Category Archives: Parents

Apps that Set Parents up for Success

Getting more organised is a common New Year’s resolution.  When you are managing your life and the lives of members of the family, the task can feel quite monumental.  Coordinating schedules, goals and needs can become so overwhelming that you feel like you are drowning in information that cannot possibly be kept in your head.  I like to refer to it as the ‘mental load’.  With four children in my own family, I have often felt consumed by trying to keep data and information in the right places.  (I have been known to forget a dentist appointment or lose a permission form in my time.)  But how do you go about making the information accessible to all?

Fear not!  At Educating Matters, we know more than most the importance of this task.  Below are some of the apps that we use or recommend to others to help systemise information and alleviate the stress of managing the lives of those in your family along with your own.

Calendar Apps for Parents & Families

Cozi

Cozi is an amazing app for households to organise their busy lives. Each family member is given a colour to provide a visual cue as to who needs to be where.  This app is shared across devices so that each member of the family (depending on age) can see what is going on.  In addition to calendars, you have shared to-do lists (great for chores), shopping lists and a place to store recipes.  My favourite part of the app is the family journal.  You can share pictures and videos so that no member of the family has to miss out on fun moments from baby’s first smile to a teenager’s awards ceremony.  There is a free version and a paid add free version of this app.

2 Houses

2houses is designed to help separated parents communicate and organise co-parenting  their children.  This app has helped reduce the need for uncomfortable conversations in person which can become heated.  The synchronized calendar allows parents to set custody schedules, input events such as school plays or doctor appointments and even request to swap time for special events.  There is a finance section that shows where a child’s additional financial needs are and who is responsible for paying and when.  The messaging section is especially good when there has been a break down in relationship between parents.  It has end to end encryption and can be shared with an attorney or mediator.  Keeping all communication contained in this space allows information to be shared and provides accountability which helps to keep the tone civil.  There are many other features that help make co-parenting efficient and inclusive.  There are monthly and yearly plans for this service.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is great because it is free and easy.  All you need is an email address and you are good to go.  Google’s colour coding options make it easy to identify tasks and activities.  You can also share calendars which makes life much easier for families with older children.  You can also set permissions for who is allowed to add or delete events.  One of the features I like about this calendar is that it automatically inputs directions to appointments when a location is entered.  Whilst it does not have all the bells and whistles of other apps, it is a fantastic tool for organising your family’s busy life.

Apps for Chores and Rewards

RoosterMoney

Rooster Money is my favourite app for managing pocket money. I also like this app best for teens and tweens chore rewards. This is an app that grows with your family.  It teaches your children the value of the effort they put into actions.  You can set their currency to either cash or stars.  Small children can use it as a reward chart for brushing teeth or even potty training.  As your child grows, you can choose to change the currency to GBP from the Bank of Parents.  As they become more responsible, there is even a debit card they can have that you control.  They see how much they earn and track their spending.  It helps them understand the value of money and to think before making purchases.  There are free and paid versions of this app.

ChorePad

For younger children, this is a fantastic app.  It takes the old time paper charts and digitises them to make them fun and exciting.  You set up daily and weekly chore charts that when completed, lead to stars and trophies.  Many parents like that the rewards are not monetary.  It is very visually appealing to children with many themes and the ability to choose a picture or an avatar for their screen.  The parental screen is kept separate which means that parents are in complete control.  There are free and paid versions of this app.

These apps are only a sample of many that can help with the organisational needs of your family.  Whatever app you choose, the most important factor is consistency.  Choose your apps based on what makes the most sense for your family’s particular needs AND what you feel you will remain consistent in your usage.  This will help you become successful and alleviate your stress from managing your busy family.

Educating Matters includes in their many corporate seminars “Organising Matters”.  This hour is jam packed with useful and achievable information to help working families organise the chaos which leaves more time for family bonding.  Please click here to find out how your workplace can take advantage of our expertise.

New Year = New Parenting Approach

At the start of a new year, people across the globe will be setting new resolutions and goals for 2020.  Whether that’s relating to areas such as work, family, friends, physical or mental health.

If you are a parent or responsible for caring for a child, you may be making similar resolutions year after year but nothing really changes. 

Here are some popular parenting resolutions……

  • Shout less
  • Remain calm
  • Be more empathetic
  • Spend more ‘quality time’ with your kids
  • Be on top of what’s going on at school
  • Reduce screen time for all
  • Teach your child to be more independent
  • Say yes more often
  • Be more patient
  • Be more loving and positive
  • Be more playful and fun
  • Take care of yourself
  • Improve the bedtime routine, morning routine, homework routine, mealtimes, teeth brushing etc

……BUT IT’S SO DAMM HARD & YOU HAVEN’T MET MY CHILDREN!!!!!!!

You may have read numerous books, online articles and blogs, chatted to friends but not found solutions to create real, long lasting change.

Being a parent is probably the hardest job you will ever have but no one really teaches you how to do it and just making resolutions certainly won’t help and can actually make you feel worse!!! 

Without real support and being fully conscious of your thoughts, approach and daily interactions, it can be hard to make effective change.  The vast majority of parents give up by February and go back to their old ways.

I don’t believe anyone gets it right all the time – (I certainly don’t, even with 25+ years of experience in the field of coaching parents and having 4 children of my own to practice on).

It’s far more realistic to aim for ‘good enough’ rather than perfect.

I do however know some brilliant, tried and tested, practical techniques that make a huge difference to family life and work most of the time.

Why not strive for real change and join our ‘Positive Parenting’ course?

If you are unsure, get in touch to ask more or attend a free trial taster session any Monday evening.

  • Help your child thrive
  • Improve your relationship and connection
  • Learn how to self-regulate and manage your own emotions
  • Parent with more empathy and understanding
  • Less shouting, repeating, nagging, justifying, reminding and bribing

Educating Matters are always here to help you reach your goals.

Wishing you a calmer, happier 2020 with your family.

How can children make sure they are in control of screens rather than screens being in control of them?

I love my phone and laptop and I think I probably spend more time in the day using it than anything else. On the odd occasion when I don’t have my phone  with me or it’s run out of battery, I feel a bit lost as if I’m missing something.  How can I make sure as I get older that I control screens rather than them controlling me?

Extract from an ‘Ask Rachel’ article in a national publication.

You are not alone.  Most parents complain about how much time their kids spend in front of screens whether that’s gaming, scrolling through social media or aimlessly googling.  The truth is in many households, parents spend just as much time as their kids, if not more, glued to their phones.  So many of us get sucked in by that dopamine high that screens provide.  The software on screens is designed to be hard to ignore.  Just look around you on the tube or in Starbucks, where the vast majority of people whether they are alone or with others can’t resist the temptation to regularly glance at their phone, iPad or laptop.  I believe this is having a big impact on our relationships, be that with friends or family.  It can create considerable stress and tension.

There are so many wonderful benefits to online connectivity but getting a healthy balance and learning to be in the moment is a life skill.

Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Discuss openly with your family and friends, what you like about screens, what bothers you and how you would like things to be different.

  1. Build up a realistic picture of how much time you spend on screens and what for.  You could keep a diary for a week of screen use or just get an app on your phone that logs it for you and breaks usage down into categories.  It usually ends up being far more time than you anticipated.  Once you have done this, decide where you might need to cut back.  Are you getting enough sleep, time to complete school work, really connect face to face with family and friends, physical activity and time outdoors? What’s appropriate use also really depends on what else is going on in your life.  If you are in the midst of GCSEs and need to focus on revision, that’s quite different to the middle of the summer holidays when there is far more time available.
  2. Making small changes is so much easier when you enlist the help of others. Set some clear boundaries at home as a family.  You could potentially be a good role model to your parents!! For example, establish screen free zones: no phones during a family meal, in bedrooms at night or in the car.  Don’t be embarrassed to suggest the same thing to your friends. How often do you gather together at someone’s house or go out for a meal and spend time looking at your phones, as opposed to actually talking to each other?
  3. A recent study showed that teenagers who spend more than four hours a day on screens were 3.5 times more likely to get poor sleep.  It’s been well publicised that the blue back light interferes with the production of melatonin, which is a natural sleep hormone. Agree as a family to switch off at least 1 hour before bedtime and leave phones outside the bedroom.  Just seeing it lying on the bedside table (even if it’s switched off), can induce anxiety or excitement.
  4. Be mindful and conscious about what you are using your screen for and for how long. Set yourself specific tasks and time slots. If it’s to write an essay or complete a homework assignment on ‘My Maths’ then just use it for that and don’t allow yourself to wander mindlessly over to YouTube.  If you are using Snapchat to arrange a time to meet your friend, then just do that and don’t start looking at all the other messages you haven’t read yet. If you are watching Netflix, decide before you start how much time you have available and how many episodes you are planning to watch.  Give yourself mindful, realistic boundaries and see if you can stick to them.  Constant multitasking, flicking from one thing to the next, can lead to brain overwhelm, distraction and stress.
  5. Pouring over screens can give you a headache, sore eyes, back ache, affect focus, concentration and give a feeling of tension and anxiety.  Be aware of this and schedule time for a range of other activities that don’t involve a screen such as going for a walk, going to the gym, talking to your family, meeting up with a friend, completing homework, playing an instrument, meditating or engaging in a hobby.
  6. Actually brainstorm what you can do that doesn’t involve a screen, if you are at home or on the bus and really have nothing to do.  Again discuss ideas with family and friends about what you could potentially do together. Perhaps get out some board games, make a cake or clear out your wardrobe.
  7. In our family we have one screen free day at the week-end to detox. It provides a genuine opportunity to deeply connect with friends and family. It’s amazing how when the option to use screens is not even there, we can find other fun things to keep us occupied.

It’s not easy to resist that urge to pick up a screen. Make small tiny changes to daily habits, one step at a time. I guarantee your physical and mental health and your relationships will benefit enormously in the long run.  It’s much easier to start establishing these good habits now when you’re young.

5 Questions to Ask about ‘Special Needs’

The first weeks of school are packed full of so many new revelations for our children and for us as parents.  Moving up a year brings new academic and behavioural expectations.  This next level can often show gaps in our children’s ability to follow a typical curriculum.  Most teachers will have the SENCO into their classroom for an observation.

As a parent, it can feel like the rug was pulled out from under you when you learn that your child has additional needs.  This is new territory fraught with conflicting information and far too many opinions.  It is so easy (and completely normal) to feel overwhelmed and under resourced in how to help your child succeed.  Don’t worry.  It’s all a part of the process.

The best source for initial information will be the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator).  This is the teacher that has the training and the resources to adapt the learning environment for your child’s particular strengths and weaknesses.  Like with any resource, you need to know how to utilize their abilities for you and your child. 

Here are 5 questions to see you through the first meeting with the SENCO:

What policies are in place to help Special Needs Children?

Whether it is the Local Authority, Academy Trust, Community Partnership or Private Educational Institution, there is a legal obligation to have specific policies in place that are accessible to parents.  The road to supporting and advocating for your child will be a long one.  You may need to refer to these policies when in meetings or making sure your child is receiving the interventions they need.

What Special Needs did you notice in my child?

It is important to know that most children have a school persona and a home persona.  It is perfectly normal for some behavious to be seen in one environment and not the other.  Needs vary from place to place.  Some needs are academic.  Some are social or behavioural.  It is important to know what the teachers are seeing at school.  It is also important for the school to know what is happening at home.  For example:  Many Special Needs children are quiet at school, but come home and explode.  This is a coping mechanism.  The opposite can also be true.  Share the whole picture and ask that this be reciprocated.  This way, you can have consistency with the interventions that are designed to help your child succeed.

What Community Resources are available for our family?

Support groups, socialisation groups, carers groups and counselling are only a few of the services that may be available to you and your family.  This may also include your neuro-typical children.  Whilst you may not be ready to access these services immediately, you will benefit from them eventually.  The SENCO will be able to sign post you to many of these.  Take advantage of the information.  Trust me.

What accommodations and interventions are in place to help my child?

Children identified with Special Needs are legally entitled to “reasonable adjustments” to the curriculum.  This should be more than just moving their seat.  There are many research-based interventions that can help your child succeed.  Have the SENCO document these interventions.  Also, ask how often they will review their effectiveness.  Make sure you leave with a copy of these so that you can refer to them later.

When can we meet to review?

It will take some time to decipher your child’s particular mixture of interventions for success, especially in the beginning.  The school needs to review regularly to make sure the gap in skillset is closing.  You will want to meet with the school to check on progress and share relevant information from home.   Ideally, you will meet again within 12 weeks.  This gives enough time to see what is working and what needs to change.  This does not mean that there will be no contact between meetings.  It simply is a good time to schedule for review.  Scheduling now will make sure that diaries don’t get too crowded later.  It will also put your mind to rest knowing that you will be a part of the team working towards your child’s success.

Getting through the first few weeks of identification feel like survival mode.  Remember that this is temporary and you are not alone in this process.  Take advantage of the resources that are available to you.  Starting work with the SENCO in an open and professional manner will pave the way for your child to succeed.

Should you have any concerns and not be getting the answers you need, we are very lucky to have Gwen Jones on the Educating Matters team. She is an experienced SEN teacher and mother of SEN children herself. She is available to provide 1:2:1 consultations to talk through any issues and also delivers a great series of sessions for corporates.

How to choose a tutor for your child

Since so many parents ask me how to go about finding a tutor for their child, I invited the founder of a tutoring agency I know well to share her thoughts.

The start of the Autumn term is always a time for change and often, with change, comes panic. With your children starting new school years, schools and subjects, the September thrills of reuniting with friends, buying new school bags and showing off new hair cuts can quickly give way to feelings of uncertainty and trepidation. Worries about school work and progress are common. Tutors can address your anxieties about your child’s target grades, their new teachers,  new subjects or sometimes children simply benefit from learning in a one to one environment for a confidence boost or a reminder of their ambitions to do well. Calling on the help and support of a tutor is many parents’ first port of call in the Autumn term and we have had a very busy start to September as we help parents and children recalibrate and acclimatise to new challenges.

The right tutor can support school work, guide a student through homework and coursework and also boost confidence, morale and foster a “can do” attitude. But with more tutoring agencies and individual tutors around than ever, the choice can be overwhelming and also intimidating. Where to look? Who to trust? What criteria should you use when selecting the right person with whom to entrust your precious child’s precious education? The below tips should help guide your choices:

1. Qualifications

Many tutors will claim to be “qualified tutors”. This is a contradiction in terms- there is no qualification required to be a tutor. This means that tutors might have no formal teaching experience and other than attending school themselves as a student, may have little idea of how school life and pressures actually operate. But why does this matter? Schools, subjects and exams change all the time. Usually at least every 5 years to be precise, especially at GCSE and A Level, although this year one of the Independent Girls’ Consortiums have totally revamped their entrance exam system and format. Therefore, if tutors are not in the system themselves as teachers, they will usually not have much more of an idea than you have of exam expectations. Ideally, you should look for a teacher with current or recent school teaching experience and or examining experience – a great perk for GCSE and A Level tutors. These qualified teachers will be far more au fait with current syllabi, exam requirements, school work loads and marking criteria. While your next door neighbour might have a very helpful daughter/ nephew or friend to offer you who charges less, you will get far more value per lesson from a professional teacher who can guide your child with expertise and certainty. At Strive Tutors, all of our tutors and admin staff are qualified, experienced teachers and many of us are also 11 plus assessors and GCSE and A Level examiners so really know what is required and how to teach it. Do your homework on your tutors’ teaching backgrounds.

2. The Chemistry

The dynamic between a tutor and student has to be right. You cannot expect your child to enjoy or benefit from spending an hour a week with someone who they do not like or feel comfortable with. I would always recommend speaking to a tutor on the phone to see how you like the sound of them and how they respond to your queries. Agencies can be useful here as good ones will be able to brief you in on a tutor’s background, success rates and approaches and guide you to the very “fit” for your child. Scheduling a trial lesson to see how your child and the tutor click should be the next step and assuming all goes well the rest should be straightforward. Do not expect rapid leaps to be made after the first hour – progress is not always linear- but over time you should see your child’s confidence, attitude and grades improve.

3. Reliability

Always secure a regular slot with the tutor to make sure that everyone knows where they need to be when. While life changes for everyone from time to time, make sure that the tutor gives you notice and is also willing to accommodate your schedule changes. It is a two way street and respect for their time means that they will respect yours.

4. Cost

Frank Sinatra might have claimed that the best things in life are free but this is certainly not the case with private tutoring. However, it is not always the case that the most expensive tutors are the best and the line between being ripped off and underpaying must be navigated carefully. Tutors in London can command anything up to £250 per hour depending on exactly what is being taught but the average range seems to sit between £40-70 per hour for students in Key Stage 1-5 and you usually get what you pay for. All of my team will come to your home for lessons but it is worth asking a tutor if their hourly rate includes travel and if they offer any discounts. We know that often families with multiple children might need multiple tutors and we offer quantity led discounts on monthly spends to ease the financial burden.

5. Extras

Tutors might also be able to offer specific targeted support and it is worth checking their Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) training and experience. If your child has a learning need that requires a specific and  targeted approach, ask tutors about their relevant experience and of course, for examples of when they have worked with similar needs with success. All teachers with QTS will have SEND training and most will have relevant experience. My team of teachers at Strive can all work with SEND in a targeted, paedagially sound and sensitive manner and we would always encourage parents to share Ed Psych and other reports to ensure that the tutor is fully briefed on the student’s learning history. Equally, it is important to ask tutors if they can collaborate with school teachers as and when needed. Sometimes children benefit from tuition more when their tutor and school teacher are working in tandem to support their learning and progress. We often work with schools, subject teachers and Heads of Year to support individual students and find that this can really benefit the student as well as the teacher. Remote tutoring has also become increasingly popular and many opt for tuition via video call with on screen back up to make notes and write essays and answers. Again, check with the tutor that they can accommodate your child this way and ask what technology they use. A taster session can usually make your child feel more at ease and this method of teaching has become increasingly popular with parents all over London, the UK and the rest of the world.

I hope these 5 tips will help you pick the best tutor for your child and should you need any more guidance or help please contact charlotte@strivetutors.com or look us up at www.strivetutors.com We work with some of the best teachers in the UK and cover all key stages and subjects. Good luck with the start of term!

Helping children manage stress during exam season

The summer term has started, and so has exam time so we are looking at helping children manage exam season stress.  Children in years 2 and 6 are taking the controversial SATs, secondary-aged children are sitting life-changing GCSEs and of course those older children whose future education is hanging on their A-Level performances.  The effect of these tests and exams can resonate through whole families.

Let’s get down to how parents can actually support and help their children deal with stress during the exam period. It’s totally normal to feel some nerves before exams and this can be motivating and help zone in on the task in hand.  However too much anxiety means one can’t think clearly, reason, plan well and make good decisions which impacts on studying and exam performance.

When anyone is stressed the amygdala kicks in. We tend to become emotional, angry, fearful or frustrated.  The pre- frontal cortex is the part of the brain that distinguishes humans from animals.  It’s what tells the amygdala to calm down so we can cope with stress.  It helps to regulate blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels which all influence how we feel about a situation.

Here are some very practical tips to quieten down the amygdala and enable the pre-frontal cortex to function: 
  • Talk to your child regularly and try to understand the cause of their anxiety so they feel heard and understood. Is it feeling unprepared, pressure from parents, teachers or peers, unrealistic expectations, overwhelm with too much to do and not enough time? Don’t dismiss them or try to just make the feeling go away.
  • Ask your child to spend 5 minutes listing all the things that take up their mental space and energy. Look at every item and place them into two categories: control and concern. Control are things you can actively do something about and concern are things you have no influence over.  People who handle stress well, minimise stuff in the concern circle and spend energy on addressing the things they can control.
  • Have a longer term study timetable but then focus on one day at a time. Help them prioritise, break tasks down into manageable chunks and set small, realistic, achievable goals.
  • Engage in physical activity which helps to boost energy levels, clear the mind and work off excess adrenalin so they can feel calmer.
  • Eat little and often, avoid too much caffeine or sugar which affects concentration. Keep hydrated as water helps the electromagnetic activity in the brain.
  • Get enough sleep which can still be regarded as study time as the brain processes information taken in during the day.
  • Learn, model and share stress management skills such as relaxation, breathing techniques, mediation mindfulness, massage, yoga, EFT and  visualisation
  • Schedule in some unstructured downtime, ideally with a social component.
  • Remember your child’s strengths and passions – encourage some activities that they are good at which involve laughing.
  • Limit screens and access to social media as this swallows up hours of precious time. Also steer clear of peers who make them feel more stressed.
  • Having a positive attitude and the right mind set will determine how motivated they feel, how much they learn and ultimately how well they do. Athletes, for example work on their mental state as well as physical and use psychologists to ensure peak performance.

Now I’m going to go away and follow this advice for myself between now and mid -June.

Just “chill out mum” as my kids tell me!!!

Reducing the chance of eating disorders

How to reduce the chance of children developing eating disorders

The very word ‘eating disorder’ is enough to strike fear in most parents.  Latest estimates suggest that 1.25 million people have an eating disorder and that adolescence is the most likely time for this to develop.   

What is an eating disorder?

At the heart of all eating disorders is an unhealthy attitude to food.  The most common eating disorders are:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa – characterised by not eating enough and often excessive exercising
  2. Bulimia Nervosa – overeating followed by vomiting and laxatives in order not to gain weight
  3. Binge Eating Disorder – compulsive overeating that feels out of control

There are varying degrees of gravity for all of these and it is not always easy to determine when your child ‘tips over’ from healthy eating to problem eating, and then into a full- blown eating disorder.  The bottom line is, if you feel that food is dominating your child’s life, your best action is to seek treatment, as early intervention gives the best chance of recovery.

Why does someone get an eating disorder?

There is no one over-riding cause to why someone develops an eating disorder; there is a combination of influences such as genetics, family experiences and culture.  Parents don’t give their children an eating disorder, but there is much they can do to help reduce the chances of their children developing one.  

What can parents do? 

Parents’ main role is to create a positive home environment by:

  • Setting the right goals – ensure that the aspirations that you have for your child are not based on appearance and that you do not give the impression that you will love them more if ‘only they ate less’.  This includes paying more attention to what they say and do rather than what they look like.
  • Speaking your mind – we are all exposed to some pretty toxic ideas about body image.  This particularly applies to social media which bombards us with images that can distort our children’s attitude to body size.  We need to educate our children that there is no such thing as the perfect body and that prejudice against people who are overweight is wrong.  Too much time spent trying to achieve unattainable beauty is only going to lead to feelings of failure and is limiting your child’s development in more meaningful areas.  Recent research showed that an intervention for women with eating disorders, that encouraged them to criticise negative media images that associated appearance with self-worth, significantly reduced their negative feelings about themselves. 
  • Being comfortable with your own body shape – the more complete you are as parents with your own body, irrespective of size – the less likely you are to imply that having a less than ideal body shape is something to feel ashamed about.
  • Talking about feelings – eating disorders are a way of coping with difficult feelings, so encourage children to understand and express their emotions rather than placate them with food.  This will give you an opportunity to teach them strategies to use when they are feeling frustrated, angry or sad.  For example, taking a deep breath, talking the issue through with an adult, or even asking for a hug.
  • Being a good role model – you are their biggest influence.  If you pick at your food, criticise your own body and are constantly on a diet, your children will copy these unhelpful behaviours.
  • Not putting them on a diet – dieting rarely works and often affects self-esteem.  Most eating disorders start with a diet.  There can also be loads of other health implications such as stunted growth, osteoporosis and delayed puberty. 
  • Keeping children a healthy weight – overweight teenagers have a much higher risk of developing an eating disorder, but often its symptoms go unnoticed because they are masked by being overweight. 
  • Exercising for the right reasons – exercise is an important part of good health, but if you are spending hours in the gym each day trying to get the ‘perfect’ body then this will give children the wrong messages.
  • Boosting their self-esteem – this is probably the most important factor that protects children from developing an eating disorder.  One of the best ways to do this is by offering children choices, particularly as eating disorders often develop as a way of trying to take control of their lives.  Try offering them an array of healthy foods and let them serve themselves.  Even better get them involved in cooking healthy food.

Not only will these behaviours help to reduce the chances of your children developing an eating disorder but they are also great ways for maintaining a healthy attitude to weight and food for all the family.

Article by Tracey Bennett, specialist in Obesity & Weight Management

How can Line Managers best support parents & carers?

I would really appreciate your help with a new project……..

I’m so excited to be contributing to a world-class development programme to support line managers.  The programme  will provide practical, tangible, scalable change for Line Manager’s teams and organisations, through the transformative power of conversation.    

I am covering how Line Managers can best support parents and carers.
I would love your real life experiences and input. 
Please respond to any of the following questions and share with others to respond.:


How has your Line Manager really helped you to feel supported and able to manage work at the same time as being a parent/carer?

What could your Line Manager have done differently?

What key advice would you give to Line Managers who are supporting employees that are parents/carers?

Please email your response to rvecht@educatingmatters.co.uk

What does it mean to be a ‘good enough parent’?

Naturally the start of a new year is a popular time to make ‘new year’ resolutions. If you are a parent aside from resolutions like making changes to your diet, exercise routine or work patterns, some of those resolutions will touch on making changes to how you parent.

Most people tend to set very unrealistic expectations for themselves, so I think this is the perfect time to think about what it means to be ‘good enough’.

This phrase “the good enough mother” was first coined in 1953 by Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst. … He believed that the way to be a “good mother” is to be a “good enough mother”.

We seem to spend so much precious time impossibly striving to be perfect parents, amidst a ‘self-sacrificing ideal parent culture’ and so much conflicting advice. There seems to be quite a large gap between what we expect of a good parent and who we actually are.

Comparing, judging, feeling fear and guilt is totally unhelpful and unproductive. All the rushing around for our kids in a fiercely competitive culture is driving everyone crazy (kids and parents). Children from affluent families are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress than children in poverty.

There needs to be more time and space to just be.

Perfection at work and at home is unachievable.

My resolution for 2019 is to make ‘good enough’ the goal rather than ‘perfect’.

What is the role of a good enough parent?

Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order but I would be very interested to hear yours.

• Be nurturing, loving, supportive and in control.

• Spend ‘special time’ – frequent, predictable, short, scheduled, unstructured bursts of time. Be mindful, conscious and really ‘with’ them.

• Teach values like gratitude– our main role is to raise good human beings, to be the best version of themselves.

• Keep your child safe by setting clear boundaries and making children accountable for their actions.

• Foster a ‘growth’ rather than ‘fixed’ mindset (look up Carol Dweck)

• ‘Grit’ is one of the best indicators of success in life. The ability to set your mind to do something and stick with it.  (See Angela Duckworth). To raise gritty kids, lose the self-sacrifice and let your child struggle a bit rather than rescuing.

• Allow your children to grow, be independent and make mistakes.

• Help them understand their needs, strengths and weaknesses.

• Regulate your own emotions and reactions, so you can manage their mistakes and ‘misbehaviour’ in a positive way. To do this you need to look after yourself.

• Build a strong, connected relationship – the only way to influence them over time.

• 80% of parenting is modelling

• Magic ratio of 5 positives to every negative

• Instil a love of learning – they don’t have to be highly academic.

• Enjoy your child – Love the child you have unconditionally for who they are and not what they accomplish or the child you wish for.

How do you want your children to remember you and the time you spent together when they grow up?

I do think it’s true when people say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, with the least training.   If you would like more support in 2019, please get in touch for details about our extended ‘positive parenting’ course, talks in schools, at work or 1:1 sessions.

Wishing you and your families a peaceful, happy new year

Tips on using tutors

The start of an academic year is usually a time that parents think about finding tutors for their children. How to find a tutor is a question I get asked about very often. When I left full time classroom teaching 17 years, I was teaching in an independent school and it was almost unheard of for children at the school to be tutored unless they were really struggling in a particular area. These days whether your child is in the state or independent sector, tutoring is extremely common and if you google tutoring agencies, there is a huge choice which can feel very overwhelming.

The first thing I would encourage parents to ask themselves is:

Why do you actually want or need a tutor for your child?

Some parents feel a pressure to engage a tutor just because they see other families use them and there is a concern that your child will be left behind or disadvantaged if they don’t have one. If for example your child is in a good prep school and they are at the level they should be at for their age, the school’s remit is to prepare them for selective exams to get into secondary school. There should be no need for added tutoring on top.

Despite being a teacher myself and having provided hours of private tutoring before I had kids, I engaged tutors for my own children for a range of different reasons. One of my kids really struggled with spelling so she had an intense course of support from a language specialist to teach spelling patterns, another 2 had tutoring to prepare 1 year before 11+ exams as they were in the state sector and had no preparation for this. My eldest child was in a state secondary school where he had 7 different English teachers just during the GCSE course and desperately needed support to be in with a chance of doing well in English. Thankfully it paid off!

You need your child’s buy in and to discuss why a tutor could be beneficial. Given the choice most kids would rather do their own thing than have yet another lesson outside school but if you are forcing them to attend, they are unlikely to get anything out of it.

Typical reasons for requiring a tutor are:

• Struggling in a specific subject. This could be due to ability, maturity, special education needs, poor subject teaching in school.
• Preparation for selective/competitive exams, particularly when transferring from state to independent or grammar school
• Loss of confidence
• General boost to secure best possible results in public exams
• Gifted and talented children may need to be challenged

Where to find a quality tutor?

The best way is through word of mouth but some parents may be secretive about the fact that their child has a tutor or not want to share details in case there aren’t enough slots available for their child or the next sibling. I’m being a little cynical but this is the reality!

Ask the school for recommendations or better still, maybe a teacher in school who already knows your child might be available.

Use a tutoring agency. I have had mixed experiences with these. They may have Oxbridge graduates with incredible knowledge and passion for their subject but that doesn’t mean they can teach or fully understand your child’s requirements. It’s particularly important for public exams that the tutor is familiar with the exact exam board the student is preparing for.

My preference would always be to have a tutor who has actually taught in a school.

Connection is vital

I made this mistake a few times with my eldest. Tutors had come highly recommended by friends but my child just didn’t connect with them and I continued the lessons far longer than I should have. For a child to thrive and learn they absolutely must be inspired, enjoy the lessons and connect with the teacher. I always insist on a taster lesson and ask the child for their input. The lessons should be positive, engaging and interactive. What I have found countless times with my own 4 children, is that when a teacher is good the kids are extremely motivated and willing to work and do extra homework. When they feel a teacher is not making the effort or doesn’t ‘get’ them, the kids are totally disinterested and reluctant to work.

Keeping track

Have regular catch ups to understand what was covered in the lesson and how your child is progressing. There should be noticeable progress within a few months.

It’s not always possible but try to ensure the lesson is at a time of day when your child is receptive. If they are absolutely exhausted after a full day at school, you could be wasting your money.

Be clear with your child and tutor about what your goals are or what you are trying to achieve through the lessons.

If your child requires a tutor for a specific exam that’s coming up and you know they need a tutor, make sure you plan in advance. Good tutors can have very long waiting lists!

In some circumstances, it’s helpful for the tutor to liaise with the school to understand where the gaps are or whether the support is having any noticeable impact.

Fees

These vary enormously depending on the area you live in, the tutor’s experience and whether or not they come directly or through an agency. Just because they charge more does not mean they are better.

Be reliable and supportive

Good tutors are in demand and don’t necessarily want to manage difficult parents or reluctant students. Make sure you don’t cancel lessons at the last minute or be unreasonably demanding. If the tutor has set homework, put systems in place to follow through with your child during the week and ensure it gets done.

Wishing your children all the very best for a successful academic year.