Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back To School - College and University

Their room is packed into boxes in the car, they've bid farewell to their hometown, and are ready to start their post-secondary career in the field that they feel they want to venture into.  Or maybe they're staying at home to attend the closest college/university and do a daily commute.

Regardless of their choice, your child has now become a young adult, and is taking baby steps into the world of college & university.

I can still remember my parents dropping me off at Loyalist College in Belleville - the furthest I was willing to go away, and I was going to be living in residence with 5 other girls I had never met before, and going to this school, where I knew a total of 2 people.  Nervous?  You bet.  Best two years of my school career?  Absolutely.  (In fact, it's where I met my now spouse!)

That first month where your student is learning their way around campus, what studying is REALLY like, how to cook for themselves, how important sleep really is, where they need to concentrate, how to make new friends, and most importantly, how to succeed in school.

But with all of those things, can come stressful times.  Anxiety, depression, stress come very easily to post-secondary students as they are learning the way of the world.  OSAP, student loans, finances, how to control money - it can send an 18 year old spinning out of control.  I saw many students in my college years, spending their OSAP on stereos, televisions and unfortunately, at the bars.  Bullying can also continue into the post-secondary stage, making it feel like it's a never-ending cycle.

Some students find themselves enjoying the party scene of college/uni more than classes, and end up missing classes, sleeping in class, and watching their GPA drop, and drop quickly.

Then come mid-terms & exams.  This is possibly one of the most stressful times for a college/uni student, as quite often, their mark on the exam is worth 50% or more of their final grade.  It is not uncommon to see students at their breaking point during exam time, to see them get sick, depressed, and not eat well, and some even find themselves extremely depressed and end up with suicidal ideations.

How can you as a parent, help your child through their post-secondary school?  

  • Schedule weekly phone calls (or weekly dates if they're at home) to stay connected
  • Teach them how to cook healthy meals
  • Teach them how to do their laundry
  • Show them how to manage their money through a budget, how to pay bills, how to properly use a credit card (consider one with a small credit limit of $500)
  • Explain how to manage their stress (we're here 24/7 for your students to call!)
  • Talk about a healthy lifestyle that doesn't involve substance abuse
  • Go and visit!  They'll be so proud to show you around campus and their classrooms.
  • Listen.  You'll be able to see the emotions your child is dealing with, and listening without judgement will help your student get their feelings under control.
If your student is having problems with the course they are taking, it's not a bad thing.  It can simply mean their passion isn't in that area of focus.  They can work with a school liaison to find the right course for them.

...pat yourself on the back parents, you've gotten your child out of elementary, middle and high school and into their post-secondary education!  (or, into the work world!).  This can also be difficult on you, emotionally, mentally and financially.  Be sure that you have a good support system in your life as well, as you will also be dealing with your own stuff.  

As always, don't forget that we are here, for you and your post-secondary students, for whatever you're dealing with.  We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter what, simply by calling 613-238-3311.

Best wishes for this school year, to all of the students out there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back To School - High Schoolers

Whether you have a "minor niner" starting high school or one entering into Grade 12, high school is four years of your child's life, that are some of the most emotional, difficult and overwhelming years.

Grade 9

The "Minor Niners" year.  Do you remember the feeling of walking into the large high school, feeling completely lost and nervous about where you locker is, how to find your classroom, where the cafeteria is, if you'd be picked on by an older student?  Those feelings are still around today for new ninth graders, but with a lot more concerning issues, like bullying, fitting in, sexual orientation and more.

One of the easiest ways for a ninth grader to get started, is to stick with someone they know.  Often, students will venture into a high school with someone they've already been going to school with for most or at least part of their lives.  Strength in numbers!  Your student will be able to have that friend closeby for assistance, or even just to have someone to talk to, as they meet new friends.

Ensuring that your child is safe & happy is one of the most logical concerns a parent can have.  Does the school have a zero tolerance for bullying?  Is your child someone who is friendly to everyone, or are they a potential bully themselves?  Are they involved in clubs or sports?  These are all excellent questions to keep in mind and to talk to you kids about.

Grade 10 

Not at the bottom of the food chain anymore, but not at the very top either.  Students in grade 10 are starting to know what they like and what they don't when it comes to subjects, and will definitely have a few choices for classes and electives.  Sitting down with your student to hash out details of each class together is a great way to learn more about what your high schooler is loving, and ensuring that they are meeting the school's requirements for graduation in a couple of years.  

All of the same concerns listed above can follow your child through their high school career.  Don't assume all of that ends in the 9th grade.

Grade 11

Your student is at the time in their high school career where they are going to be starting to think of post-secondary school or a career.  Now is an excellent time to listen to their hopes for their future, and how you can help them get there.   There comes a bit more expectation and pressure in the 11th grade, with making sure they stay on top of their studies to ensure good grades for college or university.  

This is also one of the times in your students life, where they're falling in love for the first time.  You may think "Oh she/he is just too young to feel that way!" but truth be told, we all had a first love in high school, and if you are honest with yourself, you'll remember the feelings that come with it.  Having the good old "Safe Sex" conversation with your child when they are in their first serious relationship can help you (and them) be more prepared for what can happen.  You'll most likely get a lot of eyerolling and the "Mommmmmm" or "Daaaaaaaaad" "I knoooooooowwwww", but believe me, they will care that you took the time to talk to them.  They will have their hearts broken, and there will be tears, so letting them know you are there, no matter what happens, will help them through tough times.

Grade 12

Top of the totem pole!  College, university or the work world are steps away from your almost graduate.  Finishing up missing credits, college applications, resume building - it's a very, VERY stressful time for your student.  You will invariably see changes in your child's demeanor, so taking time to sit down and talk about everything will help you both through it. 

Now is also the time where your student is just on the brink of being legal age (if in Ontario) and there will be parties, and dances, and more parties, and prom.  Taking time to talk about their responsibilities as a young adult are key, and setting ground rules.  They'll most likely be driving out late with friends now, so talking about being safe while driving to avoid tragedy is a must.

At the end of the day, ensuring that you are understanding and willing to listen to your student's anxiety, stress, depression, happy time, excitable moments, proms, dances, math tests, broken hearts, biology experiments gone awry, and simply being there for your student, is the most important thing. 

Students will be going through a slew of emotions over these 4 years and can easily pick up the phone and call the Distress Centre.  It's free, confidential, and while you may not necessarily know that they've called us, you can rest assured that our fully trained volunteers are here to provide support and listen.  Put our number in the hands of your student before this school year starts, and together we can get through another school year!  613-238-3311 - any time of day or night, we're here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guest Post - Yoga for Depression

Yoga for … Depression?

Wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing. Just for a moment, be right here. Put down the cell phone. Turn off the music. Close your door. Open a window.

Breathe with me.

No really, I mean it.

Start tuning into your breath. Just notice. Gradually start to slow down your breath. Begin breathing through your nose. Gently deepen your inhale, and lengthen your exhale. Close your eyes. Stay here for a while.

Place your hand on your belly. Feel your belly expand on the inhale and draw in on the exhale. Nice. And. Slow. In 2-3-4. Out 2-3-4-5. Whatever feels comfortable and natural, do that. Try five more rounds of inhales and exhales.

Pause. Notice. How do you feel?

This is the power of Yoga. And this is just the beginning.

I know yoga. I also know depression. I have faced it. I have lived in the fog. I have stared up from the bottom of that dark, empty, seemingly endless black hole. And I’ve climbed back up, towards that tiny crack that lets the light in.

Depression is not a straight line. Life is not a straight line. The honest truth: if life was a straight line (think ‘flat line’), we’d be dead.

So what can we do? Find peace in our minds and our lives? Accept the ups and downs? Learn to truly live through them, even thrive through them? Sounds about right. Easy? No. Worth it? YES.

One thing I know for sure is that nothing, nothing is permanent … the good stuff, the bad stuff, the in between stuff. We are inherently resilient. We have great capacity to rewire, change, adapt and grow. It’s never too late. The best part? We have so much more power than we think, and we already have everything we need. Yoga simply serves as a powerful tool that can help us access this.

Pain x Resistance = Suffering

Depression (and anxiety) is more than a mood disorder. It’s a universal human experience and more common than we’d like to admit, let alone talk about. Sometimes life is too much, too big, too difficult, too painful to bear. Pain, it’s inevitable. Even those who do not claim to be depressed still find countless ways to tune out, numb out, and shut out. Pick your poison. We all do it, to varying degrees. Suffering, though, this can be optional.

Yoga heals.

This mantra found it’s way into my life following a Traumatic Brain Injury, and helps me to navigate the tumultuous journey through recovery, rehab, and acceptance. It’s an ongoing journey (life is not a straight line!), but one that is hardly recognizable from that day yoga found its way into my life. Yoga awakened an ability to heal … myself. A capacity we all share.

It’s the connection of mind AND body. This is our way through.

Yoga is much more than a series of physical postures and pretty poses. You do not have to be bendy, strong, or in perfect health to do yoga. Quite the opposite! However, for most of us (myself included), this is how we first see yoga.

Equally important as physical yoga (and some would argue more so), are the breathing practices, mindfulness, restorative postures, and meditative elements of yoga.

Time. Practice. Awareness. Possibility.

While I was in the Rehab Hospital following my TBI in 2011, yoga called to me. I got permission to leave the hospital a few mornings a week and attend a yoga class before my various daily therapies. This was a critical turning point. In a place where I felt surrounded by closed doors, a window of possibility opened.

Awareness. This makes all the difference.

The obvious initial benefit was that yoga helped me to manage my pain, my mood, my sleep. The benefits began to compound. I started to see many other powerful changes as a result of my practice.

The easy AND the hard part: No pressure. Just practice.

I made a personal commitment to practice in any way, for any length of time, at least 3x a week. I scheduled it in my calendar. I had my therapists hold me accountable. I dragged myself out of bed or off the couch to practice. I stumbled. I fell off the wagon. I found my way back. Remember: it’s never a straight line. It takes time to build new pathways, new habits.

Want to see for yourself? I hope so. Experiencing this in your own body, your own mind, is truly the only way to really get it. To feel it for yourself.

And. It. Takes. Practice.

No pill or treatment of any kind will result in lasting change if it isn’t taken or            done regularly.

I want to help.

The yoga community is filled with incredible people who want to be of service, to guide you into a practice, to be part of your healing journey. If introducing yoga into your life seems overwhelming, confusing, intimidating. You are not alone. If going to a public yoga class doesn’t feel quite right, quite yet, you are not alone. I’m here to tell you there are so many options!

In my next post, I will provide you with four foundational practices that you can incorporate into your life, immediately.

Get curious. Trust me. You will not regret it.

xo Kate

Kate Durie
Registered Yoga Teacher, Blissologist, Yoga Therapist (in progress)
Kate is a Registered Yoga Teacher, and has trained under renowned yogi and Blissologist, Eoin Finn. Kate is currently in training to become a Yoga Therapist, specializing in yoga for chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and other various conditions. As a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor, Kate understands first hand how Yoga is more than a series of asanas. Yoga heals. With every breath, every movement, every intention, yoga is transformative.

Connect with Kate on...
Twitter & Instagram: @kateudurie
Facebook: /kateunderhilldurie
www.katedurie.com (coming soon)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back To School - Middles

You remember what being in middle school was like.  You remember recess being fun, doing plays & playing the recorder in music class, you remember "nature walks" and field trips, you remember playing soccer or basketball and travelling for games & tournaments.

Middle school is an amazing time in your child's life, as they are set in their school routine, know that they have homework to do, know which subjects they like, and which they need to work harder at.  Middle school is also where your child starts to really develop a personality, a group of friends, along with their own morals and values.  

Although all of these great things are happening during middle school, these years can be tough on your child.  With all of the above positives, there are other things to watch for:

Developing own personalities - is your child's personality something to be concerned about?  Is he/she lashing out?  Are there more tears than smiles?

Groups of friends - is your child hanging out with others that are easy to get along with?  Are they nice?  Are they a good or bad influence? 

Homework - is your child doing his/her homework?  Are they making up excuses for not handing in their homework?  Are they lying about having homework?

Hormones - oh the joy of the puberty age!  Is your child struggling with hormonal changes?  
Is your child nervous about having a locker for the first time?  How to remember that darn combination code?  

Is it nerve-wracking for them to be moving from classroom to classroom for subjects, instead of staying with their one teacher who just teaches everything all day?

Has your child mentioned a bully in his/her class or an older grade?  Is there a fear about going to school?  Has your child been threatened by someone at school?

The very best thing a parent can do is listen & watch.  Listen to your child's concerns "What if I can't get my locker open and I miss my bus?"  and watch for behavioral changes "I hate going to gym class now!!" (from a child who loved gym before), does your child suddenly not speak to a friend that they've been friends with for a long time?  Reading between the lines of your child's statements may be a great indication as to what's going on.  Also, there is no shame in getting in touch with your child's teachers if there is something you need to discuss ie: homework, behavior in class, etc.

Another thing that parents can do for their kids, is to make sure they stay healthy during the school year.  Getting eyes tested, vitamins taken, and regular dental check ups are a key to a successful school year - but what about their mental health as well?  Ensuring that you take time each week to talk about school, friends, groups of kids, etc.  Watching for signs of depression, stress, anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide can be overwhelming as a parent, but you know your child better than anyone.  Having healthy meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner) are very supportive in mental health as well.

As embarrassing as it may be as a parent to talk to your child about sex, this is the time in their lives where they will be learning about it at school, and from their peers, and they are dealing with puberty.  Your child will be embarrassed to be talking about it with you as well (as we all were growing up) but, hey, if we couldn't embarrass our own child, who can we embarrass?  :)  In all seriousness, the age of those participating in sexual activity is dropping, and better safe than sorry with having the discussion about safe sex early on. Deep breaths, it's going to be okay.

Encourage your child to live their school life to the fullest - play spots, swing on swings, take on yearbook or art classes, run track, join clubs.  School isn't just about learning from books, it's about learning who you are!  

Anyone needing support during the school year - students, parents, teachers, faculty, bus drivers - can call and speak to one our volunteer crisis line specialists, in confidence, 24 hours a day.  Simply call 613-238-3311.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back To School - Littles

The time has finally (or maybe, too quickly) arrived - your baby is heading off to Kindergarten!  

As you do your shopping together, for backpacks, lunch kits, crayons, new clothes and more, your child starts to ask questions about what Kindergarten will be like.

"Will my teacher like me?"
"Will I make new friends?"
"When do I take a nap?"
"Who makes my lunch?"
"How do I go to the bathroom?"
"How will I know what bus to get on?"
"What if my teacher forgets about at recess?"
"How can I talk to you when I'm sad?"

"What if nobody likes me?"
"What if someone calls me names?"

...and the heart-wrenching moment for any parent "Do I have to go?  Can't I stay at home with you?"

Kindergarten is an immense change for your child, even if they've been going to a pre-school or daycare.  A new routine and people can be very overwhelming for your little one - as well as yourself.  School stress can occur at any age, especially at an early age.

Preparing your child for Kindergarten may take more than the week before.  There will be an adjustment period, where your child is more fatigued, and more irritable, as the days are more challenging with learning to read, write, and learning new social skills with friends they've just met.  They're learning how to cope with aggression, and manage their emotions (no, you can't hit Bobby, same rules as at home, use your indoor voice, it's okay to be sad, etc).

Does your child's new school have an "Introduction to Kindergarten Day/Program"?  It's a program where your child can take the bus (if applicable) with a parent to see what it's like, then spend a few hours getting to see the classroom, meet the teacher and other kids in their class, and absorb their environment.  Then, they take the bus back home to see how they get on the bus after school.  It's a great day to help calm their little minds, and big worries.

If your child's school doesn't have this program, inquire about taking your child into the school the week before.  Most teachers are already in their classrooms a week before, and would probably just love to meet your child one-on-one.  

Involve your child in the shopping aspect of getting ready.  What clothes will make your child the most comfortable.  Dresses for little girls are adorable, but are they play-appropriate?   Are there lots of buttons on their pants?  This can be a tricky thing when having to use the bathroom at a new place, and may cause accidents.  Do you need to send a spare change of clothes in case of an accident, paint droppings or juice spillage?  Leggings for little girls are great and easy to play in, change into, etc.  Track pants or elastic waistbands are perfect for little boys who sometimes just don't have the time to worry about buttons and zippers!  

Celebrate your child going into this new milestone!  Maybe have a nice dinner the night before school starts with their favorite meal to celebrate what a big boy/girl they've become - or celebrate after the first day or week is done!

Consider getting your child on an earlier bedtime routine.  Summer months have us keeping our children up later than normal, so setting a new routine for school will help with potential fatigue.  And hey, what does a nap here and there hurt?  

Finally, allow yourself to feel what you feel.  Having your child head off for their first year of school can bring forth many emotions for you, the parent, as well.  You are most likely overjoyed that you've gotten them this far, but are afraid to send them off into the school world.  You may feel like your child is too young, or too shy, or too little to go to JK, or that they may be the victim of bullying.  You may feel anxiety about your child being in the care of another.  These are all normal emotions & feelings.  Rest assured that you're not alone.  

Is there a Parent Council you can join to ensure that your little student is being taken care of properly?  Does your child have an agenda that the teacher signs and sends home daily?  Ask your child about their day.  Avoid the "What did you do at school today" question, as you'll often get the "I forget" answer, as they have a busy day, every day.  Consider asking questions like "What did you paint today?"  "What new songs did you learn?"  "Did you fall asleep during naptime today?" "Did you have a nice day with your friends?"  Showing your child that you're interested in their day will ease their anxiety, and will help you feel as ease as well, learning about their day.

As September is just a few weeks away, know that we are here for you to talk to.  Sending your child off to school is a whirlwind of emotions, and we're here to provide support to you.  613-238-3311, anytime of day or night, we're here.

Best of luck to your littles, heading off to JK this year!