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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What I have learnt in (almost) 6 months of Blogging.

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6 months of blogging! Whoop whoop!*

I have been blogging for almost 6 months now and I’ve learnt so much! Who knew that little old me could learn all the technical stuff?

I started this blog as a way of writing about the things we were doing to the old house but it’s evolved into a “parenting, lifestyle, things we are doing to the old house” type blog! Another blogger described it as “eclectic” and that’s what it is…..a rambling old house in the Shires!

So what have I learnt?

1. You become clearer about why you are blogging.

I started this blog to fill a void of not working full-time and having more time on my hands as my children are teenagers. We had also recently moved house so it seemed a good way to document things we did to the old house over time. After 6 months it’s become more of a hobby. A hobby which I had never considered before and one that is more time consuming that I could possibly have imagined!

2. There’s a whole community out there! Who knew??

There are so many lovely people out there who you chat to over the computer! I have a little group of blogging friends and that’s empowering. I like the fact that I could be chatting to someone on the other side of the world about their vegetables or about their teenagers slamming doors too! The other thing I’ve learnt is that people are kind and helpful. Generally if you ask another blogger for advice, they will give it to you. As someone who had never been on Twitter before, this was essential! (Apologies if I still haven’t learnt tweeting etiquette 😉). And as for the whole self hosting thang….yeez! Not for me…..yet.

3. I like to write. It may not be read by too many people yet but I enjoy it!

I’m always amazed at the posts that people like to read. It can be the posts that I have fretted over posting. Or, a post that I wrote in 5 minutes gets more views that’s a post that has taken me 3 days to write! I like to write and that is why I blog but it’s important to me that people enjoy reading them. I know that others do it for a job but I have a job so I’m happy with my teeny tiny corner of the internet.

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Writing my blog is like therapy! *

4. It’s giving me something to fill the “mum” void that I am finding now I have teenagers.

Oh the mum void! There’s a post to write. I think nature is cruel because at the same time that our children are becoming more independent, we are becoming more hormonal. Crazy. Again, another post! It would be called, “My perimenopausal brain…..”

5. I’m getting out and about more due to My Glorious Gardens series!

This is bit I love the most! I know that next academic year I’m working more in school so this is pushing me out there more during this summer term! I’m going to Gardens that I have always wanted to visit but haven’t had the time to visit in the past. I love it! In fact, I’m off today…… must dash. My country boots (and rain coat by the looks of things) are calling me and Dottie is looking at me as if to say, “Come on mum!” Well, at least someone needs me…….😍🐶

So what are my blogging goals for the next 6 months?

Well I don’t really know where my blog is going but that’s ok! I’ve been a guest on Dippy Dotty girl’s amazing website but I would love to guest on a parenting blog.

https://thetravellingdiaryofadippydottygirl.com/2017/05/02/saskias-adventures-in-beautiful-bruges/

I’m older with older children but I have loved every aspect of being a mummy and as a teacher, feel like I have a lot of advice to give.

I think I would like to make a Linky of my own but lack skills so we shall see!

*photos from http://www.unsplash.com (credit Lucy Heath, Jesus Kiteque & Andrew Neel)

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How to teach kindness and build the self esteem of our children.

‘Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.’ —Annie Lennox

As a parent and a teacher I want my own children and the children I teach to know how to be kind. I actually believe that kindness is the most important thing for children to feel fulfilled and happy themselves. Unkindness in others tells me that the person is actually unhappy, they are stressed or something in their life is not right. Emotional resilience is more important than academic success or sporting prowess because without it you will always feel unhappy.

I had a training day this week about building self confidence and self esteem with a wonderful speaker called Cat Williams. Do take a look at her site here….

http://www.staycalmandcontent.com

Building self confidence and emotional resilience helps children to feel fulfilled and happy in their own skin. In turn, this helps children to be able to be kind to others. In fact, having these things throughout our lives is essential for positive well being and mental health. Finding what makes you happy is all part of this so it is our job as parents and educators to help children to explore that. With this in mind, I thought I would blog about some of things I have learnt during my time working with children. I am not a professional counsellor and these opinions are my own but I have taught hundreds of children and hope some of these things may be useful to others.

Children can not be a great friend until they are friendly. They will not be able to show kindness unless they have experienced it for themselves.

As parents and teachers we ask children who their friends are. We ask them who they played with or if anyone was horrid to them. In other words, we are worried for children as we can often remember the time when we felt lonely or excluded and we don’t want our children to feel these things. But instead, perhaps we should be praising children for the friendly behaviour that will help them to see how to be friendly and kind. ” I loved the way you included everyone in your game! I think that Ben could see that you were being kind to him.” Or ” thank you for sharing your spade with your friend so that she could make a sandcastle too. That was a kind thing to do” Help your child to be friendly to other children so that they can see what being a good friend is like. Modelling is also important so be a friendly person yourself. Don’t exclude other parents, talk about others behind their backs or be nasty! It sounds obvious but as a teacher, I see this in adults all the time and then they can’t understand why their child is struggling. Show your child kindness. We love our children so showing love is easy but showing kindness can sometimes be forgotten.

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Ask the right questions.

Don’t put words into your child’s mouth about how their day may have been especially if you are using negative words. For example, “Did that nasty boy bully you today?” or “Did you not have anyone to play with on the playground?” These types of questions make the child want to give you an answer! So they will possibly tell you what they think you want to hear and that is not always the truth. “Oh no I didn’t have anyone to play with!” (when actually they were very happily playing on their own or they were only alone for 5 minutes.) “Yes, that nasty boy bullied me!” (Actually he didn’t but he does have tricky behaviour sometimes so that’s what my parent must be asking me). Instead ask your child what they did today. Or ask them to name three things they loved doing today. Make it positive and your child will feel as if they have had a great day. Feeling positive about something helps children to have the mindset that will promote positive emotional growth.

Let your child try new things but don’t make them do things you wished you had done.

This is obvious but I see it all the time. We want our children to try new things like learning a new instrument or taking up knitting. What children don’t need is their Dad making them play rugby because Daddy almost made the England squad and feels disappointed that he didn’t. By all means take your child to rugby but don’t start questioning everything they are doing or criticising them. All this does is make your child feel bad about themselves. What Daddy should be doing is joining a rugby team himself as rugby makes him feel good! Find what makes you feel amazing and do that! For me, it’s gardening, skiing, teaching and being outside. I also love ecology and nature and remember sitting next to our garden pond when I was a child watching out for frogs….I still love this now!

It’s ok for your child to show emotion, including anger.

We need to ensure that children feel it’s ok to show how they feel. It’s ok to be cross or sad or very angry but it’s not ok to hurt others when we feel like that. That’s how I explain emotions to children. This week in school we have talked about positive feelings and I use emojis to describe them to children. Children often do not have the words to describe how they feel so it’s our job as adults to teach them. We talked about all the words that describe positive emotions such as friendly, fun, joyful and pride. It was interesting that the children knew many more words for negative feelings such as sadness, crying, shame, jealous, mean, guilty and frightened. It is valuable for children to talk about their negative emotions in a calm and non threatening way so, as a parent, I would try to do this after an event of anger focussing on how the event made them feel and what to do next time. Trying to talk to an angry child is not going to be a positive experience for anyone!

Give positive praise

We all remember the time we were told off by a teacher or parent because often it was scary. I expect you can’t remember what was said because the feeling of being frightened stopped you from listening. If you were to name one adult in your life growing up that was important to you, I expect it was an adult who made you feel special. They listened to you and showed you kindness. That’s the adult we need to be for our children. The adult who will take that extra time to really listen to children and to praise them for the small things that happen each day. It’s easier to ignore good behaviour isn’t it? But that’s the behaviour you need to comment on so that your child sees what is expected of them. If your child keeps doing something you don’t like then try to ignore it and praise them on the things you do like. For example, if your child keeps interrupting you, ignore them but if they say, excuse me, then look at them and smile and listen to what they have to say and tell them thank you for saying excuse me. If your child is eating beautifully at the table using their knife and fork let them know that you are proud of them for doing so! I often see parents completely ignoring their little ones until they do something “naughty” and then they stop ignoring them! This just makes children repeat that naughty behaviour to get their parents attention. It can seem silly at first but it really does work.

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Tell them they are amazing!

I often tell children they are amazing and every time, every child glows. Children need to be told this to feel it. Try it with your own children. It really works! Try not to use words that describe their physical appearance such as beautiful, pretty, cute, handsome, “such a dude” etc. This just makes children feel that they have to be these things all the time to impress you. We can’t all be beautiful, pretty or cute all the time but we can be amazing.

We have a kindness pledge in our classroom so I thought I would end with this:

I pledge to myself

On this very day,

To try to be kind

in every way.

To every person,

Big or small,

I will help them,

if they fall.

When I love myself,

And others too,

That is the best,

That I can do.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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