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family

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

By | Education, family, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments
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.
www.friendscentre.org

Employing a nanny – things you need to consider

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We appreciate that employing a nanny to care for your little ones is a big decision. Once you have found your Mary Poppins, there are a number of things you need to think about from contracts and cars to wages and tax. It can seem a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be!

On hiring a nanny, you will become an employer. As an employer, you have an obligation to pay tax, national insurance and provide a pension for your nanny.

Agree a gross wage
Most people’s salaries are defined in gross terms, but unfortunately in the nanny industry, net salary arrangements, that is, agreeing a take home pay figure, have been the traditional practice.

But beware, agreeing a net salary could end up costing you a lot of money!

If you agree a net wage and your nanny has a student loan or an outstanding debt with HMRC then the nanny’s monthly money in their pocket would remain the same but your costs would increase, as you would effectively be paying the nanny’s student loan or debt on top of their wages!

We would always recommend agreeing a gross salary as this then protects you the employer from any hidden costs.

But gross can be better for nannies too!

The tax-free allowance increases every year and net agreements will not see the benefit of this. The employer will see the tax saving, not the nanny.

Tax and National Insurance
As an employer, you are responsible for deducting and paying your nanny’s Income Tax and National Insurance contributions to HMRC.
You will need to register as a new employer with HMRC and set up a PAYE scheme but, don’t worry, a good Nanny Payroll company can do this for you.

Pension contributions
If your nanny is between 22 and state retirement age and earns more than £10,000 a year, you must set up a pension scheme for them.

You will have to make a contribution towards this pension scheme each month, based on your nanny’s gross salary.

Again, a good Nanny Payroll company can set up the pension scheme and administer it for you.

Employer’s liability insurance
When employing someone in your home, you will need to make sure your home insurance covers you for people working in your home.

Employer’s Liability Insurance is a legal requirement for all employers in the UK set by the Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. This protects the employer from any claim for compensation by an employee for illness/injury sustained as a result of their employment with you.

Nanny share
Nanny shares are becoming an increasing popular way of making nanny employment more affordable and accessible for many families. It can also be a good way of allowing an only child to socialise with other children without going to nursery.

Nannies can often work for two or more families, by caring for the children all at the same time or by splitting the week between them.

It is important to remember that however many families the nanny is working for, each will be considered an individual employer and as such have the individual responsibilities, even if all the children are being cared for at the same time.

Other bits and pieces…
You must provide your nanny with a payslip every week or month, showing their earnings and any deductions that have been made.

You must pay your nanny at least the national minimum wage. This is currently £7.83 per hour for employees aged 25 and older, £7.38 for employees aged 21 to 24, £5.90 for 18 to 20 year olds, and £4.20 for under 18s. However, it’s likely you’ll be paying them much more than this.

You should issue a written contract to your nanny before they start work, or within two months of their start date. It should include the salary, hours, days worked, notice period and holiday entitlement, plus a description of their duties.

All employees, whether full or part-time, are entitled to pro-rata 28 days paid holiday per year including bank holidays. You can offer more than this, as a way of obtaining the best nanny!

You are responsible for paying your employee’s statutory sick pay; statutory maternity pay and holiday pay. If you wish the nanny to accompany you on holiday, then please note that this does not count towards the nanny’s annual leave and she will need to be paid as normal. Also, if you want the nanny to take some of her holiday when you take holiday, this should be specifically stated in the contract.

You must check that your nanny has a legal right to work in the UK. Check your applicant’s identification documents, such as passport, birth certificate or identity card before making a formal offer of employment.

DBS (formerly CRB) checks are essential for anyone who wants to employ a nanny to look after their children. When checking your nanny’s references, always ask to see their DBS check which must be valid within 12 months.

Hopefully, this article highlights all the big things you need to think about when employing your nanny. It may seem like a lot but a good Nanny Payroll company, can handle it all for you from as little as £18 per month.

If you have any further questions or would like to sign up, please email us at payroll@payrollfornannies.co.uk or give us a ring on 01273 446595.

Welcome to teenagehood

By | family, Mental health | No Comments
by Anne Guillot
Teen Breathe magazine
Illustration by Anieszka Banks

Neither child nor adult, the adolescent years require careful navigation

Children grow quickly. One day you have a smiling baby, the next a moody, unpredictable, almost unknowable child. What’s happened? Was it something you did (or didn’t) do? How did you get this parenting thing so wrong? It could be you’re asking yourself the wrong questions. Perhaps it’s not about you, but it is about them. Have you thought they might be making their grand entrance into teenagehood?

Although it’s never too late to try to understand the world from their perspective, missing or ignoring early signs of adolescence can deepen any distance you might start to feel later on. Preparing yourself, on the other hand, can help to avoid misunderstandings and confrontation. If the early phases of childhood change come rather naturally, completing one milestone at a time, the preteen years (between nine and 12) mark a time of accelerating change and tremendous challenge. As they learn to navigate this precarious passage into adulthood, they instinctively become more sensitive and self-conscious as they endeavour to discover who they really are.

How can you possibly understand them if they don’t even know themselves? Think back to your teenage years. Can you remember the happy times? And what about the difficult situations you had to overcome, the indecision, the embarrassment and the failure? Mostly, can you recall the intense emotions and overwhelming confusion? It wasn’t always easy, but eventually, you made it to the other side. It’s an inevitable part of growing up, so it’s important to let them go – slowly and surely – and allow them the freedom to explore the world by themselves (to some extent). In this way, they’ll develop their personality as they learn from their experiences, misjudgements and mistakes. It can be a lonely and scary journey, so try to be there to accompany them, but as a mentor rather than an enemy.

There will still be times when it seems they’ve closed off from you, especially as you struggle to communicate constructively. Parenting teenagers in the digital age is challenging, but try not to let them withdraw into the online world – or their shell. Be patient and let them know they can always talk calmly and openly to you. If they do open up, make the time to listen – without prejudging them or the situation. Be sympathetic, avoid criticism, and try to bridge the generational differences by showing interest in their life while sharing aspects of your own. Work with not against them. If you stay open-minded and respect their opinions, they’re more likely to trust your judgments and appreciate your advice.

Finding one’s place in the world is difficult for anyone, even more so a teenager struggling with physiological and emotional upheaval. It isn’t their fault either. The teenage brain is culpable; as well as undergoing a significant rewiring and restructuring phase, it is under the influence of new, raging hormones.

Dr Frances Jensen, neuroscientist and author of The Teenage Brain, explains: “Teenagers make much more sense when you understand that the frontal lobes of the brain – the part responsible for judgment, impulse control, mood and emotions – is the last part to fully develop. So the brain just doesn’t know how to regulate itself yet. They’re like Ferraris with weak brakes.”

When you add peer pressure, body-image anxieties, bullying and the more negative aspects of social media to the mix it’s unsurprising that teenagers view the path to independence and confidence as tortuous and never-ending. If you can give them the assurance, encouragement and guidance they need, however, then in a few years’ time, they should be ready to face the world on their own terms.

Teen Breathe is the only wellbeing magazine for teenagers. It’s packed with engaging, informative articles to help them discover who they are as well as tips, ideas and activities designed to inspire and encourage them to aim high and dream big. Available in your local magazine retailer and online.

Find us @teenbreathe or visit
www.teenbreathe.co.uk/abc-magazine
to view your exclusive free sample!

Why teaching kindness is so important

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Kindness and empathy are vital qualities to develop in children from a very early age, as they’re key to all of their interactions with others both at home and in other environments. Equipping children with the skills they need to demonstrate empathy and kindness will help them form friendships, work well with others, be more resilient, confident and have high self-esteem.
Former teacher and creator of Education for Social Responsibility learning
resources at PlanBee, Oli Ryan, shares his tips from the classroom on how to teach children the value of kindness.

1. Encourage empathy
A young child can find empathy a challenging emotion as their first instincts are to be egocentric in their early social interactions. However, developing emotional intelligence is crucial if they are to understand why we should be kind. Here are a few ways to encourage early awareness of empathy at home:

Start by simply asking young children to notice the emotions of others and describe them. You can refer to TV characters or others around them to explore a range of emotions. Ask what are they doing, how they may feel, how would they feel in the same situation and what could have been done differently to show kindness. Building up these social cues from an early age will greatly assist in their long-term emotional development.

After infancy, older children tend to be more capable of feeling empathy. An effective strategy which great teachers often use to resolve spats between children at school is to explain how empathy can help children find their own solutions to their problems. Disputes with young children often revolve around whether or not they feel something is ‘fair’. Try not to use this language when dealing with arguments between siblings or friends. Instead, ask them to put themselves in the place of the other person. What would make things better for them? Is it something that they can work out together? Shifting the discussion away from whether something is fair or unfair and focusing on finding acceptable solutions is empowering, but it does take time and consistency.

If you notice your child has done something considerate, make sure they know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed! Take a moment to speak to them personally: ”I noticed you said this, and I just wanted to say how kind and considerate you are – keep it up!”

2. Explore the power of words
We’ve all got upset when we’ve misread a text from a friend or relative, without fully understanding what they might have meant. It’s important to equip children with the skills to express themselves confidently, clearly and most importantly, accurately. We can’t be there all the time to monitor every interaction that our children have, but we can introduce them to language that will help them to express their emotions more effectively:

Role-play in the early years is an important part of a child’s education. Games, like playing shopkeepers or school teachers, gradually teach them how to respond to requests and different needs, whilst expanding their vocabularies for clearer interaction.

Sharing positive words can have a profound effect on the way we feel, but they can be challenging to express. Compliments in particular trigger the reward centres in the brain, and each one is an incredibly simple but effective way to express genuine kindness. In the classroom, teachers play the compliment game: they ask their students to throw a ball around the room and to give a compliment every time they make a throw. Try doing this at home to practise feel-good kindness with all the family.

3. Demonstrate kindness
Equipping children with the skills to go out and demonstrate kindness to others is vital for their confidence and resilience. If they can reach out to someone and be kind to them, they will feel very confident in social situations and group activities.

Here are two simple approaches to adopt:
• Make your children aware of others who might want to engage in play activities, but are unsure. Encouraging your child to include others in play
is a great way to help them build friendships and empathy for others.

• ‘Being the bigger person’ is a powerful strategy for children. Reward children with specific, personal praise when they share something, resolve an argument themselves, or include other children in play. Hopefully, we can all remember what it felt like to receive specific praise about our good behaviour or our maturity when we were young ourselves!

Looking for more information and ideas on how to encourage education for social responsibility at home and in the classroom? Become a PlanBee member to gain access to an extensive range of KS1 and KS2 lesson resources.
www.planbee.com

Marriage vs Cohabitation Understanding your legal rights

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Deborah Bailey
Gowen & Stevens Solicitors

Marriage, or indeed a civil partnership, which is treated the same as marriage upon breakdown, is not for everyone. Even though there have been changes in the law allowing same sex partners to marry, a growing number of couples still regard it as old-fashioned and believe they have no requirement for ‘a piece of paper’ to confirm commitment to each other. Living together or ‘cohabiting’ remains the fastest growing family arrangement.

Often, it is only when facing the breakdown of a relationship that unmarried couples realise how that seemingly irrelevant piece of paper could have altered their situation. Furthermore, even if you remain blissfully together, there are still potential pitfalls for cohabiting families as time passes. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself and your children.

Even if you have lived together for a long time or have children together, the law will not protect you if you break up. Despite the media’s love of the term common-law wife, or indeed husband, this is not a recognised term in law. The fact that your relationship even existed, when it comes to the law, may be irrelevant. Often, the only issue to resolve in a breakdown of a cohabiting relationship will be what happens to the home. The fact that there may be children to re-home may not be a consideration and you could end up in a desperate situation.

Conversely, when looking at how to distribute a family’s assets on divorce, a spouse can call upon the matrimonial law to look at all the relevant circumstances of the relationship, often before but certainly during and after the marriage. The goal in these circumstances is to seek a result that is fair to both spouses with the welfare of the children being treated as a primary consideration. The future living arrangements of all involved will be a concern as will the financial position of each spouse following the divorce.

Whilst campaigners are lobbying for a change in the law to protect unmarried families, until this happens, people need to be aware and take steps wherever possible to protect themselves and their children. So what can you do?

Property
If you own property together and both names are on the property register, then you probably had a discussion with your conveyancing solicitor about how you would own the property so there is a chance that your ownership will already be clearly defined.

Matters become more complicated if the property is owned by only one of you. However, the non legal owner may still have an interest in the property dependant upon how finances were arranged during the relationship and what agreements you had. Seeking legal advice in this scenario is essential and can help determine your interest and how you can realise this.

If you are buying a property in which you intend to live together, speak to your solicitor about the ways in which you can own the property and how you can protect yourself.

Maintenance
If you are looking after the children, you can claim maintenance following a break-up from your former partner for your children. If this cannot be agreed, apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

Unlike divorce, unmarried former partners cannot claim maintenance for themselves from the other partner, even if they are the stay-at-home parent looking after the children.

Inheritance
As cohabiting partners, unlike married couples, there is no automatic right of inheritance if your partner dies without making a will. Whilst you and your children could make an application against your partner’s estate if they were maintaining you prior to their death, this could be a stressful experience at an already difficult time. Making a Will could avoid a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for your loved ones.

Partners should also think about taking out life assurance.

Consider also making Lasting Powers of Attorney. If you become ill and incapable of managing your own affairs a cohabiting partner has no legal right to make decisions on your behalf. This could cause difficulties with the wider family who may or may not know your wishes. Appointing your partner as your Attorney could avoid such difficulties.

Cohabitation Agreements
It’s not very romantic but thinking about your arrangements before you buy a property or move in together can save a lot of heartache if things go wrong. A cohabitation agreement is strongly recommended and a solicitor can help you consider all the issues that could arise and, provided it is properly drafted, could protect against costly court proceedings.

Ultimately, every situation is different but being aware that living together is very different from being married means that you can take steps to avoid problems later if things go wrong. Always seek advice from an experienced solicitor who specialises in this complex area of family law.

An established practice for over 120 years with offices in Cheam, Banstead and Sutton. Offering a highly personal service tailored to all aspects of your family and business life.
www.gowenandstevens.com

Older mums live longer

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Having a baby in your thirties can mean you live longer. A scientific study has revealed that women who had children later were more likely to live longer than those who gave birth in their teens and 20s.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, reports that “As the age of pregnancy increases so does the life expectancy of women at 65. In other words, the older the women are at birth, the longer they live.

“Women who give birth later tend to live longer and the genes that allow for later pregnancy benefit female life span”

The survey was conducted by researchers from the University of Coimbra in Portugal, who examined birth and life-expectancy data from all European Union nations, including the UK.

NHS specialists have previously warned Britain is facing a ‘fertility time bomb’ because women are having children at a much later age than in previous generations.

The average age for a woman to have her first baby in the UK is now 30. One in 25 of all UK births is to a mother over 40. While it is unclear why women who have children later live for longer some experts suggest that their personal background plays a big role.

Fertility expert Lord Winston said: ”There are several reasons why this could be the case. Women who give birth later in life tend to be of a higher social standing and have a better income. They could find it easier to conceive later in life because of social circumstances, and it is well-known that people who have a higher level of education are usually in a higher income bracket and have greater longevity because they can afford to lead healthier lifestyles.”

Raj Mathur, policy advisor for the British Fertility Society, said: “It is interesting that, as women are having children later, they are also living longer. But we should be careful not to use this data to delay child-bearing because women who try to have children in their 30s and 40s are more likely to struggle”

How to handle criticism of your parenting

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Every parent has the right to raise their child in a way that they best see fit. Experts recognise many different, yet successful, forms of parenting and the fact that there is no one right way to support the well-being of our children.

It’s not only important to acknowledge various parenting methods, but also for parents to be aware that it’s okay to take time to work out what is right for you and your family. This is especially important as what might work for one parent might not work for you with your children. However, the various parenting techniques out there can lead parents to compare themselves to others or feel that they must try out the latest parenting trend, whether that suits their child’s unique needs or not. Parenting is also challenging to keep up with, you might have finally found what works with your child and the next thing you know, they’ve outgrown that stage and you need to try something else.

We are bound to make mistakes as parents, no one is perfect. With each day comes new hurdles and developmental milestones. Raising your children into well-rounded individuals won’t happen overnight, it’s a work in progress, a beautiful one, but work all the same. Unfortunately, with parenting also comes unnecessary criticism, whether this be from other family members, friends, or chatty mums at the school gates. Hearing negative comments about your parenting style can certainly hit a nerve and knock our confidence.

Ben Edwards, a self-confidence expert and relationship coach, has some excellent pieces of advice for handing criticism over your parenting.

Ask why they are criticising you.
If your own parents, for example, appear to be criticising you, it might only be because they feel close enough to you that they can comment on your family.

However, it’s important to ask why they are doing this and what they want to achieve from it. If they can see something you are doing isn’t working or can offer you a solution, ask them if that’s the case. Your parents are likely to want to help and guide you as you parent your child – letting them know how it’s coming across can be an easy way to change the tone.

Differentiate between criticism and advice
Quite often, especially with new parents, when someone offers you parenting advice it’s easy to assume they are criticising what you are currently doing or suggesting that you are getting something wrong. Sometimes, people really do just want to help. Differentiating between useful advice that you can take onboard and unhelpful criticism will help you to see who is worth talking to about parenting and asking for tips and who it’s best to ignore.

Listen to the experts
While it’s true that the only real expert about a child is their parents, if you are really unsure about what’s best, speak to a professional. A health visitor is there to help you ease into life with a baby, so if you are feeling overwhelmed about all the advice and/or criticism you seem to be receiving, ask someone who is specifically trained in the field.

Accept that everyone parents differently
You and your best friend might have done everything together and been very similar for years, but this can all change when you have children. If you and your best friend parent your children differently, accept that everyone is different and remind yourself that you parent in a certain way because it’s right for your children; everybody is unique and what works for one child may not work for another. This will help you to feel secure about the way you are doing things; just because your methods differ does not mean they are any less justified or productive. If you feel your friend is being critical, discuss this openly and be honest about your feelings.

Be confident
When people see you parenting your child in a way that they think is different or don’t agree with, they’ll often feel like they need to comment on it. Sounding confident and certain that that’s the way you do things, with phrases such as “it works for us so we don’t plan to change that until we have to” or “thank you for your ideas but I’ve decided to do this” will clearly show people, in a polite way, that you are secure in your parenting style and this will make it less likely for people to offer unwanted advice.

For more self-confidence and relationship advice, visit www.benedwards.com

FREE FISHING FUN FOR EVERYONE

By | family, fun for children, Sport, Summer | No Comments

The football World Cup may be over, but another great sporting events kicks off in less than two weeks. National Fishing Month (NFM) 2018 – the highlight of the fishing year – begins on 27th July and gives everyone the chance to give angling a go under the guidance of specially-trained experts.  And everything is free!

NFM is now in its 26th year of unrivalled success, during which it has helped to introduce hundreds of thousands of people to a lifelong sport and the huge happiness it brings. Millions of anglers have discovered
already that angling takes them to beautiful places to catch wonderful fish, making lots of new friends on the way. It’s both exciting and relaxing, generating huge personal satisfaction though close and informed contact with nature. Most of all, it’s great fun.

This year there are more than 250 events nationwide, listed online at www.nationalfishingmonth.com so there’ll be a participating venue close to everyone. Taking part is simplicity itself – just need to register online and then turn up. Everything will be provided without charge, and most people will experience the ultimate thrill of catching their first fish under the watchful guidance of their coach.

Everyone who takes part will go home with presents…  a NFM ‘goody bag’ containing the ‘Get Into Fishing’ booklet full of information on how to get started and advice on different types of fishing, a log book to make a note of their first catches and a special certificate as a memento of their days free fishing.

Naidre Werner, Chairman of the Angling Trades Association which organises NFM, commented: ‘July and August really will be focused on angling. There are hundreds of events going on nationwide, beginning with a launch event at The Game Fair at Ragley Hall, near Evesham, Worcestershire (on 27th, 28th and 29th July).  National Fishing Month will have its own fly and coarse teaching areas’.

Across the country, leading tackle company supporters such as Daiwa, Dinsmores, Fladen, Middy, Leeda, Pure Fishing and Angling Direct have all donated products and time in support of NFM so that tackle can be used on the bank for coaching and as prizes at events.

Details of events that are scheduled already are listed on the National Fishing Month website at www.nationalfishingmonth.com and can be viewed by entering your postcode.  The nearest events and their details will then be shown and you will be able to book a coaching time to suit you.

NATIONAL FISHING MONTH 2018 RUNS BETWEEN 27TH JULY AND 2ND SEPTEMBER.

Challenging gender stereotypes

By | Education, family, Relationships | No Comments
by Chloe Webster
Pebbles childcare

As a society, we are becoming significantly more aware of issues, troubles and confusion around the subject of gender for children and within the Early Years Sector. Here we take a look at how we as practitioners and parents can support children in exploring their feelings towards their gender and to ensure that we are not promoting or advocating gender stereotypes within our settings and home routines and environment, thus allowing children the freedom and confidence to be happy and resilient individuals.

BBC 2 aired a fascinating documentary entitled No more boys and girls: can our kids go gender free? piloting an experiment within a school whereby all items/language/practices that could promote traditional gender stereotypes were removed and discussed
and the children were encouraged to be ‘gender free’ with no reference or distinction being made to them as ‘boys’ and ‘girls.’

As society becomes more aware of gender stereotyping and issues; with schools now introducing same-sex toilets, banning skirts and gender typical uniform, and commuter announcements being changed to include and promote equality for the binary community (genderless), this documentary bought these issues to our attention and as a result made us reflect upon our own practice and provision in order to identify whether or not we are indirectly promoting gender stereo-typical play for our children.

As both practitioners and parents we can all be guilty of gender stereotyping children indirectly in even the most discreet of ways, which inadvertently contribute to the overbearing stereotypes that society has now imposed on our children.

As Ros Ball and James Miller investigate in their book The gender agenda: a first-hand account of how girls and boys are treated differently, so many people make the assumption and distinction that there are specific toys designated for boys and girls.

Take this extract from the book where the authors write about a play date with a friend and their child: “11th March 2011 – Yesterday a friend came to play with her three year old boy and a one year old girl. I asked what toys they would like me to get out. I suggested DUPLO, musical instruments, cars or dressing up. My friend was sure her boy would want to play with the cars. He didn’t seem more interested in them than any other toys to me. Later she asked her girl, ‘Wouldn’t you like to try on the fairy wings?’ She said no. I often see blatant directing of children into gendered play like this, yet parents don’t notice their own influence. Isn’t it obvious?”

This sparks the debate; is it us as adults and society who are indirectly forcing these stereotypes onto children? Or are our children genetically designed to show an innate preference for certain types of play and resources?

Whether you are a parent or a practitioner, look around your environments and ask yourself how many of your toys are blue and pink? What types of toys are these? How are both genders represented within your setting and environments that your children access, in terms of images, stories and learning resources? Do these representations fit with society’s stereotypes? Are girls represented as the ‘weaker’ more vulnerable characters whilst the boys are represented as being ‘strong’ and the leaders?

We may not intend to force these stereotypes on our children, and it is exceptionally easy to do indirectly and so we need to be conscious of what our environments and resources are saying to our children and how these factors could be contributing to children adhering to strict gender stereotypes.

For example, even the television programmes children watch and engage with endorse gender stereotypes, for example, Ros Ball, author of The Gender Agenda, reflects on the time her daughter chose a ‘Bob the Builder’ magazine to read on the train, showing a particular interest in the ‘Join Bob’s team’ page with photos of children being sent in and published building and constructing in various ways – all of Bob’s ‘team’ were boys.

What message does this send to our children? Is it any wonder children are developing set ideas of what ‘jobs’ are specific to each gender?

It is not only the environment and resources that we need to be mindful of, similarly the language we use is just as important as the environment and attitudes we provide; for example, the BBC 2 documentary noticed how the teacher referred to the boys using terms of endearment such as ‘mate’ and ‘lad’ whilst he frequently referred to the girls as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love’, using these terms countless times throughout the day. When the boys were questioned on whether the teacher should refer to them as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love’ too, the boys were dismayed and said, “That’s not what you call boys! That’s a
girls word!”

Language is powerful and can impact our children and their behaviours more than we realise. Aren’t we all guilty of telling boys, “We don’t hit girls”, “Be nice to the girls” and “Let the girls go first.”

Whilst this is both polite and friendly behaviour, we also need to be mindful of what message this relays to the children. “We don’t hit our friends”, “Be nice to each other” and “Take it in turns” is significantly more useful language to use in order to promote positive relationships and understanding of politeness and manners to everyone.

As Early Years practitioners, we have a responsibility to the children in our care to remain as gender neutral as possible through the language we use, the environment we provide and the resources we provide access to.

And as parents, we are at the front line of influencing children’s understanding of gender and where these stereotypes are initiated and ingrained – within the child’s earliest years. However, we could question whether becoming moderately gender neutral in our settings confuses children. We tend to encourage children to develop a sense of self and make comparisons and distinctions between themselves and others, talking about similarities and differences and the characteristics that make them unique. Yet on the other hand we are trying not to distinguish between their genders and differences.

The Early Years community is only a small part of a much wider society, and so it poses the question is society as a whole ready to be completely gender neutral? For practitioners and parents alike the gender debate is one which is only just beginning. It is vital that we are all mindful and proactive in challenging stereotypes as they occur and ensuring that our children understand that they are not defined by their gender alone and we support them in exploring their gender and being confident and comfortable with who they are as people, not just simply as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’.

Chloe Webster and Bridgit Brown are OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Childminders From Worthing, West Sussex offering a professional and individual service for children and their families aged 0-8 years. www.pebbleschildcare.co.uk

What you need to know before considering mediation

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Sarah Brookes
Brookes Family Mediation

The mediator will not tell you what to do or make any decisions for you
The mediator’s role is to support you both towards reaching joint decisions, on the issues that you each identify as needing resolution. Whilst the mediator will help you to reality test any proposed agreements; to ensure that they will work as intended, in meeting and protecting each of your needs; they will not seek to influence the final decisions that you make. You will be supported to jointly take responsibility for the shape of your future. This approach reduces conflict and minimises the need to compete; unfortunately, the exact opposite is true of court proceedings. It is for this reason that mediated arrangements have proved less likely to break down than court ordered arrangements.

Mediation is more likely to be successful if you keep an open mind
Whilst it is helpful to give some thought to what you would like to achieve through mediation; you will also need to be able to consider ideas and proposals put forward by the other person. This approach enables all options to be explored, in order to find the best solutions for you both. Agreement is usually reached quickest when both people feel that they have been fully and equally involved and listened to within the process.

A mediator does not make moral judgements
Mediation is not about raking over the past to decide who was right and who was wrong. It is about dealing with the here and now, and the practical arrangements and decisions that need to be made, to enable you both to move forward in the best way possible. The mediator will remain impartial and committed to helping you both equally, throughout the process. Emotional outbursts are fairly common within mediation, and will not affect the mediator’s ability to remain entirely impartial.

A mediator is not a passive observer
The mediator will take an active part in your discussions, and whilst they will not give advice, they will often make suggestions, flag up points that have not been considered, and give relevant information. Where necessary, the mediator will also refocus the conversations, to ensure that they are constructive and moving forward towards solutions and agreements.

Where there has been domestic abuse, mediation may still be
the best option
It is the mediator’s duty to provide a safe environment where you are able to freely express your views, without fear of harm. If you do have concerns relating to your safety, the mediator will be able to asses and advise as to whether or not mediation is appropriate in your circumstances. If you don’t feel able to sit in the same room as your former partner, mediation can take place on a ‘shuttle’ basis, which is where you will sit in separate rooms, with the mediator moving between you. The mediator will usually also arrange staggered arrival and departure times. There is even the possibility of mediation taking place through Skype, so that you do not have to be in the same building.

Sarah Brookes spent 16 years working as a family lawyer in Eastbourne, before setting up Brookes Family Mediation. Sarah is passionate about the benefits of mediation. If you are uncertain about whether mediation is right for you, or if you have any questions, give Sarah a call on: 01323 411629 or email her: sarah@brookesfamilymediation.co.uk
Or for more information go to: www.brookesfamilymediation.co.uk