Children, Family, Teens

Autumn Transitions

As life moves on its pendulum, days can feel long—laundry, child/niece/nephew care, elder care, meal preparation, car pool, homework, and financials; but the years are short—in the blink of an eye, kids are older, we are older, the life we curated has changed and the decades have flown by. Like the seasons of the year, there are some predictable patterns in life: autumn heralds cooler weather, and vivid colours emerge from the leaves. While some renew familiar activities  others are entering a brand new phase—the kids may be leaving home for post-secondary education or even a career pivot.

Many of our life transitions ignite mixed emotions: there is excited anticipation and celebration, but also, a feeling of grief and loss.

Dropping your child at a university dorm for the first time, is one life transition that brings with it powerful and mixed emotions. There is pride in the child’s achievement, but a sense of sadness, as they face an “empty nest” and questions about their role, purpose and direction. 

Tips for Transition:

1. Look ahead. Try to anticipate some of the challenges that will come with your next life transition.  Most transitions that are hard also have an upside.  Perhaps you will have time for things you haven’t done in years or have always wanted to do if only you had time.

2. Be gentle with yourself and honour your complicated feelings.  Letting go of one era and embracing the next takes time.  You are not alone in experiencing an array of emotions. 

3. Reconnect with old friends. You may find a community of people experiencing a similar situation.

4. Use this time to put yourself first. Set goals that will bring you fulfilment.  If you are in a relationship, talk about the possibilities you have as a couple moving forward.

5. Consider meeting with a counsellor or therapist. Talking through your feelings can help you process your emotions, gain insight and move forward through a transition more quickly and in a way that understands and validates your unique experience.

The team at Whole Heart are here to help support adults, teens, children and families both in-person and virtually .  To learn about our programs and services go to:

Written by Cathryn Cooper, RSW, MSW, Clinician at Whole Heart Mental Health and Wellness

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Behavioural, Children, Family, Teens

Easing the Way Back To School

Just as we settled into the rhythm of summer, it seems we are now having to pivot to the approach of fall and back-to-school.  This is a transitional time, which can be significant for families, moving from a pace that may feel more relaxed and carefree to one that requires more structure with the starts of school.

Here are five suggestions to help families adjust from summer break to back-to-school:

1. Establish Consistent Routines: Routines provide a sense of stability and predictability, which can help reduce anxiety and stress for both children and adults. Getting onto a consistent schedule can help regulate sleep patterns, which can promote a smoother transition back to school. Start working on getting to bed 1-2 hours earlier than during the summer months, every day. Work on getting up 1-2 hours earlier. Work on sleep hygiene, by encouraging screen time limits 1-2 hours prior to the desired bedtime. Sleep requires a period of relaxation and the absence of screens to help the natural sleep-inducing melatonin to rise.

2. Visit the School Ahead of Time: Along with excitement, as they will be seeing their friends after a break for the summer, for some kids, the start of school can be very stressful. New grades, new classes, new classmates and maybe a new school can trigger intense emotions.  Remind your child that the first day is often the hardest, but every day, with continued attendance, those feelings will become more manageable. Visiting school before the first day may be an effective way to help children become familiar with their surroundings (drive past the school, visit the playground, meet the teachers, or school staff or kids in the school if possible). Participate in any activities that may be offered at the school (such as a BBQ for new or returning families). If your child is school avoidant, you may wish to speak to the school staff (guidance counsellor or principal) to work on strategies to help alleviate the anxiety.

3. Create a Positive Back-to-School Tradition: Have some fun! Establishing a special tradition, like a family breakfast or lunch prep routine or placing special notes in their lunchbox, adds a positive aspect to the back-to-school experience. This creates a sense of connection and excitement, helping to ease potential apprehensions.

4. Engage in Seasonal Activities: Planning ahead for fall-themed activities, such as apple picking, pumpkin carving, or nature walks, promotes quality family time and a positive connection to the changing season. Creating enjoyable traditions can help foster positive anticipation for the season ahead.

5. Practice Self-Care as a Family:Prioritizing self-care activities like relaxation exercises, mindfulness, or outdoor adventures can enhance the family’s overall well-being. Self-care promotes stress reduction, emotional regulation, and a shared sense of rejuvenation during the transition.

Everyone has their own unique reaction to going back to school, and it’s important to provide individualized support based on their personality and needs. These strategies can help create a smoother transition and promote a positive attitude towards the upcoming school year.

We wish everyone a positive start to the new school year and hope that you all had an enjoyable summer. 

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

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Children, Family, Stress, Teens

Navigating Seasonal Transitions

Navigating Seasonal Transitions

Spring is the season of change!  For school age kids and youth, the end of the school year is fast approaching, bringing with it, exams, graduation, travel, camp or work.  Along with some excitement, there may also be anxiety and stress. 

The anticipation of summer heralds for some a much-welcomed break from the usual stressors but can be overwhelming as well.

Here are 5 tips for making your way through this time: 

Celebrate: Celebrate milestones! Some people are writing exams for the first time. Others may be finally having an in-person graduation! Acknowledge any achievement, no matter how small.

Create routine: The routine of summer will likely look different than during the school year, and this is ok. The structure has to work for the family as a whole. This routine will vary according to the needs of the family. For some, having a regular sleep wake cycle, and programs, will be necessary, and for others, having some flexibility may be more important. Whatever that is, discussing this in advance, especially with your teenagers, can be helpful so that everyone is aware of expectations. If you are finding that the lack of routine is too stressful, then you can pivot. Alternatively, if the structure is too rigid, then another plan may be more helpful.

Communicate: Transitions can be tough!. Losing the “distraction” of school may allow baseline anxiety to surface. If your child or youth seems anxious with the transition to summer, acknowledge this and offer support. You can ask “I notice that you seem stressed, is there anything I can do to help?” This may be temporary but if you are concerned, you can always consult the support of a mental health team member.

Curate ideas: When making summer plans, give your children age-appropriate opportunities to weigh in. This may be the perfect time to visit the museum, art gallery, local parks, splash pads, family, friends, the zoo, travel within your budget, local festivals, or restaurants. Whatever your budget, there is always something fun to do in the city!

Care: Be kind to yourself and your child/youth. The transition period may take some time to figure out. It is ok to not have everything figured out all the time or at once. 

We wish you and your family a wonderful transition to the summer months.

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Family, Teens

March to your own Break

March Break can be a challenging time for families, and it can also provide opportunities for positive experiences and benefits for mental health.

The team at Whole Heart has compiled a list of March Break stresses along with practical ideas to help adults, teens and young children get the most out of this time:

1. Social: March Break means kids are away from school – which means they’re also away from their friends and this loss of daily connection can cause them stress. Parents may see March Break as time to spend time with their kids – those same kids that want to spend time with their friends – and these differing expectations can cause stress for both parents and kids. Especially after the experience of pandemic lockdowns, being home together for extended periods of time may also cause stress for the entire family.

How to remedy this challenge? This is a time to discuss feelings and set reasonable expectations. Kids can have designated time for plans with friends, and can also be expected to spend time at home for meals and/or taking part in some family activities.

2. Structure: Generally speaking, young kids, teens and parents all benefit from having structure in their day. During the school week, there is an established routine and everyone in the family knows more or less what is expected of them. March Break can mean a welcome respite from the daily rush and jam-packed schedules, but the lack of structure can cause its own stress. Additionally, addressing schedules among parents who are not living together can further complicate matters and increase stress levels.

This is a time to create some expected structure within the schedule for the week by planning special activities while also keeping bed times and wake up times reasonably aligned with what is otherwise the norm. Remaining somewhat flexible is also important as you navigate this temporary period of a different routine.

3. Financial: Not everyone can afford a vacation and some parents cannot take time off work. Activities or childcare may be needed. At-home and low-cost or free activities can be found in most communities during March Break. You can also look to connect with friends, family and neighbours to arrange playdates or visits that will support the need for social engagement and supervision.

4. Transition: Going back to school after time off can bring a rise of anxiety and resistance from kids as routines get back into place. Re-establishing the pre-March Break routine a few days in advance can help smooth the transition for everyone. That said, parents should expect it will take a few days of being back at school before the regular routine fully gets back on track.

To help ensure your March Break is a positive experience for the whole family, consider having a discussion about everyone’s expectations during the week. This can help you plan your time and activities in a way that achieves compromise and creates something for everyone.

However your family approaches March Break, know that one size does not fit all – your family and their needs are unique and there are many ways to make this time as supportive and positive for everyone as possible.

The team at Whole Heart are here to help support adults, teens, children and families both in-person and virtually as you navigate this time and beyond.

To learn about our programs and services go to:


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