Tag Archive for: psychology

Can’t We Just Use Spellcheck?: Secrets Behind the Importance of Encoding

Can’t We Just Use Spellcheck?:  Secrets Behind the Importance of Encoding

“I can’t spell either, but isn’t that what word processors are for?”  This is shared sentiment for many of us who were taught to read by recognizing words as whole units as opposed to breaking them down into sound parts.  Regardless, we can indeed read, and that’s what matters…right?  And that’s really all we need our kids to do…yes?  Well, let’s break it down.

First, it is important to address some terms that we may hear thrown around at family/teacher conferences:

Decoding: the process of using sounds and blending them together to read words.

Encoding: the process of matching letters to sounds in order to spell words.

Phonemic awareness: identifying, hearing, and working with sounds in spoken words (i.e. changing the last sound in /cat/ to /p/ to make /cap/).

Phonics: connecting sounds to actual letters.

Reading and spelling work simultaneously to develop overall literacy skills.  When we come to understand the relationships between letters and sounds (phonics) and how to manipulate those sounds (phonemic awareness), we improve our encoding (spelling) skills.  And consequently, when we possess these valuable encoding skills we will in turn improve our decoding (reading).

Put simply: When you can spell, you can read more effectively, and visa versa.  So take as many opportunities as possible to equally develop these skills with your child.

Perhaps you can both become literacy wizards!

 

Blog Post by Educational Strategist, Kimberly Desautels

 

How to Talk to Kids about Death and Dying

How to talk to Kids about Dying and Death

Children and adolescents can respond to death and dying differently, and it is important to consider their developmental stages when having discussions about this topic. Dominant societal norms have informed our understanding of developmental stages and needs. The following are a few considerations to help guide you when having conversations about death and dying with children and adolescents.

  1. Be honest and concrete.

When it comes to describing death to children, it is important to be truthful and tell them that a loved on has died, and explain what the impacts of that are. Children often have a hard time understanding the permanence of death, and adults can at times complicate this understanding by using euphemisms.  Adults often resort to using euphemisms because they have good intentions and want to “soften” the impact of death to the child, however these phrases send the wrong messages to kids. Sayings such as “passed away”, “went on a long journey”, “is on a long sleep” all send the wrong message to kids because these are not true. Telling a child when their pet dies, that “we put the dog to sleep”, can result in the child feeling scared to fall asleep because they will associate sleep with dying. Instead, it is advisable to be honest and perfectly clear.  Say “when you die, your heart stops beating. Your body stops working. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You don’t breathe”. This gives more honest context for the child to help them begin to understand.

  1. Loss comes in many different shapes and forms.

Loss doesn’t always include death, and can be invisible at times.  Our western cultural norms acknowledge death and grief with support from the nuclear family, extended family and larger social community. However, loss can include the loss of a friendship, loss of employment, loss of social status, loss of wishes, hopes and dreams.  It becomes important as parents to be aware of how these losses impact our feelings, and if we can be validating, accepting and supportive of these losses we can foster increased resilience in our children.

  1. Take Things Slow.

Children understand and process death in tiny bits and pieces, over a period of time. Developmentally they are unable to process and internalize the concepts all at once, so do not expect them to do this. They will ask questions about the person who has died one day, and three days later ask again. This is how their brains are processing the loss. It’s like eating an apple, one tiny bit at a time. If you can remain calm and patient, and answer their questions when they ask or invite them to read a book about death (some titles will be suggested below) or tell a story about their loved one, this will help them maintain their relationship with their loved one and help them slowly understand that their relationship with this person has changed.

4. Create a circle of care around the child.

The death of a loved one can be unsettling for a child, and children are also very attuned to the disruption in their parents &/or caregivers lives. Children can develop fears of being alone or of being abandoned. It is comforting for children to be reassured by their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends and family to know that they are cared for. This can be verbalized to children, but it can also be shown by spending 1:1 time with them involved in age appropriate activities.

  1. It’s okay to show sadness and cry in front of your child.

Parents being able to role model and express emotions in times of sadness is powerful for children to witness. Children need to see their adults around them as human beings who feel all emotions, including sadness and grief. The tenderness and vulnerability you can express in front of your child, models to them that you can live with emotions and help prepare them for when they may feel overwhelmed by grief again.

  1. The funeral rule.

Give kids a choice when it comes to attending funerals, and tell them that you will accept whatever choice they choose. Also, if they choose to attend explain to them what will happen at the funeral, including if there will be an open casket, any religious ceremonies, graveside services. By being clear and direct with the child, you can help them visualize and gain a deeper understanding of death rituals and you can help them decide if they are ready to be present for that. If they choose to attend, find ways to have them be involved, and let them know that many strangers may speak to them, and that it is okay to visit with cousins and other family members that they may not see often. No child is too young to attend a funeral, but they may need different support from you depending on their age.

See the Child Grief resource for more information on grief and development.

  1. Keep hope alive.

Children need to be reassured that life will go on, and that you (and they) are going to be okay. This is a key component to helping children adjust to death and loss. Instilling hope for the future in your child builds resilience, and you can do this by helping them identify some of the things they are looking forward to in their future. (ie, list five things you are excited for in the next month(s)).

  1. Allow them to continue a relationship with their loved one.

Parents can help their child continue a relationship with their loved one through special acts, projects, traditions to honour the memory of the loved one who has passed away. Memory books, letters, stories, picture boards, videos, music, food and clothing can all help children still feel connected with their loved one who has passed away. Allowing them to talk to the person, saying their name regularly and continuing conversations about them all invite the child to remember and connect. Children fear “losing their connection” to their loved one, and this connection needs to be nurtured and fostered to maintain the bond between the child and loved one.

If you have questions or concerns always feel free to reach out to your clinician to talk about loss, dying, death and grief.  These topics can be challenging to discuss, but your clinician provides a safe space for you to be open about your feelings, and to receive acknowledgment and support.

I have included some children’s resources to help parents introduce this conversation in their homes.

Sources:

Sedney, M. A., Baker, J. E., & Gross, E. (1994). “The story” of a death: Therapeutic considerations with bereaved families. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy20(3), 287–296. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0606.1994.tb00116.x

O’Toole, D. (2002). Storytelling with Bereaved Children. Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners. https://doi.org/9781593851644, 408

 

Blog Post by Registered Social Worker and Clinical Counsellor, Tammy Wagner

 

The Importance of Gestures in Developing Language

The Importance of Gestures in Developing Language

Before children start to communicate verbally, they begin to communicate their wants and needs to us by using gestures. It may be a surprise that an important milestone before a child says their first words is a child beginning to use gestures such as pointing to objects, opening and closing hands towards an item, or pulling an adult’s hand towards an item.

The Hanen Centre shares how children who use more gestures early on have also been shown to have larger vocabularies later when they begin to communicate verbally.  A child who shows or points to an item, will likely learn the word for it within three months. When a child is experiencing a language delay pairing words with gestures has been shown to produce greater language gains.

When and what gestures should my child be using?

Around:

  • 9 months: start to shake their head “no” and turn away.
  • 10 months: begin to lift their arms to indicate wanting to be picked up and reach out to get an item.
  • 11 months: will reach out with an item in their hand to “show” you and begin to wave hi and bye.
  • 12 months: begin to point to more items using an open-hand.
  • 13 months: start to clap and blow kisses.
  • 14 months: begin to point with only their index finger and bring their index finger up to their mouth to indicate “shhhh”.
  • 15 months: begin to give thumbs up and nod their heads to indicate “yes”.
  • 16 months: start to do high fives and raise their arms and hands into a “I dunno” position.

(First Words Project, 2014)

How can you help your child use more gestures?

  • Pointing to different objects and items. While reading a book or playing with a child’s preferred toy point out the different characters or items, making sure to say the word of the item at the same time as well.
  • Copy the gestures your child creates and add in the word for it to provide acknowledgement and encouragement to use it more.
  • Use gestures that show the function or shape of the object or word. Pointing down when talking about going down the slide or blowing when talking about blowing bubbles.

 

Blog Post by Speech-Language Pathologist, Jill Swenson

 

Finding Joy

Finding Joy

What is joy and how do we find it?   Finding joy is not a deep mystery.  We have the ability to see joy in life every day.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “a man is but the products of his thought, what he thinks he becomes”.  We have the ability to create joy in life.  The life we want to create is based on what we see as meaningful and valuable.   Experiencing joy influences our beliefs, values, and decisions we make.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines joy as feelings of pleasure or happiness resulting from positive experiences, achieving goals, doing well on exam, buying a house, or being able to do things we did not think we could.   Experiencing joy enhances the quality of relationships we have with ourselves and others.

We can create joy by choosing to do things that bring us joy or make us happy.    Take a moment to think about the things you do that make you feel happy. These can be anything like your first cup of coffee in the morning, hugging a special person, enjoying a good meal, reading a book, dancing in your kitchen, going for a walk, volunteering, exercising, journaling, time with friends, time alone, meditation, prayer. The list is endless and deeply personal.  How many of these are part of your daily or weekly routine?  Is there something you realize you have missed doing for a long time? Is there something you want to try but have not been able to do?  Joy becomes easier to see and more familiar the more we experience it.  We can have more joy in our lives by doing the simple things that bring happiness.

Joy is part the process of living and experience life.  Mahatma Gandhi also said, “joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself.” Joy is something we can practice daily in our lives for it to become more familiar and easier to see.  This brings a shift in how we think about ourselves and the relationships we have.  We have the ability to create the life we want by choosing what we do.  If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life, but still the same amount of snow.

 

Take a moment to find your joy.

 

Blog Post by Clinical Social Worker, Bren Schock

 

The Unnerving Force: Permission to Feel – Eating Disorders Edition

The Unnerving Force: Permission to Feel

Eating Disorders Edition 

What would happen if you gave yourself permission to feel?

Imagine: Pressing pause on the busyness, facing the avoidance, slowing down for a moment, acknowledging the overwhelm and uneasiness…as your body senses freedom to release what it truly feels. Do you listen?

Remember: When was the first time that you can recall sharing your true, authentic feelings to someone that you trusted, confiding in them … mustering the courage to share your vulnerabilities … and their reaction was … uncalled for? Perhaps they rejected your expression with denial, anger, or ignorance toward your confession. When was the first time you internalized that your feelings were not valid and that it was easier to shut off uncomfortable emotions rather than to feel and express them?

Reflect: Each of us has a tapestry of lived experiences that have shaped how we tolerate or suppress emotional outcomes. For years, many of us have been conditioned to deny our feelings – specifically speaking – feelings that evoke distress when considering our bodies. Perhaps we have felt overwhelmed by our own emotions and expectations of our bodies … and after a long period of time the complexities of our feelings can project catastrophe and even chaos as we consider the unveiling. To begin articulating such bodily sensations feels utterly confusing. Obsessive or compulsive thoughts may precede intense physical responses to our emotional discourse … numbness, disgust, dissociation, or shame. Many of us cope with such discomfort through the illusionary lens of satisfaction by controlling food or exercise. With eating disorders, emotional highs and lows can become a rollercoaster, sweeping us off the floor and throwing our heads back in self-disciplined delight, to the next minute plummeting into an intrusive hole of self-hatred. When experiencing an eating disorder, it can feel that you have control at last, that a structured regime creates a sense of ease, while simultaneously disconnecting our bodies natural rhythms from the parts of our brain that manage rational thinking.

Imagine: Having a phobia, something you fear, and Every. Single. Day. facing that fear, multiple times a day, fixating about that fear, ruminating on mental exits, yet you can never completely get away. Struggling with an eating disorder, can feel something like this. We may deny our emotional wounds and think only that this acquired sense of control will help us feel in balance or create relief. We may be aware of the harm occurring to our bodies, but the release of tension through restriction overpowers logical reasoning to stop. And so we hide. Stay silent in the fight until our bodies start speaking for us.

Remember: It is important to know that anyone who experiences an eating disorder feels reality differently. Their reasons, story, and symptoms will sometimes differ drastically and often overlap. This may take the form of food avoidance, obsessive-compulsive eating habits, food anxiety, social anxiety or phobia, Anorexia Nervosa, ATypical Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge-Eating Disorder, Body Dysmorphia, restrictive eating, excessive exercising or dieting, as well as issues regarding self-worth, body image, self-harm or suicidal ideations. If you are experiencing characteristics of an eating disorder, OR you are curious about steps to take in allowing yourself to feel whole-heartedly as a human being; unpacking the physical sensations connected to your lived experiences and the emotions that run deep; questioning and facing the behaviour that makes you feel stuck – reach out, we can help!

Reflect: What could happen if we (re)discovered and (re)established one part of us, a singular personal narrative, one moment in our day to say: “I give you permission to feel your feelings”. To go on narrating, “The next time I experience a wave of embarrassment, fear, sadness, or the next time I am upset, but don’t know why, I can stop whatever I am doing and allow myself to feel my feelings”. I can validate them and say, “Yes, I am angry, sad, etc.” “This is how it feels…” What would happen if you slowly, but surely learned steps to reclaim parts of your body, the feelings, and thoughts that attach to those parts? Remember, that whatever you are feeling is a part of your wholeness as a human being, be brave to experience it fully.

Blog Post by Canadian Certified Counsellor, Cayle Fiala

 

Glimmers

Glimmers

A “glimmer”, is a term coined by clinical Social Worker, Deb Dana in her 2018 book, The Polyvagal Theory of Therapy. Glimmers are described as small moments in our day that allow us to feel safe and calm, both emotionally and physiologically.

Glimmers are the opposite of triggers. Triggers are experiences that can create feelings of danger, stress, and/or fear. Glimmers facilitate relaxation and comfort. Biologically, glimmers activate our ventral vagal nervous system, helping create feelings of calm and connection. While triggers can activate our sympathetic nervous, often associated with our fight-flight-freeze responses occurring when our brains perceive something in our environment to be a threat.

Following a recent viral Tik Tok video,  people talking about and seeking out glimmers has been showing up in social media platforms at an increasing rate. That is definetley a positive social media trend that I can get on board with!

As humans, we are wired to be sensitive to our surroundings. This process is designed to support our learning, development, and safety. So it makes sense that our brains are more acutely aware of potential dangers in our surroundings to help us respond accordingly. But what if we could intentionally shift our focus away from the triggers and onto the glimmers to signal safety and security within ourselves more often?

While glimmers are often “micro moments”, with practice and time, can make a big impact on our functioning and sense of well-being. Actively seeking out glimmers, can help wire (or re wire) our systems to bring more awareness to our joy, peace, and regulation.

Our environments are full of opportunities for both triggers and glimmers. Sights, smells, sounds, things we can touch or feel, and even foods or drinks that we can taste, can all cue our brains to respond with calm or chaos.

So what are some glimmers we can start seeking out today?

  • That first sip of coffee or tea in the morning (this might be a full on shimmer and sparkle moment)
  • A smile from your child in a peaceful moment at home
  • Getting that last email sent at the end of a busy day
  • Climbing into bed at night
  • Eating a tasty snack or delicious meal
  • Feeling the warmth of the sunshine on your face when you step outside

Glimmers don’t have to be anything extravagant. If we keep our eyes open, we can see and feel little glimmers all throughout our day. These moments can then propel towards increased mental wellbeing, in even the smallest of ways. Even with a busy week back to school, the transition from summer to Fall, and new routines and schedules ahead, we can find a glimmer somewhere, each day, if we are looking for it.

Shine on!

Blog Post by Registered Psychologist, Megan Adams Lebell

 

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

 Summer is here and there are so many fun things to do around Regina! Family activities can be a great way to create positive interactions, improve communication and cooperation, build confidence, make memories, and help with physical and emotional regulation. So, whether you’re a parent whose kids are already bored or you’re looking to explore new activities with the family, here is a list of some of our local, kid-friendly spots to check out this summer!

Fun in the sun

Check out the new Wascana Pool in the park! Just be sure to read the daily schedule to find out about free swim, preschool hours, and other important information before you go.

Want to get out of the city? Head to Regina Beach! A beach umbrella or shade tent is always a great idea to take along with you if you can.

Need something a little simpler with little ones? Check out one of our city’s many splash parks and spray pads.

Feeling active?

Take a walk, run, or boat tour, around Wascana Lake! If you’re there on a Thursday in July & August there are fun activities held in various locations in the park from 5-8pm.

Can’t do activities during bedtime? Wascana Junior Explorers is a free program offered Saturday mornings. Just make sure to go online to find out the details and register in order to secure your child(ren)’s spot!

Wascana Trails (Wascana Valley Natural Area Recreation Site) is a local favourite for a beautiful hike…just take your bug spray and wear high socks (it is still tick season after all).

White Butte Trails offers maintained trails and a chance to escape into nature while only being about 15 minutes outside of the city.

If it’s a little too hot (or windy) outside, head over to Get Air indoor trampoline park! This is a great spot for big and little kids (designated toddler area). But be sure to check out the website or call ahead as there are dates/times that are designated for little ones only!

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try Sky Park for go-carting, zip lining, or mini golf!

Got an animal lover at home?

Cedar Creek Gardens petting zoo is open (and free) all summer so you can interact with goats, pigs, horses, and more, just two miles south of Regina! They also have a beautiful shop and greenhouse to explore.

FenekFarms is another great farm, only 10 minutes outside of Regina complete with a petting zoo, hay rides, private tours, and more!

Looking to learn?

There’s no better place to learn and have fun than the Saskatchewan Science Center! Perfectly located in the park, with the coolest outdoor playground, and local bistro and café (Skye) nestled right in the middle. Bonus- it has the IMAX theaters!

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum is another fun and free (donation only) experience designed for people of all ages to learn about the world and our very own provinces history.

Another local classic? The Mackenzie Art Gallery. Filled with exhibits, classes, workshops, and studio Sundays.

A new and summer limited Regina feature- Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is now being held at the Viterra International Trade Centre.

Other awesome experiences!

Escape Rooms: Regina now has multiple locations

Farmers Market: Held every Wednesday and Friday morning
Libraries: books, audiobooks, videogames, programs, events, and performances

Leisure Centres: and filled with activities like swimming pools & fitness rooms

Playgrounds and outdoor pools: Regina is home to many wonderful parks (like Candycane) and outdoor pools all around the city

I have it on good authority (local Mom’s) that the recommendations on this list are guaranteed good times!

Have fun!

 

Blog Post by Registered Psychologist, Megan Adams Lebell

 

Schools Out…Forever?

 

“School’s out for the summer!  School’s out, forever?”  Nope.  Take a breath of relief caregivers of school-aged children.  It’s not.  In a couple short months, we’ll be back in action.  You may be wondering, is the “summer slip” a real thing?  Do academic skills actually regress over the summer months?  Yes, they do.  Here are some ideas to keep the kid brain sharp over the long, hot, “I’m boooored” days.

  1. Check out the Wild Weather Exhibition at the Saskatchewan Science Centre.  We’ve certainly been experiencing some severe weather across the prairies.  This is a great opportunity to learn the science behind it.  Level up and have your budding meteorologist track weather patterns at home!

https://www.sasksciencecentre.com/events-calendar/2023/4/05/wild-weather 

  1. Take advantage of free programs at the library.  Regina Public Library offers a host of summer programs for all ages at their local branches. These unique sessions range from storytelling, read-alouds, language learning, and music. https://www.reginalibrary.ca/attend/programs
  1. Experience Saskatchewan farming history with a visit to the Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site.  Tour the stone house, meet farm animals, and watch demonstrations of traditional agricultural practices.  Day camps are also available! 

https://parks.canada.ca/lhn-nhs/sk/motherwell

  1. Take a hike!  Have your young botanist create their own specimen collection kit, and head out to Wascana Trails for a summer adventure.  See how many different types of plants you can spot.  Collect them, sketch them, and write a detailed description for each.  How does it look?  Feel?  Smell?  Don’t taste it!
  1. Prepare a fresh summer meal.  Visit the colourful market gardens in Lumsden and choose some healthy summer produce to prepare a picnic lunch.  Make sure to include all of the food groups on Canada’s Food Guide.  Bon Appetit! 

We don’t have to drive far to experience the many learning opportunities that our beautiful province has to offer.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!

 

Blog Post by Kimberly Desautels, Educational Strategist

Understanding Willingness

Understanding Willingness

Working with unpleasant feelings is tough. When we take a close look at unpleasant feelings, we often find that they are telling us something about ourselves, and what matters to us. Learning to name and observe unpleasant feelings can allow us to make a choice about how we want to deal with them. Basically, there are two options:
1. Be unwilling to have the feelings. Try to get rid of them.
2. Be willing to have the feelings. Let them come and go-especially when this allows you to do something that’s important to you. For example, you might be willing to experience fear in order to make a presentation in class or ask someone out on a date.

Which option you choose is up to you.

Sometimes you cannot avoid difficult feelings without also giving up doing things that are important to you. To illustrate this point, take a moment to consider the following four willingness questions:

To strive for success, you risk all the following:
Feeling like a failure sometimes
Feeling sad about losing
Feeling stupid
Feeling disappointed

Are you willing to strive for success anyway?

To search for love, you risk all of the following:
Feeling rejected
Feeling lonely
Feeling insecure
Feeling vulnerable

Are you willing to search for love anyway?

To be a friend, you risk all of the following:
Feeling let down
Feeling disappointed
Feeling embarrassed when you do something you didn’t mean to
Getting your feelings hurt

Are you willing to be a friend anyway?

To have an adventure, you risk all of the following:
Feeling disappointed that it wasn’t as good as you had hoped
Feeling out of control sometimes
Feeling sad when the adventure ends
Learning unpleasant things about life, like dealing with unexpected difficulties

Are you willing to have an adventure anyway?

Each time you answer yes to questions like this, you give yourself the chance to expand your life and discover new things. Each time you answer no and try not to have certain feelings, you restrict yourself. We all have things in our lives that we would like to do but find a bit difficult. When feeling stuck, try using the willingness formula below.
I am willing to have __________ (fear, insecurity, sadness, anger and so on) in order to __________ (do something you care about).

 

Source: Ciarrocchi, J., Hayes, L., & Bailey, A. (2012). Get out of your mind and into your life for teens: a guide to living an extraordinary life. New Harbinger Publications Inc.

 

Blog Post by Registered Psychologist, Kerri Hill