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! 

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Sun, sea and…….(holidays!)

It’s that time of the year again when many of us are planning to head off on a sunshine-infused holiday.  Family holidays are usually one of those longed-for events that seem on a pedestal of pleasure – with memories of sun, sea and smiles.  But – the reality is often quite different.  For many, family holidays can be more like sun, sea and stress!

We all have really high expectations for our family holidays, particularly if they have taken a lot of planning and saving.  With these high expectations comes a much longer way to fall!  Often the age of the children is a big factor.  Toddlers can battle to acclimatise to changes in their routines, weather and surroundings.  Teenagers will get bored and sulky – particularly if Wi-Fi is an issue where you’re staying.

Add to this the UK’s blended and vertical families where a ‘family holiday’ can now involve a 3G tier (grandparents, parents and children) that brings with it a whole new set of dynamics and potential stressors.

Statistically, the average family in the UK spends just one hour a day in each other’s company*.  And then you choose to go on holiday and 'blissfully' spend 24 hours a day together?  But, no matter when the statistics say – we all still long for that time together, so here are some tips for your family holiday:-

  1. There is no problem with being bored.  Don’t try to fill every moment or provide entertainment for your children continually.  This just adds to their sense of entitlement.  Empower them to be creative, come up with their own ideas to keep themselves busy.  Short bursts of this will give them fantastic life skills!
  2. Don’t expect too much!  Have one or two firm goals in mind (e.g.:  have an afternoon nap; read a book) and then anything else is a bonus.  Don’t plan for 3 highlights a day or ‘perfect’ times – you’re just building yourself and your family up for disappointment.
  3. Lead by example.  If you want your kids to stay off devices – you must too!  Don’t check emails all day or post constantly on social media.  Play a board game, do a pool aerobics class, hire bicycles for a family bike ride, go for a walk, read a book.  Show alternatives and model how to destress to your children.
  4. Be adaptable and flexible.  Holidays often don’t go as planned.  Don’t let it create stress.  Plan for some unexpected events and turn them into an adventure or a fantastic learning opportunity.  If it’s beyond your control (flight cancelled, wrong room booked) there’s no point in letting it stress you and ruin the holiday.  No one will remember the room in 6 months’ time, but they may remember how they felt about how you reacted!
  5. Keep a sense of humour.  There’s almost nothing that can’t be managed with a smile and a bit of humour.  Keep talking and laughing no matter the ‘disaster’ and you’ll be amazed at how much better the situation feels and how much better you cope with it. 
  6. Plan ahead.  Hold a family conference and get everyone on board with the tricky stuff about the holiday before you go.  Make sure everyone’s clear on rules and regs (e.g. spending money, bedtime etc).  This is especially important if you’re holidaying with another family who may parent in a different way.  Avoid conflict and situations but having this agreed on before you go (esp. with teenagers).

And remember – it’s a holiday after all.  So - have fun, relax the rules a bit and take home the most important thing of all – memories of time together and connecting as a family.

*  Lola Borg (Telegraph article)

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Summertime happiness?

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

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

All these things can be discombobulating and disrupt everyday life.

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

Know yourself and recognise the symptoms. 

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

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

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

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

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

  

 

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Helping your child through tough times...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gaming epidemic amongst kids and adults...

The gaming that a lot of our kids do has been worrying me for a long time. As always there are different views, mainly from the gaming industry who happily dispute any problems that are associated with them and their games.

To me it is common sense that allowing young children access to games that are 'suitable' for 15 and 18+ will have an impact. There is a reason that these age restriction are in place. Having said that, there is a serious addiction problem with adults too so be aware that as parents, we are our kids role models!!!

Here are some of the main points:

It may interfere with sleep. Getting enough sleep can be challenging enough for busy kids. They often have homework and after-school activities crammed into their weekdays and extracurricular activities and sports on weekends. Sleep deprivation is one of the main concerns we are tackling today. Mental health problems are closely connected to this.

It may cut into family time or personal interaction. When we are using technology such as computers, games, and TV, we are not interacting with one another. Since finding good quality time can be difficult for many families, allowing technology to cut into those moments is something parents may want to prevent as much as possible. 

While it can be fun to have a family movie night or play a video game together, the fact is that screen time means less face-to-face interaction time.

It may encourage short attention span. Studies have shown that too much screen time may be associated with attention problems. Video games were the primary focus though the researchers do state that any electronic media may have similar effects.

It may interfere with schoolwork. Children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to have lower grades and read fewer books. Further, research has shown that cutting down kids' screen time may improve kids' health and grades.

It may lead to less physical activity. More screen time has been associated with reduced physical activity and a higher risk of obesity in kids.

It may expose kids to too much advertising and inappropriate content. Many television shows and commercials depict sexuality and violence as well as stereotypes or drug and alcohol use. Many commercials also promote junk food and toys in powerful and alluring ways that are designed to get kids to want these items.

5 Ways to Limit Technology

Admittedly, it is easy to simply turn on the TV or let your kids play a video game when they complain about being bored. However, there are many options when it comes to finding alternative forms of entertainment. Letting kids use technology with limits can be achieved if you keep some of these key tips in mind.

  • Do not put a TV in your child’s room. Having a TV in the bedroom has been linked to a number of problems including lower test scores, sleeping problems, and obesity.
  • Turn it off. When the kids are not watching a specific program, turn off the television. Keep it off during mealtimes and especially when they are studying or doing homework.
  • Help your child choose a video game or a show. The best way to know what your child is watching or playing is by helping her pick out a show or a game. When picking out a family film or game, read the reviews, watch previews, or ask other parents. Above all, know your child and trust your own instincts on what is appropriate.
  • Limit his screen time. Whether it’s one hour of TV and video games a day or a couple of hours a week, limit the amount of time your child spends with technology. More importantly, be committed and stick to those times you set.

I know there is a lot of pressure on parents in today's society but we do have a choice to have kids or not. We have to look out and do the best we can, who else will?

Enjoy each others company, go out in nature, play games without screens, cook, sing and create!

They are worth it.

Source: https://www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-technology-when-to-limit-it-and-how-621145

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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!

 

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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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Adolescents and Mental Health

Åse and I were very lucky to attend a conference on ‘Understanding Adolescents’ recently and it has given us a lot of pause for thought.  This area of life is such a momentous one and the role of the parent is more crucial than ever. Top of the list is keeping an eye on mental health issues in adolescence

Increasingly, adolescents are showing signs of anxiety, self-harm and depression.  This often stems from the many labels and stereotypes that are handed out, coupled with the internet and social media world they live in.  Cyberbullying is almost a way of life and sexting and pornography pressure a constant battle. Throw academic pressure into the mix and you can see why many teenagers are reporting experiencing panic attacks and degrees of anxiety on a daily basis.  Anxiety can be apprehension over a real or perceived problem and can sometimes be hard to detect, but it is our job as parents to notice!

 Warning signs to look out for:

1. Regular complaining about headaches, chest pain or dizziness.
Anxiety is not just in the mind – it affects the body, too.
2. Insomnia
If your child is more tired than usual or starts complaining about finding it hard to sleep this could point to anxiety issues.
3. Panic attacks
This is when adrenaline pumps through your body and you experience a faster heart rate, sweating or feel dizzy.
4. Changes in mood
All teenagers can be moody – but watch out for big mood swings and emotional outbursts not in keeping with their normal personality.
5. Changes in diet
Unless they are training for a marathon, if your child suddenly starts to eat more/less or suddenly gain/lose weight – notice!
6. Changes in social habits                                                                                             If your teen suddenly stops a hobby or socialising or starts hanging out with a new group…find out more.  It could be they are escaping from a situation causing them anxiety.

If you’re worried?

Be careful how you tackle them on any of the signs above.  Your role is care and support without judgement or decrees.
1. Don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions– but find out more about how they are feeling.
2. Don’t have a ‘worry or pity’ face when you talk to them.  Be open and as matter of fact as possible (show your worries and concerns when you’re alone) otherwise they’ll end up having to re-assure you which could add to their anxiety or worries.
3. Let your child make decisions.  By all means suggest routes to follow but your role is support and not to control them.
4. Suggest your child talks to a GP or school counsellor or get in touch with an online support service such as:-

https://youngminds.org.uk/

 https://www.mind.org.uk/

 

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IU2U!!

Adolescents text speak for 'It's up to you'. There is a whole new language out there that we, as parents, need to keep up with. 

They way  our teens and even younger kids communicate is very different from what most of us did. The amount of possibilities are scary as it's hard to keep up with it all.

However, we need to. To love means caring and we show we care by getting involved in their world.  They might say they don't want us to but what they want and what we do are two different things. Our adolescents need our caring more than ever, ask questions, learn about their world, keep and eye on their communication when possible. Question their decisions and have discussions on what is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, what is a relationship and caring for someone and what is 'normal' sex. Sex is a massive part for teenagers and to understand how to behave, they need guidance from us, not the Internet and friends. Dare to talk and step out of your comfort zone. Our kids need it!

This is some of the text speak being used:

FYEO - for your eyes only

PAW - parents are watching

F2F - face to face

LMIRL - let's meet in real life

DILLIGAF - do I look like I give a f***

53x - sex

DOC - drug of choice

IPN - I'm posting naked

GNOC - get naked on cam

There is a lot more to learn, get involved! Enjoy your teenagers life!

 

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The stress of being on call 24/7…

For those who have made the commitment to professions or work that requires them to be on call 24/7 – we salute you!  This type of work situation will require extreme willpower – and some clever coping skills.

Work out some boundaries

You can be on call and still ‘stretch’ the cord that attaches you to work.  When you’re ‘on call’ you need to be available, but this doesn’t mean you have to be physically working.  So remember:-

  • You're allowed to disconnect sometimes, even when you're on call. As long as your team knows you are taking 30 mins out to have dinner with the family or you’ll be offline for a short time – they’ll cope.  Let them break the curfew for an extreme emergency only and make contact with them again as soon as your time-out is over.

  • You're allowed to sleep. From a certain time, you should only receive emergency phone calls and not emails.  You should be able to rest and still be contactable.

  • On call has certain procedures, and these must change when you’re off duty. This is essential to keep your sanity and also to ensure your team remains efficient. Make sure everyone knows what constitutes an emergency wake-up or call and what can wait until morning.  Make sure you hand over to the next one on call at the end of your shift and then let the issues you were dealing with go.  Don’t worry about situations that are now the responsibility of another team member.

  •  Fiercely defend your personal time. When you're not on call, try to focus on your personal time and don’t be available for work.  Depending on the level of your responsibility, you will be there for emergencies, but otherwise – it’s personal time!  Turn of work-related emails and alerts and allow yourself downtime.

  • Try to synchronise on-call and off-duty with your family commitments and needs.

Technology can reinforce your boundaries

If you lack the willpower to ignore emails and alerts – turn your technology off!  There are lots of apps and tools that will help you – find them and use them! For eg:-

  •  Use ‘do not disturb’ features on your iPhone or use the app ‘sanity’.
  • Stop work-related notifications or adjust the time to differ between on-call and off-duty notifications. Check out ‘Pushover’ webapp to gain more control.
  • Make sure you filter mail and even use auto-response to differentiate responses for emergency or non-emergency emails.
  • Keep your family asleep if you’re on call at night.  Use vibrate or even a watch/bracelet notification system to minimise disruption to the rest of the family.

Remember, your health is so important.  Take care of yourself and ask for help if you feel your stress levels rising or you arent’ coping with the on-call demands.

 

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What is good parenting?

Good parenting means being responsive to the hand you’ve been dealt.
-Dr. Ross W. Greene

I really enjoy reading articles about parenting and the latest fads regarding families and bringing up children.

There have been a lot of information thrown at parents, in particular in the last 10 years or so. So many theories and ideas. Some work and others don't. 

The most important thing is to find what works for your family and that is not always easy. Also, each child is different and has different needs so one approach that fits all is generally possible.

I came across Dr. Ross Greene recently and really like what he teaches. His approach to dealing with behaviourally challenging kids seems so logical and makes sense. It has been tried with huge success in schools and homes in America and I would love to see it here too.

By meeting a challenging child with empathy and willingness to find solutions, the child learns coping strategies and how to solve these situations by themselves. Every child prefers to do well and when encourage and heard, they will do their utmost to do so. It's counter productive to punish and discipline when we don't know what their frustration is about. We and them have to understand the reason behind the behaviour and then teach the child to solve it themselves. With these coping skills, they can learn to handle difficult situations and grow to become independent and responsible. 

By asking specific questions we can find out what the lagging skills are and then define the unsolved problem. Include details related to who, what, where, and when. Ask; What expectation is the child having difficulty meeting? 

For more information please go to https://www.livesinthebalance.org/paperwork

It's worth the read.

 

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Sibling Rivalry Strategies

Sibling rivalry can be a huge cause of concern for parents whose perfect ‘happy family’ can deteriorate instantly into a seeming family war. Siblings may have been best friends for years and then one becomes a teenager and it all changes!  Or, you could be grappling with this rivalry each year of their lives.

Here are some strategies you can use to navigate this friction. 

1.     Start before the new baby is born:  Let your older child be part of the pregnancy and interact with the growing baby as much as possible.  Give her a role to play and her own ‘baby’ if possible (her own doll, pram, changing table etc) to play alongside you when you’re busy with the new baby.  Boys love prams too with their own choice of baby!

2.    Make sure visitors to the new baby focus on the older sibling too:  If visitors arrive with a gift for the baby, make sure there is something (even if you have to have a gift in reserve yourself) to give to the older child.  Let the older child ‘help’ with unwrapping gifts for the baby and testing them.  Call her/him ‘mommy’s assistant’ and help them feel special and older so they don’t regress to being a baby.  Give lots of praise for their help.

3.    Sharing your time:  This is the hardest area for the older child as they are used to having you to themselves.  Make sure you focus 1-1 on your older child in short bursts and use your network to keep your older child occupied and feeling important.

4.    Family meeting/talk tanks:  As soon as they are old enough, hold roundtable family discussions where everyone can have a say and be involved in the discussion to make sure they feel they have a voice and are an equal part of the family.  Use this to discuss feelings/decisions/choices/issues etc.  Your goal is to make your family into a ‘team’ with the ‘spirit’ of unity with a ‘family comes first’ mantra.

5.    Keep your eye on the big stuff:  Don’t overreact to small issues (toy squabbles). Try as much as possible to let the children work it out for themselves and practice conflict resolution.  Go in; state your expectations, ‘I’ll be back in 2 minutes and you need to have worked out between you how to share this toy or it comes with me’ and then leave.  Step in with bigger issues like bulling behaviour or put downs.  It’s your job to teach them empathy, sensitivity and inclusion.

Remember, your children are at different developmental stages, they have different personalities and these change as they get older.  They do not have to be treated the same.  If they feel valued and loved by you equally and you are fair and treat them as individuals (not necessarily equally) then you’re doing a good job.

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What keeps a relationship going?

When there are two people bringing up children together, the kids take up a lot of time. Some relationships can break under the strain of this and unfortunately around 40% of marriages end up in divorce. Why is that? Do we give up to easy? Have high expectations?

Research shows that lack of communication and having different expectations can eventually lead to separation. 

Couples that prioritise each other tend to have a closer relationship and work things out in a better way. By prioritising each other I mean spending time together without kids on a regular basis, support each others other hobbies, 'allow' each other time out with friends and have a united front with the kids. To undermine each other is immensely demeaning and to not feel appreciated slowly but surely works away inside.  A main reason partners give up is not being heard and feeling ignored. Lack of sex is another one.

Here are some useful tips, see how many you can tick off!

1. Show that you appreciate them.

When you've been married for many years, routine can become a slow relationship killer. A little bit of attention when a partner comes home can work wonders. Studies show that nearly half of partners that have cheated, say it was because of emotional dissatisfaction - and not sex. When we don't feel connected or appreciated, we become vulnerable to the advances of others who pay attention and are complimentary. 

In his film "Annie Hall," Woody Allen states that "a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies." I believe he was right.

2. Say thank you for the little things.

Keeping track of the positive things a partner does and thank them for them for it will show that you notice what they do and that you are grateful. We all need to be noticed and appreciated!

3. Be honest and communicate.

If you are feeling neglected and need to be seen, say so before it gets too much. We assume our partners should see and understand but that doesn't always happen. Share worries what ever they are, financial, self confidence, appearance, friends and of course, the children.  

4. Foster relationships outside your marriage.

My girls' trips are an important part of the marriage. As are my husbands biking or rugby trips. These weekends away with friends are important to be a better wife, husband and parent. Spending time with others and enjoying new experiences makes us more interesting to be around. 

There is plenty of room for other relationships in your marriage, and I don't mean romantic or sexual ones...

5. Don't sweat the small stuff. Or deal with it straight away!

There are big things and there are little things. The big things - addiction, illness and unemployment have a massive impact on a relationship but most of us don't have problems of that magnitude. Most of us have problems that are more like petty and repeated annoyances, which then grow into massive issues that effect how we are with each other.

Pay attention to the small things and address them before they explode! It's the unsaid resentments that will eventually do a relationship harm.

6. Let it go. Yes really.

Sometimes the best way to address a problem is to just walk away from it - as in seriously let it go. Chose your battles wisely, sometimes things are said that shouldn't have but know it's not always intended. Let it pass. Forgive and forget more. Remember why you married this person in the first place and the reasons behind it. They are most probably there, just hidden at times. What is really going on in their life right now and what do they need from you?

To really let something go requires also letting go in your head, if they stay there, they will come out in on way or another. LET IT GO!

7. Recognise the ups and downs.

One thing I am told quite often by a client is 'I just want to be happy'. Happy is not a constant, it's an emotion that comes and goes. Sometimes we love our partners to bits and the next week we can move out. By recognising this and allow the downs to come and then go, we can be safe in the knowledge that this is normal. The trick is knowing that you won't stay in either place forever. Most marriages are spent in an emotional middle ground. It's that place where you know what your partner is about to answer and says a comment that you were just about to say. Knowing someone pretty much inside out and feel safe. There will always be struggles but facing them together makes you stronger. Remember that!

8. Be kind.

Tendencies are that when we are in a bad mood, our partner soon knows about it. We have to let it out somewhere, right?! Yes we do, but not at home... There are lots of ways to off load stress and moods. Our partners deserve our love and kindness. What can I do today that will make my partner happy? Watch that rom com she loves but you hate? Go to the car show that he loves and you hate? By doing things for our partners we show them our love. They feel special and appreciated. It's like filling up a cash machine with notes; sometimes we need a large withdrawal and if it's already low there will be a problem. Keep it full as much as you can!! 

Be intimate in every way possible, it's not all about sex. Intimacy is about showing care and consideration, tell them you love them, give compliments and surprise with gifts every now and then. Touching, hugging and holding counts just as much. Look after each other!!

 

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Helping your toddlers to grow up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What's work and life balance about?

This is a pretty constant question in working parents lives... Stress is a big factor that most companies have employees signed off work due to. Wellbeing in the work place and at home is something we can all do more of. 

How do we achieve this? What makes life easier to cope with for all of you in the family?

Here are a few tips:

Coping strategies

1. Leave stress at the door

You do a good job of keeping a happy face at work, but maybe when you come home, you let your family have it. You may be inadvertently taking out your stress on your family and doing harm without realising it.

If you’ve just ended a particularly stressful workday, pause before you walk through your door at night. Do some deep breathing or listen to some calming music. This helps get you in a better mood before you see your partner and children. It will be noticed.

2. Share tasks

No one enjoys household chores, but they are things that have to be done. Evenly dividing chores like doing the dishes, taking out the rubbish, vacuuming, washing the dog, and raking the garden can prevent future conflict.

If everyone helps, no one person will feel put upon. It also allows for teaching moments with younger children so they learn not to become frustrated when they aren’t fully capable of completing a task. In the process they will learn skills they will need to live on their own.

3. Eat together

Dinner hour is one of the most important times in a family’s life. On nights you’re not rushing off for ballet or football practice, sitting in on a parent-teacher evening, or book club, plan for your family to have dinner together. You get more than one good thing out of this.

According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, children who eat meals with their family at least three times a week are 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods, and 12 percent less likely to become overweight.

A study from Brigham Young University found that those adults who sit down to a family meal in the evening reported their jobs to be more satisfying and healthier; suggesting dinner itself can reduce stress.

This time together provides an opportunity for communication and relationship building. It allows you to find out about things that might be causing your children stress. You can help them prevent future problems and teach them how to respond to the pressures they are facing now.

4. Have family activities

You don’t have to plan elaborate trips to theme parks or grand weekend outings. Setting aside one weekend a month or one night a week to spend as a family keeps communication channels open and allows you all to bond as a family. Play board games, do an art project, or go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or even cost money.

5. Keep communication open

You know your children and spouse best. When they are acting differently or don’t seem to be themselves, you will likely pick up on that quickly. Instead of avoiding the obvious, ask what’s going on. Moody teenagers may rebuff your questions, but letting them know that you’re available to talk may encourage them to come around.

More ideas:

-     Sleep is vital. Sleep deprivation is a MASSIVE problem so do your best to get those hours in.

-     Exercise. We all know it... What's the excuse? Override and do it!

-     Laugh! Humour brightens up most days.

Good luck and look after each other!

 

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Toddlers in the house?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Children and grief

There is a lot of information around for helping a family dealing with grief. This is very important and I hope families use these resources. In order for the family to get through death, it needs to be talked about and try to accept the different way we deal with this.

Like with most blows that life deals us, information and awareness is key. Communication needs to be there, involving the children and making them part of the decisions being made.

We can't protect them when such a tragedy happens. They need to be informed a long the way of the feasible outcomes if that is possible. This way they can prepare in their own way and also know they can ask questions.

Never make promises we can't keep. If our children ask us, 'will you die?' Never say, no. We simply don't know what is around the corner. Reassure and say you will do your very best to stay alive and fight what ever is going on. 

If a death is sudden, shock will affect everyone differently. Yet again, talk about it and let out any anger and fears. If not with the family members or friends, find a therapist or group. Holding things back will not help. Children will also have these fears and be angry and that can come out in many different ways like aggression, bed wetting, becoming very attached or withdrawn. Make sure there is support for all of the family. No need to be the 'strong' one. Everyone need help at times. 

Above all, hug, hold and love each other as much as possible. Together we can get through, alone will be so much harder.

Below are a list of useful contacts and websites


Childline
National helpline for children
www.childline.co.uk

CRUSE
Bereavement care for adults
www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk

Childhood Bereavement Network
Information and advice on bereavement services nationwide
www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk 

HOPElineUK 0870 170 4000
Support, practical advice and information to anyone concerned that a young person they know may be at risk of suicide

National Children’s Bureau – Childhood Bereavement Network
Information, and advice bereavement services nationwide
www.ncb.org.uk/cbn/directory

Papyrus
A website to help young people who may be thinking about suicide
www.papyrus-uk.org
 

Jigsaw, Supporting children through the loss of a loved one

http://www.jigsawsoutheast.org.uk/
 

Parentline Plus

www.parentlineplus.org.uk


Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide
www.sobs.admin.care4free.net

The Compassionate Friends
Organisation to support parents who have lost a child of any age
www.tcf.org.uk

The Way Foundation
Organisation to support young widows
www.wayfoundation.org.uk

At a Loss
Charitable movement of people across the UK who are passionate about enabling the bereaved to receive the support that they need
www.ataloss.org

 

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Coping With Extreme Tantrums...

You are taught to expect the terrible two's and a toddler tantrum, but what happens when these tantrums escalate and your child does not seem to be growing out of them?

We call these extreme or extended tantrums and they can be very hard for a parent to manage, especially if the tantrums involve hurting another child or damaging things around them.  What is actually happening here?

Children start to develop patterns of behaviour at a very young age and these are often centred around their relationships with significant 'big people'.  For example, we may teach our young children to 'be strong' and 'tough' and they may start to 'play' tough and strong and not realise that this is becoming a pattern of behaviour.  Sometimes, when they play 'strong' but they don't feel like they are being taken seriously or being seen the way they want to be (strong) they may then resort to a push or a hit to really show how strong they are.

An older child who throws a sustained tantrum uses a different part of their brain in its execution.  It's not just a release of feelings and emotions (as you find in a toddler tantrum) - but a 'little bit' of thinking and planning with this tantrum.  The child has decided that some need of theirs has not been met and that this is a good way of getting the result they want (parent attention or the toy etc).  In this way, the behaviour is reinforced and this becomes a pattern of behaviour.  They have, at some time, had a taste of the power that this type of behaviour brings and they want to repeat this to keep the power.  

To start to unpack this behaviour, you need to think: 'what need could my child have that is not being met?'  Statistically, the highest needs in an under 7 child are the need for love and connection with a parent.  On top of this, the parent needs to be one keeping the child safe so you have a double task, to provide complete love and safety whilst disciplining the child to stop the pattern of tantrums continuing.

How do you do this?

With a child who is showing these sorts of tantrums, pure discipline will not work as you are simply reinforcing your own power and will make them even angrier and feel more isolated.  You need a combination of firm boudaries, 'I am the parent and I am the one who controls things here and you may not like it, but I need you to respect this boundary and your behaviour needs to change.'   And, in this instance, you have got to put your own feelings of anger and disappointment with them aside and you need to connect with your child and assure them of your unconditional love.  You may feel like they don't deserve it - but the only way to change their behaviour is to build a new connection with them.  Ways to do this is to have 1-1 time with them away from the house and the other siblings and reinforce their positive behaviour.  In this way, they will start to unlearn the bad behaviour and feel more connected to the alternative - a new stronger connection with you.

You'll be amazed at how quickly their behaviour can and will change if you consistently keep that 'connection and love' line open and running.

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