Expert Advice

5 Tips to Avoid Virtual Learning Burnout By Rayyan El-Baf We’re in the final stretch of the school year! While the end of this year’s virtual learning is coming to an end, it’s still the primary method of schooling. Both parents and teens would agree that being online all the time is taxing, which is why we spoke to Alicia Cuzner, a teacher and course developer at Ontario Virtual School, about how students can avoid burnout. Although online learning can be challenging, it can actually be beneficial for teens because it provides them with a more flexible schedule, helps them practice time management, and gives them experience for post-secondary school, which operates in-class and virtually. While it can be frustrating for parents, Cuzner says you can support your teen by not hovering over them too much and instead, motivate them by keeping a schedule of important dates and assisting them in making a long-term plan to achieve realistic and manageable goals. While we don’t know what next year will look like in terms of online and in-class learning, Cuzner offers these five tips to help your teen get through this year and avoid burnout. Create a work schedule to break up tasks throughout the day. “Some schools have live classes, but generally the teacher’s lessons are around 30 minutes and then you have independent work. Independent work can sometimes make a student feel overwhelmed because they don’t know how to start or need motivation. If you break up the work into little chunks, it’s easier to complete the tasks on time. At OVS, all our lessons are pre-recorded so you can watch them whenever you like. Student’s use this to their advantage to schedule a time to watch the lessons in the evenings or weekends when they have more free time.” Set up a proper workstation - like a home office! “You don’t always have to work at a desk but try to keep all your work in one location. This way everything is set up and ready to go when you are starting your day.” Incorporate mini movements into your day “With the pandemic, the general population is not moving enough. This can directly impact your learning because your mind is working too hard and your body can cramp up. If you have a dog you can take it for a walk or do a five-minute stretch or do a quick circuit of active moments.” Don’t be afraid to take

What Every Parent of a Boy Needs to Know There’s no denying that raising kids is the hardest job out there. It can be especially challenging to raise boys as we navigate certain challenges that we haven’t really talked about as a society. That’s why we chatted with Investigative Journalist, Emma Brown, author of To Raise A Boy about what it means to be a boy and a parent of a boy circa 2021. By Julyanna Trickey What prompted your idea to write To Raise A Boy? I was home with my six-week-old son when the first Harvey Weinstein story broke. As I was nursing my son, I was scrolling through all of those stories and the flood of stories that came out after about men mistreating women. I asked myself how can I raise my son to be different? This question set me on a journey to talk with people from different parts of the country. I talked to hundreds of researchers, coaches, teachers, parents, and boys and men themselves. And what I learned was unexpected. From start to finish, was there anything that changed your original hypothesis about raising boys? Starting this journey, I thought that life’s a lot harder for girls growing up because of all the messages being aimed at girls about girlhood and being a woman. But what I learned was that this was an overly simplistic view and things are pretty tough for boys, too. They face a ton of messages about who they’re supposed to be, which can be really difficult for them to navigate. I was really astonished at the amount of shame boys feel when they try to break out of what we have traditionally told them about how to be a boy. I was also shocked to learn that this produces not-so-great outcomes for men and their mental health. In my book, I quoted a scholar who studies the gender of adolescents aged 10-14 all over the world and his work showed that boys in that age group face more neglect, physical violence, and sexual abuse by adults than girls do, which was so shocking to me.  It upended the way I thought about how boys and girls live through the world. The most profound shift for me was coming to feel huge empathy for what boys deal with and a huge desire for when it comes to my son and other boys to do better by

3 Mompreneurs Making a Mark Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of sources but for these three women, inspiration sparked from their journeys to find happiness, health and organization in their daily lives as moms. Shantelle Bisson, Adriana Gentile and Justine McDonald are three women entrepreneurs making an impact in the lives of those needing support to reach their goals. These women are experts in helping others achieve their best. Learn how each of these moms is making her mark. Shantelle Bisson Short story bio about your business My parenting book, Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Cool, and the products I’m currently creating to work in conjunction with the book/brand, came about because I’m actually not very good at keeping my cool!  I’m a total Type-A, on-the-spectrum-OCD kind-of gal, and I find everyday tasks like parenting teens, moving, aging and breaking up to be pretty challenging.  So, I had to do something to help myself get through life with more joy, peace, and fun.  Enter me writing my first book, which will become the beginning of a series of life books to assist others in getting through this thing called life, or to help other people start off their parenting journey with more preparation, confidence and a lot less angst. How you came up with it The way I came up with the Without Losing Your Cool brand was from me getting my girls to adulthood with my cool still intact.  I realized that if somebody like ME could get to the other side of that difficult, challenging, ever-changing part of life, then I can and should help others do the same!  I have witnessed friends entering the unknown part of parenting years and knew I could support them through it and even help them enjoy it at the same time!  I am also a master at moving. I’ve done it 25 times in the almost 33 years I’ve been married to my husband. I actually LOVE moving and renovating and organizing. I’m always amazed to hear other people say that they don’t!  From things in my life that I have done well and things I enjoy doing where others do not, I felt that creating a business centered around helping people master their time spent in uncomfortable, new and unchartered parts of their lives was a no-brainer. Why it's important? I believe letting people know that it’s okay to lose their cool while they’re in the

6 Ways to Have Fun During the Holidays on a Budget By Olha Vovk It’s official. According to a survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, half of Canadians view 2020 as the worst year ever. It’s a small wonder since according to Statistics Canada, 12.4 per cent of local paid workers aged 15 to 64 were laid-off monthly since February. And, as we’re in the thick of the second wave of Covid-19, the situation does not seem to be getting any better. But there’s good news! You can still have a festive, fun holiday season with your teens, even if you’re on a budget. Educator and counselor, Sarah Fewson, recommends focusing on balance and positive well-being during the winter holidays. “Attempt to engage in outdoor activities, fit in exercise, and do not forget to spend a few minutes a day in mindful silence to remain connected to your thoughts and feelings.” Need more ideas to spread the Christmas cheer? Cultural and developmental service worker, Diana Prokofieva offers up these tips on how you can still enjoy the festivities of the holidays on the cheap. Bring in the New Year in the Backyard If you have an adventurous nature and are not afraid of the cold, welcome New Year’s Eve outdoors. Gather your family around a bonfire in your backyard, decorate your trees and spend time roasting marshmallows, sipping hot cocoa and singing Auld Lang Side at midnight. Start a family potluck challenge Parties may be out this year, so why not try a family potluck challenge instead? Each day a new family member can prepare a dish. Zoom your extended family members, exchange recipes with your friends and post your Insta-worthy pictures of your masterpieces on the Gram. Deck Your Halls Instead of buying a Christmas tree, incorporate home plants and decorate them with decor from a dollar store or Christmas ornaments you already have at home. Before you know it, the Santa hats, twinkle lights and Christmas stockings will fill your home with festive flair. Play The “Elephant” Game The “elephant game” is another way to save money on presents. Instead of buying gifts for the whole family, consider preparing one present per person, nicely wrapped. A host puts pieces of paper with numbers into a hat and gets every participant to pull a piece from the hat to determine their order of turn. Each player then chooses whether to open a new present from the bunch or steal the gift

5 Tips to Help Kids Find Inner Peace During the Pandemic This school year looks like nothing we’ve seen before. Among the many challenges teenagers and young adults are facing in their life, a global pandemic is sure to add some stress! Conversations with your child about mindfulness will have immediate benefits to their mental well-being. It will not only help them navigate the unprecedented school year ahead, but it will also introduce healthy habits they can build on for a lifetime of inner peace. Of all the ancient and modern practices designed to wake us up, the simple practice of mindfulness has arrived at the forefront of our cultural sensibility. Over 30 years ago, when Jon Kabat-Zinn began sitting and adapting Zen Buddhist mindfulness practices to the healthcare arena at UMass Medical Center and writing Full Catastrophe Living, no one and certainly not he, could have predicted the Mindful Revolution. While so much is out of our control right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more vital than ever to focus on taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This must begin with the personal responsibility of mindful living. Here are some proactive everyday tips to help your child maintain his/her mental health and find inner peace during times of unrest and uncertainty: Stay Balanced and Grounded through Self-Care Remember you’re not alone if you’re worried or anxious. Schedule self-care into your day and do at least one thing for yourself. Go for a walk, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea, take a long shower or bath, etc. Tune into your breath and body regularly Simply bring your attention to your breath, noticing each inhale and exhale. At the same time, feel both feet grounded to the earth. Your breath becomes an anchor in the body to the present moment. Bringing our attention to the present helps relax the body and mind and lessen any worried or anxious thoughts you have. Express your feelings to close friends and family, don’t keep them inside Worries or anxious thoughts can seem more difficult if we keep them inside. It helps to share and express your feelings to someone you trust. Make human connection a priority for your mental health several times a week and you’ll feel less alone. Consider limiting time on social media and watching the news You’ve probably heard this before but make some positive choices for yourself about how much time you look at social media

How to Teach Your Teen the Art of Face-to-Face Connections   Here’s a question for you to ponder:  Are we as parents doing all we can to prepare our teens for high school, college or the workplace? Are we doing all we can to best support the next generation so they can function in the best way possible in the real world?  Are we supporting the next generation by way of offering them pivotal life skills?  What I’m talking about is developing face-to-face communication skills, in an age where it is becoming a lost art. We are all experiencing a unique time in history, no doubt about it. We are also searching to create a new sense of normalcy as well.  It’s more about physical distancing than social distancing.  We need to connect and interact socially now more than ever. And when it’s safe to connect face-to-face, that’s even better! Here are some tips on how to teach your teens the art of face-to-face interaction and become better communicators. Have mutually beneficial conversations I will make a basic assumption that we all like to be understood.  One main factor to really understanding someone is by listening.  Some quick tips on how to fully engage are to ask clarifying questions.  It is always OK to ask questions of anyone you are talking with, such as, “I really want to understand your point, would you mind saying it again for me?”  Or perhaps you can ask them to rephrase it in a different way so that you understand.  Instead of offering (pretend) nods of understanding, ask for clarity!  Don’t interrupt, listen more and talk less.  It’s easy to talk. When we talk, we are sharing what we already know, but when you truly listen, you may learn something. One quick tip I’ve used with teens to work on listening skills is creating a for-fun mock TV or radio interview.  I have my clients create a short list of three questions to ask, but I always stress one key point to them.  I emphasize for them to listen to the answers very carefully instead of thinking about the next question to ask on their list.  This small adjustment tends to bring big results.  By doing this, you truly put a focus on actively listening to someone and this small habit can be applied to real-life job interviews. How to have hard conversations Most of us, not just today’s youth, will inevitably need to

5 Tips to Help Your Teen Learn at Home The shift to remote learning has been a challenge for everyone – teachers, parents and students, alike. No one has mastered it, so don’t be too hard on yourself and expect that you should have this figured out. This might be helpful advice to share with your teen too. Here are five tips to make the transition a little easier on you and your teen: Set a routine and create a plan for success together. It’s important that you and your teen sit down and map out a schedule and goals for learning. Make sure to get their input rather than impose a schedule on them. They are likely already feeling anxious, so this is an opportunity to give them a sense of control over something. Your teen will feel empowered and motivated when they feel they have a voice in the decision-making. Be clear that the schedule can be changed in the future as you both learn more about their school’s approach to remote learning. The environment at home is very different than school, so it may be hard for your teen to get motivated. Help your teen set up a space at home to mimic the school day. Setting up a designated area for learning will help them transition into a mindset for learning. Using a timer like the bell at school can help your teen know when to move on to a different subject or assignment. If your teen struggles with attention, try setting a timer for 15-minute increments (to start) to help them focus. Teach your child how to be an independent learner. Staying focused, organized and on-task are skills that are crucial to be a successful learner remotely. Look at the assignments and schedule online (if their school has switched to distance education) and show them how to create a weekly or monthly calendar for any upcoming deadlines. Discuss how they can break each project down and plan their time accordingly. The calendar is a great guide to create daily to-do lists as well. Encourage your teen to reach out to their teacher if/when they have questions versus you doing it for them. Connect your teen with a tutor online. If the change from parent/child to teacher/student is causing any stress or frustration, sometimes it’s best to call in a third party to support your child with their

Parenting Expert Alyson Schafer's Best Tips on Living with Teens During COVID-19 We’re all in this crazy COVID-19 era together and for those of us with tweens and teens, it can be especially hard. Fights over time spent on devices and arguments over the importance of social distancing can be on the daily. Our teens are staying up late and sleeping till noon and it’s driving us crazy! Take a deep breath, parents. This is a crazy time for us all —especially for tweens and teens who may not understand or appreciate the seriousness of this virus. That’s why we chatted with parenting expert, Alyson Schafer, to get her best advice on living with teens during this time of social distancing and quarantine. How can we motivate our teens to get off their devices and do something — anything! —without having to nag them all the time and start an argument? Coach don’t manage: Teens do not respond well to orders or directives.  Instead, you want to have a discussion about how they would like to see the next few weeks and months unfolding.  What makes a good day? What do they want to accomplish? How do they want to feel? What does a balanced day mean to them? These are curiosity questions that make them think.  Then you could ask them what they might do to accomplish this? Ask them if they need any help from you.  At the end of the day/week, you can review how the day went and how they felt about it. Ask what would they would like to do tomorrow to move closer to their goals? Let them know what your expectations are for them, that may include some chores to help out, their presence at mealtimes and some time spent on a family activity (bike ride/card game). Keep inviting (not nagging) your teen to join you when you are doing an activity and let them know you enjoy their company whenever they do show up and participate. Brainstorm with your teen over things they enjoyed doing on the last family holiday together. Do you have any suggestions for activities to keep tweens/teens busy throughout the day, while still social distancing? Every teen has their own unique interests; your job as a parent is to look for those interests and talents and then assist and inspire them to elevate it to the next level.  If they like cooking, can they

5 Ways to Cut Spending over the Holidays By Nadia Vommaro Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, but for many parents — especially single moms and dads or families on very modest incomes — checking off even a tiny fraction of their kids’ wishlists this time of year can be stressful. Canadians are drowning in debt, spending an average of $705 on holiday shopping last year, according to a Retail Council of Canada survey. And, according to a poll by Rates.ca, nearly half of Canadians overspent on holiday purchases last year. As a single mom who was forced to become the sole provider for my young children after my separation, I can attest it isn’t easy to steer through the holiday season and come out financially whole on Jan 1. Luckily, my background as a wealth management professional provided some stability, but there are many easy, common sense strategies that anyone can implement to ease some of the burden of holiday spending: Make a plan and stick to it. It’s never too early to make a budget and expense forecast. Consider all your potential spending. Costs even outside of gifts can easily get out of control. Think of all those baked desserts and trips to the LCBO every time you plan a visit or host family and friends. Also, keep in mind the kids are home all day for two weeks. If they’re anything like mine, they can deplete your fridge down to a half-carton of eggs and bag of carrots in no time. Plus, there’s the added expenses of extra-curricular activities and travelling costs during this time of year. Make a list and check it twice. As part of your budget, make a list early in the year of everyone you have to purchase gifts for. Take advantage of great sales all year-long; grab those 80 per cent off clearance items as you stumble across them and stuff them in a closet until Christmas. Feel free to squirrel away a bit of money every month.  I know the penny jar is a relic, but you can also open up a separate holiday account and transfer a few bucks to it every month, year-round. Get creative and be a sentimental spender. Sit down and spend time making gifts with your kids to give to close family members. Online image book services are a big thing these days, but I actually made my boyfriend one for free by simply