Category

Relationships

On becoming a mother…

By | baby health, family, prenancy, Relationships
by Sam McCarthy
UMEUS Foundation

For many women there is a decision made, usually in conjunction with a significant other, to ‘have a baby’ or ‘start a family’. It might be discussed, perhaps somewhat romantically, and framed from our own lived experience of childhood, what we will never do as parents. How many are reading this and remembering the phrases, “it’s not going to change us, we will still travel/go dancing/work…” and “we won’t be talking about our child all the time like (fill-in any parents name you knew before you had a baby)…” Or perhaps you were seduced by the idea of being blissfully radiant in pregnancy, ‘natural childbirth’, ergo slings and shared responsibility?

Even for those who chose to walk the path without a partner, and the many women who have no choice in the matter at all, the decision to bring a new life into the world is one we have no experience in making first time around, even if we’ve been surrounded by babies and children; just ask any midwife, nursery carer or teacher. Within all this thought and talk of pregnancy and the delights we will call our children, how many of us have asked ourselves, how do I become
a mother?

We’ve all had one at some point, some maybe two or more, in the forms of in-law, step or adoptive/biological. But how many of those in the hood have really shared their experience with us BEFORE we were staring into the abyss of broken sleep, emotional weightlifting and relationship upheaval? The monumental shifts that accompany the transition from woman to mother are rarely spoken of outside of this shadowy fraternity.

Perhaps the elemental nature of motherhood can’t quite be understood until we are ‘in’ our experience, or maybe we wouldn’t head on this collision course with life if we knew what was ahead? If this were the case, why do so many of us go on to do it time and again? Creating life can be addictive, because although oxytocin is understood by endocrinologists as an antidote to craving, the positive feedback mechanism that controls its release actually helps anaesthetise us a little, or diminish the sensations of discomfort, and feelings of turmoil that are intrinsically linked with pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.

When we are deep in the throes of becoming a mother, we often forget ourselves, and without intending to, so do others around us. Whilst pregnancy isn’t necessarily a glowing period for all, many women experience being regarded, honoured even (unless you’re on the 17:59 from London), and taken care of whilst carrying our precious load. What to expect when you’re expecting, pregnancy and birth; the industry around these very specific periods of time are festooned with ideas, methods and opinions, and many are eager to inform. As the excitement mounts, children’s clothes are cooed over, yoga sessions are chanted in and birth plans are written. Whatever happens at birth, statistically, becoming pregnant is the most dangerous thing a woman does in her lifetime. But now there’s a baby and attention shifts from you to your newborn.

We all respond differently to the awakening of motherhood. It’s a realisation that comes quickly for some, and as a quest through a submerged haze for others. The magnitude of decisions that arise as we begin to meet our new responsibility can be weighty and unwieldy. Breastfeeding (or not), back to work (or not), childcare (or not), intimacy with partner (or not), have another child (or not), this list is barely begun.

So, what happens if we meet the responsibility of our new state or experience of having or raising a child and everything that comes with it, not just with gratitude, which helps lessen the sense of heaviness, but also with conviction, so as to empower us?

Wholly embracing that we are the life givers, more often the primary carers, the chefs, the emotional weight bearers, the cleaners, the educators, the travel agents, the event organisers, and so much more, can elevate us, rather than drag us down, and help us to assert ourselves so that we can regard ourselves positively for what we achieve every day. Once we hold ourselves in this regard, it is easier for others to value us and for us to get our needs met.

Researchers at Washington University studied new mothers with varying degrees of stress. They wanted to know if support from community affected the way a parent relates to their children and their ability to raise them. The results were clear. Mothers without strong support from community had higher levels of stress, and mothers with higher levels of stress were more worn down and pessimistic about parenting. They also found the opposite true: mothers with strong support from their communities had lower levels of stress and were optimistic.

UMEUS Foundation was created to support women who happen to be mothers, because as much as not all women carry and birth, most women find themselves being mothers, sometimes as carers, sometimes as partners, often to their own parents, but mostly to humanity.

We believe in cultivating community through compassion and creativity. At UMEUS our central tenets are to trust mindful, yogic and humanistic, person centred approaches to supporting development. That applies to all stages of development, but most importantly our own.

Sam McCarthy, UMEUS co-founder, psychotherapeutic counsellor, mother, creative producer, wrangler of words.
www.umeusfoundation.org

Could you provide Supported Lodgings?

By | family, Fostering and adoption, Relationships

Brighton & Hove City Council is continually seeking people from all walks of life to provide safe and supportive homes for vulnerable children and young people. From short-term and respite care, to long-term foster care and Supported Lodgings, all you need is a spare room and a genuine desire to make a difference.

Brighton & Hove City Council welcomes applications from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds and encourages families,
couples and single people to apply. Similarly, the young people they seek placements for come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.

Graeme has been providing Supported Lodgings care for almost a year. He says “I have a full-time career, my own hobbies, my own pastimes, my own friends. Being a Supported Lodgings Carer hasn’t interrupted my life. In fact it’s augmented my life.”

One of the main differences between Supported Lodgings and foster care is that the young person is considered a member of your household rather than a member of your family. It is also easier to combine full-time work and Supported Lodgings compared to fostering.

Graeme’s parents took his cousin in from a broken home when Graeme was a teenager, so he’s had some experience of helping a younger person in need and setting them on the right path. Since then he has always wanted to foster, but felt he needed to be within a ‘couple scenario’. However, as he found out more, he realised he could do it on his own. “I’m able to hold down a full-time job and still be there to give a young person some direction in life.”

Michelle has also been providing Supported Lodgings care for almost a year. She feels rewarded because she is making a difference to a young person’s life. “They enjoy staying in my home, and they thrive in different areas. I wanted to make a difference.”

Graeme and Michelle provide an opportunity for young people (18+ care leavers and 16/17 year olds at risk of homelessness)
to live in the home of someone who will help them develop the practical skills and emotional maturity needed for independent living. For example, the young people they care for may need help with getting into education, training or work, managing money, shopping, learning to cook and do housework, attending appointments, building confidence or managing relationships.

Graeme says being a Supported Lodgings carer is like “being a sounding board for young people, giving them direction and teaching them about budgeting. It’s helping them to make the correct life choices.” He doesn’t tell his placement what to do; instead they talk through the options. “It’s his life and his decisions. It’s about giving direction not instruction.”

Both Graeme and Michelle like and respect young people and have an understanding of some of the issues they may face. They have the time and flexibility to offer advice in a safe and supportive environment.

Becoming a Supported Lodgings carer will take approximately three to four months. The assessment will look at your lifestyle, finances and experience, and it will include a visit your home and statutory checks on you and members of your household.

Graeme recalls “The assessment for Supported Lodgings is a lot easier, it’s a lot simpler and a lot shorter than you might think. You’ve got to prove you’ve got the right experience but it’s nothing to be scared of, it was really easy and I quite enjoyed it!”

Michelle says “It was absolutely fine. Someone will assess you at your home, but they are very friendly; we’re all human at the end of the day! Obviously you have to have the right skills, so it’s good to understand what you’re going into.”

As a Supported Lodgings carer, you will be part of a team that also includes the young person’s key worker and other professionals – you will not be on your own.

Michelle says “there is a lot of support and a lot of regular meetings. There’s always someone at the end of the phone and there is very good training.”

Graeme approaches his role as a Supported Lodgings carer with an open mind. “I didn’t have a fixed concept of what I thought it was going to be like as I’m the kind of person that deals with situations as they come up. Some aspects of it have been a lot easier than I thought they might have been – and some other bits are harder. I’m a few months in and at no point have I thought ‘what have I done?”

Graeme’s advice is to “find out more. Go to one of the open evenings, speak to people, talk to them about how it would fit in with your life. Supported Lodgings is not 24/7 parenting, it’s being there in the background as the safety net and being a gentle guide through life.”

Michelle says “if you’ve got a spare room, if you’ve got the skills, if you’re patient and if you’re passionate about supporting young people for a brighter outlook, I would recommend it very highly, it’s very rewarding.”

If you are interested in becoming a Supported Lodgings carer or foster carer for Brighton & Hove City Council, you can find out about upcoming information events by visiting www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk.
Please call 01273 295444 to speak directly with a member of the team.

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 importance of role-play in Early Years

By | Education, play, Relationships
by Antonia Burton
Head of Lower School, Chinthurst School

Children love role-play! Acting out stories, playful manipulation of ideas and emotions, and interacting with each other in imaginary ways are essential for a child’s cognitive and social development. Over the last 75 years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the value of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child.

Between the ages of one and a half and six, studies have consistently demonstrated that pretend play increases language usage and children’s awareness that their thoughts may be different from their friends. Role-play allows children to express positive and negative feelings and fosters divergent thinking, the ability to come up with many different ideas, story themes and symbols.

So how are these benefits harnessed in an Early Years setting?
Plenty of free unstructured play is essential. Children should have the space and time to initiate play spontaneously. It should arise from their own imagination without the direction of an adult and it encourages risk taking and creativity and helps the children to practise collaboration and decision making.

However, structured play, in the form of a themed play corner is invaluable in stimulating make believe games. An ‘airport’ or ‘doctor’s surgery’ enable children to choose and assign roles and work through any problems that arise. As pretend play progresses, children need to socialise and cooperate with peers and this helps them to learn to control impulses and respect the decisions of others.

Children’s communication and language skills also benefit hugely as they must collaborate and listen to each other as they role-play. Children will draw upon pictures built up in their minds from past experiences and recreate these scenes, helping them to solve problems and draw their own conclusions – so developing essential cognitive skills.

Taking on the roles of different characters encourages children to empathise with each other. They gain an understanding of different perspectives which develops their ability to relate to each other. Pretend play offers a safe place to act out real life situations. Children cope with worries by acting them out so role-play gives them a setting to work things through and help them to address their fears.

Moreover, the use of costumes and props in a theatrical way can help to improve a child’s gross and fine motor skills. From dressing themselves in a character’s costume to putting the props away when the game has finished, role-play builds hand/eye co-ordination as well as developing visual discrimination.

Children often interact with literacy and numeracy skills during pretend play. They may have to count things out as part of their character or ‘write’ on a notepad. Acting out a favourite story book can be an invaluable aid to comprehension skills too.

The introduction of drama teaching at the age of three and four can really boost the effectiveness of imaginative play and help children to develop soft skills and emotional intelligence. Drama gives children further opportunities to rehearse roles, characters and a broad spectrum of life situations helping them to explore ideas and feelings. Drama promotes self-esteem and gives children the confidence to present themselves in front of an ‘audience’, all whilst having great fun.

At home, a dressing up box, even if it is just hats and masks, can stimulate a child’s imagination and initiate fantastic role-play scenarios. It is important to let your children define objects for use and to allow them to be whatever they would like to be. The benefits really are amazing!

Chinthurst School is a leading co-educational school for pupils agedthree to 11 and is part of the Reigate Grammar School (RGS) family.

Kindergarten children benefit from a bright and spacious environment where their confidence and self-esteemare developed through role play and specialist drama teaching.

At 11, children proceed to a range of top independent and state schools and can take advantage of an early offer entrance arrangement to RGS in Year 5, should this be their chosen path.

How women can empower themselves with good health

By | beauty, Education, family, Food & Eating, Health, Relationships, sleep, Uncategorized
by Dr Mathi Woodhouse
GP at Your Doctor – www.your-doctor.co.uk

1 Being proactive about your health is vital both in terms of strengthening your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and preventing future illness and disease. Planning, testing, check-ups and addressing all kinds of areas of mental to sexual health matters all take time. People often do not prioritise their own health. Be proactive now.

2 Have you ever wondered what your biological age is? Telomere testing can reveal your biological age through a simple blood test. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Lifestyle can influence the rate which your telomeres shorten faster that simple tests can reveal. Eat well, exercise often, sleep well, and address stress levels. These can all reduce the inflammatory process and therefore slow the rate of telomere shortening.

3 Don’t miss your vaginal smear. In 2013 60% of all new HIV diagnoses were to young adolescent women and girls. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted infection, it accounts for around 70% of all cervical cancers. Sexual health in women is of the utmost importance and more importantly is totally preventable. Take measures for safe sex, and ensure all available screening is seized. A cervical smear should be available at least once every three years until the age of 65. Oral contraceptive pills protect against pregnancy but offer no protection against infection. Ensure you take measures to keep yourself clear of pelvic disease. Use condoms and get yourself tested for STDs if you’re worried. Do not wait.

4 Feel those boobs. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths amongst women. Early detection can result in great long-term outcomes. A simple examination once a month after your period is the best time to check. Pay particular attention to dimples in the skin and inversion of the nipple. If you are unsure have a doctor give you a quick tutorial. It’s simple, easy and a potential lifesaver. If you are above 50 you should be able to have routine mammography to screen for breast cancer; ensure this happens.

5 Hot flushes… if you feel perimenopausal there are many non-hormonal ways to assist. Soya, red clover and black cohosh are all approved herbal remedies to fight your fluctuating hormones. If these symptoms are really bothersome and you want to avoid HRT, your doctor may be able to offer some alternatives.

6 Women are more likely to have greater emotional intelligence and empathy. They typically have a larger limbic system which supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory. Use it!

7 Eating well goes without saying. A large proportion of women are anaemic without knowing. Tiredness, poor skin and hair loss, and pallor are all signs of this. Eat foods rich in iron such as dark green vegetables, small servings of red meat, and legumes. Keeping your folate and calcium levels up also will help in preserving good health prior/during pregnancy and your bones will be strong beyond the menopause.

8 Eat to energise yourself. Stick to a diet low in saturated fats, salt and processed sugars. Increase your intake of omega 3 through nuts, avocados, or oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. Eat enough fibre by increasing your portions of fruit and vegetables. Experts believe that 30g of fibre a day can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

9 Sleep is crucial in maintaining your physical and mental health, it supports many facets of healthy brain function. Good quality, deep sleep is important for all of us, especially multi-tasking women. To really train your body to sleep well, allow a period of de-stressing before bedtime, get into bed at a decent hour and keep the room dark. Avoid browsing the Internet on your phone or laptop in bed and limit caffeine and alcohol.

10 Stress management is one of the key pillars to good health. Much of our stress is caused by too many responsibilities. Start saying ‘no’ to requests that are asking too much of you. Meditation, practicing some mindfulness and deep breathing are all worth investing in a few minutes per day. Find a quiet moment to sit down and focus on yourself. Positive thoughts and self-worth can make leaps and bounds to self-esteem and mood.

11 Drink less alcohol. Women should stick to no more than 14 units per week allowing at least three alcohol free days per week. High alcohol intake can lead to a heart disease, diabetes and liver damage. Binge drinking can cause serious injury, collapse, and irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories and sugar which can have a big impact on weight management and the risk of diabetes.

12 Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK yet some 9.4 million people in the UK smoke every day. Set a date and time to stop smoking. Slowly cutting down on cigarettes can have a psychological effect that makes the cigarettes seem far more precious than they actually are. Put the money aside that you would have otherwise spent on cigarettes and watch your money grow!

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.

Making up is hard to do – so how do we teach it?

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

It was Neil Sedaka who famously sang ‘ breaking up is hard to do’, wasn’t it? He had a point of course; it is. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone we have shared time with and invested in, emotionally. It’s hard to say goodbye, move on and process that change. Sometimes it leads to deep grief. It is equally true, I think, that ‘making up’ can be very hard to do, as well.

Making up involves all kinds of qualities and skills. We need to be self-aware; we need to have empathy and understand the impact of our words and actions for others; we need ultimately to be able to make ourselves vulnerable and place ourselves in the power of others, in a sense, by saying “I’m sorry and I hope you can accept that from me.” We need to have the appropriate language at our disposal.

I might be, according to my birth certificate, into my fifth decade. (I struggle to believe this at times, until I try to lift heavy objects) and I am by no means certain that I have wholly mastered the arts of these human challenges. Are we surprised, I ask myself, if we find children are not really able to do it, at times? I don’t know why, if we are.

As young people grow and develop, they need to be coached and given the chance to develop these skills and I am of the opinion that this has become more and more tricky for some young people. I am not at all convinced, for instance, that the Internet, for all its huge advantages in some ways, is helping with this. It is undoubtedly creating new ways of communicating.

Dr Aric Sigman, an expert in neuro science and psychology, is a colleague with whom I have worked delivering presentations and workshops to young people and he has pointed out that, after years of research, there is some evidence that overuse of devices amongst young people may be rewiring their brains in such a way that they are less capable of having ‘empathy’ for others. There is some strange unnerving distance emerging in social interaction. He wrote: “When using the Internet, for example, the areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually no increase in stimulation’ and so their brains may not be developing ‘fundamental social skills’ ”
(‘The Impact of Social Media and Screen Time’).

This is a fairly sobering idea. After all, if they don’t have empathy for others then understanding why they need to say sorry is going to be a challenge, let alone actually being able to then deliver these messages, know how to, or even what it really means to make up, after a break up. Logically, if this is the case, then it seems possible to me that their experiences of human interaction and exchange are going to be frustrating, broken and may lead to anxiety simply for this reason.

It seems then that we need to do all that we can to ensure that, if this is happening, it does not get too much of a hold. We need to prepare young people to realise that successfully managing relationships with others is tricky, challenging, can be learned and is ultimately very rewarding and important, if we get a hold on it.

At our school, as with many schools of course, we try to tackle this area of work with energy. Our PSHE (Personal Social Health Education) sessions and programmes from Early Years through to Year 11 are tailored to contribute to this project. From the moment they are with us, we aim to teach them to be reflective and develop cognitive frameworks for reflecting on their behaviour towards others and its impact. We run sessions and workshops with titles like: ‘Making Good Relationships and Respecting Others’.

Through our programmes, tutorials and assemblies, we look at topics that include the ability for students to reflect on who they are, whilst at the same time learning to respect differences in others. This work encourages self-awareness and empathy, which seem key to ‘making up’ and ‘breaking up’.

I think the challenge for all schools going forward is going to be nurturing young people in terms of ensuring they are resilient and able to deal with changing relationships. We need to help them to understand that relationships change, why feelings can develop and even come and go. We need to show them that
this is essentially part of life and not necessarily the end of the world and something to catastrophise (a horrible, but quite useful word).

Perhaps though, most of all, we need to ensure that we teach them ‘empathy’ and essential ingredient of ‘love’ and ‘kindness’. Without having the ability for the former, the latter qualities are, I would argue, pretty difficult to develop at all. Dr Sigman has rather worried me on that front.

Between parents and schools there is quite an important job to do. We can prevent our young people thinking that people are ‘things’ that exist at the end of a fibre-optic, from the perceived safety of their bedrooms and that real communication happens when we talk face to face, understand body language, respect others and ourselves and listen to each other carefully. (All of which many adults are not good at doing either.)

As one website for training states: “Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, and increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.” (Skills You Need, 2018)

I would say it runs even deeper than this. Our young people need to listen with empathy and kindness when forging relationships. If they do learn to, they may need to break up less often, or make up less often too. When either does happen, they will still need to be able to listen to themselves, in order to process their emotions and move on constructively. It will certainly help them to live in families, communities and work in teams.

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

The importance of sleep for children and parents

By | baby health, children's health, Relationships

Did you know that you can live longer without food than you can without sleep? As parents, our children and their behaviours can be a constant source of worry, yet parents are much more likely to seek professional help if their child won’t feed or eat, than if they don’t sleep well.

by Becky Goman
Child Sleep Expert

When you have a baby, you expect to have sleepless nights. It’s just part of the course of being a parent. But at what point does poor sleeping start to become problematic? As a mother with a son who thought ‘snoozing was losing’, I know first-hand what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. For me it involved a lot of crying, time off work and ready meals! Sleep deprivation is quite simply awful. Historically it has been used as a form of torture and has been thought to be responsible for some of the world’s worst disasters.
Research suggests that between 20-30 % of all infants and toddlers will have some sleep issues and of those, 84% will continue to have sleep problems until the age of five unless something is done to help. That’s a lot of sleepless nights!

Sleep allows our bodies to repair and our brains to consolidate learning. Poor sleep is linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s no surprise that tired families feel like they pick up every bug going.

If a child is sleep deprived, they may become irritable and more likely to have tantrums. Maybe it is not such a coincidence that the ‘terrible twos’ is the age when a child usually stops napping in the day? Children who do not get enough sleep may also be more likely to suffer emotional and behavioural difficulties and there can also be a significant impact on a child’s development.

Sleep studies show that without the right amount of sleep, children are less likely to be able to retain information or learn new skills, due to lack of concentration.

Signs that your child may be sleep deprived include; excessive yawning, ‘bad’ behaviour, poor appetite and catching more colds or bugs than usual. Whilst in some cases there are genuine medical reasons for the above or indeed for poor sleeping, for the majority of children, poor sleeping is habitual. Things that ‘worked’ to get your child sleeping as an infant, can suddenly stop working, leaving you trying a multitude of new ways to try and get your child to sleep. It is often at this point, when the parents feel they have tried everything, that they give up trying to make positive changes, accepting that their child is only young for a short time and that they will laugh about this when they are trying to drag their teenager out of bed for school!

The good news is that there are simple and effective ways to ensure your child is getting enough sleep and is developing healthy sleep habits. A good simple bedtime routine and a consistent approach can make the world of difference in just a few weeks, or sometimes less. If you can get your child sleeping well, this will be life-changing not just for you but for your child as well. It will improve so many other aspects of your life – work, relationships and health – and make a difference to your child’s health and development too. Parents I have worked with have said: “The change is amazing, I never thought our baby could be one of those magic babies that sleeps through the night.”

“Becky’s wonderful advice and support soon had our son in a clockwork routine which not only meant we had our nights back, our son became more alert and happy.”

“Teaching our son to sleep properly was one of the best decisions we have ever made.”

Becky Goman is a fully certified Child Sleep Consultant and founder of The Independent Child Sleep Expert, who has helped families all  over the UK get more sleep.
For a FREE initial 15 minute consultation call 07770 591159 or email becky@theindependentchildsleepexpert.com.
Or for more information visit the website www.theindependentchildsleepexpert.com

Marvellous Marvellous massage

By | baby health, children's health, Education, Mental health, Relationships

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