Parenting Experience

Online Resource Helps Parents Talk to Kids about Digital Safety Thorn, a technology non-profit dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation, launched Thorn for Parents to help parents have earlier, more frequent and judgment-free conversations with kids about digital safety. The need for these conversations is more critical than ever as kids grow up online, which impacts how they experience transformational phases like puberty and what normative sexual exploration looks like. Thorn’s research shows that digital safety conversations need to start much younger than parents might think, between the ages of seven and nine. Thorn for Parents includes resources, discussion guides, and recommended timelines to help parents address these serious issues in an approachable, digestible, and supportive way. “Kids are growing up online and digital safety is a huge issue. Thorn for Parents will guide parents through these essential conversations by offering topics, conversation starters, timelines and more,” said Thorn Co-Founder Ashton Kutcher. “Developmental behaviours coupled with constant connectivity can be dangerous. We have to educate our kids to keep them safe.” Thorn spent the past three years understanding how kids themselves feel about these issues and what motivates their online behaviors. Thorn developed Thorn for Parents after surveying thousands of youth and parents, and identifying several important findings that all caregivers need to know: Kids report being asked for nudes by strangers online as young as nine years old. Many kids are having online sexual interactions with peers and adults at almost the same rates, and 40% of kids ages 13-17 agreed that “it’s normal for people my age to share nudes with each other.” As many as 1 in 5 nine-to-12-year-olds (26% of girls and 27% of boys) report having had an online sexual interaction where they were asked to send nudes of themselves, “go on cam,” sent sexual messages, or had nudes of an adult or other children shared with them. Online interactions have different boundaries for kids. Children are regularly connecting with people they know only online through mutual friends, shared interests and games — and they don’t consider them strangers. Among kids that had shared nudes, research shows that nearly 40% had shared them with someone they had never met offline. Additionally, 25% of kids report they had experienced a sexual interaction online with someone they believed to be an adult, and these numbers are even higher among vulnerable groups like LGBTQ+ at 32%. Shame is the biggest obstacle to seeking help. Kids are hesitant to disclose online sexual interactions with parents or other trusted adults, especially when the experience was someone they thought was an adult. According to Thorn’s research, while

9 Ways to Recapture Your Teen Spirit in Niagara Falls, Ontario By Rosalind Stefanac-Skugor It has been a long haul for many teens this past year, stuck indoors with their parents—and vice versa. So, to get my son excited to hang out with his mom outside of the house again, I promised him a mid-week adventure he wouldn’t forget—and Ontario’s Niagara Falls did not disappoint. As someone who has been touring this geological wonder since my own youth, even I was impressed by just how much there is to do at the Falls these days. Here are 9 ways to impress your teen traveller in Niagara Falls and have an epic adventure in the process. Rent an e-bike If the thought of nature hikes has your kids rolling their eyes, consider renting a bike with some horsepower (e-bikes can go up to 32 km/hour) to get them excited about exploring nature. We went to Snap E Bike where owner Michael Lucid gave us a training lesson and equipped us with helmets, maps, snacks and water for the day. When my bike got a flat tire, he was quick to come and meet us with a replacement bike so our sightseeing along the beautiful Niagara River Recreational Trail could continue. Riders must be 16 years of age or older. Make like a drone At 3,500 feet above the Niagara Gorge, the Whirlpool Aero Car —an antique cable car suspended from six sturdy cables—provides some pretty magnificent views of the swirling Niagara Whirlpool. The torrent of river rapids coming down the Gorge from the Horseshoe Falls turns abruptly counterclockwise at this point, creating a must-see natural phenomenon. Face the Falls up close Niagara City Cruises will get you a misty front-row view of the Niagara Gorge, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and awe-inspiring Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Recyclable ponchos are provided for the 20-minute boat ride, but my son picked a perfect spot to soak it all in that got us soaked in the process. We loved it! With reduced capacity onboard, there are plenty of photo ops, provided you don’t mind the mist. Take a journey behind the falls During summer daylight hours, more than 2,800 cubic metres of water crashes down the Falls every second at 65 km/hour. To put that into perspective, the average household uses only 14 cubic meters a month! This self-guided tour took about 30 minutes. To begin, we descended 125 feet by elevator to explore a 130-year-old

Long Weekend Fun in Kingston, Ontario Summer is short. We want to soak up all the adventures we can before fall arrives with our busy schedules and our back-to-work/back-to-school routines. For families with teens looking for a great way to spend the August long week, look no further than Kingston, Ontario. With everything from great food and wineries (for mom and dad) to haunted walks and thrill-seeking attractions, this relatively short drive from Toronto is jam-packed with family fun. For the Foodie Bistro on Ontario Street Over the August long weekend, Ontario street will be closed to traffic, allowing foodies to taste their way through the city and lounge in Muskoka chairs under the sun. With expanded patios and bistro dining, foodies can enjoy a variety of cuisines. Ontario Street is home to several notable restaurants including Feast On-certified Dianne’s Fish Shake and Smokehouse (East Coast meets Mexican), Wooden Heads (gourmet wood-fired pizza), Namaste (fine Indian cuisine), Mio Gelato, and White Mountain Homemade Ice Cream.  County Sips Wine Tours This is the ultimate foodie’s day out -- enjoying a variety of wineries and a local market. Hosted by sommelier Ian Nicholls, the tours begin with a scenic drive to Prince Edward County along the shores of Lake Ontario. All wine tours will include wine tastings at four selected wineries and a lunch at the Waupoos Market. Expert Ian will explain the terroir of PEC, winemaking and tasting while showcasing the beauty of The County. The tours run on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sundays with different itineraries offered each day. Each tour departs at 9:15am and returns to Kingston by 5:45pm. Check out hotel packages here. For the Explorer Kingston Penitentiary  Closed less than 10 years ago and now open to the public for tours, the explorers in the family can venture into Canada’s oldest maximum security prison. The facility is now offering two new tours for the season: Architecture Tour, where visitors dive into early history of the buildings and the architects and planners responsible for drafting and building the institution; and a Film Tour, where guests visit various areas of the site and learn about how they were used in film, the different productions that filmed there and learn about how these films were made. For the Thrill-Seeker Kingston Haunted Walk For the family thrill seeker, this ghost tour’s spooky stops include haunted hotels, hidden burial grounds, grave robbings, hangings at the old courthouse and Kingston’s famous haunted courtyard. The Ghosts of Fort Henry Walk explores Kingston’s spooky 19th-century fortress and its many

10 Things to do with Your Teens this Family Day Weekend   By Julyanna Trickey Stuck on what to do this Family Day weekend? Whether you’re looking for some outdoor activities or indoor fun, we have ideas to keep the family busy and entertained, while staying safe from Covid-19. Bundle Up and Hit the Trails Enjoy some outside winter activity in your local provincial parks and conservation areas that offer snowshoeing and hiking trails! Snowshoeing is a safe and inclusive activity for all ages and skill levels, plus it’s fun to do as a family! Get some fresh air and maybe even work up a sweat trying something new this weekend! Check out some of these great Ontario Parks that offer snowshoeing: Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area – Kingston, ON Guindon Park - Cornwall, ON Summerstown Trails- Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry Counties, ON Quinte Conservation Area- Bay of Quinte, ON Get the Skates Out! Take advantage of the outdoor rinks and skating trails! Lace up the skates and meander through forested skate trails or head over to the nearest skating rink. Many venues require you to book ahead to control the number of guests, so make sure you don’t miss out! If you live in Southern Ontario – check out some of the following places: Rideau Canal – the world’s largest skating rink at 7.8km long Countryside Adventures – a family-friendly winter destination with a 3km skating trail located 45 minutes outside of Ottawa and 30 minutes from Cornwall RiverOak Skating Trail – a three-km skating trail through the forest located 30 minutes outside of Ottawa Arrowhead Provincial Park – a 1.3 km skating path through the forest in Huntsville Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh Skating Trail – a 1.2 km loop around 12 acres of cranberries in the Muskoka Lakes region See Some Family and Friends (safely of course) Well, it is called Family Day weekend after all so why not enjoy some family or friend time with a socially distanced walk or a group Zoom call. A friendly face may be just what we need this weekend to chase away those winter (and pandemic) blues! Make Brunch Since we can’t go out to have brunch this weekend, plan your own at home! Get the whole family involved by giving everyone a task, like flipping the pancakes or cutting up the strawberries. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like! Stay in to Get Out If you like puzzles, mysteries and problem-solving,

3 Holiday Traditions to Connect with Your Teen   By Bernardo Salcido Starting this year as a new principal at middle school has been a wild ride to say the least. I think a coworker of mine said it best though, “The days are long, and the weeks are short.” Christmas sneaks up fast every year and it is my favourite time of year. It’s a time to reflect, connect, and take care of what matters most — family. Despite all the craziness 2020 has brought, we still have an opportunity to love the ones around us. These three strategies are excellent ways to dive deeper into your relationship with your teen and enjoy some time together. Holiday lights and hot cocoa This has been a favourite tradition ever since my children were little, and it still continues to deliver smiles even now that my kids are teenagers. Make a cup of cocoa in a travel mug for each family member, drive to where you know some good light displays are located and crank the Christmas music. Bake and decorate some cookies Finding a simple sugar cookie recipe and giving it a try definitely will lead to time together and enjoyment. The act of completing a task like baking helps a teenager let down their guard and open up. Make sure to prepare some frosting in a Ziploc bag so everyone can have fun making Christmas trees and Snowflakes on the cookies. Decorate and chill Decking your place out with Christmas décor — both new and old will get everyone in the holiday spirit! Break out your decorations from years’ past and get the entire family involved. Once the decorating is finished, break out the holiday snacks and sweet treats and turn on a holiday classic like Charlie Brown or The Grinch. This will surely bring out the kid that still lives in all of us — teens and parents alike. Parent mentor, middle school principal, and author, Bernardo Salcido assists parents with strategies to connect with teenagers. Follow Bernardo’s parenting advice on these social platforms: YOUTUBE - Connecting_with_teens INSTAGRAM - @connecting_with_teens BUY BOOK - https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/807601-connecteen

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

3 Simple Money-Saving Hacks for Families with Teens Raising a teenager while also keeping an eye on your family’s finances can be a tricky balancing act. All parents want to provide their teens with the best possible opportunities and preparation for adulthood, but this can be an expensive undertaking, especially when you’re readying your young adult for college or university. Here are some easy ways for your family to get the most out of your hard-earned money and spend quality time enjoying those unique teenage years. Make higher education more affordable by applying to these easy scholarships It’s one of life’s eternal truths that higher education is expensive — really expensive. And while responsible saving and budgeting can help reduce the costs of tuition, textbooks (see below), and room and board, going to college or university is always going to be a costly decision. Although having a student loan may be inevitable, scholarships are a great way to reduce the cost of higher education. Unfortunately, many students are daunted by the idea of applying for scholarships, especially when there are long application forms and multiple essays involved. However, there are a number of excellent scholarship platforms that offer young people access to thousands of funding opportunities, no matter where they are in their education or what they hope to accomplish. There are numerous little-known scholarships that are just waiting to be awarded to the right applicant. Not only are scholarships available for academic excellence, but there are also scholarships that recognize athletic achievement, extracurricular involvement, community service, hobbies, career interests, family background and much more. Finding these scholarships might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Platforms such as Bold.org have helped a growing number of students locate and apply for funding. Bold.org uses comprehensive student profiles to match applicants with the scholarships that are most relevant to them, and that they are most likely to get. Notably, Bold.org boasts a wide variety of scholarships that aren't found on any other platform. These scholarships have been donated by philanthropists and organizations focused on everything from mental health and chemical engineering to female entrepreneurs and African-American journalists. Bold.org also has a lengthy, frequently-updated list of no-essay scholarships that high school and university students can apply for in a matter of minutes, thus increasing their chances of receiving a scholarship and making their education more affordable. Save hundreds of dollars every semester by renting textbooks Textbooks are a huge expense that