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Stress is a Contagious Bug Your Kids Can Catch, Too



The stress response to the holiday season starts to ramp up just after  Halloween. Candy bags are gone (dentist appointments scheduled),  and outcome the holiday decorations and the pressure to get a plan in place. Perhaps you are starting to worry about your budget. When will you start to prepare? What do you want to do differently this year?

All these questions linger in our minds, and then there is a lovely dance between avoidance and taking action.  Breathe first. Then set aside some time to imagine what your holiday could be like. How will it feel? How busy will you be? Remember you are in charge. Make the right decisions for you and your family now.

Start by planning today and stick to a schedule for peace of mind, yours and your children’s.

What your plan looks like is up to you but make it less reactive and more of a conscientious decision. Happiness won’t come from how many presents you have wrapped. It will come from a mindful approach where you write down what really matters to you.  It likely won’t turn out exactly as you planned and that is okay.  Children won’t remember what you didn’t get done, but they will remember how they felt around the holidays.

Start by:

1. Prioritizing sleep, healthy diets and exercise


We all perform best when we make sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet a high priority. Set a reminder on your fitness app for a healthier bedtime that will leave you well rested each day. Our brains manage stress better when we get more sleep. Say “no” to the occasional party in favour of a family hike through High Park or perhaps exercising your mind by discovering a new family board game or card game! Commit  your time wisely - turn off your autopilot signals to respond “yes!” and instead ask yourself the following question before you commit to a plan: Is this going to serve our family best? Don't over commit your schedule out of obligation. Choose your family time to be active together. Explore and discover December nature; bake healthy holiday treats to reinvent traditional recipes with healthier alternatives; and finally, rest after a long day of just being together.  Set aside time for selecting family activities that include input from all family members. Ask your children for advice; often they see things solutions that we don't.  Your children will feel valued when you bring them into the planning process. It will reduce aversion to activities when children are apart of the decision process.

2. Asking for help

Want your children to learn a greater sense of independence? Plan time for them with family and friends without you. It gives everyone a break - even if it is just a few hours.  The benefit of this will come when it is time to return to school or daycare. Perhaps your child will be starting daycare in the new year?   Ask questions about how they feel when you’re not there with them .   Showing that you’re able to ask for help from friends and family to get things done will help your kids see that by working together, and collaborating efforts, much more can be accomplished.


3. Be a mentor, not the boss

Our role as parents is to observe (our) children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide opportunities to explore these interests further. Over the holidays, take time to check in with your children to find out what they currently love doing. Ask them questions and have some fun with spontaneous activity led by your child!

4. Declutter

Free your open spaces from clutter.  Explore your home through the lens of the following question. “Can I encourage collaboration, communication, and exploration here”? Make sure everyone is contributing to the chores and upkeep of the house. Give your children tasks like emptying the dishwasher, sorting and putting away clean laundry. Host a group tidying party with music and silliness. Take time to laugh.

5. Enjoy the moment

It is a good reminder for us all to live in the present moment more often. Children naturally live in the moment, and we could learn a lot from them. Take time to laugh more, play more and squirrel away time to do nothing but enjoy your children without the pressure of being somewhere at a specific time. Relax and appreciate the family time.

Bonus tip:

Finally, be kind to yourself. Perfectionism is overrated. Teach your children it is okay to make mistakes, in fact, it is the best way to learn. Be flexible.  Check in with yourself frequently. Ask yourself, "How do I want to feel?" when making decisions related to your family. It will often lead to better decisions. And a happier family.  Happy Holidays from Atelier Kids.

New recommendations for Screen Time for Children + Follow the 4 "M's" Rule of Thumb

Article Source: Globe & Mail 
To sum up: Screen time of any kind is still not recommended for children under the age of two, a reaffirmation of a long-standing rule of thumb for babies and toddlers. For children between the ages of two and five, the society recommends routine screen time be limited to less than one hour a day and that parents and caregivers watch TV programs or play online games with their preschoolers and kindergartners, rather than leave them to swipe and zone out on their own. The society also urges parents to power down their devices during family time and turn off the background TV.
The Canadian pediatricians’ group opted not to follow the lead of its U.S. counterpart, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which just last fall, softened its old hard-and-fast prohibition on screen time for children under the age of two.
The U.S. guidelines make specific exceptions for Skype and FaceTime (which many doctors and parents don’t categorize as screen time anyway) and for 18- to 24-month-olds, so long as adults watch or play the digital content with them.
Otherwise, the pediatricians’ groups on both sides of the border agree: There is no good evidence that infants and toddlers benefit from solo screen time. Some studies have found that preschoolers can learn from screens, but only if the digital content is high-quality, educational and dolloped out judiciously by moms and dads with the self-control of hunger strikers at a buffet.
“The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They’re not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life,” said Michelle Ponti, the London, Ont. pediatrician who chaired the digital health task force that researched and wrote the new Canadian guidelines.
“We do know what does benefit early learning and that is face-to-face, live interactions with an engaged parent or other caregiver,” Dr. Ponti said.
Among the exhaustive list of citations attached to the Canadian Paediatric Society’s position statement is a recent systematic review of 76 studies that looked at how television exposure affects children’s cognition and behaviour. Published in the journal Developmental Review, the paper found that, overall, high-quality educational shows (Sesame Street is a popular example) can help improve preschoolers’ basic academic skills.
But the review found that, for infants, watching TV was associated with “inattentive/hyperactive behaviours, lower executive functions, and language delay, at least in the short-term.”
Still, associations can be tricky. They are not causes. Are TV watching and hyperactivity sometimes linked because TV makes kids hyper, or because parents of hyperactive children are more inclined to switch on the TV to give themselves a break? Several of the studies found that content mattered a great deal. Slowly paced educational programming seemed not to have the same negative effects as fast-paced cartoons.
Many of the studies in the review involved children who watched two or more hours of TV a day. Is screen time safe in shorter bursts? And what about the new generation of interactive, educational apps that have yet to be the subject of much rigorous research? Are they more like TVs or more like interactive toys?
Dimitri Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said the rise of touch-screen technology was “fundamentally a game changer,” for researchers who study child development.
Children sit passively while they watch TV, but they can engage with an interactive app – the kind that rewards their counting or letter knowledge with a star or whistle, for example – in a totally different way.
Dr. Christakis, who co-authored the recent AAP policy statement, said the research on these products is in its infancy and the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of apps that market themselves as educational are not backed by any real science.
“We don’t recommend that children use these apps before the age of two,” he said. “I just think we have to be thoughtful … we say that limited use starting at [18] months of age, ideally with a parent and with interactive apps that are slow-paced, is okay. That’s a far cry from endorsing their usage.”
That is part of the reason the CPS opted – after much discussion – not to insert into their recommendations a specific exemption for FaceTime or Skype with family, she said.
Dr. Christakis was more willing to cut me that slack. “I often to say to parents, if you’re using the device to give yourself a break … I think that’s fine. I really do,” he said. “But know that that’s why you’re doing it. I think if you’re using it because you think it’s educational or beneficial for your child, that’s where you need to think again.”
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How to manage screen time
The Canadian Paediatric Society’s new position statement recommends families follow the four “M”s when it comes to screen time and young children.
Minimize screen time
Screen time for children under 2 is not recommended. For two- to five-year-old children, limit routine screen time to less than one hour a day. Maintain daily screen-free time, especially at meals and at least an hour before bedtime.
Mitigate the risks associated with screen time
Be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, co-view with children. Be aware of digital content, prioritizing educational, age-appropriate, interactive content.
Be mindful about the use of screen time
Conduct a self-assessment of screen habits and develop a family media plan for when, where and how screens may (and may not) be used and be reassured there is no evidence to support introducing technology at a young age.
Model healthy screen time
Adults should turn off their devices at home during family time, turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.

Dancing may help kids develop socio-emotional skills like empathy #activeforlife

Dancing may help kids develop socio-emotional skills like empathy
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To some, these are just numbers, and to others, these numbers mean dance. From hip hop to ballroom, all forms of dance play an important role in developing physical literacy. But, can dance teach more than agility, balance, and coordination? According to an article in The Atlantic, some schools are using dance as a vehicle for teaching students social-emotional skills such as empathy.
In the article written by Audrey Cleo Yap, “studies have shown the cognitive benefits students experience through being exposed to dance and other art forms,” however complex human qualities, like empathy, are hard to quantify. Anecdotal evidence from teachers and principals suggest that dance improves acceptance, cooperation, and collaboration among students, but more research is needed to understand the correlation between dance and emotional intelligence.
In the meantime, parents can take what they know about the benefits of dance and put it into action. Whether that means two-stepping into your kids’ school and starting a conversation, or simply starting within your family and working it into the weekly schedule, dance deserves a place in the life of every child.
If moving to music can help kids develop their character, why wouldn’t we start each daywith a 5-6-7-8?
This article is courtesy of Active for Life - GTAParent.com founder Leigh Mitchell is proud to be an Active for Life Role Model. 
Jaime Neefs
About the author: 
Jaime Neefs, a kinesiology graduate and child life specialist, can almost always be found on a soccer field. Turf or grass, she's out there using her 20+ years playing experience to coach and referee youngsters just starting out. Besides soccer, Jaime enjoys running, road tripping, and adding bacon to every recipe. Follow Jaime on Twitter, @_JaimeNeefs.

Three reasons to celebrate the holidays with the Toronto Children’s Chorus and Roy Thomson Hall

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Sleigh bells ring, coloured lights twinkle along the streets and eggnog hits the shelves. But nothing can inspire child-like wonder as much as live choral music and a traditional holiday story.
You and your family are invited to Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday, December 17 to hear the world-renowned Toronto Children’s Chorus perform their annual holiday concert, this year titled A Child’s Christmas. Stratford Festival actor Geraint Wyn Davies, harpist Judy Loman, the Chorus’ 100-voice Alumni Choir and friends from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will join in this awe-inspiring performance.
Here are the top three reasons why you should mark your calendars for the Toronto Children’s Chorus’s performance on December 17 at Roy Thomson Hall.

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1. Sing along to your favourites
The Toronto Children’s Chorus and Alumni Choir will perform holiday classics that you and your family know and love. Songs include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Huron Carol”, among other well-known tunes. Your children (and you) will have a blast singing along during this interactive concert.  Lyrics provided!
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2. Warm up with a story
Stratford Festival actor Geraint Wyn Davies will narrate A Child’s Christmas in Wales, written by poet Dylan Thomas in 1952. This nostalgic tale will resonate with all who have been charmed by the holidays as a young child.
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3. Save with a holiday deal
Everyone loves some family savings at this time of year. Purchase four or more tickets and receive a 10 percent discount to one of the most popular family holiday performances in Toronto!  (Discounted tickets limited.)
Buy your tickets today to A Child’s Christmas from the Roy Thomson Hall box office by phone 416.872.4255 or online at http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/TorontoChildrensChorus

10% discount available for purchase of four tickets!

Hear a preview:

Mindfulness for families: 7 tips to get you started


Writing this article couldn’t come at a more symbolic time. October is all about gratitude. But as the CEO of our family, I can tell you, it’s not easy keeping it together at this time of year. We are “knee deep” in school commitments, activity schedules, and homework. The holidays are looming and the financial stress of balancing the books can seem unbearable.
How do we not pass on this anxiety to our children?

Modelling mindfulness

The key is to create healthy, mindful habits that our children might also embrace. And it starts with us. Parents. Not dissimilar from the airplane depressurization context when you must first put on your own oxygen mask before securing your child’s.
I recommend that you practice mindfulness yourself first with these three daily exercises:
1. Meditation: Even five minutes a day can help calm your nervous system. I find the “after” effects of meditation similar to exercise; afterward, I feel calmer and centered. The word “meditation” can sometimes feel overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Take some of the guesswork out of it by downloading an app like Headspace or OMG I Can Meditate and try a guided meditation or a “meditation challenge”.
2. Be active: If physical activity isn’t already part of your life, make a commitment to exercise at least 30 minutes, five times a week. In combination with meditation, exercise has been shown to be effective in combatting symptoms of depression. And with 150 minutes of physical activity a week, you’ll also likely find yourself sleeping better. I’ve even noticed that when I’m physically active it helps to ward off sickness.
3. Be present: When you start to feel your mind racing with tasks, take a moment to be aware of your present surroundings. Use all your senses. Take a deep breath, smell, listen, and look at what surrounds you. Try to focus on the bigger picture and don’t fixate on one thing. Ask yourself, will this really matter three months from now?

Passing it on to your kids

Once you’re feeling more at peace it’s time to start talking about mindfulness with your children:
4. Find out what they already know. Some schools in Canada are starting to incorporate mindfulness into the curriculum and your kids might already be familiar with the concept. Ask questions and get them feeling good about what they already know. They might have mindfulness exercises from school that you can try out as a family.

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