Hurricanes, Fires and Other Fears – How Do I Calm My Child?

I’ve just come off a call with some colleagues in America. It’s such a frightening time for them at the moment, what with hurricanes and forest fires and the choking smoke that is affecting nearby states and making it hard to breathe, let alone forget the ever-present threat of natural disaster. Times like these are hard for everyone, but especially for our children. The media and the internet don’t exactly help to allay their fears – there’s little escape from the bad news some days and it becomes virtually impossible to shield our little ones from worry.

So today I thought it might be useful to write about helping a child with anxiety about the risk of a traumatic event, whether that be a natural disaster or a man-made act like a terrorist threat.

 

As usual, communication is key. Spend time talking to your child and reassure him or her that it’s perfectly alright to ask questions – not just once but as often as they need to – particularly if the situation changes. You should answer their question briefly and honestly but also ask some questions of your own. Ask your child for his or her opinions and ideas on the subject too. It might turn out that what’s really worrying them is something seemingly trivial that you could answer straight away and put that particular fear to bed. Or it might be something specific that you couldn’t possibly have imagined.

For little ones you could follow a discussion like this with something soothing, like a favourite story or family activity.

Limit media exposure where possible.

Be a positive role model for how to handle stressful situations.

Where possible, maintain routines, house rules and positive behaviour expectations.

Reassure your child about work being done in the community to contain the threat, or deal with the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Monitor adult conversations to ensure that they are not being overheard and providing a further source of anxiety for your child.

Hope is a helpful emotion. Identify some positive aspect or belief to counter all that negativity and fear.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott
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Not an Easy-Breezy Time

single mum's survival guide logoRecently my 16 year old and I had one of those conversations where you tackle Life, The Universe and Everything. During the course of our conversation he shared with me something very touching. A friend had asked him about his childhood and all the upheaval we’ve had in our lives, which (if you don’t know my back story) included his dad leaving us when he was 3 weeks and his brother 3 years old, a scary period when I was stuck in a disastrous second marriage to a Jekyll and Hyde character and the painful and confusing jordan-whitt-145327end of my 9 year partnership at the end of August.

His friend was moved to tears, which he reported had surprised him. “I mean, I know we didn’t have an easy-breezy time, Mum – especially you”, he explained, “but I’ve always thought of myself as having a very happy childhood”. And do you know: I agree. Some of our past has been incredibly sad and difficult but as a family the boys and I have kept close, kept talking and had some fun along the way. Whatever else was going on my sons had all the normal ingredients that a happy childhood needs – things like bedtime stories, fun and games, children’s parties and play-dates, fresh air, exercise, arts and crafts, days out and excursions, family time, essential rules and values, plenty of conversation and lots and lots of love.

Many of the single mums I’ve worked with have been consumed with guilt that the upheaval in their own relationships will have permanently damaged their children. Not necessarily so, I promise you. There is a well-known theory that the crucial formative years are 0-7 and that beyond that it’s too late too change what’s already been laid down. I have also heard that up until the age of 15, a child or young adult is still open to beneficial influence when it comes to the forming of their character, beliefs and values. The truth is that even as adults we are growing, learning and putting down new neural pathways all the time. It’s never too late to give your child a happy and stable childhood and even grown children can learn new ways to be at peace with the traumatic events or feelings of a less-than-perfect-past. If the love, communication and intent is there then as far as I’m concerned you are more than halfway there, no matter what life may throw at you and your child.

To get clear on your family values and how to create a happy home for your child, whatever else is happening, why not take advantage of my free strategy session?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice – Easy to Give, Hard To Take?

We are all, at some time or another, in a position to both give and receive advice.

Both ends question-mark-1026526_640of that conversation can be fraught with difficulties and objections.

Over the weekend I was mulling over an issue I had at work. I am definitely someone who has to remind myself to compartmentalise on occasion, as worries at work can otherwise disturb time with my loved ones and vital moments when I should be switching off and recharging my batteries!

I was discussing my dilemma with my partner and he gave me the solution or action that he would take, yet pointed out that it was all very easy to give advice, which was generally ignored by the person who actually had to take the action as they already had their own individual ways to work through a problem and communicate with others. We laughed at how much easier it always was to see (or imagine we can see) exactly how to solve someone else’s problems.

This morning I was hard at work in my office when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to admit a somewhat tearful friend of my son’s who had an urgent dilemma and really seemed in need of some good advice. The first thing I did was to discover what she saw as the problem, what she had tried to do to solve it so far and what she now saw as her available options. Generally speaking, as was the case this time, there are more avenues to go down than there first appear to be. We talked through some of these and I reassured her that in my experience at least, honesty is the best policy and will often disarm even the angriest of detractors. With further encouragement from her friend (my son), this gave her the courage to decide how to respond. Happy (but still tearful) hugs ensued when the problem was resolved.

Today I talked to a colleague and discussed my options again. When I arrived at a solution to my own problem, he made the comment that I had actually known all along what the best thing was to do. I realise that this is true but also acknowledge how helpful both those conversations – one with my partner and one with my colleague- were in allowing me the courage of my convictions and the spur to take action.

So is it pointless to give advice? Absolutely not, just as it’s always worth listening to someone else’s proffered solution, even if you choose your own course of action. As a coach, as a friend and most especially as a parent, I believe that it is possible to help when called upon for advice – but that this help should encompass being a sounding board and asking the right questions, then giving the support and encouragement so that the person in question can make their own decisions. Today I’d urge you not to feel helpless when someone asks for advice, but to embrace the opportunity in assisting in their decision-making process. And when someone gives you advice: don’t reject it out of hand, nor mindlessly follow it but use it as a starting point for finding the decision that you knew all along.single mum's survival guide logo

My House, My Rules

Just the other day, I was tempted to utter that cliched phrase “My house, my rules!” It’s one of those things that parents have always said, and teenagers swear they will never say when it’s their turn…

I know that all my friends with teenage children are finding this a bewildering time. What do you say as a mother when faced with the intricate minefield of boyfriends and girlfriends, sleepovers and physical intimacy? How soon is too soon? What age is old enough and how young is too young?

What I do know from my many conversations with other mothers on this topic (as well as my memories of being a teenager myself) is that by being too censorious, you simply give the message to your teenage children that they must keep things a secret from you and once that happens, you lose all chance to influence them to follow a safe and sensible path.

Keep those channels open and have faith in your abilities as a mother- you can get through this!

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now on Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July. I’m launching my book at Steyning Book Shop in West Sussex on 4th July (rather apt that it’s American Independence Day, don’t you think? If you live locally and would like to meet me in person and perhaps even get a signed copy, please get in touch and I’ll reserve you a place!

The Family That Eats Together Stays Together

My family, plus my son’s girlfriend have just polished off a big roast lamb with all the trimmings. It’s important for us to eat supper together during the week because I think otherwise it would be so easy to stop communicating – even just basic stuff like telling jokes or reliving memories or discussing what everyone in the family is up to at the moment. In these antisocial days of technology I can see that if I let them, everyone would be gobbling their food in front of the laptop or iPad or TV, completely immersed and failing to engage in that most old-fashioned of concepts: having a conversation! At weekends I try to keep to the same policy for at least one meal per day – we all sit down as a family.

With teenagers you need to deliberately and regularly create opportunities for interaction, or it’s easy to temporarily lose touch and become strangers living under the same roof and only having perfunctory discussions about laundry or revision, rather than allowing time for them to share the things that are really important to them at the moment. I feel very privileged when my sons confide in me and ask my advice about something. I also try very hard to keep in mind how lucky I am when one of my boys wanders unannounced into my office or bedroom, flops down and starts telling me about their day. Whichever “urgent” task I’m in the middle of can surely wait a bit whilst I listen – after all, they’re my most important priority!

Do you have a similar policy in your household, or maybe you’d like to share some other tips for keeping communication channels open with your child? Leave your comments in the form below.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon.

Visit my website: http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com