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Brighton-Festival

Art saves lives

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, Playing, reading, Relationships, Theatre
by Eleanor Costello
Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival

Young people face new challenges every day. From navigating the complexities of an ever-changing Internet culture to fighting for their future in an era of climate crisis. Art provides opportunities for everyone to make sense of the world, to test our boundaries and let our imagination thrive. Children benefit from having the opportunity to read books, go to theatre shows and to make their own art.

The acclaimed poet and Brighton Festival 2020 Guest Director, Lemn Sissay said; “Art saves lives, it literally saves lives. Art is how we translate the human spirit. That’s why you have art and religions. That’s why people sing. That’s why we read poems at funerals and weddings, we need some bridge between the spiritual, the physical, the past, the present, the future.”

Through events like Brighton Festival, young people can explore, discover and participate in the arts. For 30 years the Children’s Parade has officially marked the start of Brighton Festival, with over 5,000 participants, including 3,473 school children, stepping into show stopping costumes they have designed and made themselves. Around 10,000 people come along to see the parade and be part of the largest annual children’s event in the UK. The parade is a unique event produced by community arts organisation, Same Sky, which offers thousands of young people the chance to come together in creations they’ve designed around a central theme, giving them a sense of belonging. In 2020, the Children’s Parade theme is Nature’s Marvels, offering a platform for participants to think more about the world and environment around them.

Stories fire the imagination, invite us to empathise with and understand others, give children the creativity needed to face the world and even the tools to change it. Young City Reads is an annual Brighton Festival and Collected Works CIC reading project. A book is selected for primary school children in Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond to read and discuss, culminating in a final event with the book’s author at the Festival in May. In 2019, over 3,000 pupils took part in free weekly activities. For 2020, the chosen book is Malamander by Thomas Taylor, featuring a daring duo Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma who team up to solve the mystery of a legendary sea-monster. This is a chance for schools across the county to foster a love of reading in young people and give support to teaching staff to think outside the box with their curriculum.

Hilary Cooke, Brighton Festival Children’s Literature Producer says; “Children’s book events are an opportunity to turn the private activity of reading into a shared experience. Being in a room with a new (or favourite) author and a group of young readers is quite magical, with laughter, imagination and surprise. Illustrators drawing live on stage create another layer of creativity that is beautiful to watch (and possibly my favourite thing).” Due East, Hangleton and Knoll Project and the community steering committees enable local residents to make their vision come to life in Our Place, a Brighton Festival event that has been running for three years. Pop up performances take place across Hangleton and East Brighton with a community event in each area. Seeing arts and culture being celebrated and given a platform in their own neighbourhood opens the door for young people to think differently about the places they live in.

Brighton Festival offers opportunities for young people in Brighton and beyond to experience groundbreaking, original and spectacular performances by international artists. Australian company, Gravity & Other Myths bring a new jaw-dropping circus show bound to blow the minds of aspiring acrobats, Drag Queen Story Time gives children the opportunity to be who they want to be with a LGBTQ friendly storytelling, and hilarious theatre show Slime allows two to five year olds to squish and squelch their way through a tale about a slug and caterpillar.

May is a time of spectacular celebration across the county, with Brighton Fringe, The Great Escape, Artist Open Studios and Charleston Festival in addition to Brighton Festival’s jam-packed programme.

Supporting the next generation of art-goers is integral to Brighton Festival’s spirit and this year’s programme aims to bring a variety of events for children and young people – from infants to Instagrammers. Children of all ages can discover, create and participate in the arts, giving them unexpected and enriching experiences that can be shared with their friends or family. Many events are free, others starting as low as £5 and there are often family offers so the whole clan can come along.

Head to www.brightonfestival.org today to find out what’s happening at Brighton Festival from 2nd to 24th May 2020.

couple

Unsolicited advice parenting your own way

By | family, Mental health, Relationships

Somehow, having a baby seems to grant everyone around you a green card in telling you what you should and shouldn’t do with your child. From breastfeeding, to sleeping, playing, dressing, cleaning, and even speaking to your baby, there isn’t one aspect that goes unnoticed by self-proclaimed parenting experts.
Whether you’re a first or fourth time parent, having a new baby can be both the most wonderful time of your life, and the most emotionally draining. The last thing you need is other people – family members, strangers, parents and non-parents alike – adding to that stress and affecting you.

Nelsons Teetha®, the homeopathic teething relief brand has put together a list of conflict-free ways to help you deal with different scenarios in order to help you keep your cool in frustrating situations.

Parents – “That’s not how we did it with you”
Dealing with advice from your parents can be difficult to manoeuvre, especially if you disagree. After all, they are the ones who raised you, and the advice will come from a place of love. Not only that, but they’ve probably grown used to you turning to them for advice. However, there is a fine line between offering suggestions because they want to help and offering comments because they disapprove of what you have chosen to do with your baby. Though you might not want to dismiss their knowledge entirely, being related can offer the chance to explain yourself clearly without causing too much offense. You might want to explain that you appreciate all the help they have provided but that you will be the one to turn to them if you need advice. Be honest with them, they are your parents and putting off telling them how you feel might make you grow to resent them.

In-laws – “I think it would be best if…”
The in-laws situation is arguably trickier than dealing with your own parents. They will have a whole range of things to say about how they raised their children that obviously have nothing to do with you. Instead of snapping back at them and causing an uncomfortable family situation, you could turn the situation around and ask them some questions. Switch the focus to them and then change the conversation. If all else fails, talk to your partner about presenting a united front. Just as you might be more comfortable telling your own parents not to give unsolicited advice, so might your partner be to their parents.

Parent-friends – “Are you really going to do that?”
Friends who are parents themselves might also be prone to chiming in with comments about your parenting skills. Like your in-laws, they will have their own set of views that might differ completely to yours. Agreeing to disagree might be the best option here. Handle it in a way you might other topics, such as religion or politics. Simply tell them that you have decided to do something in one way, that you are totally fine with them doing it in another and that you should leave it at that.

Non-parent-friends – “I’ve heard that you should…”
It can be frustrating when someone who does not have children decides to tell you how you should raise yours, however try not to take it personally. Know your facts, trust your instincts and maybe try to educate your friend. Clarify the point they have made a comment about with an expert’s view, or knowledge you have received from a doctor. The more they know, the less likely they will be to make a comment again.

Strangers – “You’re putting your child at risk!”
There are quite a few online threads where parents post the craziest things that strangers have told them and it’s hard to imagine what you would do in those situations. Though getting defensive might be your initial response, there are a few things you can do to dismiss the stranger without causing a scene. The first would be to ignore them and keep walking, after all, you don’t owe them anything. If they persist, you could politely thank them but tell them you know what you are doing. If this doesn’t work, then you have every right to kindly tell them to mind their own business.

Ultimately, your life as a parent will be filled with a vast array of conflicting advice and information. Whether it’s through books, doctors, friends, family or strangers, everybody will have their own way of doing things. The best thing to do is to educate yourself, learn how to deal with different situations, and most importantly, to trust your own instincts as a parent. As long as you know that you are making the best decisions for your child, you are doing the right thing!

A kid’s guide to moving house

By | family, houses and property, Relationships
by Emma Kenny
Psychologist

Moving to a new house is considered one of the most stressful experiences that a family can go through, and whilst to some degree even the smoothest of moves can pose a fair few challenges, the experience can be made easier when all family members feel involved.
Children, just like adults, feel a whole host of emotions when they contemplate what a move of home and area can bring. These range from elation and excitement to absolute terror, so it is absolutely paramount to understand how your kids feel throughout the relocation process.

Let’s face it, moving home is a big deal, and the more that you can prepare your kids emotionally, psychologically, socially and physically, the better it will be for the family.

Top tips for parents to help children through the moving process:

Communicate and help children verbalise fears
As soon as you firmly decide to move home it is time to begin communicating your decision to your children. Before you sit down with them to discuss the move, make sure that you have created a list of reasons as to why you have decided that moving to a new house will be brilliant. Remember, the more positive and prepared you are, the more convincing you will be, and this will help to reduce any anxiety that your children may have.

Get children to openly discuss and explain any fears or worries that are concerning them regarding the house move. Explain that it is totally normal to feel a bit scared when facing a big change.

Provide children with a sense of control
Children like thinking that they are in charge! It feels good for them to perceive that they have a say, and a certain amount of sway when it comes to what is happening in their life. Get them to sit down with you and list all the fantastic things about moving house. Making new friends, learning new activities or starting a completely new life can be hugely exciting. The most positive you think the most positive they’ll feel. Also take them along with you when doing viewings – this really helps them feel a sense of authority and that they have
a say in the process.

Be prepared for any questions that they have and above all, take their concerns seriously.

Use their imagination
Children love using their imagination to conjure all sorts of fantastical eventualities.
Get them to draw a picture
of their ‘Dream Home’. This could be totally wacky, princess-style castle or a country cottage – whatever they bring to life, will help them understand the concept of moving into a new home and living in a new place.

Do a trial run
As with many things – try before you buy! It can be really helpful for the whole family to spend some fun, laid-back days in the new area before you make the big move there. Knowing where the fun places are will make it seem all the more appealing. A nice welcoming cafe, a park, a library or museum are all good places to draw their attention to and get them looking forward to experiencing more time together in the new area.

Plan how to keep in touch with friends
Leaving friends behind is understandably one of the most upsetting aspects of moving to a new house and area. Don’t minimise your child’s feelings no matter how young they are, as whilst they will make new friends, it doesn’t stop saying goodbye being difficult or leave them feeling sad. Instead, acknowledge that it is tough to leave their friends behind, and discuss strategies that will make keeping in contact with friends really easy.

Encourage them to take a few mementos from your existing home which will remind them of all the happy times they spent there. These can be a few rocks from the garden, or a plant that they can dig up and replant at their new property. This helps your child feel that they still have connections to the home that they have left behind.

Bury a time capsule
Before you move to your new house, create a time capsule in a box filled with memories of how you lived your life in your old home. Many years later you could always return to the spot and open the capsule with your family and share your memories. Have the children write down their favourite memories of their old house and the item they’ve put in the capsule to represent that memory. Just make sure you bury it in an accessible and memorable place!

Make a wish list and give them ownership
Start getting the whole family excited about all the fantastic plans you have for everyone once the move is complete. This can include new activities that your kids can try, such as enrolling in a gymnastics club, or starting with a local theatre group, and you can bring these ideas to life by getting them to research them online. Even better, get them to create a physical wish list of things that they would love to do once they are settled to the new place and then help them set some goals so that they can achieve these wishes.

As you settle into your new house, ensure you allow your child some ownership over the design of their new room. Whilst you may think that letting your little ones go crazy with their imagination could lead to some questionable choices in home décor, it enables them to emotionally bond with their new environment and also provides a focus whilst they settle in.

Creative writing
Work with your child to write a moving home story with a main character that moves with their family. Encourage them to use their imagination and have the main character go through the experience of moving homes with their families and settling into a new place, making new friends and joining new clubs and groups in the new area. This will help them envisage what the new environment will be like and familiarise themselves with the concept of moving home.

Check in with them regularly
It is really important to check in regularly with your children to ensure that they can confide in you any troubling feelings that they may be experiencing. Take 10 minutes each night before they go to bed to discuss their feelings about moving home. This allows them to feel supported and also unpack their feelings so that they don’t lie worrying in bed, because tired kids find the world a great deal more challenging.

There are lots of books available which feature stories about children moving house including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wrecking Ball or Jenny Eclair’s Moving.

Visit www.purplebricks.co.uk/blog/post/diary-of-a-wimpy-kid for further details and to download ‘A Kids Guide to Moving House’, created by Emma Kenny with Purplebricks, to help families through the moving process.

Children of all ages

By | family, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships
by Marsha Dann
Lead Teacher, Play B C Preschool

Who was not enamoured when Channel 4 first brought preschoolers together with residents in a retirement village in 2017 for ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’? While there had already been much to indicate that intergenerational interaction was positive, this six week experiment showed that afterwards 80% of the older people scored better on tests of cognition, mood and depression than they had at the outset. There were improvements in physical skills such as balance and mobility and beautiful relationships blossomed between the old and the young too. When the series returned to our screens in 2018 for a 10 week study, this time, the outcomes were measured for the children as well. Child expert Alistair Bryce Clegg found that the children made unexpected progress in areas of empathy, language, independence and imagination.

Sadly, Britain which has a steadily ageing population has become one of the most age segregated countries in the world, according to research, by United for All Ages and the Intergenerational Foundation. As our society develops the old and the young are becoming more separated with fewer opportunities for them to interact. Statistics from a recent Intergenerational Foundation report, suggest that children living in urban areas have only a 5% chance of having someone aged over 65 living in their area. Living apart damages intergenerational relations and makes it harder for the old and the young to understand one another. Additionally it can lead to marginalisation and exclusion.

Age UK says that more than a million of our older people feel lonely. International research project Together Old and Young (TOY) demonstrates that social engagement between generations is important for us all. Intergenerational learning can help to bridge the gaps between different social groups. Older people have wisdom, heritage and experience to pass on and young children are creative and have original ways of thinking. Both age groups have much to learn from each other and their interaction appears to offer benefits including enhanced health wellbeing and the fostering of social cohesion, acceptance and appreciation of diversity. Older people can experience enhanced feelings of purpose and self-esteem and younger people can view old age more positively.

Putting it into practice
My mum is 80 years old and regularly volunteers in our preschool. Although her way of interacting with the children may not be as tactful as the practitioners, particularly when it comes to matters of discipline, the children value her no nonsense approach and enjoy her company as much as she enjoys theirs. Seeing them together fuelled my desire to get an intergenerational project off the ground, something I had been keen to do since learning about co-located early years and elder care facilities such as Mount Pleasant in America and watching the ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’. Eager to discover more, I undertook an online course delivered by TOY aimed at bringing under eights and over 65s together. The course materials explored intergenerational learning and how it could be applied in a meaningful way, in a range of contexts. I learned that the sharing of experiences and relationship building was one of a number of effective approaches to intergenerational interaction.

With this in mind, I got in contact with a local Afro-Caribbean heritage association and invited some members to participate in a short programme of African drumming alongside some of our children. Old and young enjoyed the sessions and although we were not able to sustain it on a longer term basis, it is definitely something we would repeat. Our next opportunity came when we were invited by a local drama group to join in a project with a local care home that involved monthly visits to participate in dramatic story telling and play activities with the residents. After a term’s worth of visits it can be seen already that they have had a huge impact. The children, including one who has a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder and another who is a selective talker, really enjoy seeing their ‘grandfriends’. They have steadily gained confidence and have become much more interactive with the residents. The residents themselves are always thrilled to see the children. The number of them becoming involved has grown and one of the highlights has been witnessing one lady who is reported as being uncommunicative, smile when a child handed her a scarf so that she could join in the fun.

Engaging with the residents at the care home has supported the children’s personal and social development and broadened their experiences. They view their ‘grandfriends’ as capable, fun and very special. If you can find an opportunity for your child to engage with an older person, grab it with both hands, you will be glad you did.

Why recognising the early signs of mental health issues in children is crucial

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Children and young people’s mental health has never been so high on the public agenda. Figures released recently show that 5% of children aged five to 10 have conduct disorder; this increases to 7% as young people approach secondary school years (Green et al.) and referrals to child mental health units from UK primary schools for pupils aged 11 and under have risen by nearly 50% in three years.
In May this year, former Prime Minister Theresa May announced a funding package to provide teachers and care workers with training on how to spot the signs of mental health issues. The wide-ranging package of measures make sure staff have the confidence and skills they need to identify mental health issues in young people before they become critical.

However, concerns have already been raised about the lack of mental health services available to young people once issues have been identified. Shadow Health Secretary Barbara Keeley said: “Once again we hear warm words from the Prime Minister on mental health, but the reality is that mental health services are stretched to breaking point and people with mental health problems aren’t getting the support they need.”

The most common mental health problem affecting children are conduct disorders (severe and persistent behavioural problems). Severe and persistent behavioural problems starting before secondary school years which go unsupported can have a long-term impact on children’s mental health and life chances.

Early years and education providers have a responsibility to provide staff with the training and support required to recognise early signs of mental health problems at this young age. Equipping staff with the skills to recognise warning signs and behaviours could lead to a child gaining the support they need to maintain mental wellbeing.

It’s a subject very close to the heart of Ann Poolton, Head of CPD Courses at BB Training, and her team. “We are very passionate about this issue. Not only can early identification save children from stressful situations, but it ensures staff are better placed to support young people in their care. We continue to offer best practice advise and training on this subject both internally and externally, as we understand the importance of promoting good mental health for children and staff alike.”

The funding now available should be used by employers to provide the necessary training required to give teachers the confidence and ability to cope with the rise in mental health issues in children.

Ann concluded: “For people working with young children, it is key that they are able to recognise the early signs of mental health problems and understand how to develop strategies to build resilience in children. The environment they grow up in, and their ability to handle the pressures and stresses of growing up, all play an important role in preventing problems from developing.”

Is your child anxious?

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships

Are you finding it hard to get support?
Help is at hand…

 

Half of all lifetime anxiety disorders emerge before the age of twelve with around 15% of children being thought to suffer from an anxiety disorder.
(Anxiety UK)

A certain amount of this emotion is considered to be normal in everyday life but once it begins to impact upon a child in a negative and persistent way it becomes a problem. Sometimes it revolves around a child’s social life and friendship issues. It may be more about fear of failing academically. It could include uncertainty about the future, fear of the dark, problems sleeping and school avoidance. However it presents itself, there are some very useful cognitive behavioural techniques that may be used to help the child think in a different way about their problems.

Guided Parent Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (GPD-CBT) is a new evidence based service designed to support parents struggling to get help with their child’s anxiety. The programme which is being offered through the charity, Anxiety UK, has been designed to help increase parents’ confidence and empower them to support their child.

The positive impact that a parent can have in helping their child to overcome their problems should not be underestimated. This is emphasised throughout the sessions. There are a number of advantages to working solely with parents or guardians instead of with the child, not least the fact that parents are considered to be the experts on their own children.

CBT has been extensively researched.
It is a solution focused time limited form of treatment and one which is most often recommended by the NHS to patients needing support for a number of mental health problems.

The therapist registered with Anxiety UK to deliver these sessions, will work collaboratively with parents, providing them with strategies they can use at home to help their child, between the age of seven and 12, overcome anxiety.

Four one hour sessions are conducted with the parents face-to-face, by phone or web cam and two 15 minute sessions take place over the phone or via web cam. The support package includes a copy of ‘Helping your Child with Fears and Worries: A self-help guide for parents’ by Professor Cathy Cresswell and Lucy Willetts.

Annabel Marriott is registered as an Anxiety UK GPD CBT practitioner.
For further information or to arrange an informal chat about Guided Parent Delivered CBT, Toolkit for Anxiety workshops or self-help groups, please email Annabel at: annabel@toolkitforanxiety.com
www.toolkitforanxiety.com

Encouraging independence

By | Education, Playing, Relationships, Sport, Uncategorized
by Sam Selkirk
Head of Lower School at Reigate St Mary’s

Once asked by a university lecturer, what was my most enduring childhood memory, it didn’t take long to remember. Of course it was the hours I spent outside, playing with my siblings, my friends, no constraints and – most importantly – no adults looming. Our parents gave us clear instructions on where we could and couldn’t go, and what time we needed to return home; but freedom and the room to be independent was afforded to us. The expectation was that we made our own fun. I wonder if the same could be said now?

What do we mean by independence? The Cambridge dictionary definition is: ‘the ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people’. For young children it is about becoming an independent person which incorporates self-esteem and relationships with others; being independent with life skills and becoming an independent learner – finding things you need, asking questions, solving problems, thinking critically and for yourself, for example.

Where does it start? More recently, I was shown a YouTube clip – Ruby reaches for a toy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q2cL-WteZk: The clip was about three minutes long and showed six month old Ruby’s determination to reach a toy. I have since used this at a parent information evening and also during an assembly to four to seven year olds – their response was magical, they got it, this little baby could overcome barriers and reach the toy for herself. An extrinsic reward did not need to be dangled to entice Ruby, her satisfaction was evident when she began to play with the toy; it was intrinsic. During the video I was overcome by two thoughts, the first being: just help her get the toy – which I quickly dismissed – and secondly, how this short clip summed up so much of what I believe in. In allowing children to do things for themselves, they will undoubtedly develop the essential life skill of independence.

So how do we develop this? Evidence suggests that the ability to think and behave independently is possessed from a very early age. As such we need to nurture it in babies and young children. Reflecting on our behaviour is perhaps a good place to start: what have I done today for a child, which they could have done for themselves? As Lella Gandini of Reggio Emilia states: “children are strong, rich and capable. All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity and interest in constructing their learning, negotiating with everything their environment brings to them.”

So how do we help a child become that independent person? As adults we need to find a balance between not overprotecting our children, or pressurising them to run before they can walk; our expectations need to be realistic, and we must bear in mind that children will always develop at very different rates. The ‘Early Years Development Matters’ takes us through a child’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development and exemplifies the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ from birth to five years old; some good ideas and guidance may be found in the DfE document ‘What to expect, when?’ which has been developed for parents and carers. Furthermore, it is important that we encourage healthy risk taking, through climbing trees or doing something new, and the opportunity to embrace mistakes. In the words of Carol Dweck: “What we do not want is to encourage a fixed mind set where a child feels they are unable to do something for themselves so they will not try, we want a child who is comfortable trying for themselves and develops a growth mind set – they will experience the feeling that before success comes failure after failure. But that hard work and persistence works.”

In many ways it is easier to identify the opportunities we can give our children to be independent when developing life skills, such as encouraging them to get dressed in the morning, cutting their own food, opening packets and having a go at pouring a drink, tidying up their toys, being provided with a cloth to mop up spills, to name but a few. Furthermore, many of these activities help a child’s physical development, therefore, providing a sound foundation for writing and drawing – a win win situation!

We also need to enhance a child’s innate desire to learn and explore. To do this we must ensure the home environment is ordered (a little like an Early Years classroom) and children know where to find things. Offering a couple of choices – such as what to eat at snack time or wear, (it is important not to ignore a child’s choice, as this will undermine their self-assurance) – and making decisions will enable them to develop their own thoughts, views and critical thinking. Allowing children to pursue their own plans, giving them the opportunity to choose what to play with and then leaving them for uninterrupted learning for increasing lengths of time in a safe environment further supports independence.

The report, ‘Developing Independent Learning in children aged three to five’, by the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge says:”Learning is intrinsic to life and because it is this important children need to be the owners of their own learning; they won’t see it as intrinsic to life if they don’t own it themselves – everything they do must have a purpose which makes sense to them.”

As already mentioned, children develop at varying rates; and as such it is important to know where each individual is on their journey, so we may support them in the next step. For example, if a child can put on their coat, demonstrate, explain and encourage them to do up the zip. New skills may need practising, help may still be needed; but practice will ensure independence in learning new skill sets. In the words of Maria Montessori “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” and Lev Vygotsky “What a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do by herself tomorrow.” Giving time is essential too, though it may be quicker at this point to do it for them, in the long run encouraging independence will save us time and help our children grow.

Ignatius of Loyola sums up the responsibility upon us as adults: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”. Now, all we need to do to ensure we provide children with the best ‘independent’ start in life, is to permit them to feel in control of their lives, confident and capable, provide them with opportunities to master new skills, think for themselves and afford responsibility – job done!

Reigate St Mary’s is a coeducational day school for pupils aged 2 to 11 set in 15 acres of beautiful parkland close to Reigate town centre. It is a junior school of Reigate Grammar School with an emphasis on nurturing confidence and self-esteem to produce happy learners.
High quality wraparound care is available onsite for all pupils aged 2 and above for 48 weeks of the year.
www.reigatestmarys.org

mum's mental health

It’s OK, not to be OK

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

Mental health in pregnancy, birth and beyond

Eight months into being a mother, it hit me. Depression, together with its best friend, anxiety, came for an unplanned visit and as I write this months later, things are still very difficult, with the depression and the anxiety coming and going as they please, but I’m OK. I’m OK, not to be OK.

The most beautiful soul I have ever met, graced my husband and I with his presence in May of 2018 and what an amazing first year it has been. The cuddles; the late night/crack of dawn feeds; minimal sleep; bath time; nappy changes; weaning; playtime; teething; nappy changes; learning to crawl, walk and speak – and did I mention nappy changes?

How many blessings to have in one year. I have to pinch myself sometimes to check this isn’t just a wonderful dream. It is in fact reality, my reality, that this little boy is my baby boy and my absolute life’s purpose. How lucky am I? This most magical first year of being a mother, as amazing as it has been, has also brought many mental health challenges my way. I am not only learning to be a mother, but I am now also learning to accept and love the new me.

For seven out of my nine months of pregnancy, I was frankly scared of everything and anything going wrong. I made a decision that for my last two months of pregnancy, to work on just trying to worry less and enjoy this pregnant chapter of my life. This was much easier said than done but I really did have an amazing last two months of pregnancy where instead of fearing for this baby and what ‘could go wrong’, I looked forward to his daily kicks and hiccups and enjoyed this beautiful baby growing inside of me. I didn’t unfortunately wave a magic wand, I had to work very hard on ‘me’. I spoke openly about my fears, hopes and dreams; I attended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); I took early maternity leave to focus on me and my baby, as well as attending the mental health midwifery clinic attached to my local hospital. This internal work I was doing, together with the support of my incredible husband, family and friends, all helped me get to where I wanted and where I needed to be, in the preparation for my little man’s arrival.

I am a big believer in therapy and I hope that anyone struggling with poor mental health, gets help. It can be free, you can self-refer, you can choose to do it face-to-face, over the phone or online. So, if you are needing some help or just a nudge in the right direction, or know someone who is struggling, please speak up. You can reach out to your GP for a list of local therapies available or simply go online to see which type of therapy is right for you, whether it be CBT, counselling or other types of therapy. For employers, please check out Mental Health First Aid England, where they are helping drive mental health awareness in the workplace.

After being flagged as ‘high risk’ for mental health during my pregnancy, I thought I was going to experience baby blues (which can come in around day three when there is a hormone shift) but I didn’t, no baby blues. I thought I was going to experience postnatal depression but I didn’t. I don’t think. What did occur was I was back at work in January of 2019 and it happened. Depression. I found myself missing my baby so much whilst at work and felt like I was completely missing out on everything. My husband was daddy day care at the time and what a great job he was doing. This wasn’t a case of my baby not being well looked after, I was experiencing a sort of separation anxiety from my baby boy. But I just had to keep working long days and ‘deal with it’.

Whilst still struggling months later, I finally quit my job in order to enjoy time with my little man but also to work on myself. Self-love, self-care and mental health improvements, including daily meditation, yoga and therapy. Some days are good, others bad, others really bad – but I remain honest with myself and others. It really is OK, not to be OK. You are not a failure or ‘damaged goods’ which is how I would often label myself. You are real, showing your true colours and just going through a difficult time. You are exactly who you are meant to be for now and that is OK. All I know is that we have to truly accept ourselves and support others in whatever way we can. We need to remain an open and honest society, and most importantly please, be kind to one another.

At TheBabyChapter, we are dedicated to improving the quality of antenatal classes, ensuring soon-to-be parents are well supported and know all the information needed to make the right decision for you and your baby, in this new chapter, TheBabyChapter
www.thebabychapter.co.uk

nursery preparedness

Preparing your child for nursery

By | Education, play, Relationships

Your child’s first day at nursery or playgroup can be a daunting prospect for both you and them. But our advice will help to ensure that their experience of nursery or playgroup is a happy one from the start.

Boost their social confidence
Socialising with other children is a skill that has to be learnt gradually, and some children will find it easier than others. If you can introduce them to the idea of sharing and taking turns before they start at nursery they will find the whole experience less daunting. Don’t expect great things at first – children usually play alongside each other rather than together until they’re around three years old. And while you don’t need to stand over young children while they play, you need to be close by to step in if they start to squabble over toys. If you don’t have a network of other mums with children the same age as yours, joining a mother and toddler group is a great way to introduce your child to socialising while you keep a watchful eye.

Time away from parents
It will be easier for your child to settle at nursery if you’ve gradually got them used to being left with other carers, such as grandparents, relatives and friends. Start off by leaving them for short periods – an hour while you go shopping, for example – and then gradually build it up until your child is happy to be left for a whole morning or an afternoon without you. Most children won’t like being left with nursery workers they don’t know at first, but it shouldn’t be long before they come home chatting about what “Mrs X said” and “Mrs Y did”.

Visit the nursery
“When you’re choosing a nursery, it’s usually best to visit it without your child the first time,” says Diane Rich at Early Education, an organisation which promotes quality in early years education. “The next time take your child with you and see how they respond to the environment and watch how the carers interact with them.”

You should be allowed as many familiarisation visits as you feel your child needs. Some nurseries will allow you to leave your child for short visits without you to see how they get on. When you get home, talk positively about the school, the activities that go on, the other children and the staff. Chat through any worries your child has before they start for real.

Potty training
Some nurseries will expect children to be out of nappies before they start, so find out what the policy is if you don’t think your child will be ready. However, all nursery staff should be prepared for occasional accidents and won’t expect children to ask every time they need the toilet – they’ll get plenty of gentle reminders. Pack spare pants and a change of clothes in your child’s bag just in case and tell them that no-one will be cross if they do have an accident.

Feeding themselves
If your child is to have any meals at nursery other than drink and biscuits, find out if they’ll be expected to use a knife and fork or whether hands are acceptable. Practise at home with a little knife and fork, but don’t expect your child to be able to cut up his own food – the staff will do this for him. Make sure you tell the nursery staff about any strong dislikes your child has, and any food allergies or intolerances.

On the first day
Allow plenty of time. The chances are, your child won’t be prepared for you to just drop him off and leave on the first day, so be prepared to hang around until they are settled.

You’ll probably be feeling just as anxious and emotional as they are, but try to stay cheery and confident – children pick up on your feelings of apprehension.

Explain to your child when you’ll be back – don’t fob them off with fibs such as “Mummy’s just going to move the car” when you make your exit. Tell them you’ll be back after lunch/drink and biscuit time/story time.

Leave your contact number with staff in case they need to call you.

If your child cries and won’t let you leave, ask staff for advice. In most cases they’ll ask you to stay for a while with your child in the early days.

When you’ve said your goodbyes, try not to worry. If there is a problem, you’ll be contacted, but in most cases your child will be enjoying their exciting new experience.

Borrow some books to help
Visit your local library and borrow some books on starting preschool or nursery, such as Going to Playschool by Sarah Garland. When you’ve read them, talk to your child about all the fun activities they might be doing at nursery, such as playing outside on bikes, painting pictures, playing with sand and water, making models, singing rhymes, baking cakes and building with bricks and lego.

Problems settling in?
Some children find the experience of starting nursery stressful and still won’t settle after a few weeks. Don’t worry and don’t blame yourself – just accept that children are all individuals and your child will get there in the end.

Find out from your child’s key worker or carer what happens once you’ve left. Do they continue crying inconsolably throughout the session or do they perk up 10 minutes later once they’re distracted by an activity?

Try building up sessions gradually. Start with just 30 minutes and build up the time gradually each week until they’re able to stay a whole session without you.

Try staying with your child for the session, moving away once they become engaged with an activity, but not leaving the room.

Invite children from the group back to play to encourage friendships.

Some children will settle better if you keep your goodbyes brief – lingering may only make the whole process more painful for you both.

Don’t fret about letters and numbers
We all want our children to do well, but no nursery will expect your child to have a good grasp of letters and numbers when they start. “It’s easy to confuse what you want from early years education with what you will later want from a school,” says childcare expert Penelope Leach in The New Your Baby and Child. “Young children learn by playing and therefore optimal learning means being encouraged to play.” This doesn’t mean your child will have free, undirected play throughout the session – a good nursery should provide a balanced agenda of directed activities that are suitable for your child’s level of development and will help them to learn through playing.

If you want to encourage their learning at home it helps to make it fun: play games of I-Spy to associate sounds and letters; encourage number recognition by counting everyday objects like red cars in the street; bake cakes to find out about weighing and measuring; give them dressing up clothes to encourage role-play games; let them paint, scribble and draw so they learn pencil control which will help with writing later on.

Taken from the www.babycentre.co.uk

st catherines

Milestone moments

By | Education, family, Playing, Relationships
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

Life at Prep School is full of firsts. The first time we do anything requires courage and determination which is why I so admire young children and so enjoy watching their early journey through school.

Before joining school children will have already had many milestone moments – moving from cot to bed, their first steps, their first tooth and many more. The first day of school arrives all too quickly and from there a series of challenges and wonderful opportunities await.

Ahead of starting school, encourage your child to engage in creative play. Allow them to solve some of their own problems – when they put their shoes on the wrong feet, pause and see if they can figure that out for themselves. Provide simple choices but limit them to two or three options – I often refer to this as the ‘carrot or peas’ approach. Rather than, “What would you like to eat?” which is a crazy question to ask a preschool child, offer two alternatives. Give your child opportunities for play games which involve taking turns and sharing as well as dressing up and role-play. Encourage the use of full sentences when talking to your child. Avoid comments like, “Mummy wants you to come over and help” and start to use, “Please can you come and help me,” and “thank you.”
The first day of school is a major event but don’t overplay this. You will have spent considerable time and effort choosing the right school, trust your instincts and remain calm and positive. Allow plenty of time for the school run on the first morning and leave as quickly as you can once your child is in the classroom and starting to settle. Your child will spend the day learning names of the other children in the class, being shown their immediate environment and they will most likely come home exhausted.

In the first term, establish a good rapport with your child’s teacher and encourage their early reading and writing at home as advised by the school. Ask what happens in the book that they are reading, and help with extending their vocabulary to include words such as ‘first, second, finally.’ Don’t be scared to use the correct vocabulary –
if your child can recite Hickory Dickory Dock they can learn the correct vocabulary and should be moving away from pet names for things.

You will hear about the first falling out between friends. If you have watched ‘The Secret Life of 4 year olds,’ you will see these happen frequently and are as quickly resolved. There will be moments where your child’s effort and success is recognised and other moments when they feel overlooked or left out. They are still in egocentric infant mode and it is important to remember that you are hearing a four year old’s version of events.

The first nativity brings lines to deliver, songs to sing and the chance to ‘perform’ in front of an audience. They will want to please you, please their teacher and be starting to want to please their peers by this stage. Frantic waving and trying to get their attention from your seat in
the audience is adding pressure to an already fairly daunting experience for some children.
By all means wave to them on arrival and reassure your child that you are there but try to keep it discreet.

By the end of the first year your child will be very attached to their first teacher and the school will prepare them for moving on to a new class, possibly with new pupils arriving too which can change the dynamic amongst the class. Over the first long summer break encourage more constructive play which requires your child to build things, take things apart and put them back together. Go on walks, build dens in the garden, start to ride a bike with stabilisers. Check table manners and correct use of cutlery and ‘please and thank yous.’ Use the days of the week more and continue with reading and basic writing.

Then come swimming lessons, possibly picking up an instrument for the first time, presenting in assembly and taking on minor roles of responsibility within the class (taking a message to the office or assisting with classroom chores). You will increasingly feel that you are not there for every milestone moment. This is important as your child will be forming a self-esteem based on their sense of their own achievements and by six we hope finding intrinsic motivation. They will be working out that effort impacts outcomes and they will be turning to peers to share their achievements. Winning the sack race, learning their times tables, holding the door open for a visitor, sharing their snack at break are all equally important.

Each of these little steps are, in fact, giant leaps. At our school we aim to capture the magic as it happens and share it with parents when we can. We ask the children to give everything a try and to step out of their comfort zone with as much confidence as possible. Learning at this age must be fun and curiosity must be fostered. Enjoy the milestone moments – they are to be cherished.

St Catherine’s is situated in the village of Bramley, three miles south of Guildford, which has fast train connections to London. Prep School girls benefit immeasurably from the world-class facilities of the Senior School, including the extensive grounds, 25m indoor pool, Sports Hall, dance studio, magnificent auditorium and 19th century chapel. Girls from age four engage in a full and varied curriculum which includes music, IT, ballet, and sport delivered by dedicated specialist teachers. Our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, said on a recent visit, “You are all extremely lucky to be at such a wonderful school.”
www.stcatherines.info