Mental Health and Well-Being for Families

“We all want our children to feel mentally well, grow up happy and to learn how to navigate life’s challenges, but it’s not always easy to know what to do.”  (SMHO, 2021)

We believe that supporting mental health and well-being is essential for development and learning for all students as this is an enabler for academic success.

“It can be challenging to talk about mental health. Sometimes parents, like others, avoid the conversation because they don’t know how to start or they worry that they might put thoughts into their child’s head that had not been there, and will, therefore, make things worse. Research tells us that this is not the case. Bringing up worries, concerns, changes in behaviour etc. with your child will open the lines of communication rather than worsen the situation.”  (SMHO, 2021)

Mental Health and Mental Illness

Mental health and mental illness are separate, yet interrelated concepts that vary on a continuum, and can be experienced simultaneously to varying degrees. Mental health is a “state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being - not just the absence of illness” (World Health Organization, 2018). Mental illnesses are “emotional, behavioural and brain-related difficulties that interfere with development, relationships, attendance, and achievement” (School Mental Health Ontario, 2021).

The connection between these two concepts is explored below:

  • Supportive relationships with family members and/or friends, proper sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are all beneficial to achieving optimal mental health;
  • Mental illnesses affect how we function in life;
  • One in five Canadians in any given year will experience a mental illness or addiction;
  • It is possible to experience poor mental health with no mental illness. (i.e., an individual might be lacking supportive relationships, have a poor diet, and feel lethargic while not having a mental illness); and
  • It is also possible to experience optimal mental health while having serious mental illness. (i.e., an individual with a diagnosed mental illness might be responding well to medical and therapeutic intervention, have a healthy diet, exercise regularly and be coping well with everyday life stresses).

When mental health and mental illness are placed together they create a “dual continuum”, as illustrated in image below.

A chart illustrating the continuum of mental health and mental illness.

For more information about the relationship between mental health and mental illness, watch the Promoting Mental Health: Finding a Shared Language video from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH, 2015).

Video Description - How do YOU talk about mental health promotion? There is growing discussion about mental health in Ontario and the way we talk about it matters. This brand new video by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre explains the separate but interconnected concepts of mental health and mental illness, as well as what it means to ‘promote mental health’, in ourselves and in our communities.

For additional resources to support further understanding of Mental Health, please check out the following resources.

How to Support Your Child

“You’re your child’s first and most important teacher. You will help them develop their sense of self-worth by how you love, accept and respond to them, and they’ll learn from you about how to cope with life’s challenges.”  (SMHO, 2021)

Conversations about mental health can be challenging, but research tells us that they are important. Taking opportunities to talk to your child or youth will open the lines of communication, inviting ongoing dialogue to proactively address changes in behaviour and other concerns.

For more information on how to talk to your child about their mental health, please visit the link below.

Parents and caregivers can help! Together this info and tip sheet explore how you can identify if your child might be experiencing a mental health problem, what to look for, and how to access help. When problems arise and feel too big, you can help your child manage temporary distress in healthy ways through the CARE you provide. There are also many caring professionals who can assist. Please check out the links below to access these documents.  

Please note: These resources are not a replacement for a consultation with a regulated Mental Health Professional, but offer some guidance to parents/caregivers about how you might know when to access professional supports.

Additional resources for supporting your child can be found at https://smho-smso.ca/covid-19/parents-and-families/

 

Canadian Mental Health Ontario Family Care Centre
Linkhttps://cmho.org/familycarecentre/

The Family Care Centre is a resource hub for parents and caregivers who are looking for ways to support the mental health of their children and youth. CMHO provides only trusted, evidence-base d information to help parents and caregivers find much-needed support and resources. This site recognizes how hard it is for families who are navigating the mental health system while supporting their children.

If you are a parent/caregiver worried about your child, or a young person looking for help yourself, you are encouraged to reach out to this organization. This network of child and youth mental health centres has 4,000 professionals ready to help children, youth, and families with free counselling and treatment. They provide care in-person, on the phone, and virtually. No problem is too big or small.

Supporting Your Child After a Traumatic Event

Supporting your child after a traumatic event can be challenging. You are not alone, there is support for you, your child, and your family. 

The Thames Valley District School Board has school mental health professionals available to help. If you would like more information about what is available, please contact your school principal about available mental health services through your school.

As you navigate this challenging time for your child, please refer to the below resource.

Click here for accessible/translatable version.

The TVDSB has school mental health professionals available to help. If you would like more information about what is available, please contact your school principal about available mental health services through your school.

Supporting your child after a traumatic event can be challenging. You are not alone, there is support for you, your child and your family.

Support for Children and Youth
Traumatic events can impact individuals, families, classes, schools, and whole communities. Children and youth will react differently depending on their age and other life experiences. Some young people will need support for a few days, but others might take a few weeks to feel better. Children pay attention to how the adults react. It is best to focus on facts in a way that they will understand. Let their questions guide how much information you share.

  • Early elementary children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances.
  • Upper elementary children may ask more questions and may need assistance separating facts from misinformation.
  • Upper elementary and secondary students may have strong and varying opinions about the situation.

Considerations at Home

  • Keep to a regular schedule helps children feel calm, safe, and supports overall mental health.
  • Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise.
  • Encourage your child to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
  • Encourage your child to take breaks from the news and social media.
  • Think about the conversations that adults have with each other in front of children, even teenagers.
  • Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they may go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  • Ensure that children and youth know how to contact 911 in an emergency situation. Understand that some young people may not talk about their feelings. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns may tell you that they are having a hard time.
  • Know that children who have had other traumatic experiences may have more intense responses.
  • Seek professional support if anxiety or discomfort is getting in the way of daily functioning.
Supporting Resources for Reaching Out

We all have mental health and talking about things is one of the ways we can take care of it! Asking for help can be awkward, but you’ll probably feel relieved after you do. TVDSB has school mental health professionals available to help during the school year. Please contact your school administrator about available school mental health services.

To support these important conversations, check out the resource Reaching Out from School Mental Health Ontario (SMHO, 2021).

As you prepare for the return to school, the TVDSB Cares Team of School Mental Health Professionals are available to support students and families Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm. Reach us by phone at 548-486-5188 or email at tvdsbcares@tvdsb.ca. 

Community Resources: Contact Information

**If there is a mental health emergency, please visit your local Hospital Emergency Department or call 911.**

Kids Help Phone
-Provides 24-Hour Crisis Support
Website: https://kidshelpphone.ca/
Text: 686868 (youth) or 741741 (adults)
Call: 1-800-668-6868
**Indigenous people can connect with an Indigenous crisis responder when available by messaging FIRST NATIONS, INUIT, or METIS over text or messenger.**

Canadian Mental Health Association - Middlesex
Website
: https://cmhamiddlesex.ca/
Provides 24/7 walk in Support for individuals 16+; Located at 648 Huron Street, London (London/Middlesex)

Wellkin: Child and Youth Wellness – Oxford & Elgin
Call: 1-877-539-0463

Reach Out 24/7
Call or Text: (519) 433-2023
Toll-Free: 1-866-933-2023
Web Chat: https://reachout247.ca/

Vanier Children’s Mental Health: Tandem (Formerly Known as Crisis Intake Team – CIT)
-0-18 years and caregivers
Website: https://www.vanier.com/programs-services/community-services/crisis-intake-team/
Call: (519) 433-0334 (London/Middlesex)

Thames Valley District School Board Resources

The following resources have been created by the Thames Valley District School Board to promote and support everyday student mental health and well-being.

Together in the Valley Newsletter

The ‘Together In the Valley’ Infographics are intended to share some kind words, promote mental health and well-being and provide key mental health resources for students and families.  These infographics are distributed from home schools to students and families simultaneously through virtual and/or in-person delivery.

Together in the Valley - August 2021 (PDF)

Click here for accessible/translatable version.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health and wellbeing is inspired through “a balance of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional” (SMHO). Mental health is the ability to feel, think, and act in ways that help us:

  • get through challenges and stressful situations
  • enjoy life
  • have hope and purpose
  • feel connected to others
  • have a sense of belonging

Activities to Support Mental Health

  • Watching a movie
  • Journaling
  • Playing in the park, at a friends, or at the beach/lake
  • Visiting friends
  • Playing sports or engaging in recreational activities
  • Bike riding, running, dancing, or skiing
  • Doing art, crafts or painting
  • Making a music playlist
  • Taking a warm bath or shower

5 Steps to Deal with Back to School Worries

Take Care of the Basics:
Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, eating regular meals and healthy snacks and has daily exercise. When the mind and body are nourished, tackling school worries is easier.

Provide Empathy:
Listen to your child's concerns. There may be good opportunities to simply listen to your child when you are in the car or standing in line at the store. For some kids and teens this “casual” method of talking feels less intense and makes it easier for them to express themselves. For others, a private time with undivided attention feels better.

Problem Solve:
Anxious youth often have difficulty solving problems and doubt their ability to cope. Creating an active plan with concrete solutions, can significantly reduce the worry.

Focus on the Positive Aspects:
Encourage your child to re-direct attention away from the worries towards the positives. Ask, “What are three things that you are most excited about on your first day of school?” Most kids can think of something good, even if it’s just eating a special snack or going home at the end of the day.

Pay Attention to Your Own Behaviour:
Children take cues from their parents, so the more confidence and calm you can model, the more your child will believe they can handle this new hurdle.

School Preparation Timeline

August 25 - Gradually return to a school day sleep and wake routine

August 27 - Create a list of school supplies and plan to choose them together

August 30 - Talk about concerns or worries and decide on a coping plan

August 31 - Create a mood boosting playlist

September 2 - Ask your child to help plan snacks and lunches for the week

September 3 - Visit the school or plan your work space at home

September 6 - Plan clothing for the next day

September 7 - First Day of School

September 8 - Check in with your child to see how the first couple of days are going

September 10 - Connect early with the school or teacher if there are any concerns.

https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/coping-with-back-to-school-anxiety/

TVDSB has school mental health professionals available to help during the school year. Please contact your school administrator about available school mental health services.

Together in the Valley - June 2021

Click here for accessible/translatable version

Family Mental Health and Well-Being –Together in the Valley

Starting July 2, our TVDSB Cares Team of School Mental Health Professionals are available Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm (weekends and holidays excluded) to support students and families. Reach us by phone at 548-486-5188 or email at tvdsbcares@tvdsb.ca.

Celebrate Simple Things
Families continue to do the best they can. We thank you for the support, care, and commitment you've shown for yourself and your child's education throughout the school year! Together in the Valley is spotlighting gratitude and celebrating the simple things daily as this school year nears the end. Accomplishing a small something everyday is a win. Let's celebrate each other and continue to make our way together through the summer months!

GRATITUDE
Viewing our surroundings and relationships through a lens of gratitude can help us notice and appreciate the positives in life, even when facing a challenge(www.smho-smso.ca).

"My socks may not match, but my feet are always warm ." - Maureen McCullough

Today I am Grateful for...
Try journaling things you're grateful for a few days a week.

Activities for All Ages to Stay Connected with Friends and Family:

  • Bake or cook something
  • Plant a container garden
  • Play Kahoot (https://kahoot.com/home)
  • Plan A scavenger hunt
  • Meet for a hike that you haven't tried before

Mental Health Resources 
www.TVDSB.ca  
www.mindyourmind.ca 
www.jack.org 
School Mental Health Ontario 

Together in the Valley - April 2021

Click here for accessible/translatable version.

Arts Festival and Mental Health Week – May 3rd – 7th, 2021: Celebrating how the Arts supports mental health and well-being

Families continue to do the best they can. We thank you for the support, care, and commitment you've shown for your child's education throughout what has been an unique school year! Together in the Valley is spotlighting how the arts promote good mental health. Arts activities can lower stress and anxiety while boosting confidence, self-esteem, calmness, and positive feelings. How might you add the arts to your family's self-care routine?

We would love to see how your family is using the Arts to support mental health. Share your art using any of the following options:

Submit artwork through:

  • Your child's teacher
  • Flip Grid Video Gallery
  • @TVinnovates or @TVDSBcares
  • #heARTofMentalHealth& or #TVcreateFest
  • Google Form

For more info visit: http://bit.ly/tvinnovates

All submissions will be shared in our virtual @TVinnovatesgallery

Activities for Family Connection

  • Make signs: Thank-You, Miss You
  • Collect and Paint Rocks
  • Bake or Cook Together
  • Make Paper Airplanes
  • Plant Flowers, Vegetables, Herbs
  • Make a Family Collage Box
  • Dance, Sing, Listen to Music
  • Play Charades
  • Act out Scenes from a Favourite Book or Movie

Adapted from https://artfulparent.com/creative-connection/

Mental Health Resources
www.TVDSB.ca
www.mindyourmind.ca
www.jack.org

School Mental Health Ontario

TVDSB has school mental health professionals available to help. Please contact your school administrator about available school mental health services.

Together in the Valley - February 2021

Click here for accessible/translatable version.

Family Mental Health and Well-Being – Together in the Valley 

We Heard You 
It is important to remind ourselves that these are not normal times. We are managing a variety of challenges as we work hard to support our families. It's okay to feel what we feel and important that we are kind to ourselves. It can be challenging to talk about mental health. Bringing up our concerns with our children opens the lines of communication. There is always somebody therefor us to reach out to and asking for help is a sign of strength. We are all doing the best that we can! 

Twitter Account @TVDSBcares 
-Be Well, Learn Well, Live Well 

 TVDSB has school mental health professionals available to help. Please contact your school administrator about available school mental health services. 

 

Tips For Talking to Kids About Mental Health 

  • Find a quiet time. 
  • Reassure your child they can tell you anything; and you will not get angry. 
  • Discuss changes you’ve noticed in mood, behaviour, reactions, etc., (e.g., “I 've noticed you seem to be sad.”) 
  • Share that you “wonder” how your child might be feeling, thinking, and worried about. (e.g., “I wonder if you’re feeling sad about not seeing your friends?”) 
  • Allow time to think. 
  • Stay calm, stay with the conversation even if your child tells you “Nothing is wrong......leave me alone”. Let them know that you are there for them. Give your child some time and then try again. 
  • If your child tells you anything that worries you (e.g., thoughts of self-harm), tell your child that you are glad they told you, and you will support them to get help. Let them know that you'll be there throughout the journey.   

Adapted from School Mental HealthOntario (www.smho-smso.ca) 

Caregiver and Child Activity 
SHARE YOUR CALM WITH DEEP BREATHING  
Stand/sit, back straight 
Shoulders relaxed 
Head relaxedLook forward 
Hands together as if holding a cup of hot chocolate  
As you breathe in pretend to smell the hot chocolate 
As you breathe out pretend to blow the steam  
Let’s do that again... 
Breathe in, smell the hot chocolate... 
Breathe out, blow the steam... 
One more time... 

 “Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle 
Humour helps us see things differently during difficult times, and helps us to focus on things we have in common rather than our differences. Laughing releases endorphins (feel-good hormones), that temporarily block our pain or negative feelings. Even a short break when we are struggling helps us to believe that things will be okay.  

By: Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe 

Check out the following YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UctRZ91m9XA 

Mental Health Resources 
www.TVDSB.ca  
www.mindyourmind.ca 
www.jack.org 
School Mental Health Ontario 

What is Mental Health?

Mental health and wellbeing is inspired through “a balance of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional” (SMHO). Mental health is the ability to feel, think, and act in ways that help us:

  • get through challenges and stressful situations
  • enjoy life
  • have hope and purpose
  • feel connected to others
  • have a sense of belonging

Caring for your mental health and well-being during the school year

  • Get enough sleep
  • Stay physically active
  • Stay connected to caring adults, friends
  • Replace negative thinking with helpful thinking
  • Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions you may be feeling - without judgement
  • List 6 healthy activities you can do when stressed and needing a distraction
  • Name 2 caring adults you will to talk to when feeling overwhelmed

Asking for help can be awkward. The first step is to start the conversation. Please talk to an adult at your school about the TVDSB counsellors available to support you during the school year.

Ready, Set, Return to Learn

Tips for preparing for the first day of school

  • Stay physically active: walk, bike, yoga, swim, dance
  • Talk to a parent/guardian about any worries

  • Start using your alarm clock. Roll the clock back by 15-30 min daily or set/follow a sleep, rise routine.

  • Create a mood boosting playlist

  • Make a plan to connect with positive, supportive friends/peers

  • Colour to calm nerves
  • Set up a space for online learning, and/or doing homework. Consider: a space outside of your bedroom, what supplies do you need? Create a schedule: homework, social/family time, chores, quiet time, bed time.

  • Choose what you want to wear on the first few days.

  • Night before: Have school supplies ready Prepare snacks/lunch Set your alarm Go to bed early

adapted from https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/coping-with-back-to-school-anxiety/.

My Everyday Practices: Student Guide

Students' express emotion in a variety of ways based on their personal, social, and cultural lived experiences.  It is important to understand how thoughts, emotions, and actions are related. Check out ‘My Everyday Practice’ resource to help identify and manage your emotions. 

My Everyday Practices for Mental Health and Well-Being is a guide designed to help you use well-being strategies in your everyday life. These activities are designed to promote calm. Regular practice builds resilience and promotes well-being.

My Everyday Practices for Mental Health and Well-Being: Student Guide (PDF)

Just Breathe

Focus on your belly, maybe put your hand there. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, send this breath all the way down to your stomach. Feel as your stomach expands and your hand moves out. Breathe out… feel your stomach contract and your hand move in.

Keep in Mind

  • The activity can be helpful before a test or any stressful situation.
  • The more you practice, the more natural thiswill feel!
  • Before sleep is a great time to practice.
 
Just Listen

Start with a deep breath. If you feel safe, close your eyes.
Open your ears to sounds far away from you.
Listen for a minute. What do you hear?
Next focus on sounds close to you.
Listen for a minute. What do you hear?
Now focus on sounds inside your body.
Listen for a minute. What do you hear?

Just Notice

Notice 5 things you can see.
Notice 4 things you can hear.
Notice 3 things you can feel/touch.
Notice 2 things you can smell.
Notice 1 thing you can taste.

Keep in Mind

  • Just Notice is an example of a grounding practice. Grounding is a way to focus your attention to the sensations you are experiencing in this moment.
  • Grounding is good to practice at any time but especially helpful when your emotions or thoughts are stressing you out.
Calm Place

Where do you feel the most relaxed?
Imagine you are there.
What do you see?
What do you hear?
Are there any smells, tastes, or textures?

Keep in Mind

  • You can use your Calm Place to feel more at peace during stressful moments.
  • Spend time developing details of your Calm Place to make it feel more realistic.
  • Use your imagination and walk around your calm place – notice every detail.
Let it Go

Sit comfortably and take a deep breath. Use your fingers to gently massage the top of your head.
Still in massaging motion bring your fingers to your forehead, eyebrows, temples, around your eyes, cheeks, and jaw. If you notice tension anywhere – let it go. Finally massage each of your ears and end by gently pulling your earlobes.

Keep in Mind

  • Take your time with each area especially where you hold the most tension.
  • You may try this technique on your hands using a massaging motion to focus on each finger, thumb, and palm.
Tense and Relax

Squeeze your hands into fists as tight as you can and hold for a few seconds then relax your hands.
Push your shoulders up to your ears and hold for a few seconds then relax your shoulders.
Push your heels down into the floor, squeeze your toes and hold for a few seconds then relax your feet.
Tense your stomach muscles as tight as you can and hold for a few seconds then relax your stomach.

Mindful Walking

Find a space where you can walk safely for a few minutes. You might set a timer. Put one foot forward and notice how it feels as your foot meets the ground.

Continue walking and pay attention to your feet, legs, hips, and the rest of your body. Notice the movement of your body as you take each step.

As you walk, pay attention to; the foot that is off the ground, how your hands/arms move (or don’t), how you are breathing.

Keep in Mind

  • You may notice distractions like people or phones but stay focused until you have completed your walk.
Four Finger Affirmations

Select four words that make you feel calm and confident. It might be a sentence or just four words. Examples: “I am loved today”, “I believe in me”, “Breathe Listen Smile Love”, “I can handle this.”
Each word you have chosen will match a finger on your hand. As you say your affirmation in your head, connect each finger with your thumb.

Keep in Mind

  • The more you say this to yourself the more you will feel that what you say is true.
Gratitude Moment

Being grateful makes you more patient when life is difficult. Think of something that you are grateful for. Hold this in your mind for a moment. You may choose to write the details of your gratitude moment in a journal or share with someone.

Keep in Mind

  • This is a great way to end the day.
  • Try to practice this regularly.
  • Be grateful for small things (flowers, smiles, chocolate) and grand things (friends, clean water, music)
Mindful Messaging

Before you text, tweet, send, or post, take a moment to:
Take a deep breath.
Notice how you are feeling.
Re-read your message.
Ask yourself “is the message true?”
Think about how the message will be received.
Think about what will happen next.
Change the message if needed.

Keep in Mind

  • If you are hurt, angry, or confused it is wise to wait before hitting send.
  • Don’t send messages that you would not say to the person’s face.
Everyday Practices for Everyday Learning

Everyday Practices for Everyday Learning is a resource developed by the Thames Valley District School Board to assist you in ways that you can embed well-being strategies into your everyday life. Regular practice of these activities is designed to promote calm and well-being, while building engagement. Each activity provides an outline, links to learning skills, and includes explicit instructions.

Now We're Cooking

Unlock your family’s cooking potential. Whether you have toddlers or teens, your kids will love getting creative in the kitchen.

Learning Together in the Kitchen

Health: What makes a balanced meal or snack?

Language: How do you read a recipe or write a grocery list?

Math: How do you measure ingredients and work with fractions?

Science: What will happen when you boil veggies or make bread?

Social studies: What food is grown in Canada and around the world?

Food skills: How do you stir, chop, knead, pour and scoop?

Social skills: How can we work together, take turns and share utensils?

Source: UnlockFood.ca

Resources
Growing Chefs, UnlockFood.ca, Canada's Food Guide

Mixing Fun with Words

Word puzzles can be in any language and cover any topic. They can enhance your child's creative and critical thinking skills while being engaging and fun.

Word Games and Code Breaking

Language: Which words do I know? Can I build on my vocabulary?

Problem solving: Can I find patterns or shapes in the code?

Social skills: When I get frustrated trying to figure it out, what can I do to stay calm and focused?

Critical thinking: Have I thought about this word puzzle from a different angle? Can I flip it upside-down to see something new?

Second language: If I don't recognize a word, is there a similar word that I do know in English? Where do I see root words?

Social studies: When and where throughout history has code been used?
What was its purpose?

Source: Dana Foundation of Neuroscience

Resources
Dana Foundation of Neuroscience, Flintobox.com

Play and Have Fun

Boardgames are a great way to boost your brainpower and improve executive functioning skills.

Benefits of Boardgames

Language: What new words or terms do we need to learn for this game?

Math: What is money sense and who’s the banker?

Business: What resources do I have and how should I use them?

Social skills: How can we win and lose gracefully?

Communication: Am I focused on the game and carefully listening to all players?

Source: Scholastic

Resources
Scholastic, cbc.ca/parents, education.com/worksheets

Take a Deep Breath

Deep, slow breathing sends calming signals to the brain. Practice often to make this technique work better for you when feelings of frustration, anxiety or sadness bubble up.

Deep Breathing – Calming Technique

Drama: Imagine you have a hot chocolate. Breathe in through your nose, imagine the delicious smell. Breathe out through your mouth to cool it down. Or, breathe in and imagine the smell of a flower, then breathe out and imagine you are slowly blowing out a candle.

Math: Breathe while tracing shapes with your finger.
Triangle – breathe in, hold breath, breathe out.. Count with the breath – in for 5, hold for 3, out for 7. For calming, breathe out for as long as possible.

Science: What is the Fight – Flight - Freeze response? How does my body and mind react? How can I modify my response?

Social skills: With a partner, sit back to back and feel each other's breathing. Can you match the rhythm?

Resources
YouTube: "Just Breathe" by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman, TVDSB "A Teachers Guide: Everyday Practices for Mental Health and Well-Being in the Classroom"

Take a Deep Breath, I Can Do This! This Too Shall Pass, I Believe in Me

Be your own cheerleader! Notice your helpful qualities and habits, say encouraging words to help counter negative thoughts that have you feeling powerless and 'stuck'.

Positive Self-Talk

Health: What situations cause me to feel doubt and stress?
What message will help me to persevere during this struggle?

Language: Select four words that make you feel calm and confident. Each word you have chosen will match one finger on your hand. As you say your affirmation press your thumb to each finger; one finger per word.

Science: Why is my brain better at noticing problems than noticing positive things? How does noticing problems help with survival?

Social studies: Motivational quotes and proverbs exist in all languages and cultures. Explore!

Resources
TVDSB "A Teachers Guide: Everyday Practices for Mental Health and Well-Being in the Classroom"

Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Memory - What's Your Favourite?

Playing cards is sometimes seen as just a pastime, however there are plenty of hidden benefits from engaging in this activity.

Playing Cards

Language & Math: Literacy and numeracy skills typically go hand in hand. Completing a game might include gathering and analyzing information, using a mathematical skill and reporting that information in written and/or verbal form.

Business: Employability skills for getting and keeping a job; working a cash register and counting items in an order.

Social Skills: Improve your patience and concentration.
Can I predict emotions that my opponent or partner has throughout the game? What about facial expressions?

Cognitive Skills: Boost your memory without even realizing it.

Resources
Playingcarddecks.com, TVDSB - Mathematics

Tense & Relax

When you find it difficult to let go of angry or anxious feelings, this technique may be helpful.

Technique:

Squeeze your hands into fists as tight as you can and hold for a few seconds then relax your hands and feel your muscles loosen.
Push your heels down into the floor, squeeze your toes and hold for a few seconds then relax your feet and feel your muscles loosen.
Let Go of Stress

Science: How many muscles do you have? Can you tense and relax them one at a time?

Drama: Use your imagination! When tensing up, pretend you are the Hulk or an uncooked noodle. When relaxing, pretend you are a jellyfish or a cooked noodle.

Social Skills: It is important to develop your ability to notice and manage big emotions so that you don't miss out on the fun or give up on a difficult task when you are frustrated, embarrassed
or disappointed.

Resources
TVDSB "A Teachers Guide: Everyday Practices for Mental Health and Well-Being in the Classroom"

Free Your Imagination

LEGO and other building sets are an ideal way to tap into STEM learning. Challenge your whole family to build from a set or use your imaginations to create something unique!

BUILDING: LEGO, K'NEX, MEGA BLOKS, MODELS

Math: What geometric shapes and angles fit best together?

Problem-Solving: How can the shapes help me build what I want to build? Can I estimate how many I might need?

Spatial Competencies: How can I recreate an object to scale? Is it possible to use a grid?

Literacy: If I struggle to understand the directions for building, what strategies can I use to figure it out?

Source: BrightHorizons.com

Resources
Dana Foundation of Neuroscience, Mamainthenow.com, Brighthorizons.com

Crafting for Health

Research shows that regularly engaging in crafts may have tangible health benefits. Here's what getting crafty might do for you.

THE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS of CRAFTING

Social Justice: How do crafts connect to politics and turn objects from everyday lift into agents for social change?

Mental Health: Projects help build self-esteem. Simply visualizing, working on and then creating a product can make you feel better about yourself.

Developmental Education: When we perform manual work, we force our brain to coordinate thinking with our hands; training fine motor skills.

Physical Education: Repetitive motions can help calm down the body and the brain.

Resources
BerkleyWellness.com, Search: Crafting for Health

Grounding Exercises

Focus your attention on the sensations you are experiencing in the moment (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste).

Calm Your Mind

Horticulture: When working with plants, take a moment to notice what you see and smell. Feel the soil, plants, water.

Music: Play your favourite piece of music and listen very carefully to the variety of instruments, including vocals. Is it easier for you to listen with your eyes open or closed?

History: When did Jon Kabat-Zinn start researching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)? What did the research show?

Technology: Search 'grounding exercise' online to find the best techniques for you. Bookmark your favourites.

Resources
My Everyday Practices - Mental Health and Well-Being Activities

WARNING: Things might get messy!

MAKE YOUR OWN slime and playdough – just a few essential household ingredients and you’re on your way to hours of family fun.

SLIME IS CHEMISTRY! SLIME IS FUN!

Science: Which ingredients do I need to make slime or playdough? What chemical reactions are involved?

Literacy: What is an activator? How can I find out?

Art: What items can I use to create the textures for cloud or galaxy slime? What colours do I mix to make pink, purple, turquoise or sparkly playdough?

Mental Health & Well-Being: Kneading, mixing and squishing with our hands helps us to feel centered and calm. Read about ASMR and slime videos at self.com.

Source: Little Bins for Little Hands

Resources
Littlebinsforlittlehands.com, self.com

Be Grateful for the Little Things

Create a habit of noticing big and little things you are grateful for. Being grateful can make you more patient when life is difficult.

GRATITUDE is the BEST ATTITUDE

History: What inventions have made your daily life easier? Think cooking, cleaning, communication and transportation.

Social Skills: Regularly tell others that you are grateful to have them in your life and why.

Art: Using any medium, create an art piece that expresses your gratitude.

Resources
TVDSB "A Teachers Guide: Everyday Practices for Mental Health and Well-Being in the Classroom"

I Spy With My Little Eye

TVDSB is collecting system wide BIRD Watching data for three days, May 13-15.
Get outside and participate for 15 min. Share your data at www.tvdsb.ca/environment

SPRING NEIGHBOURHOOD BIRD COUNT

Math: Using the data collected, how can you answer your questions, and what conclusions can you draw?
What can you KNOW from the data, and what do you now WONDER?

Science: Use this opportunity to hypothesize, investigate and understand the interactions in your own local environment.

Health: This is a life-long outdoor activity that can be done anywhere, any time of year.

Mental Health & Well-Being: Watching birds makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature.

Resources
Ontario Field Ornithologists, NatureCanada.ca, TVDSB Environmental Ed.

Smiling is Contagious Too

Outdoor chalk art is an opportunity to express yourself and inspire others. Think of ways to make it interactive - games like hopscotch, asking questions, riddles or even jokes!

PLAYING with POSITIVITY

Art: Draw images, write quotes and words to inspire optimism and creativity.

Social Skills: How might someone else feel by reading/seeing what you've created?

Language: What are some new words that you can find and learn to spell?

Science: How is chalk made? Can you make some at home?

Question: What is so fragile that saying its name breaks it?

Answer: Silence

My Feel-Good Playlist

Music has the power to make us feel many different emotions. What style of music is your 'go-to' for feeling happy?

MUSIC at HOME #TVDSBarts

Music: The elements of music are what changes the emotion of a song. What are the elements of music that you prefer when creating a playlist?

What music makes you feel happy or calm?
What kind of music would you listen to if you want to feel energized or relaxed?
What music makes you want to get up and dance?
Resources
#TVDSBarts, The Arts Curriculum (2009), TVDSB Arts

Notice Every Sensation

Walking – with or without a destination – is an opportunity to quiet your mind.
Focus your attention on only what you feel, hear, smell and see in this moment.

WALK this WAY

Biology: How does walking strengthen your bones?

Math: How long is your stride (one step)? How many steps would it take you to walk one meter? One kilometer?

Social Skills: What does it feel like to walk with someone and not speak? When you complete the walk, share what you observed with your senses as well as the thoughts and feelings you noticed while not speaking.

Health & Physical Education: Walking is a simple way to achieve daily exercise goals.

Resources
Healthy Schools: DPA, ParticipACTION, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines

What Does the Evening Sound Like?

As evening sets in, a whole new world comes alive. What sounds do you hear, how do they make you feel, what do you wonder?

EVENING SOUNDS

Music: Can you replicate the sounds and rhythms you hear with objects from around your home?

Language: Write a poem about all the wonderous or spooky sounds you hear.

Science: Why do we hear so many different sounds at night? What does it mean to be nocturnal? Can you name 5 different nocturnal animals and their habitat?

Social studies: While most of our community sleeps, many are busy at work. What professions work in the evening and through the night? Why do you think so?

Resources
NationalGeographic.com, Book: Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Calming Moments

Bring to mind a place where you feel calm. Imagine you are there. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Include textures, temperature, emotions. Are there any smells or tastes?

WHERE DO YOU FEEL MOST CALM?

Arts: How might you represent your calm place through various mediums? Try drawing, creating music or poetry.

Biology: What is happening in your body when you imagine this place? How does your breathing and brain chemistry change? When stressed, pause to take a slow breath and imagine your calm place in as much detail as possible.

Horticulture: Can you create a calm place using plants?

Science: Research shows that this practice works best when the calm place in your mind is a real place where you have spent time.

Resources
My Everyday Practices - Mental Health and Well-Being Activities TVDSB

Literacy

"Literacy is about more than reading and writing – it's about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture." UNESCO, Statement for United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003-2012

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS

Social Media: Communicating through social media uses many short forms (LOL), tags (@), and hashtags (#). With members of your household, write a list of 10 hashtags you would share during this time at home.

Instagram Post: Label the parts of the message (greeting, tags, sharing ideas, asking questions, closing, hashtags). Write a list of 8 things you have been doing, including some details (Who? Where? When? Why?).
Record 5 questions you might ask.

Resources
TVDSB, Continuity of Learning, Literacy

Gardening

“A garden is a friend you can visit any time.” Okakura Kakuzo

Gardening adds beauty, oxygen and diverse ecosystems to your living space. Research shows that tending to plants can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Learning in the Garden

Geography: We live in the Carolinian Ecosystem Zone. What flowering plants can you grow to help our natural pollinators?

Math: When growing plants from seed, use a ruler to measure depth and spacing as listed on the seed package. Measure and chart the growth of various plants over time.

Horticulture: Which bugs and insects are beneficial to the plants you are growing? If you don't have space for a garden, research container gardening or municipal community garden plots.

Art: Draw, paint, or photograph to document your garden's growth over time.

Resources
CarolinianCanada.ca, Municipal websites

Clean Up, Clean Up

Let's make it a game. Turning routine chores into a fun family challenge can improve communication and team building skills. Tidying can be fun!

Many hands make light work

Teamwork: If you work together, how many things can you pick up in 1 minute? Can you beat that number?

Music: Choose upbeat songs (125-140 BPM) to make cleaning up fun! What are some of your favourites?

Mental Health & Well-Being: A tidy space has been proven to reduce distractions and anxiety (CAMH).

Social Studies: Use the Internet to research places where you can donate unwanted toys/books locally.

Resources

Center4research.org, camh.ca

A Deeper Dive into Mindfulness

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally." - Jon Kabat Zinn
History: When and where did Jon Kabat Zinn begin researching the effects of mindfulness practice? What were the results?

Social Studies: There are many cultural and religious practices that share attributes of mindfulness practice. Ask your family, friends and online community what practices they find helpful to restore calm and perspective when life is difficult.

Health and P.E.: Research and try movement-based mindful practices. What are the many benefits associated with practicing mindfulness regularly?

Resources:
CAMH.ca, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), MBSR-Teen

Making a Super Cool Fort at Home

What every day, household items make the best forts? Try pillows, fitted and flat sheets, clothes pins and clips and build a masterpiece where the whole family can play and expand their imaginations together!

Science/physics: How much weight is needed to hold up a sheet, but not collapse the ceiling? How much space is required for you to fit in your fort (sitting, standing)?

Imaginative play: Is the couch part of a spaceship? The bunkbed a castle tower? Is your fort a restaurant, a corner store, a classroom or even a jungle hideout?

History: Did you know that the oldest walled city is Uruk in ancient Sumer (Mesopotamia)? What can you learn about the history of fortification around the world?

Resources: Ancient History Encyclopedia, The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center

Coffee with Kelly - Mental Health Conversations

The following videos are conversations that were recorded during Mental Health Week in the spring of 2020 between the Mental Health Lead, Kelly Appleby and a variety of people connected to the TVDSB. 

Mental Health & Well-Being: Parenting in a Pandemic
Dr. Sukhera is a child and adolescent psychiatrist in London and an Associate Professor at UWO. He shares his expertise and wisdom for parents and caregivers on supporting the mental health of children and youth during these challenging times.

Video #1 - Coffee with Kelly featuring Dr. Javeed Sukhera (Introduction)


Video #2 - Coffee with Kelly featuring Dr. Javeed Sukhera (Extended)

Transition Back to School
Dr. Tranter talks about the ways in which the framework and concepts of his book, The Third Path, can provide guidance to schools on what children will need to support their achievement and well-being when schools re-open and beyond.

Video #1 - Coffee with Kelly featuring Dr. David Tranter (Introduction)

Video #2 - Coffee with Kelly featuring Dr. David Tranter (Extended)

 

Check out the the Coffee with Kelly playlist on Youtube.

School Mental Health Ontario (SMHO) Resources

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) 
Social-emotional learning (SEL) describes the process of developing and practicing skills that help us to thrive throughout life.  SEL targets six domains where knowledge and skills can be developed.  Explicit, whole-classroom/school efforts to teach social-emotional learning have a positive impact on students’ social, behavioural, and emotional well-being.  This can have a positive impact on academic achievement for students.  

School Mental Health Ontario (SMHO) has created a series of videos with students, for students to help them understand SEL and discover how they can enhance skill development in this area.  Check out these Social Emotional Learning resources to learn more. 

Video #1: Skills for students: What is Social-Emotional learning?
An introduction to social-emotional learning: Social-emotional learning (SEL) describes the process of developing and expanding certain skills that help us to thrive. The focus is to develop skills for recognizing and managing thoughts and emotions, getting along with others, and approaching challenges in an organized and optimistic manner. SEL is associated with gains in both academic performance and well-being. 

Video #2: Skills for students: How your thoughts, emotions and behaviours work together
Identification and management of emotions: A domain of social-emotional learning focused on the connection between emotions, thoughts, and behaviours and the skills required to notice these feelings and react appropriately in situations.

Video #3: Skills for students: Managing the stress you feel
Stress management and coping: A domain of social-emotional learning focused on strategies to cope with controllable and uncontrollable stress to help prepare for future challenges.

Video #4: Skills for students: Persevering even when things are hard
Positive motivation and perseverance: A domain of social-emotional learning focused on the importance of learning skills for adapting to changes, persevering in the face of adversity, learning from mistakes, and thinking positively about setbacks.

Video #5: Skills for students: Having healthy relationships with others
Healthy Relationships: A domain of social-emotional learning focused on learning effective communication and conflict resolution skills that result in more positive interactions with others.

Video #6: Skills for students: Discovering what makes you YOU!
Self-awareness and sense of identity: A domain of social-emotional learning focused on the importance of identity, mattering, and belonging to overall well-being, and how knowing personal strengths and potential can contribute to a sense of identity and belonging.

Video #7: Skills for students: Organizing your thoughts to help you focus
Critical and creative thinking: A domain of social-emotional learning focused on managing thoughts and emotions in order to concentrate on items of importance, achieve goals, and make better decisions.

Video #8: Skills for students: Social-emotional learning skills for life
Closing statements about social-emotional learning (SEL): SEL skills are important for future resilience. Beyond academics, SEL skills are also helpful tools through life. 

Resources for Home

This is a series of twelve mental health activities designed for parents and caregivers to try at home. They’re connected to six areas of social-emotional learning including; Identification and Management of Emotions, Stress Management and Coping, Positive Motivation and Perseverance, Healthy Relationship, Self Awareness and Sense of Identity, and Critical and Creative Thinking (Executive Functioning).

Additional Resources

Websites

Mind your Mind exists in the space where mental health, wellness, engagement, and technology meet. They work with community partners and young people aged 14 to 29 to co-create interactive tools and innovative resources to build capacity and resilience.
Link: https://mindyourmind.ca/

Caring for Kids provides information including behaviour and emotional wellness topics for parents and caregivers from Canada’s pediatricians.
Link: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) provides information about the signs, symptoms, definitions, and other important facts about mental illness conditions, disorders, substances, medications, and therapies.
Link: http://www.camh.ca/

ConnexOntario provides free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness, or gambling by connecting them with services in their area. We are funded by the Government of Ontario.
Link: https://www.connexontario.ca/en-ca/

Parents of Children’s Mental Health believes that children, youth, and their families suffering from mental health challenges deserves our extreme respect and assurance. We are dedicated to improving the lives of these families. Chapters can be found throughout Ontario.
Link: http://www.pcmh.ca/

Strong Minds Strong Kids: Psychology Canada is a new brand from The Psychology Foundation of Canada. They have renewed and deepened their commitment to promoting the mental well-being of children and youth in Canada. They are dedicated to nurturing resilience in kids with the use of psychological science so they can manage, learn, and grow from the many challenges in life.
Link: https://www.strongmindsstrongkids.org/

The Sick Kids Hospital's Learning Hub includes resources for parents on how to support your child's mental health and general well-being through physical activity, sleep and nutrition. It also provides information on the signs, symptoms and treatments of different mental health conditions, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, behavioural disorders, anorexia nervosa and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Link: https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/mentalhealth

 In the Now!

To celebrate Mental Health Week and the TVDSB annual Arts Festival, the Mental Health and Arts portfolio have partnered and created a collaborative initiative to highlight how the Arts promote positive mental health and well-being. We are excited to share this year’s #theARTofMentalHealth event; this initiative is designed to engage the entire TVDSB community in person and/or virtually.

Check out TVDSB submissions by searching #theARTofMentalHealth on Twitter.

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