Where negative statements can be accepted as true in our children’s mind, so too can positive statements. We call these Affirmations, and they can be used to counteract and overcome a negative, unhelpful belief, or reaffirm something wanted, bringing about positive thoughts and feelings. They’re positive statements said as if they are already true.
As adults we may feel a bit silly saying them at first, but children are less self-conscious. They’ll find affirmations a fun way to program their minds and to plant and grow positive suggestions in their subconscious. But what’s really great is if they can accept these positive suggestions while young, then there will be less reprogramming to be done as they get older.
To encourage this habit, they need to think of a positive statement in the present tense that they can relate to. The language needs to be simple, using words they would use in everyday speech and that’s appropriate for their understanding. If too complex, they’ll be less likely to understand or take the statements on board. It’s better they choose their own affirmations they feel comfortable with saying, these can be written if the child is old enough, to compliment and reinforce the verbal affirmation but are best said aloud repeatedly. They need to be short, simple, positive, uplifting, motivating, and believable. Such as; ‘I am now learning more and more every day.’ Repetition is key to affirmations and the more they practise using positive affirmations, the easier they get and the better they start to feel about themselves and their capabilities.
This probably won’t surprise you to know, but while children are speaking and thinking positively about themselves, it’s impossible for them to think negatively, and then fear, worry, anxiety, anger, and frustration disappear. This is useful if they are struggling in some area, such as learning how to read, instead of listening to their self-defeating mental chatter, they can replace it with positive self-talk and could say; ‘I enjoy learning how to read, reading is fun, and I am now finding it easier and easier to read.’
We can clearly understand how this approach is more helpful than what children usually say such as;
‘I can’t read, I hate reading, it’s hard.’ Convincing themselves with their own words that they cannot read, not realising that they are the ones holding themselves back. Children confuse lack of experience and confidence in something, such as reading, as a lack of ability, and believe they do not, cannot, and will never be able to do it. Any mistakes they encounter only reinforce this, knocking their confidence further, we can minimise the risk of this happening by introducing our children to affirmations.
I like the affirmation bowl. Write out some affirmations on some post it notes and mix them up in a bowl and ask your child to pick one each morning and evening before bed. Then notice how their behaviour and language becomes more positive and how their self- esteem and confidence improves.
The thing I’ve loved most about my job is that my children were always surrounded by other children of different ages. At some point in their lives, they were the youngest child, the middle child and the eldest. And they were never without friends to play with.
When they were preschooler’s they looked up to and learnt from the older children, when they became the middle children, they were role models, and as the eldest they were teachers for the younger ones.
They always had a sense of belonging and responsibility growing up. And it’s the same for every other child who enters child care young and grows up in that setting.
Children who are given roles and responsibilities in life feel important and this is what helps them to build self-esteem.
I’ve always given the older children tasks to do such as laying the table or reading the younger children a story.
To have an older child read to younger ones, boosts the older child’s self-esteem and can give the younger ones listening, a better experience. Children can make a story come alive and aren’t afraid to have fun with characters voices. Most adults find this type of enthusiasm unnatural or difficult when reading a simple picture book.
SELF ESTEEM – How our children regard and acknowledge their good qualities and think and feel about themselves in general. Including how much they like themselves or believe that they are a good person, deserving of all the good that life has to offer or not. And how close their ‘real self’ is in alignment with their ‘ideal self’. That is—how they feel they measure up against the version of themselves, that they think they should or the way they want to be.
Being in a diverse world where everyone is different is a blessing but children do not see it this way if they are the unique ones, who look or feel different.
Children want to fit in and be like everyone else.
So how can we as parents help them to feel accepted and happy with themselves for who they are and how can we explain to young children that’s its okay to be different?
Books are the easiest way to naturally relay important messages to young children. Reading books with our children is proactive parenting.
Most books have important messages imbedded in the story. Uplifting books can motivate and inspire our children or can educate and help them to understand feelings and emotions better.
Books can also open up discussions. Listening and talking to our children and understanding how they feel and view themselves is vital to proactive parenting — It’s normal to find they dislike something about their body, or they don’t feel good enough at something and if this is the case, we should listen and talk to them about it, using books to overcome any self-limiting beliefs they may hold about themselves. They may have an exaggerated view of something or even an unjustified one. They maybe comparing themselves with others, dismissing their own great attributes.
Learning to appreciate themselves and what they do have — instead of comparing what they don’t have, will increase their self-esteem, self-image and self confidence in all areas of their lives.
A tall person for instance may not make a very good jockey but they would make a great model. It’s about getting them to appreciate and work with what they have got going for them naturally, and using it. Stories can uncover characters vulnerabilities that some children can relate to, and by reading how the character in the book learns to overcome these, can help children do the same in their own lives.
Good books address losing, failing or feelings of inadequacy and how that is a normal part of everyone’s, everyday life at times.
Children come to understand that it’s not about winning or being the best, its about being a part of something and not being afraid to be themselves, even if they are different and approach thing differently to their peers.
Last week, one of the older children at Happy Childcare read a fantastic book to the younger children about just that. It was called Hop and was about a dog that had been adopted by kangaroos, so clearly had some differences to everyone else in her family.
For one, she was no Joey and she just couldn’t do the kangaroo bounce but she so badly wanted to join in with the other joeys, so they had a race. Despite her limitations she enjoyed it, and although she didn’t win the race, that didn’t matter because she had so much fun taking part and overcoming her differences, in novel and creative ways.
The book deals with self -esteem and self-image issues perfectly for young children, and the topic proved to be an interesting discussion for the older children too. You can find the book Hop by Cherise Cross on Amazon in paper back or Kindle format but I would recommend the paper back version as the illustrations by Francois Arnaud are brilliant.
Children are not born with confidence; it grows as they do. When learning to walk they fall down, but they don’t give up and bit by bit, the more they practice, the better they become. One day they are crawling, then toddling, then walking, running, hopping and jumping. What once would’ve seemed like an impossible task, suddenly becomes normal. And by giving things a go despite any perceived limitations or beliefs, they learn that they can succeed.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying ; “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
Our world has suddenly turned into an uncertain place recently, causing a lot of anxiety for everyone but how will that impact our children both now and in the future?
The early messages our children receive will determine whether or not they grow up in a friendly or hostile world.
Life is not all doom and gloom, but if our children are being exposed to bad news every day, then they may start to believe it is.
We should take care to protect our young, innocent children’s impressionable minds. Regular exposure to such negativity could cause nightmares, and some sensitive children could become fearful, sad, or depressed.
We do not, however, need to hide the truth from our children or try to protect them from hearing about anything unpleasant. Quite the opposite, it’s actually beneficial that they are aware of both the good and the bad news.
Yes, bad things happen in the world but so do good things too. We just need to give our children a more balanced outlook and show them what’s good about life more often than highlighting the bad news, and inform them of the dangers without leaving them feeling fearful.
Recently I was asked how we can help explain ‘Stranger Danger’ to pre-schoolers without causing anxiety. You can find the full article in the autumn issue of mums and tots’ magazine. https://www.mumsandtots.ie/
But one of the best ways I’ve found to communicate messages to young children is through books. Being an author myself I may be biased but stories and picture books are more relatable to young children.
As parents we want our children to be able to relate well to others but we hear so much bad news that, we fear them being out of our sight for a second. And this fear can transfer onto our children. But this blanket fear can do more harm than good. If we tell our children strangers are dangerous, they will quite literally believe every stranger is and this can cause separation anxiety.
Most young children are naturally cautious of strangers, because they fear they’ll be taken or come to some harm when their parents are not around. This can become extremely difficult when they come to start childcare, nursery or school, and can often cause sleeping problems if the child has to sleep without the parent.
We can help our children overcome these fears or we can reinforce them. How we react and how we proactively prepare them for the unthinkable -they go missing, is also is key.
If on their return we panic, scream and shout or worse physically and emotionally punish them, we increase their fears. As Parents we may want our children to get this message so they don’t repeat the behaviour and go missing again but what happens when we need them to go to strangers without us, such as a new babysitter or starting childcare, nursery or school?
Then we will ask them to go to a new, unknown place or person, full of unfamiliar strangers. We may know it’s a safe place, but our children may not, so we have to communicate this to them. This means being careful not to project our own anxieties, worries, or fears onto our children.
Stranger danger is a difficult topic to portray to pre-schoolers, so we have to approach it in a light hearted manner, even if it’s a heavy issue for us. We are so transparent to our children who pick up not only on how they see us behaving but also on how they feel our emotions (yes, our energy radiates outward and our young children pick up both our good and bad vibes) The best way to do this is to use stories, songs and rhymes that are age and stage appropriate for your child. I love the old classic Never Talk To Strangers (Little Golden Books)by Irma Joyce
Because it has pictures that are of animals which young children love and it’s also a rhyming book with the vital repetitive message ‘Never talk to strangers.’ which children love to join in with as I read it. It helps to encourage conversation on the topic of stranger danger too.
Another simple way to try and explain stranger danger to a pre-schooler I found was, using a dog analogy using the example of a friendly dog they like, that’s familiar to the child and comparing that dog to a strange dog in the playground.
So, a typical example would be;
‘Well Zoë, you don’t need to be afraid of all strangers but you shouldn’t go anywhere alone with them or let them touch you. It’s a bit like Benji our dog, you know Benji… well, he’s friendly and wags his tail and jumps up to greet you to play, he never hurts you. But if you see another dog you don’t know, say in the playground when you are playing, he may not be friendly like Benji is, he may hurt you, so it’s best not to touch him or let him touch you. Not all dogs are unfriendly but not all dogs are like Benji, some do bite and it’s the same when you meet a stranger.’
There are many good children’s books out there, that can relieve children’s fears and increase their self-confidence and esteem, written by positive, motivational authors such as the late Louise Hay’s, The Adventures of Lulu or inspiring books by Dr Wayne Dyer such as Incredible Me or No More Excuses. All of these portray positive, life affirming messages. They also help our children to deal positively with the real problems in life too.
I recently read all the children I care for a wonderful new picture book, that encourages children to find their special talent called, Big Splash Circus by Karina Choudhrie. It is a beautifully illustrated and designed picture book that all the children ranging from 10 months to 8 years loved. It’s an adventure in a fun-filled undersea world, full of characters and with a heart-felt message for young children about inclusion and using your special skills.
Big Splash Circusis a place of inclusion, where everyone can take part and discover what makes them special, from acrobatics to music to making people laugh. The sea creatures in the circus are like a classroom full of children – where they all get a chance to shine! (Big Splash Circus is published by CandyJar Books and is available in hardback (£11.99) and paperback (£5.99) at all good bookshops and online retailers.)
As parents we have the power to direct our children’s attention positively. To help relieve anxiety at this unsettling time, instead of electronic devices and the media exposing our children to what’s happening in the world, we can counterbalance those messages by sharing positive books with heart felt messages in. You can read more about this in my book – The Powerful Proactive Parents Guide to Present Parenting
So, the day has nearly or finally arrived for our beloved little ones to return to school. Yippee!!! I can see all the mums fist pumping the air and doing a happy dance around an empty house right now 😊
I’m sure many children are looking forward to going back and catching up with their friends again. But equally there will be some apprehension for most. Here’s a few tips to boost our kids’ confidence and tackle their anxiety about returning to school during the pandemic.
ADDRESS OUR OWN ANXIETIES
Children pick up on parent and carers fears and anxieties, so if we are worried, they’ll think there’s something to be afraid of and that they too should be scared.
PAINT A POSITIVE PICTURE
Help them view returning to school optimistically by telling them about the fun things they will get up to, such as painting, play dough, and reuniting with friends. And answer any questions they’ve got to help them feel prepared.
If they can use their vivid imaginations to visualise going back to school positively, they’ll be more inclined to experience that on the actual day. This focuses their attention on what they want, instead of what they don’t want. Getting them to imagine waking up to their favourite breakfast and getting ready in their new school uniform, with their new shoes, lunch box, backpack and pencil case, builds anticipation and excitement, while increasing their confidence and motivation.
RE-ESTABLISH ROUTINE WITH WARNINGS AND REMINDERS
Routines help children to feel relaxed and confident when they’re given notice and know what to expect, when and why? Offer plenty of warnings and reminders fifteen to ten minutes beforehand, such as at meal and bedtimes, to mentally and physically prepare them.
Sleep is vital in restoring children’s mental and physical development and growth. Set a regular bedtime time and routine for a good night sleep, such as, 7pm -bath, brush teeth, bedtime story. Keep to this even at the weekend.
Exercise is important to childrens emotional as well as physical wellbeing. Children who exercise learn and concentrate better at school, improve their memory and release endorphins, reducing or preventing depression or anxiety. Wean them off the screen using the ‘Bursts of Fitness 15 Minute Rule’ For every fifteen minutes of sedentary play, i.e. Watching TV, they then have to take a break to run up and down the stairs/garden/hallway or wherever is suitable and convenient, fifteen times, before they resume watching TV for another fifteen minutes. Repeated every fifteen minutes.
3 HAPPY THINGS
Before bed ask them to think of three thing’s they were happy for in their day, remembering the good parts keeps them grateful and focused on the positives.
THE BOTHER BOX
Prevent worries building up in their head or going unaddressed by creating a ‘Bother Box’. Find an old shoebox and ask your child to decorate it as they choose with paint, crayons, or stickers. Buy a pack of copier paper and whenever they’re bothered by something, encourage them to draw a picture of whatever is bothering them and place it in the box. Then sit down together and go through the concerns in the box. As they get older, they can exchange drawing pictures for writing their worries down on post it notes, or in a journal or diary.
These are positive statements said as if they’re already true, used to counteract and overcome a negative, unhelpful belief, relieve fears and anxiety, and to reaffirm something wanted. If they are nervous about returning to school, affirmations can bring about positive thoughts and feelings.
Ask them to practice saying aloud;
‘I enjoy going to school and playing with all my friends.’
Giving our children tools and techniques such as these, gives them coping mechanisms and preventative tools to manage their thoughts and feelings, before they need them.
Mumatherapy Facebook Friendship Group
As mum’s we also need some support sometimes too, that’s why Happy Childcare has now set up its Facebook Mumatherapy Support Group. It’s a friendship support group for Mum’s that’s intended to be a safe place to air our inner most thoughts and feelings, with like-minded others, in a closed, supportive group. Sharing helpful parenting advice and providing some helpful tools and techniques, to alleviate stress and anxiety and increase confidence and self -esteem, such as, hypnosis, guided meditations, EFT and affirmations and quotes. The only goal is to love one another like you would your best friend or sister, without judgement. It’s also a place to share the joys of motherhood too and your own successes and achievements. A positive place to feel loved, loving and lovable. Please join with an open mind.
Well I call it super because it’s a natural, yet, highly nutritious food. Its good for boosting the immune system, fighting free radicals, increasing those feel good hormones known as serotonin, giving us energy, stamina and reducing inflammation and bloating.
It’s so versatile it’s an easy way to add nutrients to your child’s diet.
Following last week’s blog post I received messages from parents who said they tried the egg and cress sandwich and their children didn’t like it. Some children don’t like sandwiches or egg, but if it was the watercress putting them off, its more likely the healthy green look of it than the taste.
We can get around this fear of the healthy green stuff by letting them grow their own.
Kids love to feel connected to what they eat, and are more likely to eat watercress if they’ve nurtured it from seed. Children are just in awe of growing watercress; the main reason is it takes only days to grow where’s, most other fruit and vegetables take months from seed and children lose interest and forget.
Seeing before their eyes a mop of cress growing from a simple egg shell is mesmerizing for little ones and the really great thing is, very small toddlers can do this too, it’s so simple. No need again for allotments or even a garden or window box, just an empty eggshell. As an added bonus it can be grown inside the home all year round, making it cheap, quick, convenient, educational and fun.
Something as simple as growing some seeds can also help develop their caring nature, the plant is after all a living thing.
Seeing their efforts transpire into something they can pick and eat is a wonderful self confidence boost, giving them an – ‘I did that’ sense of achievement. It also offers them the chance to get creative too.
HOW TO GROW YOUR OWN
Take the tops off the eggs and remove the egg from inside, put this in the fridge in a sealed container for later to cook with. Wash the inside and outside of the shells and wipe dry. Let your little one’s paint or use felt tip pens to decorate their shells with funny faces and leave them to dry for a few hours. If you don’t have any eggs or don’t fancy all the fuss then simply wash out a used yoghurt pot and follow the same procedure. You could turn this activity into a recycling education by looking for containers such as margarine tubs you’d normally bin, to plant in, showing children the real value, that so-called rubbish can have.
Dip some cotton wool balls in some water and squeeze any excess water out so they are damp, not soaking, and put a ball into each shell and add on top one tsp of cress seeds to each egg shell (you can also use chia seeds the same way they are genetically related to the cress seed family) and place the shells into an empty egg carton or holder, you usually find these plastic ones in your fridge or use egg cups if you prefer.
Leave in a light place such as the window sill but be careful not to expose it to too much direct sunlight, that can dry them out. Allow your child to sprinkle them with a little water each day if dry and needed, and show your child how the cress grows towards the light, then watch the miracle unfold and cress hair sprout from the shells in a matter of days! Don’t forget to show your child the furry root hairs of the cress seeds growing on the cotton wool, they’ll be amazed.
Then when the cress has grown usually within a week, snip the sprouting cress hair and get sneaky with hiding it in their meals, add to sandwiches, salads, pasta, soups and stews- whatever you choose! Try adding it to cheese spread on wholemeal bread or even peanut butter sarnies?
Or give this super summertime soup a go;
Watercress Super Summertime Soup (super, simple and speedy to make!)
A knob of butter
A stick blender
1 x large peeled and diced potato
1 x large leek finely chopped
A bunch of watercress
600 ml of vegetable or chicken stock (maybe more depending how thick you like your soup?)
Half a teaspoon of ground cumin (if your child prefers bland food you can leave this out)
A generous grinding of black pepper
A dollop of double cream
Then let the cooking alchemy begin
Sauté the leek in the butter on a low heat.
Add the stock and diced potato bring to the boil then simmer for half hour. Make sure to keep stirring throughout as it can stick to the pan.
Add the watercress with the pepper, stir with love for a couple of minutes.
(I don’t add salt when I’m cooking for children and personally I use chicken stock so I get enough flavour from that, along with the cumin and black pepper but if you’re cooking a batch for yourself or other grown ups then feel free to season with salt and pepper to suit your preferred taste.)
Puree in a blender, I find using a stick blender quick and easy for soups. I love that thick gloopy, velvety consistency but if you or your child don’t you can add more stock initially or do what I do and add hot water from the kettle while blending to get it just right. Its surprising how thick this soup gets.
Add the dollop of cream stir and serve immediately. If you are going to store some in the fridge or freezer for later then don’t add cream to soup now, add to the soup when serving. Personally, I like it with or without the cream but when I’m trying to lose a few pounds I usually omit the cream but kids will likely prefer it with the cream.
This is a powerful detox soup for us grown ups too so grab yourself a bowl.
So, here’s some facts per 100 grams of watercress.
TOTAL SUGARS 0.2
VITAMINS A, C, K
Watercress is packed full of calcium and manganese for healthy eyes, skin and healthy blood clotting.
As always, the priority is on our children eating a well-balanced, overall diet and enjoying the mealtime experience. Not making them sit at the table trying to force them to eat their vegetables or clear their plate. That’s why The U URSELF Routine (click here or the button to find out more)
includes food and the mealtime experience. My book The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child has a whole chapter dedicated to this, for a sneak-peek take a look below
Let me know how you and your little ones get on with watercress this week and feel free to send me your own sneak it in recipes so I can try with my little and big ones and share with other readers, if you have any pics feel free to send me those too 🙂