Screen Time and Language Development – Does it Matter?

Screen Time and Language Development: Does it Matter?

As life is busy and parents need to keep their children occupied while they complete important daily living tasks, it is easy to turn to screen time as a solution. Screen time is increasingly easy to access, and new content keeps children engaged. The discussion of screen time and its effect on early child development has been going on for decades and, now that it is so accessible, is a common topic that comes up during speech and language sessions with little ones.

When discussing this topic, two key words come into play: quantity (how much screen time) and quality (what the child is watching). Overall, more screen time (including background television) is associated with lower language skills in children. Screen time, when viewed alone, takes away time from building interactional skills with parents and others which is important in enhancing children’s language skills. On the other hand, better quality of screen time (educational programs or viewing with a parent or other communication partner) can have a positive impact on language skills. With that said, benefits of screen time are likely to occur in later childhood as they can gain information during educational shows and talk about them while there is no benefit in earlier childhood.

So, can my child have screen time?

  • If your child is under 18 months of age, it is not recommended. The pediatric guidelines recommend that there is no screen exposure before 18 months of age.
  • After 18 months of age, yes, but limit the quantity of exposure (one hour or less per day is recommended for children aged 2-5)

What can I do to make screen time have a positive effect on language skills?

  • Educational programs- put on something educational that labels objects, pauses to allow for interaction from your child, and models age-appropriate vocabulary.
  • Co-view– watch the program with your child and label objects, ask questions, and pause to allow for discussion.
  • Pause the program– show your child the concept in real life, so they can build real connections while watching the program. Ask what happened and what might happen next to increase comprehension and language acquisition.
  • Interaction– any interaction with the child while having screen exposure is the best way for screen time to have a positive effect on their language skills. Children aged 2-5 learn expressive language skills best from their interactions with adults.

In conclusion, children can have access to screen time and can even benefit when quantity and quality are taken into consideration. Better quality screen exposure is associated with language skills, but too much screen time, too early, is associated with lower language skills. Quality screen time can promote language skills, but it should still be used in moderation.

References

Madigan, S., McArthur, B. R., Anhorn, C., Eirich, R., & Christakis, D. A. (2020). Associations Between Screen Use and Child Language Skills: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 174(7), 665-675. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.0327.

Ponti, M. (2022). Screen time and preschool children: Promoting health and development in a digital world. Position Statement: Canadian Pediatric Society. Retrieved online at: https://cps.ca/en/documents/position/screen-time-and-preschool-children

 

Blog Post by Speech-Language Pathologist, Kristen Lipp

Finding a Trauma Informed Clinician

The Importance of finding a Trauma-Informed Clinician

When I was a teenager I experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse in my dating relationship.  For six years I stayed in this abusive dating relationship for a variety of factors and reasons. According to Prevnet, 12% of youth in Canada have reported experiencing physical dating violence. One of the factors that kept me from ending the relationship was that I felt alone, isolated from friends and family, and I was terrified to tell anyone due to threats of harm from my partner. When I finally had the courage to leave this relationship, my parents pushed and supported me to attend counseling. Counseling changed my thoughts of myself, and my experience. The counselor I saw was gentle, safe and trustworthy, and provided me with healthy tools to move forward in my life. This counselor practiced from a trauma-informed lens, and she sparked a desire in me to follow in her professional footsteps. For this reason, I want to share that if you are survivor of abuse, or you know someone who is, it is important to find a trauma-informed support for them.  To be a trauma-informed clinician means:

Principles of Trauma-Informed Services (Butler et al, 2011)

  • Recognize the impact of violence and victimization on development and coping strategies;
  • Identify recovery from trauma as a primary goal;
  • Employ an empowerment model;
  • Strive to maximize client choices and control of her or his recovery;
  • Are based in a relational collaboration;
  • Create an atmosphere that is respectful of the survivors’ need for safety, respect, and acceptance;
  • Emphasize the clients’ strengths, highlighting adaptations over symptoms and resilience over pathology;
  • Strive to minimize the possibilities of re-traumatization;
  • Strive to be culturally competent, understanding clients in the context of their life experiences and cultural background;
  • Solicit consumer input and involve consumers in the design and evaluation of services.

“Trauma-informed clinicians are sensitive to the ways in which the client’s current difficulties can be understood in the context of the past trauma.  The clinician will place emphasis on helping the survivor understand how their past influences the present and on empowering them to manage their present lives more effectively, using core skills of social work practice” (Knight, 2015, p. 25-37)

I am a trauma-informed clinician & so are my colleagues at Wildflowers Therapy ♡ ♡

Sources:

Butler, L., Critelli, F.M., & Rinfrette, E.S. (2011). Trauma-informed care and mental health. Directions in Psychiatry, 31, 197-210.

Knight, Carolyn., Trauma-Informed Social Work Practice: Practice Considerations and Challenges. 2015, p. 25-37.

Levenson, Jill., Trauma-Informed Social Work Practice. 2017, p. 105-113.

Welcome to PREVNET. PREVNet. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2023, from https://www.prevnet.ca/

 

Blog Post by Registered Social Worker, Tammy Wagner

 

Parenting through the Years

Parenting Through the Years

Parenting is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things a person can do. Our children don’t come with manuals, and they’re all different, even in the same family. Just when we think we have it figured out, they grow up and change.

I often hear parents saying they wish they’d read more about parenting than they have—there are numerous books, blogs and articles on whatever they’re trying to figure out at that moment. All this information is wonderful when it comes from reputable sources but all too often the one thing we always have that can be forgotten is our natural parenting instinct. Listening to our gut and our natural parenting instinct is sometimes all we need.

As a mother of five with a 17 year age gap, I know I parented differently in my 20’s with my older children than I did with my younger children. I know I made mistakes, but sometimes we learned together. Today I see how amazing they are—all those times I was worried about messing things up turned out to be pretty amazing adults! To all the parents struggling in parenthood: keep loving your children and exploring with curiosity; keep talking to them and listening when they need to talk; keep learning with them.

Blog Post by Clinical Counsellor, Allie Lewis

Skillful Striving

Skillful Striving

Perfectionism is when someone strives for flawlessness, setting standards that are impossibly high and only achievable through great effort or not at all. Perfectionism leads to frustration, self-criticism, and procrastination (to avoid the discomfort inevitable in the perfectionist ideal).  

Below are some tips on how to be a high achiever without falling into the perfectionist trap. One way to frame this is skillful striving. Skillful striving involves being present and allowing for discomfort as you flexibly move toward your values. Three helpful skills with healthy striving are fierce self-compassion (protecting yourself, drawing boundaries or standing up for yourself), values and committed action (deciding on behaviors driven by values even in the face of emotional discomfort or difficult thoughts).

Below are tips to help guide skillful striving. 

  1. Pay attention to what stressful striving/perfectionism versus values-based hard work feels like in your body. Notice when striving has become unhealthy for you. Are you neglecting important areas of your life? Do you avoid certain activities or experiences? Is there tension in your body?
  2. Look at what is driving your striving/perfectionism. Is there something uncomfortable that you are trying to avoid (like feelings of unworthiness or thoughts of not good enough)?
  3. Notice how your behavior does not have to be dictated by avoiding emotional discomfort. Make a choice to turn toward your values, even if it is uncomfortable.
  4. Say no, even to good things, to say yes to your values.
  5. Notice when you are spinning the “wheels” of the mind. Notice “thinking traps” or the way thoughts seems to promise something, but it never happens- “once I get this perfect, I will feel good about myself”. This is a fleeting state based on not being good enough and inevitably the feelings of inadequacy will return.

 

Below are checklists of unhealthy striving (perfectionism) and healthy striving (working hard to achieve). These checklists can help bring awareness to perfectionist tendencies and offer alternatives to perfectionism. We can work hard, and achieve, in a balanced way taking care of ourselves.

 

Unhealthy striving checklist

Do you use work/schoolwork to avoid feeling you aren’t good enough?

Do you keep doing more but never feel like you are doing enough?

Do you neglect important areas of your life (health, friendship)?

Do you see your inner critic as helpful?

Do you avoid taking risks outside your comfort zone?

Do you compete with people who don’t have the same goals as you?

Do you avoid taking time off because you feel guilty?

Do you reach a big achievement only to quickly move to the next one?

 

Skillful striving checklist

Are you present and engaged in your work/schoolwork?

Do you set goals based on your values?

Do you prioritize important domains in your life?

Do you pause to take in the good of your achievements?

Are you encouraging, kind and motivating when you make mistakes?

Are you courageous and take risks outside your comfort zone?

Do you feel meaning, purpose and belonging to your work/schoolwork?

Do you set boundaries and take time off even if you feel guilty?

 

Reference

Hill, Diana. “How ACT can help you be a high achiever without losing yourself”. Your life in Process Blog. Spotify, January 10, 2022.

 

Blog Post by Registered Psychologist, Alison Campbell



Grief and Loss

Grief and Loss

We often associate grief with death. However, there are many different types of loss in our lives that may leave us with conflicting emotions. Financial loss, changing jobs or schools, loss of trust, loss of safety, loss of a family pet, or loss of a close friend may all stir up strong emotions. Grief is a direct and natural response when we lose a relationship or an attachment to someone or something. Allowing ourselves, and our children, a safe space to process and grieve any loss is vital to moving forward with our grief.

The Institute of Child Psychology summarizes strategies that can be helpful in promoting recovery during times of grief, such as normalizing that we are going through a difficult time and acceptance of the uncomfortable emotions. Here are two videos that illustrate our typical reactions to loss and how we can best support ourselves and others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2zLCCRT-nE

 

Blog Post by Clinical Counsellor, Ashley Carlson

Addictions: Gaining Understanding and Finding the Path to Recovery

Addictions: Gaining Understanding and Finding the Path to Recovery

“Addiction is not a choice that anybody makes; it’s not a moral failure. What it actually is: it’s a response to human suffering.” 

– Dr. Gabor Maté

Five years ago, I discovered my passion of supporting people with substance use disorders as a student at a non-profit clinic in Penticton, BC. The clinic was focused on providing grassroots substance use treatment services, and it was there that I had many opportunities to help individuals and families that had been impacted by substance use disorders. I stood on the frontlines and watched as members of the community were taken by Canada’s Opioid Crisis, which has claimed a suspected 32,632 lives and resulted in 33,493 hospitalizations across the country from January 2016 to June 2022 (Government of Canada, 2022). Through my experiences, I observed a significant gap in public understanding about addiction, and I want to bridge that gap by shedding light on this complex issue.

So what exactly is a substance use disorder, and how does it affect people’s lives? 

Firstly, it’s important to understand that “addiction” is a complex condition that can affect people in different ways. It’s not just about being physically dependent on a substance or behavior, but also about the intense psychological and emotional attachment to it. It is important to understand that it is very common for people to use substances or engage in behaviors and not be addicted to them. “Substance use” occurs when someone uses alcohol or drugs but there are no negative consequences. “Substance misuse” or “substance abuse” happens when a person experiences some negative consequences as a result of their drug or alcohol use. A “substance use disorder” is a medically recognized term to describe when a person feels like they need to use substances regardless of continued negative consequences.

“Addictions” can develop for a variety of reasons, such as to cope with stress or other uncomfortable emotions, to fit in with a certain group, or even just out of curiosity. It can also be influenced by genetics and other biological factors. The most common forms of “addictions” are substance use disorders, such as alcoholism and drug addiction. However, it’s also possible to be “addicted” to behaviors like gambling, shopping, eating, exercising, and even the internet.

One proven effective strategy for reducing the harms related to substance use disorders is known as “Harm Reduction” which aims to eliminate as much risk as possible from otherwise risky activities. Examples of drug-related harm reduction strategies include supplying clean needles, providing access to naloxone kits to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and offering supportive treatment recovery services. As a society, it is common for us to employ harm reduction in a variety of other non-drug related areas, such as encouraging the use of seatbelts, providing safer sex education and supplies, educating people on fire safety with the use of smoke alarms, and encouraging healthy eating and physical activity to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. It is important to recognize that harm reduction is a helpful step in many people’s journey of recovery.

When someone is struggling with “addiction”, it can have serious consequences on their physical and mental health, as well as their relationships, responsibilities, and overall quality of life. It’s not something that can be overcome easily, and often requires professional help and support both for and from loved ones. But it’s important to remember that substance use disorders and behavioural addictions are treatable, and there is hope for recovery. With the right support and resources, it is possible to break free from the cycle of addiction and rebuild a healthy, fulfilling life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available, including harm reduction services, individual therapy, support groups, and rehabilitation programs. It’s never too late to start the journey towards recovery.

Sources:

Government of Canada (2022, December 14). Federal actions on opioids to date. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/opioids/federal-actions/overview.html

Maté, Gabor. (2018). In the realm of hungry ghosts. Vermilion.

The Benefits of Activities that You Love

Activities that You Love

often find myself discussing the importance of hobbies and interests with clients. Our mental health can be impacted by many different things, but one often overlooked factor is doing activities that you enjoy; otherwise known as hobbies. A hobby can be something related to creativity, sports, or academics. A hobby can be anything from reading, playing board games, drawing, playing a sport, going for hikes, gardening, etc. Doing an activity that you enjoy during your spare time can reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that participant’s levels of cortisol have been lower, after participating in an activity. Engaging in an activity has also been known toincrease a person’s mood by decreasing feelings of anxiousness and sadness, enhance overall well-being, and social activities have been known to enhance a person’s social connection with others. Sometimes people who have few or no hobbies or interests can struggle with their mood, energy levels, motivation, and/or isolation. Get out there and try some new things! Figure outwhat you enjoy and have fun!

Source:

Parkhurst, Emma (2021) https://extension.usu.edu/mentalhealth/articles/how-hobbies-improve-mental-health

Blog Post by Provisional Psychologist, Jenn Yim-Rodier

Connection-Joy- Gratitude

Connection – Joy – Gratitude

We are wired for connection. The human connection of feeling seen and feeling validated allows us to feel a sense of belonging and love. When a disconnect in our lives occurs, our mental wellbeing becomes affected in so many ways.

Dr. Jody Carrington a clinical psychologist from Olds, Alberta has been an impactful influence on me not only as a clinical counsellor, but as a mom, a wife, a coach, a friend, and aco-worker. Dr. Jody Carrington is whom I call my Wayne Gretzky. Dr. Jody Carrington is an author of the books, “Kids These Days,” “Teachers These Days,” and her latest book is called “Feeling Seen.” I appreciate how raw, real, and honest Dr. Jody Carrington is. Her way of educating, teaching, and sharing her powerful tools of support, reconnect, and feeling seen are what we all need right now.

Our mental health has been affected more than it has ever been especially since the pandemic. Without doubt, the world became disconnected, shutdown, heightened with the unknown, and feelings of fear. As humans we need to reconnect in our world again. What does that look like for you? During the pandemic, our routines were completely stopped in their tracks and then abruptly everything in our lives started up again. Our body, our mind, and our hearts became dysregulated and having the ability to emotionally regulate all aspects of our mental and physical well-being have been difficult to emotionally manage and repair.

Know this, it is essential that we all help each other, walk along side each other, and reconnect with those around us every day. We are not meant to work through our struggles alone, reach out, and check-in with those around you..

From reading Dr. Jody Carrington’s books, listening to her podcosts, reading her blogs, and attending speaking engagements of her sharing her insights I have identified three mental wellness words (CONNECT, JOY, GRATITUDE) I reflect on every day to bring myself to the present, reconnect with myself and others, and fill my life with joyful moments . I not only do this reflection for myself, but utilize these three mental wellness words in conversations with clients, with my children, my husband, and anyone I walk along side with.

Here are some guided questions for you try:

1) CONNECTION – What connections did you make with other people today and with yourself?
2) JOY – What brought you a joy today? No matter what is going on in your life today, there are pockets of joy that show up in all the hard struggles.
3) GRATITUDE Tell me three things you are thankful for today? What makes you thankful for them?

Last week I took this picture just behind my house off a grid road where I take my dog out for a walk and I reflected on these three powerful words!

Connection My dog Remi; I love when his ears pop up every time you ask if he wants to go for a walk. The power and therapeutic connection Remi has with me is something I didn’t realize could happen.

Joy Having time to be in wide open spaces and smiling at the sunrise moment that I was able to sit still and take it all in.

Gratitude – I was thankful that I get to drive my kids to school in the morning. I appreciate that I get this opportunity.

 

-Blog Post by Registered Social Worker, Trina Hjelsing

Life Threatening Allergies and Anxiety

Living with Life Threatening Allergies

My Personal Experience

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The possibility of being exposed to a life-threatening situation can cause anxiety for the person with the allergy as well as friends and family. I grew up with an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts that became severe over time. I have early memories of my tongue swelling, breaking out into hives, vomiting, and taking trips to the hospital to be treated. These were “moderate” reactions, but not life threatening at the time. When I was 17 years old, I took a small bite out of cookie at my Nana’s house and knew right away this reaction was going to be more intense.  My dad and grandfather drove me to the hospital immediately to be treated with IV medications. I initially responded well to the treatment and the swelling in my mouth subsided, but a while later I experienced a secondary reaction which resulted in anaphylaxis. I remember telling medical staff my breathing was getting worse before not being able to speak or take in breath. I do not remember anything after this until I regained consciousness.

I was later told by my grandfather that a nurse was not optimistic about my prognosis and directed him to contact my mom. I now understand both my dad and grandfather were somewhat traumatized by this experience. I remember them tell family members about how scared they were and that I was lucky to be alive. I had to stay in intensive care with a nurse who was called in to work just to monitor me. This is the first time I felt guilt about having allergies. It was Easter long weekend and I had taken this lovely, caring nurse away from her family to sit and watch me so she could intervene immediate should my breathing become poor again. This was also the first time I had been educated about secondary reactions and anaphylaxis. While I had experienced several allergic reactions, none of them were nearly as severe as this one.

Anxiety Symptoms Are Normal After Anaphylaxis

After being discharged from the hospital; my family and Ibecame hypervigilant around food, eating out at restaurants, and family holidays. My cousin, who was a child at the time, all of a sudden was scared to eat nuts out of fear that something bad would happen to him. The adults, while well meaning and needing to process this event by re-telling this story too many times, had managed to whip up anxiety in family members without allergies. I remember trying to reassure my little cousin that he would be safe it he ate nuts, but my story became a narrative in his mind that told him nuts can kill people. Anytime I experienced a tingle in my mouth or an itch on my skin, an immediate alarm went off in my brain telling me that I was in immediate danger. I did not trust ingredient labels, relatives, or even myself when it came to food preparation. I learned to use an epi-pen and was told to use it immediately before attending the hospital. Despite having a medical emergency plan, I was still experiencing excessive anxiety and feeling like there was a constant threat looming.

Coping With Allergy-Related Anxiety

It took years for me to me to settle into a world without feeling hypervigilant most of the time. I had to begin with challenging my thinking along with using breathing to calm my brain. It wasn’t logical for me to believe I was in persistent danger when actual risk of anaphylaxis is rare. I learned to use relaxation techniques and progressive muscle relaxation to accept that I do have other food allergies that cause mild allergic reactions that I can tolerate without my brain going to worse case scenario. I learned to play detective and ask myself questions to appreciatemost of my thinking about allergies was not rational.

I have learned to appreciate the improvement in food labels with allergy warnings and for learning to advocate for myself when it comes to communicating my needs. I am grateful that I have friends and family who have learned how to prepare food safely for me and feel comfortable eating in their homes instead of isolating myself from social interactions. There are a small percentage of folks who do not empathize or recognize, but I accept that they are not in the mindset to understand instead of taking it personally. I have practiced gratitude for the many other blessings I have instead of focusing on what I am unable to control. I often aske clients what they would go back and tell themselves after they have experienced challenging times. I would tell myself, my family, and other families that allergies can be well managed. Take a little extra time to educate yourself, carry epi-pens, and have a plan for worst case scenario. Take less time allowing anxiety to take over your mind so you can live a fulfilled life.

Blog Post by Registered Social Worker, Jenny Lynn’s-Mouyois

What happens when we “lean in” to our feelings?

“We avoid the things we fear.” – Dr. Becky Kennedy, Registered Doctoral Psychologist, Good Inside

No one likes feeling uncomfortable, certainly not for any longer than they have to. So when we are experience an uncomfortable emotion, we usually try to make that feeling disappear. Whether our discomfort stems from anxiety or stress, anger or frustration, annoyance, or fear, usually would rather avoid it then have to actively face it. As a result, when faced with “negative” emotions, one of two things can happen:

1. We get swept away by the feeling = overwhelmed and dysregulated

2. We run from the feeling = seek distraction and practicing avoidance

Unfortunately, both of these responses leave us unprepared to manage the feelings in that moment and in the ones that come up in the future.

Emotions are often a part of therapeutic work. We name them, categorize them, learn why we have them, the purpose they serve, and why they might present themselves the way that they do. Then we learn how to manage those feelings, reduce them, even try to make them go away. But in reality, we cannot get rid of our feelings, and, in fact, we shouldn’t try to.

All of our feelings hold value. Joy, jealousy, worry, disgust, surprise…each feeling under the sun offers us information into what we are experiencing internally. When we feel happy, it’s celebrated. We don’t go around telling others not to feel so happy, that there isn’t anything to be happy out, or that we can help them reduce their happiness. But when it comes to anxiety or anger for example, that’s usually our go-to approach. Why? Because those feelings don’t feel as good, can be harder to manage, and can get in the way of our daily functioning.

But what if instead of running from or getting swept away by our feelings, we learn to “lean in” to them. And not just some of them, but all of them.

Leaning in, sitting with, orbeing mindful of, are all ways of saying: accepting our feelings as they are. Leaning in is choosing to stay with a feeling, allowing it to settle in our body and mind, and letting it be recognized without taking over. Leaning in is choosing not to distract ourselves or avoid what is happening, even when that is the easy thing to do. Leaning in the idea of exercising control over how powerful the feeling is (i.e., not letting it pull us under) by standing sturdy beside it.

When we accept how we feel and acknowledge that while it might not be comfortable that it is valuable, it’s then that we can begin to develop a functional relationship with our feelings. A relationship that works WITH our feelings helps to:

Create tolerance of difficult experiences

Build resilience

Increase self-confidence

Reduce fear

Improve ability to manage challenges

Once we believe that we can safely feel all of our feelings, then we can create coping strategies to utilize when more challenging feelings arise, allowing us we can see them, accept them, and respond to them in a way that is adaptive.

So if you’re up for it, next time a less comfortable feeling presents itself, take notice, get curious about why it might there, and try to sit with it, even briefly and see what changes for you.

– Blog Post by Registered Psychologist, Megan Adams Lebell