Milton Stands Strong Against Bullying

August 1, 2013
Originally published in Milton Villager magazine

By Tania MacWilliam

Recent research from the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that bullying is a potential risk factor for adolescent depression and suicide for both the bullied and the bully.

A Milton-based, youth-led grassroots anti-bullying movement wants to make a difference by raising awareness about the rate and impact of bullying.

On July 6, Milton Stands Strong Against Bullying (MSSAB) hosted an event at the Milton Fair Grounds to raise awareness of crisis resources and funds for suicide prevention training.

“[We] hope to raise awareness of bullying to prevent … children from falling victim,” said Dalton Cole, 17-year-old co-founder of MSSAB, “and [ultimately] reduce future [instances of] suicide.”

Another goal of the event was to affirm MSSAB’s message that its members will no longer be bystanders.

“We won’t tolerate [bullying] anymore,” said Yianni Kioussis, the other 17-year-old co-founder of MSSAB. “I think kids all over the community are well aware of that now.”

A committee of adult volunteers, led by youth advocate Terri Naccarato, worked tirelessly to help organize the event. The youths approached Naccarato to help out after learning of her volunteer work with the Deck Youth Centre.   

Since she believes in empowering youths by guiding their passions, she happily obliged. “I feel it’s important to listen to our kids,” said Naccarato. “When they reach out to help each other, that is big and needs to be heard.”

The event featured a martial arts demonstration by the Milton Tsunami of the Academy of Martial Arts (AMA), musical performances by local youths, and guest speakers, with Mayor Gord Krantz and MP Lisa Raitt making the opening remarks.

Following Krantz’s and Raitt’s comments was an address by Milton’s own Olympic aerial skier, Travis Gerrits. He shared how it was important for him to attend the event as a way of reciprocating the support he received from the community during his journey to the Olympics.

Gerrits later spent time posing for photographs and signing autographs. He then invited attendees to sign a Canadian flag, which he plans to bring with him to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Nelson the Giant story time, face painting, and a bouncy castle entertained children while the audience listened to musical performances and speeches.

Among speech topics were mental self-defense and the bystander effect, shared by Julie Creighton and Carrie Percival of AMA.

Another topic discussed was bullying in the LGBT community. Michelle Emson, a transformational coach and inspirational speaker, shared her personal journey from self-bullying to self-acceptance.

Speeches concluded with a keynote address called “Love Your Vibe.” Elvira Hopper, an author, life coach, and inspirational speaker, shared how youths could use the lessons shared in “Love Your Vibe” to self-protect from the emotional trauma that so often results from bullying.

Money raised at the event will fund the group’s anti-bullying initiatives, with a portion donated to established community resources such as the Deck Youth Centre and the Reach Out Centre for Kids.

The overarching goal of the event was to let youths know that there are caring people in the community, including those on the MSSAB team.

“We want to let everyone know they’re not alone,” said Cole “We stand here for them.”

 A Story of Survival

Sixteen-year-old Milton resident Lauren Saelzer courageously shared her bullying survival story as the sole youth speaker at the event.

Saelzer told listeners her tale of being bullied, how she found the inner strength to overcome her darkest moments, and how she finally chose self-love over self-harm.

Saelzer recounted the moment she took control of her life back from the clutches of darkness. After what seemed like an eternity of torment, she reached her breaking point. She said she was sitting alone one day when she decided enough was enough.

There was a voice inside my head that said I have to let go,” she said in an interview with the Milton Villager. “I don’t know what it was, but I knew I couldn’t harm myself any longer.”

Saelzer confessed that getting through the pain wasn’t easy and that it didn’t go away overnight. But once you finally [realize] that you’re worth it and that you can’t let those bullies define who you are, then you feel so much better about yourself.”

Speaking at the event was a cathartic experience, Saelzer said. “When I finally got the courage and the opportunity to speak, I decided to let it go and let everyone know.”

Since the event, Saelzer has received positive feedback from youths who relate to her journey. She is thankful knowing that she isn’t alone in her experience, something she wouldn’t have realized if she hadn’t allowed herself to be vulnerable by publicly sharing her account of bullying.

With her darkness behind her, and a newfound sense of camaraderie, she looks forward to a fulfilling future. Saelzer plans to pursue her passion for helping animals by attending a related college program.

“It’s amazing how one day can change your life,” she said.

 The Backstory

MSSAB began as a Facebook group co-founded by 17-year-olds Yianni Kioussis and Dalton Cole as a response to Kioussis being bullied. The pair felt that it was important to have a virtual space where youths could share their stories and be supported. “We created this group so teens have a place to speak up,” said Kioussis. “So they’re not scared, and so they don’t feel alone.”

The group grew to 10,000 members in just six days thanks to a passionate social media campaign led by a team of six primary members. Joining Cole and Kioussis were event coordinator Ryan Ashley, 18; web designer Branden Cole, 21; team support Cory Mottram, 17, and social media manager Aaron Zomers, 15.

The group now maintains a website that allows youths to share personal stories and offers resource information; it also has a chat feature providing anonymous peer support. To keep up to date or to get involved in future MSSAB initiatives, please visit miltonstandsstrong.com.

Mindfulness Matters

*Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine

Practising mindfulness meditation is something I have done to cope with everyday stress for the past four years. Relationship troubles, work pressures and oppressive inner dialogue can all contribute to adult stress. However, stress isn’t reserved for adults.

The science of child development shows that excessive stress could lead to lifelong issues with learning, behavior and overall health. Though most children deal well with stress, others find coping more difficult. Finding healthy ways to manage stress can help children maneuver through challenging times.

Roy Hintsa, a Toronto area mindfulness-based stress reduction facilitator, says mindfulness allows children to manage stress by creating a pause between the stimulus and the reaction. This gives them the opportunity to choose to respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively. “Mindfulness promotes well-being,” he says. “Children become happier and kinder. They get in touch with their emotions and learn to regulate them.”

The simplest tool we have for mindfulness is observing our breath. Roy says not to change your breathing pattern. First, focus on feeling the cool air when you inhale and the warm air when you exhale. Then count your breaths in pairs: Inhale, exhale, one. Inhale, exhale, two, and so on for five counts. If your mind wanders, note what you were thinking about and return to counting your breaths.

Mindfulness in schools
Much of Roy’s experience with teaching mindfulness to children is in a school setting. Children are confronted with stress from many areas. Most often that stress comes from worrying about academic performance. “Even from an early age,” says Roy. “This can cause many youngsters to feel stressed out.”

Not only can students experience anxiety related to academic pressures, they can also come to school with a host of stressors stemming from problems in the home, social conflict and physical or mental vulnerabilities. “There is also the pressure of being accepted,” says Roy. “Mindfulness helps children to be kinder to themselves and this extends to others.”

Mindfulness can also help improve children’s attention, focus and memory, Roy says. These are all important factors for learning.

Roy recommends children take three mindful breaths to help relieve anxiety before doing homework, tests and participating in competitions. The goal is to teach children to focus in simple ways. “It’s really about focusing,” he says.

One exercise Roy does with students begins with sitting in a chair. Kids are asked to concentrate on their breathing while their classmates walk around and try to distract them. “The child’s job is to really try to stay concentrated in spite of all this noise that’s going on around them.”

Get the whole family involved
Roy says parents must be mindful themselves in order to create a mindful family.

“Children will come to mindfulness at their own time and pace,” he says. “If parents are mindful, and I don’t mean modeling mindfulness, but are embodying mindfulness, they may come to it earlier.”

The key is to be fully present when interacting with your family, says Roy. Here are some ways he says you can do that:

  • Just before leaving for school in the morning, before opening the front door, stand together and take three mindful breaths.
  • You can also take three mindful breaths before eating and try to begin the meal mindfully.
  • Go for a walk with your child and pay attention to what you both notice around you, what you see, hear, smell and touch.
  • Before bed, share something that you are grateful for that day — something that made you happy. Have your child do the same. Then continue with some mindful breathing!

Mindfulness exercises for younger siblings

Children can be introduced to the principles of mindfulness from a young age, says Roy. Children from all ages can benefit from different styles of training. Younger children tend to respond more to physical activities rather than practising meditation. Here are some exercises Roy recommends for preschool children:

Mindful Listening: Tell your child you are going to ring a bell or a tone bar. Ask them to listen carefully to the sound of the bell and raise their hands when they can no longer hear it.

Breath Awareness: Have your child lie down on a mat on the floor, or on their bed, and place their favourite stuffed animal on their belly. Have them rock the stuffed animal to sleep with the movement of their belly as they breathe in and out. This is how they can begin to pay attention to their breathing.

Mindful Eating: This is a time when playing with your food is OK. Give your child a piece of fruit and ask them to pretend they are from another planet and have never seen this piece of fruit before. Ask them to describe their experience using all five senses. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Taste like? Does it make a sound when you bite it?

The next dimension in manufacturing

*Originally published in Manufacturing Automation magazine. View online version here.

Resistance is futile. 3D printing is here to stay. And if you want to reap the benefits, like reducing production costs, time and waste, it would be wise to welcome this technology with open arms.

3D printing isn’t a new technology. It’s been around as long as the Internet. But it’s been garnering more media attention in the last couple of years thanks to expanding technology. The equipment has become more affordable, efficient and accessible, making it an intriguing option for progressive manufacturers.

The idea of printing a replacement toothbrush from a desktop machine could entice home users to invest in their very own 3D printer. But hobbyist use isn’t what’s getting all the attention. Industry experts think 3D printing could revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing uses design information from a CAD file to build up a solid object, layer-by-layer, using plastics or powders. There are many processes that can be used to print materials made from metals, glass and even bio-materials, but the most well known process of fabrication is called fuse deposition modelling (FDM). This process uses a heated nozzle that deposits fine layers of plastic on a build platform.

From a simple aircraft bracket to a complex organ to replace a failing one, the possibilities for 3D printing are endless. And there are unique processes used to produce this wide array of products.

One 3D printer manufacturer, Stratasys, offers three types machines, using three different printing technologies. The first is Solidscape technology, which uses wax to make patterns and is often used in the dental and jewellery industry. The next is PolyJet technology, which employs an inkjet process to create objects from fine layers of photopolymers while simultaneously curing them with ultraviolet light. Finally, they employ the most common method, FDM technology.

The latter is what Jeff DeGrange, vice president of direct digital manufacturing at Stratasys, calls the holy grail when it comes to potentiality. “[FDM] can be used for making functional prototypes as well as items that would be going into manufacturing, whether it be manufacturing tools or end use parts,” he says.

Waste, cost, time reduction and customization
Incorporating 3D printing technology into the production line could reduce costs by reducing manufacturing waste. Traditional subtractive manufacturing creates objects by carving them out of blocks of material. This method leaves as much as 90 per cent excess waste materials behind, according to a report published by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) titled “3D printing and the future of manufacturing.”

On the other hand, additive manufacturing creates objects that retain all the materials used in the building process. An example of the cost savings from the report showed that by using FDM to build a specialty part, costs could be reduced from $10,000 to $600.

Not only can costs and waste be reduced, but production time can also be significantly decreased. For example, a series of parts used to create the body of the Urbee, a two-passenger hybrid car, was printed in a matter of weeks.

“[It] would have taken an estimated eight to 10 months of work for two people using a more traditional manufacturing technique,” says Vivek Srinivasan, Australia regional manager for CSC’s Leading Edge Forum and a contributor to the 3D printing report.

While cost savings, waste reduction and decrease in production time are enough incentive to consider embracing 3D printing in your production line, Jarrod Bassan, a senior consultant with CSC in Australia and a contributor to the 3D printing report, believes we will see companies using 3D printing to gain a competitive advantage through direct manufacturing.

“It will allow some manufacturers to offer customization where their competitors cannot,” says Bassan. “Or offer products that have some inherent advantage which is only possible because of printing.”

An example of customization using additive manufacturing is Invisalign, a company that makes clear orthodontic retainers that are an alternative to metal braces. Patients are provided with a series of removable, customized retainers. Each retainer gradually realigns the teeth, and is changed every two weeks for a new, customized retainer. This is something that is only possible through 3D printing.
Even airplane interiors can be customized using 3D printing technology. “You can actually make a very customized interior as far as closure panels that can then get decorative treatments to make them very customized for the pilot,” says DeGrange, who spent 20 years in the aerospace industry while working at Boeing.

Mobile warehouses and keeping manufacturing at home
If you’ve ever had an appliance break down, you know the nuisance of waiting for a repair person to come out to your home, diagnose the problem and book a return date after the faulty part has been shipped to their warehouse. DeGrange thinks 3D printing could eliminate the hassle of the wait time. With information like the model number of your appliance, the repair person can build the part that needs replacing right on the spot. “The van of the repair company could have a 3D printer and they can just download the file right there in their van and build the parts that they need to fix your dishwasher,” says DeGrange.

Then there are cars. Depending on the make, its service life can be anywhere from five to 20 years and it will eventually need spare parts. “Rather than having a big warehouse of spare parts not knowing if you have too much or not enough, you can just pull up your CAD file and print out whatever quantities you need on demand where you need it,” he says.

If a manufacturer offers 3D printed replacement parts for their products, not only can they can save on storage and transportation costs, they are also able offer their consumers convenience, and happy consumers are repeat consumers.

Another benefit DeGrange sees in 3D printing is keeping manufacturing right here in North America.  A lot of jobs are sent to low-cost countries like China, Mexico and India. “We do that for a host of reasons, but ultimately it’s cost,” he says. “And you have humans in that loop. [Additive manufacturing] is basically reducing the amount of humans in that loop.”

Thanks to 3D printing, you no longer need to rely on cheap labour. All the information to build a product is in the CAD file. “You could integrate so many things in the CAD file that typically would take minutes or hours to assemble downstream and that’s why you ship things to China. Now you can bring all that home, integrate it upstream in a CAD design,” he says.

DeGrange offers fuel injectors for jet engines as an example of how labour intensive some products are to build. To begin assembling a 42-part jet engine fuel injector, you put part one and part two in a welding station and weld them together. Then those two pieces go to another welding station and another two pieces are welded together. Now it’s a four-part piece. This continues from station to station with people welding at each one of these stations. “Now you can combine all 42 parts in a CAD design and build it with an additive process, in this case it would be a direct metal process,” says DeGrange. “It goes right from the CAD file to the machine that integrates all those parts together so you remove the need for having all the different tooling stations and all the people who would have to weld at those tooling stations.”

Potential piracy
While 3D printing is an exciting innovation, it’s not without its drawbacks. Since printing information is digital, it’s easily transferable. This means digital piracy is a possibility. However, the prognosis need not be bleak. Manufacturers can take steps to protect themselves, says Michael Weinberg, vice president of Public Knowledge, experts in copyright, telecommunications and Internet law.

We see examples of successful management of digital piracy when we examine the last 15 years of online distribution. iTunes, Netflix and Amazon customers have proven more than willing to pay for digitized content, says Weinberg, as long as there is a way for them to do so.

“The best and only real way to combat piracy is to give your customers an easy way to buy legitimate copies in the format they want,” says Weinberg.
For example, manufacturers could offer downloadable CAD files for replacement parts that would cost less—not to mention take less time—to purchase and ship the part directly.

That would be preferable over the litigious alternative, says Weinberg. While it can be helpful to register copyrights for things that are copyrightable, patent things that are patentable and trademark things that are trademarkable, Weinberg says that can’t be your only strategy.

“Suing individual users online is a strategy that failed for the music industry,” he says. “It is unlikely to start working anytime soon.”
Weinberg adds that manufacturers who choose to embrace 3D printing are much more likely to prosper in the long run.

It Takes a Village: Community raises mental health awareness

*Originally published in Milton Villager magazine.

One in five Canadians is diagnosed with mental illness, which makes it more common than cancer and diabetes. Many more cases of mental illness go undiagnosed because of the fear of judgment and rejection.

Sometimes sufferers of mental illness resort to suicide. This was the heartbreaking circumstance surrounding the recent suicide of 16-year-old Amber Regis, a local teen who struggled with depression.

Terri Naccarato, a friend of the family, organized an afternoon dessert soirée fund-raiser at the Teatro Conference and Event Centre on Feb. 3 to help Amber’s grieving family rebuild their lives after their tragic loss.

Saddened by local suicides over the years and having been impacted by family and friend’s depression, Terri felt compelled to do something to address the major issues leading to suicide.

“I had to do something,” she said. “This cannot be the only answer for a teen when they are struggling. We need to bring awareness to this horrible illness and bring the community together.”

The event, titled In Celebration of Amber’s Life: Bringing Awareness to Teen Depression/Suicide, featured a number of speakers who shared information about mental health and resources for Halton residents coping with mental illness.

Terri rallied local talent and business owners to donate time, talent, services and prizes for a silent auction, raffle and door prizes. Among those who donated their talents were magician/illusionist Tyler Fergus and teen singers Dylan D’Alessandro, Gavin McLeod and Lateisha Justino.

Aestheticians from Allegra Organic Spa & Boutique were on-site, offering manicures to attendees between speakers and performances. The goal of the event was to educate the community about depression and mental illness and to help remove the stigma that so often prevents people from seeking help.

“People are afraid to talk about [mental illness] because they feel that they are going to be stigmatized,” Tammy Whelen, a mental health educator with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), shared at the event. “They don’t want people at their job to know that they might deal with depression or schizophrenia because maybe they’ll get fired. Maybe their coworkers will bully them. Maybe their wife will leave them. These are all things that cross people’s mind. And it shouldn’t be that way.”

She says we have to look in the mirror and realize the problem starts with us. We’re stigmatizing people when we label them.

“Many people are frightened by what they don’t understand. The more we understand mental illness, the less likely we are to stigmatize sufferers,” Tammy said. “Who’s to say that someone who’s diagnosed with a mental illness, like depression, or schizophrenia, or bipolar, or anxiety disorder, cannot live a mentally healthy life?” she said. They can, she adds, by access community resources.

One of the things mental health professionals say we must understand is that mental illness is complicated. There is no one cause.

“Mental illness is the result of a complex interplay of genetics, biology, personality and environmental factors,” Wendy Caron, a social worker with Woodview Mental Health & Autism Services, explained to listeners. “And 49 per cent of people with mental illness do not seek treatment.” Wendy’s sister suffered from anxiety and depression and ultimately took her own life. She believes that the more we talk about it, the more likely people are to reach out for help and find an alternative to suicide.

There was a time when breast cancer was just a whisper on people’s lips. Now we wear pink ribbons and buy pink appliances and run for the cure every October, Wendy says. The same attention must be given to mental illness.

“We need not whisper when we say, ‘I have mental illness. I have depression,’” she said.

Becky, a teen facilitator with Lighthouse, a peer support program for grieving children, youth and their families, shared the story of her own sister’s battle with depression and why it’s so hard to understand mental illness. “It’s not like cancer or tuberculosis or any other kind of physical disease because it’s something you can’t see,” she shared. “She really pushed through and she really tried. And for three years she really gave it her all, but in the end, she took her life when she was 17 years old.”

The reality is that people do commit suicide. And as much as people are uncomfortable talking about mental illness, they are also uncomfortable talking about suicide.

“I think that the people who organized this today are just so great for doing this kind of thing in memory of Amber,” Becky said. “I really wish something like this happened in Oakville, where I’m from, because I know what I needed when [my sister] died was just a sense of community, caring, well-being. Just knowing that there were lots of people who were going to listen to me and understand and care.”

But how do we begin to support those who experience such painful losses, especially children who have lost siblings, parents and other loved ones? The answer is by helping them seek programs that will connect them with peers who are going through the same thing.

Melissa Hedman-Baker, clinical director of Lighthouse, says that it’s very common for grieving children to feel like nobody understands them, especially with their peers at school. “At the Lighthouse, they are amongst others who understand what it’s like,” she shared. “Even if the circumstances surrounding the death are different.”

As the speeches came to a close, handmade bookmarks were passed out by some teens from one of the programs run by Woodview.

“Each of these bookmarks have an individual message of hope from a kid that knows what it’s like to be depressed to another kid somewhere who may be struggling,” Wendy shared.

Wendy directed her final words to the supporters of the Regis family:

“How does someone move on from this kind of loss?” she began. “With the support of friends and family and community. Your cards, your visits, your casseroles, your ongoing support is what’s going to help this family come out of their darkness.”

The event was well received by attendees who engaged with speakers, requesting more information on how to best support teens in their community. “The only thing missing was more people,” said Hunter Foster, a local teen who attended the event.

“I learned a lot, and I wish there were more teens and youth there,” he said.

Not only was the event intended to educate the community, but to be a show of support for the Regis family. While many people were not able to attend, they showed support in other ways, and these gestures let the family know they are not alone.

“The community support is overwhelming,” Tara Regis, Amber’s mother, said. “We are so grateful for the love, prayers, words, gifts and events that our family, friends and community have blessed us with. Honestly, there are no words strong enough to share our appreciation. Thank you just does not do it justice.” Despite the Regis family’s tragic loss, they are able to reflect positively on Amber’s life and are proud of the person she was.

“Even in death we feel that Amber has brought amazing people into our lives that we may never have had the chance to meet otherwise,” Tara said.

She hopes that the event in Amber’s name will bring greater awareness to the issue of teen depression and promote open dialogue and trust between parents and their kids.

“We are hoping to be able to work with the community in the future to share Amber’s life and establish further supports for teens in the community who may be struggling with similar issues,” she said.

Loved ones described Amber as compassionate, intelligent and athletic. She went above and beyond to help her friends through tough times and brought a smile to the face of everyone she touched.

“She was a supportive friend, a fun-loving and protective big sister and an amazingly strong daughter who made us proud,” Tara said.

Too Young to be Infertile? What You Need to Know

*Link to original post here

Pressing snooze on your biological clock could not only cost you financially, but emotionally as well.

More than half of university-aged young adults believe that fertility begins to decline at a later age than it really does, according to a recent U.K study.

The Globe and Mail reported results from the journal, Human Reproduction, citing  that 67 per cent of women and 81 per cent of men think that female fertility greatly declines after age 40; when in reality there is a marked decrease from age 35.

A 2010 Canadian study showed that women on the other side of the pond believed the same thing.

Many from the U.K study believed that the drop zone is later still, with 31 per cent of women and 52 per cent of men thinking that the chances of natural conception don’t decrease until after age 44.

The study also reveals that success rates for assisted-reproductive technologies are being vastly overestimated – with reproductive specialists being expected to perform miracles.

While researchers can’t put their finger on the reason for this misinformation, experts speculate that it’s because doctors aren’t being proactive by discussing their patient’s fertility until it becomes a concern.

In addition, it is believed that celebrity stories, such as that of Kelly Preston, who gave birth to her son when she was 48, are skewing the perception that healthy fertility is the norm at any age.

I was only in my 20s when I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. After many rounds of Clomid (medication used to induce ovulation) and a miscarriage, two years later I was finally pregnant. And although I am happy to have a healthy second child, I don’t forget everything my family went through in the process. Had I been prepared for this possibility, I might have handled it a lot better.

Similarly, those without accurate information about their fertility face the possibility of a long, expensive and emotional journey on the road to having children – that is if they even want them.

It’s not fair to assume every woman wishes to bear offspring. And some still may wish to invest in their independence and focus on their career before focusing on having children. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. Let’s address a woman’s right to choose. After all, part of what the feminist movement was about was taking control of our fertility. Thank you birth control pill!

But to truly take control we must have full knowledge of our body’s capabilities and limitations. Information about the realities of female fertility needs to be readily, and widely, available. It should be discussed in sex-education classes and brought up by family physicians in young adulthood. The question needs to be raised early. “Might you ever want to have children?” If the answer is yes, then “Here are the things you need to know.”

However, should the fear that an aging woman’s ovaries might shrivel up, leaving her barren, pressure her to start considering having children she may never want?

It’s the archaic notion that a woman isn’t living up to her God-given purpose if she isn’t procreating that causes so much stress. Should she have to compromise her current desires in order to live up to society’s expectations further down the road?

These are the things a woman must deal with simply because she was born with a uterus. Pressure is coming in from all sides – “Have a baby in your twenties or risk not having them at all,” and “You better hold off on having a baby until you establish a career because old women in the workplace aren’t desirable.” Then you have the pressure to remain childless because you might use too many sick days thanks to your little snot-nosed, germ factories. You risk demotion, and possibly termination, leaving you with the financial hardship you were trying to avoid to begin with. It’s so often about the money, but that isn’t the only cost.

Putting the price of fertility treatments aside, (for example, just one round of IVF can cost as much as $15,000) the true price a woman pays comes in the form of emotional turmoil. While family doctors have some psychological training, it doesn’t replace a good old fashioned therapist. Yes, women should be offered a fertility consultation by their doctors to discuss their biology once they reach the prime age of fertility.  But the most important service they should be offered is a referral to a therapist who specializes in working with women who are considering when, and if, to have children.

Study: Social Skills, Not Good Grades, Linked with Lifelong Happiness

*Link to original post  here (Yahoo Shine)

Don’t fret if your kids didn’t make the honour roll – their future well-being doesn’t depend on it.

According to the Journal of Happiness Studiesacademic achievement has less impact on adult well-being than we might think. The study followed just more than 800 children over a 32-year period, exploring the role of academic achievement and social development on future adult well-being. For the purpose of this study, well-being is defined as a combination of a sense of coherence, positive coping strategies, social engagement and self-perceived strengths.

The results showed a strong link between social connectedness and overall adult happiness. The findings suggest that parents should focus their attention on helping their children develop social skills. Parent can do this by encouraging their children to participate in social activities such as youth groups and sporting clubs.

But isn’t it important that our children do well in school? Apparently, academic achievement has little effect on adult well-being, according to the authors of the study, associate professor Craig Olsson from Deakin University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, and his colleagues.

I admittedly was never overly stressed about my kids getting straight A’s. Of course I expected them to do their best, but I also encouraged them to forge strong bonds with classmates. As a shy kid myself, I had a hard time making friends. I did have a few, but I never really “fit in” so I didn’t want my children to go through that same painful experience.

When we held our little bundles of joy in our arms for the first time we made a multitude of wishes on their behalf:  We wished for their health and future success, but most of all we wished for their happiness. We promised to do our part to help them succeed in life. We would attend all their ball games and sit through all their school performances; we’d read to them, limit their screen time and help them with their homework.

I started out with good intentions when my girls were wee ones. They were signed up for every activity imaginable (with great aspirations of becoming Olympic gymnasts and figure skaters). They went to singing lessons and piano lessons; the list goes on. But life got in the way, as it sometimes does, and sacrifices needed to be made to preserve my sanity family harmony. And most of all, they missed their friends.

So we spent less time driving to practices, and a little more time just hanging out together. They did remain in organized activities, but not as many, and not so much that it took time away from their friends. They’d have them over to “study” but most times they’d just be chatting, as they often did during class –as evidenced by their average marks– and that was OK with me. As long as they were happy (and not failing), I was happy for them.

For now, my 11-year-old’s organized activities are limited to soccer and karate, and she has no ambitions to be a star goalie, or ninja, quite yet. I hazard a guess that it’s okay at this age to not have her life mapped out. And my 17-year-old, who has double aspirations of being a starving special effects artist and musician, spends equal time talking to friends and honing her craft (AKA jamming with friends and creating videos to share on YouTube).

While my kids aren’t the highest performing students in their class, (not for their lack of ability) they do have a healthy set of social skills. And this may be more important to their future happiness than being scholars.

William and Harry: Good Prince/Bad Prince?

*Link to original post here

We can’t get enough of the royals. And it’s evident in their constant media presence. Everybody’s favourite princely duo, William and Harry, have made the headlines again – but for very different reasons.

Prince charming, (William) came to the rescue of a Canadian tourist on Monday in Northern Wales, just four days after he helped to save a 16-year-old girl from drowning off the Anglesey coast, reports The Toronto Star.

Darlene Burton, 58, slipped on a rock and broke her leg while hiking near the Point Lynas lighthouse on the Anglesey coast with her husband, Lawrence Oakley. The vacationing Barrie, Ont. couple were stranded on the isolated trail – with Burton unable to move – but Oakley was able to reach a fisherman who then called for help. Then it was William to the rescue!

William has been working as a helicopter rescue pilot since his marriage to Kate last year. And while rescuing damsels in distress is part of his job, it makes the acts no less chivalrous. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’d welcome a rescue by the dashing heir any day.

His bad-boy brother, Harry, on the other hand, has made the headlines for less noble reasons. Photos of the naked prince, who evidently lost during a game of strip billiards, were captured while living it up on a Vegas vacation this past weekend, reports TMZ.

Obviously a day of mingling with celebs at a poolside party hosted by Jennifer Lopez was not naughty enough for Harry. He later brought a few ladies up to his VIP suite for a wild night of fun. Among the photos snapped were a nude Harry cupping his genitals while being embraced from behind by an apparently nude girl, and shot of the naked prince bear-hugging yet another unidentified girl who also seems to be naked.

Of the pair, who makes you swoon? Knight in shining armor, William, or playboy Harry?