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.
During lockdown we’ve all suffered from sleepless nights, whether that’s through anxiety, not enough exercise, unhealthy eating choices or disrupted routines. Added to that we’ve had clingier children who have picked up on our fears and anxieties too. In fact, lockdown has caused our children to become more dependent on us as parents and more needy than ever, leaving us at our children’s beck and call 24 -7.
Some children born into lockdown know no other way, others have just become accustomed to having us around doing everything for them.
But we need our U Time and rest as much as they do.
Friday the 19th of March is World Sleep Day, so here’s some tips to help restore a good night’s sleep for our little ones, because if they are sleeping, we can too!
CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT
Children need to feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed in their bed. We can make bedtimes more inviting and cosier for our children by addressing the basics and reviewing them from time to time, as our children grow.
That busy, blue, rocket wallpaper may have seemed a good idea when you found out you were having a boy, but how practical is it today now your toddler wont sleep?
We don’t want our children to be stimulated at bedtime, so instead of choosing the traditional bright colours for you child’s bedroom, opt for more subtle, green tones. Green is closer to nature and offers a relaxing, tranquil environment, which is conducive for sleep and much more soothing.
Have you noticed recently that your child has started to wake up earlier in the morning?
This could be due to the change in seasons. We may not have needed black out curtains or blinds during the dark winter months but now spring is on its way, bringing lighter mornings and evenings, this can prevent them dropping straight off or arouse them too early. Any signs of light will wake them easily and affect their body clock, so it’s a good idea investing in blackout blinds or curtains, while avoiding night lights or leaving landing lights on to comfort them.
As the seasons change so do the temperatures and what was once a nice, warm duvet in the winter, is now a hot, heavy burden in the summer, so changing duvet togs and the number of blankets or textures can help. Likewise adding extra blankets in the winter will ensure they are never too cold. Remember infants can’t regulate their own temperature so this is important for us to monitor. We can also regulate temperature by opening a window, using a fan or putting the heating on or off.
Lack of sleep can be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing, no one should be deprived of the basic necessity to sleep. Lack of sleep is also accumulative, so our children have to catch up on sleep whenever they can.
Even if this means a nap in the day to make up for lost sleep at night.
Parents sometimes avoid their children taking daytime naps, fearing they won’t sleep as long at night, but the reverse is actually true. Sleep deprived children have the worst sleeping habits, and those who nap in the day, actually sleep better at night. Children who need, but do not take a nap in the day, become overtired. Physical and mental capacity is impaired with too much activity and stimulation. This can be nearly as bad as none at all, making learning to relax a useful skill, so offering quiet time to rest, relax, and daydream throughout the day, is just as important as napping or sleeping at night.
MAKE IT INVITING
When my children were young, bedtime was our favourite Us Time together. We’d chat about the day, have a story and a cuddle and share with one another 3 things we were grateful for that day. By making bedtime an inviting, relaxing time, children will look forward to it.
WARNINGS AND REMINDERS
Children see bedtime as a fun spoiler, especially if absorbed in play or watching their favourite TV programme. But we can make it easier for them to accept by offering plenty of warnings and reminders. We need to gradually prepare them, letting them know fifteen minutes beforehand, with 5-minute reminders in between, e.g., if their bedtime is at 7pm then start at 6.45pm with- ‘Time to put your toys away.’ 6.50pm, ‘Let’s brush our teeth.’ and 6.55pm, ‘Let’s hop into bed for a story.’ This gives them the chance to mentally and physically prepare themselves.
ROUTINE IS KEY
Routines have gone out the window for many of us. Not having to get up for school has caused havoc and late nights and lay ins have become the norm. children’s sleeping habits have changed without the usual structure to their day so this will have impacted everything else, such as our children’s behaviour. To remedy this, it’s time to start or get our children back into a routine.
I recommend the U URSELF Routine to help restore harmony at home, as it covers;
U Time, Us Time, Recreation and Exercise, Sleep, Esteem, Love and Food, all of which impact a child’s sleeping habits.
You can read more about the U URSELF Routine on our web page by clicking the button below
Having a regular time to go to bed is vital. Setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it helps develop certain sleep wave patterns. These don’t change at the weekend; their body clock will send them to sleep and wake them up the same time on a Saturday, as it would on a Monday. So, bedtime needs to be consistent even at weekends.
We won’t be able to make them sleep while in bed, but our job is done when we make sure they are tucked up at a set time. There’s no need to argue with them to sleep, we are just setting a routine. They will fall asleep of their own accord when their bed becomes their cue to, and there’s nothing else stimulating on offer.
Keeping noise down helps a light or sensitive sleeper too, if they can hear you laughing at the TV downstairs then that’s where they’ll naturally want to be.
One child may be younger, making their bedtime different from their older siblings, and this is where difficulties can lie. Obviously, the younger child won’t want to be going to bed alone and will try to prevent this. There’s nothing we can do to make them sleep; however, we must still stick to their bedtime routine and make sure they go to their room at the appropriate time, ensuring all members of the family are respectful of their need for quiet.
If their physical environment is conducive to a good night’s sleep, and hunger or overtiredness can be ruled out, yet they’re still not sleeping through the night, the usual culprits are illness, teething, and general pain or enuresis.
Regressive behaviours like bedwetting don’t keep children awake, sleeplessness is usually a symptom of laying in wet pyjamas or bedding. We can help minimise the frustration to ourselves by changing sheets immediately, with minimum fuss. We can do this by always making their bed up twice, with two layers of waterproof sheets and normal sheets, just in case. This preparation means if they have an accident during the night, this limits the time and disruption of having to completely remake the bed. Simply throw off the top layer of wet sheets and waterproof, then underneath there will be more dry sheets and another waterproof sheet.
Regressive behaviours are their way of showing they still need us, or simply a coping mechanism to return to that time when they felt protected. In those moments, they need reassurance from us that everything will be ok. We must be understanding, reassuring any fears they have in a calm and confident manner, whilst still communicating to them that, what we are asking them to do i.e., go to sleep, is not bad but good for them!
It seems unlikely that schools will reopen until March. For many of us parents that means -continued, pandemic, parenting, problems.
Home-schooling’s one daily grind we’re all struggling with and our frustration is at its breaking point. Many of us feel like giving up but its best to stay involved and take baby steps.
They’ll learn a lot more from little and often than from not at all.
So, here’s some pointers to help guide us when helping our children to learn;
Every child will have a preferred way of learning. Identifying their preferred method or modality will make learning more interesting and fun.
Listening—this is called ‘Auditory learning’.
Watching— ‘Visual learners’.
Others prefer a more, hands-on approach— ‘Kinaesthetic learning’ also known as ‘tactile learning’ by doing.
There’s always more than one way to learn, that’s why there’s no need limiting our children to ‘the right way’ thinking. Allow them to explore all the options and to choose one that feels right to them. By doing things differently to the norm, our children become more flexible and comfortable in new learning endeavours.
RELEASE THE PRESSURE AND HAVE FUN
Pressure to perform and achieve is what causes children anxiety and what sucks all the ease, fun, and enjoyment out of learning something new. When children are having fun, it doesn’t feel like learning, and If they don’t have any obvious expectations imposed upon them, they become free from the burden of being perfect and relax. Relaxation is the key to creativity and clear focused thinking. Having fun in the process makes things easier for us and more enjoyable for our children, so try playing games as opposed to lecturing or just reeling off answers.
LET THEM LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES
It’s natural we want our children to do well but if we become too involved and take over, we miss the point of what the learning objective is. When children are set school work, the whole point of the exercise is for our children to learn from their mistakes by doing it themselves, and enjoying the process.
Our children have to have a why.
Why do I need to know this?
The answer to that question becomes their motive, which is vital because the key to motivation in life is having a motive.
Why? What? Where? When? And How? All are incessant questions of our young. If we can just keep answering these, they will be constantly learning something new every day!
DON’T BE AN OBVIOUS TEACHER
If they are disinterested in learning activities, we need to ask ourselves the following questions;
Is this appropriate for my child’s age or stage of development or am I reading such a simple book, my five-year-old could read it to them-self?
Is the content/activity interesting?
Am I engaging my child enough?
Am I actually interested myself, or am I bored and disinterested?
Do they think there’s a purpose to the activity other than having fun or spending time together?
Have I taken them away from another activity or toy that they were enjoying playing with?
The biggest influence that we can have is our own enthusiasm and interest. When we are engaged, learning comes to life and stimulates them more.
so many of us get frustrated easily when teaching our children, particularly when we’ve already taught them how to do something and they get it wrong. Let’s say they’re learning how to read. Just because they could read the word ‘dog’ yesterday, doesn’t mean they’ll remember it automatically today. They may still get confused and call it ‘bog’ the next day, d and b are the same as learning anything else, they take time, and are easy to mix up and confuse.
We think it’s easy because we can read already, and have more than likely read daily for many years, which adds up to a lot of reading practice.
Reading is still new to our children though. It’s like us learning a second language such as German, and someone expecting us to know and recognize words straight away. Then whenever we forget or get a word wrong, they get annoyed with us. I doubt we would still feel encouraged to carry on learning the language then?
Nothing is easy for our children, unless they can do it, in which case, they wouldn’t need our help in the first place.
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.