According to the Sheldon Kennedy Youth Advocacy Centre, in 2008, there were 14,403 substantiated cases of child abuse in Alberta.*
6665 Infants, Youth and Children assessed at the Sheldon Kennedy CAC to date
124 New cases assessed per month at the Sheldon Kennedy CAC
11690 Visits from children to our Child Space since July 2013
For updated stats go to the SKYouth Advocacy Centre.
I am fortunate to volunteer for the Sheldon Kennedy Youth Advocacy Centre with #youthchampionsyyc. The Youth Champion Initiative in collaboration with Youth Smart empowers junior high and high-school students to develop their leadership capacity by taking responsibility in their school communities to promote a climate of well-being, healthy relationships and resiliency.
We know that adverse childhood experiences ACES have a long-lasting impact and there is much to do when it comes to trauma in youth.
Today on 60 minutes Oprah Winfrey is bringing her voice to the world by discussing childhood trauma with Dr. Bruce Perry.
CBC did an amazing three-part series on childhood trauma. Thanks to @HeatherTuba for sharing.
You can listen here:
PART 1 : “Our bodies psychological armour … How do some children remember abuse ? The link between obesity and trauma. Have a listen CBC ALL in The Family Part 1
PART 2: Childhood trauma is increasingly being seen as a major factor in academic under-achievement. Have a listen CBC All in The Family Part 2.
There is much to learn when it comes to childhood trauma. My hope is that these resources will help you start a dialogue with educators and others re childhood trauma and the effects.
There is help and support in your community and School Counsellors are one of the many people who can help students with childhood trauma. It does take a village , but the relationship with a School Counsellor may be a start to changing a child’s life. What is your ACES score? What is the ACES score of some of the students you serve? You may be the person who will make a difference in their life. Won’t you join in and help?
The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.
I don’t think we need much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.
What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices? Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children? Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in.
Often I am asked the question, ” Why do so many kids today suffer from anxiety ?” There is no easy answer to this question but there are many more questions that we need to ask. In particular, “What is it that appears to be causing such an increase in child and adolescent anxiety? Is it related to social media? Are we over pathologizing what may be normal reactions to stressful situations in our environment. According to Dr Stan Kutcher, a leading psychiatrist from Dalhousie University, “anxiety is a gift we have inherited from our ancestors to protect us from threat and to kick-start ambition; to fight it we have to face it.” In order to “face it” we need to first of all understand what is happening and then respond to it in a manner which will allow us to maximize the outcome.
In other words we can use the anxiety or stress, to benefit us in our day-to-day functioning. If we see it as a gift, we respond from a totally different repertoire or mindset than if we see it as a threat. A gift is something positive, something we welcome, something that may make things easier for us, or at times may challenge us and help us grow. How can we work with our kids to help them understand and see anxiety as a gift? What are some strategies that will help them develop a different mindset? Additionally, what part does social media play and are we, as parents, educators, and counsellors, contributing to the mindset of threat or gift? In my next guest post I will explore these very questions and discuss ways to unpack the gift of anxiety.
Picking up the pieces. I work with so many vulnerable youth and one in particular convinced me to not watch. This young person was incredibly triggered by watching the show and made me realize that I did not need to watch it in order to know the harm it could cause to those who are at risk.
Was I curious? Like most of you yes, and I do understand that it is compelling for both adults and youth to want to watch the series, but I also chose to not read the book years ago for some of the reasons I am about to discuss. For those who did watch … this is not a criticism, just a choice I want to make for my own reasons.
I think young people need to know that there are adults who while they may be very curious about the series will still choose to NOT watch . I know this show was NOT created to really help young people , otherwise they would have based the series on solid research around suicide, how it is portrayed in media and the impact on youth. I do realize the creators say they consulted with medical experts and had good intentions however, I do think they missed out on some valuable helpful information when it comes to suicide. Stan Kutcher , a Psychiatrist and mental health expert from Dalhousie University whom I respect believes the show could be dangerous to young people who choose to watch it.
I do not need to see the show to be informed and personally I have NO desire to see a child die by suicide (even if it is television). Some things on TV are even too graphic for me.
I choose not to be triggered by watching the show. I have worked with too many vulnerable youth. I know that I need to practice self-care . Watching this series is not going to make me a better parent , School Counsellor or Psychologist . Being able to discuss sensitive topics is essential and I believe I can do so without actually watching this series.
I plan on reading as many articles as I can that give informed information that is helpful regarding the series . The National Association of School Psychologists gives important information on how to do so responsibly. Dialoguing and engaging youth in thoughtful conversations around sensitive topics is essential. Yes, I certainly know a lot and I mean a lot have already chosen to watch and will watch this series , some will do so with their parents most I am guessing will watch on their own. Parents who watch can and will open a conversation that is useful and helpful with their child. I am just saying for me , I want students to know it is OK to not watch if they have not already done so.
I want all people to know that suicide is complex. We are learning more and more about the brain . I am sure new research in the future will give us a better understanding of some of the complexities.
I want students to know the protective factors, risk factors and warning signs of suicide. We have Canada Mental Health come in every year to speak to all our grade 10 High School Students.
I want all students and adults to become more literate when it comes to mental health. All staff at our school are trained in the go to educator series. You might want to consider this for your school.
This show is NOT hopeful . Students need HOPE in as many ways as possible.
Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. THERE IS HELP! If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, like your School Counsellor or call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.
School Counsellors across the world (#scchat) work very hard to let others know that they work diligently daily to help and serve students . They do save lives . They may possibly be the unsung hero in a child’s life , but that is not often the way they are depicted on tv or in movies and from what I have read definitely not in this series. There are also lots of other people who do like parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and friends. I want youth to reach out and keep asking for help until someone they trust makes that difference. WE DO CARE!!!!!
The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone. This is my choice and although I listed 13 reasons I could have listed many more. I do not regret my decision. I know it is best for me.
People have been asking me if I am really serious about retirement and yes I am , but that doesn’t mean I don’t really love my job anymore . I absolutely do. I plan on making this year great! Why? Because each and every day I work with students and what I say and do matters.
I am far from perfect, but I really try my best to help students and create a positive environment in the school I work in. I love collaborating with educators and others that I know truly care.
I am often reminded that what I say and do matters and that is a scary and awesome responsibility. I never want to hurt a child or anyone for that matter, but I am human and I make mistakes . When I do I need to say sorry , make amends and do my best each and every day to be the best person I can be. I also recognize that I can be that one person who changes the trajectory of a students life , making a positive difference that they remember for a lifetime.
Does what you say and do matter? … you bet. Students are watching us daily … so as I enter my retirement year I want my students to know that I love what I do and will continue to do so until the day I retire. I love being with them and helping them as much as I possibly can. I look forward to this year and will treasure the memories I make with each and every person that crosses my path.
What I Say and Do Matters … and so does what you say and do.
Five years ago I did not paint and now thanks to great friends and my experiences in ETMOOC , I have more confidence and find it one of the most rewarding , therapeutic experiences that I can imagine. I take mini courses and I watch lots of youtube videos to get tips. It is so much fun.
I have keratoconus a progressive eye disease, ( I was diagnosed later in life ) so I think partly that diagnosis has driven me to create visually in case my vision ever gets really poor. Painting is therapeutic and healing for me. I have played sports all my life and I absolutely love to read, both which can bring me flow , but nothing brings me the kind of flow that painting does.
Painting brings me flow the kind of flow that was discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Fifteen hours can feel like five minutes for me. I love that it brings me joy and that I am completely absorbed in the process. It is fun and easy and yes I think anyone can benefit from art and painting. If I can you can too.
I plan on using the painting that I did above, thanks to the online instructions from theArtSherpa ( see below) with our students. Art and Counselling definitely go together . Paintings tell stories often times with hidden messages.
Process for students:
Today we are going to embark on a journey of letting go of any negativity and go with the flow. For the next two hours you are not allowed to say to yourself I can’t . If you hear yourself speaking those words take your note pad and write I can … I will.
So let’s begin this process by being mindful and breathing. Lead students through a short mindfulness process to begin. Let them know that they are going to create a special painting today and that there are no mistakes. They can create their trees and painting anyway they like even if it is different from the paining they see. Like mine birch trees do not produce multi coloured leaves , but I did just because I wanted to visually and I love the effect. This seminar is about being yourself and letting go.
If they would like to follow the step by step instructions here they are:
Write messages of hope and their dreams for their future in pencil on their canvas.
Ask students if anyone would like to share their hopes and dreams with others.
The size of canvas it up to the student. Have students bring the size of canvas they want to work on.
Divide your canvas into six equal sections. They don’t have to be exact and you don’t have to measure them. Tell students they can estimate. So begin by saying Today we are going to create . We are going to start by painting a rainbow with trees, you can use any method you like to paint your colors on your canvas. I used upwards stokes, but really any would work. Start with red, orange , yellow, greens, blue and purple.
Guide students through the process being as creative as you like in explaining what they can do next. Constantly remind them it is ok to make mistakes ( really there are no mistakes, but they may perceive them as such). Remind them that their perceived mistakes lead to more creativity and it is ok to be as creative as they wish going with the flow and what their heart wants to paint.
Trees can be very symbolic and you can discuss this with students.Trees are strong and unique just like each of them. Birch trees can mean new beginnings. You can discuss with students what they believe their trees mean for them. I chose nine trees, but they can choose any number that means something to them. I also chose to add flowers and really birch trees have no colorful flowers, but I like the effect. The lovely thing when you create art just for the sake of it is that there is no right or wrong . There are no mistakes. It just is … creative , how wonderful and freeing.
The rest of the directions are below in the video. You can watch and create your own instructions.
Most importantly have fun and trust the process.
Check out the video below for detailed instructions:
If you decide to do this process with your students , please share your creative ideas with me @sspellmancann.
Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life
As a School Counsellor and or Psychologist there are people who have informed and influenced your practice. Who are the people that have impacted you in a positive way and why have they influenced the way you serve others?
Below you will find people’s work I admire and have utilized in my own practice. While not a comprehensive list, it is an important list to me . The list is not any any particular order of influence.
The people below have had a great impact on me and the students I serve. Many of the people in theses videos I have had the great honour and privilege to meet in person and dialogue about the amazing work they have done. Some have become friends for which I am truly grateful. I would have loved to have met Victor Frankl and Leo Buscaglia, but am fortunate to have cherished their books and videos. I have and will continue always to pass on the wisdom from their works. I am grateful to all!
The following is the first in my series of resources and information on various topics for School Counsellors from A-Z.
1. What is Alateen?
Alateen is a group for children of alcoholics. Approximately 6.6 million children under the age of 18 in Canada live in a home with at least one alcoholic parent. So when discussing this with students you can assure them they are not alone, although to them it may feel like it. Children of alcoholics often hear the messages don’t talk, trust or feel. School Counsellors can help these young people change those messages. Here are two great videos about how Alateen can help.
One teens story:
I was so scared at home. I never knew if my dad would be drinking when I got home from school. Actually I never knew what to expect. Mom was always threatening to leave dad and all four of us (my brother and sisters) would often line up at the door to leave, but we never did. None of my teachers ever knew that there was alcoholism in my home. They often told me how lucky I was that I must have had great parents. I guess that was because I behaved so well in school, trying to be the perfect child so no one would find out my secret.
I was embarrassed and ashamed that my dad drank too much. I was also angry a lot (meaning almost every day) . I was angry with both my mom and my dad. Sometimes I was angrier with my non alcoholic mom because I did not understand why we stayed and put up with the drinking. I saw her reaction to his drinking and that had an impact on me.
Often times I would also throw my dad’s alcohol down the sink or hide it around the house so he could not find it. Little did I realize that doing that was just making me sick emotionally. I often felt irritable and unreasonable, but I never knew why. I was in denial about alcoholism being in my family.
Here is a journal entry I wrote in the first few weeks I decided reluctantly to go to Alateen, because I thought it was their problem, not my problem.
“ I wish I could work out my problems. I hope Alateen will help. Mom really doesn’t care about anyone but herself (at least that what she’s pretending to do). I think she needs me as much as I need her, but how do we solve this problem? I depend on mom and dad. I am not mature. I get mad at every little thing without wanting to. I hope Alateen will help with this too. I would try to help myself if I knew how. I remember thinking about killing myself, but I would never go through with it because I was too scared and I did not want to really.”
I’m so grateful I did not go through with harming myself because Alateen did work. Actually my whole family got help. I learned everything I could about how alcoholism affects families and things slowly, but surely got better and better. I recognize that alcoholism affects everyone in the family each to a different degree. Today, I look for the good in everyone and everything. I recognize that I don’t know where I would be today if it were not for Alateen. If you are a teen living with a parent who drinks too much Alateen can help. Reach out!!
There are young people we see in our offices with similar stories. Children of alcoholics often keep their parents drinking a secret, but teachers and School Counsellors can often spot that something is wrong and reach out to these students. Sometimes students show up in our offices sad and scared because mom or dad had been drinking on the weekend and they are feeling helpless and hopeless. Recommending Alateen can help. As School Counsellors we can identify these children using CAST Children of Alcoholics Screening Test.
You as a School Counsellor should not underestimate your ability to have a life long impact on children who are living with a loved one with an addiction. You may be the first person in this child’s life that they have felt safe enough to share what is happening . You may be the one to give them permission to share openly what they have been feeling and going through. This can be life changing.
Things children of alcoholics need to know:
They are not alone
Their parents drinking is NOT their fault. They did not cause it ,they cannot control it and they cannot cure it.
Alcoholism is an illness. You do not need to feel ashamed.
Alcoholics can and do recover.
There is hope and help for alcoholics and their family.
They can live a happy and productive life whether their parent is drinking or not.
They can be resilient.
They need to understand alcoholism. If their parent had diabetes they most likely would learn all they could about the disease. They can learn and understand about alcoholism as well.
The only person they can change is themselves.
It is not a dishonour to their mom and dad to talk and tell the truth.
Nothing matters more to me than my family. I am at a point in life where our children are grown up and don’t need me as much, but I continue to love every moment I spend with them. They bring a smile to my face and joy in my heart every time I sit down to a meal with them or get to be around them. I am grateful … oh so grateful. I hope my children and husband realize just how much they mean to me not only by my actions, but also through my words. Part of the reason I blog is for my children so that they can see another piece of who their mother is. My heart is so full of love for them.
“One Hundred Years From Now”
One hundred years from now
It won’t matter
What kind of car I drove
What kind of house I lived in
How much money I had in the bank
Nor what my clothes looked like
The world may be a little better
Because, I was important
In the life of a child.
Author: (excerpt from “Within My Power” by Forest Witcraft)
“What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life”. This is the song that played at our wedding and it holds true for my children as well as my husband. Seeing this you tube video was a trip down memory lane for me because as a teenager I loved Donny Osmond. We’ll let’s say i liked him,my friend was obsessed with him .I flew to Toronto to see him with my friend Evelyn when I was fifteen years old. (LOL) . I digress. The point I really want to make is my children and my husband have made a profound positive difference in my life.
I am so fortunate to have amazing friendships that lift me up, bring me great joy and fill my heart with love. We have bonds that cannot be broken. We share so many special moments in life. Each friendship I have I absolutely treasure. I value the precious moments I have with them and don’t ever take them for granted.
I moved to Calgary via Nova Scotia and Atikameg in 1981. It was a move that would change the course of my life and so began my story of lifelong adult relationships.
Fortunately for me I have enjoyed wonderful friendships in my life, so I knew how they could make a difference and sustain me. I have lifelong childhood friends from Nova Scotia who remain my dear friends today. Even though I have been away for thirty-five years, we still make a point of seeing each other and celebrating our friendships every summer.
Little did I know when I moved to Calgary, it would become my home or that I would discover extraordinary life giving friendships that would sustain me for life. “The gang” as we would so affectionately call ourselves are wonderful, kind, intelligent, considerate, amazing, loving and caring people. Our connections remain unbreakable.
The thing that I think is so amazing about these people is that we have been friends for over twenty-five years and never ever had a fight or major disagreement with one another.
In over twenty-five years we have missed very little time where we go not seeing each other. We have celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Years, birthdays, births, deaths, and we often get together for absolutely no reason at all. There rarely goes by a month where we don’t sit down once , twice or even more times together to enjoy a feast.
Every celebration creates fabulous memories. We laugh, sing, play games, tell stories and just plain enjoy each other’s company. Our children have been blessed with such great role models of positive, lasting friendships.
We are there for each other whenever anyone needs something no matter what. I can count on these people for whatever I need. They are my family. No, we are not related, but we are closer than some families. We have made a connection that will last a lifetime.
What do we all have in common? We moved to Calgary to work. We needed to be able to use the skills from our education. It was a place to create a life for ourselves. None of us knew we would remain in Calgary after all these years. There are other commonalities, but this and the fact that we all had no family in Calgary brought us together.
We all happen to be from a place near the water. Prince Edward Island, Vancouver and Nova Scotia. Other friends come to some of our celebrations, but they don’t get to celebrate all of them because they have family here in Calgary. The rest of us don’t ( except for a few cousins who we adore).
I absolutely love these people, and so do our children. We have been blessed with laughter in abundance over the years. I have positive memories that are etched vividly in my mind and will be passed on down to our children and hopefully our future grandchildren. There are stories upon stories that have been shared over the years. We never get tired of telling each other stories.
When I tell people about how much we really care about each other after all these years, they are often amazed. Really, we have never fought with each other about anything throughout the years.
What a gift I have been given. If I could I’d jump over mountains for these people I most definately would. They make such a difference in my life. I have work friends, neighbourhood friends, long distance friends , on line friends ( yes, you can create amazing on line friendships) and lifetime friends. Each holds a special place in my heart. each is a true gift.
I have been so blessed with all the friends that surround me. I can’t even put into words what they have meant to me.
If I pass anything onto my children it will be this.
Find great friends, not friends you necessarily always agree with all the time, but friends who you love being around and they love being around you.
Friends who :
accept you just the way you are
you can laugh and cry with
would be there in a minute no matter what you needed
the spouses / partners like and respect each other
don’t mind being silly with you no matter how old you are
share the good times and the bad with you
you always know will be there no matter what the circumstances
share your hopes, dreams, successes and losses
find friends who always seem to know the right thing to say or do
I am so happy to celebrate my friends. I want to shout from the mountaintops that YOU have provided me with some of the happiest memories of my life. I LOVE YOU so so much!
3. Life is To Be Lived
I have believed for many many years that we need to live life to the fullest, maybe because of all the early deaths that have happened to people I have loved or people I have cared for. Zach is an amazing example for all of us. He is a teacher with many wonderful lessons and ones that are definitely worth sharing.
You don’t have to find out you are dying to start living
most people live in the middle, but you don’t have to
be empathetic and compassionate
always look for the good in people
things are OK when you believe in something greater
what makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there
what’s awesome about living in this world is that you can help people
the structure of a family is great
to be in the same room with your siblings is enough
it is not the life in your years , but the years and passion you put into your life
spend time with the people you love
it’s ok to dream big
celebrate the life you have
you can communicate love through music
music can heal
releasing feelings through music is helpful
letting people know you love them is important
sticking together as a family is extremely important
be happy no matter what
treat people the same and everything will be fine
smile despite what is happening in your life
memories are essential…create positive ones
fill your heart up with joy
it’s ok to have ultimate dreams
people we don’t really know can change our lives
the way you live matters
surround yourself with those people that lift you up
LOVE makes life BETTER
Zach says it alll better than I could ever do, his message is one that I will share again and again. Thanks Zach for giving us your gift of life. I know I treasure each day I have been given.
4. Find a Career You Love
I have been blessed with work I love to do. I have felt honoured to be able to be in the presence of so many students who have helped to teach me so much in life. I feel honoured that they allow me to enter into their world. Each day I go to work I am grateful. It doesn’t mean that every moment of every day I am happy, but most moments of most days I really am very happy. My work brings me great joy and fulfillment. I really try to put passion into practice .
5. Have Hope
Life is not always easy and sometimes just downright hard, but having hope has gotten me through all the rough times. Even when I might have felt like giving up I haven’t because I could see a spark of hope. May you find HOPE in your life.
Music can heal the soul and inspire hope. I love music , well who doesn’t. This last song is one when I hear it , I think of my husband who I am forever grateful for. Finding him is a gift that has made my life better. The words speak what I have in my heart.
This reflective post has been worth sharing for me. Thanks to Maureen Crawford for inspiring this post.
Now I challenge you . What are your 5 things worth sharing?