Parenting/Family – HelpMeSara Sara Dimerman - Psychologist, Author & Parenting/Relationship Expert to the Media Fri, 12 Apr 2019 03:25:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How To Influence Your Kids for Good Tue, 25 Aug 2015 19:21:16 +0000 If you’re like most parents, you worry about the future. You’re afraid that your disrespectful twelve-year-old will become a juvenile delinquent or that your defiant eight-year-old will become even more difficult to manage as a teenager. You also worry about how to remain the most influential person in your child’s life, and sometimes about whether or not you have lost your influence altogether. You work hard at being a positive role model and being “good” in so many ways, but wonder if what you’re doing and saying is making a difference.

In How to Influence Your Kids for Good, Sara Dimerman shares her practical and effective step-by-step plan that will help you bring your family together, improve communication, and unlock the very best in your children and yourself.

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Character is the Key Tue, 06 Mar 2012 22:54:09 +0000 Would you like to see your children:

  • Taking greater initiative at home and school?
  • Able to put themselves in others’ shoes?
  • Taking more responsibility for their actions?
  • Valuing togetherness as a family and wanting to spend more time with you?
  • Consistently treating peers, adults and themselves with respect?
  • Being honest even when the truth is difficult to share?
  • Courageously facing fears and persisting through challenges?
  • Less influenced by negative peer pressure and able to stand up for what they believe in?

Then Character is the Key is the book you need!

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Confessions from a bubble wrapping mother Wed, 01 Feb 2012 17:26:46 +0000 Ok. I admit to bubble wrapping my kids. But in my defense, I also work really hard at considering how much of me saying “no” is fuelled by separation anxiety versus what makes logical sense.

When I was conducting research for my first book, “Am I a normal parent?” I asked parents whether they worried about being neurotic about their children’s safety and well being. Even though I felt reassured that I wasn’t alone – over sixty percent of the parents I interviewed around the world felt the same – I still worried about what the impact of keeping my kids too close might have on their growth and development.

Enter Lenore Skenazy to give me even more food for thought. She was dubbed as the “world’s worst mom” after she let her nine year old son ride the New York subway home alone and then wrote about it in her column in the New York Sun in 2008. Fast forward several years and this mom has become an “expert” on letting kids go. With a parenting book and TV shows under her belt, Ms Skenazy is working at helping parents (and their children) move towards increased self confidence and independence. And my twelve year old daughter loves her for it!

I must admit to being sceptical – and maybe even a little afraid – when I first watched her show with my daughter. I wondered how I could trust the “world’s worst mom” to educate me on letting go. Of course, her show reveals the most extreme cases, but still…to my surprise, I am learning. And my daughter is thrilled.

Soon after watching the show, during which petrified parents were helped to allow their tween children to work in the kitchen unsupervised, Chloe was inspired. She has stirred up a batch of muffins every week since. And she’s really good at it – even using the oven and washing up after herself. But then again….I’ve never really had an issue with her becoming more independent around our home.

But outside the house is another story. For example, she’s pushed to go to the mall without adult supervision for a while now. I recall when parents completed the questionnaire for the aforementioned book and responded to an age at which they felt comfortable with their child being in the mall without adult supervision. The youngest age was ten and the oldest was seventeen. Quite a range but I’m not convinced that it’s all about age. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable with a ten year old being unsupervised, but once a child is twelve or thirteen, it’s more about maturity, being aware of one’s surroundings and about having the life skills necessary to deal with the unexpected.

So I tried out my theory and encouraged by Ms. Skenazy, I allowed my twelve year old, Chloe, to spend a couple of hours alone in a familiar local mall with her friend, Jade, this past weekend. The deal was that her friend’s mom was going to be in the mall at the same time, that they were all going to have their cell phones on and that they were to agree on a designated meeting place and time.

An hour into their adventure, I received a frantic call from Chloe. Our conversation went something like this:
Chloe: (she sounded panicky) “Mom. Can you come get us? There’s a fire at the mall and we’ve been evacuated.”
Me: “Come on Chloe, stop pulling my leg. You’re just trying to freak me out because we’ve talked about what you would do in the case of a fire.”
Chloe: “No. I’m serious mom.”
And then I heard sirens in the background and knew that she wasn’t kidding. I asked where she was and if she had tried to reach Jade’s mother. She knew which exit they were at and had tried to connect with her friend’s mother unsuccessfully. I was pleased that they had responded exactly as they should. Despite observing some shoppers walking around the mall as if nothing had changed, and despite having left their coats in the car and knowing that they had to stand outside in freezing cold weather, they left the building and called me after not being able to reach the other mom.

Shortly thereafter, Jade’s mom reached them and they returned home to hot chocolate and lots to share. Chloe said that she was afraid that I would never let her go to the mall alone again. On the contrary, I told her. They had acted quickly and responsibly. Despite fears of being trampled by the crowds trying to make their way to the exits, of the threat of real fire and of standing outside in below zero temperature, they mostly maintained composure.

I certainly am grateful that there wasn’t a real fire but glad that the girls had this experience. It reassured me that in a crisis, Chloe knows how to handle herself. It also proved to her that I wasn’t crazy or overly neurotic to prepare her on how to handle emergency situations. I’ve always said that it isn’t just about being afraid that she might get lost or picked on by an older group of children, but about wanting to make sure that she was ready to cope under pressure in tricky situations. I am proud of Chloe and her friend Jade’s maturity to handle themselves as they did. And they are proud too.

Tips to consider when kids want more independence away from home:

  • Consider whether not letting go is more about your anxiety or whether your concern is logical and reasonable. Then stick with your decision.
  • It’s not just about age. Consider the child’s level of maturity, awareness of surroundings, ability to handle the unexpected.
  • Safety in numbers. Make sure that your child’s friend or group of friends are as mature and trustworthy as yours and that together, they can handle what comes their way.
  • Review “what if” scenarios to prepare your child for tricky situations before allowing increased independence
  • Don’t go from being with you to without you overnight. Wean off dependence in gradual steps.
  • Give your children credit and encouragement when they handle themselves appropriately. This will boost their self confidence
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A fresh start for 2012 – letting go of some mothering responsibilities Sun, 08 Jan 2012 13:58:02 +0000 A new year is a great excuse for starting fresh. My fresh start for 2012 is to begin the process of letting go of some of my mothering responsibilities. Now that my children are older (12 and twenty) and fully capable of making their own beds, for example, or bringing their laundry hampers into the basement, I’ve decided to step back so that they can step forward. After all, I remind myself, am I really doing them a favour in the long run by always doing for them what they can do for themselves.

I want to be clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “doing” for them. If my daughter is studying in her room, there’s nothing wrong with surprising her with a cup of hot chocolate and cookies, even though she can boil the kettle and make a snack herself. Nothing wrong with offering to drive her to a friend because it’s cold out and she’d otherwise have to take the bus. These are examples of ways I can show how much I care.  They differ, however, from feeling that I have to take responsibility because I think that it’s my obligation to do so or taking responsibility because I fear being blamed if I somehow don’t perform in a way that has become expected. It’s about doing because I want to, not because I feel I have to.

My first step back means that I have to make sure that both of the girls’ alarm clocks are in good working order and that they knew how to set them. Who am I kidding? They are more adept at making electronic things operational than I’ll ever be. My next step involves sharing my intentions with them. Not in a way that makes them feel as if they are being punished, but in a loving, caring way. So, I told them – “I love you guys and I certainly don’t want to see you being late for school, but I’m also tired of and stressed about having to nag you to get out of bed in the morning. So, I’m giving you advance warning that as of the first day of school I won’t be waking you up anymore. It will be your responsibility to set your alarm and get yourselves up with sufficient time to get out of the house on time. I figure that you are more than capable of doing that.”

The response wasn’t too favourable. Turns out they like being woken up by me, even when I’m frustrated. My older daughter asked if I could at least come in once and promised that I wouldn’t have to come back in. My younger daughter said how much she enjoyed snuggling with me in the morning. I almost stepped back into the ring, but I held back and stood my ground. As I write this, less than a week before school begins again, I am still feeling strong. I know that it will take nerves of steel to remain this way, especially as I see the clock ticking closer to the morning bell at school. I know that if I give in – even once – that the exception will become the rule and I will have blown my opportunity for a fresh start.

I figure that once I have remained resolute and steadfast in my attempt to encourage them towards greater independence, that I can then move onto other areas. The possibilities are endless. Imagine – I may even get them to make their own school lunches or order in pizza for the family.

When children are given more personal responsibility, they learn about accountability –  such as when they sleep in, arrive late to school and have to explain why or when they don’t complete their homework on time and have to stay in during recess to complete it. Their self confidence and self worth is also enhanced as they become more self reliant. They feel proud of being able to take care of themselves, proud to be “cleaning up” after themselves and proud about becoming increasingly self reliant. My bet is that another positive side effect to pulling back is that, along the way, your children will show more appreciation when you do offer your help.  When your time is more of a privilege than an expectation, they appreciate you doing for them rather than being disappointed or angry when you don’t.

Now, just don’t tell your children I told you so!

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Helping your child develop healthy self esteem Fri, 16 Dec 2011 00:00:00 +0000 When Chloe, my twelve year old daughter was about four, she stood in front of her full length mirror admiring her reflection. When she saw me standing in the doorway, she smiled and said, “I love myself.” My heart was filled to overflowing as I heard her expression of self love and I thought about how great it would be to stay little forever.

As we age, it’s often difficult to maintain those loving feelings. I’m thinking about my twenty year old who when she was seventeen, was more inclined to focus on the pimples on her face and her gangly limbs as she struggled through typical egocentric adolescent angst about what others might think of the way she looked.

Now, at twenty, Talia understands society’s pre occupation with how we look on the outside but also realizes the importance of loving her inner beauty.

Healthy self esteem is when we look at the people around us but don’t think of ourselves as any better or worse than anyone else. It’s also about loving yourself from the inside out. The kind of love that allows for age spots, acne and other imperfections. The kind of love that allows you to shine and says that you are proud of who you are.

If you believe that it is important for your child to love him or herself from the inside out, then you may be interested in the tips below:

Love Yourself

How do you show that you love yourself?
What do your children hear and see when you’re standing in front of your mirror? Do they hear you say “I’m so fat. I look terrible in this dress” or do they hear you say “I like the colour of my shirt against my skin.”

On other occasions, do they hear you say “I’m so clumsy. I’m always spilling things” or do they hear you say “oops, I’ll get a rag to clean this up.” Keep in mind that your children are listening and watching even when you think they aren’t.

Separate the Deed from the Doer

As cliched and obvious as this may sound, it is very important to remember that even when your child behaves badly, he or she is not “bad.” In fact, even when he or she behaves well, try not to say that he or she is a “good” boy or girl. When you are happy or proud or when you are angry or disappointed, comment on the behaviour that has made you feel this way. So, instead of saying “You weren’t a good girl for mommy today,” say, “when you don’t share with your brother, I feel disappointed.”

Choose your words carefully

Even with the best of intentions, there are times when parents use demeaning words or label their children in a way they regret later. I am thinking of comments such as “don’t be an idiot,” “you’re so selfish,” “don’t be a loser,” and one of the more common, “you’re so lazy.” Even though we may slip up from time to time, it is our responsibility not to demean or use words that will make our children feel put down. It is our responsibility as parents not to call our children names. Not only do put downs damage a child’s self esteem but may also become part of a self fulfilling prophecy. In other words, if a child feels that his or her parents believe that he or she is lazy, no matter what he or she does, then that child may not think that there is any point in trying to prove his or her parents wrong. Instead, try to find opportunities to comment on what you do like. By doing this, you will encourage more positive behaviour.

Sit with your children while they watch television

Watching any program with your child is important but in relation to this topic, especially when they are watching popular programs that perpetuate society’s infatuation with botox and better bodies. Ever watched Toddlers and Tiaras? It’s a real eye opener. By watching with them, you can comment and ask questions that will help them to evaluate what they are watching and how they are being influenced. I don’t believe in forbidding or censoring most programs as this may encourage even greater curiosity and may lead to them watching behind your back.

Help your children find their passion

When children are very young and before they have piles of homework to contend with, expose them to different activities so that they can see which they are most interested in. Then, as they grow older, help them to cultivate their passion. Try to balance competitive extra curricular activities with those that encourage personal best.

Display their work and certificates of achievement

Most parents have huge piles of their children’s artwork and certificates of achievement in a corner of a table or tucked away. Years can go by before they are sorted. Trying to keep on top of the pile can be challenging but important if you are going to display current work. This is a great way to help your child feel proud of his or her accomplishments and to feel encouraged to do more of the same.

Don’t hold your children back from “showing off” a little

Some parents may be concerned about having their children labelled as obnoxious or a “show off” when displaying their talents. I agree that one needs to be sensitive and gauge just how interested others are in watching your child perform. However, whenever possible, encourage your child to “show off” in moderation. Don’t force your child to be front and centre if he or she is inhibited but if not, then applaud his or her desire to shine and help to create opportunities for this.

Give compliments freely

Some parents may be concerned that their children’s heads will swell and that they will be impossible to live with if they are told how wonderful they are all the time. Of course I am not suggesting that you go overboard. I’m just suggesting that when you see something that you like, instead of thinking the thought in your head only, say it out loud. So, for example, if your ten year old comes downstairs in the morning and has dressed herself well, say something like “I love how you mix and match clothing. I wish I had the fashion sense that you do.”

Get your child involved in helping others

Helping others makes us feel good inside. That feeling usually translates into feeling proud of oneself. Expose your children to opportunities to volunteer with people who are less fortunate.

Make family their foundation

If a child feels that his or her family is working together as a team, that people care about one another, treat each other respectfully and help each other out with responsibilities, then that child is more likely to feel a sense of security and belonging. He or she will feel an overall sense of well being, loving others and will be more likely to feel good about him or herself.

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Modelling appreciation for things we have Thu, 15 Dec 2011 00:00:00 +0000 If “The best things in life aren’t things” as the plaque (ironically, another “thing”) on my desk reminds me, then why do I have so many things? Why do my children have so many things and why do I continue to buy things? I’m sure If’m not alone in asking these questions. Especially at this time of year when we are more inclined to buy “things”.

I must admit to feeling somewhat conflicted when trying to discourage myself, and others, from buying things. I know that buying and selling is what makes the world turn. If things weren’t bought, then lots of people would suffer, least of all the receiver.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea from time to time to take stock of what we have and what we really need.

I often hear parents talk about how unappreciative they feel their children are and how little time they spend with an item before tossing it aside and looking for something new and exciting to keep their attention. Often it’s the latest technological gadget. Sometimes it’s the most up to date piece in the fashion world. Sorry parents, but I think we have ourselves to blame for that. Our children don’t come into this world wanting for anything other than our love and attention. It’s up to us to put the brakes on some times, to live with the consequences of saying no. It’s up to us to help our children learn the value of what they have by modelling this ourselves.

How about:

1. Re evaluate the wish list idea. Wish lists should be just that. Wishes. Some wishes come true and others don’t. If you don’t want to discard it completely, maybe pick one item from it and let your children know this in advance. If your children are used to getting every one of their wishes met, then there is bound to be disappointment if and when they don’t. So, be careful about setting a precedent.

2. Take everything out of drawers and cupboards at least once a year. This need not all take place over one weekend but can be divided up throughout the year. Ask yourselves whether you’ve actually used each item or piece of clothing over the past six months. If not, consider donating it to a friend or charity. This can also be somewhat of a treasure hunt. Most of us have so much that we find items we don’t even remember owning.

3. Keep your home organized. This reduces the chance of replicating items. For example, if you have all your erasers and pencils in one drawer of the house, you’ll know when you’ve run out and when its time to buy more. If they’re scattered throughout the house, you may be tempted to buy another pack of pencils rather than scour the house for stray items.

4. Model delaying gratification. If your children see you buying on impulse, then they will be more inclined to do the same. This is not to say that you should never buy something you hadn’t planned on, but this should be more the exception than the rule. If an item can wait, then model saving for it or waiting a period of time before re visiting whether you really want, or need, it.

5. Rather than buying “things” for one another’s birthdays, holidays or special occasions, think of something creative that will enrich that persons life with a special memory or experience rather. You may decide as a family that instead of spending money on expensive items that no one really needs, that you’d rather invest that money in a family vacation where you can take lots of pictures that will last you a lifetime.

6. Instead of buying another mug, box of chocolates or scarf for your child’ teacher or relative, consider making a donation to a charity in his or her name. Or if you’d prefer, purchase a gift certificate towards an experience – dinner and a movie, for example.

I guess it’s time for me to take my own good advice!

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Quitting a program – how much say should your child have? Mon, 14 Nov 2011 00:00:00 +0000 By now, your child has likely chosen and settled into extra curricular activities that many fill their after school and weekend hours with. My 12 year old, Chloe’s choice, is a no brainer. She’d dance at Attitudes Dance and Performing Arts Studio every night of the week if she could. Each year she adds another class to her repertoire and hasn’t tired of it over the past five years. I don’t care if she ever auditions for ‘So you think you can dance.’ I’m just happy that she loves dancing in a non competitive environment with many of her school friends and that she’s developed the confidence to perform in front of an audience at the end of the year recital.

I must admit that there have been years when I tried to encourage – even bribe – her to try something else. Like the time I enrolled her in piano lessons because I have always wanted her to play the piano as beautifully and effortlessly as my husband does. Having heard stories from my mother in law about how my husband wanted to quit, how she wouldn’t allow him to, and now seeing the fruits of her labour, I thought that we could go down the same path. However, each child is different and eventually, she negotiated her way out of piano lessons.

Deciding when to allow children to quit lessons or an activity that you feel is best for him or her, is difficult. It really comes down to how much consideration we should give to our child’s wishes and when, as a parent, we have to make a decision that we hope our child will ultimately thank us for. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a good friend recently. Years back, it was determined that her daughter was eligible for the gifted stream following her grade 3 year. As a family, they determined that she would be better served by being withdrawn one day a week as opposed to attending a full time gifted program within the public school system. Over the past three years, my friend has noticed her daughter’s increasing resentment at being withdrawn. Rather than feeling privileged at being given the opportunity to attend a program that stretched her thinking, she felt that she was being punished for being bright. She hated the one day of the week that she missed activities that her good friends shared at their home school.

Before the end of her grade 6 year, she became increasingly vocal about wanting to remain in her home school every day of the week. Her parents, loving that their daughter had been given the unique opportunity of expanding her thinking, were reluctant to let her leave. So, my friend turned to me for advice. After some careful reflection, I shared that since her daughter had given the one day a week program a full three years of her time, and since she was already a bright and logical thinker, did not rush into making decisions and was very responsible, that I felt that she should give more weight to what her daughter wanted at this point. I recommended that instead of throwing her hands up and saying “fine, do what you want. Quit!” (which I doubt she would have done anyway), that she let her daughter know that because they trusted and respected her opinion, that they felt that they could trust her to help make this important decision. To actually put into practise what she had learnt to do in her gifted classroom. If they felt it necessary, they could even sit as a family to record the pros and cons of staying in the program before making an absolute decision.

I also suggested (although my friend had already considered this), that there may be other after school programs that their daughter could enrol in. For example, being a whiz at math, she could take part in an extra curricular math program for students with a strong aptitude for numbers. I suggested that they might even want to make this a condition for leaving the one day a week program but that they could re evaluate this program at the end of the school year or sooner.

Bottom line is that it’s best to try to make these decisions as a family. If a child feels that he or she has either been forced into a program or is being forced to stay, then he or she may develop not only resentment towards the program itself (and then not receive the maximum benefit from it) but also resentment towards you for not hearing his or her point of view. As parents it’s okay to choose programs and activities for our very young children without much say from them. Then, as they grow older and we want to encourage independent thought and individual expression, we may need to stand aside and make room for their inclusion in a democratic decision making process.

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First Week Back To School Jitters Thu, 08 Sep 2011 00:00:00 +0000 Ask any school aged child, parent or teacher and you’ll likely hear that of all the school weeks, this is the most anxiety provoking. For children, there may be anxiety about how well they’re going to get along with the other students in their classroom, how much they’re going to like their new teacher (or whether she’s really as strict as everyone says!), how they’re going to get up on time in the morning (actually, that’s more likely the parents worry!) and whether they’ll be included in games at outdoor recess.

For parents, it’s normal to worry too – especially if your child is just starting out in kindergarten, high school or university. Or beginning a new grade at a new school. Normal to worry about your child taking the school bus on his own. Normal to fret about how you’re going to get it all together in the morning – make school lunches, get everyone out of bed and to school before the first bell. Normal to worry about your son or daughter finding his or her way around a large campus or living away from home for the first time.

Even teachers experience jitters as they prepare for their first week back after summer break. Even though they’ve usually taken a few days before the students arrive to ready their classroom and reconnect with their colleagues, they’re worried about working with a fresh group of children. They’re anxious about being able to set a firm but fair tone during the first week that will follow them through the year.

Usually by the second week, and definitely by the third, most of the creases have been ironed out and most classrooms are sailing on smooth waters. Teachers are comfortable with their classrooms, any changes to the classes have been worked out and children have settled into a rhythm with one another – both in the classroom and the playground.

However, for some children, anxiety continues beyond the first few weeks. Children may manifest anxiety in slightly different ways to adults. They often complain about headaches or stomach aches when very feel anxious. They may say that they don’t feel like eating breakfast (even though they typically enjoy this meal). They may complain about feeling nauseous. If these symptoms continue beyond the second week of school, it’s a good idea to try to figure out why.

– consider whether your child is typically anxious? Maybe she’s felt this way during other stressful periods or transitions in her life? In this case, she may be more prone to anxiety. You may know that it takes time before she settles in and may choose to take a wait and see approach.

– If he’s not normally an anxious child, perhaps there’s something happening at school that needs to be explored further. Is there another child who he’s particularly uncomfortable with? Is he being teased or bullied? Is his new teacher’s style of communication something he’s not familiar or comfortable with?

– Acknowledging that some anxiety is normal is a good idea – especially in the first week or two. However, if it extends beyond that, it may be wise to communicate with other people, such as his teacher, to see what she is observing when he’s in her care.

– brainstorm solutions to help ease his anxiety.

1. Sometimes, breaking up his day so that he can come home for lunch one or two days a week (during the first few weeks) may help him get through the day. However, be cautious about rescuing him too quickly. If he’s anxious about social time during lunch recess, then whisking him away at lunch to the safety of his home will relieve his anxiety temporarily but won’t allow him to develop the skills and self confidence to overcome this anxiety. Rather discuss ways that he can talk to others and encourage friendships.

2. If she attends a neighbourhood school, arrange play dates after school so that she can become more comfortable with classmates outside of school in a more relaxed environment.

3. Practice deep breathing or progressive relaxation exercises at home. There are relaxation cd’s that you can listen to with your child to learn exercises that he can then practice at school without anyone even knowing.

4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the best treatment approach for dealing with anxiety. If your child’s anxiety is getting in the way of getting to or staying at school, then it would be wise to contact a therapist who is experienced with treating children and using the CBT approach so that he or she can develop other more powerful strategies for dealing with anxiety.

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Connecting as a family is best away from home Wed, 13 Jul 2011 00:00:00 +0000 On the last day of school, I breathe a sigh of relief. Although I mostly enjoy the routine of school days, I find that by then I need a break from it as much as our daughters do.

Other than taking a break from routine, what I look forward to the most is re connecting as a family. Last summer we were fortunate to have taken a trip to England and France. We rented a quaint artist’s studio in the centre of London, stayed close to the Eiffel tower in Paris, and despite the overwhelming heat, enjoyed seeing the sights as a family. Eating crepes on the street in Paris, sitting by the Eiffel tower and watching it light up after the sun had set are some of our fondest memories. However, beyond the sights and special finds in Europe, we all agree that what we treasure most is the time we spent together.

Last year’s trip was more extravagant than usual. This year we’re thinking of staying closer to home.

I’ve come to realize that even when we take time off our work schedules and promise to spend family time in the city, something usually interrupts our time together. Even with the best of intentions, there’s usually something to divert our attention away from one another. That’s why we always escape to Fern Resort, near Orillia, Ontario – if only for a few nights, every summer. Although we love seeking out new adventures, there’s something comforting about the familiarity of returning to Fern Resort at the same time every year. Something about returning to activities that we know and love – bingo and fishing are the girls’ faves! So when they insist that if nothing else, we must go back year after year, we’re thrilled because we want to too.

We’re considered “alumni” now since we’ve been guests at Fern for five years – usually capping off the summer by spending a wonderful Labour Day weekend enjoying their incredible programs and activities.

Here then are some things to consider and what to look for when choosing a family friendly vacation this summer:

1. Considering the age of your children, how far do you want to venture from home? Especially when they’re young, and especially if you’d prefer to drive, you may want to consider finding a family friendly spot closer to home.

2. Unless you’re going camping or renting a cottage and creating your own fun, make sure that there are activities at the resort or hotel that you can all enjoy. We especially love watching the evening entertainment shows as a family at Fern. During the day, there are programs and activities that cater to our individual needs if we choose.

3. Some of the best times when away are meal times. At home, how often do you get to just sit together, be served and then have someone else clean up after you?

4. Check that the resort or hotel has high chairs or booster seats if you need. Since you want to encourage eating together, make sure that they don’t insist on separate dining times for adults and children.

5. Share a room if you can. Some places insist on no more than two people per room. This defeats the purpose of being together. I’d rather have the four of us share 2 queen or double sized beds than to be in separate rooms. We do that at home.

6. Find a spot that you can make a tradition out of going to every summer. If your children grow up going to the same spot every year, they will learn their way around the facility really well. Now that our kids are older and have been to Fern so many times, its comforting knowing that we can soak up some rays by the swimming pool while our children navigate their own way around the property.

While away, we often talk about the school year that has passed and the one to come. Again, free of distractions, the kids communicate more openly and the effects of this connection spill over into our lives for months after we return home.

Happy travelling!

To contact Fern resort, call 1-800-567-3376 or visit

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Teens: getting the job you want! Fri, 01 Jul 2011 00:00:00 +0000 It’s that time of year when parents begin to panic about how they’re going to keep their teens out of trouble during the summer months. Gone may be the days when they were safely supervised at camp. Now, they want to make money and chill with their friends on warm summer evenings. The question is: if they haven’t found a job yet, are they going to now? And how? They may have walked the malls, handing out resumes to any store manager that will take one. They may have send emails to all of your business contacts. They may even have gone on several interviews but not been called back.

Teens looking for a first time, entry level position will often look to fast food establishments or retail outlets for a job. But if your son or daughter thinks that getting a job at McDonalds, for example, is going to be easy, he or she might want to think again. I interviewed Steve Forman, owner/operator of five McDonald locations about his experience at interviewing teens for entry level jobs.

Eighty five percent of Steve’s employees are between the age of 15 and 19. He interviews about 1000 applicants each year and hires about 100. So, with the odds of being hired at one out of ten, one really needs to stand out and make a good impression. If you think that it’s “only McDonalds” and that it doesn’t take much to being hired there, you may be unpleasantly surprised. After 32 years of working with McDonalds (he began as a crew person at aged 15, met his wife, Bonnie, when he was a twenty year old swing manager and she was a crew trainer), he’s not only a McDonalds expert, but also an expert at what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making a good impression at a job interview.

He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly and has a wealth of information to share. So, I thought I’d pass this onto you in the hopes that you can pass it on to your teen if he or she is motivated to land a job that will give him or her some pocket money for those extra evenings of entertainment or even towards savings for college or university.

Steve recommends that, if you haven’t already done so,
– put together a solid resume. Nothing fancy or too long. A single page, neatly laid out is best.
– Steve recommends that you bring the resume to the interview even if you’ve previously dropped one off and even if you have been asked to fill out an application.
– He recommends that you role play the interview process with your parent or another adult. Practise responding to questions such as:
why do you want to work for us?
TIP: Make your interviewer feel that this job is important to you and not just because it is close to home or because your friend works there.
– what do think you could bring to this job? Why should we hire you?
TIP: know a little about the company that you applying to work for. Know what is important to them. If friendly customer service is high on their priority list, stress that your friendly, people oriented personality is well matched for the position.
– how are your marks at school? “This is very important to me,” Steve says.
– Where else have you worked? What did you enjoy about that job?
TIP: Steve says, “I look for people who are very positive. I want to hear that you love everything. If you start getting into all the things you hated, this does not send a good message.”
– what do your parents think about you being here today?

TIP: If your parents would prefer that you focus on school work instead of working outside of school, then employers may be concerned that they will not encourage your being there. Make sure to talk your parents before applying for work so that you can make sure that you have their support.
– If you had a whole bunch of tasks to complete at school, how would you manage to get through them?

TIP: Interviewers may present you with a few situational questions to establish how you work through tricky situations.

TIP: Steve recommends that you come prepared with 3 or 4 stories that can be applied to different questions. Stories that speak of a time when you showed great responsibility or quick thinking, for example.

Steve says that “the first 30 seconds won’t get you the job, but they can sure help you lose it.”
– First impressions are critical
– Pay careful attention to the way you are dressed. Steve recommends no jeans, that guys are clean shaven, that they wear a dress shirt (no tie needed) and dress pants and that girls are neat and clean. He also recommends that other than earrings (okay for both guys and girls), that all other jewellery for other body piercings be removed and that in general, jewellery is kept to a minimum.

– Steve says that body language is very important. He recommends that you sit up straight. Slouching sends the message that this job is not very important to you. It says “I guess I’ll just take this job until I find something better.”
– Steve recommends that “when the employer walks over to you, hop out of your seat. Look like you can’t wait to get started. Thrust out your hand, smile, maintain eye contact and have a firm handshake. If your hand is sweaty, don’t sweat it.” He’d prefer to know that you are nervous because it says to him that you care and that you want to make a good impression.
– During the interview, talk passionately about the product or service. “I’ve had people say that they don’t eat McDonalds.” That isn’t a good sign if you’re being interviewed for a job there.
– Have references and telephone numbers with you and make sure that the references know to expect a call.
– Before leaving, if you haven’t already been given the interviewers business card with contact information, ask for it.
– Steve suggests that you end the interview with something like “I would love to work here. I promise to do a great job.” This goes a long way, he says.
– After the interview, follow up with an email or thank you card, thanking the interviewer for his or her time.

So, whether you’re applying for an entry level, minimum wage position at a fast food establishment or a higher up position after graduating from university, clip and save these tips. If you prepare, practise, show enthusiasm and commitment, you’ll have a much better chance of making a good impression and beating your competition to getting the job you’re hoping for.

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