help your child practice brave thinking

How to help your child practice brave thinking

The children and I have been talking a lot about our thoughts lately.

Mostly about how powerful they are.

About how easy it is to create self-fulfilling prophecies.

We’ve talked about the fact that if, for example, you decide before you’ve even tried to do something that it will be too hard, then chances are you’ll be right and you’ll struggle to do it.  But if you try it with a positive attitude then you’ll be far more likely to persevere and succeed.

 

The problem is, it’s not always as easy as it sounds to just ‘think positively’.

Our brains are wired to see the worst case scenario, because this is what keeps us safe.  We’ve evolved to spot danger and potential problems so this is what we notice and focus on a lot of the time.

Which is great, in a way.

It’s amazing that we have this natural instinct to protect ourselves and avoid danger.

The problem is that this instinct is sometimes too strong.

Our brains keep us too safe.

They make us worry about everything, imagining how badly things could go, so that we stay still and safe, instead of taking action.

And each time we think a negative thought we make the neural pathways in our brains for those kinds of thoughts stronger, so they become our default way of thinking.  Our brains don’t just want to protect us, they also want to make things easier for us so they’ll take these shortcuts whenever they can.

We’ll see a choice or a new experience and our brains will jump straight to the negative consequences because that’s the path we’ve taken most in the past.

 

So how can we help our children to fight these natural instincts and wire their brains for brave, positive thinking instead of negative thinking?

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s not as easy as just telling them to stop thinking negatively, or to just not think about the thing that’s bothering them at all.

If they’re worried about starting a new club at school, for example, telling them not to worry about it won’t help.

See our brains do this weird thing when we try not to think about something.  They sort of check in now and then, to make sure we’re not thinking about it.  Which means we think about it.

What we need to do instead is practice replacing any thoughts of worry or negativity with thoughts that are positive and brave.

The more we tell ourselves that we’re strong and capable and resilient, the more we’ll create and use the pathways in our brains for those kinds of thoughts.

Do it enough and those pathways will become the default for our brains.

 

For the child that’s worrying about the new club at school, sit with them and talk about what in particular it is that they’re concerned about.

If it’s that they won’t be able to do the new activity very well, remind them of all the times in the past they’ve worked hard to learn a new skill.  Encourage them to write down positive statements about themselves that relate to their worries.

This could be things like, “I work hard”, “I can learn to do hard things”, or “I keep on trying”.

A lot of this comes down to helping them switch to a growth mindset.

So you’re helping them replace thoughts of “I’ll never be able to do this”, with “I can learn to do this if I keep trying”.

Depending on how old your child is you can encourage them to write these kinds of positive things about themselves in a notebook everyday.

Or you can write a few key, positive mantras out and stick them up in their bedroom where they’ll see them everyday.

 

The key to this is repetition.

The more your child can think and say and write down these positive, brave thoughts about themselves and their ability to cope with whatever life has to throw at them, the more they’ll start to naturally think these thoughts.

And the more they think it, the more they’ll believe it.

Once they think they can handle something, and not only think it but know it in their mind to be true, then there’ll be no stopping them.

Help your child stay motivated to learn at home

Helping your child stay motivated to learn at home

Whether your child is a teenager or a toddler, they will need to be kept entertained in some way whilst schools are closed. However, this doesn’t mean they can play on their digital devices all day or watch hours of television; they need to continue to learn so that they don’t fall behind when they eventually return to school.

As a parent, you can help motivate your child and encourage them to find some educational activities to keep them busy.

Here are some tips from an independent school in Leicestershire.

 

Most schools are providing learning resources online that students can download and complete. Make sure your child has somewhere quiet, tidy and well-lit where they can do this schoolwork, that is free from distractions.

If they can hear their sibling watching TV in another room, they will not feel motivated to complete the work to a high standard and will rush it so that they can get back to enjoying themselves.

 

While it’s important for your child to check the work they need to do daily and finish the tasks set by their teachers, there are also other things you can do as a family.

Since the weather seems to have improved in recent weeks, it’s worth getting your family outdoors for some fresh air and exercise. There are so many learning opportunities outside so it’s a great opportunity to spark your child’s interest and enrich their academic experience. As well as discussing things like different types of birds, trees and other aspects of nature, you could also consider setting up a little vegetable patch in the garden.

This is a rewarding activity that will teach your child how to look after their plants with patience and dedication.

 

Encourage your child to read lots of books, as this will help improve their spelling, grammar and vocabulary. You could even consider initiating a little family book club, where once a week you all get together and discuss the events of the books you’ve been reading.

When your child is explaining theirs to you, ask them to use lots of adjectives and discuss any key elements of the genre. If your child is really up for a challenge, you could suggest that they re-write the end of their book.

 

There are lots of educational board games you can play as a family that will help your child with various skills, from problem-solving to maths. They are also a great way to disguise the fact that your child is learning as they will be having so much fun!

There are learning opportunities in almost everything we do, as long as you choose to see it that way. With that in mind, you shouldn’t be short of a few things to keep your child busy.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Planning for number 2_ Buying a second car for the family

Planning for number 2: Buying a second car for the family

As our children get older we find we have to start planning for the future in ways that are likely to stretch the budget.  Either we need to upgrade to a new home or we have to change jobs, but one of the most common expenses for a growing family is getting a second car.

So many families need a second car, but what is the best way to go about getting one that’s not just within your budget, but is suitable for everyone?

How family-friendly does it need to be?

You may already have a hatchback which means that the second car might not have to be so family-friendly. If you are looking for something that is able to go the distance and your children are getting a bit older you could very easily spring for a used Audi rather than something that was used to carry baby seats and all of the various items.

As your children get older you can go for something with a bit more edge to it, especially as your children need more independence. It’s very likely that you will be picking up the children from school and doing very little else with it so you can make it your own!

 

Who else is going to be driving it?

As your children get older, they may very well want to start learning to drive; and it’s a cheaper option for you to give them a go of the car rather than forking out for lots of lessons. But this means that when your children pass their test you might end up giving this car over to them. In which case, you don’t want to be going for something incredibly expensive.

But also, one of the more common complaints parents have when their children take the cars that they never fill it back up with petrol. In which case, are you better off getting a little run-around so your children can use it and you make the most of the main car?

 

What are you using this car for?

If you’re getting a second car because you need to make numerous trips yourself, it’s far better for you to get something cheap and cheerful. You could go for a used car or pick something up on finance. If it’s for you and you only because your partner needs the main car, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that doesn’t guzzle petrol. But at the same time, you can choose something that is a little bit more stylish if you are fed up with your family-friendly hatchback.

An extra car is a considerable expense and it’s only worth buying another vehicle if you are truly going to get the most out of it. Many families need two cars because both parents are working but you have to consider just how expensive it will be.

As your children get older, you start to invest in so many different things that can push your budget to its limits – do you want a second car to be one of those things?

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Why community involvement is important for young people

Why is community involvement important for young people?

A wonderful way to support your child’s personal development is to encourage them to become involved with the community. There are plenty of ways to “give back” and it’s never too early to teach your child the importance of doing so. It will help your child understand how the world works outside the safety net of their family unit and show them that many people suffer hardships each and every day.

This will help them become more compassionate and respectful. I have teamed up with an independent school in Kent to offer parents some tips on how to get their child involved with the community.

 

Start by researching some of the local charities and corporations that require fundraising or volunteers.

Once you have a list, chat to your child about each of them to suss out whether or not they are passionate about any. Bear in mind that what sparks their interest might be entirely different to what sparks yours so don’t force them to take part in something they’re not enthusiastic about as this will lead to resentment.

 

Regardless of the path your child chooses to take, they will learn lots of transferable skills. Their community involvement might even shape the decisions they make as they grow up. For instance, if they start working with an environmental charity, they might become more eco-conscious as they grow up.

On the other hand, if they get a job volunteering in a local charity shop, they will learn customer service skills that will help them when they’re looking for future employment.

 

These are just a couple of examples of the many ways your child can get involved with charity work and community support.

If you want some more information, don’t be afraid to contact your child’s school as they will likely have some more ideas for you. Schools are often very interested in teaching children the importance of giving back, so the teachers may be able to inform you of what they plan to do as an establishment to help their pupils.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Encouraging curiosity in your child

Encouraging curiosity within your child

Children are naturally curious because they have a lot to learn about the world around them.

Curiosity is important at any age because, without it, we would cease to learn anything new. That’s why it’s important for parents to encourage the inquisitive side of their child, as explored below by a private school in Hampshire.

 

First of all, make sure that when your child is asking you questions, you don’t shut them down.

Obviously, when you are busy and your child is nagging, it can be easy to shrug them off but if you do, they will be reluctant to ask you again. Instead, try and answer their questions or tell them that you will do some research and come back to them later when you’re not as busy.

If you don’t know the answer, be honest, and help your child find the answer by looking it up online or in a book.

 

Another way to stimulate your child’s curiosity is to ensure they are experiencing new things on a regular basis.

This doesn’t mean you have to take them on a fancy holiday to a foreign country, it could be something simple like trying a new recipe or playing a new board game. Just try and mix up the routine from time to time so that your child has the opportunity to learn about things outside of their little bubble.

 

As a parent, you should always try and model the behaviour you’d like to see in your child.

So, if you want them to be curious, you should be curious too. For example, on a rainy day you could ask “do you know where the rain comes from?” or if you’re trying a new recipe you could say “I wonder how long this needs to go in the oven”. Show your child that it’s perfectly normal to ask questions, experience new things and learn about the world around us.

Let them see you embarking on a new hobby and encourage them to do the same.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

keep your mind active at home

How to keep your mind active at home

I think it’s safe to say we’re all spending far more time than normal at home at the moment.

I’m at home with my children, trying to juggle my work and their school work and it feels like my mind is constantly active.  I’m also able to get out for regular walks with the children, and to go to the supermarket for food and household supplies, which helps keep my body and mind working.

For a lot of people in various different situations though, it can be hard to keep your mind active when you’re at home all the time.

 

It might be that you’re on the list of people who need to stay home all the time at the moment, to protect your health, and you don’t have children with you who need your constant attention (and help with fractions!).

Or you might be older, and able to stay physically active at home thanks to companies like Age UK Mobility, but you worry about keeping your mind sharp when you’re spending all this time at home.

Whatever your situation is, if you know you need to do something to keep the neurons firing, but aren’t sure where to start then here are some suggestions to get you started:

 

Watch documentaries

If you’ve spent a lot of your time at home so far binge watching Netflix, then you can ease yourself into getting your brain going by mixing things up with some documentaries.

There are loads of documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime if you have those.  If not then there are also lots of them on iPlayer and All4 so you can sit and learn something new at any time of the day.

 

Get musical

Music is brilliant for keeping our minds active as well as boosting our moods.

If you used to play an instrument then dig it out and see how much you can remember.  Even if you’ve never played in your life you can learn to play an instrument by following videos on YouTube.

Or you can use your voice as your instrument and sing regularly.  You can even join a virtual choir if you want, so you don’t have to sing alone.

 

Learn a new language

No matter how old or young you are you can keep your mind busy and active by learning a new language.

There are some great websites and apps available with different techniques for teaching languages, so spend a bit of time looking around to find the approach that will work best for you.

 

Do things differently

When we fall into a routine we start going about our day on autopilot.

We do the same things, in the same order, at the same time, and our lazy brains love it because they don’t have to put any work in.

Mixing things up and doing things differently forces our brains to make new pathways and keep active.

So mix up the order in which you do things in your daily routine.  Eat new foods.  Cook a new recipe.  Read a new genre of book, or listen to an audiobook instead of reading to yourself.

 

Get puzzling

Puzzles and quizzes are classic ways of keeping your brain sharp.

It doesn’t matter if you do a jigsaw puzzle, Sudoku or a crossword.  Just find something that challenges you slightly but that you still find fun to do.

You can even fit some TV time in with this idea, by watching quiz shows and seeing how many questions you can answer along with the contestants.

I love things like Richard Osman’s house of games that force me to think laterally, and are really fun to join in with at home.

 

Get creative

If puzzles aren’t really your thing, then try getting crafty and creative instead.

Whether it’s drawing and painting or knitting and crocheting, these sorts of creative activities keep your brain active as well as keeping your hands busy.

There are so many tutorials available online for all sorts of creative activities, so don’t be put off if you’re a complete beginner.  I’ve been following some drawing tutorials with the children recently and they are so much fun!

 

You don’t have to do all these things to keep your brain active, just pick one or two that appeal to you the most and get started.

 

Disclosure: this post is in collaboration with Age UK Mobility

ways to plan for your family's future

3 ways to plan for your family’s future

How much thought do you give to your future?

When you’re young, free and single it’s easy to not worry too much about the future, but once you become a parent you need to start planning ahead a little bit more.

Here are 3 different things to think about when you’re planning your family’s future.

 

Look at life skills

It might seem a strange thing to think about if your children are still babies or toddlers, but as they get older one of the best things we can do for our children is teach them all the life skills they’ll need in the future.

One way to do this is to think about the things you wish you’d known how to do when you first left home, and then make a plan for teaching these skills to your children.

I don’t think it’s possible to teach our children every last thing they need to know before they head out into the world.  Actually, I think it’s quite important that we don’t teach them everything.

They’ll learn a huge amount by figuring some things out on their own.

But there are some life skills that are definitely worth teaching them as they grow up.  For us this is things like making sure the children know how to cook, so they can at least feed themselves when they eventually leave home!

Other skills you might want to plan to teach your children are things like car maintenance, basic first aid, household skills like doing laundry, and looking after their money.

 

Take care of finances

Speaking of looking after money, this is a big area to think about when it comes to planning for your family’s future.

There are all sorts of things you can do to teach your children about money.  It might be that you give them a set amount of pocket money each week, so they can learn to save up for treats that they want.  Or maybe you try to use cash when you take them with you to the shops so that they can start to understand a bit more about how much you spend on things, and how much change you get and so on.

It’s also a good idea to think about your family’s finances, and what you would do if your circumstances were to change.

If you can spare any money on a regular basis then look into setting up a savings account that you pay into each month, so you have a spare reserve of money for emergencies.

And as much as no one wants to think about their partner passing away, it’s really important to sort out life insurance or family income benefit so you would be covered if the worst were to happen.

 

Think about your life at home

When you’re planning for your family’s future, one of the other big things to be thinking about is where you plan to live.

There are all sorts of things to consider when it comes to your family home, from making sure there’s enough room for you all (and all your stuff) to looking at the school catchment area that your house falls into.

If you’re not in a position to move to a new property then you might look at what you can do to adapt your current home to your family as it grows.

 

What areas do you think are the most important when it comes to planning for your family’s future?

 

Disclosure – this is a collaborative post