BACK TO SCHOOL
Going back to school, or even going to school for the first time is a new chapter for every family. With so much information at our fingertips it can become rather confusing as to what we should prioritize for the months ahead and support our children to the level that they need us. So to make it really easy, as I’m sure right now you are running around buying school shoes and supplies, here is what I suggest you remember under the acronym of S-C-H-O-O-L.
And remember, it’s all about the long-term goals…
S – Schedule
Every family follows this in order to be consistent. Creating one will maintain all the cornerstones that create balance for us. Giving us enough energy to focus, sustain and achieve. Sleep for example and getting enough of it becomes the benefit of having one of these in place.
C – Communication
The only way to gauge how our children are when it comes to their well-being at school is to talk about their day. Collecting information makes us aware of the friends they are making, the teachers they have a rapport with, the classes they find challenging, and what they are enjoying. Making it a priority every day to talk about their day also helps them to share and off-load any worries they may have. The benefits of doing so keep you connected as a family.
H – Homework
We all get it, it’s how we handle it that’s important. Teaching them to manage and prep assignments so that our children can stay on top of deadlines is an important discipline to learn. Find areas in your home that promote good concentration, regulate screen and tabloid times. Go over homework that your children are unsure about so that we as parents can do our utmost in helping our children through those academic challenges.
O – Organize
Your child’s time table with them if not old enough to do it by themselves so they become more responsible and aware of their everyday activities. Ie: the books they need, PE (gym) kits, musical instruments, art supplies. All of this practice sharpens their memory skills and in its entirety it helps to run an effective household.
O – Outside
Because everybody needs the fresh air and the balance of school and home life! So up those play dates to develop your toddler’s socialization skills let the tween study together and have sleep overs. Carve time out for family time where you all can be active nd support the hobbies you all enjoy. A drizzle of rain never hurt anyone, let the kids play outside with other, after homework, before homework. Enroll, them in after-school clubs, remember being outside does wonders for our wellbeing and reduces stress, and in turn that helps a child with any school term.
L – Lunch
Maintaining fitness on any level is not just how we move our body it is about what we put in it. Reducing spiked blood sugar levels is critical to our health, and being consistent with our food plan and prepared with creative options is all part of keeping our body strong for he back to school season. So, prepare food the night before, get your kids involved in their options, freeze up homemade food, and keep those fruits and veggies flowing. Know what your kids are eating at school and change up your lunch boxes frequently.
Encouraging Children to Come Out of Their Shells
- Be Mindful – If you label your child as being ‘shy’ at every opportunity, it can lead to a downward spiral of them fulfilling your expectations. It’s easy to say, “Don’t be silly, you are a big boy and big boys aren’t shy.” But these kinds of statements may lead kids to think that their inner feelings aren’t valid. And by dismissing their feelings, we can confuse them and lead them to even greater anxiety. Acceptance – it’s crucial to cradle their feelings with warmth and concern. You might say, “It sounds as if you’re feeling nervous. That’s understandable.” If you support your child’s feelings, they will become more confident and secure.
- Generalize – and normalize the concerns your children have. Let them know that they are not alone and that many other people feel the same way – everyone is unsure of themselves from time to time. You can suggest things that other people do to overcome their fears. Refer to a situation you found daunting, what you attempted to overcome it and, by making the effort, how good you felt afterward. You might also point out the challenges that their other friends face. After all, children learn social skills by watching other children.
- Communicate -It’s better to have a conversation with your children about their anxiety when they are not in the midst of it. Try to find a relaxed time to discuss the matter. You’ll be better able to communicate while also avoiding a reactive, anxious response. Think about the specific situations when your child withdraws and look for skills that may help them in managing those situations. You can even role-play to help them rehearse these skills.
- Boost -your little one’s self-esteem with authentic descriptive praise . “Even though you were nervous, you asked for help and that was very brave.” This will help your child to develop a sense of achievement and pride. At the same time, try to show them how much faith you have in them and in their abilities. “You seem a little nervous but that’s to be expected, I know you can handle this.”
Many people equate being shy as a problem or having poor self-image. Unfortunately, some children internalize and not every parent is practiced at dealing with these challenging social situations. If you notice a rapid change where your child becomes more withdrawn or ceases to interact with others, I would recommend seeking professional support too.
We all want to see our children social and happy however make no mistake we do not need to “fix” children who are shy. Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault. Some children just have temperaments that are a bit quieter than others. Those children who are more reserved can have wonderful personalities and beautiful, positive qualities. It is absolutely vital that you make sure your attitude towards your child’s temperament is positive and not of disdain. So please, let’s not apologize for who our children are. Let’s support and celebrate them instead!
Spring has Sprung — Let’s Get Active!
April is a great time to make outdoor play a part of your family’s daily routine. I’ve always believed that any activity is good for the body AND mind and this is especially true for our children. As childhood obesity is present in our minds and as we find ways to decline this high percentage, many parents ask me what they can personally do in establishing good habits so that their children do not have to live with lifelong health problems. With fast food on every corner like a deadly disease and with schools putting more pressure on academics and less time on gy
m and recess; I believe it is important to have a POA to keep your kids nourished inside and out. Watching children in a park – shows us how energetic they can be – is a wondrous spectacle of running, climbing, and games of pretend. Primarily this is fun, and it will prime your kids for a
yearning to remain active.
Regular and vigorous activity leads to healthy growth and development, strong bones and muscles, improved balance and coordination, improved weight management, cardiovascular fitness, better posture, and a positive outlook on life. And as children gain physical skills, they gain self-esteem. A healthy, active child is not just a happier person, they are more likely to be academically motivated and successful in their own right.
Try these tips on for size and you will just find that, in a short space of time, your whole family can start feeling better and living healthier.
Choose the right activity for your child’s age. Preschoolers need play that helps them learn motor
skills. Activities can include throwing or kicking a ball, hopping around on one foot, learning to ride a bike, running obstacle courses, playing tag or follow the leader.
The challenge for parents of school age kids is to find physical activities that are enjoyable and age
appropriate. Anything from mainstream sports like baseball, basketball football,volleyball and hockey to more unconventional sports like rock climbing, archery and water polo will do the trick. For older kids, playing team sports can also be a great way to teach them about commitment and collaboration.
Let your children help in the kitchen: Making the kitchen off-limits to little ones for safety has advantages in their early years, but when they’re a bit older, include them! I believe that letting your children help prepare healthy food alongside you can often be the first step toward getting them to eat and enjoy different foods. If we want our children to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods we must first teach our children the names of these foods, how they are grown and where they are from so that they have some interest in what they are about to taste. From watching us as parents enjoy such foods they might now follow our lead. Guiding your children how to make their own nutrient-rich meals can also help them continue to make healthy choices long after they’ve flown the nest.
Escape the blues: It’s so important for little ones to get outside, especially if you’ve been cooped up all winter. (Those dreary English days can get to me, too!) Not only can getting a bit of sunlight boost your mood, vitamin D from the sun also aids calcium absorption and helps kids grow healthy bones.
Give your kids plenty of opportunities to get active. Provide easy access to equipment like balls, jump ropes and other active sports gear. This is especially important for younger children. Take them to playgrounds, parks and other places where they can find excitement. For older kids, providing transportation, sports equipment and maybe a few lessons will help provide the focus they need to stay active. Don’t forget there are plenty of skateboarding and bike hubs that teenagers enjoy too.
Veggies – NO big deal: Children are extremely perceptive. When it feels like a parent or caregiver is making a big deal about eating a certain food, it can put kids off. Instead, make vegetables neutral by letting kids see, smell, and taste a wide variety of veggie-based dishes. Trying to sneak a handful of the old peas and carrots into macaroni can often backfire. Don’t label them “health food” or insinuate that there’s a punishment for not eating them. Once your kids are more familiar with how tasty veggies can be, they won’t be as insistent about picking them out of every dish.
Keep it fun. You know how hard it is to get anyone of any age to do something they don’t enjoy. When your child enjoys an activity, they will want to do more of it. When they practice a skill, they will develop their abilities and get that feeling of accomplishment we all need in order to “keep at it.” It’s especially important for us, as parents, to take notice of our children’s efforts and give them the praise they deserve. These good feelings will make kids want to continue their sport and build the courage to try out new ones. Keep in mind that some kids might want to pursue greatness in a sport, while others may be content as casual participants.
Staying healthy doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Just a few changes to your usual activities can give you more bonding time with your family and make your kids healthier in the long run. And you will feel better, too!
See you out there,
Making the Most of Your Summer with the Kids…
By Jo Frost
Means not trying to get through it. Sometimes it means…
Just riding the summer wave metaphorically because what unfolds naturally can be some of our best moments and treasured memories. Spontaneity at its best!
Indeed, there is the added expense for most parents over this time period to provide an extra meal at lunchtime as they are now without school dinners. Oh! And don’t forget the organization that will be needed in order to know who is going to be looking after the kids in between the times you will be working. But, and a big BUT, beyond it all lies the time to bond, explore, make new friends, or simply lay on the grass and fussy felt out of the clouds in the sky. The freedom of childhood summer holidays live forever in our hearts.
Time is the most valuable ingredient we as parents need. Yes, it’s probably the one thing you don’t think you have much of but, even a little of it consistently sprinkled into your summer so that you have just enough things to do without over-scheduling. It’s important to leave time for you and your kids to putter around the house. This will help them find out that being bored can lead to productive ideas, and doing something new together can connect you all on a very profound level.
So…one must make TIME every day to have fun no matter how small it may seem. Even if it’s just hanging out for a moment in the garden with the kids as they paint with their fingers and toes on an old bed sheet. Or, maybe you pop over to the park unexpectedly and play goalie for your ‘tween son. Remember, it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you all feel about it afterwards. I remember my friends thinking it was so cool in the summer when my parents would pitch up over to the park to Rounders; of course with drinks and snacks in hand for me, my brother, and our friends.
Find time to TEACH your kids something new. Maybe a sport such as tennis, or dabble your hand learning a new board-game like backgammon. Perhaps it’s simply something you feel skilled and very confident at, like fixing a flat tire on your bike. If your child show interest in wanting to try something new over the summer holidays, nurture their curiosity and creativity as this will help support that exploration.
We all know this but it’s easy to let it slip: LIMIT TECHNOLOGY. Our parents weren’t far wrong when they use to say, “Get out and play and come in when the street lights come on!” Meaning enjoy being outside! Let the summer breeze touch your face. Of course, our kids need a moment to catch up with themselves. However, being outside truly gives us a moment to de-stress, connect with nature, help reduce anxiety built up from school, homework, exam pressures, and academics on every level. Give Twitter, Facebook and constant text messaging a summer break. If you take some great photos, you can put together your own photo album when you are back at school in September and give it a title like “The Summer of 2015.” It will certainly give you something to talk about and you will have your photos to look back on as well as your cherished memories.
With a house full of kids you want everybody to feel connected and INVOLVED. It can be tough trying
to please kids of different ages. As much as you want to give them their own individual experiences with their friends, this truly is the one time that you get to connect together as a family. If you are not used to doing that, it may feel really awkward at first. I think it’s very important for us as parents to teach our children to enjoy selflessly, time with others and their interests. After all, we all don’t like the same things, it’s what makes us different; being open to sharing ideas is being open to enjoying new adventures. Get your kids to write down their ideas and come together to see how many of them you can make happen over the summer period.
Here’s a few to get you started:
- Trail bike rides
- A trip to the seaside
- Visit to a public museum
- Be a tourist for a day
- Camping out sleep-overs
- Water fights
- Pick a sport for the day
- Cook something new
- Picnics by the river
- Glamour pampering for the day
- Building forts
- Making your own birdhouse
- Designing outfits
- Choreographing a new dance move
- Pebble/stone painting
- Rock climbing
- Attending a free seminar with your friends
- Attending free festivals
- Mask making
- Downloading this summer’s tunes
- Chalk drawing
- Cruise across the Thames/your local river or lake
- Aquarium visit
- Riding ponies at a petting zoo
Disciplining Other People’s Children
By Jo Frost (The Nanny)
With the summer holidays here and with lots of nannies, grandparents and parents taking time off of work to schedule outings and playdates with their kids and friends, the one question I’ve been asked a lot over the last week is about disciplining other people’s children. So I thought why not talk about it? The reality is…whether we want to admit it or not we have all sat in that restaurant, in that park, in that cinema, in that music group and thought to ourselves “My word, I have certainly been through what that parent is going through right now. Why are they not actually doing anything about it?! Why are they actually not seizing this opportunity as a learning curve so their child can have fun, but respect others and the environment they are in?” This conversation is not about pointing fingers and shouting out YOU, this is me just being very frank about what’s really being spoken about amongst parents…and those without kids, too.
There will always be continual dialogue surrounding ‘to discipline or not to discipline…that is the question.’ And, there are many different rules, some that are unwritten and some that are shared knowingly within the family dynamic. The reality is, nobody wants to offend anybody’s child, but at the same time it is important as adults to be responsible, so we shouldn’t ignore it either. The right response to handling discipline is based on the company, circumstances, communication, and boundaries to be discussed with the adults regarding their children, so one may agree on what those consequences look like. Most parents want to know if their children have misbehaved (for example, at a play date), but may have told the parent that they will handle these circumstances and consequential matters once they are home. That doesn’t necessarily mean it stops the behavior of a child in the moment of an altercation. I always advise the adults in this situation to use my S. O. S. technique:
Step back, Observe, Step in.
Stepping back clearly allows us to see the whole picture. It’s taking that brief moment to access the situation and assess who is doing what so that you may respond adequately rather than react. When we observe, we’re able to look beyond the children themselves, the other people involved, and the surroundings to acutely give us a clearer vision. As we take that split second to think about how we will resolve this matter in the moment, we then step back in with an action plan we can follow through on.
Whether your children are younger or older, whether you are the co-carer, parent, or family member, we cannot expect that they will know how to play by the rules if they are very young. So, taking a moment to explain your expectations gives everybody clear boundaries. For example: ”don’t play with the soccer ball inside the house, the balls are for outdoor play.” Or for teenagers, “you can play your music at a reasonable volume, but not at a volume that I have to scream to get your attention.”
Be fair with what your house rules are. Some parents can be so rigid that their kids think they are at boot camp and not a friendly house visit. Not everything has to be polarizing, not every child is going to remember whether they need to take their shoes off or not, and not every child will say “thank you” after bringing out juices to them in the garden.
For toddlers, you might simply have to remove a toddler from a circumstance and distract him with something else to play with. Keep it short and sweet. Give the littles ones expectations of behavior and what they can and cannot do, so they know the rules. Praise every child for their kindness as you see this behavior. Listen to both sides and make fair decisions moving forward. Compromise. Don’t be too hasty to jump in, especially with toddlers who are 5 years old, as this is the age they are starting to work it out themselves. If one is being unfair to others, take this as a learning event to talk about empathy and take the child to the sidelines for a minute before inclusion again.
With your tween kids, they want the facts. So give it to them straight but polite. Remember tweens do not want to be patronized like 3 year olds. They are all about fairness, so most of the time they can work it out themselves. If not, then be a fair referee by listening to them both and then have them work it out themselves. Let them know if they misbehave, that you will have to mention it to their parents. Let them know equally the kindness they show one another.
As for teenagers, our mini-adults, they are a monopoly all on their own, “First Susan is coming around and now Susan isn’t coming around because she’s not talking to Gemma, and Gemma is now talking to you,” etc. Any parent with teenage daughters knows exactly what I’m talking about. Or, your teenage son has a mate over who is actually still in your house at midnight…didn’t tell his parents he wasn’t coming home for dinner. Or didn’t even tell his parents where he was! With teens, it’s really all about communication and them knowing what is respectful and trusting they will be able to deliver on that. Let them know how much that is appreciated.
However you choose to do it, the simple answer to this question is to be realistic about your own children and their behavior. For example, be the first to bring it up if your kid is being dropped off at a birthday party. The more these conversations happen, the less awkward we are all going to feel. Now of course we know that many parents have their own ideas of what consequence is appropriate for their own family and that’s why it’s important for us to communicate and respect that.
So parents, don’t be shy! Remember, this really is not about discipline at all. This is about making sure that your kids have fun experiences with their friends, bonding their relationships/friendships and coming back to have fun all over again.
Enjoy the summer!
For Playdates & Parties, Don’t be a Helicopter Parent
By Jo Frost
Recently, I overheard two rather loud child carers discussing this trend where more and more parents are taking their children to playdates and parties and staying the entire time at the event, even if they aren’t being asked to.
It made me wonder why. After all, these are the first steps of independence you will give your child and it is both a privilege and a right for them to experience such. It’s so important to give them that room to develop themselves outside of the family and socialize on their own like they do when they are at school, on the playground, etc. Your child needs to learn how to trust their own instincts as they grow by making decisions by themselves, reading situations, and socially learning how to mingle. Allowing your child this freedom also gives them opportunities to:
1) Be their best for themselves, even when you are not there (like at sports practice and summer camp)
2) Socialize independently with the grace and manners you’ve taught them (and referee their own differences)
3) Develop their own personal friendships without parents mollycoddling them and
allowing them the freedom to be silly without having to always be on their best behavior(remember kids all have their silly funny moments!)
4) Be their own moral compass and learn from their own behavior the impact they have on others (it helps them to learn empathy)
5) Focus, listen, and take instructions from other adults or authority (rather then only taking from their inner circle)
6) Feel confidant to go off to day camp and sleepovers on their own (where they can experience this independence for the first time)
Of course, it’s totally ok for parents to lend a cushion here and there, as your child learns how to be more resilient and independent. But being a helicopter parent can be suffocating to a child, it crosses personal space boundaries and can make a child feel stressed, being constantly watched over. It’s one thing to socialize with other moms and dads or make sure you know the parents or carers before dropping your kid off for a playdate or party (or perhaps having a chat upon pick up), but to turn up and stay the entire time is not allowing your child to become their own person. And, as a parent, teaching your child the skills on how to grow into a successful, functional adult is part of this process. Give them the room they need to explore, discover, form their own relationships, and make their own mistakes. They will bounce back because you are still guiding them…just not hovering over them.
Give children space, AND, most importantly, give YOURSELF those three hours to run errands, spend time with your significant other, your other children, friends, or yourself. This time should be just as important for allowing you to have the space to be yourself as it is for your child.
Now get out there and have some FUN!!! Yes, ALL of you!!
The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Back-to-School
By Jo Frost
Just in time for back-to-school, here are a list of my top ten Dos and Don’ts of getting your child(ren) ready to go back to school (or for their very first school year).
Zero Tolerance Bullying
By Jo Frost
Zero Tolerance is what we need to continue practicing. In light of it being National Bullying Prevention month I wanted to touch on this subject, as I answer many questions from parents on how to stop their children from being picked on at school. This made me think that if every parent took responsibility to raise their child with more empathy and respect, then we would reduce this problem greatly. The facts show that children who bully can be children who witness aggressive behavior and abuse in their own homes. Those children have very low self-esteem. Those who are not encouraged and uplifted with genuine acknowledgement or praise, let us remind ourselves that there is a difference in the repetitive behavior that causes pain to someone else, via our actions, than the one-off comment of teasing.
If we as parents do our part, then we must start with education from an early age. We all know that toddlers live in their own bubble, it’s me, myself, and I. It is at that age that we start to shape the way our children think about others; teaching them on a daily basis about the world around them. Creating this appreciation and awareness for others is vital if we are to teach our children acceptance of all others, from all walks of life, that share the world we live in.
We can exhibit these examples in our daily routines, whether that’s taking them off to school or to the park in the afternoon. As we develop their socialization skills, each opportunity is a learning window to look at their behavior and to talk about how others feel, letting them know that their actions have an impact on others. These type of conversations support children thinking for themselves and becoming more mindful of, and accountable for, their own behavior. As this develops, we hope so too does their
Please understand that this doesn’t mean squashing strong-willed, determined, and feisty spirits; it simply means we channel their energy in a positive way. Teaching manners and respect, and teaching how their decisions and character affect others. Through my observations working with many different families around the world, I’ve noticed one universal occurrence: When two very young children act aggressive towards one another, parents tend to give them a pass, yell at their children to stop, and let them get on with playing again. Yet, if we saw two thirteen year olds do this, we would react very differently. Because being tiny in society is cute and adorable, it’s thought really young children don’t know any different — and we associate being older with knowing better. The reality is, unless children are taught better, and unless we as parents have a standard, how can we expect our children to behave any different?
They say “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” And yet we know better than that old saying because what we say can have a dramatic effect on our children in their lives every day. As a parental educator, who overcame bullying through love and support (when I was bullied as tween-ager at age 11), I understand so much more now than what I did then, and why those children behaved the way they did. So I will leave on this note, with one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou, that I hope you will pass along to your children:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Change the World, Give Back
By Jo Frost
Teaching children the importance of giving back and serving their community empowers them at a very young age. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, collaborating every family member in your household to be involved in giving back helps to create a life long habit of community service and brings everyone (no matter what their age) a feeling of goodwill and spirit around helping others.
To start creating these habits, start talking about what you love to do as a family. Think about something you all connect with on a personal level. Does you family love animals? Do you enjoy cooking meals together? As this could lead to helping in animal shelters or to cooking and serving in a soup kitchen. Or perhaps your family loves sport and art, which could provide many opportunities to help children in these areas. Starting with something your whole family, and especially your children can connect with is important for both longevity and accountability. Most children love to go to the park. So perhaps take the initiative with others to help clean up your local park areas. Do you they have a relative in a nursing home? How about baking some goodies to take there next time you visit and go door-to-door dropping them off to residents and nurses? If your children love animals, take some dog treats and tennis balls over to the local dog shelter and perhaps walk or play with the dogs.
Older children will want more of an attachment to long-term and larger projects. Have them think big about what they’re interested in. Do they like fashion? They might want to organize (gently worn) denim or coat drives at school or local community centers and drop off the donations at a local shelter. Are they into sports? Perhaps they can volunteer at a local kid’s after school program or put together a seasonal field day. Are they a budding artist? Why not have them talk to a local gallery about putting on a show of kid’s or senior citizen’s artwork for a night? There are an infinite number of possibilities; it’s just a matter of how big they want to dream.
Though some of these service activities might require some technical assistance from you or perhaps car pooling, it is one of the most important things you can give your budding activist and show that, as a family, you are encouraging and enthusiastic about their endeavor to help others.
No matter how young or old your kids are, once they get started (and put their minds to something) they (and you) can really make a difference in your local community. And remember the words of a leading change-maker, Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That change starts with one child, one family, and one idea.
Spending Holiday Time with Family
By Jo Frost
your children. And, in turn, ask your children how they would like to spend time with their grandparent/aunt/uncle. Perhaps they want to drive by important landmarks in their life, like their school, playground, etc. to show off the places they go in a typical day. It is also good to have a special activity planned in advance, like a movie, lunch date, day trip, tickets to a concert or play, or something that both your child and their relative(s) can enjoy together.Cousins” can help fill in the rest of their time together.