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Their first days (at school), do we get better at change?

Happy funny baby girl in glasses reading a book in a library
Happy funny baby girl in glasses reading a book in a library

Guest Blog Sinead Sharkey-Steenson

Sinead will be leading the career webinar and bundle, we thought it was worth introducing the lovely Sinead and sharing her blog with our WhatifIhadaPA members.

First days, do we get better at change?

I’ve done what millions of parents have done across the country at this time of year, and no doubt across the world.  I’ve taken my oldest daughter to her first day at nursery.  With that comes mixed emotions, and many of us can get caught up focusing on our own,  it isn’t easy for some of us to see our wee precious jewels getting bigger and going and doing new things, but that’s nothing to what’s going on for our little people.

The challenge of firsts

Firsts are a challenge no matter your age.  There’s not many of us have the unwavering confidence to walk into any unknown situation and feel completely at ease.  Today was our second day at nursery, and to be honest, that’s when the sh*t hit the fan!   My wee girl was a terror this morning.  Day one was a breeze.  Why?  Mummy was uber-prepared, and so was she.  Day 2?  She turned into the Tasmanian devil’s younger, more scary sister.  I kept my cool (sort of), whilst panicking inside.  How am I going to get this seething ball of anger to eat breakfast, into her uniform, and out of the door in time to make it into nursery?  And then, what kind of nightmare is she going to be when she’s there?  Somehow we made it there, and kids being kids she was in great humour by the time we’d reached our destination.  Reflecting on it now, I can’t help wonder what was going on, and are there any lessons for us all about starting something new, and becoming more adaptable to change?

How and why we react to change

A lot of our reactions to new things come from a primal part of our brains.  We are wired to fear new things, because they might be dangerous.  That makes sense, especially when you consider our origins, where something new could literally be a case of life or death.  Hopefully starting nursery, or a new job or new challenge, isn’t going to be quite so risky!  Our brains don’t necessarily see it that way.  When we feel under threat we create stress hormones, which are there to help us react more quickly so we are ready to jump into fight, flight, or freeze (survival modes) at the drop of a hat.  This really helps us understand why in times of stress, we have a tendency to overreact and lash out.  When you factor in a 3 year old that is a long way from getting to grips with her emotions, you can picture the scene I dealt with this morning I’m sure!

What can we do?

So what can we do?  I’m going to preface this with the caveat that I’m no parenting expert, believe me, so the advice I’m offering is really aimed at us grown –up people:

  1. Establish a new routine and stick to it – our brains love routine. At the core, our brains love to conserve energy, this leaves resources for higher-functioning, such as decision-making, learning, thinking.  Routine allows our brain to operate on ‘stand-by’, so that our energy reserves are being maintained for the big stuff.  Routines that help your brain and also your stress-levels include; a good night-time routine that supports a great sleep, a standard morning routine that gets you out of the house easily and quickly, learning your new route to work in advance so it’s something you don’t need to think about.
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Like the routine, take all the unnecessary brain processing and stress away by having everything ready to go in advance (there’s a reason successful people tend to dress the same all the time, no extra thinking required).  Whether that’s your clothes ready on the chair, lunch packed, bag ready, keys in the right place, hair washed the night before.  Whatever will make it easiest for you to get there as stress-free as possible.  One of the reasons day 1 was so easy and day 2 not so, was lack of preparation which resulted in mad-panic!
  3. Practise really does make perfect – but it can be tempting when we’re not good at something straight away (probably the reason I can’t stand bowling) to avoid it. It stands to reason as most of us have been conditioned not to fail, and don’t enjoy looking foolish in front of others.  When we do something for the first time, our brain is creating new pathways.  Imagine walking through a forest for the first time.  It’s hard work having to clear a path for yourself.  You may trip or get scratched, and you’re likely using much more of your body to break your way through the vegetation than if you were on one of those travelators at the airport.  This is exactly how it is for your brain, it is creating new neural pathways, and uses lots more of the brain than is strictly necessary.  As you repeat the behaviour, the pathways become clearer, your brain trims off the ones that are unnecessary and the signals fire faster.  You get more and more efficient.  You can help your brain by familiarising yourself with what you can on the run-up to the event – and this can be physically or by visualising, your brain will respond in the same way.  You can also be patient with yourself and recognise that nobody finds it easy first time, we don’t see how hard others found it, just the polished end product.  If you know every time you try you get better, you’ll be more inclined to try.
  4. Self-care – whenever there is stress likely, self-care is even more important. As my hangry 3 year old seethed at me this morning, it hit me how important the basics are.  Not enough sleep, liquid, and food are a road to ruin!  A bit of deep breathing in moments of stress will be a great help too.
  5. Give your brain some comfort – by taking away the novelty factor. When we start a new job, or take on a big new challenge, sometimes the amount of newness can be overwhelming.  You can help your brain manage this by likening what you’re doing to familiar things, and reminding yourself of motivational factors.  For instance you might hark back to previous new jobs and how successful you’ve been, or think about the parts that you already know of the job thereby minimising the parts that are new.  You can think about why you’re doing it and play up those factors – so if a challenge and variety are important factors for making the change, then those will be the things to focus on.
  6. Cut yourself some slack, and ask the people around you to do the same. It’s quite common for children to come home from school and be an absolute nightmare for their parents.  It’s because they’ve exhausted themselves holding it together all day, and when they get home they feel safe enough to let it all go.  We’re not much different when we’re grown up are we?  There’s 2 key things at play here.  Firstly, your pre-frontal cortex is the part of your brain that is responsible for your executive (higher-thinking) functions, like learning.  That is one energy hungry bit of the brain.  A day of learning will deplete all your resources, so you come home exhausted…too tired to think, quite literally.  You’re also going from an environment where your guard is up, to one where you know you can do anything and you will still be loved.  It might be hard to take, but when your loved-ones come in from a tough day and lose it, in a weird way it’s a compliment.  They feel safe enough to let it go (as long as it’s within reason of course).  Just give them, or yourself the time and space to decompress.

Whilst we may think of ourselves as resisters of change, we are in fact changing every day.  Our brain was once thought to be fixed in the number of connections it has, but we now realise that the brain is creating, growing, and trimming connections every day, so that we can learn and develop every day.  How boring would life be if we didn’t change?  We’d all be tantrumming in the middle of supermarket aisles, as if the weekly shop isn’t difficult enough?!

A Mother's Journey to 'Living Authentically'

A Mother's Journey to 'Living Authentically'

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You know that feeling after you bring a child into the world, that your life will never be the same. At the same time everything prior to that point almost becomes meaningless. You actually start to reassess the world.  

In one sense when my first child was born I became brave. In another I had to redefine who I was. I was not the same 30 something me.

 

What am I doing? Does what I do mean anything? Am I even making a difference in this world? Is it worth it?

 

Suddenly there is something bigger than you, that little person that you are responsible for; you want them to be the best they can be, to live in a world full of potential that is safe and sustainable.   I had these big thoughts of how I could impact my daughter’s future world, and at the same time I was learning to be a mother. In addition to this new role, I continued to be: wife, lover, friend, and work colleague. The new role had an impact on all the others. If I did not take a step back I would lose me!

 

That’s when I transformed, having a child changed me, I knew it was an opportunity to take that energy, that power that you have as a mother and know as you want your children to know ‘I can do anything’.

 

I started to define just what that was to each one of my roles. As a mother being home for dinner and doing plays (not macbeth but magic rabbits, princesses, car races and dragons), and reading each night. To challenging my brain in my doctorate, which helped me to develop technology that automates chores saving mothers time, and research that understands what in people’s childhood makes them successful, and happy! The both aligned to giving me, and other mothers more time with our children, with our future and to have more memories than do administration and chores.

 

I transformed into the best version of me I could be at each of the roles, but realised we cannot do everything. So the key was to align the roles to what I truly loved, what I was passionate about. To stop doing things that detracted from that, and to start and continue the things that aligned to what I loved in this world most.

 

It sounds easy, but it was a journey to break down the mind set for example of ‘guilt’ and to accept help. I started to say ‘yes’ to outsourcing chores and ‘no’ to things that served no purpose or were meaningless.

 

This transformation was broken down over 4 steps, a framework which allowed me to redefine my life, and make sure I was Living Life Authentically. I am now true to who ‘I’ am as a mother, wife, lover, friend and work colleague. I learnt that you can have that authenticity as a mother, where you give to each part of you.

 

You have to be brave enough to take the step back. To admit I am not that same person as I was before kids, and take the opportunity to redefine you.

 

I want to share this framework with other mothers so that can live a life that is authentic to them. To talk them through the framework and provide printable tools, that supports them. There is very little for mothers. This now changes Sign Up for your Living Authentically Webinar and Kit.

 

I am building a community, tools and technology that is there for Mums.

Our New Ebook Memories Over Chores. 60 Tips for the Power Parent

Our New Ebook Memories Over Chores. 60 Tips for the Power Parent

February 29th you had an extra 24 hours.  The revolution starts now. Make more time in your life everyday.  Our ebook Memories Over Chores. 60 Tips for the Power Parent http://ow.ly/YTKiU #Killthatmondaymorningblaaa  #whatifihadapa #disrupttime #memoriesoverchores

All images courtesy of Bigstock and Shutterstock.

Top 6 Films to Catch on Date Night Friday

Date night is one of those check in times with each other where there is no Broccoli being thrown on the floor, or the constant distractions but the pure focus is on each other.  Whether it be dinner, a movie or both enjoy.  Here are 6 possible great movies to catch this week.

Expendables 3

Expendables 3

The Giver

The Giver

Lucy

Lucy

Boyhood

Boyhood

The Hundred Foot Journey

The Hundred Foot Journey

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

5 Reasons Not To Try To Live Up To Our Mothers - It's A Different World

I recently had a play date with another Mum, and she asked me a funny question “with the second child are you starting to feel like yourself?” I didn’t understand the question, as who else would I feel like? Of course I feel like me? I am now a Mum and that has brought a welcoming new side to me, but the lover, friend, sister, daughter, independent girl in her own right and yogi also define me, it’s as if I just have another angle to my personality.

The very next day I received an email due to some help and support I was giving to her, and part of that email described how that person’s Mum had 7 children all naturally and did an amazing job in raising all 7. Then it hit me, the full content of what she said and how she described it, she was trying to live up to her Mum, and trying to be defined by the role model that she had. Role models are great but we all have our own path, and ultimately we need to be ourselves and live life on our terms. My Mum is also amazing, and I often say if I could be half the Mum she was I would do a great job. That said my Mum has always said to go off and live my own life. That has led me to living in different countries, being the first to go to university in our family and going on to study a doctorate, making a positive impact on people lives in a number of professional fields, as well as launching my own business.

So here are the reasons why we must live our own lives:

  1. Giving birth to a lot of children is great (7 I would even suggest deserves a medal), but nowadays we get married or meet our partners a lot later.  In fact we are even lucky if we get to meet our partner!  The cost of living has increased which makes larger families not fit with our timing, finances and childcare due to support structures avaiable and women making a difference in the workplace.
  2. Giving birth naturally is great, but as a mother who has had one C-section and one natural birth, just having your child out alive and safe is the blessing. Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50% (WHO Fact sheet N°348). Nowadays fewer women in the West die in childbirth and more children survive, so if you have to have a C-section this does not make you less of a mother.
  3. We live more global lives now; it can be highly likely that we are not anywhere near grandparents or a support structure. The total number of international migrants has risen from approximately 150 million in 2000 to 214 million today. Migrants represent roughly 3 percent of the world’s population; grouped into a single nation, it would be 
the world’s fifth-most-populous country (source AT Kearney 2010).  This can make motherhood harder, because due to relocation we are away from family who sit on the other side of the country or even world.
  4. We fought for women to have an education, and as such women continue onto further education outnumbering men in the West. Women in developed regions such as the United States and Europe are likely, because of higher qualifications, to become the primary breadwinners within the next two to three decades. In 2009, women earned 58 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 60 percent of master’s degrees awarded by U.S. colleges, and 59 per- cent of degrees awarded in the European Union. In the 27-nation EU, in the 25-to-34 age group, 34 percent of women have university degrees compared to 26 percent of men. A clear trend has emerged of higher female achievement in education.   This trend has meant that women are on a different timeframe as mothers in previous generations (source AT Kearney 2010). I am not saying it I better or worse just different. The phase of life at which we become mothers is no longer weighted in the 20s but our 30s. We have a different outlook on life, and different experiences.
  5. We fought for equal rights in the workplace; women have such intellectual power with the ability to make a difference across industries and job sectors. Women now make up 15 percent of directors of Fortune 500 companies, yet only 2 percent of Fortune 500 and 5 percent of FTSE 100 CEOs are female (source AT Kearney 2010).   If women want to have the opportunity to continue in the workplace it makes us different to the motherhood of previous generations.  

Reading

  1. Facts that will shape the Global Business Environment AT Kearny 2010
  2. WHO Factsheet N°348

Old School Kids Games to Keep Kids Occupied on Travel Journeys without the IPAD

I've just come back from the annual girls holiday and about to leave for the family holiday, this time on a long drive.  I had an interesting debate about the use of IPAD with a girlfriend as we now live outside the UK and often embark on long car journeys as well as frequent plane journeys.  Whilst some felt the iPad was not needed, it does have it's place.  In the UK we travel was limited as we were basically on an island, and in Switzerland we regularly drive to France, Italy, Austria, Germany and even Denmark, journeys can vary from 1 hour to 24 hours.  

We actually have a healthy mix of games, nursery rhymes and iPad, but to pay homage to the old school games that we played  as kids on those holiday journeys, here were my top favourites.

I Spy with my Little Eye

I spy is one of those games that you can do anywhere, improving grammar and cognitive ability. The number of players are unlimited, but there is one person who picks an object without saying what it is apart from the first letter. “ I spy with my little eye something beginning with ….” The person then has to guess the object. For example ‘T’ and the object they have to guess is “tree”

Hang Man

Is a game you can play anywhere and with unlimited players. It can be used to improve grammar, cognitive ability, spelling and even languages. The word does not have to be one that is seen but one person picks a word and then draws underscores for the number of letters in the game. The players have a limited amount of attempts to try and work out the word, the attempts are limited to drawing each part of the hang man so the base, leg, and arm of the hanging apparatus, and then each body part of a man. When a correct letter is guessed it is written in the space and then when a false letter is guessed it is written down but crossed out. In a car this game has limitations, as it is difficult for the driver to participate but great for the plane.

Colouring

A pack of pens, pencils or crayons and a colouring pad go a long way.

Card Games

Multiple games can be taught from Snap, Slap Jack, Rummy to Black Jack.

The Alphabet Game

A good game to play in the car is the alphabet game where kids have to spot license plates A-Z in order.

The Animal Game

This game can be played on any mode of transport. One-player names an animal, and the other players have to name an animal that begins with the same letter. For example, Aardvark and Antelope. This game can be used to develop different languages, for example, “Schwein und Schlanger”

Draw and Guess

Pictionary was one of my favourite games growing up and seems to have gone out of circulation, but we still have our vintage box game. On the go on the plane we can still play with a simple piece of paper. Where one person try’s to draw what the object, country or thing that they have in mind and the others have to guess.

Studying a Degree, Masters or Doctorate with Kids

I had a surprise Skype call from my sister yesterday. It was a surprise one because it was the 3rd of the day where she asked me whether there was anyone she could speak to in my network about doing a degree in psychology.

My sister went to drama school, and is one of the smartest people I know. She chose not to go down the classic education route, and our family have never pushed her post her A ‘Levels. What is interesting about her timing is I know she wants kids. We are the same age (twins), and as soon as I gave birth she was ready to also be a Mum emotionally, but there were some financial barriers.
I of course wanted to understand what she wanted to do, why and have connected her with the right people so she can really formulate if it is the right step for her. In this process she said that I had inspired her with my doctorate. So this blog is to give some helpful advice for those people considering embarking on studying with motherhood. Indeed there may even be some fathers out there too.
Before I go any further – Yes it’s hard work!

1. Assess if it’s right for you and your family?

Sacrifice

• Ask yourself what you want to do and why you want to do it? In that process challenge yourself really why, and are there other ways to get there? An academic qualification may not be the only way to achieve your goal. Then if it is what you want, are you willing to give up your time when the children go to bed? Are you willing to give up some of your time with your partner? Is it worth it? Dependent on your answer it may be that it is not the right time.

Passion (1)

• Are you passionate about it? If you are not - do not do it. Life is too short to waste time on eh things that we are not passionate about.

Routine

• Do you have a routine that would enable you to study?
• Do you have structured sleep times that you can guarantee regularly time to study?
• Do you know on the whole your kids sleep well? So that you have energy to focus.
• Do you have regular travel times on public transport that facilitate regular reading and or study time? Or do you have any other time that is not being utilised?

If the answer is yes to the first two points, then you can organise the time resources necessary. The final bullet is a bonus. It may not be how other students might work, but 2-3 hours a night adds up to 14 – 21 hours a week.

Initial Investigation

• Investigate what possible courses are available that provide different options: location near home, online, opportunity to defer, mixture of assignments and exam, the languages you can take it in, past students outcomes/ successes (call the course supervisor or dean), resources and cost. Analyse and prioritise the option/s to discuss with your support framework.

Support framework

• Ask the same questions about sacrifice to your family: partner and kids, and are they willing to support you? It has to be a joint decision because if not the times when you need to have your head down to get an assignment finished and are unavailable could lead to resentment.
• Is there anything that you can add to support you? Can grandparents help? Can you afford outside help: a babysitter, au pair or nanny? Think these things through because there is a lot of time involved.

Cost

• It may not be cheap! There can be scholarships available but be realistic because parenthood is also not cheap. Research funds and make a budget plan accordingly.
If you that you are willing to make the sacrifice, identified that there is a routine that would facilitate study and support. Then move on to the next stage ‘Design’

2. Design in a way of working that will make you successful?

Where

• Pick the physical or virtual location to study that makes sense to you. I choose to study in the city that I now reside. I sometimes travel with my job, so as a family it would be an extra burden to go away to university weekends. There are 11 compact weekends in total, but each one I am home for breakfast, and to spend time with my family in the evening. A work colleague suggested going to Copenhagen to study, but what was more important to me was limiting the impact on my family. Secondly, a doctorate is not marked as traditional exams or coursework. Essentially your body of work has to be accepted by the experts, so in this context the place became irrelevant. This may not be true for all qualifications, but it is something to take into account.

Organise

• Go through and request the timetable for the course that you decided on. Put all the assignment dates in your diary, and make a plan ahead of time that allows you to meet the deadlines. Strangely, 1 single man has dropped out the doctorate and 2 people have been late with assignments out of 9 people. I am not aware of their full circumstances, but what works for me is the scheduling of completion in advance. I cannot afford to wait until the last minute. I have to dedicate time to it regularly; no excuses.

Tools

• If you haven’t already you will need a dedicated machine just for you and your study, and I highly recommend an Ipad with a kindle app, or kindle. The ability to read anywhere and everywhere that you have a free moment means that you can maximise your research and analysis time, boosting your productivity.
Use Your Network
• Mummies are the most powerful and resourceful network. We all make choices and I know Mummies who are blissfully raising their children that were lawyers, copy writers, teachers, HR Directors, CEO’s and the list goes on. Reach out for help. I needed someone to proof read my research proposal. I stopped counting after 8 people stepped forward. The value they added was colossal, because they provided a second pair of eye’s to: grammar, clarity and even built on the process.

3. Do it in a way that makes you successful.

Family

• Check in with your family how it is working and if there anything that would help each other? Overall my family is so proud of me. There have been times where we have had to make sure that we both get a break.
Reality Check
• The good thing about studying later on in life is actually I am no longer an anal perfectionist. I work hard at it and do many drafts, but there is a point where I say ‘that assignment’ will have to be enough as I want to play with my son and daughter.

Passion (2)

• If you are doing a thesis make sure the topic is what you are passionate about. My topic is how to develop talent in children. When I was on maternity leave with my second child I was so engrossed in the subject that I would sit down to research, and then before I knew it, it was time to pick up my daughter from kindergarten.

4. Be clear what success looks like, and it is not what you think!

Outcome

• Be clear that this does not define you. It may help you to get to a goal but success does not come in the form of a job title, or degree. How you live, experience life and the difference you make to the people you meet is success. It could be as simple as you need a mental challenge, or you want to make a difference in a certain field. So if this helps you in how you live and experience your life then go for it.

Date nights and why they are important

Date nights and why they are important

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Date Nights Sacred

After our second child we also moved house to a new area and lost our trusted babysitter.  There was also a period of adjustment to be able to look after two children.  The re-initiation of nappies, bottle feeding and weaning with time for ourselves after the kids went to bed at eight.  It would have been all too easy to just carry on in that direction.

I decided to get help and that meant that we could bring back a permanent date night, and what a difference it made.  It has given us the opportunity to reconnect regularly, with the ability for it to either be just the two of us, or meet and reconnect with friends.  Of course we connect on a daily basis, but the depth of connection is different when you are focused on the kids asking them about their day at kindergarten, weaning our second child which involves 40% of the food being dropped on the floor, playing puzzles, bath time and bed.  By the time parent time arrives at 20.00pm we cuddle up and chill. Friday nights is different we have the energy to debate topics like when we were dating from politics, religion, economics, the arts to social issues.  We have the chance to laugh and joke from an adult perspective.  We have the chance to understand how each other’s lives are going, and help and adjust for each other.  We also get to do the things we love eating out, the cinema and being with friends.

While this may only be a few hours a week to some, the date night is what ensures our world fits together. 

My biggest recommendation is to make time to reconnect.

7 tips to stay energised and healthy for a working mum heading back to the office.

Being a Mum is tough period so I dislike the phrase ‘working mum.’  All mother’s know even from just maternity leave that being at home is work, and it’s hard!  I have both stayed at home, and then decided to look for a job to go back to work.  At the office you are cutting into your day to ensure that you are still there to do the pick-up and or drop off, cook nutritious meals, play and have family time with the kids and read bedtime stories.  There are ways to limit personal costs, it may not be possible to have 2 hour gym or yoga sessions anymore, go for lovely walks with the kids, and be active and on the go because you are sat in the office.  My Nike Plus Fuel band is at its highest on a Saturday and Sunday when I am with the kids.   Yet when you return to the office there are ways to remain fit, healthy and energised.

1. Get in early.  I’m up at 5am.  I arranged that I would get in early with my boss, which means that if there are no calls with the US, or anything urgent creeps up I am finished at 2.45.  I do believe in flexibility and that cuts both ways.  The majority of the time I am home just gone 4pm.

2. If the childcare is in the direction of public transport to get to work; take it!  The amount of productive time that can be gained on public transport catching up on to do’s, or even just being able to read a book gives you time back.  I’m half way through my doctorate so the train time adds up to a lot of research time.  The walking you do also all accumulates to a much healthier you.

3. If you can afford it get help.  With my first child I did it alone, now 2 kids are in the mix, we have no other family to pull on and there is a longer commute. A second pair of hands to take the kids to and from nursery is a god send.

4. Get rid of your chair.  I got rid of my office chair for two reasons.  On maternity leave I had been using my gym ball, and on return to the office I noticed my back hurt.  I brought my gym ball in which is great for my spine and even better my core, giving it a workout all day.

5. Take your lunch in.  When did packed lunch start to become uncool? I am so glad in my new office everyone brings lunch in, it’s healthier cheaper and easy as I get to use up my leftovers from dinner.  Of course there is the preparation time 0f 2 to 10 minutes the night before dependent on what I make.

6. Exercise at lunch time.  I have a Nike Fuel band so as well as the walking involved in getting to work in the morning, I either practice yoga or run a minimum of 3 times a week.  Because I made my lunch, there is no need to take an hour in the canteen.  I make sure I still socialise with my colleagues, so as not to cut myself off from the networking that happens in the lunch time.

7. Keep one evening for yourself and your relationship.  Date night is Friday, and just before going out I have Pilates which is my treat to myself.  Plus my second child really left his mark ‘I was here.’  My core strength I can work on, the marks are permanent and I actually love.  My kids are every part of me, and I know I am blessed to have them.  That precious ‘me’ time, and then date night with the man I love so much completes the happy, healthy, emotionally balanced and physically fit me.

So that’s the way I’ve found to make the most of my time and be a mum.

A Different Way To Get Kids To Eat Vegetables

A Different Way To Get Kids To Eat Vegetables

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I'm writing this as last night my 2 year old thumped at the fridge, wailed and screamed at me.  I asked her to show me what she wanted. I thought she was going to point to yoghurt, but she opened the vegetable tray and pulled out the Romanesco Broccoli!  As you are reading this, you are probably going really!  Well those were my thoughts last night.  She loved vegetables earlier on, but then had a rebellion.  So what worked, I explained food to her in her words.  A bit like my parents used to I guess  "carrots help you to see". 1.  Do you want to Jump?  If you eat Broccoli you will be able to jump.  Does Mummy eat vegetables? 'Yes.' Can mummy jump?  'Yes.'

This isn't far from the truth we 'adults' just think in terms of vitamin D and Calcium.  This meant nothing to my daughter neither did the concept of being healthy.  What meant more was talking about it in ways that meant something to her, what she would be able to do.  This concept can be applied to other foods high in Vitamin D and Calium: Oily Fish, White Mushrooms, Whole Milk, Kale, Eggs, Oatmeal, Almonds, Oranges, Kale and Raw Spinach to name but a few.

2.  Do you want to be able to skip?  Well to be able to skip your brain needs to co-ordinate.  In our language vitamin B12 which is in: Mackerel, Swiss Cheese, Feta Cheese, Cured Ham, Sardines, Eggs, Salmon, Chicken, Whole Milk, Tuna, Fortified Tofu.

3.  Do you want to be able to see in the dark?  This is the old chestnut that my mum used.  Vitamin A can prevent nighttime blindness, eye inflammation, and dry eyes.  However, it is not just carrots rich in the vitamin, other sources include: Sweet Potatoes, Cod Liver Oil, Red Peppers, Paprika, Mangos, Whole Milk, Butternut Squash, Dried Basil, Kale, Peas, Dried Apricots, Spinach and Papaya.

I continue apply this to everything.  To get more informed about what vitamins and properties are in each food I use the following source http://bembu.com/vitamin-rich-foods.

Hope it helps someone else.  I know that there are many ways to encourage healthy eating, but this has worked for me.

Why the Demise of Bedtime Stories is Sad.

I was astonished today to read in the Guardian that parents are not reading bedtime stories to their children.    A Littlewood's survey of 2000 mothers revealed only 64% read bedtime stories to their children, and only 13% on a regular basis.  87% of the parents of the survey believed that bedtime reading is vital to their children’s education and development.

What I want to explore are the reason if there is a recognition of the value of bed time stories, but the inability to fulfil what generations have practiced what are the barriers.  Then what are the potential consequences and share the routine I have with my two.

The Problem

The survey by Littlewoods found that 9% felt too stressed and 13% did not have enough time, but these percentages are tiny.  Over half of the children wanted to play with the TV, Computer or other toys instead.  In reality the problem may be a combination of both.   The National Partnership Survey November 2012 found 80% of working women and 72%of working men said they, their neighbours or their friends face hardships when managing work, family and personal responsibilities.  This is the exact problem WHATIFPA want to address.  If parents are struggling the path of least resistance to use passive entertainment may be easier.  It may be easier to let children divert their attention to the TV or computer.  Where as 91% of the Littlewoods sample were read bedtime stories by their parents.  The time needs to be given to parents to make it easier to juggle, so that they can have the energy to make the effort that generations before us had made.

The Benefits of Reading

Research by Yvonne Kelly PhD found a link between a regular bedtime routine and cognitive abilities at 3, 5 and 7 years.  For example, at age 7, not having a regular bedtime was associated with significantly lower scores for reading (beta -0.22), math (beta -0.26), and spatial abilities (beta -0.15) among girls. There were no significant relationships among boys.

Researchers from five universities and from Mathematica Policy Research Inc., in Princeton, N.J., found that when English-speaking mothers in low-income households read to their very young children, the youngsters had greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive scores before the age of 2, compared with toddlers who were not read to very often.  Reading develops language.  Reading both oral and written develops meaning.

Our Routine

My 2-year-old daughter loves books on average she wants 5 short stories a night, and she also loves puzzles.  My 9-month-old son loves touching the colourful story books, and singing.

After bath time the first thing they will want to do in their rooms is do a puzzle.  Then she chooses books in Danish and English.  Some favourites are Jungle Book, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s child.  The Snail and the Whale, The Princess and the Wizard, What the Lady Bird Heard, Peek a Boo books, Danish and English Nursery Rhymes.

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As well as WHATIFPA, my doctorate is in the Development of Talent in Children, so this is an area that I am passionate about.

Sources:

Reading to Toddlers Could Boost Literacy. By: Jacobson, Linda, Education Week, 02774232, 7/26/2006, Vol. 25, Issue 43

http://www.millenniumcohort.org/publications.php?pageNum=14

http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/Parenting/40318

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/11/children-bedtime-stories-on-wane-survey

The 10 Habits of Mothers

I was not so bold as to include highly effective in the title, because I am one of those parents who admits I do not have all the answers.  That said these habits make my life significantly easier.  When I first read Stephen Covey’s 7 habits many years ago, it was great my life was all about work. I was a go getting graduate who was, and still is proactive, I had the end in mind, put myself in the other person’s shoes to understand first, thought to win and all the rest.

What life has taught me is that life is a lot more than work and to be effective I need 7 other habits.  I am not one person in work and another at home, and my work and life merges.

1.    Get Up Early

I get up at 5.30 – 6.00 so that I can get ready before the kids, and practice yoga.  This gives me energy, focus and health to complete the day.

2.    Put my Health First

 Although, the decisions are family first, if a person doesn’t have their health they cannot be there for the family.  It’s important to concentrate on insuring happiness and health.

3.    Put the Family at the Forefront of Decisions

Whether a person is working or not and running a family, there are always those decisions that need to be made.  Every household is different, and the key is it has to work for the household.  Think win-win does not necessarily come into it.  It may not be possible for both people to progress in their career.  One person may have to take a step back as the other takes a step forward to make sure that the overall family balance is a happy one.

4.    Keep a Little You

It’s important to keep a little you.  I worked 100% with my first daughter, and when my son came my office closed.  However, I am still completing my doctorate and hope to go back to work fulltime in a family friendly company.  I have other friends that still keep up their interests and or talents: writing, running, yoga and even find a channel to change careers.

5.    Multi Task

At nursery or school pick up time everything happens at once from feed, play, bath and bed.  The ability to multi task and not get stressed is essential.

6.    Understand Food

It’s not necessary to be a cooking goddess, but the ability to pull together a nutritious meal in 15 minutes is needed.  It keeps the family healthy, and understanding food means that there is less food to waste, as well as saving money.  The left overs can be reused into a left over pie, slightly old fruit can be chucked into a smoothie or crumble, and fish can be gutted and scraped to make fish cakes from scratch for a economical but nutritious meal.

7.    Story Teller

Language is a key enabler to communication, to learn more.  The capability to bring ‘Tinkerbell,’ ‘The Gruffalo’ and ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ to life is integral to an important life skill.

8.    Talent Finder and Grower

The ability to tune into what children love and support them in it even if that means hovering up billions of bits of playdoh, constantly being hands deep in paint and using architecture skills to build a Wendy house from boxes, paint and felt.

9.    Teacher

There seems to be too much left to teachers in schools.  There is still a role to play at home not just reading, maths and understating the world but also values and behaviour.

10. Adaptable and Learn

The truth is mothers have to adapt to situations all the time, and may even create new habits.   A mother makes mistakes, giggles sometimes because if they don’t find it funny they may just cry.  The important thing is they learn from it, and realise they are not perfect and will never be.   A mother may have to create a new habit to accommodate the needs of their child, because every child is different; but special.

What IF we Thought More About Literature, Movies and Computer Games as Aids to Develop Skills and Character in Children?

This piece focuses on how Talent could be developed in children through different mediums, on of the aims of the Talent Development in Children group.

There are a lot of values we try to teach are kids and I have been reading some interesting research on literature, and the development of values.  I thought it would be useful to summarise the different books, films and games I have found so far, and the values that they support. Children can soak up so many different images in their heads; some can be conjured up in a child’s imagination through literature, and others through visual images or play.

1. Challenging the status quo

When we can teach are kids to question how things work, challenge the status quo and think differently this is a great life skill.

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Poor, sick Princess Lenore wants the moon so that she can be well again. The anxious King consults his wise men to no avail, and only when he calls on his jester who innovative thinking to solve the problem.

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In order to win the treasure of stories Anase who is an elderly man must outsmart and capture 3 clever creatures.

Antz Dreamworks Movie

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One ant challenges the community to think differently and change their world as they are actually stronger as a community.

2. Inspiring Others

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A toy Indian and his canoe travel from Lake Nipigon to the Atlantic Ocean facing many obstacles, setbacks and detours.  To complete the journey the canoe needs help from external sources like the wind.

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Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one's world by flying over it.  It is only when the main character shares the vision with her brother that it becomes possible.

3. Empowering Others to Act

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The tsar issues a proclamation that whoever can build a flying ship may marry his daughter. With help and determination, a foolish young peasant overcomes all obstacles and wins her hand, in this traditional Ukrainian folktale.

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3 soldiers have to creatively win the trust of a village.

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4. Role Modelling

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How the old can learn from the young.

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President Lincoln's life from childhood. Providing a model for hard work, honesty, visions, tenacity and success.

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It's a perfect world, where everything looks right. But ugly truths lie beneath the surface…

It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in The Community wants for anything. Everyone is provided for. Each Family Unit is entitled to one female and male child. Each member of The Community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders, and they never make a mistake.

Jonas, a sensitive twelve-year-old boy, had never thought there was anything wrong with his Community, until one day. From the moment Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory at The Ceremony, his life is never the same. Jonas discovers that The Community is not as perfect as it seems. Although they appear to have everything, they are missing something of great importance. It is up to Jonas, with the help of the Giver, to find what long ago had been lost. And so Jonas embarks on an adventure to save the world as he knows it.

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With Shealy as a guide, we appreciate anew the confusions and difficulties that beset the March sisters as they overcome their burdens and journey toward maturity and adulthood: beautiful, domestic-minded Meg, doomed and forever childlike Beth, selfish Amy, and irrepressible Jo.

5. Being Different is OK! - Diversity

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This stunning story deals with the severe consequences of intolerance.

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Hoping to impress a sexy female classmate, fifteen-year-old Carlos secretly hires gay student Sal to give him an image makeover, in exchange for Carlos's help in forming a Gay-Straight Alliance at their Texas high school.

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6. Tenacity

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The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong 
Newbery Medal 1955. The children in a small Dutch town try to bring the storks back to nest on their roofs.

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Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Weatherford
Award-winning picture-book treatment of Tubman.

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The smallest and humblest of creature can dream of greatness and, if faithful to himself and the dream, can become the noblest of creatures.

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Chris, a young boy of 6, is playing in the park at Toad Catchers' Creek with his friends when he decides to attempt to cross the legendary monkey bars. On first attempt, he fails and falls to the ground…in the process he loses his self-confidence and is embarrassed in front of his playmates. Chris' father consoles him and tells Chris the story of a Macaw named Screech who was afraid to fly. Screech allowed this fear to dominate his existence until one day, his friend Tracker falls from a branch high in the rainforest. As Screech watches him plummet towards the ground, Screech gathers all of his courage and uses the four magic words that his mother had taught him… I CAN DO IT. Armed with his mother's magic and his true courage, Screech takes off from his nest, catches Tracker and returns him safely to the ground. Screech, now the hero, has realized that he did have the power to overcome his fear and succeed where he had failed in the past.

Once Chris hears the story, his father encourages him to use the magic words and try the monkey bars again. This time he gets all the way across and learns that he too, has the power to grow and overcome his fear. The story ends with his father telling Chris that one day Chris will share this knowledge with his child and he too will know how it feels to see his child succeed.

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Frank wasn't satisfied doing ordinary frog things. He wanted to fly, but he was a frog and frogs can't fly. Follow along as Frank jumps and runs and leaps and dives until he finally finds his place in the pond. The companion book on cd will transport you and your child into Frank's world with sound effects and wonderful performances by children and adu

7. Encouraging Heart

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An African picture book drawing on the 26 distinct aspects of the alphabet.  It recognises and celebrates the individual contributions of multiple African tribes and cultures.

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A story of a family mouse preparing for winter. However, Frederick is preoccupied with gathering abstract things and does not gather enough food for the cold season.  He then utilises his talent 'imagination' to encourage others, and bring warmth at a difficult time.  He had to wait until the other mice were open to his contribution.

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8. Taking Responsibility and Accountability

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A great book about diversity and empathy. It is wonderfully written in rhyme, and the illustrations are superb!  It teaches children not to just follow the crowd.

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From the author of Adventures at Walnut Grove: A Lesson about Teasing comes a tale about taking responsibility for your own actions. Silly and Sassy come to Walnut Grove to visit their cousin Sammy. Silly and Sassy are always getting into trouble. They play hide 'n seek, have frog races, and play dare or double dare. How does this lead to jumping off a bridge? Read I DOUBLE Dare You! to find out how everyone learns that it's not always wise to follow your friends.  Do you accept responsibility or blame someone else for your actions? I hope that I DOUBLE Dare You! helps children think about the decisions they make, and that they try to make good choices.

9. Self-Awareness

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Tinkerbell smashes a unique stone that gives life to the fairy tree.  She blames everything on her best friends, and is not fully aware of her own flaws or talents. After a long treacherous journey she turns the mirror on herself and realises her role, takes responsibility and learns form her mistakes.   In the end she creates a solution that makes more fairy dust than any fairy has ever made.

10. Strategic Thinking

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What IF I Could Keep Cool - 7 Ways to Stay Cool

1. Hydrate

Make sure you keep hydrated with water.  Try to avoid caffeine, sugary fizzy drinks and alcohol.  You can make home made refreshing vitamin drinks that the whole family will love.

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2. Fake it Ice Cream.

My daughter is convinced she is eating ice cream.  I bought ice lolly makers  from our local supermarket and mix yoghurts, and she loves it.  Yoghurt eaters will also get a dose of animal protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium, and magnesium.

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3. Eat Spicy

Believe it or not when you eat spicy foods it creates a sweat without raising your body temperature. Sweat cools your body down. I make a great curry, and here is one of my favourites Aubergine curry.

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4. Splash Splash

This is what my daughter says, and we get the paddling pool out.

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5. Dress Cool

Dressing in cotton or linen helps

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6.  Eat Watermelon

There are some great watermelon recipes.  I love watermelon, feta, red onion, lemon, mint and walnut salad or little watermelon and feta bites.  Watermelon is made up of 92% water and 8% sugar so it is a great refresher.  It is rich in electrolytes (sodium and potassium). It not only replaces the electrolytes lost through sweat but also hydrates your cells and maintains the water balance in the cells. Metabolism is boosted as the functionality of the cells is increased, ultimately energizing your body.  The 4 great fatigue fighters - Potassium, Vitamin C, lycopene and iron found in watermelon drives away any feeling of fatigue you may experience.

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7. Batten the hatches down

Close your shutter, blinds or curtains to keep your house cool, it can reduce the amount of heat inside by as much as 45%.  This doesn't use up unnecessary electricity needed by a fan or air conditioning.

Status Anxiety

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=CERfoDIU2Yw

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