Are You Blinded By The Rivalry?

Family Conflict School-aged siblings

Graphics by BFB, Source Unsplash

6 Gems You Might Be Overlooking in Parenting

Brothers and sisters family relationships are synonymous with fighting. If you are a parent with more than one child you know the drama of sibling conflict. The pettiness of persistent arguing, competition, and tattling can make a mother or father want to flee their own home. While I know this is a common experience in many families there are some positive elements in the sibling bond that can be hidden in the shadows. My aim in this post is to increase our awareness of opportunities to possibly be grateful and thus more happy in our role as parents.

1.  Coded Communication

Brothers and sisters often have a secret code they share in their communication with each other that outsiders, like parents, don’t understand. The sibling coded communication can be gestures, notes, text messages sent to each others’ cell or, mystery words hidden in open dialogue. Siblings code each other  sometimes with threats, but most often it is used to share information or to request for cover-up by the other party. If your kids are sharing secret messages it’s a clue of a supportive element hidden in the typical sibling rivalry.


2. Comraderie

Some siblings have the maternal ear to hear and recognise the unique cry pitch of their younger sibling that translates “help”. They will leave the other side of the room, playground, or  mall to find out what’s happenning.
When outsiders come against or threaten one sibling the other comes forcibly to their defense. The typical warring parties put aside their differences and stand firm to protect each other. It is not often seen in the public eye because, who wants to be seen defending their annoying little sister, but, it’s a heart-tugger to behold. “No, you can’t do that to my sister”. “That is hers give it back to her now.” You see your son stand between your daughter and the child provoking her.

3. Inclusion of Brother or Sister

When my little girl starting going to school at kindergarten, my son was in grade 5. There were days she didn’t feel like working through the kindergarten playground social politics. Instead, she would ask her older brother if she could play with him. You know what?  I’m surprised how often he and his friends included her in their basketball games at recess time.
It doesn’t always happen, sometimes a younger child’s desire to be included by their sibling is the source of conflict,  but it can happen, I have had lunch supervisors attest to it. Look out for it. Having compassion on a sibling who is feeling left out is a building block of what could later grow into a caring nurturing relationship.

4. Seeking Security and Comfort

Scary things can happen in the lives of kids. It could be a being threatened by a bully,  nightmares, or shared exposure to domestic violence in the home. When kids are scared they often seek comfort and shelter in the presence of another sibling. In the case where parents are not at their best capacity (due to addictions, over-employment, mental health struggles) the sibling bond substitutes for the parent-child bond. As a family counsellor I have seen cases where this  substitution can become dysfunctional at extremes, nevertheless, a balanced close secure sibling attachment typically is a positive resiliency factor. Kids in well functioning families tell me that they reach out to their siblings when they are scared at night, when they are upset with a parent or, when they have a secret to share.

5. Words of Encouragement
Frustration is the most difficult emotion for young children. They are just experimenting and learning new skills and when they do not perform to their satisfaction they can tantrum or show avoidance of the activity. A caring sibling might then come alongside them and offer words of encouragement. “Don’t give up Nancy, you can do it…just try one more time, I’ll help you”..This is frequently evident in families where children have a sibling with special needs (aspergers, adhd, autism, learning disability, physical disability, etc). Peer support and encouragement helps to boost self-esteem, grit, and the growth mindset for success.

6: (Find it On Our Facebook Page in Notes.)

Being The Enlightened Calm Mom or Dad

A strategic parent is aware of weaknesses, limitations, and hidden strengths. Looking at your children through the lens of the hidden strengths will maximise your capacity to maintain your inner peace in the waves of conflict. Empowered with the vision of potential you can now intentionally provide more opportunities for growth in these areas. (Get more connection tips in our post: How This Mom Helps Her Kids Get Along, shared by our guest blogger Ellie Hirsch).

However don’t bury your head in the sand if conflict is destructive. Sometimes sibling conflict can be dangerous. Seek advice from a trusted friend or psychologist,  if a child’s emotional or physical health is at risk.

The tasks and phases of child development should typically support the increase in social skills (better conflict management, emotional regulation, and the expression of positive warmth and regard.)


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Related Parenting Resources

Links to Help Families  

How This Mom Helps Her Kids Get Along  

Siblings in Family Play Therapy

Books for Parents 

Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings

Siblings Without Rivalry

Books for Kids on Sibling Relationship

Siblings You Are Stuck Together so Stick Together

How to Take the GRR Out Of Anger

Bratty Brothers and Selfish Sisters

Give It Back – a storybook for kids 3-8 years old.

No, Its Mine – A storybook for kids 3-8 years old

Posted in Parenting, Parenting 0-5, Parenting 6-12, Parenting Teens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Siblings in Family Play Therapy

Family Counselling for High Sibling Conflict

Empathy Training Play Therapy Sibling Relationships

Is this normal? Do I need help?

Sibling rivalry is as old as time. Way back in the beginning Cain and Abel exhibited extreme jealousy and conflict. Once there are two people living together there will be conflict. But depending on personality, shared interests, and emotional intelligence some siblings actually have harmonious relationships.   But, not all conflict is problematic or threatening. So why would you consider counselling?

Psychological harm

If the insults, and threats are being internalised by one child, maybe a child who is very sensitive,  and impairing their self-image. Sensitive kids can become anxious  when overpowered by the anger or rage of another dominant or aggressive sibling. Aggressive sibling relationships can create domino effect extending from the home to school and general peer relationship difficulties (social withdrawal, poor social skills, peer rejection). Family therapy should be considered for both children.

Physical Harm

Children fight, especially brothers, but if a child is being injured at the expense of a sibling repeatedly, you have a problem bigger than you. Honestly, if you were able to deal with it on your own, it would not be a repetitive problem. As a parent you have a responsibility to keep all your children safe. If you can’t provide safety get help before the external systems of governmental child protection services has to get involved.

Combative Family Culture

Every family has conflict. However if the general atmosphere of your home is tense, combative, and disconnected it could be problematic. Children thrive in an atmosphere of warmth, open expression of affection, acceptance, emotional intelligence and open communication and constructive problem solving. Power and domination in the home is associated with poorer outcomes for children.

Benefits of Family Play Therapy for Sibling Conflict

  • Better communication
  • Discover and encourage shared interest
  • Relationship repair – apology and forgiveness
  • Competition Skills – how to win, lose, and bounce back
  • Problem solving & Conflict Resolution
  • Relationship building skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Emotional fortitude for the highly sensitive child


  • Story-telling
  • Art making and processing
  • Sandtray
  • Game-playing
  • Puppet-play

Read More: How Play Helps Your Child Heal


Help for Families Canada  serves children, parents, and families in South Edmonton and Downtown Edmonton area. We offer a play therapy  for the children, art and talk therapy for teens, parent coaching for mom & dads, and family therapy.

Visit: Counselling Services 

Contact us:

help4familiesca@gmail.com                  780-916-4357“>780-916-4357

Related Therapy Resources for Child Psychologists or Social Workers

Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings You Are Stuck Together so Stick Together

Bratty Brothers and Selfish Sisters

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How To Raise Kids Who Can Succeed

Characteristics of Parents of Successful Kids

Raising Kids Who Can Succeed -Parenting Secrets

No one wants to invest 18+ years of their love, life and money into parenting a typical child for them to not be able to have some success in life. Former reputable university studies found that there were 13 characteristics of parents that were common amongst highly successful children.  Read in this article 8 traits and principles that if you incorporate into your new-year resolutions, and practise them, will produce success for yourself and your children for this year and the years to come. I will not be telling you how you should define the ultimate vision of what success looks like for your child, that’s their choice. I highlight some invaluable habit and keys that can lead your son or daughter on a good path.  At the end of this post you will also find a bonus pdf download with additional secrets, solutions, and tools that I would typically only share with my parent coaching clients. If, you are interested may read the full article of the 13 characteristics published by Rachel Gillett and Drake Baer, Business Insider, (May, 2017).

What Can Parents Do To Raise Successful Kids?

  1. They hold kids responsible for their chores. (Discipline)

  Yes I understand the whining and the draining repetitive reminders we have to endure as parents to get some of our kids to do chores. You may be lucky to have that fun-loving kid who considers 10 minutes at the sink to be equivalent to doing 10 months of time in prison, “what crime have I  done mom that you would draw me away from my game to do the dishes?”. However, chores teach kids the valuable lesson of discipline and responsibility. Work is to be done because work is to be done. Work is a part of contributing to the whole family. It creates a sense of positive identity (“this is my job”) and service and importance (“Others are depending on me to do this, I am important”).

“Kids raised on chores go on to become employees who collaborate well with their co-workers, are more empathetic, … and are able to take on tasks independently”, states Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean at Stanford University.

I have found as a counsellor for a number of families that if parents make the effort to institute the discipline of chores in their families from an early age, there is significantly less of a struggle later on in adolescence. But, if you must engage in the struggle with your tween or teen, begin this weekend, it will be harder but it’s not too late. (Bring in back-up enforcers – grandparents)

They teach their kids social skills early and continually

Research indicate that a child’s capacity to get along well with others well in kindergarten is a good indicator of that child’s success 20 years later, becoming college graduate and employed. The converse finding is that low social skills at a young age indicated criminal activity, addiction, unemployment and poverty. Wait, don’t panic, if your kid is beyond kindergarten and struggling, there is hope, social skills can be learnt. You can help him/her at home looking frequently for “teachable moments” and optimising them. You can also get help from a school counsellor, the child and youth worker, or a therapist. Supports are available to help in the school, and in the community (e.g., support and skills groups for kids, individual and family counselling).

This is so important I am going to share with you 4 social skills that you can begin to work on at home this year. There are a lot of possibilities but you want to start with only a limited few as goals. You or with your child’s class teacher may be able to find what’s personalised for your unique child.

  • Emotional Language

    • – how to identify and label different states of mind and feelings in self and in others
  • Share and Take Turns

    Kids must learn to share and take turns with others during play and or work. “What do I do while I wait for my turn?”

  • Manage their own strong emotions

    • Emotions ( such as- anger, fear, jealousy, frustration), and impulses (“I feel like and want to hit, but I won’t”).
  • Problem-solving

    • – “what to do when I’m not getting along with others?”  

They Believe In and Have High Expectations Of Their Children

Every child was created with potential. Parents who can see and help their child see the potential within them (sometimes buried deep) will help that child achieve their best. Believing in your child isn’t a mystical concept, it translates in the words you speak to them, the way you challenge and encourage them, and the resources you invest in them. Communicating high expectations is not perfectionism (which is my personal thorn of the flesh) but it is holding them accountable for performing at their best level. The most important benefit of believing in your child is their internalisation of that value and they learn  to believe in themselves too. This develops in the context of attachment parenting. A child who from his soul believes in themselves is unstoppable.

Watch the video of Oprah describing the huge contribution the  belief in herself, and positive self-image made to her achievements (Find the link in the download at the end).  

Agreeable Relationships Between Parents or Co-Parents

Coparenting is a lifelong commitment that extends beyond the boundaries of the marital union. Every couple has conflict, many couples have strong conflict about their different parenting styles and   opposing family values and beliefs.But, when conflict becomes hostile, the children are negatively impacted. Hostility between parents has a negative impact on kids whether their parents are living together, separated, or divorced. In fact, conflict isn’t just hostile, the undercurrent of passive-aggression and quiet contempt is equally disturbing for children (of divorce). Children become highly stressed (higher cortisol levels) in these environments and this blocks their capacity to learn, to cope well, to perform at school or sports, or maintain their own peer relationships.

Mothers and fathers who learn to work together as partners in parenting, raise children who are more happy, well adjusted, and are higher achievers. (By the way, partnering as parents involves skills and structures that can be learnt. There are many parenting classes or parenting after separation programs in your community to help.) #bestinterest

They have a positive, caring relationship with their kids.

Since John Bowlby first reveal his theory of attachment we know that children who are raised by attentive, responsive caregivers develop a positive worldview of themselves and others and this is a building blocks for success in childhood and on into adulthood. (This is my sweet, passion spot, I can write on and on, this is why I do parent coaching). Children who have a good healthy relationship with their parents just do better, at basically,.. almost,… EVERYTHING.

All your investment in providing your child with music lessons to learn to play the piano, tennis and hockey coaching, private in-home tutoring in math and the sciences, all sorts of technology and learning devices, together they do not give you the return on investment, as spending quality time with your kids, and becoming a calm, confident, caring parent. #attachment

They Are Less Stressed

I hinted at this before. Children mirror the emotions of their caregivers, and significant people around them. If you are stressed out, hypervigilant, and irritable children internalise these states and act them out. Yes, sometimes kids act out what you are holding inside. The solution is, as a parent, learn to manage your personal stress with self-care and positive coping strategies, and your kids will learn to do the same and, thus be able to thrive. #self-care #stressmanagement 

They have a growth mindset – valuing learning over avoiding failure

Carol Dweck, was the first to propose the idea of a growth mindset. It is the belief that one’s success is not based on fixed, unchangeable innate traits (intelligence or attractiveness, talents, etc.) but characteristics or skills that can be learnt, and developed with time and effort. This is powerful in parenting because children learn from their moms and dads that  failure or limitations are only obstacles to overcome or detours and not dead-end or cliff (#growthmindset #failforward). Listen to Carol Dweck explain it herself at a TED Talk .


  1. They teach “grit”  or perseverance.

Grit, is defined as “a tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals”  stated by psychologist, Angela Duckworth (as cited by Gillet & Baer, 2017).

Let’s break this down.

A “tendency” is a lifestyle habit of being. Grit doesn’t develop as a one-time occurrence. It builds in repetition.

“to sustain interest in and effort” To sustain something is to keep it going in spite of the resistances to stop it. To sustain interest and effort is to keep motivated and committed the application of energy and work. (I believe in faith but even the Bible teaches that faith without work is futile). Motivation can be internally sourced or it can be inspired by others.

Toward – speaks to direction, having a focus. Effort is not just spewed aimlessly. Effort and interest is intentional.

Very long term-goals – Having goals speaks to having vision, having a dream. The capacity to imagine and visualise things that are not as if you they are. To build an imaginary bridge from the future into the present. It involves delayed gratification because the dream they imagine is not available in the instant. A long term goal is one you have to wait and work for a long-time.

To overcome the urge to quit, in the face of the many, many, many obstacles life is sure to present itself to child, they should have some practise under your positive guidance with the trait of grit.

Successful Parent Quote - Tania Bryan Parenting Coach

Struggles of Special Needs Kids On The Road To Success

Not all children are equal. I am not going into the fixed mindset and contradicting myself, but I must in honour of some of the kids I counsel, recognise that some kids struggle more than others. I’m not meaning to limit and pigeon-hole them, but by bringing these struggles out into the open, I hope to encourage parents who are struggling with them in silence to know that there is a space to talk about these challenges. So,… along the journey of parenting, here are some of the challenges some of you might experience.  

Coming Up In Follow-Up Blog Post Are Solutions to Some of These Parenting Challenges

  • Regarding Chores with the Uncooperative, Irresponsible Child

  • Regarding Social skills for ADHD child

  • Regarding Believing In The Unmotivated Child

  • Regarding limited stress and the chronically stressed or anxious child

  • Regarding perfectionism in children and fostering a growth-mindset to embrace failure

Opportunity for More Personalised Parenting Support

If you are living with any of these issues, FOLLOW this BLOG as the next post will address some of these issues. In fact, if you comment now below and tell me what’s personal to you, I promise to focus in on the issues most relevant to my readers and subscribers.

Thanks & Get Your Free Download

Download your pdf guide “Download – What Any Parent Can Do To Raise Successful Children- Help Families Canada” it includes the list of characteristics mentioned in this post plus, additional solutions, tools and resources that may help you in this journey. 


Help for Families Canada provides individual and family counselling to children, parents, and families. We help parents face the struggles they silently endure, but now, not alone. Parents receive support in how to set firm boundaries and responsibilities with their kids, how to master the chaos of out of control feelings, how to motivate and encourage their unmotivated and their driven kids, and how to take care of themselves so they can succeed along with their kids. Co-parenting classes help parents unite around the mutual vision of raising successful kids. Often time, with play therapy techniques such as storytelling and gameplaying, kids learn the skills and mindsets they need to maximise their potential to succeed. Find out more about our counselling services in Edmonton. You can schedule online for a FREE session.  


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31 Fall Family Fun Activities

Ideas for Parents Who Don’t Do Halloween


All Hail Halloween, Or, MAYBE NOT! Halloween is a wide-spread tradition of Westernised North America but there are a minority of families who do not engage in this celebration. Members of other ethnic or religious groups, including some Christian parents, experience some restrictions during the Fall Season to find community activities for their school-aged kids and families. If you search you can find alternatives. But, you don’t have to. I have compiled some simple family fun activities for the Fall season, including Thanksgiving, which does not include anything ghostly. And, these shared experiences can also be explored by families who also enjoy a bit of October dress-up. It’s a list that is widely inclusive.



1. Make apple recipe; apple cider, candy apples, apple pie, apple h pancakes, apple sauce, apple crisp, and candy apples.
2. Visit a corn maze
3. Go apple picking
4. Roast marshmallows by a campfire
5. Go hiking (Maybe in Whitemud Park, or the River valley- Edmonton)
6. Select a classic book (or books) to read out loud together or individually over a few weeks. If you chose to read individually you may create a book-club style sharing or exchange books to read at one’s leisure. Contact your local library for suggestions (e.g. Edmonton Public Library).
7. Go pumpkin picking
8. Over the long holiday weekend play a more long-duration family game such as Settlers of Catan, Kallouki (our family favourite), assemble a jig-saw puzzle, etc.
9. Bake your favourite pies
10. Bake a new pumpkin recipe. Pumpkin bread, roast pumpkin seed, a pumpkin dip, pumpkin cheese cake, pumpkin spice waffles

11. Do a Fall craft together
– Door wreath
– Leafy picture frame
– Paint acorns or pinecones
12. Go on a Fall nature shoot with one or individual cameras.
13. Learn about why and how the leaves change colour
14. Rake up tree leaves in your yard or neighbourhood. Make a pile  and jump onto it.
15. Thread leaves to make a fall garland.
16. Build a “Thankful Tree” with collected sticks, tree leaves and paper leaves. On the paper leaves write out what each person is thankful for.

17. Read together and out loud stories together. Fall books for kids include
– “Secrets for the apple tree”
– “Red leaf, yellow leaf”
– “Leaf man”
– “The fall festival”
– “How did you know it was fall?”
– “Fall mixed up”
– “Fleeter and the family leaves”
– “Fall Harvests bring in food”
– “Welcome Fall”


18. Visit a farm. If possible, go on a hay ride

19. Watch afternoon sunset
20. Attend a local or nearby “Oktoberfest”

21. Story telling night. Make up stories and tell each other – they can be fantasy stories, mysteries, funny stories. Cuddle up by a fireplace (if you have one), or in the family room with blankets

22. Go star gazing. Look for possible constellations or star shapes

23. Go shopping for cozy winter socks. Choose styles and patterns that represent each member’s personality. Embellish them with charms or buttons or iron-on decals.

24. Search for the best hot chocolate or caramel latte in your neighbourhood. Share with other family members and friends your reviews and ratings as you go.

25. Create early your family Christmas wish list. If possible take advantage of Black Friday Sales (have a pre-set budget) in-stores or online.

26. Get rain boots and umbrellas and go walking in the rain. Stop and jump in some puddles.

27. Get and light up a favourite fall candle. Or, learn how and make a fall potpourri (cinnamon, apple pie, or wood)

28. Sing Karaoke or play on instruments to a favourite movie theme song, or children’s action fall songs. Some suggestions include:
a. Autumn leaves are falling down
b. Way Up High in a Apple Tree
c. Grey Squirrel, Shake Your Bushy Tail
d. Scarecrow Song

29. Watch favourite thanksgiving movies. Some to consider include:
– Monumental
– Pocahontas
– Old Fashion Thanksgiving
– A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
– The Big Chill
– Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
– Free Birds
– Love at the Thanksgiving Parade
– Remember the Titans
– Dutch
– Home for the Holidays

30. Volunteer at a Food Shelter. Help serve thanksgiving meal to others.

31. Organise a Clothing Drive. Collect from friends and neighbours scarves, hats, and gloves and donate them to a local charity.

Formally the Fall season spans over 12 weekends. I hope that out of this list of 31 activities you can find at least 4 or 5 that you can incorporate in your own family Fall traditions. Remember, family activities should be fun, you don’t have to stress out to do something every weekend. The focus is on spending quality time with your kids and building positive memories that will still last beyond the season. And, when the icy winter comes revisit our blog for the Winter edition of Family Fun.




Help for Families Canada is a small organisation offering counselling services for kids, parents, and families in South Edmonton. Our core mission is to support the enhancement of the parent-child relationship. We believe regular times of family fun are an important ingredient in building a sense of belonging and connectedness in families. We offer our clients practical coaching and resources to equip them to foster and maintain positive, close parenting relationships. We invite you to find out more here or our Faith Based Services

Posted in Parenting, Parenting 0-5, Parenting 6-12, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Straight Talk on Fatherhood – Man to Man

Fatherhood Straight Talk Parenting for Dads Title -Support Edmonton- Help Families Canada

A Dad’s Reflection on His Own Reality and Role in Parenting

Guest Post

This is the time of year that Father’s Day is celebrated and I want to share some thoughts as a husband and father of our two young children – a boy just about to become 11 years old and a 6 year old daughter.

Being an “everyday-kinda-guy” seeking to provide for the family, meeting the non-financial needs of our kids as a father is not easy. I am growing to realize that what my kids need emotionally from me is not the same as is expected from Mom. They want me to play with them and do stuff with them when I feel like doing something else. Many times I get home from work feeling the need to emotionally get away to my own world to unwind. Life itself can feel so emotionally draining at times in just trying to deal with my own concerns of providing for their future. The danger is that my concern for the future makes me deny my kids of the attention they need from me now in the present.

We Do Make An Impact On Our Kid’s Lives

Research suggests that in the area of play, fathers spend a greater percentage of their relational time with their kids in play activities in a style that tends to be more physical and exciting than the ways mothers tend to interact. Our tendencies towards “horseplay” , for example chasing them around the house as a “scary bear”, or lifting and twirling them over our heads for an “airplane ride” allows them to experience the thrill of being just a little scared, but amused and aroused at the same time. This bit of information was taken from chapter 6 of the book “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child” by Dr. John Gottman with Joan Declaire . I was pleasantly surprised to relate 100% to these comments as it pertains to me and my children. My little girl would make you think she is being really scared but her excitement and laughter confirms that she is also having fun at me being the scary-bear-or-some-other-such-creature. They definitely don’t look to Mom to chase after them or for “horseplay” – in our family context.

Dads, Kids Need To Feel Our Presence As Much As Seeing Us There

I read further along in chapter 6 of the above mentioned book in which one Levant was quoted as stating (and countering) the observed traditional stereotype that

“……a father is someone who works hard, who isn’t around much, who criticizes more than he compliments, who doesn’t show affection or any other emotion except anger – no longer applies”.

 The quote from Levant goes on to state that

“…men are supposed to be sensitive, caring, enlightened dads who are really there for and involved with their kids…the only problem is many men don’t know how to be that kind of father, for the simple reason that their own dads weren’t that kind of father to them.”

 I am sure many dads can relate to these statements to some degree and if nothing else, it should inspire food for thought as we reflect on our own parenting situation.

I think there is a beckoning for us dads to not only be there physically for our kids but be there emotionally as well. Emotional involvement includes enjoying an activity together and also getting into their world through empathy. We should seek to connect with how they are feeling about the moment and not just enjoy the moment from our dad’s point of view. We can come away with having had fun with our kids and never realise the impact the time has had on them. We can think they had a fun time so mission accomplished but missed out on appreciating the impact or imprint the time with us has had on their minds and hearts. Quality emotional presence with our kids can help us get grounded in life and take our appreciation of family to a higher level. I am realising that sometimes when I come home and want to get away by myself,  if instead I were to take a few moments to forget about myself and unselfishly throw my emotional attention into my kids’ world and “smell the roses” in their world, I would feel much better. It reminds me that the world is not just about me and my perceived problem in the moment. It doesn’t mean that reality stops but being there emotionally for them really helps to keep life in perspective.

Be Aware Of Your Kid’s Everyday Needs As A Father

We should always seek to stay tuned in to our children’s everyday needs as they grow even as we try to find a balance between work life and home life. The authors of “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child” also encourages that as dads we should seek to do this regardless of the nature of the relationship we may have with the mother of our kids. I totally understand this point as all household relationship dynamics vary but our kids still need us in spite of our imperfections living in an imperfect world. We are their dad and contrary to what many may say or want us to believe, our kids need us physically and emotionally in their lives.

But hey, this is just a brief thought from a dad who like many of us, never had a chance at a practice run and then return to the real world to be the father to your kids; never had a chance to pre-clone them to sharpen my skills to become confident and experienced at this thing and then return to real life to be the most emotionally caring super-dad…but it’s a life long journey of learning.

As fathers we can become so preoccupied with providing for our family that we can unintentionally loose sight of how important spending meaningful time with our kids is to their development and emotional character. They may be disappointed in the moment that we can’t buy them the coolest stuff their friends may have. However, if we stay emotionally connected to them while we explain why they don’t have these cool things and be there for them while they deal with the alternate reality – be it a “lesser” present or an activity together instead of the “perfect” gift. However, dads we are demonstrating to them that we care. We are letting them know that in spite of their feelings of disappointment(s) they do matter to us and that their feelings of disappointment affect us too. After the immediate moment of disappointment has passed, quite often our kids will remember feeling loved, feeling that they mattered and that you actually care.

Quote Tip Quality Time Dads -Counselling Men as Fathers -Help Families Canada

Related Post for Fathers

Read: The Legacy of A Father’s Love

Do You Want More Coaching , Training & Support?

Help for Families Canada offers practical hands on training for fathers in our Parent Training ProgramCustomised Support is available for step-fathers, single fathers, and married fathers in Southside Edmonton. Click on the link below to schedule a time to talk a therapist.


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Surprising Tools Your Dollar Store Has To Help With Homework

Items A Parent Of A Child with ADHD or a Learning Disability Must Have

Parenting, ADHD, & Homework - Article Image

Source: Clipart Pal (PD)

Homework time can feel like Hell. (Pardon me for the language, but if you live it, you know what I mean). As a former special education teacher, and a mom with a child with attention and hyperactive behaviours, I know how challenging it can be to get an unmotivated, unfocused, easily frustrated child to start, and (dare to dream) … complete a homework assignment. Until the school boards approve homework in video-gaming app format, here are some cheap, easy to find Dollarstore items (#tools) that will help ease the agony. (#adhd, #learningdisabilities)

  1. Ear plugs — Useful to minimizes auditory distractions.
  2. Dry erase board— create weekly calendar of when assignments are due. For the child with a learning disability you may colour code by subject (blue – Math, Yellow – Language Arts). #dyslexia
  3. Checklist pad — task manager. Itemize steps or tasks involved with doing larger projects
  4. Small Squishy Ball — small air or foam filled balls for squishing and fidgeting while working.

Related Post: Stressed Parents’ Guide to Homework Without War


5. Digital Kitchen Timer — Necessity for ADHD child. Set time goals for them to complete segments of their assignment. Set time for movement breaks or approved off-task breaks.

6. Foamcore boards or 3-Paneled Project boards — Create a personal space zone at desk or table to reduce distractions. Very helpful you have siblings working together in same space (e.g. shared kitchen island)

7. Chewing Gum — Provides oral stimulation, (repeated motor action)  which may help some children focus.

Email Counsellor Edmonton

Find  Local  (Edmonton) Dollar Stores for Homework Tools

Wondering what are the dollar stores serving your neighborhoods of Ellerslie, or Summerside in Edmonton? Check out

The Dollar Tree

–         2 locations: Calgary Trail and 28 Avenue

Dollar N Plus

–      Heritage Valley off 111 Street


–        South Edmonton Common

Live in another city in Canada or the US? Find one in Google Maps



Help for Families Canada offers counseling support to children with ADHD or learning disabilities as well as parent skills coaching. Through various play therapy strategies children learn skills to regulate their energy and attention and how to work through feelings of failure and frustration so that they have more confidence and become higher achieving students. Click below to find out more.


Email Counsellor Edmonton


#Education #School-aged  #parenting #yeg

Posted in Parenting, Parenting 6-12, Therapy | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Stressed Parent’s Guide To Homework Without War

Suggestions from an elementary/middle school teacher & tutor





H.O.M.E.WOR.K, defined by kids as “Half of My Energy Wasted On Random Knowledge”.  Homework is a sore point with many parents and students. For students, they feel as if homework should be non existent and takes up too much of their time. On the other side at home,  homework is also a  torture that many parents would love to wish away too.

Why Do Families Hate Homework?

Homework has been associated with:

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com  Increasing the stress levels in children

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com Inducing more frequent and more harsh conflict between parent and children

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com Reducing children’s access to personal recreational and other social experiences

book-icon-green-source-emojibase-com Robbing families of opportunities to engage together in fun, relationship enhancing activities.


Homework should not be a burden but rather should be a continuation of work done  during the school period. Unfortunately  many schools pile on too much homework which really isn’t necessary. As a result, often times children are turned off and parents  end up doing their children’s homework.

Read More: How much homework is too much? ( Filed Under” Notes” on Facebook Page )

So what really is the point of homework?

According to research studies done, Dr Harris Cooper, University of Missouri, homework had no measurable effect on achievement for elementary students though it did for high school. Cooper recommends that homeworkhelps elementary students develop proper study skills which, in turn, influences grades.”

Others have argued that homework helps children practise, learn, and retain concepts taught in the classroom. But, “If the kids haven’t learned the concepts by the time they leave the classroom . . .the homework is pointless”- Heather Broos, Cnn.com


Parents should not get stressed over helping their children with homework but should rather take it in strides. As a teacher and private tutor, one of the things I encourage parents to do is, if they come across a concept that they do not know, instead of stressing over it, either tell their child to ask the teacher to explain more,  or they set up a meeting with the teacher. But in my classrooms, it was quite okay for homework to not be completed in that moment. However, not all classrooms are as lenient so here are some ideas to help children and families better cope with the realistic demand of homework.


Help for Parents and Families Trapped in Conflicts

3 Mistakes To Avoid

  1. Doing the Work. Parents should guide their children with homework and not give them the answers or do it for them. What is meant to be a learning process for children ends up being all too easy which leaves children without learning important skills on how to access information or even acquiring correct study skills.


  1. Allowing Shortcut Methods. With technology at our fingertips it is very easy to access information but having this simple access is often misused as parents log on to the internet to get answers to their children’s homework. Discourage children from going to Google to search for answers. If your child does not know the answer or how to solve a problem, chances are that the concept was not grasp correctly, therefore children should be encourage to speak with their teacher.

3 . Competing with the Teachers’ Methods. Moms and Dads, do not be afraid to let your child know that you do not  know the answer. And,  if while you’re trying to help, your child complains: “that is not how it is done by the teacher”,  sigh, don’t feel embarrassed, let them complete the assignment as for the teacher. Then, as soon as possible, make arrangement to talk with the teacher so that you are on the same page with how your child is taught. You will then have consistency which is important to a child’s learning pattern.

Parenting Homework Advice Walker Quote


Four Helpful Habits for Productive Homework Times

  1. Find A Good Location. Children should have a desk or sit around a table when doing homework. Try to cut out the distractions around. No television in the background or ipods on. Tablets and smartphones are used as work tools at homework time; engagement in text conversations and checking social media sites should be discouraged. Provide all the tools they need to work at their homework station.

Watch DIY Video: Make Homework Caddy by Home Organizing Alejandra 



2. Set A Consistent Schedule. Children should be encouraged to do homework at a certain times on weekdays and during the weekend. Avoid waiting until the last minute, i.e., late in the evening, late Sunday afternoon, or the day before the deadline. Procrastination stimulates more stress for both parents and children.

Read: 4 Steps to Stop Procrastination. Diane O’Reilly. (Teens with ADHD)

  1. Make Appropriate Accommodations. Children with learning disabilities should not be overwhelmed with all the homework at once. Rather, divide and introduce the homework in small portions at a time. For such children structure is very important and breaks should be given in between. For example, alternative methods of delivering the ideas of the homework might be considered – audio powerpoint presentation versus the traditional 4 page typed report.

(#adhd, #learningdisability)

Read More: Tools Help ADHD Kids with Homework

  1. Recognise & Seek Help If Needed. Always remember that you learn best by doing and children need to learn how to learn. If helping your child with homework is stressful then seek help either from the teacher, a tutor, or another family member who may have more patience. Occasionally, a child’s chronic struggle with homework may be a sign or symptom of a learning disability, or a deeper level emotional issues of perfectionism or performance anxiety. While there are self-help references for parents to support school-aged children with perfectionism, such as Leah Davies, Perfectionism in Children. However, the delicate process of unpacking the underlying web of beliefs associated with the fear of failure often requires interventions led by a child or teen therapist (cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness).



The essence of homework should be to practice and build on concepts learned. It should not be a burden or should not be stressful to children.

About Author:

Charmaine Walker is an educator, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She may be found on Twitter or LinkedIn.



Bonus Additional Information – T. Bryan

Where to Get Local Homework Help for Kids

The struggles with homework for children and parents have been recognised and there are now many services in your community that help families, both paid and free. These include professional individual tutors, small group tutoring programs, volunteer individual help. Please do your own research on the credibility of all tutoring services. Below we mention some local Canadian services in Edmonton & Beaumont.

In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

# Edmonton Public Schools – Study Buddy Program

# Edmonton Public Library. Their interactive website has tools to help kids – Online Resources – homework help. Check out the availability of quiet reading or study rooms at Riverbend in Terwillegar. There is also the Reading Buddies Program – available for kids in grades 2-4 where reading support is provided by high school kids.

In Beaumont, Alberta, Canada

Beaumont Library




Help for Families Canada offers counselling support for children struggling at school. With the application of various play therapy techniques, your child will have improved study and organisational skills and become an independent, more confident, and better performing student. Parents will also receive coaching in how to get more cooperation from their child (addressing the homework conflicts and beyond).  


Email Counsellor Edmonton


Homework without Tears -Lee Canter

An older book but very useful, classic information.


 2018-2019 Academic Student Planner


Posted in Parenting, Parenting 6-12, Parenting Teens | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

How This Mom Makes Her Kids Get Along

Parenting Advice to Reduce Sibling Conflict 

Parenting Advice Sibling Conflict

Source: Unsplash -Brandon Morgan

Guest Post Author: Ellie Hirsch  

Ellie Hirsch is the founder of MommyMasters.com, a resource


Posted in General Family, Parenting 6-12, Parenting Teens | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unmasking Money Problems In Relationships

Discovering What The Fights Are REALLY About.

Masked couple -Standard png

Conflict can be deceptive. Intense, frequent, irresolvable fights in a marriage relationship may cause feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, and hurt. According to CBC News, 2010, 40% of Canadian marriages end in divorce. Money problems is one of the most frequently reported contributor to marital breakdown in many studies. (This applies to those with lots of money as well as those with little). When couples’ fights about money escalate and persist they may feel hopeless. They can mistakenly focus on the dollars and cents thinking, … “If we can get this debt down, we will be happy again”. Or, “If they will stop spending out the money, we would have enough to enjoy our lives”. They blame the money. Some couples do resolve the money issue and still find themselves in divorce. What if money is not the problem?

 #money #love


Money Problem Rationale


Hidden Sources of Conflict

People, and therefore the relationships they form, are very complex. Things are rarely as they appear. As a counselor I have seen couples who come in complaining that they fight all the time. “What do you fight about?” I ask curiously. “Money” they state in chorus. However on further exploration of how the arguments occur I uncover that there are often other problems underscoring a couples disputes about money. The following are some of my own observations.

1. Unresolved baggage.

Individuals bring values about money and finances from previous experiences within former relationships, whether a former partner or their own parents. In this case the distrust does not originate from any actual action, belief, or values of their present partner. An expectation is projected onto a loved one based on another’s actions. It is like holding an innocent party accountable for another’s crime. The fears are real, but sadly so is the jail around the accused; this punished party may feel enslaved by guilt they cannot resolve. It inevitably drives a wedge in the relationship.

2. Power difference.

There might be a difference in the power to influence the decisions within the relationship. One person has a stronger voice, or their actions are less questionable than the other. Sadly, many women fail to recognise that monetary control is one form of spousal abuse. If every dollar that you spend is regulated and rigidly monitored, that’s a big red flag. Men, if your wife is frequently buying designer handbags at over $1K each racking up your credit card debt in the process, and she persists regardless of your expressed displeasure, she is definitely in control in your relationship.

In some instances spending is one partner’s way of reclaiming their personal power in the relationship. Have you ever gone revenge shopping? No judgement here because this is a widespread practise. Once, a lot earlier in their marriage, Joy (alias) was so hurt by her husband’s actions that she went out to a high end store (one where she’d never shop at) and bought 2 leather jackets and a handbag. While charging it at the cashier, she felt recompensed as she thought “There… you pay for that”.

Partners are not living from the power of being securely loved by an equally valued partner. The aim is not to perpetuate a cycle of domination but to find ways for each person’s voice to be heard and valued,  strengths to be incorporated into the relationship with a culture of “we” instead of I vs You.


3. Low Faith in Relationship Sustainability.

Someone is reluctant to share or partner equitably with the other because there is an underlying fear that the relationship will not last. Persons whose parents had a bitter divorce or who previously experienced a torn relationship may be vulnerable to these feelings of doubt.

4. Low Trust or Belief in Partner’s Financial Competence.

Simply, one partner does not trust the other with money. This could be because of their partner’s history of gambling, or high accumulated debt, a perceived irresponsibility to pay their own bills on time, or a perception of their ‘over-spending’. The root of this condition may be a real, evidence based problem, or it could be a matter of perception of the differences in money values.  Scott & Bethany Palmer talk about 5 different personalities that people have regarding their values with money (saving, spending, risk taking, security, and the casual flyer). Effort to conform a partner to another’s personality is commonly met with resistance. Seek to find and focus on your partner’s strengths and avenues in which they have grown financially.

5. Unforgiveness.

Commonly this springs from the other partner’s previous errors of money judgement or mistakes. For example, s/he quickly invested in a quick-rich scam which cost you substantial loss or the memory of the cost of funding their now resolved addictive habit (drugs, gambling). The innocent partner is still holding on to the feelings of distrust and blame for the previous incident(s). Forgive. (Often this is hard and you may need support, reach for it).

6. Unmet Emotional Needs.

Sometimes stuff is used to fill the emptiness and void in the heart. There are many ways in which people receive love and appreciation and when our partners’ emotional needs are not being met they seek to fill the gap with other things. In many married relationships this can become an unbalanced focus on the kids, striving in ones career, or sometimes spending money on desirable items. There is a thrill or “high” that is experienced when one is shopping. This dynamic is one of the most challenging to admit to. To reveal my emotional unhappiness is to risk your rejection and judgement, the pain of that exposed rejection is more than the pain of living with the quiet sorrow with being unfulfilled in our relationship.


Relationship Advice

Each of these conditions is highly complex and I could not begin to address real solutions in a brief article. (Wait, don’t search “South Edmonton’s divorce lawyers” just yet). The purpose of this post is to increase your awareness of some underlying issues that are commonly unrecognised in a relationship. Many couples only see that they are fighting about money and not see what the fights about money are really about. The best recommended remedy for these relationship issues is to seek individual or couples counselling. While couples counseling might be best, and most efficient, it is sometimes difficult to agree upon or arrange.  If you are recognising these issues in your relationship and you are motivated to be a source of growth and change, it could be beneficial to talk  with a therapist yourself.

#relationship #counselling

Quote-Couples Fight Money -Whats Really Problem


Actions You Can Take NOW.

While you wait for your scheduled appointment with your counsellor here are a few things you can do.

  1. Read together the book: Smart Couples Finish Rich- David Bach. (Edmonton Public library has e-book and print copies).
  2. Connect with The Money Couple – Scott & Bethany Palmer. Their website has great resources for couples dealing with financial differences and difficulties.
  3. Browse our Facebook posts & Notes on Family Money Tips for more practical advice on how to budget, monitor funds, save more money, debt reduction, apps to help with money management, etc.

4. SUBSCRIBE to this Blog to continue to receive tips and tools to help you …                                Build a Happy, Healthy and Successful Family.


Help for Families Canada serves South Edmonton – Summerside, Ellerslie, Heritage Valley,  Terwillegar,  Beaumont & Leduc. We offer counseling appointments in the evenings and Saturdays.

Child Play Therapy, Parenting

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Winter Family Fun


Parents & Kids Enjoying Winter  Together – A Customised Guide

Winter walk city

Snow, Sub-zero winter for 6 moths a year. Not all family members love that. According to Environmental Canada, snow fall can occur from October to April. Temperatures can range from 10degrees to -35degrees. Darkness is a companion. Many individuals become inflicted by lower motivation and energy, rallying family members to get together may require more creativity. Yet, there are numerous activities you can do with your family to have fun and bond together. Here I suggest activities for all types of interests in the family. Gardner developed the multiple intelligence model to help build awareness of the different ways children learn based on their natural interests and learning style. I used this 8 multiple intelligences model to develop  family fun activities which are relevant to your family members. My hope is to help you avoid that whine, “That’s boring, I don’t want to do that”. (Feel free to scroll through to your children).


Family Fun with your Physically Active Children

  • Build a model together. Visit your local hobby or craft shops for model kits – pieces for cars, places, buildings, etc. Or, you can carve out a car or plane with soft wood. Adding a new peice every year becomes a proud collection to display. Later, it may become an heirloom to display and pass on to your kids when they grow up.


  •  Visit the indoor rock-climbing facility for some active fun together. (In South Edmonton: Vertically Inclined Rock Gym)


  •  Visit an indoor amusement park (here in Edmonton we have Galaxyland). Alternatively you may visit a neighbourhood indoor play centre (e.g. Play Gym in Summerside, Ellerslie), book time at the local recreational centre gymnasium for an hour family hoops. Some community recreational centres  (e.g., Terwillegar) have drop in/ playrooms too.


Coming soon : Oudoor winter family fun

Family Fun With Your Social Children

  • Have them help host a family (or family & best friend) themed party for the holidays. It could be Boxing Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, the last Saturday night of the holidays, whatever time works for you.
  •  Play family party games: Charades, Taboo, Cranium, & Pictionary, are just some of my favourites. I am sure you kids have ideas for other trendy party games so be sure to ask for their input. Maybe select a family member to chair family game night on a rotational schedule.
  •  Take your child out on a one-one date. It could be to the local coffee shop for hot chocolate or checking out the latest released movie at the cinema.



Fun With Your Talkative/Expressive Child

  •  Take your children out for a night-time drive to look at the holiday lights and displays. Engage in and enjoy the conversations that emerge (or that you, well,… initiate).


  • Read aloud a classic or contemporary book. Read a chapter or 2 together aloud at night before bedtime. (Trust me, even the disengaged teenager, warms up to listening to a good story, but keep your expectations low, s/he is not gonna “show” it). Some of my favourites are: Anne of Green Gables, Little Woman, Chronicles of Narnia, Oliver Twist, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and The Christmas Carol. Ask your local librarian for suggestions. I recommend if you want to borrow the book from the library to place it on hold. (The last 2 years my family has been reading from the Chronicles of Narnia, I always have to place on early hold on the book at the library. Preview the book first before introducing it to the family. One year I brought in Treasure Island but the old-sailor-english was impossible for us to follow, even though it was a good story. That’s the teacher in me)

Family Fun With Your Analytic, Systematic Child

  • Visit your local hobby shop or bookstore and purchase a logic puzzle book for the season. You can solve puzzles together. If you are competitive (which is okay to be) you may purchase multiple copies of the same book and race to see who solves the puzzle first.


  •  Recruit your logical/analytical child to help support your social child in planning any family gathering parties.


  •  Play strategic games together. Some great traditional board game are Chess, Mancala, Monopoly, and Chineese Checkers. Many of these are available as apps. Two cool websites to check for online smart games are coolmath-games.com and sheppardsoftware.com.  Two other apps you may check out are Unblockme and Elevate.

Coming soon related: Family time apps


Family Fun  With Your Musical Child

  • Create a CD of your favourite holiday or Christmas songs. Host a Holiday Karaoke party.
  • Attend a Christmas pageant or play at a local church or school. If you have teenagers you might consider visiting a show in a distant, unfamiliar neighbourhood. Try this to avoid losing your family time to your teenagers’ friends.
  • Re-compose a favourite holiday song as a rap, country or a reggae tune. This is especially fun if you incorporate musical instruments. (An electrical keyboard often comes pre-programed with beats representing various styles of music – NO musical talent required – I don’t have any myself ).

Family  Fun With  Your Artistic Child

  • Make your own ornaments together. It may be as simple as cutting out shapes from foam sheets  and stringing it with pipe-cleaners (from dollarstore). Craft stores also offer a range of wood-cut outs, papermache or ceramic ornaments to personalise.
  •   Create a snow-globe together. Each person places an item in the globe which represents a special memory they had with the family this year. This memorabilia can be made of modelling clay.
  •  Create a holiday scrapbook or blog. Take pictures of special events and experiences over the season. You can create a few scrapbook pages with printed pictures, or you can create a family digital album. Dedicate a time every year to look over previous holiday memories.


Family Fun with Reflective/Service Oriented Child


  •  Volunteer with a shelter or food bank to help pack hampers for families.
  •  Celebrate Positivity & Kindness – encourage conversations where family members share a story about something inspirational or encouraging to them. It could be a quote, a story of someone else act of kindness, or an experience they had helping someone recently. Sit around in a circle and pass around a symbol which gives the holder sole speaking rights.
  • Family Ladder time – Ladders are symbolic of climbing towards reaching a desired item or goal. Winter is a great time to reflect on how our lives have unfolded in the last year and visualise about what you would like to become in the new year. Host a family meeting and invite each of your children and teenagers, and adults, to set goals for their personal development. Write each down on a 3X5 index card and post them on a foam-core board. In family therapy, I invite families to draw a ladder with 4 rungs representing every 90 days. In a family counselling session families review their goal cards and tell in honest accountability where they are in their journey (what challenges they’ve had, changes made, success stories). After each person shares they move themselves to the next rung. (Sharing a short version of one of my play therapy activities with you).

Fun  with your Nature Loving Child

  • Go for a nature walk, collecting your own greenery for homemade wreaths of garlands
  •  Go for a walk around your neighbourhood in the full-moon. Look up on almanac when the next full moon will be. Bring along a mug of hot chocolate.
  •  Collect the sand castle molds and shovels and go out in the snow and build snow castles.
  •  Sit by a park lake and watch the animals. Squirrels can be very entertaining, at least,… for a while. Or, if you have really young kids hunting for cloud pictures is always. Or, play a game of 10 questions with young teens.  The whole idea is to be outside enjoying nature together. Do whatever you love to do together.

Final Thoughts.

Our children have naturally different interests, as wise parents we will try to consider their individuality in planning family time with them. If you have more than 4 children you might need to have multiple activities in a family time, or have family times more frequently. It is impossible to please everybody all of the time but do try to please everyone at least once in awhile. It will go a long way to helping build a sense of belonging, reduce conflict, and protect your family from needing interventions from counselling professionals like myself.

For more  family fun ideas read some of our other posts

Share  your ideas, what do you do with your family in the winter  months? Do you have a child with special needs, how would  you adapt any of these to fit your family?


Help for Families Canada offers an one of a kind parenting program. We are passionate about helping families come together and enjoy each other more. Msg us if we could help you.


Posted in General Family, Parenting, Parenting 0-5, Parenting 6-12, Parenting Teens | Tagged , , | Leave a comment