We invite you to ask an expert your questions about youth or parent-child issues. Each month we introduce you to a professional who can answer your questions.
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Name: Katia Lévesque
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Answers from our experts
Monthly theme for September/ October: School Attendance
Bethsy Adelson was our expert for September and octobre. She answers your questions about School Attendance.
Monthly theme for June/July/August: Sports and physical activities for parents and children
Kinesiologist Yan Godeau was our expert for the summer. He answers your questions about sports and physical activity for parents and children
What is the recommended amount of time for physical activity per week for an 8-year-old child, a 13-year-old teenager and adults ages 35-40?
According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), young people ages 5 to 17 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity per day. At least three days per week should involve high-intensity activity. Activities for strengthening muscles and bones should also be included at least three days per week.
Adults ages 18 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate- to high-intensity aerobic physical activity in sessions of at least 10 minutes. It is also beneficial to add activities for strengthening muscles and bones at least two days per week.
For more detailed information, I recommend visiting the CSEP website through the link below:
Hello Mr. Godeau,
I am new to Quebec and am the mother of two kids: a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy. In the summer, I don’t have any trouble getting my kids to be active outdoors every day. But in the winter, it’s much more complicated. Do you have any ideas for unique and inexpensive activities to do as a family in the winter?
For most people, it seems easier to stay moving in the summer. All we have to do is step outside and go for a walk or bike ride or go swimming. Winter brings more challenging weather conditions (cold, ice and snow-covered terrain) and causes a large part of the population to reduce their physical activities during the snowy season. That said, if we embrace the many opportunities that winter offers us rather than weigh ourselves down with the constraints, a world of possibility for staying active opens up to us.
Skiing, skating and snowshoeing, to name just a few, are easily accessible outdoor activities. A fun family outdoor activity could involve going to a park to sled, take a walk, play in the snow, and even build a snowman.
Many indoor facilities offer sports and recreational activities. This way, people who would rather avoid the cold and frost can participate in activities like family badminton, swimming and zumba for parents and children. For more on this topic, I invite you to consult the “L’info-loisirs” (leisure-info) list of activities that Lachine residents normally receive in the mail.
If you dress for the weather, winter can give the body an extra challenge, as walking through snow demands more of our muscles and balance mechanisms. So take advantage of the outdoors during winter! It’s easy and it’s good for your health!
Should the amount of sports and physical activity vary based on whether my child is a girl or a boy?
The question is valid. Although there are more recent statistics in Quebec that show that boys are more active than girls, the recommended amount of physical activity is the same for both sexes. For your information, young people ages 5 to 17 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity every day.
My daughter is six years old and she does not want to play many sports or games outdoors. Can this impact her development significantly? What can I do to motivate her more?
Young people who are not very active deprive themselves of the important benefits that come from physical activity. According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), being active for 60 minutes per day can bring the following benefits to young people ages 5 to 17: improving health, being more productive in school, improving physical condition, strengthening, enjoying playing with friends, feeling happier, maintaining a healthy body weight, improving self-confidence and developing new skills.
Monthly theme for April/May: Sexuality of children and teens
Sexologist Marie-Pier Tanguay was our expert for April and May. She answers your questions about the sexuality of your children.
Hello Marie-Pier, at what age should you stop “being naked” in front of your child, for example, in the shower, etc.? Should whether or not you are the same sex be considered?
The attitude of parents and children towards nudity varies enormously from family to family, according to culture, family values and the parents’ education. Nonetheless, it is agreed upon that there can’t be any ambiguity, meaning that there must not be any sexual connotation in the adult’s behaviour.
There is no precise age to stop being naked in front of your child, however you can note that around the age of 5, children start to become more and more modest. Perhaps they are embarrassed to be seen naked or to see others naked. As a parent, you should try to be considerate of this embarrassment and respect the child’s privacy.
Certain children will be more embarrassed when a parent of the opposite sex is naked, but this isn’t automatic. When it comes to nudity, you must try to respect the child’s modesty and need for privacy.
Rules for my child have been strict. No boyfriend right now, for example. It’s a matter of family principles. But the pressure is strong in secondary. I even had a supervisor tell me that they are going to hear things at school regardless and that it’s better to talk about it at home, because other more informed girls are going to talk about it with them. My own daughter doesn’t even think about it!! Subject: oral sex. It made me sick to hear it. What do you think? Thank you
I understand that you want to protect your child and preserve her modesty. At the same time, talking about sexuality with your child can be beneficial for his or her development. Of course, the content of the message needs to be adapted to his or her age. Children’s sexuality isn’t like that of adults, but there is definitely a curiosity. I encourage parents to be present for their child and to try to answer their questions. When questions arise about sexuality, it is good to confirm why the child is interested in the subject and what he or she already knows. This enriches your parent-child relationship, all the while reinforcing certain values. Your child learns that he or she can ask you questions even when doing so is bit uncomfortable. Similarly, the child can trust you and, in answering, you can trust him or her. This is important because you want to transmit a positive message about sexuality.
Talking to your child about sexuality does not push him or her toward sexual behaviour or make him or her more excited. On the contrary, when it’s done well, it increases the child’s knowledge and helps him or her develop self-esteem and be better equipped to make good choices. It is good to choose subjects appropriate for their age. Also, when it comes to small children, ages two to five, parents can talk about the physical differences between boys and girls. Starting at age five or when the question comes up, it’s possible to explain how babies are made, etc.
It is true that children and teens are exposed more and more to sexuality, whether through advertisements, television, peers, etc. Sexual education in school begins in secondary. Its goal is to inform young people mainly in order to increase their judgment and self-confidence. This way, they can make good choices and resist peer pressure.
You wrote that your child doesn’t think about sexuality. That is definitely possible and you haven’t rushed your child in this direction. I encourage you to respond to her questions if they come up. Then, if you feel comfortable, you can talk to her about the changes that occur during puberty: changes in the pitch of the voice, body hair, height, hormones that lead to the breast development and menstruation for girls and to ejaculations for boys, romantic interest in the opposite sex, etc.
On the topic of oral sex, I understand that hearing this word from the mouth of your child or another child may have scared or bothered you. Children repeat what they hear. I don’t know any parents who want to talk about oral sex with their children, much less with their daughters. There is often an obvious discomfort. Regardless, if the child asks the question, it warrants a response, one that is, of course, adapted to his or her age.
For example, “What is a blowjob?”
It’s possible to respond to your teen: when two adults love each other very much, they might cuddle each other and kiss each other. A blowjob is caressing the penis with the mouth.
This way, you answer your child. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can find books designed to accompany teens through their sexual development, and thus, they can find answers to their own questions. This helps prevent them from being misinformed by other teens or by the Internet.
I have a 12-year-old adolescent and, when doing laundry, I have found several marks in his underwear that seem to be from sperm. Should I talk to him about it? How should I respond to this?
It is normal to realize around 12 years that your son is having erections accompanied by ejaculations. You are wondering if you should talk to him about it. That is a very good question. In fact, it very much depends on the parent and the family. Talking about sexuality with your adolescent is tricky and can sometimes make you uncomfortable. To make it easier, prepare in advance, ask yourself what you would like to talk to him about, and be prepared to talk about more than sexuality. If you are uncomfortable, you can talk to him while doing something else, like taking a walk. You can also ask someone else to lend support, an uncle, a cousin, etc. You can find books in the library to help you approach the subject. For example, the book “Full sexuel” by Jocelyne Robert helps prepare adolescents for the changes that happen in the teenage years. Your son is becoming active in his sex life; the arrival of sperm is one of the signs. There could be other changes that are of concern to him. These could include physical appearance, whether or not girls like him, his sexual orientation, developing romantic feelings, jealousy, his first sexual relationship, etc. These are examples of subjects that could be approached with your adolescent.
Lastly, I recommend that you adopt an open attitude with your son. Try to spend time with him, doing an activity or watching a show that addresses these concerns. This can allow you to talk about his issues, if you want. It’s an option for you.
My six-year-old daughter and 7½-year-old son sleep in the same room. On several occasions, I have found them in the same bed (but they don’t do anything of a sexual nature). Should I be worried and should I separate them?
When your 6-year-old and 7-year-old children end up in the same bed, it probably has to do with an emotional need, which is absolutely normally for their age. So you don’t necessarily have to separate them. That said, if it is worrying you, I encourage you to keep a close eye on what they do. When you notice the first signs of puberty, you can reassess. Puberty can start at different ages depending on the child. This phase can begin from age 9 to age 12.
Monthly theme for February/March: Healthy Living Habits
DARLING BAPTICHON, Prevention Clinic Nurse Advisor, was our expert for February and March. She answers questions that she received from parents about healthy living habits.
Your questions showed me how vast the theme of healthy living habits really is. In reading your questions, I quickly became aware that they go far beyond my area of expertise. Thankfully, CSSS Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle, for which I work, is overflowing with experts who were more than willing to help me answer your questions. I want to thank them kindly for their participation and I hope that their answers help you reach your goals for healthier living habits.
Darling Baptichon, Prevention Clinic Nurse Advisor CSSS Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle
I need tips to make our morning routine easier. How do I ensure a balanced breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed…without rushing my child or taking away precious sleep??
Here are some possible solutions that might guide you:
So as not to decrease your child’s hours of sleep, you can plan for an earlier bedtime; this would allow him or her to wake up earlier than usual and have time for breakfast.
Lay out clothes the day before in order to save time in the morning.
As far as breakfast goes:
- Plan to buy ready-to-eat foods or foods that don’t require much preparation: muffins, bread, cheese, milk, cereal, fruits, etc.
- Prepare breakfast foods the day before, for example at dinnertime.
- A balanced breakfast should include: 1 to 2 servings of grains, 1 serving of milk products and/or 1 serving of meat or meat substitutes, as well as 1 serving of fruit
Ideas for quick breakfasts:
- In a plastic container, mix yogurt, a handful of your favorite cereal, some dehydrated fruit and sunflower seeds or slivered almonds
- A tortilla shell stuffed with scrambled eggs (cooked in the microwave), cheese and salsa
- A small cheese omelet rolled in a wheat tortilla and served with a fruit salad
- A glass of orange juice, and instant oatmeal prepared with milk
- A smoothie (milk, yogurt and fruit) served with a small bran muffin
- Yogurt and berries on a crepe or tortilla
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich and a glass of milk
- Homemade breakfast sandwich, English muffin, egg, cheese and ham, and a piece of fruit
Sandra Di Benedetto, Dt.P and Oana Nicolau, Dt.P, Nutritionists at CSSS de Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle
What age should we teach our children not to swallow toothpaste? I would also like to get some advice on how to maintain dental hygiene with a 2½-year-old child.
Generally speaking, children mimic their parents. When your child brushes his or her teeth, brush yours at the same time and show him or her how to spit and rinse. If spitting and rinsing isn’t yet possible for the child, you can start by helping him or her with a clean washcloth or compress. The baby will then develop the habit of not keeping the substance in the mouth.
Brush your child’s teeth at least twice per day using a small, soft-bristled brush. Use a flavored fluoride toothpaste recommended for children. Encourage him or her to hold the brush and make the brushing motions on his or her own, as children seek to mimic. You should still always finish brushing them. Teeth should be brushed after every meal and every sugary or sticky snack. Brushing alone cannot properly clean places where two of the child’s teeth are in contact. This can result in decay. Therefore, it is important to use dental floss once per day between teeth that are touching. Putting up a brushing calendar in the bathroom could help the child carry out this challenge.
Some tips taken from: www.ohdq.com
Karima Rahal, Dental Hygienist, CSSS Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle
Hello, my 4-year-old son doesn’t want to do anything but play video games. He throws huge tantrums if I take away his game. How do I gently encourage him to do other activities, to play outside?
First, it might be a good idea to get him to broaden his areas of interest by proposing that he do different activities (e.g., karate class, swimming class) with you, with friends or with children the same age, all while keeping in mind his personality, strengths and skills.
You could also add to his routine time where you play outside with him or do a different activity with him. The important thing is that your child associate fun with activities other than video games.
Another tip that might work: give him a choice of activities (which you have selected in advance). He will feel like he has a certain amount of power and will probably be more inclined to participate in the activity that he chooses.
Lastly, encourage group activities if possible so that the child can gradually develop social skills. This type of activity lets the child make friends with similar interests, thus encouraging the child’s participation in activities related to those interests that he or she has discovered.
Carolina Monchamp, Educational Psychologist CSSS Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle
I would like to know your opinion on hours of sleep for teens. My son is in secondary 1 and he goes to bed very late every night. He tells me that everyone at his school does the same, and I’ve seen that his friends are on social networks until at least midnight every night… But this still concerns me in the long run. What do you think?
Sleep is important for our health because it allows us to rejuvenate both physically and psychologically. When they get into adolescence, young people stay up later and later. Social networks, online games, computers and television definitely eat away at the time and the quality of sleep for young people, plus they make falling asleep more difficult by stimulating the person. Every teen is different but most young people between 12 and 18 need about nine (9) hours of sleep per night.
What are the risks of sleeping poorly or not sleeping enough?
Here are some of the major impacts of lack of sleep for young people, to name just a few:
Drowsiness, fatigue, lack of energy, irritability, agitation, mood swings, difficulties with concentration and memorization…
Therefore, a lack of sleep influences academic performance, emotions and behaviour. It is important to remember that sleep also plays a major role in, among other things, growth, development, weight control, and immune functions. So sleeping well is a good habit to get into!!!
How can you help your teen develop better sleep habits?
- Keep the dialogue open with your teen;
- Share with him or her your concerns about his or her sleep, look for solutions together;
- Consider possible compromises when it comes to a reasonable bedtime;
- Open up with your teen about the importance of sleep habits and healthy living habits (e.g., put all screens away one hour before bedtime, avoid doing a lot of exercise before bedtime, etc.)
Sylvie Cadieux, Social Worker CSSS Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle
From: Sylvie L.
Are there any tips for balancing children’s pastimes with meals, bedtime, etc. There never seem to be enough days in the week. Thank you
This is not an expert answer, but a mother-to-mother answer. Being the mother of two children, ages 7 and 9, I can understand all too well what Sylvie L. is feeling. Many of us experience this problem. Personally, planning is what works best for my family. I plan and prepare meals, snacks, clothes, etc. in advance. For many years, I have used a calendar that I put on the fridge so everyone can see upcoming activities for the month and participate in planning them. I am always surprised to see how much children can help us when we involve them.
Moreover, I realize that life is not perfect and that I can survive even if the housework isn’t done. Now I make sure to include moments of downtime in our schedule. Surprisingly enough, even the kids appreciate these moments where we have nothing on the calendar and can just lounge around with a good book or dig out an abandoned board game.
There are many articles on this topic. I invite you to read the articles through the following links to find other tips and to learn to make choices that will lead you to a more balanced life. Happy reading
Darling Baptichon, Prevention Clinic Nurse Advisor CSSS Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle
Calendar of Themes 2014
Healthy living habits
Sexuality of children and teens
Physical activity for parents and children
Social media and young people