The danger of expecting ‘the best’

By | Education

Often parents are driven to want their daughter to be ‘the best.’ At Prep School level this is only ever short-lived – how often is the tallest girl still the tallest by 14 or the top scorer still the most academically successful later on in their schooling? Rarely is this the case, since development is not linear and there are peaks and troughs along the way.

It is impossible for everyone to be the fastest swimmer, the quickest at mental arithmetic, to have perfect pitch, to be the life and soul of the party or the best listening ear. In fact, we have to be careful sometimes what we wish for. Being ‘the best’ is an incredibly stressful position and can lead to a feeling of isolation and a fear of failing. The fall from dizzy heights of success can be a painful experience and undoubtedly it can be lonely at the top. Our job is to ensure that the girls are ready and armed to cope with such challenges and the inevitable ups and downs they will face.

Girls at Prep School should be in the phase of discovery and still able and encouraged to take risks and build their natural resilience. In doing so they will be encouraged to be the best that they can possibly be and find out for themselves where their own strengths lie. What we don’t want is Annabel to be more like Emily – we want Annabel to be more like Annabel – the best and truest version of herself.

Learning often happens when we are taken out of our comfort zones. Young children do not fear failure, in fact they relish it – how many of your daughters loved to play ‘peek-a-boo,’ or later on ‘tag’ but really aimed to be caught, not to get away? They are playing out success and failure and enjoying that moment when their building brick tower tumbles to the floor.

It is only as children become slightly older that they begin to grapple with the complexities and demands which come with being successful. Our job is to be the gentle palm in the small of their backs to guide and lead, to inspire and support and to catch when the occasional but necessary fall comes about. The key is for us to tap into what motivates, excites and stimulates the girls in order that they can find pleasure and satisfaction in meeting the challenges they face. In doing so, they will develop a lifelong love of learning. Truly creative and original thought requires failure. Every girl has a distinctive set of drivers and talents; if we spend time discovering what they are we have gone a long way in encouraging their failure and ultimate success.

St Catherine’s Prep School, Bramley extends a warm welcome to parents who would like to visit the school.
Open Mornings: Friday 16th November, Friday 1st February 2019 and Tuesday 5th March 2019.
Taster afternoon (Year 1 – Year 6) Thursday 22nd November.
Please contact Sally Manhire, Prep School Registrar, on 01483 899665.

Maternity leave – how is it spent?

By | Education, Finance, Uncategorized, Work employment

Research has revealed the top things that pregnant women plan to do during their maternity leave, with 15% stating that they plan to start their own business and become a ‘mumpreneur’. According to the poll, a third of new mums go back to work earlier than they are required to, with the majority citing ‘financial reasons’ behind their decision to return early.
The days of maternity leave being used to rest and relax, have tea breaks and bond with other new mums are long gone, according to new research that has found British women have far more ambitious plans to keep busy during their leave. Taking up a new hobbies, setting up businesses and learning a new language are among the top things that expectant mums plan to do while away from work.

The team at conducted the research as part of an ongoing study into the financial situations that Britons find themselves in. 2,319
British women aged 18 and over, all of whom stated that they had given birth in the past five years, were quizzed about their maternity leave and how they spent their time.

Initially all respondents were asked ‘How did you plan to spend your maternity leave?’ to which the most common responses were ‘taking up a new hobby’ (18%), ‘setting up a business’ (15%), ‘learning a new language’ (12%) and ‘travelling’ (9%). All respondents were then asked if they had spent their leave doing what they had planned to do, with the results revealing that half of those who wanted to set up a business did indeed become ‘mumpreneurs’ (50%) and 41% of those who wanted to learn a new language realised their dreams, though just 11% of pregnant women who planned to travel ended up venturing abroad.

All respondents were then asked ‘Did you return to work before your full maternity entitlement was up?’ to which 55% of respondents stated that they used their full entitlement, whilst the remaining respondents either made the decision to return to work early (33%) or chose not to return to work at all (11%).

Those who returned to work early, without using their full maternity entitlement, were asked to share the reasons why they had done so. When provided with a list of possible reasons and told to select all
that applied, the top five responses were as follows:

1. Financial reasons – 81%
2. Needed more adult company in the day – 70%
3. Worried about long-term job security – 52%
4. My child was in day-care, and it gave me something to do – 46%
5. I felt the company needed me back – 39%

All respondents who had returned to work were then asked ‘Did your return to work go as you had planned?’ to which 74% admitted that it hadn’t. When asked to elaborate, 44% of those who planned to return to work full-time ended up returning part-time, compared to 13% who planned to return to work
part-time and ended up working full-time.

George Charles, spokesperson for, made the following comments: “It’s fantastic to see that so many women are using their maternity leave to do something positive. Obviously they’re already doing something incredible, by raising a child, but it’s important that they take the time to do something for themselves at the same time. Taking up a hobby, meeting new people and studying something new, these are great ways to pass the time, keep occupied and also get your child engaging with others too. They’ll also leave you in a better position when it comes to returning to the working world – assuming that’s something you wish to do.”

Now you are a parent should you expect a post-baby drop in relationship satisfaction?

By | Education, family, Mental health, Relationships
by Agnes Munday
Friends Centre

A new baby brings a lot of joy but many couples struggle with adjusting to parenthood. Almost overnight, spontaneity vanishes as the responsibilities of the co-ownership of a demanding small business with one very cranky little customer hits home.

Dozens of studies highlight the drop in happiness and relationship satisfaction following the birth of a child, pointing to a larger decline than found for life events like divorce and unemployment.

Women tend to report more of a post-baby drop in relationship satisfaction than men do, and their satisfaction plummets earlier than men’s. Tiredness, financial strains, never-ending housework, isolation and arguments about child rearing all take a toll and stress levels can sharply increase.

Birth preparation and parenting classes offer little focus on couples’ relationships.
Most of us are unprepared and feel lost as to where to find
help. Despite the gloomy forecast, there is a lot that can be done to strengthen your relationship before or after the arrival of children.

Here are a few examples:
• Regularly list the things you most admire in each other, find way of saying “I love you’” every day and try not to go to sleep without some show of affection.

• Over time, our fondness and admiration for each other can get buried under layers of negativity, hurt feelings, and betrayal. By reviving the positive feelings that still lie deep below, you can strengthen your bond enormously and create a shield that can protect your relationship from being overwhelmed by any negativity that exists between you.

Try to make a stress-reducing conversation part of your daily ritual as a couple.
Take it in turns to discuss for ten minutes each a recent or upcoming stress in each of your lives, such as an upcoming job deadline. While one talks, the other listens with the intent to understand and offer support (not advice) – show genuine interest, maintain eye contact, ask open ended questions, and communicate understanding and solidarity. Swap after ten minutes.

When you are criticised (or feel critisised) by your partner, instead of immediately defending yourself, take a step back and say: What do you need? Aim to help your partner feel validated and understood.

Use non violent communication skills.
When I see/I hear you say that ________, I feel ________, because my need for ________ is/is not met. Would you be willing to ________?

Discuss with your partner:
What makes you feel appreciated?
What do you like best and least in your relationship?
How would it look if things were better as a couple?
What would you, or I be
doing differently?

• An argument about who does the dishes or puts the baby to bed is rarely just about that. It is more likely to be about how much one partner is feeling valued and cared for in the relationship, accepted for who they are, or about ongoing commitment to each other.

• Pay a different kind of attention to your experiences: without judging them as good or bad: Focus on sights, sounds, and smells, as well as to internal bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings.

• Pay attention and respond positively to the majority of your partner’s bids for your attention, affirmation or affection. Couples who do
this are much more likely to
stay together.

• Don’t leave home without a kiss that lasts at least six seconds, the time needed for a reduction in stress hormones.

• Attend a Family Learning Partners to Parents or Parent Present course. Our courses are either free or very affordable (see advert) and have been described as
life changing!

Friends Centre is an independent adult education organisation and charity based in Brighton. We offer courses in Family Learning Arts & Crafts, Health & Happiness and more, at our two main learning centres and a range of community venues.

Drama – improves children’s writing

By | dance & Art, Education

Drama can improve the quality of children’s writing and their motivation to write, research from Leeds Beckett University shows.
Working with Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education and the Alive and Kicking Theatre Company, Key Stage 2 (KS2) teachers in a Bradford primary school were trained in using drama to make writing more meaningful for children.

Alive and Kicking, working with children The Leeds Beckett researchers, led by Dr Tom Dobson and Lisa Stephenson, found that, after two terms, the children became highly motivated to write and developed a personal investment in the process of writing and in their final written pieces. Their writing was also found to be highly sophisticated and to meet the technical requirement of the national curriculum testing.

Dr Dobson, Principal Lecturer with expertise in creative writing, explained: “We observed taught lessons as well as the children’s writing and their reflections on the processes involved. Our findings show that the children’s motivation to write and the quality of their writing is improved by their involvement in drama. The main reason behind this is that drama provides children with an embodied experience of character, setting and story which the children can draw upon in their writing – when children write about their embodied experience, the act of writing becomes a problem-solving activity where the children think about how to translate their embodied experiences into text.

“We observed one class literally run to fetch their writing journals in a drama lesson and the children often spoke about how their writing had ‘real meaning’ for them. Surely these are the kinds of writers our schools should be nurturing.”

The research was funded by the United Kingdom Literary Association (UKLA).

The teachers were trained to use drama and to adopt the identity of a writer when teaching writing to their classes. At a time when government testing of spelling, punctuation and grammar can lead to less creativity in the teaching of writing, this research provides compelling alternative approaches for schools and their teachers to engage children and give them a strong investment in their writing, whilst also being able to satisfy curriculum demands and statutory testing.

John Mee, Associate Director at Alive and Kicking Theatre Company, said: “In all our work at Alive and Kicking we attempt to build dramas that create a problem to be solved and serve to introduce creative thinking, adoption of role, skill sets in art, music, design, story making and storytelling.

“To be able to work with every child and every member of staff across KS2 in our partner schools was terrific. Here we are now with a developed relationship with the lead teacher and an opportunity to take this work on into other schools as we work across the north of England.At Alive and Kicking we have always been intent upon reflecting on the strategies, techniques and forms that we use to create relationships and to build characters, narrative and dramatic tension. Here we have a moment to look at our work through the eyes of the children, the teachers and the researchers in detail and within a theoretical framework that we do not always have time for.

“Our learning from this work will be incorporated directly into our new planning and we will engage the teachers we work with in seeking opportunities to write within and beyond the drama, to build writing links that reflect and steer us into the next action in our stories. The work outlined in this paper should be a clarion call to teachers and teacher trainers to consider the launch pad that drama can offer in terms of context and purpose for writing.”

Oxford English Dictionary adds a brood of new words

By | Education

Included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) update are over a hundred words relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare. From TTC to VBAC, cry-it-out to baby-led-weaning, the language of parenting is as diverse as the opinions expressed about these topics. Many terms that are everyday vocabulary for millions of parents are relatively recent coinages, so weren’t included in earlier editions of the OED.

These newer arrivals reflect not only medical advances, but also developments in how we think about children and view their place in our society. The OED was keen to capture the imprint of these changes and developments on the English language.
For specialist vocabulary, from archery to zoology, the OED draws on the assistance of experts. For the language of parenting, parents themselves are the experts, and can reveal a broader range of terms than any single self-styled parenting guru or one or other partisan school of thought. For that reason, the OED team took its search to online parenting forum, Mumsnet, to ask which words and phrases should be considered for inclusion. The responses were as broad in scope as they were diverse in nature: and the interest of these words (to non-parents, as well as parents) lies in the fact that they reveal the full range of parenting experience – from everyday routines to life-changing moments – using the widest array of language – slang, colloquialisms, medical language, abbreviations.

The update includes a number of terms associated with TTC (trying to conceive), including a large number of initialisms used chiefly online. These include BFN, standing for ‘big fat negative’, BFP (‘big fat positive’) – used mostly online to report or talk about the results of a pregnancy test – and to pee on a stick, a colloquialism for taking that pregnancy test. Aunt Flo is a punning euphemism for the menstrual period.

The word babymoon was originally used to describe the time following the birth of a baby during which the parents can focus on establishing a bond with their baby but is now more frequently used to describe a relaxing holiday taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born. Less enjoyable experiences associated with pregnancy include baby brain, a supposed state of impaired memory or concentration during pregnancy or after giving birth, and gestational diabetes, used to describe elevated glucose level in the blood during pregnancy.

The update includes words that reflect the many and varied approaches to parenting, such as baby-led weaning and helicopter parenting. The former is a method of weaning allowing a baby to eat food by him or herself as opposed to being spoon-fed, while the latter is the practice of being a parent who takes an excessive interest in the life of his or her child, especially with regard to education. Other entries include CIO or cry-it-out, a method of sleep training, and co-sleeper, a child sleeping in the same room as the parental bed.

Words with regional differences also appear. Some may be familiar: the term nappy bag is used in the UK while in the US the same item is called a diaper bag. But few outside the US. may know that diaper cake describes a gift given to expectant or new parents made up of items for the new baby; and the phrase too posh to push seems to be both characteristically and exclusively British.

In her blog post on the project, OED Senior Editor Fi Mooring comments: “These words reflect personal experiences but many of them also resonate much more widely, even with people who are not parents. The distinctive lexicon of parenting maps a whole range of human experience, from immense joy to immeasurable sorrow and, considering its relevance to so much of the population it seemed an underrepresented category of vocabulary in the Dictionary.”

Some other parenting abbreviations, words and terms:
Pump and dump: To express and discard breast milk, typically following the ingestion of alcohol or medication that might be harmful to an infant.

SAHM (noun): Stay-at-home-mum, a mother who does not go out to work.

Push present (noun): A gift given to a woman shortly after she has given birth, typically by her spouse or partner.

Balance bike (noun): Type of learner’s bicycle with no pedals or training wheels.

SATs stress mess

By | children's health, Education

A survey of 297 primary school teachers reveals the need for policy makers to listen to teachers, as the majority of school leaders fear that exam pressure is leading to an increase in mental health issues amongst the UK’s youngest students.
A recent survey by primary resource provider PlanBee has found that 91% of UK primary school teachers believe that primary-level SATs results matter most to the government, and least to parents and children.

The question, ‘Who do SATs results matter to more, in your opinion?’ was answered by 297 KS1 primary teachers between 16 May and 21 May, in the midst of 2018 SATs test dates.

It comes after thousands of parents across the country considered a SATs boycott and concerns have been raised by the National Education Union (NEU) over the government’s new literacy and numeracy tests for four year olds, who voted to explore ways of disrupting the pilots this April.

The survey results have shown:
• 91% of teachers believe that primary SATs results matter most to the government.
• Just 8% of teachers feel that primary SATs results matter to schools.
• 0% of 297 teachers believe that primary SATs results matter to children involved.

PlanBee’s survey validates the remarks of Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman, who claimed in 2017 that schools’ focus on testing is damaging to education. She admitted that Ofsted were partly to blame, claiming that testing causes headteachers to “focus on the performance of the school and lose sight of the pupil”.

Former primary school teacher and current Head of Communications at PlanBee, Oli Ryan said, “The results of the survey are striking. Once again, it shows that policy makers need to listen to teachers. Too much pressure is placed on children to achieve during SATs, and it’s clear from this survey that they are the ones who benefit least from them.

“It’s evident that stress and anxiety levels among children is rising, and that pressure to achieve during SATs can contribute to this. A much greater emphasis on promoting pupil well-being in schools is needed.

“Teachers can’t affect this fundamental change on their own. A unified strategy for prioritising children’s well-being in schools needs to come from the DfE, the Standards & Testing Agency and Ofsted, too. As the House of Commons Education and Health Committees recently reported, the government needs to do more. A greater emphasis on giving children life skills for their own well-being will help them achieve academically, too.”

Research by YouGov for campaign group More Than A Score looked at the impact of SATs on the well-being of children and their education.
It polled 596 parents of children aged seven to 14 to understand the pressures children face as a result of SATs. 63% of those surveyed said that their children face too much exam pressure, and only 13% agreed with SATs in their current form.

In an exclusive statement, More Than A Score spokesperson, Madeleine Holt said: “Our polling confirms what parents have been telling us for years: SATs are damaging and pointless. Now we see even six and seven-year-olds worrying about tests. Surely learning is about more than getting a perfect score? Children need a broad and rich curriculum that encourages them to be excited about learning, not terrified of failing at such a young age.”

“With the status of a school and teachers’ pay so closely linked to SATs results, it’s no wonder so many are teaching to the test. The SATs regime is inhibiting children’s learning as SATs revision begins to dominate the timetable. Our primary school children in England are already some of the most tested in the world. This results in stress and anxiety in children, narrows the curriculum and distracts teachers from doing their job: teaching.

“That’s why we are calling for the government to scrap SATs, and commission an independent and expert review to produce recommendations for primary school assessments that are fit or purpose.”

Protecting your child’s education

By | Education, Finance, Uncategorized

An insurance guide for parents of children at independent schools

by Clare Cave
Director at SFS Group

Choosing the right school for your child is a huge decision – taking many hours of careful thought and research. You want to make sure you consider every option and look at every possible angle to find the perfect choice. After all, this is something that will affect the rest of their lives.

Once you’ve secured that all important place, the next step is to secure your finances. Many parents are aware that there are products that can help spread the cost across a period of time, to help with budgeting and make fees more affordable. These payment plans can be extremely helpful and can be the difference between deciding to opt for an independent education or not.

However, what many parents aren’t aware of is that there are a number of insurance products available that can secure those payments, no matter what the future may hold.

Here are details of those policies, providing the full picture about what protection
is available:

School Fees Insurance
After the mortgage, school fees are probably the next largest financial commitment for families with children at independent schools. Many will have taken steps to protect their homes but may never have known they could do the same with their children’s fees. If one parent dies or suffers a serious illness, it could be extremely difficult to find the money required to keep your child at the school you’ve chosen.

What does it cover?
This product covers your school fees until your child turns 18 should you become terminally ill or die. Benefit payments are made directly to the school, therefore avoiding any tax or probate issues that may be encountered through traditional life insurance policies. No medical underwriting is required to take out the insurance. Critical illness cover can be added to the policy too, at an additional cost. A choice of different levels of cover are available.

School Fees Refund Insurance
Most of the time, when children are ill they’ll only be off school for a day or two. However, if they contract something more serious, such as glandular fever, they could be off school for two or three weeks, or even longer. Similarly, if they suffer a broken arm or leg, they may need to spend time at home to recuperate. All this time, parents will be required to continue to pay fees despite their children not being in school.

What does this cover?
This product provides a refund of your school fees if your child misses school due to accident or illness. Each policy will have a defined deferred period – a time the child needs to be off school before a claim can be made. Typically, this length of time will be between five and 10 days. There is a choice of different levels of cover available. Some policies will also cover weekends for children who are at boarding school.

Pupils’ Personal Possessions Insurance
Technology has become an everyday part of education. Pupils are often required to complete their work on a computer and may need to take it into school to use in their lessons. Mobile phones have become almost universal among children at senior schools and over a third of those aged eight to 11 own one. These are expensive items that can be difficult to live without and can be easily damaged in a hectic day at school.

What does this cover?
There are a range of different policies available for pupils’ possessions, offering different levels of cover. The most useful attributes to look out for are a low excess and cover for accidental damage. While it is possible to include your children’s possessions on your household contents insurance, having a separate policy will often work out more cost effective and will protect any no-claims bonus that you may have.

Income Protection Insurance
Cover is also available to protect against long-term health conditions that aren’t classed as a critical, serious or terminal illness. The most common cause for a prolonged sickness absence for employees in the UK is mental illness, which could be covered by
this protection.

What does this cover?
This provides insurance cover to pay for school fees should you become ill or have an accident and be unable to work for a set number of weeks. A range of different cover levels are available, and payments are made directly to the school in monthly instalments. Payments will continue until you return to work, your child reaches 18 or for five years, whichever happens first.

Securing the best possible education for your child is one of the best gifts you can ever give. It opens up so many possibilities for their future.
It makes sense to spend just a little time on your financial planning to ensure you have the right protections in place, so they can follow whatever path they choose.

Clare Cave is Director at SFS Group who has, for over 25 years, been providing parents of children at independent schools with innovative insurance products that give peace of mind for whatever the future may hold.

Beware the Open Day!

By | Education
by Alexia Bolton
Headmistress, Pennthorpe Preparatory School, Rudgwick

All quality independent schools offer Open Days as an ideal opportunity to allow prospective parents to see their school in action and for parents to gain an indication of whether it is the school for them and (most importantly) their children.

As a parent, I would always strongly recommend that any parent ‘shop around’ and visit a number of schools as a comparative exercise once they gauge the type of school they are looking for. Aside of a parents own educational experience which can either encourage or deter a preference, parents should consider whether they are seeking single sex or co-educational, day or boarding, selective or non-selective and the logistics of distance to travel. And you thought this was going to be simple?

Websites and school prospectuses are a wonderful tool to gain an initial feel for a school, their culture and purpose and where their strengths lie. Matching these to your own values and your child’s interests is reasonably straightforward and should enable you to shortlist a group of schools to visit. However, beware the beauty of effective marketing and be mindful that school websites are predominately created and written by expert companies who spend hours creating enticing lines and the perfect photos while using Google analytics to entrap you on the first page of your web search. Does the website truly reflect the school?

In order to find out, you have to visit to make full use of your own parental gut instinct. Again, beware the Open Day show where you are greeted in the car park by exceptionally well-groomed children, holding clipboards full of things they have to tell you and the manner in which they have to be said. Enjoy a tour of the school but ask to see the areas that they haven’t got listed on their route and ask to see more than the multimillion-pound new facility they have just built. Ask the
children the questions that you truly want answers to and watch the way the guides respond, not only in terms of what they say but how intuitive and instinctive they are.

Finally, before making any decisions, always make an appointment to see the Head to discuss your child individually. Any Head worth their salt will want to meet you and if they don’t have the time at this point in the process, this is highly indicative of how much you will see the Head on a daily basis. The Head is the devisor of the vision, the person sailing the ship with all of its passengers so if you don’t like the Head, consider carefully the school. Finally, take a tour on a normal school day. A day when the glamour and glitz are removed and when you can see what the children and teachers are really like.

All parents have a gut instinct the second their child is born; utilise it to full effect when choosing a school. It’s like a house purchase, find the one that gives you the feeling it’s absolutely for you!

Pennthorpe is a truly independent co-educational Prep school nestled in the West Sussex countryside on the Surrey/Sussex border.
With an innovative curriculum and a talented and passionate staff, Pennthorpe seeks to discover each child’s spark and ensure all children experience excellence
hand in hand with happiness.

Alexia Bolton MEd MA has been Headmistress at Pennthorpe since 2017.

Mindfulness matters

By | children's health, Education, Health, Mental health, Relationships
by Claudine Lacroix
The Mindful Me Club

How can mindfulness help you and your family deal with the increasing pressures of modern living.

The clock is ticking, the children aren’t dressed and you find yourself shouting as you are feeling the pressure that you are going to be late for work. How many hours in our day do we run around being driven by the clock? Often it is not until we are on a holiday, perhaps looking at a beautiful sunset or a stunning view that we may allow our minds to stop for a moment of calm, then it may only be a matter of moments before we revert back to being consumed by uncontrollable thoughts and worries of the
past or future. A mind consumed with things we need to do, have done already or think we could have done better, is all too common.

Our children
For our children, it is not uncommon to be stressed as a result of trying to deal with such difficulties as: parents fighting, divorcing or separating, themselves being bullied, undergoing school stress, money worries, a new sibling or fear of the future. For both parent and child, living in this way can cause a lifetime of chronic stress and anxiety that can often lead to many ailments such as insomnia, depression and suppressed immunity.

The body and mind connection
The understanding that stress can induce illness and the impact that our mind has on our health, are certainly not new ideas. It has been recognised for many years in such fields as behavioural medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, hypnotherapy and Chinese medicine that the way that we think and feel, has a significant effect on our physical health. Jon Kabat-Zinn is an American professor of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and recognised for his extensive work using mindfulness with patients to relieve stress, pain, anxiety and illness. His book, ‘The Full Catastrophe’ provides an in-depth background to mindfulness and it’s benefits on the body.

So, you might be asking what is mindfulness and how can it help my family and I?
Mindfulness is an effective, yet simple practice that involves the repetition of basic techniques including conscious breathing, movement and listening. It is done in a self-directed training programme and results in developing greater acceptance and awareness of the present moment. As a result of repeated practice, a sense of calm, self-acceptance and a change of perspective can occur benefiting both mind and body. One learns to step back from worried thoughts and stresses, responding rather than reacting to life’s challenges. Children too, can learn techniques to help them to deal with difficult emotions and negative thought patterns. Through teaching some simple facts about the brain and its connection to these thought patterns the children can feel more in control, develop resilience, self-acceptance and emotional awareness. Children learn that they don’t need to hide or suppress their feelings but can manage and understand them instead. Parents and children can do some of the techniques and mindful activities together, making it part of the family day. The techniques not only include the conscious breathing, listening and moving, mentioned earlier, but also sharing feelings and experiences and talking about them together.

As long as you can breathe and you have the willingness and discipline to practice then that’s all you need. The practice may, at the very least, create a space in your day to relax but it’s also possible, with regular practice, to experience a more constant state of calm that filtrates into all areas of your life and has some noticeable beneficial effects on your health and lifestyle choices. At the very best, you will awaken to the truth and beauty that is available to you in each moment and that could change your life.

Claudine Lacroix is a mother, aromatherapist, English teacher and Mindfulness practitioner having recently studied humanistic counselling at the Gestalt Centre, London. Claudine provides mindfulness classes in local primary schools, private classes outside of school hours and provides one to one sessions with adults, teenagers and children.
Claudine Lacroix runs The Mindful Me Club – to find out more or book a class in Brighton call 07341 565 445 or email or visit Facebook page: The Mindful Me Club.

Making up is hard to do – so how do we teach it?

By | Education, Relationships
by Richard Taylor-West
Headmaster, Shoreham College

It was Neil Sedaka who famously sang ‘ breaking up is hard to do’, wasn’t it? He had a point of course; it is. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone we have shared time with and invested in, emotionally. It’s hard to say goodbye, move on and process that change. Sometimes it leads to deep grief. It is equally true, I think, that ‘making up’ can be very hard to do, as well.

Making up involves all kinds of qualities and skills. We need to be self-aware; we need to have empathy and understand the impact of our words and actions for others; we need ultimately to be able to make ourselves vulnerable and place ourselves in the power of others, in a sense, by saying “I’m sorry and I hope you can accept that from me.” We need to have the appropriate language at our disposal.

I might be, according to my birth certificate, into my fifth decade. (I struggle to believe this at times, until I try to lift heavy objects) and I am by no means certain that I have wholly mastered the arts of these human challenges. Are we surprised, I ask myself, if we find children are not really able to do it, at times? I don’t know why, if we are.

As young people grow and develop, they need to be coached and given the chance to develop these skills and I am of the opinion that this has become more and more tricky for some young people. I am not at all convinced, for instance, that the Internet, for all its huge advantages in some ways, is helping with this. It is undoubtedly creating new ways of communicating.

Dr Aric Sigman, an expert in neuro science and psychology, is a colleague with whom I have worked delivering presentations and workshops to young people and he has pointed out that, after years of research, there is some evidence that overuse of devices amongst young people may be rewiring their brains in such a way that they are less capable of having ‘empathy’ for others. There is some strange unnerving distance emerging in social interaction. He wrote: “When using the Internet, for example, the areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually no increase in stimulation’ and so their brains may not be developing ‘fundamental social skills’ ”
(‘The Impact of Social Media and Screen Time’).

This is a fairly sobering idea. After all, if they don’t have empathy for others then understanding why they need to say sorry is going to be a challenge, let alone actually being able to then deliver these messages, know how to, or even what it really means to make up, after a break up. Logically, if this is the case, then it seems possible to me that their experiences of human interaction and exchange are going to be frustrating, broken and may lead to anxiety simply for this reason.

It seems then that we need to do all that we can to ensure that, if this is happening, it does not get too much of a hold. We need to prepare young people to realise that successfully managing relationships with others is tricky, challenging, can be learned and is ultimately very rewarding and important, if we get a hold on it.

At our school, as with many schools of course, we try to tackle this area of work with energy. Our PSHE (Personal Social Health Education) sessions and programmes from Early Years through to Year 11 are tailored to contribute to this project. From the moment they are with us, we aim to teach them to be reflective and develop cognitive frameworks for reflecting on their behaviour towards others and its impact. We run sessions and workshops with titles like: ‘Making Good Relationships and Respecting Others’.

Through our programmes, tutorials and assemblies, we look at topics that include the ability for students to reflect on who they are, whilst at the same time learning to respect differences in others. This work encourages self-awareness and empathy, which seem key to ‘making up’ and ‘breaking up’.

I think the challenge for all schools going forward is going to be nurturing young people in terms of ensuring they are resilient and able to deal with changing relationships. We need to help them to understand that relationships change, why feelings can develop and even come and go. We need to show them that
this is essentially part of life and not necessarily the end of the world and something to catastrophise (a horrible, but quite useful word).

Perhaps though, most of all, we need to ensure that we teach them ‘empathy’ and essential ingredient of ‘love’ and ‘kindness’. Without having the ability for the former, the latter qualities are, I would argue, pretty difficult to develop at all. Dr Sigman has rather worried me on that front.

Between parents and schools there is quite an important job to do. We can prevent our young people thinking that people are ‘things’ that exist at the end of a fibre-optic, from the perceived safety of their bedrooms and that real communication happens when we talk face to face, understand body language, respect others and ourselves and listen to each other carefully. (All of which many adults are not good at doing either.)

As one website for training states: “Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, and increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.” (Skills You Need, 2018)

I would say it runs even deeper than this. Our young people need to listen with empathy and kindness when forging relationships. If they do learn to, they may need to break up less often, or make up less often too. When either does happen, they will still need to be able to listen to themselves, in order to process their emotions and move on constructively. It will certainly help them to live in families, communities and work in teams.

Please call 01273 592681 to find out more about what Shoreham College can offer you, or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year.