Life With a Baby Conference: Ensuring a Healthy Start to a Healthy Future

Our Kids Media was delighted to attend the Building Resilience in Parents and Children Conference last November! Check out the recap below and visit our friends at Life With a Baby for more information and upcoming workshops for parents!

It was a day full of learning and sharing with other parents at the Building Resilience in Parents and Children Conference, hosted by Life With a Baby, in Markham on November 28th, 2012.

Mothers with newborns, expectant mothers, parents, caregivers, and professionals looking for ways to build resilience in themselves and others joined experts Dr. Stuart Shanker and Jennifer Kolari to trade their thoughts and knowledge in an open discussion on subjects including self-regulation in children and what it takes to raise a confident child.

“We’re all an important part of influencing future leaders,” stated Claire Zlobin, founder of Life With a Baby, before introducing the Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University, Dr. Stuart Shanker, at the morning session.

For Dr. Shanker, it seems a large part of building future leaders involves taking a closer look at families that are increasingly over-stressed and teaching parents and children how to better self-regulate. Dr. Shanker and his team did a study on children with autism ages 2-4 and found that if you can get kids with autism to self-regulate, you can in essence get any child to self-regulate. His Canadian Self Regulation Initiative, designed for children K-6, has already been introduced in six school districts in BC, and will reportedly be coming to Ontario this year.

“Self-regulation is the story of how efficiently and effectively an individual handles and recovers from stress,” the professor stated as he delved into some of the psychology behind growing trends of drug use, alcohol abuse, depression and physical abuse in families, which he stated are all consequences, not causes, of over-stressed families.”If the body doesn’t recover, you get all kinds of metabolic problems. If a kid has too much stress, he loses his resilience, he can’t quite deal with it.”

Do any of these signs of a nervous system Dr. Shanker cited as out of control sound familiar to you?

  • Impulsivity
  • Poor attention
  • Sleep problems
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal
  • Hyperactivity

“If we want kids to thrive, to have friends, to succeed in school, it’s important that a child has a foundation for self-regulation between 0-5,” He went on to say, citing the five areas of self-regulation as physiology, emotion, cognition, social interaction, and prosocial development (empathy).

“If children are burnt out, they can’t pay attention. If the child is not smiling, there’s too much noise. It’s not an issue of self control, it’s an issue of stress.”

Of important note, Dr. Shanker added that children today have 5 times the stress levels of children in the Great Depression.

He continued by advising, “Stop yelling, stop punishing, the more you do these things the more you exacerbate a child’s depleting energy.” He also mentioned that kids will look for ways to keep themselves hyper because it feels adverse to them to be calm.

Some of Dr. Shanker’s tips for helping children equalize their energy levels and self-regulate included:

  • Reducing noise levels. Current noise levels in classrooms are 3x higher than normal, he says. Reduced noise levels help reduce stress and help children calm down. Being calmly focused is where a child learns best.
  • Being mindful of the 3 C’s: Curtains, carpet, and corner traps in a child’s room—all have a dramatic effect in producing a calming environment.
  • Family activities. Engaging in more family and community activities where children can see others, including their parents and grandparents, having fun and laughing.
  • Exercising. Dr. Shanker advised that exercise produces more energy than it burns and introducing children to active, energizing activities involving music, yoga, martial arts, etc. can help to equalize energy levels.
  • Reading. Problems retaining and processing information are related to stress levels and helping children to focus through reading is self-regulating.

“Whenever I go into a home the first thing I notice is whether or not the TV is on,” Dr. Shanker explained, “A household with TV on all the time is a problem, it’s not a calm environment. And if a kid is not calm and alert, he’s not able to process what he’s learning.”

Among the many interesting open discussions between parents and Dr. Shanker that morning were the topics of whether video games are truly detrimental to children (“Video games are not negative as long as they are regulated,” Dr. Shanker suggested) and the theory of ‘bad children’.

“I don’t believe in bad, stupid or lazy kids,” the professor concluded, “I think if we do the wrong things we create bad, stupid or lazy kids. We want children to experience positive emotion, we want them to thrive and have a healthy future. When we understand the deeper processes of stressors and how to self-regulate, we can all learn how to recover.”

For more information on the Building Resilience in Parents and Children Conference and upcoming workshops, please visit:

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What questions would you have liked to ask Dr. Shanker? What are your thoughts on self-regulation? Please share with us in the Comments section below!


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About Erin McLaughlin

Erin is the communications specialist for Our Kids Media and Comfort Life. Before joining the fun folks at Our Kids, she was a freelance writer, social media coordinator and editor. She has been fortunate to build on a lifelong dream of exploring by visiting parts of the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and China, and hopes to continue exploring the world always learning, evolving, and writing about it. She invites you check out the Our Kids community for key resources and great conversations!

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