Friends

Our 10-year-old son—the shyest of our lot—started at a brand new school this year.

It was the best decision for him academically, but it was a move that was not without its risks. 

For someone who struggles as much as he does with finding his place, it meant leaving behind a small, but tight group of friends that he (and we) had worked hard to build.

It meant starting over. And it's been a slow start, which is exactly what we expected.

To keep his confidence and self-esteem up, we've continued to spend time with the friends from his old school. We could not be more grateful that they have continued to reach out to him—it means so much to us. They have shown kindness and acceptance and genuine friendship. 

Today is Pink Shirt Day across the country. It's an initiative that focuses on anti-bullying, as well as the value of spreading positivity and kindness. And as much as we can count on the schools to help perpetuate those messages, it has to begin at home. It has to start with parents and caregivers and role models. We have to walk the talk ourselves, if we expect our children to do the same. 

Two weeks ago, we were on the receiving end of a beautiful gift from one of those boys, and I wanted to share it here on this important day. 

My son's friend came to our door with a wrapped gift and inside was a homemade Wall of Awesome with adjectives and words that described our son. He wears his emotions very openly, and when he read those words his face lit up with joy. It let him know that he is still seen. 

Wallofawesome

This gift comes from a family who aren't afraid to raise a boy who is empathetic and compassionate. They don't worry themselves about making him tough, they worry about making him kind. And even before this great gift, we had seen it exemplified in every interaction we've had with him. 

It isn't easy for my boy to trust peers, he's been hurt before. It's easy to hurt him, after all.

But with this friend, he is able to be his true self. 

And that is what I want my children to know at their core. 

A true friend lifts you up and helps you find your best version.

My son's friends are doing that for him and as their parents,

we are all standing on the sidelines cheering them on.

 

 

 

 

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Partners In Teaching

The first day of school is such an emotional milestone for kids as well as for parents who open their hand to let go of their child's and then raise it in a wave until we see his backpack climb onto the school bus or walk through the doors of the school. 

I've been through it four times now. And no matter how excited and proud I felt each time, there was also a messy mix of other emotions at play. 

For some kids, it's an easy day. For others, it's harder. 

I knew it would be the latter for my boy.

When I saw how scared he was, I wanted to turn around, take him home, and pretend the first day was still in the future.

Sethschoolsmall 

But then I watched the way his teacher really noticed him, and I felt better about moving his hand from mine to hers. I kept watching as she took him to the front of the line beside her—where he stayed for the rest of that year.

He's a very bright kid, who enjoys school and looks forward to going. But he's also incredibly shy and deeply sensitive. He can be hard to read, because he keeps so much of what he's thinking and feeling inside. It isn't always easy for him to communicate what he needs. 

For him to succeed in school, I knew my husband and I would have to work closely with his teachers to help them understand and support him. And I knew we'd have to show him that we believed they could. For our family, having school-aged kids means valuing the relationship between school and home. 

We make an effort to get to know our kids' teachers, especially since we expect they'll make an effort to do the same for our family. The Ontario College of Teachers provides parents with information about their certified teachers with a search tool on their website called Find a Teacher. By searching a teacher's name, parents can learn about a teacher's qualifications, educational background, and current status with the college. 

We're just over the halfway point of grade school with our wonder boy, and we could not be more grateful for the many ways his teachers have helped him shine. 

His kindergarten teachers let him take his time getting used to the classroom. They encouraged him and cheered him on and helped establish school as a place he wanted to be. 

His grade one and two teachers learned to read his body language instead of waiting for him to find the words, and they made him feel heard because of it. They celebrated his successes and pushed him through his challenges with empathy and care. They let him know they were there for him.

During a parent-teacher interview with his grade three teacher, he told me and his teacher he wished it wasn't so hard to talk to the other kids. Without skipping a beat, she said there were kids in the class who told her they really liked working with him and together they would figure out how to get to know those classmates better. And then she met my tear-filled eyes with tears in hers, and I knew she'd make it a priority to help him. 

In grade four, he had two teachers who were new graduates. And we had our reservations about how things would go. To be honest, I think we underestimated the calibre of education and knowledge they would have coming into their position (all teachers who wish to teach in Ontario must be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers, you can learn more about the process here). They can bring new ideas and strategies to the classroom and their approach to social dynamics led to one of his most confident years yet. 

His current teacher—at a brand new school—has brought a wealth of experience and specialized training to her role. He's finding new ways to stretch his thinking in a program geared to gifted learners, and we are watching him grow confidence and enthusiasm about his alternative way of thinking and learning.

When it comes to the partnership between our family and our kids' teachers, we believe it's a relationship worth investing in. We choose to participate in our province's education system, by having our children in its schools, and we feel it's our responsibility to stay informed and educated, so we can best support our teachers as they teach our kids. 

To stay up-to-date and informed about the Ontario College of Teachers, you can sign up to receive the e-newsletter, The Standard (click here), which provides reports on trends in education, information about changes in education legislation, as well as services to help you learn more about how the College works to set and ensure high standards in teachers and education.

A few months ago, we sat down to make some holiday cards for the kids' teachers and my son turned to me and said, I'm going to need a whole bunch, Mom. I have so many teachers to thank. And I remembered that scared boy and felt such gratitude for every teacher who has brought him this far.

 

Is there a teacher who has made a difference in your child's school experience?

I would love to hear your story.

 

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This post is sponsored by the Ontario College of Teachers.

The story, opinions, and wonder boy are all mine.

 

 

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: OOKPIX Giveaway

Our oldest daughter took a big leap of faith this year and started over at a new school.

Grade seven is not an easy year to be starting anything over. 

And leaving good friends was the hardest part. She is not the kind of kid who favours big groups of friends. She has always preferred to find her tribe and remain loyal to them. Over the years, she has surrounded herself with a beautiful and diverse group of girls that lift her up (we've always told her it's the most important trait in a friend) and make her happy. 

We reassured her that out of sight does not mean out of mind. And that as long as she keeps putting her heart into those relationships, they will continue to grow. 

And so far, so good.

 

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Every year I put photos and prints on my list of gifts to give, and last year I started ordering them from a Canadian company, Ookpix.

This year, I knew my daughter would be one of the recipients.

Shortly after starting at her new school, she took some professional photos with one of her oldest friends. It was such a fun morning, and the photographer captured them perfectly.

This was one of my favourite shots, because they look like a reflection of one another. This friendship is so special, because they always see the best in one another. It's a picture worth a thousand words, that can also be described with one: friend.

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{Photo by Katherine McIntosh of Natural Attraction Photography}

I decided to try something different this time, because of the beautiful and bright colours in this photo. I chose an acrylic finish with rounded corners, and I was not disappointed. It looks stunning and will be the perfect addition to her room. The finish was flawless, and it's much lighter weight than I was expecting.

Ookpix

I loved it so much that I'm already hard at work on my next project for our family photo.

If you love gifting photos at the holidays, my friends at Ookpix are generously helping me give away a 20x30 canvas (because, yes, I did ask for you guys!). AMAZING!!!

Because Ookpix is 100% Canadian, shipping is completely free. And if you are shopping for the holidays, they are offering an "under the tree guarantee", as long as you order by Dec 12th. 

Psssst, there's also a great deal on the site right now for first time visitors. 

So hurry, hurry. Go take a peek. They offer photo canvas and photo acrylic in a range of sizes, as well as freestanding acrylic photo blocks, calendars, and photo books.

And don't fret if you don't win...Ookie the owl is giving ALL my readers 55% off any order with the code: LATENIGHTPLAYS (valid until Dec 3rd). 

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but Ookie did gift me the beautiful acrylic print. 

You can find Ookie on Facebook and Twitter, too.

 

 
 
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{GIVEAWAY} WHEN KIDS WORRY

when kids worry

I am the kind of parent that is thrilled to see my children trying new things and taking chances to satisfy a curiosity or embark on an adventure that gives them a sense of accomplishment. It amazes me to see them doing things I was never brave enough to try.

But I don't expect it to be easy for them.

And because of their temperaments—it's often very hard.

This school year is a big game changer for my kids. Two of them have switched schools and my youngest is beginning kindergarten. That leaves my third in the same school, but facing the uncertainties of being on her own when she normally has her siblings close by.

For many children, including mine, change can mean anxiety. And sometimes it can be everyday events or situations that cause a child to worry or feel anxious.

I worried a lot as a child, too. And I'm able to share that with my children. They take a lot of comfort from knowing I went through something similar and also had worried feelings. And their dad is great with being honest and open about things that scared him, too.

But we also want our kids to learn how to face their anxieties and worries head on and to believe in their ability to get through those feelings by using their own coping skills.

So we talk things out. A lot.

We find people other than us (teachers, family, friends) that we think are able to relate, and we encourage them to talk it out.

I think we do a great job of helping our children feel that we understand. But we are offering an adult perspective of how things will get better and sometimes they need to know that other children feel the same way right now. 

There are many resources available for families to use as tools to support their kids in dealing with worry and anxiety. I was recently introduced to a new book by certified school psychologist, Stacy Fiorile, called Scaredies Away!  and welcomed the opportunity to have my children read it and ask questions.

when kids worry

My eight and 10 year old were able to imagine themselves in the story and were nodding their heads at some of the feelings described in the book—which is written for a target audience of six to 12 years old.

The story offers scenarios and concrete strategies that kids can use to face the worry and get through it. The Magic Finger Countdown teaches kids to put their scaredies into their fist and then let them go by counting backwards from five until their hand is open and they can blow their worries away. 

when kids worry

I'm so glad to be able to give one of my readers a copy of this book. If your child struggles with worrying and anxiety, you will appreciate being able to share this book with them. 

For further tips and strategies for helping your child, here are some great resources from Kids Health and Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada. If you have concerns about your child and anxiety, please speak to your health care provider. 

This giveaway is open to Canadian and U.S. Residents only. Thank you and good luck!

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The book Scaredies Away! is also available for purchase on Amazon.

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