Category

Mental health

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

Mindfulness matters

By | children's health, Education, Health, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments
by Claudine Lacroix
The Mindful Me Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marvellous Marvellous massage

By | baby health, children's health, Education, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments

Parent experience and research show there are many wonderful benefits of baby massage – emotional, physical and social. Here I will focus on three key benefits to learning how to massage your baby.

Bonding and attachment
The ancient art of baby massage incorporates touch, eye contact, verbal communication and the expression of love and respect. This, combined with focused one-to-one time promotes the bond between a parent and their baby.

Baby massage can also help promote sibling bonding in the same way that it promotes the parent/baby bond – through eye contact, nurturing touch and communicating love.

Baby massage is a great way for families experiencing periods of separation to reconnect with their baby. For example, baby massage offers parents working away, or working long hours, the opportunity to reassure their baby of their loving affection and give them time to refocus on home life and relax in their baby’s company.

Relieve and promote
By stimulating their baby’s bodily systems (including circulatory, digestive, lymphatic and respiratory), through baby massage parents can help to ease their baby’s colic, wind, constipation and digestion.

Using touch, parents can also soothe teething pains and growing pains and relieve psychological and muscular tension in their baby.

Babies who are massaged are reported to have improved balance and coordination, plus improved muscle development and tone. This can support movement as they grow.

Baby massage also promotes improved sleep patterns and deeper sleep for your baby, which brings me to the benefits of baby massage for you.

For you The International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) classes are for babies from birth to one. Classes are baby-led, which means that it doesn’t matter if class time coincides with nap or meal times. Parents are encouraged to follow their baby’s cues and comfort their baby as needed. All babies are welcome with all of their emotions and ways of expressing them.

It can be nerve wracking leaving the house with a baby; an IAIM baby massage class offers a safe space where everyone is welcome and accepted. It is also a great opportunity for you to get out of the house and meet with other like-minded parents and drink a nice hot cup of tea.

Attending classes with your baby is known to break feelings of isolation that many parents feel when they have a baby. The IAIM baby massage program specifically has been shown to promote recovery from post-natal depression.

When parents massage their baby the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) reduces and the levels of oxytocin (the love hormone) increases in both the parent and the baby. This reaction reduces stress and helps to promote bonding.

The interaction encouraged by baby massage can also help parents better understand their baby’s non-verbal language and feel more confident in responding to their baby’s unique needs.

In learning baby massage, you learn a new skill. A skill you can use long after your course has finished – to soothe growing pains, for example. You will also be shown how to adapt the IAIM massage strokes to suit your growing child.

Longer term, research has shown that infants who receive nurturing touch through baby massage grow up to be healthier, more empathic and happier adults.

As you can see there are many wonderful benefits of baby massage, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

If you would like further information about the benefits of baby massage, or how to find your nearest classes, please contact your local Certified Infant Massage Instructor through the IAIM website.
We are always happy to help!

Cheryl Titherly Certified Infant Massage Instructor with IAIM
Cai Baby Massage caibaby.co.uk @caibabysussex cheryl@caibaby.co.uk

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

The benefits of yoga for children

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

by Charlie Nash
YogaFrogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discover how to be a better parent and not feel guilty

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments
Top tips from Justine van de Weg,
The Arts College Worthing

As parents it is very easy to feel that we are not doing it right and we are often asked the same questions; How do I become a better parent? What am I doing wrong? I just want my child to be happy, why can’t I understand them? How do I deal with their outbursts, anger and anxiety? Why are they OK at school all day and then difficult at home? How do I say ‘no’ to my child without feeling guilty?

Here are five top tips to help you keep the balance of parenting (without feeling guilty).

1. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can
It is very easy for us as parents to compare ourselves to others and feel that we are in some way failing. The world bombards us 24/7 via social media with unrealistic images. This can make you feel that you should be able to achieve more. Life is often very hectic and many of us are faced with work and home life balance battles every day.

Ask yourself these questions:
• Do I feel guilty and upset after an argument?
• Do I sometimes feel out of control?
• Do I feel like a broken record; constantly repeating the same instruction?
• Do I feel burnt out and tired?
• Do I feel whatever I try is just not working?

All these questions that you ask yourself reveal the following:
• You care – that is why you often worry
• You are prepared to learn new parenting skills when you don’t feel judged or criticised
• You will naturally look at other parents and compare yourself forgetting they are doing the same with you!

Remember, when you compare yourself to other parents you are only witnessing them with their children on their good day. If you really think about it, you have some good days and some bad days but when you are tired the bad days can feel overwhelming and out
of control.

2. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
What is a boundary? Factually saying aloud what you do not like somebody to say or do to you without becoming personal. Many parents become confused with the word boundary as they assume they are destructively disciplining. You can set the boundary with a calm approach, whilst being open to listening to your child without taking it personally.

Boundaries are healthy actions that allow you to:
• Say what you do or don’t like
• Explain how an action or situation makes you feel
• Want to resolve, instead of win an argument.

Boundary setting can become unclear when you ask your child to do something and threaten them with a consequence but do not follow it through. This is where the repeating of the instruction can feel like listening to a broken record.

Examples; “Can you please wash the dishes.” “This is the second time I’ve asked you to wash the dishes.” “By the time I ask you for the third time to wash the dishes, there will be a consequence of
not watching the movie with
us tonight.”

How many of you stick to the third request and follow through with the clear consequence?

When you are tired you feel yourself giving in and once again the feeling of being ‘a broken record’ arises. Simple, clear boundary setting helps your child understand what you expect from them and what you want them to do.

3. When you ask, give in return
If you want your child to work with you, help with chores and to work together as a team, show them their effort pays off. We all love to feel appreciated and if they are rewarded with a thank you or praise it will make for a happier household (this reward does not always have to be financial, you will mostly find your child just wants to do an activity with you).

4. Giving the special one hour
Every day switch off your phone and enjoy fully engaging without any interruptions and doing activities led by your child. It sounds obvious but how many times do you reach for the phone whilst your child is talking to you or wants your attention?

5. Have a clear routine or schedule
A routine schedule clearly defines to your child when they are spending time with you. Having a monthly calendar on the wall helps them to understand when you ask them to do chores, they will feel they are being rewarded and appreciated by spending quality time with you. If you have more than one child, they can see when it is their turn to do something special with Mum
or Dad.

In conclusion, start being kind to yourself and realise when you are tired, you can ask for help (this is not a sign of weakness) and don’t be afraid to delegate. Trying to do it all by yourself is something that you will never be able to achieve!

Justine van de Weg is the Founder of The Arts College in Worthing.
Art Psychology is a new area of study – a tool for parents to learn how their children’s brain grows as well as develops emotionally and socially in their home.
Call 01903 529 633
www.justine86.wixsite.com/kidsartclasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balancing praise

By | children's health, Health, Mental health | No Comments

As a nursery owner, manager, Early Years Teacher and MA student I review research, reflecting on current practice and make judgements on how we can best support children’s emotional, social, physical and education needs. Recently, a couple came to me with an alternative approach to how they offered their child praise. It made me think more carefully about how praise is offered in my setting.

by Deborah Tidey, The Nest, Brighton

Like anything in child rearing there is no one sure fire approach that is going to guarantee a desired outcome. For each child comes with their own complex set of ever changing needs and personality traits. How we praise our children and its effects on the child’s natural enjoyment and appreciation in favour of being driven by pressure to perform or constraints is no exception to this rule.

Praise is the positive evaluation that one makes. It is different to feedback and acknowledgement such as “that’s right” or “you scored 80%”. When we offer praise, we are making a judgement.

On a whole, it is generally accepted by society that praise only has positive effects on children. We make a point to praise children for their accomplishments, and we expect our praise to enhance their motivation and boost their self-esteem. Parents are actively encouraged to be positive and praise their children to demonstrate their approval and encourage desirable behaviours.

In reality you may have observed a child who has given up on an activity when praise has been offered or a child who finds praise uncomfortable, particularly in social situations, or even a child who will deliberately misbehave to prove you wrong. In fact, you may be familiar with some of these feelings in your own exchanges as adults too, along with the pressure of needing to perform to the same standard next time or not taking a risk just in case you fail.

There is no questioning that praise does have beneficial affects too but praise cannot be administered haphazardly. Careful consideration should be given to sincerity of praise offered, what is being praised, whether it promotes autonomy, social comparisons and if realistic standards and expectations
are conveyed.

The process through which praise can reduce autonomy and serve as a controlling reward was described by Gordon (1989): “Praise especially acts as an extrinsic reward, and its effect on children is quite predictable. Children who are subjected to frequent praise learn to select only those things they think will please their parents and avoid doing those things that may not. While to some parents, this may seem very desirable, we know that such children are much less apt to become innovative, creative, self-directing. They learn to conform rather than innovate, and to follow a pattern known to bring praise rather than to experiment with something new.”

Only individuals who believe their actions have been autonomous are likely to continue performing that behaviour. So how can we continue to offer praise where praise is due and how can we avoid offering praise that may hinder a child’s autonomy?

It is well documented that praising the process rather than praising the product or person is beneficial to children’s outcomes. This will help the child to identify what they did that helped them to accomplish the result, thus highlighting their autonomous steps. For example, your child may have drawn a picture, instead of saying “it’s beautiful” or “you’re so clever” you may consider saying “I can tell that you have really focused on staying inside the lines” or “I can tell that you put lots of effort into that picture” or even “you could tell your friend really wanted to have a turn.”

Process praise focuses on the enthusiasm, effort, ideas, persistence or a specific problem solving approach. Process praise does not focus on a fixed quality of the child, such as being smart. By saying to a child “you are really smart” we are suggesting that they must be smart in order to qualify for praise, or that being smart is a fixed quality that cannot be changed. After receiving praise that focuses on the product or the person, children may later conclude, “My successes made me clever, therefore my difficulties make me dumb”. Children who receive process praise are more likely to rise after setbacks, try harder and are less likely to give up. Process praise also demonstrates a deeper sincerity by focusing on steps specific to the goal the child is trying to reach. Always saying “It’s beautiful,” “well done,” or “clever girl” seems to carry less meaning when we have said it 100 times.

So continue praising your children, giving careful thought to how your words may be interpreted by them. Try using process praise to help your children develop a more resilient approach to learning and to become more autonomous learners.

Deborah Tidey is an Early Years Teacher, Director and Manager at The Nest, Brighton. We have spaces in our brand new nursery and preschool in Queens Park, Brighton and limited spaces at our Outstanding nursery in Hove.
www.thenestnurseryschool.co.uk