Family Life

Transitions

summer

Hello!  My name is Nora McCarthy-Joyce and I am the new Executive Director of Family Service PEI.  I am eager to use my skills in the advancement of providing Island families with services to enhance their daily lives.  I have over 15 years experience working for families in schools, community organizations, universities and government advisory groups and have a passion for helping others become their “best selves”.  I believe that no investment is more important than investing in families!

 

As Spring turns into Summer here in Prince Edward Island, our children will be eager to finish up the school year and transition into their summer vacation.  This transition is not always an easy one for kids.  As they move away from the routines of school and are thrown into the freedom that summer vacation offers, many kids find it challenging and may become under-stimulated and complain that they are bored.

 

There are many things that could help to make the transition easier for kids.  Here are some ideas that could help children adjust from their school schedule (and provide fun activities for the family too)!

 

Create a Summer Calendar

 

Children get excited about sitting down with parents or guardians and creating a fun list of things to do!  Let your children brainstorm all sorts of activities they would like to do in order to have the best summer possible.  Create a list of all the ideas your family comes up with.  Now you can start penciling activities into your calendar and planning out a summer to remember.  This gives children something to look forward to while creating family memories to last a lifetime.

 

Organize Educational Activities

 

It is important that children have learning opportunities throughout the summer to prevent summer learning loss.  There are lots of ways to maintain skills throughout the summer.  For example, teachers often offer reading materials or other practice activities for students to complete over the summer break.  It is your job as parent to make sure your student completes the assigned task.  You can make it fun by creating rewards together for each completed assignment.  If no work was assigned from their teacher, you can make a fun and educational trip to your local library.  They often offer free reading and craft programs that children can attend, in addition to taking home books, videos, and other great literacy materials!

Stay In Touch With Friends

 

Staying social with friends is very important to children over the summer.  Help your children stay in touch by planning for fun with other parents or events.  Summer barbeques, a trip to a local park, or taking part in a community celebration is a great way to do this – it can even be added to your calendar of fun!  Strengthening friendships over the summer will help ease kids back into the upcoming school year with confidence!

 

I hope you will find these tips useful as our weather gets warmer and the school year comes to a close.  Wishing you a all a wonderful summer this year filled with many memories and lots of fun!

 

 

Nora

 

 

 

To Lend Or Not To Lend? 4 Things To Consider

LendMoneyBy: Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

We have all been asked to lend money. It may have been $5, $500, or even $5000. Chances are, the person doing the asking viewed you as someone they could trust and turn to in a time of need.

Adult children, grandchildren or even friends may be coming to you to lend money. They might be purchasing a car, going to school or need a new appliance for their home. It might just be for weekly groceries, gas for the car, school supplies or to buy someone a gift. Helping others can make us feel good about ourselves and can be extremely rewarding, but if you are considering lending money you must always remember to put yourself first.

1) Do Your Research

If someone has approached you to lend them money, get as many details as possible. Regardless of the amount, the person should be able to provide you with the information that is necessary for you to consider a loan. Give yourself 24-48 hours to think about it. Some extra time will help you to gain confidence to form an answer. Be sure that you only lend what you can afford to live without and also consider the impact your lending decision will make on other family members or friends.

2) Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

If you have decided that now is not the best time for you to lend money, then you must stand your ground. Be firm and concise as you explain that you are not in a position to help out at this given time. People might assume that you have money to spare, but make it known that it acts as an emergency fund to protect you against unexpected expenses.

3) Help In Other Ways

With the life skills that you have, could lend a hand for someone in different way? Perhaps reviewing their finances or finding ways for them to earn extra income. Maybe you can provide them with services like babysitting, home cooked meals or drives to work. For an upcoming birthday or holiday, consider giving a cash gift this year.

4) Get Details When Saying Yes

If you do decide to lend a large sum of money, you should discuss all of the terms including: the amount being loaned, interest rate and repayment schedule. The key thing to remember is to write it all down! A personal loan agreement form can be helpful. Having it on paper will help avoid any confusion in the future.

In most cases, it is hard to say no but your financial stability is just as important as anyone else’s. Learn from the experience. Teach the person who has asked for a loan about self-sufficiency and independence. Both of you will feel better about your decision in the long-run through one another’s strength and support about financial matters.

For more information about lending and giving money visit: www.It’sYourRight.ca

Building Better Relationships

IGS-00075550-001By: Maureen Croken, Family Service PEI

We know that relationships are important and contribute to our well being .We also  know that having a good support system in our life is one of the determinants of good health, and in particular good mental health. How do we achieve this?  We learn skills early on in our family, school and community that inform us how to interact with others. Sometimes however to improve the quality of our relationships we need to improve these skills and there are many resources available to us in the form of books, lectures, blogs, and therapists to name a few. Some skills that will be helpful are communication skills, listening skills, problem solving skills and mindfulness skills. Learning these skills takes work and practice and for many of us is an ongoing process.

We are all unique but also similar in that we have a need to have a connection with others, to belong and ideally to have acceptance by others of our most authentic self. In view of this we need to establish relationships with others and more importantly maintain them. There are some who say our resilience is rooted in our ability to form close relationships.

Relationships can range from deep friendships to more superficial acquaintances. Both play a role in our life and the latter, in some cases, may lead to a deeper friendship.

Establishing Relationships:

Taking risks:

We do need to remember it does take two people to establish a relationship. Individuals have different needs and interests at different stages of the life cycle. A relationship may not work out because of time, because of other commitments and priorities or lack of common interests. It is important to remember, that in most situations it has nothing to do with you. This work of connecting with others can cause anxiety, in some cases fear and for others it is remarkably easy and natural. We need to over come our fear of rejection, a common fear for many of us.

We need to accept that our attempts at establishing relationships will not always work out; in fact we need to plan on it. For example, you think you might like to be a friend with a certain person and for example, arrange to have lunch. You soon realize this is going to be a long lunch .Your lunch partner is talking about sports or some other topic in which you absolutely have no interest .They have no interest in what you have to say. Another scenario could be completely different. You have lots on common and lunch is over before you know it. You are surprized when your lunch partner does not want to schedule lunch again. That may have nothing to do with you. Your lunch partner may be overwhelmed with other commitments and responsibilities.

Be Yourself:

Being yourself gives others a chance to see if there is compatibility and if they have anything in common with you. At the same time, pace the level of self-disclosure…too much too soon can scare people away. Have you ever met someone who disclosed their life history without even asking you, your name?

Interests

You meet people sharing common interests. You need to identify your interests and be able to discuss them with others, such as reading, cooking, gardening, sports, bird watching, just to name a few. If you do not have any interests you need to develop some. This may involve trying many different things until you find something you love to do. It is fun to share with others and this becomes a win win situation.

Social Activities   

You are more likely to meet people if you attend events and activities. Some people are fearful of attending some event on their own, yet others see it as an opportunity to meet someone. In fact, many people travel on their own for this reason.

Social Media

There is great potential for connecting with others through social media. You have to use the same judgement and caution as you do in the offline world.

Maintaining and Improving Relationships

Know Yourself

There needs to be a balance between healthy relationships and feeling secure and satisfied with ourselves. Are you aware of your values, beliefs, interests and feelings? Are you able to say no to something makes you feel uncomfortable? Do you sometimes go along with a request and then feel resentful? Are you able to take time for yourself and know that you deserve it? The better you feel about yourself, the easier it will be to care for others.

Give and take

Recognize what is important to the other. This involves being there for the other as well as your expectation that they be there for you. Relationships are a two way street. Give importance to the needs of the other. Develop the skill of both giving and receiving emotional support.

Learn to Listen.

Do you ever find when some one is talking you are waiting for your turn to talk, and tell your own story or you may interrupt without hearing what was actually said. Most of us do this at some time and we miss out. You may need to practice this skill of focusing on what the other person is saying. This becomes even more difficult when the topic triggers negative or uncomfortable feelings within. For example, imagine you are discussing the subjects of vaccines with someone and they have a strong opinion that is different than yours. You are convinced that they are wrong and shut down before they have had a chance to state their position.

Expectations

Be realistic about what to expect. When we have a relationship with someone, it usually comes with a set of expectations. Keep in mind that we all have our own habits, personalities, beliefs, values and experiences. Your definition of a friend or friendship may be different than that of another individual.  Many of us expect our friends to be mind readers and know what we want. We are disappointed when our friend or friends fail to meet our expectations. Be clear about what you want. For example, you may want your friend to be available by text, email or phone more often then they would like or are able. Check with your friend what works for them. You may need to adjust your expectations or come up with some kind of compromise.

In conclusion building better relationship takes work, practice of specific skills and involves risks. Your life will be richer and more meaningful. As mentioned previously, there are many resources available to assist you in this process.

Communicating Effectively- The Readers Digest Version

3c6f8c3c-9d57-47cf-929c-3db7104e2a38By: Suzanne St Amour, Family Service PEI

Communication is part of life. The daily activity is practiced all over the world. However humans are not always successful in their attempts at communicating.

In general terms, communication is about imparting or exchanging information. It also has a variety of other functions.

There are several steps in communicating effectively. Lets use a situation where two people are talking to each other.

1) GOAL– Decide on what goal is to be achieved in a particular communication. Consider the reason for the communication. For instance, is it being used to impart information, convey an idea, share thoughts and emotions, argue, or transmit displeasure..

2)  DISCUSS TOPIC– Together explore the topic to be discussed. To do this each person needs to be clear about what they are trying to say.. This part of a conversation is about making meaning. The intent is to listen, understand and accept what each other is trying to communicate. Both persons needs to feel heard. This happens when we are able to show each other that we understanding what the other is saying. At this stage it is not necessary to agree or worry about disagreeing. Notice that the conversation has not yet reached the stage of finding a solution. Perhaps the communication is not about finding a solution, it could, for example, be about what they each feel regarding the day’s events. Jumping to solution talk or “fixing” is a common mistake made in communicating. People want to get right to “the answer”.

3) GENERATE OPTIONS– Think back to step one. Be clear about the shared goal of the communication. If there is a problem to solve or an issue to overcome, start brainstorming possible solutions.  Write them down if you like. Generate as many ideas as possible. 4) When step 3 is complete go through the options and evaluate the pros and cons. After further discussion, rule out the options that are not suitable.

5) DECIDE ON A SOLUTION– From the ones that remain select a solution that both of you can live with. This can be the most difficult step. It may require compromise and thinking outside the box (creativity). The more a person practices this method the better they will get at it.  Remember that the first part  of communication to make a point or share information and perhaps solve a problem if that is the outcome you have agreed to.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG– Note that it is important for each person to remain calm and use their cognitive skills. Avoid picking a solution that is non-negotiable. If a person does this there is no space for options and the situation becomes a “I win you lose” or “you win I lose” proposition. Resist becoming polarised and digging in. This will bring our emotional upset and may kick start the Fight or Flight response. This response is a hard wired physiological (body) reaction which occurs automatically when humans feel threatened.

Research has found that, during upset,  if a person’s heart rate rises above 90 beats per minute, all logic goes out the window (part of the Fight or Flight response).  If this happens any kind of logical discussion or solution becomes impossible. This is when fighting starts.  A conversation that deteriorates  into  a fights will not end with a solution. In fact it is likely to end with “bad feelings” because people will have said things in the heat of the moment that they cannot take back. It also damages the ability to have a reasonable, productive conversation on the topic next time because trust has been damaged and people are less willing to take another risk. Agree in advance that if either person becomes upset you will take a break and return to the topic when you are both calm again.

TO RECAP– communications or conversations have a variety of purposes. In order to attain this purpose one has to remain calm and be open go slowly, a willingness to explore a topic, to listen to the other person, to understanding what they are saying to validate their position by indicating that they understand. In addition options must be generated, weighed and considered. Finding a solution will ideally involve input from both individuals and be mutually satisfying.  Sometimes it may require compromise or taking turns. So they may agree that they will do it this way this time and the other way next time.  For couples, remember that you are a team (We) not adversaries (Me).

Asking For Help, And Why It Can Be Hard

How-to-be-a-More-Assertive-Parent_ArticleBy: Suzanne St. Amour, Family Service PEI

At one time or another most people need help. That is a pretty straightforward statement.  It’s what happens after, that gets complicated. It turns out most people don’t like to ask for help. That may not come as a surprise. There’s even a gender difference. Women find it more difficult to ask for help than men.

So what’s up with that? One article I looked at said that HELP is a four-letter word (what does that tell you?). In North America, part of our culture is to be self-reliant. It is such an ingrained idea that most of us probably never give it a second thought; it just is, like the sky is blue and the grass is green. Hey wait! What if that is not the case? What if it’s all in our heads? We’ll get back to that later.

As I said earlier, women find it more difficult to ask for help that men. That does not mean that there is necessarily a huge gap between the genders, so men, keep reading. The main reasons that people give for not asking for help have to do with us wanting to protect our self-concept, or how we see ourselves. We avoid asking because 1) we don’t want to look weak; 2) we don’t want to look incompetent by imposing on friends of family; 3) it won’t be done right away if we don’t take care of it ourselves; 4) we were raised to be self-sufficient; 5) it won’t be done right if we do not do it ourselves.  Females (including myself) are particularly prone to # 3 and 5. We must have a high opinion of ourselves.

All kidding aside, the result of these beliefs cause us to work harder than we need to, feel like we’re doing it on our own, and no one understands how difficult our lives are. What’s the answer? There’s more than one way of dealing with it. The ways are not all equal. We can just suck it up and keep doing what we are doing (till or mind or body starts to break down).  Or we could consider changing how we think and feel about asking for help. It turns out that for some individuals there’s a crisis that forced them to ask for help. Often the reason is physical. For example, a person may get in an accident and may no longer be able to do the things they use to. Someone else may be pregnant with complications. Suddenly they find themselves having to face their limitations. Being forced to do something is not fun. No one wants to be forced. One alternative is to choose to chance not only how you do things but the beliefs that enslave you to doing more than is humanly possible.

Change how I think? Now there’s a new concept. How does one do that, you ask? Here’s the abridged version.  Keep in mind that this is not an easy process. Ideas and beliefs are like old friends that we do not want to give up because they are familiar. These ideas are also like stubborn stains or computer glitches that just won’t seem to go away. Here are some steps you can try.

1) Consider exactly why you think that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

2) Work through how not wanting to ever seek help is reinforced by unrealistic ideas and wishful thinking.

3) Think about whether your bias to not ask or seek help has any (actual) benefits to yourself or others.

4) Look to reality instead of relying on wishful thinking.

5) Expect some paradoxes (a paradox is something that seems self-contradictory or inconsistent, so they may make you wonder why you are trying to change).

6) Beware the illusion that all problems are easy or that problems needing solving only apply to some people (not you of course).

7) Prioritise your problems.

Sound complicated?

Perhaps you should ask for help.

Preparing For Emergencies

243

By: Denise Lockhart, Family Service PEI

Even though winter is fast approaching (yikes!!), we are not talking about the 72 hour emergency preparedness that will likely hit your radar at around December. Instead this month we will be talking about different types of emergencies that might happen in your life. But first, let’s set the stage a little.

What is an emergency? Well, an emergency can be anything. It could be a flat tire. A fender-bender. Losing your wallet. A death in the family. Becoming ill. Losing a favorite blanket or teddy. And the list can go on and on. Some people may also refer to an emergency as a crisis. The key defining points of an emergency situation are:

  1. The event is unexpected.
  2. The event causes some sort of harm or stress (an emotional or physical impact).
  3. Something needs to change or be rectified before you can move on.

So, if you look at key point number 1, you may at this point be asking yourself, “how can I possibly prepare for the unexpected????”

And the honest truth is – you can’t. To a certain extent, life is simply a ride that we cannot predict. Sometimes things will happen that are tough, and unexpected. BUT – there are things we can do to position ourselves to be able to cope more effectively with tough situations. And, hopefully, some of these preparations will also help us move past the emergency (or crisis, tough time, however you wish to refer to it) much more quickly.

Here are some tips that can help:

1) Take care of yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Unexpected life events can really have an impact on our overall health. But, if you already are well rested, nourished, and overall happy and settled in life it will be easier to cope with the stress of an emergency. You will also be able to more quickly settle back into healthy habits that are familiar to you once the event has passed. This will help you move on more quickly and reestablish a level of ‘normal’ to your life.

2) Have a savings account — that actually has money in it! Some people consider this a rainy day fund. Sometimes, emergencies require a little extra cash. Especially if something needs to be fixed or you need to take some unpaid leave from the workforce.

3) Surround yourself with a support network. This might be friends, family, peers. It doesn’t matter who is in your network, just make sure you have one. And that it is supportive. Having toxic people in your life, as a general rule, can be unhelpful and stressful. But having toxic people in your life when you are struggling to deal with an emergency can really make things more difficult. And being alone is not helpful either. Social relationships take time and effort. Yet, at the core we need those relationships so that we can pull strength from them at difficult times in our lives.

4) Ask for help. The amount of information available to us in 2014 is unprecedented. Take advantage of this. If you have encountered an issue and you can’t seem to solve or move past it – reach out. Do an internet search to find out what sorts of services are out there. It’s highly likely that someone else, somewhere else in the world (or even in your neighborhood) has encountered this same situation and has overcome it. You can too. It just might take some time. And you might need some help.

 

Should You Go Back To School?

234How to juggle the demands of home and parenting when you go back to school.

By Deena Waisberg from Canadian Living

Forty students sit at long tables in an auditorium, listening to their professor deliver a lesson. Amid the 20-somethings who are simultaneously typing away on their laptops and checking their e-mail, sit two older students in their 40s, conspicuously taking notes in the old-school style, using pen and paper. They may be in the minority – and a bit less comfortable with technology in this setting – but more and more mature students are returning to the classroom. A 2006 study found that 15 per cent of mature women were taking post-secondary courses, and experts say the numbers will continue to rise.

Adults who have already followed one work path study part time for a second career because people are working longer these days due to most provinces not having mandatory retirement at age 65, says Marlene Haley, a career counsellor and president of Find Work You Love Inc. in Vancouver.

For moms, the return to school and the desire to start a new career is often prompted by a divorce or grown (or older) children. With divorce, the thinking is, Now that I’m a single parent, I want to return to school so that I can earn more money, explains Haley. In the case of grown children, moms have an opportunity to reconnect with a passion that may have lain dormant while they were busy raising a family.

Here, we share the stories of three moms who were brave enough to go back to school.

Paulette Dunn, 40 

In 1990, this Dartmouth, N.S., resident took a position as a secretary at Dalhousie University in Halifax because she wanted to return to school to learn about business and take advantage of a job perk that covers tuition costs for staff. With two young kids at home, Paulette waited until 1999 before embarking on a bachelor of management degree part time. She was nervous to start but dove in and plugged away. In 2006, a year before completing her undergraduate degree, Paulette and her husband launched Creating Dinners, a meal assembly business.

After graduating with her bachelor of management last year, Paulette soon began a master of business administration part time to hone the skills she needs to grow the company. After graduating in 2010, Paulette plans to devote herself to the business full time and open up franchises.

How she made it happen 
With a full-time job and the university picking up the tab for courses, Paulette has been able to manage her education costs. A greater challenge is juggling home life, work and school. Being organized is essential. “I know how much time it’s going to take to get an assignment done, so I make sure I have time for that and my kids have time with me, too,” says Paulette. Her husband, Greg, also helps by taking on the lion’s share of the household duties. Paulette’s son and daughter, now 9 and 12, are also considerate of their mother’s busy schedule. If they see that mom has her books out, they give her space to study.

Biggest challenge
Paulette loves learning, she but admits her memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. As a result, she needs to spend a lot of time reviewing her notes and textbooks.

A+ moment 
Because she’s a mature student, Paulette enjoys a different relationship with course instructors, closer to that of a peer. And her instructors have generously critiqued her business plan and introduced her to business contacts.

Lesson learned 

“Protect your time because school is a lot of work; you are doing homework every night.”

Paula Sinnott, 51 
Paula (pictured right) had worked in the medical records field for 10 years in her native North Dakota. But when she married and moved to Canada, the stay-at-home mother of three worked sporadically. So, in 2001, when Paula and her husband divorced, she needed to find a new career to support herself and her youngest son and daughter, who were 14 and 12 at the time. “It was an ugly divorce. I had no money for a year-and-a-half. I needed to do something smart,” recalls Paula.

Inspired by the idea of returning to school, Paula got course catalogues from a few local colleges and came across an interior design program at Lethbridge College in Alberta. The profession appealed to her, and she could drive to school from her home in Pincher Creek, Alta. “I didn’t want to uproot my children,” she adds.

The two-year program wasn’t an easy ride, though. Paula had to take a math class to upgrade her skills, sometimes pulled all-nighters to meet assignment deadlines, and appealed a failing grade she was going to receive in a drafting class – and won. Today, with her diploma under her belt, Paula is employed as an interior designer, designing kitchens and bathrooms for homeowners and builders. Though the job provides a modest income, she loves the people she works with and has passion for her career.

How she made it happen 

“Whatever it takes” became Paula’s motto. She didn’t have any income so she paid for school and living expenses with RRSP savings and credit cards. (She tried unsuccessfully to get a loan from the bank and college.) Her kids also had to take on more responsibility, such as making some of their own meals and cleaning the house.

Biggest challenge 
Not being able to do as much for her kids as she wanted. “I remember sitting at my drafting table and my daughter was sitting at our kitchen island and we had our backs to each other, both doing homework. She said to me, ‘Could you be a mom for a minute and make me some supper?’ That was hard,” recalls Paula, who just kept reminding herself that school wasn’t going to last forever, and then she would be more available for her family again.

A+ moment 
Paula developed friendships with several of her classmates and enjoyed working with them on projects. “It was a very intense program for all of us, and you give and receive support from one another, which brings you closer,” she says.

Lesson learned
If you don’t have the funds to make your dream a reality, then try to get a loan from the bank. The investment will be well worth it, according to Paula. “A loan is nothing; this is your life.”

Carolyn Meredith, 39 
When Carolyn and her husband separated in 2002, she needed an income and wanted a job that would allow her to be on the same schedule as her kids. “I used to teach swimming lessons, and I loved going to all the mom-and-tot activities and volunteering at my kids’ nursery and elementary schools, so I knew teaching would be a good choice,” says Carolyn. So at age 34, she was accepted into the year-and-a-half master of elementary education program at Niagara University in New York. (Carolyn applied stateside because she was missing a math credit needed for teacher’s college in Ontario.) Her kids were two, four and seven when she headed back to the classroom.

After graduating, Carolyn landed a position at Holy Cross Catholic Elementary School in Georgetown, Ont., where she has been for the past three years. While there’s always “a ton of work to bring home,” Carolyn is quick to add that she “loves the job.”

How she made it happen 
Tuition costs, alone, were $28,000 Cdn, and the Ontario student loan program covered only $9,000. Fortunately, Carolyn’s father cosigned for a line of credit, and he also helped pay for her living expenses while she was in school. Carolyn’s retired mother pitched in, too, looking after her kids.

Biggest challenge  
Carolyn had a household to run and three young kids to look after. “It took the first two to three months to learn to balance being with my kids and absorbing all of this new learning,” she says. Her own studying commenced only after the kids went to bed at 8 or 9 p.m. Carolyn often ended up crashing on the couch at 3 or 4 a.m. for a few precious hours of sleep.

A+ moment

School was exciting because it was truly the start of a new life for Carolyn. For the first time since having her children, she had the opportunity to remember who she was as an individual. “I was in a class of about 36 people and we all took the same courses. The whole group of us would go for lunch, and it took months to get used to the fact I could just sit there and be with adults.”

Lesson learned 
Carolyn notes that for several years there was a teacher shortage in Ontario, but by the time she graduated, far fewer jobs were available and some graduates didn’t land positions. “If you’re deciding to go back to school, really research what the job market is like in your chosen field,” advises Carolyn. “Make sure you don’t invest all that time and money and then end up not being able to work in the field you chose.”

Virtual school
Can’t find the time to get to a campus? Study for a degree, diploma or certificate with distance learning. Here are a few options to look into.

• Athabasca University, which is funded by the province of Alberta, offers more than 700 individual courses.

• Canadian Virtual University, a partnership of universities, offers 2,500 courses, covering a variety of fields, including arts, science, business and administrative studies, commerce and more. You can take a bachelor of arts in women’s studies through Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., a master of counselling through Athabasca University, or a human resource management certificate through the University of Manitoba. Some courses are entirely web-based, while others may mail study packages or feature teleconferencing, computer conferencing, audiotapes and other technologies.

Sourced From: http://www.canadianliving.com/life/work/should_you_go_back_to_school.php

 

The Impact of Back to School

233By: Family Service PEI

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from her, but this article is written by our Executive Director, Denise Lockhart. Please feel free to send your criticisms her way … especially given the topic she’s selected to write about:
I know, I know, nobody wants to hear that it’s already time for back to school planning. The bad news is that some experts would argue that we should be planning for back to school even before it ends. The good news is that around here at Family Service PEI, we are a little more realistic about how we like to fly by the seat of our pants a little more that might be recommended by ‘experts’.

In all seriousness, though, the events surrounding going back to school (or starting in a new school for those in transition years or those attending post secondary institutions), can have a huge impact – emotionally, mentally, and financially. We hope that our newsletter this month will help provide you with some tips to prepare.

The impact of back to school for students:

Going back to school for children can be something they look forward to, or something they dread. Regardless of the thoughts they have, positive or negative, any sort of change in routine is stressful. Even if they love school and are happy to be reunited with their friends – they are likely dealing with a new teacher, possibly a new school, and a change from the relatively unstructured days of summer. If they are not big fan of school, the stresses can be more dramatic. They may dread the structure, having to deal with certain peers or teachers, or even struggle with separation anxiety from their parents and/or siblings.

I uncovered a lot of resources with tips and tools meant to help parents make the transition of back to school easier for their children and families. I think the best overall tool that I found is actually an American website that you can find by clicking here: www.schoolfamily.com/school-family-articles/article/10654-back-to-school-planning-guide If you’re the type to worry and stress about all the things in life that you just never seem to get around to doing, I would recommend skipping the first section of this article (things to do 3 months before school starts). I know I looked at it briefly and then just kept going. The only thing I was thinking of back then was getting through the final weeks before summer could officially start!! And I refuse to feel badly about it.
If you do encounter any issues with school and your school age child, there is also a local link that you should be aware of: www.Helpmychild.ca Check it out to find details on various local services that may be needed throughout the year. It’s always better to address problems earlier rather than later… even if you do sometimes want to bury your head in our lovely PEI sand.

For those who are entering post-secondary education (some of you who are parents may also be in this category) – the transition in September is huge!! Even though it can be exciting, there are also likely moments of terror. The stress load is huge as students come face to face with new professors, the details of the expectations of their courses, new living arrangements, and the list can go on. Regardless of the number of ‘things to do’ and ‘issues to deal with’, there is one golden rule that will likely get you through – BREATH DEEP and SCHEDULE EVERYTHING. There are tons of resources at your disposal to help you adjust. Some of these may be self service technological tools (such as Google calendar that will allow you to track your classes time table, and your to-do’s such as working on assignments, studying, etc), and some may be student supports offered by your educational institution (such as how to study tutorials, student support groups, library lessons, etc.). If you need help with something – ask. And if nobody seems to have the answer, do your own internet search to see what you can come up with.

The impact of back to school on parents:
Students are not the only beings who have to adjust during this time of year. Parents also struggle with the change in routine, and ensuring everyone’s needs are met. Parents who have children who are going to school for the first time, are changing schools, or are going away to a post secondary institution have even higher stress loads than others. So don’t forget to take the time you need to take care of your own emotional and psychological needs. Ensure you are getting enough sleep, food, and exercise. And that you are using your own strategies to schedule the mountain of things that need to be done. Personally, I use a large calendar that communicates to everyone what the daily/weekly/monthly commitments are … and I mean I use that for everything. Garbage pick up, birthday parties, extra-curricular activities, meal plans. I confess that when I set this up in the summer, each member of the family is assigned a colored pen so that it is a visual cue as to who is doing what …. This level of detail is somehow lost by the time October is here. But I assure you, the overall usefulness of the calendar itself is worth it’s weight in gold. I also happen to have a fairly demanding career with a number of obligations that would not be appropriate to put on our family calendar (mostly because there would not be enough space for anything else). In addition to the family scheduling, I use my electronic calendar and to-do lists on my phone to ensure I am always (almost) in the right place and none of my commitments to home and work are lost (rarely).

Admittedly, one of the most stressful elements of back to school planning for parents is financial strain. It can cost a lot of money to ensure your children are properly dressed, have the right materials, and look the way they want to look so that they are social accepted by their peers. There are things you can do to reduce the strain … even if it is unlikely to be fully eliminated.

1) Set a budget. Stick to it. Track all your purchases, to ensure you stay within the budget
2) Watch for sales – this applies to school supplies and clothing. Only purchase at full price if it is an item that you absolutely need, right at this moment.
3) Keep your receipts. Don’t be afraid to return unused merchandise if you discover that you don’t NEED the item; or if you find it cheaper elsewhere.
4) Make sure your older children understand your budget. While social acceptance is important, that doesn’t mean you should feel a need to buy all name brand clothing and accessories at ridiculously high prices. Teens who are self conscious about what they wear can be given the freedom to choose their clothing – but within a very strict budget.
5) Look around the house to see what supplies you already have on hand. Maybe new shoes are not really needed until Christmas, or whenever the next growth spurt hits.
6) Do some research. While I don’t recommend spending a lot of money on things with a limited life span, quality is something to take into consideration when buying items like kitbags, lunch kits, footwear, etc. Purchasing a cheap product that only lasts a fraction of the time you’ll need it for might result in the spending of more money in the long run. You can find an online review for almost anything.

And finally – if you are having trouble sticking to a budget or are finding yourself spending outside your means, take a moment to ponder about your thought process. For instance, when I was little, my mother would always buy me a new outfit for special occasions or when I was feeling a little blue. You know – an outfit for my booster shot, a birthday party, because my crush broke my heart, a Wednesday. You get the picture. Not only do I have to fight my urges to buy my own children clothing for these same reasons … I also have spent many a moment fighting my own thoughts about when I ‘deserve’ something new.
Now, I could be a complete anomaly. Or maybe you might struggle with your own thoughts when it comes to making purchasing decisions too. Awareness is the key to change!!! New clothes help too … oops. I shouldn’t have said that.

Pricing Pets: The Cost of Pet Ownership

From: Zoomer Magazine

If you’re looking to bring a new dog or cat into the household, here are the numbers you’ll need to factor in.

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Initial costs

All new pets require some basic necessities to get them started, including: a carrier or crate, food bowls, a bed, collar, toys, grooming needs, spaying or neutering and microchip or tattoo. Add it all up, and the total can run into hundreds of dollars.

And that doesn’t include the purchase or adoption of a pet:

– A purebred cat or dog can cost between $500 and $1200, depending on the breed.

– Adopting an animal from local shelter cost between $85 to $100 for cats, and $135 to $275 for dogs. There may be an addition $75 deposit which is refunded when you have your pet sterilized.

– “Free” pets offered through the classified often need a veterinary examine, testing and treatment for parasites and vaccinations. According to the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society, these costs could amount to hundreds of dollars. (see their Comparison Chart for more details).

So what’s the total? A guide published by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) places one-time costs at $282 for cats and $340 for dogs. These estimates include shelter adoption costs, so you’ll need to add the difference if you go purchase from a breeder.

What this guide doesn’t include is other incidental expenses you might find. For instance, many new puppy parents purchase baby gates to provide safe boundaries, and go to “puppy school” to socialize and train their youngsters.

You may want to buy a book about raising your pet, or invest in additional chew toys, scratching posts and other protective measures for your carpet and furniture. Cleaning supplies are also a must, and it never hurts to have some specialty products on hand if your pet gets sprayed by a skunk.

Ongoing costs

What do you need to budget for in a typical year? Include food, routine vet check-ups, vaccinations, flea prevention, grooming and licenses. Your total costs will vary depending on the size and type of your pet. Smaller breeds of dogs and cats cost less to feed, and their smaller-sized accessories are less expensive to buy. If you take a yearly trip, you’ll need to add $15 a day for dogs and $10 for cats to your vacation budget for boarding or pet-sitting costs.

The BCSPCA places ongoing yearly costs at about $700 for a cat and $860 for a medium-sized dog. These estimates are in keeping with official data — Statistics Canada reports that pet owners spent an average of $770 on pet-related expenses in 2006. To put the numbers in perspective, that’s less than one fifth of what the average Canadian household spent on recreation, and half of what was spent on tobacco and alcohol.

There are ways to cut down costs. For example, learning to groom your pet at home will save money. Nail clipping costs $15 each visit — a savings of $90-$180 a year. You can also save money by brushing and bathing your pet at home — as much as $40 per trip.

Be wary of other cost-cutting measure. Cheaper brands of food can lead to health problems later on, and less expensive toys won’t last as long as good quality, durable products. Don’t expect “outdoor” cats to save you money on litter. You’ll need to budget more for veterinary care to deal with parasites and increased health problems, in addition to the risk of injury or death.

On average, indoor cats live twice as long as their outdoor counterparts.  Aging pets will also require more medical care, so expect that pet costs won’t be uniform throughout their lives. Veterinary medicine has made numerous advances over the past few years, so there is better disease detection and treatment options available today. It’s important to discuss with your family how far you will go to keep an aging pet happy and healthy.

Emergency care

Pets of all ages are susceptible to serious illnesses and injuries, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. These unexpected costs can be hard to absorb without an emergency resource. Preventative measures could be as simple as making more room in your emergency back-up fund or setting aside a lump sum.

Another option is pet insurance. Premiums range from $120 to over $500 a year, depending on the pet and level of coverage. As with any insurance policy, shop around for the best rates and features, and read the policy very closely for conditions and exclusions. Some policies only cover accidents and illnesses, not bills for routine check-ups and vaccines.

As an alternative, some experts suggest setting up a savings account or cashable investment and making regular deposits. It may not completely cover costs if an accident or illness occurs early in your pet’s life, but it might save you thousands of dollars in premiums in the long run. Your money remains in your control, and even earns a little interest in the process.

The bottom line

It’s difficult to predict the lifetime cost of owning a pet. Multiplying average yearly costs by the expected lifespan doesn’t account for the changing needs of pets as they grow up. Time commitment is also a factor, and adding a second pet doesn’t always translate to double the expenses.

However, there’s another side to this equation: the benefits. You can’t attach a dollar value to things like companionship, decreased stress levels, lower blood pressure, disease prevention and warding off depression. There’s a reason that “pet therapy” programs are popular in hospitals and long-term care facilities: Pets are good for people.

Money shouldn’t be a deterrent, but having an idea of the costs and budgeting accordingly means that neither owner nor pet will meet with any unexpected sacrifices down the road.

Sources: British Columbia SPCA, Statistics Canada: Spending Patterns in Canada 2006

Note: These figures are from Canadian sources and are quoted in Canadian dollars. To see how costs compare in the U.S., see the ASPCA website for details.

Sourced from: http://www.everythingzoomer.com/the-true-cost-of-pet-ownership/#.U80l7laWt94

Tips For Investing In A Healthy Relationship

By: Christina Campbell, Family Service PEI

99Everyone’s relationship is unique, and people come together for many different reasons. A strong, healthy relationship can be one of the best supports in your life. Most of us have to work consciously to master the skills necessary to make our relationship flourish.

There are some things that good relationships have in common. Knowing the basic principles of healthy relationships helps keep them meaningful, fulfilling and exciting in both happy times and sad:

  • Staying involved with each other. Some couples are not truly related or emotionally connected, but manage to work together. Therefore, while it may seem stable on the surface, lack of involvement and communication increases distance. When you need to talk about something important, the connection and understanding may no longer be there.
  • Getting through conflict. The key in a strong relationship is not to be fearful of conflict. You need to be safe to express things that bother you without fear of retaliation, and be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, or insisting on being right.
  • Keeping outside relationships and interests alive. No one person can meet all of our needs, and expecting too much from someone can put a lot of unhealthy pressure on a relationship. Having friends and outside interests not only strengthens your social network, but brings new insights and stimulation to the relationship.
  • Communicating. Good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. Honest, direct communication is a key part of any relationship. When both people feel comfortable expressing their needs, fears, and desires, trust and bonds are strengthened. Non verbal cues—body language like eye contact, leaning forward or away, or touching someone’s arm—are critical to communication.
  • Mutual respect. Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and understands — and would never challenge — the other person’s boundaries.
  • Keep physical intimacy alive. While touch is a key part of a healthy relationship, it’s important to take some time to find out what your partner really likes. Unwanted touching or inappropriate overtures can make the other person tense up and retreat—exactly what you don’t want
  • Spend quality time together. It’s critical for your relationship to make time for yourselves. If you don’t have quality time, communication and understanding start to erode. Keeping a sense of humor can actually help you get through tough times, reduce stress, and helps you work through issues more easily.
  • Healthy relationships are built on give and take. It takes work on each person’s part to make sure that there is a reasonable exchange and compromise.
  • Respectfully resolve conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but to keep a relationship strong, both people need to feel they’ve been heard. The goal is not to win but to resolve the matter with respect and love.
  • Expect ups and downs. It’s also important to recognize that there are ups and downs in every relationship. You won’t always be on the same page. Different people cope with stress differently, and misunderstanding can rapidly turn to frustration and anger.

A healthy relationship requires more than some give and take, and it is absolutely within your reach if you and your partner are willing to do a bit of work. If you and your partner have decided that you want to live together and that you are right for each other, all the work will definitely be worth it in the long run.