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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Are Your Beliefs Getting in The Way of Getting What You Want?

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I had a lovely surprise today. When tidying my bookshelf in my office I happened to pick up a book I haven’t opened for a while, and flick open the cover. Inside I found £50! I am guessing that I must have hidden it there for some reason and then forgotten all about it until my lucky discovery this morning. Yet in a way I wasn’t all that surprised. You see, I believe that I always find money when I am tidying up. And you know what, it’s always true. Admittedly it’s usually coins but this isn’t the first time I’ve found a wad of notes stuffed into a pocket of a coat or bag, or tucked inside or under something else. So this is a great example of a helpful belief.

Have you met someone who holds the opposite of a helpful belief about the way life turns out for them? You might catch them saying things like “I never win anything”, or “I’m rubbish at dealing with money/cooking/art …” – fill in the blank. When we hear our children sounding so down on themselves we are quick to offer encouragement or help change that negative viewpoint. However, we often find ourselves saying things about our ex like: “It’s no good – he’ll never listen” or “it always ends up in an argument”, or “I never get my own way.” Imagine how much less likely things are to turn out for the best when you prepare yourself for a conversation by repeating that unhelpful belief!

Imagine if you repeated something positive instead. “I’m great at relating to people and I can talk to my ex in his language, so that he can hear what I need to say”. “I am choosing to ignore any provocative statements in this conversation and just stick to the facts and calmly reach an agreement.” ” I am a master negotiator, so I know how to concede on some points, whilst getting agreement on other things that are important to me”. If it sounds silly and lacking in credibility to you at first, try writing the statement out 7 times and then reading it out loud 7 times before you deal with the issue.

It was Henry Ford who said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” 

Disappointing Exam Results? Here’s How You Can Help.

test picAcross the UK today, parents of GCSE students will be either celebrating or commiserating. But what can you do if your child’s results are more disaster than triumph today?

Don’t panic. When the initial upset has eased a little, sit down with your child and discuss the situation as calmly as possible.

Emotions are OK. Allow your teenager to express his or her emotions but try and minimise any tendency to overly dramatise the situation. Remind your child that you love him or her irrespective of the results.

It might be worth a remark. If the result was close to the next grade boundary and only just missed a higher grade, you can apply to have the paper remarked. Your school will advise you how to go about this.

Could this be a wake up call? Your child will know deep down if there wasn’t enough effort put into revision or coursework. This is a tough life lesson but it can be a spur to ensure harder work or improved focus in the future. If there is a weakness with exam or revision technique then the teacher will be more than happy to set extra work and advise how to improve. It’s probably worth focusing mainly on those subjects key to their chosen diploma, degree or career.

Can they still go their chosen college? Even if the current results disqualify them from the original course, there may be another course they would still be eligible for. There may also be another route into the end career your child has set their heart on.

Don’t wait too long to make decisions and get advice if you need it. The UK Exam Results Helpline- 0808 100 8000 – has specialists on hand to advise students on the best course of action with the grades they’ve got. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Journey or the Destination – Which is More Important?

I wrote this while sitting enjoying a refreshing sea breeze on a boat bound for three beautiful Croatian islands. We enjoyed swimming in clear turquoise waters, a lunch of freshly-grilled fish and salad and an unlimited bar.
The last year has been quite a challenge, to put mildly, and I was really looking forward to a week away from it all. For me, the whole process of choosing, booking and anticipating  adds to the experience of travelling. Choosing the destination is exciting. I had never been to Croatia before but from what I heard it was gorgeous (it is!) I’d done lots of research online and I chose a charming old hotel with views of the harbour.

I knew what our view would be like from the terrace and what  we might see from from our sunset walk around the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik. The prospect of this holiday has sustained me for the last few months, and added an extra shape to my days. Having a goal can certainly do this. I also try to savour each step in the lead-up to departure – shopping for holiday clothes, writing a list of everything I need. We got to the airport in plenty of time, so as to allow a leisurely breakfast and a mooch around the Duty Free. My travelling treat is a purchase of my favourite Chanel fragrance. It’s important to treat yourself and this little ritual adds fun to flying for me.

20525964_10155477008263376_2308002772248920820_nLuckily, the reality has been even better. It was my first holiday with my boyfriend and we have had  a wonderfully relaxing, fun time. But I’m glad I have taken time to enjoy the journey, not just focusing on the destination. And rest assured, I made sure to savour every precious moment of the trip, rather than dwelling on how soon we would be departing for normal life back in the UK.

Many parents I meet and work with get a bit bogged down with trying to plan for their future or manage the myriad tasks that being a parent  (especially a single parent) can involve. Occasionally they forget what it’s all for. They forget to enjoy the journey. So take a deep breath today. Slow down, look around and see which bits of life’s journey you could be eking more enjoyment from.

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It’s All About Attitude (and Plenty of Preparation)!

The Single Mum's Survival Guide - Easter BlogRecently, my eldest son landed his ideal starter job on his career journey. Sure, he worked at a well-known supermarket during his college course, but we always discussed that this would just be a stop gap to earn money before getting serious about what he really wants to do in his life. There was a time, after the rotten year the boys and I had last year, when college had finished and I thought he’d lost his customary focus and energy. I kept asking him, “What’s happening about your job applications? Are you still looking? Don’t leave it too long!” I remember feeling exasperated when a promising job came up, but he dragged his heels too long and he missed the application date. He started doubting that anyone would want to hire him because he was new and inexperienced.  I was getting frustrated with him and then I realised that he had worked so hard on his course and dealing with our family crisis – literally holding himself together – and perhaps he just needed a break. We all need to cut ourselves some slack some times. So I continued to gently nudge him every now and then but I stopped nagging him.

Finally, he started to take an interest again and lo and behold, things started to happen. A job was recommended to him by his college and he applied. As soon as he started taking action, I swung into action too – helping hone his CV and covering letter, discussing his approach, reassuring him that it was his ability and skills that counted, rather than his experience. Then the big day came for his telephone interview. He had prepared meticulously – researching the company, thinking in advance what his answers to their questions should be and what to ask them about the company and his role. He even decided to dress smartly in suit trousers and smart shirt to take the call because he’d read that would get him into the right mindset to feel and sound professional. Luckily, I was working from home that day. I listened as he took the call, my heart swelling with pride. He sounded relaxed and confident, but not too cocky. He asked all the right questions and answered every question in a composed and measured way. He even businessman-2056022_640cracked a joke! On the day of his second interview I got up early to write his good luck card and told him that they’d be lucky to have him. I wrote that his research and preparation had been immaculate and that he had all the abilities required. The interview went smoothly and they promised to call early the next week. I was on my way out to the gym before running a meeting but when the phone rang that morning I decided to wait and see whether it was that important call. The gym could wait – being there for him was way more important! Needless to say, it was good news and I was so happy to be there to hug him and congratulate him in his excitement. My partner and I took him and his girlfriend out to a celebration dinner that evening.

The whole process really illustrated to me the power of getting the right attitude in order to attract what we want, preparing and laying the foundations for our goals and remaining open for good stuff to happen. It also reminded me what we as parents can do to keep our children on track, pushing them forward at times or just holding the space at others, but always there to support, commiserate or celebrate when needed.

If you are struggling to communicate with your child, or you’d like some ideas on improving your relationship – or creating that positive attitude (either for your child or for yourself), why not take advantage of my free strategy call? Click here to arrange a convenient time to talk.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Break Doesn’t Need to be Heartbreaking

single mum's survival guide logoIt’s the Easter holidays. Most mums are currently experiencing both the joys of having their children at home for the Easter Holidays and the slightly frazzled feeling of having to be Chef, Children’s Argument Umpire and Chief Entertainment Officer. Not me though – my boys have flown off to Portugal with their Dad for the entire two weeks.

In the old days I found letting them go almost unbearable, much as I needed a break and the chance to recharge my batteries and catch up on chores and my social life. When they were tiny I used to wander into their empty rooms once they’d been collected and have a little cry before giving myself a stern pep talk and trying to snap out of it. I worried about whether the baby had enough nappies and clothes, whether my little boy had his favourite toy and books and whether they’d be missing their mum and home as desperately as I was missing them.

These days, at 16 (nearly 17) and 20, they are quite old enough to relish the prospect of being away from home for 2 weeks – especially as we can message each other via Facebook or email. The fact that they are gone for the whole holiday wasn’t really something I was consulted on – it was presented as more of a fait accompli. Once upon a time I might have railed against this (in fact I remember doing so in the past when their grandma booked a holiday with them without my prior permission). What steadied me at that time and what I remember to ask now is: what would make the boys happy? Being in the sunshine with a pool, the beach and the other part of their family is definitely something that makes them happy. How churlish would I be to object to that? Besides, what’s the upside of this for me? It’s a chance to catch up with laundry and housework, do some writing and research for my Single Mum’s Survival Guide online course. I can meet up with friends, have my boyfriend to stay and plan my own agenda without having to accommodate anyone else’s.

So this Easter I will be grateful for the freedom, mindful to choose my battles wisely (or walk away from them altogether) and I’ll remember that what makes my children happy makes me happy. I wish you all a happy and peaceful holidays, whatever you are doing.daffodil basket

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