Category Archives: Press

Is Fortnite Bad for the Teenage Brain? – JC Article

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The screaming behind the door was frightening. Turned out the kids were just playing a game, shouting down the microphone excitedly to other online players. It went on for hours. The game was, I discovered, Fortnite Battle Royale, a free survival war game that had recently come out, and is now probably the most popular video game in the world.

Anyone with boys aged between around twelve and seventeen may too be despairing at how Fortnite has invaded their lives overnight, creating moody or zombie-like teens. Gamers are greeted with a rush of dopamine when they play, especially in the teenage years. The release of dopamine prompts the brain to crave more, thereby turning them into potential addicts.

The new game by Epic was launched as a standalone title, separate from the original Fortnite, which first came out last July. While the original cost money and was only available on PC, this later version is free and is available also on Xbox and PlayStation — hence the surge in popularity. Its overall player base has reportedly passed 45 million and that was before its recent launch in China. It is continuing to grow in popularity as developers introduce new content to the game including weapons, map locations and cosmetic items to keep players continuously interested, or rather, addicted.
This month Epic introduced Fortnite Season 4, its Twitter feed enticing gamers with the slogan “Brace for Impact”. Following its release, Immanuel College deputy head Beth Kerr, wrote to parents offering advice on how to handle the game.

She listed some of the some of the symptoms for parents to look out for, that indicated “a less than healthy relationship with gaming”.

These include:
Unusual preoccupation with the idea of getting back online to play;
Self-imposed isolation in order to guarantee uninterrupted play;
Feelings of irritability and restlessness when not playing games;
Lying about the amount of time spent gaming;
Persistent headaches caused by too much screen time;
Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by excessive use of gaming devices;
Diminished personal hygiene and poor diet;
Persistent fatigue due to lack of sleep.

Rachel Vecht is a parent of four, a teacher and consultant. She says gaming companies hire the very best neuroscientists to design games to be as stimulating and arousing as possible. There is also research that shows games can neurologically damage a young brain in the same way as cocaine. “The rush of adrenaline and dopamine they get from playing a game means reality becomes boring so kids can lose the ability to focus and even feel anxious or depressed.”

One of the commonly asked questions is how many screen hours should be allowed. “I am very reluctant to judge or be prescriptive to any family as each parent must do what they feel comfortable with, in line with their values. The number of hours permitted very much depends on the age and temperament of the child.”

Vecht believes that as parents we have a “fundamental responsibility” to understand and monitor our children’s behaviour online. That means teaching them how to “self-regulate” throughout their lives. “The best way to achieve this is through communication and connection rather than coercion and control.

“I advise parents to sit down together with their child and have an open conversation about what they use screens for, to establish some very clear screen rules/boundaries. This is the time to also determine what is the reward for keeping to the rules and the consequence for not.”

Jamie Rubin, a mother of three, is talking to educators and parents about ways to build children’s “digital resilience”. She is working on devising a cross communal plan — through a guidebook — for those kids, like her youngest child Eden, who will be starting secondary school in September.

“It is not just about educating children,” says Rubin. “It is well worth the investment for parents to learn more about the issues related to technology and screen time.

If many parents were on the same page it would really help with the battle screen addictions, social media, iphones, gaming etc.

“We can’t deny our kids access to cell phones and screens, like it or not it is part of ours and our children’s lives.”
“Creating healthy limits and habits are as important as communication and trust.”
“It is our responsibility as parents to make them as prepared as possible to use technology responsibly.”

www.educatingmatters.co.uk

Addicted to Fortnite – Sunday Telegraph article

Read full Telegraph article here

Help, my son’s addicted to Fortnite!

‘If he had his own way, he would be on the game for at least ten hours a day’

Ever since my 13-year-old son Alex began playing Fortnite, he has been stuck in his room for what feels like the best part of one.
The other night, I caught him smuggling in a takeaway; the prospect of breaking away from the tactical survival game, which he plays online with hundreds of strangers for hours on end, just to have dinner with his family, was unthinkable.

At weekends, with his sound-proof headphones on, he can stay in his bedroom all day, excitedly shouting instructions into the microphone.

When he emerges – usually around midday, having played into the night – he’s like a zombie. If he had his own way, he would be on the game for at least ten hours a day, stopping just for toilet breaks. Welcome to my new world.

I kick myself for ever letting him talk me into buying him a PlayStation PS4; Fortnite is available as a free download, hence its world-dominating popularity: “But it’s actually good,” he insists, “because it teaches you to be strategic.” I just want him to be strategic at doing homework.

Having started to mature into a diligent, ambitious child, Alex has turned overnight into the teenager I always dreaded bringing up. My son, I learnt last week, is a “gamer”.

I should be grateful he’s not roaming the streets at night with his friends, and that his zombiefication is happening somewhere I can keep watch. But his addiction to this one, all-consuming game fills me with horror. I fear he will soon claim squatters rights, saying he is entitled to play Fortnite whenever, forever.

I have sought professional advice; Rachel Vecht, from Educating Matters (educatingmatters.co.uk), which offers parenting seminars in the home, tells me one of the most commonly asked question by parents in how to police a child’s screen-time – on their smartphone or at the gaming console.

“For most kids, banning screens altogether, or sleeping with the router under your pillow, is not the answer, just as I don’t recommend parents ban chocolates and sweets altogether. Kids tend to crave what they can’t have.” Besides, there will always be some new game or social media app that kids can become obsessed with. Before Fortnite, there was Minecraft and Pokemon Go.
“The question you should be asking is: do they have a healthy balance of time for other activities such as homework, socialising, exercise and being part of the family?”

At Vecht’s suggestion, I am implementing some new house rules.

Screentime (TV and phone) will be limited during holidays to four hours per day, no more than two hours in one go, and with an hour’s break in between. Playing stops one hour before bedtime, so Alex can “unwind”.

Advice for parents | How to protect your children from screen overuse

• Don’t use a digital babysitter. Babies and toddlers need a real caregiver, not a screen companion, to cuddle and talk with. There is no substitute for a real human being.
• Wait until your baby is two or three years old before they get screen time. And make a conscious decision about screen rules for them.
• Monitor your own screen time. Whether or not your children are watching, be aware of how much your television or computer is on at home – and how often you check your mobile phone in front of them.
• Ask your children about their real world day, but don’t forget to ask them about what’s happening in their cyber life.
• Don’t snoop or spy – studies show that children with overbearing parents just learn to be more secretive, and won’t turn to them when they run into trouble. In other words, be vigilant but not a vigilante.
• If you find inappropriate content, resist the urge to shut down or confiscate their device. You are depriving them of their entire support system. They need to reach out to friends. Let them.
• Finally, if anything goes wrong in their cyber life, tell them not to try to handle it on their own. That’s what parents are for.

On school nights, it’s half an hour on the phone, and just one hour on the PlayStation, and not unless all homework is complete. If this doesn’t work, then, after a warning, I will confiscate the screen from his bedroom. If that doesn’t work, I will get rid of the console.

I know other parents are equally despairing. One friend posted on Facebook: “I wish I never let my son have Fortnite. If I can spare someone else, please don’t do it!”

Nadine Wojakovski

How to stop your children turning into digital zombies during the school holidays

Read original article here

Laurel Ives
10 February 2018 • 9:00am

Today marks the start of the February half-term “holiday” for most parents, and once upon a time that holiday consisted of opening the back door and pushing older kids out of it to roam their local surroundings.

But now all the world is contained in a screen. From Snapchat to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, games consoles and television, the lure of the phone, iPad and laptop is so potent that it has become a daily struggle for parents to get their kids to engage with anything beyond a selfie, snap or group chat.

Even when friends come round it’s common to find them lined up on the sofa staring at individual screens.

It’s such a headache that some parents turn a blind eye to teenagers lurking in their bedrooms, faces lit up blue. Screen time equals peace and quiet time for beleaguered mum and dad – and maybe even a moment to have a sneaky surf through social media themselves, or answer a work email.

Others deliberately seek out Wi-Fi free holidays to end the battles.

One friend told me that every half-term her family rents a cottage in Exmoor with an open fire and they all go for long walks with the dog; “It’s bliss as Exmoor has no Wi-Fi!” she said. Another recalled the time when the Wi-Fi broke in their holiday home. “The kids ended up playing Monopoly, cards and darts. We did quizzes. I think they may have even have had the odd conversation.”

Advice for parents | How to protect your children from screen overuse

• Don’t use a digital babysitter. Babies and toddlers need a real caregiver, not a screen companion, to cuddle and talk with. There is no substitute for a real human being.
• Wait until your baby is two or three years old before they get screen time. And make a conscious decision about screen rules for them.
• Monitor your own screen time. Whether or not your children are watching, be aware of how much your television or computer is on at home – and how often you check your mobile phone in front of them.
• Ask your children about their real world day, but don’t forget to ask them about what’s happening in their cyber life.
• Don’t snoop or spy – studies show that children with overbearing parents just learn to be more secretive, and won’t turn to them when they run into trouble. In other words, be vigilant but not a vigilante.
• If you find inappropriate content, resist the urge to shut down or confiscate their device. You are depriving them of their entire support system. They need to reach out to friends. Let them.
• Finally, if anything goes wrong in their cyber life, tell them not to try to handle it on their own. That’s what parents are for.

Yet if the Wi-Fi is working (and, let’s be honest, there are few places where it isn’t), there are ways to restore tech balance that don’t involve an unrealistic total ban. Increasingly parents are realising that limiting tech is a good idea as the negatives of phone use continue to stack up: from neck strain to weight gain to a decline in empathy, concentration and conversation skills learned from time spent actually face-to-face with others.

Anya Kamenetz is the digital education correspondent for National Public Radio in America, and her new book, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, is published this month. “What you want to avoid is kids getting into the zombie zone, mindlessly consuming show after show and game after game so that when you turn it off you get this explosive reaction because they’ve been overstimulated.”


Too much screen time can leave teenagers overstimulated CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Instead Kamenetz recommends finding creative ways to use technology together. “Try to bring screens back into the shared space. Let’s say you watch a video together and learn the dance routine in the video and practise it together, the screen becomes part of the game.

“Or you’re going to bake cookies, so you find some tutorials on YouTube, you make the cookies together, and then you might even upload a video of yourselves making them. Maybe you’re going on a trip and you research a great video to watch that you will all talk about after. The goal is to hijack the fascination with the screen to explore an interest or activity together.”

Kamenetz feels parents are suffering from a lot of free floating, but sometimes misplaced anxiety around their children and the world of tech. “If your kid is in their bedroom on Snapchat, what is that really doing? Is it interfering with their sleep, or are their real world relationships not as strong?

“These are big issues, but the vast majority of kids are probably doing just fine. Social media doesn’t necessarily have to derail their lives. Be careful, talk to them and observe them.”

Negotiating the new world of screens then is about finding sensible limits, and making sure it doesn’t take over our lives. Build in some sacred screen-free moments, like at the dinner table or when you’re driving.

Many of the most important conversations I’ve had with my children have been behind the wheel of the car. Or find some shared family activities.


Thrill seekers: get out into nature CREDIT: TREE TOP TREK

I was surprised by how many of my friends cited family board games night as a way to have fun together. Says Claudia Courtis: “We play board games that are actually quite fun even for parents. I can recommend: Forbidden Island, Exploding Kittens, Code Names, Pass the Bomb, Qwirkle, Star Wars Labyrinth, Rummikub and Ticket to Ride. It boils down to giving the kids attention, offering to do something with them, being available, which is all quite hard to do when you’re keeping an eye on work emails at the same time.”

Unfortunately as parents we are also caught up in a muddle of work and social media on our phones ourselves – even when on holiday – and it’s tempting to use the kids screens as a babysitter. Rachel Vecht, a former teacher, mother of four and founder of Educating Matters, which provides seminars and courses in parenting skills, says what’s important here is modelling.

“Eighty percent of parenting is modelling. If you’ve said no screens at the table that includes your quick email to work, as whatever your child is doing is as important to them as our agenda is to us. We have to acknowledge that, and it helps children feel we understand them.”
Vecht believes in writing a screen contract in advance of the school holidays with incentives that everyone in the family has agreed to stick to. It’s enough to send your average adult phone addict into a panic.

“This half-term we are not going anywhere and lots of my kids friends are away, so I will sit down with them and explain that I understand they will want to be on their screens some of the time, but that we need to allocate times and brainstorm what else we are going to do, and come up with some ideas based on their passions. It’s about setting it up in advance, so that it’s all agreed. If you’re working during half-term then sit down with whoever is looking after your children too and make sure they understand the contract.”

Which is not to say that it is entirely the responsibility of parents to entertain their children. We seem to have created a world where children are so scheduled with extra curricular activities that they have lost the ability to potter happily about at home without the television or phone, and find amusement on their own.

One of the aims of organisation The Wild Network is to bring back this sense of free natural play and encourage children to spend more time outdoors in nature. When they surveyed parents to discover what barriers stood in the way of their children going outside, screen time was the number one issue they cited.

At a glance | Screen-time rules around the world

•UK guidelines, set out by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommend no more than two hours’ leisure screen time per day for children of any age.
•In the US, it is recommended that under-twos should have no screen time at all. Thereafter, the maximum amount of leisure screen time should be two hours per day.
•In France, it is illegal to market TV shows specifically at under-threes.
•In Taiwan, parents are legally obliged to monitor children’s screen time. They are fined £1,000 if they are found to be letting an under-18 have a screen for hours at a time.

Says Mark Sears, chief wild officer: “The evidence is really strong now that time in nature and outdoors supports children’s well-being in lots of different ways, and not only because it encourages them to be active. It also gives them tools to survive in the 21st-century like resilience, being resourceful, communication skills. This is not a historic sense of how we want children to be. Those softer skills support the whole child to thrive in the modern world.”

Yet rather than try to ban the technology standing in the way, The Wild Network has used it to effect change by building an app, The Wild Explorer, with fun ideas for outdoors activities ranging from 20 minutes, to day-long expeditions, organised by age.

“We’re using our apps to give parents little hacks and ideas for outdoor time. In the February half-term it’s cold, so this is not necessarily the moment for big expeditions. Start with a short bike ride or bird spotting in your local area. Even in our cities you can find something wild.”

And wherever you are, whether it’s the mountains of a ski resort or your local park, pause and take a moment to enjoy it, before you feel the need to document it with a photo or post.

As Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist, says: “If you see a mountain climb it first, then photograph it. It’s about finding balance.” Ultimately the world of tech is in its adolescence, and in a sense we are all stumbling through its maze, trying to find a path through it.

Kamenetz likens the digital revolution to the car industry in its infancy. “When people first got cars they didn’t have speed limits, and stop signs and seat belts. Gradually people learned, but it took a decade to make cars safer and we’re at the very beginning of that transformation.”

We’re not there yet, but screens are not cigarettes; we don’t need a total ban, just to set some limits and boundaries. Still roaming, but in a smarter way.

 

Top 10 Parenting Tips

There is no such thing as ‘perfect parents’ but with the right tools, parents who understand their children better can raise much happier, more resilient, motivated, independent adults. Being a parent is the most rewarding but difficult job one can ever have, yet it comes with no training.
I am passionate about enabling parents to get the very best out of their children. In 2001 I founded ‘Educating Matters’, (drawing on my extensive experiences as a teacher and being a mother of 4 children) to provide practical support to parents though multiple mediums on a wide range of topics. During this time I have spoken to tens of thousands of parents and discussed most issues and concerns.
It is hard to narrow down but I will attempt to summarise my 10 top parenting tips to help nurture a strong, connected relationship between parent and child. Relationship, communication and connection is the key to ‘Positive Parenting’.

1. Values

To parent in a more purposeful way, it really helps to take the time to create a clear, compelling vision of what you and your family are all about and what your end goal is. The first step is to sit down with your partner and ask some key questions. What is important to you in your life? What are the key qualities or characteristics you would like to see in your children as adults? What will enable “success” for your child? Every family will of course have different views as to what these key values may be.

Then, with your children, create a ‘Family Mission Statement’, outlining what you really want to do and be as a family. Having a well-considered, mindful mission about your parenting philosophy and what you hope to achieve is very powerful.

Every time you notice your child or someone else displaying values you admire, talk about it in a positive context. Whether that’s people you know or a story you read about in the news.

It is not always easy to parent in this way with long term goals. You can plant the seeds but it may take many years for your child to blossom. However, one of the greatest thrills as a parent is witnessing your child behaving according to the values you most treasure.

2. Modelling

About 80% of parenting is modelling. Quite a scary thought I know but how you behave bears far more weight than what you say. Be conscious of how you react when you are angry, upset or tired; how you treat others and how honest you are. Your kids will notice and absorb most things, positive and negative. For instance, if you have a family rule of no screens during a meal, you can’t surreptitiously send a quick email for work and then admonish your child for being on Snapchat. You are unquestionably your child’s first and most important teacher and they will learn more from you than anyone else.

‘The power of influence is greater than the influence of power.’

3. Descriptive Praise

This is hands down the most powerful motivator I know. All parents want their children to be co-operative and listen the first time. Adults are hard wired to notice when children do something wrong. However, if most of our interactions are telling children off or giving instructions, it’s not very surprising that they aren’t motivated to listen. Focus your mindset on catching them doing something right and noticing every tiny step in the right direction. Avoid evaluative praise ‘”That’s amazing” or ‘”You’re so clever” rather focus on simply describing what you see, including the effort, attitude, strategies employed and the qualities displayed. e.g. “Thanks for putting your cereal bowl in the dishwasher, really helpful”, “You got out your homework without being reminded and that shows real maturity”.

This is hard and feels a bit like using a foreign language at first but the results are so worthwhile! The magic ratio to encourage more co-operation, motivation and enhanced self-esteem is 5 positive comments to every negative. It will relieve a lot of tension and stress and help you to feel more positively about your child. In turn they will become more appreciative of you.

4. Emotion coaching

Helping children to become ‘emotionally intelligent’ by recognising, expressing and managing their feelings is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. I believe EQ is more important to succeed in life than IQ.

When a child of any age is experiencing a difficult emotion, consider their perspective and empathise. You don’t have to agree or give in! What children need first is acceptance and empathy: acknowledge their upset so they feel heard and understood. When your child is having a meltdown, stay calm, stop what you are doing, really listen and observe. Imagine how your child is feeling and reflect that back to them in words. You can take an educated guess and even if you are wrong, your child will still feel respected, validated and heard.

All behaviour has a cause and it is usually an emotion at the root of it. Parents mainly want to fix the problem and make it quickly go away. However, it is better to listen first and talk through the emotion. You can address the unwanted behaviour and problem solve later.

5. United front

Both parents need to agree on the best approach together. If you have a conflicting, inconsistent approach to parenting, children may become confused or take advantage, playing one parent off against the other. Never criticise or argue with your partner in front of your children. Speak positively about each other in front of your children and portray a harmonious, united front. If you’re not sure on your partner’s view, check in first before responding to your child. Schedule time together to discuss any areas of conflict, compromise and acknowledge each other’s strengths.

(This is all obviously extremely hard if you are separated yet children can cope with different rules in different environments as long as you maintain consistency).
6. Rules and boundaries
It is essential to establish clear routines, structure, rules and boundaries so children know exactly where they stand, what to expect and to keep them safe. You don’t need written rules for every element of their life but focus on clarifying the difficult areas which are causing conflict such as bedtime, homework, screens or eating. The trick is to involve your child in creating the rules so that they have some ownership and vested interest in following them.

Write the most fundamental rules down so it’s easy to remember and so there is less need for nagging, repeating, justifying and reminding. Always be specific and frame rules in the positive so it’s clear what they should do rather than what they shouldn’t. Rules also clearly need to state what happens when they do or don’t follow the rule.

Of course rules don’t work in isolation without a trusting and respectful relationship.

7. Consequences

The old fashioned, authoritarian style of parenting using fear, punishment, threats, bribery or shouting doesn’t actually help parents to be in control. It mainly leads to the child feeling angry, rebellious, resentful and focused on not getting caught doing wrong. Children will undoubtedly make mistakes and misbehave but use this as a learning opportunity; after all the word ‘discipline’ actually means to teach. Punishments don’t usually help to change or improve a child’s behaviour.

Consequences should have a teaching function and not be made up on the spur of the moment out of anger or desperation. Allow children to experience the natural consequences of their actions e.g. If you don’t wear a coat you will feel cold, or if you don’t complete your homework you will get a detention. Fixing consequences encourage the child to put things right e.g. If they make a mess they have to clear it up, if they upset their sibling they have to find a wat to show they are sorry and make it up to them.

What parents really want is to have a child who is morally responsible and on the whole wants to do the ‘right thing’. Not because they fear their parent or teacher’s reaction or they are trying to avoid getting into trouble but because they feel responsible and accountable for their actions. Natural and teaching consequences help to achieve this.

8. Independence

Your main role as a parent, apart from providing a calm, secure, loving haven is to prepare your child up for adult life. Children need to develop the habit of bring self-reliant, thinking for themselves, taking responsibility and developing resilience. When parents do too much for their children, they become reliant, entitled, don’t learn how to do practical things like cook, wash clothes, manage money and most importantly independently resolve problems they face. A parent’s job is to train and empower our children so they feel like a valued and needed member of the house.

Every time you do something for your child, ask yourself are they now capable (time permitting) of doing this for themselves? It takes energy, consistency and effort to help children establish independence and good habits but so worth it in the long run.

9. Special Time

Special Time is when each parent spends one on one time with each child. It is short, frequent, predictable and uninterrupted time to do something that your child really enjoys that is not of material value. It’s mainly about ‘being’ together. Follow your child’s lead and let them choose what to do some days, whilst other times make suggestions. It only needs to be 10-15 minutes but should be scheduled and routine. This will help build a bond and connection between parent and child, giving a child the attention they often crave and will seek in other ways if they don’t get enough.

For children love =time. Setting aside this time is a way of communicating to your child that you love them and enjoy being with them. It is a way to value your child for who they are aside from worrying or talking about completing tasks, academic ability and discipline. Consider it to be vitamins for your child’s soul. We focus so much on making sure children eat and sleep but this is equally essential for healthy living and your relationship.

10. Take care of yourself

You are obviously an essential resource for your family and you need to take care of yourself to be able to care for your children. How you are feeling emotionally and physically will directly impact on your family. In order to be fully equipped to support anyone else, you need to make sure that your own needs are being met and that you are not running on empty. This is not being self-indulgent but will enable you to be a better, more effective parent. In an emergency, we are always told by airlines that when travelling with children you need to fit your oxygen mask before your child’s.

Establish what you require to keep yourself happy and healthy. It may be something physical, mental, spiritual, social or emotional. Once you have worked out what you think you need to stay sane and balanced, then start by choosing a small area to commit to and work out how to make it a reality.

Take small steps at a time and focus on today, right now.

Creating the habit of reading for pleasure

Read original article here

There’s no better way to learn than picking up a book

One very powerful thing I read always sticks out in my mind. A study back in 2002 covering 31 countries concluded: “Being more enthusiastic about reading and a frequent reader was more of an advantage, on its own, than having well-educated parents in good jobs.”

Parents play a vital role in motivating their child and trying to instil a love of reading.

Reading is the single best way to develop your child’s IQ and support their social and emotional development. However, there are hundreds of other things children would rather be doing these days, usually involving a screen.

So here are some tips on how to establish the habit of reading for pleasure:

Make time for reading

Don’t overload your children with too many activities.  By the time they have been to after-school clubs, had dinner, bath, music practice, completed their homework, a bit of down time, . they fall into bed exhausted and have very little time to read. Ten minutes a night doesn’t really allow you to get into a book.
That’s why the long summer holidays are a more productive time for reading. One trick is to say lights out unless you are reading.

Finding the right book

Every time your child experiences reading something boring, too challenging or too easy, they will be put off. I have witnessed children’s attitude to reading simply transformed by the experience of reading one book that they really enjoy.

They need to discover that feeling of not being able to put a book down. It may take a few tries or involve going to a specialist bookshop, getting recommendations from the teacher or peers, reading online reviews.  Don’t insist on them suffering through an uninspiring book.

Range of genres

Expose children to a full range of different genres and styles.  Follow their interests, tastes and experiences.
Reading does not always have to involve a book. Reading should be an integral part of everyday life. It may be magazines, comics, magic tricks, instructions to a game, shop and road signs or the back of a cereal packet.

Set an example

Make sure they see you reading regularly — particularly relevant for fathers and sons. Make a “family reading time” at the weekend or on holiday where everyone sits together and reads their own thing. Children need to see that reading is an enjoyable and worthwhile thing to do.

Read aloud to your children 

Even if they are confident independent readers, all ages enjoy being read to. With older children it gives you an opportunity to bring the text to life, discuss what they are reading and ensure that their comprehension is solid.

Take turns reading

This gives children a break and helps them access more difficult texts.  Break up the character parts so you can take turns reading; you read one page and they read one.  Read for a few minutes until you get to a very exciting bit and then ask them to continue and tell you what happens next.

Reviews

Encourage them to exchange ideas on what they thought about a book, reflect and be critical. Many authors have their own websites or forums.  Respect your child’s opinions and tastes without banning certain books that they will just cling to more fiercely.

Parent’s attitude

Keep cool and be supportive, never show your fears or make a big issue if they are reluctant to read. Reading will not be pleasurable if children feel pressure or anxiety from their parents.

Praise/feedback

Remember to get into the habit of telling children what they have done right instead of what they have done wrong eg “I liked the way you used expression” or “You worked out that difficult word all by yourself”. This is far more motivating than correcting every mistake.

How to get your child to pack independently

Read original article in ‘Family Traveller’

As parents we can get very caught up in everyday life, looking after our children and not considering the bigger picture. However, a parent’s main role is to prepare our children for adult life. This involves teaching them to be self-reliant and taking some responsibility. Training children to do things for themselves is a gift not a burden. When children expect everything to be done for them, they can lack confidence in their own ability and be unappreciative.

This philosophy definitely applies to packing in preparation for a holiday. Why not get the children involved instead of doing it all yourself? It saves time, teaches responsibility and then if something is forgotten they can’t blame you. How much you expect your children to do independently depends on their age, stage of development and temperament. Children of all ages from toddlers onwards can be involved at some level.

1/  Break the task down into manageable chunks

This applies to any chore your child isn’t used to and don’t expect it all to be done in one go. For example, work out what you need to take, choose items, wash anything that’s dirty, get the case out and place it all in the luggage.

 2/  Make a checklist

Depending on your child’s age, you may sit down and do this with them or leave them to do it independently. Establish where you are going, how long for and what type of clothes are needed – count how many days or nights there are and what activities you will be doing.

 3/  Lay everything out

This will give you the chance to check over everything before it gets packed and make it easy for the children to understand what they need and what they are missing. Top tip: Free standing coat rails are useful for doing this.

4/  Pack items in separate compartments

I did this for the first time when I climbed Kilimanjaro and the whole family have done it ever since. Use thick plastic zip lock bags or net bags (Muji sell them in all sizes) and separate clothing into categories. It makes unpacking at the other end much easier. The kids can take the bags out without removing the content and it’s particularly valuable if you are moving around a lot on holiday or you have a number of children sharing luggage, as clothes get muddled up.

5/  Take photos of complete outfits

We travelled abroad for a family wedding which consisted of four separate parties. With three daughters that was a total of 12 outfits. I took photos of each outfit before we left including hair accessories and shoes, so each child knew exactly what they were wearing when each event was happening.

 6/  Investigate different packing techniques

Everyone has their own way of packing and provided nothing important gets left behind it doesn’t really matter how you do it. Encourage your children to try different approaches. I always pack clothes on hangers which again makes it much easier to unpack at the other end. Also pack anything that creases easily with a plastic dry cleaning bag over as it helps reduce creasing.

 7/  Make it fun

Injecting some fun and humour into any chore makes it more enjoyable. For example playing music and dancing whilst you pack.

8/  Allow enough time

I hate feeling under pressure and you never know what unexpected things can happen in the days running up to going away. It’s a good lesson to try and teach children to plan in advance and avoid procrastination. I try to get the kids to lay out what they need or place it on a shelf in their wardrobe up to a week or two before we actually leave. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in the cases but the time consuming bit is working out what to take. ‘Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today.’

9/  Start with small steps

If your child has never packed before, start by asking then to pack their toys or hand luggage.

10/  Be present

If you want them to pack again, it needs to be a positive experience. If they make lots of mistakes or silly suggestions don’t be too critical or instruct too much. Praise, encourage and acknowledge every tiny step in the right direction. When children are busy they can be more open to talking so use it as an opportunity to connect and chat about other things.

11/  Dirty washing

Place two plastic bags in the luggage so once the kids are on holiday they can place any dirty washing in the bags making things tidier when they are there and much easier to sort when you return home.

 

Helping your child develop good habits and encouraging more independence truly sets them up for life.

How Can I Get the Kids Away from their Screens on Holiday?


Read the original article in ‘Family Traveller’

As a former teacher, mother of four and working as a parent educator for the last 16 years, the whole issue of managing screen time is one I get asked about an awful lot.

Skiing over February half term was far and away one of the best bonding family holidays I can remember. In large part due to the lack of screens. We were out with the kids (aged seven–15) on the mountains all day and had extremely limited Wi-Fi back in the chalet. We came home incredibly refreshed and connected as a family.

There is no point totally banning screens or demonising them as they have become such an essential part of our everyday lives. However, it is a parent’s responsibility to teach children to manage screen use responsibly and learn self-regulation.

Top tips for a successful digital detox:

1. Agree screen rules/limits before the holiday

Rules should include how long everyone can spend on screens, where and when they can be used, what for etc. Listen to how your child feels, what they want and explain your views and concerns. Reach a compromise and put the rules in writing. Clear rules are empowering as children then know what to do and ultimately develop good habits.

2. Establish rewards and consequences for following the rules

At the same time as creating the rules, you also need to agree on the reward for keeping to them and the consequence for not. Ask your children for ideas as they may come up with suggestions you would never have thought of.

little-girl-in-boot-of-car-ready-to-go-on-holiday

How about making the car a screen-free zone?

3. Determine specific screen-free times

In our family, we have a rule of no screens during a family meal or travelling in a car as these moments provide great opportunities for conversation. You also may like to introduce the idea of screen-free days or one day off and one day on.

4. 80% of parenting is modelling

All the rules apply to parents too. If your family rule is no screens in a restaurant, it’s not ideal to be hiding your mobile under the table to send a quick email to the office. Your child’s agenda is as important to them as your agenda is to you.

5. Don’t take screens on holiday

Last summer going through security when we took all electrical devices out of the hand luggage, I was quite shocked to count the number of screens in various guises that a family of six with two teenagers were travelling with. On subsequent holidays we have cut back. If the iPad or laptop isn’t even with them on holiday they can’t argue about using it!

Kayak-Tours-Anna-Maria-Island

Plan exciting activities and screens will be the last thing on their minds

6. Find things to do instead

Brainstorm what children can do instead if they are not occupied by an activity or trip and it’s also supposed to be screen-free time. Many children (and adults) are simply at a loss as to how to keep themselves occupied without a screen. Plan activities that all the family can enjoy together.

7. Keep a digital diary

Parents are often surprised to discover that they are on their screens more than their children. I just recently added an app onto my phone which tots up my daily usage. You could set up a family competition where the person who uses the phone least over the whole holiday gets a prize!

8. Choose an active holiday

Intentionally choose a holiday where you know children will be kept busy and won’t have time for screens. Probably the hardest type of holiday to limit screen use is a relaxing beach/pool holiday as there isn’t always a great deal to do.

9. Unplugged destinations

We once went to a hotel in the Caribbean that was described as being a ‘Hemmingway retreat’ with no TV, no room service and no Wi-Fi. It ended up being the most relaxing holiday we have ever experienced. I have sent my older children to residential camps where they were only allowed their phones once a week to call home.

mother-and-daughter-reading-book-on-a-doc-by-the-lake

A good book can make all the difference

10. Find the right book

Instilling in children a genuine love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. A family holiday away from a packed weekly schedule, friends, school, homework and extra-curricular activities provides the perfect opportunity for some more extended reading. The key is finding ‘The Right Book’.

With a well thought through, consistent approach and ‘united front’ between parents it is possible to enjoy a family holiday really connecting without arguing about screens!

 

 

The Vision for Literacy Business Pledge: working with law firms

Read full article published in Briefing, page 28

Low literacy levels undermine the UK’s economic competitiveness and can create huge barriers to social mobility.  It is estimated that poor literacy skills cost the taxpayer 2.5 billion every year, at a direct cost to business.   The Literacy Trust state that in some disadvantaged areas in the country, 35% of the population lack the literacy skills expected of an 11 year old.  For those affected, this compromises employability, health, confidence and happiness.

Giving back to school

In 2016, the National Literacy Forum launched the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge to encourage the UK business community to join the national literacy campaign and help close the literacy gap. At the start of the year, 44 businesses from a wide range of sectors signed a pledge for one year to raise literacy levels. It involves committing to take action in three distinct areas: engaging employees in the workplace, supporting the local community and contributing to the national campaign.

Quite a number of the signatories were law firms including: Baker & McKenzie, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Bird & Bird, Nabarro, Norton Rose Fulbright, Clifford Chance, Pinsent Masons, Mayer Brown, Slaughter & May and Travers Smith.

These firms have undertaken a wide range of activities – from workplace campaigns highlight the importance of reading for enjoyment.to volunteering in schools, libraries, providing work experience and on a national level using various networks to raise awareness and build support to tackle the Literacy gap challenge.

For example, BLP helps in the local community by recruiting more volunteers for their long running reading scheme at a school in Newham.  Further afield the firm has provided work experience, careers advice and skills development and supported the East London Children’s University. Employees were engaged by relaunching an in-house charity book library.

Pinsent Masons reach over 600 students each year by supporting 12 schools every year. It also supports the goals of other high-profile literacy campaigns such as Read On, Get On, which works to a vision of all children reading well, at age 11, by 2025.

Kate Fergusson, head of responsible business at Pinsents, says: “Continuing commercial success relies on the education and employability of the young people in our local communities, and ultimately the stability of those communities. Being a responsible business wholly reinforces our strategy to attract, retain and enable talented people.

“And we recognise that businesses have a key role to play in tackling skills shortages among UK school leavers. Our school partnership programme was initiated in 2003, and it represents a long-term commitment to improving academic achievement, raising aspirations and creating better life chances for children living in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.”

“Around 30% of our people are actively engaged in our volunteering programme each year, and volunteering also creates opportunities for skills development, team building and networking with colleagues and other businesses. It’s something that we encourage all our people to do.”

Home helps

Chris Edwards, corporate social responsibility and diversity manager at Travers Smith, says his firm signed the pledge to send a positive external message of its commitment to improving social mobility by boosting literacy levels. The firm helps to run a range of schemes. Participation is actively encouraged, and a number of partners and senior business managers take a lead on efforts.

However, another very important aspect of the pledge involves engaging employees as parents to raise the profile of literacy for the sake of their own children. In 2016 Travers Smith employees met during their lunch hours for seminars on a  range of subjects – such as instilling in children a love of books and reading, understanding how reading is taught in schools, and practical tips for what parents can achieve at home. There was also a seminar on developing children’s writing skills.

“Travers Smith has used such courses as an effective way to equip our people with information and skills needed to develop children’s literacy and communication skills,” says Edwards. “As a busy law firm,  we understand that non-work time can be a very precious commodity. These resources and skills training help to enable busy parents and carers to make the most of the time they spend reading and writing with their children and families.”

The seminars run by Educating Matters can be webinars or workplace clinics, covering a wide range of parenting-related challenges. As well as literacy, firms have covered numeracy, homework, exam preparation, children’s use of technology and screens, choosing schools, motivation, self-esteem, emotional intelligence and creating more harmony between siblings.

Having sessions like these at work also promotes an ongoing internal support network for parents, and may serve to normalise common challenges they face. Indeed, they may be one of the only opportunities for employees (irrespective of title or role) to meet as parents – and equals. It’s rare they’d have another, similarly relaxed forum in which to share stories or advice while at work.

Parents are continually challenged to balance work productivity with meeting their family responsibilities. And if an employer is seen as unsupportive of caring responsibilities, it’s unsurprising if that affects team morale, and eventually drains talent, with potentially serious cost implications.

There are benefits to providing non-work-related support for both firm and employees. Recognising this, many firms have established their own networks, or actively promote external alternatives, such as Cityparents.

For employers, this is an opportunity to demonstrate concern and empathy, enhancing the firm’s image as an employer of choice. It also signals that the firm takes work-life balance seriously, knowing that if employees feel less stressed and guilty about time spent away from home, they’ll be more engaged and focused, and ultimately more productive, at work.

Top reading tips for parents

1 The absolute key is finding ‘the right book’. Every time a child experiences reading something boring, too challenging or too easy, they’ll be put off. On the other hand, children’s attitudes to reading can be transformed by reading one book they really enjoy.

2 Reading doesn’t always have to involve a book. It should be part of everyday life. It may be newspapers, magazines, comics, magic tricks, instructions to a game, road signs, a TV guide or the back of a cereal packet.

3 Parents are role models for children. Make sure they see you reading regularly – particularly relevant for fathers and sons. Have ‘family reading time’ at the weekend where everyone sits together and reads their own thing.

4 Read aloud to your children, even if they are confident, independent readers. It gives parents an opportunity to discuss what they’re reading and ensure that their comprehension is solid.

5 Make time. Don’t overload children with too many extracurricular activities. And longer periods of uninterrupted time, such as weekends or school holidays, are a more productive time to build the habit. One trick – say: ‘Lights out unless you’re reading!

 

Learn to listen to help your child’s wellbeing

 

Helping your child talk through their emotions is more important than trying to find a quick fix to problems

Published article here

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to help him or her become “emotionally articulate” so they can recognise, express and manage their feelings.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is arguably more important to get through life than IQ and employers are increasingly looking for ways to measure EQ when recruiting.
The state of children’s mental health has been mentioned in the press a great deal recently. As a parent coach/educator speaking to thousands of parents, I have also noticed many more parents increasingly raising issues such as their child’s self-esteem, anxiety, anger, eating disorders, self-harming and depression.

Many schools appreciate how important it is to put preventative measures in place to support children’s mental health. JFS has introduced a “health hut” — a comfortable space for students to book an appointment and chat with various external professionals three times a week about any issues concerning them. Sixthformers are trained to deliver programmes to support the younger years.

At Immanuel College, year heads are trained in mental-health issues such as anxiety and eating disorders. The whole Immanuel community is taught about respecting and valuing the importance of good mental health and how to achieve it.

The most effective way to respond when a child of any age is experiencing a difficult emotion is to acknowledge your child’s perspective and empathise. You don’t have to agree or give in. However, during meltdowns, it is the worst approach for parents to deny feelings, give advice or ask questions. What children need first is empathy: acknowledge their upset so they feel heard and understood.

Haim Ginott, the 20th-century child psychologist said, “Whilst we can find our child’s behaviour to be unacceptable at times, his or her feelings should never be.”

Using the analogy of an iceberg, the tip is a child’s behaviour: this is what parents tend to react to. Instead, parents need to address the main issue, the child’s feelings and emotions, which are 90 per cent of the problem, and under the surface.

Parents can act as an emotion coach for their children, using “reflective listening”. Acknowledging and labelling emotions has proven to have a soothing effect on the nervous system, helping children recover more quickly. This technique is the basis of many forms of psychotherapy.

Next time your child is experiencing a difficult emotion:

1. Put your own emotions and wishes to one side and observe your child. Look at their body language, tone of voice and listen to what they say.

2. Imagine how your child is feeling and reflect that back to them in words. You can take an educated guess and even if you are wrong, your child will still feel respected, validated and heard. For instance, if your child can’t do something rather than saying, “don’t be silly, it’s easy”, say: “You look really frustrated. You have tried so many times.”

3. It also helps to describe their resistance, for instance: “You wish you didn’t have to go to bed. You want to stay up late like mummy.”

Parents mainly want to fix the problem quickly and make it go away. However, it is better to listen first and talk through the emotion. Address the unwanted behaviour and problem-solve later.

Emotions are there to be felt and then they can move on.

It takes practice and determination to stay calm and empathise, especially during tantrums and meltdowns. It is the best tool a parent has  — to communicate, connect and encourage children to be more emotionally articulate.

Do this effectively and the impact on your child’s long-term mental health and well-being will be enormous.