Starting School: The Weller Way

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When my youngest child started school, I couldn’t have hotfooted down to the adult education centre fast enough, to see what classes I could enrol on, whilst scouring the local paper for part time jobs in anticipation of my new found freedom. But emotionally, my heart ached at lunch time particularly, as I had no little mate to share marmite sandwiches and make flapjacks. I missed the chatter, I missed the noise and I missed the companionship. For ages, I would avoid being at home at lunchtime. In the flurry of fitting school shoes, buying unicorn pencil cases and her excitement at joining her siblings at “big school”, I had forgotten to prepare myself emotionally for the end of an era. This in retrospect was to become a common theme, right upto the loss I felt when the first born went to University.

Our Parenting journey encompasses those milestones for us and our children that bring a swirl of emotions, including excitement, pride and relief on the one hand, but often flavoured with anxiety, dread, sadness and grief. As one door to their childhood closes, another opens that involves planning, preparation and adjustment.

In this blog I hope to share my top tips for helping your child adjust to a new life at school, but in tandem with my take on how to invest in yourself too.

Some children will take to school like a duck to water, some will plod after the initial frolic, while others will be a fish out of water. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not developmentally expected for a 4 year old to love school. In Finland children start school at the age of 7 and they not only outperform us in the league tables but have been voted the happiest nation by the UN, despite reduced daylight hours.

This is what is developmentally normal for a 4 year old:

  • They are still driven by the sense of self rather than others
  • They are still driven by the motivation to play
  • Enjoy playing with other children and can separate from you more easily
  • Are spontaneously kind and caring
  • Are able to show and verbalise a wider range of emotions
  • May still have tantrums because of changes in routine or not getting what they want
  • Whilst the limbic system (right hand brain) is formed, the pre-frontal cortex (left hand brain/executive functioning) is developing from ages 3-6.

Preparation for School:

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It really helps if you can put yourself in your child’s shoes on this one, by considering what we refer to in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is our children’s “meta models”. Meta models are the filters and preferences of our brains. What makes a great school for them, won’t be what it is for you. If your child is really excited about starting school, this will be easy to find out what they are most looking forward to, and could mean that they are a “move towards” (meta model) character. But if they are more of a shy, introverted, “go away from” (meta model)  character they will need more re-assurance. If they are a “go away from”, you can talk about all the things they didn’t like before, that they won’t have to do anymore. This may work well if they have grown out of nursery and are ready for a new challenge.

If your child likes process, it will help if you make lists together of all the things they will need for school, and run through what a typical day will involve.

Starting school is a big adventure, and whether your child has bags of confidence or not, you can remind them of all the skills they have and what they will be able to do with those skills.

 It can really help to make some mantras together e.g I am kind, I am friendly, I am helpful, so that you can ask them if they were able to show that on a day that they might be struggling.

At School:

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Being at school requires a huge amount of brain energy in responding to new expectations of behaviour and routines, to build new relationships and adjust to a finding their way in a new environment. If sitting still, impulse control, having to pay attention, navigate the toilet on their own, be quiet and be good is not hard enough for 6-8 hours a day, the fear of getting lost, containing emotions, forging new friendships, and trusting a new adult means that their “thinking brain”, which has only just started to develop aged 3 can experience overload by the end of the day. The left hand brain responsible for decision making, language and sequencing is still very much under construction. Enter the pre-dominance of the right hand brain at the end of the day, a display of emotions and dysregulation as soon as you’ve picked them up from the school gate.

Dealing with the School pick up and beyond:

Expect tantrums through tiredness and an under-resourced brain. Don’t take it personally. Understand the reasons for the meltdowns which may include:

  • Having to sit still for extended periods of time
  • Less play
  • Trying to hold emotions together
  • Missing you, missing their siblings
  • Jealousy that siblings are at home with you
  • Changes in routine
  • Less one to one connection
  • Difficulties in adjusting to learning, particularly if your child is not auditory led
  • Not feeling safe
  • Encountering other personalities/types of behaviour in their class

Don’t ask questions about their day. If their brain is overdone, they won’t want to explain things, or think of things to say. Children of this age aren’t very good at recall or expressing themselves on something that is not of the moment.

What they need:

Acknowledgment and Validation of what they are expressing, rather than distraction, ignoring or trying to fix.

Physical nourishment in the form of a healthy snack, ideally which contains an element of protein.

Emotional Nourishment in the form of connection in a non-verbal way. Hugs always speak louder than words. If your child’s love language is Physical touch, they will really miss your “physical presence” in their day.

Time: Try to plan your 10-15 minutes of un-interrupted time (excluding bedtime reading)by looking at your schedule at the beginning of the week .  Even if you can’t manage this everyday, if you’ve planned it, you’ve got a fighting chance of it happening.

Space: once home to offer space which is led by them to reset and recharge, whether that’s time outside, alone time, being with you. Meet them where they want to be met.

Consider extra-curricular life carefully at this point. Try not to pack in too much after school. The most important consideration is asking yourself if your child is getting enough Play, downtime and sleep

Mornings:

Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

I can still remember my sons having to be peeled away from me when they first started nursery. The guilt would sit with me all morning, whilst, I was re-assured that their protests were soon allayed by the Brio train set. Years later, I now understand that this is a sign of healthy and secure attachment.

 We can fall into some unhelpful language patterns at drop off if our children are distressed, which dismisses their emotions. A great way of acknowledging and validating their distress, but kindly asserting a boundary is saying something like,

“You are upset because I have to leave, I’ll be back at home time and I look forward to giving you a huge hug then”.

I’ve written a separate blog on the hectic and often wobbly Morning routine, you can find it here:

You:

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

I started this piece with the swirl of emotions that will accompany the beginning of school life. So give yourself time to recognise and accept these feelings, knowing that they will ease as you find your new groove and routine. While you do this being mindful of any adjustments in your flow that you could make to help you.

You may want to look at ways you can Delete, Delegate, or Simplify  (DDS)anything that could interfere with you not being fully resourced to cope with the change in schedule or the increased tantrums or un-coperation that may occur in this settling in period for your child.

You are merely human, not superhuman, neither are you a robot, or a need fulfiller for everyone else. Unfortunately there is no reward for martyrdom. To avoid developing “rushing parent syndrome” have a Family meeting and discuss how you can run your family as a team with shared ownership of your home. Developing a “Get ready for school” plan and a Chore Timetable takes the pressure off you and promotes your childrens’ personal responsibility .

Here is a list of some tasks that developmentally most 4/5 year olds are capable of helping out with:

  • Help with Laundry
  • Dust or sweep floor
  • Hang up coat
  • Help put food on plates
  • Clear & Clean own plate
  • Prepare cold cereal
  • Put away toys/books/clothes

Finally remember to fully fuel and Resource yourself for school pick up. Make sure you are fed and watered and have given yourself the space in the car journey/walk/train journey to “park” your work/business head, to switch to Mum head so you can fully connect and be fully present with what’s thrown at you after school.

Quick Summary: High five

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and Adjust your flow to steady your emotions
  2. DDS: Delete, Delegate or Simplify your schedule outside and inside the home
  3. Give space to you to re-connect with your “Mum head” after work. Re-fuel to re-resource
  4. Give space for your child by not asking questions
  5. Expect tantrums, un-co-cooperativeness or grumpiness due to brain overload and tiredness

If there is anything in this blog that resonates with you and you would like to explore further, please do get in touch or you can book a free discovery call here

You can find my blog on handling tantrums here

If you feel that your child is overly anxious as a result of starting school, I will be running another how to help an anxious child workshop this Autumn. Details of all my workshops can be found on my facebook page here

I leave you with one of my favourite pieces of writing which comforts me when I’m feeling sad with “empty nest syndrome”.

All my best wishes for the start of term.

Bridging the Gap in Mental Health Services

BRIDGING THE GAP IN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Why this is urgent right now

The current crisis in mental health services affects all of us. Current figures reveal that one in 10 children now have a diagnosable mental health condition yet waiting lists for an initial appointment with CAMHS in Kent can be up to 18 months and for private mental health services, up to a staggering six months. Who is helping the families and children during this period?

At a time of intense anxiety, many parents are really struggling, trying to manage very challenging behaviours with limited knowledge and skills and the overwhelming sense that no-one is available to help them.

And yet, research shows that parents can successfully support their children during this period if they are given a little practical support. 1

“Good quality parenting programmes can make a real difference…they also potentially contribute to substantial cost savings in the public sector. Despite these opportunities, only a small minority of children and families get the help they need to protect their children’s life chances.”2  

The struggles and failings of CAMHS are frequently in the headlines.  Dr John Goldin, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital in an interview on BBC’s Panorama, September 2018, said “The trouble is the services are very stretched, we’re not meeting the need, so in that sense it’s not fit for purpose.” CAMHS has been accused of “rationing services in favour of those who have attempted suicide”. 3

2017 Figures from Mental Health of Children and Young People in England,4 state that 1 in 8, 5 to 19-year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed in 2017 and of those Emotional disorders were the most prevalent type of disorder4. Yet figures from CAHMS gained by the Panorama investigation show that one in four children have been rejected from being offered help and a total of 55,800 children did not meet CAMHS criteria.

Before I founded my Family Relationship & Parenting Coaching practice, I worked as Support Worker at a local homeless hostel for vulnerable youth, where I personally witnessed cases of CAHMS “rationing services” because clients were not “in crisis”.

A BBC News report following the BBC’s Panorama programme listed how the service criteria has been rationed, stating reasons for excluding under-18s from service involvement including:

  • Self-harm referrals only accepted if accompanied by another mental health condition
  • Weight loss of less than 15% of an ideal weight for an eating disorder (against NICE recommendations)
  • Must have already engaged with early intervention and waited a specified length of time

NICE Guidelines recommend providing parenting skills support to parents and carers but in my experience here in Kent, this isn’t on offer. Rather, parents are being encouraged to ensure their children fit the criteria for support. One mother I’ve spoken to who wanted to explore alternative treatment options rather than medication for her son, was told that unless he took the recommended medication, she would be discharged from services and would not be offered any support. This advice left her feeling intimidated into accepting medicating her son, and raises the question of where is the person-centred care?

This piece is not written with the intention of undermining CAMHS, which is working with overwhelming demand. CAMHS is working in a context where child mental health referrals have risen by 26% in the last 5 years, and referrals in 2017-2018, for under-18s rose to 198,280, (compared with 157,000 in 2013-14)5.

  • Nearly 19,000 children were admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2015 – a 14 per cent rise over three years5
  • Between 2013/14 and 2014/15, referral rates increased five times faster than the CAMHS workforce5
  • The average waiting time for children and young people to access mental health services ranges from 14 to 200 days5
  • Once through the referral process and finally able to get specialist support, even young people with life-threatening conditions can wait more than 100 days before receiving any form of treatment.5

This rise in demand may be attributed to more mental health awareness, which can only be a positive. But in a climate where 1.5 million children live in areas with no 24/7 crisis care, and 27 out of 111 local authorities who were consulted, said they had SCRAPPED services3 related to the mental health and wellbeing of children over the last 8 years, it is no wonder that we use the words ‘crisis’, and ‘failing’ because we are failing the families involved and I am advocating that we have an obligation to ‘bridge the gap’, because waiting for children to reach crisis point can have devastating consequences.

Nick Waggett, Chief Executive of the Association of Child Psychotherapists said: ‘We do hear stories of children and young people having to have attempted suicide on a number of occasions actually before they are seen within the service. The problem is that then they’re very ill and it actually becomes increasingly difficult to offer them an effective treatment.’ 6

There are professionals who can help parents understand a diagnosis of a neuro-biological condition, and provide practical implementable tools, strategies and techniques that will make a difference. At The Weller Way, we work with parents and teenagers daily

At a time when negative behaviours can dominate, we can help remind you to focus on what your child does well, show you how to effectively praise positive behaviours, how to notice and record triggers and so much more. We believe that parents have strong intuition, know their children better than anyone else and, equipped with the right tools and skills really can make a positive difference.

You can make contact with us here

References

  1. Parenting and Outcomes for children: Thomas G O’Connor/Stephen BC Scott for Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2007. (www.jrf.org.uk)
  2. A chance to change: Delivering effective parenting programmes to change lives: Brown/Khan /Parsonage 15 October 2012 www.Centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  3. BBC News24/9/18 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45607313
  4. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england
  5. www.local.gov.uk/about/campaigns/bright-futures/bright-futures-camhs/child-and-adolescent-mental-health-and
  6. www.pulsetoday.co.uk/clinical/clinical-specialties/mental-health/child-mental-health-services-not-fit-for-purpose-says-top-psychiatrist/20037494.article

The Weller Way Revision Guide for teens

 

 

It’s that time again, exam season, are you dreading it, or do you feel in control? However you are feeling with a little memory refresher of some revision techniques and some ways to boost your motivation that are tried and tested to ensure success by reducing stress, you will be able to build your confidence

The key thing for revision success is to find out how your brain works best for learning and retaining information. You may already have an idea, but if you are finding revision a struggle, or your brain a bit of a muddle, you can find out your  learning style here:  Continue reading “The Weller Way Revision Guide for teens”

The Power of the AND

3 Minute read

Who had the Connect kit in their home, that magnetic one, with the balls and the sticks, the bits that always blocked the hoover!? It always fascinated me how each one of my children could make very different shapes, ones that got more convoluted, as time went on. There are so many popular toys, that we buy our children, toys that are good for improving fine motor skills, all toys that have connecting bits, Brio, Duplo, jigsaw puzzles, Lego, bits that all slot in and fit together. Did you watch your child get more confident with them, each time, building more and more complicated constructions? And then would say…”let’s tidy up now”, in my house, the beloved construction would be put on display for Daddy to look at but eventually it would have  to be broken up and put back in it’s box. It could never be lasting.

We teach our children from a very early age to Continue reading “The Power of the AND”

Do you enrage or engage with your Teenager?

 

By the time you’ve finished reading this blog, which is based on a talk I present, I hope that you:

  • Will feel more confident in dealing with teenage challenges by understanding the science behind the tremendous changes in the adolescent brain.
  • Be able to engage rather than enrage
  • Can feel more connected with your teenager by seeing the whole person
  • Be able to see that  shifting our cultural perception that teenagers are a “nightmare” to a believing that adolescence is a stage of life not to “get over” or “endure”, but one to cultivate well.

Continue reading “Do you enrage or engage with your Teenager?”

Time for a Parenting Detox?

 

We have set new goals at the beginning of a new year since ancient times. I

have read that the ancient Babylonians, 4000 years ago  are believed to have been the the first people to make New Year’s resolutions and then the  Romans made promises of good conduct to the God Janus, for the following year.

It is common to set personal intentions around Diet, Alcohol, Weight, Travel, Career or Business, Education, Hobbies, Self Help and Bad Habits, but do you consider setting any intentions regarding your family life, and specifically your Parenting? Continue reading “Time for a Parenting Detox?”

Tis’ the season for a Pantomine

Christmas is the time of traditions, and going to a Pantomine is a firm family favourite across the land. Pantomine is not originally a British tradition or a children’s entertainment show.

Pantomine began as entertainment for adults, it can be traced back to the ancient Roman “Saturnalia” Midwinter feast, at which everything was supposed to be turned upside down. Men dressed as women, and women as men, just like the pantomime dames and principal boy leading role. Continue reading “Tis’ the season for a Pantomine”

The Balance Act

The Author Alain de Botton said:

 “there is no such thing as work/life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life” .

Whether you find that re-assuring or not, when we talk about balance, we can get stressed and feel guilty just trying . What are we trying to balance? Is there a conflict in trying to achieve a balance between work, play and parenting? The Modern Family Index 2017 found that only 1 in 5 parents claim they have the balance right.

Achieving Balance is a hot topic right now, in the light of the headlines quoting how many of us are stressed. The emphasis is very much placed on achieving a balance between work, play and parenting, but by doing so, have we missed an opportunity here to integrate all these parts in what contributes to making us whole? Can we shift the emphasis on finding a balance between our doing and our being, that embraces all our parts , beginning with grounding ourselves to the authentic version of ourselves, without feeling guilty? Continue reading “The Balance Act”

Name it to Tame it: How to teach children to surf the waves of Emotions

I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in Turkey, and learnt two things:

  1. Turkish is a beautifully emotive language
  2. I’m a rubbish paddle boarder!

Is anyone a Surfer or paddle boarder?

I’ve tried it and just can’t master it, everytime I try to get up on the board, I wobble and down I go, back into the water. Not got the core strength! But you know how to lift yourself up everytime.

The goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient and compliant child, but one that can take control of how they feel through making choices. We want children that can use their own strengths to get up again when they are knocked back, and be able to self- regulate when they lose their balance. Just like surf boarders, this takes a lot of practice! Continue reading “Name it to Tame it: How to teach children to surf the waves of Emotions”

A Parent’s Guide for A Level Results Day

How to prepare for A Level Results

 

This week, millions of children will be anxiously awaiting their A Level  results tomorrow and planning the realisation of their hopes and dreams of their next stage in life.

3 years ago I wrote a blog about my son , you can find it here

https://wordpress.com/post/wellerway.wordpress.com/30

I am so pleased to report that, having followed a new direction, a heart over head decision he has successfully graduated and has had the best time along the way. But the reason I wrote that blog was to encourage other parents to be creative on results day, if the results close one door, there are many doors open which are welcoming, beckoning and exciting . All it needs is a brainstorm and a leap of faith. Continue reading “A Parent’s Guide for A Level Results Day”