Behaviour

Connection and LinkedIn

Connections are all around us. To me connection is a positive word. It means I have a link with someone that, generally speaking, is a good one.

Some connections remain for a long time and others are shorter. They all have their purpose and that’s OK.

How do we connect with people today? It used to be mainly through school, friends, work or family.

Today’s connections are made in all sorts of ways. Social media, chat rooms, dating sites etc. LinkedIn is one.

I would like to know more about people I connect with, but how do I do it? At what stage does contacting someone via message or email become a nuisance? What is the LinkedIn etiquette?

We are all on LinkedIn for a reason. Why else would we make the effort to be on here otherwise?

I am here to connect with people and hopefully meet them to see who they are and what they do. My livelihood depends on making connections to get work. Being a small independent business is difficult but I love what we do. Making a difference to someone is a rewarding place to be. Even if only one person that attends a workshop learns and changes something in a positive way, it’s worth it.

What do other small companies do to get business? I know this is relevant to a lot of people!

Suggestions and thoughts are welcome!!

Please reply either in comments on LinkedIn or e-mail: ase@familyfocusuk.com

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Having it all?

I love podcasts and try to listen to different ones, recommendations from family and friends.

This morning whilst out walking, I listen to Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton’s High Low episode from 3 October where lots of interesting topics were discussed like Brett Kavanaugh and Having it all or not.

They talked about different views from women and the expectations that come with the various life choices we all have to make at times in our lives.

As a woman, it seems the choices are at times harder to make as the impact is still, generally, greater for a woman compared to a man. In particular the choice whether to have children or not.

What no woman can ever plan, is how life does change after having a child. We can plan certain things as much as we like; when and where to give birth, when to go back to work, childcare, sharing and being equal with our partners etc.

What we can’t plan is the emotional impact this massive change in our lives has. Not only have we got this little baby in our home, all of a sudden needing care and attention, but it also has it’s own mind and shows it early on. It might not be what I thought it was going to be like! Can I change my mind?! How on earth do I cope with this on my own? There is no manual to follow, only learning by doing.

Also, our partners might have different ideas about how to look after our child and that can become another problem to deal with. Not to mention mothers and mothers-in-law that might get involved and give advise whether we want it or not.

I think it’s important to talk and be open about fears, hopes and voice any concerns you might have. No matter how ‘silly’ they might sound, just say it! These are the things that brings us closer as couples and cements the relationship. Assumptions are the opposite and too many times, these are the things that break couples up! “I assumed she knew how I felt”, "He should know I want him to do this” etc.

The having it all is a myth as far as I am concerned. There is no such thing. You might have it all, but that does not mean “all” is good at all times. Life goes up and down and that is normal. Happiness is not a constant, it’s an emotion that comes and goes.

We all struggle at times and it’s not always what it seems…

Our children will grow up understanding that this is life and that’s OK. As long as there is love, understanding and empathy, we will survive and eventually thrive.

Talk to your partner, family and friends. Ask for help when you need it. Know that you are not alone! Even the HR department at work has humans working who also suffer at times!

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Perfectionism and Mental Health

Most of us will relate to the word ‘perfectionist’ and will probably have images of someone who can’t leave things undone; who sets extremely high standards for themselves and others; often appears stressed and under pressure and seems to be intolerant of those who don’t behave or perform to their high standards.

Perfectionism is one of those character traits that can be a real positive (if channeled correctly) but can also be a big contributor to stress and burnout.

So what are the characteristics of perfectionism? 

Fear of failure:  You see failure as a reflection on your abilities or your value.

All or nothing thinking: You are very black or white – right or wrong.  You have a tendency to extremes.

Defensiveness. You hate criticism and often get very defensive if you think someone is pointing out your weaknesses or (perceived) failures.

Finding faults with yourself and other:. You are often on the lookout for imperfections in yourself and others. You tend to be largely overcritical of any mistakes and feel it’s important to correct people when they make a mistake.

Inflexibility:  You have a very high standard for both yourself and other people that is a rigid line that needs to be met.  You often say words like ‘must’ ‘should’ have to’ when you speak.

Excessive need for control. You like to control other’s behaviour and thoughts as you see it as helping them from making mistakes (whether they’ve asked for help or not).

Difficulty delegating:  You will often say to yourself ‘if you want this done right – do it yourself’.  You have a tendency to micromanage others around you.

The biggest concern with perfectionism is the link between these ‘workaholic’ behaviours and the drain on your mental and physical energy.  The relentless drive to work to perfection leads to a very rigid thought process and an increase in your body’s (negative) stress response.  Perfectionists often experience anxiety over their performance as they feel unable to live up to (often) unrealistic standards.

Often, a perfectionist creates a cycle of behaviour where exacting standards (which cannot be met) leads to more effort in a strive to achieve and then perceived failure which starts the cycle again. This will affect your energy, your emotions and ultimately your relationships, home life, relaxation and your ability to work. The result is often burnout, depression or the inability to cope with your levels of stress. 

So, before your perfectionism traits start to manifest in excess stress or failed relationships.  Ask yourself some questions and do some reading about how to combat the negative effects of perfectionism and channel the positive traits.

Some websites that might be of interest:-

 https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Perfectionism.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/depression-management-techniques/201203/handling-perfectionism

https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/perfectionism-children/

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Are we present? The impact our phones have on our lives.

I have been noticing more and more how many people sit, whilst with others, on their phones while half listening to what the others are saying. 

The impact this has on a person is not to be underestimated. How does it feel not to be listened to? How does it feel to not be important enough to get the attention from the other person?

On top of that, it can be seen as rude and dismissive to use your phone when you are with others. Think before reaching for it! Can it wait?

This might sound melodramatic but it does have an effect on more people than we might think. Children in particular feel this in a subconscious way and their reaction can often be to play up and be 'naughty'. At least they get some attention even if it's for a bad reason...

What is it about phones and how they have infiltrated our lives in such a massive way? How did we manage before?? To think we managed to meet friends out somewhere and travel without a phone is hard to understand in today’s instant and 24/7 society. The expectation to be reachable alI the time is both positive and negative. It is very convenient to be able to reach someone and check mails etc whilst out and about. But, what choices do we really have? Do we really need to have it with us at all times? To spend an evening with friends and family without phones is more unusual than usual. It makes me sad to think the youngsters of today will most likely never know what it is to be properly present with friends. I have yet to see a group of young people hang without someone busy on their phone. I know I sound like an old biddy and that we need to move with the times but there is no way that communication via apps will ever be as good as face to face. To read someone’s body language, tone of voice and use of words are skills that are important in life. I do hope we can help our youngsters to understand and learn this.

I am as guilty as most of us to feel dependent and when I left my phone in a shop by mistake recently, the panic I felt was immediate. However, having realised this I am now starting to make small changes. I'll have my phone on silent without any buzzing several times a day and at night. I leave home without it if we go out for an evening. (not all the time but small steps...) 

It is an addiction and like other addictions, we can be weaned off it and get more in control of it than the other way around. Have a think about your own phone needs. How does it impact your life? Your family's? Friends? What can you do differently? 

To be present with another person is to be there, listening, noticing and converse because we want to or need to do so. Having a device next to you tends to get in the way. 

Enjoy your next phone free conversation! It's amazing what we can learn.

 

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Adversity and karma?

I too have faced adversity quite a few times in life and I know that having support, being able to talk and being heard are fundamental to getting through difficult and challenging times. No matter have tough these have been, my husband and I have somehow gotten through them by facing it all together. We have learnt that being transparent and honest has paid off. Friends and family have supported us and for this we are immensely grateful. Look after your relationships, be there for others and have empathy. 'What goes around comes around' is something we live by.

Here is an interesting article, a bit of a read but a good one;

5 Steps to Adapt to, Embrace and Transform Significant Adversity

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

written by Jocelyn Duffy, Communication & Contribution Strategist - I Help World-Class Leaders Develop Their Ideas and Master Their Messages

As entrepreneurs or those who live with an entrepreneurial spirit, it is easy to sometimes feel somewhat invincible. We’re in the zone, on a role, thinking outside the box, seeing things from a powerful perspective...and then, from seemingly out of nowhere life shows us something new, something exponentially more challenging than our everyday feats hits.

Being abundantly happy, successful, fulfilled or honoring our life’s purpose obviously won’t grant us immunity from sudden or inexplicable turns. Sometimes adversity or great challenges brushes in as a gentle whisper or a light tap on the shoulder; other times it’s a more pronounced nudge or a giant, unexpected wallop over the head (metaphorically speaking, of course). The later can feel like we’ve been gobsmacked – our life’s course halted, blurred or fully redirected.

Gobsmack: Completely dumbfounded, shocked. From the Irish word "gob" meaning "mouth" (Urban Dictionary)

When we get “gobsmacked,” we are left feeling naïve and unprepared, in spite of all the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gathered along the journey of life. The initial shock can feel like life has forced you off the proverbial cliff, and in the words of the late Tom Petty, there you are “learning to fly, but you ain’t got wings.” Coming down really is the hardest thing.

How do you mentally, emotionally and spiritually process what has happened? How do you reset and get your feet back on the ground, moving forward with life? 

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

Loving our experiences doesn’t mean bypassing the need to feel anger, frustration and sadness; it means that we keep moving through those emotions to reach a place of transformation, where love, instead of fear, leads the way.

Not convinced? Here’s a story of life forcing a friend of mine off a literal cliff:

C.J. Wilkins found enjoyment in jumping off of cliffs. He is a paraglider...was a paraglider – an exhilarating and dangerous sport that requires great knowledge of the weather and air conditions. As a veteran paraglider, he knew when it was safe to jump and he also knew the risks.

On a sunny summer’s day, C.J. jumped off a mountain in western British Columbia and got caught in the convergence of two air masses that spun him around and slammed him into the side of a nearby cliff. After great struggle, first-response crews reached him, air-lifting him to hospital an hour away. He underwent three surgeries to reconstruct his spine. It was questioned whether he would ever walk again.

At the core of who he was, C.J. was a serial entrepreneur. He knew what it was to hold a vision at heart, defy the odds, reach beyond the status quo and take calculated risks. Amazingly, crashing into a mountain hadn’t deterred his entrepreneurial spirit. He used that spirit to push through months of intensive rehabilitation, sharing photos and videos on social media and gathering a squad of cheerleaders.

Pushing the bounds of what was possible, one step at a time, C.J. began walking again. He found strength from his unshakable spirit and from great supporters in hospital and in his life – those who walked by his side, as slow as required, to help him regain his strength. The experienced had humbled him, though by no means did he allow it to stop him.

Over the months that followed, his mind pushed him beyond the matter of a frail spine, bolted together with 13 of pieces of metal. Not only did he walk again, he began to hike and bike with vigor, breaking all notions of what his physical capacity should be. C.J. was authentic about the odds, the struggle and the need for sheer determination, using them all as fuel for his quest to return to living a full life.

Within a year, he was hiking up mountains, keeping pace with friends who were in impeccable shape. When a follow-up surgery freed him to use some of his own natural body function (and liberated him of 5 of the metal plates), he sought higher mountains and tested the limitlessness of not only his recovery and resilience, but also his ability to reach heights not previously known.

C.J. achieved what he did because he believed it was possible, for himself and for anyone. He knew that he had what it takes to fly, even without wings. Embracing his second chance at life, he found another way to leap off of mountains by adapting and adjusting his passion and vision. Instead of paragliding off the mountain peaks, he shifted to biking up them. He found a love and thrill for taking on the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. He biked through France. It was clear that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.

By biking all the way up the mountain and getting the high of swiftly spinning his wheels through the trails on the way down, he had found a new way to embrace the mountains...the same mountains that had crippled him.

He chose to not hate the mountains – he chose to love them.

These experiences that push us off the proverbial cliff or employ the unexpected wallop come in many forms:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Job Loss
  • Major illness
  • The end of a relationship or partnership
  • Financial hardship

When they hit, the feeling is one of being swept away from (or swiftly off) our comfort zone, like a giant gust of wind redirecting our path. After giving ourselves the necessary time to feel and heal from the adversity, we have the choice whether or not to see the awareness and opportunity that has been created by the painful shift.

Regardless of how hard our experiences are – those mountains that move us – we can choose to love them. Our experiences are the hand that feeds our soul by showing us the potential we hold when we are pushed to the proverbial edge. If we open ourselves us to being students and learning from life, these events can also become the ties that bind us – proving opportunity to learn and teach something of immeasurable value. They can help us grow stronger as a collective society that supports one another in navigating life’s journey with greater ease.

Love your experiences – they are your teachers.

These forced leaps of life, steering up into the depths of the unknown, allow us the opportunity to be introspective, to reassess our current path and gain clarity of what really matters, to us and to those we support.

Here are 5 steps you can take to adapt to, embrace and transform significant challenge or adversity:

3 Choices to Navigate Significant Challenge and Become Boundless

1. Get to Know Yourself – While adversity often forces us to be introspective, it is also crucial to have self-awareness prior to facing tumultuous times. When we know who we are – our beliefs, values, attributes, abilities and attitude – we have a rock to stand on, so to speak. The more you know about what you are able to do, the more you can do all that you can, even when seated amid great adversity. Secondarily, self-awareness is key because when something happens that leaves us feeling like everything has been shaken or swept away, having the knowledge that we haven’t lost who we are is extremely powerful. No matter what you lose, you can never lose yourself or your ability to be resilient. This awareness can become the center-point and fuel for regaining your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength. C.J. knew that he could achieve the impossible, and he did. Choose to defy (“I am,” “I can,” “I will.”) rather than justify (“I can’t because...”).

2. Compassion and Small Action – Think of how you’d treat a child who has had a big fall. You aren’t going to force them to immediately get up. Chance are, you’ll comfort them and see what they need. From there, you take gradual steps and do what you can to ease the pain and help them restore their smile and their ability to run freely. The same should apply for how you treat yourself in the wake of great adversity. Take small steps, be supportive of yourself and find others to support you. C.J. was only able to walk again because of those who helped hold him up during his most difficult weeks of rehabilitation.

3. Befriend Change – Love your metaphorical mountains, big and small. Love the valleys too. Change, good or bad, foreseen or unexpected, opens the door to development and growth. If you’ve never so much as changed the location of your toothbrush, the contents of your kitchen or office drawers or taken a new route to the office, then any unexpected change will leave you lost for direction. Make small changes a regular part of your life. They will exponentially increase your adaptability to significant or unexpected change.

4. Maximize Your Momentum – Here’s where most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit: It takes an enormous amount of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength to keep moving forward after great challenge or adversity. Simply reaching the point of reinstating our previous “status quo” can feel like a momentous feat. Have you considered how much momentum you’ve build when you’ve worked so hard to rebuild or re-establish your life? What if you could continue to use that momentum to take you to place that you didn’t even know you could go? C.J. used the momentum of defying the odds to walk again and set it in motion to making his way to the mountain peaks, not only on foot, but also on bike, all over the world! Take stock of your strength, value it and make it your fuel. Do more than overcome. When you open yourself up to the possibility of what you can create in your life, for yourself and for others, you see how boundless you can really be. Let your momentum take you to where you are capable of going. Don’t stop at what you know, because getting gobsmacked has provided you with the opportunity to take your life to new heights. Be willing to venture into the unknown. Make the choice to use your momentum to grow from, transcend and transform your experiences...and perhaps to give meaning to the experiences themselves by using them to help, teach or support others).

No one ever said the journey of life was going to be easy. Destruction can be a powerful prerequisite and fuel for reconstruction – for building something more deeply purposeful than we previously knew possible. This is not to negligently say that “everything happens for a reason,” but rather that within every circumstance, we have the opportunity to use our experiences as the foundation to create something meaningful – something that fills our heart and helps ease the way for others.

Love your mountains. Let them take you into the unknown, for there you might just discover your boundless potential.

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How adaptable is your child? How adaptable are you?

Recent events have really got me thinking about the family structure and how adaptable it needs to be. This last week our family of 4 was a family of 2 and it was fascinating to see how we ‘adapted’! 

Adaptability is one of the most crucial coping skills we need to teach our children.  Every child will have a degree of adaptability as their trait, meaning how easily or fast they are able to adjust to changes in their environment.  It does not include the initial emotional reaction.  Eg:  If a parent leaves the home and the child cries (emotional reaction).  What happens then?  Does the child adapt and attach to the new childminder or is the child unable to adapt and continues to cry?

I found a lovely quiz to help you determine how adaptable your children are:-

Track your answers on the following scale from one to five:

  1. Do your children cry and get upset when you ask them to finish an activity and move on to something else?
  2. Do surprises upset your children?
  3. Do your children find it stressful to change ideas or routines?
  4. Do you feel like you have to coax or beg your children for days to get them involved in new activities?
  5. Is it difficult for your children to make decisions and when they do, do they agonize over their choices?

No                                                                                        Yes

1         __         2        __      3       __         4    __            5

Adapts quickly                                                          Adapts slowly

Looking at your answers you should relate to the following traits:-

LESS ADAPTABLE

  • More rigid
  • More resistant
  • Less comfortable with new people
  • Likes routine
  • Likes predictability
  • More cautious (less risky children)
  • Less influenced by peer pressure

MORE ADAPTABLE

  • Adjusts quickly to changes
  • Happy with new routines
  • Easier to parent
  • Go with the flow children
  • Flexible
  • Enjoy new things/places/ideas/activities
  • Can be impulsive and risk taking

As adults, we are much less able to change our innate traits or personality, so the more we can encourage adaptability in our children the more they will be able to adapt to the demands of adult and working life.  

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Conflict and courage

I've been working with a few different clients recently who are going through tough times at work. The common denominator is relationships with managers and work colleagues. They are finding it hard to fit in and to feel accepted by others and struggling because of it.

What can be done when this is going on? How can a person help themselves and what do we expect from management?

What we have discussed in our sessions is their own mindset and reactions in various situations. What have they become aware of? What choice do they have? 

A bully will keep on going when their victim reacts to them in a way that feeds their sense control. The feeling of being powerful is then reinforced and they will continue.

The subtle changes in our own reaction to a bully can be really effective. It's kind of like a tennis match where a ball is smashed only to be caught and not returned straight away. If we hold on to the ball and lobb it back in a nice, friendly way, the smashing becomes less fun.

By replying in a disarming way like "I'm sorry you feel that way" or " Goodness, I didn't mean to...." or similar, the person doesn't get ammunition to continue to be nasty. 

Acceptance of differences in the workplace is so important as we come from different countries, backgrounds and situations. We don't tend to know what is going on in someone else's life and why they are difficult to deal with at times. It can explain a behaviour even if it doesn't make it OK. 

As far as managing staff and the treatment of each other in the workplace, the company needs to provide training and make sure the managers are vigilant, understanding and empathic to staff that 'dare' to bring any issues to the table. It is hard to have to do this and no one does this lightly. To be heard and seen is vital.

When someone speaks up, others tend to follow or at least respond and say 'me too'. 

Be courageous, speak up and stand tall!

 

 

 

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Summertime happiness?

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful summer and the streets are full of people with lots of friends, things to do and happy looking! Are they though?

A lot of people struggle in the summer with depression and anxiety. There are a lot of reasons for this like; high expectations, not pretty enough, body conscious, lack of sleep due to heat and/or light, different schedule and  routines. 

All these things can be discombobulating and disrupt everyday life.

There are lots of things you can do to help prevent summer depression and be able to actually enjoy this beautiful time of the year:

Know yourself and recognise the symptoms. 

Find someone to talk to about your emotions and take your feelings of sadness seriously. Keep fit Exercise, drinking enough water and stay in the shade and cool places when possible.

If the bedroom is to light, hang blackout curtains. Also use a fan to cool the room.

Be realistic about your schedule. What are your priorities and what can wait?

Be kind to yourself, do what you feel comfortable with. It's OK to say no if that is what is right.

We are lucky to have all the seasons in the UK so get out there and enjoy the summer! This too will pass too soon.

  

 

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Helping your child through tough times...

Do you have a teenager who has just finished a tough period of exams?  Or do you have a child that’s had to deal with a tough situation?  All children will experience degrees of stress at some time in their lives (peer pressure, bullying, school pressure, arguments with friends or family etc) and our influence, as parents, is crucial.

If your child is in the school system they will, at some stage, experience exam pressure.  And it’s not just about writing the exams, the stress of waiting for results is often worse – especially for an anxious child.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and anxiety in your children and help them maintain a sense of balance during difficult times.

  1. This too will pass.  Children and adults cope much better if they know there is an endpoint.  Overpowering feelings can be controlled by knowing that they are not permanent – and they will pass.
  2. Challenge them on unreasonable thoughts (extremism) and remind them of previous instances of success or coping.
  3. If necessary help them draw up plans for potential outcomes.  If they need certain results to continue with their studies – draw up a series of outcomes and paths they can take.
  4. Make sure they know you will love and support them unconditionally.
  5. Build their confidence and talk about how they are feeling.
  6. Use self-disclosure.  Tell them about situations you’ve been in and how you coped.
  7. Plan something fun for after results day or the end of term together.  An outing or a holiday is something positive to look forward to.

The coping skills they learn in childhood are essential to help them cope in adulthood – so use the time to guide and help them develop confidence and strategies to get through these stressful and difficult times.

If your child continues to battle or you need more help – don’t be afraid to ask.  Start with your school or GP or if you are really worried, get in touch with CAMHS.

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Why EQ?

EQ - Emotional Intelligence plays a big part in our lives. We might not be aware of it but it affects most areas. The awareness to develop our EQ is on the rise and is an important step in the fight to combat failing mental health. The connection between the two has been proven by many researchers including Dan Goleman. Here is an explanation of what having high EQ means:

  1. Self-awareness: If a person has a healthy sense of self-awareness, he understands his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how his actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.
  2. Self-regulation: A person with a high EQ can maturely reveal her emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of squelching her feelings, she expresses them with restraint and control.
  3. Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They're not motivated simply by money or a title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and driven by an inner ambition.
  4. Empathy: A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to empathize allows a person to provide great service and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.
  5. People skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust quickly with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them.

By using these skills we can avoid going further down mentally and possibly prevent mental health struggles. Become aware, listen and learn about your mind and body.

As far as children goes, they learn what EQ is mainly from us parents. If we are aware, they will become as well. We will always be their role models whether we like it or not.

Here is a great article on how to teach our kids EQ from ahaparenting.com:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/emotional-intelligence/foundation-for-EQ

Enjoy!!

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Are you a helicopter parent?

There is a lot of writing about mollycoddling and helicopter parenting in the media. The impact of this way of parenting is not only on the families themselves but everyone else around them.

The schools are affected in a detrimental way as many children do not like the fact that they are just one in a group and not no 1. This causes them to act in a way to get attention and mostly in a bad way. Bad attention is better than no attention.

How can we help parents to understand that by overprotecting, paving the way and not saying NO to their children, they are creating insecure, low self esteemed, demanding little people who don't understand what acceptable behaviour is? 

Here is a great article by Amy Brown who is an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University. It's a well written article and sums up everything I want to say. Please read!

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/helicopter-or-lawnmower-modern-parenting-styles-can-get-in-the-way-of-raising-well-balanced-children-a7850476.html

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Helping your toddlers to grow up.

Following on from our tips on toddlers from 2 weeks ago – parents ask us 'How to balance their toddler's needs with their own?'

Three areas that seem to be frustrating parents are:  Sharing; Indepdence; Resilience

The facts are very clear that children under the age of 3 do not have the ability to understand what ‘sharing’ is.  This is why they snatch and shove.  Our job is to teach them how to deal with their feelings of frustration and disappointment in order to teach them coping skills.  Try (hard) not to punish them when they ‘behave badly’ but keep modelling the behaviour you want from them and use words like ‘let’s give … a turn’ or ‘let’s swop’.  Reward positive behaviour!

Another area of impending disaster is trying to let your toddler learn independence whilst at the same time being able to keep to your time management goals!  It’s your job to help your toddler become independent and capable and the way to do this is to allow them space to practice making decisions.  Give a choice of 2 so you retain control, but they have a choice (i.e. would you like to wear the red top or the green top today).  As they get older they can plan their choices for a few days in advance to save both of you time.

And what about resilience?  Do you let them fall down and pick themselves up?  This is a really important part of growing up and your toddler needs to learn that it’s OK to learn about new things (riding a bike, climbing a tree) and that you will be there to support them if they scape a knee (with a lifesaving plaster) plus heaps of praise when they achieve a new milestone in ability and coping.  Try to allow your child to take (calculated) risks.   Let them climb one step higher and if they happen to fall, try not to rush in and ‘save’ them.  Ask them first, ‘are you OK or do you need me to help you?’.  Help them to gain independence and feelings of accomplishment.

Try to accompany them on the journey as much as you can rather than simply cover them in cotton wool and prevent them from taking those ‘big steps’ into the world.

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Toddlers in the house?

If you are the parent of a toddler (or two?) chances are you feel as though you have very little control over your life.  Your day may seem to be governed by demands, tantrums and relative chaos.  And then there is your sleep deprivation…

In the midst of all this, you have a child you love and adore so you just need to get through the day!

Toddlers are supposed to move, question you, make demands, explore their worlds.  They are on a mission to be independent and will instinctively work towards this but they aren't able to do everything themselves.  This leads to frustration.  Theirs...and then yours!

So here are some tips for coping with this stage of your child’s life:-

  • Lower your expectations and stay as flexible as possible.  It is impossible to control all that a toddler does, so allow yourself some flexibility and be prepared for change.
  • Help your toddler to be heard by remembering that their behaviour is about how they are feeling.  Go down to their level and tap in to their feelings.  This will help you understand their behaviour and manage their emotions.
  • Don’t pack the day with activities; make sure you leave gaps and some quiet times for them.  Too much stimulation and noise leads to overactive toddlers and we know what happens then…
  • Toddlers struggle with emotion and coping, especially when they feel low in energy or are too tired.  Tune in to their energy cycles and don’t plan a trip to the grocery store when they are tired!
  • One-One time with your toddler is time you will never have again.  Try to make some space in your busy schedule to just ‘be’ with your toddler with no distractions and not doing anything on your list of things to do!  Get down on the floor and build blocks; go outside and spray each other with water; read a book; bake a cake…just be together.  This is called being present and connecting with your child…it builds trust, growth and that bond between you.

The cliché is ‘they grow up so fast’…but they really do.  Enjoy this toddler stage for all the affection and focus they give you – you’ll miss it when they grow up!

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Who's the boss ?

Have you got a ‘terrible tyrant’ at home?  Do you feel like your toddler or teen rules the roost?

Try to think of your home like a workplace and engage your brain to support your parenting style to create a work space that works for you.

A lovely term to describe this is, ‘Parenting up without patronising’.

It all comes down to your approach to discipline – or your lack thereof!  Every parent will know that if you let your child do something once, they’ll do it again.  It’s about management and discipline.  Work out what lines you won’t cross, and stick to them!  No matter how distressing the behavioural objections from your child.

Here are some strategies: -

Stay calm. If your ‘young boss’ is throwing a tantrum don’t get caught up in it.  It’s not a negotiation.  Be the adult and stay calm.

Anticipate problems. Children like routine; they want to know what to expect and when.  You’ll avoid a lot of problems if you give a heads-up to potential conflicts.

Use Humour.  As the adult, you have the advantage of great vocabulary, experience and being able to see the bigger picture.  Keep a sense of humour and you’ll be amazed at how it can diffuse a tense situation. With teens though, be careful not to patronise or belittle with sarcastic humour!

Give choices. Stay away from yes or no questions.  Give choices between 2 desirable options (i.e. the green top or the red top – rather than a top or no top)

Praise.  Counter negativity with positivity.  Trust us…it works!

Model good behaviour. Manage up by example. Take an honest look at your own behaviour to ensure you’re not a terribly boss too!

Keep it brief. Young kids have the attention span of…slightly longer than flies. Especially with teens – keep it short and simple – no lectures!

Give the full picture. As often as possible give reasons for your decisions.  Age appropriate of course – but a simple ‘no’ with no reason is a red flag to most kids.

Set boundaries. Know what you’re willing to tolerate - and get involved when you need to.  Don’t say ‘later’ or ‘when dad gets home’.  Deal with things as they happen.

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Sensory Overload Anyone?

Do you ever feel like your child is becoming overwhelmed by lights, sounds, activity or even you?  Do you worry that they are ‘not coping’ with everything happening around them – or not reacting the same way as other children?

Here are a few signs that may indicate your child is battling with sensory stimuli:-

  • Crying
  • Quick change of mood
  • Irritability
  • Nervous 
  • Strange behaviour (holding their ears; hiding their face; running away from the situation)
  • A blank or removed expression on their faces
  • Rocking back and forth or even knocking their heads against a wall
  • Falling asleep unexpectedly
  • A strange ‘keening’ sound with agitation

If you notice any of these behaviours – make some changes to your child’s environment: -

·        Keep it calm and simple.   Slow down!

·        Keep the TV and radio off or on low volume

·        Stay away from big crowds or busy playgrounds/shops

·        Plan ‘sensory’ activities (clothes shopping/dentist etc) when your child is at their best (after meal time and naps)

·        Talk.  To everyone involved with your child and work together.

·        Hold your child in a tight bear hug or wrap them up in a big towel so they feel contained and ‘held’ when they are becoming overwhelmed.

·        Create a ‘calm corner’ for them in the house with pillows, a tent for darkness or anything else that will make them feel safe and calm.

Remember:  Sensory Overload does not mean there is something wrong with your child.  But it may mean you need to learn more about it to help your child cope better.  If the behaviour persists, please talk to a health professional as your child may be on the spectrum for sensory processing disorder.

Scaredy cat?

To get scared at times is normal and needs to be acknowledge. In fact, to acknowledge fear is even more important as that is an indicator that tells us to watch out. Flight or fight? Our kids need to learn to listen to their instincts and act accordingly.

When children get scared they learn to understand risk, evaluate threat and manage emotions. By helping them to understand what fears are, we can help to them to prepare to handle situations that might come their way.

Here are some tips:

1. Explain that fear is a normal part of being a person.  Tell kids that all adults (including their mum and dad) get scared sometimes.  Explain what happens in the body when you get scared – the heart beats fast, the breathing increases and the hands might shake a bit.   

2. Remember that children get scared of all kinds of things that as adults we don’t usually fear. Most of these fears will disappear by themselves.  Generally, fears do not signal any “deeper issue”.

3. When children tell you they are afraid of something, try not to respond with “that’s silly, everything is fine” or “there’s nothing to be afraid of”.  Although we mean this to be reassuring, these statements can send a message that children should NOT experience fear and there is something bad about feeling like this. 

4. Instead, at least on some occasions, ask children more about how they feel.  Ask specific questions like: what makes them scared and what they wish they could change.  Then tell them that you are sorry they feel worried and that you love them and will be there for them.  This doesn’t need to be a drawn out conversation but simply take one or two minutes to talk with them. Sometimes you won’t have time or the energy for this and that is okay too.  

5. Some childhood fears can be dealt with by accommodating the child’s wishes.  For example, it is fine for children to have a nightlight for as long as they want one, for them to come home after playing at a friends’ house rather than sleeping over, for them to not have to pet dogs, to not have to go to the circus or watch television shows they find disturbing. Children should not “have to learn” to be brave with issues that can be easily avoided.  They will have to learn to deal with many unavoidable fears soon enough, it is quite acceptable for them to be spared some of their fears.

6. However, certain fears do interfere with life and are less easily avoided.  For example, sometimes fears of school, being with other children, not doing things perfectly, parents being hurt and so on start to stop children from being involved in important parts of life (eg, school, socialising, and play). For these fears, try to help children learn “brave behaviour”.  Think about the kinds of things you want your child to do in those situations, break these actions into steps and teach these skills in the same way you teach children to use a knife and fork.  Ask children to act brave just a little at a time, be patient, and reward each step they make.   The key is to focus on encouraging confident behaviour (eg, being at a friend’s house for increasing amounts of time) and not focus on feelings (eg, how anxious the child feels).  The child needs to learn that they can “be” brave, even when they are not “feeling” brave.

7. We often fear what we don’t understand and so much is new to children. It can often help to give children some sense of understanding and “control” over things they fear. When children appear afraid, acknowledge the feeling but then help them explore the source of their fear with your support. For example, if your child is startled by loud noises, say “it looks like that noise frightened you; let’s go together to see what it is”. Invite children to come closer to look with you when they are ready and help them experiment with the thing they fear with your support to help them feel braver (eg, turn on and off the vacuum cleaner, turn the volume up and down, press the noisy toy to see what it does). 

8. We need to be careful that we do not accidentally reward or reinforce “scared” behaviour in children.  If we always pay a great deal of attention to a child who is talking in a frightened voice, if we seem anxious ourselves about a child being scared, then we send two subconscious messages to this child: (1) “I am particularly interested in you when you are worried.” (2) “Being worried is wrong and we must change this”. These messages are not helpful.  This does not mean ignoring a child’s fears, but it does mean making sure it is not the only time children get our full attention.

9. It is important to help children think through their fears rather than always reassuring them ourselves.  If a child can come up with a reassuring statement on their own, they are more likely to believe it than if they have just heard it from a parent.  To help children come up with their own reassuring statements, ask them questions like:  hmm, IF that did happen, how would you handle it?  Do you think that is likely to happen or not very likely to happen?  Do you think that there is some other way of thinking about that? and so on.  

10. Remember that helping kids deal with fear (and other emotions) is a life long quest.  Try to be patient.

Good luck!!

 

Why does my child keep hitting others?

Has your child ever lashed out and hit you or another child?  Have you had complaints of your child kicking or shoving another?  How about hair pulling?  Just like tantrums (blog of the 12th June) - physical ‘violence’ in a child is something they need to learn (as early as possible) is unacceptable behaviour.  They must understand that there will be consequences with this type of behaviour and this does not mean hitting them back!

Why the violence?  Most of the time it is the result of feelings of frustration in your child.  It is their way of expressing a deep level of frustration or anger and they lash out physically at people they feel are ‘causing’ their pain.

 What to do?

Ask your daughter why she is feeling angry.  Ask your son what you can do to help him get rid of his frustrations.  Through talking to your child work out what is the cause of the behaviour and the reason behind their feeling hurt, pain or frustration.  Sometimes just by letting them know that you are paying attention and have noticed how they are feeling will already do a lot to reduce their frustrations.  Use positive parenting a lot – which in this case means age-appropriate directions and logical and clear consequences.   

Remember: No shaming / No Guilt / No labelling - it doesn't help things!

Just like everything else you do – be consistent.  It’s NEVER OK to hit another child or lash out in public.  Stop it the first time – and every time.  Be clear about what type of behaviour you expect – and MODEL it yourself.  Make sure your child knows you are watching carefully and praise them when they behave well.

It is so important to catch this early as if left unchecked - this can develop into some nasty 'bullying' habits later on....

+ More specific tips on biting in 2 weeks time…

My child is impossible !

Ever spoken those words?  Ever felt like ‘giving up’ when you child throws a major temper tantrum in the middle of the store and everyone stares at you?  Well – you’re not alone!  And let me assure you – no one’s child is perfect – no matter what they say or post on social media!  Every child will have something they battle with – and every parent will have areas of parenting they find particularly hard.  The trick is to learn as much as you can about how to cope and  manage your own parenting through all the trials and tribulations.  

 
Tantrums in Public
Although initially a tantrum is a reaction to a feeling – if children don’t learn how to control and cope with these feelings – their tantrums won’t just ‘go away’.  In fact, they may stay with them – or even get worse!  You think toddler tantrums are bad – imagine a demanding, excessive teenager!  You need to ‘check’ your child’s tantrums early on and teach them how to cope with how they’re feeling and channel this into the correct behaviour. 

For example – at the first sign of a tantrum (falling down on the floor; becoming hysterical; kicking; screaming) tell your child firmly ‘to stop or else we are going to leave (the store, restaurant, movie, friends etc).   If you feel more comfortable giving them a warning first, then do that.  But only 1 warning for a ‘tantrum’ event.  I.e. say: ‘This is your only warning.  You need to stop ‘behaviour’ or we will leave immediately’…and then folks…you MUST FOLLOW THROUGH !  That means no matter how inconvenient it is for you – you MUST LEAVE !  If you lose money – sorry for you – but it will be worth it in the long run.  If it’s embarrassing, say sorry and if necessary make it up to the friend/party parent etc later – but this is the only way your child will learn. 

Then.  When your child is distracted and has calmed down – try and find out what they were feeling at the time of the tantrum.  What made them feel so frustrated that they were unable to cope and had to behave in that way to express themselves?  Often they don’t have enough language to express themselves and they get beside themselves with frustration.  Try and learn how to pre-empt tantrums.  Watch their emotions and mood; work with actions (sign language) with them to communicate with you; give them some space to work it out; sometimes they need to be ignored; praise them a lot when they’re behaving well; create a diversion or distraction; hug them; use empathy; model the behaviour you want – be calm yourself & keep a sense of humour – laugh it off!

Then.  Really NB!  The next time you head out for a similar event – speak to your child beforehand and say, ‘we are going back to ‘name the place’.   I would like to see ‘name the behaviour you want’ as I would like to be able to stay for the whole event this time.’  Don’t blame the child and rehash their bad behaviour – use ‘I language’ and be positive about what you want to see happen.

Find more tips on our website:www.familyfocusuk.com (parenting tips)

+ More tips in the following weeks…

 

How do boys learn to make good choices?

A lot is written about teenage boys and their behaviours, particularly in groups. Egging each other on and not thinking about consequences or that they might actually be hurting someone else. So if you’re the parent of a boy, you need to know that boys’ biology and social conditioning put them squarely at risk of doing some seriously stupid things, particularly during their teenage years.

The human brain does not reach maturity until the early 20s. The last parts of the brain to mature are links between the prefrontal cortex, which assists in judgement and problem-solving, and the limbic system, which handles emotion and self-regulation. In other words, teenage brains are not wired for optimal decision-making or response to crisis.

So what can be done to help our boys to make good choices? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Teach them about empathy. You can build empathy in your sons by modeling empathy for them. Help others. Express understanding and give others the benefit of doubt. Talk about and name feelings; boys are under so much pressure societally to suppress their emotions. Make sure your boys know that your No. 1 goal for them to is become decent human beings.

2. Value your son, not his accomplishments. When you go on and on to others about your son’s grades, athletic accolades or starring roles, your child gets the message that his accomplishments are what you value about him. Of course it’s OK to be proud of your son and to share your pride in what he’s accomplished. The challenge is to balance that with acknowledgement of his value as a human being, separate from anything he’s done. Your son needs to know that he’s loved unconditionally. So hug him. Say “I love you.” Show an interest in his interests, and make time to have fun with him.

3. Acknowledge good choices. Most boys and girls make several mistakes each day. But while it’s natural to point these out, we need to make sure to acknowledge the good things they do as well. Praise your son when he helps someone else. (Insider tip: Mention his good deed to someone else when you know he’s listening. He’ll be thrilled!) Thank him for helping you with the shopping or gardening.

These are just a few things that we can all do but the main things is, start as early as possible! The earlier, the better. 

Source: http://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2017-05-15/5-ways-to-help-boys-make-good-choices

Screen or not or what?

Most of us know that kids love looking at screens. What most of might not know is the actual impact it has on them. A study from 2015 said that British children between 5-16 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day looking at screens!! That is up from 3 hours in 1995. Is this too much? Can this be addictive? What makes screens so enticing, not only to kids but us adults too?

With todays technology being so accessible, it is even harder to avoid our children's demands to watch a cartoon or play a game. This lack of natural breaks has led to many children not having what is called 'stopping rules'. They used to exist and we learned to wait and look forward to the next episode of the favourite show or even wait for your turn at a game console. These breaks are now disappearing as everything around us is becoming 24/7 and impatience is growing. When children learn that they can us their devices as soon as they are bored, have spare time or are unsure of what to do next, it can become dangerous. It's all about feedback. Children learn by misbehaving to see what their parents think, push buttons to discover what happens. Their devices however give feedback straight away! No need to wait, instant rewards.

Interaction with other children, reading other children's reactions and body language can not be taught on a device. This requires play and being without devices. Please allow our children to be children in the real world and not the virtual world! Everything as always within reason. Technology is here to stay but how much our children use it is up to us. We are their parents and more importantly their role models!!