With the new school year right around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to talk to Cindy Thompson, a local Clinical Counsellor and Certified Executive Coach, about some things kids might be facing and how play and social connection can help them manage their emotions. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Back in February, you were our feature presenter at a free Learning Series seminar we held about how to cultivate a resilience practice. Then this past April, you were a panelist at another free Learning Series seminar we held about how play and recreation are important for the healthy development of children and youth. Since we are in the middle of a campaign focused on raising funds to support our Child, Youth & Family programs as well as our Recreation Assistance Program, can you elaborate on why you feel that recreation is about much more than sport?
One thing that comes to mind is that when kids are active, it gives them a chance to work out excess energy and pent up emotions. Kids don’t always have the words to express what’s going on for them or if they are experiencing stress. Having physical outlets is important for kids. It doesn’t always have to be team sports – it can be individual sports like swimming or gymnastics lessons because not every kid feels comfortable in team sports – it’s just important that kids are active.
Another benefit of recreation is that it gives kids a sense of belonging outside of their family unit. And community is really important for our wellbeing. Spending time with peers and learning from other adults gives kids a chance to discover a variety of sports, gain new skills, and experience that feeling of accomplishment. Through this process they learn to manage their emotions and develop their confidence. When they practice at something they initially are not good at, they learn to stick with it and overcome challenges. These are all important life-skills that can help them learn how to do hard things when they become adults. In fact, the new mantra for kids should be “I can do hard things.”
The past few years have been challenging for everyone, especially children and youth. The pressure on the family budget these days often results in cutting extra curricular activities for kids at a time when they need social connection the most. Can you talk about what you’re seeing in your practice and how this is impacting kids today?
Kids want to be with their peers. It’s just natural. They love their families but they also want to belong outside of that, to have a sense of community. They want to know that they fit in. That’s why activities are so important, otherwise kids can become sedentary, often using screen time as a replacement for play time. So when family finances are tight, parents are often under a great deal of stress and kids feel that. Giving kids a healthy place and physical activity allows them to burn off unprocessed energy in their bodies. That’s why SOS’s free programs help make that easier for struggling parents, knowing their kids can have safe and welcoming outlets to explore and belong.
A lot of local children and youth who attend our free programs, or are able to go to summer camp because of subsidized funding, would not otherwise be able to. Can you talk about how these types of experiences benefit kids today and can help to shape their futures?
Summer camps are especially important as they help kids get out of their comfort zones. We don’t grow when we’re in our comfort zone – we grow by trying new things. So having subsidized summer camps for families who would otherwise not be able to afford them are invaluable learning experiences for children and youth.
When kids go to camp, they meet new people, often coming from different backgrounds than themselves. That opens up their awareness and helps them to learn from other kids and adults. Going to camp also teaches them to work hard even when things get tough. Working through challenges helps them to be able to draw upon past experiences and remember that they can do hard things.
Working in groups also helps kids to think about others before themselves. When they learn to work in a group or a team, they don’t feel the same need to be the star, because they know they already belong to something bigger than themselves. Those memories often carry into adulthood and can shape the way they look at the world. These skills will be building blocks in their leadership skills and serve them well in their careers – fair play, good sportsmanship, self-control, respect for others and what we call learning from “failing forward.”
Some parents are conflicted about how to help guide a highly sensitive child. What is your advice for them regarding recreation and sport?
I’ll give you an example. I had a client that was a high school student. This young girl was having a tough time with her peers at school. Because she was highly sensitive, her world had become quite small. When disconnected from this group of friends, it led her to feel alienated and anxious. She was encouraged to find an activity outside of school that would provide her with a different group of people to connect with. With a budding interest in martial arts, she joined karate and began to flourish in an activity she had never tried before. Not only did she gain new skills, but this new group of friends allowed her to feel welcome and a sense of belonging. If she only had her school peers to engage with, she would never have been able to experience the feeling of accomplishment and self-worth that helped her navigate her teenage years with grace and confidence.
When our world is too small, when something goes wrong, it feels like our whole world is falling in. But when we build more connections and engage in group activities that we feel a part of, we become more resilient when facing future challenges. And for those kids who are highly sensitive, resilience can become their super-power.
Kids will be going back to school soon which means lots of change, sometime mixed with anxiety. What advice would you have for parents to help guide their kids through this transition?
With new things starting in the fall, sometimes it can be a big adjustment all at once and sometimes parents over-program their kids. They want their kids to be good at so many things and worry they’re not doing enough for their kids. But I would say one or two things is really enough for kids who are in school full time.
What should parents be looking out for?
Watch for kids losing interest in things that they used to enjoy doing. Perhaps they’re not as energized as they once were. Are they falling asleep in class? It could be that they are feeling anxious and exhausted. Let kids ease back into school because too much change at once can be difficult for some kids, especially those who are highly sensitive. Just like adults, kids need downtime. When there is too much going on, this can manifest in stress. Most kids typically don’t know their limits, so it’s up to parents to create space for them to just be. And on a final note, I would recommend that families try and make time to come together at dinner time, around the table, giving kids an opportunity to talk about their day, rather than bottling up their worries. Connection inside the home is as important as making connections outside the home.
We appreciate the insights that Cindy shared with us on this important topic. She also suggested that our supporters and followers might be interested in listening to experts she has interviewed on her podcast, addressing resilience in children. Here are the links.
P.S. Just a heads up that plans are underway for a spring 2024 Resilience Workshop for the Business Leader that Cindy will lead. If you are a local business owner or manager and would like to be added to our email list when this event runs, please email: email@example.com
In a recent conversation with Kim Holl, the filmmaker behind the new film we unveiled at our 55th Anniversary Legacy Concert on June 28, we asked about her motivation for being involved in this project. The following are some of Kim’s observations during the filming process and some simple advice for supporting our next generation of leaders.
Why did you want to be involved in sponsoring this project?
In my previous life, I worked as a facilitator working with young people and many of them who were at risk. I’ve seen the plight of what young people have to go through and I’ve seen how hard it is sometimes to fit in – to be welcomed sometimes into their school – into their communities. Many young people feel on the fringe with no friends, no connections. And I think the most common thing that all young people want is that sense of belonging that is sometimes absent. So when I heard about the project, it struck a chord and I knew automatically, without even thinking, that I wanted to do the film.
Why did this strike such a chord with you?
Because young people are going to be the next generation of community leaders, voters, sponsors, volunteers, and we need to listen to them now, not when they come of age.
Can you explain your process when filming young people?
Filming children and youth is all about building trust. So I sit very quiet and very still and I listen. And sometimes it’s just sitting in union with young people, even if you’re not even talking very much. They’re getting to understand you. They’re getting to feel your energy and it’s then that they can begin to trust you. So I think as an adult, it’s really important not to assume what young people are thinking about or their ability to speak for themselves.
Can you talk a bit more about the value in listening to one another?
I think it’s really important for the elders of communities to really listen and be still. Young people have so much to offer and visa versa, elders have so much to offer youth as well and if we can find a way to bridge that gap where we can each learn from each other in a real safe environment, that’s when the magic happens.
You had a great conversation with one of our Child Youth & Family coordinators, who was featured in the film. Can you tell us a bit more about some of his insights?
We spoke at length about the challenges youth are facing now and that the whole environment has changed. Today is not like it was a few years ago. The generations today just face so much more in this changing world and that has caused a lot of anxiety for youth who don’t cope well with change. SOS has created such a nurturing environment for these kids, a place to feel safe, to be themselves and to feel grounded. It’s a place where kids can talk to an adult, get services and most importantly, talk to other young people who are going through similar things.
There’s a lot of news these days about youth feeling pessimistic about the future. What has your experience in working with youth told you about what kind of world they want and how they think they will fit into it?
It’s not just the young people. It’s older generations as well. It’s eco-anxiety and many have a very negative view of the world. But I’ve found that young people have ideas and they are so resourceful and so creative and innovative when given the space and time. So when you create an environment of acceptance that nurtures belonging like SOS does, it’s easier for kids to find meaning and purpose, which ultimately helps them to become happier and more resilient as they go through their teenage years and into adulthood.
After speaking with Kim and listening to the youth and SOS staff featured in the film, we are even more energized to ensure that local youth have what they need to feel heard and inspired. For it is they who we will pass the torch to as we are all ushered into the future.
What do you do when you pass a stranger on the street? Do you smile and say hello, or do you keep your head down and keep on walking?
I think it depends on where you’ve come from. If you’re from a big city, you might not feel comfortable making eye contact. However, if you have lived here all your life or come from a smaller community, chances are you find it easier to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. And you never know, it might be the first kind gesture that stranger may have received all day. To me, that’s what kindness and community is all about.
In celebration of Kindness Week, and Random Acts of Kindness Day (today!) I am offering several ideas to help you perform some random acts of kindness towards a stranger, especially towards someone who is different from yourself. Here’s some ideas to get your going:
If you’re a gardener, take some fresh flowers to a nursing home.
Smile and say hi to the bank clerk, the grocery store cashier, the person walking their dog, the construction worker. You get the idea. It’s about just being more open and human.
Start a trend of “pay it forward” at the coffee drive-through.
Write a thank-you note to your letter carrier.
Offer to return someone’s grocery cart in the parking lot.
Let someone in ahead of you in the grocery store line.
Let someone else take the closer parking spot.
Buy a warm meal for a stranger in need.
Leave a great tip at a restaurant along with a note saying thanks for the service.
Take a basket of cookies or muffins to a new neighbour. Remember a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. Take the time to meet them.
Sign up as a volunteer to deliver meals, pick up groceries or drive residents to their medical appointments.
Buy gift cards from a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant to give to people who are living on the street or in a shelter.
Give an unexpected compliment – “I really appreciate your great service today.” “You’re really great with your dog.” “Your garden looks beautiful.” “That’s a great colour on you.” Make it respectful, genuine, and appropriate.
Never underestimate the power of kindness to change someone’s day and possibly their life. And remember to treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you. Not because they are nice, but because you are.
Having been born in other countries before immigrating to Canada, Nancy and Kevin’s experiences and observations of varying communities have shaped their lives and their philanthropy.
“I was born in West Virginia and then moved to New York state when I was only six years old,” said Nancy. “I saw everything from people living in the depths of poverty in West Virginia to then living in a community of people who included some of the wealthiest people on the planet. The contrast between poverty and wealth stayed with me and has impacted the way I think about everything, including philanthropy.”
Kevin was born in London, England and lived there until his family immigrated to North Vancouver in the late ‘50s and after a few years there, he moved to Lasqueti Island in 1971 where he met Nancy the following year. That’s when they began their lives together, commercial fishing, growing their own food and becoming part of a growing Island community for 25 years.
In the mid ‘90s, they moved to Victoria for a short time and then to Ottawa for a brief stint when Kevin was seconded to the Department of Transport. They returned to the Oceanside area in 2012 where Kevin now teaches and writes courses for the Western Maritime Institute. Nancy is never far away, with a cup of tea in one hand and knee deep in soil, tending to her vegetable garden. Like so many fellow travelers, they are happy to be back. Although there are so many things that have changed over the years.
For instance, they reminisce about how back in the 70s, nearly 80% of all produce eaten on the Island was grown on the Island. But with the massive land development over the years, now it’s down to less than 10%. For people who have lived off the land for generations, that option no longer exists. And with the rising cost of housing, groceries, and fuel, it’s become even more challenging for people to live comfortably. The contrast between poverty and wealth is all too familiar to Nancy and it appears to be widening.
So, when we asked Nancy and Kevin what influenced their commitment to community and their reasons for supporting SOS, Kevin explained:
“When we first settled here in the ‘70s, the one thing that really stood out to us was how the community looks out for the needs of everyone. People who are mentally, physically, or financially challenged all know they matter and can count on help from SOS. From the early days of the first SOS Thrift Shop where we loved to donate items and shop (we still do!), we’ve seen how SOS provides the kind of help that communities need in order to flourish. That’s important to us and that’s why we continue to support SOS.”
For nearly 55 years, SOS has strived to meet the needs of residents of District 69. We value the trust that contributors like Nancy and Kevin have in us, knowing we will continue to invest their donations in people – supporting their mental health, enhancing their quality of life, and improving their financial stability.
As we look ahead to what 2023 will hold, our message to the community is one of renewed hope. Hope that we will be kinder to one another. That we will discover new ways to make a difference. And that we will reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the social safety net for those in need now and in the future.
With grateful hearts,
SOS Executive Director
P.S. For more on how your support makes a difference in our community, visit our website at: sosd69.com
For many people in the mind-Island area, the program that immediately springs to mind when asked about Society of Organized Services is our Caring for Community at Christmas program.
The program ensures that local children and youth have a special gift waiting under the tree for them on Christmas morning, and families and individuals can enjoy food that is important to them over the holidays. And like many SOS programs, our Christmas program began small.
The first Christmas “hamper fund” was held in December 1969 and raised approximately $475 in cash donations, $200 of that in collection jars in local businesses. It is estimated that well over $100 in food, candy, hazelnuts, and walnuts was also donated, bringing a bit of Christmas magic into households throughout our district.
The second year, SOS raised $613 for the Christmas hamper fund and by the third year, $1,000 was raised by area residents.
That may not seem like a lot of money, but the impact on individuals and the community as a whole was much more significant. Take June for instance (her name has been changed to protect her identity).
When she was a child, there was very little food available in her home at Christmas. “Every day I saw worry on my mom’s face,” she said. “She‘d have a pot on the stove with potatoes and a few carrots, and one Christmas we had potato soup for dinner. That was it. No one should have to eat like that on Christmas.”
June’s mother told her and her two brothers not to put their stockings out one Christmas in case Santa didn’t make it. June had brighter memories though when her mom accessed the SOS Christmas program. June would ask for simple things such as a baby doll, skipping rope, or a colouring book. ”I didn’t need much. I was so thankful to have a couple of things under the tree; otherwise, we literally wouldn’t have had anything.”
By 1973, as needs continued to grow, the program also evolved. Instead of hampers, SOS provided gift certificates for groceries in addition to toys for children and youth. That year sixty-two local families received the dignity of shopping for their own special foods that were meaningful to them over the holidays.
Fast forward to Christmas 2021.
Despite two years of a devasting pandemic, last year our community continued its caring with cash donations of $205,000 for grocery gift cards and hundreds of toys for local children and youth. Thanks to individual supporters, local businesses, groups, and sponsors like the Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive Breakfast, last year the lives of 869 adults and 952 children and youth in our community were positively impacted by an outpouring of generosity.
This year marks a special passage of time when we honour the last 54 years of meeting the needs of local individuals and families. Our collective caring will be demonstrated once again during the 2022 Caring for Community at Christmas campaign with its power to change lives today and bring hope for a better tomorrow. Now that’s the real magic of Christmas!
We have known that for years – in fact for more than five decades/ And during these past three years of challenges brought on by the pandemic and rising inflation, our supporters have stepped up in ways that are truly humbling.
From cash donations, to holding fundraising events for us, to volunteering with meal delivery and program assistance, our supporters have been there for us every step of the way. For that, we will be eternally grateful.
So as a way of giving back to our community, we are developing a series of free learning seminars that will inform and engage residents on topics that are most meaningful to our community, in the immediate and long-term.
You see, the pandemic revealed a lot of vulnerability in our area. It has already changed many things about the way we live and work.
It revealed cracks in our infrastructure and a warning about what will be needed in the coming years in order to provide adequate services to all those in need. It also reinforced the necessity of sustaining a strong social safety net for residents if and when they need our collective caring.
The SOS Learning Series is our offering of useful information about relevant topics to help rebuild and renew a community that is great for everyone.
For example, we are planning a seminar in the new year on mental health and resilience. We know that many in our community are still struggling under the weight of the past three years of isolation, uncertainty, and change. What else can we do as a community to support the mental health of our residents?
We also know that children and youth have paid a heavy price for school disruption, and many are anxious about their future. Research shows that having equitable access to healthy recreation opportunities is extremely important for the emotional, physical, and social well-being for kids of all ages. What else can we do to enrich the quality of life for kids in our community?
And as we look at what financial resources will be required to address the emerging needs of our community, we must also provide a variety of options for donors to share their love and support for their community. The SOS Legacy Stewards program will host free learning seminars in the spring and fall on the topic of legacy giving, explaining how you can save money on taxes while supporting SOS. Just think what else you could do to improve the financial stability, quality of life and mental health of residents now and in the future.
So, stay tuned. We have a lot in store over the coming months. It will be a great way for you to let your caring shine!