The lifting of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions is positive news in terms of wider opportunities for children to play and reconnecting with friends and family. But many parents and professionals are deeply concerned about the impacts of a long period of social distancing on children and teenagers’ emotional wellbeing. Coming on top of an existing crisis in children’s mental health and already sky high levels of anxiety, emerging from lockdown poses many challenges. Especially for children and teens who were already struggling.
So what can parents do? One of the best things we can do is to equip children with an understanding of mental health (see Talking to children about mental health) and some concrete strategies for managing their thoughts and emotions in order to reduce stress and anxiety. Guided meditation and mindfulness apps for children and teens are a brilliant resource for helping them train their brains, learn to relax and manage any anxious thoughts. Many mindfulness apps are based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and there is extensive evidence that these strategies work.
Mindfulness apps can help with sleep issues, general worries and just for helping children to wind down at the end of the day, as well as for more entrenched mental or emotional health issues. There are lots of apps on the market – here’s my pick of the best guided meditation and mindfulness apps for children and teens of all ages. Continue reading →
As the parent of teenagers, I have found that knowing a little bit about their internal mechanisms really helps me keep some of their less desirable behaviour in perspective. So, for your amusement and edification, here are a few weird and wonderful facts about teenagers that might explain why they do the things they do….
Teenagers can’t remember future tasks
Teenagers have poor prospective memories which means they are not very good at holding things in their heads to remember to do later. When you nag them, it really does go in one ear and out the other. Teaching teens to use props like timetables, planners and checklists can help get them organised (see Teaching teens self-organisation skills). Continue reading →
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?
As mothers, we constantly measure ourselves against our own elusive (and often contradictory) ideals of perfect motherhood. We know those ideals aren’t real but their power over us can be so strong that we are left either feeling like a failure or warping ourselves out of shape in a doomed attempt to conform to those ideals.
The Guilt-Free Guide to Motherhood by Kirsten Toyne is a great antidote to that futile search for perfection. It is also a wonderful exploration of the troubling feelings that can come with adjusting to being a new mother. It is a book grounded in real women’s lived experiences of pregnancy, birth and the baby years that aims to showcase just how diverse and OK our different feelings and experiences of motherhood actually are. 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 →