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Sunday 29 November 2020

A child's report card

End of year progress assessments can cause a lot of stress. This is true for us as teachers, who are trying to give parents a true, but kind reflection of their child’s progress, based on how we have experienced it in our classroom during their school year. It is also true for us as parents, who receive the final assessment feedback, whether with fear, shock or excitement and (definitely not least) for our children, for whom it can be a cause of stress, heart break or celebration.

Assessments, whether formal or informal, provide us with an important opportunity to help teachers and parents see where a child’s individual needs or lack of development are and can help us to focus on how we can develop a child’s strengths or assist them in areas where they are struggling. However, it is important to keep in mind that standard assessments are usually inspired by milestones of a specific age and reflects what around 90% of children are able to achieve at that specific age. In reality, children do not all progress at the same pace and therefore allowance should be made for a grace period of 6-9 months for other children to reach these specific milestones too.

All young children are in different stages of their brain development. With every experience our brains make a connection and the more that connection is repeated, the stronger it becomes. When not repeated, it will fade away. It’s the same when we walk through a forest. If we follow the same route every day, we eventually have a natural path visible for all to see. That is why it is important to practice skills regularly. Simplified, our brain consists of two main skill areas, the first one contains the basic skills for living and survival (e.g. fight or flight) and for young children this is generally driven by instinct. The second area consists of our emotions, thoughts, communication skills and how we learn, which is part of our personality and characteristics and is DNA inspired too.

Our very young children’s brain development starts with copying everything and everyone in their environment, but in time they become independent from us and start to discover and interpret their world on their own. During this incredible and rich development journey our small children are sometimes reaching their milestones fast, sometimes according to the books, but always at their own pace. And in this, we as adults, need to give them their space to develop and the confidence to believe in themselves and follow their own path. Yes, it is true that sometimes we as parents need to ask and accept the help from specialists, like Speech therapists, Occupational therapists or Play therapists, when our children’s pathways might have taken a detour into a cul-de-sac, where they got a bit stuck, but with a little help, our children can move out of the cul-de-sac and back onto their own path again.

When you as a parent look at the report or assessment feedback for your child, focus on their strengths and encourage them by creating opportunities for them to excel even more at it. Also work at the areas where they seem to have challenges, because if you just ignore it, they might fall behind even more and this can later shake their confidence to such an extent that it also diminishes their strengths.

Teachers, when you hand us parents that report, please know, that we take everything that is in it to heart, even if we don’t say it. Please don’t take any of our reactions personally, because often our reactions are just a reflection of our own fears and guilt.

And parents, when you look at your child’s report, please know that most of us as teachers, who put in so much hard work, thought and love into your child’s progress, are proud with you and we hope that, no matter what the content, you will celebrate your child’s report and remember that assessments do not define your child. It is merely a reflection of one small part of them.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Nurturing your child's inner being.

As parents, we want our children to be good people. We want them to be our legacy. We want the world to know what incredible human beings they are. But how do we do this? How do we raise our children to become the best version of themselves? Our day-to-day family lives lay the foundation for who they will become as adults. This is where our children first learn about trust, kindness, compassion, friendship, patience and forgiveness, or the lack thereof. If we live these values in our homes and practice it regularly, it will become a part of our children and spill over into life outside of our homes. 

Set the right example

We need to start with us. Our young children will follow our examples and not our words or even suggestions. They look at the way that we carry ourselves and the integrity we show at home when the rest of the world is not looking. We need to teach our children to value people over things. If we expect our children to become adults with good values, we need to set a higher bar for ourselves.

Get your priorities straight

Make time for what really matters. Hug your children and your partner many times during the day. Connect with them, share and speak from your heart. Show them that they do not need to scream for attention, that we do hear them and we do see them. Spending time with our families is such a great future investments – in ourselves and our children. 

An attitude of gratitude

We can talk about the people, things and experiences we have to be grateful for in the car, while driving to school or the shops, around our dining room table at meal time or at bedtime. Making time to reflect on our day, how we lived it and how we can make it better tomorrow, should never be about being better than others, but rather about being a better me tomorrow. Giving every family member a turn to reflect on what they are thankful for might start off with a purposeful decision, but once it becomes a habit, it will turn into a natural family tradition and ensuring that every day we look for the goodness in our day and the people around us.

Encourage individuality

Let us encourage our children to be individuals and not parent/people pleasers. We need them to know that we will support whatever decision they make, encourage them to work hard for themselves, and not because we need them to have good marks. Show them how to consider different perspectives and celebrate our differences.

Be a courageous cheerleader

Believe in yourself and believe in your children. Our children will believe in themselves if we believe in them and when we believe in ourselves, we can do difficult things. When our children face hard times, we don’t take it away from them, but instead stand next to them, give them the tools to cope with it, guide them and support them, but let them do it. When they see and hear you cheering them on and believing in them, they will keep trying, no matter how hard it gets and they will become strong adults that are capable to face the world and the troubles it often brings. 

Pay it forward

When we make a positive difference by the way we live, our children can experience it firsthand. When you buy or get new clothing, you can give away the same amount of clothes to less fortunate people. When your children receive new toys, you can teach them to give the same amount of toys away. If you know of a family going through a rough time due to sickness, death or financial reasons, you can support them by dropping off food with a note of encouragement. When you have extra food left after dinner, you can make food parcels to hand out to homeless people. When you go the shop on a warm summers day, you can buy a cold beverage for a security guard. These actions introduce our children to the big world out there and shows them that we all can help, because we want to and not for the recognition. When we contribute to society in a big or small way, we do make the world a better place and at the same time we make ourselves better people.

Taking care of nature

We can teach our children to appreciate and love nature by taking our children for walks, lying on the grass and looking at the clouds during day time or admiring the stars at night time, participating in recycling and re-purposing items, taking good care of our pets, making bird feeders to hang in our trees, showing kindness to the smallest little bug, stepping over a snail, appreciating the smell of rain, admiring the trees and flowers. By teaching our children to take care of their natural world, our children will learn to be kind to things that can’t defend themselves, because all lives matter and they will learn to admire the beauty around them and take responsibility for their environment. When we care and love what is around us, then we understand that life is sacred and we will protect and defend it.

Our children are precious souls entrusted to us. We need to guide them on this road of life and we need to make sure they are strong enough to face whatever comes their way. They are our legacy. Let’s make it count.

Saturday 14 November 2020

Hurry up… We are going to be late… We don’t have time for that now…

How has your week been, I wonder? It is mid-November and it seems that everywhere we turn there are increasing demands and everyone has less time. It is an end of year pattern amongst adults that ripple into our relationships with our children, causing them to act out with emotional outbursts that are easily mistaken for naughtiness.

Yes, we as adults are very busy and face many demands on our time. As a result we rush around, lose our cool and speak unkindly to others and our children. We impatiently dismiss them and their needs, failing to notice their little hopeful eyes that are watching us and not acknowledging their soul’s yearning to be noticed. We are missing from our children.

If you think back over just this past week – did you notice any of these ques? Did your child seem to be overly emotional, whining, and aggressive or suddenly say that they don’t want to go to school? How did you respond to these ques? Did you recognize it as a plea for a little bit of your time to connect or did you reach for a disciplinarian response instead?

It is possible, within our very busy lives, to ensure that our children feel loved.

·         Put your oxygen mask on first

     As cliché as it sounds, we cannot serve others from an empty cup. By managing ourselves better, we will naturally be able to better deal with life and the many demands on our time. Eat healthy, drink enough water and regularly do something that you enjoy like walking or cooking. Make time to laugh, pray and/or meditate. Do your best to focus only on what you can control and let go of the rest. By prioritizing our physical and mental health and involving our children in these activities, we are setting a great example for them and laying the foundation for healthy habits that they can take with them into their adult life. 

·         Be boring
A predictable daily routine, with firm consistent boundaries helps our children feel safe. When children know and can predict what is expected of them, they tend to be much calmer. 

·         Connection. Connection. Connection. Connection.
I can never emphasize this enough. Our children need to feel connected to us. This can be accomplished by doing several little things together during the day e.g. reading a story, going for a walk, cooking or baking together, cuddling, watching a movie together, gardening, bath time, shopping or dancing. One of our boys’ favorite things are to look at their baby photos, while discussing their ‘babyhood’ - it immediately makes them feel special and connected to us.

·         Don’t fight fire with fire
Children are emotional beings, so they will react emotionally. As adults, we need to remember not to react to their emotional moments with our own emotional outbursts, as this will only escalate the situation into an emotional explosion. Rather pick them up, hold them tight and do your best to be calm. The calmer you stay, the calmer they will become. They need to feel your love and once everyone is calm, you can meet them at their level of understanding. Sometimes you will have to say: ‘Let’s try again’, and go back to the beginning of what caused that explosion, to handle it in a different manner. When we teach our children that we can try again, we teach them that everyone makes mistakes and help them learn about forgiveness and second chances. These life skills, practiced often, will help your child to become a kind adult human being.

·         Mind your language

As adults we need to carefully choose our words. We tend to say ‘no’ or ‘don’t touch’ often, when a ‘yes’ can be much more effective way to divert their attention. For example, instead of saying: “Don’t touch the bird ornament”, we can say: “Come let’s look at the birds outside”. For every negative word we use, we should try to share at least four positive words. We can be firm in our speaking, but we don’t need to be harsh or unkind.

Our children are only small for a short time and whether we like it or not, they will follow our example and not our wishes. We need to do our best to make the little time we have with them count.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Santa is coming to town.

Christmas celebrations can include a variety of low cost activities and does not have to be limited to just gift giving on Christmas morning. Making Christmas decorations and homemade gifts together and singing carols by candle lights can become some of your child’s most precious Christmas memories. We do Santa letters and depending on your child’s age or ability, they can either write to Santa, draw pictures or cut pictures from toy catalogues to stick on their letter to Santa. 

Christmas time is also a special opportunity to teach our children about what is truly important and not forgetting those who are less fortunate. Give responsibly and support other parents by buying their children practical gifts. In our home we have a rule that for every toy our boys receive, they have to give one away. We feel that this teaches them about generosity and it also helps limiting their amount of toys, otherwise they might not appreciate the new ones. 

Walking down the toy aisles can be quite overwhelming. The variety of toys are amazing and it makes it very hard for us as parents to choose the perfect gift for our child, which might result in you deciding to buy them more than one. Spreading your gift shopping throughout the year, keeping an eye out for when there are specials, can help minimize gift expenses around Christmas time.

Probably one of the greatest gifts you can invest in, are books. It can be a story book or a non-fiction book about a topic that your child is interested in. Books creates opportunities for you to connect with your children when you sit down, take a breath and read with them. 

If you are considering a different type of gift, please remember that the perfect gift is one that will encourage your child to play. Through play our children are developing many different skills such as social, problem solving, reasoning, fine motor, gross motor, creativity, self-regulation, language, communication and more. Play provides them with an opportunity to explore and discover and develop their cognitive abilities. Here are some gift ideas that encourages play:

·         Blocks - wooden, plastic, large, small, foam or magnet

·         Vehicles - water, land, air, small, big, noisy, quiet, made from different materials and traffic signs. You can even make up a combo that includes cars, blocks, traffic signs and thick cardboard pieces for building ramps.

·         Animals and bugs - different types, sizes and made from different materials

·         Pretend play props - doctor’s kit, tools, vet kit, shop kit, kitchen set, dress up clothes, tents and hats

·         Puzzles - wooden, foam, floor, alphabet or number

·         Games - board games, dominoes, card games or memory games

·         Science kits that are age appropriate

·         Sensory play - sand, playdough, kinetic sand and toys suitable for these different mediums

·         Gross motor activities - trampolines, different balls, skipping ropes, hoops, different rackets, tunnels, balancing beams, a scooter, bicycle or tricycle

·         Craft kits with items such as paper, scissors, stickers, different drawing tools, paint, glue or glitter

Even though there are so many different options to consider, the choice is ultimately simple: Is this gift really all about your child? Did you consider your child’s personality, and will this gift invite them to play? Can you as their parent join in this play for connecting time? If you are unsure, then it is most probably not the right gift to buy.

Ultimately Christmas is about Love, Peace, and Hope. 

Have fun shopping and see you in the toy aisle!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sunday 1 November 2020

The End of Year Blues.

And here it is… the end of year is in sight. We never thought this roller coaster year will ever come to an end and with this, we all have endless deadlines, extra stress and even more duties to fulfill. Right there with us, in this mad rush, are our little people… watching us with hopeful eyes, eagerly waiting to be noticed.

We don’t realize the effect that we as rushed grown-ups have on our little people. We have this to–do list that is ever growing and this to-
do list becomes an almost obsession to the point where we become impatient, time obsessed. We lose sight of our families and they become almost invisible on our priority list.

Our children can sense it and when they experience this, their behavior seems to become needy, whiney, emotional, difficult and/or aggressive, because they don’t feel connected to us anymore. When our kids feel disconnected from us, they feel disconnected from themselves and their worlds. So how can we stay connected and survive the end of year blues?

·         Stay connected to your partner. If you are single, choose a specific adult to stay connected to - it can be your best friend, parent or sibling. When we as adults are ‘fed’ in our grown up relationships and feel connected to others, it naturally enhances our ability to stay connected with our children. Having a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or cooking together are some ways to make a quick connection with your adult person on a daily basis.


·         Make a purposeful decision to minimize screen time on your devices. We easily get caught up in our devices and all our kids see are our bowed heads tranced by the device in hand, unaware of what is happening in our world around us. It is now more important than ever, to put your devices down when you are spending quality connection time with your partner and children.


·         While driving in the car together, especially to and from school, switch the radio off and chat - even if you are just making observations of your surroundings.


·         Go for walks (it does not need to be a long walk). Just going for a short, slow walk with your young child, letting them discover their environment and make observations will help them feel connected to you.


·         Keep to your children’s routines. They need predictable days. Our children feel safe when they have structure and routine.


·         Have meals together. As a family it is incredibly important to have no-device meals together - especially during times that are hectically busy. During family meal time everyone can get an opportunity to share about their day, ask and talk about anything.


·         Keep bath times special. It is a wonderful, playful time to spend with your young children. Children tend to open up more about their day when they are relaxed and playing in water.


·         Bedtime is very important. Taking time to read a story and cuddle with your young children will make them feel loved and connected.


·         Check in with your child’s teacher. Most of the times when we are so busy, we do not necessarily notice changes in our children’s behavior, while at school your child’s teacher might have noticed it.


·         Make a purposeful decision to keep your sense of humour and laugh often, even about silly things. Make eye contact and when you speak to your children, say their names.


·         Don’t sweat the small stuff. When we are stressed and task orientated, we do tend to be more serious, focused and that in turn can make us become impatient and careless.

Remember to also take care of yourself. It is important to make time to focus on deep, slow breathing, to eat healthy, drink water regularly, to get enough rest and speak kindly to ourselves and others. Life seems to be more hectic this time of year, so it is vital that we are purposeful in all our actions. You will be surprised at how well you will cope with all the stress and demands of life, when you feel connected to your family.



    As parents, it is always important to remember that when it comes to our children, that we NEED to be on the same team, and that we ...