Tag Archives: Teenagers

De-Stress Dinner

Tips for dealing with stress

Jan. 20th our Thrive! Dinner used food, fellowship and fun to explore ways in which we can deal with stress.  We started by making nachos.  The young participants had fun spreading the ingredients and getting creative.  As the nachos cooked, adult colouring pages were made available.  Colouring has a wonderful calming effect, enabling us to focus on something other than what might be overwhelming us in the moment.

Cellphone scavenger hunt

After dinner, participant were challenged to use their phones to take as many photos of nature as they could find.  Given how cold it was, they were very creative taking photos of calendar pictures, photos in books, each other, flowers throughout the hall, poinsettias and holly from the Christmas play, a “Maple Leaf” (i.e. from a hockey jersey), hair (it was rainbow coloured) and even a (Swedish) berry.  Some braved the cold and snapped some lovely photos of dusk around the church.  Hundreds of photos were snapped in 15 minutes!

Nature can have a wonderful calming effect.  Even if it is too cold to go outside, we can watch through a window or close our eyes and imagine our favourite places.  Beaches, gardens, mountains, clouds floating through the sky, sunset and sunrise, meandering streams, Northern lights and more can quiet and inspire awakening our senses to something beyond the pressures of school and work.

COOKIES

There is something fun about gathering in a kitchen.  It can be the hub of a home.  Working together, we prepared dozens of cookies for the oven and we shared stories, continuing our conversations about nature and our favourite places.

As the cookies baked, a small jar with water and glitter was shaken.  The glitter swirled reminding us of how chaotic our thoughts can be when we are overwhelmed with so much to do.  Allowing the jar to sit and be quiet for a minute reminds us that we too can be calmed with stillness.

With that ideal in mind we discussed mindful eating.  What are the 5 senses?  How can we use those senses to explore the cookies, hot from the oven?  Will we feel their warmth on our hands?  What do they smell like?  What do they sound like as we break them apart?  Can we see the ooey gooey goodness of the chocolate?  What do they taste like?  We took our time with the first cookie but then started to gobble them up!

Deep Breathing

When we are overwhelmed it can be very calming to stop and take deep breaths.  Beginning in our stomachs, moving to our ribs into our chests we gulped in the air.  To test our ability to breathe deeply we tried to blow up balloons with one breath.  It is not as easy as you think.  But after several tries, everyone had at least a small balloon.

Getting quiet

Settling down for a moment.  Participants were invited to get comfortable and close their eyes.  Counting backwards from 10 to 1, they were encouraged to focus only on their breathing and counting.  Every time a different thought came into their heads they were challenged to take a small bead and mark the distraction before beginning again.

It can be difficult to relax and let go of the whirling thoughts of the day.  Practicing in this way gives us permission to allow distractions to float away like bubbles that pop and free us from the stress that these might bring.

Ha!

Coming back together into a circle we played a simple game.  One person begins by saying “ha”, each successive person adds a “ha” without actually laughing.  If laughter happens, we start again.

Laughter, as they say, really is the best medicine.  In fact, laughter yoga has become a source of mind, body and spiritual health.  We can fake laughter for a time, but then it becomes genuine, releasing wonderful feel-good chemicals throughout our body.

We spent some time talking about what makes us laugh.  And accepted that a good cry can also be cleansing.  In the process we shared stories from the silly to the wondrous.

Coming to a close

As we finished the evening, all participants were given an exam survival kit.  Click here to see what it contained and why.  Prayer was offered for all those in stressful situations – those struggling with health issues, work-related and family-related stress and for students who are dealing with the pressures of school, projects and exams.  Armed with resources, we hope that all will benefit from the lessons of this time together.

What about you?

What tricks do you use to deal with stress?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Take your kids to work

I noticed on Twitter today that it was ‘take your kid to work’ day across the country.  Looking at #KidsToWork, there were loads of tweets of proud parents showing off their children in their workplaces as they were treated to a sneak peak of what their parents do at work.

Kids at work

My kid never participated in ‘take your kid to work’ day.  I don’t remember why.  Perhaps it was because dad is a teacher and it is easy to get a sense of what they do both at school and at home (marking is often all around our family room).  Mom, on the other hand, is a priest, a role which doesn’t necessarily have a typical day because there is a need to be available for pastoral visits, participate in meetings, prepare sermons, worship and other programming, preside at worship, and so on.  Some of these aspects would be inappropriate for a kid to be present and others would not be particularly engaging.

I suspect this dad, who works at the Canada Revenue Agency understands the dilemma of introducing your kid to a job that requires independent work that may or may not be particularly engaging for others:

Tailoring the day for the students

It would seem that some companies welcomed students and made a point of developing engaging programming that young people would enjoy.

CSIS Canada tweeted:


Baycrest provided experiential learning with an ‘aging suit’ according to this tweet:


Students at Alectra had some electrifying experiences:

What do you think?

Have you ever participated in ‘take your kid to work’?  If yes, what did that look like for you?  If not, why not?  Do you think that this is a meaningful opportunity for young people?  Why or why not?  To what extent do you think young people should be encouraged to explore careers through such hands on opportunities?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Sexual Health

What do you know?

Sex Education

It seems like an ironic juxtaposition of events: As educators, parents and a variety of advocate groups seek to take on the Ontario government to reinstate an updated health curriculum created through consultation with many different individuals and groups, news of sexual indiscretions by Catholic clergy comes to light.  Information and commentary about these two circumstances have been a constant presence on my news feed throughout this summer.  This post highlights initial thoughts about the former situation. A vital thread connecting these two moments in time are the questions: to what extent and at what point should children learn the details about their private parts.

It is interesting that we have no problem singing songs that help teach kids names of parts of the body – head and shoulders, knees and toes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  Some, however, get a bit squeamish when it comes to teaching the proper names for private parts and instead use euphemisms.  Doing so, some believe, helps to maintain the innocence of children.

The challenge, however, is that these euphemisms are not universal.  What happens when, following an uncomfortable situation, a child reports that someone wants to play with their ‘dinky’ or take their ‘cookie’?  This language can be easily misinterpreted by other adults leaving the child vulnerable to abuse.

Of course, learning the proper for genitalia is only one part of the solution.  As this article highlights, it is also important to give children agency over their own bodies.  Children need to know that they can set boundaries and that body secrets are not OK. They need to have the tools to say no when they are faced with an uncomfortable situation and know that they won’t get in trouble if they tell a trusted adult about a problematic encounter.

These are conversations that can and should happen at home.  There have been many nights when dinner conversation around our table included frank discussions about sexuality from a very early age.  Having a kid who could read at age 4 and a parent who worked in the sexual health and social justice research lab at the University of Windsor, meant that some questions came up.  As one common story is told, I was asked: “what is a condom?” after my six year old had read the word on some interviews I was reviewing.  I responded in an age appropriate way and have continued to respond to questions ever since.

I am grateful that my kid has felt comfortable asking questions about sexuality and sex.  At times, so much so, that some of the questions actually came from friends.  Having a comprehensive sexual health curriculum can be helpful in ensuring that all children and young people have the tools they need to navigate their own sexual journeys in healthy ways.  This has proved evident in the Netherlands, where such education has contributed to lower rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among teens.

Still, the topic remains controversial.  Thus, we would love to hear your thoughts.  At what point did you learn the proper names for your genitalia?  Do feel that you were adequately educated about sexual health in school and/or at home?  To what extent do you talk about sexual health with your children?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Ariana Grande

Changing the script

Before my child was born, I attended a women’s retreat with my mother.  During our reflections, I admitted that I wanted to have a daughter so that I could teach her to be strong, independent and able to defend herself against any and all forms of misogyny.  The facilitator looked me in the eye and asked, why not wish for a boy so you could teach him not to be a misogynist?

It’s an important question.  So often we think of what we can do to teach women not to be victims or at least empowered enough to fight in the face of violence.  There are seminars offered at universities that teach women how not to become victims of sexual violence.  We teach girls how to keep an eye on their drinks at parties, to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid certain places and situations.  We arm girls with tools throughout their lives and yet #metoo.

The world was watching Aretha Franklin’s funeral.  When Ariana Grande took the stage, Bill Clinton enjoyed the performance from behind.  Afterward, Pastor Charles Ellis III called Ariana back onto the stage, wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close.  The pastor later apologized for being ‘too friendly’.  Still, the photos remain a catalyst for conversation.

The reality is that most women have experienced this very situation.  We know what it is like to be in public and feel like some man has held us too close and in a way that has us walking away feeling uncomfortable, questioning what has just happened, wanting to say something but expecting that it would be pointless.  Should we teach our daughters that this is the reality, men don’t typically mean anything by it, just let it go?  Or, is there another possibility?

Among the many tweets #RespectAriana about this moment are comments that affirm the length of a dress does not indicate an invitation.  There are messages confirming that Ariana’s body language clearly showed discomfort.  There are statements that say having your wallet open does not mean anyone can take money from it.

Conversations about women’s bodies are shifting, highlighting that we can’t simply rely on women to protect themselves, rather we need to teach men that women are not objects for their consumption.  Imagine what might happen if parents and teachers used the photo of Ariana Grande and the Pastor to teach boys that when they see that look, when women appear to be wanting to move away – that is a clear signal! They have crossed the line! LET GO!

We need to teach boys the importance of respecting women.  We need to teach boys to take responsibility for the ways they view and treat women.  We need to help boys and men recognise that they have the ability to be allies to women, helping other men recognise the ways in which social expectations about gender continue to undermine the agency of women and perpetuate the belief that women are objects for men to enjoy.  We need to teach boys and men to not rape and/or sexually assault women.

#metoo has helped to bring to light the many ways in which women suffer the consequences of a culture which reinforces norms where male sexuality contributes to perceptions of masculinity.  Parents and teachers can use these tools to help provide an alternative script for relationships.  It is an important opportunity.  How has this been used in your experiences at home and at school?  Do you see a shift happening?  To what extent have you participated in these kinds of conversations?  Let’s talk.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Teens and Media

Recently I was looking a materials for a fall program centred on Creation.  One of the offerings included programs for children, teens and adults.  The group begins together and then breaks into smaller groups.  In one version of these activities, they encourage the leader to ask teenagers: “What are the television commercials that you particularly like? Why do you particularly like them?”

Teenagers and media

For many years, these questions would have been meaningful and relevant to teenagers.  I watched television as a teenager as did most, likely up until about 10 years ago.  While we did have the capacity to tape shows and thus fast forward through commercials, this process involved actual VHS tapes which was clunky.

In 1999, companies began to introduce digital recording options which allowed content to be stored on the device rather than a separate tape.  These remained dependent upon the networks to provide the content so that individuals could record it for later viewing.  While advantageous, there was still a fair bit of television that was watched live along with the commercials it included.

Moving to Online Content

Enter Netflix.  In 2007, Netflix expanded its business to include streaming media.  With the introduction of streaming media, people no longer had to intentionally reference television guides and record live shows.  Rather, they could simply access the content they wanted and press play.  This can be done from a television, computer, tablet and cell phone.  Compounding the options are opportunities to view content via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and News feeds.  While commercials do pop up, it is far easier to ignore these than ever before.

Paying Attention

Recognising the variety of options available, it is important that adults pay attention to the ways young people consume media.  Consider the ice bucket challenge, the cinnamon challenge and the tide pod challenge.  There have been multiple times in which a trending challenge has encouraged young people to participate in activities that are not only dangerous but could actually be deadly!

As well, with so many options available, the opportunities for a family to sit together in front of the television and thus engage in conversation about the content being watched are reduced.  Thus, it can be harder to create family time, explore themes within the content which young people consume and, at times, ensure that what our children see is appropriate.

What do you do?

Recognising the challenges of media consumption today, what efforts are made in your house to ensure that young people access appropriate content, create space for conversation about themes and spend time doing or watching things together?

We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

House Party!

While on vacation from work earlier this summer, hubby and I went to a B&B on the lake for a couple of nights to enjoy the local wineries and some quiet time together.  During our absence, we allowed our 18 year old teen to have a friend sleep over and host a dinner party.

Teenage House Parties

Many teen movies over the years have included scenes of the ultimate taste of teen freedom: a parentless home, alcohol and friends.  On screen, this combination often results in out of control behaviour that can become risky and even violent. This can happen in real life too.

Our B&B hosts, shared with us that the reason their daughters never had this kind of house party was that a classmate held a party while his parents were out of town. Those who attended vandalised the home and eventually the police had to be called.

I also remember a similar incident with people I know while in my early teens.  The youngest in the family was left alone for a weekend and held a party.  As things got crazy, his oldest brother was called for help.  Eventually, however, the police had to be called to send the kids home.

Trusting our teen

It’s hard not to think of these possibilities when negotiating with a kid who will be home alone for a couple of nights.  At the same time, I can sympathise with the anxiety that may happen for a kid home alone at night.  So, we encouraged a sleepover and a dinner party because we know the friends who would be invited and trust our teen to be smart.

We also know our neighbours and my parents aren’t far.  We set limits and emphasised that if one person takes a sip of alcohol, smokes, takes drugs or even if someone shows up who was not invited, there is no going back, it is time to call for help.

The result

As we expected, there was no movie worthy house party.  The sleepover was filled with music (they are both musicians and had fun playing the music of “The Piano Guys”), conversation and fun.  The dinner party provided some interesting moments when the group realised making pasta from scratch wasn’t as easy as they thought, so, instead, they ordered pizza and enjoyed playing air hockey, throwing darts, playing other games and music.  It was all very tame but again, we know these kids and recognise that these are trustworthy teens.

Would we do it again?

Since that time, we encouraged the kid to try another dinner party, this time while hubby and I went out for a wine and cooking class at the LCBO.  Again, the group had fun.  There was no damage done (except perhaps a new hole in the drywall when someone missed the target on the dartboard).

This is the value of being familiar with our kid’s friends.  We know who they are.  We are familiar with how they behave in our home.  We have come to trust them as we trust our kid.

So what about you?

What has been your experience?  Would you allow your child to have friends over when you are not home?  Have you had a positive or negative experience when this has happened?  What do parents need to trust their teens in this way?  How does this level of trust nurture and strengthen the relationship between parents and teen?  We would love to hear from you.  Add your thoughts in the comment section.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Health Curriculum in Ontario

There seems to be an unending stream of commentaries, opinions and news related to Ontario’s Health curriculum and what will be taught in September.

Why this has become an issue:

Following consultation with the ministry of education, parents, students, teachers, faculties of education, universities, colleges, and organisations including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Healthy Schools Coalition and the Ontario Public Health Association, the Provincial Government of Ontario released a major update to the Health Curriculum in 2015.  This new curriculum included information about mental health, online safety, and bullying as well as information about sex and gender variations and the impact of these on relationships.

Some conservative groups did not like this new curriculum and complained that they hadn’t been adequately consulted in its development.  To appeal to these groups, Doug Ford promised to repeal the curriculum and develop a new one with greater consultation.  Thus, one of the first acts of the newly elected government has been to repeal the 2015 curriculum and ask that boards use the same curriculum that was used in 2014 in the classroom until the new curriculum has been developed.

What is at stake?

The curriculum used in 2014 was actually developed in 1998 – before today’s students were even born.  As further discussed in this post, in the twenty years since that curriculum was introduced:

  • we have seen major shifts in the rights and privileges given to the LGBTQ2+ community;
  • Mental health is gaining in understanding and acceptability;
  • The prevalence of technology and social media has opened the way to new issues including cyber bullying, sexting and phishing which place young people at risk;
  • The #metoo movement has highlighted the importance of learning about consent;
  • Research has shown that children are entering puberty at younger ages than ever before.

These are the realities of students today.  Do we really want to leave it up to the media to give young people the tools they need to navigate this new environment as highlighted in this post.

How are people responding?

A lot has been said about the importance of sex education and updated tools students need to stay safe, feel included and make healthy decisions.  Some have shared their personal experiences including this person who was kept out of sex education and suffered abuse and this father who believes his daughter would be alive today if the updated curriculum were taught in her school.

School boards are also concerned.  As of writing this post, more than 20 school boards across the province have delivered statements highlighting the importance of providing up to date tools to navigate health, sexuality and relationships in today’s world.  In this regard, the Director of the Greater Essex County District School Board, Erin Kelly has stated:

“I assure parents, guardians, staff and community members that, regardless of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum being used, the Board will emphasize respect, inclusion and safety for all. We will continue to celebrate the diversity of all our students, support our LGBTQ community and teach about gender issues and acceptance and educate students on internet safety, cyberbullying and the importance of building and sustaining healthy relationships.” (https://www.publicboard.ca/Board/DirectorsMessage/default.aspx#/view/26)

What next?

There is still a lot of ambiguity around what might be taught in regards to health and physical education in September.  There are strong opinions expressed throughout the province about what should be taught and shouldn’t be taught.  Thrive! is a program which seeks to provide tools to help families navigate through the challenges and struggles of today’s world.  So we want to hear from you.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section and/or join us live on Facebook Tuesday, Aug. 7th at 7pm as we talk with a recent graduate about their thoughts on the health and physical education program.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Becoming

A journey for parent and child

My teenager doesn’t love math.  That may not be an issue for most people, but I do love math.  I have a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo and taught Math in secondary schools right up until I started maternity leave.  As my child grew up, we played math games and I revealed all kinds of special tips and tricks to help comprehension.  I shared my love of the subject, but, in the end, my kid doesn’t love it.

Expectations and Assumptions

When children are born, we all have some hopes and dreams for what our children will become.  We have expectations about the kinds of things they might pick up from their parents, the patterns they will follow, the possibilities in store for them.  So, we share a bit of ourselves, enrolling our children in activities that interest us, playing games that we enjoy, and taking vacations that we think will be meaningful for everyone. Our efforts will influence who our children become but not always in ways we hope.

What parents teach…

We learn a lot from our parents.  Sometimes it is what we should do and sometimes it is what not to do.  What is important is that space is left to allow a child to become their own person regardless of whether or not that becoming fits with the expectations and assumptions of the parents.

Our children do not have to love the same things we love.  They do not have to study what we want them to study, pursue the same career paths, and marry and have children when we want them to do so.  They are their own person and even though it takes time to discover what that means, our love for our children should allow us the willingness to give them space to figure it out.

What about gender and sexuality?

For years we have assumed that gender is binary: male or female and we have assumed that the natural tendency is to prefer someone of the opposite gender.  Over time, however, we have come to recognise that there is, in fact, a continuum of gender and sexuality the understanding of which continues to evolve. As a result, individuals who are outside of our binary understanding of gender and whose sexuality is not heterosexual have now received protection from prejudice and discrimination in Ontario  and Canada .  The updated health curriculum in Ontario acknowledges this evolution in understanding which can help to build awareness among young people thus potentially reducing stigma and prejudice overall.

What about at home?

As parents, we are not only confronted with the possibility that our children will not love math like we do, but also that they may challenge our understanding of gender, sexuality and relationships.  What then?  In the midst of our struggle to understand something that may be extremely foreign to us, how do we provide support to our children in their efforts to develop an understanding of who they are? Should parents be the ones who try to push their children to conform to a particular standard of gender and sexuality?  Or should parents support their child’s journey regardless of how difficult it might be for both parent and child?  The decision is not easy.  Either way, it will influence our relationship with our children?  What would you do?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Lessons from SVU

My teenager has been binge watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit this summer.  This has provided an interesting juxtaposition of life and art in a time when the Sexual Health Curriculum in Ontario is a major topic of conversation as the government seeks to repeal and replace it.

No real person or situation…

Each episode of the series includes a disclaimer that no real person or situation is depicted in the storylines.  At the same time, this show clearly touches on real issues regarding gender, sexuality, consent, bullying and the Internet – all themes that are in the updated curriculum that has now be repealed.

Example 1 – “A Misunderstanding”

The storyline depicts two teenagers who converse via text and then find themselves in the darkroom during a school dance.  The male, wanting to be memorialised as part of the “Cherry pickers’ club”, becomes aggressive despite the pleas of the female for him to ‘slow down’ and ‘don’t go down there’.

The investigation and trial becomes a he said/she said battle that is complicated by teenage insecurity and parental assumptions.  I suspect there are those who could easily relate to and sympathise with the characters on both sides.  As a result, we are reminded that, all too often, young people are not equipped to navigate sexual relationships appropriately leaving them vulnerable to the consequences of ‘a misunderstanding’.

Example 2 – “Transgender Bridge”

A transgender teen is bullied by a group of teenage boys and falls off a bridge.  When the transgender teen dies, the District Attorney decides to try the 15 year old assailant as an adult with the hate crimes statute attached.  The defense argues that a teenager’s impulse control is not fully evolved and that, presented with someone who contradicted his understanding of maleness, he reacted out of confusion and the fear that he didn’t want his friends to think he was gay.

This premise seems to suggest that education about the transgender community could have changed the outcome of such an encounter significantly.  Protection from discrimination based on gender identity and sexuality are provided in Ontario and Canada. Ensuring that young people are taught about these individuals could reduce stigma and the possibility for bullying and violence.

In real life…

Rehtaeh Parsons was 17 years old when she killed herself after having been assaulted by four teens at a party and finding photos of the event online which led to bullying and harassment.  After reviewing the updated Ontario curriculum, Rehtaeh’s father suggests that if that particular curriculum had been taught at his daughter’s school, she might well be alive today because the curriculum “…talks about mental health, it talks about suicide and it talks about consent.”  He goes on to say: “I think the young men involved in Rehtaeh’s case don’t believe what they were doing was sexual assault or rape.  They don’t believe that whatsoever, and I think a lot of the kids in Rehtaeh’s school who victim-blamed her had no idea around issues of consent. If they had, they may not have been so willing to torment her.  If there were courses at school about sexting and sharing an image like that of her – people would have said this is child porn, this is against the law.  And other kids would’ve come to her defence, or they might have confronted the ones who were victim-blaming and calling her names.” See here

There is much to learn…

As mentioned in this post, a lot has changed in the past 20 years.  Art has highlighted these changes through programs like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  In Ontario we are currently confronted with the question: what will be taught in schools come September?  What tools do you think our children need to ensure they can safely navigate through the realities of life in 2018?

We want to hear from you: Would you allow your children to watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit?  How might this program become a springboard to talk with young people about sexuality, gender, relationships and consent?  To what extent do you think these topics should be discussed in schools?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Access to Information

This morning as I skimmed through my Facebook feed, I was drawn to the words of a friend: “There are some days when I wish I could close my eyes and go back to a reality when I didn’t understand and was ignorant to the impact”.  The comment pointed to this news article about the relationship between addiction and adverse childhood experiences.

In the first paragraph an addiction doctor says addiction shouldn’t be called addiction.  It should be called ‘ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking’ because of the way such behaviour is linked to adverse childhood experiences.  The article continues by highlighting the pedigree of the doctor as a way to clarify and establish respect for his position and then delves into his extensive research.

Information in the ‘stone age’

There was a time when in depth articles about health and well-being were limited to medical journals.  To the extent that the research was helpful for the majority, summaries could find their way into mass media, typically skewed by the perspectives of the authors.  For the most part, however, people relied on the wisdom and ability of their health care providers to stay on top of the latest medical research and developments.

Googling google

As I prepared this post on health education in Ontario, I looked back on what has changed in the past 20 years.  Doing so, meant googling a variety of issues to refresh my memory as to how things have evolved.  This included googling google to determine when this Internet search engine was introduced to the masses and when it formally entered into our vocabulary.

Since 1998, our ability to access information has shifted from card catalogues in libraries and encyclopaedias.  In fact, at this point, we could ask Siri, Alexa or Google virtually any question and have access to information almost instantaneously.  The challenge isn’t access, it is our ability to decipher the quality of the sometimes hundreds of references we are given.

Knowledge overload

We don’t even have to google to get information.  Internet news pages, social media feeds, and news programs of many different forms continue to inform and engage the masses.  Knowledge swirls around us like a storm of words out of which we somehow need to make meaning for ourselves and others.  This meaning-making is then expected to influence our actions, helping us to decide whether or not to eat eggs, which plants are toxic, how to save the bees, which renovations will give us the most bang for our buck, which places are the most volatile, how addictions should be addressed, and which politicians support which policies.

What about the next generation?

If, at times, all of this information feels overwhelming for adults, imagine what it is like to be a teenager with access to this level of information?  What impact does it have on the psyche of young people when they are scrolling through news feeds and social media and encountering information about climate change, violence, racial tensions, sexuality and more?  How do parents and teachers help young people make-meaning out of all that information?  What can adults do to help young people stay optimistic and engaged in a world that is all too often painted as problematic?  What examples do you have from your circumstances?  Feel free to comment.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/