As someone who has been through university, I am very happy to say I have been there and done that. I absolutely loved my time at university, and found a good balance between working hard and having fun.  I’m so grateful that I was able to have the experience I did at uni.

The course of higher education through college and university is one that I believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience, and despite the negativity that is often in the media these days, I believe that many young people are still keen and excited to make this journey for themselves.

Although my children are not yet ready to embark on the journey, I know that one day they will and there are many parents out there with older children who will be making big decisions very soon.

Things to consider when your child is choosing a university

 

Whether you are helping your teen by making a PRO/CON list to choose between Harvard and Yale or are trying to determine which Oxbridge university offers the best learning environment, there are many other considerations that do need to be factored in when making such a big decision.

 

Subjects on offer / Reputation

One of the most important considerations has to be the courses that are on offer and the reputation that the college or university has for this subject. Review recent student satisfaction surveys and look at university rankings to determine the best options available.

 

Learning environment

Another consideration should be the environment that your child prefers to work in. Some thrive in independent study, others prefer group oriented sessions and lectures; some courses are very big which means mentor time may be limited so if this is an issue, perhaps a course with fewer students might work better.

 

Assessments

The way in which higher education is assessed varies from institution to institution. Some are purely academic – with written coursework and exams, while others also incorporate presentations, observations and practical submissions.

 

Location

Location is a very important factor to consider. Firstly, proximity to home and emotional support when needed, but also the location of student halls of residence and the teaching campus is important, too. While many students can drive before they move away for university, taking a car might not be practical depending on the end destination and associated costs.

 

Library facilities

As any student will tell you, a lot of university time is spent in the library reading. The facilities on offer can vary from college to university, so it’s always a good idea to go to a tour and have a look around at the university library. Are there quiet spaces for independent study readily available?

 

Competition

A big factor to consider, especially when applying for Oxbridge or Ivy League status universities is the level of competition for places. There are always statistics available to determine how many places have been available versus the number of applicants available, so use this information to your advantage when making applications. For example, if all your options have a low ration of applicants receiving offers, then it may be worth considering applying to an institution with a higher ratio.

 

Nightlife and Societies

With any university application, the social life opportunities need to be considered, too. It is important to find a university that is right for you academically and on a personal level, and you must enjoy living in that town or city, too. Research the locale in question to see whether or not this will fit with your son or daughters expectations of how uni life will be. For example, many universities have a lot of sporting societies which is great if you like sports, but if your child likes photography then an institution with access to galleries or dedicated society will be an obvious contender.

 

Choosing a university is a big decision, but with a little guidance it should be easy to choose the right one for your child as they start the next chapter of their lives. Good luck and if you are choosing universities over the next year, then let me know how you get on!

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I’ve been a parent now for nearly 8 years, and can honestly say that my life now is nothing like it was back then.

So much has changed, in so many different ways.

Here are 3 ways my life has changes since I became a parent.

3 ways my life has changed since I became a parent

I have less time.

Or maybe it’s a case of having more to do and keep in top of in the same amount of time.

Either way, it feels like I have a lot more on my plate since having the children.  So I do find myself looking for short cuts and ways to save precious time where I can.  I tend to do my food shopping online rather than spend 2 hours on a round trip to the supermarket.  And I love finding sites like love catalogues that help you compare prices and availability on various items to save you time doing it all yourself.

 

I have less sleep.

Before the children came along I loved to sleep.

I would quite happily get into bed around 9pm and doze off for a whole blissful night of sleep.

Now, even though I’m lucky and Rhys and Nerys generally sleep well through the night, I don’t get anywhere near the amount of sleep I used to.  I think it’s due to that classic parent thing of working all day, then sorting the children out and then trying to fit your adult life into those few hours after they’ve gone to bed.

So I end up staying up much later that I should.  Just to be able to relax a bit and watch Game of Thrones episodes that I’ve seen several times before.  Or squeeze in a bit more work to feel like I’ll have a head start on the next day.

 

Putting those changes first makes it seem like everything has changed for the worse since becoming a parent.

But honestly, there are so many other things that have changed, in more subtle ways perhaps, that have made life so much better.

 

I have more love.

More patience, more understanding.

In a direct contradiction of what I’ve already written, I also have more time.  Children, especially when they’re young, force you to slow down.  To take life at their pace.  To stop every 2 minutes as you walk to the park, to look at a stone or a flower or a particularly sticky stick.

Before I had the children the seasons would change and I would almost miss it.  I remember one year looking up on the way home from work and realising that the trees were almost bare, and I hadn’t noticed.   I hadn’t seen the gorgeous reds and oranges of autumn.  I’d been in such a hurry to just get home each day, I’d missed it.

Now though, I feel like I notice so much more.  We have time to watch the seasons change.

And watching my children watch these things happen, fills me with even more love and joy than I could have imagined.

 

So yes, I have less time and less sleep now than I did in my pre-children days.

But I have so much more of so many other things.  Things I didn’t even know I was missing out on.

What changed the most for you when you had your children?

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Whenever I take the children into town on the bus I like to point out the block of flats that my husband and I used to live in before they came along.

They find it strange to imagine us there, and I suppose hard to think of us in a world without them in it!

We lived in those flat for quite a few years, but moved to the house we’re in now when I was about 8 months pregnant with Rhys.  Studies have found that moving house is one of the most stressful things we can do, so maybe doing it while heavily pregnant wasn’t the best idea.  Although, I don’t remember it feeling all that stressful when we did it.

I think we planned things quite well and were lucky enough to have a lot of support from friends and family.

If you’re pregnant and planning on moving house, then these 5 tips will hopefully help make it as easy and straightforward as possible for you too.

5 top tips for moving house when you're pregnant

 

1. Plan ahead and take your time

Start getting organised to move house as soon as possible so that you can take it slowly.

If you’re anything like me then making lists of everything you need to sort and get done will help you make sure you don’t forget anything important.

Sit down and write detailed lists including things like key dates for picking up keys and installing services like phone lines and broadband.  It’s also worth making a list of all the places you need to update with your new address once you’ve moved.

 

2. Pack carefully and strategically

Start packing up your belongings sooner rather than later.  You don’t want to be shoving things in random boxes and bin bags in a last minute rush.

Think about packing up room by room, and keeping like items together.  Then make sure you label boxes clearly with what’s in them and what room they need to go in at the new house.  Any boxes that contain delicate or breakable things should be really clearly marked as fragile so you know to handle them with care.

For real peace of mind pack up all your valuables and important documents together in a box that you can take with you in the car on moving day.

 

3. Accept all the help you can get

We were lucky when we moved house that my in-laws were able to give us a lot of help, along with a few good friends.

If you have a similar support network then don’t feel bad about accepting any offers of help they might give you.  It might be an offer to borrow a van for the day, or for them to physically help you move all your boxes or furniture.  It could be an offer to take care of any older children you may have for a few hours so you can pack or unpack in peace.  Or it could be a meal prepared and brought round for your first night in the new house.  Whatever it is, accept the offer graciously.

If you don’t have family nearby who can help, or if you’re moving to a completely new area then it’s worth looking at some removal companies who can help pack everything up and move it safely for you.  You can go online and find moving quotes to find the best deal and the service that best suits your needs.

 

4. Be careful and don’t lift any heavy boxes or furniture

It can be really frustrating not to be able to help, but be sensible when it comes to lifting and carrying heavy boxes and furniture.

When we’re pregnant our ligaments loosen making it more likely that we’ll strain our backs or pelvis if we lift things that are too heavy.  There’s also the issue of a big bump shifting our centre of gravity and making us potentially more clumsy and off-balance.

If at all possible let other people do the real heavy lifting while you carry the lighter items.

 

5. Keep your hospital bag packed and accessible.

If you’re getting towards the end of your pregnancy make sure you have your hospital bag packed and accessible, along with your notes, just in case you go into labour.

It’s also worth packing a box of essential first day and night items that you can unpack first when you get to the new house.

This box might include a kettle, tea/coffee and toilet paper.

You could also pack any of your pregnancy must-haves in there too.  These might be your body pillow to sleep comfortably on the first night, any prenatal vitamins you’re taking, favourite snacks and drinks and medicine for things like acid reflux.

This box can then go in the car with you on moving day so you know you have all your essentials on hand.

 

Hopefully with these tips moving house will go as smoothly as possible and you can get on with nesting in  your new home and getting ready for your new baby to arrive.

Did you move home when you were pregnant?  Do you have any other bits of advice to help make it as stress-free as possible?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I think pretty much every parent, at some point, has had their child end up sleeping in bed with them.  Or they’ve climbed into their child’s bed to help settle them at night.

For a lot of families co-sleeping is a choice that works perfectly and everyone is happy and gets the rest they need.

Other families though might find that it’s not the ideal situation for them.

If you’re ready to reclaim your bed, and a good night’s sleep, then here are some things you can try to help your child happily go to sleep in their own bed.  And hopefully stay there all night long.

How to help your child happily sleep in their own bed

 

Encourage them to spend time in their bedroom during the day

Make your child’s bedroom a special place for them, full of their toys and books and special things.

Then let them play in there during the day, so the room becomes somewhere they enjoy being.  This way, when it comes to bedtime, their bedroom should be somewhere they feel safe, secure and happy.

 

Make their bed special

If you want your child to sleep in their own bed then do what you can to make it as appealing as possible for them.

You can get some amazing children’s beds these days, from fun cabin beds with room to play underneath to gorgeous teepee-covered beds to hide away in.  Children’s bed shop have a huge range of beds to get inspired by and to find something to suit your child.

Another way to make their bed more appealing is to let them pick out bedding in their favourite colours or with their favourite characters on.

 

Establish a good bedtime routine

If you’ve let the old bath, book, bed routine slip as your child has got a bit older, then now’s the time to bring it back.

About an hour before bedtime turn off the TV and other screens.  It’s been found that the blue light from screens can interfere with our sleep, so it’s a good idea to stop using them as you get closer to bedtime.

Then let them have a bit of wind down time in the bath, before heading to their bedroom to get pjs on and have a story.  A big part of this is to make sure that you get them ready in their room, not yours.

 

Talk to them before making changes

Let your child know during the daytime that things will be different that night.  Tell them that they’ll be going to sleep in their own bed and won’t be able to climb into bed with you in the middle of the night.

This way it won’t be a shock to them at bedtime and gives them a chance to talk it through with you.

 

Stand firm and stay consistent

Once you start, it’s really important to stay the course.

It’s almost guaranteed that your child will get upset about not being allowed in your bed, and there’ll be lots of tears.  Try not to just give in though.

Now, I’m not talking about leaving your child to cry and get in a state.

If they’re upset then stay with them in their room and give them the love and comfort that they need.  Once they’re calm keep going back in and checking on them and reassuring them, but stay firm in the fact that they won’t be coming into your bed.

You might need to go in, or put them back in their bed, a crazy number of times the first few nights, but if you stay consistent with it and don’t give in you should find that things will get better before long.

 

Try gradual retreat

If your child gets really upset and won’t settle without you in the room you might want to try a gradual retreat.

This is what we did with Rhys when he was younger.  It did take a while but it worked, and felt much gentler than leaving him to cry it out each night.

Basically, if you normally lie down with your child until they go to sleep, start sitting by the side of their bed with a hand on them.  Then after a night or two stop putting your hand on them.  Each night after that move a little bit further away, until you’re sitting just outside their room.

At this point you can start telling your child that you’re going to wash the dishes/tidy up/sort dinner downstairs for a few minutes, but you’ll be back to check on them soon.  Make sure you do come back when you say you will to reassure them.

The whole point of this is to gradually help your child learn how to settle to sleep without you being next to them.  So when they wake in the night they’ll be able to fall back to sleep by themselves, instead of coming to find you in your bed.

 

Address their fears

Talk to your child to see if they have any particular fears that are adding to the issue.

It might be that they don’t want to sleep alone because they’re scared of the dark.   In this case you could get them a nightlight, or leave the landing light on and their door ajar.

If they don’t like the quiet at night, or hear noises that scare them, then think about playing some white noise for them to fall asleep too.

 

Praise them

Make sure your child knows how proud you are of them when they do stay in their own bed all night.

If sticker charts are your thing then try one of those.  Give them a sticker for each night they stay in their own bed, and then at the end of the week you can give them a treat to say well done.  If you’re not a fan of charts then make sure to still praise them for every night, or even every hour to start with, that they sleep in their own bed.

 

If your child is used to being allowed to sleep in your bed, or having you sleep in with them, it’ll probably take a while to make changes.

But with some time and perseverance you should all be able to sleep in your own beds, all night long, and get the proper rest you need.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Christmas is coming.

It may still be several weeks away but it is coming and now is the time to start getting organised to avoid last minute stresses and rushing around.

If you want to go into the festive period feeling calmer and more on top of things, these 13 tips should help you get organised and save time this Christmas.

13 ways to get organised and save time at Christmas

 

1. Get a family calendar

If you already have a big family calendar up on the wall then use that, if not get a special one up for December.

Anything and everything that you need to do, go to or remember goes on that calendar.

As soon as you get the letters home from school about the Christmas concert, non-uniform days, and class parties put the dates on the calendar.  While you’re at it add a note with each event as necessary with the things you/your child needs to take along with them.

 

2. Arrange a childcare swap

If you need to get bits of Christmas shopping done in town, and could do with some peace to do it, then arrange a childcare swap with one of your friends.

Basically, you take care of their children for a few hours one day so they can crack on with their shopping by themselves, and they then return the favour.  This is also a great idea for when you need to get other Christmas-related jobs done in peace.

Just imagine, you could wrap a whole pile of presents in front of Love Actually completely undisturbed while your friend watches your children.  As long as you make sure to do the same for them to keep things fair!

 

3. Start shopping early

You can avoid some of the stress of Christmas shopping by getting started with it as soon as possible.

This way you’ll avoid the big crowds and the queues and have more time to find the perfect present for everyone on  your list.

You can make the whole experience even less stressful by doing as much of your shopping as possible online.  If you’re not already a member then think about getting an Amazon Prime account to get next day delivery on loads of items.  There’s normally a free trial period so you can test it out and see if it works for you and your family.

 

4. Phone ahead

If there are some presents that you can’t get online then you can still save yourself some time by phoning the shops before you head out to make sure they have what you need in stock.

A few phone calls could save you from hours of traipsing from shop to shop looking for the presents you’re after.

 

5. If in doubt go for a voucher

Some people are just really hard to buy presents for.

For these people you could spend hours searching for a gift that you think they might like, or you could save yourself a lot of time and just get them a gift voucher.

It might not feel as personal as you’d like, but pretty much everyone is happy to receive one and then get to choose something they’d actually really like.

You can save yourself even more time by ordering gift vouchers online.  A good safe option is an Amazon gift card as there is something for everyone on there.

 

6. Pick up some extra presents

While you’re doing your shopping thing about picking up a few extra presents to put aside for those people who unexpectedly get you something.

A few boxes of chocolates and bottles of wine are always good options, and are also handy to take along to any parties you might be invited to.

get organised and save time this Christmas

 

7. Do your food shopping online

Instead of battling the crowded aisles of the supermarket (after spending ages looking for a parking space) do your big food shop online.

Try and book your slot as early as possible and then you can keep adding items to your basket as you think of them up until the day before your delivery slot.

 

8. Sort out presents for teachers

If you have school-age children then you’ll know how tricky it can be to sort out presents for their teachers and classroom assistants.

As tempting as it might be to buy a ‘world’s best teacher’ mug, I have a better option for you.

Make a batch of something really easy but really tasty, like some chocolate bark or truffles, package them up nicely and give some to each teacher and assistant.  You’ll have everyone sorted with something they’ll love in no time at all.

 

9. Pick up stamps

Stock up on stamps next time you’re in town.

You don’t have to go to the post office to get them, you can a book of stamps from most supermarkets while you’re doing your weekly food shop.

Then when it comes to sending out your Christmas cards you won’t have to do an extra trip to the post office.

 

10. Knock out those Christmas cards

Get your list of everyone you want to send a card to and your address book.  Then go through and address all the envelopes first, instead of writing the cards and the envelopes one by one.

To make life even easier for yourself next year you can type up all your addresses and make labels that you can just print and stick on the envelopes.

 

11. Check your batteries

To save any frustration or disappointment over Christmas stock up on AA and AAA batteries in advance.

Make sure your camera batteries are charged too, and that you have enough space on your memory card for all the photos you’ll want to take.

 

12. Organise your wrapping

When you stock up on wrapping paper think about getting a different design for each member of the family.

This makes wrapping presents for stockings in particular much easier.  You won’t be worried about working out which presents need to go in which stocking once you’ve wrapped them all.

If you carry on using the same paper for the presents under the tree you can save time by skipping the gift tags.  Just tell your family that their presents will be wrapped in the same paper as their stocking presents.

 

13. Keep on top of your thank you notes

Have a piece of paper or your phone handy on Christmas day as presents are being opened so that you can note down who was given what by whom.

It might not be the most fun job in the world but will make things so much easier when it comes to writing thank you letters.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you get organised and save a fair bit of time this Christmas, so you can go into the festive season feeling full of cheer rather than stress.

Do you have any other tips or advice to help get organised for Christmas?

 

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is linked up with Blogger Club UK.

If you have children who are often anxious and who lack in confidence then there’s a trick you can try to help them feel braver and more confident.

What’s really great about it is you only need a few minutes to try it.

All you have to do is get your child to stand in an open, powerful stance for 2 minutes.  These power poses have been found to influence our hormones so that we’re less reactive to stress and get a boost of testosterone which makes us feel more confident.

The power poses that can boost confidence in our children

 

This idea of power poses was made popular by social psychologist Amy Cuddy in a TED talk in 2012.

She discussed how she and her colleagues had found that holding our bodies in a way that opens them up instead of curling in on ourselves can have a big effect on how confident we feel.

In her talk she mentioned that standing in a power pose before an interview can reduce our anxiety and make us feel more confident.  Doing it before the interview starts means that we walk into the room feeling more powerful and much less nervous.  It’s not really about standing in a certain way so that others view us as more confident, it’s about doing it to change the way we feel about ourselves.

 

Now, there have been various studies carried out since Cuddy gave this talk that seem to dispute her findings.

But I think there’s still something in it, even if it’s more of a placebo effect than an actual biological change brought on by standing in these power poses.

 

For children who are nervous about going in to school or scared about starting a new club then getting them to stand in one of these power poses for 2 minutes before you go could really help them.

It’s like how faking a smile can actually make us feel happier.

If we stand with our bodies in a big, confident pose then we’ll start to believe that we are genuinely more confident.

 

So if you’d like to try this with your children, here are 3 different power poses they can try:

 

The Wonder Woman pose

For this pose your child should stand strong with their feet a bit wider than hip width apart.

They then need to put both hands on their hips.  If they want to they can make fists, or just put their hands straight on their hips.

Power pose wonder woman post boost confidence

 

The superhero pose

Get your child to plant their feet firmly about hip width apart.

They then need to make a fist with one hand and then put it up in the air, like a superhero about to fly off to rescue someone.

Power pose superhero pose boost confidence

 

The performer pose

For this pose your child needs to stand strong with feet a bit wider than hip distance apart.

Then put their arms up in the air in a ‘V’ shape, like a performer in front of the crowd at the end of an amazing show or an athlete celebrating winning a race.

Power poses help boost confidence

 

The key thing with all of the poses is for your child to stand straight and tall, and take up as much space as possible.

When we make ourselves big and visible (even when we do it private) we feel more powerful and, as a result, less anxious.

A big part of this is that it’s not about changing how other people see us and what they think of us.

It’s about changing how we feel about ourselves.

A study by Binel et al 2012 found that people who stood in a power pose like the ones mentioned above were more likely to rate themselves as feeling confident than people who stood in a smaller, ‘doubtful posture’.  And it does make sense.  If we stand in a hunched position with our arms crossed in front of our bodies we tend to feel smaller too.

Opening up our bodies and standing tall does make us feel more in control and ready for action.

 

So next time your child is anxious or scared about something, try getting them to stand in one of these poses for a few minutes and see if it helps them feel more confident.

 

This post is linked up with KCACOLS.

I recently wrote a post about getting our children to listen to us, without ending up shouting or nagging.

The main takeaway from it was to look at the way we’re communicating with our children, rather than focusing on the fact that they ‘never listen’.  One thing I didn’t really mention though, was how we also need to look at our own listening skills when we talk to our children.

If we want our children to listen to us, then we need to make sure we also really listen to them.

Our children need to feel heard, to know that we care and that what they have to say is important.  These tips on helping your child feel heard should help if you’re not sure where to start.

how to help your child feel heard

 

Let them talk

If your child wants to talk to you, let them talk.

Don’t interrupt them or try and ask questions until they’ve finished saying what they need to say.  Keep quiet while they talk and don’t try and finish their sentences for them or hurry them along.

If you really don’t have time to hear about it at that moment in time, then tell them that kindly and calmly.  Let them know that right now you need to focus on cooking dinner, but you would love to hear more about it later.  Then make sure you actually give them a chance to tell you about it later.

 

 

Be genuinely interested in what they have to say

Ok, I know this is easier said than done when your child has been telling you about Minecraft for half an hour, but try your best to show genuine interest in what they’re telling you.

Rhys in particular can go on and on (and on) about computer games he loves and if I’m honest I don’t always manage to show as much interest as I should.  It’s something I’m working on though, and there’s a quote that I often think of related to this:

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

 

 

Let them know you care

There are a few things you can do while talking to your child to show them that you’re really listening and that you care about what they’re saying.

The first is to repeat back key things they’ve said to you, or clarify it with them by saying something like “it sounds like you’re saying…”.

You can then go on to ask some questions to get more information.  It can be as simple as, ‘tell me more about that’ or ‘and then what happened?’

Sometimes just a little ‘oh’, or ‘I see’ with the right inflection will show your child that you’re listening and want to hear more.

 

 

Be sincere

Whatever your child is telling you about, acknowledge that it is important to them.

Don’t make light of it or belittle them for wanting to talk about it.  If they want to talk to you about it it’s because it means something to them and they want to share it with you.

 

 

Now, in a perfect world we would all follow this advice and calmly and patiently listen to our children talk for as long as they need to, whenever they need to.  But I’m not sure that’s realistic for most parents.

Our lives these days are really busy.  We can feel rushed off our feet a lot of the time, and our minds are always full of the hundreds of things we need to keep on top of.

What we can do though is set aside time each day to talk to our children properly.

It might be in the car on the way home from school, over the dinner table or a chat at their bedside before they go to sleep.  Whenever you chose to do it, make a point of following the advice in this post and really use that time to listen to your child.

My hope is that by listening to my children as best I can now, about the seemingly trivial things (like Minecraft) and the more important things like what’s happening in their friendship groups, they’ll keep talking to me openly and honestly as they get older.

 

This post is linked up with KCACOLS.