Vision boards are a fun and creative way for children (and adults) to set personal goals every year.

They offer a great way for kids to get motivated and take action to reach their goals, especially in the tween years when most kids seem to start losing their motivation to engage in activities, or see the benefit in doing various tasks.

These simple visualization boards can help them hone in on their interests while developing much needed planning skills for the future.

Here are a few simple steps to creating vision board:

Keep it simple

All you need is a medium size poster board and glue, or a cork board and pins. Any type of material can be added onto the board: cutout pictures from magazines, newspapers, or simply written goals on a piece of paper, anything goes.

Big dreams & small dreams

It’s absolutely wonderful to dream big and include amazing goals on the vision board, but make sure to also include realistic and achievable goals.

Set specific goals

It helps to set specific goals and to think out of the box. The vision board can contain more than just ‘material’ things. It can include activities they would like to do, amount of money they need to save to purchase something they want, skills they would like to acquire or improve, places they would like to visit, ways they can give back to their community.

It’s also important to come up with a plan to actively work towards achieving the set goals.

Include short term goals

Short term goals are easier to achieve and in turn can motivate children to fulfill the rest of their vision board goals.

For instance, if your child wants to receive a higher grade on their next week’s math test, then ask them to come up with a plan in order to achieve this goal (e.g. do an extra 5 minutes of math every day).

Include long term goals

Long term goals require more thought in terms of action planning, but can be broken down into smaller tasks along the way.

For example, learning to type using all ten fingers can seem overwhelming at first, but this skill can be achieved gradually over time. So, practicing keyboarding 5 minutes every day, while tracking and rewarding progress weekly, can make this goal attainable by the end of the year or sooner.

Personalize it

Get creative. They can personalize their board by adding things they love and things they are grateful for (e.g. the family pet).

As a parent, you might also learn something new from your ever-changing child. My son added on his board: ‘Learn to do Bardownskis’. So, I asked him if Bardownski played for the Montreal Canadians. He laughed at me. Turns out Bardownski is not an NHL player, it’s a type of hockey goal, where the puck hits the hockey net cross ‘bar’, then drops ‘down’ landing in the net …the ‘ski’ part apparently just makes it sound cooler!

The bigger picture

Keep the vision board in their bedroom, in plain sight, as a reminder. When a goal gets accomplished… CELEBRATE!

If some of the goals don’t get reached by the end of the year… no worries. Learning to deal with setbacks, thinking positive, and noticing the good intention behind any goal setting is just as important as reaching the goal!

Vision boards can be a useful tool at any age. So try making one for yourself too. The outcome might surprise you.



by Erin Aucoin

I have a question for you.  Can you even remember the last time you spent a day without using technology?  Probably not, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!  Computers and technology have become so engrained in our lives because they are extremely useful and computer science is arguably the fastest growing career field.  You would think that we, as a society would be encouraging everyone to take advantage of this and to be more computer literate.  But we’re not.

Only 30% of Math and Computer Science students in Canada1 are female even though the job prospects for computer science students are consistently among the most promising2. In a time where most of the revolutionary products are technology related, this statistic is very discouraging.

My name is Erin and I started a society for Women in Science at St. Francis Xavier University this year.  I was inspired to do so for a couple of reasons.  First, I am the only graduating female physics student this year and this has led to quite a few interesting conversations.  Secondly, I have spent two summers working for the X-Chem Science Camps at St.FX organizing the computer science camp and it was easy to see that the girls loved the activities just as much as the boys.  I think that there are a lot of fields of science and technology, which severely lack women.  A lot of really smart women don’t even consider a career in physics, engineering or computer science and this is a shame.

Women often think that coding isn’t for them because virtually all of the big names in tech are men (think of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk) and we rarely hear about the female pioneers of computer science Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson (featured in the movie Hidden Figures)


Women pioneers in computer science: Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Katherine Johnson3,4,5

or the current female influencers in the field like Helen Greiner6 and Marissa Mayer7.


Current influencers in computer science, Helen Greiner and Marissa Mayer6,7

Beyond this, the most fun part of computer science, video games, are generally marketed towards boys.  Even though there twice as many women over 18 playing video games as boys under 18.

Computer science is everywhere so I think that EVERYONE should learn how to code!  With this week being Computer Science Education Week, it’s the perfect time to teach yourself a little bit of programming!

The great thing about computer science is how easy it is to start!  There are thousands of tutorials online which will teach you the basics of any programming language you want.  My favourites are,, and   The first two are especially great for kids because they let you start programming right away without having to learn any of the syntax (commas and semi-colons that have to be in just the right spot).


Image retrieved from

In my opinion, one of the most rewarding feelings is coding your first program, getting the computer to draw a red circle or add some numbers together or even just to say “Hello World!”  It doesn’t matter how much of a background you have in technology, you just have to decide to start!

Happy Computer Science Education Week!

Erin Aucoin, BSc Physics Student President of Women in Science Society

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Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


by Vanessa Bruce Little

Although Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illnesses experienced by Canadians, they still only affect about 12% of the population over the course of a year. With the recent upsurge of anxiety talk in the media (see HERE or HERE), however, it’s no surprise that people think we’re facing an anxiety epidemic. Contributing to this proliferation is society’s recent tendency to pathologize anything negative, equating health with happiness instead of understanding that negative emotions are an essential and important part of the human experience.

We’ve gotten in the habit of using the word anxiety whenever we want to describe normal negative emotion. It’s a stand-in for stress, for worry, for nerves, for shyness, for any number of feelings that are completely and totally normal. And by using the word anxiety in their place, we not only make these emotions feel much scarier than they need to be, but also do a disservice to people who actually have an Anxiety Disorder by trivializing their experience.

Anxiety – real anxiety – is debilitating. It’s not just discomfort. It’s a sensation of fear that is excessive, overwhelming, can be all-consuming, often runs counter to rational thought, and pervades almost every aspect of someone’s life. So how can you tell when the fear your teen is experiencing is normal and when it might be something more? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Is the fear persistent over time (usually months)?
  • Is the fear always present in certain situations? (e.g., Every time they encounter a particular situation and not only occasionally)
  • Is the fear debilitating? Does it prevent them from functioning at school, at work, or in their relationships?
  • Is the fear out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the situation? (e.g., Looking out the window from the 10th floor of a building evokes the same fear as standing on the roof ledge of a 10-storey building)

There are several types of Anxiety Disorders that we tend to see in teenagers – Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is more common in children. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are no longer considered Anxiety Disorders. Keeping in mind the guidelines above, here’s what you should know:

Social Anxiety Disorder:
Intense fear or anxiety in social situations where the person could be evaluated negatively by other people (e.g., social interactions, performances, or being observed).

Panic Disorder:
Experiencing recurrent unexpected panic attacks with no obvious cause. (Note that having panic attacks does not mean you have a panic disorder). The person will fear having another panic attack and/or avoid situations from which it is hard to escape in case they have another attack. This avoidance is called Agoraphobia.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Excessive fear or anxiety about a number of events or activities that is difficult to control and occurs more days than not.

Remember, just because something causes stress or fear does not mean it’s an Anxiety Disorder. Many fearful reactions are completely normal versions of the stress response. If your teenager exhibits fear that is persistent, consistent, debilitating, and out of proportion; however, talk to your family doctor about what might be going on.

Other helpful resources:


Vanessa Bruce Little

Vanessa Bruce Little is the Knowledge Translation Lead at (IWK Health Centre/Dalhousie University), a role for which she relies heavily on her background in Clinical Psychology, clinical training, and experience working with youth and families with behavioural, emotional, and social issues. In addition to developing the content of many of Teen Mental Health’s resources, Vanessa also coordinates large-scale projects and supervises students from a variety of disciplines. She strongly believes that you have to communicate in a way people will “hear” and that the quality of the content is irrelevant if your audience can’t understand it.

Read the entire blog series:

Depression Is More Than Just Having A Bad Day

Not Everything Is a Mental Illness

There comes a time when pre-teens are old enough to do their own laundry.

For some reason, washing clothes had become an every-other-day task at our house. So early this year I started including the laundry in the boys’ regular chores. I figured if they are old enough to fold their clothes and place them in the drawers, they can certainly wash them too. After all, this is a life skill they will have to learn at some point.

I guess I was trying to prevent the ‘Fred situation’ in their college years.

“I wear ’em front. I wear ’em back. I go inside out. Then I go front and back.” –Fred (image from

My intention was to make laundry an easy and somewhat fun teachable moment.

Here’s the list of steps I used to guide them through the process:

10 simple steps for tweens to do laundry

1. Undo the babushkas!

Awkwardly, sometimes the clothing is removed all at ounce, forming what I call the ‘babushka effect’, aka Russian nesting dolls. The underwear is still inside the pants and the undershirt inside the T-shirt, intact, in the hamper. The combined layers will not wash properly. So the layers need to be separated.

2. Unroll socks

Balls of socks do not wash well, nor do they dry well. So it’s well worth it to unroll them before adding them to the washer.

3. Avoid overloading the washer

Yes, it’s easy to do only one load, but if the load is too big, the clothes will not wash properly and you’ll have to do it all over again. So in order to avoid cramming everything in one load, do two loads instead.

4. Add detergent

Although there’s nothing wrong with liquid or powder detergents and fabric softeners, I find that all-in-one pods are more practical, especially for beginners. However, when using liquid detergents, read and follow the instructions on the containers. Being able to follow directions is an essential life skill (e.g. following a recipe, assembling furniture, etc.).

5. Adjust the settings

Make sure the correct program is selected …a teachable moment for water usage. Smaller loads need less water obviously, so no need to select the ‘large load’ setting and risk wasting more water then is needed.

6. Press the ‘Start’ button

Very important!

7. Remember to dry the clothes

Once the cycle is done, place the clothes in the dryer.

8. Check the lint tray

Make sure the lint tray is empty. It’s there to trap the lint produced by the clothes as they dry. If the tray remains full, it forces the dryer to work harder and use more energy. Translation:

More energy = Longer drying time = More money spent = Bad for family budget!

9. Adjust the settings.

Make sure the correct program is selected for the amount of wet clothes to be dried.

10. Press ‘Start’.

If the weather is warmer, then save on energy by hanging clothes outside instead of using the dryer.

Laundry check-list

To further simplify things, I posted this checklist in the laundry room to help the boys remember the sequence of steps to follow:

The expectations

  • Does sorting matter? Nope. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t separate the whites from the colours.
  • What about the folding? Same idea here. Will the clothes be folded perfectly when placed in the drawers? Probably not. And that’s ok. They’re in the drawer, that’s all that matters. Task accomplished and confidence gained!
  • Keep it simple. The less they have to do to complete the task, the better. At this point the goal is to simply get the laundry done. After all, you want to make this a pleasant experience so that they want to do it on their own and be proud of themselves for doing it!
  • Remember “practice makes perfect”. They will improve their laundry technique as they get older.

Next week’s post?

“Hunny, you’re old enough now to clean the bathroom”

…for when this happens.



(‘Daddy Daycare’ movie clip by, featured image by

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