Category Archives: Parenthood

Mummy, I’m Bored!: Why Boredom is Good for Children

Why Boredom is Good For Children

The end of the school year has been amazing with a flurry of end of year activities: sports days, end of year shows, global fairs, summer fairs, and endless activities showcasing the work my children have been doing all year long.

It’s been tiresome but fun. And sometimes, me being a stickler for structure, I forget it all gets a bit gruelling- even for my most organised of daughters.

We finished sports day yesterday and I was exhausted. I thought the kids would be too. But afterwards, the request was- “can we just go and play a little bit?”

“What??”, I asked, incredulous. “You’ve been playing all day!”.

But what they wanted to do wasn’t structured. It wasn’t organised. They wanted to be silly and laugh and spontaneously splash into the nearby pool fully clothed.

I got it. Because  like other parents out there, I get lost in that mode of desperately wanting them to have fun in a contained environment where we can predict the results. Being spontaneous and silly are moments we lose.

Plans for summer?

With the summer coming up, my instinct was to make a list of all the activities we’d like to do this summer. A lot of these require organising, booking, scheduling and ticket buying.

But I’m hesitating this year. Because deep down I know they just want to relax. And really, I should be giving them a chance to be bored.

This summer I want my girls to experience boredom. To have days upon days of unstructured, no-entertainment-pleasure.

What? No Entertainment?!

If we were to just not schedule anything… what might happen? They’d eventually get bored, right? Why does that prospect fill us with dread? 

Boredom is uncomfortable and our instinct is to ensure constant stimulation. Let’s be honest, how many of us have thought about ensuring our kids do homework everyday so they don’t slow down?

When I’ve let my children just be, they’ve come up with some of their most memorable moments- pillow fights, pretend sports days, forts, and creative art projects. I look back and realise why wouldn’t we want them to have this time?

Okay, so it’s in our human nature to see a vacuum and try to fill it.  Most of the time, when children have nothing to do, they rely on the tele, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. Even we, as parents are guilty of it. Our go-to if we don’t have some sort of entertainment planned for them or can’t gather enough energy to entertain them 
ourselves, is screen time. 

So what might happen if our kids are ‘bored’?

Studies have shown that when people don’t have anything to do, their minds wander, they daydream. Creativity happens.

In a grown-up world where creativity is perhaps the only skill machines cannot replace, it’s an important skill our kids need to develop. Boredom lets our kids see the world through their own eyes and pursue that train of thought. Ever heard another parent (or yourself) say, “my kids are all so different”. Isn’t it great to see how they create something through their own lens? Letting them pursue that thought process is part of leaving them alone- bored or not.

When our children grow up, we won’t be there every moment of every day. We won’t be able to entertain them or fill their schedules with educational camps and activities. In fact, research has shown there is no link between how much time we spend with our children and how they turn out.  At some point, we have to let go and hope for the best. They need to learn how to handle different situations themselves. And that means leaving them alone. 

Learning to motivate themselves is part of growing up.  And letting them be bored helps them build up that skill.  Searching their environment to find things to do and make key decisions about what to do next is a great thing. 

Top tip: Make up new games

Take an example from our everyday lives. We were in the line at the store and it was quite long. The kids started to get bored and restless. Instead of trying to contain them, I encouraged them to think of new games they could play in line to entertain themselves. First, we started with the obvious eye-spy but eventually they thought up a game that involved counting all the chocolate bars, pink sweets and chewing gum. Not hugely complicated but self-motivated nonetheless.

How can we cope with Boredom?

Although we all double-down when we hear the ubiquitous “I’m bored” from our children, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can actually be a motivator for kids to find a goal- to focus themselves.

Parents shouldn’t present the solution, like suggesting exactly what they should do next. It’s not our role to be providing that constant stimulation. Instead, we should be encouraging children to find ways to entertain themselves, to learn to deal with it and escape it. A lifelong skill.

Top tip: Instead of suggesting “why don’t you play UNO?”, why not just suggest a game and let them run with that idea?

Don’t set the bar too high. Sure, go to museums and organise days out to circumvent the days when there’s nothing going on. But this summer, encourage your children to know what it’s like to just be. To use their imaginations, run around in the garden, be creative and just be.


changing schools
A Parent’s Guide to Changing Schools
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WHEN IS IT OKAY TO TURN DOWN A KIDS BIRTHDAY INVITE?

It’s birthday party season again. That time when kids (and their parents) are invited to countless parties eating into every weekend and spare minute of family time you have.

I shouldn’t say that. Parties are wonderful for the kids. A time to get together with their friends outside of school, where they can play, eat and generally be on a two hour sugar high. Great, huh?

It’s just that the end of the summer somehow warrants those born in both July AND August to schedule their parties just at the point where life is beginning its frenzied scheduled chaos. So, for some reason, it feels like a lot after a spring that was relatively party-free.

But seeing as the kids look forward to it and many of the kids are my daughters’ good friends, when is it okay to turn down a party invitation?

  1. First, ask yourself how close are they really? If dd1 was invited because the whole class was invited and you know your kids don’t really hang out, take that as a free pass to turn it down.
  1. How busy are you? If it means you’ll have to go from dance class to picking up dd2 from football to your hair appointment and then to the party, I think it’s safe to say that you’re busy. Don’t stress yourself to the point that you’ll resent being there the whole time.
  1. Check if you can share the pick up/drop off with another Mum/parent. Even better, if your kids are at the age when you can just drop them off, this is definitely the best option. It gets more complicated when you’re expected to stay and help supervise but still worth a shot to take it in turns.
  1. Family time always trumps birthday parties. If weekends are your only days to spend as a family and this is at a premium, it’s okay to turn it down. Spending time as a family is important and children crave that time (more than time with their friends-despite what they might say). Otherwise the weekend can just fly by. Alternatively, make it a family event. Enquire whether siblings are welcome and come with your whole brood!
  1. What’s the activity and is it difficult to get there? Again, check how convenient it is for you and whether your child will actually enjoy it. If your child hates heights and they’re headed to GoApe!, it’s probably a miss for her.
  1. Make it enjoyable for you! Yes it’s a party for the kids but heck, you’ve given up your afternoon as well so if beer or alcohol is on offer, take it! You deserve it!

Hopefully this list helps to reassure you there are legit excuses to turning down a party invitation… Send me your ideas and what’s worked for you! Good luck!


sick kids
Sick Kids? How to Maintain Your Sanity

 

A Parent’s Guide to Changing Schools

changing schools

Changing your child’s school can be one of the most difficult experiences a parent can go through, and stands up there amongst sending kids on their first date, leaving them at nursery for the first time, deciding on the right school…you get the drill.

It’s not that deep down you don’t know that things will probably be okay. But as you send them out there into the uknown- knowing that walking into their new classroom their heart is in their stomach, it’s so hard to feel reassured.

Whatever your motivation for moving your child,  – moving house, bullying, academia, a closer school- the initial transition can always feel difficult.

I did that recently- moved my 6 year old from one school to another. Not because I moved house but for a myriad of reasons- reasons she’s probably too young to understand. She was happy where she was. But we moved her. And she’s spent nearly four months adjusting to her new school. And it was stressful. And hard. And, at times we as parents felt like we’d made the wrong decision.

We’re just finally coming out of what we feel has been the most difficult stage of her transition. She’s sensitive and I knew it would be hard adjusting to change.  She struggles with the ‘what ifs?’ and it’s definitely taken a knock to her confidence.

But the best part is, she’s learned a lot about herself and we (she and I) talk a lot. If there is one thing that I hope continues it’s that she knows she’s got an open door to come to me about anything.

We don’t regret it because  the school is pushing her to explore depths of talent even she didn’t know she had. And that’s a good thing. But also uncomfortable.

Staying was easy. Staying was comfortable. But we knew it would only get harder as she grew up. Not underestimating the 3 years she’d already spent at the school (enough time to form some deep friendships), we knew she’d have four more years to make new friends. And we make sure we keep in contact with old ones.

She still has good days and bad. And sometimes she goes into that place where she says she has no friends but we both know that’s untrue and I’ve found it helpful not to let her go there- even if she wants to.

Having come through the experience on the other end and for those parents that may be contemplating change over the summer, here are a few things to consider before moving your child.

  1. Make sure (if you can) to keep up old friendships. It’s important. Just like we, as adults, wouldn’t just cut off old friendships just because we move jobs or move house, we shouldn’t expect this of our children, just because we’re the ones in control of whether they see them or not. We live in an era of Skype, FaceTime, even phone calls if you don’t live local. It’s easy to keep in touch and important for your child to know that they’ve not been forgotten and that they can see and visit their friends.

2) Open communication. This has been one of the best things that has helped my daughter. She’s been able to share her concerns, her worries and all the questions she has about her new school. One of her worries was whether some of her classmates would be kind to her. We talked this through, exploring whether there are some kids in her current class that are nice and some that may not always be and that this will be the same wherever you go. But reassure them that most people are kind when they first meet somebody, wouldn’t she be?

3) Consult with your children but don’t let them decide. Moving our daughter was a huge decision for us and one that we mulled over for awhile having tried different things to work with the school she was at and see if there were ways that we could get from it what we wanted. When we didn’t see that happening, we felt more and more drawn to this new school. Some of the reasons we couldn’t always share with her as they were about things she may not have always understood- long term vision, bigger picture as a family etc. Children think in terms of the short term and their immediate situation. We did share with her slowly some of the reasons but left it open for her to see some of the advantages herself as well. We talked with her at every step of the process getting her ready but ultimately it was our decision as parents.

4) Attitude (yours as well as theirs). The day I stopped feeling sorry for my daughter was the day that she stopped crying. It’s fine to have sympathy but let’s talk about the energy that we’re putting out into the world. Children are smart and will pick up on the attention they get because they make a fuss every morning. That’s not to say their feelings aren’t real. But I remember about 6 weeks in after a couple of weeks of crying every morning but happy faces when I picked her up, I knew she was generally okay. We had a chat about being brave and deciding that this was going to be a good day. It was. And it marked a shift in how she went in. Share your child’s feelings but don’t become so bogged down in being empathetic that you’re both just wallowing in regret and sadness.

5) Do a taster session beyond just a visit. One of the best things we as parents requested of the new school was for our daughter to spend a morning or a day with her new classmates and teacher. This was groundbreaking in that our daughter was able to see that the children were normal (not scary and mean), the teacher was kind and that it was in fact, very similar to what her current classroom was like. Knowing this before the big first day really helps to take away the fear of the unknown.

6) Celebrate the positives when they happen. When new achievements, friends, trips or opportunities happen at the new school, celebrate these and empathise to your child how they might never have had that experience if they hadn’t moved. Our child started a new term in January when the whole school was immersed in a Shakespeare production. My daughter loves performing and was given a lead role in the play. Having this to work towards and to be given such a fantastic starring role was incredibly motivating and a boost to her confidence.

7) Try to make playdates with new school mates to speed up the settling in process and foster tighter bonds- even if it’s just between a couple of new friends. Friends- new and old- will always be the main concern for your child at their new school. Whether they have any, whether they will lose their old ones etc.

The sooner you can solve this issue, the sooner things will settle down. Try to make friendships with some of the other parents and suggest a playdate. It also helps you, as a parent, to form a community and to feel more settled into your child’s new school.

Starting at a new school is hard no matter what. With awareness of what to look out for and how to help the transition become easier, you can weather even the hardest of moves. Change doesn’t have to come at a price.

For more from Mixed.Up.Mama parenting resources, find out Why Walking to School is So Important

SICK KIDS?… HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR SANITY

Sick kids?

Our whole house has been hit with sickness and flu these past two weeks. First it was my youngest two and now, me.

I don’t normally get sick. In fact, I usually manage to avoid it. And yet, even with me being able to stay healthy for most of it, the past two weeks have nearly driven me insane.

I’m pleased to say, though, I think we’re coming out of the worst of it and I’ve learned some things that I think I can pass on to make sure other Mums don’t make the same mistakes as me.

Here are 6 tips for maintaining your sanity when your little ones are sick.

  1. Get out of the house! It’s tempting to stay at home all day everyday until the kids get better for fear they’ll get worse if you expose them to the cold outside. But honestly, my only saving grace was being forced to get out to do the school run for my oldest. The girls liked getting out of the house and though I didn’t keep them out too long, I think their sinuses appreciated the fresh air.
  2. Don’t feel guilty about putting on the tele… When you don’t know how long your kids are going to be sick, you may start out all gung-ho with arts and crafts at the ready, play doh, baking and games. But it will take its toll. In between the whining and clinginess, you’ll just need a break from it all and putting on the tele is the easiest way to catch a break. Do what you need to do get through this and don’t feel guilty!
  3. Leave the cleaning and laundry. Trust me you’ll need every last ounce of energy and patience to deal with two whiny babies so don’t waste it all on cleaning. There’s nobody around to see it anyway.
  4. Arrange playdates at yours. Once the kids aren’t contagious anymore, it’s important that you (and your kids) don’t go insane being around each other all day everyday. Arrange a playdate at yours with one of your child’s friends and their mum. You’ll need the adult conversation just as much as they’ll need the playtime and seeing other children. Just make sure you remember number 3 above! Otherwise, it’s counter intuitive.
  5. Make them sleep! No matter what age they are or how long they’ve been out of napping, when kids are feeling under the weather, they need to sleep. Even if they refuse to sleep, Insist on some ‘rest time’ that means they have to lie in their beds at least for a half an hour. It buys you some time but more often than not, they do fall asleep.
  6. Take advantage of weekends when your partner is home. Let your spouse take over when they’re home. They can help in so many ways and help save your sanity. Even if it’s just to take over the cuddling.
  7. Don’t skip your morning coffee! Coming from experience, you’re going to need this so make sure you get it in early so you can face the rest of the day.

Why #royalwedding2018 Was So Important for our Black or Mixed Race Children

Tale of a Mixed Race Royal Wedding

There has been a lot written about the royal wedding since it aired on over 30 million television sets across the globe. Most of it is positive- even dramatically praiseworthy. Meghan’s dress, her poise, Harry’s nervousness, Prince Charles walking Meghan down the aisle and of course, who could forget Rev Curry’s poignant yet dramatic address. The day was filled with elegance and style but perfectly choreographed to pay homage to both sets of cultures uniting as one.

I watched William and Kate’s wedding with interest seven years ago, having never watched the amazing performance the Royal machine puts on during one of these affairs.

And yet, this one stood out, not just because it incorporated the same pomp and performance that is behind all of the Royal Family events. But because of who it involved.

These six images below captivated my little ones’ faces.

For the same cliche reasons that many black Americans and Brits have been going on about. Let it not be overstated. This was history in the making.

And representation matters. Meghan shook up an establishment that is centuries’ old where black faces are/were rarely seen. (“They were coming out of every stockroom the BBC could find!”- one of my family members joked.)

And to have so many front and centre- to see a ‘princess’ (and I say this knowing that she will not officially get the title) who is biracial and PROUD! marrying into such an old, white and stodgy establishment. Well, what an absolute mind blower.

I cried and laughed for the same reasons  that most others did watching. But I also cried for my children- because IF this is how the Royal Family wish to go forward, they have made a statement of intention that is both progressive and welcome.

Our children will grow up knowing and seeing a woman part of the royal family who is a feminist, an ambassador for growing up mixed race, proud of her black roots and most of all, willing and able to push against even the most stubborn of barriers.

It was a day that will go down in the history books and one that I’m certain my three daughters won’t forget. When they looked at Meghan and commented, “she’s mixed like ME!”, I knew it was a moment to remember….

Next step is for Meghan to wear her curly hair natural!

If you’re wondering whether multiracial families are the new ‘normal’, read on…

 

17 Signs You’re Planning to Have More Kids

Family Planning Getting You Down?

A lot of Mums these days are able to definitively say “I’m done”- after having their first, second or even fifth child. If you’ve never had that feeling and you’re undecided about whether you might have another one, there are some telltale signs you probably will go for the third…

If you’ve said yes to five or more of these, you might as well keep your old baby clothes!

  1. You’re still hanging on to your now 4 year old’s onesie.
  2. You have all girls but you find yourself reading the brochure about circumcision in your doctor’s waiting room.
  3. Your youngest is a boy but you insist on buying neutral everything.
  4. Your husband’s suggestion he get a vasectomy falls on deaf ears.
  5. When looking for houses, the ‘spare’ bedroom is secretly you’re future child’s.
  6. You can take the sleepless nights because you’re resigned you’ll do it differently next time.
  7. You love playdates and lift shares because you get to practice handling more.
  8. You’re not all that fussed about losing all the baby weight because you know you’ll just pack it on again for the next one.
  9. You still track your ovulation cycle obsessively ‘just in case’ you organise a romantic night in.
  10. The first set of school fees shock you because you’ve already multiplied it times 3 in your head.
  11. You make sure you don’t use all your favourite names for your first child ‘just in case’.
  12. You make sure you don’t reveal to friends and family what the other contenders were for baby names ‘just in case’.
  13. You turn into a sloppy puppy every time you see or hold a newborn.
  14. You recite in your head your kids’ and ‘future kids’ names to see if they go together ‘just in case’.
  15. You drop not-so-subtle hints to your hubby about ‘if’ we were ever to have another one, I would definitely do….
  16. You buy a people carrier when you a sedan will actually do.
  17. Finally, you notice how helpful your kids are when it comes to little babies. Who wouldn’t want another one?!

 

 

 

Tips for parents thinking about Child Modelling

Thinking about child modelling?

Did you know the most googled parenting topic is child modelling? That means every other mother and father next to you also secretly thinks their kid is the cutest kid out there and needs to be seen.

With mixed kids, the look is unique and online retailers are increasingly realising their advertising should reflect the world their customers live in. Children and babies litter online and retail advertising.  So inevitably, child models of colour have been included in their search.

I have been meaning to write this post for a while to shed some light on these elusive but highly sought-after opportunities that many parents might hope (secretly or otherwise) their kids could land.

I say secretly, because there are many dilemmas that parents will go through thinking about child modeling and its impact on their kids, what it means in our society and what we are teaching them by suggesting that looks matter. On the other hand, it can offer opportunities for children to save towards their futures and it can be (not always though) a glamorous, enjoyable scene for children. As long as it’s genuinely the child who wants to do it.

Many children, my oldest included, enjoy being in the spotlight. They love being filmed, photographed and performing and even love trying on different clothing. I never engendered that into my dd1, it’s just the way she is. And so, it may not seem far-fetched to try your luck and see if child modeling is for them.

Of course, it’s not always so glamorous for parents. It takes time getting to and from castings and making sure there is childcare for siblings- often at the last minute. Although agencies and clients will try to schedule these out of school hours, it can still be a big commitment to travel across the city with only a day’s notice straight from school.

It’s not just cherubic looks that can score your darlings a paid gig, companies will have set criteria for what they are looking for- ranging in age range, different races, ginger hair, blonde hair, black hair or curly hair, the list goes on. If your little one is not what they are looking for, no matter how cute they are, they are not going to be called back.

So auditions or castings, as they call it, can be disappointing. Agencies will call you and say a particular company is interested. You need to show up, take a few photos and it may turn out that your child is not what they are looking for. You don’t get compensation for those hours of travelling to and from different auditions.

So what about the money? Earnings for babies and tots begins at about £50 an hour (or £300 per day) and rises with age to about £70 an hour for a 16-year-old. Money must be put into an account in the child’s name or in a trust fund for the child so forget about that dream home. Laws ensure the money is for the child. It can be a perfect opportunity to teach your child about the value of money and that earning can be fun.

Knowing that child modeling is not as easy as it may appear, you should also know it’s not always as glamorous either. Child models also need the right temperament to cope with the camera. A friend of mine recently told me about her experience on the client side working for a PR agency that had requested child models for their advertising. The shoot was going well but, inevitably, a 4-year-old girl began to fuss about wearing glasses. Although photographers, agency reps and the girl in question were all familiar with and understanding of the challenges that go along with working with children, at the end of the day, the job needs to get done. Luckily, the child’s parent stepped in and declared she’d had enough. This parent knew that the priority for her was that her daughter continued to enjoy it. As soon as it became a chore, she called it quits.

And that’s the most important thing to remember. If your child loves performing and has a cute face to go with it, being in front of the camera for a couple of hours may be something you’d like to try out. Just make sure it’s for them, not you.

For more parenting tips and shares, read on about Teaching Our Children to Manage Their Emotions. 

 

 

New Englishisms I Learned From Being a North American Mum Living in the UK

I’d lived and worked in the UK almost 7 years before we had kids, so I thought I’d pretty much mastered the lingo I needed to get by in British circles. But becoming a parent in England has often made me feel as if I’ve just stepped off that plane starting out on a journey I thought I’d mastered all those many years ago.

No, Dummy it’s a nappy!

Learning the names of baby items is a steep learning curve for any Mum, let alone someone who is not native to England. But there were some I just thought were universal or at least familiar enough to be used interchangeably. Nope. Tell someone your baby uses a pacifier and most Mums will do a double take. Why the name dummy anyway? Nappies, prams, buggies and pushchairs. Why do we need 3 words to describe a child’s mobile chair? And really what is the difference from diapers, strollers, playpens and bassinets?

Dress for confusion

Once my daughter became old enough to go to preschool, her confusion multiplied when I asked her to put on her pants and a sweater. She told me she already had her pants (undies) on and this is called a jumper. Too many times I’ve been the butt of the joke referring to my pants getting wet and needing to change. Don’t laugh, it’s embarrassing.

The class divide

Who knew the age of entering school could be a whole new set of learning that we have to master? Brits do love their acronyms- after all, none of these seem to require any explanation if you’re a regular reader of the Guardian: EYFS, KS1 and KS2, GCSEs and A levels. And don’t get confused by the fact that public schools are actually private schools, state schools is an umbrella term for anything not private and you’re left to figure out the rest of them from community, voluntary, religious, grammar schools or academies…I could go on.

Accentuating our differences

With a Mum who says, “waaader” to a Dad who might say “watah” and living in a country that pronounces it “woortah”, our poor daughters are confused.

Potty talk

I’ve always gone to the bathroom where you do a pee. Now, I find myself asking my daughter if she needs to wee or, if we’re alone ‘wee wee’. No matter what, I always feel silly.

Questionable Subject matter

How is ‘maths’ plural but ‘sport’ is not?

Sesame Street anyone?

I thought Sesame Street was universal until I started singing the ‘Rubber Duckey’ song to blank stares from my fellow Mums. It seems I’m out of the loop when it comes to remembering child’s programming. I’ve never actually watched Blue Peter or Top of the Pops – so if you refer to an episode growing up, it’s pretty much guaranteed I won’t get it.

Hokey what?

Songs for kids. I thought these were universal. Especially when you hear the familiar tune and words to the wheels on the bus. But which clever person decided the bus should go all through the town instead of all day long?? Who decided that the spider should be itsy bitsy instead of incey wincey? And really what difference does it make if we do the Hokey Pokey instead of the Hokey Cokey? If you’re going to make a change, make it worth it people!

The rest is child’s play

At the end of the day, we have more in common than I’ve let on. Somersaults might be called roley poleys and popsicles are ice lollies but my daughters are products of their multicultural living. Some things change but a lot remains the same. Pancakes are still thick and fluffy and costumes are not swimsuits. It’s the little things that count.

As featured in the Huffington Post…

Teaching our Children to Manage their Emotions

Teaching Kids Mindfulness

My oldest daughter can cry. When she starts, my husband and I brace ourselves that she may cry for another half hour if we let her.

I have to be honest. My patience for it wears thin. I’ve read everything under the sun and do consider myself a good parent when it comes to being understanding and acknowledging feelings.

But sometimes it’s hard. It’s bloody hard because it doesn’t work like the ‘guru nannies’ describe it. “If your child is sulking or having a hard time with something, acknowledge why she might be upset and validate her feelings on the subject- that, yes, it might be unfair. Then, offer her an alternative.”

Sounds easy, right? Well, here’s how mine went down.

Daughter finishes gymnastics. Comes outside, plays awhile in the playground, never mentioning anything is amiss. I say it’s time to go. Five minutes into walk home, whining starts: “I’m thirsty”, she says. I say, “wait ten minutes, we’ll be home soon”.

Whining gets louder and more insistent. Now turns to cries. We’re literally seven minutes from home. “I’m thirsty!,” she cries.

I say, “I know, I’m sorry, I should have brought water. You must be thirsty after gym. Can you wait?” “NOOOOOOOO!”

Sobbing starts. Real tears. I try to reason. I acknowledge her frustration, her thirst, I encourage her to hurry and it will take less time. I tell her her crying is probably making her more thirsty. It goes on… and eventually, I get angry and threaten her with all sorts of punishments/consequences if she  just doesn’t stop.

Not my greatest mum moment. I get it. It’s tough when you feel “h-angry”- as we like to call it- a combination of hunger and anger. But this was long. So hunger is a trigger. Now so is thirst. What about when she got home and had some water?

My daughter later confesses she couldn’t stop crying. She just didn’t know how. Heart brakes. I know she’s a good kid. Though I tried to get her to calm down, she just didn’t have the tools to manage her emotions.

It got me thinking, what can we as parents do to encourage our children to manage their emotions and calm down in those moments? Just like adults, kids get overwhelmed and don’t have the tools or understanding to know that the moment will pass or to put it into perspective. In reality, I’ve been known to have a tantrum or lose it because I just needed to let it out.

So how can we allow kids to do the same without it getting out of control?

Here are a few tips..

  1. First step is realising that getting kids to calm down with words or distraction is not always possible.I was on my way home for example and I was doing everything I could to just speed through and try to talk her down. But I’ve found it goes a long way if I can just stop what I’m doing and hold herCreating a space where she can feel safe and calm almost immediately helps her to calm down, stop crying and move on.  At least until we can sort out the matter that’s upsetting her. The sobbing stops and she lets her body fall (literally) into me.
  2. Listening and responding.If I could, I would have gotten her that water. But I couldn’t at that moment and I didn’t have access to any. If she had said she wanted it ten minutes earlier, I would have needed to run back inside the gymnasium to get some. Because at that point, I would be able to see it coming. So the earliest signs should have been there to alert me to sort it out before it erupts. We talk about that later, knowing her body and when she might need to drink before it gets that bad.
  3. That’s where the third tip comes in. Recognise and anticipate trigger points.By tracking her meltdowns, we’ve understood that my daughter gets ‘unreasonable’ (i.e. not herself) when her blood sugar is low. Carrying around extra snacks or recognising hunger or thirst before it happens is one more way to limit these episodes. Tiredness, attachment to certain things or people can also be triggers that you may wish to avoid if you know your child is triggered. I now make it a point to always have water and a snack.  She in turn, is more aware of her hunger or thirst when the crying begins.
  4. Safe words. When my daughter told me that she couldn’t calm down because she didn’t know how, it made me realise she needed to tell me something but couldn’t. We’ve since developed ‘safe words’. A word she can say to me to let me know she just needs me to hold her, no questions, no debate, even if she’s in trouble. It’s been mind blowing how much effect it’s had in calming us both down when we’re worked up.
  5. Talking about it and discussing it after it happens when the child is calm.We’ve joked about how, when we’re about 50 metres from home, she begins to whine and sometimes cry about being tired or hungry. It’s always in the same spot so we joked that it’s like the switch has been pushed. It makes her more aware of how she’s reacting, what her body is saying to her in that moment and how she can control it knowing it’s coming.
  6. I try to remind my daughter to become aware of her breathing, to take in deep breaths. It’s a distraction but it’s also effective in calming her down. She focuses on breathing in through her nose, out through her mouth and eventually, it works. Mindfulness. It doesn’t always work but if she concentrates, it does distract her a bit to focus on something else.
  7. Let go of expectations. It’s not going to sort out every tantrum but it goes a long way in her understanding her emotions. I don’t force it, if she needs to cry, I let her cry but she does tend to calm down sooner than she might have before because she is more aware.

 

Let’s Stop Forcing Playdates on our Kids

“Mama, tell Brianna’s mum that I don’t want a playdate.” I ignore her and keep talking, entertaining the idea of the playdate that Brianna herself has asked me for before and for which I now find myself being approached by her Mum.

Sensing the fact that this might just go ahead without her approval, my daughter panics and jumps in, patting Brianna’s mum on the arm. “I don’t want a playdate with Brianna.” Simple, short and to the point. She knows I’m embarrassed and the silence hangs in the air as I struggle to find words that might dull the sharpness of her declaration.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay.

“A, don’t say that. That’s not nice. She’s just tired,” I apologise to Brianna’s Mum.

I don’t know why I’m embarrassed. My daughter should be able to decide who she likes and with whom she wants to have a playdate. It’s not everyone that my daughter will become friendly with and it looks like despite my having a great relationship with her Mum, A does not like Brianna.

It’s a familiar story in our household, where after school conversations are dominated by who A played with, whom she didn’t and why or why not. “Why don’t you ever play with Sam?” “Because I just don’t, Mama. I don’t like him.” I wince at the matter-of-fact tone she adopts, taking me back to that place of pain at being the one left out when I was growing up.

My daughter is reasonably popular in her class, having gone through a period of settling in earlier in the year and experiencing her dose of feeling left out of the already-established peer groups. She came home a couple of times crying because she wasn’t asked to join in with the girls who were playing a game outside.

Slowly and gradually, I was able to convince her that she shouldn’t take it personally and that she should just continue being herself and people would like her.

Months later and she’s more at ease now, less desperate to be friends with certain people and confident in herself that she can do her own thing and others may or may not join her, but it doesn’t matter. It’s had a profound effect on her confidence and it seems others are now doing the chasing.

As she gets older, of course she is going to have more established peer groups which will form according to their likes and dislikes and what they have in common. But I thought at such a young age, most of the kids play with each other. Is this is an opportunity to teach her inclusion using her valuable after-school time as the forfeit, I wonder?

And now that she is the one being chased, how do I instill in her that feeling of compassion for others, careful not to live out my own childhood feelings of exclusion and bullying through her just because she is popular and confident. She hasn’t done anything wrong and she doesn’t want the playdate. So why can’t I leave it at that?

She groans as I gently suggest to her after school that we should have a playdate with Brianna. “Nooooo, Mama.”

I’m out of my element here, caught between respecting my child and what she wants and using this as an opportunity to teach. I drop it and make the decision to tell her a story about how it feels to be left out at bedtime.

The next day A comes home to tell me that she sat beside Brianna at lunchtime. “I saved her a spot in line as well,” she says proudly. Before I can respond, she’s already skipping off happily showing her sister the daffodils that have just begun to sprout.

A didn’t want the playdate and she shouldn’t have to. She knows that being kind is the lesson here. But extending that to two hours of forced play seems unfair when she’s done exactly what she knows I want her to do.

I smile as I realise the rest of the lesson is for me. To trust that she can and will do the right thing. On her own terms. And it’s that simple.

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