More Proof That Kids Can Change the World

Know a young person who is passionate about social justice—who is eager to make the world a better place, starting right now? 

Let that young person know about Amnesty International Canada’s Lifesavers program: a free monthly action program for kids age 9 and up that involves writing letters on behalf of an individual or group whose human rights are in jeopardy.  

Recent Lifesaver actions have offered support to

lifesavers-kids-social-justice

If those monthly calls to action appear to be written in a way that resonates with kids, it’s for certainly good reason.  Amnesty International Canada has a volunteer team of three young editors (they’re each ten years old) helping to craft the messages. Their job is to ensure that each Lifesaver is written in a way that will make sense to kids and inspire kids to want to take action. 

Liam Price-Savone, one of the young editors, explains: “Kids know kids. If I don’t understand something, maybe other kids won’t either. I like helping to find ways to explain what happened so that kids like me can understand….and then maybe want to do something to help too.”

Not surprisingly, the Lifesaver program has been embraced by kids from across the country, as well as their parents and teachers. It has also been used by adults in literacy programs and by students in English-as-a-second language classes, notes Marilyn McKim, the staff member responsible for the Urgent Action Network and Lifesaver Program. 

To find out more about the Lifesavers program—how your child or your class can become involved—please contact Marilyn McKim of Amnesty International Canada’s Urgent Action Office: urgentaction@amnesty.ca or (416) 363-9933 extension #325.

Need Help Managing Your Parental Emotions? There's an App for That

...or, at least, there should be soon.

Researchers at University of California San Diego have been developing an app that is designed to suggest helpful strategies for dealing with the frustrations of parenting when you need those strategies most -- in the moment.

Initially tested on parents who have children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the app is teamed up with a sensor that is worn on the wrist. If the sensor detects symptoms of stress in the parent, the parent is notified of suggested strategies ("Fill your lungs with air. Take three full, deep breaths" "You are your child's role model. What do you want to each?" ) via smartphone or tablet. The parents also received regular prompts encouraging them to be mindful of their overall parenting goals: for example, "Be consistent. Be predictable. Be prepared."

Parents who were involved in testing the app found the messages helpful. They particularly appreciated the "in the heat of the moment" parenting prompts. The researchers are now looking at ways to alert parents to early symptoms of stress (so that parents can take immediate action to deal with their rising emotion). They are also pursuing funding that will allow them to make the app more widely available.

So what can you do in the meantime, while you're waiting for technology to catch up with your needs as a parent?

You can develop your own game-plan for dealing with the stress that goes along with being a parent.

  • Identify your big-picture parenting goals, so that your parenting decisions are more conscious and deliberate.
  • Zero in on strategies that help you to deal with stress in the moment (for example, taking deep breaths or reminding yourself of your hopes and dreams for your child).
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to bring down your overall stress level. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and make sure you're fuelling yourself with healthy food and regular servings of fun. 

Teach Kids to Make Amends after a Friendship Fallout

  Soupstock/Veer Images

Soupstock/Veer Images

Is your child feeling badly about himself because of a falling out he had with a sibling or a friend?

You can help him to feel better about himself by encouraging him to take steps to repair the relationship.

Researchers at Baylor University (who reported on their findings in The Journal of Positive Psychology) have discovered that it is easier for us to forgive ourselves for hurting other people if we look for ways to make amends.

Because children are still learning the art of relating to other people, relationship mistakes happen — and children need to know what to do to make things better for themselves and the other person. 

Instead of allowing themselves to be mired in guilt, children should be encouraged to take action to repair the relationship. Depending on the circumstances, that might involve issuing a heartfelt apology or replacing a friend or sibling’s toy if the child lost or broke it. 

Sometimes people feel so badly after they have hurt another person that they can’t let go of negative emotions like guilt. They feel that they deserve to feel badly and, as a result, they become stuck in this negative emotional state. This puts them at risk of experiencing health problems. An inability to self-forgive contribute to depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system. Also, getting stuck in a state of guilt also does nothing to repair the relationship that has been damaged.

Relationship repair, on the other hand, paves the way to self-forgiveness, leading to much happier and healthier outcomes for all.

Talking to Kids About Death and Dying

  Veer Images: Nailia Schwartz

Veer Images: Nailia Schwartz

Talking to kids about death and dying may not be easy, but it is important. These conversations help to shape our children's attitudes about what it means to have to say goodbye to someone you love. Here are some tips on getting the conversation started. Remember, this is a conversation you'll be having on an ongoing basis as your child grows and matures and he begins to ask new and different questions about death and dying.

When you're trying to decide how to answer your child's questions, keep your child's age and abilities in mind. Very young children may have simple and direct questions that warrant simple and direct answers.

Look for the teachable moments that occur as part of everyday life. If you're lucky, your child's first experience with grief and bereavement will be with a goldfish as opposed to a grandparent. 

Respect your child's feelings. It is sad when a much-loved pet like a goldfish dies. It is normal to wish that pets (and people) we love could be here with us forever.

Don't use euphemisms simply because you're uncomfortable using the d-word. The goldfish isn't sleeping. It is dead. You don't want your child to be afraid to go to bed at night for fear of never waking up. 

Tackle the tough questions ("Are you going to die, too, mommy?")  as honestly as you can while simultaneously acknowledging you don't have all the answers. You can also reassure your child that are doing everything you can to try to live a long and healthy life and promise to let your child know if the situation changes. Respectful and honest communication alleviates a lot of anxiety for children -- and parents, too.