Healthy Living

Your First Counselling Session


The decision to start counselling is big and takes a lot of bravery. EVERY individual goes through difficult times at one point in their life and struggles with the act of reaching out for help. As a Social Worker, I believe counselling is beneficial for ALL individuals. Unfortunately, I find the service often has a negative label attached to it.  I can’t stress enough the importance of having that certain someone to talk things through with whether it’s with a sibling, parent or friend. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk to the ones we love in fear of judgement, shame and guilt. Having a therapist to talk with allows for a safe place to share while helping to identify your strengths, challenges and goals. Asking for help is probably one of the most difficult things we can do as individuals. Seeking out counselling is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength!

Let me tell you what your first session with a therapeutic counselor is like.  It is definitely normal to feel overwhelmed or unsure about your first session. You might be talking about things you’ve never said out loud before. Maybe you’re unsure what to expect. Here are some things to know about your first appointment:


1)      Your first counseling session is called the intake (or screening). Your therapist will be doing a lot of information-gathering, which can sometimes feel overwhelming. During my intake sessions, I focus not only on what has brought you into my office, but also on the things that are going well for you – supportive family and friends, talents, passions, etc. These things play a big part in your life.

2)      Everyone’s favorite thing, paperwork! You will be filling out some forms about your background and personal information.  Your therapist can help you with this if you have any trouble.  Next your therapist will go over a document called the “informed consent”, which covers what you can expect in counseling – everything from your therapist’s background, specialties, and credentials, to session fees and confidentiality. It is very important to have an understanding of this document, so be sure to ask questions if anything is confusing!

3)      The majority of the intake (or first) session will be like an interview. Questions range from childhood experiences all the way up to how you have been feeling most recently. Depending on your situation, you might take some written questionnaires to help your therapist get an even better idea of how best to help you.

4)      Toward the end of the session, or even at the start of your second session, you and your therapist will start to come up with a few goals. These are the things you would like to focus on in counselling. Try visualizing how your life will look if counselling is successful. How will you feel? What will have changed?

At Family Service PEI we’re just people experiencing challenges like you. We’re a group of people that are helping other people. Our backgrounds range from social work, counselling, business, accounting, psychology, sociology, education and much more. Our team strives to help individuals succeed in this big thing we call life. If you’re interested in booking an appointment with one of our therapeutic counsellors or just looking for more information about our services, please contact our office to discuss setting up your first appointment. We would love to hear from you!

All the best,

Alex Walsh BA, BSW, RSW

Outreach Education Specialist

Family Service PEI



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?


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.


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).

9 Common Pursuits That Rob Us of Happiness


By: Joshua Becker

 “Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.”

Happiness. We look for it in different places. Some of us hope to buy it. Some think we can earn it. Others look for it in a new job, a new relationship, or a new accomplishment.

But one thing remains: happiness is something we all desire. We were designed to experience it.

Why then, does it appear at times to be so elusive? How can a society search so desperately for something, but still struggle to find it?

Maybe it is because the pursuits we have set before us as a means to find it are actually keeping us from it.

Consider these 9 pursuits and how they may be distracting us from happiness. Each of them are common in our lives and in our world. But  rather than contributing to our happiness, they may be robbing us of it.

9 Common Pursuits That Rob Us of Happiness

1. Following the crowd. The crowd rarely has our best interests in mind. Instead, they seek their own benefit. Scientists call this crowd mentality. And more often than not, following the crowd leads to destructive behaviors rather than life-giving. We would be wise to seek input into our lives from other sources than the popular perceptions of the day.

2. Trying to please everybody. Bill Cosby said it this way, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” We are never going to please everybody. At some point, we will hold an unpopular opinion—one that gives us meaning and purpose and passion. And when we do, we ought to hold on to it desperately.

3. Chasing wealth. Studies confirm it over and over again: once our most basic needs have been met, money contributes very little to our overall happiness. And yet, we continue to pursue more as if it holds the secret key to lasting joy. But those who desire riches bring temptation to themselves and are often caught in a trap. Happiness is never the byproduct of chasing wealth.

4. Desiring a picture-perfect life. Happiness is not something we discover only after everything is perfect with our lives (our jobs, our appearance, our relationships). If that were the case, none of us would ever experience happiness. This world is imperfect—always will be. But happiness can still be found once we realize perfection is not a prerequisite.

5. Building our own kingdom. The size of our universe shrinks dramatically when we place ourselves at the center. Living selfishly for our own personal gain will never produce lasting happiness and fulfillment. Our lives are designed to be lived for something far greater. And only those who discover the hidden joy of living for others will find a happiness that truly lasts.

6. Entertaining distraction. Our world has become a constant feed of information, noise, and entertainment. Each distraction enters our mind with one goal: Gain control of our attention and resources. Those who sacrifice their resources to unlimited curiosity will never find the mental or financial capacity to become something greater.

7. Fighting for recognition. Searching for happiness in recognition is a losing endeavor. The world will never give you the respect or accolades you so desperately desire. They are all too busy fighting for their own. You will need to find it elsewhere.

8. Succumbing to fear. If given the chance, fear will always cripple. It will steal your life and potential. Living your fullest life will require courage in the face of fear. Sometimes you will fail. But be strong, most of the time, you will succeed—or become better because of it.

9. Searching for it around the next corner. Happiness is not something to be chased. It is a decision to be made. (tweet that)

And you have everything you need right now to choose it.

Sourced from:

New Years Resolutions: Turning Aspirations Into Achievable Goals

2015 new yearBy : Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

New Year- New Goals- New You. We hear it every January. I have to say that I personally have mixed emotions about the idea of New Year’s resolutions. On one side I believe that it is a good time of year to kick start, or reboot, whilst on the other side, I am quite aware that many New Year’s resolutions fail. So part of me says, why set ourselves up for failure? While the other side says, but why do we so often fail?  Confusing. I know. The only answer is to come up with a plan to defy all odds.

This past year, I am proud to say that I was able to do this. I set a goal, and by the end of November I reached it. It took dedication, it took perseverance, and it took support and help from others. I would not have been able to achieve this goal on my own.  So what is the magic trick you ask?

If you concentrate on the steps it takes to transform an aspiration into reality, you’ve set yourself up with a sturdy action-based goal. However, a lot of the goals that we set aren’t thoroughly thought through. They exist as concepts that we can dream about.

When we aim towards a personal target without specifying how we intend to hit it, we’re making outcome-based goals: objectives that only focus on the end product.

‘I’m going to lose ten pounds by July’ and ‘I’m going to write a novel.‘ are both outcome based-goals. It’s hard to accomplish them without a plan. With a little thought and dedication, these can turn into strong action-based goals, well on their way to being achieved!

Have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T Goal Setting? Each letter in the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for one quality that a strong goal should have. It should be:






If you have an outcome-based goal on your mind, try asking yourself the following questions:

–       Have I specified exactly what I want to do and when I want it done by?

–       What steps will I take to reach my goal and how will I keep track of my progress?

–       Is it possible to complete my goal in the time I want to, without rushing?

–       Do I truly feel that I am currently able to accomplish this goal? Is it the right time in my life to pursue this?

Once you are sure that your goal is S.M.A.R.T., you can take action whenever you’re ready! Remember to focus on how you’re going to hit your target. Accept mistakes and try not to get discouraged by failure; when you make a mistake, it means that you’re only trying new approaches, figuring things out, and moving forward. Finally, don’t forget celebrate every small achievement you make on your way to the final outcome! Stay motivated; don’t be afraid to modify your original plans. Most importantly, don’t give up.

Surviving Loss During The Festive Season

mother-son-christmasBy: Family Service PEI

Living through loss is something that everyone will experience throughout life.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve; each individual is a unique being who copes with loss in their own way. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality, your life experiences, and your coping style ( However, for many people, dealing with loss during the festive season can be extremely challenging. Social expectations  on  festive occasions   are that everyone  feel joy and delight. This can increase stress and pressure to conform and live up to these expectations.

Generally, when thinking of loss, the death of a loved one comes to mind. This is the more obvious type of loss, but not the only kind. As the festive season approaches, many people will be grieving the loss of their marriage, their job, health, pet, cherished dream, or their child who left for college. Although each loss will have its own intensity, often one loss (the loss of a pet) can stir up memories of other loses (death of a mother).

Dr. Nancy Molitor (, encourages speaking openly and honestly with friends and family about the experienced loss. This will allow the group to brainstorm ways to overcome the loss and create new traditions by scaling back, or transforming. If you have been laid off, look at starting new low cost family traditions, such as attending the local parade or tobogganing. Should the cost of gifts be a concern, explore the option of having a gift exchange, or limiting the dollar value. A fun family night of board games or Christmas caroling can often be enjoyed by many. When family and friends get together, consider  taking the time to  celebrate the life of  a  person who has died.  Tell stories, share pictures and videos, laugh together.

Having a close family member or friend absent from the celebrations for the first time can always be trying. Should a loved one not be physically present, Dr. Molitor suggests using alternative methods to communicate. This may include Skype, or making a holiday video and posting it on Youtube. Ensuring communication will help to bridge the distance gap and alleviate feelings of loneliness associated with loss. Additionally, there is always the option of inviting new people in to your life, which can be done by volunteering, or joining new groups.

In research on the topic of loss (and traumatic loss)  Dr. John R. Jordon  has found that formal and informal supports are most important for those grieving a loss.  He further suggest that our relationship to our lost loved ones does not end with death, rather, it transforms itself into a different type of relationship over time. This echoes the notion that our loved ones are always with us and go on through us.

The festive season can bring great joy. For some, it may take more effort and planning, but with open communication and innovation it is sure to be a success.

Preparing For Emergencies


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.

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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: 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: 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.

3 Valuable Ways to Invest in Yourself

By: Royale Scuderi- Lifehack

5266388a869a9c6eb1328498337e0e88Investing in yourself may be the most profitable investment you ever make. It yields not only future returns, but often a current pay-off as well. The surest way to achieve a better quality life, to be successful, productive, and satisfied is to place a priority on investing in both personal and professional growth. The effort you put into consistently investing in yourself plays a large role in determining the quality of your life now and in the future.

Investment options

1. Develop your skills

Improving your skills doesn’t always mean investing in higher education, though that’s surely an option, and perhaps a necessary one depending upon your career field. Investing in your knowledge and skills can take many forms. In addition, expanding your level of knowledge and skill isn’t limited to the business arena and doesn’t necessarily need to be formal. There are many “skill investment” avenues.

  • Advance your education –  extra classes, advanced degrees, relevant certifications, are all valuable investments. Take classes, either in person or online.
  • Utilize available training – enroll in workshops, attend conferences or participate in webinars.
  • Expand your knowledge – there’s lots of information available on nearly any subject imaginable. Read books, articles, white papers, anything related to the talent or skill you want to work on. Keep current – stay abreast of the latest trends or advancements. Subscribe to publications, read blogs of experts, and follow the latest news.

2. Explore your creative side

There is a fountain of creativity within most of us that has never been tapped or certainly hasn’t been used to its highest potential. We may need to unearth, and hone our individual creativity. Creativity, in any form, helps us to grow personally and professionally, to view problems and solutions in different ways and to utilize other parts of our mind that may have been previously untapped. It’s important to keep in mind that creativity has many faces. It’s far broader than being a painter or sculptor; it’s also about trying new things.

  • Learn a new language –  take a class or use language training software
  • Try gourmet cooking – enroll in a formal class, by a new cookbook, or ask someone you know who enjoys cooking in a different way.
  • write something – a book, short stories, poetry, anything
  • Explore the outside world – try gardening, bird watching, or landscape photography
  • Enjoy music – play an instrument, learn a new one or join a music group of some kind.
  • Create something tangible – paint, sculpt, make pottery, make jewelry or design your own clothes.

Choose some form of activity that you have never tried, haven’t practiced in years, or have never explored fully.

3. Nurture your mind and body

Nurturing both your mind and body allows you to have more to give now and  in the future, more energy, more knowledge, more compassion, more ideas, greater strength, physical and mental endurance.

Expand your mind. Learning new things and keeping your mind active even in simple ways helps to grow and maintain your mental ability.

  • Read – anything and everything
  • Explore culture – attend performances, listen to different style of music, travel, or join an organization or group comprised of people from different backgrounds.
  • Open your mind – engage in conversations with those who disagree with you. Look at an argument and try to make a case for the opposing point of view.
  • Keep your mind active – play word games, (yes, even Words with Friends counts,) board games that include strategy, or try using your brain to perform simple calculations rather than relying on a calculator.

Care for your body. Your body is like a well-oiled machine. If you care for it in the way that you might maintain an expensive car, it will perform marvelously and last for a very long time. Remember the basics:

  • Give it high quality fuel –translation: make healthy food choices as often as possible. What you eat does play a large role in your energy and ability to perform. You truly are what you eat.
  • Don’t push it too hard – translation: rest and relax often, slow down and don’t overload your system. Also, don’t shift gears too quickly; it causes stress and damage to “your machine,” A.K.A. your body.
  • Get regular and necessary maintenance – translation: go to the doctor when your sick – don’t put it off until you totally break down. Better yet, use preventative maintenance; get check-ups, take appropriate vitamins and pay attention to irregular or erratic behavior.
  • Polish the exterior – translation: take care of the outside too. Many people dismiss this as frivolous and self-indulgent, but it’s not, as long as you don’t go overboard. We’re not talking about facelifts and Botox, we’re talking about getting a fabulous haircut, and wearing clothes that make you feel confident and attractive.

Investing in yourself truly makes a difference in your life, your well-being, and your ability to thrive and perform to the best of your ability. The extent to which you invest in yourself, mind and body, not only shapes the way you interact with the outside world, it often reflects the opinion you have of yourself. Your future is in large part determined by your willingness and ability to invest in yourself now.

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