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Sharon

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Dear Evan Hansen Needs to Be Mandatory

A giant box of kleenex and your teens. That’s all you need to bring to this incredible musical.

The world has changed, social media has changed it profoundly and not for the better. We have never been more disconnected from each other at any time in history, yet we have never been more accessible since the advent of social media.

This has caused a great divide. One that has separated parents from their teens. One that has given our teens an outlet to rant, rage, complain and show off. One that I am yet to find offers a single positive benefit to the healthy development of our children’s mental health.

The story of Dear Evan Hansen is one that will resonate deeply. It talks of suicide, social media, loneliness, the struggle of being a parent and the struggle of being a teen. It is a full circle approach to a story that likely exists in the homes of most families with teens.

As a mom, who has two teenagers, deeply entrenched in social media, I felt the pain that the characters portrayed. I felt the fears they talked about and I cried. Not a pretty cry. A hearty sobbing that likely embarassed my daughter who was sitting next to me. I cried because there is no manual for being a parent. There is no manual for being a teen. There is just fear on both sides It can be the hardest most alienating stage of life.

We want to feel a connection to our kids and our kids just want to be heard. Dear Evan Hansen is that connection. It’s that perspective that both teens and parents need to see. It’s a conversation starter and it’s a warning signal. It is the manual for trying to get through this difficult stage of life and it is delivered with astonishing clarity and is not to be missed.

 

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Lifestyle Parenting

The Overworked Mom’s Guide To Taking A Vacation

Tired, so darn tired. All the time.

I feel like I spend most of my life in a state of exhaustion. Why not take a vacation you ask?

Guilt.

I am one of those people who always feels guilty about leaving the office, leaving the team, leaving the kids.

Guess what? I got over it. By the time you finish reading this, you’ll be over it too.

We recruited another couple who we knew would be up for the challenge of relaxing and doing nothing all day on vacation and started our planning.

Our top 5 requirements?

  1. The ability to do nothing if that’s what we wanted to do.
  2. Good food. And Mangoes. Lots and lots of Mangoes.
  3. A reasonable price for a 5 day getaway
  4. 4 hour or less flight.
  5. Luxury accommodations. Hey, I’m a princess, I have no problem admitting that.
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After endless searching, we discovered the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall Jamaica and before my hubby who has anxiety about leaving the office could change his mind, I booked it.

Let me start by saying, THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST! No one has paid me to write this, or to say nice things about the resort. These are the honest words of a very relaxed just back from vacation mom.

This particular resort managed to fulfill all 5 of my requirements. We managed to book a package for around $1500 per person with the flight being just under 4 hours (Toronto to Montego Bay).

The Mangoes were good. No, they were great. No, they were so good that I was literally biting into them with the juice running down my arms like a 2 year old learning to eat, but I was smiling all the way through so don’t judge me.

The rooms overlook the ocean where you fall asleep to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. The rooms are luxurious, and modern. If you happen to be one of those people who over-pack like me, feel free to pack them so you can fully appreciate the crazy amount of storage space that the room has. You wouldn’t want to neglect all of that amazing drawer and closet space!

The most important portion of the trip? The ability to do nothing if we wanted to. We exceeded expectations on that one. With the exception of walking to the restaurants, the Jerk Pit and the dessert cafe’s (are you noticing a theme?), we really managed to spend what Guinness would likely categorize as a record-breaking number of hours in the pool.

Now of course we weren’t completely lazy on this trip. We got out and visited the ocean daily to ensure that our leg muscles had not atrophied, we went sailing and we even took on a Kansas city family in a friendly game of beach volleyball, but other than that, we pretty much managed to relax the heck out of those 5 days.

I travel a lot. Almost always for work. I am not easily impressed. I have high standards when it comes to accommodations, food, service etc. This particular resort managed to exceed my expectations. So much so that we are already contemplating our next visit there with kids this time because they happen to have a fantastic kids club.

From the fabulous service at the pool cabanas from our new found friend KerriAnn, to the smooth check in with Issia, to the amazing dinner service from Dean Martin, our trip was total and utter perfection.

Need a break? This Hyatt resort in beautiful Montego Bay is the place to be.

Oh, and just because there is no such thing as a diet while on vacation, make sure you stop at Scotchies on the way back to the airport and pick up some Jerk Chicken! You’ll be amazed how many lines you can bypass at the airport when you offer up Scotchies!

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Entrepreneurship Lifestyle

4 Tips For Entrepreneurs On Dealing With Anxiety And Depression

With January being famous for its most depressing Monday of the year and with Bell’s Lets talk campaign to draw awareness around mental health issues, I’m here to provide the Entrepreneurs perspective on mental health.

As an entrepreneur, you are on a constant roller coaster of highs and lows, and anxiety seems to be a natural by-product. When sales are low, when there is staff turnover, anxiety sets in. While these challenges are part of the entrepreneur roller coaster, Entrepreneurs tend to have a heightened response to these symptoms.

I’m part of a mastermind group where entrepreneurs from different industries come together online to discuss issues and solutions. It’s also a place we come to vent and stay motivated. I turned to this group to gauge how many Entrepreneurs faced mental health challenges. To my shock, the response was absolutely overwhelming and oddly enough, it offered a feeling of community.

It seemed that I was definitely not the only person dealing with this and none of us were to ashamed to admit it. The stigma associated with anxiety or other mental health issues has truly changed over the last few years. The stigma is now outweighed by the benefit of talking about it and sharing personal experiences. We were all hoping that one solution would be the magic bullet to the problem.

The list below are things that resonated with these entrepreneurs and stood out as having been effective. Best of all, they are things you can start doing now.

1. Meditation.

I know, you’ve heard about it and it’s not you. Sitting still and chanting and emptying your mind is about as appealing as being required to sit with technical support for hours explaining to them yet again that you’re sure your computer is plugged in.You need to rethink this option.

As an entrepreneur with ADHD I felt that meditation would be virtually impossible. My brain seems to move at the speed of light, I jump from topic to topic every 10 seconds and sitting still for more than 30 seconds at a time has proven to be virtually impossible.

Then I tried meditating. I hated every second of it. I counted down the minutes, I could not stop my mind from racing and I kept fidgeting mainly because I was told I should resist the temptation. By my 4th session, things started to change. I started feeling a sense of calm. I noticed that I was having an easier time relaxing my mind. My mind never stopped for an extended period, but it felt like it was finally taking a few pauses in the race to keep running. Most importantly, it was helping reduce my feelings of anxiety. With continuous practice, I literally found a technique that I could use at any time to calm myself and gain perspective.

2. Exercise.

It works. Honestly. Research shows that it releases endorphins which in turn release a positive feeling in your body and helps with anxiety and depression. I started waking up at 5:30 am to squeeze in a workout. The first few weeks were hell. I hated every second. But slowly, my body started craving it, but more importantly, my mind started craving it. It quickly became routine. Now when I don’t go to the gym, I miss the peace it brings me at the start of a day.

A 5:30 a.m. workout isn’t for everyone but there is always time in your day to squeeze it in. There is no way you can’t find the time to exercise if you plan it in advance. Get up from your desk every couple of hours and go for a 15 minute walk to clear your mind. You do have the time. No one is that busy. Nope, not even you.

3. Read Inspiring books.

I love to read about hugely successful entrepreneurs. Behind most successful entrepreneurs, is a long story of failures which ironically makes me feel less alone as a business person. Read about Elon Musk and Richard Branson for a glimpse at how many up’s and down’s they encountered in getting where they are today. They weren’t “lucky”, they simply refused to give up.

If business books aren’t your thing, my other go-to is Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. It provides insight into how a man survived the holocaust by deciding that while almost everything could be taken from him, they couldn’t take away how he chose to respond to his situation. That knowledge kept him from giving up on life. That should definitely inspire you to look at your challenges differently.

Finally, audiobooks for those of you who spend hours commuting daily. Perfect use of your time.

4. Join a group.

I joined a mastermind group and a mentoring program. I also took the next step and set up a board of advisors to hear other perspectives on how I was doing things. While these people couldn’t solve my problems, the insight they provide is often enough to keep me on track. Sometimes we simply need to be heard by our peers. Sometimes hearing similar trials and tribulations from others is all that’s needed to make one feel less anxious. Knowing we are not unique in our struggles tends to be comforting.

Have methods that work for you as an entrepreneur? Please share them in the hopes that they help others who struggle.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to dissuade any one from the use of medication or seeing their physician. Often people are looking for ways to make small changes in their lives for a big overall impact and these tips are meant to provide exactly that.

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Lifestyle Parenting Social Media Technology

Parents Need to Treat Cyberbullying like Crossing the Street

Cyberbullying has been making headway as a leading contributor to the demise of our youth’s mental health. Yet a recent survey conducted by Parent Tested Parent Approvedshowed that out of over 1200 respondents, 50 percent of parents had not broached the topic of cyberbullying with their children. This is a shockingly high statistic.

According to a Statistics Canada Health Report, Canadians aged 15-24 years old had a higher rate of depression than any other group in the survey. “Negative social interactions” was a contributor to these statistics. So why then the low rate of conversations happening in Canadian homes?

Of those surveyed by Parent Tested Parent Approved, 38 percent of respondents indicated they trusted their children to “act safely and appropriately when online” while 34 percent of respondents indicated they felt their children would tell them if they were being cyberbullied.

One might wonder if parents are placing too much faith in their children to make the right choices innately. Parents find it necessary to teach children to look both ways before crossing a street, so shouldn’t the dangers of cyberbullying be of equal concern? Teens, now more than ever, are developing relationships with their peers online and social media gives many a heightened sense of confidence to say things online that they wouldn’t say in person. This has proven to be extremely dangerous.

As parents we need to do everything possible to equip our children with the tools they need to make good choices online.

The survey also revealed that a contributing factor to parents avoiding the topic of cyberbullying related directly to their limited level of tech savviness. More than 20 percent of those surveyed indicated that they were unaware that tools existed in the marketplace to monitor their children’s online activity. The same parents were unaware that free solutions existed online to educate their children on the inherent dangers of the internet.

Cyberbullying is a topic that must be addressed by parents of children who have access to the online world. It should be one discussed as a family on a regular basis and there are solutions that allow parents to help their children navigate the dangers. Two solutions that are free and easily accessible yet incredibly well designed include:

Google Interland, which aims to “Help kids be safe, confident explorers of the online world” through a series of games and challenges. The games help teach children how online predators might disguise themselves through their social profiles and how it’s “cool to be kind” and treat others as you would like to be treated. I loved this particular tool so much I even put together a quick video outlining what it can teach your children.

Another free solution which is targeted at the entire family is Telus Wise. The free initiative by Telus aims at keeping families safe from cyberbullying and financial fraud. They have a section to help parents navigate social media and common terminology. They also offer great resources for children and teachers. This is a great initiative by a telco to make a difference in its community.

Tools exist to make parenting a bit easier when it comes to cyberbullying. As parents, we need to do everything possible to equip our children with the tools they need to make good choices online. So next time they are heading out the door and you remind them to take their jacket and look both ways before crossing the street, maybe throw in a “be safe online” as a reminder that you are holding them accountable for their digital footprint.

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Lifestyle Parenting Technology

The Aftershokz Culture

I rarely write product reviews, but when a product takes my office by storm, I feel like it warrants some mention.

In December, the team at Aftershokz sent over a set of their Trekz Air for everyone on our team as a gift. This became an addiction. I kid you not when I tell you that everyone on the team wears these the entire workday.

We used to all sit at our individual desks with either earbuds or large noise reduction headphones blocking us out from each other and the rest of the world. Then these appeared. Bone conduction headphones that let us hear the world around us. All of the sudden, we were listening to music but also engaging in more conversations. It was a shift.

While most companies are making their headphones tinier and more obscure, what made us become addicts to our Aftershokz?

The beauty is in their design. They don’t sit in your ear, they sit just ahead of your ear along your jaw bone… Why? So the world around you is not shut out.

Personally, I just love that my ears no longer get sore! People used to come to my office and because of my abundance of hair, they didn’t have a clue I was wearing earbuds. they would be having full conversations with me only to realize I hadn’t heard a thing. Didn’t even know they were there.

Enter Aftershokz Trekz Air. These earphones (no, they are not referred to as headphones) are lightweight and don’t fall off or out like my earbuds. Their titanium design and flexible fit wrap around the back of your head and are comfortable and stable. Best of all, for the fitness buffs, they are water repellant because sadly, I haven’t figured out how not to sweat when working out.

They are wireless because what isn’t wireless these days? They last up to 6 hours and because they sit along my cheekbone, I can hear what’s going on around me. Best of all, the sound is fantastic! Whether on a call or listening to music, I was shocked as to the quality since they weren’t in my actual ear!

As a parent, I especially love that they let you hear what’s going on around you. I consider it a life-saving feature actually. When my kids are walking to and from the bus along busy streets, I hate it when they have their earbuds in, they are completely unaware of what is going on around them. Of course, I wouldn’t dare ask them to disconnect themselves from their phones so the next best thing is a set of Trekz Air. Now they can hear the traffic around them and no longer be completely oblivious.

Thank you Aftershokz for helping me keep my kids safe yet “cool” and for creating a culture of more social conversations in our offices!

Want a deal?  We have an exclusive PTPA offer!

$50 off for Canadian and US residents.  Just click here to redeem:
ptpa.com/aftershokz

Coupon code for Canadians: PTPA

Coupon code for US residents: PTPAUS

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Parenting Social Media

Teens Need Help Redefining What Happiness Really Means

Teenagers today are inundated with information. Gen Z reportedly spends six to nine hours per day consuming media across an average of five screens, so it’s no surprise that they’re also known as the “internet generation”.

Unfortunately, the quality of online content to which they’re exposed remains questionable. Celebrities and other prominent public figures often have the means to flaunt lavish homes, trips and clothes, and teens are trying to find ways to emulate the extravagance in their own lives.


Shift in How They Shop

New trends in consumer purchasing habits are emerging as a result of social media. “Wardrobing”, the act of buying an outfit, wearing it once and returning it, is gaining popularity, and is a stark reminder that the next generation is being trained to live superficially. You need only click on Instagram’s popular outfit-of-the-day hashtag (#OOTD) to find over 200,000,000 posts from people keen to give their followers fresh fashion content, but it’s reinforcing an unhealthy message that’s influencing impressionable tweens and teens.

One popular Instagrammer wrote very transparently about how she lives a lie online. In a post entitled, “Instagram Illusions: I Don’t Actually Have This Many Clothes”, she cites the pressure of keeping up a certain lifestyle as the reason for her sub-zero bank balance, and declares buying and returning outfits for Instagram a necessary trick of the fashion-blogger trade.

Our children are being brought up to believe that it’s okay – normal, even – to fake it for fame, and some may have no concept of what it means to truly earn a living.

 

The Real Cost of Online Fame

For anyone who watched internet stars like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber skyrocket to fame, getting rich quickly has never looked easier. The rapid rise of social media has played a major role in this mindset, and teens are now very susceptible to thinking that being an Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat celebrity is a common and viable career choice.

Often labelled “entrepreneurial”, Gen Z is growing up in a world that is intimately familiar with the notion and power of having a personal brand. They are also fed the fantasy that their brand can and should be monetized. “Traditional” careers – ones that offer the stability of a steady paycheque and health benefits – are becoming increasingly unappealing and working 9-5 might seem like an archaic way to earn a living. Further, having a regular job undoubtedly offers a seemingly minimal return on investment, but the investment in keeping up online appearances is greater than most teens realize.

In addition to wayward spending, there are major emotional costs associated with internet fame. It has been documented heavily that the pressure of gaining clout through likes, comments and shares can wreak havoc on a teenager’s mental health, as it demands unhealthy levels of self-promotion and compulsive comparisons with others. Consequently, parents need to work that much harder to help their children balance the challenges of having an online presence with the expectations of the real world, while also accepting that social media is a normal part of growing up today.


Holidays As a Teaching Moment

 The spirit of the holiday season makes it an ideal time for parents to explore the true meaning of happiness with their kids. At a time of year when the gap between the haves and the have nots is underscored, parents can help their teenagers think more critically about what it means to live purposefully and should guide them towards redefining their own success.

Parents can leverage the season’s message of giving to teach their kids about non-monetary wealth. When teens have a firm grasp of this concept, they’ll be better equipped to navigate the noise online, to become more conscientious adults, and to appreciate a modest and meaningful life.

 

 

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Entrepreneurship Television

20 TV Shows in 6 Hours!

I know, its sounds incredibly glamorous. Flying to New York, getting to appear on 20 TV shows, getting dressed up, makeup done, new outfit, beautiful hotel. Sounds like a dream right?

Well, the reality is far less sexier than the “dream”.  Thought I would give you a glimpse into the reality of what  20 TV shows in one day actually looks like.

5:00am–  Wake Up.  Try to figure out how those puffy bags under your eyes are going to fade in the next hour before you have to be in studio.

5:15– Hair. What the heck happened?  Did I have a wrestling match with my pillow overnight?!  Thank goodness I never leave home without my secret weapon.  Jonathan Torch Curl Keeper.  15 years later and it still keeps my curls from having a mind of their own.

5:16 – Huge bathroom in hotel. Not a single shelf on which to place any makeup!  Who does that?  Clearly this hotel did not consider a woman’s needs when designing their space.  Literally had to lay a towel on the floor and spread my makeup on it.  Way to much bending up and down to the floor to get each makeup item.  Feel like I’m in a cardio class.

5:18 – Eye shadow.  This is always the funniest part.  I have no idea how to apply eye shadow.  Yup, I am 46 and no matter how many Youtube videos I watch, Bozo the clown does a better job than me. By the time I’m done I am usually ready to wipe it off because I can’t stop laughing at myself.

5:25 – Outfit time.  This outfit looked like a such a good choice when I first picked it. Hmmm, since it’s my only choice, I’m going to pretend to love it and just rock it.

5:45 – COFFEE.  Why aren’t coffee shops open in Soho at 5:45am?  Starbucks?  I’m at your window. I see you in there.  Please let me in.  Please? No? Really? So sad.

6:00 – Studio arrival. My production team has set up the studio and it is pretty darn gorgeous.  Oh, and they’ve brought me Starbucks because they truly are the best. And they want me to seem moderately alive when I go on air.  Good thinking.

The result?

  • 10 Radio interviews.
  • 20 TV show hits.
  • 5 x 2 minute tapings for commercials
  • and a preview for you that takes 1.5 minutes to watch so be sure to check it out below!

All in a glamorous (not) days work.

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Parenting Social Media

Don’t Believe the Hype – Fake News a Real Problem for Today’s Youth

“Immigrants arrested for starting BC wildfires”

“Man robs corner store wearing Trump mask; grabs women inappropriately as he flees”

“You won’t believe what this high school teacher was hiding in his toolshed!”

 

[dropcaps type=’normal’ font_size=’32’ color=’#303030′ background_color=” border_color=”]D[/dropcaps]espite being more internet savvy than its predecessors, generation Z is struggling with the enormous task of identifying and discrediting fake news. A recent report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education showed “a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet”.

This does not bode well for our leaders of tomorrow.

There’s no doubt that young people face an uphill battle, though. News generators encourage visitors to invent stories that are then inserted into realistic templates and posted online with a single click. Unsurprisingly, people are doing it and others are falling for it, often sharing made-up articles and videos with their entire social networks.

We Feed on Fake
False headlines, like those listed above, are just part of today’s online experience; our children must also sift through social media posts, advertorials and clickbait that further blur the lines between what is and isn’t trustworthy.

Unfortunately, getting sucked into a fake-news vortex is easy when you’re unaccustomed to seeing the truth.

For example, legitimate news websites that post legitimate news stories often have a startling array of questionable promoted content at the bottoms of their articles. People often assume the information is true because of the credibility of the host site. (It’s also worth noting that young people are not the only ones who are susceptible; studies have shown that seniors are very vulnerable to believing fake news as well).

Further, Facebook was criticized heavily for its algorithm that personalized users’ News Feeds by analyzing clicks, Likes and connections because it pushed one-sided information that reinforced people’s own beliefs. Of course, having your opinions validated feels good – especially when it’s from multiple resources – but this incredibly skewed perspective only makes it harder for young people to exercise good critical thinking.

Real Life is Real Work

People have a hard time rejecting misinformation, but believing everything you read and see online has real, long-term consequences. This is especially true for youth that rely heavily on the internet to stay informed. The constant consumption of polished, curated experiences on social media leads to a distorted perception of “real life”, as well as a false sense of connection to entire communities.

The rise of influencers has contributed to this epidemic as well: typically paid, they recite refined messaging provided by skilled brand teams, appear to do little to rise to fame and often promote seductive lifestyles that are deceptively glamourous. Why get a “real job” when you can be the next Kim Kardashian? Logan Paul, the controversial internet sensation, rose to stardom from humble beginnings by posting vulgar and dangerous videos on the now defunct Vine platform.

What our kids are not seeing, though, is that most people have to work hard to get ahead. Very hard. But that’s challenging to piece together when the lie – often slick – reads much better than the truth.

It’s Time for a Reboot

The solution to this problem is not a simple one, but we’re heading in the right direction if we continue to raise flags and expose truths.

Ultimately, the work starts at home. Parents should be transparent with their children at a young age about how to examine and evaluate content, and educators will have to adapt their curriculums to teach this new vital life skill (thankfully, some are already doing this).

The ability to fact check effectively becomes more important with each passing day, but it’s also getting harder. What was once a reliable safety net is now a risk itself: the need to detect fake fact-checking websites is yet another hurdle gen Z will have to learn how surmount.

Fortunately, many classic expert tips remain tried and true. We must all double check resources to determine who is behind what we’re reading, seek out multiple sources to validate (or invalidate) information, research multiple perspectives, and always, always, always ask the question, “Why?”.

Helping to retrain our children’s brains should be a major priority if we hope to stay ahead of the fake-news cycle. The more aware they are, the less fluff they consume and the more committed they become to creating their own genuine experiences, the better off we will all be.

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