All posts by rachelv

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!

Being a Carer crept up on me

So delighted to have Suzanne on board as part of our team of experts. Here is an insight into her story.

2003, less than a year after we married my husband Matt was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Becoming a carer happened a little while later (It’s about time I shared my own story).

Everything changed…

Well actually nothing changed immediately, things changed slowly. I didn’t become a carer overnight my husband didn’t need any practical help, emotionally we both supported each other. I started making his packed lunch for him though.

I told my employer, friends and family about his diagnosis but it would have felt very odd to have told anyone I had become his carer. We carried on with life, work, children. With the occasional medical appointment and change of medication, life was manageable. The future looked scary though and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to care for him when the time came.

…hang on when did that happen?

Our future changed and we adapted with it, part-time work seemed like the best option for me after maternity leave, my husband gradually needed more help and I just struggled on. I was attempting to create a freelance business whilst being mum, working part-time, running the home and caring for my husband… hang on when did that happen? I hit a wall, ran out of energy and everything became hard work. Early nights made no difference. Exhausted, I booked an appointment with my GP who calmly ticked a box on his computer to add me to the practice carers register and asked me if I had considered respite care.

It was quite a relief to be given the label of carer, it helped me understand I was dealing with more than I had realised and needed to think about the support I had around me.

My new normal

We have had some difficult times where it felt like this was the new normal and we would just have to get used to it. Then suddenly something is unlocked and life gets a bit easier… a change of medication, an understanding Parkinson’s Nurse, a powerful self-management group, and a helpful Occupational Therapist. These things all help Matt, but in turn have helped me. So, it’s been important to be a partner in his health care.

Just as important though are the things that have helped me. After that first visit to the Doctor I realised I had some choices to make and that I would have to reset my focus and not lose myself to my caring role. Perhaps I could still have a career, do work that had meaning, perhaps my education and personal development needed to continue. My faith, supportive friends and family and a great cleaner are my life essentials.

…and then along comes Covid 19

If Matt gets ill it can take him a long time to recover and it can be exhausting. So my attitude has been – “no way is Covid 19 getting in this house”! Two weeks before lock down I started booking online shopping slots, redeployed my cleaner as my community help and cancelled the hairdresser. I updated our emergency plan, switched the medication to be delivered rather than collected and ordered a wholesale box of sweets and chocolate. I filled the freezer with home cooked food and felt like I was ready for anything.

I can tell you are impressed! To be honest, there are lots of other things I could have done that I didn’t do (there will always be something else). I was also spurred on by hearing about what other carers were doing and more importantly how it gave them a sense of being in control in uncertain times.

You can’t control everything though. I’ve floundered when it came to trying to support my two girls with studying at home, using my favoured approach of don’t get too involved and hope for the best. I’ve struggled to switch off from work – my normal morning swim was a big stress relief for me and I haven’t really found a replacement for that. Living in social isolation whilst being hyper-connected online is not sustainable. I’ve left my self-care to last and I think this is making it harder to get re-started. So it’s time to make some small changes that put me first, things that will be sustainable for the future too. In fact I’ve made a start with my “digital distancing” – the whole of Saturday without my phone or computer!

The ‘Mental Health’ of men

The mental health of men is still overlooked with suicide remaining the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and 12.5% of men in the UK suffering from depression and anxiety. This has been further compounded by the pandemic and lockdown. New dads are particularly vulnerable as financial and work pressures coupled with a huge life change can have a significant impact. DAD is a cathartic book that will help men and dads realise they are not alone. DAD will encourage more open conversations around fatherhood and contribute to better mental health.

DAD is a deeply moving and inspiring collection of stories that represent the diversity of modern fatherhood and seeks to start a conversation that challenges the traditions associated with masculinity.

The book includes 20 powerful and defiant stories about a range of fatherhood related topics. Mark Williams shares his story about suffering from postnatal depression. It’s a moving story that shows how men offer suffer in silence, the devastating effects PND can have on men and how they often put on a brave face at work. This is similar for Elliott’s story, where he talks of suffering from PTSD after the traumatic birth of his daughter – again, hiding his feelings and emotions from most people in his life, including his work colleagues. And then there’s Ian who tried multiple suicide attempts after his relationship broke down. Ian talks about how he showed up at work and no one would ever have the slightest idea of what he was dealing with in his personal life.

DAD highlights these stories and serves to illustrate the hidden mental health issues that many of us will suffer from. This is a ground-breaking book. A movement. Never before have a group of men come together to bare their souls and speak so openly and honestly about their fatherhood experiences. This book aims to encourage better dialogue between colleagues, friends, and especially within families; between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, dads and children. We know that men and dads don’t always have the space to speak openly about their experiences. We believe DAD can change the world and move forward the conversations around fatherhood, masculinity, mental health and gender equality.

DAD will be published on Tuesday 1st June and is available for preorder here.

DAD is curated by Elliott Rae. Elliott is also the founder of MusicFootballFatherhood, the parenting and lifestyle platform for men. Elliott will be speaking about the book and sharing other insights, at our mental health event on Thursday 13th May.

Mental Health Awareness as we ease out of lockdown

80% of respondents to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey identified well-being as an important or very important priority for their organisation’s success, making it the top-ranked trend for importance.

It’s hardly surprising that after a year of a global pandemic, many people feel stressed, anxious, drained and demotivated.

I spend most of my days supporting employees with aspects of their personal life outside of work, so that they are able to be more productive and less stressed whilst they are at work.  Our personal and professional lives have become more intertwined than ever before.  Creating a culture of open communication and a safe space where employees feel able to share their feelings and challenges, is crucial to be able to show up at work every day as your whole self.

Despite the challenges of the past year, I really hope an ongoing benefit will be an awareness of how important mental health is (not just during Mental Health Awareness Week) and a new found willingness and honesty to share emotions.  During the pandemic, people have been much more transparent about how they are feeling, so going forward when you ask someone how they are, take the time to really listen to their answer.  If they say “fine” but don’t look it, ask again “No really, how are you?”

Leaders create the atmosphere and tone and need to be the champions of well-being and mental health.  They also act as crucial role models, so for those in more senior positions think about actively taking lunch breaks, having realistic expectations, creating boundaries, not sending emails out in the middle of the night etc.

Mental health is constantly changing but can be seen to run on a spectrum from very low and depressed to thriving.  Most of us do not sit at either end, however just because we don’t officially have symptoms of mental illness that does not mean we aren’t struggling.  I read a fascinating article recently that referred to the term ‘languishing’.  It is not a feeling of total hopelessness and despair but a general absence of well-being.  It just feels like we are getting by and perhaps lacking motivation and the ability to focus.  The long emotional toll of living through a pandemic for over a year, may mean that languishing has been a very common emotion.

As we slowly head into our new post-pandemic world, the next few months are a golden opportunity to facilitate change.  We are no longer in the depths of lockdown but do we want to bounce straight back to our ‘normal’ lives and old routines?  We need to consciously think about our behaviour and continue to ensure that the empathy and compassion colleagues have shown towards each other this past year, is not just a nice-to-have but regarded as essential.  If not it will only take a matter of weeks before we slip back to former habits. 

How can you effectively support others?

When you can see a family member, friend or colleague who seems to be struggling with their mental health, you can feel afraid to say or do the wrong thing. You are not expected to be a mental health professional or come up with solutions. If someone has the courage to open up and share their feelings, the most powerful thing you can do is simply respond with empathy. Use reflective or active listening to respond without judgement, blame, criticism, or even advice. Don’t even try to make them feel better, as this can be seen as not listening and being dismissive, even when you have the best intentions. In the moment that person just needs to feel heard and understood. That is how you build trust and connection and help them to feel safe and supported. What is shareable becomes bearable.

We need to continue to focus on mental wellbeing, not just physical, make it a priority and acknowledge what people are going through with trust, transparency and open communication.  Emotions need motion to move through us.  If we can share them and name them, we can tame them.

‘National Spank Out Day’ – why smacking does not work & what to do instead

April 30th is ‘National Spank Out Day’ in the US.  In the UK we don’t use the word ‘spank’ but it’s still a very important topic to address.  Although the concept of parents hitting children as a form of discipline is thankfully largely regarded as being unacceptable, it still happens and amongst toddlers more than any other age group.

Why do parents smack?

Parents who resort to smacking may do it because that is what their parents did to them and even if it’s deep in our subconscious, the way we were raised has a deep impact on how we raise our children.  Smacking your child does not make you a bad person, it could just perhaps be what was modelled to you as a child and you don’t know any effective alternatives.

When a parent smacks their child, it usually means they have been emotionally triggered, are struggling to regulate their own emotions and have lost control.  Our children can push our buttons like nobody else in the world, for a whole host of reasons.  See the wonderful work of Bonnie Harris (What to do When Your Kids Push Your Buttons) for more insight into this. 

Responding to a child when they are having a meltdown, not listening or being openly defiant, is much more about parents learning how to regulate their own emotions and behaviour, to be able to stay calm, than it is about what the child is actually doing in the moment.

Why smacking doesn’t work

Over many years of working with parents from a vast range of backgrounds and cultures, some have said “My parents smacked me and I turned out fine.” So what is the issue with smacking?

Research clearly shows that smacking your child is ineffective, impacting negatively on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.  Children smacked in childhood are much more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, drug use and resort to aggression as they get older. They have less capacity for empathy or the ability to develop their own sense of right and wrong.

Extensive brain research shows that children who are smacked have less grey matter in their pre frontal cortex which is the part of the brain that controls executive functioning skills, whilst their amygdalae have greater fear response and are more hyper-vigilant.  That’s the part that puts you into fight, flight or freeze mode.

Parents are a child’s first and  most important role model, meaning that children who are smacked are far more likely to use aggression towards others, be that siblings or partners.  Smacking or hitting a child is essentially teaching them that it’s acceptable to use force to get what you want and is a strong predictor of violent behaviour. They are also at increased risk of being bullied or victimised and ultimately ending up in abusive relationships as adults.

What are more effective forms of discipline?

The word ‘discipline’ means to teach and very often adults mistakenly believe that children need to be punished or to suffer in order to ‘learn’ and adjust their behaviour.  How many times have you hit or punished your child and found the same ‘misbehaviour’ is still repeated? 

Smacking does not teach children how to behave better, how to understand why the behvaiour is wrong and what they could do differently.

Our job as parents is to teach our children self-discipline, to take responsibility and manage themselves.  Smacking just teaches them to be immediately compliant, to be afraid of us and to focus on avoiding getting caught doing something wrong.  It teaches nothing about how to navigate the world or build authentic relationship and connection.

It is impossible to really address this in the space of one blog post but I passionately believe that ‘Positive Parenting’ skills are the solution to foster co-operation without damaging your relationship.  Children learn best when they feel heard and valued by their parents and mutually respected, not when they feel scared and constantly on the defensive.

Top alternative techniques include:

  • Using ‘descriptive praise’ to focus on the positive and acknowledge when your child does something right.
  • Using ‘emotion coaching’ to build connection with your child and help them to feel heard and understood.
  • Understanding your child’s inborn temperament and stages of development.
  • Setting clear and consistent boundaries and limits in a loving, empathetic, collaborative way.
  • Consciously having realistic, age appropriate expectations.
  • Using ‘natural’ and ‘fixing’ consequences as an alternative to punishment.
  • ‘Setting up for Success’ so that we can be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Looking after yourself and developing techniques to stay calm and manage your own triggers.

If you are still not convinced, for more information on the impact of smacking, a good starting point is a report analysing five decades of research involving over 160,000 children.

Post-Covid: Easing the Transition

As lockdown eases and we commence the road back to our more familiar lives, we have devised a brand new series of talks to support employees successfully through that transition.

Click on the title of each talk for a more detailed outline.

ADULTS

Social Interaction Matters

How to manage mixing again in work and social settings, considering new conscious and unconscious taboos we have created, what should we keep and what should be adjusted.

Success Planning Matters

Use reflection and planning to define how we access our work and each other. Focus on finding the best process to define the ‘new normal’.

Resilience Matters

Defining what resilience is and how to nurture it.

Engagement Matters

Empower and motivate yourself to deliver excellence in work, at home and in life.

Wellbeing Matters

How to have better brain health to maintain a healthier life and care for ourselves in a way that is less reactive and more intentional.

Grief & Loss Matters

A sensitive, supportive and insightful talk about the complexities of grief and the experience of loss through death, separation, trauma, divorce or change.

Inclusion Matters

Challenges, opportunities and practical tips to successfully navigate the transition to a hybrid working model that is fully inclusive.

Anxiety Matters

Anxiety overwhelms our thought processes and lives in the future.  This session will focus on how to stop the spiral from taking us to the dark place. 

CHILDREN

Emotions Matter

How parents can listen with empathy and understanding to enable children to manage and articulate their emotions.

Motivation Matters

How parents can encourage motivation, co-operation, strong self-esteem, confidence and nurture a growth mindset in children of any age.

Normality Matters

Practical tools to set families up for success on the road back to some sense of normality.

Educational Transition Matters

How parents can prepare their children for the transition through various educational stages and manage change in general.