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Relationships

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

Marriage vs Cohabitation Understanding your legal rights

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Deborah Bailey
Gowen & Stevens Solicitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partners should also think about taking out life assurance.

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

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

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

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

Will flexible working help to close the gender pay gap?

By | Education, Relationships, Work employment
by Emma Cleary
Ten2Two Sussex

Part-time work often has a gender pay gap that’s twice as big as the full-time pay gap, because it’s not as well paid and it’s mainly women doing it.

Yet are we happy as a nation to let the gender pay gap be explained away by the fact that men are largely leading our businesses and driving thought leadership rather than women? Simply because of what is being termed a ‘motherhood penalty’? It’s all too easy to view the gender pay gap this way – but there’s more to it than that.

A lack of promotion hits part-time working mothers
Lack of women in senior roles is one reason the gender pay gap is present, although many organisations are working hard to alter this.

It’s actually amazing what can be achieved in a 30-hour week. And if you take into account how productive part-time workers actually are – after all, they are always working to a deadline to get their work done in their hours – this may not present much less output than a full-time worker’s hours.

Yes, it’s true that senior part-time people may not want greater responsibility if they are already stretched to capacity with other commitments to fulfil elsewhere. But bosses must be careful not to assume this is always the case and be under-standing of employee’s needs.

For example, if employers are expecting workers to shoe horn a full-time working week into part-time hours, this will only lead to burn out and ultimately, the employee will end up leaving.

Attitudes to part-time workers simply not acceptable
We have heard of cases where employers have said to their part-time workers, “If you don’t like it, you know what you can do.” This is simply unacceptable.

Part of attitudes like this feed into the old-fashioned thinking that presenteeism is more productive than part-time or absent remote workers. This has to change if any movement in gender equality at work is to really be achieved.

As a flexible recruiter, we work with countless forward-thinking businesses who don’t take this view – and they see the benefits of flexible working really pay off in the long term.

Returnships – often one sided
Dare we say it, returnships can feel rather one-sided in favour of the employer and, in reality, don’t solve the problems of the gender pay gap. For us, most returnships don’t address what it is that women really need in the workplace.

Returner roles are generally full-time but often the issue is that women simply can’t work full working weeks when they still have to carry the majority of the childcare burden. Not to mention caring for older parents and requiring flexibility to manage health issues as they get older. Ten2Two’s recent research suggested women shoulder 63% of childcare responsibilities.

Time to address ageism – not just children
Ageism is the next big barrier that needs to be talked about.

We’ve seen Women’s Hour addressing the menopause and work in 2018 – a big step that has until now been swept under the carpet. Fact is, until we bring issues like this into the open, we won’t see real change in the way women rise through the ranks at work.

Deborah O’Sullivan, Managing Director at Ten2Two, says, “We believe that flexible working can play a big role in closing the gender pay gap once and for all. As we’re increasingly seeing, senior roles can be done part-time, and yet there’s a widely held view that the more senior you become, the more hours you have to work. It’s simply not true.”

“We know, the more senior you become, the more skilled you become at delegating and organising your time and resources and using your own skills in the best way possible, so there’s no reason senior positions can’t be part-time.”

If you’d like to hear more from Ten2Two Sussex on the subject of flexible working, please contact
Emma Cleary at emma@ten2two.org

How to handle criticism of your parenting

By | Education, family, Mental health, Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenging gender stereotypes

By | Education, family, Relationships
by Chloe Webster
Pebbles childcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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