Category

family

mum's mental health

It’s OK, not to be OK

By | Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Safety, Uncategorized

Mental health in pregnancy, birth and beyond

Eight months into being a mother, it hit me. Depression, together with its best friend, anxiety, came for an unplanned visit and as I write this months later, things are still very difficult, with the depression and the anxiety coming and going as they please, but I’m OK. I’m OK, not to be OK.

The most beautiful soul I have ever met, graced my husband and I with his presence in May of 2018 and what an amazing first year it has been. The cuddles; the late night/crack of dawn feeds; minimal sleep; bath time; nappy changes; weaning; playtime; teething; nappy changes; learning to crawl, walk and speak – and did I mention nappy changes?

How many blessings to have in one year. I have to pinch myself sometimes to check this isn’t just a wonderful dream. It is in fact reality, my reality, that this little boy is my baby boy and my absolute life’s purpose. How lucky am I? This most magical first year of being a mother, as amazing as it has been, has also brought many mental health challenges my way. I am not only learning to be a mother, but I am now also learning to accept and love the new me.

For seven out of my nine months of pregnancy, I was frankly scared of everything and anything going wrong. I made a decision that for my last two months of pregnancy, to work on just trying to worry less and enjoy this pregnant chapter of my life. This was much easier said than done but I really did have an amazing last two months of pregnancy where instead of fearing for this baby and what ‘could go wrong’, I looked forward to his daily kicks and hiccups and enjoyed this beautiful baby growing inside of me. I didn’t unfortunately wave a magic wand, I had to work very hard on ‘me’. I spoke openly about my fears, hopes and dreams; I attended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); I took early maternity leave to focus on me and my baby, as well as attending the mental health midwifery clinic attached to my local hospital. This internal work I was doing, together with the support of my incredible husband, family and friends, all helped me get to where I wanted and where I needed to be, in the preparation for my little man’s arrival.

I am a big believer in therapy and I hope that anyone struggling with poor mental health, gets help. It can be free, you can self-refer, you can choose to do it face-to-face, over the phone or online. So, if you are needing some help or just a nudge in the right direction, or know someone who is struggling, please speak up. You can reach out to your GP for a list of local therapies available or simply go online to see which type of therapy is right for you, whether it be CBT, counselling or other types of therapy. For employers, please check out Mental Health First Aid England, where they are helping drive mental health awareness in the workplace.

After being flagged as ‘high risk’ for mental health during my pregnancy, I thought I was going to experience baby blues (which can come in around day three when there is a hormone shift) but I didn’t, no baby blues. I thought I was going to experience postnatal depression but I didn’t. I don’t think. What did occur was I was back at work in January of 2019 and it happened. Depression. I found myself missing my baby so much whilst at work and felt like I was completely missing out on everything. My husband was daddy day care at the time and what a great job he was doing. This wasn’t a case of my baby not being well looked after, I was experiencing a sort of separation anxiety from my baby boy. But I just had to keep working long days and ‘deal with it’.

Whilst still struggling months later, I finally quit my job in order to enjoy time with my little man but also to work on myself. Self-love, self-care and mental health improvements, including daily meditation, yoga and therapy. Some days are good, others bad, others really bad – but I remain honest with myself and others. It really is OK, not to be OK. You are not a failure or ‘damaged goods’ which is how I would often label myself. You are real, showing your true colours and just going through a difficult time. You are exactly who you are meant to be for now and that is OK. All I know is that we have to truly accept ourselves and support others in whatever way we can. We need to remain an open and honest society, and most importantly please, be kind to one another.

At TheBabyChapter, we are dedicated to improving the quality of antenatal classes, ensuring soon-to-be parents are well supported and know all the information needed to make the right decision for you and your baby, in this new chapter, TheBabyChapter
www.thebabychapter.co.uk

st catherines

Milestone moments

By | Education, family, Playing, Relationships
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

Life at Prep School is full of firsts. The first time we do anything requires courage and determination which is why I so admire young children and so enjoy watching their early journey through school.

Before joining school children will have already had many milestone moments – moving from cot to bed, their first steps, their first tooth and many more. The first day of school arrives all too quickly and from there a series of challenges and wonderful opportunities await.

Ahead of starting school, encourage your child to engage in creative play. Allow them to solve some of their own problems – when they put their shoes on the wrong feet, pause and see if they can figure that out for themselves. Provide simple choices but limit them to two or three options – I often refer to this as the ‘carrot or peas’ approach. Rather than, “What would you like to eat?” which is a crazy question to ask a preschool child, offer two alternatives. Give your child opportunities for play games which involve taking turns and sharing as well as dressing up and role-play. Encourage the use of full sentences when talking to your child. Avoid comments like, “Mummy wants you to come over and help” and start to use, “Please can you come and help me,” and “thank you.”
The first day of school is a major event but don’t overplay this. You will have spent considerable time and effort choosing the right school, trust your instincts and remain calm and positive. Allow plenty of time for the school run on the first morning and leave as quickly as you can once your child is in the classroom and starting to settle. Your child will spend the day learning names of the other children in the class, being shown their immediate environment and they will most likely come home exhausted.

In the first term, establish a good rapport with your child’s teacher and encourage their early reading and writing at home as advised by the school. Ask what happens in the book that they are reading, and help with extending their vocabulary to include words such as ‘first, second, finally.’ Don’t be scared to use the correct vocabulary –
if your child can recite Hickory Dickory Dock they can learn the correct vocabulary and should be moving away from pet names for things.

You will hear about the first falling out between friends. If you have watched ‘The Secret Life of 4 year olds,’ you will see these happen frequently and are as quickly resolved. There will be moments where your child’s effort and success is recognised and other moments when they feel overlooked or left out. They are still in egocentric infant mode and it is important to remember that you are hearing a four year old’s version of events.

The first nativity brings lines to deliver, songs to sing and the chance to ‘perform’ in front of an audience. They will want to please you, please their teacher and be starting to want to please their peers by this stage. Frantic waving and trying to get their attention from your seat in
the audience is adding pressure to an already fairly daunting experience for some children.
By all means wave to them on arrival and reassure your child that you are there but try to keep it discreet.

By the end of the first year your child will be very attached to their first teacher and the school will prepare them for moving on to a new class, possibly with new pupils arriving too which can change the dynamic amongst the class. Over the first long summer break encourage more constructive play which requires your child to build things, take things apart and put them back together. Go on walks, build dens in the garden, start to ride a bike with stabilisers. Check table manners and correct use of cutlery and ‘please and thank yous.’ Use the days of the week more and continue with reading and basic writing.

Then come swimming lessons, possibly picking up an instrument for the first time, presenting in assembly and taking on minor roles of responsibility within the class (taking a message to the office or assisting with classroom chores). You will increasingly feel that you are not there for every milestone moment. This is important as your child will be forming a self-esteem based on their sense of their own achievements and by six we hope finding intrinsic motivation. They will be working out that effort impacts outcomes and they will be turning to peers to share their achievements. Winning the sack race, learning their times tables, holding the door open for a visitor, sharing their snack at break are all equally important.

Each of these little steps are, in fact, giant leaps. At our school we aim to capture the magic as it happens and share it with parents when we can. We ask the children to give everything a try and to step out of their comfort zone with as much confidence as possible. Learning at this age must be fun and curiosity must be fostered. Enjoy the milestone moments – they are to be cherished.

St Catherine’s is situated in the village of Bramley, three miles south of Guildford, which has fast train connections to London. Prep School girls benefit immeasurably from the world-class facilities of the Senior School, including the extensive grounds, 25m indoor pool, Sports Hall, dance studio, magnificent auditorium and 19th century chapel. Girls from age four engage in a full and varied curriculum which includes music, IT, ballet, and sport delivered by dedicated specialist teachers. Our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, said on a recent visit, “You are all extremely lucky to be at such a wonderful school.”
www.stcatherines.info

Not the only boy in ballet class

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play
by Stephen McCullough
Regency Ballet School for Boys

boy ballerina

For decades girls have far out-numbered boys in dance while classical ballet, in particular, has long been considered a pursuit for girls and has therefore typically been seen as ‘feminine’. This is, of course, far from the truth because male dancers have always been an important part of any professional ballet company. Overcoming the stereotype that ‘boys don’t dance’ is a real hurdle however, there has recently been considerable progress in challenging this concept.

The ‘Billy Elliot effect’ has had a massive positive effect on boys, inspiring many to pursue the study of ballet in greater numbers than ever before while dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Sergei Polunin, along with increased media attention focused on male stars performing on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, have given dance even greater recognition. With this exposure more boys are realising that dancing can actually be ‘pretty cool’. However, there are many others who would love to dance but still don’t have the confidence to try.

So why should a boy choose to study ballet, especially when there are so many other ‘masculine’ sporting activities available to them? Generally speaking, ballet dancers are a lot stronger and more flexible than other sports athletes. As a highly physical artistic sport classical ballet not only nurtures physical conditioning that promotes muscular strength and agility but also improves flexibility and range of motion which encourages good posture and in turn helps in preventing injuries. The physical demands of classical ballet is particularly beneficial for boys who are
very active as it allows them to focus excess energy productively through learning and performing.

Requiring a discipline of the mind, classical ballet also provides a mental workout, enhancing cognitive skills and concentration. Due to the intense mental processing required during class both hemispheres of the brain are engaged which helps to increase neural connectivity. Because several brain functions are integrated at once this multi-tasking activity improves and sharpens co-ordinated learning.

Whatever their age, studying ballet is beneficial for all boys and over time the combination of physical and mental skills can cross-over into other aspects of life. The physical intensity required during class helps to improve physical performance in other sports while increased cognitive function, concentration, discipline and perseverance often helps during school and throughout life. Alongside the knowledge and skills required to perform, ballet also helps dancers to develop an understanding of movement as a means of artistic communication, which in turn teaches them to show emotions through their body language.

Choosing to be a dancer may be an unusual career choice but is a brave decision for any boy as it requires energy, focus, perseverance and above all, a passion and a drive to succeed. With encouragement, hopefully a new generation of boys will ‘get into ballet’, because we need more male dancers. The lack of male dance teachers, however, often means many boys participating in a ballet programme are rarely taught by one. It is good for boys to work with a variety of teachers during their training, and although not essential it is certainly an advantage for boys to have a male dance teacher not only in terms of technique but as a strong, positive role model to emulate and inspire them.

Ballet may look very graceful and easy on stage, but the amount of skill required to perform is huge and at times can be mentally demanding. However, with a supportive network of family and friends a boy is far more likely to succeed. We want boys to enjoy dancing, surrounded by other like-minded males who have the same interest in dance and even if a boy isn’t destined for a career in dance studying ballet is not only fun but an enjoyable, challenging activity that offers a superb all round education that teaches many useful life skills.

Regency Ballet School for Boys offers classical ballet classes for boys aged 8 -16 and follows the BBO dance syllabus. The school has opened as a response from parents looking for an opportunity for their boys to dance in an environment where they don’t feel like the odd ones out.
www.regencyballetschool.com

Hothouse or greenhouse? Surviving or thriving?

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Mental health, play, Relationships, Safety
by Tamara Pearson
Senior Teacher (Curriculum), Our Lady of Sion Junior School

One cannot foresee the pressure you put on yourself as a parent when the midwife first hands your newborn to you. Which nappies are best? Will this car seat save my child’s life? What does my pram say about us as parents? These soon turn to comparisons over when children learn to crawl, walk and talk. Once at school age, we cannot help but wonder “where is my child in the class?”, “are they happy?”, “does the school of our choice match the needs of our child(ren)?”

We all want the best for our children. So what do we go for? The ‘hothouse’ or the ‘greenhouse’? Are our children just ‘surviving’ or truly ‘thriving’?

To even begin to answer these questions, we must consider what the true purpose of education and the role of schools is. What are our children learning and why? How are they learning? How is failure perceived? How are children assessed and how is that communicated? Is learning/attainment ‘fixed’ or is there genuine room for growth and development of the mind?

Research shows that childhood anxiety is the highest it has ever been. Circumstances, finances, relationships, expectations, social media, diet and exercise all play their part. What are schools doing to address these challenges? Fostering an authentic mindset in students is crucial; the jobs they will have in the future may not yet exist today.

Much has been made of Growth Mindset in the world of work and education, but, in reality, this is not enough. In order to prepare children for life’s challenges, they need a full toolbox of skills. Having a proactive/positive approach needs to be underpinned by social, emotional, and academic tools in order to fully educate the whole child. It is not about just working hard, it is about working smart.

As professional educators, it is our responsibility to prepare children in moving beyond being passive consumers of information and toward becoming active innovators. We must actively inspire and provide genuine opportunities to develop children’s passions.

At our school, our children are driven by our ethos ‘Consideration Always’. As role models to the school community and beyond, we entrust them to develop and demonstrate the best version of themselves. Children develop when they are given the opportunity to do so. Mary Myatt’s philosophy of ‘high challenge, low threat’ leadsthe way.

Expecting consistent productivity and positivity is not realistic, attainable, or even desirable; we may flit between fixed and growth mindsets. This is okay. The clincher is to remember that whatever setbacks we face, we can reflect/process our thoughts, then jump back in the saddle and continue the ride to our intended destination.

Equipped with a well-developed toolkit of social, emotional, and academic skills, every child can take on inevitable setbacks (and pressures of success) with integrity, resolve and good humour.

Tamara Pearson is a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Our Lady of Sion Junior School in Worthing.
She is also mother to a six year old who attends Sion and is passionate about helping the Juniors embrace every enrichment opportunity available.
She is a UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador and in the last three years has seen Sion Juniors rewrite its Curriculum, assessment approach, create an Intergenerational Project, achieve Beach School status, Eco Schools Silver Award and make meaningful links with the community.
www.sionschool.org.uk

The Festival of Winter Walks

By | environment, family, Relationships, Sport

More and more of us are facing the impact of stress, overworking and the demands of everyday life. For example, in a 2018 poll by YouGov for the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults reported having been so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. For many people, lack of exercise, being stuck indoors due to desk-bound jobs or being disconnected from green spaces can be big factors. Such feelings often come into sharper focus during the festive season, when staying on top of all the preparations, and pressures to party and be sociable can also pile in and stress us out.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, then here’s the ideal festive uplift gift – the Festival Of Winter Walks, which will run from 20th December 2019 to 5th January 2020. It’s organised by the Ramblers, the charity which helps everyone, everywhere, enjoy walking and protects the places we all love to walk.

Ramblers groups across the UK will offer a warm welcome on hundreds of free festive walks. No matter where you live, and whether or not you’ve walked before, they’ll offer the chance to enjoy the wonderful winter landscape in good company; to relax, unwind and stress-bust, and to make new friends at a time of year when many people can feel anxious, stressed or
even isolated.

There will be fun winter-themed walks that the little ones will love; leisurely strolls under five miles for people new to walking; and longer walks for those that want more of a challenge. For those of you who may be short on time or want a gentler stroll, there will be Ramblers’ health walks.

Top tips for getting into winter walking
• Don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned walker, the Ramblers Festival Of Winter Walks includes lots of short group walks to get you started.
• Enjoy connecting with winter scenery and sounds. Have a mindful walk; slow down from the everyday rush and really take in your surroundings – the whistling wind, or starlings migrating to the UK for winter. Why not take some photos on your phone, and share them at #winterwalks and don’t forget to tag The Ramblers@RamblersGB
• Take a flask of warming tea, coffee or festive, hot spiced apple juice with you. Cinnamon sticks, ginger and mulling sachets are readily available from most supermarkets.
• For younger walkers: challenge them to find an interesting stick and become a wizard with a staff. Or find the crunchiest winter leaf, or gather pinecones, which they could paint back at home. There are lots more ideas for winter walking fun in the Festival of Winter Walks guide: www.ramblers.org.uk/foww
• If you enjoy joining a Festival Of Winter Walks event, why not join your nearest Ramblers group on their next walk?

Ramblers have 484 walking groups across the UK, including a growing number for young walkers.

You can find your nearest Ramblers group online at www.ramblers.org.uk

Parenting attitudes

By | children's health, family, Mental health, Relationships

Parents in the South East give the most praise, opt for reasoning over shouting and believe kindness is the most important attribute for their children to have, according to the results of an international parenting study.

As many as 94% of parents in the region agree that they regularly praise their youngsters – the highest of anywhere in the UK. Hugs and love are also a favoured method of rewarding good behaviour, with 53% of parents in the region siting affection as their chosen reward.

When it comes to discipline, parents in the South East value reasoning with children more than parents elsewhere in the UK. However, they are also the most likely to resort to using the silent treatment. 15% of those surveyed admitted to using this punishment – almost three times more than the UK average.
Kindness is the attribute that parents in the region believe is the most important for children to have, according to the research. They also value their youngsters being fun more than parents elsewhere in the country.

Insights into the region’s parenting style have been released following international parenting research conducted by My Nametags (www.mynametags.com), a global provider of name tags for children. The company compared the attitudes of thousands of European parents with children aged 16 and under and found that British parents are the strictest in Europe.

When it comes to discipline amongst British parents, over a third admit to being firm with their children – more than other EU countries.

Parents in the UK are also more likely to resort to star charts and bribery to encourage good behaviour. In fact, while a quarter of Brits use star charts as a form of discipline, this is less common overseas. Only 5% of parents in Italy and Portugal use the same approach.

At mealtimes, 48% of British parents expect children to eat ‘grown up’ foods and have good table manners. Over half uphold rigorous bedtime routines, while nearly 60% admit to regularly saying ‘no’ to things to teach their children patience. It seems the British parenting style is most different from those in Italy, where parents are the least strict. In fact, one-third of Italian parents admit to not being firm at all with their youngsters.

While British parents may be the strictest, they allow children to be far more independent from an early age compared to other countries, according to the research. Only 70% offer children help with everyday tasks – 10% less than the rest of Europe.  This might explain why UK residents are among the least likely to still live with their parents after the age of 18.

There’s no such thing as bad weather…

By | Education, environment, family, Family Farms, Playing, Uncategorized

There’s no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes, or so the saying goes…

It also helps to be well planned when you have little ones still needing to burn off steam and be kept occupied. So it’s no wonder that farm parks across the UK are growing in popularity with over 250 members of the National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN) setting the standard in good quality places for families to visit.

Nicola Henderson, CEO of the popular children’s attraction Godstone Farm in Surrey agrees the winter months can be a challenge. But with nearly 20 years of experience in running family attractions and as a mum of three herself, she shares her three nifty tips with ABC Magazine on innovative ways to get outdoors in the winter.

1 Seek out the animals who love the cold weather! You’ll find many types of animals in a farm park, especially those who just love the winter months. Highland cows are a great example of a hardy breed and they look pretty impressive even if a bit wet and bedraggled! Many of the farm attractions now have interesting ways to feed some of the animals yourselves, plus opportunities to book in for exclusive experiences – we have introduced a Mini Farmer experience and it has been a huge hit.

2 Soft play is not just somewhere to dry off, it helps little ones learn through imaginative role-play. The brightly coloured and physically challenging play areas at many children’s attractions are a familiar feature today thanks to the understanding we have for learning through play within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Many soft play areas offer further stimulation for little one’s imaginations with indoor play areas where they can pretend to be a vet, work in a café or as part of a construction team. It’s a delight to see parents getting involved in the role-play too – encouraging bonding and learning even further.

3 Get hands-on with the animals. Being part of NFAN means that farms adhere to a strict code of practice for cleanliness and hygiene; parents can be reassured that they will find excellent hand washing facilities and protocols in place at farms with this accreditation. It brings absolute delight to their little faces when children get the chance to hold a rabbit, groom a guinea pig or see a newly hatched chick. These sensory experiences are so important and provide the perfect balance of fun and education and many farm parks have dedicated spaces, allowing these activities to carry on all year round.

Nicola adds: “Our farm is home to over 500 animals so there’s so much to do in the winter for families. I love having the chance to chat to the visiting children about the sheep in their woolly coats or encouraging them to pretend to be goats who keep active by climbing and jumping! As part of our 40th birthday celebrations we’ve been living by our moto of: Explore, Discover. Play. We have a large indoor playbarn with a dedicated toddler area, plus Wiglet’s Play Village – an indoor role-play centre with a ball play zone and a baby area. Meaning there’s wholesome farm fun to be had all year round.”

Godstone Farm is open all year round, and a NEW Winter Pass has just been launched! Engineer your own fun this winter with our new pass, perfect for keeping the family entertained come rain or shine – and even snow!
www.godstonefarm.co.uk

free flu jab

Free flu jab?

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, vaccinations and ailments

This year all primary school aged children will be offered the nasal spray flu vaccination via the school-based programme. Schools will be sending forms home for parents to complete and return. Clinics are available for children who miss the vaccination in school.

All 2-3 year olds (on 31st August 2019, i.e. those born between 1/9/2015 to 31/8/2017) are also being offered the nasal spray flu vaccine at their GP surgery.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is quick, painless and effective. The vaccine will benefit the child directly by protecting them against the flu, but also helps protect those they come into contact with who may be more vulnerable, for example, young siblings and elderly relatives.

In addition, the flu vaccine will be offered to those more vulnerable to a serious infection including those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, all adults and children over 6 months with an underlying health condition (including chest complaints or breathing difficulties, heart problems, liver or kidney disease, diabetes and anyone who has had a TIA or a stroke), everyone living in a residential or nursing home and anyone who cares for an older or disabled person.

Vaccination is the most effective protection we have against the virus and the best way to protect yourself. It is best to have the flu vaccine as early as possible. The flu vaccine needs to be given each year to be effective.

If you are eligible for your free flu jab, speak to your GP practice or participating pharmacy to get more information. If you are unsure if you are eligible, please visit the NHS flu website where there are full details of everyone who is eligible. If you are not eligible many pharmacies will offer the flu vaccine at a small cost.

For more information visit: www.nhs.uk/flujab or www.westsussexwellbeing.org.uk/fight-flu

Encouraging play

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play, Relationships, Sport, Theatre, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
founder of PlayHOORAY!

Have you ever thought about how you can better encourage your child to play more effectively? Now, we don’t all live in an ideal world, our homes have to work for many different things, as well as look nice, but there are a few simple tricks we can apply to create a more playful home.

• Turn off the TV and keep distractions to a minimum when your child is playing.

• Keep resources to hand and ensure your child knows where they are, helping them to become independent and not rely on you to find the answers.

• Teach your child how to do an activity first. Don’t assume they know how to take on the role of a shopkeeper despite the numerous times they’ve been to the supermarket with you!

• Go with the flow. If you set up an activity for your little one, but they do something totally different to what you’d intended, that is absolutely fine. Support them and encourage them to follow
their own initiative!

• If they have enjoyed playing with a particular activity try leaving it out for them to access when they want for at least a week. If you don’t like the mess, perhaps you can throw a tea towel over it?

• Praise your child for their play, the way they play and what they are doing, reassuring your child and showing them how much you value their play. After all, it is supporting their development!

• Try not to interrupt your child when they are focusing, if it can wait then let it. Young children can only concentrate for small amounts of time, so you’ll probably only be waiting for a few minutes anyway!

But what exactly should you be doing when your child is playing?
In reality, there are some days when you want your little one to play to occupy themselves so that you can take a breather because, let’s face it, it’s exhausting being a parent and its important to prioritise looking after yourself! And there are those days when you have a list as long as your arm and you just need five minutes to get jobs done or make dinner. And that’s fine too, honestly it is. We all do it! But then there are days when you do have time, you do have a flicker of energy and you have the headspace to support your child as they play – great! When that occurs, there are many things you can do that will support their development:

• Sit by your child, giving them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play.

• If they invite you to play with them, copy them. Don’t take charge, just do what they do and let them take the lead.They will love it!

• When you feel you can, talk about what you are doing. You might feel a bit silly doing it but you are teaching your child how to play. Use words they may recognise but introduce new vocabulary too. Tell them what you like, dislike, your favourites and give reasons. Your child may offer their opinion or they may not. There’s no pressure!

• As your child plays, as long as you don’t think it will break their concentration, comment on what they’re doing. Suggest a few things you like about their playing, for example: “I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower. I like the way you are trying to get that to stick. I can see you are persevering.”

These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary.

These are just a few ideas you can implement to encourage play. You don’t have to do them all, try a few and see if it makes a difference.

Happy playing!

Mum to one and Early Years Specialist, Claire Russell is founder of playHOORAY! and the designer of playPROMPTS activity cards designed to equip parents with realistic, fuss-free play ideas. For further information please visit www.playhooray.co.uk

Tips to soothe your child when they have chickenpox

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, Health, Uncategorized, vaccinations and ailments

The varicella zoster virus (VZV) is more commonly known as chickenpox. It is one of the most common illnesses to affect young children, affecting more than 95% of children and is most prevalent in children under the age of 10.
It is a very common illness and most children make a full recovery without needing medical intervention. However, it can still be uncomfortable and upsetting for little ones and worrying for parents. When the red, fluid-filled spots appear, there are some things you can do to comfort your child and distract them from the itching.

Doctor Stephanie Ooi, a GP from MyHealthcare Clinic, has provided five tips to advise parents on the best ways to soothe a child when they have chickenpox.

Use gentle itching remedies
While traditional remedies such as calamine lotion have long been the go-to home treatment for chickenpox, there are newer mousse products available on the market that can help. These can be easier to use than creams or lotions as they are less messy and don’t require rubbing in to sensitive rash-covered skin.

Another natural remedy to soothe the discomfort and itching is to take an oatmeal bath, which helps to prevent the spread of infection from one to another part of the body. To make your own oatmeal bath at home, you can use regular unflavoured porridge oats, slow cooked oats or instant oats. Use around 100g for a toddler and 300g for an older child. A coffee grinder or food processor can be used to the grind the oats up to a smaller consistency. Test a tablespoon of oats in a glass of warm water – if the water goes a milky colour, your oats are ground-up enough. Draw a warm bath (not too hot), place the oats in and have your child soak for around 20 minutes.

Some children also find baking soda soothing. You can add roughly a mug of the baking soda to a lukewarm bath and soak for 20 minutes. When you help the child out of the bath, use a clean towel to pat, rather than rub the skin dry.

Keep your child hydrated
Try to encourage your child to drink as much water as possible. When chickenpox spots appear in a child’s mouth it can make eating or drinking slightly distressing and uncomfortable. Try to give soft and bland foods and avoid salty snacks that can aggravate a sore mouth. A very common symptom of chickenpox is a loss of appetite – whilst this is worrying for parents, hydration is more important than food here.

One way to encourage children to consume more liquids is to create soothing ice pops. Simply fill a lolly tray with water or coconut water, or flavour with some squash. It’s best to avoid orange flavouring as the acidic content of this may irritate the mouth. If your child does feel up to eating, natural yoghurt with honey, stewed apples or pears or a chicken bone broth are good options. Dairy and chicken contain the amino acid lysine which is said to aid healing.

Be aware of signs of dehydration – dark urine, infrequent need to use the bathroom or dry nappies, fast breathing, having few or no tears left when crying, dry lips or blotchy, cold hands and feet. If your child has any of these symptoms, please seek urgent medical advice.

Seek medical advice for some cases
In most cases you won’t need to take your child to the GP for chickenpox as it will get better on its own. This usually takes about a week. However, there are some instances when medical advice should be sought. If you notice that skin around the spots has become red, hot and painful, consult your doctor as this can be a sign of skin infection. Also seek medical advice if your child has had a fever for more than four days, if there are signs of dehydration as mentioned above or their condition seems to be worsening. Ultimately you know them best so if something doesn’t seem right then seek medical advice.

Soothe the pain and fever with approved painkillers
Aside from the uncomfortable rash, chickenpox can also often cause cold and flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature (38+ degrees), muscular aches and pains, as well as headaches. These can make children feel pretty miserable and unwell. You can use paracetamol at home to soothe the pain and fever. It’s best to avoid giving aspirin to any child in any illness as this can leave your child at risk of developing Reye’s syndrome (a rare disorder that causes swelling in the liver and brain).

Provide distractions
Due to the highly contagious nature of chickenpox, it’s advised to keep your child away from school, nursery or social situations with other children until the spots have fully crusted over. This can take as long as 10 days. Many children will just want to rest and a day in front of the television is completely understandable! However, lots of parents know that after a few days of isolation, children can feel restless and need a distraction from the itching and misery of being house-bound.

Activities such as colouring, sticker books, reading and puzzles can be good distractions. Try making an indoor assault course with cushions, chairs and blankets. If you have a garden and the weather is nice, try having a picnic together, planting some seeds, or using outdoor chalks to create pictures.