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Don’t just Google it!

By | baby health, children's health, Education, Health, prenancy | No Comments

Search engines like Google and Bing are more likely than any other source of information to provoke anxiety during pregnancy, according to research.

A survey of 300 mums who have given birth in the past five years published in the UK Maternity Report by the UK’s leading private midwifery services provider, Private Midwives, revealed that search engines were more likely than any other source to provide information which causes further worry and anxiety.

The news comes following midwife, lecturer and advisor to BBC’s Call the Midwife, Terri Coates, revealed that the Internet was stopping women from turning to their professional midwife for advice.

As many as 41% reported this was the case, while almost the same number (38%) said they had read information about pregnancy in online forums such as groups and chat boards which had caused them concern.

Despite this, 89% admitted that they had consulted the Internet for non-emergency health advice or information about their pregnancy, and outside of midwife appointments, mums-to-be are more likely (53%) to turn to the Internet for non-emergency advice or information than anyone or anything else.

Many will do this regularly throughout their pregnancy – more than one in 10 (13%) searched for advice online on
a daily basis, while more than one in four (27%) did so every few days.

Linda Bryceland, head of midwifery at Private Midwives, said: “Traditionally during pregnancy, women often found themselves receiving huge amounts of conflicting information – everything from well-meaning loved ones, to media and even strangers in the supermarket. But the Internet has opened up a whole range of new sources of information, which in many cases may not be medically qualified and given without context or taking into consideration women’s individual circumstances and medical backgrounds. What’s more, this is available at the touch of the button, on a whim – so it is not surprising that women are finding themselves logging off and feeling more worried than they were to begin with.

“If women have concerns or questions about their pregnancy, the best thing to do is to resist the temptation to quickly search for more information or the answer online, and instead speak to a medical – whether that’s their midwife, the non-emergency NHS 111 phone line or their GP, who can provide professional, clinical information and guidance, which takes into account their medical history and individual circumstances.”

According to the survey, as many as 90% of UK women who gave birth in the past five years experienced anxiety and worry during their pregnancy.

The top five sources of information which provided information which worried mums-to-be during their pregnancy:
1. Search engines – 41%
2. Online forums/groups – 38%
3. People who aren’t medical professionals who I know – 32%
4. Blogs – 27%
5. Strangers – 16%

Private Midwives is a Care Quality Commission registered and regulated service which connects expectant parents with expert midwives who provide antenatal care, birth care and support, and postnatal care at times and locations that work best for parents-to-be.

Will flexible working help to close the gender pay gap?

By | Education, Relationships, Work employment | No Comments
by Emma Cleary
Ten2Two Sussex

Part-time work often has a gender pay gap that’s twice as big as the full-time pay gap, because it’s not as well paid and it’s mainly women doing it.

Yet are we happy as a nation to let the gender pay gap be explained away by the fact that men are largely leading our businesses and driving thought leadership rather than women? Simply because of what is being termed a ‘motherhood penalty’? It’s all too easy to view the gender pay gap this way – but there’s more to it than that.

A lack of promotion hits part-time working mothers
Lack of women in senior roles is one reason the gender pay gap is present, although many organisations are working hard to alter this.

It’s actually amazing what can be achieved in a 30-hour week. And if you take into account how productive part-time workers actually are – after all, they are always working to a deadline to get their work done in their hours – this may not present much less output than a full-time worker’s hours.

Yes, it’s true that senior part-time people may not want greater responsibility if they are already stretched to capacity with other commitments to fulfil elsewhere. But bosses must be careful not to assume this is always the case and be under-standing of employee’s needs.

For example, if employers are expecting workers to shoe horn a full-time working week into part-time hours, this will only lead to burn out and ultimately, the employee will end up leaving.

Attitudes to part-time workers simply not acceptable
We have heard of cases where employers have said to their part-time workers, “If you don’t like it, you know what you can do.” This is simply unacceptable.

Part of attitudes like this feed into the old-fashioned thinking that presenteeism is more productive than part-time or absent remote workers. This has to change if any movement in gender equality at work is to really be achieved.

As a flexible recruiter, we work with countless forward-thinking businesses who don’t take this view – and they see the benefits of flexible working really pay off in the long term.

Returnships – often one sided
Dare we say it, returnships can feel rather one-sided in favour of the employer and, in reality, don’t solve the problems of the gender pay gap. For us, most returnships don’t address what it is that women really need in the workplace.

Returner roles are generally full-time but often the issue is that women simply can’t work full working weeks when they still have to carry the majority of the childcare burden. Not to mention caring for older parents and requiring flexibility to manage health issues as they get older. Ten2Two’s recent research suggested women shoulder 63% of childcare responsibilities.

Time to address ageism – not just children
Ageism is the next big barrier that needs to be talked about.

We’ve seen Women’s Hour addressing the menopause and work in 2018 – a big step that has until now been swept under the carpet. Fact is, until we bring issues like this into the open, we won’t see real change in the way women rise through the ranks at work.

Deborah O’Sullivan, Managing Director at Ten2Two, says, “We believe that flexible working can play a big role in closing the gender pay gap once and for all. As we’re increasingly seeing, senior roles can be done part-time, and yet there’s a widely held view that the more senior you become, the more hours you have to work. It’s simply not true.”

“We know, the more senior you become, the more skilled you become at delegating and organising your time and resources and using your own skills in the best way possible, so there’s no reason senior positions can’t be part-time.”

If you’d like to hear more from Ten2Two Sussex on the subject of flexible working, please contact
Emma Cleary at emma@ten2two.org

How to handle criticism of your parenting

By | Education, family, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments

Every parent has the right to raise their child in a way that they best see fit. Experts recognise many different, yet successful, forms of parenting and the fact that there is no one right way to support the well-being of our children.

It’s not only important to acknowledge various parenting methods, but also for parents to be aware that it’s okay to take time to work out what is right for you and your family. This is especially important as what might work for one parent might not work for you with your children. However, the various parenting techniques out there can lead parents to compare themselves to others or feel that they must try out the latest parenting trend, whether that suits their child’s unique needs or not. Parenting is also challenging to keep up with, you might have finally found what works with your child and the next thing you know, they’ve outgrown that stage and you need to try something else.

We are bound to make mistakes as parents, no one is perfect. With each day comes new hurdles and developmental milestones. Raising your children into well-rounded individuals won’t happen overnight, it’s a work in progress, a beautiful one, but work all the same. Unfortunately, with parenting also comes unnecessary criticism, whether this be from other family members, friends, or chatty mums at the school gates. Hearing negative comments about your parenting style can certainly hit a nerve and knock our confidence.

Ben Edwards, a self-confidence expert and relationship coach, has some excellent pieces of advice for handing criticism over your parenting.

Ask why they are criticising you.
If your own parents, for example, appear to be criticising you, it might only be because they feel close enough to you that they can comment on your family.

However, it’s important to ask why they are doing this and what they want to achieve from it. If they can see something you are doing isn’t working or can offer you a solution, ask them if that’s the case. Your parents are likely to want to help and guide you as you parent your child – letting them know how it’s coming across can be an easy way to change the tone.

Differentiate between criticism and advice
Quite often, especially with new parents, when someone offers you parenting advice it’s easy to assume they are criticising what you are currently doing or suggesting that you are getting something wrong. Sometimes, people really do just want to help. Differentiating between useful advice that you can take onboard and unhelpful criticism will help you to see who is worth talking to about parenting and asking for tips and who it’s best to ignore.

Listen to the experts
While it’s true that the only real expert about a child is their parents, if you are really unsure about what’s best, speak to a professional. A health visitor is there to help you ease into life with a baby, so if you are feeling overwhelmed about all the advice and/or criticism you seem to be receiving, ask someone who is specifically trained in the field.

Accept that everyone parents differently
You and your best friend might have done everything together and been very similar for years, but this can all change when you have children. If you and your best friend parent your children differently, accept that everyone is different and remind yourself that you parent in a certain way because it’s right for your children; everybody is unique and what works for one child may not work for another. This will help you to feel secure about the way you are doing things; just because your methods differ does not mean they are any less justified or productive. If you feel your friend is being critical, discuss this openly and be honest about your feelings.

Be confident
When people see you parenting your child in a way that they think is different or don’t agree with, they’ll often feel like they need to comment on it. Sounding confident and certain that that’s the way you do things, with phrases such as “it works for us so we don’t plan to change that until we have to” or “thank you for your ideas but I’ve decided to do this” will clearly show people, in a polite way, that you are secure in your parenting style and this will make it less likely for people to offer unwanted advice.

For more self-confidence and relationship advice, visit www.benedwards.com

Challenging gender stereotypes

By | Education, family, Relationships | No Comments
by Chloe Webster
Pebbles childcare

As a society, we are becoming significantly more aware of issues, troubles and confusion around the subject of gender for children and within the Early Years Sector. Here we take a look at how we as practitioners and parents can support children in exploring their feelings towards their gender and to ensure that we are not promoting or advocating gender stereotypes within our settings and home routines and environment, thus allowing children the freedom and confidence to be happy and resilient individuals.

BBC 2 aired a fascinating documentary entitled No more boys and girls: can our kids go gender free? piloting an experiment within a school whereby all items/language/practices that could promote traditional gender stereotypes were removed and discussed
and the children were encouraged to be ‘gender free’ with no reference or distinction being made to them as ‘boys’ and ‘girls.’

As society becomes more aware of gender stereotyping and issues; with schools now introducing same-sex toilets, banning skirts and gender typical uniform, and commuter announcements being changed to include and promote equality for the binary community (genderless), this documentary bought these issues to our attention and as a result made us reflect upon our own practice and provision in order to identify whether or not we are indirectly promoting gender stereo-typical play for our children.

As both practitioners and parents we can all be guilty of gender stereotyping children indirectly in even the most discreet of ways, which inadvertently contribute to the overbearing stereotypes that society has now imposed on our children.

As Ros Ball and James Miller investigate in their book The gender agenda: a first-hand account of how girls and boys are treated differently, so many people make the assumption and distinction that there are specific toys designated for boys and girls.

Take this extract from the book where the authors write about a play date with a friend and their child: “11th March 2011 – Yesterday a friend came to play with her three year old boy and a one year old girl. I asked what toys they would like me to get out. I suggested DUPLO, musical instruments, cars or dressing up. My friend was sure her boy would want to play with the cars. He didn’t seem more interested in them than any other toys to me. Later she asked her girl, ‘Wouldn’t you like to try on the fairy wings?’ She said no. I often see blatant directing of children into gendered play like this, yet parents don’t notice their own influence. Isn’t it obvious?”

This sparks the debate; is it us as adults and society who are indirectly forcing these stereotypes onto children? Or are our children genetically designed to show an innate preference for certain types of play and resources?

Whether you are a parent or a practitioner, look around your environments and ask yourself how many of your toys are blue and pink? What types of toys are these? How are both genders represented within your setting and environments that your children access, in terms of images, stories and learning resources? Do these representations fit with society’s stereotypes? Are girls represented as the ‘weaker’ more vulnerable characters whilst the boys are represented as being ‘strong’ and the leaders?

We may not intend to force these stereotypes on our children, and it is exceptionally easy to do indirectly and so we need to be conscious of what our environments and resources are saying to our children and how these factors could be contributing to children adhering to strict gender stereotypes.

For example, even the television programmes children watch and engage with endorse gender stereotypes, for example, Ros Ball, author of The Gender Agenda, reflects on the time her daughter chose a ‘Bob the Builder’ magazine to read on the train, showing a particular interest in the ‘Join Bob’s team’ page with photos of children being sent in and published building and constructing in various ways – all of Bob’s ‘team’ were boys.

What message does this send to our children? Is it any wonder children are developing set ideas of what ‘jobs’ are specific to each gender?

It is not only the environment and resources that we need to be mindful of, similarly the language we use is just as important as the environment and attitudes we provide; for example, the BBC 2 documentary noticed how the teacher referred to the boys using terms of endearment such as ‘mate’ and ‘lad’ whilst he frequently referred to the girls as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love’, using these terms countless times throughout the day. When the boys were questioned on whether the teacher should refer to them as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love’ too, the boys were dismayed and said, “That’s not what you call boys! That’s a
girls word!”

Language is powerful and can impact our children and their behaviours more than we realise. Aren’t we all guilty of telling boys, “We don’t hit girls”, “Be nice to the girls” and “Let the girls go first.”

Whilst this is both polite and friendly behaviour, we also need to be mindful of what message this relays to the children. “We don’t hit our friends”, “Be nice to each other” and “Take it in turns” is significantly more useful language to use in order to promote positive relationships and understanding of politeness and manners to everyone.

As Early Years practitioners, we have a responsibility to the children in our care to remain as gender neutral as possible through the language we use, the environment we provide and the resources we provide access to.

And as parents, we are at the front line of influencing children’s understanding of gender and where these stereotypes are initiated and ingrained – within the child’s earliest years. However, we could question whether becoming moderately gender neutral in our settings confuses children. We tend to encourage children to develop a sense of self and make comparisons and distinctions between themselves and others, talking about similarities and differences and the characteristics that make them unique. Yet on the other hand we are trying not to distinguish between their genders and differences.

The Early Years community is only a small part of a much wider society, and so it poses the question is society as a whole ready to be completely gender neutral? For practitioners and parents alike the gender debate is one which is only just beginning. It is vital that we are all mindful and proactive in challenging stereotypes as they occur and ensuring that our children understand that they are not defined by their gender alone and we support them in exploring their gender and being confident and comfortable with who they are as people, not just simply as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’.

Chloe Webster and Bridgit Brown are OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Childminders From Worthing, West Sussex offering a professional and individual service for children and their families aged 0-8 years. www.pebbleschildcare.co.uk

What you need to know before considering mediation

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Sarah Brookes
Brookes Family Mediation

The mediator will not tell you what to do or make any decisions for you
The mediator’s role is to support you both towards reaching joint decisions, on the issues that you each identify as needing resolution. Whilst the mediator will help you to reality test any proposed agreements; to ensure that they will work as intended, in meeting and protecting each of your needs; they will not seek to influence the final decisions that you make. You will be supported to jointly take responsibility for the shape of your future. This approach reduces conflict and minimises the need to compete; unfortunately, the exact opposite is true of court proceedings. It is for this reason that mediated arrangements have proved less likely to break down than court ordered arrangements.

Mediation is more likely to be successful if you keep an open mind
Whilst it is helpful to give some thought to what you would like to achieve through mediation; you will also need to be able to consider ideas and proposals put forward by the other person. This approach enables all options to be explored, in order to find the best solutions for you both. Agreement is usually reached quickest when both people feel that they have been fully and equally involved and listened to within the process.

A mediator does not make moral judgements
Mediation is not about raking over the past to decide who was right and who was wrong. It is about dealing with the here and now, and the practical arrangements and decisions that need to be made, to enable you both to move forward in the best way possible. The mediator will remain impartial and committed to helping you both equally, throughout the process. Emotional outbursts are fairly common within mediation, and will not affect the mediator’s ability to remain entirely impartial.

A mediator is not a passive observer
The mediator will take an active part in your discussions, and whilst they will not give advice, they will often make suggestions, flag up points that have not been considered, and give relevant information. Where necessary, the mediator will also refocus the conversations, to ensure that they are constructive and moving forward towards solutions and agreements.

Where there has been domestic abuse, mediation may still be
the best option
It is the mediator’s duty to provide a safe environment where you are able to freely express your views, without fear of harm. If you do have concerns relating to your safety, the mediator will be able to asses and advise as to whether or not mediation is appropriate in your circumstances. If you don’t feel able to sit in the same room as your former partner, mediation can take place on a ‘shuttle’ basis, which is where you will sit in separate rooms, with the mediator moving between you. The mediator will usually also arrange staggered arrival and departure times. There is even the possibility of mediation taking place through Skype, so that you do not have to be in the same building.

Sarah Brookes spent 16 years working as a family lawyer in Eastbourne, before setting up Brookes Family Mediation. Sarah is passionate about the benefits of mediation. If you are uncertain about whether mediation is right for you, or if you have any questions, give Sarah a call on: 01323 411629 or email her: sarah@brookesfamilymediation.co.uk
Or for more information go to: www.brookesfamilymediation.co.uk

Discover how to be a better parent and not feel guilty

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments
Top tips from Justine van de Weg,
The Arts College Worthing

As parents it is very easy to feel that we are not doing it right and we are often asked the same questions; How do I become a better parent? What am I doing wrong? I just want my child to be happy, why can’t I understand them? How do I deal with their outbursts, anger and anxiety? Why are they OK at school all day and then difficult at home? How do I say ‘no’ to my child without feeling guilty?

Here are five top tips to help you keep the balance of parenting (without feeling guilty).

1. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can
It is very easy for us as parents to compare ourselves to others and feel that we are in some way failing. The world bombards us 24/7 via social media with unrealistic images. This can make you feel that you should be able to achieve more. Life is often very hectic and many of us are faced with work and home life balance battles every day.

Ask yourself these questions:
• Do I feel guilty and upset after an argument?
• Do I sometimes feel out of control?
• Do I feel like a broken record; constantly repeating the same instruction?
• Do I feel burnt out and tired?
• Do I feel whatever I try is just not working?

All these questions that you ask yourself reveal the following:
• You care – that is why you often worry
• You are prepared to learn new parenting skills when you don’t feel judged or criticised
• You will naturally look at other parents and compare yourself forgetting they are doing the same with you!

Remember, when you compare yourself to other parents you are only witnessing them with their children on their good day. If you really think about it, you have some good days and some bad days but when you are tired the bad days can feel overwhelming and out
of control.

2. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
What is a boundary? Factually saying aloud what you do not like somebody to say or do to you without becoming personal. Many parents become confused with the word boundary as they assume they are destructively disciplining. You can set the boundary with a calm approach, whilst being open to listening to your child without taking it personally.

Boundaries are healthy actions that allow you to:
• Say what you do or don’t like
• Explain how an action or situation makes you feel
• Want to resolve, instead of win an argument.

Boundary setting can become unclear when you ask your child to do something and threaten them with a consequence but do not follow it through. This is where the repeating of the instruction can feel like listening to a broken record.

Examples; “Can you please wash the dishes.” “This is the second time I’ve asked you to wash the dishes.” “By the time I ask you for the third time to wash the dishes, there will be a consequence of
not watching the movie with
us tonight.”

How many of you stick to the third request and follow through with the clear consequence?

When you are tired you feel yourself giving in and once again the feeling of being ‘a broken record’ arises. Simple, clear boundary setting helps your child understand what you expect from them and what you want them to do.

3. When you ask, give in return
If you want your child to work with you, help with chores and to work together as a team, show them their effort pays off. We all love to feel appreciated and if they are rewarded with a thank you or praise it will make for a happier household (this reward does not always have to be financial, you will mostly find your child just wants to do an activity with you).

4. Giving the special one hour
Every day switch off your phone and enjoy fully engaging without any interruptions and doing activities led by your child. It sounds obvious but how many times do you reach for the phone whilst your child is talking to you or wants your attention?

5. Have a clear routine or schedule
A routine schedule clearly defines to your child when they are spending time with you. Having a monthly calendar on the wall helps them to understand when you ask them to do chores, they will feel they are being rewarded and appreciated by spending quality time with you. If you have more than one child, they can see when it is their turn to do something special with Mum
or Dad.

In conclusion, start being kind to yourself and realise when you are tired, you can ask for help (this is not a sign of weakness) and don’t be afraid to delegate. Trying to do it all by yourself is something that you will never be able to achieve!

Justine van de Weg is the Founder of The Arts College in Worthing.
Art Psychology is a new area of study – a tool for parents to learn how their children’s brain grows as well as develops emotionally and socially in their home.
Call 01903 529 633
www.justine86.wixsite.com/kidsartclasses

What is so good about being part of a drama group?

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children | No Comments
by Sally Orr
Co director at Drama Queens and longtime drama group facilitator

 

For the young children who run into our studio every week with smiles on their faces, there is an excitement about being part of a group; maybe with friends from school, or perhaps, with their new friends from the new group. There is the promise of learning something new and fun, or taking part in an invigorating or relaxing activity.

Since we established our theatre sessions, workshops and performances many years ago, we have consistently found that the younger and older children forge new friendships outside school. This is important in helping them establish their own identity at all stages of development from an early age up to the sometimes turbulent teenage years.

This is where the drama comes in – social skills are a part of our everyday lives and as we know, we start developing them at a very early age. By using the techniques that are available to us in the creative arts, we are able to lay the foundations that help build the confidence to use these skills. Friendships formed in groups outside school can create a world for children to escape to if there are troubles within school friendships groups, or can simply act as an extra layer to existing friendship groups.

Together with this, working within a creative framework can be a freeing and relaxing time for a child of any age, whether they are six or 16. We know that where confidence and low self-esteem are an issue, acting out, role-playing and using imagination can dramatically (please excuse the pun!) increase these in abundance, especially when encouraged in a nurturing environment.

Self-expression can be difficult, but all children and young adults deserve a way to express themselves; be it the child who likes to make shapes with their body to tell a story through the medium of dance, the teenager that likes to act out scenarios through improvisation and character, a person that can sing the phone book or someone that can use a pen and paper to draw their imagination. Every individual student should be able to find a medium that is best suited to them and be given the opportunity to have a creative outlet to express themselves.

The first thing I always notice and often hear said about why teenagers enjoy drama groups is the social aspect of them. Often the older children come along and really gel as a group; it’s a space away from their normal friends and school, homework, a place where they can come and enjoy drama and enjoy the sociability of a different group. It’s a place where new friends can be made and bonds formed, especially important if they are finding it difficult to make friends at school. The start of secondary school can be a particularly tough time, especially if friendship groups formed in primary school have broken up, as children go to different schools. Three of our drama groups are made up of young people who all love acting and drama and who used to go to the same schools. This is a place for them to meet weekly, and the friendships then can extend beyond school and college.

Confidence is tricky. There is no magical way to ‘become ‘ more confident overnight. However, it is well-known that being part of a drama class can help a child become more confident, if taken in consistent sessions. These might take the form of being part of an ensemble or group working on acting skills or perhaps working towards a small or larger part in a play with the support of the rest of the group. Two scenarios stand out for me from my experience as a group leader – I especially enjoy speaking to parents who say, “My child was so shy, they couldn’t speak to anyone, now they are more confident, now they can stand up in front of class at school and speak in front of everyone else.” Equally, a teenager struggling to be ‘heard’ in other areas of their life might develop the confidence to speak up, to go to an interview or to be more assertive with friends. There is also no doubt that many young people find that performing in front of friends and family, or complete strangers, is an exciting, often exhilarating opportunity to show a different side of themselves.

Exploring children’s ideas and concerns through the arts allows children a voice for debate and question in a controlled environment. They won’t just make assumptions, they will find the courage to ask questions and to express what they really want to say. They can start this journey by using the techniques that the performing and creative arts provide. Children from tots to teens realise that they can begin to reach for goals they may not have thought possible and this will spill over into every area of life.

By allowing children the freedom of speech and confidence to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions in a safe environment at a young age, a happy healthy teen will evolve and in time become a confident young adult.

Sally and Debbie have been running Drama Queens in Brighton for 14 years and offer groups for those from 5 to 18 years old.
Please see www.dramaqueens.biz for futher details.

The sun has got his hat on – and so should your child

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, Health, Safety, Summer, swimming | No Comments

When protecting children from harmful rays, clothing is just as important as sunscreen, say dermatologists at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley.

Putting sunscreen on children is one of those chores that can bring a cloud to an otherwise sunny day. A familiar sight on a beach is a parent restraining a child with one hand and quickly rubbing cream in before their ‘little prisoner’ breaks free to head once more into the water.

They won’t thank you now but protecting your child from the sun’s harmful rays could prevent them from having skin cancer when they are in their 30s – and struggling to apply sun cream to their own children.

But parents forget how vital clothing can be. Long sleeved tops, wide brimmed hats and special UV protective swim
wear are easy to put on as part of getting dressed to go out for the day, and often tick a box with the fashion-conscious child. Synthetic fabrics are better than cotton as the weave is not as loose. Hold the material up to the light to see how much filters through and choose clothing with a tight weave. Dark colours such as reds, blues or greens are more effective at blocking sun rays than white, light or pastels – and have the added bonus of making it easier to spot your child on a crowded beach or park.

Even on warm but overcast days, the UV rays can still penetrate through clouds, so continue to protect your child with clothing and sunscreen. And encourage them to cover up or play in the shade during the peak times between midday and 3pm when the sun is at its most harmful.

Children naturally have more exposure to sun as they are more likely to be running around outdoors partially clothed and in and out of water. Trying to re-apply sunscreen every two hours may not always be practical, so clothing can be a parent’s biggest ally. Add a good sunblock and shade, and you will be giving your child a very precious gift that will last a lifetime – that of reducing their risk of skin cancer in later life.

Children can be ‘slippery fish’ when it comes to applying sunscreen. Reduce the stress for you and them by trying these top tips:
• Make putting on sunscreen a natural part of the preparations for going to the park or the beach. If it becomes a ritual, like brushing teeth, children will be more accepting.
• Make it family fun – help each other to apply sunscreen in front of a mirror so you can see which bits you’ve missed.
• Don’t leave it to the last minute to apply sunscreen – as soon as they see the water or playground you will have a battle on your hands. Instead, apply sunscreen before you leave the house. Sunscreen works best after half an hour anyway.
• Time reapplications with a snack or treat for distraction.
• A squirming toddler? Then apply as much as you can while the child is strapped in their buggy or car seat.
• For quick reapplications, use a spray, but avoid eyes and mouths and encourage your child to hold their breath while you apply it. Or invest in a roll-on sunscreen so children can do it themselves.

Did you know?
UV light can penetrate car windows so invest in a stick-on UV protection screen. And certain medication, such as antibiotics or malaria tablets, may make your child’s skin more susceptible to the sun’s rays.

What sunscreen to choose:
Look for a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. An SPF of 30 or more with a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars is a good standard of sun protection for children. Opt for water-resistant creams if your child is
a water baby.

Babies and sun:
Babies under six months old shouldn’t be exposed to sun
at all at this age as their skin burns more easily. When outdoors, always put a baby in the shade with a parasol and fully covered in clothes, with
a wide brimmed hat.

Banishing the misery of prickly heat:
Prickly heat usually appears as tiny bumps on the neck, chest, shoulders and back and is caused when sweat gets trapped under the skin blocking pores or sweat ducts. Babies and small children are prone to prickly heat. The rash usually disappears after a few days but ease symptoms by giving your child a cooling bath and keep away from the sun. Dress them in loose cotton clothing and encourage them to drink plenty of water. If your child is prone to prickly heat, give them an antihistamine half hour before you head outdoors.

Eczema and sunscreen:
Finding an SPF sunscreen for eczema prone skin can be a challenge. There are plenty of ultra-sensitive sunscreens on the market, which are free from perfume and parabens – preservatives used to stop sun cream going mouldy which can aggravate eczema.

If you are using a product for the first time, test it first by putting a small amount to the pulse of your child’s wrist or the crook of their elbow. Don’t wash that area for 24 – 48 hours and watch for any allergic reaction such as redness or a rash.

Advice from Dr Sandeep Cliff and Dr Noreen Cowley, consultant dermatologists at the Spire Gatwick Park Hospital.
Call 01293 778 906 or visit www.spiregatwick.com

Expanding horizons beyond the core curriculum: a right not an expensive luxury

By | Education | No Comments
by Antonia Beary
Headmistress, Mayfield School

Education funding cuts are a hot topic at the moment. It seems every time we look at the news, there are bleak headlines about the possibility of Grammar Schools introducing means-tested fees, and tough decisions are being made about which subjects state schools can afford to offer, and which they are being forced to drop.

 

 

 

 

Heads are having to focus on the core compulsory subjects with resources being directed towards boosting league table results. Of course, literacy, numeracy and the sciences are vital, but with access to the creative and performing arts, languages and humanities becoming a lottery for many students across the country, we are on a dangerous path.

Variety and choice within the curriculum is fundamental to providing a thorough and balanced education that expands a child’s horizons and produces young people with the resilience, confidence and integrity to navigate the challenges they face in the modern world. At our school we strongly believe in the benefits of studying a broad range of subjects. The term ‘humanities’ provides a clue as to the many rewards that studying history, geography, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, classics and politics bring. These subjects our children to learn how to be human, instilling an understanding of ethics, values and culture that is an essential element of education.

The humanities afford an opportunity for students to develop their own considered opinions on some of the most important areas of life, helping them to clarify their beliefs and values. We live in societies made up of real people, who have been shaped by past events and individuals: communities follow traditions that have been passed down through the generations, and every day we depend on technologies, ideas and innovations that have been developed, by other people, for us. Studying the humanities also teaches research and problem solving skills, the capacity to summarise and critique texts, and the ability to clearly and creatively debate and present information – skills that are extremely attractive to universities and employers, but should not be the sole reason for learning them.

Ever-increasing globalisation amplifies the importance of studying languages. Proficiency in French, Spanish and the other modern languages opens the door to living and working abroad, and to a plethora of careers across all sectors in multinational companies where language skills are required. However, it is through the literature and art that one really begins to comprehend another culture: insight into experiences and perspectives fosters understanding and tolerance. Even if students choose to drop languages after their GCSEs, they will have learnt the discipline, dedication and confidence required to communicate with other people (no matter how tentatively) and so to begin to build links and relationships that may be useful both professionally and personally throughout their lives.

At our school we believe the creative and performing arts have an extremely positive impact on physical and mental well-being, inspiring pupils and allowing them to use their imaginations while they take a break from their academic pursuits. Whether a student intends to pursue music, drama, textiles, ceramics or art as a career, or whether it is just for fun and relaxation, it is vital these subjects are available to students at secondary level, and that they are encouraged to take part. Who knows where it may lead them? The more a curriculum is restricted, the more stifled creativity becomes and we risk depriving children of essential life skills, and of narrowing their horizons.help
The benefits of singing, playing music or performing on stage (no matter how nerve-wracking it may seem initially) are vast: from boosting self-confidence, to teaching the discipline that is required to learn lines or music. Commitment, attention to detail, critical analysis and patience are required to succeed. These skills are eminently transferrable and cross-curricular links between the arts and those subjects considered more traditionally academic are hugely valuable, not least in providing contextual detail and background information to enrich learning: the bigger picture!

A future in which these subjects are not available to pupils is an alarming one, and one that many parents in the state sector are increasingly facing. We want our girls to leave school with an excellent understanding of the past, not least in how that informs the skills they need to thrive in the future as a proactive member of a modern society. Abstract and creative intellectual curiosity is important, but must be tempered by understanding of and compassion for themselves and others: that is exactly what we are giving them. In our increasingly global existence, this combination of skills couldn’t be more important, but cannot be measured by a written examination, or passively learnt!

League tables, funding cuts and ever-changing attainment goals have created an educational landscape in which the state sector is being directed to focus on the traditional ‘core’ subjects, to the disadvantage of those children and parents who are looking for a broader educational experience. Everyone should be able to benefit from an education that inspires creativity and critical thinking; that encourages commitment and self-confidence; that helps children learn about and prepare for the world around them.

Antonia Beary is Headmistress at Mayfield School, a leading Catholic independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18.
She is also currently Chair of CISC and Hon Sec of GSA.

Cycling on the road with children

By | Education, family, Safety, Sport | No Comments

How can you prepare a child for the demands of cycling on a road? Some parents will balk at letting their children near roads with traffic, let alone on them. It would be foolish to pretend there are no risks involved. However, at some point your child will use roads alone – if not on a bike, then as a pedestrian or behind the wheel of a car as a young adult. Those who are used to independence and who can make risk assessments will be safer, better road users than those who have been isolated from the outside world. It doesn’t require leaping in at the deep end. Exposure to traffic is something best done by degrees.

Co-riders and passengers
To begin with your child will travel on the road under your direct control, either as a passenger in a seat or trailer or as a co-rider on a tandem or trailer-cycle. As steering and braking are under your sole control, the only impact will be on how you cycle.

You will inevitably ride in a less swashbuckling style. Mostly it’s because you are always more careful when kids are around; it’s human nature. Partly it’s because a heavier bicycle takes longer to get up to speed and to slow down, so your riding benefits from being smoother and less stop-start. Try to anticipate junctions by arriving slowly and in the right gear for setting off. Allow the extra second or two you’ll need to pull away when judging gaps in traffic.

A child on a tandem or trailer-cycle or in a cargo bike may pick up some traffic skills from you whilst you are riding. You can reinforce this by asking an older child to see if there’s anything behind and to signal left or right when needed. (You will still have to do both these things yourself if it is safe enough.)

Tandems remain useful up to the age of 11 and possibly beyond. By that age, though, most children will want to ride solo. One reason is image. The desire to conform becomes very strong and children don’t want to be seen as ‘different’ by their friends. The tandem that was once so popular may now be seen as geeky.

Chaperoned cycling
Traffic awareness develops around the age of eight to 10 years old, which is usually when school-based cycle training tends to start. Up until that time, at least, you will need to supervise your child on roads. He or she might be a proficient cyclist and yet make misjudgements about traffic.

Before you set off
Before setting out together there are some things you need to be sure of. One is that your child can stop, start, steer and otherwise be competent at cycling – on a bike that’s roadworthy. Another is that your child will respond to your instructions, doing what you say, when you say it. Do explain the reasons for this in advance: that you’re not being bossy or cross, just careful. The final requirement is that your child knows the difference between left and right. When you say ‘go left’ it’s important your charge doesn’t cycle into the centre of the road instead.

On the road
When you’re riding, it’s best if your child leads and you cycle a bike length or half a bike length behind. That way you can watch your child at all times and call out instructions. Your child should ride towards the left side of the road, but at least 50cm out from gutter, while you ride further out, possibly taking the lane. This means traffic has to come around you and can’t cut in too close to your child, who might veer or wobble or simply be freaked out by cars passing too close.

If you need to do so, it is perfectly legal to cycle side-by-side with your child. (Many drivers are unaware that cyclists can ride two abreast, so be prepared for the odd pipped horn.) It’s worth moving forward to ride alongside as you come up to a side road. Two cyclists are more visible than one, and with both of you to pass, any side-road driver is less likely to engage in the brinkmanship of edging or accelerating out in front of you.

Give encouragement as you ride along and make your instructions calm and clear.
Information should flow both ways. In particular, your child should be taught to say ‘Stopping!’ rather than halting right in front of you without warning. Ideally, your child should also signal left before pulling in to the side. (No one uses the one-armed up-down flap that signifies slowing down nowadays, and it may only confuse drivers.)

Start on easier, less trafficked roads and work up. There will be situations in which it is easier or necessary to get off the bikes. Perhaps a hill is too steep. Perhaps a junction is too complex. In time your child will be able to ride these. For now, take it one step at a time. And remember: communication, communication, communication.

Independent cycling
Independent cycling means riding on the road. Children cycling on the pavement is illegal, but there is no criminal liability for children under the age of 10, and it is tacitly accepted by everyone that the pavement is where younger children will ride. By the age of 11, however, and perhaps two or three years earlier, (if you feel they are capable of it) most children can learn to ride safely on the road without supervision – not on all roads but certainly on roads that aren’t busy and don’t have complex junctions.

Cycle training has traditionally taken place in the later years of primary school. Not only are children ready for training then, they will soon need it. The average distance from home to secondary school is 3.3 miles in England – too far to walk perhaps, but not difficult by bike. Training has moved on quite a way since the cones-in-the-school-playground days of the Cycling Proficiency Scheme. The National Standard for Cycle Training (called Bikeability) takes place largely on the road in real-world, supervised conditions. And the training itself is no longer administered by schoolteachers but by qualified, accredited cycle instructors.

Local authorities sometimes provide free or subsidised training. Your nearest cycle training provider can fill you
in about charging policy.

Taken from www.cyclinguk.org
To see the full article visit www.cyclinguk.org/article/cycling-guide/cycling-
road-children