Talking PANTS with your children

NSPCC PANTS activity packLots of parents worry about stranger danger. We are bombarded by media stories about sex offenders and it can feel like the danger of abuse is lurking around every corner. But keeping our children locked up at home isn’t an option and it wouldn’t be good for them if we could. Children need free play and room to roam to build their brains and become independent. The absolute best we can do for our children is to give them the knowledge to keep themselves safe.

Talking to young children about issues like sexual abuse without frightening them is a daunting task. (Talking to children about sex, bodies and relationships in general can make many of us squirm!). Luckily, the NSPCC have come up with the absolutely fantastic PANTS campaign which has been specifically developed to help parents talk to young children about keeping themselves safe. There is an activity pack including tips and advice on the kinds of questions children might ask. And a song you can teach your children to gently introduce the idea that the parts of their bodies covered by their pants are private (and what they should do if anyone ever asks to see or touch them). Continue reading

How can parents support children’s ‘Theory of Mind’?

‘Theory of Mind’ is the label psychologists give to a young child’s growing awareness that other people have thoughts, feelings and intentions that might be different from their own. Having good theory of mind skills at age 4 has been linked to better social and emotional outcomes throughout childhood.theory of mind toys face

The development of a Theory of Mind starts with a baby learning to follow an adult’s gaze and culminates when a child is able to predict the thoughts of others based on their situation or perspective (even if these thoughts are different from what the child believes to be true). This occurs at around 4½-years-old. The classic test for Theory of Mind is a false belief experiment. Continue reading

10 things to do this summer to boost your children’s resilience

Boosting children’s resilience is all about helping children feel a sense of mastery and competence, that what they do matters and that they have control and influence over how they feel and what they achieve. Building children’s resilience involves allowing them to set goals, plan a route forward, take risks, rise to challenges and learn from mistakes. It also means helping them to find ways to regulate their emotions, experience contentment and build a happy memory bank that can help them through difficult moments.

There’s no holiday club or after school activity specifically for building children’s resilience. It is built from lots of different experiences which all contribute to kids feeling “I’ve got this!” (and “if I haven’t, I’ll find a way!”). But it definitely doesn’t come from sitting at home at a screen. So here are my top ten ideas for activities that you and your family can do this summer to boost your children’s resilience. Have fun!

ideas for boosting children's resilience (kids playing on rocks)
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A positive parenting toolkit for the summer holidays

The summer holidays are approaching and I know how busy you are. There’s work to finish, childcare to organise, paddling pools to buy, packing lists to write, school uniform to order and have you remembered to source a goldfish-sitter? Not yet? Well, I thought I’d help you save time on your holiday prep and bring together in one place all the positive parenting strategies you’ll need for enjoying some family time these holidays. Here is your essential positive parenting toolkit for surviving the summer holidays. You’re welcome! School's out! Continue reading

Modern Fatherhood Survey: the rise of the ‘hands-on’ dad

Modern fatherhood means being hands on in all aspects of practical childcare but also connecting emotionally with children. That’s the conclusion from the Modern Fatherhood Survey run by the Positive Parenting Project. The survey looked at the range of parenting tasks today’s dads undertake and how modern fatherhood differs from previous generations.

The key picture that emerged was a shift towards more equally shared parenting tasks and a breakdown of traditional divisions in Mum/Dad roles. “Dads are more involved than previous generations with more mothers returning to their careers. Dads have a clearer understanding on their role in the child’s emotional development as well as the physical side,” was how one dad summed up changes in modern fatherhood.

Modern fatherhood survey: picture of the word 'Dad@

A recurring theme was how modern dads see practical childcare tasks and household chores as an integral part of their role as a fathers. But dads also aspire to a relationship with their children which involves playing and listening and which is loving and nurturing.

“fathers are much more involved in raising their children, more emotionally open and available for their children, less authoritarian and more aware that respect is earned not deserved… more willing to allow their children to be themselves… more willing to admit they’re wrong and to apologise”

Here are the results in more detail: Continue reading

Book Review: Little Kids, Big Dilemmas (by Sarah Kuppen)

I had really high hopes when I started Little Kids, Big Dilemmas by Sarah Kuppen. The book’s sub-title is ‘Your Parenting Problems Solved by Science’ and, as you know, countering fads and fashions with solid evidence-based child development understanding and proven parenting strategies is exactly what I do and what I care about. This, I thought, is the book for me.

And, on many levels, the book does exactly what it says on the tin. Sarah Kuppen is a university lecturer in Developmental Psychology. She sticks firmly to her brief, rolling out the evidence on a range of parenting issues, debunking a few myths and addressing common parental questions. There’s a Q&A format to help keep it real and not too theoretical and some of the issues addressed (like toddler tantrums and supporting children’s learning) are near-universal concerns for modern parents. Continue reading

Talking to children about drugs

talking to children about drugsAt some point or other, your child is going to come across illegal recreational drugs. And probably earlier than you think. All parents hope their child will do the right thing when faced with difficult choices. But we also understand that sometimes good kids make bad decisions. A better strategy is to arm teens and tweens with relevant knowledge and aim for an open and strong relationship in which teens will be honest and come to you if they need help.

Talking to children about drugs can feel scary. Parents often worry that by talking about drugs they will be encouraging children to try them. That’s not true. The more we equip children with the tools and information to keep themselves safe, the more likely they are to stay safe. Here are a few tips on how to talk to teens and tweens about drugs effectively. Continue reading

How to cook healthy family meals in less time

We’d all love to provide healthy home-cooked dinners every day to support our family’s health. But as busy parents with so many things to juggle, finding time to cook from scratch can be a real struggle. If you’re anything like me, you probably end up serving up the same meals again and again until the kids refuse to eat them out of sheer boredom! So, in my continual quest to help you find a little more time in your hectic days, I asked Ingela Olson from Ingela’s Kitchen for some insider tips to help us rustle up wholesome family meals a little more quickly.

Ingela's Kitchen

Here are Ingela’s top parenting hacks for quick healthy meals: Continue reading

Social media and self-esteem: resources for parents

Lots of parents worry about the potential negative impacts of social media on children’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, reliable evidence is sketchy in this still-shifting and developing terrain. There have been some appalling cases where children and teens have been influenced by online content promoting self-harming, for example. But many teens also say that social media is a source of support and connection for them.like button

If you are worried about the impact of social media on your child’s wellbeing, or want sensible advice on how to limit the impact of social media on family life or on how to talk about these concerns with your child, I’ve put together a few of my favourite resources to get you started.
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Supporting children through exams

Whether your child is 8 or 18, tests and exams can be a stressful time. Supporting children through exams is all about reducing stress, optimising well-being and putting good study processes in place. supporting children through exams Parents have a key role to play in creating the right environment for learning and helping children to structure their revision time productively.

We all want our children to do well but there is a difference between support and pressure. Parents need to support children to develop good study habits but avoid pressurising them into a state of heightened anxiety in which learning just flies out of your brain. For some children, exam periods will involve a lot of parental nudging to galvanise them into action. For others, it means helping them stay calm with reassurance, distraction and relaxation strategies. Or perhaps, a combination of both approaches!

Here are my top tips for supporting children through exams. Continue reading

Books for helping children manage friendship problems

Learning how to recognise a good friend (and to be one) is an important part of childhood. All children experience some ups and downs in friendships. Parents can play an important role in helping children manage friendship problems helping children manage friendship problemsby helping them think about why their friends might be behaving in a particular way and discussing what qualities and actions show that someone is a good friend.

Snuggling up with a storybook can be a great way to talk through friendship issues sensitively with young children and introduce new ideas. And for older children, who want to think about issues for themselves, books can be a safe space to work through thoughts, scenarios and emotions. Here are my recommendations for really good books for helping children manage friendship problems.  Continue reading

The hurtful teenage years

Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post call ‘Grieving The Loss Of Childhood: Hurtful Teenage Years‘. It was a deeply personal outpouring of grief about the enormous sense of loss and heartbreak that come when teenagers push you away. the hurtful teenage years

The article provoked a level of engagement I had never previously experienced. The comments on Facebook ran into the hundreds as it went viral through parents’ networks. It clearly hit a nerve. Complete strangers emailed me to reassure me that they had been through the same thing and that it would all be ok, eventually. Scores of people told me that reading it had made them cry, for their own losses as well as mine.

It was such a genuine and painful post that I avoided reading it for a long time. Those teenage years go on for quite a while and the hurt I had written from was just too raw. Not just the loss of closeness but the conflict and anger and fear for their futures and wanting to shake them to get them to see sense. Continue reading

If you want to stay calm, step into your child’s shoes

I found myself crying in the car last night. Truly blubbering. I had just dropped my teenage son off at his girlfriend’s house – well, around the corner from her house. step into your child's shoesI’d pulled over a few hundred yards early to give us a moment to finish our conversation and he’d got out and stormed off. (And, when I say ‘conversation’, you know what I really mean is argument…)

I calmed myself down, drove home and accepted his conciliatory hug this morning. But why was I so very upset? It was a stupid argument about tidying his bedroom, one we’ve had a hundred times before with much less drama. But as I sat crying in the car, I was really hurting. My brain was quick-firing with all the things my son had done that had hurt me – a litany of blatant unkindnesses all the more outrageous and undeserved given the hours of love, thought and lift-giving that I plough into his life.
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Book Review: The Mother of All Jobs (by Christine Armstrong)

The Mother of All Jobs: how to have children and a career and stay sane(ish) by Christine Armstrong is either a hotchpotch of a book or a treasure trove, I’m still not sure which. It ranges from social campaigning to baby-planning to marital advice to childcare options with a single thread pulling it all together: how to combine children and a career with some semblance of sanity for all involved.

It’s easy to read and digest, and the breadth of topics kept me interested. Christine Armstrong’s dispassionate and unflinching honesty about the challenges in combining a career and motherhood quickly strips away all illusions about how easy it is to ‘have it all’. I imagine it would be a real wake-up call to anyone planning a baby or heading back to work after maternity leave. If you are struggling to combine work and parenting, this book will reassure you that you are not alone and not at fault. Continue reading