I received a very important question today from a distraught father:
Hello Dr. Roberts. I just found you by looking up "child psychologist" and was wanting to ask you a general question. We have a 9 yr old that will NOT go to school. He might go 3 days a week and is a straight A student when he's there. He does suffer from anxiety but we are trying Zoloft to help with that. Any suggestions or magic potions? We are LOST (Father)
School refusal is a very common problem, and certainly one of the most common presenting problems in my practice. It causes a great deal of disruption to the child's life and to the family's functioning as a whole. School refusal is often rooted in an underlying clinical anxiety. It is the kind of challenge that really requires professional guidance.
It seems like you are connected with a child psychiatrist (for the prescription of Zoloft), but you really also need a children's therapist/psychologist. The medication will help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, but it will not help to change any habits that may have developed. If you do not know of any psychologist, try asking your child's school teacher or principal, or ask your physician for a name of a professional they trust.
I would also want to check with your child's teacher if there are any indications of learning challenges or peer trouble. These difficulties may be adding to your child's anxiety.
Finally, below you will find a helpful online resource package on school refusal prepared by Anxiety BC.
I wish you all the best as you sort through this challenging problem. Please let me know how things go for your child.
Dr. Jillian Roberts
At the end of 2015 and in early in January 2016, I was very unwell. My husband Stephen took me to Emergency twice, and on the second trip, I learned from a CAT scan that I had gallbladder disease. An ERCP procedure removed lodged gallstones. Following the procedure, I developed acute pancreatitis. I was hospitalized for two weeks, lost 30 pounds, received the last rites, and near the end of the second week, my gallbladder was removed. When the surgeon removed the gallbladder, he saw a proliferation of tumours in my abdominal cavity and on my pancreas. Stephen and I were both told (and Stephen separately) that in all likelihood I had stage 4 cancer—probably a metastasis of my previous bladder cancer.
Eleven days went by, my sister Kellee flew out to take care of me, we met with a realtor to put the house on the market, the last rites were performed again with members of my religious order (the Sisters of St Anne), and then miraculously, the surgeon called us again. He was wrong. The tumours were something called “pancreatic fat necrosis.” Completely benign! I collapsed in tears on my kitchen floor.
It is difficult to put into words what happened to me psychologically during those eleven days. I feel as though I was given a glimpse of clarity that few have the chance to obtain. I am profoundly grateful for this, and for the miracle of a second chance at life.
I have learned that life is not supposed to be easy. Things have no real meaning if they come too easily. Life is supposed to be hard. You are supposed to work really, really, really hard. You are supposed to fail and be rejected, because you do not truly understand success--or see the beautiful possibility in opportunities--without having failure holding balance in your mind's eye. I believe that it is through grueling life events that life's meaning becomes clear.
I am now creatively exploring these insights. What can I tell--what should I tell--the children I see in my practice? And all the children who listen to me in some other medium? How do I share my insights in a way that they will understand? How do I make the most of this second chance of mine?
Throughout my initial bladder cancer diagnosis and during this most recent event, I have begun a new creative chapter in my life. I am now writing children`s books. There are more things to come. A new App will launch on Valentine`s Day 2017. I am working on related projects, including more and different kids books, an animated project, and an adult non-fiction book. Through all of these channels I hope to share the very best of what I know to be true, and what I believe will be truly helpful.
I am so very thankful to all of you who reached out to support me during my times of illness this part year. And, I feel deep gratitude to all of my creative partners who have helped me find ways to share my voice.
It is a disappointing thing to see new playgrounds developed in city spaces sit there empty each day, or to walk in the park and hear no laughter. What is missing here is not the children per se, but materials and environments that create challenge, imagination, and creativity that make children want to play outdoors. The absence of such play environments is not only influencing the quantity and quality of children’s play, but also affecting children’s health and well-being. As adults, we need to support children in learning to enjoy what free play in the outdoors has to offer. We need to inspire imaginations, creative minds, and capable bodies. To do this, we can look toward two simple things: nature and adventure.
What’s Happening to Children’s Play? Outdoor play is a necessary part of children’s development and is considered essential for children’s play and learning. Playing outdoors provides unique opportunities for learning that the indoor environment cannot offer. For example, children engage in higher levels of creativity, imagination, inventiveness, physical activity, language, and curiosity. Most importantly, they are given the opportunity to play freely. Despite this knowledge, outdoor play has been steadily decreasing for North American children.
When we look at why this disappearance of free play is happening, we realize that there are many factors that contribute to the lack of play. There are increases in structured play activities, an emergence of technology-based play objects, higher concerns related to safety and risk, adult control over children’s play activities, academically oriented schools, and an overall disregard for the value of play. More often than not, we see children engaged in a summer filled with structured sports activities or stuck inside with gaming systems and cell phones. We hear adults saying “don’t pick up the sticks!” “don’t go too far!” and “be careful!”. We know that schools are decreasing recess time or taking it away all together.
Unfortunately, it is all too common that today’s society has an overall disregard for the value of play and how important it is for children of all ages. It is ultimately these factors that are placing a barrier between children and their right to play freely in the outdoors.
The inability to cross over this barrier is affecting children in many areas of development. For example, there are increases in anxiety and depression at younger ages as well as difficulties with emotional regulation and self-control. Increases in physical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma are becoming more apparent in young children and childhood disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more frequently diagnosed. Children who do not have access to outdoor play will miss out on the many benefits that free play in the natural environment has to offer toward their growth.
Source: Fix.com Blog
This election result teaches us that nothing in life is certain. We must never be complacent. We must always fight for what is right. We must always fight for equality, fairness, respect, and kindness. We can never take our values for granted.
There are always setbacks in life. We will fall down, and we must stand back up and keep moving forward.
This election result shows us that there is still much to do in the world to make it the best world it can be. North America and the Western World is not immune from the attack on equality that is seen in so many other places in the world.
We must come together now and be united in our fight for social justice. We must each live the way we want the world to become.
To the adults reading this:
It is on our children now where we must focus our energies. It is in our children where we will find #Hope. Our children must grow up with ideals of social justice firmly secured in their foundation of learning. We need to ensure that they grow up with a world view that is grounded in equality and fairness and respect for all our brothers and sisters of this world we share.
We must ensure that our children grow up to be the leaders we so desperately need.
I will dedicate the rest of my life's work to this most important task ahead.
Dr Jillian Roberts
Dr. Jillian Roberts with her daughter Ally.
Photo taken at #DuncanAndMorgan Wedding on November 12, 2016
Today, I received a wonderful question via this blog!
Hi Dr. Roberts,
Recently, I introduced my children to the concept of diversity. I chose your "What makes us unique? Our First Talk About Diversity" book to start our conversation. To further discuss this topic, I wanted to do develop some activities for young children to gain better awareness of individual differences. I wanted to ask you for some activity suggestions.
This question allowed me to pull together my favourite quotes, books, and activities in the form of a Pinterest board:
My most favourite activities included the play dough activity, where you make play dough from scratch. This activity allows children to see that even though the play dough is different colours, the dough is in fact made up of the same ingredients. To extend this activity, and make it multi sensory, you might want to add some scents (vanilla, rose, lavender, etc). The point to underscore is that even though the scents are different, they are each beautiful in their own way.
I also like the activities with apples. These activities show that although apples have different coloured skins, they all have the same core. I try to underscore this point in my book. We all want to be loved and treated with kindness and respect.
I think nature as a whole can be a great tool to teach children about diversity. I would start with the idea of an ecosystem, and show how ecosystems are strongest when there is biodiversity. Our society is another kind of ecosystem. We need diversity, and we need to respect our inherent differences, in order to be strong and healthy as communities.
I would also underscore the idea of culture. I would explain that we all have unique cultures, and each culture is interesting and beautiful. Encourage children to be curious but not judgemental about other cultures. Explore the music, food and customs of world cultures. Make the journey fun and exciting!
As children get a little older, I would introduce them to some of the world's great heroes who have inspired the world to embrace equity and diversity--namely Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou and Malala Yousafzai. I would share the teachings of these great role models and ask the children to find ways in their day-to-day lives where they can be similar role models to other children.
If you have any other ideas about how to promote inclusive attitudes for children, please let me know!
Here is a little treat! A sneak peak at the new Facts of Life App that is in development. This next app which is designed for 3-6 year olds is designed to be highly interactive and engaging. It will beautifully compliment my award winning and best-selling children's book, "Where Do Babies Come From? Our First Talk About Birth!"
The App is designed as an interactive baby book. There are three modes: play, learn and parent mode. In the play mode, the child explores the interactive world. In the learn mode, there are thought bubbles that model the kinds of questions that children would have about where babies come from. In the parent mode, there are integrated parenting tips that help parents maximize the educational potential of the App. If you scroll down, you will see some of the parenting tips that are included in the App.
(Guess what? I am now represented by Joelle Delbourgo & Associates in NYC to write a parent book about sexuality!)
The App has all original and reproducible coding. We are now in a polishing phase, and once done, we will set a App Store launch date. We plan to add additional educational content, by adding pages to the baby book. Stay tuned for themes like: friendship skills, child safety, & manners.
I am happy to let you know that 10% of the App's profits will go to the Centre for OutReach Education (CORE) at the University of Victoria where I am a tenured faculty member!
I would love any feedback you would like to share with me!
Dr. Jillian Roberts
Parent Tip #1
The Facts of Life Interactive App was created by Dr. Jillian Roberts who is an internationally respected child psychologist based on the west coast of Canada. For more information please see www.drjillianroberts.com
Parent Tip #2
Research shows that children are going online at earlier and earlier ages. It is important for parents to begin talking to their children earlier about the facts of life and before children see sexual images online.
Parent Tip #3
Dr. Jillian Roberts is a tenured, research-oriented faculty member at the University of Victoria in Canada. She teaches and conducts research in areas of educational, child and health psychology. (link http://web.uvic.ca/~jjrobert/)
Parent Tip #4
Dr. Jillian Roberts developed this Facts of Life Interactive App to show parents how it is possible to begin talking about sexual education with very young children in an age-appropriate and wholesome manner.
Parent Tip #5
Dr. Jillian Roberts believes that it is possible to talk about the facts of life in a way that is fun and not awkward. This Facts of Life Interactive App helps show you how!
Parent Tip #6
Research shows that between 75% & 85% of adolescents report that they first learned about sex from a source other than their parent or teacher.
Parent Tip #7
Dr. Jillian Roberts believes that children are safest when they receive information about sexuality from their parents first. She believes that parents should be the ones guiding their children’s understanding about sexuality.
Parent Tip #8
International experts advocate for the early introduction of sexual education. Many school districts now begin sexual education in the kindergarten curriculum.
Parent Tip #9
Dr. Jillian Roberts explains that when parents talk to their children first about sexuality, it gives parents a chance to introduce and discuss their family’s cultural values around sexuality.
Parent Tip #10
Dr. Jillian Roberts warns that if parents do not talk to their children first, it is unclear how their children’s understanding of sexuality will develop. Parents will have missed an important opportunity to develop their children’s foundational understanding about sexuality.
Parent Tip #11
Dr. Jillian Roberts encourages parents to enjoy this Facts of Life Interactive App together with their young children and to begin having meaningful conversations about where babies come from.
Parent Tip #12
Research shows that children who learn about the facts of life early are better able to stay safe over time. These children have a better understanding of what is appropriate and inappropriate and they are better able to protect their boundaries.
Parent Tip #13
Dr. Jillian Roberts believes it is important for children to learn about boundaries and for children to understand that they have control of their boundaries. That is why in the Facts of Life Interactive App children get to choose whether they want to “learn more” or if they have had “enough” information. (Chris—am I using the exact language here as in the thought bubble? Perhaps we could include those red/green graphics here).
Parent Tip #14
Dr. Jillian Roberts created three modes to enjoying this Facts of Life Interactive App. Children can simply play in “play mode.” Children will learn basic information about the facts of life in “learn mode.” Parents can learn about why this App is necessary in “parent mode.”
Parent Tip #15
For more information about how to talk to your children about the facts of life, see Dr. Jillian Roberts’ book, “Where Do Babies Come From? Our First Talk About Birth” available at all major book stores. (link to: https://www.amazon.ca/Where-Do-Babies-Come-First/dp/1459809424)
Parent Tip #16
Orca Book Publishers publish the Just Enough Series by Dr. Jillian Roberts. (Link: www.justenough.ca). The first is this series is “Where Do Babies Come From? Our First Talk About Birth”. (link to: https://www.amazon.ca/Where-Do-Babies-Come-First/dp/1459809424) Did you find all the cute orcas in the App? ;)
Parent Tip #17
Dr. Jillian Roberts encourages parents to answer the questions of their children in a “just enough” manner. The Facts of Life Interactive App was developed to model to parents how to answer in this way.
Parent Tip #18
The Facts of Life Interactive App was not developed to be a comprehensive overview of sexual education. It was designed to help parents begin the conversation in a wholesome and age-appropriate way.
Parent Tip #19
When you begin talking about sexual education early, you reduce the awkwardness and embarrassment about this conversation. This allows you to have more conversations over time as your child becomes more aware and curious.
Parent Tip #20
Dr. Jillian Roberts teaches parents to encourage their children to ask as many questions as they possible can about the birds and the bees. This Facts of Life Interactive App was developed to model how to encourage this kind of curiosity.
Parent Tip #21
Dr. Jillian Roberts encourages parents to think about “the talk” as an ongoing conversation, where parents look for natural times to continue the conversation in a gentle and “just enough” manner.
Parent Tip #22
The Facts of Life Interactive App was developed to be very gentle and general in terms of the factual information provided; and to allow parents the space to initiate any family-specific conversations about medically-assisted conception or delivery, or about adoption. (Dr. Jillian Roberts is the mother of three children. Two of her children were born biologically and one was adopted at birth.)
Parent Tip #23
Dr. Jillian Roberts is working on a parenting book to provide parents with more information about how to parent their children effectively in this new hyper-sexualized internet age. You can follow Dr. Jillian Roberts on Twitter (@DrJillRoberts) to learn more about her new projects!
Parent Tip #24
The other topics in the Just Enough Series (link) include how to talk to your children about death, diversity, and divorce. Stay tuned for new books about tragedy, poverty and climate change! You can follow Dr. Jillian Roberts on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Dr.JillianRoberts/) to learn more about her other projects!
Parent Tip #25
If you have any questions for Dr. Jillian Roberts, you can send them to her directly via her blog site: www.askdrjillianroberts.com!
On Halloween day, I had the chance to talk with CBC Radio's Angela Walker (Host of Mainstreet) about the Orca Book's Just Enough Series--and in particular--about the third book in the series "What Makes Us Unique? Our First Talk About Diversity." I was able to explain to Angela what inspired me to write this particular book, namely the huge rise in online bullying and discrimination I have witnessed first hand as a Child & Adolescent Psychologist practicing on the West Coast. I also address these issues in the courses I teach in inclusive education at the University of Victoria, where I am a tenured faculty member.
Have a listen and share with me your thoughts!
Dr. Jillian Roberts