Self-esteem

The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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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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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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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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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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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….

 

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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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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!

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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.

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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.

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Getting our teens to adulthood….

 All parents know that the teen years are crucial.  Your teen needs to explore and mature and navigate the world, but as adults, we know just how much there is to trip them up.  How do we help?  How do we ‘not smother’ them but still protect our children?  

Here are some ideas:-

 1.    Share the ‘spread your wings’ journey with your teen

Healthy teens will start to spread their wings and you need to help them navigate these new waters.  Share mistakes you’ve made in a way that helps them make good choices.  Avoid negative lectures on ‘when I was young’ or ‘lessons learned’.  Allow them to slip up and help them face the consequences of decisions they make.

 2.    Don’t mistake intelligence and talent for maturity

If you're blessed with a child who is academically brilliant or a sports star, don’t presume that means they are automatically mature and ready to face the world.  Even if they are comfortable being the lead in a school play, doesn’t mean that they feel confident about themselves in the world.  There is no ‘magic age’ when they are responsible and mature.  Each child will develop at their own pace and in their own way.  Be careful of comparing children against each other or against your own development.  If you feel your child isn’t keeping up with their peers that may just be their timing – or it may be something you are doing to hold them back.  Give it some thought.

3.    Practise what you preach

It is your responsibility as a parent to model the life you want your children to live.  Teach them to be dependable and accountable both for their words and their actions.  In your home – you are the leader – act like it!  Be honest, make ethical choices, don’t cut corners and demonstrate a good work ethic.  Don’t be scared to admit failings, to say sorry or to ask for help.  Your child needs to learn from the very best (you!) how to do this for themselves…

Some final tips:-

1.         Talk about the issues you wish you'd known about adulthood.

2.         Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.

3.         Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.

4.         Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.

5.         Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.

 

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Talking about the sensitive stuff

What is the sensitive stuff we need to talk about? 

There are lots of topics we might find hard to approach with our kids. Sex, drugs, alcohol, body image and relationships are all things we need to think about how to and when to talk about in a good way.

Our kids are growing faster than ever and with this also comes staying ahead of it all by being informed, aware and not afraid to talk.

When discussing this with parents, some think it's all too soon and why should we talk to the kids about sex earlier than we did as children?

The unfortunate truth is that they will find out one way or the other and as far as I am concerned, I'd rather be the one who tells them in a way I think is appropriate. 

They will still be exposed at various times but at least, if they have heard it from us parents, they might be able to process and understand things in a better way. Also, saying no and I don't want to see or hear this, can become a possibility.

Knowledge and awareness is key to all of us and the sooner we dare to tackle these topics with our kids, the stronger they become in handling the situation.

There is a lot of information available so go on, become an informed and aware parent!!

A good article here: http://seacoast.citymomsblog.com/child-safety/4-safety-talks-every-age-lets-talk-sex-drugs-guns-strangers/

Also, check out our workshops on various topics www.familyfocusuk.com 'Reigate workshops' that are all relevant to being an informed, prepared and aware parent! Be the best you can be!!!

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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!!

 

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

 

Courage and kids

What does being brave and courageous mean? Why is it important for kids to be courageous?

A bold child is more likely to withstand negative peer pressure, say no to temptations that run counter to your family’s values and fight the good fight. Courage also has surprise benefits: It boosts kids’ resilience, confidence and willpower as well as their learning, performance and school engagement.

It's the small acts like standing up for a friend, inviting someone over or climbing that tree higher than before that will teach our kids courage. If we take over and do it for them or stop them, how will they learn?

Stepping into the unknown by doing something you are nervous about will show your kids that it can be done and even if it fails, it shows you survive and move on.

Positive self talk is an important part, think ' I can do this' or 'I am brave' whilst doing it or before also helps. Show them how and why this helps.

As Matt Damon, in the film 'We bought a zoo' , told his teenage son who was scared to ask this special girl out; “You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage – just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery – and I promise you that something great will come of it.”

Our kids might need a bit of a push to do this at times but what they learn and how they grow in confidence by doing it makes it all worth while!

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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

Let's talk sex!

Our children are growing up fast and unfortunately, a lot are exposed to sex and pornography earlier than we think. What can we do as parents to help them with this? As we know things can't be unseen. Communicating about our bodies functions, and what our genitals are there for is a good start. Explain that our private parts are just that; private.

If someone is showing nude pictures, especially if it makes them uncomfortable; go and tell an adult. From the age of 7-8, use the word pornography and explain if they come across it to close their eyes! Explain why this is a good idea. Also, talk to your children's friends parents about your boundaries and what you think is suitable for your child. We might think most of us are on the same page but that is not always the case.

Talk about respect of each other and values like it's OK for girls to be valued as strong, clever and capable as well as boys to be gentle, caring and sensitive.

This is a great start. There is a lot of information out there how to talk about these things. Please do! 

Here is a link to a good, informative article: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/age-by-age-guide-to-talking-to-kids-about-sex/

Keep talking!!

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Don’t let these words hurt either !

2 weeks ago we spoke about how to change the way we ‘blame’’ ‘gaslight’ and ‘guilt’ our kids.

Here are some more tips to change how and what we say!

1) Threats. “If you don’t stop crying right now I will give you something to cry about.” 

Remember this one ???  Many of us heard this phrase far too often in our own childhoods.  Keep in mind that crying is a behaviour and is the result of a feeling – and feelings can’t be turned off like a tap!    Often demanding that your child 'shut off their feelings' will create panic in that child.  Rather ask ‘why is their crying making me feel so anxious?’  Are your feelings actually the problem here? 

Instead try: “I can see that you are feeling really upset – I am here with you…” and then try and find out what is causing the feelings.

2) Shame. “Ugh. What now?!”

Demands…demands…demands!  Many of us feel overwhelmed with demands on us all day.  So when your toddler starts on ‘more demands’ – it’s very hard to not get frustrated and say …’what now ?!?”  Most of the time this is a statement from a young child who is learning and exploring their world.  They ‘call’ you continually as you are their anchor. Without your acknowledgement of their existence, they don’t feel like they exist!  Try and pre-empt their calling you by ‘naming’ it and ‘anticipating it’ so the need to call out for you reduces.

Instead try: “You have a lot to say today – it’s amazing how much you are learning!’  or ‘I can see you on the swing – you are going really high’.

3) Autocratic. “Don’t tell me no!”

A lot of parents get really worked up when their toddler yells ‘no’ to them.  Although we need to teach ‘how’ to say no properly and when – it is actually a word that all toddlers must learn and use because it teaches them personal autonomy and how to establish boundaries. These are essential skills and really necessary when they are teenagers and adults!  So the next time your child screams ‘no’ when you ask them to get into their car seat…stay firm about the rules, but allow them to feel that their voice has been heard.

Instead try: “I hear that you don’t want to get in the car right now, but we have to go pick up your brother so you are going to get into your seat, but would you like to bring a book with you?”

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Don’t let your words hurt!

Following up on our 'Words Hurt!' blog... 

It is so important to think before we speak and remember - children hear everything!  What we say often stays with them and becomes their ‘inner voice’ that they use to help them in situations or make decisions.  So, make sure that they hear the voice you really want them to hear. 

How often do you hear yourself saying these phrases (be honest!)?

And some tips on what you could say instead….

1) Blame. “You are driving me crazy.” 

When you say this, it is normally you that is feeling stressed or overwhelmed and your child’s behaviour is just a trigger.  Remember:  it is never their ‘fault’.  They are not purposefully trying to drive you crazy. It is the situation that is crazy and parenting and life is tough!

Instead try: “I am really finding this situation/your behaviour difficult right now.  I think we both need to take 5…”  (and then take a break!)

 2) Gaslighting. “Oh, you’re fine. Look at everyone else having fun. Why can’t you go have fun?”

Gaslighting is a psychological term that is used when someone is manipulated into doubting themselves.  It’s quite common that we, as parents, react to a child in this way – by insisting that they are fine when they are clearly not feeling fine at all.  This type of comment can make a child very confused.  One part of them is feeling one way, but they are getting a message from someone they trust that ‘nothing is wrong’.  This will lead to them having trust issues in the future and becoming quite a vulnerable adult.

Instead try: “I saw that you hit your head.  It must be sore but you aren’t hurt - so you are safe to carry on…”

 3) Guilt. “See what you are doing? Now you’re getting your sister upset.” 

We are all ‘guilty’ of using the guilt trip on someone – but we need to be really careful with this one.  Using guilt to change feelings doesn’t solve the problem and only makes the child self-conscious about their feelings.  It can also make them hide their feelings in the future so as not to ‘upset’ you or anyone else.  But emotions can’t stay hidden forever and they will eventually come out and often in even more aggressive or disruptive ways in the future.

Instead try: “I see that you are frustrated and that your sister is frustrated too. Let’s try and work through this together…”

More tips in 2 weeks’ time…..

Soft skills versus hard skills

As a Swede living in the UK, I have encountered many things a long the way that are very different to Sweden. 

The major thing for me as a parent and now parent coach is how early our children start school in the UK. The majority of European countries has a school start age of six and some even seven.

We lived in Switzerland for the first years of my daughters schooling and they were 6 and 9 when we moved to the UK. My youngest daughter was in kindergarten in Switzerland and due to start school at 7. Arriving here, she could just about write her name. One school we contacted asked if she had learning difficulties as she couldn't read or write...

After a year of schooling, she had caught up with her school friends, not because she is exceedingly bright but because she was ready and eager to learn without feeling pressurised and stressed. However, where she was ahead of them was with her social skills, team skills and awareness of empathy. Empathy is what makes us aware of the feelings of others and when you're empathic, you're much less likely to hurt someone else's feelings. This is the bit she was taught at kindergarten and these are, in my opinion,  the soft skills that are missing early on here in the UK. The focus here is far too much on reading, writing and maths. We have children who simply aren't ready to learn in that way and need to play and be children. There are no statistics that show that UKs children are ahead and better educated than other countries. Quite the contrary!

I know the system in it self is hard to change but what we as parents can do is to help our kids develop the soft skills needed. Soft skills might include teaching kids to work cooperatively in a group or teaching them how to think about the long-term consequences when they make a decision, whereas teaching maths is an example of a hard skills. The importance of teaching self-control, social skills and empathy is immense! 

Research show that children who are taught the above skills are more likely to be kind and inclusive towards other children. This leads to them feeling good about themselves which improves their self-esteem. A win win situation!!

Do the best you can!!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10962162/Delay-school-starting-age-until-at-least-six-academic-says.html