How to Help Your Young Child Get Ready for the School Year After Summer Break

How to Help Your Young Child Get Ready for the School Year After Summer Break

It’s that time of year again when big yellow buses can be seen driving around the neighborhood and school bells begin ringing. Going back to school can definitely be an exciting time for parents and children.

But for some kids, especially younger ones, going back to school after a summer break can feel overwhelming and scary. While this can be fairly common, there are some things parents can do to help their child prepare for the new school year ahead:

Check Your own Emotions

Parents of young children may also find it a bit sad to send their child off to the first day of kindergarten or first grade. Your child will pick up on your emotions so be sure to put on a good face and show them good energy.

Shop and Talk

Young children that are very nervous about starting school may not want to talk about it. It’s a good idea to take your child shopping for their school supplies and clothes and use this time to try and discuss their feelings about things. Having an activity to do can often help a child express themselves better. Also, while you want your child to be able to express their fears and worries, try and steer the conversation towards things they may be looking forward to as well. Encourage them to recognize that although change is scary, it can also be really great and fun!


Summer was most likely filled with days and nights that did not fit a tight schedule. Your child may have been able to stay up longer and sleep in later. It will be a shock for them to suddenly have to go to bed early and get up to an alarm clock. Practice getting back into the proper sleep routine before the first week of school.

Connect with Future Classmates

If your child will not know anyone in their class, try to see if you can have a playdate before the school year begins so they can meet some new friends. This will make it much easier come that first day of school when they see a friendly and familiar face or two.

Get Guidance

If you feel the stress of starting a new school year is overwhelming and your youngster and you are having a hard time handling things on your own, seek expert advice from a mental health professional who can help both of you cope.

If you’d like some help with your child’s anxiety, please be in touch. I’d be more than happy to discuss treatment options.



Co-Parenting Strategies for Divorced Parents

Co-Parenting Strategies for Divorced Parents

Going through a divorce can bring the worst out in a couple. When it feels like your world is falling apart, trying to co-parent with someone who has hurt you deeply can be overwhelming. Learning to do this while you’re struggling to simply keep going won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.


Use the five strategies below to start effectively

co-parenting with your ex.


1. Focus on the Children

Maintain the focus on what’s best for your children.  You can do this by working with your ex to create as much structure, stability and consistency as is possible.  Even though your romantic partnership didn’t work out, you can both learn to work together to provide as peaceful a home as possible for your children.

If you don’t agree with all the decisions your ex makes about what goes on in his home (ie. type of meals they eat,  screen time limits, etc), try focusing instead on providing them loving stability and structure in your home to help ease them through this time of transition.

2. Communication is Essential

As you go through your divorce, your communication with your ex will inevitably suffer. It may be difficult to communicate with them; you may not want to talk to, or hear from, your ex. However, it’s important that communication regarding the children is maintained, and that your children are not used as messengers (i.e., “Tell your father you have a recital on Friday.”) Communicate directly with your spouse, finding creative ways to communicate to avoid conflict if necessary (text, email, letters, etc.)


3. Just the Facts
If you’re harboring resentment or have unfinished emotional business with your ex, the desire to express your emotional needs can feel overwhelming. Make a commitment to yourself that for the sake of your children’s well being, when you interact with your ex in their presence, you’ll keep conversations polite and focused on the issues (ie.  I will be by to pick the kids up at 4pm).


4. Expect Change
As you go through your divorce, there will be a great deal of change for yourself, your ex and your children. Change is difficult for everyone.  Some of the most important things a parent can do during this time of transition is to answer questions as they come up, help kids name and express their feelings and validate that their feelings make sense.  

As a parent you can pay particular attention to see if anger, fear/worries, anxiety or overachieving/performing start showing up more often than before in your child.  This can happen soon after the changes have been put into place, but might not be evident for some time.  Take these as cues that you need to check in with your child and explore what might be going on for them.  


5. Prioritize Your Health
Maintaining your health is important not only for you, but for your children as well.  Having a healthy, happy, rested parent will help them adjust.  They are reading your emotional cues and learning from you about how to get through a crisis.  

As a parent you help your child learn about their emotions and how to regulate them.  This can be a tough job, especially if your kids are having a hard time adapting to the changes that have taken place.  Learning how to find your own sense of emotional balance first is so important.  This article has some helpful suggestions that you might find useful.

Therapy can also be a very helpful support to help you though this transition.  Through counselling you can learn helpful skills and tools to help with both the emotional impact of your divorce and some practical tools to help make the transition smoother. 

Finding a ‘New Normal’

As we go through a divorce, we mourn the relationship lost, and the dreams we had of the future. Although your ex is no longer your partner, your ex is still your child’s parent, and you will always be co-parents of the children you have together. Learning to get along and communicate will bring comfort to your children as they learn to cope with their parents’ divorce.


The Co-Parenting Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted and Resilient Kids from Little Ones to Young Adults through Divorce or Separation  by Karen Bonnell is a great book for adults

Two Homes by Claire Masurel  is a great book for children

Family Law Nova Scotia is a website with helpful resources 

Legal Info Nova Scotia is also a great website

How To Nurture Your Mental Wellness

How To Nurture Your Mental Wellness

The World Health Organization describes mental wellness “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

When we talk about mental wellness, we’re not just talking about the the absence of disease or a clinical diagnosis.

It encompasses so much more.  

Are you living your life to the fullest, in alignment with what is most important to you and in such a way that it positively impacts others around you. That is mental wellness. 

Here are some ways you can work towards mental wellness, even starting today.

1. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are the limits we put in place to make clear what is ‘our stuff’ and what is someone else’s. Having healthy boundaries is a crucial part of mental wellness because it allows us to set limits on what we will (or won’t) accept in terms of behaviour from others and how much time, resources, energy we are willing to devote to certain situations.  

Boundaries protect us from taking on burdens that are not ours to carry and from developing resentment towards another person. Healthy boundaries allow us to be in relationship with others without becoming burnt out and exhausted.

Maybe you find yourself consistently doing things you know you don’t want to do to avoid conflict, to please others or to fit in. I’ve found this book Boundaries to be so helpful in figuring this out. (Note: There are some Christian references in this so if that isn’t a fit for you, skip the book)

2. Be In The Moment

How often have you found yourself being somewhere physically, but mentally your somewhere else, distracted by all the ‘stuff’ of life? You can hardly enjoy the experience you are having, even if it is one you have been longing for, because your thought life is carrying you away.

Research show that when we can remaining in the present moment we experience lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression, improved mood, and a sense of improved well-being.  Results of the study confirmed that those with greater present-moment awareness responded to stress more often with a greater perceived ability to handle things by relying on core values to navigate the stressful situation.

To experiment with this practice, notice every time you are intending to do one thing (read to your kids or have a conversation with your spouse) but are simultaneously doing something else (thinking of an argument you had with your mother or the list of things you need to do before the end of the day).

When you notice that your mind has pulled you away from the moment, gently let the though go, and with intention turn back to what you were doing. You may need to repeat this several times. This is called ‘the practice of being in the present moment’, and much like going to the gym, it takes repetition before it becomes a habit.

3. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy is a vital part of positive mental health. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, creating a consistent level of energy that won’t leave you feeling tired or sluggish. Eating healthy will also provide a mental boost because you’ll feel good about your healthy food choices.

4. Sunshine

Sunshine is a great way to boost your mood. Put on some comfortable walking shoes and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, or a local park. Exposure to sunlight will help your brain release serotonin which will boost your mood, and help you feel more calm and focused.

5. Get Some Sleep

A good night’s sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. When you’re well rested, you’re naturally energized. Regular sleep also boosts your immune system as well as your cognitive and mental health.

You have the power to improve your mood. By making some healthy additions to your daily routines, you can develop regular habits that will improve your overall mental well-being.

6 Tips for Getting Through a Breakup

6 Tips for Getting Through a Breakup

Getting through a break up is not easy.  Even if you are the one who decided to leave the relationship,  it can make you feel like you’ve fallen into a deep dark pit.

Sometimes it can be hard to make sense of all of the emotions that come up or to understand why you are struggling so much.

Well-meaning friends and family don’t seem to understand. They insist you just need to get on a dating site or to agree to being set up with someone.  If only you would do this, they tell you, getting though this break up won’t be so hard.  Eventually, they say, you’ll forget about your old relationship.

But inside, you feel consumed by grief, anxiety about the future and plenty of self-criticism about the past. And, no matter how hard you try you just can’t move on. 

I know that things may feel dark right now, but I’ve got two things I want you to know.

First, there is nothing flawed with you because you are finding this is hard.  Your struggle and experience is valid and difficult. We’re biologically wired for attachment and connection. When a relationship comes to an end, it’s an innate, natural human reaction in the part of our brains that detects a “threat” become activated.  

From a neuroscience perspective, then, this explains why find ourselves feeling a whole host of emotions like rejection, anger and fear.  It also explains why we can get caught thinking repeatedly about this person or the relationship that has ended. 

The second thing is that it is possible to get through this break up and feel whole again.

Diane Poole Heller, a leading expert in the field of adult attachment theory, trauma resolution, and integrative healing techniques teaches that we are fundamentally designed to heal.

Even if you relationship ended because of attachment traumas like infidelity. Or, you have a past history of painful relationships dating back to your childhood, emotional health and learning how to experience secure attachment again is possible.


 6 tips  to help deal with a break up

1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings

Yes, I know, no one wants to feel sad, lonely or rejected, but trying to ignore, distract or numb yourself from this reality will bring about greater suffering in the long term. Experiment with naming the feelings as they come up.

There is some solid research to indicate that recognizing, naming and acknowledging our emotions can actually help us move through that state of being more quickly and feel less fear and anxiety.

2. Discover your passions

When we are in a relationship, even a healthy one, we cannot always devote as much time to our passions as we might like. It can be a challenge to carve out time to keep connected with our partner and spend as much time as we would like pursuing out passions.

There are definite benefits of being single, and this is one of them. Always wanted to learn how to make ceramics? Travel the world?  Try something new at the gym?

While it might not feel like it right now, being single does allow you to be more focused on what you need and want. 

3. Practice Gratitude

This is not the story you wanted.  You never imagined being 26…or 42….or 57 and having to start over and rebuild your life.  

Gratitude under these circumstances might seem like the furthest thing from your mind.  

But there is some solid evidence that practicing gratitude helps shape our minds, feelings and behaviour. And that might be just what you need right now.  Read on to find out more about the practice of gratitude. 


4. Be smart with social media

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard something that sounds like this “I though I was doing OK with our break up. Then I decided to look them up on social media. I wasn’t ready to see them _______________. Now I feel like I am falling apart and can’t stop thinking about what I saw.

The draw to use social media to check on your ex is makes sense. Here is this person that was once so so close to you and now it feels like you’ve been cut loose.

The urge to know what they are up to can feel so strong. People mistakenly think that if they use social media to ‘get some closure’ they will be able to move on.  But honestly, I’ve never heard someone say that creeping their ex on social media helped them heal or feel more whole after the end of the relationship. So, just don’t.

5.  Revisit your Values
What kind of a person do you want to be?  How do you want to show up as a partner in a relationship when you get back int one?

Sometimes when we are in a relationship, we get out of alignment with our values. 

Now is the time to take stock.  You can use this 7 day Workbook to help you dive deeper into this.   

 Living in alignment with your values and knowing that you can have a rich and meaningful life, whether you are single or in a relationship, is healing.

6.  Find a good therapist
This is especially true if you experienced violence or abuse of any kind in your relationship, or have a history of relational trauma (with parents or previous partners). Often people with a history of wounds from previous relationships, have or develop anxious, avoidant or disorganize attachment styles.

Why does this matter? 

Because our attachment styles often come with us into our next relationship. This could lead us into potentially unhealthy ways of having our needs met or choosing a partner who is not truly emotionally available. You can learn to build healthy secure attachment with the help of a therapist.


Remember, grieving the loss of a relationship is completely normal. Give yourself the time and space you need to get through the breakup.If you need someone to help you through your breakup, please reach out to book a session with me.

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Mom

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Mom

If you’ve been a mom for any length of time, you know  how unpredictable and overwhelming it can be.   

Remember those pre-kids days where you could plan your schedule and knew you could get you work done?  

The ‘good ‘ol days’ when you never had to deal with  your agenda being derailed by an epic bout of the stomach flu that has been going around daycare.

Maybe this sounds familiar…..

You’ve got a to do list longer than your arm but you haven’t had a solid night of sleep in weeks.  This vague, unsettled feeling is showing up in your body and nagging worries keep popping up in your mind, causing  you to feel edgy, anxious and irritable.

You can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong, but you know your fuse is way shorter than usual. 

This is such an normal response to the unrelenting demands and sometimes overwhelming challenges of motherhood.

But you know you don’t want to be an irritable, angry mom.

And you know how important it is for your kids’ emotional health to be emotionally steady so you can help them with their big feelings too.

So, what can you do?


 5 tips to help you cope with anxiety

1. Schedule a Worry Time

Part of what makes motherhood feel so overwhelming is the sheer number of decisions you have to make.  It can seem like there is always one more problem that needs to be solved.  

It’s so easy to get lost in our minds, thinking through these situations, over and over. 

But, if we’re not careful, these ongoing nagging thoughts  can shift our mood from calm to anxious.

Interestingly, research shows that scheduling a time to worry, actually serves to decrease anxiety.

A worry time?!?  Yep.  It works because it allows you to cope more effetively with your worries.  Start by setting aside a time each day, 10, 15 or 20 minutes to dig deep into all the challenges and decisions you are facing.

Then, throughout the day, notice when you are getting caught up in worrying.  Make a note about it on your phone or in a journal.

After that, turn your focus back to the present moment, setting your worries aside until  ‘worry time’ when you can tackle them. 

At the end of the time you have set aside, put the list away, and get back to living in the moment.  Repeat this daily. Notice if this strategy helps you cope differently with anxiety.


2. Say No

If you’re anything like me, it’s so easy to get caught up feeling like you have to do it all.  Mom guilt sucks us in, and before we know it, we’re signing our kids up for every activity, planning extravagant play dates, cooking only whole foods, home cooked meals, and volunteering at school, even when we really want to say ‘no’.

Moms often come to see me asking for help fitting more into their schedule. But, most often, time management isn’t the issue. It’s being over scheduled.

I get it.  It’s so hard to let go of the unrealistic pressure and expectations we put on ourselves.  

Many years ago, I remember being so upset with myself because I had forgotten to sign my oldest son up for preschool gymnastics. It felt like I had let him down in a serious way. I shake my head now, just thinking about it. 

Looking back, it was so much better for me to slow down on my maternity leave, rather than to race around because of the pressure I felt to make sure my kid got the best of everything.

Saying ‘no’ to busyness is not just good for our mental health, it’s good for our kids’ well being too.

3. Get Some Fresh Air

There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block or jump in the car and head to a trail or the Halifax Waterfront.

Take your kids to De Wolfe Park or sit on the patio at Chicken Little and share a frozen treat. You can also try your local library.

On that note, have you seen this awesome blog post full of ideas? Some of them are specific to the summer, but I bet you’ll find some useful suggestions for all seasons.

4. Practice Mindfulness Exercises
Motherhood is full of anxiety provoking  situations (will my kids turn out OK, are they growing and developing as they should, what if they develop a serious illness, are they fitting in at school, etc.).  

Often, women tell me that they had not been particularly anxious before having children, but that since becoming a mom, anxiety has been a constant companion.

Developing a self compassion practice can be especially helpful for this.  Try out this audio and see if it resonates with you.

Here’s another experiment to check out and see if it helps you cope with anxiety.

Try breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of six.  Do this for 8-10 breaths.  Then, as you continue to do this, concentrate on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This can help calm you when you’re feeling anxiety start to arise.

5.  Use Your Support Network
It’s not always easy to ask for help.  As moms, we often get the message from social media or even our families and friends that we should be able to balance all the demands of motherhood. And somehow make it look easy.  Ya, right.

Because being a mom is a demanding job, having a support network is vital.

Try taking a risk with vulnerability in relationships that feel safe to you.  Call a friend or family member who you think will be supportive and encouraging to ask for advice or help. Creating connections is so important in building resilience as a mom.  

And if you don’t have a great support network, you are not alone!  

Now is the perfect time to cultivate one. Some women find connection at  drop in programs, in faith based and community groups or by joining a gym/sports program for themselves.  

You might be surprised to learn that women often come to see me simply because they know that I am a safe, non-judgemental person they can be real with.   

They know that as a mom I can relate to the struggles that they are facing and that I can support them as they work though their particular challenges. 

Experiment with these suggestions and see what difference they make in helping you cope with anxiety.


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