One of the things I find hard as a parent is balancing the desire for my children to fulfil their potential academically with looking after their wider needs such as wellbeing and emotional health. The two don’t always sit easily together. Supporting children to do well at school inevitably involves a certain amount of pushing – few children engage gleefully with every piece of homework they are set on the exact day when it needs to be done. But pushing too hard risks negative impacts on children’s self-esteem and mental health.
Homework often needs doing at exactly the wrong time for working parents. Adults and children’s needs tend to collide in the evenings – the children want a piece of their parents, parents want to enjoy their children, everyone is a bit tired and looking for some downtime, but there is a meal to make and eat, bags to pack for the next day, clothes to wash, hair to wash, PE kit to find, phone calls to make… And slap bang in the middle of that is homework that we know we have to do but nobody actually wants to do.
As a result, homework (reading and spellings for younger children) has become a battle in many houses. It is a chore that parents and children dread. Despite our best intentions, there is often very little joy in those home learning tasks. And joy in learning ought to be a key ingredient in children’s education. Continue reading
Guest post by Louise Kelly
Bordighera (Breathe In, Breathe Out) by Louise Kelly
New Year, New You?
Or New Year, TRUE you?
At this time of year we are often encouraged by the media (and our most conscientious selves) to take steps to improve our lives in some way. We hear ‘DETOX!’ ‘GET FIT!’ ‘DECLUTTER!’ ‘GET RICH!’
The lure of the fresh start can be very appealing, that’s for sure, and I am all for learning strategies that bring greater freedom and happiness into our lives… But what if the answer to the question of our fulfilment is much simpler than this?
How would it be if the key to a happier life is just to be us? Continue reading
These days we place a lot of emphasis on reading with our children, and rightly so. But I can’t help feeling that the art of telling stories to our children (as opposed to reading stories to them) has been a little bit pushed aside. Making up stories – whether we are reworking an old classic or inventing a quirky tale of our own – is a wonderful way to help our children experience the magic and immediacy of imagination in action. It also gives parents the chance to adapt stories to the themes and issues most relevant to our own children.
When we read a story to children, our eyes are on the book and we are bound to the words on the page. When we tell a story to children, we can make eye contact with them, our hands and faces are free to be much more expressive and there is a wonderful sense of suspense: “Where will this story go? How will it end?” Usually nobody knows! As a result, children who might squirm and get distracted when you read a book to them often listen with rapt attention to an unknown unfolding story. Continue reading
Reward charts are a fantastic positive parenting tool for encouraging the behaviour you want from your children. Whether it’s helping out around the house, being polite or using the potty, a reward chart is a great option for focusing your child’s mind on the right behaviour and motivating them to do it.
Reward charts work best when the target behaviour is clearly defined, when the rewards are achievable and when your child actually wants the rewards. Breaking habits takes effort – from both you and your child – and reward charts work best when both of you are fully on board.
Here’s a few tips to help you get the maximum effect out of using a reward chart. Continue reading
The thing about teenagers and sleep is that they need a lot of it! But they don’t always want it, or they don’t want it at times that fit in with the rest of the world’s schedule.
Parents who have not experienced sleep issues since their children were toddlers can suddenly find themselves sleep deprived from waiting up late for their teenagers to go to bed, or being woken in the middle of the night (by loud trips to the bathroom or mobile phones going off), or faced with a sullen moody monster who is impossible to rouse in the mornings.
Helping teenagers to develop healthy sleep habits can make a major contribution to teenagers’ overall wellbeing and success. So here are a few thoughts on how parents can help.
Teenagers and sleep: Key Facts
- Sleep is essential for teenagers’ growth, learning, brain development and mood.
- Sleep patterns tend to shift in the teenage years towards later sleeping and later waking.
- Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep each night – but only 15% of them get enough sleep.
- Sleep deprivation is linked to increased sugar cravings.
- Using screens and technology within an hour of going to bed has been shown to affect quality of sleep negatively.
- One in three 16 and 17 year olds has faced sleepless nights due to worry in the last year.
My four-year-old son wakes up at night and comes into our room. I’ve tried taking him back to his own bed but he just comes back again. If I let him sleep in our bed he wriggles and keeps me awake. My work is suffering, I’m utterly exhausted and desperate for him to sleep through the night! What can I do?
It’s hard to focus at work and enjoy life’s challenges when bedtime battles leave you drained. Lack of sleep can make children tearful, relationships tetchy and spreadsheets incomprehensible. The good news is – if you want to – this is a battle you can win.
All children have periods of restlessness at night. The goal is for your child to roll over and put himself back to sleep without seeking your help. So make sure you incentivise this behaviour. Continue reading
I am troubled by children and sleep. This is nothing to do with my own children: we are thankfully long past the years of night crying. (I am now awoken most nights by a toilet door banged by a half-asleep teenager who has not got used to the length or strength of his limbs since his last growth spurt. But that’s another story.)
I am troubled by children and sleep because I made the mistake of reading a book on the subject by a parenting expert with a very fixed moral stance on how parents should respond to bedtime problems. That led in turn to some internet digging on the advice peddled to parents in regards to children and sleep training.
It is clear that there is a strong backlash against ‘sleep training’. Changes in fashion in parenting advice are common, as with all walks of life, but what alarms me about this one is the vitriol. Parents who would even consider (let alone attempt) a sleep training strategy that involves leaving a child to cry are dismissed as cruel, heartless, selfish and neglectful (with accompanying images of Romanian orphanages). Continue reading