Loving our labels

I have an amazing and beautiful family and I am so grateful for them.

That being said – our life is not a simple/easy life. Our life is chaotic and often feels like more than I know how to handle.

Kids screaming, being impulsive, crap everywhere, things forgotten, running late for everything, nobody on schedule…. Chaos.

You know… “life with kids”

Or that’s what people like to say.

Life with kids is just like that; don’t worry about it. It’s just this phase of life - you’ll get through it. “

But it didn’t feel good.

It didn’t feel good when we were fighting all the time.

It didn’t feel good when my 6 year old was rolling around under the table at the restaurant.

It didn’t feel good when we got notes home from school that our child couldn’t sit still on the carpet. 

Loving your labels

Our family was struggling and I knew we could do better.

A recent diagnosis within the family made me think we should head down the path of a psycho educational assessment – I wanted to know if anything else was going on, even if the teacher didn’t think there was anything to worry about (I asked).

We went for it, and what did we learn?

ADHD. Gifted. 7th percentile for working memory.

Really fast brain power, with not very fast processing power and very little working memory. Ok – so what’s working memory anyways?

“Can you go put your lunch in your backpack?”


“Umm… why are you in the basement playing lego – did you put your lunch in your backpack? 

“What lunch?”

“Don’t be ridiculous! Get up here and stop playing around!”

Except it turns out – crappy working memory means it really IS in one ear and out the other and he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Lightbulb after lightbulb went off from the assessment. He wasn’t being a jerk or misbehaving, he was forgetting things. He wasn’t violent, his internal processing made it so that impulse control was low and he truly didn’t always have a reason for doing things.

And as we kept talking I learned that ADHD is HIGHLY hereditary – chances are a parent also has it.

Do you know an adult with ADHD?

Adults are getting diagnosed with ADHD a lot lately but it’s not because it’s some kind of new found craze, it’s because when we were kids the only people who got diagnosed with it were the REALLY problematic kids. The kids who were disruptive. The kids who weren’t passing in school.

Not the kids who mostly did what they were told, had decent grades, and definitely not girls.

The psychologist told me that most adults with ADHD have simply come up with adaptions throughout their lives and think of themselves as “lazy”

Oh! Me! I tell everyone all the time how lazy I am. Ha ha ha.

As we talked some more I realized it was my turn to get assessed - maybe there was more going on than being lazy.

I ended up seeing a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist so I didn’t go through the same battery of tests as some other adults I know or that my kids went through, but we talked. We talked A LOT, because ADHD doesn’t start all of a sudden in adulthood, you’re looking for signs that something has been up since childhood.

So let’s look at my childhood:

  • School aversion starting in kindergarten - “would do better if attended more frequently” was probably the most common comment on my report card throughout my life.

  • MASSIVE emotional outbursts from 6 or 7 until my teens years - I still apologize to my parents for these.

  • Depression as a teen – continued school aversion.

  • Messy. Really messy.

  • Terrible at time management.

  • Terrible at waking up and getting out the door.

  • Hyperfocus on school work (when necessary) – which really was me not paying attention in class, missing class A LOT and then cramming and passing. The key here is passing – I lowered my bar to “passing,” and that was all I ever expected of myself. “Don’t fail and you did a good job”

Let me tell you a bit about ADHD 

What can ADHD look like?

  • Never stops moving

  • Easily distracted

  • Problems with impulse control

  • Hard time regulating emotions

  • Poor time management

  • Disorganized and messy (wants everything in sight)

  • Forgetful

  • Problems completing tasks

  • Highly sensitive (noises, touch, taste, smell, etc)

Other ADHD Facts

  • Highly genetic. If your child has it, chances are high on parent does (or an aunt or uncle)

  • 25-40% of those with ADHD have a co-existing anxiety disorder

  • Up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression in their life time

  • 2x3 times more likely to have a sleep disorder

  • Children with ADHD have delayed brain development (by several years) and can often seem less mature than their peers 

ADHD looks like a lot of things that can also just be part of childhood.

Nobody ever flagged me for anything other than “would do better if attended school more often.”

My parents brought me to see psychologists and psychiatrists to try to help me (due to the emotional outbursts I mentioned above) – I was not simply forgotten, nobody knew what to do or what to look for back in the 80s and early 90s.

But even now when we know so much more, nobody flagged my kids and two of them have diagnoses because nothing was EXTREME. But just because things weren’t THE MOST TERRIBLE didn’t mean I was going to ignore my intuition that things could be better.

My second child’s diagnosis was really different and I never would have thought to have him diagnosed if it wasn’t for MY diagnosis. His is coupled with anxiety and depression (which we know is quite common.) He has a hard time paying attention, he is easily distracted by sounds and chaos or just having to focus on one thing at a time.  

ADHD can look like a lot of things, including a kid who feels like they never fit in and they just want to pull back from the world instead.

So let’s bring this back around to the “it’s no big deal” argument. The people who tell you not to put people or kids in boxes but just let them be themselves, whomever that might be. The ones who balk at the idea of any labels.

I want you to know that labels can be good!

I’ve witnessed these labels make life easier – higher grades, better impulse control  (and therefore not getting in trouble as much), being able to focus to complete a task, knowing how to compensate for terrible working memory.

I’ve seen how labels mean better support, access to alternate ways of learning and doing things, and increased compassion for people who struggle in traditional learning environments.

My diagnosis helped me realize I’m not lazy, I just do things differently. It helped me understand the supports I need in the places I struggle.

It helped me beat myself up a bit less for not being a good housekeeper at 42 (aren’t I supposed to grow into that?!) 

It helped me learn about ADHD quickly.

It helps me be innovative and willing to try new things.

It makes me a good entrepreneur. It makes me a great business coach.

Things aren’t perfect though – I’m not going to pretend an assessment and some words are a magic solution.

We’re still trying to find different answers – but we know where to look for them because we have a better idea of what’s going on.

Here’s what I want you to know:

  • Diagnoses and labels aren’t shameful, they are power.

  • Diagnoses aren’t rules and boxes, they are opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Every diagnosis in our family has helped me learn more about myself and has made me a happier person, more accepting of myself and decreasing the shame I felt for the things I couldn’t do.

A diagnosis isn’t a magic pill that fixes everything (though pills can really help some with ADHD!) 

School is hard and we don’t get the kids there every day.

I almost fired the house cleaner because I got all angsty and full of shame that the house had gotten so messy since she’d last been there.

We all have a lot of big feelings and we have issues with time management and not losing forms and getting places on time. 

But we have so much more knowledge to help us get through. We hired a parenting coach (Success in Steps) to help us figure out strategies to manage the family. We kept the cleaning person and made a deal that she would come MORE often and I would worry less about the state of the place when she arrived. I keep learning and talking to people and finding out what we can do to make our lives smoother.

I talk a lot about our ADHD journey because I know that it’s helping others. I get messages regularly from people realizing that maybe they need to look at ADHD in their families and me talking about it makes it less scary to do that.

Not everyone will see things our way but my experience is that labels aren’t boxes that puts us in a corner in shame.

They are lights that help us see how many people are dealing with Anxiety. Autism. ADHD. Depression. Dyslexia. They are labels that provide us with knowledge and knowledge is power and it helps us do better.




Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity

By Salina

On a recent trip to get my 5 year-old daughter her first pair of glasses, we came away with a little something we didn’t ask for - something which has undoubtedly left an imprint on my 5 and 7 year-old children’s self-image and identity. Something which has happened before, many times, and which will likely happen again. 

One of the employees took a good look at my brown-skinned, curly-haired children, next to my blond hair and pale skin, and decided it was her right to know exactly how this happened.

She blurted out “Oh, they are so beautiful! What is their background?” as if we were looking at a pair of pedigree dogs.

I wish I could say this was the first such experience for my children, but it was not. The relentless and pointless questions we receive imprint themselves on the very fabric of my children’s identities. These experiences tell my children that they must be different; worthy of comment after comment. White kids with white parents don’t get asked about their background, they don’t receive endless comments about how difficult it must be to manage their hair, or that their father must be “dark,” or assumptions that they are not from Canada. What makes people feel they have the right to say such things to and about my children?

I know that most people don’t mean to cause harm with their ignorant questions and comments, but the result is the same, intended or not. The result is that my children feel different, singled out. The next time you feel yourself burning with curiosity about someone’s ethnic background, I suggest you stop and ask yourself this : How would you feel if you were asked to explain your very existence to complete strangers on a daily basis, just to satisfy their curiosity?

That said, I'm not arguing that we should be colour blind (or practice what we call "whitewashing" - ignoring the existence of racism and our own role in perpetuating social injustice.) In fact, most children are curious and open about differences between people. I believe it's up to parents to open the line of communication on racial diversity without making assumptions or asking intrusive questions, so that they don’t grow up to be the eyeglass store employee in the above incident.

So how can we teach our kids to navigate our racially diverse society?

We need to teach kids to talk about race and culture in a positive way, rather than avoiding it like it’s a dirty little secret. If a friend has brown skin, it’s okay to describe him that way. Kids notice these things. My children often point out the colour of people’s skin and they are certainly aware that they have brown skin. If everybody avoided mentioning this fact around them, they would come to regard it as something shameful, something so bad that we don’t even talk about it. 

  • Help children understand race by normalizing it with exposure and lots of discussion; talk about race in a factual way, not an exotic way. 
  • Read books with as much diversity represented as possible 
  • Challenge and discuss stereotypes you and your children encounter in the media and elsewhere
  • Have dolls of a variety of ethnic backgrounds
  • Take your children to some of the many festivals and celebrations put on by various cultural communities within Ottawa
  • Make friends outside of your racial group whenever the opportunity arises 
  • Avoid making assumptions about people based on appearance
  • Teach kids the truth about Canada - which is that unless you are First Nations, your ancestors were immigrants at some point; this country does not belong to one group more than another
  • Teach your children to look at the world with an open mind and to treat others as they would like to be treated

We have enormous power as parents to shape the next generation; let’s use our power to create a better future for all of our children.

Salina Sunderland is the mother of three children ranging in age from 6 to 21.  She is also a private home daycare provider and cares for five additional children on a daily basis.  She is passionate about celebrating diversity, challenging stereotypes, and helping children build a strong foundation of respect and understanding. You can contact her at kangaroospouch@hotmail.com or check out her daycare website 

"Help Me" at the Park

I feel so lucky that I will be spending the summer playing in the park. This gives me the chance to enjoy so many of the simply wonderful aspects of life so I thought that I would write about my experiences and observations.

This year I have a 1 year old, one that is 2 and three quarters, and two eight year olds in tow. My 11 and 14 year olds and their friends will be hanging around as well. This should bring me some challenges, a chance to practice living in the present and lots of fun.

Help me at the park

Because I am a bit of a parenting nerd, being in the parks also gives me the chance to witness parents and notice all of the different parenting that goes on. Sometimes I get some new tricks to use and sometimes I see techniques that don’t fit with me at all; but whatever the case I always enjoy seeing the different ways that parents and their children relate. It gives me the opportunity to connect and fine tune the way I choose to parent.

I do this by observing other parents, checking out the way kids play together and getting into many conversations with other caregivers about the issues that are being presented every day.

This week I was a bit surprised when another caregiver lifted the 2 year-old that was with me down from a climber. I don’t know exactly what she was thinking but I sure was curious and will guess at a few of the reasons here.

Marley, who is 2 and three quarters, was up on a pirate ship climber and to get down she would have to climb the rope net ladder. This is a new challenge for her. She did get up but never down before and was asking for help. I was sitting about 15 feet away, so not right there. My 8 year-old daughter was right beside her but not strong enough to help her down. She was however able to start to instruct her about what to do to get down… “Turn around and go backwards… you can do it… I’m right here.”

park play

As Marley started to do this the other caregiver said “I’ll help you down”, picked her off the climber and put her on the ground.

Here’s what I think about this…

1.     I think so many people find it hard to watch children in any amount of struggle. The impulse to relieve them of this struggle can be very strong. But the struggle is the motivation to try new things, learn and grow. On the other side there is a reward of increased confidence and more possibilities.

2.     I think that the caregiver worried about the child’s safety and was concerned that she might fall. I can understand this worry but in this situation I was very confident in Marley’s ability.

3.     I think that the caregiver was not paying attention to the interactions that were going on between the children and what they were working out together. In an effort to fix the situation the children were cut off from the learning experience that they were sharing. And,

4.     I think that it is surprising when someone feels comfortable picking up a child without having a relationship. It is interesting to me where people draw this line. When they feel it is their right or even responsibility to physically move a child in a situation instead of having a conversation with them.

I am only assuming here that the caregiver wondered why I had not gone over myself to help Marley down. She may have thought I was lazy or didn’t notice. I’m pretty sure she didn’t realize that I was consciously making the decision to allow Marley to try something new, challenge her self and work out a situation with her friend all while in the careful watch of someone who cares.

I’m sure there was no harm done here but I must say that I am a bit disappointed that Marley didn’t get to realize the full benefits of her experience learning to climb the ladder. I am consoled knowing that she will have many more chances to try something new and feel success this summer and in the rest of her life.

Kaeli Van Regan is the founder of Living Inside Out. She combines her love of life and nature with education in Child and Youth Work, Life Coaching and Energy Healing to provide coaching to expand and uplift the family unit. Check her out onTwitterFacebook and YouTube.

How To Keep Your Child Rested During Travel And Still Have Fun!

Spring is finally here! Some people are in the midst of travelling for spring vacation or trying to finalize a summer getaway with their family. As a mom, the concerns I have while travelling with my three favourite people – my husband, four year old and almost two year old – are much different than my non-parenting days. Things I think about today: do I have everything for the kids – diapers, snacks, colouring books and oh, snacks – lots... especially if you are going to be going on a plane! Once packing is covered, the next question that pops into my head is: where will the children sleep and can we still have fun and keep routines in check? Absolutely! This is one of the most common questions I get as a Sleep Consultant. So here are my top three tips to keep your child rested during travel so that you can still have a fun family holiday!

1.     Don’t over-schedule: Remember how I spoke about how preparing before vacation is different once you have children? This same rule applies once you arrive at your destination. You now have a child that needs sleep to be at their best during the day. Let’s face it, an overtired child who is exhausted (picture dreaded melt down!) is not what you had in mind when you planned your family holiday. So, try to honour your child’s needs and remember his or her limits. You know how much your child can handle.  Some ways that you can still be flexible: plan a fun and eventful morning, with a more restful afternoon and a dinner out. Skip a nap one day or have it on the go (i.e. stroller or car) but make sure that you are back for bedtime.

2.     Get help from the sun: Are you travelling to a new time zone? The best thing you can do once you arrive is get onto the new time as quickly as possible. Children will normally adjust more easily than adults do. Sunlight can help shift your child’s biological clock during daytime hours, so open the curtains or better yet, get outside for a family walk. As you’re approaching bedtime, do the opposite – dim the lights an hour before bed, use black out blinds or room darkening shades to promote melatonin (the sleepy hormone that the body naturally produces).

Remember, the years of making sure that you have enough fishy crackers and raisins on the plane don’t last forever! So enjoy planning and going on holidays with your family – have an amazing time!

Diane Dauphinais

Diane Dauphinais is a Certified Sleep Specialist and owner of Sound Of Sleep Consulting Services in Ottawa, ON. She has had the privilege of helping families in the Ottawa area achieve the rest they seek both for the child and the entire family. Diane is happily married with two wonderful children who love their sleep!

Website: www.soundofsleep.ca

Facebook: www.facebook.com/www.soundofsleep.ca




Bill 10 (formerly known as Bill C143) and Why it Matters To You

By Salina Sunderland Your first question is probably “What is Bill 10?” perhaps followed by “Ugh…politics…not interested!” But before you skip by this post in favour of something more exciting and glamorous, let me fill you in on why you should be very concerned with this bill as a parent of young children.

daycare bill 10

Bill 10, the Childcare Modernization Act, is a bill that has been introduced by the Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, in the name of making your child’s daycare safer and better whether you have your child in a daycare centre, in an agency affiliated home daycare, or a private home daycare. Here are some highlights as pertain to private home daycare (there are changes for daycare centres and agency home daycares as well that I won’t go into here):

1) Currently, a private home daycare provider may have 5 daycare children at any one time in addition to her own children of any ages. Bill 10 would force the provider to count her own children under the age of 6 in her total of 5 kids, even though her children are most likely in school full-time at the age of 4. 2) Currently there are no age ratio restrictions for private caregivers and it is left to a daycare providers own discretion as to which ages to accept into her/his daycare depending on the caregivers own abilities, strengths, and programming. Bill 10 would make it so that private home daycares would be allowed no more than 2 kids under the age of 2.

Now, you might be saying “This is great! My kids will be safer!” However, considering that 80% of children in Ontario are cared for in unlicensed home daycares, this bill has the potential to severely disrupt childcare availability and rates. As a private home daycare provider, I receive many enquiries for care every month. 99% of those enquiries are for babies around the 12 month mark when their moms or dads return to work. Considering children now start school full-time at 3.5-4 years of age, we are left with children aged 1-3 to care for. Many of us actually prefer having a group of little ones close in age as they grow and learn together and it is much easier to cater to their needs when they are all in a similar stage.

If this bill is put into law, many home daycare providers will be forced to close as they will not be able to survive on the 2-3 kids they will be allowed to care (having to count their own children as well as find kids to fit the ratios). Those that stay in business will almost certainly raise their rates significantly, especially for the under 2 spaces. All of this adds up to less spaces available and higher costs for parents.

Now, if all of this was really in the cause of keeping children safer, I would say “It’s worth it! Let’s all suck it up and do this for the kids!” However, the problem is that the daycares that are currently running illegally (with too many kids) are not following the current laws; they are not going to suddenly decide to follow the new law. These are the daycares in which children are in danger and this law will do nothing to stop them. If the Ministry of Education would do their job and follow up on complaints, inspect daycares with complaints against them, and shut down the unsafe ones, we would all be better off.

Bill 10 is now in second reading in the Ontario Legislature. Once it passes through second reading it will go to Committee, where we hope that some amendments will be made. After it is discussed in Committee, it will be passed into law. The Liberal party has said that they would like to have it passed before Christmas.

You can find out more at this Facebook Page: Ontario Families and Home Childcare Providers Against Bill 143 Or: Coalition of Independent Childcare Providers of Ontario

If you are concerned, please write to Education Minister Liz Sandals (lsandals.mpp@liberal.ola.org) as well as your local MPs (follow this link to find them.) Act now before it’s too late; let the government know how this bill will affect you!