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Month: April 2020

Daily Schedules

Some of you out there have shared that you are feeling overwhelmed by the school work that you should be doing. You are not alone! All too often, when something is overwhelming, it feels easier to put it out of sight and out of mind, and find something else to do instead. You might find a sudden urge to deep clean your room (something you’ve resisted ’til now) or you find that raking the yard, taking the dog for a walk or baking a cake all sound more appealing than school work! You might even have good intentions to get started and log into your email first thing…and then suddenly all your friends are on hang-outs and want to chat, and you get completely distracted and before you know it, it’s noon.  Or maybe you completely avoid all things work related and get lost in video games instead. Any of these things sound familiar?  It might make you feel better to know that you are not the only one struggling – this is a pretty common problem – especially as the weather warms up.

I’m going to give you a tip: MAKE A SCHEDULE. Having a schedule, a plan, a routine, helps you feel in control. Being organized helps you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you, you can see your deadlines easily, and you will feel more accomplished when you can check things off your list. There are many, many online templates for schedules. This website has lots of different styles and they are free to download and print: Daily Schedules and Planners

The most simple schedule or routine is to get up at 8:30, get dressed, have breakfast and then plan to start your school work at 9:00.  Spend about 45 minutes on ELA, another 45 minutes on Math, and then if you need to, spend another 30 minutes on other subjects like Science, Social Studies and French.  Take one or two 15 minute breaks and that will take you to lunch.  In the afternoon, use that time to get exercise, read, do some artsy stuff, bake, or spend time with your family.

If at all possible, try to avoid chatting with your friends, playing video games or doing non-school related stuff in the morning.  Reward yourself with those activities in the afternoon.  These are suggestions which work well for a lot of students.  I would encourage you to talk to your parents and see if this can work in your home – or come up with something that fits your family.  The key is to get some sort of routine in place so you can get your school work done, and reduce any anxiety or overwhelm that comes with being unorganized.

As always, I am here to help! If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or frustrated – send me an email from the link on the side menu.

Size of the Problem

Have you ever had a really BIG reaction to a small problem?  For example, maybe your baby brother scribbled crayon all over your journal, and you completely flipped out!  Maybe you yelled, cried, slammed your door and screamed into your pillow.  You had a really BIG reaction to a problem that felt really big, but when you take a mental step back and really look at it, it actually isn’t that big.

Sometimes it helps to be reminded that the size of our reaction should match the size of the problem. A level 1 size problem, like level 1 in a video game, is easy to solve with a bit of thinking, but a level 5 size problem, like the hardest level in a video game, can be super tricky to solve and you’ll need a few more tools to help you out. In a level 1 size problem, you can probably figure out a simple solution, where with a level 5 size problem, you will probably need another person (a trusted adult or, if you’re older, a friend) to help you solve it.  In ALL size problems, you should work at staying calm and thinking about a solution.

Let’s go back to our first problem.  You walk in to discover your little brother coloring all over your journal.  That can feel really frustrating!  When you start to recognize that your feelings are starting to bubble up – try really hard to use your wise brain, your upstairs brain (remember back a few days to upstairs/downstairs brain?) and try to think about the size of this problem.  Is it a level 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5? When you force your brain to start thinking instead of letting your feelings take over, you are taking control, and can make better decisions. You can decide the best way to handle this problem – do you need to find someone to help? Can you handle it on your own by using some calming down strategies, talking to your little brother or taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

It might help to make a chart like this one for yourself (when you aren’t upset) to help you remember the tips and tricks for recognizing what problems fit into each category, and how you can respond. Feeling frustrated and upset are part of life.  Being able to manage your reactions to problems will make you feel more in control and less likely to create big problems out of small one.

Parent Tip: If your child is having really big reactions to smaller problems, it may help to empathize until their “upstairs brain” can take back control.  Saying something like, “You are having some really big feelings right now”, and just sitting in that moment with them at first, can help deescalate the situation.  They can feel that you get it.  Then as they settle down, try to engage their upstairs brain by asking the question, “What size is this problem?” This can help them pause the emotion and start the process of problem solving.


Coping Activities part 3

Mental health is just like physical health – we have to take care of it!  Part of taking care of your mental health is finding ways to cope in challenging times. Finding time to appreciate and soak in Nature is a great way to cope. It’s a free activity you can almost always do.  Whether you live in town or in the country, you can always find Nature.  It’s all around you – in your backyard, in the forest, in a park…it’s everywhere.  Being out in Nature and discovering little things about it is very good for your mental health. Being in Nature has emotional benefits, intellectual benefits, and physical benefits. There are tons of things you can do from scavenger hunts, to building forts, to taking a nap in a hammock…and if you are a parent finding your way onto this blog, the website below has some good ideas for getting your kids out and about:

Ideas for Getting Your Kids into Nature

So get out there!  Come on out, the weather’s fine!

Coping Activities Part 2


Art Journaling is a fun, creative way to cope with the changes going on right now.  Using art to help you get through stressful times can have many benefits. It can be calming, relaxing, bring joy, and give you a way to express your feelings and emotions, and art journaling is a great activity to explore at home.

You can use magazine cut outs or draw your own pictures. You can use swirls and colour, line and white space and dark space…the options are as vast as your imagination! You can create an altered book journal using old books or magazines that no one will read anymore (if you are having a heart attack at the thought of “destroying” a book, consider that you are rather giving a book new life 😉 ). You can also, of course, use a regular journal – either lined or blank – and doodle, draw and write.

The beautiful thing about art journaling, is that there are no rules!  Some art journals are more like sketchbooks, some are like diaries, some are like scrapbooks – and some are a smash up of all those things.  Your art journal can be whatever you need it to be. The key is to just get started, and let it become whatever it needs to. Here are some of the reasons that you might want to start art journaling:

  1. Get your thoughts and feelings from inside your head, to outside your head
  2. Goal setting and dreaming
  3. Spur on creativity
  4. It’s fun 🙂

Journaling can be very therapeutic – meaning it can make you feel a lot better. When you are writing in a journal, you get your thoughts onto paper so they aren’t stuck inside your head.  Art journaling does the same thing as writing, just in a different way, through a different method. If you like to write, then journaling probably isn’t new to you.  Art journaling, however, might be!  There are lots of different tutorials online that can get you started, but basically all you need is the following:

  1. Journal – old book, blank notebook, even blank sheets of paper stapled together
  2. Pencil, pen, markers
  3. White glue
  4. Old magazines or pictures
  5. Craft paint or watercolour paints
  6. Whatever other art supplies you have on hand

I would like to encourage you to explore this way of coping in this stay home season.  As always, I love seeing your works of art – so keep sending me your pictures!

Til next time – stay safe, stay positive and stay home.

Coping Activities Part 1

Coping: to deal with and attempt to overcome problems and difficulties

I have found myself really missing the connections with my people – I mean actual, physical connections. Looking people in the eye and noticing small things about them that we miss when we are texting or video chatting. Things like new shoes, the way they laugh spontaneously, the smell of their hair. (Is that weird? Maybe.) I miss hugs from my family and my friends. I miss sitting next to my co-workers and fist-bumps from my students. I even miss bumping into random strangers…I just miss being in and around community. I know I’m not the only one who is finding this social (physical) distancing hard, a number of you have commented on that as well. So this week I thought I’d take a few days and post some ideas on how to make this “stay home season” a bit more bearable.  We can’t change the situation, but we can do things that help us to cope.

Today’s idea is one that can tap into your creative juices. Being creative can help you feel better – sometimes words just aren’t enough. Either we can’t find the right words to describe how we feel, or we don’t want to say how we feel out loud.  Art can help you bridge that open, sometimes scary – sometimes just really wide – space between you and another person. So here’s a fun idea that you can do by yourself, or with your family.

If you are missing someone in particular, you can create something that shows why you think they are special and then gift it to them. One idea is to create a shadow box filled with bits and pieces that remind you and them of times that you spent together – a special rock, a picture of you together, or a poem.  It can be anything that reminds you of some special memories. This website has a few good ideas on how to create a shadow box. You can make a shadow box out of a variety of things – shoe boxes, wooden boards glued together, store bought shadow boxes (here) or even a quart jar…many, many options.  Here are some simple steps to get you going:

  1. Find a container (shoe box, wooden box, jar etc.)
  2. Decide on your theme.  You might want to make one for a friend and your theme might be favourite movies you’ve watched together.  If it’s for a grandparent, your theme might be favourite activities you’ve done together.  Maybe it’s simply a collection of words that describe your person.
  3. Collect your items.  You can use pictures from magazines or online, photographs, little mementos like seashells, ribbons, feathers, rocks, pieces of wood – you decide!
  4. Arrange it. Depending on what you are using for your shadow “box”, you decide if you will glue your items inside, just arrange them, put them in sand etc.

The key is to make it personal and be creative. Once you have created your shadow box, wrap it up (or not) and deliver it to your special person. Letting your creativity flow is a proven way to cope with a hard situation. Finding unique ways of connecting – like making shadow boxes – also helps people feel happier and less alone.

If you made a shadow box, take a picture and email it to me!  I would love to post pictures of some of your crafty coping ideas, so when you email your picture to me – let me know if you’d like me to post it.

Til tomorrow – stay safe, stay positive and stay home 🙂


Fun Friday

Happy Friday!  I thought I would post something fun for you today.  Slime! Making slime is super easy and only needs a few ingredients.  You’ll need Elmer’s glue, Baking Soda and Contact Lens Solution.  From there your can add a bit of water to make it stretchier, or glitter, or little foam balls, colour etc. etc.  This website has some great instructions: Awesome slime recipe

Let me know if you make this and send me a video or email telling me how it went! Keep calm and Slime on!



When Worry Takes Control

What is worry? Merriam Webster describes worry as a concern about something that might happen, and worry in and of itself isn’t really the problem. But, worry can be a bit bossy, and the problem comes when worry takes control of your thinking, making you feel anxious or sick.  There is some science behind worry.  Let’s start with taking a look at your brain:

There are different names for the different parts of the brain.  There are the actual medical names, like prefrontal cortex, limbic  system, amygdala, hippocampus etc. etc. Then there are terms like upstairs brain and downstairs brain, wise brain and emotional brain, or one of my favourites, wizard brain and lizard brain.  Basically, they are all saying the same thing…we have the thinking part of our brain, and the  feeling part of our brain.

When worry takes control, what has happened is that the feeling part of your brain has taken over – and is over-riding – the thinking part of your brain.  When worry takes control, our feeling brain, our lizard brain, doesn’t really care if the thing you are worried about is real or imagined, it just recognizes the feeling and jumps into action – whether it needs to or not!

What can you do? Well, I like to think of dealing with worry the same way you might handle a bossy friend.  Worry can actually be your friend – your brain is designed to warn you if there is something truly dangerous or concerning.  Then you need your lizard brain to help keep you safe. But, when worry is bossing you around, and getting all involved when it doesn’t need to, you will need to talk back to worry.  You will need to tell your worry to settle down, because it’s not the boss of you! Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Make a worry character: Giving your worry a name, maybe even drawing a picture of your worry character, helps you learn how to talk back to it. When you say, “Oh, Mr. Worrybug is at it again! Let’s give him a talking-to!” you are externalizing your worry – making it less scary and more manageable.  It might feel a bit silly, but silly is better than worried!

  2. Be Bossy: When your worry shows up and tries to boss you around, be bossy right back!  Speak truth into your worry’s lies!  Worry likes to tell you that if something happens, you won’t be able to handle it!  That’s one of the lies it likes to tell – actually, you can handle it! You need to be bossy and tell worry to get lost, you’ve got this!

  3. Be Opposite: When worry tells you that you can’t sleep in your own bed because there are scary things under the bed, you play the opposite game and tell your worry character that, actually, you can sleep in your own bed! Worry wants to be the boss of you, and you need to make sure that you don’t let it!

These are 3 simple things you can do to help you win the struggle with worry.  Remember, sometimes worry is necessary – but usually it’s not, and the important thing to keep in mind is that you need to be in charge!  Taking control back from worry is not easy, and doesn’t always happen right away. Like anything else it will probably take practice. There are a ton more strategies and ideas that can help as well – but these three are a beginning.

Many of these ideas can be found all over the internet, but one of my favourite authors on this subject is Lynn Lyons.  She works with anxious kids and families and the 3 points above are inspired from her videos and blogs.  If you are looking for more inspiration, and more ideas, you can find her at . As always, if you have any questions, shoot me an email! I’m here to help.

Cultivate Kindness

Cultivate: to promote or improve the growth of [something] by labor and attention. (

When farmers cultivate their fields, they are working their field.  They are harrowing, they are tilling, they are using tools to get their fields ready to plant seeds. They are feeding the soil good nutrients to help their seeds grow, and they are getting rid of the weeds that will stop their seeds from growing. So, when we talk about “cultivating kindness”, we are talking about finding things (ideas, habits) to help us to become kinder people, and find the things, aka: weeds (bad attitudes, criticism, negativity) that don’t help us become kinder people.

Do you ever notice that weeds don’t need to be encouraged to grow? They grow without any help from people!  That’s a pretty good picture of how rudeness happens.  It’s easy to be cruel without even meaning to.  Our tone of voice, our body language, and often the words we say are hurtful without us intending them to be.  That’s why it is so, so important to try extra hard to be kind whenever we can.  It will probably take practice.  Just like growing a plant takes care and work, so does learning how to look for ways to be kind.  It means looking away from yourself and towards other people…especially the people that don’t have a big circle of other people around them, they may need kindness the most.

As we move into a new school week, I encourage you to look for ways to grow your kindness, and I would love it if you would send me an email letting me know some of the things you do to “cultivate kindness”. (I always look forward to your messages in my inbox 🙂 ) Take care and be kind.

The Importance of Routines

There is a lot of research that supports the idea that routines and schedules help people feel secure and calm.  This is especially true for kids. When we know what to expect, we don’t worry as much.  Of course, not all of life can be scheduled…and even within a routine it is important to be flexible, but there are a lot of things that we can schedule! Your emotional and mental health will benefit from creating routines and schedules in appropriate areas of your life.

School is a perfect example of how creating schedules creates peace of mind.  After the first few weeks of school in September, most students notice that the anxiety or worry that they had about school in the beginning of September has gone down. That’s largely because they know what to expect and have gotten back to having routines and schedules after a summer of little routine.  We are now entering a time that is a lot like the beginning of September.  New routines and schedules will need to be created to help students and parents feel calm and less anxious.

Most teachers are suggesting that students do their work in the morning. In the afternoon they can do chores, go outside, do activities with their siblings etc.  Hanover School Division recommends the following: for students in grades K – 4 students should spend about 5 hours per week on school work.  That’s about an hour a day.  For students in grades 5 – 8, that number goes to 10 hours per week – which is about 2 hours per day.  I would also strongly suggest that parents help their kids set up a daily schedule during regular school days. Following regular schedules develops self discipline and creates a sense of stability in the home.  If you would like some help or ideas on how to do that, please let me know! I am here to help 🙂

Sibling Rivalry

Ah, sibling rivalry! Spending so much time together can make getting along a bit of a challenge.  It’s expected that you will get on each other’s nerves, but there are things you can try that might make it easier to get along.  Here’s a fun challenge that might help!

In the end, remember that you are in charge of you 🙂 A wise person once said, “No one can MAKE you do anything.”  They can bug you, they can annoy you, they can hurt you – but developing self control in hard situations is your job.

And for parents who are finding their way onto this blog, here is a helpful link:

Sibling Rivalry

Remember to have grace for yourself and each other as we all figure out how to manage this steep learning curve.

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