Back To School Anxiety

Worries Your Teen May Have

Change is challenging for most of us. Youth face some important changes in their schooling journey. For a teen who struggles with anxiety, change is a major trigger for worries and other physiological behaviours. Teens may come for counselling during transitions from elementary to junior high and junior high to high school. Troublesome thoughts may also show up in transition from one grade to another. This post unveils for parents some of the most common worries teens in transition bring up in therapy. Then learn some practical mental heath strategies you as a parent can immediatly start using to support your child to better cope and access more peace.

Troublesome Thoughts Parents May Not Know About

  • Who are the kids in the new classes and will they be able to make a place to belong and make friends
  • Will I get lost in the new building or campus in the first few days or weeks to find my classes/activities? 
  • Will I get along with my new teachers?
  • How will I manage the new routines and rules? What if I forget a routine and I get in trouble for not doing things as expected?
  • How will I make friends when there are so many students? How will I know who is safe to approach and talk to? What if I try to talk to someone or a new group and they ignore me?
  • Who will I sit beside on the first day of classes?
  • What will the others think of me as the new kid in school? Will I make a good impression?
  • What if the teachers at the new school give a lot of homework and I am not able to keep up? What are the consequences that will happen to me if I start falling behind on assignments and I am not able to catch up? Will the teachers punish me? Will my parents punish me?
  • What if I get targeted by bullies at this new school? What if bullies make my life miserable all year long? How will I be able to get help or get out of that situation?
  • Will the school/teachers be accepting and accommodating to my special needs (eg. ADHD)? I know they may talk about it and write it out in documents, but what if in everyday classes no accommodations are activated? What if I fail because the support I need is not there?
  • What if the bad experiences I had at my last school continue, or get worse, at this school? What  if my hopes of positive change are shattered?

Parent Coaching – Steps To Help Anxious Child/Teen

What I do NOT want you to do from this list of worries is for them to incite you into higher anxiety about your child. Instead I recommend the following parenting tips.

Be Mindful of Potential School Anxiety

This is a very busy time of year for us as parents. This summer we may have had vacation plans to make and execute, found activities and programs in which to enroll our children as we fought off the summer monster “boredom”, and now later in the summer we are doing back to school shopping. It is very easy to be distracted by the doing of responsible things that we miss the feelings of the kids in the season.

Check-In with Curiosity

Worrying is a process that centers in the mind. It has been my experience as a child-youth therapist that some tweens and teens are very good at not displaying outwardly their anxiety to others. I have observed in building rapport in my counselling role  that for some youth an indirect checkin is best, conversely,  others  are eagerly waiting for someone to ask them directly so that they sense they have permission to talk about it

Indirect Check-Ins

“What are your friends’ feelings and thoughts related to starting a new school year or going to a new school? How do you think this year may go for you?

Direct Ways to Check in

Change and going into something new and unknown can bring up some nervousness and worries. Do you have any worries about the changes you may face as you go to a new school or start a new school year?

Or  even more direct:Use one of the worries mentioned about and ask specifically about it.

 “Do you worry about what your teachers will be like this year and if you will get along with them?”

“Do you worry about not finding a way into the friendship groups in your new class/grade?” 

Help Child Calm Using Breathing Techniques

The first breathing technique I might teach is scented square breathing.

Using a pleasant scented candle or aromatherapy roll-on . The teen breathes in for 4, holds for 4, exhale for 4, inhale for 4, hold for 4, and exhale for 4.  I have adapted this approach with adolescents and removed the hold after the exhale as many just learning deep breathing techniques find the empty lungs hold to be very difficult.

The Center for Adolescent Studies published a simple breathing technique that is simple to learn and do. They referred to it as “The Shoulder Shrug

Shoulder Shrugs

“Roll your shoulders back and down so they are away from your ears. Breathe deeply in through your nose as you raise your shoulders up by your ears.

Breath out and lower your shoulders.

Repeat movement 3-5 times and feel the tension melt away.”

Center for Adolescent Studies

A CBT Strategy That Reduce Youth Worries

“Flip That Thought” – Re Catastrophising

Often adolescents, and adults too, can get caught in the thinking trap of catastrophizing – that is thinking about the worse case scenario as if it is destined to be true. A simple way I teach youth to challenge this thinking is to flip the thought.

What if a bad/worse thing happened? What could you do to cope with it?


What if good/great things happened? What would you do with your success?

Worse Case Scenario ;

 What if no one talked to you in the first week of school? How could you plan to deal with time alone so that you feel more okay about it?

Flipped That Thought To

Best Case Scenario:

What if a number of people talked to you and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know you? What if a few of these new acquaintances turn out to be your good friends?

It is not impossible for disappointing and hurtful things to happen, but it is equally as likely that good things can happen to us as well. We can choose to focus on thinking about positive anticipation to lower our anxieties.

Self Care for Parents with Child with ADHD

7 Strategies to Keep Your Mental Health Needs in Focus

Titlepic Blogpost Parenting ADD Kids Moms and Dads

1. Get Informed

ADHD is a very complex disorder. It’s not simply about being hyper and distractible. If you are stuck in this simplistic view as a parent you are prone to perpetual frustration and worse manipulations by “others”. There is so much diversity in how this condition can look and demonstrate itself in a child. You will have to learn about ADHD in your unique child. 

There are several disciplinary areas of ADHD. There are the health and medical aspects, there are the education aspects, there are the relationships aspects, there are even people talking from a spiritual context about ADHD. Some of these or all of these may be relevant to your child. 

Why is information important to self-care?:  

  • You are an intelligent being, learning new information and skills is stimulating to your own brain and personal development. 
  • Your knowledge enhances your understanding and critical evaluation of the expertise of others. Not everything is right for you or your child, or your family. 
  • Your knowledge will empower you to communicate your needs or expectations confidently and clearly to others about your child or family. When you know what you are talking about, more people will listen. 
Wellness Parenting ADHD Kids Advice Counselling

Let’s Talk About Supporting You

2. Invest in Friendship with other Parents of ADHD Kids

One of the biggest unspoken barriers to having a supportive community around yourself and your child is the discomfort or intolerance others in your circle reacts with towards your child’s atypical behaviours. It is exhausting work to constantly explain and defend your child to others. Being with peers who are familiar with the lived experience of ADHD and raising a child with ADHD is an emotional comfort.  These families are sometimes reported to be more accepting, more supportive, more empowering, and just more relaxing to be with. Relaxed to be with, not just for you, but for your child to be with too. You need that for you. 

3. Get Childcare or Respite Regularly

“I’m so stressed out because I can’t get or keep a babysitter because my child’s oppositional behaviours are more than others can tolerate,” you might be saying to yourself.  I know, I understand. I know families whose children have been expelled from daycares, had babysitters quit mid shift on the first day, etc. 

What I want to suggest is you search or recruit from a different source. Persons who have been more successful working in respite or childcare are those who: 

  • Have specialised training, like nursing students, psychology or education students
  • Are mature but active adult age who can meet up to the physical demands of your hyperactive child. 
  • Have siblings, other family members, or close friends who also have special needs
  • Are paid well and treated with kindness and appreciation. Don’t be impersonal and aloof. Treat them as life-saving personnel. 
  • Are other moms of ADHD kids who are willing to do childcare swaps. 

4. Establish A Grounding Mourning Routine for Yourself

Wake up 15 minutes early and give yourself some time for personal self-care before any interaction with the children. This should give you more power to go through your days. 

5. Exercise. Get More Active

Exercise is one of the most powerful self help habits you can develop. It is not just about losing weight and looking good. The greater benefit of exercise is feeling good. 

  • Fact 1: Exercise increases the release of “happy” hormones that can causes you to feel more satisfied and positive about life. 
  • Fact 2: Exercise reduces the negative stress related hormones which are associated with depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and insomnia. 

Stop using the mirror or the scale as an indicator to exercise.  Start being mindful of your mood. 

Mom & Dad Parenting Tips Quote Tania Bryan

6. Ask Special Needs Child & Family for More Contribution

Children with ADHD or other special needs can develop a self-concept that they are always the ones in need, that others need to support them. Sometimes  parents can get locked in this frame too causing us to overwork ourselves in the caregiving role. One of the best things you can do to reduce your own feelings of overwhelm is to start enrolling the assistance of others. Make requests like “Can you plan what you want for snacks this week?” “Can you load the dishwasher?” “Please help your sister Mary with her project.”

Sometimes a simple admission of limitedness  and vulnerability can inspire the troops.

“I’m feeling so tired this evening, what can you do to help me get the dinner done so that we can have movie night earlier?” ( I understand you make talk and talk and talk about your needs and this frustration can cause some cynicism. However the asking often works better without any tone of cynicism or sarcasm )

Let’s Talk About Supporting You

7. Make Sleep a Priority

Laura, a stay at home mom of 3,  has just had her last battle of the day getting her sons to fall asleep. Matt, the eldest, who has ADHD went through the expected resistances. She turns off the room lights and walks into her own bedroom. She is exhausted but instead of falling off to sleep she is restless, wired, unable to relax.  This is the routine for many parents who push through in survival mode all day. (Coaching moms to find their night-time calm is part of Help for Families Canada Self-Care course).

3 Sleep Secrets To Fall Asleep Easier

For you I’ll open up and share 3 of our most popular wind down secrets:

  • Use your bed only for sleep and intimacy. Do not use your bed as your work, thinking, reflecting, mentally planning space. Do that somewhere else then go to bed. 
  • Invest in high quality aromatherapy. Scents like lavender are helpful for most, but you might have another scent that is soothing for you. Some stores have pillow sprays.
  • Routinise a cool evening bath or shower every-night. Some moms make it a special spa-time. They may use their special bath soups or salts, maybe play some of your favourite soothing music, light a scented candle. You do not have to do that every night, that may add to your stress, which defeats the purpose. There is a key factor that I must highlight – night-time showers should be cool instead of warm because increasing body temperature increasing alertness.

Poster Wellness for High Stressed Moms

Self-care is not selfish. Also, self care is not an abstract idea trending in social media spaces. Care is an active word. You don’t have to implement any of my ideas. There are an overabundance of posts about self-care online, but, do something!   What small action are you ready to take this week to take better care of you? 

Challenge a friend  or your local ADHD parents support group by sharing this with them. 

SHARE – Someone’s sanity could benefit

Help for Families Canada provides counselling for children and youth who struggle with ADHD. Additional services are specific to parents to empower them to be the best support for their child at home and advocate for them in the community. 

Building A Family Culture of Gratitude

Parenting Tips to Change Whining & Begging to Acceptance & Appreciation

Parenting Grateful Children Parent Coaching Family Therapy
Boy Finding Gratitude in Simplicity – Source: Unsplash

Reverse the Discontent. Materialism can become  a monster of the holiday season and with the intensification of marketing our children are especially vulnerable to the “Gimmies” (phrase by Stan Bernstein).  We know the truth: Dalai Lama states: “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘ Oh yes – I already have everything I really need”. The Thanksgiving holidays has just passed when the talk and buzz about counting blessings were trending but how do we translate that season of mindfulness about being appreciative into our everyday lives for the very young to the mature in our families.   To change the culture of our families we must take action, small consistent actions that are embedded into our family life. Read on and get access to practical, easy  activities and printable resources you can implement today to have contented kids and a happier home.

A Personal Story Of Dealing With Discontented Children

Last week I went into a popular clothing store with my two kids aged 12 (son, N)  and 7 (daughter ,A) to buy my daughter the costume for her #Christmas #play performance. I set the stage from in the car, we are only going in for 15 minutes, and I am only buying the one item today. “But mom, you are always buying nice clothes for A, the clothes you buy for me is crappy”, said my son out loud as he opens the door for us and another customer to enter the store. While in the section looking for the intended item, N comes over with a hoodie, “Can I get this?”. “Why won’t you buy me anything?”  Two minutes latter, “What about this one, I can wear it to school”. “I need a new sweater”. “You only buy nice clothes for yourself”. These rants went on and on until I cashed out and went back to the car, where I responded to him. Let’s go back and give you a perspective. The week prior I bought N a new pair of brand names sneakers while I was browsing a store by myself. The sweater hoodie he lives in and  was wearing on his back during this rant, was bought by moi.

The repetition of this kind of interaction is hurtful. It is one thing when they ask for an item. But when my child starts making critical statements about my character it stings. I am not neglectful, I am not insensitive, I am not discriminating. I give the best I can to both my kids, like most of us do, but memory is very selective (grunt).

  • “Why can’t they just be appreciative?”
  • “Why can’t they play with the toys they have asked for previously and now discard in a corner in their room?
  • “Why can’t they see that their closets are enough?”

  If you have had similar experiences and (internal) reactions, read on.    

Yearlong Activities For Moms and Dads To Foster More Thankfulness

1 Make or buy and send personalised thank you cards.

Develop a practise that whenever someone receives a gift or a kind gesture to encourage individuals to express appreciation via writing a personalized card. The cards may be DIY or purchased, it your choice.

2: Inspirational Reading.

Read books out loud  together about characters who demonstrate gratitude. Below in the Resources you will find some links to books for toddlers to middle schoolers.

3 Journalling.

Depending on the age of your children each person may hold an individual journal or hold a big collective journal. A half blank and half lined exercise book is a simple adaptation of a journal for 3-6 year olds where they draw pictures and dictate their words. Below in the Resources you’ll find a #printable 12 Week Calendar of Prompts.

4 Blessing Scrap Book

Memorialize great events in a scrapbook. Store pictures, ticket stubs, certificates, report cards, etc.

5 Family Community Service.

At the time of the year where the focus shifts to consumerism your child and teen can get caught in the “mommy I want”. Mommy please buy me…” This is the time to engage in a family in volunteering in your local community. Spend an afternoon at the food bank distributing food to the many families who use the service. Visit a shelter. It you do like going out and doing something, do a project at home and deliver or bring a charity or non-profit of  your choice. Create a hamper for donation with all family members making or buying a select items for inclusion.  

6 Incorporate Social Media- Share #Thankful Thursdays.

If you have teenagers, set one designated Thursday per month as family Thankful Thursday. Share on your social media your appreciation publicly, tag each other, if they will permit that.

For younger kids you adapt other ways to do #TT. You can select books to read together or out loud  the promote the value of gratitude. Discuss how you can be inspired by the stories.

Below are some suggestions of books. (You can purchase direct from Amazon by clicking on link)

7. Grab bag of Appreciation

For family dinners and parties with friends collect names of attending guests in a party bag. If your kids are crafty or artistic they may enjoy designing & making name cards for the bag. When guests arrive they select a name. On the card allow space for guest to think  ahead and make notes  of responses regarding the identified person  After dinner or at a later designated time everyone takes turn sharing an appreciated sentiment about the named person.

 Suggestions include

A happy memory I have about …..

….. is very good at  …..

… is helpful to others by ….

A universal mission  of all parents is to raise happy healthy children  For gratitude to have it’s full effects on optimising happiness  it must be habitual. The habit of gratitude is a protective factor  for many adverse circumstances that could crash into your the lives  of your children and family. It’s starts with your leadership. Make a commitment today to at least one action, discuss it this weekend, start next week.


DOWNLOAD Printable Calendar(pdf) – 12 weeks of Gratitude Conversation Starters & Journalling Prompts

4 Apps for Grateful Meditations My Counselling Clients Appreciate

  • Bliss
  • Insight Timer
  • Unique Daily Affirmations
  • Gratefulness

Read Aloud Books

Books For Toddlers & Preschoolers to Learn to Give Thanks

The Thankful Book – Todd Parr

Picture Book Resource About Thankfulness

Hardcover Kindle

Books for School Aged Kids to be Mindful to Count Their Blessings

Maddi’s Fridge –

School Age Kids Book about gratitude

Hardcover Kindle

Those Shoes –

School Age Books about Gratitude

Paperback Kindle

Books for Junior High Tweens to Promote Positivity

Out of My Mind

Book about Appreciation for Middle School Aged Teens


Novel about being appreciative faith for youth counselling

Kids Theme Song – Attitude of Gratitude by the Swinging Bells

Video – 3 Keys to Unlocking Gratitude – Ted X Talk – Jane Random (20 min)


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We can help walk with YOU through this journey of transforming your family’s lifestyle. EMAIL US. Let’s Talk

Loss Deeply Impacts Children’s Wellbeing

How to Support When A Family Member Dies

Grief Counselling Children-unsplash
Source: Unsplash – Supporting A Child After Loss of Loved One

Death is final.  Young children do not understand the idea of death but they do feel the pain. The challenge is often young children do not express their pain as adults do. This makes caring for and supporting a grieving child to be a confusing challenge for some caregivers. This post offers you a clearer understanding of how grief and loss impacts younger children so that you can be a stronger support. But, we start by recognising that there are many other ways children in your life and around you are dealing with some degree of loss. Can you help them? Yes. Read and watch: learn how to.

Types Of Loss and Grief Children Experience

Counselling Kids after death in family Loss of a parent – divorce or separation

Counselling Kids after death in family Death of a parent, sibling or family member

Counselling Kids after death in family Loss or death of a family pet

Counselling Kids after death in family Loss of opportunity to share future life milestones with their lost loved one.

Counselling Kids after death in family Loss of familiarity and belonging in community when families move

Counselling Kids after death in family Loss of connection to a friend because of distance or conflict in relationship

Counselling Kids after death in family Loss of togetherness of family for special events post divorce

Counselling Kids after death in family Foster kids lose the sense of identity and family practices from birth families

Counselling Kids after death in family  Access to memorable objects that are left behind or destroyed

The Tasks of Grief Recovery

Healing through the grief process is a complicated journey, but experts have identified that along the journey there are 4 key challenges many will face.

T =  To Accept the reality of the loss

E – Experience the pain of the loss

A = Adjust to the new environment without the person

R = Reinvest in the new reality

Children Talking about Grieving After Death of Family Member

A wonderfully produced video produced by CBS station, hosted by Katie Couric. If you don’t know her story Katie’s husband died when her children were still very young. She, like many others, had to grow to learn how to survive through her own pain while supporting her children.

Key Learnings from Video on How to Support Children after a Death

  • Its not possible, as a parent, to protect children from ever feeling pain.
  • 1/20 children will lose at least 1 parent or sibling by the time they are 15 years old
  • Children want an answer for “where did the deceased loved one go?” Very young children struggle to understand the finality of death.
  • Children need to be told the truth. Use the hard “D-Word”. The person has died, s/he is dead. Avoid language like “passed”, “gone to sleep and didn’t wake up”, “lost”, etc.
  • Understand that children have a range of emotional reactions to death. They will express sadness, they will express anger, confusion, and even “the appearance of happiness”. Dr Silverman states that children may laugh or smile, in what she calls the “fear-grin” reaction, they are frightened but do not know how to express it.

Recommended Storybooks for Parents To Read with Children

As a child therapist I often use storybooks in my play therapy practise to help kids understand the language around death, normalise different feelings, and identify ways to think about the loss and cope better.  I am sharing with you three of my favourites in the bereavement theme. You can make a quick purchase from Amazon by clicking on picture.

Book for kids dealing with death -dinosaurs       Its hard dealing with death - hide feelings        I Miss You                         

Why You Might Want to Get Counselling for A Child

When a family member dies, the adults in the family may be overwhelmed by their own grief and experience great difficulty in whole-heartedly supporting a child too. It might be a benefit for your child to have a neutral party to come alongside and walk with them through their grief journey. A professional counsellor will not be triggered emotionally by the child’s emotions and behaviour, and have the skills and tools to engage a child at their developmental level.

Continue reading “Loss Deeply Impacts Children’s Wellbeing”

Get the Most from Parent-Teacher Meetings

-How to not feel like it’s a waste of time

Parent Teacher School Relationships Support YEG

When your first child goes to school, the invitation to go to “Back to School Nights” “Meet the Teacher” is exciting, but that can wane as the school years increase. As many children advance through the elementary years into high school, attendance at parent-teacher conferences often declines. There are many reasons why this might be the case. Sometimes parents just don’t feel like it is useful. To counter this I would like to offer some topics to explore during your conversation with your child’s teacher that might help you get more out of the time. Go into the meeting knowing what you want to get out of it.

Talking to Your Child’s Classroom Teacher


How does this teacher prefer to communicate with you and to receive communication from you? Discuss what works and does not work well for your family.

Curriculum –

What will your child be learning this year? How will assessments be done to verify that s/he is learning? Be sure to let the teacher know if there are topics that are of special interest to your child. “Do you have any expertise in any of these topics?” – this might be a good avenue to volunteer and serve the school community.


How much homework will be given? How will the assignments be communicated? What are the consequences of missed assignments? In some classrooms assignments count as a portion of your child’s grades.  How does your teacher see your role as a parent in homework supervision? Read More: The Stressed Parent’s Guide To Homework Without War 

Classroom Discipline.

What are the primary rules in the classroom? How will the teacher recognise positive behaviours as well as manage inappropriate behaviours? If you know your child is prone to acting up inappropriately don’t gloss over it. It is more productive for your family to engage your teacher early in open conversation about your child’s challenges. Be sure to let the teacher know 2 strategies that work well for these behaviours at home. And/Or, you can ask him/her for advise, “how have you successfully dealt with _______________  in the past?” This will go a long way in building a collaborative supportive network for your child.

Parent Involvement –

How can you support your child’s learning at home? How can you support the classroom in the year? Maybe you can’t volunteer weekly but you can help at home with material prep. Or maybe you can help sponsor or coach a school’s extra-curricular program (sports, clubs, events, etc). Teachers often have an idea of the calendar of field trips for the year, or at least for the present term/semester. Ask if you can get a copy so that you can arrange your schedule in advance to attend. Children whose parents are more involved in their school life have been demonstrated to get better grades and are more successful in their adult years.

Accommodations & Supports.

If your child has a learning disability, #ADHD, a sensory processing disorder, #anxiety, or other areas of special needs this may be a primary issue for you. Don’t be afraid to ask, “how will you modify your teaching methods and pace to accomodate for my child’s unique learning needs?” “Are there supports in the school to facilitate my child’s potential to succeed at school?” These may include a special education teacher, a child psychologist or counselor, a parent tutor, a peer to peer mentoring program, access to occupational therapy, a reading specialist, psycho-educational testing,  etc. If your school or school district does not offer in house services ask your principal for referrals to community service providers. I am sad to say that if you do not ask these questions your child might not access supportive services. (As a former special education teacher this is a pain point for me). I have observed this too frequently with recent immigrant families who might not yet know the richness of supports in our Canadian education system.


Home School Connection

Parent involvement is a growing priority in many of our school boards. This is a good trend in education. Hosting parent-teacher meetings is only one of several ways to support the valuable home-school connection and parent-teacher partnerships. I hope this post will help you feel more equipped and confident to engage in your child’s school.

Related Resources for Families

How To Raise Kids Who Can Succeed

Surprising Tools Your Dollar Store Has To Help With Homework

At Help for Families Canada we provide counselling for kids who are struggling in school – whether it is academically or socially or both. I am well equipped to support children who have a #learningdisability, #ADHD, or other special needs. We also work collaborately with classroom teachers and child-care services so that we are all on the same plan. 

Look at our Child & Adolescent Counselling Services to find out more. 


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

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:                  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

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)

2) 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

    • Ask self “what can I do when I’m not getting along with others?”  

3) 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).  

4) 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

5) 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.

Tania Bryan -Help for Families Canada.

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

6) 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 

7) 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 .

8. 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 & 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.  

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

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 to a therapist.


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