Purely parenting!

How does social media affect our wellbeing?

I’ve been thinking about the impact social media has on our wellbeing. It is up and down for a lot of people. A kind of love or hate relationship.

Depending on how you are feeling that time you look on FB or Instagram, what you are reading and seeing can set you up for the day. The tendencies seem to be that the majority of posts are about how great life is, which can be really uplifting and inspiring if you are in that mindset.

However, if you are a bit low and things aren’t going as well as you’d like in your own life, reading about others ‘perfect’ lives can be depressing and sometimes hurtful. Seeing photos from an event or gathering with lots of your friends and you were not included can be one of those hurtful moments.

The lives of our online friends can seem so different and more exciting and successful than ours. But are they really? What goes on behind those facades?

There has been a lot in the news about suicides amongst not only youngsters but also adults. Has this digital world got anything to do with this increase in deaths?

So how do we live with this phenomena? How can we handle our social media without allowing it to get us down?

I think self-esteem plays a big part. If our self-esteem is high, we can handle situations and rationalise feelings much better. We are able to push those thoughts aside and see that what is presented is not always what it seems. Also, even if it is amazing, we can be happy for those involved and not jealous.

Envy is fine, we all would like some things we don’t have but that is OK, this is life. Kids today need to learn from an early age that life is not always fair, it can’t be the same for everyone. Study, work and do your best to create the life you want to live.

So, here are a few tips on increasing our self-esteem:

  • Write a gratitude diary every night. I know it sounds funny but it is all part of feeding our brains with positivity.

  • Challenge any negative thoughts that pop in to your head. “Is this really true?”

  • Use mantras. “I can do this” , “I am a good person”, “ I am worthy”, yet again, feeding our brains with positive words has a great impact.

  • Exercise! Release those endorphins!

  • Get out, go into nature and be present! The feeling of being out and breathing fresh air is unbeatable.

  • Sleep. Give yourself and your body a chance to recover and recharge.

Enjoy your life, never mind what others do!!

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Do you spy on your child (ren)?

Huawei has been in the news lately and seems to have got into trouble because some people think they are using their technology to ‘spy’ on people.  Even though the Company totally denies this claim, it has certainly generated a lot of interesting conversations about if it’s true, or even possible!

So, thinking about the concept of  ‘spying’ - who has the right to do this?  As the boss of a Company or a team leader, do you have the right to access any information your employee has created or their correspondence?  What impact would this have on you or the employee? 

As a parent, do you have the right to read your child’s diary or their text messages?  What are the boundaries?  What are the norms and rules?  What impact would this have on your relationship with your child? Can you resist the urge to do this?

In our work with parents,  Åse and I always language this question around the ages of the children and the risks involved.  It can be very controversial but we believe mutual trust is key, so you don’t invade personal space without prior communication and consent (i.e. you don’t ‘spy’).  Rather work with your child to gain access to this communication if you feel it’s important. 

The only time this would change is if you feel there is a significant risk to your child (if they are very depressed or suicidal) and breaking this trust to gain information may in fact be a life-saving action.  There’s also the very real worry about grooming and how this develops.  Breck Bednar  is a real example of this devastating situation.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47473932 Would this concern justify you spying on your child?

It would be great to hear what you think?  What experiences you’ve had with this and what you can share?  Please comment below if you’d like to join this conversation.

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The horrendous 'momo challenge' for kids...

My daughter (who works in child after-care) recently brought to my attention that there is a horrendous ‘momo challenge’ circulating that is hacking children’s online games like Peppa Pig, Fortnite and Youtube.

Primary schools are sending out warnings to parents as the craze seems to have arrived in the UK. Some are calling it a hoax, but hoax or not - if your child sees this is will most definitely be disturbing and potentially dangerous. I was horrified when I saw the video! It promotes self-harm, inflicting harm on others and even suicide in a series of threats to the viewer who has to ‘complete certain tasks otherwise momo will come and hurt them or their families’. The visual guides are extremely real and graphic.

2 thoughts instantly. What is becoming of our world that someone out there takes the time to come up with material like this; and our children are so vulnerable. Although the BBC News reported that ‘The UK Safer Internet Centre told the Guardian that it was "fake news", there are still unofficial copies with footage of "momo" that have been copied so children could end up seeing these unofficial uploads and be exposed to the distressing images’. Knowledge is key and it’s important to know what your children may see.

If you have not heard about this and you have younger or potentially vulnerable children, please do a bit of investigating. Then - most importantly - make sure your children know how dangerous this hack is. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Help them to understand how to say NO to things that don’t sound or feel right.

Childline offer the following advice FOR KIDS: How to say no

1) Say it with confidence: Be assertive. It’s your choice and you don’t have to do something which makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

2) Try not to judge them: By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.

3) Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’: It takes confidence and courage to say no to your friends. Spend time with other friends who also aren’t taking part.

4) Suggest something else to do: If you don’t feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, suggest something else to do.

With internet safety there is lots we can do:-

Set up parental controls

  • Use ‘Parental controls’ to block upsetting or harmful content

  • they can also control how long and when they’re online, plus stop them downloading apps.

Talk to your children

  • Have regular conversations about what your child is doing online

  • Explore sites and apps together

  • Talk about what personal information they should share online

  • Create a family agreement about what behaviour is appropriate when they are online

Do your research

  • Check through websites your child is using

  • Change privacy settings

  • Turn OFF location sharing

I don’t want to advertise the momo site here - but google it or look at it on youtube so you know what your child may be exposed to.

It’s our responsibility to safeguard our children. Find out what you need to know and get it done.

Take a look at these sites for online safety help:-

Our Pact: https://www.producthunt.com/alternatives/ourpact

Site recommending apps: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-parental-control-apps/

NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

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Phones and sleep

So, it’s been in the news lately about the connection between mobile phones and sleep deprivation.

In particular, it’s been concerning children and ensuring they get enough sleep which is a national problem, and was highlighted on the BBC news this morning.

We all need our sleep to function properly and children need it even more in order to allow their brains to develop the way it needs to.

There is lots of data and research as far as sleep goes and it’s being done for a reason; sleep deprivation is affecting people everywhere. It’s not just about individuals and their personal needs, it’s very much about us as a society.

Sleep deprivation affects our ability to function properly including concentrating whilst driving and working. Productivity is affected for both adults and children.

Here are the latest recommendations from https://www.sleepfoundation.org

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

There are a few variables as we do have different needs dependent on fitness levels, weight, health issues etc.

Overall though, we all need to sleep undisturbed to function and allow our brain to rest. This includes leaving phones turned off and preferably away from the bedroom. A child should never have a phone or any electronics in the bedroom as it makes it too easy to be reachable. My daughter was one of them a few years ago, she kept on getting messages from needy friends in the middle of the night and it disturbed her sleep badly. I had to step in and remove it and told her to tell her friends she has the worst mum in the world!

The need to be available 24/7 is creating a society that is unhealthy and stressful. What choices do we have? At what stage do we realise what this is doing to our health?

As parents, we are the adults and decision makers for our children when it comes to knowing what’s best for them. Dare to be the ‘worst parents in the world’ because that comes with being the loving, caring parents we need to be. Boundaries are necessary for a child to learn right from wrong and they will thank you later on!

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Perspective - an essential life skill!

My son is studying photography for GCSE and I was watching him work at the weekend and couldn’t quite believe the difference in what ‘I saw’ him photograph and what ‘he saw’ and produced through his camera. This got me thinking about perspective and how important it is with everything in life.

What lens do you use? What glasses do you wear when you look at something? Clear, tinted, shrinking, enlarging or do you see things in bi-focal? Do you swap your ‘outlook’ depending on what you’re looking at? If so, why?

When you are enmeshed in something, you cannot see the ‘wide angle’ of the situation and when you are removed it’s very hard to understand all the nuances, intricacies or emotions of the detail.

But how often are we able to digest all these angles, lenses and perspectives when we are faced with a situation or event? Where do we get the tools to navigate perspective successfully?

Perspective comes from having a personal opinion or view on something that has been moulded over time by your life experiences, values, thoughts, assumptions plus a whole lot of other factors like community, finances, environment etc.

In order to successfully develop relationships, communications and experiences for yourself it’s imperative to develop empathy and compassion for others. We often use the word ‘mindful’ of others to emphasise how important it is to both respect and acknowledge everyone’s thoughts and feelings in situations and not just your own.

On a parenting level, children will learn how to develop perspective if they grow up knowing that their thoughts, feelings and experiences are both understood, valued and respected by their parents. Make sure you constantly engage with your children and reflect their feelings back to them to let them know that they are noticed and that you are available to both help and support them.

In the workforce, you should be constantly mindful and aware of the different points of view that exist and to allow, acknowledge and respect those different perspectives. Sometimes this might mean that you need to take a break, take a breath, or take a long hard look at yourself to make sure that whatever glasses you are wearing are not tinting the situation.

Perspective is what brings diversity, inclusion and growth. Perspective allows for creativity and compromise and development. Perspective is a life skill that our children need to develop and we all need to encourage throughout our lives.

As you move through today, be mindful of what is influencing your perspective and how this differs from others.

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Envious or pleased?

I’ve been thinking of trolls on the web and bullies everywhere and wondering what causes their horrendous behaviour.

What makes someone behave in such a way towards others? What do they get out of it?

Self-esteem; Self-esteem is the way people think about themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Psychologists use the word self-esteem to describe whether someone likes them self or not. ... Someone with low self-esteem might think that they are bad at things and worthless.

Now low self-esteem comes out in many different ways and bullying and trolling is one. This temporary ‘I am better than you, see how I was able to make you feel’ gives a lift and sense of achievement in its warped way.

By trolling and bullying a person has a purpose and thinks others might think they are clever. It’s all about how others perceive them, that is what makes them feel that temporary feeling of ‘good’ about themselves. Not for long though but once they started this behaviour, it’s hard to stop even when they know it’s wrong. Then the justifications start, ‘he deserves it’, ‘she asked for it’ , ‘they are scum’ etc. Because if it’s not justified, they are the ones who are wrong…

It’s a sad way of getting acknowledgement but if a person doesn’t get it anywhere else, that will do.

There is always a reason behind a persons behaviour and this is about significance and love; the need to be seen. When someone is a bully, they need help and support, just like the victims. I don’t condone this behaviour at all but I do feel sad for someone who inflicts this on someone else as inherently, we all want to be loved and significant.

The ability to feel genuinely pleased and happy for someone else is not something that always just happens. Most of us can have twinges of envy and ‘why not me’ thoughts. However, how far we allow those thoughts to go is a different matter. This is where we have a choice and can push away the negativity and think; ‘why not them?!’ ‘My turn might just come, good for you!!’.

Gratitude and contribution are two things that will make us feel good about our lot in life. No matter how difficult something might be, there will a silver lining somewhere. We just have to find it.

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Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!

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What does family mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family can relate to places of work or associates by proximity

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

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

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

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

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Children and work? What choices are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few links to help along the way:

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

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

https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk

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

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

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How adaptable is your child? How adaptable are you?

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

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

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

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

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

No                                                                                        Yes

1         __         2        __      3       __         4    __            5

Adapts quickly                                                          Adapts slowly

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

LESS ADAPTABLE

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

MORE ADAPTABLE

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

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

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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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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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New Year Resolutions Anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year!

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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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What Parents Say (and Do) Matters...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Fears and phobias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parts of this article was first published in Essential Kids.

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The privilege of being a parent....

 

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

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

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

You get to pack lunch for the kids.

You get to take them to school.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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