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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When life’s moments become hurdles.

I was inspired to write this post after reading a post by the lovely Roda Here

I read her post and her thoughts resonated with me.

I’m going back to work soon; in another week. There is the usual preparation that all teachers get after 6 weeks off but for me, I am returning to a 4 days week job rather than the 2 days I worked last academic year. I’m already making mental notes. I’m already planning out what I need to do/make/change and this creates a slight mania in me that I don’t like. I enjoy my job so why do I make these life moments into hurdles?

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Hitting 40 was a turning point in my life. I think it is for many. All my life I was making life’s moments into a thing. Always planning the next stage in my life. “After we get married we shall save for a house…..after the house we shall have a baby….after this baby I shall move jobs…..” etc etc .The problem with life planning is that these special moments become hurdles. Planning a baby and realising that we needed fertility treatment……planning a job move just to climb the career ladder rather than stay in a job I loved.  Was all this planning really making me content or happy?

With age comes acceptance and the realisation that life moments are to be enjoyed! Let life take you in the direction your heart craves NOT the direction your head thinks you should be travelling. Knowing that sometimes things cannot be planned for.

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So, for the next week I shall be leaving the plans and enjoying my children and family until school starts. The plans can wait whilst I enjoy THIS moment. I needed to be reminded of this as I was making lists! Enjoy each moment as they come and go. Do not make them become hurdles in life to be jumped over.

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10 Years ago.

Dear Dad,

10 years? Is it really that long?

10 years of not watching my children grow and change to the amazing people they are today.

10 years of not meeting my nieces who were born after you went away.

10 years of not seeing, talking, touching or just being with you.

10 years of not chatting about life decisions; what I should do.

10 years of not sharing a funny puzzle or a game,

10 years without you; it’s just not the same.

10 years of hopefully wishing for just one more day.

10 whole years, every day there are things I wished I could say.

10 years but I’m happy Dad, I just wish you could be here,

10 Years, so that is why today I will shed a tear.

Don’t leave things unforgiven.

Don’t leave words unsaid.

Don’t leave it to fate. It may be too late.

Life is too short.

10 years ago.

Miss you Dad.

Love, Sophie

x

 

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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My ovaries are hurting…..

I was chatting to my good friend, Marie. She is lovely and has children of a similar age to mine and she was asking if I was going to have any more children.

What!??! Urrrr noooooooo!!??

You get the picture!

She always thought that I would have more children you see -I have 2. In fact, I always thought I would have more children. It was just that there was never the right time. I even saved names for those children.

Hubbie didn’t want another when I did (when son was about 4). Then when I definitely could not see myself with another, he started to consider the thought! By then, the gap would have been 8 years between 2 and 3 and I just couldn’t imagine starting again. Anyway, I was working full time and I couldn’t imagine working, having 2 school aged children and a baby! I was only just managing with the routine I had. I remember a family member telling me that I didn’t want to get to 40 and regret it or that every baby was a blessing.

I reached 40 and decided that I did not want another baby. I was so happy and lucky to have the family I have.

But then my ovaries started hurting…..

I think it’s my bodies way of telling me this is my last chance. I mean, I’m 45 now so there is such a slim chance! This blogging malarky doesn’t help either as so many of you lovely people have such cute babies! And dont get me started on Instagram! OMG the cuteness!

BUT

I think my ovaries are hurting because I just miss my children being babies? Does that make sense? I miss me being a mummy of younger children I guess. I think that’s just part of my make-up; I’m a primary school teacher so enjoy this age group. That’s not to say I don’t love my teenagers….I just miss them as babies. Or, may be my ovaries are hurting because I’m perimenopausal?? Yeah, that’ll be it!

OH THE JOYS OF THE PERIMENOPAUSE (Yes! It’s a thing…….google it!)

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Do you EVER sit still? How sport and exercise can help your child.

I have a very active family. We never seem to just “Be”. We are always busy. Busy with work, sport, hobbies….just busy! I remember my mum asking me when I was younger, “do you EVER sit still??” And now I ask the same of my own children!

Here’s an example….

My son went to Dartmoor this weekend for his Ten Tors practice. Ten Tors is an annual weekend hike in early May, on Dartmoor. Organised by the British Army, starting in 1960, it brings together teams of four to six young people each, with the 2,400 young participants hiking to checkpoints on ten specified tors. He’s not entirely sure he’s made the team yet as his teachers will decide now after this last weekend practice. He came back yesterday absolutely shattered but still had to get ready for cricket today. I think he plays some kind of sport every day!

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Son jumping off a wall.

So what’s it like having such active children?

I remember when my children were both young, they must have been 4 and 2 years old and I hurt my back. I sat on the stairs and just wept. Wept because of the pain but wept more because my children just wouldn’t watch TV! I just wanted 5 minutes to sit down and relax my back but they were so busy! “Mummy, can we make biscuits?”Mummy go park?” I would hear my name being called in my sleep! We were an active family though and I possibly didn’t help myself because I liked to be out of the house too in the fresh air or meeting with friends. It was for my own sanity I expect but also because I wanted my children to enjoy being active as my hubbie and I did. I needn’t have been worried though!

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Daughter pushing niece on the rope swing at the park.

Once they started school it did become easier as they were being busy at school all day. They would come home shattered and learnt to watch TV for more than 5 minutes! But we also took them swimming every Saturday morning and then to hockey on a Sunday morning. They also tried mini rugby, archery, trampolining, gymnastics, judo and ballet. They loved to climb trees, eat picnics on the trampoline, play in the mud, go for walks and play in the park.

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Son bodyboarding in Cornwall.

Being at secondary school they both began to play competitive sport and oh how this has helped with my busy little people! They are teenagers now and of course they do all the usual teen things like sleep in, eat pizza and watch movies until the early hours but they are still active. Sport has been one of the most influential things in my children’s lives and I am pleased that they have both been given such wonderful opportunities.

So why has sport been so beneficial to my children?

  • Sport in schools is beneficial to a child’s physical health. It’s obvious really isn’t it but in an age of such advancing technology I am worried that more and more children do not go outside as much as they need to. Physically being able to run, jump and move our bodies is part of being human. I see more and more children in schools who can’t run aged 8. That is super scary! All children should be able to run around the playground or park for half an hour and not be out of breath or tired. At 17, my daughter still plays school hockey and netball but is not so competitive as she once was. But she enjoys her sport because it keeps her fit and active and she enjoys being with her friends.
  • Sport is vital for mental health. Again, we all know this but being involved in some kind of sporting activity really helps us to feel alive. It doesn’t have to be a competitive sport. Finding what sport or activity children love will help them return to this when they are adults. They will need an outlet in times of stress and sport allows this.
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Son covered in mud after rugby.
  • Winning and losing. My son has definitely benefitted from winning matches when playing a competitive sport such as rugby or football. However, he has learnt more when he has lost. I find that boys are so competitive as tweens and teenagers and losing is an important like skill. It’s part of life to have defeats but we can pick ourselves up again and try our best. That’s the life lesson that sport has given both my children.
  • Being part of a team.  Playing sport in a team helps children to listen to others, play cooperatively and build character. They can practise moral and mental qualities that will transfer into other settings. Both my children have developed both friendships and leadership qualities through playing sport that will transfer into their adult lives. They were both very shy as toddlers and young children and would cling to my leg throughout whole parties or at toddler groups! Now, they will talk to unfamiliar adults or in front of their classmates without a second thought.
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Son playing hockey
  • Sport builds self-confidence and resilience. Playing sport helps your child value themselves. “I scored a goal! I can do it!” That feeling of winning makes us feel like we can do anything. Be cautious not to make everything about winning though as we can’t always win! Contributing to a team or playing against other children can make a child feel valued and belonging as they are with children who like the things that they do.
  • Meeting other adults who make an impression. We all remember that one teacher/adult who made a positive impression on us when we were growing up. When I was growing up, it was my Primary school PE teacher who encouraged me. Positive relationships with other adults has helped my children immensely and helped to guide them to make good decisions.
  • Staying connected with their friends. In this age of social media it is easy for teenagers to stay connected with their friends via their phones. However, it’s important for teenagers to connect with their friends in the real world too and sport helps with that. I love that my children have different friends in their sporting team than perhaps at school. They are meeting other teenagers from different schools thus increasing their social circle.

Now I only have a few years left watching my children play sport at school but I will be there! Even though I’ll be huddling in my huge coat and boots as it’s cold and windy, I’ll still be smiling and shouting words of encouragement! I love it now as a parent almost as much as when I played competitive sport myself. Oh! and I expect I won’t be keeping still either!

PS He made the team….looks like a trip to Dartmoor! Whoop Whoop!

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