Category

family

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.

It’s a family affair

By | family, Finance, Fostering and adoption, Uncategorized

The sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in fostering; they contribute hugely towards the success of fostering placements and make a valuable difference to fostered siblings as they settle into their new home.

Fostering is a life changing decision and should be considered and thought about as a family. Sometimes, the perceived impact of fostering on birth children prevents families from finding out more as they feel they need to wait until their children are older, however for many of the families who foster for Brighton & Hove City Council, the experience has been positive and rewarding.

Hannah (12) and Louis (16) have been fostering with their mum and dad for seven years. When they began, aged five and nine, they weren’t sure what to expect but they are now wonderful examples of the compassion, kindness and maturity essential to the success of a fostering placement.

Louis remembers, “It was a really long time ago when we first started – there was a sense of nervousness, but I thought it was exciting. I knew I was looking forward to meeting whoever came to live with us.”

Hannah was much younger when the family’s fostering journey began but remembers getting to know everyone involved in the assessment process. The pair would draw and write about some things they were looking forward to and were encouraged to talk about themselves; their likes, their worries and their hopes.

“Our Assessing Social Worker would sit us down, sometimes with Mum and Dad, sometimes without, and go through the process to make sure we were OK. I remember we had to talk about what we’re like, and they’d tell us what the kids could be like.”

For Louis, the best thing about fostering is the first moments of a child’s arrival into his home. He enjoys talking to them, learning about them and finding out about what they like to do. “I soon found out the foster child we have now really likes playing Mario. I said hey, we have a Wii, do you want to go and play?” Louis says that further down the line it gets even better “because then you really know them. They’ll come up to you and ask hey, do you want to do this or hey do you want to that? It becomes a real connection I guess.”

Hannah has found it hard at times to see children move on, but has a close relationship with her social worker, who visits her frequently; “She’s always there to make sure I am OK and I know the children will be going to a nice home or back to their family.”

Louis says, “If we need to talk, there’s always someone there – we’re never left in the dark.”

The support in place for sons and daughters of foster carers also includes regular day trips and activities. A team of Brighton & Hove City Council Fostering Support Officers run activities throughout all of the school holidays, for birth children and foster children alike. The trips are a treat for the kids, who get an opportunity to form friendships with children in similar circumstances, and a well-deserved break for foster carers.

Louis talks excitedly about one of the most popular trips. “A group of us kids go to Chessington, to have an entire day there, and then we get back for a bit of pizza. There’s loads of activities, be it for foster children, or children like us, so we’re all in included and we have a really fun day out.”

Reflecting on their seven years as a foster family, Hannah and Louis both feel that fostering has bought them closer together.

Hannah says “I feel like it’s definitely made me and my brother a lot closer and it’s definitely made us a lot closer as a family. We talk to each other a lot more now.”

Louis says “It’s taught us to understand and respect others. It’s made me who I am today, not all on my own, I’ve had help from everyone around me, but it’s been really good. I now work in a primary school. It’s my first job. I’ve taken my love of fostering and taken it out into the wider world, looking after 30 kids at an after-school club! It’s definitely made me who I am, and I do what I love and enjoy.”

Fostering younger children with an earlier bedtime means the family can enjoy time together in the evenings, watching a movie or playing a board game. They are keen campers and if it’s not possible for the children in their care to join them on their trips, they call upon respite carers to help. Hannah says, “The children always go to the same respite carer, so they feel comfortable when they go.”

Louis feels that fostering “makes you a better person and brings your family together.” His advice to parents who want to explore fostering but feel unsure how to begin the conversation with their birth children is to “let them know you’re still going to be their mum and dad. Nothing is going to be severely affected, it’s still going to be your family – just with extra people.”

If you feel you could make a difference by becoming a fostering family, you can find further information and details of upcoming information events by visiting
www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. Alternatively, please call 01273 295444 to speak directly with a member of the team.

Are you work ready? A guide to stepping back in

By | Education, family, Work employment
by Emma Cleary
Flexibility Matters

This summer you may be preparing to send your little ones off to school in September, making way for some time when its finally about you again. It may be time for you to step back into your existing career or a completely new one and if you’ve been out of the workplace for a while it can seem daunting diving back in.

No-one understands these challenges more than flexible recruitment experts Flexibility Matters who, since 2007, have been working with employers and talented mums filling roles outside of the traditional 9-5 working hours. Dedicated to flexible recruiting, best practice in flexible working, events and training, here they share their step by step guide to getting work ready after a career break.

Regain your confidence by understanding your skills
The very first step is to regain a handle on who you are in the workplace and what you really want from it, acknowledging the practical elements such as pay, commute and environment. Identify your talents (what you are good at naturally) and do a soft and hard skills audit categorising your strengths. This exercise alone will show you the unique offerings you have, affirming your value.

Identify, as well, your transferable skills and experience drawn from your entire career and from any career breaks. Doing this will reveal that you have even more to offer than you may have initially considered – widening your options.

If you feel out of touch with the latest technology and market trends of your target industry, don’t just worry about it – do something about it. Do some research and find out what you need to be back on top.

Perfect your CV
Now you have a handle on your potential and direction, you’re able to present yourself with confidence in your CV, keeping in mind that it will work best for you if you tailor it to the individual roles you apply for.

Keep it to two pages and don’t be afraid to explain any career break, highlighting all the new transferable skills and personal strengths you’ve gained during it. Start with a succinct and authentic personal profile that you can adapt to individual roles to instantly convince the hiring manager of your qualifications and experience that match the job requirements.

Create an adaptable cover letter too and, to demonstrate you have done your homework and are up to date, cite challenges and recent trends in the sector relevant to the role you are applying for.

Create a dazzling LinkedIn profile
A LinkedIn profile is an absolute must for any job seeker but particularly important when you have had a career break. It’s the perfect way to get in contact with old colleagues and clients as well as educating yourself with up to date industry trends and news.

Your opening headline and summary are key – use the headline space to showcase your specialism or area of focus and the summary to concisely convey your professional history, qualifications and personality.

Fit in some interview practice
You may be nervous about the prospect of a job interview, so get some practice in using friends and family – perfecting a confident hand-shake with lots of eye contact.

Make sure you know your CV inside out as it generally structures the process. Be clear on what your project examples are in response to competency-based questions.

If you’ve been out of an office for a long while, you may want to get yourself back into a workplace zone and think about the image you want to present based on the roles you are seeking. A wardrobe review may be in order or it could be a great excuse to visit the High Street for a confidence boosting revamp.

Get yourself out there!

At Flexibility Matters, we are not only matching flexible working talent to their ideal job roles in businesses around Sussex, but we also offer free events, such as networking and interview workshops to help all our members, whatevertheir backgrounds, get there.

Register on www.flexibilitymatters.co.uk or get in touch with us directly on email: emma@flexmatters.co.uk, Tel: 07810 541 599.

No fault divorce

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships
by Carrie Crown
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors

Under the current law, if you and your spouse have separated within the last two (or sometimes even five) years you must provide evidence that your spouse has either committed adultery or otherwise behaved in a way that you cannot tolerate to live with before the Court will grant permission for you to get a divorce.

These ‘fault-based’ divorces were thrust into the public eye last year when the case of Owens vs Owens, came before the Supreme Court to consider whether Mrs Owens could divorce her husband on the basis of his unreasonable behaviour towards her. Mr Owens defended the divorce.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court reluctantly agreed with Mr Owens that his behaviour during the marriage had not been unreasonable and therefore Mrs Owens is forced, for the time being, to remain married to him.

As a result, neither Mr or Mrs Owens can ask the Court to make a decision regarding the division of the assets of the marriage, as a financial application in divorce can usually only be dealt with once the Court has declared that the divorce can proceed and decree nisi, often called the ‘first stage’ of the divorce has taken place.

Although Mr and Mrs Owens had no dependent children, the law as it currently stands can be particularly onerous for parents of young children who find themselves unable to divorce and therefore unable to sort out the matrimonial finances for several years after separation has taken place. This can result in significant delay in being able to provide a stable home for children and suitable arrangements for their ongoing care. All of this will inevitably impact upon the emotional wellbeing of the children.

People are often therefore forced to petition for divorce for one of the ‘fault-based’ reasons, submitting evidence to the Court as to why the behaviour of their spouse has led to the breakdown of the marriage. This often results in hurt feelings, anger and increased tensions between the parties.

Over the years, the Government have been reluctant to reform the UK’s divorce law, believing that making it easier for couples to divorce would somehow undermine the sanctity of marriage and increase the rates of divorce.

In 2017, a national survey carried out by the Nuffield Foundation found that 62% of petitioners and 78% of respondents in a divorce said that using fault had made the process more bitter, 21% of fault-respondents said fault had made it harder to sort out arrangements for children, and 31% of fault-respondents thought fault made sorting out finances harder.

In 2018, Resolution, an organisation which consists of 6,500 family lawyers (myself included), declared that there was a ‘divorce crisis’ in the UK and in November launched it’s ‘Good Divorce week’ seeking to highlight the impact upon children in particular of a system of divorce which attaches blame to one party.

Finally, following a 12 week public consultation, on 9th April 2019, Justice Secretary David Gauke announced that divorce law in the UK would be reformed and that, in future, the only ground for divorce would be that the marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’ commenting that ‘hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.’

The proposals will also dispense with the requirement to provide evidence of the ‘fact’ of adultery or unreasonable behaviour and substitute it for a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown.’ The current two-stage process, Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute, will remain and a minimum timeframe of six months will be set from the date of the petition to decree absolute. The option will also be made available for parties to issue a joint-divorce petition.

Currently there is no set timetable for the legislative reforms to take place. Let’s face it, the Government have been somewhat busy of late! David Gauke has said, however, that
he intends the reforms to take place as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The changes do not, in my professional opinion, make the process of divorce any ‘easier’ and certainly no quicker than the current system. It will, however, make the process far less adversarial and emotionally damaging for all those involved.

Carrie Crown, Family Associate Solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, Surrey, is a resolution-accredited specialist and is therefore committed to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive manner wherever possible.

Email: Carrie.Crown@mtg.uk.net
Telephone: 01483 755609
www.mackrellsurrey.com

Encourage learning at home talk to your child!

By | children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
Early Years Specialist

Research released by the Department of Education suggests that 100,000 under fives are not learning at home but according to Early Years Specialist and mum to one, Claire Russell, who is a huge advocate of learning via play, it’s all about talking to your child and spotting opportunities for them to learn as you go about your everyday routine.

Claire told us: “Talking and singing to your child is the best thing you could do. From day one provide a running commentary telling them about what you’re doing. Even though they may not be responding or talking back, the words will be going in. It will provide children with a wide range of vocabulary! And don’t be scared to use big words either!”

She continues: “Learning doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down with a pen on paper, particularly when it comes to pre-schoolers. It can be counting steps as you climb, spotting letters in road signs or taking turns in a game.”

In particular, the survey found that over half of parents do not spend time teaching children their alphabet but Claire believes learning through play is important in so many other ways.

“Learning is not just the ABCs and 123s, it’s about so much more. We need to teach our children life skills such as social skills, kindness and empathy, how to share, take turns how to look after ourselves and our bodies, how to think of others and the world around us. And who better to teach them? Us! Their parents and carers are their first teachers. We all know children watch, observe and copy. So it’s important we model the skills and characteristics we hope to see in our children.”

Here Claire provides her tips for encouraging play at 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!

• 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.” or “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.

Claire Russsell is currently working with the Department of Education on their Chat, Play and Read campaign. Claire is founder of playHOORAY! and designer of the playPROMPT activity cards providing realistic play ideas for preschoolers.

For further information about playHOORAY! and to download the please visit www.playhooray.co.uk.

Get closer to nature this summer

By | Education, environment, family, Green, Summer
by Cate Jaques, National Trust, Polesden Lacey

One of the things I most enjoy about Polesden Lacey is seeing and hearing children having fun in the gardens and on the wider estate; running, laughing and exploring – experiencing nature, as my friends and I did.

When I was young I was lucky enough to live close to woodland. My friends and I would go exploring in the woods, according to memory, every day (although I’m sure this can’t have been the case –
I vaguely remember being in school occasionally too).

We climbed trees, made dens, built bridges and dammed streams. We loved it.

What my friends and I took for granted seems a less common way for children to play now. There’s even research that indicates that we, as a nation but especially children, might be suffering from something called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ – a phrase coined by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: “Nature Deficit Disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

A report by the National Trust, Natural Childhood, identifies four key benefits of playing outdoors:

Better for health
Playing outdoors can improve physical fitness in childhood, as well as laying the foundations for physical fitness in later life.

Being exposed to nature can even help you live longer. In 2009 researchers at the University of Essex published a report into nature, childhood, and health and life pathways. On one pathway, where children are ‘free-range’, people’s lifespan increases; on the other, where they are kept indoors and have little or no connection with nature, they die earlier.

In fact, regular contact with nature brings an increased level of satisfaction with life in general. A National Trust survey revealed that 80% of the happiest people in the UK said that they have a strong connection with the natural world, compared with less than 40% of the unhappiest.

Better for education
Increased contact with nature improves the way children learn. Child psychologist Aric Sigman found that children exposed to nature scored higher on concentration and self-discipline; improved their awareness, reasoning and observational skills; did better in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies; were better at working in teams and showed improved behaviour overall.

Better for our communities
Studies have shown that even in cases where the only variable is the view of green space from a window, incidences of crime are reduced by as much as 50%.

Better for the environment
We‘re just beginning to grasp the extent to which we depend on the natural world. If we are to protect the world we live in, rebuilding the connections between children and nature is vital.

In the words of David Attenborough: “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

©National Trust Images Chris Lacey

I hope, if you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’ll be inspired to encourage your little ones to come and see us at Polesden Lacey, go ‘free- range’ this summer, and get closer to nature.

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/polesdenlacey
Information and references taken from the National Trust report Natural Childhood by Stephen Moss, published 2012.

Future-proofing body and mind – playing the long game

By | children's health, Education, family, Mental health
by Clare Eddison
The Dharma Primary School

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
Krishnamurti

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
Krishnamurti

Children spend most of their childhood at school, (from nursery, primary, through to secondary and beyond) and all the time they are growing up. As parents and carers, we can ask ourselves: “What skills will our children need for this journey and what will help them become successful and happy in their lives?” In these times, we also ask how we can ensure our children are healthy and protected from risks and threats that we perceive and read about, for instance with regard to the internet and screens. Many well-researched articles focus on the declining mental and physical health of our children – it is part of the zeitgeist. How will our children fare when they are older?

It is also true that all children and young people experience powerful anxiety, confusion, distress and rage at points.
Living in a family, making relationships with peers and making mental connections in order to learn are emotional matters. Experiences of disappointment and frustration, at ordinary levels, are as important as achievement and satisfaction.

We want to keep distressing feelings at manageable levels for our children and for most of the time. At the extreme end, it is thought that, in response to prolonged exposure to deprivation or threat, the neurological development of a child’s brain becomes distorted such that the ‘survival’ mechanisms of the brain and body are more dominant than the ‘learning’ mechanisms. This results in wide-ranging impairments in arousal, cognitive, emotional and social functioning.

Whilst this is not the norm, an awareness of the neurological plasticity can help us as parents and educators. There are many things that we can do to ‘future-proof’ our children and build resilience in the journey of growing up. I use the word ‘future-proof’ in this context to talk about the strategies, habits and dispositions we can nurture so that our children can continue to be successful in their future when, as it will, their situation changes.

Our approach at the school, which is universally applicable, is the systematic, consistent and gentle development of a relationship with one’s own mind and body. What follows are just some ideas: as an example, ‘future-proofing’ the body involves a wide awareness of ‘we are what we eat’. This leads to regular contemplations about how our food got to our plate, how our body uses food and a consideration of how much waste we generate. In turn, children’s awareness of their own agency in the world is expanded and deepened.

Here at school our bodies are future-proofed through dance classes, games, and mindful movements. The body-mind link is fostered by regular consideration of movement and stillness, silence and talking. We can include an attitude of care (‘what happens when my body is injured or hurts?’) and, powerfully, we can model the healthy care of our adult bodies through exemplification (for example, staff cycling in to work).

Future-proofing the minds of children is important to all of us. Again, mealtimes can be used as a fertile arena for the whole area of mindfulness. Put simply, mindfulness of eating is ‘just eating’, rather than thinking about other things or talking or watching TV whilst eating. Mindfulness is becoming interested in what is happening in the present moment, with an attitude of kind curiosity. We can use our senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell to ground us in what is happening right now. Similarly, mindful walking is just walking and mindful breathing is just breathing. Children do develop the habit of switching into a more mindful state and are able to use it in times of stress or worry, to zoom out of the sense of tightness that these emotions create.

Why not try it now? See how it feels.

Future-proofing the mind, inclining it to happiness and kindness is something to be practised and there are beautiful, ancient techniques (for instance, ‘loving kindness’ meditation) that can be adjusted to be age-appropriate for all. As another example, recent research reports that gratitude is key to well-being. Gently but consistently making a sense of gratitude part of our everyday conversation will have long-term benefits.

Finally, I would like emphasise play as a sure-fire method of future-proofing. Yes, play! Even older children need to play much more than we realise. Play is one way children explore, try to make sense of and communicate their emotional life. The ability to play also affects neurological development, improving imagination, digital protection, resilience and wellbeing.

The Dharma Primary School, in Brighton, is a non-selective independent school with a philosophy rooted in Buddhist principles.
This year they celebrate their 25th anniversary. Through the practice of mindfulness, the school aims to cultivate wisdom, reflection and compassion in children and to help them unlock their full potential. The Dharma Primary School is a winner of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE & INNOVATION IN PUPILS’ MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING.
For more information please go to:
www.dharmaschool.co.uk.

How not to lose sleep over your holidays!

By | children's health, family, fun for children, sleep
by Becky Goman
Child Sleep Expert

Holidays are something we work hard for and look forward to, but sometimes the thought of going away with children can be stressful and a big difference from the holidays we were used to ‘pre-children’.

I sometimes reminisce about the ‘pre-children’ holidays, the lack of responsibility, wasting hours doing nothing and eating and drinking far too much, however when we have children, holiday priorities need to change. We need to remember that those lazy beach holidays will be replaced by the ‘child friendly’ ones or that the busy city breaks will be impractical with a child in tow.

If you are lucky enough to have a child that sleeps well, whether it’s always been that way, or you have made a concerted effort to get your child sleeping well, it may come as no surprise that holidays are one of the biggest causes of sleep regression in children.

Children thrive on routine and whilst the odd car nap or late night will probably not do too much harm in the long run, if we completely mess with our child’s routine it is likely to have a detrimental effect on their sleep, not only whilst we are on holiday but also when we return home.

It is really normal and to be expected for children to test the boundaries when they are somewhere new and it is also really common for parents to adopt a ‘we are on holiday!’ attitude. Try and think about your child’s sleep needs as much as possible when you are away and this will ensure the holiday is much more enjoyable for all of you.

If you go abroad with a slight time difference (for example one or two hours, within Europe), this can be really beneficial. Keep your child’s routine the same as it is and that way you will be able to enjoy a slightly later night and a lie in!

If your journey is slightly further afield, a well-rested child should slip much more easily into a new time zone than an adult. It is always advisable to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible, and maybe offer a nap for no longer than 45 minute to get them through until bedtime. If you have a choice between a strange dinner time or an earlier bedtime, always go with the earlier bedtime as an over tired child is much more likely to wake early, perpetuating the cycle and eventually making their sleep all over the place.

Sunlight is a really good tool for helping children adapt to the new time zone since natural daylight is the most powerful cue for our bodies to differentiate between day and night. Try to plan meals around the new time zone and get an hour or two of fresh air in the early afternoon.

As with all sleep situations, environment is key to ensure your child sleeps well. Use black out blinds and try and stay out of direct sunlight for an hour or two before bed as this will help to stimulate the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. Try and bring some things from home, such as their sleep toy or blanket or their unwashed sheets. Familiar smells from home can really help with your child feeling safe and settled in a new place.

If your child is eight months or older, try and create some sort of private sleep space for your child if possible and certainly try and avoid sharing a bed with your child. This will avoid the battle when you get home of your child being used to your presence at bedtime.

Regardless of whether you go abroad or have a ‘staycation’, or even just go to visit family for a few days, keeping the routine and environment as close to what would happen at home will ensure less chance of a regression either on holiday or when you return home.

Remember, family holidays are exactly that. They are for the whole family to recharge and reconnect, so don’t stress and enjoy!

Parents I have worked with have said: “Teaching our son to sleep properly was one of the best decisions we have ever made. It wasn’t easy at first but Becky was absolutely amazing supporting us through every single step. In particular we liked that Becky’s approach was gentle but it really worked. We now have our evenings back and our son is well rested.”

“I’m writing this as I’m having a glass of wine, just as I imagined. We are in Lithuania which is two hours ahead but we are keeping A to UK time so we are doing 9pm-9am routine – and it’s working! He took less than 10 minutes to settle yesterday and today he settled as soon as I left the room. We are very impressed and happy. Thank you once again!”

Becky Goman is a fully certified Child Sleep Consultant and founder of The Independent Child Sleep Expert, who has helped families all over the UK get more sleep. For a FREE initial minute consultation call 07770 591159 or email becky@theindependentchildsleepexpert.com. Or for more information visit the website www.theindependentchildsleepexpert.com

How to help your child manage failure

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

Does your child fear ‘failure’? It’s a frightening word isn’t it and one that puts a sinking feeling in our stomachs.

Today’s young people have to navigate their way through a long list of potential failures: What if I fail my GCSEs? What if I don’t pass my next swimming level? What if I come last in a race? What if I don’t pass my piano grade?

We can’t protect our children from the risk of failure and we shouldn’t try to. As parents, all we can do is help them to cope with and learn from all these situations.

Children’s charity, ChildLine, reports that one of the things children worry about the most when it comes to failing is disappointing their parents. So, reassuring them that you don’t expect them to excel at everything can go a long way.

It’s worth just taking time to think about whether you are passing on some of your own anxieties or expectations onto them. You can talk to them about possible solutions/courses of action if things don’t go as well as they would have liked.

Children’s health and well-being practitioner, osteopath Sheree McGregor, says the word ‘failure’ comes from seeing learning as a two-dimensional scale with success (good) at one end and failure (bad) at the other. A much more positive approach is to look at learning as more multi-dimensional.

Sheree believes we can help our children a great deal by teaching them to look at their results not as ‘success’ or ‘failure’, but as opportunities to explore. Exploration means a chance to discover.

In practice, this means encouraging your child to be curious of a result and ask questions such as:
• What have I learned about what doesn’t work?
• Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?
• What can I do with these results?
• What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?

The same approach should be applied to successful results, which can often be a missed learning opportunity – we rarely ask the child holding the trophy what they have learnt from their experience!

She also warns that ‘failing’ should never be swept under the carpet. Avoiding failure merely heightens the dread of it, so when it does happen it will be felt more strongly and deeply.

Sheree adds: “Helping a child to focus on learning in which there are choices and opportunities allows them to try different pathways so that learning remains a positive experience.

“We, as parents, are often tempted to step in when things become challenging but learning to deal with setbacks helps children develop important life skills such as creative thinking, and resilience.”

Sheree is a practitioner for the Sunflower Programme, which uses a pioneering approach to children’s health and well-being. The programme focuses on integrating the brain with the body to help children become the best that they can be. Sunflower has helped hundreds of children – many with diagnosed health, behavioural or learning difficulties, others who are underachieving at school and some, who for no obvious reason, need a little extra help to achieve their potential.

Sheree explains: “Resilience is a term that is used a lot at Sunflower. Sunflower believes that building resilience within children that extends to their body, brain and emotional state will enable them to cope better with life challenges and reach their potential.

“Often using the analogy of learning to ride a bike can be useful – when you fall off, you get back on until eventually you can ride without thinking about it. However, the absolute best way to deal with a child during challenging times is to make them feel supported and loved as much as possible.”

Mette Theilmann, from Parenting Success Coaching, says listening without saying anything can go a long way towards helping children cope with failure. She explains: “We want the sad feeling to go away so they can go back and be happy again, so we go into over drive to fix. But because of these feelings, we often find it hard to listen and accept what we hear or see.

“It is listening that gives them the greatest comfort to cope with the situation, their feelings and problems.

“Being listened to helps our children accept the situation better and allows them to problem solve themselves – since it’s our acceptance of their unhappy feelings/behaviours that can make it easier for them to cope with the situation.”

For more information about the Sunflower Programme: www.sunflowertrust.com

To read more Parenting Success tips:
www.parentingsuccesscoaching.com