How often do you say be careful

How often do you tell your child to be careful?

I’ve lost count.

My children are 8 and 5 and I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve said the words “be careful” to them.  I know it’s a phrase I’ve said many, many times over the years though.

The thing is, as time has gone on, I’ve started to wonder how useful those words actually are.

 

The thing is, it’s a natural instinct as a parent to want to protect our children.

To keep them safe, out of harm’s way.

When we can’t keep them close by our sides any more we tell them to be careful, to keep themselves safe when we can’t do that for them.

 

The problem comes when we say it too much.

When every activity is started with a ‘be careful’ ringing in our children’s ears.

If we’re not careful our words will start making our children fearful.  Too worried about potential risks and dangers to try anything new.  We’ll end up with children who sit on the sidelines and stay small rather than being bold and taking steps out of their comfort zones.

It’s a balancing act between teaching them to not be reckless and letting them take calculated risks and make mistakes.

 

I think that part of the issue is that ‘be careful’ is such an open phrase that it ends up meaning everything and nothing at the same time.

It means so much that it can make our children feel that danger is all around them and they should be scared of getting hurt or getting things wrong.

And at the same time, it’s so vague that it means nothing.

We’re not giving our children any specifics about what they should be looking out for.

 

What we need to do is be more mindful of the words we’re using with them.

When they’re coming up to a busy road we need to give them specific instructions about slowing down, looking both ways and listening out for traffic before stepping out to cross.  This is so much more useful than a generic warning to ‘be careful’.

And sometimes, that warning isn’t needed at all.

When they go off to play with their friends, try waving them off with a call of “have fun” instead.  Let them have the freedom to mess up, to make mistakes, even to get hurt.

It’s all part of life.

The hardest part of being a parent is gradually letting your children go, but we have to let it happen.  We can’t keep our children wrapped up in cotton wool.  We can’t protect them from the world.  We can’t stop them from ever getting hurt.

What we can do is give them the skills to cope when bad things happen.

And they’ll never learn those skills if they never try anything new, if they never push themselves because we’ve told them to “be careful”.

 

So next time you find yourself about to say those words, stop for a second.

Ask yourself if there’s a better way of saying it, that explains to your child specifically what they need to think about.

Maybe you’ll find that you don’t need to say anything at all, other than “have fun”.

 

couple time as parents

Making time to be a couple and not just parents

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again.  Having a baby changes everything.  It really does.  Some of those changes you can kind of prepare for and others take you completely by surprise.

One of the biggest things to be affected by the addition of a baby is your relationship with your partner.

When you go from it just being the two of you to suddenly having a third person around, who needs you constantly, it can be a real shock.  Throw in the extreme tiredness that comes with a baby and it can be really hard to stay connected.

Once you’re out of the really early days that are basically just about survival, it’s so important to make time for your partner.  To reconnect.  To enjoy each other’s company.  To remember who you both are away from your roles as parents.

 

If you’re struggling with finding time to be together away from your children, or looking for ideas for things you can do together to have fun and reconnect then look no further.

Here are a few ideas for ways to find the time for each other and things to do when you manage a date night together.

 

Really short on time? Try micro dating

If your children are still really young and you’re really struggling to find a few hours to get away together then give micro dating a go.

This is basically taking 5 minutes when you can just stop and ‘be’ with your partner.

If your baby is happy in their cot for a few minutes in the morning, then cuddle up together for a bit before crawling out of bed.  Enjoy a little treat together in the kitchen while your baby is happy playing in the jumperoo.  Take 10 minutes to just sit down and talk about your day in that precious window of time after the baby goes down for the night.

It’s all about finding those little pockets of time to just focus on each other and make sure you’re staying connected.

 

Team up and play an escape room together

When you get to a point that you can leave your child with a relative, friend or babysitter for a few hours then think about avoiding the usual meal, cinema combo (not ideal choices when you’re sleep deprived) and do something different. Escape rooms for instance are a great way to bond and boost your brain cells, which lets be honest could probably do with a workout. 

Experiencing something new together can also help you rebuild your connection as you need to get thinking and working together.  

What is an escape room?

If you’ve ever watched The Crystal Maze you will get the gist, basically it’s a themed room with a series of puzzles and clues you need to solve to escape the room. There’s so many great rooms popping up across the UK with anything from Crystal Maze itself in London to Harry Potter themes and science labs. For bonus anti-adulting vibes you could go to Poppa Plock’s Wonky workshop (pictured), an eEscape room in North London that is perfect for any Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans, with twisted toys and melted dolls. There’s even a robotic ventriloquist dummy called Oki to guide you along your way. Lady Chastity’s Reserve is also a good shout and available at a range of pubs across London and Brighton. And for anyone in my old neck of the woods in Kent, you can check out this list of top escape rooms in Kent.  

If you’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from each other then this type of challenge is a great way to get back on the same page.

 

Try date day instead of date night

If you find it hard to get out in the evenings, then try taking a few hours during the day to go on a date together.

You could make an arrangement with friends who also have little ones, where you watch their child for a few hours one week and they take care of yours the next.  Then you can head out for lunch with your partner, wander round a museum, enjoy a film at the cinema or chat over a coffee at the local cafe.

Get cosy and just stay in

You don’t have to go out to have a date night.

Put the baby to bed then make an effort to make things a bit special at home.  Turn off your phones so you can be more present with each other.  Cook a nice meal, or order something from your favourite restaurant.  Find a film you both want to watch on Netflix and cwtch up together to watch it.

If you know your baby is likely to wake up before too long, then make your plans around that.  Watch an episode of something rather than a whole film.  Just make a point of being together for that window of time.

 

Go for an adrenaline rush

When you get the chance to go out for date night, try doing something that’ll get your hearts pumping.

The early stages of a relationship are often filled with adrenaline.  Our hearts beat faster and we get those butterflies in our tummies when we’re around each other.  So doing something together that gets the adrenaline pumping again is a great way to reignite those feelings for each other.

You can really go for it and sign up for a bungee jump together, or keep it simple and head to the cinema to watch a particularly scary film.  Or you could find a middle ground with something like surfing lessons or indoor rock climbing.

 

Every little moment counts…

The thing to remember is that the stage of life you’re in at the moment is just that, a stage.

Things won’t be like this forever.  You baby will get older and won’t need you as unrelentingly as they do right now.  And more time will pass and they’ll grow up and get started on their own lives.  And then it’ll just be you and your partner again.

So make the time now to do what you can to keep connected to each other.  To remind yourselves how much you love each other.  To keep in touch with the people you were before your baby arrived and everything changed.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Boost child's self esteem

3 ways to boost your child’s self-esteem

When our children start school they’re suddenly introduced to a whole new world.

There are new social expectations to learn about, new relationships to navigate and new challenges to face.

For a lot of children these things can give their self-esteem a bit of a knock, and leave them feeling a bit down on themselves.  If you’re worried about this with your child, then here are three things you can try to help give their self-esteem a boost.

 

1. Help them develop a positive mindset and positive self-talk

When you talk to your child about their day, encourage them to focus on the positives.  And if they faced any issues, talk them through with them and work together to come up with solutions and ways to move forwards.

Be careful of the way you talk about your child too.  Let them hear you describe them in positive terms.  Talk to them about how strong they are, how hard they work, how great it is that they’re kind and thoughtful.  The way you talk to them will play a huge part in how they talk to themselves.

You also need to be very careful of the way you talk to yourself in front of them.

If they hear negative self-talk from you, like ‘I’m useless at this’, ‘I look awful’, ‘I can’t do this’, then they’ll start to think that it’s ok to talk to themselves negatively too.

 

2. Keep an eye on who they spend time with

There’s a saying that you become the average of the five people you spend your time with.  And while I’m not sure how true this really is, I do know that most of us are influenced by the people we hang out with.

So keep an eye on the friendships that your child is forming.

Encourage them to spend time with people who are positive and who build them up, rather than knock them down.  Teach to stand up for themselves and to walk away from friendships that don’t feel healthy and supportive.

 

3. Encourage them to try new things

One of the best things we can all do to boost our self-esteem is to try new things.

It’s scary at first but we get so much out of realising that we’re improving and making progress with something as we learn more about it.

So encourage your child to try new sports, to go along to different clubs at school, to have a go at a new craft activity.  Groups like the cubs are also great for giving them the chance to try out all kinds of new activities.

Work on developing a growth mindset, so that they learn to think about challenges and new things in a positive way.  It’s all about them realising that they can’t do something YET, but with time and effort they’ll crack it.

When they realise what they’re capable of their self-esteem will get a real boost, and they’ll find it easier to step out of their comfort zone next time.

 

Which of these things do you think would have the biggest impact on your child’s self-esteem?

What’s interesting to keep in mind is that our children are all different, and what will really help one child won’t have anywhere near as much impact for another.

I think trying new experiences will help Nerys develop a good sense of self-esteem, while encouraging a positive mindset and positive self-talk will be really important for Rhys.  If one approach doesn’t seem to help much with your child, then move on and try something else that might work better with their personality and their nature.

Build resilience in children

5 ways to build your child’s resilience

As my children get older I’m so aware of them taking more and more steps away from me, and out into the world on their own.

It’s wonderful and scary and bittersweet.

I hope that I’m doing enough to give them the skills they need to cope out there.  One of the big things that’s on my mind lately is resilience.  It’s such a key skill to be able to cope with all the knocks and troubles that life can throw at you.

So I’ve done a bit of research and found these 5 things that we can work on to help our children become more resilient.

 

1. Encourage a sense of humour

Laughing can be a great way to relieve stress, and actually has a lot of the same benefits as exercise.  As well as reducing stress it boosts our overall sense of well-being.

A study carried out in 2011 found that people in a ‘humour’ group showed a significant increase in self-efficacy, optimism and perceptions of control, compared to those in the ‘social’ group and the control group.

So having a good sense of humour can help us feel more in control of things, as well as being more optimistic about everything.

Make a point of joking with your children, tell them silly stories, laugh at their made-up jokes to encourage them to keep telling them.  You can also lead by example and find the humour in potentially stressful situations.

Laugh with them about how ridiculously long the queues are at the supermarket (and the fact you always pick the ‘wrong’ one!).  Tell them knock knock jokes when you’re stuck in traffic, rather than being stressed about being late.

Being able to take a step back and find humour in a situation is a great tool for children to learn to use, and will be a big help in boosting their resilience.

 

2. Let them explore and express their feelings

Emotional awareness is a big part of resilience.

If you’re feeling sad or stressed or disappointed, it’s really important to be able to understand what those emotions are, and why you’re feeling them.

So make time to talk to your child about their day, and how they felt about different parts of it.

Name emotions for them, and discuss times that you’ve felt the same way.

As they get older you can encourage them to write in a diary or journal regularly to express their feelings, to get them out on paper and to work through them.

 

3. Get them moving

There are so many benefits to regular exercise, from improved sleep to lower stress levels.  But exercise also makes us more resilient.

Studies have shown that exercising regularly boost stress resistance and our ability to cope with stress.  It’s mainly thanks to the feel-good hormones that are released when we exercise, but there might be even more to it than that.

Regular exercise reduces our baseline levels of stress hormones, like cortisol.  It also lowers our hormonal response to sudden psychological stress.  So when something happens that would normally send our stress levels through the roof, we don’t react in the same way.  Our bodies would normally release a load of hormones like norepinephrine when something suddenly startles us or makes us feel scared.  This hormonal response has been found to be reduced though, in people who exercise regularly.

So encouraging our children to move around, to run, to practice yoga, to swim, will help them have a more controlled response to stressful situations and make them more emotionally resilient.

 

4. Help them develop an internal locus of control

We all naturally tend to have either an internal or external locus of control.  Meaning we either believe that we are in control of our lives and what happens to us, or we believe that most things are out of our hands.

What’s good to know though is that you’re not stuck being one way or the other.

If your child seems to naturally feel that things are out of their control then you can help them develop an internal locus of control.  This way they’ll learn to believe that they are in control of their lives.

People with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, and feel more free and less stressed.  They know that they have control over how they react, even if certain circumstances are out of their control.

 

5. Encourage the right attitude

The way we think about life, the world and everything really, is incredibly powerful.

Working with your child to develop an optimistic view of life is a great way to help them cope better with whatever life throws at them.  An optimistic world view will help them see difficulties as challenges, rather than problems.  They’ll face them with ideas and actions, rather than feeling defeated and helpless about them.

Talking with your child about how strong they are, how capable they are, and generally encouraging a growth mindset will really help them become more resilient and better able to face anything.

 

There’s a quote that I read ages ago that really stuck with me, about how the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

When it comes to resilience I think one of the best things we can do is talk to our children.

Remind them often how strong they are.  Discuss problems together and encourage them to come up with solutions and actions they can take to make things better.  Talk about your feelings and let them know it’s safe for them to talk with you about theirs.

 

Do you worry about your child being resilient enough to cope as they get older?

What do you think would have the biggest impact on boosting their resilience?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
teach your children these life skills

Teach your children these life skills to help them thrive

A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with my children on the drive to school.

Rhys started asking me about when he’s older and not living at home any more.  He was worried that he wouldn’t know how to do certain things, and so I promised him that we would teach him everything he needs to know.

We talked about all the different life skills we would make sure he knows by the time he’s old enough to leave our family home.

Here are some of those life skills that I think our children need to know to thrive on their own as they get older.

 

How to treat other people

One of the most important life skills I think we can teach our children is how to treat other people with kindness and with respect.

For me this starts with simple manners, like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, which we can teach our children from a very young age.

After that we need to lead by example and show our children how to be considerate of other people’s feelings, to think about points of view that are different from our own and to be kind to everyone.

 

How to treat themselves

As well as teaching our children to be kind to others, I think it’s incredibly important that we also teach them to be kind to themselves.

Knowing how important it is to take time to look after themselves will help them so much when they step out on their own.

So let them see you put yourself first sometimes.

Take them with you to do a yoga session or for a run in the park, to teach them about taking care of their health.

Make time each week to slow the pace down and read, paint, and relax.

 

How to care for their clothes

Knowing how to wash and care for clothes is a key skill that our children need to learn.

You can start from an early age teaching them about separating items to do a dark wash or a lights wash.  I know you can just chuck everything in together with a colour catcher sheet, but I think it’s still worth teaching our children about how different items might need to be washed separately.

As they get older children can learn about what different care labels mean.

There are still some that I have to google when I see them, but children can learn quite quickly to recognise the labels for what temperature to wash clothes at and whether or not an item can be tumble-dried.

 

Basic cooking skills

From an early age we can get our children in the kitchen with us, learning basic skills.

Nerys loves making her own sandwiches at lunch time and helping my husband chop up vegetables when he makes a bolognese.

There are so many skills you can teach in the kitchen while you have fun together.

Baking fairy cakes teaches them to measure out ingredients, to understanding techniques like creaming butter and sugar together, and how to be safe around the hot oven.

As they get a bit older you can teach your child simple recipes like scrambled eggs on toast, pasta dishes and homemade pizza.

 

How to handle their finances

Knowing how to take care of money is a vital life skill for children to learn.

It can be harder to teach children about money these days, when so much of the time we pay with cards or do our shopping online.

So make a point of using cash on a regular basis when you’re shopping with your children.

Even better, let them have their own money in a wallet and let them choose to buy a little something with it when you’re out in town.

We also look at price labels when we shop together, and my children are starting to understand that sometimes a pack of 4 chocolate bars can be better value than a single bar.  They get quite excited when they realise this means we can buy more chocolate!

 

These are some of the life skills that I’m working on teaching my children, so that when they’re old enough to leave home they should not only be able to cope, but really thrive.

What other skills do you think are important for our children to learn to set them up for independence?

Rainy day activities

12 fun rainy day activities

It’s sod’s law really isn’t it, that as soon as the school summer holidays start the skies cloud over and the rain sets in.

I have to be honest though, I quite like rainy days.

The sound of rain falling is so soothing, and you can’t beat the smell of rain when it falls on the parched ground.  If you have busy children at home with you though, rainy days can be challenging.

So here are 12 ideas for things to do on rainy days to stop everyone going completely stir-crazy.

 

1. Feed the birds

Depending on what bits and pieces you have at home you can have a go at a few different ideas.

You can make a really pretty tea cup bird feeder to put up in the garden.  Or you can keep things simple and make a toilet roll bird feeder or some wild bird seed treats to hang from the trees.

The lovely thing with these ideas is that once they’re made you can spend time watching to see what birds then come and visit your garden.

 

2. Do some junk modelling

Go through your recycling and dig out all the boxes, toilet paper tubes, and plastic tubs that you can find.  Then add some glue, pipe cleaners and paint and see what creations your children can come up with.

If you need some inspiration then Rainy Day Mum has got a post with 30 recycled materials and junk modelling crafts that are perfect for children of all ages.

 

3. Go on a treasure hunt

You don’t need to go outside to go on a treasure hunting adventure.

Hide your treasure somewhere in the house, then draw up a map and write out some clues about where it’s hidden.  You can do this for your children, or they can do it for each other if they’re old enough.

You can also hide various things around the house for younger children to find.  We’ve got a set of colourful plastic eggs that we use to do egg hunts all year round.

 

4. Get painting

Dig out the paints and get creative.

If you want to do something a bit different then try blow painting, where you water down your paint a little bit, put a blob on the paper then use a straw to blow it around.  You can then make the shapes you’ve created into monsters by drawing on eyes and limbs.

You could also try marble painting and see what patterns you can make.

 

5. Make fairy cakes

Baking together is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon at home.  The children learn all sorts of skills and you all get something yummy to enjoy at the end of it.

My simple 2-4-4-4 fairy cakes recipe has never failed us yet and always produces really tasty cakes.

 

6. Make your own playdough

Playing with playdough is another classic rainy day activity.  And you can mix things up by making your own dough.

Using different colours, scents and textures can make this into a brilliant sensory experience for both young and older children.

 

7. Get the kids to make lunch

Get some ready made pizza bases and let them have fun creating their own pizzas for lunch.

If you don’t have pizza bases and don’t want to head out to the shops then you can use pitta breads or tortillas, or even just do it like a extended version of cheese on toast.

Another simple meal you can teach them to make with you is scrambled eggs on toast.  You can do the eggs in a pan on the hob, or in a mug in the microwave, and let them see how the eggs change in colour and texture as they cook.

 

8. Make a time capsule

Find a suitable box and get the children to fill it up with things that sum up their lives at the moment.

They can write lists of their favourite foods, books and toys.  They can write about their friends at school and the games they like to play together.  Then add in clippings from newspapers and magazines, as well as a few photos from recent days out.

Then seal the box up and hide it somewhere together, to be opened up at some point in the future.

 

9. Create an obstacle course

For children that need to be physically active and burn off energy an obstacle course is great fun.  You can use cushions as stepping stones, make tunnels from blankets draped over chairs, and put a strip of masking tape down on floor for them to walk along, practising their balance.

 

10. Record a story tape

When my sister and I were younger we used to record our own radio shows on our fisher price tape recorder.  Who else had one of those brown beauties back in the 80s?!

I’m guessing not that many people still have tape recorders now, but you can set up your camera, phone, or tablet though, and let your children record themselves reading their favourite book.  Or they could make up a story of their own and act it out.

 

11. Play some card games

Pull out the playing cards and teach the children a few different card games.

 

12. Embrace the rain

There’s no rule that says you have to stay inside on rainy days.

If it’s chilly then put your wellies and raincoats on and head outside for a walk and a splash in the puddles.

On warm but rainy days you can let the children head out barefoot in the garden for a fun sensory experience.

 

 

What do you and your children like to do on rainy days? 

Which of these ideas do you think your children will enjoy the most the next time it starts to tip it down?

ways to help your anxious child

5 ways to help your anxious child

If you have a child who is quite often anxious and nervous about things it can be hard to know what to do to help them.

Especially if you don’t think of yourself as an anxious person.

There are quite a few things you can do though, to help them work things through the next time they’re feeling nervous about something.  And these 5 ideas are a great place to start.

 

1. Acknowledge their worries

It’s really tempting to try to reassure your child by telling them there’s nothing to worry about.  But this doesn’t actually help all that much.

The anxiety and fear that your child is feeling is very real to them.  Think about how your felt before going in to a job interview.  You were in no real danger, but chances are your heart was racing a bit, your palms were sweaty, you felt anxious.

Even if you can see that your child has nothing to worry about, they are still feeling those same, very real, feelings.

So acknowledge it.

Tell them you can see they’re feeling anxious and worried.  Talk to them about a time you felt the same way.  Validate their feelings rather than trying to get your child to push them aside.

 

2. Forget logic for a bit

When we’re nervous and anxious our brains don’t work all that logically.

Our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that handles logic, gets put on hold while our more automated, emotional brain takes over.  We evolved this way back when we were hunter/gatherers and didn’t have time for logic when very real threats like predators were on the scene.

So even though things are different now and taking a test at school isn’t the same kind of threat as a big beast outside our cave, our bodies and brains still react in the same way.

Logic flies out the window and we run on our emotions.

Listing all the reasons why your child doesn’t need to worry about the test won’t really help at this point.

The best thing to do instead is help them calm their nervous system down with breathing exercises or soothing visualisations.  This will take them out of fight or flight mode.  Then when they’re calmer you can talk things through more logically.

 

3. Empathise with them

Think of a time you felt the way your child is feeling.

Maybe at that job interview I mentioned earlier.  Or maybe there were times when you were a child and you were anxious about joining a new class or starting a new subject.  Remember how you felt at that time.

Then tell your child about it.  Let them know that you get it.  That you understand how they’re feeling.  That you feel that way too sometimes.

Let them know that it’s completely normal to feel nervous about all sorts of things.

There’s power in knowing you’re not alone.

 

4. Teach them mindfulness activities

A big part of anxiety is thinking and worrying about the future.

All these scenarios run through our heads of all the things that could possibly go wrong, and all the ways we could be hurt (physically and emotionally).  For our children it might be that they’re thinking about a test coming up.  They may be worrying that they’ll get lost on the way and be late.  They won’t know any of the answers.  They won’t be able to finish the test in the time they’re given.

One way to try and reduce how much time our children spend worrying about all these potential ‘what ifs’ in the future, is to get them to focus on the present.

Teach them to sit and feel the ground beneath them.  To really listen to all the sounds they can hear around them.  When we’re mindful of what we’re experiencing in this moment, our brains can’t jump ahead and worry about what might happen later.

 

5. Try gradual exposure

Our gut instinct as parents is to protect our children.  So if they’re scared of dogs, and panic when they see one, we might just try and keep them away from dogs at all times.

The thing with this is that if we never face our fears then we can never conquer them.

A better way to help our children is to really gently expose them to the thing they’re scared of or anxious about.

Sticking with the dog example, this could start with reading books about dogs and looking at picture and videos of different breeds online.  Then you could start visiting places where people walk their dogs, but keeping a good distance from them.

You can gradually build up to asking a friend with an older, calmer dog if you could visit them for your child to spend time with them.

Taking it step by step, and allowing your child to get really comfortable with each step, will eventually help them move past their fear altogether.

 

Hopefully these ideas will help you prepare and feel better equipped to help your child when they’re feeling anxious.

Do you have any other suggestions for things that work well with your child?