We can’t avoid stress, but together we can work towards psychological resilience — our children depend on it

Some local programs are putting the mental health of Calgary’s youth front and centre.

By Krista Sylvester | November 24, 2021 |9:05 pm

It’s that time of year again when the stress of the holiday season can cause tension and strain. 

Add onto that the fact that we are two years into a pandemic and you’ve got yourself a recipe for the perfect storm this holiday season when it comes to your mental health. 

Children and adolescents are not immune from these feelings, which is why Community Education Service (CES) has been offering free education and resources to parents, caregivers, educators and anyone who wants to learn more or has a child or youth in their care. 

CES partners with programs within Alberta Health Services (AHS) and external agencies to provide free, evidence-based information and has been offering its services for over 15 years.

Lori Roe is the manager of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health & Substance Use Collaborative Initiatives for AHS, which is a collection of teams that offer education, consultation and resources related to child and adolescent mental health.  

She says CES is an integral part of their connection to the community through online education and partnerships for parents, caregivers, and community members both through live presentations, as well as pre-recorded sessions. 

“The CES team works tirelessly to source out presenters and topic areas that are important to child, youth and family physical, social, emotional and mental health,” she says, adding CES also produces a newsletter. 

Since the onset of COVID, CES has delivered over 145 webinars with over 15,000 registrations. 

Why this is so important 

Caroline Buzanko, a Registered Psychologist for Koru Psychology, works with CES and says programs like these provide “invaluable resources and support” to many families. 

She says her mission through CES is to inspire and empower all the important adults in children and teens’ lives to promote children’s resilience and long-term success,

“We all face stress and adversity in our lives — and we have experienced (a pandemic) globally for almost two years now. While we cannot avoid stress, we can build our — and our children’s — immunity to stress and anxiety and overall psychological resilience by adding in positive experiences” Buzanko says. 

She says the holiday season is a timely way to promote two of the most important positive experiences which are also two key protective factors from stress. 

“Strengthening family connection and creating traditions. Both create a whole host of positive emotions and experiences such as pride, compassion, and most importantly, belonging,” she says, adding these three emotions are also foundational to effective emotion regulation.

“Think about what connections you and your child(ren) need and what family traditions can involve everyone in the family in meaningful ways.” 

The impact this help can have on families 

Elizabeth Werner began to attend lectures at the Calgary Children’s Hospital organized by CES about five years ago when people could attend the lecture theatre on the fourth floor of the hospital pre-COVID. 

At the time, she was a council member of Calgary Girl’s Charter School Parent Council, looking for speakers to come to the school for Parent Education. That’s when they formed an association with the CES and began to have speakers come to the school. 

“We would have coffee, hot chocolate and treats and it was a perfect morning for all concerned,” she says of the events. 

With her daughter moving on to High School, Werner recommended to the council at Central Memorial High School that the CES be employed for parent education in an online capacity. 

‘The council swooped on it and now the weekly school newsletter lists all of the up and coming presentations for parents to access. I have so much admiration for the organization,” she adds. 

Ruby Bolar, parent and special speaker series coordinator for Western Canada High School Parent Council says the CES session has been a great resource for everyone.

“This has been very beneficial to me as a parent and to our parent community. It has been valuable to have access to sessions presented by expert speakers with credible information, all relevant to our community” Bolar adds. 

Trellis Society director of Indigenous Initiatives Christy Morgan Mai’stoohpi’kssii (Crow Spirit) says their experience with CES has been invaluable. 

“Their staff are supportive and help create space for learning. As an organization that places a priority on Reconciliation and Inclusion, the opportunities for sharing Indigenous knowledge via the CES community have been amazing.” 

The next sessions 

CES’s partner program, Stepping Stones to Mental Health, is speaking to the stress of the holiday season and how to alleviate it using mindfulness during the Nov. 29 and Dec. 7 sessions. View the CES Webinars or check out CES December 2021 Newsletter

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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