Category

children’s health

Balancing praise

By | children's health, Health, Mental health | No Comments

As a nursery owner, manager, Early Years Teacher and MA student I review research, reflecting on current practice and make judgements on how we can best support children’s emotional, social, physical and education needs. Recently, a couple came to me with an alternative approach to how they offered their child praise. It made me think more carefully about how praise is offered in my setting.

by Deborah Tidey, The Nest, Brighton

Like anything in child rearing there is no one sure fire approach that is going to guarantee a desired outcome. For each child comes with their own complex set of ever changing needs and personality traits. How we praise our children and its effects on the child’s natural enjoyment and appreciation in favour of being driven by pressure to perform or constraints is no exception to this rule.

Praise is the positive evaluation that one makes. It is different to feedback and acknowledgement such as “that’s right” or “you scored 80%”. When we offer praise, we are making a judgement.

On a whole, it is generally accepted by society that praise only has positive effects on children. We make a point to praise children for their accomplishments, and we expect our praise to enhance their motivation and boost their self-esteem. Parents are actively encouraged to be positive and praise their children to demonstrate their approval and encourage desirable behaviours.

In reality you may have observed a child who has given up on an activity when praise has been offered or a child who finds praise uncomfortable, particularly in social situations, or even a child who will deliberately misbehave to prove you wrong. In fact, you may be familiar with some of these feelings in your own exchanges as adults too, along with the pressure of needing to perform to the same standard next time or not taking a risk just in case you fail.

There is no questioning that praise does have beneficial affects too but praise cannot be administered haphazardly. Careful consideration should be given to sincerity of praise offered, what is being praised, whether it promotes autonomy, social comparisons and if realistic standards and expectations
are conveyed.

The process through which praise can reduce autonomy and serve as a controlling reward was described by Gordon (1989): “Praise especially acts as an extrinsic reward, and its effect on children is quite predictable. Children who are subjected to frequent praise learn to select only those things they think will please their parents and avoid doing those things that may not. While to some parents, this may seem very desirable, we know that such children are much less apt to become innovative, creative, self-directing. They learn to conform rather than innovate, and to follow a pattern known to bring praise rather than to experiment with something new.”

Only individuals who believe their actions have been autonomous are likely to continue performing that behaviour. So how can we continue to offer praise where praise is due and how can we avoid offering praise that may hinder a child’s autonomy?

It is well documented that praising the process rather than praising the product or person is beneficial to children’s outcomes. This will help the child to identify what they did that helped them to accomplish the result, thus highlighting their autonomous steps. For example, your child may have drawn a picture, instead of saying “it’s beautiful” or “you’re so clever” you may consider saying “I can tell that you have really focused on staying inside the lines” or “I can tell that you put lots of effort into that picture” or even “you could tell your friend really wanted to have a turn.”

Process praise focuses on the enthusiasm, effort, ideas, persistence or a specific problem solving approach. Process praise does not focus on a fixed quality of the child, such as being smart. By saying to a child “you are really smart” we are suggesting that they must be smart in order to qualify for praise, or that being smart is a fixed quality that cannot be changed. After receiving praise that focuses on the product or the person, children may later conclude, “My successes made me clever, therefore my difficulties make me dumb”. Children who receive process praise are more likely to rise after setbacks, try harder and are less likely to give up. Process praise also demonstrates a deeper sincerity by focusing on steps specific to the goal the child is trying to reach. Always saying “It’s beautiful,” “well done,” or “clever girl” seems to carry less meaning when we have said it 100 times.

So continue praising your children, giving careful thought to how your words may be interpreted by them. Try using process praise to help your children develop a more resilient approach to learning and to become more autonomous learners.

Deborah Tidey is an Early Years Teacher, Director and Manager at The Nest, Brighton. We have spaces in our brand new nursery and preschool in Queens Park, Brighton and limited spaces at our Outstanding nursery in Hove.
www.thenestnurseryschool.co.uk

A guide to spotting loneliness in children

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments
by Karen Dolva
CEO and co-founder of
No Isolation

Loneliness, like many psychological distresses, is difficult to spot. Recently, it has been extremely present in the national news and has been labelled an epidemic. The fact that loneliness has been increasing as a topic of discussion is very important, as one of the biggest issues is the taboo that surrounds it.

Loneliness is difficult to describe and verbalise, and children especially can struggle with this. They may understand that something is wrong, but not grasp how to verbalise their feelings, or even if they should. Spotting ‘symptoms’ of loneliness is difficult, as loneliness is a very subjective feeling. It is not possible to give a ‘one size fits all’ diagnosis. To give one could mean that some lonely children are overlooked, or children experiencing depression or anxiety are misdiagnosed.

Parents may often sense that something is wrong, but spotting and understanding the exact trigger can be difficult. Having spent the last two years researching and trying to fully comprehend the depth of the problem, I share below my best suggestions to spotting loneliness in children:

Normalise loneliness
For adults, loneliness is a stigma, which means that often we are not open enough about it with each other, let alone with our children. Creating a taboo around loneliness makes it a subject people can be very self-conscious or shy about.

As a consequence of this taboo, many people are not educated on what loneliness actually is, or what it feels like. In the British news, several people in different newspaper articles admit that they either did not recognise the feeling of loneliness or did not understand that they were lonely. They thought it was something typically experienced by older people, and that they were too young.

In truth, loneliness is a normal, but also very subjective, feeling. Typically, when simplified, the feeling is best described as a discrepancy between desired and actual social contact. Loneliness does not discriminate on age or borders, and at some point in life we all experience it. Big changes in our lives make us particularly vulnerable. Despite loneliness being something many experience, the magnitude varies from person to person.
To understand this, we have to start making loneliness a topic that we feel comfortable discussing.

Big changes make children vulnerable
As children grow older, they become more aware of big changes, and are more acutely aware of the impact that these changes can, and do, have on their environment.

This shift makes them more vulnerable to feeling lonely. This is especially common in children moving from primary to secondary school, or to a different city or country as they experience changes in their environment, their routines and their peer groups. Because this, to an adult, is ‘normal’, it can mean that those suffering from chronic loneliness and isolation during this period of childhood can be overlooked.

When talking with Dr Gerine Lodder, who researches loneliness amongst young people, she shared that “80% of parents underestimate or overestimate the level of loneliness of their child”. This could be for a number of reasons, and could include overlooking a chronically lonely child, or assuming loneliness and social isolation when the problem is quite different. To avoid this, parents should be open with their children about what these changes might mean for them, and receptive to their concerns, apprehensions or fears.

What to do when loneliness has been spotted?
Parents have the role of spotting loneliness, and discussing it
with their child. However, some cases of loneliness and social isolation are chronic, and once this is identified further help should be sought.

3-10% of children experience chronic loneliness, that cannot simply be cured by meeting new people, and may need the help of a professional. It is important that parents try to understand if the feeling is from internal or external factors, if it is new and if it is solvable. That way they can start to work on a solution.

Social isolation can be obvious in some circumstances, for example a child who has no friends or social contact and struggles to fit into their environment. Yet, as mentioned above, many can feel lonely without recognising the emotion or without actually being socially isolated.

My best tip: To spot if your child is lonely, you need to explain the emotion and normalise it. Distinguish the difference between this and other emotions, and figure out the magnitude of your child’s experience. The stigma around loneliness needs to be broken. If children learn that being lonely is a failure by them socially, then they are less likely to admit it is something they are feeling.

Being lonely is a very normal feeling that we all experience from time to time, and opening up the discussion around loneliness will help children verbalise their feeling and, in turn, allow parents to give them the help that they need.

(www.noisolation.com) an Oslo-based start-up founded in 2015, with the goal of reducing involuntary social solitude.

Dealing with our children’s stress

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Antonia Beary
Headmistress, Mayfield School

Every other news headline seems to be telling us that our children are stressed and miserable. How can this be when, arguably, there has never been a better time to be alive (at least in the First World)? Our standard of living is higher than ever: what used to be considered luxuries like central heating or television, are now basic necessities. There are many exciting opportunities available for all of us to travel, learn and communicate. But perhaps too much choice is not always a good thing. Perhaps, in working so hard to offer our children the things that we didn’t have, in making things easier for them, we are actually depriving them of more formative experiences.

Now don’t misunderstand me. Undoubtedly there is an ever-increasing range of pressures on young people. Clearly there is pressure to perform in school from an early age and testing is taking an increasingly high profile in a young person’s life. 11+ exams have much to answer for in this respect. They face unrealistically and consistently high expectations of academic achievement, with consequential loss of all sense of perspective. This is exacerbated by relentless, unfiltered exposure to social media and explicit advertising, not to mention – albeit more insidiously – the implicit assumption that any view, and increasingly all choices, are equally valid; resulting in an inevitable undermining or at least confusion over moral values. How can we help them?

Well, don’t expect them to be perfect. Certainly don’t wrap them in cotton wool and try to solve all their problems for them, although conversely don’t entirely cast them off to fend for themselves. Taking responsibility is difficult enough for adults, let alone children, so allowing boys and girls to make potentially life-changing decisions for themselves can be immensely stressful. As parents, our job is to guide and to step in to make those difficult decisions, while teenage brains (let alone their hormones) are in a state of flux. We are able to see the bigger picture. Sometimes we have to be unpopular, but this setting of boundaries is a crucial part of being a parent. While there may be some similarities, the role of parent is far more important than the role of friend.

It’s a difficult line to walk and one that all parents have to accept that they won’t always navigate as effectively as they might hope! Individuals have to make their own mistakes, but they need to be well supported by appropriate pastoral care and firm boundaries. In this respect it is key that schools and parents work together and league tables don’t give you any indication of how well this is done! At our school, we encourage our girls to be independent and to be aspirational, albeit to expect to achieve their goals through hard work. However, managing expectations is important. Mistakes are a vital part of their journey. You can’t always do your best (if you could, it would just become average). Sometimes being just good enough will get you through.

Retaining a sense of perspective is key. A certain amount of stress is normal and, dare I say it, healthy. While undoubtedly the number of individuals coping with mental illness is growing, now that we have a generation which is increasingly confident in talking about mental health issues, the term is being used increasingly loosely. What does “issues with mental health”mean? We are told that most teenage girls are miserable most of the time. That’s certainly not what I see on a daily basis.

We need to realise that not every emotional issue is a threat to mental health. Young people, in particular, get stressed and have periods when they feel low; when they feel overwhelmed by everything from the pressure of school work (yes, A Levels are harder than GCSEs, and rightly so), to the state of the world we live in. Feeling emotional does not mean necessarily that you are struggling with mental health issues – it suggests you are a normal human being in a difficult world. Each individual’s malaise will a take different form. This too is normal: we are not all the same. In fact it’s quite important that children learn how to deal with pressure and manage situations not working out quite as they (or you as parents) might have hoped. What is important is that they develop strategies to cope and do not always feel they have to manage on their own: teachers, family and friends are there to support and help them discern a way through.

This is not to say that individuals don’t suffer serious mental health issues: clinical depression is a serious medical condition which needs to be supported professionally. But we need to have a sense of proportion. There is a difference between bruising your knee and amputation – one is irreparable, but a bruise (much as it may hurt at the time) is part of everyday life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that cuts and bruises cannot be avoided if you are living life to the full and being fully human. We don’t want our young people to be reckless, but we do need them to be able to take risks and even get bored occasionally. Being creative means that they will get things wrong and this can be stressful, but it is not life-threatening. If necessity is the mother of invention, fewer choices and less sense of entitlement might just be the best way to help your children achieve the success they deserve.

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

Love your feet and who is best qualified to help you

By | children's health, footwear and feet, Health | No Comments
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers (Hove and Haywards Heath)
in conjunction with Laura West
from the Society of Shoe Fitters

National Shoe Fitting Week is an annual campaign designed to raise awareness about the importance of buying properly fitted footwear, not just for ourselves but, possibly more importantly, for our children.

Independent shoe retailers are more important to the footwear industry and our general health than they are given credit for. Independent retailers in all sectors are the backbone of this country – we were famously described as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’! So why does the public continue to choose the ‘big boys’ over the smaller, more reliable and more flexible independents?

The multiples, chain stores and multi nationals may have more high street presence and higher turnover, with bigger orders and greater brand presence, but they are just as fragile as the smaller businesses. In fact the larger they are, the harder they fall (as we have seen with the demise of Brantano in recent months).

Small independent shops are more versatile and individual, and they can make instant decisions without having to get it triple-checked by head office. If they want to start their sale on a certain date, they can. If they want to offer a certain customer a special discount, they can.

Nowadays the public demands more product information – the independent shop has both the time and knowledge to do this.

There are two primary groups which suffer from ill-fitting footwear, and for whom it is seriously dangerous and irresponsible from a health point of view – children and diabetics.

Few people realise that putting a child in poorly-fitted, or ‘off the peg’ shoes can damage their health in later life. If we walk in a certain way to avoid pain then it wears out other joints and tendons in the body. That is why so many people get problem knee, hip, leg, neck, back and shoulder pain – did you know that severe migraines can be caused by ill-fitting shoes? If joints wear unnaturally then nerves can get trapped causing pain. Later on rheumatism and arthritis may attack these worn joints, causing further pain.

The bones in our feet are hugely delicate in childhood and can be misshapen – rather like a bonsai tree. They continue to grow and ossify (harden) into our teenage years until they stop growing. However, they can continue to change shape throughout our lifetime.

Footwear is not simply a commodity; it is proven that footwear is linked to our well-being. The good independent shoe shop will pass on knowledge so that their staff are correctly trained – not just in professional measuring and fitting methods, but also to be ‘up to speed’ on all their product knowledge. To know how a shoe fits a certain shaped foot, and to know how a specific brand comes up size-wise are two of the main factors for a professional shoe fitter to consider before taking a shoebox out of the stock room!

Only a small proportion of our population have ‘average’ feet – so who will be there to look after the majority of the population’s feet if there are not enough independent shoe shops?

Trained shoe fitters know there is so much to learn about physiology, footwear manufacture and how the different materials used affect the fit.

The 1970s Munro Report warned the government of the time what would happen to our manufacturing base, independent retailers and the all-important link to public health, but it was ignored and sadly has proven to be only a visionary document. Two years ago the S.S.F (Society of Shoe Fitters) reminded MPs of the accuracy of this report in Parliament. It is only recently that they have started to listen.

Greatly assisted by other health-based organisations and charities, the cost to the NHS and the benefits system of ignoring shoe fitting and foot health is now being prioritised.

National Shoe Fitting Week runs from 24th March 2018 but pop into your local independent shoe shop anytime to check your child’s shoes and size!
Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
(member of the Society of Shoe Fitters and Children’s Foot Health Register)
Klodhoppers Ltd (Hove & Haywards Heath)

Why we love baby, toddler and preschool swimming

By | children's health, Health, Sport, swimming | No Comments

  – read this and you’ll be in the pool before you get to the end!

by Vicki Bates
the little swim school

My journey with swimming started when one of my best friends, Briony, who now runs Wet Wet Wet swim school told me that I had to take my three month old baby daughter to Little Dippers – no ifs, no buts, I had to. Now, she can be a bit bossy at times, but this was insistent – she didn’t really talk about it in terms of benefits (well, apart from the sleeping baby afterwards) more what an amazing experience it was. Anyway, we went and from the first lesson I was hooked – Coco loved the water, I loved the fact it was warm and even more I loved the half hour of just focusing on my baby – no phones or daily life distractions. After a while I started working for Little Dippers and became even more amazed when I learnt about the myriad of benefits of baby and preschool swimming. I then started the little swim school, and for over thirteen years now have continued to love being part of this amazing experience.

The benefits are well documented now, but I never miss a chance to quickly re-cap in case it encourages a few more people to try it. The biggest and most obvious reason is water safety and literal life-saving training. I will never forget the first time I saw a toddler fall into the pool, turn round, swim to the side and climb out exactly as she had been taught in her lessons. I couldn’t believe it and this is all the more amazing when put into context with current ASA research, documented recently in the Guardian, showing that 45% of 11 year olds still leave primary school unable to swim. I know there is a huge call for schools and the government to do more – recently supported by Prince William, but it’s such a positive move to take your child to swimming lessons – and even if you can’t afford to join lessons, take them swimming yourselves. To be part of teaching a child skills that could save their life, or the life of another is truly special.

Other benefits include physical fitness – many of our children are now classed as obese, and with many under twos using digital gadgets on a daily basis, we need to make sure that we do all we can to encourage our children to be physically fit.

Studies have shown that if good habits and attitudes to physical exercise are started in early life they are much more likely to be carried on into teenage and adult life. As a parent of a teenager and an eleven year old I see first-hand how sedentary some children now are and always encourage mine to move as much as they can – they are both still very physically active with hobbies they started before they were three, so preschool really is a good time to start good habits.

Swimming is also good for brain development with research from Newcastle University showing that swimming lessons increased children’s maths’ grades and other research has shown that although most of our brain cells are formed before birth, the majority of the connections between these cells are made in infancy and the toddler years.

Over the years our customers have also told us how swimming lessons have also helped their children’s confidence, social and friend-making skills and sleep; we love it every time we get a good review or a happy parent on the phone – an excited parent whose water adverse child has turned the corner and is nearly swimming or whose water baby has been snorkelling at the age of two and now swims unaided! It makes us really happy and feel really lucky to be a part of something so special. Our teachers often tell us the same so I asked a few of them to put in to words why they love being a preschool swimming teacher and from the responses it seems like it is one of the best jobs in the world!

Hayley: “I have been teaching preschool swimming – parent and baby – for over six years now, and I never get tired of watching swimmers achieving their goals and knowing that I had a part to play in the process. The smiles on the children’s (and parents) faces when they swim for the first time is priceless and something that you don’t get in every job. I love making the children laugh and encouraging them to try skills for the first time – growing in confidence. This is the most rewarding job I have ever had and I don’t think I would find anything else that comes close!”

Jo: “This is very hard, so many reasons…In particular I enjoy a child who is petrified of water and working out a system where they can become comfortable within the pool environment and then progress them to swimming. I like seeing how much the children enjoy the activities we plan, when it goes well. I enjoy seeing the parents’ face the first time a child swims a distance on their own or jumps in for the first time. It’s amazing how quickly children develop amazing skills within the water if you manage to explain it just right so they understand what they have to do and if they can’t get it, working out a different way to explain it.”

Rachel: “Here’s why I love my job – I have always been a passionate swimmer and I really wanted to pass on my love of the water to children, and teach them to be safe too. I never quite realised how rewarding this could be until I started with a group of swimmers at the age of 12 to 13 months old and watched them develop into competent and safe swimmers. I am a big kid myself, so find that by making lessons fun, as well as progressive, you can really grab the children’s attention and they learn through playing in the water. I feel very lucky to have this job!”

Well, if you haven’t dashed off to the pool yet and you want any information about baby, toddler and preschool swimming or to book some lessons, do call us at the little swim school on 01273 207992 or visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk

Autism Spectrum Disorder

By | baby health, children's health, Education, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments

A way of life for nearly three million people

by Leila Stayton-Dyke (BSc, PGCert, MSc, BCBA)
Early Action for Autism

Autism affects more than 700,000 people in the UK – that’s over 1% of the population. If you include family members, autism is part of daily life for 2.8 million people throughout the country.

Early recognition is important in order to allow children to reach their full potential
Each person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has different strengths. There is not a fixed set of behaviours which result in a diagnosis of autism. There are a range of traits including difficulty with communication and social skills, and ritualistic behaviours. Diagnosis is far from simple.

Parents of a young child are likely to be given conflicting advice about when developmental milestones should occur. They may be told that ‘children are different, they learn at different rates and in different ways’, so how do we know when developmental delays are part of an underlying condition?

Autism in the early stages of development
It may be difficult to see the early signs of autism as they can be subtle or attributed to a baby simply being laid back.

The initial signs are often related to the baby’s gaze, hearing and play. A young child with autism may appear not to see people, and may look out of the corner of their eye. The child may initially appear to be deaf, but rarely actually has any loss of hearing. Children with autism may also appear to have a general lack of interest in their surroundings.

As children get older the differences in development may become more apparent. Parents may notice a lack of empathy, different reactions to sensory stimuli – for example, finding noises, textures or sensations dramatically over or under stimulating. Refusal to try unfamiliar foods or to eat in unfamiliar settings, remaining in nappies, repetitive play activities and difficulties with the world not being exactly the way they would like, may also be seen.

What should I do if I see these early signs?
Health professionals should listen to all parental concerns. Take a family member or friend to visit your GP or Health Visitor. Go with a list of concerns, no matter how small, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. What you have observed might not be a sign of autism but you know your child best.

Getting a diagnosis of autism will allow children and their families to receive the education, support and services they require as they grow older. Due to the complex nature of autism the process is time consuming. However, there are specialist services and support groups immediately available; take time to talk to other families in a similar situation and join online groups.

Early recognition means that interventions can start. Research has shown that early intervention – programmes such Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), Speech and Language Therapy (SLT), and Occupational Therapy (OT) are highly effective in supporting a child with autism. These evidence-based practices allow children to maximise their potential and reduce the delay from the normal patterns of development.

Children with autism crave sameness and routine, and breaks from that can often cause them to become disruptive – so it’s important that interventions begin as early as possible before these patterns of behaviour become established.

Early intervention ABA programmes are fun, motivating and creative. They successfully develop areas such as communication and social skills. Teaching a child to communicate their immediate desires results in a reduction of difficult problem behaviours and is an essential and ongoing element of an ABA programme. In turn, social skills such as increased eye contact and early conversation skills are taught. When started early, teaching self-help skills enables the child to become as independent as possible, for example, getting themselves dressed in the morning. By targeting selective eating, ABA programmes ensure children have a balanced healthy diet, leading to future long-term health.

Early Action for Autism is a centre for children with autism and related developmental disorders.
We provide specialist 1:1 ABA therapy, programme consultation and individualised training.
www.earlyactionforautism.co.uk

Summer safety

By | baby health, children's health, Health, Uncategorized | No Comments

Water fascinates young children and it can be a source of great fun and exercise but sadly each year we hear of children drowning at home and abroad.

Even the most caring of parents can become distracted and it only takes three minutes to drown face-down in water, so even if your children are only playing in a paddling pool or if you have a garden with a pond, always supervise them, and if you need to nip inside to answer the door or go to the toilet, take them with you.

The opportunity to swim in the sea or pool is one of the highlights of going on holiday with children, but before you go do check whether the pool has a lifeguard and once there make sure you understand local water safety signs. If you are going to the beach, it is worthwhile asking the hotel reception or tourist information officer which beach offers the safest place to swim. When you first get to a new pool, take a few minutes to check which end is the deep end and to find out if it has a life guard or pool attendant, as their duties differ.

Although children need constant supervision near water, they will be safer if they can swim and know how to get themselves out of difficulty, so book your child into swimming lessons as soon as you can.

The other danger in the summer comes from the sun. Exposing your child to too much sun may increase their risk of skin cancer later in life and in the short term sunburn can cause considerable pain and discomfort.

Tips to keep you child safe in the sun
• Encourage your child to play in the shade – for example, under trees – especially between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest.
• Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
• Cover exposed parts of your child’s skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days. Use one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB. Don’t forget to apply it to their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks, and the tops of their feet. Reapply often throughout the day.
• Be especially careful to protect your child’s shoulders and the back of their neck when they’re playing, as these are the most common areas for sunburn.
• Cover your child up in loose cotton clothes, such as an oversized T-shirt with sleeves.
• Get your child to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck.
• Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the ‘CE’ mark – check the label.
• If your child is swimming,
use a waterproof sunblock of factor 15 or above. Reapply
after towelling.

Information taken from www.nhs.uk