For peace and goodwill in your family this Christmas try these 12 strategies.
When there are positive connections between ourselves and our children everything goes better; we have greater influence so the children are more cooperative and their self-esteem grows. It’s not easy but we need to put our digital devices to one side, park the never-ending to-do list and engage with our children.
Don’t skip over this one! You may be thinking that with all that you have to do how can you possibly play? Invest in some fun with your child to make this the Christmas that she remembers with delight. She will not notice that the presents were immaculately wrapped and that guests were served with those special Spanish almonds you tracked down with great detective powers. Schedule a small amount of time each day over the holiday season for time to play, either one to one or with all the children. Board games, card games, charades, silly dancing. Take your pick. Tip: minimal equipment to minimise clean up.
Resist the urge to nag, advise, lecture, take over, fix or even offer solutions when your child is facing difficulties. Instead give him the message that you trust he can figure it out because he is a problem-solver. Let him know that making mistakes is ok and a necessary part of reaching solutions. When children develop competencies they grow in confidence. Feeling capable is the antidote to anxiety.
When children ‘act up’ it’s often because they are not getting the attention they need. Don’t make them wrong for that. Instead recognise it is a primal need and fill that need with positive attention. Use a pasta jar as a prompt for you to notice the positive things they do. Just keep an empty jar handy and pop in a pasta piece any time you notice good behaviour. Get the kids to help you and give them a pasta when they tell you about something good their siblings are doing –the sibling gets one too so it’s a win-win situation!
The best present you can ever give your child is to really see them. You can do this just with looks – let your face show delight to be with them. And you can use words. Make sure they are descriptive, not evaluative. Notice their efforts.
Sometimes it can be hard to start up a conversation with kids. That’s because grown-ups often ask them closed questions to which the answer is yes/no/fine. An open-ended question makes it possible to find out something real and meaningful about the other.
Sometimes children don’t want to talk, especially if the subject is challenging for them. Make sure you listen non-judgmentally and without comment. It can help to do an activity together to get the conversational juices flowing. Some of the best conversations I had with my sons were when walking the dog together. Get them to help wash the dishes with you and you may be surprised what you learn.
Feelings can run high during the festive season –for the kids too! Sometimes this shows up as grumpiness, rudeness or uncooperative behaviour. The kids too! Try not to get stuck on the behaviour but delve deeper to the feeling beneath. Name that feeling to tame it. All feelings can be validated even if the behaviour isn’t ok. This tells your child that they are ok even when the behaviour isn’t. And it is far more effective in getting the child out of a behavioural rut than any amount of scolding.
When faced with challenging behaviour don’t ask your child why they did it. They probably won’t have the maturity to be able to identify the emotional cause for their actions. Don’t ask why are you so cross? Instead just acknowledge that they are angry and maybe make suggestions based on your observations. I can see that you got really angry when your sister messed up your new train set. You had taken so long to set it up just perfectly. Babies can be very annoying sometimes can’t they?
When we enter into our child’s enthusiasms we let them know that we understand and value them. My youngest son has always been quite obsessive about quite niche interests (Star Wars when he was very young). As he’s got older he has learnt that not everyone shares his enthusiasms so he tries to temper them. He recently apologised if he was boring me. I could say that while I didn’t share his interest in that particular thing my own niche area of enthusiasm was him and I was caught up in his passion for and knowledge of his subject so it wasn’t difficult to listen to him talk about it. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a teenager trying (and failing) to suppress their pleasure.
I know this is easy to say and difficult to do but it is so essential for a calmer, happier Christmas period. It’s so tempting to let the kids stay up later once school breaks up and there may be pantomimes to attend or trips to look at Christmas lights or visit relatives. Of course there will be some disruption to normal routines but do try to keep this to a minimum. Kids (and adults) need sleep of course but they also do better when they have consistent routines. Certainty reduces stress. They also need time to just chill out so don’t over-schedule them with festive activities. They need to be able to just play, especially after the big day when there will be new toys and books. The only thing to organise is getting out in nature so do plan for some walks or bike rides.
Avoid embarrassment by teaching young children how to occupy themselves (non-digitally?) while adults are preparing meals etc, how to greet relatives they don’t see very often and how to be gracious in receiving gifts. Practice in role play what to do/how to arrange one’s features if they are given something they already have or don’t like the look of. And be realistic with younger ones.
We hope that these tips will give you 12 very happy days of Christmas. All the best to you and your family these holidays.
Guest Blog by Rachel Busby Director of Great Reading Ltd
Many schools talk a lot about the importance of the home/school partnership and the value that they place on working with parents as partners. As children return to school after a well-earned half term holiday, hopefully settled and raring to go, how do you go about working with the school? What does this actually mean in reality?
There has been a huge amount of research into the positive impact of parent partnerships on student success
not just in school but throughout life. When schools and families work together children have a far better chance of being successful. So, what is the best way to partner with your child’s school?
1. Structure and routine are key.
- Try and provide a calm environment at home with set routines.
- Get your child to school on time having had a good breakfast and make sure they are collected on time too. Children who are often collected late definitely show signs of anxiety.
- Help your child remember all their kit and equipment. Maybe display a timetable showing which activities are on each day to help you both ensure you have the correct resources.
- If your child is increasingly tired move bedtime forward and ensure they have a gadget and screen free bedroom so that you know they are getting good quality sleep. School can be exhausting!
2. Encourage your child to become as independent as possible. Make sure they can dress themselves and think carefully about the type of shoes and coat that you choose so that they have the best possible chance of fending for themselves in a busy classroom. Don’t be tempted to dress them or do their shoes up for them – try and leave yourself enough time to allow them to do things for themselves.
3. Read with your child every day at home. Very often there could be 20-30 children in a class so the role of 1:1 reading is increasingly becoming the responsibility of the parent. hildren who read every day at home always make the most progress.
4. Provide an environment that is conducive to working. The television should not be on and, in an ideal world, it should be calm and quiet (easier said than done if you have younger children too).
5. Find a time to read and to do homework that suits your child and your family. There is no right time.
- It might be that they are exhausted when they first arrive home from school and need to refuel and refresh with snacks and a bit of sofa time. Prepare them for the fact that they need to read/do their homework later and maybe give them a 10 minute warning that their rest time is coming to an end.
- Some children will cope with getting the homework done as soon as they get home.
- Others might be early risers who benefit more from getting it done before school the following day.
- If you are struggling to get homework done you might need to review your weekly schedule and possibly, in the short-term, reduce the number of extra activities your child is participating in. Over-scheduling, with no down time, can put a lot of pressure on children and parents! I used to read with my youngest when he was tucked up in bed before we started the bedtime story – it was the only quiet 1:1 time I could find. Work out what fits in with your routine and your family.
6. Support your child with their homework. However, DO NOT do it for them! Encourage your child to work independently and to be resourceful. Your teacher should have given you an idea of how long homework should take. Keep an eye on the amount of “focused” time your child is spending on the homework and if it is taking a lot longer than is expected, be honest and feed back to the school.
7. Hopefully your school will have already run a workshop, or held a meeting, explaining how they teach the basics of reading, writing and maths at the school. If they use a particular phonics scheme, learn the basics and use language that your child is familiar with. If they need help with reading or spelling a word resist telling them (particularly using the letter names) and instead encourage them to sound the word out for themselves. It might not be spelt perfectly but you are encouraging them to work independently and this means that they can demonstrate resourcefulness and resilience when in class rather than asking the teacher for help every step of the way.
8. Buy a mini wipeboard (A4 size are great). Get your child to practice a spelling on this and see if they can work out if it looks correct. Mistakes are easy to correct and remove on a wipeboard and they often encourage children to take greater risks.
9. If your child has to write several sentences ask them to tell you what they are going to write. Try and get your child to say the sentence out loud and get them to repeat it several times. Very often children forget what they are writing. Get them to read what they have written so far and see if they can remember what they need to write next. Resist the urge to tell them what to write and to spoon feed and spell every word. Whilst doing this means you are getting the homework over and done with more quickly the experience is not actually helping your child learn or consolidate any skills.
10. When your child has finished, tell them how proud you are of how hard they have worked. Also ask them to check their work and make sure they don’t need to make any corrections. A question like “What goes at the beginning/end of every sentence?” or “Does that word look right?” is better than telling them what they need to correct.
11. Be honest. If your child is really struggling try to remain positive and patient but also go and chat to the teacher. Work at both school and home should always be differentiated with each child being given work that is appropriate for their ability. If it is taking significantly longer than it should, I would calmly stop and reassure your child that it is OK and that you are going to write to the teacher. The teacher needs to know. No one expects young children to be working for hours on homework. Equally, if your child is flying through it you can feed back that they worked independently within a certain time frame. Resist the urge to ask for harder work.
12. If you want to have a chat with the teacher try and find an appropriate time. It is never easy to chat when the children are all going into class in the morning or when the teacher is trying to ensure everyone has been safely collected at the end of the day. Initially feedback via the homework diary/reading record and if needs be call and make an appointment for a chat.
13. Always try and attend meetings, workshops and parents’ evenings. Schools often judge a parent’s commitment to working in partnership on attendance at such events. If work commitments make it difficult make sure you communicate this. Schools will often put on evening sessions to accommodate working parents. If you have a nanny or au-pair make sure you have introduced him/her to the teacher and ask them to attend if you can’t.
14. If you have a nanny/au pair who does homework and reading with your child make sure you have had discussions and communicated your expectations with them so that they are dealing with homework in the same way that you would be. Make sure they are also aware of any concerns and that you communicate regularly about the tasks.
15. Find out what topics your child is studying at school and design some family activities around them. Maybe visit a castle or an art gallery, cook some different food or go to the library to find out more information and to develop their knowledge. Encourage your child to share what they have done with their teacher.
16. If your child puts up a lot of resistance to homework, try and work at some strategies to help and encourage them. Explain that it is not you that has set the homework but the teacher and that you will need to feed back to the teacher if they are not going to do it. Don’t be afraid to let them experience the consequences of not doing the work. This is an essential lesson in learning and shielding them from every bump will produce a passive, dependent learner rather than a resourceful and resilient one.
17. Enjoy the journey together. Get to know other parents and share concerns if you have them. Get
involved in the school community with social events and volunteer to help if required. Don’t be concerned if you get very little information from your child about what they did at school. They will have crammed so much into one day that it is hard to remember anything. Try and get to know their weekly timetable and ask slightly narrower questions if necessary to aid their recollection of what they actually did. Maybe ask “Which new sound did you learn today?” or “What did you do in PE today?” rather than a blanket “What did you do today?” You might well get the “I can’t remember” response!
Rachel Busby – October 2018
Rachel is Director of Great Reading Ltd and has over 20 years of experience in schools.
Great Reading primarily supports young children, parents, nannies/au pairs and schools with the development of reading. They offer workshops for parents covering early literacy skills and how to help at home; 1:1 Introduction to Reading courses; Catch-up programmes for struggling readers and bespoke training. They will work with children from the age of 4 (before any formal dyslexia screening) to help them catch up with peers and close any gaps that may be beginning to emerge. They also offer advice to parents who have any concerns about their young child’s progress at school. Please do get in touch if you require any help or advice with supporting your child at school and email email@example.com or visit www.greatreading.co.uk