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A nature spring guide for families – where to go locally and what to look out for

By | Education, environment, Family Farms, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, Relationships, Sprintime, Summer, Uncategorized
by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press

Grab your coat, your wellies if it is raining, your family and perhaps a picnic, for the dark days of winter have passed and the spring we have all been waiting for is here. These are a few suggestions, COVID restrictions allowing, for where families can go to enjoy some particularly wonderful spring sights across both Sussex and Surrey, but if there is one thing that our confined lives have taught us, it is that we don’t have to go far or even anywhere further than our doorstep to enjoy the natural world.

Spring flowers
Sussex and Surrey have an abundance of woodlands – here the flowers appear early in the year when the ground has warmed up and it is light. Once the leaves on the trees have come out, the woods become too shady for most flowers to grow. Plants that take full advantage of the brighter spring conditions include wood anemones, bluebells, primroses, common dog-violets and lesser celandines. Of all these, perhaps the bluebell puts on the most impressive display, for few wild flowers cover the ground so completely or smell as sweet. Chinthurst Hill near Wonersh, Brede Hill near Battle, Heaven Farm near Uckfield and Angmering Woods near Arundel, all put on annual bluebell spectaculars along with a medley of other spring flowers.

Orchids have a captivating appeal for many people and to discover one is thrilling. Ditchling Beacon and Malling Down are excellent places to search for them. Look out now for the early purple orchid – its clusters of flowers, long spotted leaves and unpleasant smell help to identify it – and come back in the summer for more orchid spotting.

The prospect of free food is always appealing, and a great family springtime activity is foraging. This is the season of ramsons, otherwise known as wild garlic. The young leaves make deliciously pungent soups, salads and pesto and the flowers, seed pods and bulbs are all edible too. The Downs Link path which runs for 37 miles from Guildford to Shoreham provides a great day out for families on bikes or on foot. Here wild garlic grows in abundance but for other sites, there is a fantastic website called www.fallingfruit.org
with an interactive map showing you sources of food growing on common land.

Trees and hedgerows
When winter shows no other sign of ending, along comes the blossom from trees such as blackthorn followed by wild cherry, crab apple, rowan and hawthorn. Every lane puts on its own frothy display for us to enjoy. Get to know where local elder bushes grow, for there is nothing so simple as making elderflower cordial. Another foraging find (maybe not for the children) are the youngest, freshest beech leaves which can be used in salads or soaked in gin. Beech trees are a feature of most of our deciduous woodlands but the ones at Staffhurst Woods near Oxted and Ashdown Forest are particularly fine.

Insects
Early in the year, insects emerging from hibernation are desperate for food. Queen bumblebees fly between early nectar sources such as cowslips, red dead-nettles and lesser celandines as do early butterflies such as brimstones and orange-tips feeding on cuckooflowers, honesty and garlic mustard. Surrey and Sussex are rich in places to see butterflies, but particularly good locations include Box Hill, Denbies Hillside, The Devil’s Dyke, Newtimber Hill, Rowland Wood and Pewley Down.

Birds
There is no better season for listening to bird song and often the adventures begin by simply opening a window! Every habitat has its own star performers with some having flown vast distances to be with us. If you want to hear some outstanding virtuosos then head to heathlands such as Chobham, Pirbright, and Iping and Stedham Commons. Here you may hear (if not see) buzzy Dartford warblers, melodious willow warblers or perhaps a chirring nightjar or two. Even more discrete than these birds are the nightingale – its drab, brown colouring making it almost impossible to spot in the dense undergrowth it inhabits. Its song, though, is unmistakable and the male sings both day and night until it finds a mate. Make your way to Ebenhoe Common, Pulborough Brooks and Puttenham Common for an unforgettable auditory experience. Make a note of International Dawn Chorus Day which is on Sunday 2nd May this year. Events are usually planned by a range of local wildlife groups.

Reptiles and amphibians
On sunny spring days, the coconut-sweet smell of gorse fills the air and reptiles such as lizards and adders like to bask in the sun. A stroll on Thursley Common’s boardwalks usually reveals some reptilian activity but if none materialise there is usually plenty of other wildlife to watch such as dragonflies and damselflies along with carnivorous plants and cuckoos.

For more information
The best way to find out more about these and other nature hotspots across the counties is to contact our wonderful wildlife charities. Most of these have local branches and are bursting with ideas for family activities and places to explore. Among these are Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT).

This is merely a quick canter through a handful of experiences on offer outside in Surrey and Sussex this spring. We apologise for all the obvious ones we’ve missed out. We’d love to hear about the ones you cherish and are willing to share on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FineFeatherPress) and on Twitter (@NatureActivity).

Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham run natural-history publisher Fine Feather Press from their homes in Surrey and East Sussex.
Their latest title – The Little Book of Wild Flowers – is now out.

Singing with small children – seven simple strategies!

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, Party, play, Playing, Uncategorized
by Sarah Marsh BSc, ALCM
Director for Musical Bumps

So let’s start with the ‘why’ and move on to the ‘how’. Why on earth should we sing to/with our children? My own mum (she’s 84 and doesn’t live round here – so she won’t be reading this unless I’m very unlucky!) can’t sing for toffee. It’s quite painful asking her to sing, and she mostly avoids it – singing to babies or at church is her limit. My own anger at her teacher telling her she couldn’t sing – this is back in 1942 – is still bubbling away, but that’s another story…

Anyway, why does my non-singing mum still sing to babies? Deep down, she probably knows that singing is the very best thing to do with babies. Babies hear language in their musical brains – they hear all that talking, cooing and singing as music (and they won’t care if you are a bit out of tune – so just go for it). Think about it for a moment – music has patterns that are clearer and more distinct than speech, music has intonations that are better defined than speech. If we want our children to be good communicators, then the absolutely best thing to do is to sing with them.

So – now for the ‘how’. Here are seven simple strategies that might help you get started (or give you new ideas if you are already tunefully chirping!)

1. Back to basics.
Whilst we might want to be bang up to date, there’s nothing wrong with singing some of those old songs (although not the one I learnt when I was little “do you want a cigarette, sir?”!). Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Twinkle and those ever-spinning Wheels on the Bus are an important part of our heritage. If you are lucky enough to have roots in other cultures, or know family and friends that have, then use their songs too.

2. Can’t remember the words?
Dum di dum di dum will do just as well. My father was known to his nieces as ‘uncle boom boom’ because every song started well and ended up as boom di boom di boom. It’s not just about the words, it’s about the game, the interaction and the steady beat!

3. Join a group!
It’s great to have a repertoire of songs for every occasion – joining a music class really helps with this! Great too for making new friends with similar aged children.

4. Sing your way through the day…
Have you got a ‘hello’ song to greet your child with every morning? No? make one up – quickly! What about a ‘tidy up your room’ song – that would be useful, don’t you think? Singing about what you are doing is a great way to involve your child too, just gets a little embarrassing at the supermarket!

5. Transactional singing This call and response style is used right across Africa. It’s a great way to use music to build communication. If your baby has some favourite little noises, try copying them – a conversation (of sorts) will ensue – it’s fun, if a little silly. Once the game is established, you can try starting it – with
real words this time!

6. Can’t sing, won’t sing? Oh, go on – no? Okay try some rhymes instead. Humpty Dumpty works just as well (even better maybe) without the tune. The pattern and intonation of your voice will be just as useful!

7. Be a bit silly and be a bit rude!
Don’t worry if you divert from real words – sing or play around with this rhyme and your own name. “Anna fifanna, sticklanna bombanna, sticklanna fifanna that’s how you spell Anna!”

And remember that anything to do with wees, poos or farts is hilarious when you are tiny, “beans beans, good for your heart, the more you eat the more you…” well, you get the drift!

Sarah Marsh is a music teacher and advisor working in primary and early years music across the UK. Sarah founded and directs Musical Bumps www.musicalbumps.com with classes in Sussex from newborn to starting school. Please contact Belinda McBride on 07582 256957 for more information.

Playing outdoors

Outdoor play is an essential part of any child’s development

By | Education, environment, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, recycling, Sprintime, Uncategorized
by Laura Gifford
Little Deers Preschool

The rising trend of Forest Schools around the country displays just how important outdoor play and learning is. In a world of computer games and social media, outdoor play for children is easily overlooked or dismissed as something that was done ‘back in the day’.

It’s important now more than ever that children have exposure to nature and the outdoor world. If the recent pandemic has taught us anything it’s that family time is precious and nature can still be enjoyed when other indoor pursuits can’t. In recent months, a lot of families have reconnected with the outdoor world enjoying leisurely walks in their local parks or forests.

Studies have consistently shown that playing in an outdoor environment reduces stress while increasing vitamin D levels, promoting social skills, and even increasing attention spans.

A lot more parents these days are choosing Forest Schools and outdoor settings for their child’s early education than ever before. In the UK alone there are over 45 registered Forest Schools and in Sussex over 10 forest style preschools. The benefits of outdoor play are endless.
Children are stimulated by the outdoors and typically experience, over time, an increase in their self-belief, confidence, learning capacity, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving skills and emotional wellbeing.

In an outdoor learning setting, children are physically and mentally more active and generally lead healthier lifestyles. Another recent study showed that outdoor play significantly reduced the symptoms of ADHD, a condition that now affects 11% of all school children. On top of this, playing outdoors promotes self-confidence, fine motor skills, and balance. It promotes self-reliance, increases flexibility, and improves overall co-ordination.

When it comes to toddlers and preschoolers, being outside is an exciting sensory experience. Babies will enjoy the exciting visuals on offer as you take them for a walk outdoors. Toddlers love the chance to explore different spaces and touch natural objects – leaves, pinecones and puddles included.

Playing outside is really important as it gives your little one the chance to look around and learn. While you’re having fun as a family, taking your children outdoors and supporting their play is also helping your development as well as theirs – the whole family benefits from being outside.

Another benefit of outdoor play is that your child learns to appreciate and respect the environment around them. Teaching your child, the importance of taking care of the environment, placing rubbish in the bin, ensuring they look after plants and animals they encounter, is hugely beneficial to them.

In the US, Forest Kindergarten or Nature School is quite common and often referred to as a ‘classroom without walls’ where young children spend their time outdoors in nature creating toys with found objects and experiencing little adventures with their imaginations.

In Germany, Waldkindergraten (forest kindergarten) is also common. And lately, in America, the popularity of ‘out of the classroom and into the woods’ preschools and kindergartens is growing as more parents are starting to feel that academics and tests have become the focus rather than non-cognitive, social emotional development and personal growth.

Starting your child’s education years in a setting which will give them opportunities to grow in such a positive way seems like a sensible choice to make.

Little Deers is a forest style preschool in the village of Nutley, East Sussex and have been running for over 30 years, providing an exciting and stimulating environment for children surrounded by the beautiful Ashdown Forest. www.nutleypreschool.org.uk

Sources:
www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/the-benefits-of-outdoor-play-for-preschoolers/#gs.d326o8
www.forestschooltraining.co.uk/forest-school/the-benefits/
www.nct.org.uk/baby-toddler/games-and-play/benefits-outdoor-play-for-children
www.mamookids.com/blogs/journal/the-ultimate-guide-to-forest-nature-schools-in-the-us

NHS Thank You

Pandemic parenting

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

Psychotherapist offers positive parenting tips

If you are one of the many families struggling with home schooling and feel that you are failing in meeting your children’s needs, you will not be in the minority. Psychotherapist Noel McDermott has over 25 years experience in this field and is keen to reassure families that any struggle in the here and now is OK. It is normal for both parents and children to be experiencing feelings of anxiety at this time. Here he provides simple tips to help support your child’s mental health.

Noel comments: “Talk to your children about how they’re finding the lockdown and home schooling this time round, reassure them it’s okay to ask for help if they feel low. Explain it’s normal and natural but that they don’t have to suffer alone. Monitor for signs they are struggling by watching out for mood, presentation or behaviour changes that last longer than a day or two. Increase family time and family events to be able to lift each other up and observe your kids at work and play.”

Positive parenting tips for both parent and child:
• Get outside. Nature is brilliant at lifting mood and it doesn’t have to be the great outdoors, your local park or even your garden is just as good. In fact, even noticing something simple outside like the trees in the park will elevate your mood!
• Challenge your thinking. Don’t give into those low mood thoughts, tell them they are temporary and will go away, that all feelings have an end by date and theirs is coming soon. Get involved in activities and events even though you might think they are useless and boring at the time; you will soon change your mind!
• Exercise as a family, stay active and get the blood flowing. Getting active for 20 minutes a day regulates your mood, just add some brisk walking into your day, take the kids for a run at lunchtime or do an online exercise class together.
• Sleep, eat and drink well. Children need good, sound sleep to ensure proper body and mind development. A nutritious diet plays an important role in a child’s physical and mental health. Get the basics right and the rest will follow.
• Treat your kids. Have a list of those things your children especially like and treat them when you think they deserve a lift! You also deserve treats – be kind to yourself.

Alternative social interaction
As well as providing education, schools and nurseries provide another even more important function in a child’s development and that is access to complex social group interaction. Children across the country will be missing their friendship circles and for all kids, but especially younger ones, access to play with other children is central to healthy development. Think outside the box and help support your child’s needs, for example:
• Plan movie nights: teleparty www.netflixparty.com is a fun way to have film nights with friends and family who cannot see each other in person.
• Organise virtual playdates: these will help fulfil your
child’s social needs and find positive opportunities. Perhaps they could have a tea party online, do arts and crafts together or simply read a book with their friend?
• Arrange a gaming session for your children with their friends – gaming, especially online, can provide immeasurable benefits to those who are lonely and isolated. It provides safe social contact and a place where skills can be developed. These skills can provide a much-needed boost to self-esteem.
• Online spaces – organise social and groups activities online with both friends and family that stimulate and develop social interaction. Although not as effective as a real-world connection, helping kids organise online groups and activities with their peers and friends can be very beneficial. The online space challenges the child (and the adult) to engage socially and cognitively.

How to spot anxiety in children
Unfortunately, cases of anxiety and distress in children are on the rise now and this is being caused by an almost constant diet of scary stories on the news/Internet, isolation from peers with schools being closed and from picking up on the stresses of family and parents. For many children they will be experiencing more vivid dreams during this time, interrupted sleep, issues around appetite and so-on which are all classic signs of distress.

Younger children and COVID-19 concerns
Little ones might try to protect you from their distress and say they are fine, but it will show up in other ways such as, in their play, which can become preoccupied with the worries; mummies and daddies getting sick and going to hospital, people getting hungry, people fighting and getting angry with each other. Kids might become avoidant when they are upset, not talking, and withdrawing. Behaviour may deteriorate and arguments and fights start. They may ‘regress’ and start to act in a younger manner, depending on age you may see thumb sucking, incontinence, clinging behaviour.

Older children and COVID-19 concerns
In teenagers, distress can often appear as disconnection (I don’t care, I don’t want to talk about it) and through avoidance behaviours. Avoidance and procrastination are both classic signs of anxiety. In older children we are seeing increases in anxiety as reported by parents, this includes relapses in anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and so on.

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Parenting in a pandemic is not an easy feat but now more than ever it is vital that parents help children develop and maintain good mental health and emotional wellbeing. You can do this by helping them feel safe, keeping healthy routines, managing their emotions and behaviour and by being positive at home. By being positive ourselves, we promote positivity to our children. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health don’t be afraid to ask your GP for support.”

Vaccination and the end in sight
It’s important to explain that we are on the final straight now, with the vaccination programme well under way. Soon, your kids will be able to see their grandparents as the shielded ones are being vaccinated first. Tell yourself this is positive news as well! The closure of schools, as well as being temporary, is for the last time. We are all looking forward to a big party soon to move on from all this stress.

Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education.
Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual.
They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources in order to help clients access help without leaving home –
www.noelmcdermott.net/group-therapy/

Ten tips for nurturing emotional wellbeing at home

By | Uncategorized
by Catherine Lynch
PlanBee

1 Relationships are important
Create a nurturing environment where everyone feels valued and safe. While the need may be innate, the skill of developing and maintaining connections is learned. You can create this environment at home by working as a team, sharing responsibilities and making sure everyone’s efforts are appreciated. Think about ways your family is looking out for each other and remember showing appreciation and keeping the lines of dialogue open consistently will help your children learn these skills.

2 Adjust your expectations
We are in a very strange time. Our worlds have been turned upside down and almost everything we knew to be true has changed. Adults and children alike have been affected by changes to their lives and as a result things we used to be able to cope with might feel like huge mountains to climb. We all have something called a window of tolerance. If your window is smaller than usual at the moment, go easy on yourself and take the pressure off. Allow yourself and your children to be less productive than normal, and give yourselves time to process what you are feeling.

3 Allow everyone to have a voice
It is absolutely normal to want to feel in control and to hold on tightly to the things we can control. Whether your child breaks down over the wrong colour socks or something else, see what practical choices you can give them to help them feel they have some control. Depending on their age, give them a few carefully selected choices to choose from or have an open discussion about the options available. If transitions are hard for your child, focus on what is happening when the current activity ends, give them time warnings, or a timer if they are old enough.

4 Be playful and have fun
Play fosters creativity, collaboration and problem solving, all of which are important for good mental health. Playing is a fantastic way to develop relationships and resilience. It also releases feel-good hormones. Children (and adults) learn through play. Children often explore areas they are finding challenging through their play. Role plays are a great example of this.

5 Create an atmosphere where all feelings are allowed
Name feelings and emotions as they arise. This gives children and adults the language to describe how they are feeling. Set aside a calm time to talk about feelings. You could show your children Emoticon Emotions Cards or Photo Emotions Cards and ask them to pick one to explore. Talk about the physical sensations the emotion has for each of you. Talk about times you felt it or characters in books, films or TV shows experienced it. Discuss what happened before, during and after the emotion was felt. Is there a better way the character could have reacted? What led up to the crisis point?

Help children to give their feelings an appropriate outlet. Put boundaries in place around behaviours to keep everyone safe and develop strategies to help reinforce those boundaries. For example, you are allowed to feel happy, angry or sad, you are not allowed to break things or hit.

6 Read stories
Spend time together and lose yourselves in a good book. Act out stories and make up your own narratives. Use your imagination or add props. Let books take you where you cannot physically go.

7 Keep some structure in the day
This does not mean you need to timetable every second. For example, agree times that you will come together as a family. Agree a time that is for quiet activities, work, going outdoors. If your family is anything like mine, you may find the daily structure seems to centre around food!

8 Encourage curiosity
Take your children outside and follow their lead, see what they have questions about and research the answers together. Go on ‘I spy challenge walks’, find out how exercise changes their heart rate, have timed races, explore shadows, find mini-beasts, classify animals, identify plants and identify birds. The list is endless. These do not have to be structured planned activities, go outside and develop observational skills and see where the time takes you.

9 Give your child a safe space they can go to
See if you can create a den or something similar for your child to play in, and retreat to when they want to be alone.

10 Make time for family time
Designate time each week where there are no screens and no distractions. Use this time to work on something together. This might be building a den, cooking, painting, crafting, going on a walk. It doesn’t matter what the activity is; the important thing is to spend some quality stress-free time connected, doing something together. Success has different guises: have a day where you forget about the end goal and the focus is on being together.

Catherine Lynch of education resources and lesson-planning experts PlanBee is a former primary school teacher. She tweets at @planbeecath.

Road Safety wek

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Health, Safety, Sport, Uncategorized

The theme for UK Road Safety Week 2020 has been announced as ‘No need to speed’, following findings that just a quarter of people think vehicles travel at a safe speed on the street where they live. A free Road Safety Week action pack is available to download at www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk for people wanting to take part.

Taking place between 16th-22nd November and co-ordinated by road safety charity Brake, Road Safety Week 2020 will encourage everyone to learn the what, the why, and the where of speed and will highlight that whether someone is walking to school, cycling into town or driving for work, the speed of traffic matters to their safety.

‘No need to speed’ has been chosen as the theme for Road Safety Week 2020 following the findings of the ‘How safe are the streets where you live?’ survey, conducted online by Brake over the past year. The survey of over 1,700 members of the UK public, found that just a quarter believe that vehicles travel at a safe speed on the street where they live. Brake also found that six in 10 people feel that the speed of traffic on their street negatively affects their wellbeing and two-thirds identify motorised traffic as the biggest threat to their health and safety on their street.

The week long Road Safety Week campaign is supported by funding from the Department for Transport and headline sponsors DHL and Specsavers and will use the collective voice of members of the public, schools, communities, organisations and the emergency services to make clear that there is ‘No Need to Speed’ on the road.

To participate in Road Safety Week, people are invited to register for a free action pack at www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk

Everyone, no matter what you do, can take part in Road Safety Week:
• Individuals can learn what a safe speed is, speak with families and friends who may travel too fast and choose technologies,
or modes, which help keep people safe.
• Schools can help young people learn how the streets around their homes and schools can have safer speeds and shout out for change.
• Organisations can step up their policies and procedures to ensure that their employees travel at safe speeds and understand why this is so important.
• Emergency service professionals can enforce speed limits and share their experiences of the impact of travelling too fast.
• Decision-makers can consider what changes can be made to our road environment to encourage safe speeds and healthy streets.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Road Safety Week provides a unique opportunity, every year, to focus attention on how the safety of our roads impacts all our daily lives. Speed plays a part in every crash and just 1mph can mean the difference between life and death on the roads. This Road Safety Week we want to help everyone understand why speed matters
and to join together to say there is ‘No need to speed’ on our roads.”

Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths, serious injuries and pollution occurring on our roads every day.
We work to make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake’s vision is a world where there are zero road deaths and injuries, and people can get around in ways that are safe, sustainable, healthy and fair. We do this by pushing for legislative change through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK’s flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Legal Solutions

By | family, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized

All Your Legal Worries Answered

In each issue of ABC one of Brighton’s leading firms of Solicitors Dean Wilson LLP, covers a topic of interest to parents everywhere. In this issue, Julian Hunt, Partner of the Family Department, aims to set out some of the practical issues you should consider if your relationship has broken down.

The breakdown of your relationship is a distressing and emotional experience. The following summary aims to set out some of the issues you should consider if your relationship has broken down. Of course, every individual case is different and therefore it is advisable that you discuss the situation with your Solicitor.

Here are some general tips about issues, which you will need to consider right away:
• Children – decisions need to be made about who will care for the children. Many parents are able to make arrangements between themselves which is always the best way. If you encounter difficulties consider a referral to Mediation. Court proceedings should only be a last resort.
Take note that the Children Act provides a presumption that the involvement of each parent in the life of the child will further the child’s welfare. ‘Custody’, ‘Residence’ and ‘Contact Orders’ are terms which no longer apply. Instead the Court will make a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ to define the amount of time that the child would spend with each parent.
• Inform your children jointly of the decision to separate and emphasise that it is not their fault and that both parents love them equally.
• Child Support – try to reach a voluntary arrangement with your ex-partner for a weekly or monthly payment. Go to www.gov.uk/child-maintenance and use the child maintenance calculator to assess how much your ex-partner should pay.
• Ongoing financial Support – (‘spousal maintenance’) – if you are married you could apply for maintenance for yourself. If you are not married your partner does not have a duty to support you once the relationship ends, only to pay child support if applicable.
• Property – if there are children involved it is always better for parents to come to a mutual decision about who will leave
the home so that it will cause the least disruption for the family. If you jointly own the property you cannot simply change the locks and exclude the other from the property. If you are a non-owning spouse you have rights of occupation and a right not to be evicted from your home. Application can be made to the Land Registry to protect your occupation and prevent your spouse from disposing of the property.

If you have been subjected to
or threatened with physical abuse by your partner you may need to consider making application for a Court Order
to have them excluded.

If you are in rented accommodation and you are moving out of the property, you should see if you can be removed from the Tenancy.

On Separation:
• Contact the Local Authority Council Tax Section as you may be eligible for a Council Tax reduction, or if you are moving out of the property to ensure that you are not liable for any subsequent payments.
• Contact the Benefits Agency if you are in receipt of benefits, as separation may affect your entitlements.
• Contact the Tax Office if you are receiving Universal Credit or Tax Credits to reassess your entitlements, or otherwise to see if you are now entitled to Child and Working Families Tax Credits.
• Contact your banks, building societies especially if you have a joint account. It may be advisable to consider freezing the account to prevent your partner from withdrawing some or all of the funds without your agreement, or at least change the drawing arrangement so that withdrawals require both your signatures.
• Contact all credit card companies especially if you have joint credit cards because you are jointly responsible for any expenses incurred. You do not want a situation whereby your partner could run up further debts because ultimately the credit card company could also pursue you for these as the card is in your joint names.
• Consider changing your Will if you have appointed your ex-partner as the beneficiary of your Estate. If you have not made a Will then you may want to consider making one to ensure that your Estate does not automatically pass to your spouse, or you may want to make specific provision for any children to ensure security for them.

As an ABC reader you can call the Private Client Department on 01273 249200 to arrange a no obligation telephone discussion and, if required, a fixed-fee meeting.

kids in a line

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.”

Learning through role-play

By | Uncategorized

All children love ‘pretend play’ or ‘role-play’. As parents we can see them do it at home when they copy what they see others doing; whether it is pretending to put the washing in, ‘helping’ with mummy’s or daddy’s work, dressing up and being a firefighter or playing shops.

Children are just having fun when they are pretending to be someone else but effective role-play gives children the opportunity to try out ideas in a safe environment. It allows them to explore boundaries, make sense of the world and develop their own identities. Some play centres are now focussed on role-play where children can act out various roles and jobs from the real world; children can deliver the post, put out a fire or solve a crime. Through pretend play, children are learning to understand the basic principles of society and how it functions, and the important rules and routines of everyday life. Fundamentally, children are given the chance to play out events and situation they have seen in real life, and if necessary, to try and make sense of them.

In schools where children are routinely tested on what they have remembered and understood in class, giving children space where they are free to express themselves and pretend to be someone different for a while allows them to not only learn what they like or dislike but also have empathy with other people. Role-play allows children to experiment with different social situations as well as different emotions. In a play centre where they can act out various roles alongside other children, they learn how to interact, co-operate and collaborate with each other in order to play.

It is easy to see how role-play improves children’s communication skills. When they go to the shops with you, they will listen to how you and the staff communicate and then try to replicate it in their role-play situations (which can be funny to see!). It is very interesting to see what they pick up from us and the world around them. Additionally, role-play is a great way of developing children’s fine motor skills as they dress a doll, use coins or dish up pretend food.

Toddlers will engage in simple pretend play such as talking on the phone or using keys, as they grow a little older and skills are more developed children will love to be fully immersed in familiar role-play scenarios such as going to the shops or the doctors and by the time
they go to school the scenarios will become quite complex and they will want to replicate real life situations with other children where they take on different roles.

When children are imagining they are someone else for a while, one of the most important things they learn is how to have empathy with another person. Even as a preschooler they will have the first inkling of what it is like to be a policeman, a firefighter or a teacher and as their sense of empathy becomes more developed it can help them in many areas of life, and in dealing with different types of people at school and in the outside world.

Albert Einstein put it as well as anyone when he said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Swim-Little-Fishy-Swim-Group-Photo

Sing, play… and learn!

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, Uncategorized
by Al Start
www.gokidmusic.com

When our children are babies and preschoolers their lives are full of music – songs, nursery rhymes and bedtime lullabies. But when they start school, they seek songs that aren’t ‘babyish’. From the age of five to 10 children still need great songs to inspire them until they are old enough to find their own style.

Does your child struggle to learn in a conventional way? Even if they don’t, music and singing can play a huge part in supporting and even improving learning in subjects such as maths and literacy. Engaging in creative music activities positively affects self-confidence and aspirations. It gives children more motivation and subsequent attainment at school. It even lightens mood, reduces anger and improves behaviour. Handy!

Sadly, we are now seeing more children with mental health issues – even in Key Stage 1. Singing, playing musical instruments, and regularly listening to music are all proven to give significant wellbeing benefits. So music really should be a big part of your family’s daily routine.

As parents, carers and music-lovers, what can we do to help our children continue to develop their love of music?

Talk to your child’s teacher – how much music and singing is your child able to participate in each day? Could they do more? You may be pleasantly surprised.

Play music in your car (rather than give children tablets and gadgets to fiddle with). Singing together is a positive, bonding experience for adults and children alike.

Choose wisely – pick your favourite songs, or listen to the radio – but be aware of what the song is about. What do the words mean to a child? Can they relate? Are they even appropriate? Children listen to words and song lyrics way more that us adults – believe me, it’s all going in – good and bad!

Play soft music in the back-ground at home instead of having the TV on. Chat to your kids about who the song is by, what instruments can they hear?

Spotify is a great source of finding appropriate music for families to listen to together. In the USA they even have a genre known as ‘Kindie Music’ – Kids Indie – independent artists like me making music that is child-friendly and adult-friendly too!

Learn an instrument – another chance to spend a little more quality time with your child is to learn together. My favourite is the (affordable) ukulele. It’s easy for little fingers (I’d suggest from Year 2 upwards) and with just four strings you can play simple songs quickly. Its great fun for adults too!

Music lessons and classes – look in your local area for music projects. You will find basic instrument lessons but also think outside the box, and look up band projects for kids – groups that teach electric guitar, drums, rock/pop singing and so on – very cool and great socially too.

Get singing yourself! We concentrate on our children so much we may have lost touch with music ourselves. Did you used to play an instrument or love singing when you were at school? Get back into it, dude!

The Internet offers us access to amazing online tools to learn instruments, brush-up on old skills and try new things. Search for your favourite music activity and just see what’s out there. If you are inspired, you can inspire your children too!

Al Start is a children’s singer-songwriter and music specialist with 20 year’s experience.She set up her award-winning children’s music company Go Kid Music in 2015 to provide more children, schools and families with great music. Find them online for unique music for your family. Live shows, CDs, downloads, songs for learning/teaching, online music clubs and ukulele lessons. www.gokidmusic.com