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Maintaining Good Mental Health

July 1st, 2016

We all understand that staying physically fit is essential to a long and happy life, but many people forget that maintaining good mental health is equally as important to our longevity and quality of life. By small efforts every day, you can actively improve and sustain your emotional and mental well-being. Doing this can help you to process, and even prevent, more significant problems. This article from the Canadian Mental Health Association talks about why it is so important to pay attention to this aspect of ourselves.

Just as eating properly and exercising regularly are important in keeping your body functioning at its best, there are many things that you can do to keep your mind healthy as well. A good place to start is by being more present in your everyday life through “mindfulness” (i.e. essentially taking the time to be “in the moment”). Similarly, it is a good daily practice to “take inventory” of your emotional states (i.e. are you feeling sad, happy, angry, frustrated, worried, hurt). By acknowledging your emotions, you may prevent important feelings from being “swept under the rug” where they can develop into bigger issues such as resentment and chronic anxiety.

Take some time each day to do something that makes you happy. Keep your mind active and dynamic by doing things that are fulfilling (e.g. hobbies, sports, music, art). Engaging in these types of activities is important for your sense of identity and feeds the pleasure centres of your brain. Have a look at this article for more thoughts on this.

Appreciating and maintaining good relationships with your partner, family, workmates, and neighbours is also very important. Doing so can give you a greater sense of your place in the world and a feeling of belonging. It will also make it easier to reach out when you need help because you have cultivated a strong support system.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or unable to deal with particular situations or emotions. You would go to see a doctor if you feel overwhelming pain in your body; it is important to remember that we should treat our minds with as much care. Paying close attention to your mental health is an essential part of a long and enjoyable life.

If you would like to talk more about improving or maintaining your mental health, feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838 or use the following links to find a therapist in your area.

Ontario Psychological Association:

Psychology Today:



Summertime Fun and Summertime Boredom

June 6th, 2016

As school winds down and vacation fast approaches, parents and caregivers often feel stressed under the obligation to plan and schedule fun and excitement for every moment of the summer. While it is indeed a time for children to enjoy themselves and rejuvenate after the demands of their school year, there are a few important things for parents to remember.

It is good to maintain some sort of schedule and predictability, especially if your child deals with anxiety about change or has an attention disorder such as ADHD. Straightforward things, such as a consistent bedtime (while still allowing flexibility for special events or travel), healthy snacks and meals, and continuing to limit screen time as you would during the school year, help children maintain a sense of calm and stability. This article outlines some ways to keep summertime fun but consistent enough that, once your children return to school, you won’t need to spend much time trying to get them back into a regular schedule.

You will inevitably hear that dreaded declaration: “I’m bored.” As a first step, try to take a few minutes for some one-on-one time. Often, kids just need a moment of attention and love to recharge their energy and sense of well-being; once “refueled,” they’ll happily head back to play.

It is also important to understand that being bored at times is actually okay for children. Dealing with unstructured time can be a helpful developmental tool with many benefits. It is good for kids to recognize their internal state and learn that they can actively do something to change that state. Overcoming boredom also helps kids to understand their personal tastes through discovering the things they enjoy and the things they like less. This can give them a stronger sense of self-identity. This article talks more about how dealing with boredom helps kids develop into more autonomous and engaged people.

That being said, it is always helpful to have tools on hand to help kids get over a lull in their creativity. One great idea is to create a “Boredom Jar”  filled with little cards that suggest fun activities to do. This article also shares some good ideas, including many things that the whole family can enjoy doing together.

However you spend it, I hope you have a summer full of fun, relaxation, and quality time with your friends and family.

If you would like to discuss any concerns or have any questions, feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838 or use the following links to find a therapist in your area.

Ontario Psychological Association:

Psychology Today:



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Autism Awareness

May 1st, 2016

As you may have noticed in the news or through special events like “Light It Up Blue”, April was Autism Awareness Month.

Autism is a disorder that affects how individuals relate to and communicate with others, verbally and non-verbally, as well as how they respond to their environment. You will often hear autism referred to as a “spectrum” disorder because its characteristics and symptoms vary greatly from person to person and present in diverse combinations and differing levels of severity.

If you would like to learn more details about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), here  and here are some excellent resources.

While autism becomes more noticeable in school-aged children, many indicators and symptoms of it emerge in children as early as twelve to eighteen months old. If you have initial concerns and are interested in doing an informal screening, try an online survey from a trusted site such as this one.

While these tools can be helpful in better understanding your child’s development, a diagnosis of autism requires formal assessment and testing in a clinical environment by trained professionals.

Thankfully, there are many exceptional sites, centres and other resources that are dedicated to providing information about diagnosis, treatment and support to children with ASD and their families.

If you think your child may be on the Autism Spectrum or if this concern has been brought up by a teacher or another caregiver, use the following links to find a therapist in your area or feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838.

Ontario Psychological Association:

Psychology Today:




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Mindful Parenting

April 1st, 2016

Although the concept itself is not new, “mindfulness” has recently become an extremely popular approach to dealing with stress. This “living in the moment” technique has proved to be a beneficial tool in the treatment of anxiety and depression for many people. It is defined as: “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”. The practice of mindfulness is outlined in this informative printout. By engaging in straightforward exercises like the ones described here on a daily basis, you can begin to enjoy a calmer, more centered state of mind.

The principals of mindfulness can be applied easily to parenting, with many positive outcomes. Practicing this moment-to-moment awareness can help you and your child/teen regulate emotions by identifying strong feelings and creating a response to them in a calm and empathetic manner. Mindfulness decreases moments of “over-reaction” for both you and your child. Over time, it may lead to increased flexibility in thinking, meaning better recognition of possible solutions and more peaceful resolutions to disagreements.

If you are interested in further exploring this concept, Dr. Dan Siegel has written several excellent books on mindful parenting, including “No Drama Discipline” and “The Whole-Brained Child”.

Practicing mindfulness in your everyday life sets yourself on a path to renewed positivity, which will benefit you in all of your interpersonal relationships, especially with your children.

If you would like to discuss any concerns you may have about stress and anxiety or to update your parenting skills, feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838 or use the following links to find a therapist in your area.

Ontario Psychological Association:

Psychology Today:




Chores for a Happier Home!

March 1st, 2016

As adults, we remember the toils and tribulations of having to tidy up our rooms and setting the table for dinner- as well as the satisfaction and pride that came with receiving a small allowance for doing “extras”, like mowing the lawn or washing windows. All of these chores may not have been particularly fun or self-motivated, but later in life we understood that they were important steps toward creating in us responsibility, discipline, work ethic, and autonomy.

Age-appropriate chores can help children gain a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, and also learn the importance of being an active part of their first-encountered community: the family household. This article tells us more about the benefits of having your kids help out around the house.

Parents model helpful and cooperative behaviour for their children. They should involve kids as young as toddlers in small tasks such as tidying up toys after playing, wiping up spills, and placing laundry in baskets. By offering praise and positive reinforcement, they set them up with an understanding that this behaviour is not only necessary but helpful for everyone. As children get older, their augmented chores can reflect the more complex nature of social interaction and expectation. Here and here are some excellent articles that outline age-appropriate chores.

Simple tools such as chore charts and sticker reward systems are very useful in creating and maintaining a positive attitude towards helping out. As kids get older, many parents offer a monetary stipend as a reward and incentive for extra chores. Before offering this allowance, it’s good for children to already understand that doing their part around the house is an integral part of being a family, and of becoming a helpful, kind person, beyond the reward. If you are considering an allowance for your child, this article has great points to think about.

However you as a family decide to approach chores and household duties, know that having a tidier home is but only a by-product of helping your child become a self-actualized, happy, and productive person within their society.

If you would like to learn more or have any questions, feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838 or use the following links to find a therapist in your area.

Ontario Psychological Association:

Psychology Today:



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Psychology is For Everyone.

February 5th, 2016

As deemed by the Canadian Psychological Association, February is “Psychology Month”. This is an occasion to pause and think about mental health and the psychologists who make it their career to assist individuals, families, teens and children in their journey towards establishing balanced and healthy minds. Please check out the CPA website for definitions, interesting facts, guidelines and much more about the fascinating field of Psychology.

The Oxford dictionary defines psychology as: “The scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context.” A psychologist helps people cope with life issues and address mental health problems, using a variety of techniques to assess their thoughts, emotions and actions while carefully considering their unique characteristics, values and circumstances.

As a child psychologist, I am educated and trained specifically to deal with the way children and teens process emotions and situations. A child’s behaviour and way of communicating is inherently different than that of an adult. A child psychologist uses various methods (such as play therapy, modified cognitive behavioural therapy and attachment-focused therapy) that are geared to be effective on younger minds.

It is normal for every child and teen to experience emotionally difficult times, and family dynamics can often become complicated. Outside of the home, concerns about behaviour, learning, and social skills are often first pointed out by a teacher and can be alarming for a parent or caregiver to hear about. It can be anxiety provoking when these issues appear as something greater than can be dealt with on your own. Here are some excellent articles that give useful guidelines on when to seek out counselling for children and teens.

When it comes to mental health, be proactive. If there has been a major life change or trauma (e.g. new school, divorce, death in the family) it is important to pay special attention to your child/teen. Be attentive to any changes in behaviour and modes of communication. If it seems that children are having a particularly difficult time processing their emotions or are unable or unwilling to talk about it with you, it might be time to seek help. Ask your family doctor, consult with the child’s teacher, or reach out to other parents or friends who may have gone through similar experiences. This article outlines some of the things you should look for when seeking a therapist for your child/teen/family.

Above all, trust your instincts as a parent/caregiver and move forward with confidence. By choosing to seek out help for your child, you are modelling empowered problem solving, and providing an array of tools to aid him or her in growing up to be a capable, sensitive and self-aware person.

If you would like to discuss any concerns or have any questions, feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838 or use the following links to find a therapist in your area.

Ontario Psychological Association:

Psychology Today:



The January “Blues” or Something More?

January 14th, 2016

After the holidays all the sparkly lights are put away and the festivities have come to an end. With this sudden change in pace, January can bring feelings of melancholy and restlessness for kids and adults alike.

While temporary feelings of sadness and boredom are normal for children after such an exciting season, it is also important to be aware of a seasonal form of clinical depression called S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Symptoms usually emerge in the darker winter months and include a noticeable and ongoing change in energy, lack of enthusiasm, difficulty concentrating and feelings of isolation.

Here is an excellent article describing some symptoms of S.A.D. in kids and teens.

Try to talk to children about signs of mood changes and alleviate some of the symptoms by ensuring a proper sleep routine, going for walks in the daylight, and providing healthy meals and snacks. This article sets out some excellent suggestions.

Most importantly, if you do notice a significant change in the mood and behaviour of your child or teen, it is important to talk about it with your family doctor or a psychologist.

If you would like to discuss any concerns you may have about S.A.D. or depression in children and teens, use the following links to find a therapist in your area or feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838.

Ontario Psychological Association: Psychology Today:


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Tips for Enjoying a Stress-free Holiday Season!

December 2, 2015

Many of us look forward to the magic of the holiday season, but with the festivities and cheer inevitably comes a certain amount of stress. Amidst the excitement, changes in schedules, and more frequent social events, some children and adolescents may feel increased levels of worry and tension.

There are many things you can do to help your child handle the holidays with a relaxed attitude. Here is an excellent article outlining a few things you can try.

It is helpful to stick to regular mealtime and bedtime routines as much as possible, and while traveling it is comforting for your child to bring along something familiar (e.g., a cherished toy, blanket or book).

Allowing children to have a hand in some of the holiday planning, such as cooking, decorating or entertaining can make them feel more in control and confident in a busy environment.

When you see that your child is feeling overwhelmed or anxious, be ready to provide a moment of quiet one-on-one time and try practicing a stress-relieving strategy together.

It is always important to be aware of the possibility of rising tensions when extended or blended families come together. Try to prevent family arguments from getting out of hand during gatherings. This will save everyone from the emotional toll they can take on an otherwise joyous and cheerful holiday celebration. Have a look at this article for a few tips on how you can try to manage and prevent stress during this busy time.

However you spend your holidays, I hope you enjoy some relaxing and special moments with friends and family.

Warm wishes to you and yours and a wonderful start to the New Year!

Dr. Julia Broeking


If you would like to discuss any concerns you may have about your family or child’s reaction to stress or social environments, use the following links to find a therapist in your area or feel free to contact me at 416-459-8838.

Ontario Psychological Association: Psychology Today: