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Parenting in the divorce zone

April 7, 2021

Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a family can endure. For adults, divorce is a time when disappointments replace dreams, discontent replaces contentment, separation replaces closeness, and uncertainty replaces security. For children, divorce can be a time of loss, confusion and often, fear.

When parents take care to address the challenges of divorce, they can protect their children from potentially debilitating experiences. Here are some common-sense ways that parenting in the divorce zone can assure continued positive growth for children.

Tell the kids together. It's best for you both to sit down together to explain calmly to your children that you are moving apart. Explain what will change in their lives and what will stay the same. Let them know that they are not the reason you are separating and that you believe – even though it could be hard at first – that it will help everyone in the long run. Tell them that you love them and will work to make the changes good for everyone. Answer their questions if they have any and listen to their feelings without probing in the moment.

You're parents forever. Although your spousal relationship has ended, your role as co-parents is still essential. Work to achieve co-operative parenting in as many aspects of your children's lives as possible. If cooperation is not always possible, it's still essential to not interfere with the other parent's relationship with the children. Don't focus on their actions or behaviours, but instead spend that time and energy on your kids.

Keep disagreements from your children. Children are not able to solve adult problems and should not find themselves in the middle of their parents' disagreements. They cannot choose between homes or families. If there are ongoing conflicts, let your children know that they are adult issues that you are working out as adults, and that your children did not cause them and it is not their job to resolve them.

Support the child's relationship with the other parent. Children need to have a positive relationship with both parents. They need permission to love both parents and to know that arrangements are being made for contact with both, but that decision-making on which parents they see and when they see them is not their responsibility. Sometimes, parents in the divorce zone find it hard to hear their child's views about the other parent or about their experiences in the other home. Remember that seemingly neutral comments can carry subtle, implicit messages (e.g. "It must be nice for your mom/dad to be able to do all those fun things with you.").

Acknowledge the child's feelings regarding loss and conflict. Allow your children to talk to you when they're ready. Validate their confused or hurt feelings and remember not to blame the other partner or your child for those feelings. Simply listen and reflect back in simple words what the child is saying. It's important that your children feel listened to, but you don't need to fix their feelings. Be empathic toward their feelings and keep your own feelings or beliefs to yourself.

Acknowledge your differences in parenting. Reassure your children that it's not their fault or burden, and that you understand that these differences can make things hard and sometimes confusing for them. Avoid undermining the other parent's parenting. Ignore small issues and remember you cannot control what happens in the other house, nor can they control what happens in yours.

If co-operating with your former partner isn't working or if you're worried about how your children are adjusting to the changes, consult with a counsellor. Following divorce, many parents are understandably angry and mistrusting of each other, and keeping focus on their common goal in wanting the best for their children can be hard. Working with a counsellor can help both parents move forward and not compromise their children's formative years.

What to do about workplace bullying

March 23, 2021

By Pamela Howard, B.A., M.Ed.

This article is part two of a two-part series. Read part one, What is workplace bullying?, here.

Bullying in the workplace has a long-lasting impact on those who have been targeted. Many targets feel helpless and unsure of how to handle the situation or make it stop.

Gossiping about the situation doesn't work. Some suggest giving the bully a taste of their own medicine, but that isn't a good idea. Retaliation on your part only makes it appear that you and the bully have a "personality conflict" and need to share blame for the ongoing issues. Be honest and reflect on whether you are also making the situation worse. You may have become frustrated and angry as the result of being targeted and are now engaging in unhelpful behaviours.

Here are some useful strategies if you're being bullied at work:

Keep factual records of dates, times and details. Record names of witnesses and the outcome of each event. These records show the frequency and pattern of behaviours and can be used to show that bullying is taking place. Keep copies of any letters or emails. This information should be kept in a private and safe place.

Identify the specifics of what has happened, how it felt to experience it and the precise change in behaviour that you need to see from the bully.This is not about becoming friends but finding constructive ways to move forward. Stay away from generalizations. Instead of saying, "We need to communicate better," state that the yelling and profanity need to stop.

If you think that you can speak to the person directly, focus on the specifics and how it isn't acceptable to you. Tell the person what it will take for it to work better for you both going forward. Don't speculate on the person's motivation behind the behaviour. Focus on what the person has said or done (e.g., "Can you let me know what you want without doing that?" or, "I want to hear what you have to say, but not in this way"). You can ask a supervisor, union representative or other trusted support to be with you.

You might feel unsafe or unable to confront the bully directly. In this case, investigate the established workplace procedures to make a complaint. Go through your notes and select examples that best illustrate the bullying behaviours, particularly situations that are less open to interpretation. Speak to the person identified in the policy and/or to your supervisor or manager. If necessary, be persistent to ensure understanding of the seriousness of the situation and its impact.

If you are losing confidence in your abilities or dealing with misplaced guilt or shame, seek resources and support to help you. Your Employee Assistance Program can be helpful for this.

Resolution of bullying situations is often complex and takes time. After the immediate interventions are completed, it is useful to request follow-up check-ins to ensure that problems haven't resurfaced. Each case of bullying behaviour is unique. Some are resolved to make it possible to continue working together into the future. Some bullies are removed from the environment due to the severity of their behaviour or after demonstrating an ongoing pattern of unacceptable conduct and overall unwillingness to modify their behaviour. Some targets ultimately choose to move to another position within or beyond the organization.

Remember that work shouldn't hurt. It can take considerable time to heal from being the target of a bully. With support, individuals can learn from the experience, restore their equilibrium, respect themselves and move on to better times.

What is workplace bullying?

March 16, 2021

By Pamela Howard, B.A., M.Ed.

This article is part one of a two-part series.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba found that workplace bullying caused more harm to employees than sexual harassment. Workplace bullying is an emotionally and financially costly issue for individuals and employers. Negative consequences include higher stress rates, lower morale, reduced productivity, increased workers compensation claims, absenteeism and sick leave.

Workplace bullying usually involves repeated incidents and a pattern of behaviour intended to offend, intimidate, degrade or isolate the targeted person. Bullies put their personal agenda of controlling another above the needs of the organization. When bullying is allowed to take place, the workplace climate becomes unhealthy.

Bullies are often selective of when they exhibit negative behaviours and know how to present themselves well when they choose to do so. Some regard them as confident individuals, but evidence indicates that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness and generosity. Bullying behaviour is typically exhibited by people who aren't truly confident or self-assured and who lack the skills to communicate or get their needs met more effectively.

Bullying tactics include constant criticism through insults, belittling comments, glaring, unjustifiable blaming and even put-downs about the target's life that are irrelevant to work (e.g. appearance, choice of friends).

There can also be rumours, gossip and social isolation. Bullies can choose to cut the target out of communication needed for work or deliver the silent treatment. Some bullies create a sense of dread and intimidation with explosive behaviour, outbursts, threats, profanity, invasions of personal space, interruptions and rejections of targets' thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, there is a pattern of offensive jokes. Some might tamper with personal belongings or work equipment. Bullies often adopt one or more of these methods based on opportunity and circumstance.

Expressing differences of opinion is not bullying. Neither is offering constructive feedback and advice about work-related matters. Reasonable action taken by an employer to manage work performance, give assignments or take appropriate disciplinary actions is not bullying.

If you are not sure whether an action constitutes bullying, ask yourself whether most people would consider the behaviour as unacceptable. Get a second opinion from a trusted source. Review your workplace policy related to respectful conduct and harassment.

It is important to understand that anyone can find themselves targeted by a bully. You can be competent at your job, self-confident and well-liked by others. It is a misconception that only individuals who appear vulnerable in some way become targets. The target may initially want to deny that this is happening to them or minimize the experience as a way of mentally coping with the discomfort caused by the bullying.

As it continues, there can be a range of impacts to one's psychological and physical health. Targets report impacts to work performance like decreased focus and concentration, difficulty with decision making, anxiety, dread in going to work and being constantly on guard wondering what will happen next.

Stress symptoms often include disrupted sleep, obsessive thinking, fatigue, headaches and poor digestion. The targeted person may talk about the situation constantly with family and friends, and they may lose the ability to enjoy other parts of life. Home life and time outside work can eventually become compromised as the anxiety and dread associated with work bleed into all corners of life.

Most of our waking time is spent at work and everyone deserves a mentally, emotionally and physically safe work environment. Remember that work shouldn't hurt. It can take considerable time to heal from being the target of a bully. With support, individuals can learn from the experience, restore their equilibrium, respect themselves and move on to better times.

What to do about workplace bullying, part two of a two-part series, will provide tips and strategies to handle a bullying situation.

Simple ways to connect with your partner

February 18, 2021

This article is a continuation of Love is in the little things, which was published on February 9, 2021

When couples in therapy talk about activities that connect them, the topic of date nights usually arises early in the conversation, and you might be surprised to know that the therapist isn't the one raising the subject. Couples and families are busier than ever. Although a date night is a great idea, we often lack the time or other resources to have an elaborate night out. The last thing a therapist wants is to further overwhelm a struggling couple with something that should be positive but ends up feeling like a chore – or another problem to solve.

Below is a list of small ways to connect with your partner that have serious value, because they're manageable and easier to weave into your daily life than a date night that requires a babysitter. Most of them require little time and no money. Try making up your own list, too! This works especially well (and is easiest to do) when you recall the ways that you have connected in the past and intentionally incorporate them again or more often.

Simple ways to connect

  • Make a meal plan together
  • Shop for groceries together
  • Dance to a song
  • Hug for 20 seconds
  • Finish the sentence, "I appreciate [blank] about you."
  • Offer an apology
  • Have a staring contest
  • Ask your partner, "If we could do anything you like for 15 minutes, what would you choose?"
  • Do the thing your partner chose
  • Play a board/card game
  • Have decaf coffee or tea together in the evening
  • Make a "No devices in/at the [blank]" rule
  • Take a 10-minute walk together
  • Make up a new pet name for your partner
  • Write a love note in seven words or less
  • Identify a need that your partner has met
  • Identify a need that your partner hasn't met yet
  • Play a sport together
  • Schedule a weekly 30-minute "talk time"
  • Have a re-run of your first date or remember your first date together
  • Set a goal together that you can achieve in a week
  • Tell your partner about a worry you have
  • Ask, "How could I make your day better today?"
  • Talk about the kind of relationship you'd like your child to have with their future spouse

Relationships require consistent and intentional effort, even more so in times of crisis or stress. If your relationship is in a place where the above list feels impossible or unhelpful, it might be a good time to check in with a therapist. The Employee Assistance Program at Manitoba Blue Cross offers relationship counselling for couples at every stage, with service delivery methods and appointment availability to suit your needs.

Love is in the little things

February 9, 2021

Healthy couple fact: happy couples are couples who regularly make time to connect. Connection is most meaningful if it happens in the form of small, consistent actions.

Couple relationships are complex and unique to the individuals who co-create them. Every couple will at some point in their relationship be faced with challenges that may bring them together or pull them apart.

When we speak about this dynamic of coming together and moving apart in relationships, we refer to it as an attachment pattern. We usually learn our patterns of attachment in our family of origin – the family we grew up in.

When we form couple relationships in adulthood, we take the things we learned in those developmental years and combine them with the things our partner learned in their family to co-create the dynamic that we experience in our intimate relationship.

When we face challenges as a couple, this dynamic is magnified. So, if things are shaky under normal circumstances, they can break down quickly when we're under stress. However, if we typically enjoy a strong, connected relationship, stress might bring us closer together – or at least, we'll ride it out more smoothly. What defines whether we thrive or struggle as a couple comes down to our attachment patterns and our level of connection with our partner.

Think of attachment patterns as the music of a relationship. When we're in a relationship with another person, the music is playing, and the music is created by the instruments we learned to play in our growing years. Our level of connection to our partner is like the tuning of those instruments. If we regularly invest time and energy into meaningfully connecting with our partner, the instruments are in tune, the music is beautiful, and the dance we do together is smooth. We can even laugh about it when someone gets their foot stepped on.

However, when we're disconnected, the song plays out of tune and everything sounds like nails on a blackboard. If there is a dance, it might feel more like a poorly executed version of the "Thriller" music video, and no one is laughing at the foot stomps.

So, a functioning relationship requires couples to nurture their connection, so that the instruments play in tune and they can enjoy the beautiful music of being mutually attuned.

Many couples get a deer-in-the-headlights look when asked about connection, either because they aren't aware of how they've been successful at connecting in the past, or they're not sure where to start to weave in new sources of connection if their relationship has undergone a fundamental change that requires some adaptation.

Fortunately, meaningful connection isn't intellectually challenging – there are countless ways to do it! However, for couples who are already in a rough spot, they may not be in the emotional space necessary to make efforts at, or benefit from, connecting activities. These couples are best directed to a relationship therapist who can offer support and help begin the healing process before things get worse.

Winter is here, and so is COVID-19 – how do we stay active?

January 25, 2021

With gyms closed for much of 2020, many Manitobans got used to exercising outdoors.

But with the entire province in code red, Manitobans are living with restrictions and facing sedentary lifestyles – all during the coldest months of the year.

How do we keep active during a Winnipeg winter, when many indoor activities are nearly impossible?

Be proactive

Think about your unique situation and plan activities you feel could be done safely/comfortably throughout the winter, even if social restrictions stay in place. And consider the things that might have stood in the way of a winter exercise regime in the past.

For instance, if you live near a well-groomed path, you might be able to easily plan a walking or jogging route. If the paths near you are typically icy or hard to navigate, you can order clip-on shoe accessories that can help give you traction.

If you're looking to stay active while staying indoors, you could also look at ordering a treadmill or exercise bike (on the pricier side) or some cheaper supplies to help you do basic strength training in your living room.

Another thing to consider is potential equipment shortages. COVID-19 has prompted mass supply and demand issues for various items, including workout equipment, computers and bikes. This made holiday shopping a much larger challenge for many.

With all of this in mind, you should start looking for any equipment or items you need sooner than later. You may need to shop online, and while some businesses are closed due to restrictions, many are offering curbside pickup for safe shopping.

Get out of your comfort zone

For some, staying active may require moving out of our comfort zone, as the prospect of outdoor activity when it is –30C does not always sound appealing. However, trying new activities can be exciting and lead to the start of new hobbies.

You may surprise yourself and find that you actually do enjoy our cold Manitoba winters. Manitoba has a lot of trails to explore, and cross-country skiing or snowshoeing might prove a worthy substitute if you're not into jogging.

Although the cold is not always appealing, fresh air (even in the frigid temperatures) does assist us with our overall physical and mental health. And by moving around, you may even find you're not as cold as you expected to be. Please remember to dress appropriately for the weather – wear layers to take off if you get too warm.

Be resourceful

Trying to get fit indoors, but can't get any equipment? You can find almost everything online these days. For instance, the Fitbit and Nike Training Club apps feature tips on body-weight fitness – using only your body and items you have around the home to keep in shape.

Yoga tutorials and exercise videos are also very easy to find at low cost (and often free!) on sites like YouTube, meaning money doesn't have to be the deciding factor in staying fit.

If you're not ready to take the full plunge into a new exercise routine, you can simply do some push-ups or jumping jacks while your coffee is brewing.

And if you're worried about bothering your downstairs neighbours or family members with your new regime, you can even find tutorials online that outline quiet ways to build strength.

Take that first step

Starting a new fitness regimen during a pandemic may seem like a lot to ask of yourself.

But improving your cardiovascular health during the COVID-19 pandemic is a great way to set yourself up for a healthier routine down the line, and a healthy heart can prevent long-term health problems from popping up (or getting worse).

Once you start regularly exercising, you may question how you ever lived without it. Starting is the hardest part – but once you put that first foot forward, the next steps will be even easier.

Virtual health care now a permanent part of personal health coverage

January 4, 2021

With the second wave of COVID-19 upon us, seeking in-person care might not be feasible for everyone. However, attending to our health and well-being is more important than ever.

Earlier in the pandemic, we partnered with EQ Care to offer a virtual health care platform for members covered under our personal health plans.At the time, we announced that coverage would be available throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are now including EQ Care as a permanent part of our personal health coverage moving forward.

When surveyed by Abacus Data, 38 per cent of prairie residents (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) said they would prefer a virtual visit as the first point of contact for future appointments.

With virtual health care growing – and with Manitobans increasingly preferring it as an alternative or supplement to in-person care – ensuring our personal health plan members have access to virtual care is vital.

What is EQ Care?

EQ Care offers members access to confidential, 24/7 digital medical support. Supports include access to physicians, prescription drug management, referrals to specialists and guidance from a virtual care manager.

How does it work?

  1. Visit the EQ Care login page at mbbluecross.eqcare.com or download the EQ Care app via the App Store or Google Play.

    Reference your Manitoba Blue Cross ID card. Enter your Client number under the "Group Number" field and your unique Certificate number under the "Certificate Number" field.

  2. Create an account by simply filling in the required fields with your personal information and contact details and then select your secure password.

  3. Start your visit! Describe your symptoms and within minutes, a Care Manager will welcome you personally to EQ Care and connect you with the medical team. You can choose to receive immediate care or book an appointment for a later date.

EQ Care can address a wide range of medical needs, including:

  • Chronic disease management
  • Coordinating and scheduling
  • Dermatology
  • Eye infections
  • Lab requisitions
  • Medical testing
  • Migraines and sinus infections
  • Prescription home delivery service
  • Prescription renewals
  • Sexual health
  • Specialist appointments
  • Stress and mental health

If you're a personal health plan member, don't forget to register today!

Manitoba Blue Cross responds to Harvest Manitoba's call to action
Helping our fellow Manitobans have a healthy holiday season

December 21, 2020

Manitoba Blue Cross is donating $10,000 to Harvest Manitoba to help the organization ensure no Manitoban goes hungry this holiday season.

"As a homegrown organization with deep roots in this community, we're strong advocates for Manitobans helping Manitobans," said Manitoba Blue Cross President & CEO Benjamin Graham.

Manitoba Blue Cross commends Harvest Manitoba for their exceptional efforts on a day-to-day basis to care for and nourish our community. "We understand how stressful the holiday season is on a regular year. The pandemic has elevated these stresses, creating even more challenges that are impacting the physical and mental health of so many in our province," Graham said.

As a company invested in the health and well-being of Manitobans, stepping up to support those in the community is a priority for Manitoba Blue Cross. The company has taken several actions to address needs in the community during the pandemic, including the introduction of virtual health services, free grief counselling for all Manitobans and offering additional mental health supports and immediate access counselling lines for those with assistance coverage.

"In times like these, it's crucial that we ensure Manitobans have access to the right supports," Graham said. "We don't want any Manitoban to feel like they are facing this alone and don't have the supports they need, including knowing where their next meal is coming from."

Mental health support for members with employee or individual assistance coverage

December 1, 2020

Sometimes when you need to talk, you need to talk now.

Along with many other stresses, COVID-19 has left many of us feeling disconnected. And with the entire province being in code red, the most severe level on Manitoba's pandemic response system, worries may be stacking up.

Safe counselling during COVID-19

At Manitoba Blue Cross, we're adapting to our ever-changing situation by ensuring a variety of service mediums are available for counselling, including phone, online video, email and text-based options. To abide by public health guidelines, in-person services are currently suspended.

Connect Now

As part of our efforts to support you during COVID-19, we launched Connect Now earlier this year. This resource is a clinical, personal and immediate support line where members can call to connect instantly with a professional counsellor from our EAP without the need for an appointment.

How does it work?

If you have employee or individual assistance coverage, you can access Connect Now:

  • Directly at 204.786.8880
  • Toll free at 1.800.590.5553

Calls to Connect Now are not deducted from (or counted towards) the sessions covered under your plan – you can still utilize the remaining sessions available to you.

Connect Now is meant to provide immediate support in the moment and intended for those who may not be able to participate in on-going counselling at this time. If there is a need for regular contact, you can discuss options with your Connect Now counsellor. If you know you'd like to start ongoing counselling, you can also call us directly to initiate the intake process.

Don't want to talk about the pandemic? No problem. While we launched this temporary service to help alleviate some of the pressures that have arisen during the pandemic, in no way do we want to limit conversations to COVID-19 concerns specifically.

Counsellor Connect

If you have employee or individual assistance coverage, you can now access our online scheduler, Counsellor Connect.

Through Counsellor Connect, you can complete your intake online and use the tool to request your first appointment with a counsellor.

How does it work?

To access this online feature, visit mb.bluecross.ca and select the Counsellor Connect option under Mental Health & Wellness.

At the current time, Counsellor Connect is limited to conducting intake and requesting an appointment online (which means a counsellor will follow up on your online request to schedule the appointment), but once our in-person services resume, members preferring face-to-face counselling will be able to schedule their first appointment directly through Counsellor Connect by choosing from a comprehensive list of session types that ensure members are matched with the appropriate counsellor.

Commitment to flexibility

Coping in this unique environment takes flexibility. We want to ensure our members' and their family's needs are met by being flexible and understanding in our service delivery. Please don't hesitate to contact our intake lines directly to learn how we can help.

  • Directly at 204.786.8880
  • Toll free at 1.800.590.5553

A Manitoba Top Employer for the 11th year

November 25, 2020

For the eleventh time in 15 years, we're proud to be named one of Manitoba's Top Employers by Mediacorp.

In our most recent employee satisfaction survey, 96 per cent of employees said they were proud to work at Manitoba Blue Cross while 97 per cent of employees reported enjoying working here.

"We do our best to create an environment where an employee feels they can bring their whole self to work," says Brenda Slikker, Chief Operating Officer. "Life is complex, especially as we navigate through the unknowns of the pandemic, and personal stressors don't take a vacation while we're at work. That's why we feel it's essential to provide benefits and resources that care for the whole employee and help foster an overall sense of well-being."

Read the Winnipeg Free Press article or learn about why we were selected.

Learn more about working with Manitoba Blue Cross.

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