Being A Positive Role Model For Our Kids

I always struggled with body image growing up. I started to break out when I was 10, and I had braces at 11 and around the same time my body started changing. I wore baggy sweaters to cover up my developing breasts, slathered my face in make-up to try and cover up the pimples and rarely opened my mouth to keep the braces hidden.

At some point, I started to develop a negative relationship with food, and for many years struggled with eating issues.  I was always surrounded by magazines that pictured thin, beautiful women and at the time I didn’t realize that they weren’t perfect.

I became so focused on the numbers of the scale that I didn’t focus on being healthy.  It was all about the number. I eventually learned to ignore the number and focus on being healthy; eating healthy food and being physically active – that is what was important, not the number on the scale.

Over the years, I have noticed is that there is a lot of talk about positive body image and self-esteem for girls, but not so much for boys.

As a mom of 2 boys, I don’t really understand this. I know many men that struggled with body image (whether it was weight or height, muscles etc) so why is there not the same focus on them.  Boys with poor body image and self-esteem seem to fall through the cracks, and I am determined not to let that happen with my 2 sons.

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Positive Body Image Begins at Home

One thing I know about kids is that they copy everything you do. If I pronounce the word apple ape-el, then my kids will grow up calling an apple an ape-el. We (and their teachers, daycare provides and friends) teach them everything the know.

But mainly, it’s us, the parents who impact our kids as they grow up. So imagine instead of pronouncing a simple word differently, what I say around the house instead is “I’m too fat and I feel gross and I eat too much and look at how much fat I have around my waist stomach where my abs should be.”

There’s no way I should expect my girls to grow up feeling happy about themselves if all they hear is my talking about how uncomfortable I am with my own body. And I’ll be honest, I always have been uncomfortable with my body. Seven years ago I went through the Weight Watchers program and lost 40+ pounds. Ever since I’ve battled the emotional peaks and valleys that come with bad body image.

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Sleeping With One Eye Open

There is a lot of talk about sleep, sleep deprivation, getting kids to sleep, sleep training etc. etc. when you become a new parent. We went through it with our son when he was born. We read articles about sleep training, I coped with getting up at all hours to nurse him, and caring for him during while profoundly tired from lack of sleep the night before, but despite all the challenges I knew there would be an end in sight. Children grow up, they mature and their sleep tends to become more regular. Bedtime can still be a battle and there might be the need for a potty visit, or to soothe a nightmare in the middle of the night, the occasional illness, but for the most part we can expect to start getting better sleep as our children get older.

But what if that lack of sleep doesn’t change? What if your sleep continues to be disrupted? How do those parents cope?

Special needs children, particularly those with medical fragility and complexity don’t sleep well. They often have medical conditions that have them monitored while they sleep, and night time alarms from their equipment are common. Night time can also be when symptoms seem to manifest – as is the case for our family – and you can spend entire nights, for several days and at regular intervals, trying to soothe your child and care for him/her.

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Sleep for Youth

Sleep is critical for physical and mental health, but many youth just don’t get enough. Lack of sleep can cause a number of health problems. On the other hand, trouble sleeping can also be a symptom of physical or mental health problems. This fact sheet will help you make sure your teen is getting a good night’s sleep.

How does sleep usually happen?

The brain has an internal clock that tells us when we need to sleep. When it becomes dark outside in the evening, this clock is triggered to make melatonin. Melatonin is a brain chemical that makes us feel sleepy.

When youth reach adolescence, their sleep pattern changes. Their inner clocks shift, making them want to stay up later and sleep later the next morning. This can be difficult if they have an early school start time. Even so, try to accommodate this as far as possible.

How much sleep does my teen need?

Every teen is different, but most youth between 12-18 years need 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night. On average, though, they’re getting closer to 7.

What happens if my teen doesn’t get enough sleep?

All sorts of problems can happen when youth don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause:

  • Mood problems (like irritability);
  • Trouble concentrating;
  • Physical health problems (like getting sick more often);
  • Hyperactivity. While adults usually feel tired and don’t have much energy when sleep deprived, youth can become hyperactive.

It’s easy to see how these difficulties could have a big impact on school, behaviour and mental health.

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Three Ways to Make Bedtime More Fun

Bedtime at our house is hit and miss. When we hit, we get through three of four books without crying then we snuggle together and fall asleep in less than 10 minutes. When we miss, we’re up until 10, both of us crying and dreading how much sooner wake up is going to be.

I like to focus on the things that lead to our hits and I can think of three things in particular that ensure we’re more likely to have a good bedtime routine than a disastrous one.

Put on a shadow puppet show

My oldest daughter and I made some shadow puppets one day when she was home sick. We made a raincloud, a fairy godmother, a dragon a princess and a bear. We have created about twenty stories out of these guys since then. Every single one of these has happened while she’s in bed with the lights off and just a small light guiding the shadow show. This works so well for us because it’s great bonding time but it’s also time spent in bed. If we’ve created 20 stories, I’d say 17 of those times, it’s been my daughter who has asked if she could go to sleep now.

Make up your own bedtime story

Reading to your child is awesome, writing stories with them is even better. This is another great one because it’s also done with your child already tucked into bed and gets their mind working extra hard which in turn makes their minds extra tired. More likely than not you’ll be able to just let your child talk and talk and talk while interjecting every now and again to turn their ideas into story form. We’ve come up with stories about dinosaurs who go camping, giants who play hopscotch, sisters who sneak around at Christmas and many more.

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Tackling Sleep Hurdles

Before I became a parent, I swore I would not co-sleep. Our bed was for hubby and I, not the kids. I had nothing against co-sleeping; I just didn’t think it was for me.  Once my children were born, that changed – I didn’t co-sleep regularly, and other than napping with ODS not at all until he was a toddler.    When he was 2, he went through a stage of waking around 3 am for cuddles, and I would bring him with me to my bed. It started off with only 1 or 2 nights a week. Then it became more frequent until it was every night. THEN it started happening earlier and earlier. There were nights that I would find him curled up in my bed when I went up to sleep at 10:30pm.

The exact situation I had wanted to avoid was happening. I enjoyed his snuggles (and he is super warm at night, where I am cold, so it was nice to have a little heater beside me) but at 5.5 it was time for him to stop (at least on a regular basis)

We asked him why, we told him he couldn’t sleep in our bed (but then he got tricky – he would climb in and not touch us and I would wake at 630 to him next to me). We tried a sticker chart ME sleeping in his room and nothing seemed to work.

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