Tuesday | September 17, 2019

How to Foster Lifelong Learning in Your Teen

The brain is rapidly developing in the teenage years.

​We all want our kids to enjoy learning and to make the most of their education. We place value in ensuring they work hard, study for their tests do their homework to the best of their abilities and appreciate the educational opportunities they’ve been giving. A good education truly is a gift.

This sense of curiosity might be even more important than parents realize. Research has shown that curiosity impacts performance as much as hard work. When you’re curious about a subject and study up on it, you tend to retain that information for longer periods. It’s also associated with positive behaviours such as tolerance for uncertainty, humour and out-of-the-box thinking.

​These are all skills associated with happiness, resilience, creativity and intellectual growth.

So how do we foster that sense of lifelong learning in kids? How do we ensure they grow up with a sense of curiosity that will motivate them to want to learn and explore throughout their entire lives? Here are a few tips:

Encourage your children to ask questions. If your child asks a question, don’t brush them off with a simple answer such as “I don’t know.” Don’t simply say “good question.” Go the extra step further and help them find the answer to the question they have asked.

Maybe it’s a matter of going to the library and finding a book that explains the topic. Maybe you can go online together and read the literature. Take them to a museum or help them interview someone who has the answer.

​There are so many methods of learning and ways to find answers. ​What is your child’s preferred method? Maybe they are more hands-on. Maybe they enjoy learning by opening a book. Let them know how much you value their curiosity and reward them by helping them discover the answer. They will enjoy the journey and not hesitate to approach you the next time they are curious.

Talk to your child’s teacher. When you communicate with your son or daughter’s teacher either casually or during more formal parent-teacher interviews, ask if they have noticed whether there is anything in particular your child is curious about. What is their favourite subject? What style of learner are they? Do they seem particularly curious about anything? If not, perhaps they have suggestions for how you can stimulate a sense of wonder. Your teacher will know things about your child that you might not have noticed and their experience in the education field will give them valuable insight into your particular child.

​Let your child’s teacher know how committed you are to being involved and in fostering an appreciation for lifelong learning in your child. You are a team dedicated to furthering your child’s education and you share the same goals. Don’t hesitate to speak openly to your child’s teachers about this topic.

Encourage your teen to do their homework well. If you step in and help your child right away, they might not have the opportunity to assess whether they understand the work. By helping, you deny giving them a chance to see how resourceful they are. You will also give them the chance to realize what questions their homework will spark. They might even discover they don’t understand the homework at all.  You’ll want to make yourself available, of course, to answer questions or suggest ways in which they might find the answers.

If you’re stuck on how to facilitate the process, here are a few suggestions:

  • If your child doesn’t understand what is being asked of them when you’re helping them with an assignment, you might want to read the question together and say, “What do you think the question is asking?”
  • If they don’t understand what they are supposed to do as they work on their homework, try asking them if they have any ideas for how to solve the problem.
  • If your child is unsure of the assignment, suggest calling a friend or reviewing their notes from class. Follow up the next day and make sure they understand or asked for help from the teacher.

Ensure learning happens outside the classroom, too. As much as we prioritize in-class learning, there is so much to be discovered outside of the class as well. The best way to foster additional opportunities is to encourage your child to participate in extra-curricular activities. Perhaps they like sports, music or want to learn a language. Sign them up for a class at the local community centre or in the neighbourhood. If they discover they aren’t interested in that particular activity, try another. Don’t give up. Extra-curricular activities are a great way to make friends, expand their skills, get exercise and figure out what they are interested in and what they aren’t.

Stimulating that sense of curiosity is very important and there are so many ways in which you can help build this sense of wonder in your child. Once you light that spark, there will be no stopping your child in their quest for lifelong learning.

December 6th, 2018

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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Crestwood Gives – Providing for Families in Need

December is often a month filled with paradox ­

  • Warm spirits in cold weather
  • Extreme loneliness hidden among celebrations of love and friendship
  • Lean poverty amid bountiful generosity
  • Hunger and sorrow overshadowed by feasting and celebration

Though many of these challenges face Canadian families all year round, they usually come to the forefront of our minds around the holidays. Charitable organizations have but four to six weeks to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of those more fortunate.

Give from More than Your Wallet

It takes more than just donations to organizations like the Salvation Army, Daily Bread Food Bank or the The Hospital for Sick Kids Foundation. It takes activism, volunteering and advocacy from all Canadians. Working on a build for a local Habitat for Humanity, or spending time with seniors at a nursing home can be inspiring all year

Making a pledge to dedicate yourself to a cause at this time of year is good for the heart. Keeping that pledge will be good for your soul.

All too often, we pass a mother and her child in a grocery store, and we don’t know she could barely gather enough money for a few days worth of food.

Maybe you and your children meet someone who has just received long term disability status. They could have been denied insurance coverage, or can no longer work because of pain, or injury. Reaching out with support to people in crisis extends beyond that individual to their loved ones.

These people in need, and many others in dire circumstances, may be calling out for help, though we miss their calls. We are often distracted by stories in the media about celebrities, our own material pursuits, or we’re distracted by other trivial matters which seem important at the time.

How to Make a Difference

There are many examples of people paying their good fortune forward which we hear about every day. Small gestures from children can bring joy to an elderly person’s life. Forgiveness between loved ones or friends. Giving of your time, in circumstances like working with special needs children or adults can go just as far as financial donations, in the right spirit.

Communities like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada not only helps boys and girls by providing role models. They, like all organizations that care for children, provide needed respite for mothers and fathers who need time to work, rest, or learn better ways of parenting. Volunteer as a Big Brother, Big Sister or even for a Junior Achievement class and make a difference in a young person’s life, and that of their family.

It Takes a Village

As the saying goes, it takes more than just a mother and a father to raise a child to adulthood. Providing moral guidance and support, not judgement, is in the best interest of a person growing up.

You won’t likely find many legitimate opportunities to help families on your own. Crestwood has partnered with a number of service groups and charities which cater to the well being, safety and security of the most vulnerable Ontario families among us.

Talk to your child about the benefits of being active in their community, and the role of Crestwood in it.

Encourage your children to learn about power of activism such as:

  • Volunteering for charities which focus on family
  • Donations of food, clothing, toys or other goods which would benefit their less fortunate peers
  • Befriending someone at school who has trouble fitting in, is new to the school or just needs a companion
  • Participating in groups that keep the city safe, clean and free of bullying

The opportunity to learn about helping others when a child is young can translate to a lifetime of service, support of community, and engagement in making Canada a better place to work, live and play in. Together with Crestwood, let’s help families in Toronto, and across Canada.

 

April 9th, 2018

Posted In: Community, Education, Nutrition, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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Devices and Your Teen’s Developing Brain

We all know that too much screen time is bad for little kids. This includes time spent using iPhones, iPads, video games and computers. Many studies have exposed that too much screen time for little kids can cause permanent damage to their brains. In fact, it can interfere with a child’s ability to focus, concentrate and communicate as they grow older.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]                      “over use of social media can lead to anxiety“[/pullquote]

But do high-tech devices have the same impact on our teenager’s brains, or is more screen time okay for teenagers? It seems to all depend.

​Some screen time is important and even essential for teens. Using a computer is a great way to conduct research or type up school assignments. Phones are an important method of communication and have become increasingly important as a way of interacting with peers. Video games and time spent playing on an iPad are fun and can be a great way to unwind with friends.

But moderation is the key. This is especially important since a person’s brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. This means that too much screen time can definitely negatively affect a teenager’s developing brain. Here’s how:

Too much screen time can lead to dangerous addiction. According to one 2013 study, addiction is linked with depression, impulsiveness and traits associated with autism. It occurs when addicts turn to technology to experience a rush, which is what happens when dopamine floods the brain. The need for this pleasurable sensation fights with the brain’s ability to think rationally and use restraint.

Though you might not think getting a rush from technology is a particular problem, it can actually be deadly. What happens when a teenager is so addicted to their phone that it interferes with their ability to drive safely? They might text and drive or check their phone while behind the wheel, which is dangerous. It can also be illegal depending on where you live.

Technology is not only addictive to the teenaged brain, but over use of social media can lead to anxiety, depression and a loss of interest in socializing face-to-face. Experts have seen an alarming rise in tech-related mental health issues. Parents are being called upon to limit their teen’s time spent on social media, to enforce tech-free family time and eliminate phones from their teenager’s bedrooms at night. It’s all in an effort to ensure their teenager has a healthy balance of socializing, exercise and interaction outside of the virtual world.

Too much screen time can also affect a teen’s ability to sleep. Sleeping and dreaming are essential to developing and maintaining long-term memory. When a teenager is on their phone late into the night, they aren’t getting the sleep they need for their brains to properly function.

In addition to its impact on the brain, over use of technology can have negative physical side effects as well. Too much screen time can lead to eye strain, headaches, tendonitis of the wrist and pain in the neck, shoulders and back.

While technology can have negative impacts on the developing teenager’s brain, we must also recognize it’s an important part of life today. In fact, we can’t live without it. The key is to ensure our teens have balance in their lives. It’s important they socialize with friends, interact with real people, get enough sleep, and not let technology interfere with their physical safety and mental well being.

February 19th, 2018

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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How Quality and Quantity of Sleep Impacts Academic Performance

Children and teens require more sleep than adults to perform at their best. Even with marginally more sleep, they’ll be better prepared both physically and mentally to perform to the best of their abilities.

In a perfect world, you could let your son or daughter in on this nugget of wisdom, and they would quickly adopt sleeping habits which are conducive to good grades.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world.

Nevertheless, here are six reasons you should strive to get your kids to sleep more. Their grades will improve, and they’ll likely be a lot more charming and co-operative at home, too!

1. Memory

Have you ever noticed that when you have a restful night’s sleep, you tend to have better recall for names, to-dos, and basic facts?

The same goes for your kids. It might be tempting to let your kids stay up to all hours of the night studying and cramming for a test. It’s better for their brains to study earlier in the day, catch some zeds, and then approach the test or exam with a refreshed mindset.

The Sleep Foundation has done thorough studies, and discovered that a good night’s sleep:

  • Prepares the brain to absorb data into memory
  • Process the information, and reason through it for understanding
  • Retain the information, and prepare the brain to return facts/info when needed

If you haven’t left this page to find out how to join The Sleep Foundation, you can do your own studies at home. If your whole family starts to get more sleep, you’ll remove the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) factor of staying up late, and help everyone’s memory to recall how helpful this blog was.

Not to mention, your son or daughter will improve their memory of when they need to do homework, take out the garbage, or do the dishes!

2. Anxiety Relief

When your kids sleep, their brain produces serotonin and norepinephrine chemicals, which help to reduce stress and anxiousness. These chemicals are created by your brain’s neurotransmitters when allowed to rest during deep (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

The kind you have when you dream.

If you were an anxious child, you might remember how it was difficult to do your best at school when you felt nervous or stressed out at school. You might still feel that way at work.

3. Healthy Lifestyle = Better Sleep

Many of the behaviours which are beneficial to good performance at school, are the same which lead to good health.

They include:

  • Exercise
  • A balanced, healthy diet
  • Limiting stimulants like caffeine, screen time and sugar
  • Getting enough fresh air

If your child has healthy meals, snacks and stays away from too many soft drinks and chocolate bars, they’ll likely find it’s easier to sleep. It’s a good idea to have your son or daughter get outside and burn off some anxiety by playing a sport, riding a bike, or taking a walk.

By enjoying these activities with your child, you’ll improve your own sleep patterns.

4. How Much Sleep Is Enough?

If you have a teenager, or teenagers in your house, encourage them to get as close to nine hours of sleep as you can. It may seem like a lot, but it’s the recommended amount of light and deep sleep, according to the US National Institute of Health. (See link just above).

Infants should get sixteen hours of sleep, and children should get something in between.

Sleep deprivation may seem like a great idea when a favorite TV show is on, or a video game achievement is just within reach, but consistent shortage of sleep will cause a neurological “crash” of sorts, once your sleep bank is overdrawn.

5. Sharpen Attention

Attention in class is critical. If you find your teen or child isn’t paying attention to you at home, their teacher(s) are likely seeing the same behaviour. Focus and attention are directly impacted by the amount of sleep you have, so encourage your child to get a full eight or nine hours.

If you can avoid arguments at bedtime, you’ll create the best environment for sleeping for everyone. Conflict, as you know, builds up stress or excitement. Try reading a story, encouraging your child to read a paper book, and try to build consistent habits before bed, so life is predictable. An hour of quiet, calmness and serenity before bed is a good way to ease into sleep. When kids don’t get enough sleep, they tend to get hyperactive, as opposed to tired like adults.

6. Improve Creativity

A rested brain can also spur creativity, as it can source different regions of the brain, and create relationships between thoughts better. The attributes above can help improve memory and logic for classes like math, history or science. If you have a child who is very artistic, it’s a good idea to remind them once in awhile that more sleep can stimulate their creativity too!

If your child can focus and maintain their attention for extended periods in the classroom, and retain what they are taught more effectively, their academic performance is sure to improve.

Sleep also helps improve metabolism, which can help to reduce weight. If your child is struggling with weight issues, encourage them to adopt healthier behaviours including diet, sleep and exercise, and their academic performance could benefit.

If your child is struggling in school, try encouraging sleep as a way to cope with the stress and demands of the school day. Calm, supportive conversations, as opposed to conflict and argument is the best way to encourage good sleep habits.

June 1st, 2017

Posted In: Athletics, Education, Parenting, Uncategorised

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Cheating and Plagiarism

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]cheating & plagiarism have increased[/pullquote]

Studies indicate that cheating and plagiarism have increased in recent years, including among students who are successful academically.

This phenomenon became a major topic of discussion not too long ago with cheating scandals uncovered at some major high schools and universities, including Harvard. Experts attribute the rise in cheating to a few factors, such as increased access to the internet, a lack of understanding of what plagiarism entails and a greater need for schools and parents to emphasize what academic integrity means.

One survey of Yale undergraduates, for instance, showed that students had never read the university’s policy on academic integrity; most were unsure of the rules about sharing their work.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]three-fifths of high school students admit they cheated[/pullquote]

In another survey the Josephson Institute of Ethics found that about three-fifths of high school students admit they cheated in the last year.

It has been shown that unethical behaviour tends to increase when it’s easier to do. Now that kids can cut, paste and copy from the internet, with little understanding of where information comes from or who owns it, cheating can be simpler than ever.

Cheating is when a student obtains or tries to obtain credit for work in dishonest or deceptive ways. It can include lying, copying from another student, discussing answers during a test, using cheat sheets or using copies of an exam without the teacher’s permission.

Plagiarism is when a student uses the work or ideas of another person without properly giving credit to the source of the information. The original author must be credited through proper footnotes, quotations or commentary.

Every school has a code of conduct that outlines what behaviour is and isn’t permissible. Cheating and plagiarism violate academic standards and can result in disciplinary actions.

If your child is caught cheating, it’s important that you get involved. Speak to your child’s teacher or principal to discuss what behaviour occurred and what consequences will be implemented.

Sit down with your child to discuss their behaviour. It’s important to ensure your child understands why what they did was wrong and what they can do next time to avoid cheating. In some cases it may be a case of misunderstanding. In others, it may have been deliberate. Either way, it needs to be addressed.

Explain that independent thinking, honesty and integrity are important parts of the education process and are required as they grow into adults. Tell them they can approach you for help if they need it or are confused about how to complete an assignment or study for a test.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Peer pressure[/pullquote]

If they are being pressured into helping others cheat, talk to them about what is going on at school. Peer pressure can be difficult to resist, and kids must learn the tools they need to overcome peer pressure and do the right thing.

 [pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]                     it’s important to reinforce what is and isn’t acceptable[/pullquote]

Research has shown that reinforcing standards can decrease cheating, but schools may not be doing this enough. This is when it might be time to insist your child’s school review the rules about things like how the internet should be used in an academic setting. Plagiarism policies and internet behaviour can be confusing, and it’s important to reinforce what is and isn’t acceptable. Even if the rules have already been discussed, it might be time for a reminder.

 

May 5th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting

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