Purely parenting!

What does family mean?

Following some recent conversations about our Company name ‘Family Focus UK’, Åse and I were prompted to pose a new question on our homepage…‘What does family mean?’

When we joined forces, Åse and I were both working predominantly with parenting and we were both extremely passionate about its importance and the family structure. We wanted to focus on this notion of ‘family’ - hence our choice of Company name, Family Focus UK.

However, the tremendous growth in the talk, publicity and awareness of mental health and wellbeing has morphed our work from a purely parenting focus to one that includes a wider scope of topics. So then. Do we change our Company name from ‘Family’ to ‘something else?’

Absolutely not! Because the word ‘family’ is no longer a singular explanation from an olde-worlde version of 2 parents and 2 children. Family has evolved over time to encompass so much more:

In the context of human society, a family is a group of people related either by consanguinity (recognised birth), affinity (marriage or other relationship) or co-existence

Members of the immediate family may include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Members of the extended family may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings-in-law

Family can relate to places of work or associates by proximity

In most societies, the family is the principal institution for the socialisation of children.

The word "family" can be used metaphorically to create more inclusive categories such as community, nationhood, global village and humanism

We believe that family is a lot more than your birth connections. Family is your community that you build around you. Your work colleagues, football club, your Church, your choir, your neighbours and school friends. Family is the unit you connect with that brings value to your life and gives you purpose. Family can be given to you with birth, or you can create it yourself by forming relationships and connections that matter.

So - who is your family? What are you doing to protect them and nurture them? Do they know that you consider them family? If so - show them!

family hands.jpg

Children and work? What choices are there?

Becoming a parent is a big decision. Many factors come into consideration and a lot of couples might find that they have very different views on this.

With todays workplace politics and opportunities, the choices are not always clear. More and more women are just as ambitious and driven as men. Unfortunately, a lot of them feel the pressure to perform more than their male counterparts. What will happen to their careers if they go on maternity leave? Are they supported by their employers? Will their clients accept their absence?

There are lots of questions raised by women who are considering having a family and many of the feel alone in these decisions as their partners don’t have the same ‘risks’ to consider. There is also social pressure to consider like what other friends and family are doing and expecting of them.

The UK is a hard place to raise children if you have finances to consider. The child care costs are immense and not everyone can afford to use a nursery or nanny. So what do you do?

  • Firstly communicate with your employer, find out exactly what your rights are and what the expectations are from their side.

  • Discuss with your partner, well ahead, what is important to the both of you. As a mother to be, you have to be the one at home to start with but for how long? Can your partner take over?

  • What is your support network like? Can you child care share? What do others do in your area? At your workplace?

  • Be aware of the emotional impact having a child can have on you. Read up and be prepared. Not that you can be fully prepared, children do have a tendency to take you on a rollercoaster ride you’ve never been on before!

Most importantly though, enjoy your children! The years of having a young family passes quickly, believe it or not. Be present, do things together, talk and listen. Look after each other and yourself, remember this is a new life for both parents!

Here are a few links to help along the way:

https://fullfact.org/education/childcare-costs-england/

https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/

https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk

https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/work-and-childcare

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

filip-mroz-767365-unsplash.jpg

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.  

adaptability.jpg

What is family all about?

As a person who has lived away from the country I grew up in and where my extended family still is, I have had to create new family along the way. I have my own family but any other family like grandparents, aunties and uncles are not here. Having two children, family was always important. Our extended families were essential to us so visits were a big part of any holidays we ever had. For years, the only holidays we could afford were visiting our family abroad. This has enabled a close relationship between my daughters and my Swedish family which I am so happy and grateful to have. I know my daughters feel very Swedish despite never living there.

When they were little, help from friends was essential. We became each others aunties and the kids always had somewhere to go and feel at home with. Juggling work and children whilst trying to organise child care was a challenge at times. This is where the 'aunties' came in. Their support and ability to step in was such a blessing. I remember being so envious of people who had family around to ask for help but what we had was even more amazing. My children grew up knowing and trusting other people outside family and experiencing different ways of being a family. This has helped them along the way in accepting others and knowing there is more to life than just being a certain way. Acceptance, tolerance and being non-judgemental of others are traits they both have now as adults. 

Having that kind of bond with friends where I could ask for help without feeling guilty was amazing. They helped me and I helped them. No one counted the times, we just did what we could for each other. I used local teenagers for babysitting and the girls loved some of them and others less so. They even became bargaining tools at times; 'if you do as you are told, I'll book Tamara to babysit next time'. Worked a treat! Rightly or wrongly...

To feel lonely can be tough and I know there are lots of lonely people out there. The thing is, we have to make an effort to look after our relationships whether they are at home, at school, at work or anywhere you meet people on a regular basis. We tend to get back what we put in so make that phone call, send that text and show you care and that you are here. Someone will appreciate it and feel seen. Significance is one of our human needs and we all need to feel significant to someone. Family or friend, doesn't matter. The feeling is the same so let's show others they are significant to us! 

IMG_0900.JPG

Emotional Energy & Relationships

Sitting here writing this blog today I have a flurry of excitement knowing that in a few days time I'm off on a weekend date with my husband!  Doesn't happen often enough but we always make sure we prioritise each other once a year on our wedding anniversary and get away, just the 2 of us, without children.  We feel that this is an essential part of our relationship success - to have a 24 hour (+) date where we 'ban' talking about the children and just focus on each other.  If you haven't done it lately - have a date!  Look each other in the eye when you talk instead of while you're folding the washing and make the other person in your life feel that they count.

Amongst all our work with parents and adults, one of the biggest concerns seems to be around relationships and emotional wellbeing.  We have been doing a lot of talking around this topic and the connection between emotions and energy.  There is no doubt that they are intricately linked and directly influence each other.

Think about a tower that is built upon layers with one of the most important layers (above physical) being emotion.  Without a strong foundation in how to understand, cope with and express emotion, it is very hard to feel energised or to exhibit energy as a person or in a relationship.  

How do you do this?  Emotions are often a big part of your personality and many people have learned ways of expressing (or not expressing) emotion.  We often hear people saying 'he doesn't say that / she doesn't communicate how she feels / I don't know what my partner is feeling', leading to conflicts in communication and the relationship.  Those who are not in relationships tend to feel that their emotions aren't important or other people really don't 'want' to hear about how they're feeling.

So.  Despite what you've done in the past, or how you were brought up, it is more important than ever today to address emotion and your emotional wellbeing.  Start with yourself.  Make sure you know how you feel about yourself and then tell those around you how you feel too.  This is particularly important for single parents who often have no time to dwell on their own emotions or wellbeing.  If you have a partner, prioritise your relationship.  Make time matter and don't put it off for one more day.  Even if it's just a date to the movies or inviting your neighbour over for lunch - give yourself the time to focus on relationships in your life (with a partner, parent, child, friend, colleague, family member, neighbour) - and make it count!

And from me...I'm off on my weekend date with my hubby to focus on emotions and re-energise!

 

relationships.jpg

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!!

EQ.jpeg

Your Role with Exam Pressure!

If you have teenagers writing GCSE’s or A levels at the moment chances are you are dealing with some different dynamics in the house.

There are a few things to remember as you navigate this time with your child. 

  1. Everyone learns in a different way.  If your child isn’t revising the same way you did at school, this doesn’t mean they aren’t revising!  If they are focused and showing discipline – don’t interfere with their preferred way of studying.  
  2. If they are battling and can’t seem to focus/revise without getting distracted, you may need to offer some help.  Perhaps help them draw up a revision timetable?  There are lots of online tools for this like:   https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/g/planner

Have they managed to access online help/resources?  Have you tried:-

https://senecalearning.com/  (full GCSE syllabus online revision help)

https://www.bbc.com/education/levels/z98jmp3  (stacks of quizzes to help with revision)

https://www.educake.co.uk/  (science revision)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=primrose+kitten  (Primrose Kitten on youtube has lots of help for revision)

https://evernote.com/  (fantastic online tool for making notes)

These exams are really challenging over a long, sustained period that will tax and strain even the most diligent of students.  So, as parents, perhaps this is the time to lay off the rules a bit and ease up on the demands and requirements in the house.

  • Let their bed stay unmade – or make it for them! 
  • Hang up their clothes for them or let that pile grow with no nagging from you
  • Bring them a cup of hot chocolate while they’re studying
  • Keep them hydrated with water and a few snacks
  • Make sure they take breaks and get some fresh air and stretch their necks
  • Above all – let them feel care for and supported by you
  • Let them focus on the big stuff (their exams) and you try and make the other parts of their lives a bit easier. 
  • Give them something to look forward to when their exams are finished (a holiday/treat/special outing/gift?)

You can go 'back to normal' when the exams are over!

Remember – you want to try and avoid undue stress.  Exam stress is created by fear (not knowing the work) and guilt (I haven’t done enough revision).  So if you can support your child to tick these 2 boxes – you will be doing a lot to help reduce their stress with their exams.

If you are worried about your child or their stress levels – get help.  Contact your GP or:-

http://www.studentminds.org.uk/examstress.html

https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/school-college-and-work/school-college/exam-stress/

Best of luck to all your children with their exams….

 

exam stress.jpg

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

Stubborn.jpeg

New Year Resolutions Anyone?

Whether you like New Year's resolutions or not - the start of the year is always a good time to just take a breath and reflect.  

Parenting is not a static state - it's a constantly changing and evolving dynamic that needs you to be adaptable and somehow keep up with the kids!

As we go into the start of 2018 it's a chance to think about a few things:-

  • Live in the moment.  We know for sure, that children who feel loved and cherished thrive.  Be sure to love the child you have - with all their ups and downs, challenging behaviours and experiences.  Keep celebrating every step you take together and keep moving forward.  Same applies to both you and your partner!
  • Connect with those you love.  Quality time is about connection and emotion - not just teaching.  Hug your child, listen, commiserate, laugh, play, cuddle, listen some more!  Turn off your phone and get away from the computer and just be in the moment, together - connecting.

  • Yes - you have to keep role modelling!  If you want to raise kids who are considerate and respectful they need to copy the right behaviour.  If you can't keep your emotions in check - they won't be able to either.  So, take a deep breath and speak to them with patience and respect and model the way you want them to speak to you.

 

  • Your children will make mistakes - so will you.  There is no such thing as a 'perfect parent' or 'perfect children'.  But resolve this year to be a family that thrives together, to create a family that makes choices (together where appropriate) that move you all forward in the right direction.  It's hard work - but it will pay off.
  • Parenting is a journey - filled with different paths and routes to choose.   Don't worry about what you can't control, choose what feels right for today and what will bring you the most joy and connection with your family.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year!

happy-new-year-2018-istock_650x400_61514715109.jpg

Lighthouses and children, what is that about?

The expression lighthouse as far as children and parenting goes, it's there to symbolise showing the way and to be a steady, safe part of a child's life.

When a child has that person in their life, they feel loved, safe and cared for on every level.

Most parents love and care for their children but for different reasons, are unable to be the support their child really needs. Is there someone else in their surroundings that can step in? An auntie, uncle, cousin, family friend or teacher?

This is what being a lighthouse is about; support, care and love unconditionally.

In parenting there is also the phrase 'Lighthouse parenting' which was coined by  Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg in his book "Raising Kids to Thrive." 

This explains what he means by this:

According to Dr. Ginsburg, a well-known physician of adolescent medicine, professor and author, parents should be lighthouses for their children, visible from the shoreline as a stable light or beacon.

They should make sure their children don't crash against the rocks, yet allow them to ride the waves even if they get a little choppy sometimes. Lighthouses are solid symbols, always there to guide you and help you get your bearings -- and that's exactly what lighthouse parents are to their children.

There are two main principles of lighthouse parenting:

  • Giving unconditional love: Loving your kids without conditions gives them the security they need to have enough confidence to get through the difficulties of life. It's important to note that unconditional love doesn't mean unconditional approval. You still need to set high standards for behaviour, which helps kids form strong character and morals. You love them but don't always love their behaviours -- it's important to differentiate between the two.
  • Letting children fail: Kids won't learn life lessons, whether good or bad, if they don't get a chance to experience them firsthand. Your kids need to fall or fail -- not always win or succeed. It's part of life and helps teach resilience. It's important to note that as their "lighthouse" you should protect them against challenges that are not age-appropriate or may cause serious harm.

As with everything, we have to find the way that works for us. This is one approach and there are many more.

Find what suits you and your family and love, love, love!

lighthouse-980457__340.jpg

What Parents Say (and Do) Matters...

There has never been a more important time for parents to know what to say and how to act.  The world is changing at such a rapid rate, it feels impossible to keep up.  Here is your challenge.  It is up to you to say and do things that empower your child - help them develop confidence, self-esteem and a strong feeling of their place in the world. Parenting today is an evolving, dynamic and demanding job and the way you manage it is crucial.

In particular, the role of gender stereotypes is a topical issue.  Here are some things to think about:-

A recent study showed that the performance of 4- to 7-year-old girls was impaired when they were told that another group ("boys are good at this game") was successful at the same task.  Those in the study often gave up without trying because they said 'what's the point if the boys are better anyway'.

How often do you do this?  Do you hear yourself saying, 'but your sister could do this at your age' or 'don't worry then I'll ask your brother to help me instead'?  When dealing with gender and what's "right" and "wrong" we have to guard against preventing our children (in particular our girls) from reaching their full potential.

Children start to understand gender roles at around 30 months and social prejudice kicks in before they start school.  Age 5 - 7 is prime time for the 'us' vrs 'them' mindset and this is where your parenting is so important. 

  • Work hard to keep your comments balance, open-ended and without limitations.  When you see a plane flying overhead speak to your daughter about becoming a pilot, commend her for her intelligence and abilities and not only how she looks or how 'good' and quiet she is. 
  • Watch for stereotypes (which you can't avoid in life) and counter-balance them with pointing out this is one option - but there are others available. 
  • Share out manual and intellectual tasks in the house and don't make them gender specific. Your daughter is as able to learn to fix a plug or take out the rubbish as your son.  
  • Don't put yourself or your body down in front of your children.  Be proud of who you are and how you look and be an example for them with your own self-esteem.
  • Try and make sure your young children socialise with girls and boys and learn how to befriend members of the opposite sex and development friendships across gender lines

We have a chance to give our children the right start in life...so say and do things that matter!

 

 

 

gender stereotypes.jpg

Fears and phobias

Is your child scared of dogs, bugs or the monster under the bed? These can be irrational fears that most children evetually grow out of. 

However, when a fear becomes so strong and real that it stops a child from functioning, something has to be done.

One example of this is the story about three siblings who were so terrified of dogs they were unable to go to playgrounds or even down the street – just in case they come across a dog.

To help these kids become braver and conquer their fears – which are very real to them – we first need to understand a bit about memories and the role they play in being overly frightened.

Memories are not fixed though, they’re fluid and are more collections of associations rather than being reliable, accurate retellings.

We need to keep in mind that our conscious thoughts, often triggered by a strong memory that can be good or scary, then spontaneously trigger our hippocampus and limbic system to respond with emotions and bodily sensations.

Many parents help their children with their fears by avoiding exposing them to the experience, which may sound like a loving thing to do. Sadly over time this feeds the implicit memory and makes the neural pathway in the brain even stronger.

These steps by Dr Kaylene Henderson are a great help towards normalising a fear and get back on track.

By using that approach, we can explore the dog fear for these three siblings, by changing how the memory of a scary dog has been imprinted in the memory bank – gradually and slowly.

  1. First buy (or borrow) some inexpensive soft dog toys.
  2. Create some imaginary play with these safe, good dogs.
  3. Read picture books about good dogs – Fearless by Colin Thompson is a lovely one to start with.
  4. Find lots of videos on YouTube of dogs being funny and loving. Make sure they are shown on a full size screen rather than a smart phone because the images are closer to real images and easier to anchor different memory associations.
  5. Find someone who has a good, safe, friendly dog for a visit to the children’s home. Take the introduction slowly. Remember dog etiquette – always ask owner’s permission, never move suddenly or go near a dog’s food, and pat gently on the back first before top of the head.
  6. Have several visits with the same dog – gradually playing more with it.
  7. Finally head to a playground – chatting positively, ‘maybe we will see another good dog…?’ and keep your fingers crossed!

The memory associations from implicit memory can be changed by using vivid imagination as well as real experience.

Parts of this article was first published in Essential Kids.

Fear.jpeg

The privilege of being a parent....

 

I read a very humbling article the other day about a parent who, through a change in circumstances, was able to fully appreciate just how privileged we are to be able to call ourselves parents.

On the back of this article she challenged all of us to change a few words in our minds when we do that 'self-talk' thing we all do about how busy we are and how many demands are being made on us as parents.

Here's her thought:  to replace the “have to” with the words “get to”.  Those two simple words – “get to” – have the power to transform our perspective on parenting:

You get to pack lunch for the kids.

You get to take them to school.

You get to take them to the doctor and to their after-school activities.

You get to be their chef, their chauffeur, and their event planner.

No matter how many things are on our lists for the day, try and spare a moment to remember that having that list is because you are blessed to be a parent - and the time when you are the centre of all your children's needs is limited and passes quickly. 

So the next time you feel under pressure to get everything done, or feel that there are too many demands on you, switch 'I have to' with 'I get to' and see if that helps how you feel about your parenting!

Now I get to go and wake my kids up for school - lucky me !

 

 

priviledge of parenting cropped.jpg

Sexual harassment amongst teens. What do we do about it??

Not enough is the answer as far as I see it!

Most of us growing up in the 60s, 70, and 80s experienced this on a regular basis and just accepted is as part of life and the difference between men and women. I was attacked, groped and verbally assaulted but it was only after the attacks that I called the police. Not that anything was done about it but I did call... This is not good enough, we need to stand up for our children and their future. I know now that I didn't do this as well as I should have.  Luckily my daughters knew better and are teaching me. They are two strong, proud, young women today and out there bringing awareness to others including their parents. 

PLEASE READ!

Below is part of the article: 'Sexual harassment among teens is pervasive. Here are 6 ways parents can help change that.' By Alison Cashin and Richard Weissbourd.

As parents, we need to do better. We need have specific conversations with our teens about what misogyny and sexual harassment mean, why they are so harmful, and how to combat them. Below are six tips for parents for engaging in meaningful, constructive conversations.

1. Define the problem.

Why? Many teens and young people don’t know the range of behaviors that constitute misogyny and sexual harassment. Adults need to explain what these violations mean and provide specific, concrete examples.

Try this. Start by asking your teen or young adult to define misogyny and sexual harassment and to give you examples of each of these violations. Clarify any misunderstandings and provide common examples of harassment and misogyny, such as commenting on someone’s clothes or appearance when those comments might be unwanted. Ask teens to carefully consider what it might be like to be subject to comments like these. You can use our data to explain, for example, that while many men think catcalling is flattering to women, many women are frightened and angered by it. Make it clear that boys and girls can harass, and that even if the words or behaviors are intended as a joke, they risk scaring and offending others.

 

2. Step in and stick with it.

Why? If you’re the parent or guardian of a teen, chances are you’ll encounter a sexist or sexually degrading comment from them or their friends or peers. Yet too many adults stay silent when this happens. Passivity not only condones these comments, it can also diminish young people’s respect for us as adults and role models. Even if teens can’t absorb or act on our words in the moment, they often still register our words and internalize them as they mature.

Try this. Think about and consult with people you respect about what you might say if your teen uses a word like “bitch” or “hoe.” How might you react in a way that really enables your teen to absorb your message? You might ask questions that any thoughtful human is hard-pressed to answer affirmatively: “Why is this a way that you and your friends bond?” Consider what you might say if your teen says, “We’re just joking” or “You don’t understand.” You might explain how these types of jokes can come to infect how we think and act towards others and be interpreted by others as permitting and supporting sexual harassment and degradation. Talk to young people about the importance of listening to and appreciating their peers of different genders as a matter of decency and humanity, and work with them to develop empathy from a young age.

3. Teach your child to be a critical consumer of media and culture.

Why? Many young people are raised on a steady diet of misogyny and sexual degradation in popular culture but have never critically examined the media they consume or the cultural dynamics that shape their lives. You may be with your teen in the car and hear sexually degrading song lyrics or be together when you learn about an episode of sexual harassment in the news. It is vital that we speak up and help our children become mindful, critical consumers of this information.

 

Try this. Ask how your teen interprets something you’re hearing or watching that you find sexually degrading. Does your teen find it degrading? Why or why not? If you disagree, explain why you think the portrayal is harmful. Point out how misogyny and gender-based degradation in popular culture can be so common that they seem normal and can begin affecting our relationships with others in harmful ways. If you’ve had an experience similar to what you’re listening to or watching, such as being harassed on the street or in your workplace, and it’s age-appropriate to share with your teen, discuss it and talk about how it made you feel.

4. Talk to your child about what they should do if they’re sexually harassed or degraded.

Why? Many teens don’t know what to do if they’re harassed or degraded with gender-based slurs, whether it’s being called a “slut” or “bitch” jokingly by a friend or being harassed by someone they don’t know. It’s vital for us to help our children develop strategies for protecting themselves and reducing the chances of the offender harming others.

Try this. Ask your if they have ever been harassed or degraded with sexualized words or actions and how they’ve responded. If they haven’t had these experiences, ask them what they think they would do in different situations. Does this differ from what they think they should do? We don’t always do what we should. Discuss how they can get from “would” to “should” by exploring the pros and cons of various strategies for responding. Would they feel comfortable confronting the person harassing them, confronting the harasser with a friend, talking to a teacher or a school counselor, or talking to you or another respected adult? Consider role playing so they can explore strategies. Brainstorm with your child ways of responding in various contexts.

5. Encourage and expect upstanding.

Why? As ethical parents, we should expect our teens to protect themselves when they’re harassed or degraded, but also to protect one another. Because they understand peer dynamics, are more likely to witness harassing behaviors and often have more weight than adults in intervening with peers, young people are often in the best position to prevent and stop sexual harassment and misogyny among their peers. Learning to be an “upstander” is also a vital part of becoming an ethical, courageous person. Yet upstanding can be risky — perpetrators can turn on upstanders. That’s why it’s important to brainstorm strategies with young people for actions that protect both them and the victim.

Try this. Talk to your teen about the importance of being an ally to peers who are subjected to harassment or misogyny. You might start a conversation by asking, for example, what they would and should do if a friend is the target of different types of harassment. What about a peer who is not a close friend? Talk about what might stop them from intervening in these situations, brainstorm various strategies, or do a role play. Think through the specific words they might use.

6. Provide multiple sources of recognition and self-worth.

Why? Young people can be especially vulnerable to degradation and harassment if they’re highly dependent on romantic and sexual attention and on peer approval. Many young people are also vulnerable because they have lower social status or are marginalized among their peers. LGBTQIA youth may be especially vulnerable in this respect.

Try this. Encourage and support your teen in engaging in activities that build their confidence that don’t involve romantic or sexual attention or approval from peers. These activities might involve the arts, sports, or service to others. Talk to young people about solidarity and taking collective action against harassment and degradation. Sometimes girls and young women in particular can demean and undercut each other in the context of romantic and sexual relationships, and it’s important to underscore the power of standing together. This can be another important source of self-worth.

metoo-2859980_960_720.jpg

What is anxiety? How can I help my child?

Anxiety is something most of us have had or suffer with on a regular basis. It's scary, stressful and it can be absolutely debilitating. When you are told to 'just get on with it' or 'get a grip' or 'it will be ok', it doesn't help. Any adult who has dealt with this, knows what it's like. 

It's the same for our kids, they need to be heard and we need to acknowledge that their fear is real. What can we do do to help?

I just read this blog and think it's worth a read so here it is:

When Your Child’s Anxiety is Making You Anxious: Repeat These 22 Phrases

April 3, 2017 by Renee Jain

 

As parents, we have a natural tendency to reach out to our children when they are anxious, scared, or stressed. What none of us can anticipate is how our children’s anxiety will cause us to feel anxious, helpless, hopeless, angry, or desperate. The next time your child is ridden with anxiety, repeat any of these phrases. You will be surprised that your child will likely mirror your reaction.

1. This too shall pass. Like all emotions, anxiety will pass. Our bodies cannot physiologically maintain the heightened level of awareness caused by anxiety for very long. Chances are that waiting ten to fifteen minutes will result in a change in anxiety levels.

2. Anxiety serves a purpose. Oftentimes we treat anxiety like there is something wrong with our child. In fact, anxiety serves an important biological function to keep us safe. Teaching your child to differentiate between anxiety that will help and anxiety that will hinder her/him is a valuable life skill.

3. Breathe. Deep breathing actually reverses the body’s stress response. When we are anxious, we tend to take shallow breaths. Taking three conscious, deep breaths will alleviate much of our anxiety.

4. We are on the same team. Have you ever watched two basketball players going for a rebound, fighting each other tooth and nail, only to realize they are on the same team? Remember, you and your child are on the same team and have the same goals.

5. I am my child’s guide. Remind yourself that your role is not to control the challenges your child will face but rather to be her/his guide through the experiences.

6. Observe. Observe. Observe. Instead of “doing something,” simply observe what is happening like an outsider. See if there are commonalities in your observations. By identifying triggers, you can help your child cope with them, thereby limiting your own sense of helplessness.

7. The only way to get across this swift, deep river is to go through it. Allow your own feelings, even if they are dark, to arise and pass. If this experience is like a river, it means there is also a riverbank waiting for you.

8. Stick to the routine. Anxious children thrive on predictability. You may not be able to do anything about the trigger, but you can reinforce the routine. Bedtime, family rituals, and morning routines center our children, better preparing them for the outside world.

9. Meditate. At our darkest moments, hope is rekindled simply by taking the time to be still and focus on our breath for a few moments.

10. Help is available. Hopelessness usually means you have exhausted your ability to deal with your child’s anxiety. Having another set of eyes on the situation may make all the difference in the world. Whether a professional counselor, a relative, or another trusted adult, turn to those in your child’s circle for help.

11. My child’s anxiety is not a reflection of my parenting. Stop questioning whether you should or could have done something differently with your child. Focus rather on what you can do as their guide through their challenges.

12. What would make my child laugh right now? Whether it’s a funny noise, a silly story, or singing the wrong words to a favorite song, laughter is the fastest way to make you both feel better.

13. I’m going to take a break. It’s okay to take five minutes of quiet time or put yourself in a place to reconnect with yourself when you are feeling angry. Not only are you modeling appropriate behavior, but you also have a chance to take a few breaths and remind yourself of a few of these phrases.

14. I love you. I’m here for you. Your children will experience stress that they cannot control. They will receive an injection, perform in front of an audience, and face challenges. Reminding them that you love them and are here for them is reassuring, not just for them but for you as well.

15. In this moment, right now, what can I do to reboot my well-being? Some days it will be getting ice cream; others it will be going for a run. Whatever it is, make a long list for yourself that you can reference when you need it.

16. She/he does not know how to deal with this. Frustration over our children’s anxiety can sometimes result from forgetting that they are trying to learn how to navigate a world of unknowns. Regardless whether their fear is rational, or of how many times you have been through this, ask yourself how you can be their guide.

17. I am on a beach. There is a reason why guided imagery is used during labor and delivery to reduce pain. It works! Imagine yourself in a soothing, happy place before you speak.

18. I am the adult. Simply remind yourself that you are the adult; you have the power to remain calm and provide heart-centered advice to de-escalate an anxious situation.

19. My job is to help my child become a functioning adult. When you put it into perspective, you must teach your child how to acknowledge, reduce, and wade through anxiety if she/he is to be a functioning adult. Suddenly, when your anxious child is crying about going to school, you can approach the problem as just that—a problem to be solved.

20. I have control over my reaction. Ultimately, the only person you can control is you. Govern your feelings, control your reactions, and then help your child learn to do the same. You can teach your child the art of emotional self-regulation by modeling it.

21. Progress is never linear. Coping with anxiety is not a linear process. It takes time and practice for you and your child. Don’t assume you are at square one when you experience a setback.

22. I’m doing the best I can. In this moment, with the tools you have, you are doing the very best you can. Some days your reaction to your child’s anxiety may be cool, calm, collected, empathetic, and thoughtful—on other days, perhaps not as much. We are all a work in progress, and you are doing the best you can.

emotions-2764936__340.jpg

Are we crippling our children?

I read a very interesting article recently that featured in Forbes Leadership about the ‘Crippling Parenting Behaviours That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders’.  Here are some of the key points.

1.    We don’t let our children experience risk

We spend our lives warning our children about danger and protecting them from possible harm.  We are so health and safety conscious that we often prevent our children from learning how to cope with pain, emotion or risk – essential adult skills.

2.    We rescue too quickly

Life skills that we had to learn 30 years ago are now just a touch of a button away and many children are not learning how to basic problem solve.  Don’t keep rescuing them or parenting for the short-term; think about your long term goals to equip your children with adult skills.  So, the next time your child leave his sports bag at home, don’t rush it up to school, let them problem solve their way out of the problem.

 3.    Don’t over-praise

Praise is great – but it must have value.  If you ‘rave’ about each and everything your child does, your praise will soon lose its value and not mean as much. Especially if it’s always about ‘trophy’s and success’.  They will also start to notice that only mum and dad are singing my praises and this could affect their self-esteem and they become ‘conditioned’ to expect continuous praise.  Use praise wisely and carefully and not always in connection with outcomes – something praise behaviour and kindness and manners too!

 4.    Guilt is not a good leader

Your child doesn’t have to love you every single minute.  Saying ‘no’ or ‘not now’ and teaching them delayed gratification are essential skills.   Don’t use material rewards continuously and it is OK for one child to receive something over another – that happens in life too!

Some final tips:-

1.         Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.

2.         Discuss the consequences if they don’t achieve certain goals

3.         Get them to do projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.

4.         Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.

5.         Celebrate all the progress they make on their childhood journey

crippling kids.jpg

Resisting rest? Why?

There seems to be a resistance to rest amongst today's busy parents. Why is that?

Our lives are so full-on in todays society and I wonder what choices do we actually have?

Do the kids have to have activities every day? Do the parents have to entertain and occupy the kids most of the time? What are we teaching them by doing this? Who actually benefits in the long run?

Having down time and enough rest is instrumental to our health. Without it our immune systems are compromised which can lead to illnesses and generally feeling unwell. 

Sleep deprivation is a modern day health issue that affects many adults and children. The impact on work and school is immense and we need to take charge of this. 

Having boundaries and no electronics in the bedroom after a certain time is a start. Routines during school time is also important. Research shows that the children who sleep properly every night also perform better at school as well as adults who sleep their 7-8 hours per night also perform better at work. Our brains need the rest to take onboard what has been learnt and experienced that day. We say 'I need to sleep on it' about some decisions and there is a good reason for that. 

What do we need to make it ok to have down time for no reason other then just feeling like it? Having a cuppa and a conversation is a great way to relax together or on your own.

Enjoy each others company and just be. That is a treat!

 

 

feet-up.jpg

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.

It's OK to do nothing.....

It's been weeks and weeks of holidays and there are still more to come.  Are your kids starting to whine and moan - get under your feet?

Instead of jamming these last few weeks with more 'things to do' - remember that it's also OK to do nothing.

Because 'doing nothing' - isn't really doing nothing.  If you are living and breathing and talking you are doing something.  If you've ever caught yourself saying 'do something useful' to your child - have a stop and think what you are really saying.  'Useful' implies the future - of use to you for some future benefit - but what about now?  Today?  This moment?

Try to lead by example to show your children that to live in the moment with all your senses being savoured can actually make you feel alive and that's OK.  That being 'aimless', 'restless' or even 'bored' can actually spark a part of your brain that leads to creativity and imagination.  

Why do authors, artists, creative minds like to go for walks or hole themselves up in retreats? It's because allowing yourself to 'not think' often leads to great thoughts!    Many people will find creative and unusual ways to escape boredom that would never have entered their minds if they hadn't been bored in the first place.  And aimless thinking helps to stop tunnel vision if you are too focused or intent on one goal.  If you have no set end in mind - you allow your mind and yourself to explore ideas and options.

And remember, our brains and our children's brains need downtime.  We all need time to recharge; to process, consolidate and reinforce what's come before.

So do nothing!  Who knows what you'll end up doing !

Show your child what being a good human being is about!!

The more I read about research and how our brains work, the more I understand why we behave the way we do. All of us have learnt from a very young age about kindness, manners, courage, caring, generosity as well as lots of other traits. 

The responsibility we have as parents is really a lot bigger than we might appreciate at first.

I think most of us have experienced moments when a child does or says something that really throws you; 'where on earth did he/she learn that??'. Then someone, kindly, points out, 'that's exactly what you do!!' Ooops, didn't realise he/she picked it up so quickly...

Most of us do things that we are not necessarily aware of. Swear under our breath, comment on people that might be serving us, comment on photos 'Gosh she looks fat there', derogatory things about race, sexuality or place in society. Or that annoying driver who shouldn't be on the road etc. 

If we can start to be more self aware of the language, looks and behaviour we use, particularly in front of the kids, its a great step in the right direction. Being our children's role model is a big thing!! Think about what we want for them. How do we want them to treat others? See other people? Feel about themselves and their place in society? Drink and drugs? What is it to love?

Everything we want for them, we should want for ourselves. We need to show them the way.

Become an aware parent for your children's sake!

More reading here: https://www.mother.ly/child/my-simple-answer-to-the-question-how-can-i-teach-my-children-to-be-kind#close