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Mindfulness can reduce stress in children and teenagers

Research shows that mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) can relieve stress, anxiety and depression in children (Saltzman and Goldin, 2008).

mindfulness teenagers 4

So how well does mindfulness work with healthy children and teenagers?

One study found that teenagers who had participated in a mindfulness training programme reported feeling more positive than a comparative group of teenagers who had not (Schonert-Reichel and Lawlor, 2010) . Wall (2005) taught 11-13 year olds over a 5-week period a combination of mindfulness techniques (sitting meditation and mindful eating) and Tai Chi. The children reported feeling calmer, less reactive, more relaxed and having better sleep. Another study followed 137 girls at a secondary school following a school-based mindfulness programme over six sessions. They found that the girls showed reductions in self-reported negative feelings, tiredness, aches and pains, and they were more likely to have feelings of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance.(Broderick and Metz, 2009).

Research also suggests that mindfulness training can improve attention and memory. When students practice mindfulness, they learn to focus, sustain and shift their attention, which has obvious benefits in terms of school work (Napoli et al, 2005; Zylowska et al. 2008).

So what does a good mindfulness programme for older children and teenagers involve?

A good mindfulness programme will teach the following:

-To recognise the signs and symptoms of stress.
-To understand the link between their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
-To be able to accept their emotions and thoughts without judgement.
-To be able to regulate their emotions.
-To be mindful when carrying out everyday tasks.
-To be mindful when interacting with others.

How to discipline your child with 1, 2, 3 Magic

When my son was 3-years-old, I had problems managing his behaviour as he was quite a strong-willed child. So after discussion with a psychologist friend, I started using a method called ‘1,2,3 Magic’. This is a method where you give your child three warnings for bad behaviour and if they continue, you give them a consequence such a timeout or taking away a toy.

So how does it work exactly?

Well the first time your child does something you don’t want them to do, you say ‘That’s 1’, the second time you say ‘That’s 2’ giving them time to stop their bad behaviour but if they continue you say ‘That’s 3’ and follow it with a consequence. By having a three-step system, it allows the child time to try to change their behaviour.

When I first started using the 1,2,3 Magic method, I did use  far too many words. For example, I would say ‘Stop throwing your food on the floor’ to my son, then if he continued, I would say ‘If you don’t stop throwing your food, you will go into timeout’ and then if he still didn’t stop throwing his food I would say ‘Now you are going into 3 minutes of timeout for throwing your food’.

I realised that I was using too many words and started just saying ‘That’s 1, 2 or 3’, so that my authority carried more weight. It also gave my son less room for argument. By the time my son was four, his behaviour has markedly improved.

What evidence is there that mindfulness works on children?

Research shows that mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) can relieve stress, anxiety and depression in children (Saltzman and Goldin, 2008).

 

So how well does mindfulness work with healthy teenagers?

One study found that teenagers who had participated in a mindfulness training programme reported feeling more positive than a comparative group of teenagers who had not (Schonert-Reichel and Lawlor, 2010) . Wall (2005) taught 11-13 year olds over a 5-week period a combination of mindfulness techniques (sitting meditation and mindful eating) and Tai Chi. The children reported feeling calmer, less reactive, more relaxed and having better sleep. Another study followed 137 girls at a secondary school following a school-based mindfulness programme over six sessions. They found that the girls showed reductions in self-reported negative feelings, tiredness, aches and pains, and they were better able to , feelings of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance.(Broderick and Metz, 2009).

 

Research also suggests that mindfulness training can improve attention and memory. When students practice mindfulness, they learn to focus, sustain and shift their attention, which has obvious benefits in terms of school work (Napoli et al, 2005; Zylowska et al. 2008).

 

So what does a good mindfulness programme for teenagers involve?

A good mindfulness programme will teach teenagers the following:

-To recognise the signs and symptoms of stress.
-To understand the link between their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
-To be able to accept their emotions and thoughts without judgement.
-To be able to regulate their emotions.
-To be mindful when carrying out everyday tasks.
-To be mindful when interacting with others.

Gender Stereotypes and Children

I am as guilty as the next person for genderstereotyping my son. He has lots of trains, fire engines and cars and I have just painted one of the walls in his bedroom blue with pictures of planets. However, according to Sandra Bem, it is not good for children to be gender-stereotyped too much.  Children who are too gender stereotyped find it difficult to express themselves fully, have lower self-esteem and are more likely to suffer from mental health problems later. Girls may feel that they have to be passive, caring and helpful and boys may feel that they have to be competitive, aggressive and active even this goes against their natural inclinations. Obviously, it is better for children to feel they can be themselves and explore any interests irrespective of gender stereotypes. I certainly wouldn’t want my son to feel he couldn’t be caring and helpful.

 

Gender stereotypes may also be one of the reasons boys are doing worse at school than girls. Apparently, doing your homework and being conscientious is now considered to be for girls. Haywood and Mac an Ghaill interviewed boys in a secondary school in the West Midlands and found that the boys saw academic achievement as feminine. Gender stereotypes may also affect which subjects at school children choose to engage with. Cvencek and others investigated whether children had gender stereotypes about mathematics. They showed children two pictures, one of a girl doing maths and one of a boy doing maths. They found that the children were more likely to rate the boy as enjoying the maths than the girl.

 

So what can parents do to stop their children becoming too gender stereotyped? Parents can choose toys for both genders for their children. To address this, I have got my son a kitchen, dolls’ house and baby doll in addition to his more boyish toys. I am pleased to report that he has played with the kitchen extensively but the dolls’ house and baby doll were not great successes. He seems naturally more inclined to play with his train set but I have tried my best.

 

 

Parents can also buy toys in neutral colours and paint their childrens’ rooms in neutral colours, which I have already failed to do if you count my son’s blue space wall. I think it is pretty hard to resist your son’s desire for a Thomas the Tank Engine bedroom or your daughter’s requests for a princess or fairy bedroom. Finally, parents can try to be less gender stereotyped themselves, which is easier said than done. My husband and I had more equal roles before children but now I seem to do more cooking and cleaning. However, my husband and I do try to share roles as much as possible.

 

You might be wondering whether there are negative effects to avoiding gender stereotypes . Will your boy get teased if he chooses to play with dolls at school? Sadly, Sroufe et al. (1993) found that pre-teenage children who do not conform to gender stereotypes are less popular with their peers. However, I would still try to avoid gender stereotypes at home. I know my son has already learnt gender stereotypes from others outside the home and he will quite clearly tell me that dolls are for girls and that he doesn’t like pink. I question him on these comments because I want him to learn that long-term he can like whatever he wants regardless of gender.

 

Developing numeracy skills through play

Play is important for developing children’s mathematical abilities and spatial awareness. Piaget suggested that children can develop the ability to conserve through discovery play. For example, when children play with water, they begin to understand that if they pour water from a wide beaker into a long thin beaker, there is still the same amount of water there and when they roll out a ball of playdough into a pancake and then screw it up again, there is the still the same amount of playdough there. Piaget believed the ability to conserve number and volume develops at around 7-years-old.

 

doll-and-money

 

 

Parents of young children can also develop numeracy skills through play. They can develop their children’s number sense through talking to them about numbers, money and quantities in everyday life and in play. For example, young children can be encouraged to use scales to understand weight or you can buy games such as ‘The wobbly chef’, which enable children to think about balancing objects. Playing games with numbers such as snakes and ladders gets children to think about the differences between big and small numbers. Even everyday situations can be used to develop an understanding of numbers. Counting sweets out helps children to understand less and more and can lead to an understanding of addition and subtraction. At a higher level, a sandwich can be divided into half and then quarters to develop the concept of fractions. Older children can be encouraged to count their pocket money to work out how much they have to save to buy a certain toy.

 

lego

 

Construction toys such as Lego and Megablocks can improve mathematical skills and spatial skills. For example, one study found that children who use toy blocks to construct complex structures at 4-years-old achieved higher scores in mathematics at secondary school (Wolfgang et al., 2001). Parents can build towers with their child and ask them what happens if we put a large block on top of a small block? They can also use the blocks to build castles or ships and incorporate this into pretend play.

 

Want to read more about parenting? Download my free parenting ebook.

 

Want to encourage your child to read more? Get ‘The Fortress’, a fantasy easy reader aimed at 7-10 yrs.

Should gifted children be accelerated at school?

Should gifted children be accelerated?

 

The commonly held view is that it is not good to accelerate gifted children and that they will suffer emotionally and socially if they are put with older children. However, research suggests that gifted children report more dissatisfaction if they are held back than if they have experienced some kind of acceleration. In ‘A Nation Deceived’ many studies are cited that show that accelerated children do better than non-accelerated children matched in terms of ability.

 

Potential Plus, a UK charity which helps families with children with high learning potential, endorses the acceleration of gifted children at every age if the child is ready. They say this avoids the child becoming bored with repetitious learning and challenges them more. They also say that acceleration works better if the teachers have a positive attitude to it and if the parents are supportive.

 

Deborah Ruf (2005) identifies five levels of giftedness and says that the difference between children at the different levels is great. Some children may be up to six years ahead of other children whereas others are only advanced amongst their peer group. A level 5 gifted child would be able to read child and adult fiction and nonfiction by 4- to 5-years-old, understand abstract maths concepts and be able to play adult level games by the time they were 3- to 4-years-old. There are less that 0.1% of children at this level. In contrast, a level 1 gifted child, although very able, does not have the same advanced abilities. A level 1 gifted child is able to read two to three years beyond grade level by age seven. 10%-20% of children are gifted at level 1 (information taken from NAGC website). Therefore, it may not be a problem to hold back a level 1 gifted child but a level 5 gifted child may be particularly frustrated.

 

boy-playing-piano

 

The research suggests that even very young children should be accelerated. A parent needs to consider their child’s abilities as a whole before making the decision whether to accelerate them or not. If your child is highly gifted and does not fit in with his peers socially then the best decision would be to accelerate them. However, if your child is moderately gifted and finds it easy to interact with peers then a decision about acceleration could be delayed. Young children can benefit from play even if they are gifted and they may become more anxious if they have too much pressure from parents. Children can be intellectually advanced but still emotionally immature.

 

cameron-at-chess-with-rabbit

 

However, gifted children should have the opportunity, even if they are accelerated, to play sport with children of their own age. Otherwise, they may not be picked for school sports teams.

 

Gifted children can also be advanced in only one area such as mathematics and it may be better for them to have other lessons such as Art or English with same-age peers. Schools may need to be particularly flexible in catering for the needs of gifted children.

 

Want to read more about parenting? Download my free parenting ebook.

Looking for an exciting first chapter book for your young child. Read ‘The Fortress’ by Faye Carlisle. For sale on Amazon.

Encouraging boys to read

A National Literacy Trust report shows that boys are far less likely to read in their spare time than girls in the UK. They are also behind in terms of their reading ability and this impacts on GCSE results not only in English but in other subjects too.

 

So how can parents encourage boys to read more?

 

1) Take your son to the library more frequently. Research shows that girls are more likely to be taken to the library than boys.

2) Question your son about their gender stereotypes. Some boys will say that boys that read are geeky, nerdy or boring.

3) Address your own beliefs about why there is a gender gap in reading ability. No evidence has been found to support biological differences between boys and girls in terms of reading. In some countries such as Chile and the Netherlands, there is no gender gap.

4) Make sure your son has a male role model who reads. If dad doesn’t like reading fiction, maybe he can demonstrate a love of non-fiction books.

5) Encourage reading for enjoyment and stock your house with exciting books to read either from the library, charity shop or bookshop.

6) Download the Kindle app and get your child reading cheap ebooks on a tablet.

7) Get a magazine subscription for a Minecraft magazine or National Geographic.

 

boy-reading-2

 

Here is a list of fiction books my 8-year-old son has enjoyed reading himself:

  • Horrid Henry by Francesca Williams
  • Beast Quest by Adam Blade
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Billionaire Boy by David Walliams
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
  • Yuck by Matt and Dave
  • World War I and II tales by Terry Deary. For example, The Bike Escape.
  • The DK Star Wars books

 

Here is a list of my son’s favourite non-fiction books

  • Minecraft books
  • Usborne See Inside Space book, See Inside Castles book
  • 100 Facts books: Space, Planet Earth, Oceans etc.
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys by Hal Ilguden

 

 

Here is a list of books my son has enjoyed me reading to him:

  • Harry Potter by J K Rowling
  • Just William by Richmal Crompton
  • Five Children and It by E Nesbitt
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
  • Treasure Island by R L Stevenson

 

 

Finding easy-reader books for my son with appealing storylines has not been easy. This is what inspired me to write ‘The Fortress’, a fantasy adventure tale aimed at 7- to 10-year-olds. The story is about a boy who has special powers that allow him to manipulate earth, fire, air and water. He is sent on a mission to find the evil Sinisters with his two friends Anna and Sam.  Anna is able to see visions of the future, and Sam has navigating powers.

 

The children’s search for the Sinisters leads them to a fortress where they meet Electro. Can they win against his lightning powers?

 

Buy the Fortress

 

the-fortress-web-page-image

 

https://www.amazon.com/Fortress-Kodo-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MSJ3TVN

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fortress-Kodo-Book-1-ebook/dp/1540565432

 

 

Other websites with suggestions for boys reading are:

 

http://middlegradestrikesback.blogspot.co.uk/

 

http://theboyreader.blogspot.co.uk/

 

http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.co.uk/

 

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/childrens-books/

 

http://www.readingrockets.org/books/booksbytheme

 

 

 

 

 

 

How playing can reduce anxiety in children

 

Research suggests that children can become anxious if they have too little time for free play. Barnett (1984) assessed children on their anxiety levels on their first day at nursery school. It was found that the children who were able to play freely had lower levels of anxiety than those who had to listen to stories. This supports the view that play allows children to work through their conflicts and anxiety.

 

The case of Dibs, a 5-year old boy who showed very disturbed behaviour shows the importance of play for dealing with issues (Axline, 1947). Dibs was referred to Axline, a clinical psychologist specialising in play therapy, for very disturbed behaviour. His parents thought he might be brain damaged. Axline watched Dibs’ play carefully to look for emotional reasons for his disturbed behaviour. Dibs often played with dolls that represented his family and in one instance, he buried a doll representing his father in the sand. This was interpreted as hostility towards his father. Axline was able to uncover Dibs’ conflicts and problems through the therapy. Dibs’ relationship with his parents improved as did his behaviour at school. Dibs IQ was tested after the therapy and he scored in the top 1% of the population. By then he had no emotional difficulties.

 

Sloan (1999) examined whether play therapy could be used to reduce aggressive behaviour in children in New York. The study found that play therapy is effective for reducing aggressive behaviour.

 

toys

 

How can a parent use play at home to deal with anxiety?

 

Parents can use toy figures and role play to work through fears and other issues with their children. For example, if your child is worried about going to the doctors, you can role play doctors with them or encourage them to play doctors with their dolls or teddies. If your child is frightened of the dark, you can pretend that a toy figure is being put to bed in the dark and your child can talk about their fears. Another toy figure can be used to dispel fears. Any monsters or ghosts that turn up in the role play can be changed into something non-threatening. You can get your child to imagine what the toy figures/dolls would do if they were very brave (Jay et al., 1987).

 

 

Want to read more about parenting? Download my free parenting ebook.

 

Want your child to read more? Read ‘The Fortress’, a fantasy  adventure story aimed at 7- to 10-year-olds.

Infusion

A young adult paranormal romance.

‘Where did you get that necklace?’ he asked leaning in to touch it but then quickly moving his hand away.

‘It belonged to my father,’ I replied.

He stood up from his stool and pushed it away abruptly. But when he spoke, his voice was light and gentle, ‘Who’s your father?’

‘I don’t know. I’ve never met him,’ I replied, hoping he would have some answers for me.

 

Kate lives in the ordinary town of Higham in the Lake District. Jack is a new boy at her school but he is not all he seems. His arrival changes something in her and she starts to be able to do things she didn’t believe were possible.

 

Through contact with the gypsies in her town she begins to understand what is happening. Jack finally tells her who he really is but there are others who pose a threat to her and the whole human race.

Buy Here