Family, Wellness

“Back to school”

“Back to school” for the whole family

September is just around the corner. It may seem like it was just yesterday that you were getting adjusted to a new summer routine and now it’s already time to readjust for fall.

Preparing the whole family for the start of a new school year doesn’t have to mean flipping a switch and completely changing everything. There are some things you can do to ease into the transition over the next couple of weeks. There are also some things you can do to decrease parental stress levels while the family heads into what is likely a more structured time; these involve continuing some practices that may have made summer feel more relaxed for everyone. Ultimately, getting into a rhythm for a new daily routine means ensuring important supports, making helpful connections and beginning the activities and interactions that help ease the transition. Here are a few top tips from the team at Whole Heart to get your September started on the right foot:

Support opportunities

Before the first day of class, ensure your child is connected to the supports/resources they need at school. Reach out to make contact, check in on programs and services and proactively arrange a call to discuss any specific needs with the Guidance/Wellness or Student Services department. For parents, joining a class or grade parent lists and getting to know others can also create another support system of shared tips or helpful reminders with other adults.

Social exposure

Plan play dates or support your child in arranging get-togethers with peers prior to the beginning of school to help with gradual exposure to social Interactions. This can also be a time to start thinking about and looking into opportunities for community engagement, such as school clubs and sports leagues or other extra-curriculars that tap into your child’s interests and passions. We often get caught in putting our own social time off until we get into a fall rhythm. If you’ve been getting out to meet up with friends or colleagues over the summer, be sure to hold space for your own socialization and get some dates on the calendar.

Sleep Hygiene

If the summer bedtime hours have been a bit lax, now is the time for everyone to start heading to bed a bit earlier to get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Limiting screen use before bed, avoiding large meals, and having a bedroom that is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature is best. For parents, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime is also key for a good night’s sleep.

Physical Activity

We tend to be more active in the summer. While camps are ending or lessons may be coming to an end, identify ways for your kids to keep active through the summer to fall transition. Maybe that means park time, walks or bike rides as a family or with friends until other activities get underway with the start of school. Exercise has significant impact and benefits on physical and mental health. It lifts our mood by releasing endorphins that enhance feelings of well-being and fosters a healthy outlet for stress. As parents, it’s equally important to continue making physical activity a priority to support your overall well-being and in the process you are also setting an important example of self-care.

Connect with love ones to process their day

A family check-in activity that you can begin now at the dinner table or at the end of the day is “Rose/Bud/Thorn”: “Rose”: tell me something that made you proud today. “Bud”: tell me something you are working on. “Thorn”: tell me something that was tough. It’s a simple way to share your experiences, and with everyone taking part, it doesn’t have to be specific to school.

Mindfulness/Gratitude practice

Whether it’s a meditation, journaling or an end-of-day reflection, cultivating appreciation of the everyday and learning to be more present benefits the whole family. Meditation and mindfulness can help us to calm our minds, increase pleasure and joy in our day-to-day activities, build compassion and gratitude for ourselves and others and gain clarity around things that can be difficult. You can also start the morning with a simple meditation to begin the day in a calm and positive frame of mind.

Normalize and Validate

Initial school anxieties are normal for kids and parents. You can validate your kids’ experience and worries (and your own!) while reflecting on other nervous-making times when things went well. Encourage a growth mindset by inspiring curiosity with the challenges that may arise and replacing self-judgment with self-compassion. Remember, back to school isn’t only about the kids – you’re all going through a period of adjustment and it’s good to acknowledge together that things may feel challenging for the first couple of weeks, but by taking it one day at a time everyone will adjust.

Ultimately, establishing a good rhythm to the fall routine means a combination of preparation, communication and self-compassion for everyone.

The team at Whole Heart are dedicated to helping families live better lives. To learn about our programs and services go to:


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serene woman in flower mask
Mental Health

Pandemic Observations

The COVID-19 pandemic has ignited a Tsunami of mental health concerns, especially among kids and youth. According to Hasina Samji et al., Child Adolesce Ment Health 2021: “Individuals at risk may experience new onset of mental illness, while those with pre-existing mental health conditions may experience symptomatic worsening, especially if mental health service access is impeded ..” The impact has been tremendous, and is ongoing, and access to timely care is challenged by limited resources and extensive wait times. The following resources are meant to be a guide, and provide some support. It is by no means an exhaustive list.

If you have questions about these resources, or if you have some that you feel are helpful for us to post, please email

RESOURCE LIST (not all are specific to COVID-19)

If you are actively suicidal, call 911 or speak to a responsible adult, if you are thinking of suicide, please click here.


Toronto Distress Centre: (416) 408-0007

Kids Help Line: 1 (800) 668-6868

Distress Centres of Ontario



Anxiety: Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents – Ronald Rapee 

OCD: How to Help Your Child (A Parent’s Guide to OCD)

Talking Back to OCD – John March


FREE MENTAL HEALTH HELP (FREE Mental health support for Ontario Residents) (1 866 585 6485) This is a centralized phone line to access child, youth and family mental health and well-being resources in Toronto. (CBT therapy, delivered online).

Downloadable apps: (some applications may have a fee)







5 minutes Mountain Meditation for Children (teens) and Adults
How to cope with Anxiety and Stress





This is another method that you can use to cope with overwhelming emotions. ITIPP is an acronym that stands for the following four steps: temperatureintense exercisepaced breathingprogressive muscle relaxation.

Practice each of these techniques, so you know what they feel like. Then use them, when you feel overwhelming emotion and you feel like you need them.

T: Temperature

This works by changing the temperature.

Cooler temperatures decrease your heart rate (which is usually faster when we are emotionally overwhelmed). You can either splash your face with cold water, take a cold (but not too cold) shower, or if the weather outside is chilly you can go outside for a walk. Another idea is to take an ice cube and hold it in your hand or rub your face with it.

Higher temperatures increase your heart rate (which is usually lower when you feel depressed, sad, or anxious). You can take a hot bath, nestle up in a blanket, go outside on a hot day, or drinking a warm tea.

Note, be smart about it. Cold exposure can make your blood pressure drop, and heat exposure can raise your blood pressure. If you have a medical condition where this could be a problem, skip this step or consult your physician.

I Intense Exercise

When you have a built-up energy as a result of experiencing overwhelming emotions, it can be a really good idea to spend this energy by doing a cardio work-out. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – you don’t need special equipment or expensive membership in a gym. Simply get on your feet and do one of the following: go for a run around the block, do jumping jacks in your room, go outside and walk fast. You can also try jumping rope, dancing or lifting weights (if you already have them). Do this for 10-15 minutes but don’t overdo it. When you spend that conserved energy you will feel more tired and your overwhelming emotions will become more balanced.

P: Paced Breathing

In order to reduce the physical manifestation of the overwhelming emotions you feel (for e.g. increased heart rate, flushed face, dry mouth, sweating etc.) it helps to try to control your breathing so that its rate will eventually decrease. Try the following technique: breathe in deeply through your nose (abdominal breathing) for four seconds and then breathe out through your mouth (for six seconds). Do this for 1-2 minutes.

P Progressive Muscle Relaxation

In order to relax the tense muscles in our body while we are experiencing extreme emotions, you can try progressive muscle relaxation. You can do this from a seated position. Start with the top of your body – become aware of your muscles and the upper back and deliberately tighten them for five seconds. Then let go – you should feel the region loosening up. Keep doing this with your arms, your abdominal and back muscles, your bottom muscles, thighs and upper legs and calves. This is a great way for your body to let go of the excessive energy that has built up with the overwhelming emotions.


Situation: “Today when I woke up, I felt very empty and down. It didn’t help that the weather has been dull for days now. All of this reminded me how 2 years ago, this time of the year, I was feeling very depressed and was coping with the dysfunctional relationship I have with my father. This memory made spiral down, and in no time I didn’t want to go on with my day, finish the work responsibilities that I have, or do anything. As the morning went on I felt even more depressed and empty.”

T – Temperature: I chose to have a hot bath, something that will make me feel warmer, both physically and potentially emotionally as well. It felt like an act of self-kindness, and it really did help me not to fall even more into this sad memory lane.

I – Intense exercise: I put on some music since I could use having a little fun time, and I put the effort to get my muscles going and dance. I did this for 10 minutes, and I felt more energized after.

P – Paced breathing: I did two minutes of the paced breathing technique.

P – Progressive muscle relaxation: By step four, I already felt better doing the previous three. Nevertheless, I sat comfortably and did the progressive muscle relaxation instructions. I feel like the TIPP technique really helped me not to feel more empty and depressed, and I went on with my day.

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Depression, Mental Health

Rising Above Depression

For many, the battle with depression brings on a torturous cycle of hopeless thoughts and feelings of deep despair and isolation or disengaging from life.

The choices we make in the midst of this hardship can often reinforce the negative cycle or shift our experience to a pathway of healing and resilience.

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Self-care isn’t Selfish

As we get ready to begin our week lets remind ourselves about the importance of self care; an area that often gets missed. Today we live in a society that is so fast paced, so hectic and so future oriented that it can be difficult to take the time and nurture ourselves.

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Anxiety, Mental Health, Wellness

Dealing with Exam Stress

Its that time of year again and summer is hopefully just around the corner! For students, this time is EXAM time which brings along with it anxiety, doubt, pressure, excitement and joy. A functional amount of stress in our lives can help us to live well, meet deadlines, get out of bed in the morning, tend to our families and our own needs- this is healthy stress. However, for some this type of stress can be overwhelming and unbearable.

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