Category

children’s health

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.

Herbs to soothe your child’s chickenpox

By | baby health, children's health, Food & Eating, Health, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Henriette Kress
author of Practical Herbs 1 & 2

Chickenpox (varicella) is caused by the varicella virus. It’s belongs to the herpesviruses. You can remedy all problems caused by this group the same way, including cold sores (herpes simplex) and shingles (herpes zoster).

The most important thing to know about chickenpox is that it can get a lot worse if you use aspirin or ibuprofen. Leave them in your medicine cupboard whenever somebody has chickenpox or herpes.

The second important thing to know is that you have the virus for life. You can get rid of the symptoms, but you can’t get rid of the virus itself. Chickenpox is fairly mild if you get it in childhood. It’s a lot worse if you first get it as an adult, and it’s very contagious. It’s dangerous to the fetus if caught by a pregnant woman.

Herbs for chickenpox
I like three herbs for chickenpox:
1. Lemon balm
Lemon balm (Melissa) has been shown to be effective against various herpes-family viruses. It’s a mild herb and can be given freely as a tea. Here’s how:

Lemon balm tea
1-2 teaspoons dried lemon balm
or 3-4 teaspoons fresh crushed leaves of lemon balm
200 ml boiling water
Pour the water over the herb, let steep for 10 minutes and strain. Let cool until it’s drinkable and let your child drink as much as he likes.

2. Coneflower
Coneflowers (Echinacea-species) are wonderful herbs that help strengthen the immune system. They’re also effective against different viruses in the herpes family. Purple coneflower is widely available as a tincture. To use, dilute the tincture in water and give it to your child:

Diluted coneflower tincture
15 drops coneflower tincture
100 ml water
Mix and let your child sip this throughout the day. Generally, coneflowers work better in acute problems if they’re taken as small doses often rather than as larger doses three times a day.

If you find dried coneflower herb, you can make that into a tea instead. The recipe is:
Coneflower tea
1-2 teaspoons dried coneflower
200 ml boiling water
Pour the water over the herb, let steep for 10 minutes and strain. Let cool until it’s drinkable and let your child drink as much as she likes.

3. St. John’s wort
An infused oil of St. John’s wort works wonders for the itch of chickenpox. It’s also great for the pain from shingles. You can make your own, but you can also buy it in well-stocked health food stores. If you can’t get an oil or salve of St. John’s wort, you can use a calendula salve instead.

Infused oil of St. John’s wort
• Fresh flowering tops of St. John’s wort
• Extra virgin olive oil

Fill a jar with the chopped-up flowering tops, then cover the herb with olive oil. Leave the jar in your oven on 50 ºC for two hours and strain the liquid into a wide-mouth jar. Let the water settle out until the oil is clear instead of murky, for about 5 days. Bottle your oil and add a label: ‘St. John’s wort oil’ plus the date. Store in the fridge.

It’s an excellent oil for bruises, sprains, strains and similar and is very effective for chickenpox and shingles.

4. An oat bath
An oat bath is extremely soothing to the itch from chickenpox. To make it, you’ll need a small or large bathtub and rolled oats:

Anti-itch bath
A handful of finely rolled oats
warm (not hot) water
Draw a bath with warm water and adjust the temperature to suit your child. Lower your child into the water and very gently rub a handful of finely rolled oats over his skin. Older children can to this for themselves, too.

5. Chickweed
Chickweed is among our best herbs for various itches. It’s an abundant weed in lush garden soil. Use scissors to take the top off the chickweed and crush it in a little water. Strain and use the resulting green-tinted liquid as a gentle wash on your child’s itchy spots. Chickweed can also be made into an infused oil (see under St. John’s wort); it’s soothing in that form, too.

Those who have had chickenpox can get another outbreak of the same virus decades later. This time it’s shingles, though. Shingles is usually brought on by stress or by an immune system that’s laid low by some other disease. You can use the same herbs for shingles as you used for chickenpox.

Practical Herbs 1 & 2 by Henriette Kress, are available now, published by AEON Books, priced £19.99 each. For more information see: www.aeonbooks.co.uk

The benefits of yoga for children

By | children's health, fun for children, Health, Mental health, Sport, Uncategorized | No Comments

by Charlie Nash
YogaFrogs

We potentially think of yoga as something for adults, yet yoga has so much to offer everyone beyond the adult learners. It’s no wonder then that a growing number of children and families are opting to participate in yoga classes tailored for children. With many yoga teachers now offering yoga for both children and their families, there’s plenty of opportunity around Sussex to experience this, whether it might be in your local community hall, yoga studio, festival, after-school club or a 1:1 session in the comfort of your own home.

Yoga was developed up to 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for well-being on all levels; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In the West we often focus on the physical aspect of yoga. The other elements, which go hand-in-hand with the physical, are starting to be recognised and shared with students both young and old alike.

These benefits are being recognised by educational authorities across the country with more primary and secondary schools acknowledging the benefits yoga has on their students’ mental and physical health, particularly around SATS and other public exams.

In an age where technology has taken over our lives, the benefits of yoga couldn’t be in greater need. Whether we like it or not, children and adults are bombarded with information overload from television, the Internet and smartphones. It’s said that in the course of a day, the average person in a western city is exposed to as much data as someone in the 15th century would encounter in their entire lifetime.

Yoga allows children to take time out from all of the above. With continued practice there’s a wealth of benefits that can enrich their entire lives all the way through to adulthood. Yoga is not only fun, it encourages children to think freely and let their imaginations go wild, as they explore the many asanas (postures) that link to nature and animals. Children thoroughly enjoy the connections with their bodies, with movement helping to promote self-awareness of their limbs, joints and muscles from a young age. Yoga subtly teaches us about the interconnectedness of our bodies. From toes and jaws, to heart and lungs. This allows us to keep every part of our body alive and supple, no matter how small.

With regular practice children can find deeper concentration, which may have positive effects in both school and family life. This is achieved through the opportunity and encouragement to clear the mind and to focus single-handedly on each asana at a time. Beyond the physical, yoga teaches children to quiet the mind through different relaxation and breathing techniques. This can help with anxiety and stress, being a skill the children can practise anytime and anywhere.

Children learn to be non-competitive and non-judgemental of themselves and others. They learn to share and take turns with other children in the class, promoting kindness and gratitude from a young age. They learn, through yoga, that they are OK just the way they are and don’t need to compare themselves to others. This allows them to become more accepting and understanding of not only themselves, but also everybody else around them.

The Dalai Lama said “If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation”. With a rapidly expanding and growing world, this quote could not be more relevant. Allowing children to be grounded and centred in their thoughts is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Making sure their true nature is made up of compassion, love, and wisdom, which can then be shared with the world.

YogaFrogs – bringing weekly yoga, mindfulness, meditation and creativity to children, teens and families across East and West Sussex,
www.yogafrogs.co.uk

Quick and healthy family meals for busy parents

By | children's health, Food & Eating, fun for children, Health, Uncategorized | No Comments

by Jess Crocker
Manager, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership

We’ve all been there – after a long day, staring into the fridge willing a decent meal to appear as a tired child moans in our ear. We want to serve up healthy meals our children love, but this ideal can seem far away at times. At the Food Partnership we’ve been teaching adults and families about cookery and nutrition for over 10 years so we’ve seen these same issues again and again. So many of our strongest happy memories are connected to food, so we want to see more families finding simple ways to have positive experiences together in the kitchen and at the dining table.

Here’s our top time-saving tips to make healthy meals easier:
• Hidden veg tomato sauce Lots of parents blend or chop vegetables into pasta sauce to up their children’s veg intake, but we love to find new ways to make this go even further – freeze a large batch of the sauce so you can use it on pita-bread pizzas (see below), in stews, shepherd’s pie and or even as a base for a minestrone soup.

• Do it together
Getting children involved in cooking is a great way to get them trying new foods. Many parents involve even young children in activities like baking but the time, sugar and mess means this isn’t really an everyday option. We often find family meals that give children choice and control help to improve eating habits – and this can be quick too. One of our favourites is pita bread pizzas – all you need are store-bought breads, tomato paste or a basic sauce, grated cheese and some toppings (think frozen sweetcorn, peppers, chopped fresh tomato). Even toddlers can assemble the pizza themselves and wait excitedly to try their creation.

• Don’t fear frozen
Frozen veg often retains more nutrients than fresh food which has been left to languish in the fridge, plus you can portion out exactly what you need and cook it quickly. Keep a range of veg (and fruit) in the freezer to ensure your children get a good variety of foods without spending a fortune. Toddlers who are teething may even enjoy eating frozen peas or sweetcorn, and a little bit of frozen spinach can disperse through a dish as a very gentle introduction to more bitter flavours. It can take up to fifteen times for children to accept a new food, so don’t worry if it takes a while, if you’re eating it yourself they should eventually follow suit.

• Protein power
People often focus on vegetable intake in children – don’t forget protein. Children need two portions per day, roughly the size of their own fist or a handful. As well as meat, eggs and fish, we find that red lentils cook quickly and can easily disappear into a tasty carrot soup or casserole to add extra nutrition easily.

Check out our website for lots of quick and easy family recipes. If you have a top tip or recipe that helps your family eat quickly and well, we’d love to hear from you.

Local non-profit organisation, the Food Partnership has just launched a new ‘Community Kitchen’ on Queens Road in central Brighton – a cookery school where classes with chefs and food experts help subsidise low-cost, accessible community cookery activities.
www.bhfood.org.uk/the-community-kitchen

“I can’t do it – yet!” Growth mindset and the teenage brain

By | children's health, Health, Mental health | No Comments
by Nick Forsyth
Head of Wellbeing, Kingston Grammar School

The teenage brain is a truly remarkable thing. In recent years, researchers have revealed far more of its secrets and, in particular, how it differs fundamentally from the adult brain. While it has a greater capacity to learn and create, we now know that areas of the brain that control behaviour, judgement and emotional control are the last to mature. This partly explains why adolescents are more prone to risk-taking behaviour, more susceptible to stress and mental illness and why they have an increased risk of developing an addiction.

Research into brain development has also given us new insights into how children actually think and learn. The terms ‘fixed’ and ‘growth mindset’ were first used by the world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck. The idea is very simple but has huge implications for the way we teach our children and how they see themselves.

The basic idea is this: children with a fixed mindset believe that being ‘good’ at a particular activity is something that they cannot control. Talent and even intelligence are fixed traits that you either have or don’t have. These children also tend to believe that talent alone can lead to success. Such a view is reinforced in a world where instant gratification is increasingly seen as the norm and where a toxic mix of social media, celebrity culture and rampant commercialism can lead to impossible expectations and an unrealistic sense of entitlement. Overnight success? Sign up for X Factor. Fame and fortune? No problem; become an Internet blogger or You Tuber.

Of course, the converse effect is that when things do get hard, as they inevitably will, children with a fixed mindset will show a lack of resilience or will simply give up. “I can’t do it, there’s no point.”

In comparison, children with a growth mindset understand that intelligence or being good at something is not a fixed characteristic but can be increased through effort, determination and sheer hard work. Mistakes and setbacks are seen as learning opportunities while success is rightly framed in the context of perseverance and trial and error. Now “I can’t do it” becomes “I can’t do it yet”.

There is now compelling evidence that teaching children about the power of growth mindset can dramatically improve a child’s academic performance and motivation to learn. In particular, when children understand that at this age their brains are highly malleable and grow stronger with effort and practice, they are far more willing to stick to a task or activity.

Over the last few years the idea of fixed verses growth mindset has gained considerable traction in education and teachers are now increasingly aware that their actions and, in particular, their feedback can subtly influence how their children perform. So praising innate ability – “you’re so talented at maths” – is likely to reinforce a fixed mindset while praising effort and hard work, “well done so far, now let’s see how we can improve” helps to develop a growth mindset.

The concept can also be taught to children in the context of success in sport or music or indeed any field. When asked about his success, Ed Sheeran said, “When people say you are so talented and you’ve been born with natural talent, I say ‘no’. You have to really learn and really practice.” Or Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, talking about his attitude to failure: “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Growth mindset teaches children that their brains are not hard-wired but can grow and develop in the same way that their muscles get stronger as a result of training and exercise. This not only leads to higher academic attainment but it has dramatic effects on how children perceive themselves. Once they know that it’s normal to fail and get things wrong, we see improvements in self-esteem, resilience, having the confidence to try new things and less stress about exams and the need to be perfect. In short, happier, healthier children.

Kingston Grammar School is hosting a national conference on Growth Mindset, “I can’t do it – yet” on Wednesday 7th November 2018.

Kingston Grammar School, founded in 1561, is a leading co-educational independent day school for boys and girls aged 11-18 years. Kgs.org.uk

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

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)