Self-esteem

Talking about the sensitive stuff

What is the sensitive stuff we need to talk about? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scaredy cat?

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

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

Here are some tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Become an aware parent for your children's sake!

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

 

Courage and kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do boys learn to make good choices?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's talk sex!

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

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

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

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

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

Keep talking!!

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Don’t let these words hurt either !

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

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

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

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

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

2) Shame. “Ugh. What now?!”

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

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

3) Autocratic. “Don’t tell me no!”

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

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

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Don’t let your words hurt!

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

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

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

And some tips on what you could say instead….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tips in 2 weeks’ time…..

Soft skills versus hard skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the best you can!!

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

Words Hurt !

Every time we speak – our children listen.  Our voice becomes that ‘inner voice’ that they hear when they are trying to make decisions or interact with others. 

Try to avoid labels at all costs.  Never label a child as ‘good’ or 'bad’ – but when faced with unsavoury behaviour try and stay neutral (esp. when they are having a tantrum!) and try to work out what the feelings are behind the actions or behaviour you are encountering.

One way to be a progressive parent is to realise your child’s behaviour is not happening ‘to you’.  See them as their own individual being with their own thoughts, feelings and experiences and work with them on a journey of navigation.  How we respond to them – their tantrums, their cries, their outbursts or anything we ‘don’t like’ will make all the difference to how they process the situation and how this will shape their behaviour in the future.

So, what do we do?  When we respond, we need to try to connect with our child in a way that reduces stress – for both the child and you!  We need to create a safe place for the child to process emotion and unpack their behaviour.  Their feelings are never ‘bad’, although sometimes their behaviour is not what you’d like.  We need to make sure we separate the behaviour from the root cause/emotion behind the behaviour and don’t try to control it or blame the child.  Children by nature want to be good so look beneath the surface and see the ‘bad’ behaviour as a cry for help.  Your job is to figure out what they need help with!  Sometimes it’s just wanting to feel connected to you, the parent.

Children will mirror what we do a lot more than what we say.  So, we can start by showing them how we want them to behave by modelling and behaving that way ourselves.   If your children are fighting with each other, a lovely expression to use is: ‘we are not a fighting family’.  So, you are not singling out any one child or behaviour – but you are emphasising team work and the family unit.  This type of unity can be used for many things e.g.: ‘we are a family that listens to each other’; ‘we are not a shouting family’ etc.

Check out this blog in 2 weeks’ time for some PRACTICAL TIPS on what we say and the damage it could do and how to change our words!

How much do I allow my child to do?

One problem I have encountered along the way working with families is the 'helicopter' parenting that seems to be quite common. It seems that a lot of families do most things for their children like: serving and clearing up, carry them or their bags, clean their rooms, make their beds, help them put on their clothes, shower them etc. The list is long.

The question is what are we achieving by doing these things? How do we actually help our kids in a better way? What is the impact on them?

It all comes back to self-esteem and confidence. If we allow or push our kids to help with chores, take responsibility for their school work, learn to make their beds, clean themselves and generally be made to be part of the family team, they will grow. Grow in their ability to take responsibility for their own decisions, feel confident that they are able and if not able, learn that asking for help is also OK. They also learn to stand up for themselves and understand common decency, what is right and wrong. The freedom to go to the newsagent to buy something or walk down the road to a friend on their own is an immense uplifting feeling for our kids. They have to learn to become independent. Small steps at a time!

It's very easy to take over as most times, it's quicker to do it ourselves. However, if we think about it, there are lots of opportunities to allow the kids the chance to 'help' and allow them to do certain things their way. To let it go is a challenge at times but the effect on the kids in long term is worth it. We all want independent, confident and caring children. Self-esteem is something we need to help our children to get and keep. These steps are a few that will help to achieve this.

How to help a fearful or anxious child...

Does your child lie awake at night 'worrying' - or not want to go to school or leave home because they're feeling anxious about something? 

Many children will feel anxious or express fears at different times in their lives.  Some are simply age related and will change as they grow and develop, but other fears can be triggered by an event or may be learned fears from someone else.

Here are some ideas to help your child cope with their fear:-

1. Help your child understand the difference between fear and just being cautious.

2. Acknowledge and affirm their fear to validate their feelings but encourage them to be brave and face their fear and not let it stop them from experiencing life.

3. Don't lie to them or make promises that are not true.  If you can't guarantee their safety don't promise it, but reassure them that there are steps and plans in place to keep them safe and you (or a responsible adult) will be there for them if they have any further worries.

4. Kids gain power and control if they 'do something', so teach them skills to cope.  Role play is a good idea to show them options for coping and to help them face a new situation.

5. Confidence is catchy so show your confidence in your child’s ability to deal with their fears. 

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Be the parent you want to be!!

Do you find it hard to listen to other mums at times and wonder how on earth they do it?

Some mums seem so perfect and can cope with everything! In my experience, it's a facade a lot of us hide behind and we are to scared to show the real us... What if someone really saw me and didn't like me anymore? Or thought what an awful mother and person I am? These are real fears for a lot of parents and trying to keep up with 'everyone' else is exhausting.

Take a deep breath and have a think of who you really are and what you think is best for your kids and family over all. Most of us actually do know more than we think and are very able if we put our minds to it. So what if someone else does it differently?? If you know what you do is the right thing, stick to your guns! Nor only are you sticking up for yourself and your values but you also show your kids what is important. You are their role model at all times so make sure you show them what is right and what is wrong.

Stand up straight and use your voice. Say what you think and stand up for your beliefs! By doing this we also allow others to dare to speak up. If we can, they can. In the nicest possible way of course!!

Enjoy the freedom of being you!