Archive for the ‘Kid’ Category

My three year old daughter is desperate for another sibling and regularly asks me how we can get another baby.  Many parents know that these difficult questions can start from a early age and arming yourself with the answers in advance can make those moments easier.

Linda Goldman author of Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Sex: What Children Need to Know sets out tips for dealing with those tricky questions.

“Children are human beings. Human beings are sexual beings.  A newborn child’s experience with sexuality begins at birth. A mother’s touch, a father’s kiss, a warm bath, and a changed nappy are all a part of our children’s sexuality. As they grow, girls and boys are naturally curious about themselves and their bodies. Toddlers begin exploring genitals in the bathtub. At some time between the ages of two and three the question “Where did I come from?” emerges. Their minds are innocent, not filled with embarrassment or shame. This makes it simpler to answer questions about sex with confidence and humour.” (The Times)

Answering early questions from young children can set a family tone of trust and safety. And by the time a child is older discussions on birth control, abstinence, and sexual activity can be comfortable and relaxed.   By having an open and honest approach to discussing sex and love you will prepare them to be more open with you in the future.

Here are Linda Goldman’s top tips:

  1. Encourage communication. Children need to know they can talk to parents about anything.
  2. Initiate discussion. “Did you notice Aunt Ellen is going to have a baby. Her tummy is so big and the baby is inside. How do you think it got there?”
  3. Start early. Begin to teach in a soft way for the very young child. Include in a toddler’s vocabulary “eyes,” “nose,” “penis,” and “vagina” to ensure appropriate labelling of body parts.
  4. Maintain a safe environment. Build a nonjudgmental environment free of punishment or reprisal about discussing sex.
  5. Honour and respect children’s questions. Remember they are a signal to what they are thinking and feeling.
  6. Understand children’s questions and concerns. Check with your child about the facts of what you heard them ask and what they mean.
    Listen carefully to your child and respect your child’s views.
  7. Remind young people that thoughts and feelings about sex are common.
  8. Remain calm. Children are often satisfied with clear, simple, and factual responses. Wait to see if more is needed.
  9. Practice your response to different questions about sex in order to feel confident when the discussion arises. The more comfortable you can be the more you create a positive and natural message about sex and gender issues for your child.
  10. Explore your attitudes. Children who feel they can have open dialogue with their parents are less likely to later manifest high-risk behaviours. If you are fearful of the subject find material to learn from. Your confidence will grow as you explore the subject.
  11. Have a sense of humour. It creates a relaxed and open family environment.
  12. Answer questions as they come up. There is no one “birds and bees” talk.

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Easter is on the way and personally I try not to use this as an excuse for a massive binge but my family always want to indulge the kids so this year I am going to try and point them in the right direction and get some high quality fair trade chocolate.

So if you need to buy gifts for kids or want to treat a friend (or yourself) what are you options if you want to avoid bland and soulless chocolate Easter eggs?

1. Ethical superstore has a great range of fair-trade and organic Easter products.  For children this Dubble egg is perfect, at £3.50.  They also sell in a pack of 6 so if you have a big family or a few to buy for you can save almost 20%.  The Dubble Egg has a quiz competition on the reverse, and proceeds from sales go to assist Comic Relief.

2. Oxfam Online and in store have a great selection of fair-trade chocolate.  My absolute favourite are the Divine dark chocolate mini eggs £2.99.  Mumzine have been testing these this week on kids and parents and they are loved by all.  Perfect for Easter egg hunts.

On the high-street head to the Co Op.  The Co-operative is stepping-up its ethical Easter offering by reducing the packaging on its Fairtrade Easter Eggs.  The two best-selling thick Fairtrade eggs – one milk and one dark chocolate – were a firm favourite with ethically-minded customers last year.  This year, packaging has been reduced by 28%.

Peter Rabbit – £12.95 – If you are steering away from the chocolate this Peter Rabbit soft toy is beautifully made with 100% soft cotton fabric and stuffed with eco-friendly recycled filling.  With an adorable linen jacket and a carrot to munch on, this is a very cute alternative to an egg.

And for a grown up Easter present with a twist how about this fair trade applique Chicken Tea Cosy – £9.95

Lastly, I find it hard to talk about chocolate without talking about Green and Blacks.  So for anyone out there thinking of buying me an egg this is my adult egg of choice.  Green and Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate Praline Filled Mini Egg – £3.49 at Ethical Superstore

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Asking a child to apologise when they’ve done wrong can be a tricky thing.  You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do, otherwise you end up in a stand off.

“Say sorry to Tommy”

“No, I don’t want to”

“Right then, you will not be allowed any friends over to play for 2 weeks” (or any other punishments you can think of on the spot)

“Sorry, Tommy”.

Does this actually teach a child to say sorry and mean it?

It’s more likely that they’ll apologise because they know what you want to hear and because they want to avoid the punishment.

I’ve read different suggestions for tackling these situations and the one I liked best was trying to teach a child empathy.

Encourage your child to think about how the other person in the situation might be feeling, ask them how they would feel if someone did that to them, then ask what might make that person feel better (works really well if the other child is crying). They may respond by hugging or kissing the other person, or say sorry of their own accord. There is no expectation for them to say sorry, it’s a process and in time they’ll learn to say it and mean it.

Expecting a child under 2 to say sorry is a big ask. You may have more success explaining to them why their behaviour was wrong. This may also help break the cycle of the behaviour.

How often do you apologise when you’re in the wrong? Our children look to us to lead by example. It isn’t aways the easiest word to say, however, make a point of apologising to your children when you’re in the wrong. We all make mistakes, it helps a child to know they’re not the only ones who make mistakes and let’s face it, we’re all fallible.

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I went through a really difficult patch with my eldest daughter recently. Tantrums, tears, defiance, lying are some of the things that have reared their head. Whatever I said she just tuned me out, we were completely disconnected and she felt out of reach. Frankly, I found it quite scary, she’s only just coming up for 4, imagine how it could be in another 10 years?

Whenever I have challenging periods with my kids I literally have to stop everything and look objectively at the situation. What I noticed was I was permanently attached to my laptop and phone or busy washing, cooking and cleaning. At one point she asked me to come and play cafes with her and then said “you can bring your computer with you”. I felt awful, I wasn’t putting in any quality time.

Around the same time I came across a post on Simple Kids, 6 Peaceful solutions for Hitting and Anger. Number 5 talked about Time In as opposed to time out as a reaction to negative behaviour. The idea is that the child sits with a grown-up for some cool down, snuggle, and talk time.

This really got me thinking. When kids act up is it because they’re naughty or because they’re trying to tell you something? I decided on the latter and resolved to create some time for Bella and I to ‘be’ together.

I’ve been doing this for 2 weeks now and the change is incredible. Emotional outbursts are fewer and don’t last as long and our connection is much stronger. She seems much happier and I’m happier to be with her.

Here’s my 5 ideas to quality ‘time in’

1. Spend quality time together once a week, away from the house and your other children if you have them. A trip to the library, down to the shops, the cafe, a museum, a show, the park whatever you feel you’ll both enjoy.

2. Give your quality time a name. As Bella is the oldest I say “Let’s have some big girls time together”. She loves that. Giving it a name enables your child to ask for this time when they need it.

3. Look them in the eyes when they’re talking to you to show you’re really listening.

4. Really involve them by asking their opinion or ideas on things while you’re out. This helps them feel important and that their thoughts matter.

5. Giving your full attention to your child for 10 mins a day goes along way to help them feel accepted and recognized.

What I struggle with most is being consistent. I start off well and then things fall by the way side, until the next episode.

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By Janine Hazlewood.  I’ve recently become aware of how much I use bribery – and the occasional threat – to get my three-year-old son to do what I want: ice cream for eating his tea, a DVD for playing nicely with his sister.

My friends agree, when you’re in a hurry or your child is having a meltdown, the only thing with instant impact is giving or taking away something they really care about – pipe down or Buzz Lightyear gets it!

But when children start expecting a treat – or angling for a better one, (this weekend my son tried to upgrade an oatcake to a ginger biscuit for getting in the car!), you know who’s got the upper hand. A simple request suddenly comes an opportunity to barter with mum!

The problem is, while chocolate buttons may get a quick result, used too often rewarding with treats can teach children to cooperate for the end result, rather than simply to be kind or helpful. They may do what you want, but is it for the right reasons?

So what’s the alternative? Concentrating on good communication and a sense of teamwork in the family can help, says Marshall B Rosenberg in his book Raising Children Compassionately, PuddleDancer Press. The better the bond between you, the more likely it is your children will want to help you. Here are a few ideas for avoiding the bribery trap:

  1. Explain why a particular request will help you– we all respond better to something that sounds reasonable and less like a demand.
  2. Equally, listen to your child’s needs, not only will they be more likely to appreciate to yours –you’ll strengthen your relationship with them too.
  3. Remember to praise, and give lots of hugs and kisses for good behaviour- that way your child will feel appreciated and good about themselves.
  4. Encourage your children to help out as a matter of course – taking their bowl to the sink, tidying up, so that it becomes a natural part of family life, rather than something deserving of prize.
  5. Finally, reward with things like reading a book or doing a jigsaw together to make your child less dependent on material treats.

Since thinking about the pitfalls of rewards, I’ve been making a conscious effort not to allow every request to my son to become some kind of ‘deal’, just asking him to do something politely, explaining why it will help me. It’s worked surprisingly well so far, and there has been a lot less recourse to Cbeebies and mini packs of Smarties as a result, which feels great. Good luck!

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Teenage girls eat more unhealthily than any other group in the population, ­government research has revealed.

The study from the Food Standards Agency is designed to shed light on the nation’s eating habits shows that despite multimillion-pound government initiatives to encourage us all to eat more healthily, obesity levels in the UK have barely changed in the last 10 years.

Perhaps the most shocking finding is that teenage girls are ruining their health with ‘size zero’ diets.

Teenage girls are not eating nearly enough protein and dairy foods in an apparent effort to keep as thin as celebrity role models.  The study found that 46% of teenage girls consume too little iron, putting them at risk of anaemia and the associated tiredness and lethargy.

The diets of teenage girls are also low in magnesium and selenium, lack of which can lead to insomnia, severe headaches and mood swings.

Only 7% of girls are eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and the majority are not consuming enough oily fish, which contains the omega 3 necessary for a healthy heart and nervous system.  Teenage girls are eating twice the amount of sweets, chocolates and sugary drinks than their mothers consumed when young.

So if parental influence is key to good eating habits what can we do?

1. Be a positive role model – eat well and with your children and exercise

2. Show appreciation for beauty in all its forms.

3. Introduce a wide range of tastes from an early age and encourage creativity and involvement in the kitchen.  Help your children learn to love cooking and eating well.

4. Monitor your own comments about your self and your daughter.  Don’t talk negatively about your own body. If your daughter hears you complain about the way you look, she will feel that it’s appropriate to dislike her own body as well.

5. Try not to lose or gain weight dramatically, and don’t utilise fad diets. Practice what you preach.

6. Try not to hide your body from your daughter.

7. Have a healthty kitchen – rather than filling your kitchen with unhealthy snacks or “forbidden foods”, stock your kitchen with foods that are good for you.

8. Discuss Body Issues – Do not discard her concerns, encourage her to discuss her worries, about her body image and why she thinks she needs to lose weight.

9. Get girls involved with sports/physical activity, it can reduce their risk of chronic diseases. Female athletes do better academically and have lower school drop-out rates than non-athletes.

10. Watch television, movies, and other media with your daughters and sons. Discuss how images of girls are portrayed.

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We are anxiously  awaiting the results of our primary school application. We live in an area with a high proportion of young families where schools are oversubscribed. This year, our first choice school had 45 places of which 30 went to siblings leaving just 15 places. We been researching other options and come across some interesting education alternatives.

Some families look for a more holistic approach to learning and child development. The concern with some state and private schools is the pressure put on young children. In these systems less academic and more creative children can get left behind with their potential going unrecognised.

I question the effects of very academic schools on an individuals sense of success.  At 4 surely the primary goal should be learning through play and experience, sparking a desire in children to want to learn, leaving them with a genuine interest and enthusiasm to know more, instead of routinely badgering them with writing skills and sums etc.

Steiner is probably one of the most commonly known. The first Steiner school opened in Stuttgart in 1919, since then it has  gone onto become international. Based on the insights of philosopher and scientist Rudolph Steiner, this progressive schools movement is noted for the effective education that it offers children.

The curriculum itself is a flexible set of pedagogical guidelines, founded on Steiner’s principles that take account of the whole child. It gives equal attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development. The core subjects of the curriculum are taught in thematic blocks and all lessons include a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content. Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.

The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life. The inherent flexibility allows the method to adapt to the needs of the individual, regardless of the level of ability, learning style, or social maturity. These schools are often the first choice for parents looking for a nursery/preschool. There are, however, some Montessori schools that go up to age 11.

Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. The children’s inherent love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, the children develop concentration, motivation, persistence, and discipline. Within this framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities, during the crucial years of development.

The role of a Montessori teacher is one of guide and observer, whose ultimate goal is to intervene less and less as the child develops. The teacher builds an atmosphere of calm, order and joy in the classroom and encourages the children in all their efforts, thereby promoting self-confidence and discipline.

Forest Schools are an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning.  By participating in tasks and activities in a woodland environment each child has an opportunity to develop intrinsic motivation, emotional and social skills.

Sessions are designed around a theme,  such as Romans, butterflies, spies, fairies or nature investigators.

Activities are set up so they are within the capabilities of every person within the group. Teamwork skills are developed through games and activities. Individual skills and self-esteem are heightened throughout activities such as hide and seek, shelter building, tool skills, lighting fires or environmental art, the list is endless. Each activity develops intra and inter-personal skills as well as practical and intellectual skills.

There are lots of other alternative schools up and down the country offering different perspectives on educating children. If this interests you research what’s in your local area. I was amazed at what I found.

What I find most appealing about these schools is they focus on helping children grow into balanced individuals with a purpose and place in society  as opposed to passing exams and getting a well paid job.  Surely there is more to life.

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