Could our children be anxious because of us?

There seems to be more children with anxiety in our society than ever before. This is something that I have been reading quite a bit about recently and the facts are quite staggering. In fact the research shows that as many as one in six young people in the UK suffer from anxiety. To look it another way, one in five teenagers in an average class will be suffering from anxiety (anxiety.org.uk). This is a frightening statistic frankly and it got me thinking about why this is happening.  As a mum, I know that there are many pressure of our teenagers which I have written about Here.

As a teacher and a mum I come across many, many children and their parents. I’m not a mental health expert and I’m only offering my opinions gathered from my experiences in this post. I certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone but I wonder if the way we parent is adding to the anxiety that our young people are experiencing? In being such caring parents perhaps we are not helping our youngsters?

 

Here are my thoughts:

1. Perhaps by always telling our children that they are amazing at things, we are creating anxiety?

As parents and teachers, we want to praise our children for the things that they have done but I think the words we use are so important. Telling relatives that your child is going to play for a county team because they are amazing at sport actually creates tension, as your child is then expected to make that team. We’ve all done it; I know I have but labelling your child as ‘really good at maths’ creates a pressure for your child to always be really good at maths when their flair for maths may just be a stage. We want our children to enjoy what they enjoy or are motivated by, not become burdened by adult expectation.

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2. Do we overplay a ‘blip’?

As parents, we worry when our children get a bad grade in science or stick on a reading level but we really shouldn’t. All children plateau with their learning as that is the nature of learning! I’m often dismayed to hear that children as young as 6 years old are having tutor support because they received one poor maths grade. It may be just that they need to consolidate what they have learnt and then they will start making progress again. Tutors are great for children who need a little confidence or who have a barrier to learning such as dyslexia but all children will plateau at some point. This does not mean that they need extra tuition. If our children think the ‘blip’ is important enough to need support, they become anxious about their performance. Learning is a process that is complex and children must feel confident in their own abilities to make those next steps.

3. Do we overplay friendship issues?

One moment of unkindness is not bullying. Seeing you get upset when your child is working through a friendship issue will make them think the issue is more important than it really is. It really isn’t. All children have friendship woes, it’s a normal part of growing up. We need to help our children talk about their worries but not add to them by making small issues bigger than they actually are. I’ve noticed in my career that more and more parents are rushing in to talk about their child’s friendships when they should be allowing their child to figure some things out for themselves. Many, many children hit, scratch, kick, bite, pull hair and say unkind things. We need to teach our children tolerance, kindness and how to say sorry and forgive. Holding a grudge about a certain child that once pulled your child’s hair will also add to your child’s anxiety. They need to learn to get along with their peers and this anxiety about another child will not help them.

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4. Do we hide our feelings from our children?

I do this. I find it tricky to show my children if I’m sad or worried by something. I think that this is not healthy though. Obviously we shouldn’t be sharing things that are not appropriate with young children but if we are feeling sad we could tell our children that. ‘Mummy feels sad today but your smiley face is helping me feel happier.’ I think that children need to know that life can make us feel a range of emotions on a daily basis and that’s ok.

I’ve done all these things as parent at some time or another.
As a teacher, I know that praising effort is more important than praising attainment and I have always tried hard to do this with my own children. It does develop confidence and that is the one thing that young children need to try new things. Try it. Praise your children for the efforts they have made with a new skill rather than praising them when they achieve the end result. This is especially important for bright children when things come easier to them because they need the confidence to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn that small failures are ok. Resilience to failure learnt young is better than feeling anxious as a teenager when exams hit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care everyone. X

 

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The End of the Summer….

As September begins there is a definitely an end to the summer as the children go back to school and a routine emerges once again for all parents. There are packed lunches to be made, children to get up and out within a certain time and bags to be packed. There are no more PJ days when we all hang out until 11am watching TV just because we can. There are no more going to the beach on a whim, days. However, there is comfort in routine and I don’t mind the getting back to three meals a day instead of eating brunch or the definite bed time. I know that many parents will agree with me.

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Teachers do this every year. It’s a strange existence in a way. After doing this for 20 years, I still get the same nerves, the same worry about “have I packed my school bag.” It’s the buying of the school shoes (yes, I have shoes that I wear to school!) or the making sure I’ve been to the dentist/hairdresser/optician. It’s like a start of the new year but in September with “this year I will resist puddings at school,” type mantras!

I often make plans in the summer to get fit or to lose weight but it never happens! I enjoy the summer like a teenager (apart from all the cleaning and dog walking!) and make the most of the long sunshine filled days and lazy time with my family. I am lucky in so many ways and I feel blessed. This year was no exception and we have enjoyed a fun-filled summer holiday. This will be my last year as a parent to two school children as my daughter is in her last year.My last year of watching hockey matches in the cold or enjoying a sneaky hot chocolate whilst we wait for her brother to finish rugby training. I will miss that.

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My funny kids cooling their feet in the 42 degree heat in Seville!

I wonder how I will feel this time next year?

So to all of you making new beginnings, whether it be starting a new job or watching your child go off to their first day at school, I wish you luck and happiness. I also hope that you have made strong and fun memories of your summer to look back on with a smile. Have a lovely September. x

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6 Teen Sayings of the Summer

I read an excellent post by Four Princesses and the Cheese Here

A brilliant post about the things Kirstin’s little children have repeatedly said over the summer. It made me laugh as I thought about what my teenagers have been repeatedly saying over the summer. So here is my version….. thankyou Kirstin for the inspiration!

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1. I’ll do it in a minute…..

Well you clearly won’t though will you?? Whether it be chores (my kids get chores each day) or taking your dirty dishes to the kitchen you won’t “do it in a minute!” You will leave it until I remind you and then get cross because I am apparently nagging you to do your chores! Sometimes your chores need to be done so that I can get on and do mine. For example, I would like you to walk Dottie dog so that I can mop the floors when she’s out….actually hang on, you don’t walk Dottie because that would mean getting out of bed before lunch. Doing it ‘in a minute’ means doing whatever the ‘it’ is when you are ready to do it. Perhaps you should say, “I will do it when I want to?”
2. Is that what we’re eating??

Yes, clearly this is what we are eating! Actually, I’ve decided to lay the table with food that I think you may like to eat but if you don’t I’ll just go and prepare something else…….obviously. We have actually eaten this before as I’m not a cook and I have about 3 things that we eat in rotation. Dad cooks more than me and you know that so yes, this is what I am eating and this is what is being offered to you. Eat and be happy.

3. There is never any food in this house!

Clearly as I let you both starve. Let’s look in the cupboards…..oh look! There is lots of food in there. In fact, there is also lots of food in the freezer. No, we haven’t got any treats/snacks/cereal left as you have eaten all of that in 2 days since I went to the supermarket. Why not eat an apple? No? Try toast then and why not drink more milk! I only bought 6 pints yesterday and I will have to go later to buy more bread and milk.

4. Where is my blue top/black jeans/clean sports socks?

I have no idea. Perhaps the clothing fairy has taken it?? The clothing fairy takes all sorts in this house and will sometimes wash and dry clothes too if she feels like it. Or perhaps it is in the washing basket having been already washed by the washing fairy aka me, and needs to be put away? Oh, that was your chore was it? Ok, well that’s where it will be unless……oh look it’s stuffed at the back of your wardrobe where you stuffed it!

5. You are so annoying!

Yeap. It’s my life ambition to be annoying. I love to be annoying so much that I go out of my way to be annoying, just for you. I’m not particularly annoying to your Dad or friends or even work colleagues. I leave that especially for you. Call me annoying mum! Do all of the things you need to do and I become not annoying mum. She is much nicer and less annoying apparently.

6. It’s only like £50…..

Yes. I also love that top/jeans/makeup brush for “only £50.” It doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy it for you. You’ve spent your allowance/earnings by August 1st? Oh! sorry to hear that! Yes, it’s only £50…a bargain apparently. And no, I won’t lend you the money until next month because you already owe me money and I told you not to buy that make-up/pair of ridiculously expensive socks. Yes, I know I’m annoying, you already said that!

So there you have it! The 6 teen sayings of the summer thanks to my lovely children. They are great really and I have enjoyed the summer with them but they can go back to school now please. Thank you. 😉

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Our Awesome Adventure series: A Greek revelation in Kefalonia.

If you are a reader of my blog you will know that we often try to create our own holidays each year, booking a flight and then finding our own accommodation.

You can read about one of the other Awesome Adventures here

This year, we decided to try a Villa holiday on the island of Kefalonia with James Villas

We really weren’t sure what to expect as we do like to create our own holidays but James Villas do just what you expect; you get a villa, flight and car so it’s easy to explore and find your own way around the island. Both teens were happy to just go somewhere to relax, sunbathe, snorkel and we were too so we booked up for a week. What we didn’t expect was to fall in love with this little piece of Greek Paradise…..

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Villa Aphrodite II near Lourdas
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The view from the upstairs balcony
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The pool with a view towards Zante.

We could not believe our luck when we arrived at the villa! It was absolutely beautiful! In fact, it was so much nicer than we had imagined. It had 3 air conditioned bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a lounge and a great outdoor, shaded seating area with a barbeque. There was also Wifi. The nearest beach was a 25 minute walk away but just 5 minutes in the car and behind the villa were 2 fabulous Tavernas serving yummy Greek food. Perfect! So, what did we get up to during our week?

Activities for Teens (and their parents!)

  1. The Beaches. There were loads of great beaches nearby; some were sandy and some were pebbly but the beach at Lourdas had lots of cafes, easy parking and a lovely gentle shelving beach. The snorkelling here was great as the water was so clear.
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Lourdas

We loved another beach too which we found near the villa which you had to get to by climbing down some very steep steps! This beach was perfect and the one we visited three times.

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The steep steps down to our secret beach!
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There was a kitchen garden half way down! What a view….
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The water was so clear and perfect for young children as it was warm and shallow.
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Our secret beach!

2. Speed boats and Snorkelling…

We rented a speed boat for the day from Katelios. This was so much fun and our favourite day.

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The boat…..
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It went fast!
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Swimming in the crystal clear water.
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Snorkelling!

Beyond Poros on the East coast there are no roads. The coast is very rocky but has some lovely little coves to discover. The water is amazingly clear and is between 30 and 10 metres deep right until a few metres from shore. This meant we could anchor the boat and swim in the deep yet clear water.

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Some of the coves were quite desolate. You could hear the call of birds of prey in the trees above.
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The snorkelling was amazing and the visibility was approximately 50 metres. It was a shame we didn’t have an underwater camera as we saw plenty of sea life.
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This was a cove in Ithaca, the island near Kefalonia. The water here was very cold as we swam in real depths here.

We managed to motor for 70 miles in the day -to Ithaca and back. We couldn’t believe how far we had gone (typical for us to go so far and fast……)

3. Turtles in Argostoli.

In the capital, Argostoli you can watch the Loggerhead turtles in the harbour as they come to eat the scraps from the early morning fishing boats. It’s such a lovely site! The turtles are permanent residents as they dont need to migrate away for food. You can learn more about them here

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The fishing boats at Argostoli where you can buy their catch.
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Go early to watch the turtles

The town itself has 13,000 residents and is a lovely place to visit and have a coffee after your early turtle encounter.

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View down one of the little side streets
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Lovely cafes and shops (there is also an Earthquake Museum)
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Beautiful churches
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The Promenade and views

4. Visiting the Lake and Cave of Melissani.

These were only discovered in 1953 when the roof collapsed in an earthquake. They are worth a visit even though you will be in and out within 30 minutes as the boat ride is short.

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Yes, the water really is that colour!
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Its stunningly beautiful and our guide was so friendly (as are all Greek people!)
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The cave was beautifully lit as we went at noon (this is the best time to go apparently)

5. Chilling around the pool and the free Wifi.

We don’t usually just chill so being around the pool for an afternoon was lovely. We stocked up on food and cold beer and settled in for a few days. Bliss! Grab a Lilo and a good book and R E L A X. The Wifi was useful as it was the last week of Love Island……

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Lilo heaven
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Wifi is useful and I tried not to check social media honestly!

All in all, Kefalonia was fabulous! Truly. I keep telling everyone what a great time we had! We may have to book another island holiday next year….the teens think Ibiza may be fun but give me Greece any day!

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Near Sami
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The view from our bedroom in the evening.
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10 signs it is the almost the end of the school year

It’s the end of another school year and everything is rush, rush, rush!

You know it’s the end of the school year when:

  1. If someone asks you for anything, you lose the plot…literally. Do NOT ask me for one more thing! Triple this for teaching parents…..
  2. The kids look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Their shoes don’t fit, trousers up to their ankles and hair needs a cut. If your child is in Year 6 or 11, times this by 10. Then they want your child to look “smart” for the end of term assembly. Hmmmmm
  3. The school send home “stuff.” It seems that every picture and book has been hiding in some drawer has been released and brought home in the customary plastic bag (so that’s what that huge plastic bag was for!)
  4. Talking of drawers….your child tidies their school drawer and finds several pound coins (oops that was the charity hair day money), 20 hair slides, 4 erasers, 16 chewed pencils and a party invitation from Sam dated 4 months previously.
  5. You keep getting emails from Mrs Organised for money for Mrs Teacher, Mr Head and Mrs Lovely the TA. In the end, you forget to give money to Mrs Organised and end up getting chocolates from the garage.
  6. Pack lunches get really, really boring as you haven’t had time to go supermarket shopping for 3 weeks.
  7. Your child’s teacher looks like she/he may pass out with tiredness or has the “I’ve only got Johnny in my class for 10 more days” look of glee on their face.
  8. Even the Headteacher looks like they need a stiff drink or a hair brush.
  9. You have overslept every morning for the last week.
  10. You realise that in less than 2 weeks, you have the children at home for 6 weeks…..and you’ve spent all your extra money on those gorgeous shoes….

So there we have it!

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Happy Summer everyone! I will be taking a blogging break at some point in the next few weeks so have a safe and relaxing break!

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Waiting in the dark for you to come home.

When you were a baby, I would feed you in the dark so that you could learn the difference between night and day. I didn’t want to wake your dad either so would tiptoe across the carpet to get a clean nappy. You would dreamfeed, all snuggled up against my skin, safe and secure in my arms.

When you were a toddler, I would tiptoe across the landing to your baby brothers room in the night to feed him. I would always check in on you. You would often sleep upside down with your bottom in the air! Or you would be smuggled down with your Dutch dolly called “Lovey La-La,” thumb in your mouth. You looked so small in your new “Big Girl” bed. You would often be surrounded by books. I would move a blond curl from your little face.

As a little girl, you would often tiptoe into my room, press your face up to mine and ask me if there were robbers at the door. I would take you back to bed and tuck you in reassuring you that no one could get in. Your little imagination would run riot. You didn’t like the dark and would insist on a night light. Your teddies and soft toys were positioned carefully on your bed so that they could keep an eye on you. Little soldiers guarding you from nightmares and frights.

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Now, I’m waiting in the dark. I’m awake you see as you are not yet home. I know you will always text me to let me know that you are safe. You are a good girl like that. But you are not in bed. You are not home. You are where you should be, out with your friends. But I’m awake waiting in the dark. I offered to pick you up but it’s easier, you said to stay with a friend. It’s all planned. That’s ok. I love that you are organised like that. It’s just that, I will always be your mum you see and I will lie in the dark thinking of you, even when you are not here. Have fun. Stay safe. My little girl.

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Questions for my teenagers. June 2017

My children are 17 and 15. One is in the sixth form studying for A’ Levels and the other is just finishing Year 10 and the first year of GCSE’s. I have a daughter and a son and they are both really great people.

They have agreed to help me with this blog post! I thought it would be a fun idea to get their views on certain things. I can be quite opinionated with some saying I have a “strong” character but I’d like to think that my children have their own voice and we encourage discussion and differing views in the Old House. I would also like to think that they can talk to me about anything as that is really important.

I asked the children separately to see what their opinions apart from each other.

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1.  What is your greatest fear at the moment?

Daughter: Getting my mock English Literature result back! Terrorism could be something but honestly, if it’s my time it’s my time.I don’t want to stop doing the things I like because of stupid terrorists. It doesn’t worry me and nothing scares me except those scary mazes in you get in horror movies!

Son: Being alone. I don’t worry about anything really.

Me: I fear for my children in this ever turbulent and unsettled world. It’s interesting that they do not worry about that really. Then I think back and remember that when I was a child there was unrest and acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland. I didn’t even consider what this meant to me until I was an adult. Perhaps youth protects us from the harsh realities of the world around us or perhaps age opens our eyes to it? I don’t know.

2. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

Daughter: Having a job, living alone with a cat. (My son thinks she will become a crazy cat woman from The Simpsons!! My daughter just really loves animals and thought she would grow up to be a cat until she was 3. She’s a very caring person.)

Son: Travelling.

Me: I hope to be travelling too but with Uni fees looming I expect I won’t be!

3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Daughter: Socrates. He had such developed ideas about the world; he talked about such amazing ideas such as particles. He was killed because people were frightened of him. (My daughter is studying Classics A Level and is really enjoying it. I wonder if she will study this at University?)

Son: Joseph Goebbels because he was an interesting character. He was obviously crazy but he would be interesting to talk too I think and see how his mind works.

(My son is studying history GCSE and loves it. It will be interesting to see what he chooses for A Levels.)

Me: I’ve often pondered this question. I think it would have to be someone like Elizabeth the first who got me interested in history in the first place or Shakespeare. I would like to meet Elizabeth as she comes over as such a strong woman in a man’s world. Shakespeare, there is some thought that he didn’t write all of his plays, that perhaps a woman did, I would like to see and meet him.

4. What makes you angry and why?

Daughter: People who think they are better than others. Cruelty to animals.

Son: People who think that they know everything.

(They were very similar in their answers here)

Me: I have to agree with my children! Especially cruelty to animals. I would add environmental issues too but, as an adult, I’m more able to see that just “don’t cut down trees to save the orangutans” is too simplistic. It is a much wider and complex issue. That’s why I champion local environmental projects and ways of living. Help your local wildlife first.

5. Do you believe in having a soul mate and true love?

Daughter: Because of my parents! (Ahhhhhh…..x)

Son: No, I don’t think I do. (He didn’t know why….)

Me: yes I do. x

6. What is the best and worst part of being a teenager?

Daughter: The best bit is not having to pay any bills. The worst is having bad skin when I was about 14. I hated it but it cleared up with antibiotics.

Son: The best bit is having no worries. The worst but is some other teenagers who are annoying. (My son is quite mature for his age and gets cross with others that are “like little kids.”)

Me: When I was a teenager, the best bit was the freedom I had, especially with money. What I earned went straight into my pocket! The worst was friendships or boy issues although I can’t remember a specific issue interestingly.

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7. What would be your perfect day?

Daughter: Going to a festival or concert.

Son: Playing sport all day and then being with my friends in the evening.

(This sums both up pretty well! My daughter was upset at not going to Glastonbury this year but may go to Reading.)

Me: time with my family or in the garden.

8. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Daughter: I would put it in the bank so that it can earn interest. I would pay for my university fees and then buy a house. I would go on a brilliant holiday. I would give some to charity and share it with other family members.

Son: Spend it and not tell anyone!

(I can tell that my daughter is sooo like her dad when it comes to money and my son is very, very like me! I laughed so much at his response here!)

Me: Pay off the mortgage, put it in the bank. Pay off loved ones mortgages and spend some on Uni fees, holidays and lives pleasures! I wouldn’t go and spend loads on houses and cars. I would set up an Educational Foundation to support Special Needs in schools. I would also like to give money to various environmental charities such as Wiltshire Wildlife.

My son is very mature for his age but interestingly, he found answering some of the questions tricky and wanted to find out what his sister had said.

You may want to ask your teenagers questions too. It’s really interesting to record their answers. I wonder what they would think of these answers in a few years time!

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