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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8 reasons why pets are good for children and your family.

So your child wants a pet? Are they demanding a kitten or a cute puppy? Do they dream  of their own pony or pet rat? Obviously, getting a pet takes thought and preparation but they are an essential part of family life in my opinion.

Before you decide, here are the top 8 reasons why a pet is a great idea for your child and your whole family.

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A dog can be your child’s first friend
1. They are good for your physical health.

I know that since we have got Dottie we are a healthier family as she needs to be walked. Every day we go out and walk for about an hour. Some dogs need more exercise than others but an hour works for us. Having other pets can also be great for physical health. Rabbits and guinea pigs love to run in the garden and children enjoy playing with them, feeding them and being with them outside. Horses and ponies need a lot of care and exercise but obviously your child can ride them, perhaps developing a lifelong passion. Pet owners are known to be at less risk of allergies and visit the doctor less often.

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Pets are good for your health

2. They can be your child’s first friend.

When I was young I had a cat called Fozzy when I was about 8. He was basically my baby and my first real love. I used to wrap him up in a blanket and he would let me! In fact, he loved it. Pets are always there and provide great comfort for children. I know dogs that are literally part of the game!

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Dog dressed as Supergirl!
3. They connect family members together.

During Christmas Day we had 8 adults, numerous children and 5 dogs (as well as our old cats) here at the old house. I know that the dogs were as important to our family as the people. There was no question that they would be left out! Having a pet creates a feeling of unity amongst families and can be a good way to encourage teens to come out of their bedroom!

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Children with lots of cute dogs
4. Pets can help with stressful moments.

Young children often have full on tantrums and we all know that is normal but it can be very stressful! Having a pet to stroke and distract their attention can be very handy! My daughter loved our cat when she was a toddler and that was a good way to encourage her to come out of her tantrum. Pets can also be very funny too and provide some lighter moments in a stressful day.

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Dog playing with her toy.

5. Pets teach children about responsibility.

I know that very young children can’t be responsible for walking a dog but they can feed a guinea pig or rabbit. Teaching children that pets need to be cared for is a great way for them to learn about responsibility. Children can learn that cleaning out the rabbit is not fun but is necessary for their pet to be looked after. I also think that boys learn about nurturing from having a pet that they wouldn’t necessarily learn through play. It’s not cool to play family type games but playing and loving a pet is ok.

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Child feeding her guinea pig.
6. Having a pet can teach our child about death and the circle of life.

This is hard for children to learn but is, sadly a fact of life. Losing a pet is terrible but can be a life lesson that children should be exposed to in my opinion.

7. Having a pet can beat loneliness and anxiety.

I remember crying my eyes out about something that had upset me as a child and telling my cat! My cat didn’t give me opinions, he just listened (or so I thought!). Pets can be a source of comfort to children of all ages. I know that Dottie really senses my emotions and will come for a cuddle when I’m feeling a bit low. Stroking animals has been proven to lower stress too. I know of children with Special Needs have found a friend in their dog or their pet has encouraged them to speak when other ways have failed.

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Boy with a kitten

8. Pets are fun!

Pets can be great fun! I knew someone growing up who kept miniature horses that would come into their house and sit on their sofa at night! How fun is that?? My dog is great fun and gets us out the house. We have explored more of our local area whilst walking her than in the time before we had her. Kittens love to play and are such fun when they pounce. My children would play with our cats for hours when they were younger; they provided lots of entertainment.

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Dog on a car seat with her toy!
So there we have it! 8 reasons to get a pet. In fact there are loads of reasons to get a pet! I hope this has helped with your decision. Now, just to choose which one…..

OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES….WITH 1 DOG AND 2 CATS.

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