Category

Mental health

Sion School advice

Mental health and emotional wellbeing

By | Education, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Anne-Marie Coe has been a teacher for over 20 years at Our Lady of Sion School in Worthing and is a mother with grown up children. Now in the role of Assistant Head, Pastoral, she has been instrumental in developing the Wellbeing Programme at Sion which has recently been recognised with an ISA (Independent Schools Association) award for Excellence and Innovation in Mental Health and Wellbeing. This programme successfully supports pupils and helps raise awareness about issues surrounding mental health with a whole school approach. Taking the stigma out of mental health is at the core of the programme so that students feel comfortable and confident in understanding and talking about their feelings.

Our mental health and emotional wellbeing is all about how we think, feel, and behave. It can affect daily life, relationships, and even physical health. It is our ability to enjoy life – to attain a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

The emotional wellbeing ofour children is just as important as t heir physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Most children grow up mentally healthy, but surveys suggest that more children and young people have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. This can be attributed to changes in the way we live now and how that affects the experience of growing up.

The sad reality is that mental health problems affect about one in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. Sadder still is that 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age (as cited by The Mental Health Foundation).

In our roles as parent, carer or teacher we are very keen to fix things, so what can we do to keep the children and young people in our care mentally well?

Technological advances mean there is the biggest gap in cultural understanding between adults (parents and teachers) and children since the 1960s. The challenge is to bridge the divide because communication is key to good mental health. In order to have an open and honest dialogue with our children, we need to understand their world and what is important to them.

Empathy versus sympathy
The ability to understand and share the feelings of children and young people is a way in to meaningful conversations about their lives and what may be troubling them. With younger children, empathic listening will help their previously unmanageable feelings become more manageable. Take, for example, the toddler who doesn’t want to leave the play park and starts screaming – by saying that you understand that they love that play park and that they don’t want to go home, they will experience the relief of being understood and no longer being alone with their feelings of loss.

Play is a great way for children to express themselves as well as through words. You can learn a lot about how they’re feeling by simply spending time with them and watching them play. Stressed and upset children often play fighting games with their toys. Commenting that there are a lot of fights going on, or that it seems pretty frightening, can pave the way for them to open up to you about what is bothering them.

Dealing with change can be as difficult for us as it is for the children and young people. Changes such as moving home or school can often act as triggers for anxiety. Some children who start school feel excited about making new friends and doing new activities, but others may feel anxious about entering a new environment. One of the most important ways parents, carers and teachers can help is to listen to them and take their feelings seriously.

Starting school, or a new school, can lead to separation anxiety in some children – excessive and persistent worrying at being separated from those the child is attached to or worry that harm will come to them. Following the ABC plan is a great way to prevent the anxiety from becoming overwhelming or unmanageable.

Step A – acknowledge and validate how they are feeling with empathic listening.
Reassure them that anxiety is normal and that the aim is not to have zero anxiety but to prevent it becoming overpowering.

Step B – build self-esteem.
What I am good at and my achievements; what I like about myself; nice things that people say about me; my happiest memories, people I am grateful for.

Step C – challenge and plan.
Where is the evidence? How likely is it to come true? What if it does come true? What is a suitable alternative thought? Choose a goal and break it down into small steps.

It is also a difficult time when your child is grieving as you may also be in a state of grief and coping with overwhelming emotional pain that this brings. If they seem tearful or withdrawn, encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling by talking about the person who’s died.

Young children have an awareness of death, but can see it as reversible. It helps to explain it by saying, “… has died … is not going to be with us any more”. They may also blame themselves and can become angry or have difficulty with changes in routine. They may even have psychosomatic symptoms. Older children (around eight years old) start to understand the finality of death so their anger and distress levels can be higher. They can also display younger behaviour or may try to be the perfect child and be brave. Their grief will make them feel different from their peers and it is important that they feel supported by their school community.

We need to remember that children and young people’s negative feelings usually pass. However, it’s important to get professional help if your child is distressed for a long time, if their negative feelings are stopping them from getting on with their lives, if their distress is disrupting family life or if they are repeatedly behaving in ways you would not expect at their age.

If your child is having problems at school, a teacher, school nurse, school counsellor or educational psychologist may be able to help. Otherwise, go to your GP or speak to a health visitor. These professionals are able to refer a child to further help. Different professionals often work together in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

To end on a happy note here are the top tips for keeping our mental health and that of our children in top shape.

Smile – pass on a smile to someone.
Optimism – self-fulfilling prophecy – thoughts and behaviours will follow.
Creativity – everyone needs a creative outlet, something which lets us exorcise difficult feelings, perhaps through sport, art, music or drama.
Kindness – a random act of kindness each day.
Mindfulness – meditation – focus on your breathing – think of nothing!
Gratitude – think of three things that you are grateful for each day.
Have fun! – make time to do things that you enjoy. Happiness is contagious!

Our Lady of Sion is an independent interdenominational school based in Worthing for girls and boys, ages 3 to 18. www.sionschool.org.uk

shoreham college girl

Challenging the very young

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

Being challenged as individuals, in terms of learning, is immensely important for children. Gone are the days of Victorian desks, row on row, with pupils passively learning everything by rote to be regurgitated later. We no longer, in spite of Mr Gove’s recent reforms, shout “Fact, fact, fact!” at the pupils and expect a response, as Mr Gradgrind does in Dickens’ novel Hard Times.

There is a place, of course, for learning the facts; in some cases it’s absolutely necessary. We cannot shy away from that. There are types of mathematics that need to be memorised; there are scientific formula to learn and getting on in Spanish is not possible if the vocabulary is not captured and stored in the long-term memory.

There are though other ways to learn and it’s important that these are explored in schools. Learning should be like a mixed diet of fruit, carbs and vegetables. The antidote to the grind of memorisation is independent learning and good educational institutions have been doing this for some time.

I am particularly pleased to say that our pupils in our primary section, the Junior School, are adept independent learners and the staff are always setting them some quite tricky tasks to complete. We call these ‘challenges’ and we mean what we say on the tin. They are meant to be quite difficult to tackle.

The secret to an effective task is, of course, how it is set up in the first place. The theme or topic chosen should be exciting, leave room for discovery, within an age appropriate way, but have a clear set of criteria that the pupils understand are able to work towards. They may, in that case, tackle the tasks in their own way, but can achieve a great deal and have a sense of a destination point.

In our Junior School, we ask our pupils to be resourceful, mature thinkers who practise something often known as growth mind set. They are given key starting points, a set of pointers in terms of resources and then they are expected to go on a journey of learning. Will it be easy? No, of course not. We then expect them to grapple with ideas, to tackle tricky topics and to reflect on their learning journey along the way. We expect them to challenge themselves and say, “I can do this, even if it’s hard.”

We have had many challenges in our junior school; there’s usually one per term. We have seen them tackle ‘S for Seeds’ when they looked scientifically at the life-cycle of seeds, but how was largely up to them. We have asked them to choose a country, for ‘All Around the World’, and put together work that explores culture, language, culinary traditions and more. One of the key instructions in the project was: “You need to choose one country to research that you have not already covered at school.”

This outlines one of the key functions of this kind of work: the pupils are taken way beyond the dryness of SATS, which we do not do, and they are allowed the space to take ownership of their work and the direction they wish to take their work in. This is all about widening our pupils’ frames of reference and engaging them in the wider world which is key to our ethos as a College.

Organising and marking this kind of work is, of course, tough for the staff too. It’s not straightforward but it is most certainly worth it. These kinds of independent learning challenges, with elements of self-reflection and growth mindset at their core, are a little more complex than the old school project that I did in 1976. For a start, no one actually told me why I was doing it. There wasn’t anything like the same ownership of ideas. I did it because a teacher said so. Hmmmm. Only now, many years later, do I have sense of why. We are more explicit about this now and the pupils appreciate this.

One of my favourite junior challenges was set for our pupils this term: “Mindfulness and Happiness”. One suggested task was: “Write a set of instructions or recipe for happiness”. This might challenge many adults, in terms of planning and thinking. I, however, was treated by a Year 5 pupil to an expertly made film – an edited montage of powerful images of family, experiences, places and loved ones. The level of thought that had gone into the piece truly amazed me. It was also my hope, of course, given that one in 10 young people these days struggle with mental illness, that the young man in question will have learned a great deal about himself and achieved a degree of mindfulness that might not have been possible without the task he was set.

Challenge tasks such as these are much more than just about facts, or numbers. They are an opportunity for pupils to be enriched – and I must admit this was a word that used to make me cringe a little back in the 90s. Less so now. Living in an age of 20 second sound bites and Snapchat moments, there is a great deal to be said for being immersed in a task that takes one or two weeks to complete and being mindful in that moment too. More of the snail than a hare – but that’s another project I could write about, if I had the space.

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

Tips to get your children listening

By | family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Camilla Miller
Keeping Your Cool Parenting

It’s easy to feel guilty, stressed out and overwhelmed when you know there’s a way to lead to a happier family life, but you just can’t find it.

As a parenting coach, I get to work with many families and the one thing all the parents tell me is that they want to have a better relationship with their children.

Here’s how Emma describes her situation: “When I first met Camilla, I was at my wits end. My relationship with my children had hit rock bottom. They were constantly fighting and I was losing my cool and shouting too much. The kids weren’t listening unless I lost it. I went to bed most days feeling guilty and overwhelmed. I didn’t think there was any way out of the power struggles and negative cycle of anger and frustration. The relationship with my husband was becoming strained as we were arguing about how best to deal with raising our children.”

Sound familiar?

Within just a few hours of learning the techniques and skills I teach on my parenting course, Emma started to see results, and you can too.
Here’s what Emma said after taking the course: “Camilla’s ‘Chaos to Calm’ course transformed family life. Our family went from stressed out and overwhelmed to calm and connected. Our relationship is now based on love and respect. Camilla taught me techniques that improved our communication skills and we learnt how to best deal with misbehaviour in a positive way.”

“How do I get my children to listen?” is one of the questions parents ask me most often. If you’re having the same problem, here are some tips that will help you rapidly improve your relationship with your children:

1 When your child is defiant, what he or she needs is more love and attention, not less. Our children first need to feel heard by us before they can listen to us. So, spend time talking and listening to your child each day.

2 No one likes being bossed around all the time – it only leads to resentment and push back. Notice how many demands and commands you give your child daily and aim to lower it.

3 Before losing your patience with your child, think: “Would I speak to my best friend that way?”

4 Ask for what you want and not for what you don’t want. For example, ask your child to walk, rather than telling them not to run.

Camilla Miller is a qualified parenting coach at Keeping Your Cool Parenting.
She supports mums and dads whose kids are starting to rule the roost, and communication has broken down, often leaving parents feeling guilty, stressed and overwhelmed. She supports parents to gain skills that create willing cooperation without coercion so that the whole family can go from chaos to calm.

The first 1,000 days shape a child’s life

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Mental health

Children’s experiences during the first 1,000 days lay the foundations for their whole future, a new report has found.

From preconception to age two, every aspect of a child’s world – including their parents’ and carers’ income, housing, neighbourhoods, social relationships, age and ethnic group – is already shaping their adult life.

In her latest report, Croydon’s Director for Public Health Rachel Flowers puts a spotlight on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to demonstrate the effect early experiences can have. She focuses on how Adverse Childhood Experiences can negatively impact on children as they grow up. Stressful and disruptive childhoods are significantly more likely to lead to health-harming and anti-social behaviours, performing poorly in school or being involved in crime. However, Ms Flowers emphasises that a trusted adult and other factors can help give children the resilience to thrive despite these challenging experiences.

Each of the 6,000 babies born in Croydon each year therefore represents past, present and future health, which is a key reason for a focus on health before pregnancy and the first 1,000 days. A baby’s development in the womb is dependent not just on the mother’s diet during pregnancy, but also on the stored nutrients and fats throughout her lifetime.

In 2015, almost one-fifth of Croydon’s children lived in poverty. This means more than a 1,000 babies born each year in Croydon may be touched by the effects of poverty during their early years. Girls born in more affluent areas of Croydon are expected to live six years more than their peers in other areas and for boys, the difference is over nine years.

Brain development starts just after conception and continues at a rapid pace through the first years of life when our brains grow the fastest. Talking, playing and singing are all simple activities that help make vital connections between brain cells. Stimulating environments and positive relationships with carers are critical in these first two years.

Rachel Flowers said: “These first 1,000 days for a child are fundamentally important because they lay the foundations for the rest of their lives. By prioritising health before pregnancy and increasing our understanding about what being healthy for pregnancy means, we can ensure that parents and communities are in the best possible position to bring Croydon’s children into the world.

A healthy start in life gives each child an equal chance to thrive and grow into an adult who makes a positive contribution to the community. It is well documented that inequalities result in poor health, social, educational and economic outcomes across the whole of the life course and across generations. We all have a role to play in improving their transition from childhood to adolescence and into adult life and breaking cycles of inequalities where they exist.”

Positivity in the family

By | family, Health, Mental health, play, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Sara Dimerman
www.helpmesara.com

Do you want to create a more positive home environment in which your family can connect and continue to grow?

Here are Sara’s five tips:

1. Collaboration is key.
Introduce monthly family meetings. These are most successful when not used to come down on your children for what they’re not doing well enough. Rather, they’re an opportunity to address problem areas that need resolution. So, instead of saying something like “I’d like you to get off your phone so that you can help me more” say something like “I feel like I’m the last man standing in the kitchen after dinner. I’d like to explore a solution to this so that I don’t feel so alone.” When presented in this way, your children will often come up with creative solutions – many that you may not have thought of. The idea is not to impose unilateral rules on the kids but to have them problem-solve with you. It doesn’t mean that they are calling the shots. It means that their voices are being heard, that they are encouraged to speak up and they are more inclined to follow what’s been decided on when they’ve played a role in planning for it.

2. Don’t fan the flames.
If, for example, you’ve recently had an argument with your child about whether or not he can stay out past midnight, try not to have this argument cloud other conversations. After feelings have been validated and you’ve put the argument to rest, put it behind you.

3. Create opportunities to come together as a family with as few distractions as possible.
Sometimes going outside of the house is best, especially if you have a long list of to dos inside. Board game cafes, bowling, ice skating, throwing a ball or frisbee in the park are some ways to connect. Often, as kids get older. they will decline your invitation but if you let them know how much it means to be spending time with them, and if you make the outings as positive as possible, they will likely get into the right frame of mind once they are engaged in the activity with you.

4. Hold onto that thought a little longer.
I know it’s tempting to remind your children to do something like put their dish in the dishwasher after supper (even though you know that it often triggers a negative reaction from them). However, I have found that often, when I say nothing but wait instead to see what they do, they will do exactly what I would have requested. Then make sure to comment on the behaviour you’d love to see
more of – “Thanks for putting your dish in the dishwasher.
It makes my job easier.”

5. Help them see their parents in a positive light.
Whether living together or apart, the way we treat our children’s other parent, and the things we say to or about him or her, sets the tone for how our children will treat and view them too. Even if you’re angry or upset at one another, try not to expose your children to this- no matter their age.

The benefits of ‘bouncing’!

By | children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Mental health, Party, play, Uncategorized

by Springfit Gymnastics and Trampoline Clubs

There are many benefits to participating in trampolining and gymnastics. They are great sports for all ages and fitness levels, and for people who enjoy both individual sports and teamwork. They provide a chance to set your own goals and work at your own pace.

Here are just a few of the reasons to get involved with gymnastics and trampolining in 2019.

Health and fitness
The moves taught are designed on a progressive scale to allow further development to make them harder and more intricate. With each level achieved through suitably planned training, participants are able to improve their joint health, maintain muscular development and improve cardiovascular fitness, making you feel healthier and more alert. Unlike running, trampolining has comparatively low joint impact for an intense exercise routine. It has been proven that trampolining improves your metabolic rate, helping you stay fit and healthy!

Mental health
Both gymnastics and trampolining are extremely beneficial for improving concentration and mental focus. These activities are great for a child’s cognitive development – encouraging them to use their imagination and gain a better understanding of their body and capabilities. The physical activities you perform will also make you feel happier, more positive, and even more self-confident. Endorphins, the positive mood-enhancing natural chemicals released by all exercise are triggered, and in trampolining especially, the sheer fun factor of jumping up and down will make you smile, make you laugh and make you feel really happy. It’s hard to feel blue when you’re bouncing!

Co-ordination and motor skills
Flexibility is a big factor in gymnastics and trampolining. In order to achieve the various positions needed to perform moves, teaching suppleness is of vital importance. Increasing flexibility can also be an effective aid to the reduction
of injury.

Co-ordination can also be improved. David Beckham, NASA trainee astronauts and many other professionals use gymnastics and trampolining to and develop the skills that allow you to undertake a number of items requiring concentration at the same time: bouncing, balancing, maintaining the body’s position, and anticipating the next action in order to learn to perform skilful activities.

Education
Gymnastics provides a unique and valuable social education and experience. It provides an ideal opportunity to learn about teamwork; sportsmanship; fair play and dedication. The time required to master the fundamental skills requires a great amount of patience, dedication, perseverance and planning. Regular gymnastics, therefore, helps people learn to work hard for objectives that can take years to achieve.

One of the most interesting elements of the activities is that the gymnast can experience a variety of effects in practice rather than just in theory. For example, physicists discuss the principle of conservation of angular momentum; the gymnast experiences it.

Conclusion
If you’re still not convinced, I have saved possibly the most persuasive benefit until last. It’s really good fun! Learning how to jump, tumble, flip, swing, and come as close to self-powered flight as is possible is anything but boring. There is always another step to learn; it is possible to learn something new every single class you attend. A regular workout releases endorphins (the happiness chemicals that improve mood) and trampolining could even be an answer to those who want to keep up their fitness but have struggled with joint difficulties.

There are so many diverse and wide-reaching disciplines involved within the sport that make it accessible to all ages and abilities, with benefits at every stage. So what are you waiting for? Join in!

For supporting studies relating to the benefits evidenced here please see www.springfit.org.
Springfit host many classes in the local area which provide the benefits listed above.
If you are keen to get your kids involved in something new, or perhaps try a new sport yourself then get in touch!
We have classes for all ages and abilities!

Helping children make sense of the news

By | children's health, Education, family, Mental health
by Katie Harrison
Early Years educational expert and founder of Picture News

Children are naturally interested in the world around them and what’s going on right now. It can therefore be empowering for children to learn about the world and to realise that they are a big part of it.

What’s going on in the world can provide many real-life learning opportunities for children that they not only find interesting but can also challenge their perceptions of the world around them. Current affairs can also provide many opportunities for developing respect and empathy towards others.

But teachers are stretched, schools are under-resourced and teaching and talking about current affairs is often neglected. Teachers have considerable curriculum pressures and because the news is always changing and developing, they simply do not have time to create their own plans
and resources.

At home, discussing the news might not be a part of everyday conversations. The increased use of technology might mean there are fewer opportunities for having a chat and as a lot of the news can be quite negative, many parents may want to shield and protect their children from it.

Having discussions with children, albeit at times difficult, is important. It’s what helps children to learn, to grow and to understand the world we live in.

Child-friendly news is important because it makes information accessible and encourages children to think critically about events and key issues.

Alongside the stories we hear or read about, another very accessible way for children to learn about the news is through images. Pictures tell a story; they lead to intrigue and provide a context in which we can discuss and learn about what’s happening.

Learning about the news gives children plenty of opportunities to relate and empathise with people in circumstances very different to their own. Thinking about something that’s happening to someone else in the world connects them to a shared humanity.

It’s crucial that we help young people grow up with understanding and they are informed citizens with enquiring minds that question everything.

There are many ways to do this and using pictures is particularly powerful because they naturally stimulate discussion, get children asking ‘big questions’ and encourage further dialogue.

Top tips for talking to children about sensitive news:
• Honesty is the best policy. Tell the truth! Lies will lead to mistrust and confusion. The truth usually comes out in the end anyway!
• Don’t talk too much. Children need time to process information.
• Stay as calm as possible.
• Don’t let the topic become the elephant in the room.
• Provide reassurance and model good self-care by being an emotional role model.
• Understanding a bit about how children perceive the world in each phase of their development helps you deliver information about it in the most age-appropriate way.

Katie Harrison is an Early Years educational expert and founder of Picture News – a new service for schools helping them teach children about the news. Find out more at www.picture-news.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindfulness matters

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

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

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
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.

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