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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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways to Boost Your Energy and Motivation

lonely slide 001I ran out of energy today. My energy, happiness and motivation took a nose dive and everything felt like an effort. I’m willing to bet that you have days like that, especially if you are a single parent, single-handedly juggling so many things.

Sometimes I decide to lean into something and then learn from it later and that’s what I’ve done today. But as the evening continues, my confidence and determination are bubbling to the surface again, thanks to some research, reflection and re-commitment.

I’d like to share 8 ways I’ve found to shake off a slump in energy and motivation, making sure that taking time out to regroup doesn’t mean opting out of what’s really important in life.

1. Look at how you are fuelling your body and your mood. At this time of year I always feel extremely tempted to reach for chocolate or snack on toast or cereal. Today I’ve tried to avoid excess sugar and carbohydrates so as to sidestep that blood sugar slump which causes an energy crash and mood downturn.
2. Exercise and fresh air. We all know how beneficial this is – and the great thing is that you can instil healthy habits in your kids when you bring them along for the ride, whether you choose to ride a bike, rollerblade, play in the park, run or just take a walk. Yesterday we went for a bracing walk in the local hills and certainly got lungfuls of fresh air, as it was practically blowing a gale by the time we reached the top. But it felt so good to “blow away the cobwebs”! Today I wasn’t feeling quite so energetic but I ventured out between showers. My slower pace gave me the added bonus of noticing all the spring bulbs that are beginning to flower and reminded me of the hope and potential that most days I see with ease, even if today it was harder to do so. Researchers have found that the colour green sparks creativity and boosts motivation. Yet another reason to hit the great outdoors, even if that just involves stepping out into the garden.
3. Some time ago I watched a fascinting TED talk by Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard School of Business, on the importance of body language. Just 2 minutes of a High Power Pose will increase your confidence and decrease your stress. It will affect your body chemistry and also how other perceive you. Try standing with feet hip apart and hands on hips, or having a big stretch with arms fully extended and see what I mean. A High Power Pose is anything that uncurls the body and opens up your stance – essentially it means making a bigger shape, taking up more space. If you feel shy doing it in front of people, try it by yourself in a bathroom!
4. Try doing one thing at a time, not multi-tasking – even if you just do one thing at a time for 15 or 20 minutes. Set a timer and see what you can get done.
5. Be mindful and bring yourself back to the present moment. Become aware of the physical sensations, sights and sounds that you are experiencing and make each chore or task a mini meditation.
6. If you can’t seem to get started at all: start with something small and work up to something bigger. Most things can be broken down into smaller steps.
7. Make a deal with yourself – for example: “once I’ve finished this I’m going to reward myself with half an hour of reading my book/ a cup of tea” etc. This works wonders for children too, and helps break up the drudgery of the day.
8. Don’t overthink your next action – just do it. Avoid the paralysis of analysis and remind yourself that once you get started there will be added momentum to keep going. There’s a fabulous mantra which I found online today – “Dream big, start small and act now”.

In need of an extra boost? Book an hour’s free Strategy Session with me.

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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