Halloween Trick or Teal Treats

With Halloween right around the corner, families all over Canada are preparing for this fun occasion. While deciding to buy candy is the more popular option, it may also put some children with food allergies in danger. Many Halloween snacks have ingredients that children may be allergic to, including milk products, tree nuts, peanuts, egg, wheat products and soy. So, when buying candy this Halloween, why not also pick up some non-food treats?

This is the main idea of the Teal Pumpkin Project run by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). They have created an initiative that promotes a safe and inclusive Halloween by encouraging families to provide a non-food option for kids. To participate in this initiative, just place a teal pumpkin at your doorstep. All you would need to do is to either paint a pumpkin teal or print out a sign found on their website at: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/free-resources.

You can also add your home to the ‘Teal Pumpkin Map’ from the Teal site (example below). This will make it easier for kids to find your house on Halloween night.

Teal Map

[Image Source: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/map ]

Need some ideas for a non-food treat? Here are some great ones:

    • Spooky school supplies
    • Toy jewelry: bracelets, rings or necklaces
    • Glow sticks
    • Whistles, mini slinkies, super balls
    • Halloween themed stickers or vampire fangs
    • Or even bubbles

There are some non-food treats that should be avoided as they contain allergens. Some examples include clays made with wheat or toys that contain latex. In the end, the teal pumpkin a great way to bring awareness to food allergies and keep kids safe. This way, everyone can enjoy Halloween!   For more ideas:


  1. https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project
  2. https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/ideas-for-non-food-treats

Image Source: https://snacksafely.com/2017/09/the-teal-pumpkin-project-promoting-inclusion-of-all-trick-or-treaters/


Fun Summer Activities for you and your Child

  1. Read books with your child. You and your child can take turns reading out loud to one another. This can help practice reading skills and build confidence for the upcoming school year.
  2. Teach your child how to swim or sign them up for swimming lessons. Check out the offerings at your community recreation centre; oftentimes, they offer free or lower cost swimming lessons.
  3. Be a tourist in your own city. Explore Old Montreal, enjoy free tastings at Jean-Talon or Atwater markets and check out artwork at museums across the city. (Most museums offer free open hours once week. The Museum of Contemporary Art, for instance, is free on Wednesday evenings between 6 and 9pm, with a free tour being offered at 6:30pm.)
  4. Treat your child to ice cream. A Montreal favourite is Ca Lem on Sherbrooke Street. They offer fun, creative ice cream flavours such as Smores, watermelon swirl, Nutella, strawberry-lychee and black sesame. They also launch a new limited edition flavor every week!

    Image source: https://dailyhive.com/montreal/jet-black-ice-cream-montreal
  5. Go to street sales, local fairs and farmers markets.
  6. Visit the beach. There are many beaches situated near the city, such as Parc Jean Drapeau and Cap. St Jacques Nature Park.
  7. Go to the zoo.
  8. Go to La Ronde.
  9. Attend the Montreal Cirque Festival in July. Head to St. Denis Street for free events, open to all families.
  10. Attend the Mini Rogers Cup at the Olympic Park. (July 21st, 23rd and 24th; open to all.) On the first day, children will have  the opportunity to play tennis and interact with a player from the Women’s Tennis Association. The finals take place over the weekend, with kids under 12 competing for the title.
  11. Attend the Just for Laughs Festival.
  12. Make popsicles or smoothies.
  13. Organize a lemonade stand with your child. This can provide practice with math skills and people skills.
  14. Exercise with your child. Activity ideas include taking walks, hiking, biking, jump-rope, playing Frisbee or playing in the sprinklers (a summer favorite.)
  15. Go to Parc Jean Drapeau. They offer a wide range of activities from the Aquazilla water park, to boat rentals, to public art and swimming just to name a few.
  16. Have a barbecue with your family and friends.  
  17. Have a picnic at Beaver Lake. The mountain is teeming with activity during the hot summer months. Take a spin on the paddle boats, go on a walk and enjoy the abundant park and picnic areas.
  18. Attend free outdoor concerts, such as les Francopholies de Montreal from June 14th to June 22nd. 
  19. Explore the Montreal Mural Festival from June 6th to June 16th. 
  20. Organize a crafting activity. Tie-dye old t-shirts, make bracelets, press summer flowers, paint rocks…
  21. Make sidewalk chalk murals.

    Image source: https://thelittlesandme.com/sidewalk-chalk-drawing-ideas-for-kids/
  22. Watch the fireworks at the Old Port. This is a summer classic – grab a poutine or quick dinner and enjoy the fireworks show with your family.

For more ideas, be sure to check out the following resources!


  1. https://www.familyhconline.com/10-fun-ways-keep-kids-physically-mentally-active-summer
  2. https://blog.gachildrens.org/2017/05/18/keep-kids-minds-and-bodies-active-this-summer/
  3. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/things-to-do-in-montreal-with-kids-this-summer/
  4. https://www.montrealtherapy.com/things-montreal-kids-summer/

Header image source: https://www.sandyspringmuseum.org/event/free-ice-cream-social/children-eating-ice-cream/

Beyond the Classroom: The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular involvement can help your child acquire skills necessary for development. Co-curricular activities promote growth outside of the classroom and can be a fun, enriching way for your child to become involved in school and within the community at large. Encourage your child to try new things, even if it might seem daunting at first or even if they aren’t sure they will like it. Involvement can help your child acclimate to school and social settings, while helping them develop passions, hobbies and skills that will carry them throughout life. Listed below are activity ideas for your child and skills they can help develop.


Skills: Team working, collaboration, dedication, perseverance and athletic ability

Activity ideas: Basketball, soccer, hockey, ice skating, competitive dance, tennis, volleyball, skiing, sailing, swimming, martial arts, spin classes, gymnastics, horse-back riding

Low-cost option: Be sure to check out the activities offered by your community recreation centre. Often they will have a list of free/low-cost drop-in classes offered weekly.


Skills: Whether your child is interested in dance, theatre or the visual arts, art classes teach an abundance of skills. Beyond technical ability, art fosters creativity, curiosity, healthy expression and an open mind.

Activity ideas: Dance, theatre, visual arts, pottery, sculpting, singing, playing an instrument, joining a music band, creative writing, cooking, photography

Low-cost option: Check out the offerings at your local museum – they might offer free art classes for children. Symphonic orchestras sometimes run free music workshops for kids, where they can try new instruments or even receive musical feedback from professionals. Consider buying an instrument second hand or perhaps borrowing/renting one from your child’s school, if they have a music program.


Skills: Selflessness, connection to the community, generosity, open mind

Activity ideas: Volunteering at a local food shelter, animal shelter, nursing home, local organization


Skills: Knowledge of science/math, ability to work in a team towards common goal, perseverance

Activity ideas: Robotics club, partaking in science fair, STEM clubs, Mathletes, computer classes


Skills: Knowledge of a new language and culture, curiosity

Activity ideas: Any language club (French club, Spanish club, Italian club, etc.), language classes

Low-cost option: Consider hiring a student who is fluent in or studying the particular language your child is interested in. Often students will offer private lessons at lower rates. Some schools might even offer free tutoring programs led by student volunteers. You could also see if a friend, neighbour or community member might be willing to tutor your child for free/at a low cost. Additionally, finding a couple of friends to join your child might also lower the cost of lessons.

Nature Education

Skills: Independence, problem solving, leadership, appreciation of nature, responsibility, discovery

Activity ideas: Scouts, Girl Guides, summer camps, nature expeditions, gardening, environment club 

Low-cost option: Membership fees for civil groups like Girl Guides and the Scouts can be waived for families under a certain income, making it an affordable option.

Clubs that focus on a particular skill

Activity ideas: Chess club, Lego club, sewing club, trivia club, reading/writing club 

Low-cost option: Check out the activities offered at your local library – During the summer, a lot of libraries will organize book clubs, writing clubs as well as free events.

Additional Resources: 

Image source: https://toxicfreefuture.org/healthy-living/healthy-kids/choosing-safer-products-art-and-craft-supplies/

Kids and Social Media – A Brief Guide for Parents

In today’s modern world, it is not uncommon for young children to have Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Therefore, having a conversation with your child about proper online behaviour is more important than ever. Below are a few key pointers your child should understand when engaging with social media.

  • Privacy settings can be changed to protect your child’s personal information.
  • Your child could filter the ‘friends’ they accept on social media (For instance, choosing to only add close friends/family.)
  • Ensure that your child does not reveal any personal information (such as their address or phone number) online.
  • Emphasize the importance of thinking twice before posting. Nothing is ever really deleted on social media – a copy of your child’s photo or post will always exist somewhere, with their name attached to it. Therefore, ensure that your child knows what is appropriate to post on social media.
  • For younger kids especially, it might be advisable to check on their online activity by asking for their login information. You could also download certain apps designed to monitor their activity for you. (A list of recommended apps can be found in this article).
  • If your child’s social media usage is hindering their academic performance, sleep, social life, mental or physical wellbeing, limiting screen time might be a viable option. For instance, parents could try implementing a no cell-phone/computer policy at the dinner table or before bedtime. Parents could also use an app to set a phone curfew and restrict cell phone usage until after homework is done, for example.

Most importantly, speak with your child. Establish boundaries. Voice your concerns. Talk to them about appropriate online behaviour. The goal is to make sure they are staying safe online, while having fun.


Photo credit: https://www.scarymommy.com/your-kids-social-media-request/

The Importance of Sleep for Kids

We all recognize the physical symptoms of lack of sleep: frequent yawning, trouble waking up in the morning and difficulty staying awake during the day. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, he/she might not be getting the quality and amount of sleep needed.

In the long-term, lack of sleep can lead to:

  • An increase in stress, which can contribute to anxiety and depression
  • Low energy levels
  • General moodiness
  • Reduced immune system function (ie: getting sick more frequently)

Getting the proper amount of sleep is therefore extremely important, allowing your mind and body to rest and recover from the day’s activities.

So, how much sleep is optimal for your child?

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that children between the ages of 5-10 should be getting 10-12 hours of sleep on average.

How to get the recommended hours of sleep:

To ensure your child is getting the amount of sleep he/she needs, set a bedtime and establish a bedtime routine. This consistency can help your child physically and mentally unwind and ultimately, fall asleep faster and into a better sleep. The routine can include taking a bath, reading a book or listening to calm music.

Things that should be avoided before bedtime:

  • Playing with electronics and watching TV can stimulate the brain, thus making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Stimulants (such as drinks containing caffeine) should be avoided.
  • Engaging in exercise right before bed can also make it harder to fall asleep.

Note that if your child is repeatedly having trouble falling or staying asleep, it might be time to consult a family doctor.


Farewell Lunch for Jane Bourke

In July, the Child Psychiatry staff hosted a farewell lunch for Jane Bourke, the long-time coordinator of the Transitional Care Team. Jane has been the leader of the Transitional Care Team since 2006 and is retiring this year. We thank her for her exceptional dedication to the Transitional Care Program and wish her all the best for the future.

IMG_7174 (2).jpg

Reducing Stress for Your Child

  1. Staying Organized
  • Staying on top of assignments and other commitments is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Keeping an agenda or planner helps the student prioritize his/her work according to upcoming deadlines and can make workload feel less overwhelming. Laying out a plan for the week also helps students balance school, extracurricular activities and other time commitments. (Your child can also personalize his/her agenda with decorations, stickers, making it a fun way to stay organized!)


  • Prepare (or have your child prepare) his/her school bag and lunch beforehand. This can help avoid stress in the mornings.
  • Having downtime. Allowing for downtime in your child’s schedule is important. This time is flexible – a time where your child can engage in whatever activity he/she wants, whether that is playing sports, reading, painting, dance, writing…
  1. Maintaining a good sleep schedule. Set a bedtime for your child and keep with that, even on weekends. Ensure that your child is getting enough sleep (For 7-11 year olds, the recommended amount of sleep is 10-11 hours).
  2. Listening to your child. If your child is experiencing anxiety in a certain situation, open up the conversation. Validate his/her fears and anxieties and work towards a solution together. (Here is a website outlining more suggestions on how to help your child cope with anxiety https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/stress-coping.html)


1)      https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children#1

2)      https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/dont-worry-mom/201302/12-tips-reduce-your-childs-stress-and-anxiety

“We’re your link” Carol-Anne Blanshay and Anne Smart on the school component of the Transitional Care Program

Carol-Anne and Anne support the child’s transition back to his/her community school. Their goal is to help the school help the student. They do this by asking the school, “what is it we can do for you?”

Carol-Anne and Anne first get to know the children before they leave the Child Psychiatry Day Hospital program, by observing the children on the unit. As discharge approaches, the Child Psychiatry team identifies which children and families could benefit most from follow up care. If the family agrees, they are assigned to either Carol-Anne or Anne, who divide the cases based on the geographical location of the school. This isn’t just for convenience when doing school visits: each school functions differently and it takes times to learn the ways each school works and how the Transitional Care Team can best help.

Carol Anne Photo
Carol-Ann Blanshay, MA, BA

The team works with school administrators and teachers to develop a child-specific plan for the student’s transition back to class. Carol-Anne’s message to the teachers and school administrators is they “keep the lines of communication open.” She encourages school staff to reach out frequently rather than wait until small problems escalate into big ones. She explains to the teachers, “you are our eyes, you are the most valuable part of our team. No matter how good it is or how bad it is… we’re here to see how we can support you.” The Transitional Care Team provides teachers with a “toolbox” of strategies and information that are specific to each child. They regularly visit the schools and observe the child in his/her classroom, checking up on how the child is managing now that they are attending school full-time, and trying to identify how the child responds to different situations. They keep an eye out for early signs that a child may be regressing. Carol-Anne and Anne represent continuity for the child. Carol-Anne elaborates that children recognize “someone from there [the child psychiatry unit at the Jewish Hospital] still knows what I’m doing and knows how I’m behaving… I have to be accountable… It creates the link, the kids feel that they’re still connected and supported and maintaining whatever they did learn [on the unit].”

In addressing the needs of both the children and the school personnel, Anne and Carol-Anne work to devise plans with small manageable steps that the child feels confident he or she can complete. For example, one senior elementary student was asked by his teacher to recall the difficulties he had over the course of a week. Sensing that this task was overwhelming for the student, Anne created a daily chart of each subject and throughout the day the child wrote down issues as they arose. At the end of the week, the team could easily identify and address difficulties the student was having.

Anne Smart

It can also be difficult for children and parents to make the transition back to school as it is often the case that the family has a history of negative experiences with the school. Anne explains the student’s job is “to go back and show the teachers and students, that’s not who you are, you worked really hard to get to where you are now.” Children are often excited but nervous to return to their school. “They have been able to see themselves in a positive light for the first time in many years. Their family sees them differently. They don’t want to lose that,” explains Anne, and she tries to help them bring the new success they achieved in the Child Psychiatry program back to their school. When problems arise, Carol-Anne explains “we put a mirror up to the child” and remind him or her of the behaviors they are working to improve. Anne mentions a situation where a mother was going to remove her child from the school because she was upset with the administration. Anne was able to mediate in a meeting between the parent and school personnel, so that the child was able to stay in the school. “I think if we hadn’t been there, the outcome would have been very different.”

Ultimately, Anne and Carol-Anne witness many success stories. School administrators frequently comment on the positive changes in the child’s behavior as a result of treatment in the Jewish General Day Hospital Program. The Transitional Care Team is able to see children transfer what they have learned to their schools. “Success is maintaining behavioral gains. There are varying degrees of success depending on what their needs are,” Carol-Anne explains. She recalls one student who was having a very difficult time, yet “even though things were not perfect, she gained a certain amount of self-actualization. She started to appreciate herself,” and that was a milestone for her.

Together Anne and Carol-Anne make a flexible team and a creative resource – a combination that they think contributes to their success.

Growing Your Kid’s Self-Esteem

English Infographic

Sources and for more information:

  1. Caring for Kids – How to foster your child’s self-esteem https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/foster_self_esteem
  2. Kids Health – Developing your child’s self-esteem http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html
  3. Healthy Children – Helping your child develop a healthy sense of self esteem https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Helping-Your-Child-Develop-A-Healthy-Sense-of-Self-Esteem.aspx

Images: 1234

Maintaining Gains: Insights from Jane Bourke, Coordinator of the Transitional Care Program

I sat down with Jane Bourke, social worker and coordinator of the Transitional Care Team. Jane has been part of the team since 2006 and works with families whose children have been discharged from the child psychiatry units, while other members of the team work closely with the schools.

She says, “The goal of the team is to maintain the gains” children made in psychiatric treatment, after they have been discharged. Her team helps to achieve this with a flexible approach, which she describes as one of the strongest parts of the program. She explains, “We’ve structured the team so that we are available just about any hour. I’ve had families that have called me late in the evening… We aren’t an emergency service, but access to support in a more… practical way is necessary.”

This transition process is not without challenges. “Regression is often a normal experience,” Jane explains, “our role is to support that regression, whether it is minimal and needs just a little boost, or whether it’s actually a full regression.” Part of the way the Transitional Care Team can provide this support is by easy access to the psychiatric team at the Jewish General Hospital.

Jane Bourke MSW, MFT. Coordinator of the Transitional Care Program

The biggest challenge for children are the changes that arise during the transition back to school. These may include social expectations and learning difficulties that surface when kids return to school. Another example is class size, “coming from a program here where the classroom is at most eight children [at the Day Hospital] going back to a classroom that is on average, 25 children” can be challenging. Part of this difficulty, is that “a teacher cannot be expected to see the cues in terms of early regression… Those little behaviors that will accelerate if not addressed.” These cues are what the childcare workers on the team look for when they observe in the schools.

Despite these challenges, the Transitional Care Team witnesses many successes. In particular, Jane recalls one boy with aggressive behavior who had serious difficulties at school and home. The team surpassed the usual 6 month contract and worked with this family for two years. Jane guesses the child “probably would have been suspended from school permanently had we not been there” and “he’s still in school. That is a success, because that is ultimately our goal, to make sure these children can graduate. And then, hopefully not accessing the [mental health care] system as often as maybe would have been needed had they not had earlier treatment.”

How can parents help with this transition? “Stay in touch” Jane says, “Our intention is to build a team around the child.”