagnose through visual and palpatory findings, and then treat using gentle manual manipulations based on these findings. Every person is unique and there is no cookie-cutter treatment, which is what makes it great for a population whose bodies can present very differently. These treatments are non-invasive and quite gentle. I have seen people of all ages and abilities respond well and quickly to osteopathy, seeing improvements in all systems from physical issues like pain, digestion, circulation and spasticity, but also with emotional issues improving anxiety, insomnia and behaviours.




Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a modality that also views the body as a whole, only diagnoses and treats very differently. It will use acupuncture, heat, herbs and manual manipulations to improve the circulation of “Qi,” which is basically a term for our bodies’ energies and functions. Although acupuncture can make people very nervous, it can be very effective and modified for people who can’t sit still or prone to spasticity. Pins can be inserted and removed very quickly often without the person even knowing. If the pins are really not an option for someone, pressure and vibration using tuning forks can be used to stimulate the points necessary and can be taught to the family and the individual to use at home, which can be very empowering. If herbal medicine is prescribed, whether from a TCM practitioner or a Western Herbalist, it’s important to inform them of all medication being taken. Herbs are powerful medicines and can interact with pharmaceuticals, but can also be a great compliment to a health regimen. While family and caregivers are always fussing over their loved one, it’s of utmost importance for them to take care of themselves and seek treatment as well. After all, we can’t pour from an empty cup. Medical therapies can’t take all of your problems away, but they sure can help make them easier to handle. Life can take a toll on our bodies; let these medicines help keep you all functioning at your best so you can enjoy all of life’s big moments.

largest school boards in the province. Miller says that 18 percent of the student population receives some kind of special education support. Though none of that may matters to a parent who is struggling to get attention and resources for their child, it’s important to keep those statistics in mind and understand that teachers and administrators have the best interest of children in mind. “We had a phenomenal teacher in grade two that recognized Quin’s learning difference and started to make accommodations for him [early on],” says Bounsanga. “The thing that can make or break your child with a disability is a teacher. And, every year we hold our breath and we hope we get a good one.” The teacher, agree Lake, Miller and Bounsanga, should be the first point of contact if you think your child is struggling. Know that the teacher might not have all the answers but they should be able to guide you toward other resources and work with you on finding a solution. “I’m often providing information and training to educators on conditions that they don’t have training on,” explains Lake. “Teachers aren’t trained to know all these [conditions], and they shouldn’t have to. They need as much help as they can get.” Bounsanga says the best piece of advice she can offer is to recognize the school is on your side and laying blame and making accusations won’t get you what your child needs. “You have to partner with them so they know you are with them. Ultimately, their goal is your child’s success. You may bump heads but you have to move forward together.” As the next school year comes into view and Quin moves to another grade, Bounsanga’s mama-bear instinct is being roused. She knows there could be challenges in the beginning, but is confident in the school and its teachers, and is expecting the road ahead to lead to great places for Quin. “Kids can fall through the cracks; you need to be involved. Teachers are professionals and experts in education. Work with them,” she says. “Advocate for your child [and] teach them to advocate for themselves. A lot of people get the psych evaluation and they think that’s it, they have the answers. That’s where it starts.”

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BODY LOVE How parents can help their children have a positive body image Story By SYDNEY BELL

ILLUSTRATION: Michelle Kenny


ne of the biggest challenges faced by parents today is preventing their kids from falling victim to the epidemic of body shame that has North America tight in its grip. Feeling badly about our body has become commonplace, even expected in today’s society. This is because body bashing is often an opportunity to join the conversation — to fit in. We bond by sharing our body woes, our plans to get thinner and bemoaning our “bad” food choices. There is an increasing awareness about the prevalence of negative body image, especially in young people, adults and amongst men and boys. These days, pretty much everyone is at risk. Likely you have heard some of the alarming statistics. For instance, according to the website for the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), 37 percent of girls in grade 9 and 40 percent in grade 10 perceived themselves as too fat. More than half of girls and one-third of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours like fasting, vomiting,


laxatives, skipping meals or smoking to control appetite. Body concerns are striking us at a younger and younger age. Consider that 80 percent of children who are 10 years old are afraid of being fat. Children young as four and six years old are being treated for eating disorders. So what’s the big deal? Sure, a negative body image isn’t a great thing to experience, but isn’t it just something we need to buck up and get through? Isn’t it a right of passage we face in adolescence with all the changes and insecurity it tends to bring? With so many scary issues for parents to worry about like drugs, bullying and violence, do we really need to add another issue to the list of parental concerns? The sad truth is that feeling badly about our bodies has serious implications for all areas of our life — our relationships, our ability to be successful in school and work and our physical and mental health. Many people underestimate the deep and profound way our experience of our bodies impacts our lives. Our body is our physical experience of





the world, the home we live in 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When we feel badly about our bodies, we are kept from fully engaging in life and with the world around us. Our ability to tap into the vulnerability needed to engage authentically in relationships is compromised. A negative body image warps our relationship with food and exercise, and we become the prone preoccupation with food and dieting that can lead to dangerous eating disorders. Consider that even mild forays into dieting for weight loss put us at risk for disordered eating. According to NEDIC, girls who engaged in strict dieting practices are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than non-dieters. What is even scarier is that those girls who have dieted only moderately are still five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than nondieters. In our culture, dieting is so common that the number of girls who “diet moderately” is presumably very high. Think about that. So, what are parents to do? I believe the best opportunity for parents to support their children in feeling good about their bodies is to become a body-positive role model themselves. You see, showing compassion and understanding to our children and assuring them of the rightness of their bodies (which is very important!) will mean nothing if while we are telling our children to love their bodies, we are hating ours. Much easier said than done, I know! Considering all I said earlier about the epidemic of body shame, how normal, even expected, it is to publicly bash your body and embrace the latest diet fads? The chances that we have our own body hang-ups are quite likely. But I see no way around it. We cannot possibly provide an environment for our children to feel good in their bodies when those



who have the biggest influence on how a child learns about their place in the world are mired in their own body loathing. If we really want to support our children in a positive body image, we have to be willing to dig in and do the work to come to terms with our own bodies. Take a moment and reflect on your relationship with your body. Is it something that causes you distress? What kind of comments, if any, do you regularly make about your body? Is your relationship with food at all influenced by the diet mentality? A diet mentality is one where we have lots of rules associated with the food we eat. We think of food (and of ourselves) in terms of “bad” and “good.” Consider your motivation for healthy lifestyle choices. If changing your body is an influential aspect of your food, exercise or other self-care strategies, it can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with your body. Children are very perceptive and will absolutely pick up on and emulate those cues. This is an opportunity to consider shifting your motivation for healthy behaviours away from changing your body or weight loss. Sustained weight loss through dieting is statistically unsupported (something like 95 percent of diets fail to achieve long term weight loss). Instead, focus on more helpful goals like reduced stress, increased strength and mobility for helping you to sustains healthy lifestyle behaviours. This shift away from changing your body or weight loss, along with embracing body diversity by recognizing that all body types are beautiful and can be healthy will have a huge influence on how your children feel about their bodies. It is hard work, but the benefits for you, and your children are most certainly worth it.

This is an opportunity to consider shifting your motivation for healthy behaviours away from changing your body or weight loss. Sustained weight loss through dieting is statistically unsupported.

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BEYOND THE GRADES Reassessing how to view your child’s report card Story By JAMIE REABURN WEIR


ne of the most exciting — or nerve-wracking — times of the year for both students and parents alike is report card season. For some, it’s a confirmation of their hard work and dedication to their education throughout the year; while for others, it’s a realization that they may not have achieved the grades they desired. In my experience as a high school teacher in the Waterloo Region District School Board, the earned percentage is traditionally seen as the most important element of the report card followed by teacher comments, and finally, the learning skills. While both the number and the comments are very important, the learning skills seem to be overlooked by many when, in my opinion, the feedback they provide often predict a student’s success further in their educational career and life in general. The six learning skills encompass responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative, and selfregulation and all are equally important in determining the success of a student. Responsibility is where a student takes ownership of their learning by submitting their work on time or if they are unable to meet a deadline, they have a conversation with their teacher in order establish a due date that works for both parties. Organization is one of the learning skills that I spend much time discussing with my students as being able to create a plan for completing their work is a



Summer 2017

lifelong skill that is important to develop at a young age. I think many students are aware of the amount of work they have between their four classes, but prioritizing and organizing their time can be challenging especially with extracurriculars, part-time jobs, a social life and family time needing to be considered.

respect and advocate for the rights of both themselves and others in this skill.

Self-regulation involves a student making goals for their learning as well as monitoring and reflecting on their goals throughout the semester. We encourage our students not to compare themselves to their peers as everyone is on their own individual learning journey. We want the students Independent Work is We want the to be considering how they can assessed through a student’s students to be continue to improve and grow ability to maintain and considering how in order to achieve their goals. revise their plan as well as they can continue This skill is also extremely use class time effectively. In to improve and important as it involves the today’s distraction-driven grow in order student asking for help or environment, this skill is more to achieve their clarification when they don’t important than ever. goals. understand a concept or task in class. As life skills, seeking Collaboration is commonly clarification and having potentially confused for teamwork or group uncomfortable conversations are work when in fact, it is a much more experiences that we encounter regularly, in-depth skill. We coach our students to but schools provide a safe environment be honest about their own skill sets, how for students to practice with teachers to listen effectively to the people they are modelling and mentoring this skill working with, how to then take the diverse development. skills of the group and collectively come to On a final note, I encourage all families a consensus on how to complete a given to have conversations about the learning task. In developing this skill, we spend skills with their children regardless of time discussing what happens when an whether a child brings home “excellent” issue arises and mentor the students to or “needs improvement” in those come to an outcome that is acceptable to areas. In my opinion, these are skills all parties involved. that require constant reflection and can stimulate deep and meaningful Initiative is where we help students conversations that have the potential to to see the opportunities present in their bring families closer together through educational experiences and encourage empathy and understanding for not only them to take risks to be innovative in their education, but life. learning. The student is also coached to

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Five money lessons for children Story by HEATHER HEARTFIELD

1. THREE PIGGYBANKS As piggybanks fill up, children can feel the concrete weight of the money as it increases, allowing them to understand how the value of money accumulates as you save over time. Take the piggybank method a step further with the three-piggybank system and teach children how to allocate percentages of their money to savings, to charity and for spending. This allocation helps create a healthy relationship with money by teaching children to differentiate between discretionary spending and the long-term benefits of saving for a goal while establishing the joy and responsibility of giving toward causes they care about. Parent and child decide together on an acceptable percentage to divide between the three banks. Savings: These funds will be for more expensive items that will take patience and time to save for such as a new bike, technology or musical instrument. Charity: Have your child select a charity they can get excited about, or if you value faith-based giving, use this as an opportunity to share that with your child. Spending: This is for the school bake sale, treats at the dollar store, a new stuffed toy or going to a movie with a friend. Some families include gift purchases from this category. When children know they are meeting their savings and giving goals there will be no negative feelings associated with discretionary spending. When they are using “their own money” you’ll see more thoughtful consideration about whether they really do want to make an impulse purchase.

2. FAMILY SAVINGS As a family, decide on something worth saving for that you can all contribute to; whether it’s a new pet or a trip to Disney. Make a plan



Summer 2017

as a family about the ways you’re going to save. Kids can set aside some of their allowance or do extra chores. Add to the excitement by making a sticker chart or a savings thermometer for the fridge. Even if your children aren’t contributing, it will help them understand that even parents have to save for special purchases.

3. GROCERY SHOPPING Coupon clipping has made a comeback over the last few years and for good reason — it’s a great way to save money while learning about budgets. Taking the kids grocery shopping will teach them how to read price tags and can help you choose products based on the best value for the quantity. Make it fun by celebrating small victories, like who found the best deal or how much you saved on the grocery bill.

4. DIY BACK-TO-SCHOOL BUDGET Many kids love the back-to-school season because it means shopping for new school supplies and clothing. Unfortunately for parents it can mean negotiating with their children over whether or not items with inflated prices are actually worth the money. Take the pressure off by asking the kids to help you find the best deals by combing through flyers and doing price-comparison shopping. For older children, set a budget and ask them to make the shopping list. Offer a reward; if they can stay under budget while managing to get all the supplies on their list, they can keep the difference. (Suddenly, you might find that they’re a bit more willing to reuse supplies from last year!)

5. FIRST JOBS If there’s room, students can deposit through their parents into their own RESPs. With post-secondary education comes a long list of expenses and RESPs are a great way for families to grow their savings with grants and tax-sheltered interest. Creating an understanding of the cost and value of post-secondary education as well as the benefits of investing is easier when high school students make RESP contributions with their own earnings. Additional contributions can be made up until December 31 of the grade 12 year and are eligible for a minimum of 20 percent grant matching from the federal government (some maximums and conditions apply). This article was provided by Heather Heartfield, Sales Representative, Knowledge First Financial. Knowledge First Financial Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Knowledge First Foundation and is the investment fund manager, administrator and distributor of Registered Education Savings Plans. As a not-for-profit Canadian corporation with no share capital, Knowledge First Foundation is able to reinvest excess revenues in initiatives that support student success.

illustration: michelle kenny

Allowing your children to learn and experience money management while under your guidance and protection is a very valuable life skill. The provincial education minister has recently announced that Ontario secondary school curriculum will begin to include mandatory financial literacy content soon (finally!) but as always, parents are by far the most important teachers of financial health and wellness. Here are five effective money management tips to set your kids up for a lifetime of financial success.

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om guilt is a rampant topic amongst bloggers, parenting experts and around the coffee tables of households everywhere. Parents are questioning every move they make — how can we not? For every study that says something is “good” there’s another one that says it’s “bad” — coconut oil, anyone? And everyone from our own parents and grandparents to our doctors, neighbours, dogwalkers and grocery store cashiers have an opinion on how to raise our children. Is it any wonder why parents are constantly questioning their decisions — and sanity? I will never forgot during the early days of baby #2, catching myself asking Dr. Google for signs that my baby was sleeping too much less than two hours after I’d consulted him on what to do if my baby wasn’t getting enough sleep. I’ll blame that one on post-delivery hormones. But it’s just indicative of our obsession with…what? Being the perfect parent? Raising the perfect kids? Keeping up with our perpetually happy BFF from high school who posts nothing but pictures of clean, smiling children? I truly don’t give a rat’s ass about other people and their clean kids. And I’m not making even a vague attempt at any type of perfection — that reality set in long ago. I’m too wrapped up in my own world to care what other people are doing. I’ve always been like this — self-centred, laid-back, oblivious, blissfully unaware, maybe all of the above? It served me well in high school (my lack of giving a shit seems to have been perceived as confidence, or so I’ve been told), and that personality quirk is probably not a bad one to have as a mom these days. I have no guilt about the typical things bloggers/experts seem to have latch on to — those daily occurrences that apparently keep us up at night. Every day, I wake up and do my best to keep these kids happy, healthy and safe. But every day, I mess up. The house is a mess. The kids are a mess. I’m a mess. The day was a mess. And on those days, I probably failed at being the mom I want to be. But, I am not the type of person that dwells on those days. I am a very big picture thinker — I can get myself through these days because I’m OK with small failures as long as the big picture is still in focus. I may not have felt like a gentle parent that day, but overall, I still feel confident that I’m on the right track. Same with the healthy eating situation. I don’t feel guilty when we have the occasional fast food dinner (or two), because the vast majority of the time we eat incredibly healthy. Guilt be damned. Where my own guilt starts creeping in is “big picture guilt,” for lack of a better term. It’s when I’m looking ahead and trying to see how my decisions now will affect my girls down the road that sets my guilt metre to paralyzing. I’ve found that since becoming a mom, I get overwhelmed much more easily than my pre-mommy days — probably because my brain in 95 percent occupied with the basic task of keeping two small humans alive. And when I get overwhelmed I tend to shut down.



I feel this shutting down mode when I’m making certain decisions pertaining to my kids. My current source of anxiety is the impeding school year. September will mark the year my oldest goes to junior kindergarten — even typing that makes my stomach drop. The decision to send her to jk (part-time) has been nothing but an overwhelming, guilt-ridden rollercoaster for me. To the point where I was paralyzed with indecision, and still now second-guess myself every day since hitting “submit” on her registration form. On the surface, I know it’s ridiculous, but I’m still having a hard time getting past the guilt that I’m making the wrong decision. I could sit here for hours typing out reasons why I want to keep her home. In reality there are only two simple reasons why I’m sending her: 1) she’s ready and 2) I need her to go. Reason number two is extremely hard to admit. I don’t want her to go, but I need her to. I need to spend some one-on-one time with my youngest, whose life so far has been a blur. I don’t feel like I know her the way I know my first, and we need some time together. I also need to figure out a way to be the woman I want to be, balancing mom with successful business owner. For the past four-and-a-half years, I’ve had baby tunnel vision. I’ve been lost in a sea of diapers and nursing and night-wakings and “Mommy, watch me!” a million times a day. I’m thrilled to do it and won’t give up my stay-at-home-mommy status for anything, but the dust is settling. All of a sudden, I’m not a mom with babies anymore. There are no more diapers. My nursing days are over. And, against all odds, both girls sleep through the night. It’s only been very recently that I’m realizing I’m feeling more like my pre-mommy self. A little more free to just be me, not “Ana and Ellie’s mom.” I feel like a major parenthood milestone is being reached. However, the voice inside my head keeps telling me that I’m a terrible mom for wanting her to go to jk. “You’re an attachment parent, how could you want her away from you? You’re sacrificing her wellbeing for your selfish reasons. You know she’s better off with you but you’re sending her anyways. You are failing her.” These awful feelings have made this process more difficult than I could have ever imagined. And it’s exposed my own vulnerability to mom guilt and just how crippling it can be. But inevitably we move forward. Every day is one day closer to her first day of school. I’m not marching her off to the gallows; I’m not shipping her to a far off land. It’s just school, I tell myself. And with most major decisions in life, we tend to forget that rarely are decisions irreverisble. I’m confident that once we’re both settled into our new norm, it will be very clear if I’ve made the right decision. If I haven’t, we’ll fix it. I can’t let myself be consumed by guilt for a decision that can be changed. Guilt is a tricky beast that just needs to be released for the good of parental sanity everywhere. ELAINE KAPOGINES is a laid-back, self-centred, oblivious mom and business owner. Visit for additional content and digital copies of past issues.

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