Category Archives: Parenthood

CHOOSING STATE SCHOOL VS PRIVATE, WHY WOULD YOU DO IT?

State School vs. Private School

We all face the dilemma whether to send our kids to private or state school.  However, for most people it’s not a dilemma. Paying out on average £6-10k a term- perhaps triple that if you have more than one child- is simply a privilege reserved for the better off.

And yet, there are people surprisingly, for whom funds are not an issue and yet they still choose state school over private. This surprised me, I have to admit.

When most independent schools boast better facilities, smaller class sizes, extensive extra-curricular activities…  Who would really risk their children’s success knowing all of that? Whereas less than ten per cent of our population actually attends private school, the stats show a disproportionate percentage represented in top positions. 71 per cent of senior judges attended private school, 50 per cent of the House of Lords and 44 per cent of The Sunday Times Rich List. I always thought if the funds were there, it would hardly be a question.

And yet, here are five successful families who can arguably afford the fees, the lifestyle and whose social network perhaps has more in common with most private school parents than at our school which has a high proportion of Free School Meals pupils. I’d never heard of this phenomenon before but it got me thinking…

If money was not an issue and setting an individual’s politics aside, why would you choose state school over private?

Their answers surprised me.

  1. “Because it gives our children a false sense of reality”. Number one on parents’ list. One set of parents I spoke to (both of whom went to private school themselves) claimed “ps offers a mind-numbing environment and a false sense of security that children are ‘entitled’ and ‘deserving’ of all their privilege”. It fails to equip their children for the realities of the world, which they subsequently will have to learn at University. I don’t want my children to be surrounded by people who are only like them and have lots of money”, said one parent. “Not sure it makes them a nicer person.”
  2. Ethnic diversity. A no brainer I suppose. Most people know private schools are not as ethnically diverse as state schools though some are better than others. Outside London it is possible to have a diverse intake – in London it seems more polarised. For children who come from non-white backgrounds, this can be an important factor that is overlooked for the sake of achievement but confidence and identity can suffer. On the other hand, even children who are not from an ethnically diverse background, surrounding them with children and families who are ethnically similar gives a false sense of reality for when they enter the working world. The world is a melting pot and (think Made in Chelsea), having friends of different backgrounds can show children different ways of working and compromise.
  3. It can give kids a false sense of entitlement and achievement.Knowing that your parents paid for your education and that you got to where you are because of help can also affect confidence. Many parents don’t want their children to feel that they’re entitled to a ‘leg up’ and feel that they should work hard to get to where they want to be.
  4. “I can think of better ways to spend £350k (a lifetime of school fees)”. Well, so could I when you put it that way. Parents I spoke to said it’s important for them to give their children experiences outside of school which will enrich their learning. For example, they took them on holiday to Kenya where they got to see animals in the wild and visited a local village and an orphanage. Still a privileged lifestyle but they argued they may not have been able to afford those trips if the children were in private school.
  5. Higher expectations. It never occurred to me that there was more pressure from universities if your child attended private school. Some universities will ask for higher exam results from certain private schools than from some state secondary schools.
  6. Private schools in the area only offer single sex education. Many private schools are single sex but state primaries and secondary’s are co-ed. Depending on the child, this can be a big factor for parents making that decision.
  7. No need. Many parents look for private schools to fill in the gaps of parenting,  But if you are hands on and  supportive of your children’s schooling, it is possible to make up the difference. It can be expensive but less so than private school if you enrol your children in music/sport/drama/languages and tutoring in areas of weakness. And still have plenty left over to help them through university and setting up a home or career.
  8. Life is not purely about academic achievement. Yes, private schools can guarantee better results and they will challenge your children to do their very best but for some parents, it’s about providing a happy home, making sure they get jobs they enjoy and are good at but which they can leave behind at the end of the working day. Achievement and results are part and parcel of most academic private schools. And that’s not a bad thing but perhaps not what’s right for all children or all parents. “I want to support my children in their ambitions”, said one parent. “That’s more important than an Oxbridge degree or friends in high places.”
  9. Depends on the child. Some children need that extra push that a private school can give- they’re much more hands on. Some children will get lost in the academic pressure that governs many independent schools. So it really can be about what would suit your child best.
  10. The state school down the road is simply better than the private ones. Like state schools, there are good independent schools and poor ones. Given how much is at stake, choosing your local state school is not necessarily about choosing the lesser school. Both can vary and it’s important to do your research about whether your local state school can do just as good a job if not better.

10 Things Every Parent Should Do When Raising Mixed Race or Interracial Children

10 Things EVERY Parents Should Do When Raising Mixed Race or Interracial Children

Take two parents, two entirely different cultures, traditions and perspectives and you get a family with some pretty tough discussions, strong opinions and choices ahead. We can’t do it all and we certainly won’t do it perfectly when it comes to our interracial children but there are some things we as parents need to prioritise when raising mixed kids of dual or multiple cultures.

  1. Speak your language

If one of you speaks another language or originates from another country where English isn’t the first language, that means your mixed son or daughter could and should be bilingual. Even if you don’t speak it well, passing down any culture often goes hand in hand with language. Your mixed race kids may resent having to attend language school every Saturday now but they’ll thank you for it later on when they’re able to converse with friends and family from your native country.

2. Talk about your history

History can tell a thousand stories and telling your own history as well as that of your homeland will do wonders in opening up all sorts of discussions with your children. For us as a mixed race kids growing up with a Persian father, I learned fast that the Iranian Revolution marked a major historical upheaval and explains a lot about modern day Iran, its people, its diaspora and its politics. Pre-Revolutionary Iran and the ancient civilisations and dynasties also shed light on who and why Iranians are such a proud people. I don’t know if I would understand my Dad’s culture and origins if I didn’t have this perspective.

3. Emphasise both Cultures

Make sure you talk about both parent’s  cultures to your children. So easy is it for parents to get caught in the trap of emphasising only the culture that is ‘exotic’ or foreign that the partner who hails from the country in which you reside or one that is more common, gets forgotten. Make sure both of your mixed race kids’ cultures and traditions are valued and explained and talk about it with each other to ensure you’re both on the same page.

4. Talk about race and racism

Even if you’ve never fell victim to racism, this is a must must discussion parents need to have with their children. Your children will have different experiences from you and they may have darker or lighter skin but either way they need to be able to talk about it and understand it even if you’re uncomfortable talking about it. (Read on for more about how to talk to your kids about racism)

5. Pass on your traditions

Traditions are so important in passing down one’s culture. You don’t need to do everything your parents did but highlighting the important ones, in discussion with your partner, will help your children again to understand where you come from and the parts of their culture which are important. In our family, we have chosen to continue the traditional Nigerian greeting but have chosen not to pierce our newborn daughters’ ears. We have made these choices consciously and with intention about what we wish our mixed race kids to take from Nigerian culture.

6. Mark your cultural festivals

With so many cultures to choose from, we’re never at a loss to have a reason to celebrate. From Canadian Halloween, to Nigerian Independence Day to Nowrooz (Iranian New Year) Festival, we seem to have it all covered. Each one gets as much attention as the next and we even try to ensure we can attend a community gathering to make it is as authentic as it was for us growing up with the real thing.

7. Demonstrate the importance of traditional greetings

Greetings are so important in today’s globalised world where countries, people and cultures emphasise different things in their greetings. In Nigeria, greeting an elder is a very formal affair involving a bow or a curtsy along with lowered eyes to show respect. In Persian culture, men and women typically kiss each other on the cheek three times to show affection and respect. It’s important that our mixed race kids understand how and why we greet each other in each setting so they can navigate their way around each cultural setting when they’re older.

8. Visit your home country with your children

Even if you’ve never been and you’re a third culture kid yourself, at least you had the benefit of being raised by parents who grew up there. Your children will need to see the real thing before they can understand your culture (and you) completely. The people, the cultural norms, complexities and weirdisms that make it up. Don’t let it become just a vacation spot either. Let your mixed race kids spend their summers there to know just how you grew up and how you actually lived.

9. Foster close relationships with your children’s Grandparents

Grandparents are so important to imbibing your culture in your kids. They carry with them all of the above- history, traditions, language. Developing that relationship and ensuring your mixed race kids get to know their grandparents will have a huge impact on them in years to come.

10. Give your children the freedom to adapt culture to who they are as third culture kids

Your mixed race kids are not you and their experience is going to be different from yours as children of an intercultural family. When they’re old enough, allow them to explore their culture for themselves and decide which parts they can identify with and which parts they don’t. This may change again when they have families of their own but it’s important that you let them be who they are and not decide for them even when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.

As featured in the Huffington Post

Raising Mixed Race Kids in a Colourism World

Talking Identity with Mixed Race Kids

Why I love My mixed race kids
Why I love my Mixed Race Family

11 Things to Know Before Having Interracial Kids

11 Things to Consider Before Having Interracial Kids

If you’re planning to have mixed race or interracial children and you’re in an multicultural relationship, consider these most common complications every parent of mixed race children has faced at one point or another.

There are so many amazing things that being part of a mixed family can bring to your life but of course like anything, beauty is complex. These are simple reminders to make you aware of what is coming and what you may need to discuss with your partner beforehand. As your mixed race or biracial children get older, try understanding each issue with as much openness and understanding as you would any other.

interracial kids

  1. Your interracial kids may have a different accent/ culture to you

“Mama, say ‘water’”, my oldest daughter pleaded. She laughed as I repeated the word with my heavy-Canadian accent, “waaaderrr”. I never thought my kids would be making fun of my accent. I just assumed we’d all speak the same, we’re a family, after all.  Growing up first generation British and the daughter of mixed parents, (Nigerian and Canadian/Iranian/British), my three daughters are bound to have different accents, cultural experiences and different identities. As parents, it’s something you know that will happen when you have multicultural kids, but it’s tough when you realise they’re having completely different cultural experiences than you did growing up- even opting to adopt one culture or identity over another.

As mixed or interracial kids, it’s their prerogative. Their language, accent, home, even their look is different to yours and though that may be the case with all kids, being of mixed parentage, it’s even more pronounced. Hey, some may even switch between accents depending on who they’re with. Accents, like any other part of their identity, can become fluid for mixed kids.

  1. Consider that this is new territory for both you and your partner

Let’s face it, most parents of mixed or biracial children are of one heritage themselves and so finding themselves in this unknown world of mixed parenting is a minefield. It’s the constant arguments over whose childhood was better versus what is best for the child all the while both you being able to pass on your cultural identity in the process… It’s hard and neither of you is experienced in this area. You’re both so different and coming from such different backgrounds, you’ve never had to compromise on culture before. And inevitably you’ll both probably feel quite strongly about passing on your traditions and values.

Like anything, keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to deal with these discussions. I remember the discussion my hubby and I had about piercing our firstborn’s ears. In Nigerian culture, it was commonplace, even expected- so much so that despite our little one decked out in frilly dresses, relatives and friends would often insist they couldn’t tell she was a girl or not because she didn’t have pierced ears. We kept that conversation going for a long time, raising it at various times until we both came to an understanding about why it was important (or not) and what she (our daughter) would miss out on without it. It may seem trivial now but it took on more significance because we were so new to the interracial parenting scene.

  1. Your interracial kids may adopt one identity over another

Being biracial black and white, identity is and will be fluid. Associating different aspects to each cultural background, our kids are likely to adopt one over the other at different points in their lives. If they can pass as white, they might only identify as white. As they get older and they start to understand skin colour and race on a deeper level, they may identify more with their black parent, even going so far as to say they are not white (at all).

Another thing to consider is that siblings may identify differently from each other because of how different they look and their experiences as a result. My oldest daughter is darker skinned, looks much less ‘mixed’ than my other two and the only one with an identifiable Nigerian name. She will, inevitably have a different experience than the younger two- even opting to identify as black ‘like Daddy’ instead of being mixed. Be ready for it all and accept your children for who they are and where they’re at. Have the discussions about race early on to ensure your children are comfortable discussing it with you. For a step-by-step guide to talking about race, click here.

  1. You’ll feel pressure from family about how to raise your interracial kids

After the joy of having a new grandchild wears off, pressure will set in from family about how to raise your child. Starting from discussions about circumcision, ear piercing, the list goes on. Be prepared. Parents are likely to get involved in any family but when it comes to identity and culture, families can come from a place of fear of losing their cultural traditions when it comes to your children.

Older relatives may even be stuck in a different generation where things were done for hygienic, economic or practical reasons. Those reasons might not exist today and may not apply to your home country so decide whether these traditions are still right for you and your children.

By the same token, don’t just discount it just because it’s not practically relevant; it might still be important to your partner because of its cultural implications. The first bath in Nigerian culture for our little ones was a great example of this. It was important back in the day because midwives performed many procedures that we replicate in today’s Western hospitals. Hence, its significance is not practical anymore but the cultural value I could recognise, was still relevant and important to my husband.

  1. You’ll need to go with the times

Your interracial kids are going to take on some aspects of your culture, but not all. Just as you probably did growing up and then going on to have your own family. Even as they grow, they might not think that going to mosque is that cool or they may turn a cool eye to the traditional stews you slave over every night, preferring instead fish fingers and fries because that’s what their friends are eating.

I remember that feeling well, wincing in shame when one of my friends commented that my house always smelled like exotic food. I hated being different. Now I try to make a fusion of food so my little ones can experience it all. As they get older though, trust that your children will be proud of who they are. Maturity brings with it pride in being able to be different and feeling comfortable. Keep that in mind when you’re having that argument with your little one over whether they can wear their superman outfit over their agbada (Nigerian traditional garb).

  1. Adapt to the country you’re living in

Kids just want to fit in with their friends-especially when they get to the teenage years. Evaluate very carefully how important it is for your interracial kids to miss out on the biggest high school event of the year for a cultural event or insisting on traditional or cultural wear.

Our children just want to be themselves, and I agree there is a fine line between wanting to imbibe important values, morals and ethics onto our children and imposing our own ideas. Finding the balance, through talking it out, explaining your reasons and not dogmatically insisting without allowing for dialogue is easier said than done but necessary if you want to pull them along. Explain the reasons behind such practices, and don’t just assume they’re going to do them because you said so.

  1. Encourage bilingualism but don’t make it torturous for them

If your child is resisting speaking his/her mother tongue – don’t get upset. Keep up with it, encourage it in gentle ways. You don’t really want your child to hate your language, do you? In reality, there WILL be a time when the need will arise to learn and to speak it. And your biracial children WILL show more interest.

Saturday schools are just as common as they were when we were growing up and I don’t know how I feel about them yet. I’ve read about grown-up children who hated it and still today don’t speak a lick of their language despite the torturous 3-4 hour lessons they were forced to go to every Saturday. I’ve also read about people who hated it growing up and now really value that they can speak, read and write their native language. Make decisions based on what you and your partner believe is right but keep your minds open as they get older.

  1. The ‘homecoming’ you had in mind for when you bring your kids back to where you grew up may not be what you were expecting

It’s not just that they might not be feeling it but your expectations of bringing your kids, your offspring, your legacy back to where their roots are might be too much given the fact that your biracial children are mixed. They’re likely to have different accents, dress differently and even may be perceived as completely foreign. All of this will make them feel unable to relate to how you grew up and may make them feel like a tourist in your home country. Don’t take it hard or feel like they’re nothing like you.

  1. Expect that your interracial kids will question, even doubt or be ashamed of certain cultural practices

Be open minded- if your child comes home questioning something that you take for granted is cultural, allow him/her to explore it with you. Don’t just shut it down because you think it’s disrespectful. It may not be the right time at that moment when you’re at a traditional burial or wedding but remember these events and milestones are important markers of your culture and great ways for you to explain certain things. Many old traditions are built around births, deaths, weddings and milestones such as coming of age.

My husband recently took my daughter to one of his family naming ceremonies for a new baby. Naming ceremonies are important in Nigerian culture and depending on the families’ circumstances when the child was born, they can be quite emotional, marking the families’ joy after years of trying for another child or after losing a parent recently. The ceremony became quite emotional and the scene brought up many questions for our little one.  My husband was able to explain what was happening and why- giving her context and insight into the emotions of the night.

  1. Having children of your own will force you to confront your own childhood issues

Don’t assume that because they’re yours, they’re an extension of you. They’re going to have different experiences and therefore different issues, if any. So don’t make the bullying about racism if it’s not for them. If they do experience racism, take it in your stride and explain it to them, talk about it and don’t assume that this is going to be a major issue just because it was for you. I know plenty of mixed or lighter skin black people who say they never had to experience racist bullying.

  1. Your children’s appearance may betray their experience. Looking white and feeling mixed is a thing. How they present to others will impact on how they identify and its important that you can acknowledge and explore that with them. With this confusion, children will find it hard to adopt their ‘black’ side or their ‘Asian’ side because others will consistently point out, ‘but you look white’. Allow them the space to talk about this with you and give them permission to identify how they wish without feeling guilty. If you as their parent can do that, they will feel a lot more confident about who they are.
11. Your interracial kids have the chance to embody the best of both of you

Finally, remember that growing up in a mixed family is one of the most enriching and fulfilling experiences your child could ever have. Without even trying, your children will grow up with a healthy sense of diversity, tolerance, open mindedness, awareness and the potential for multiple languages. Being mixed allows your child to bridge gaps and embody diplomacy.  With the ability to switch between multiple spheres and cultures.

So good luck raising your global citizen! For more about raising mixed race kids, click here…

 

biracial children

Racially Ambiguous

10 Things Every Parent should Do when Raising Biracial Children

DREADING THE END OF SUMMER? HERE’S WHY YOU SHOULD LOOK FORWARD TO THE SCHOOL RUN

Look Forward to Kids Going Back to School?

I’ve been enjoying hearing my Mum friends dread the end of the summer when the children go back to school. We’ve all enjoyed the holidays and missing your children when they go back is understandable.

Me, on the other hand, I can’t wait. Not because we haven’t enjoyed the summer, or because we haven’t loved getting up late and planning our days with the ease and casualness of vacationers. But for a number of other reasons, I am happy to see the summer come to an end.

Here’s why:

  1. Free time. Well, here’s a no brainer, you get your free time back. Again, I must reiterate, I love having my kids around but to be switched on all day everyday is exhausting. I’m looking forward to having at least 2.5 days where I can catch up on tasks I’ve been putting off and go shopping without 3 kids whining that they ‘want a treat’.
  2. Back to routine. Let’s face it. Kids thrive in routine. It’s nice for us to have breaks from it but, as a Mum who borders on Type A personality, I also thrive in routine. Knowing they’ll be in bed from  7pm onwards and that they’ll wake up refreshed is comforting in many ways. I’ve witnessed far too many a yawn from kids this holiday to know that my kids are not getting enough sleep.
  3. They’ve gotten lazy. That brings me to the third point. Out of routine with loads of free time. Mine at least, are getting harder and harder to cajole into doing their chores or even (gasp) doing ten minutes of learning a day.
  4. They might actually learn something. I’m no teacher (as the above attempts at getting them to do homework have demonstrated). Although I’d love to homeschool, teaching my kids is not my forte. So I’m happy to hand the children over to qualified teachers for 6 hours a day so they can learn something about adding and subtracting numbers.
  5. It’s expensive! Our summer has been jam packed with activities and on top of holidays, transport costs, food and entry fees, it’s not been cheap. I’m looking forward to getting back to budget and reigning ourselves in a bit more before the next holiday begins.
  6. The house is a tip. My girls have loved having so much free time and many lazy mornings have been spent playing with play-doh, crafts, sand and baking. I’m so sure much of it is stuck in the corners and under furniture.  But without the time or energy to do a proper clean, it’s stayed there for much longer than I’d have liked.
  7. Seeing friends again. And this goes for both parents and kids alike. My daughters are keen to see their friends at school and I’ll admit, I’ve built up a nice community of Mums and parents at school as well. It’s been nice to see those I don’t see normally at school but I’m looking forward to catching up with those I’ve missed.
  8. Too much of a good thing. Like all good things, the holidays must come to an end. We’re already looking forward to half term because their Grandma is visiting from Canada. Only six weeks to go!

Perhaps I should return to this post two weeks in when the school run has gotten tiresome once again, birthday party mania sets in and I’m once again missing my kids. For now, though, I can’t wait for school to start!

For more from Mixed.Up.Mama, click here to find out how to help your kids manage their emotions.

5 Simple things to do before the holidays are over

Every year the holidays fly by and I wish I’d taken better advantage of the time off, time with family and time out of our relentless routine.

And what with new year resolutions the theme of the season and goal setting and life coaching becoming the new rage, it’s only apt we consider how we can take advantage of the few remaining days left in the holiday before the kids go back to school.

Here are 5 simple things you can do to make going back to school/ work next week feel ok.

  1. Call and visit friends/ family you haven’t seen in awhile. Let’s face it, the relentless routine of school, after school activities and work can be gruelling and finding time on weekends to visit can be exhausting especially when you haven’t had time to clean, run errands or see your spouse all week.Mixed race Nigerian Family

Now is the time to call those you haven’t seen in a while and either go and visit or invite them over because the next time may have to wait until half term!

2. Get out of town! For the same reasons above, your routine, lack of time, laziness… whatevcar journeyer, it gets harder and harder to leave the big city and go see or do something outside of your home town.

The fact is, there is a lot to see outside the city limits, you just need a car-or a train pass- and off you go! Longleat, Alton Towers, Peppa Pig World, or the Arboretum- these day trips are simple and easy to plan and let’s face it, the kids will love you! They’ll be occupied for the whole day and you and your partner may even have a good time as well!

3. Do those things you never get around to when school/ work begins again. Get off the internet and go read a book, see the new Star Wars movie, cook a complicated meal, go for a hike or organise your storage closet- whatevebookr it is, it’ll make you feel like you’ve done something enjoyable
while feeling like you’ve crossed something off your bucket list.

4. That brings me on to number 4. Clean up the house, do a spring clean or organise yourself. We all (and I’m sure it’s not just me) say that when the holidays are over, we wish we’d have paused to just organise and plan for the weeks/months/ year ahead. The kids may need new dancing shoes, you may need to buy lunch meat for next week’s sandplanwiches, have you got all your tax receipts ahead of January 31st deadline, you’re sure you bought a present for little Johnny’s birthday next week, you just have to fish it out of the closet…. All of these things (if you can organise yourself ahead of time) will feel like a breeze if you’ve thought them through before hand.

5. Last but perhaps most important. Reflect. Pray for the new year. Pray for your family. Pray for yourself. Take time out to meditate, reflect- whatever you call it to just be… and reflect on life and wreflecthere you are going. You’ll feel more grounded but also and more importantly, you’ll go into the new year feeling good about yourself and the new year ahead. What you put into the world, is what you get back. Take the time to be positive and dream.


Raising grateful kids in an entitled world

Kids' Classic Black Movies

racially ambiguous

10 Reasons we need to teach our kids to be grateful and How…

In just over a week, our children will be waking up wide-eyed to see presents in the double digits waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

Every year I promise not to overdo it and then, with presents from relatives, grandparents, friends… and throw in Santa and ourselves, we end up with way more than we planned.

We even started early this year, asking each of our girls to choose one thing they’d really like from Santa. While watching their eyes glaze over while they pawed through the Argos catalogue (don’t ask me how they got this!) circling everything they possibly could, OH and I both realised we had work to do to make sure our kids understood the true spirit of Christmas.

It’s not just this time of year either, it seems like every time we  go into a shop, my kids seem to want everything they lay their eyes on. Like they’ve never seen these things before or because they think they are absolutely entitled to getting at least one treat bought for them every single time we go out.

And if they get the toy, the must-have thing of the year- the L.O.L doll, the Match Attax cards, the Shopkins or the latest Transformer… how long do they really play with it? How did we get to this point? I have often asked myself.

Last week, my oldest daughter admitted L.O.L dolls are actually a bit boring. But with the maturity of someone who understands, she admitted the adverts and Youtube videos make it look so much more exciting.  Admittedly, it hasn’t changed her desperation to get the latest series…How to raise grateful kids in an entitled world

Why is teaching our children gratitude beyond saying “thank you” so important?

I know it makes me feel good when my child thanks another adult or child when they are given something. And that’s because it shows that our child recognises the value in that something, or the effort that person made to give it to them. Obviously, it can just be automatic sometimes, but at other times, when it’s genuine and self-initiated, it feels good to hear it.

If our children recognise the value of something, it makes them feel good and it makes them appreciate that person or something, sometimes even motivating them to do the same for someone else in the future. It’s a social emotion but one that I think all of us recognise can make the world a better place. 

For adults, studies have shown that being and feeling grateful has physical, psychological, and social benefits, including: lowering blood pressure, improving immune function, increasing happiness and well-being, and decreasing feelings of loneliness and isolation. So if we want our children to grow up to be happy, content and well-rounded individuals, helping them appreciate what they have is a big part of that.

What are the benefits of gratitude for children?

As early as 2 years old, children are learning that there are good things and bad things. They start to understand that the world goes beyond just their immediate family and they can start to understand how interconnected we all are, sustained by others and relationships. 

When we care for our children, and show them generosity in different ways, children feel better. Helping them appreciate these acts of kindness can help strengthen relationships and help them to model these behaviours with others. Developing stronger relationships can amount to increased resilience over time. And when a child is resilient, he or she is better able to have a happier, more satisfied, connected life—and a higher sense of purpose.

So How do we raise grateful kids in an entitled world?

My youngest is 3 years old, and it can be a hard concept to grasp- having empathy for those around you, being grateful of what you have and being able to show kindness and appreciation to other people. But we have to start somewhere. And in fact, like most things, it’s probably better to teach them early rather than later.

This year, we decided to be very intentional about it. Here are 10 things you can start doing. 

1) This Christmas or birthday, resist the urge to buy them that one last gift.

I know it’s hard. It was for me. I think we’re accustomed or brainwashed into thinking that if we get them that one last thing, they will be happy. They will, for about 5 minutes.

First thing is to remove half the gifts under the tree. Birthdays will come up, 28 day return policies… whatever. It’s just important that your children appreciate every gift they receive, or at least most and not open them, toss each aside and look for the next one. Reducing the number is one step towards appreciation.

2) Say no to your kids.

They have to hear it because it makes the ‘yes’ more special and they will appreciate whatever it is that much more. In this day an age, we’re taught not to say ‘no’ but to say ‘perhaps you can have it later, or “would you like this instead?” I believe a good old-fashioned, ‘no, you cannot have that’ didn’t hurt anybody. Plus, it means that your children are taught the lesson that they can’t have everything they want. It’s a valuable lesson in life that will set them up for later, hard as it is.

3) Give your kids jobs or chores to do.

Not simple ones but ones that involve hard work. So they begin to appreciate that many things take hard work. I remember one time when my oldest asked me for something and I said, I don’t have any cash on me. She said, “simple, just go to that machine in the wall and get some”. I knew then that I needed to explain something to her. She thought that things just happen, that her bedroom was somehow clean because she woke up that way. No, showing her how to clean her room, put away her toys and make her bed gave my oldest a sense of pride in getting it right. It meant she became a stickler for kids going in her room and messing things up but at least she got the message that it takes hard work to have what you have.

4) It also means sacrificing.

Teach your children that having new things or doing certain things takes sacrifice. Teach them the value of money. Explain to them that if you go to the cinema tomorrow, they won’t be able to also go to softplay. Make them part of that decision so they learn to appreciate what they were able to do and learn that it took a sacrifice of something else they enjoy.

5) When the children get older, you can teach them to give things away,  ask them to go through all of their things and choose items or toys that they no longer want. If they can sell these for cash, use the money to serve others, and let them choose how they want to use the cash.

I read about one Mum who had a do-good day every month. Each month, her children would do extra chores for money such as mowing the lawn, washing the car, picking up garbage from their local park and they would use this money to donate to a local charity.  Her kids got so used to serving others and sharing, they started asking for charity donations in lieu of birthday gifts! How amazing is that? They were so thankful for what they already had, they wanted to give it all back. Let me tell you those kids felt so good about what they were doing and it really made them into confident kids.

6) Being intentional can mean building in regular family rituals that teach the value of gratitude.  

One of these rituals can include an active gratitude practice. Ask each child to bring to mind a person (parent, teacher, coach, etc.) who has been kind to them, but whom they haven’t had the opportunity to thank. Guide them to select a person they can meet face-to-face, then make a plan to deliver a thank-you letter to that person. Make the activity fun and interesting. Ask children how they might want to add to the family gratitude ritual. Novelty is essential for children to remain involved and excited, so try to change things up from time to time.

7) REFLECT.

Choose a moment or moments everyday to reflect as a family about what you are grateful for. We started saying grace at every meal during the summer but somehow it got lost in the hubbub of our lives. But I’d like to reintroduce that idea or at least the idea of thanking God, (the creator, your own spiritual equivalent) for three things we are grateful for each day. We started doing this at night but this can be done at anytime… supper time, bedtime, even on the way home from school. Carving up time within each day to stop and appreciate can have such a big impact- letting children reflect on their own lives and giving thanks for all that they have.

8) Develop an awareness about how we are all interconnected.

Ask each other who do you think made your food, where did it come from , who grew your food, made your clothes, your computer, your tele etc. Play a game and let them understand who and what was involved in bringing that object to you. Reflecting on all the people who helped make that object come alive can help children appreciate and understand their place in the world and how we are all interconnected.

9) Writing thank you cards in advance.

No doubt after Christmas, it will seem like a chore. But before all the excitement is over and while they’re still in anticipation mode, it would be great to capture that energy to thank those who sent them presents, those who invited us for Christmas lunch or those we’d like to remember this holiday. I think it also helps prepare their minds to think about the giver rather than it being one big unwrap-fest in under 3 minutes.

10) Setting expectations. 

Set reasonable expectations when it comes to your children showing gratitude and thankfulness. I read about one Mum whose kids used to complain at dinner, “Chicken again? Why don’t we ever eat anything good?” Who hasn’t heard that said at least once?

The parents sat down with their children and had a heart-to-heart, making it clear that this behaviour was no longer ok. They set an expectation that no matter what they eat, each member of the family will thank the chef for the meal. Since then, thank-yous were sincerely given, even from the two year old, because they set that expectation with their kids.

I know I said 10 but I couldn’t leave this one out. It’s perhaps the most important…

11) Finally, model the behaviour you want your children to possess.

What random acts of kindness do you do in your everyday? I can’t say I’m the best at volunteering and going out of my way for strangers or people in need. So last year, we decided we’d do some baking and take it around to our neighbours. The girls loved the idea of baking for a day and were so into it. Baking three different types of Christmas cookies and truffles in one day was a bit stressful but after closing my eyes to the mess, I did eventually enjoy it. We decorated each one and put them in little boxes ready to take around to friends and neighbours. Afterwards, they asked, ‘why are we giving them away Mama? Can’t we eat them?’ But once they got it, they were all in. They couldn’t knock on enough doors! We were even discouraging them from knocking too many times or avoiding certain doors. For them, it was all or nothing. To our surprise, two neighbours dropped by our flat that very night and gave us champagne and cards in return! A great lesson for them to learn ‘the more you give, the more you receive’. Even I was inspired afterwards.

Do you set an example and show appreciation in everything you do?

  • Do your kids hear you thank others for the help you receive?
  • Do you express a heartfelt thank you for the unexpected hug that lit up your morning?
  • Or for them putting their laundry away without being asked?

What are your top tips for raising grateful children?

Gratitude requires discipline and setting an intention. It is a choice. It’s easy for anyone to take for granted the gift of life and the gifts we individually have.

I think we nailed it. We’ll see next week when the madness begins.

21 Unusual Ideas for Kids Advent Calendars

Are you looking for an alternative to the usual chocolate kids advent calendar this year?

I love Christmas and I love the countdown but I do feel as if the chocolate can get a bit much. Plus, though they love opening up the little windows, it’s just nice to shake it up a bit every couple of years and see how creative you can get.

Thus began my search to find out if there were decent kids advent calendar alternatives that were as exciting as chocolate for three expectant little girls looking for their chocolate fix.

Thankfully, I wasn’t struggling for inspiration. There are loads of alternative kids advent calendar ideas.  From diy-ing it yourself to religious inspired pin ups, candle lighting, crafts and more.

Last year, I was so inspired in fact, I decided to do two. For the visual countdown that both my two year old and four year old could understand, I decided on a Santa’s beard calendar. Each day, they glued on a cotton ball to Santa’s beard marking one more sleep closer to Santa’s arrival. Click the photo below for an instant printable.

Kids Advent Calendars

 

 

 

 

 

 


Playmobil Christmas Nativity Stable with Manger

Then, to add some meaning to our Christmas and in hopes that the girls understood the Christmas story, we bought them the Playmobile Nativity scene. It doesn’t actually come as an advent calendar so I have been boxing one piece for them everyday to create the scene. But, it was a real hit and it was great to see the three of them excited to find what was waiting for them each morning, then being able to play with the miniatures each day.


Advent Around the World

Here is another idea from Thirdculturemama which is about exploring advent globally and remembering others across the world.

Kids Advent Calendars
“So, each day in December, we will locate the country on a map, the kids will get unwrap one small object (tiny items from around the house..surprise, that’s where your toy orange was!) and if we can get our act together, we’ll complete the activity and outreach as well as pray for people we know in that country. You can see how this thing took on a life of its own. Oh dear. Time to recenter on the advent season again.”


Playinchoc Kids Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarThis PLAYin CHOC advent calendar is sooo cute! The advent contains 24 drawers, each calendar drawer contains: 10g organic chocolate with coconut + 3D puzzle & fun facts card. A sweet little 3D puzzle that the kids can play with and put together makes this soo worth it! Once each drawer is removed, replace back to front to form a new picture which will be completed on Christmas Eve.


Disney Snow White 12 Days Beauty Kids Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarsMad Beauty’s Snow White Advent calendar features 12 individual products to enjoy as each window is opened featuring a range of bath and body products all with the a fresh apple fragrance. A great gift to give or receive with classic images from Disney’s’ iconic Snow White & the Seven Dwarves. Open a window a day to enjoy one of these hidden surprises – hand cream, body lotion or body wash, lip balm , bath fizzers , nail file or a body puff.


Coppenrath Victorian Christmas Chest Large Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarsThis Victorian Christmas Chest Large Advent Calendar by Barbara Behr is full of festive fun. The countdown to Christmas begins here with traditional Christmas images the whole family is sure to enjoy.


LEGO City Advent Calendar Construction Toy

Kids Advent CalendarsCelebrate christmas with this LEGO city advent calendar 2018. The set includes five LEGO minifigures (including Santa) and a husky dog figure. Features 24 different buildable gifts including vehicles, seasonal items and more. Open a door each day to reveal the day’s present and collect all minifigures to add to your building sets. Celebrate the spirit of the season in LEGO city with the newest, fun advent calendar.


Gemstone Geological Advent Calendar

Kids Advent Calendars

A unique and original Advent Calendar with a difference. Our Gemstone Geology Advent Calendar introduces a new gemstone every day – educational and fun. An alternative advent calendar. The personalised box is full of 24 individually packaged and numbered gemstones and fossils, all with an information card. One to open for each day of advent. There is also a drawstring cloth bag to keep the contents in once opened.


Pins And Patches Kids Advent Calendars Christmas Stocking

Kids Advent Calendars

This Pins And Patches Advent Calendar is something completely new. It is a ‘treat’ calendar, but one which doesn’t contain anything edible.

This badge and iron-on embroidered patch calendar is full of daily fun (all the badges and patches come on a backing card with a fun fact or joke), and on opening each day the contents can be used to create something original and useful.


Disney Christmas Advent Book

Kids Advent CalendarsIf you are looking for something a bit different than chocolate to countdown to Christmas this year, then this Disney Christmas Advent Book is perfect! Great value and fun, this lovely advent gift features 24 different mini-books from the Disney storybook collection in a cased wallet. Great for children aged between 6-10 years, this will be sure to give them hours of fun this Christmas!


‘Christmas Reindeer Balloon Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A fun and unique balloon advent calendar, the perfect way to count down to the big day! The advent calendar is made up of 24 5-inch balloons each pre-stuffed with a Christmas chocolate. The kit includes the gold cord, 24 red mini balloons pre-stuffed with Christmas chocolate and 24 gorgeous red nosed reindeer’s ready to be inflated to create this unique Christmas Advent Calendar with.


Mouttop Kids Advent Calendars ,24 Charms DIY Necklace Bracelet 

Kids Advent CalendarsEach day has a number and when you open it, there are have 24 pcs differnt charm for the charm bracelet & Necklace. Great advent calendar for adults or kids advent calendar. A fun Christmas countdown calendar. When you wear it, it promotes beauty, health, good luck, and healing. It is a great gift for your best friend, significant other, or anyone who enjoys handmade fine jewelry.


Christmas Gingerbread House Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A large 3D gingerbread house advent calendar with 24 cubby holes to fill with treats for the christmas countdown. This large wooden gingerbread house is painted in traditional reds and greens with a sparkling snow trim. It is decorated with lots of fun sweetie detailing from candy canes to sprinkles and gobstoppers on the roof.


The Colour In Christmas Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

Open the door to days of crafty Christmas fun, with this colour-in advent calendar with a difference. Inspire a crafty Christmas! Children will love the visual representation of this advent calendar.  With each day of advent the calendar fills with colour and adds to the excitement of ‘how many more sleeps there is to go’! Choose the personalised option, making this advent extra special and a keepsake memory for years to come.


Joe & Seph’s Popcorn Advent Calendar 2018 (Contains 24 x 5g bags of popcorn)

Kids Advent CalendarsA giant book advent calender filled with 24 bags of 12 different Joe & Seph’s customer favourite flavours. The advent calender is designed as the Joe & Seph’s popcorn shop, open the shop to see the jars of popcorn with 24 windows each revealing it’s own secret flavour.

 

 


Christmas Activity Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A set of 24 Advent Activity Cards. A fun pack of high quality cards for toddlers and children to celebrate the countdown to Christmas. This unique set of cards is a lovely way to prepare for Christmas in a fun and thoughtful way. Each card states an activity for your child to do that day.


Advent Candle

Kids Advent CalendarsA grown-up version of the traditional advent calendar – the advent candle is lit every day on the run up to Christmas and burnt down to the following date. A lovely tradition for those chilly winter evenings spent in front of the fire. Small red glass Candle holder also available.


VTech Toot-Toot Animals Kids Advent Calendars – Multi-Coloured

Kids Advent CalendarsCountdown to Christmas with the fabulous Toot-Toot Animals advent calendar. 24 fun play pieces including a cute Toot-Toot Animals Reindeer and baby, Christmas decorations and more. Reindeer includes 3 Christmas songs, 6 festive melodies and lots of fun sound effects. Reindeer responds to SmartPoint locations with different phrases, sound effects and more on all Toot-Toot Animals play sets.


Crayola Christmas Kids Advent Calendars Kit

Kids Advent CalendarsKeep kids creatively engaged as they wait for Santa with the Crayola Christmas countdown activity advent calendar. This kit includes a 24-day calendar of surprises that offers a daily dose of creativity for every day of the holiday season. Packed with craft projects, homemade gifts, finger puppets, and coloring activities, this set helps kids get into the spirit of Christmas and provides a positive outlet for their yuletide excitement.


24 Pack Item with Kids Advent Calendars 2018 Geocaching

Kids Advent CalendarsContains 24 geocaching parts) + 24 bags and 24 number stickers

 

 

And finally… I couldn’t leave this one out!

Multicultural Book Kids Advent Calendars: Books for STRONG Girls

Kids Advent CalendarsFirst of all, If you haven’t done a Book Advent before, you have one book for each day of your countdown to the holiday of your choice. You can buy the books, check them out from your local library, or simply incorporate book titles already in your home library. If you want to add an element of surprise, wrap and date each book and let your child(ren) open one each day. These books are also critical for raising boys who believe in gender equality. Teachers and parents: we need to be explicitly teaching gender equality through reading aloud and the books we share with boys and girls. Every child needs to see everyday female role models, as well as on TV/movies. By doing this, we teach tolerance and empathy, while breaking down harmful stereotypes. This multicultural book advent list below is appropriate for ages 0-10.


50 Acts of Kindness by Kids for Advent

Kids advent calendarsFinally, this year I want to incorporate more of the giving part of Christmas than the receiving.  I found this list of 50 acts of kindness for kids at advent on pinterest which is great. It includes ideas like: bake  goodies and give them to your neighbours; write a letter telling your brother/ sister how much you love them and; make a christmas card for your teacher. I intend to add a few of my own and make it personal to my child(ren).

Happy making and buying and do share some of your own ideas for your kids’ Christmas countdown this year!

“Mummy, I hate my sticky-out bum”: Teaching Our Girls a Healthy Body Image

Teaching a Healthy Body Image to our Girls

“Mummy, I hate my sticky-out bum!” Those words were uttered by my oldest daughter followed by floods of tears on her way home from school. “Why can’t I have a ‘flat’ bum Mama?”, she asked through sobs.

I can’t tell you how much pain I felt in that moment. My daughter is four years old.

I mean, I knew it was coming. I have three daughters. Indeed, body image and consciousness sort of go with the territory. But I expected it later, much later- when we’ve put in the groundwork.  When she knows that yes, she may be curvy and more shapely than the stick thin models she sees in magazines and online, AND she is beautiful.

In that moment, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. You see, to a 4 year old, most 4 year old girls, their most important role model is their mother.  It’s why my little one tries to play house and mama to her babies and tell off her sister, and plays kitchen and… the list goes on. Her mama who has ‘vanilla’ skin, a ‘flat’ bum (much to my dismay), and straight hair. In other words, I look nothing like her.

I thought about the millions of pounds men and women spend on bronzing their skin, on adding volume and curls to their hair and, more recently, to inserting bum implants to achieve the curvaceous figures sported by the likes of Beyonce, J-Lo and Shakira.

But I couldn’t really say all that. Talk about too much information.

I just had to hold her. And validate her. And tell her over and over how beautiful she is. All in the middle of the street as I promised to buy her a new P.E. kit that wouldn’t accentuate her derriere.

A friend of mine pointed out angrily, why do we even engage? Should it matter? Because when we do, we’re just reinforcing the point to our daughters that looks matter. Why are we talking about their beauty and how they look at such a young age. Her boys never look in the mirror and strike a pose or ask, ‘how do I look Mama?’ So why do mine?

I stopped engaging in the nature vs. nurture debate a long time ago, beaten as it were by nature. I was a tomboy and wanted my first born, whatever the gender to follow in my footsteps and love sports- most of all, football. As God would have it, I have the most girly girl daughter you could have. From a very young age, she was choosing pink, asking for princess dress up outfits, posing in her tiara and insisting on wearing high heels. Whether or not she was pre-destined to be like that I can’t answer but I can say that I did fight it tooth and nail.

My Suzy Q will never have a flat bum. I don’t think she’ll take after her Dad and have a stick thin figure either. But she needs to know that she is beautiful. She absolutely has to. I will never forgive the magazine and advertising industry for letting my daughter doubt her sense of self so early on in her little life. (I have to admit, I unashamedly resorted to showing her pictures of Beyonce and Shakira in poses from behind).

But I know now, I have my work cut out. I can never slack. Exposing her to as many amazing strong black female role models that look like her is important. Not just because she’s a girl but because she’s black and mixed and deserves much more than the world has shown her at 4.

At at time when parents are spending more time than ever with their children, if you were ever in doubt, here’s the reason why we need to be there for our daughters at every moment, no matter how old they are.

If you’re looking for resources or books that reinforce a healthy body image for your sons or daughters, check out these books:

Clothing and accessories for your Mixed Curly Kids are now available! Visit our shop today! Dismiss

%d bloggers like this: