All posts by rachelv

Back to School – Managing emotions

Do you remember that ‘Back to School’ feeling?
A mixture of excitement, fear, trepidation, uncertainty and curiosity.

Maybe you still even feel it a bit now on Sunday nights, or at the end of a period of extended leave before you go back to work.  Physically going back to work, is going to be a huge shift for many of us over the coming months.

In my house we are currently having a lot of conversations about change and sharing emotions as 3 of my 4 children are transitioning to new stages. 

If you want some practical tips on the preparation for going back to school, you can find them here in a previous blog post. https://www.educatingmatters.co.uk/blog/category/secondary-school/

With my 4th child starting secondary school, it marks the end of an era. 17 years of doing the school run.

I wanted to focus on the emotional implications.

How do you feel when your child reaches a big milestone?
Starting school, starting university, officially leaving home – People keep asking me how I feel!

To be honest I feel excited about all the opportunities the next phase brings. I regard the main job for parents, as being to raise an adult. So this is just part of that journey.

With all my children I am doing my best to nurture their:
🙌 Independence
🤷‍♀️ Creative thinking
😊 Emotional Intelligence
🙋🏻‍♂️ Social skills

Children feed off our emotions. My daughter understandably felt quite scared, nervous and uncertain the past few days. I tried my best not to dismiss or talk her out of feeling that way. I just wanted to give her a space to sit with those emotions by acknowledging and empathising.

Being an ’emotional container vessel’ for your child takes lots of practice and I am still learning on the job!



Ask your child to tell you 3 feelings they have about returning to school. 

Then, ask why they feel each thing.
For instance, if they say “Excited, scared, nervous” you might respond “Excited, and scared, and nervous. Tell me about excited.”
Be relaxed in your facial expression and body, get down to your child’s level, perhaps hold or touch them and just listen.
Ask your child to describe where in their body they feel those emotions.

Acknowledge the feelings:

Your goal is not to talk your child out of the fear or worry, which will just make them feel dismissed or alone with the feeling. Instead, offer empathy and understanding.
“That is a scary thought. Tell me more.”
It is important to show your child that all feelings are acceptable and it is safe to share their feelings without judgement. Validate and normalise their feelings and experience. Here are some ideas
 “You feel worried about returning to school. You don’t know what to expect. I can see you’re so excited to go to school and see everyone”

Empower:

“It might feel scary on the first day or for the first few weeks. What would help you to feel more prepared. How can I help you?  What could you do to help yourself?”

Help problem-solve:

Instead of just reassuring your child, empower them by problem-solving.  Let them come up with solutions.  “How are you going to remember what to bring in on which day?  What is a good way to go up to someone and ask if you can play with them?  What happens if a stranger speaks to you on the bus?”



Other practical ideas to provide time and space for emotions

5minute ritual of connection at the beginning and end of the day, in their bed or on the sofa, giving 100% of your attention and love.

Role play different scenarios with your child, especially those they feel uncertain or worried about.  Such as walking up to say hello to a new child in the playground, separating from you at the school gate or meeting a new teacher.  It is so powerful to act out real-life situations, to problem solve, practice social skill, and build an image of what something might look or feel like when it actually happens. 

Storytelling whether that is reading a book about a child going to school or actually telling the story of a new, scary situation.  If your child can make up the narrative, it will help them build  a visual picture in their head and process their emotions.

Adjustment to change can take a good few weeks or months.  Let your children know this is totally normal and to be expected.   Wishing you a smooth transition back into the office (if you are going) and a smooth transition for your children back to school.

Adapting to change as we transition back to a more familiar life

Managing change is something we have always needed to prepare our children for in the past.  Living through a pandemic has demonstrated that as human beings, we are incredibly adaptable.  Almost overnight adults had to adjust to working from home and children had to adjust to schooling at home.  This period of limited social interaction and essentially having our lives on hold, has been an incredibly challenging time for a whole host of reasons.

As the world starts to open up, the next big change is supporting families on the road back to some sense of normality.  Young children especially are used to having their parents physically present at home and may not remember anything different pre-covid.  Older children have got into the habit of seeing us around before and after school (even if we were locked away in a room).  

How can we help our children manage adapting as we transition back to a more familiar life and change in general, irrespective of their age?

Be proactive, not reactive


Focus much more on pre-empting problems and planning so things go right, rather than reacting after they have gone wrong.  Our job as parents is to try and set things up from the start so our children can succeed, rather than just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Particularly when it comes to managing change.

Be very clear about your rules and expectations


You know your child better than anyone else and you can probably anticipate some of the tricky areas that cause either you or your child to get upset.  It could be the morning routine, separating from you, completing homework if you are at work, use of screens, bedtime, table manners, social life etc. When something is bothering you about your child’s behavior and they are being uncooperative, it could be due to a lack of consistency and even you as the parent may not be clear what the rules or routines are.  Sit down with you child and make sure they know what changes are on the horizon and your expectations.  Establish rules, boundaries or a routine for any problem areas.  Involve your child in creating these and then follow through consistently.  For young children in particular, it’s helpful to have visual reminders of what they need to do independently so you are not repeating yourself.

Think through


Talk through any situations, events or changes to the usual routine in advance so your child understands what is happening and what to expect.  This shouldn’t be a lecture but just a short chat where your child does most of the talking. Telling you in detail what’s going to happen, what they need to do and anticipating how they might feel.  This is also really useful if you have introduced a new rule or routine, keep talking it through as a reminder of what the expectation is before it happens.  For example, “In 2 weeks time, I will go back to travelling into work 3 days a week. Who will be picking you up from school? How will you feel about that?” 

Role play


This is a fabulous strategy, for all ages who learn more by doing.  Role play things like getting ready for bed, walking into a new after school club where you don’t know anyone, getting dressed quickly, turning off the Ipad the first time you are asked etc.

Break tasks down into manageable chunks


This helps situations feel less overwhelming.  You also need to be realistic about your child’s tempo which is probably vastly different to yours.

Solution time/ Family meetings


If there is change on the horizon, (like the transition to nursery, school or university) an ongoing problem or area of conflict in your family, set some time to sit down together to discuss it and find solutions.  Don’t spend too long explaining or arguing about what the problem is.  The focus should be on engaging the children in compromising and coming up with ideas to solve it.  Get the children to do the thinking (my 4 are certainly more creative than I am), show respect for their thinking and write their ideas down.  For example if you are really fed up with arguing and nagging them to do their homework once you are back at work, call a meeting and explain to the kids you want to start the new school year off in a positive way.  Ask them how they can ensure their homework gets done, so they still have time to have fun and do what they want to do.

The key to all of this is ‘preparing for success’, empowering them and involving them as much as possible in finding solutions to potential and repeated problems.

I have delivered a lot of webinars for organisations such as: DWP, EY, Barclays, HSBC & Marsh 
They have all been variations on the same theme but addressing how to prepare effectively for change, whether that’s parents physically going back to work or the transition to a new phase of the education journey.


 
CHANGE MATTERS

 All parents want the best for their children and want to know how to enable them to fulfil their full potential, get into good habits and cope with inevitable change in their lives. The next phase of change for families on the horizon is parents physically returning to work. This session will cover practical tools and steps you can take to prepare for success, so that your children are well prepared for any change.

  • What is resilience and why is it so important
  • Fostering independence
  • Practical preparation
  • Setting boundaries and expectations
  • Time management

NORMALITY MATTERS

This session will provide an opportunity to reflect on the positive elements.  The experience of Covid-19 has the potential to accelerate significant change in how we work and how our children are educated.  What elements should we hold on to? We will provide some practical tools to best support families on the road back to some sense of normality.

  • Reflections on the benefits to parents and children of the past year
  • What have we learnt & what will we hold on to
  • Being apart from our children again as we physically go back to work
  • Remaining positive & resilient when change happens
  • Practical tools to ‘set up for success’ and ease children back to normality

TRANSITION MATTERS

As a mother of 4 children ranging between the ages of 20 to 11, I have experienced supporting all my own children through the transition to nursery, nursery to primary, primary to secondary and finally on to university.  As a former teacher, I have also seen that process from the school’s perspective. This session will explore how parents can prepare their children for the transition through various educational stages and how to manage change in general. 

  • Practical preparation
  • Think throughs & role play
  • Setting boundaries & expectations
  • Solution time
  • Fostering independence
  • Managing emotions

Making the Most of the Summer Holidays

How are you feeling about the long stretch of Summer holidays with children off school?
We have already spent an inordinate amount of time with our children between home schooling and bubbles being sent home!!

I normally really use the summer to get a change of scenery, re-energise and slow down with work.  Yet this year with everything being so uncertain, I have no plans to go anywhere and it’s going to be hard to really switch off at home and set myself firm boundaries.

I was going to write about all the fun things you can do with your kids over the holidays but I feel like I am running out of steam and inspiration!!!

I also don’t want to give anyone in my audience any added pressure.  
We need to step back and try and give ourselves a breather to just feel present with our families, before the transition to hybrid working.

In this short video, I share some practical, realistic tools to make the most of the summer holidays

Should Reception & Year 6 children be weighed at school?

Link to full article on Sky News here

‘It is damaging for a young person’: Parents call for weighing children at school to be scrapped

Under the reintroduced policy, reception and year six children would be weighed amid fears of an obesity crisis.Amar Mehta

News reporter @Amarjournalist_

Monday 28 June 2021 21:56, UK

The National Child Measurement Programme has been reintroduced amid fears of growing child obestity post-pandemic
Image:The National Child Measurement Programme has been reintroduced amid fears of growing child obestity post-pandemic

Pupils will step on the scales in primary schools as part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), following fears the coronavirus pandemic has worsened child obesity.

NCMP was halted in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic but will be reintroduced in September, with children in reception and year six being weighed.

Kelly Oakes (left) said she would refuse her children being weighed at school
Image:Kelly Oakes (left) told Sky News of her own eating disorder as a young person

Amid growing concerns from parents, Kelly Oakes, a supporter engagement consultant at YoungMinds, has launched an online petition calling on the government to stop the policy.

Mrs Oakes, from Essex, said she believes it is damaging for a young person to be weighed at school, drawing on her personal battle when she was young.Advertisement

The 41-year-old developed an eating disorder and refused to be weighed in year six, creating issues which came to the surface when she lost her parents and had a miscarriage as an adult.ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW THIS ADVERT

“I had to self-heal and through that, I wrote a book which was published in January. It was the first time my family knew about my eating disorder,” she told Sky News.

“Children should not be weighed in school; it is damaging for a young person as my experience has shown.

Mrs Oakes' told Sky News of her own eating disorder as a young person
Image:Mrs Oakes said she would refuse to let her children be weighed at school

“Children will talk about being weighed at school and this conversation around weight and appearance seems unnecessary.”

She added that her “generation is obsessed with weight and diet culture and if we can stop that being replicated from our children that would be great”.

Amita Wilson, who has two children in primary school in Watford, said she can see the benefit of managing a child’s weight but feels doing this in school is not the best approach.

Rachel Vecht, a former teacher, said children are much more aware of body image
Image:Rachel Vecht, a former teacher, said children are much more aware of body image

“I am not sure if the school should be weighing children, this could open up a whole set of other issues, such as mental health problems and eating disorders,” Mrs Wilson said.

“Children may change their behaviours leading up to a weigh-in and a more subtle private approach, led by parents, would be better rather than leading to a situation where children are potentially thinking about and discussing weight with peers.”

Mrs Oakes noted in her petition that eating disorders in children have doubled in the past year, with the NHS seeing more urgent and routine referrals.

The latest available figures from NCMP show that in reception – ages four and five – the prevalence of obesity increased from 9.7% in 2018-19 to 9.9% in 2019-20.

In year six, that figure rose from 20.2% in 2018-19 to 21% the following year.Eating disorder services under ‘constant pressure’ after COVID lockdown

But data shared by Beat, an eating disorder charity, showed between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, which many develop during adolescence.

And NHS data on eating disorders showed a four-fold increase in the number of children and young people waiting for urgent care.

Rachel Vecht, who is a former teacher and founder of Educating Matters, said highlighting weight at a young age can lead to bullying between children.

“By year six, children are much more aware of each other’s weights and you can imagine how it could lead to nasty comments from peers when a child is visibly overweight,” she said.

“I do however understand why health services are trying to keep track of a child’s weight because child obesity is up but is there a way to facilitate this outside a school setting?

Sherry Narula, a teaching assistant at a private school in north London and a parent, believes it is a “fantastic thing because the weight of children is increasing, so it’s important to monitor it”.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “With one in three children leaving primary school overweight, our world-leading strategy aims to halve the number of children living with obesity by 2030.

“We have dedicated £100 million of funding to support children, adults and families achieve and maintain a healthier weight.

“As part of this, we are funding training for healthcare professionals so they can confidently assess and support children’s needs, while also empowering parents to make healthy choices on behalf of their child.

“The upcoming launch of the new Office for Health Promotion will also help level up the health of the UK by tackling obesity, improving mental health and promoting physical activity.”

Pride Month Learning 2021: Being an ally to my queer child isn’t always easy

So, let it be known that I am a proud mama when it comes to all aspects of my child.  She identifies out and proud as queer at the moment because she is still figuring herself out.  I know that my job as her parent and ally is to allow her the space to figure out what this means for her, provide education where I can when needed and accept, love and celebrate her for the magical person she is.  This is the easy part of allyship for me.  She is a flower that I nourish to allow her to bloom and show me what she looks like.  

My ally test this week came from the aspect of being an ally who actively challenges othering and isms in a way that is respectful, educating and productive.  This is the one where, as a parent, it can be hard.  It is my role to protect her in life, right?  But, what happens when she is faced with prejudice?

In school this week, my daughter was confronted by ignorant teenagers who were trying to convince her that there are only 2 genders.  As is usual when it comes to cowardly bullies, they came in a group of 3.  Now, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to advocacy here.  My sweet, proud daughter tried to use this as an opportunity for education.  The conversation developed with this bully and ended them using hate speak and extremely offensive language regarding her queer identity.  At 14, she had never experienced overt prejudice against her before.  She was shocked.  She froze.  The bell rang and she left class full of hurt and shame and confusion over what had just happened.  

Now, I am sure that you have all heard of the mama bear reaction to someone hurting your child.  This was compounded even further by my own core value of standing as an ally and calling out hate (I mean, I talk about allyship in organisations for a living).  As I comforted my daughter and remained calm on the outside, the rage began to build on the inside.  How dare they hurt my child!  How dare they spread hate and ignorance!  The reactive vigilante thoughts that were racing through my head towards three teenagers are probably best left unshared.  But, the anger was real.  I wanted those who hurt my brilliant girl to pay!

Then, my wonderful and kind spirited daughter said something to me to pull me from the red haze in my mind.  She said, “Mom, why are people so uneducated?  It’s pride month!  I know they wouldn’t have used those words if they knew they were just as bad as racial slurs.”  Out of the mouths of babes came my wake up call.

This was not about me or my rage or my need to stand up for my daughter.  This is about allyship.  This was about her.  This was and is and will always be about bringing awareness and education in a way that makes the most impact.

These children lacked education.  Where the ignorance came from was irrelevant.  What would make the biggest impact?  Excluding these children from school?  Shaming them?  Punishing them?  Allowing resentment to build?  Or would it be better to educate them so that they can make informed choices in the future for which they are accountable?

For the record, the school was great.  They followed my daughter’s lead.  They educated the teens and provided opportunity and requirement for them to self educate based on available resources as well.  Those children know that they are now responsible for the information they have and that should they intentionally use hate speech again, the consequences will be swift and severe.

There is learning in this for me as a parent and ally of a queer child.  This is her journey.  It is not about calming my inner mama bear.  It is not even about me protecting her from future hate and abuse that may come her way.  Being a parent ally means standing beside her and listening to her and being guided by her, especially when it’s hard for me.

by Gwen Jones

Gwen delivers a number of talks on topics related to this post, such as:

Acceptance

Allyship

Unconscious Gender Bias

Who Knew?

“I look at the way my daughter looks at me, I see how she’s always watching for how I respond to life and its challenges; I see how she laughs at my lame dad jokes; I see how she loves me unconditionally and how, frighteningly; she wants to be exactly like me. That’s just how it is in the world of dad’s we’re larger-than-life, we’re heroic in nature and funny as all get out, in short, I’m HER hero, as my dad was mine, I’m HER example, I’m HER example for right and wrong, for strength and compassion, for safety and affection, just as my dad was, and still is to me “  

Who Knew? by Michael Ray

Michael is a wonderful dad based in Australia, who is a great advocate for fathers and equality.

So proud and excited to share that Michael’s book on his experience of being a single parent has finally been published. Below is his own personal review of his book.

Imposter syndrome had never hit me as hard as it did before I pushed the send button on my final rough copy of ‘Who Knew?’, I knew that as soon as it hit the shelves, I opened myself up to naysayers and critics. I started to question if it was good enough, if I was good enough, if I really had something to say and if I did why anyone would want to read it.

I then remembered how the journey started with Charlie and me.  I’m a single parent, Charlie’s only available parent and I am 100% responsible for her needs (about 87% capable on a good day). Not being allowed backstage with Charlie at her 4-year-old ballet because I was male was the catalyst that necessitated me taking a stand! It was about Charlie being made to feel different from the other children because of our family situation. The thought of Charlie not having my support as her parent to share the excitement and her pride, broke my heart.

While situation and circumstance has resulted in me having the opportunity and awareness to advocate for others this was only ever about my daughter having the same opportunity as any other child to have their parent present and involved in all aspects in her life.

Welcome to an inside look at how Charlie and I have made it through the first nine years of life. My clarity through crisis was real. After the initial diagnosis of Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism discovered when I collided with the unfortunate tree that fateful morning and the subsequent treatments, the separation and the lack of time I had with Charlie cleared the fog of indecision. Like a ray of sunshine, the thought of my daughter not growing up with me to have tea parties with, to paint nails and do hair, to not go on adventures with or lie on the couch together watching cartoons scared me, scared me to the bone. It made me realise that I had the power to make the changes in my life that would allow me to be able to create these memories.

I am humbled and grateful that I am able to share this journey with Charlie, and with both being really new at this father- daughter thing and me thankfully being consciously incompetent and blissfully ignorant of what to expect the journey has unfolded exactly as it has and exactly as how it should.

In case you missed the panel discussion he contributed to last year, here is access to a recording

The Kids are alright, aren’t they?

Parenting in a pandemic!

Home-schooling more Miss Hannigan than Mary Poppins?

More walks and talks and quality time or just too much screentime?!

How has living La Vida Lockdown affected our children and young people? H

ow well did our homes and lives hold up to the school/work/life collide of lockdown and what can we learn from these times, our children and how can we support them better beyond? J

Guest Speakers

Leah and Ricky Boleto Leah and Ricky Boleto are best known for their roles as presenters on BBC Newsround. As well as wrestling with how to share the story of Coronavirus with young people, their experiences of the last 12 months have been life changing. From welcoming a baby girl during a global pandemic, moving house, working from home and even building a BBC studio in their garden shed.

Jon Ford & Jez Belas – Life on Time Passionate about young people’s wellbeing, Jon and Jez are part of the team working on LifeonTime. – a student and teacher wellbeing resource for schools and colleges. Jon is a performance and wellbeing coach and the founder of Life on Time and Become Inspired coaching. A qualified sport and exercise scientist, trained in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, he has a passion for empowering people with the skills so they can achieve their potential and live healthy, fulfilled and meaningful lives. Jez is a qualified sport and exercise scientist and strength and conditioning coach. He is also the current head of wellbeing at Leighton Park school and a Parkour Fitness.

& me!