Calming the Green-Eyed Jealousy Monster

Jealousy is a feeling all of us have to deal with at some point, and children are no exception. It can be anything from school grades, types of trainers, sporting achievement or good old fashioned sibling rivalry. Jealousy sparks big feelings in us – so how to support your child with defeating the green-eyed monster? Continue reading

Positive Self Talk – and Why it Matters

Our thoughts determine our actions – if we are in the habit of positive self-talk and positive thinking, we find that we can do things and marvel at our successes. However, all too often our internal chatter  is very negative; we can’t, we are stupid, people will laugh at me. Here are some tips on turning off the negative – and switching on the positive with yourself – and your children. Continue reading

Having a Bad Reputation – and What they can do about it

Does your child have a bad reputation at school? The problem with bad reputations is that they are easy to get – and tricky to shake off. Happily, there are things they can do to start taking back control and making life a lot less lonely. Continue reading

How to Manage Stress and Stay Calm

Stress is something we all have to mange, yet without secure strategies in place, it can rule us, rather than us managing our stress levels. Continue reading

When Kids Break The Rules : A Spookje Story

It’s completely normal for children of all ages (even the grown up ones!)to test boundaries and break the rules. However – where is the balance between allowing them to test the limits and keeping them safe? 

Children break the rules for different reasons:

  1. To test your limits and see how far they can push you – this is about control and who has it – and who hasn’t.
  2. For attention – even if it is negative attention.
  3. Copying others to fit in and be part of a group.
  4. It is fun – it’s a way to assert their authority and gain more independence.
  5. They do not know the point of the rule – to them it is meaningless.

As soon as children learn that breaking the rules works – they get what they want  – so they will keep repeating it. Children / preteens who are defiant at school and get sent out of class may behave this way to GET sent out of class. As soon as they know what buttons they need to press to get what they want – they will do it over and over. Then you end up in a vicious circle of telling them off, only to find they immediately repeat the same behaviour.

Rules and boundaries are vital to children and teenagers. They are there to keep them safe and offer boundaries that ensure they can learn positive life skills.

Here are a few tips to help manage the constant rule breaking at home and maybe offer some food for thought:

  1. Sit down and explain that the rule breaking is a big cause of arguments. Talk to your child about it – be open and curious – what are their reasons for breaking the rules? If they have the confidence to be open and honest about it, then make sure there are no negative consequences for their openness. It might be that they want your attention and that’s why they break the rules. This is simply about them wanting your time, so schedule in times when they will have your undivided attention and AGREE TOGETHER that this then stops the negative attention rule breaking. You’ll need to stick to the agreement too – otherwise, that in turn will illicit negative attention seeking.
  2. Look at what rules are being broken – are those rules fair, age appropriate and meaningful to your children?
  3. How many rules are there and what is their purpose?
  4. What rules are non-negotiable because they are there to keep them safe?
  5. Do the children know the purpose for and reasons behind the rules – sometimes they do not see the point of rules. If there are meaningless, then children will continually break them.
  6. What rules are no longer necessary?
  7. What independence do the rules encourage?

Two key questions are:

  1. What level of input do children have over rules and boundaries?
  2. What is your reaction to rule breaking – and how consistent is it?
  3. What are the consequences to rule breaking – who imposes them and how consistently are they applied?

If you find your child is breaking the rules and it’s causing trouble at home, please get in touch.

 

 

back to school

Getting Ready to go back to school

It’s time to start thinking about getting ready to go back to school. However, while children may groan at the thought, many parents I have spoken to are more than ready for them to get back into the school routine!  Continue reading

What to do when You Find Out Things in the School You Weren’t Aware of

Finding out things you didn’t know

The end of year school report is about to be issued; for the majority of children, teens and parents, this is a celebration of what has been achieved and ways in which to move forward. However, some parents can be disappointed by what they read. Read more!

SATs

Surviving the Year 6 SATs – Part 1

year 6 sats – how to help your child with the stress

Parents, as well as children, can find the Year 6 SATs stressful and want to help their child.  Parents are often left wondering how they can help their child study for the tests, cope with the academic pressures – and successfully manage test anxiety. As the SATs are only a month away, it really is time to get down to some serious studying to ensure that your child feels as confident as they can be on the day of the test. Studying now will help with SATs stress and make them feel more in control. Here are some top bits of advice I can offer on how to best support your kids:

  1. Getting PerspectivE ON THE SATS

Yes, the SATs are to be taken seriously; they are a good way to show children that test preparation is important, and how to approach tests calmly and with confidence. They are, in this sense, good preparation for future test sitting skills. Through-out our lives, we are tested, whether it be GCSE’s, AS or A Levels (or equivalent), school entrance tests driving test, university or further study etc. Knowing how to prepare for these tests and manage our stress in these periods are key life skills.

However, the results of the Year 6 SATs will not impact on what GCSEs your child will sit, nor are they any definitive indicator of your child’s future academic success. From many years of experience, I can tell you, the results will be talked about and compared between kids and parents the day or two after they come out, but realistically, by the end of the summer, they have been forgotten. When September rolls around, they have more important things on their mind – starting secondary school.

  1. Know the dates of the tests and be organised

Have the dates of the tests on the calendar and make sure you and your child know which test is on which date. This will help them organise what to study for and when – and what to recap the night before.

Have all the necessary equipment at home – pencil, eraser, ruler and protractor. They will be asked to measure lines and angles in the maths papers, so check they are able to do these basic skills quickly, easily and accurately.  Check what the school provides on the day as most schools will have all the equipment ready on the day.

  1. Have a designated study space

At home, make sure they have a place where they can study; somewhere quiet, and preferably without distraction, with all their books and equipment. Keeping this space tidy is important as cluttered spaces can cause stress. Looking untidy can represent being untidy and disorganised – and you want your kids to feel calm, stress-free and organised in their approach to preparing for the tests.

  1. Have a study planner and know when your child learns best

Plan in time each day at a time when your child learns best and make it a routine as far as possible. Our brains are all different and can focus at different times of the day. For example, 2 half-an-hour slots may well work much better for them than an hour and a half solid. Talk with them about when they think they learn best. It’s QUALITY over QUANTITY each day.

You can download a FREE study planner from my website – have a look at the resources page.

  1. Let them move while they are learning

Let kids move around as and when they need to while they are studying. For many kids, it’s not “fidgeting” – moving about is helping to keep them focused. If they are told to still, all their focus will be on sitting still, rather than on what they are meant to be learning. Additionally, simply getting up, having a glass of water or a minute or 2 outside, gives them space to be calm, refresh and be ready to start again. Most of us need a break when we are working – kids need breaks far more often – after about 15 / 20 minutes. It’s not skiving to have a break – it’s good for their brain and concentration! When they start to fidget – let them move. Or, ask them what they need – they will know when they need a break and will appreciate being asked – it will also make them more willing to come back!

  1. Plan in fun things too

Make sure your child has something to look forward to after studying – an activity, a movie, time with friends or the iPad, or time to eat something whilst chatting to you. It can’t all be about the tests – they need to relax too. Don’t fall into the trap of cancelling all their after-school activities for a month before – they need those outlets to blow off steam and they will most likely resent you for it, even though you have their best intentions in mind. Keep their routine as normal as possible. Be realistic about what will give them time to , balanced with time to study. Involve them in these decisions – you might be pleasantly surprised by how mature they are in their approach to this.

  1. Stay calm when they do maths differently to you

Chances are if you’re working with them on their maths, they will carry out calculations differently to how you used to do it at school. Don’t try to change it now at home under stressful conditions. Either ask their teacher or get a tutor for a few weeks, because a tutor will know how the kids are meant to do this. What is key to note is that kids GET MARKS for showing their working out. It is actually possible to accurately answer every question on the paper and yet not get 100% unless they showed their calculations. If you’re getting more stressed and arguments are breaking out – step away and keep calm.

  1. Stay calm when they don’t know the answer

Patience – unlimited patience and calm is key. They will get stressed if you are getting stressed and there’s nothing more stressful than them knowing they’ve got it wrong and they see you getting stressed at them. They then start shouting any old answer just to try and hit on the right one and this can then stress you out – and neither of you are getting anywhere fast. Take a breath, have some space and go back to it when you are calm. Ask them what exactly they don’t understand – there will be some bits they do and one key bit they don’t, so talk to them about what they need.

  1. Learn the times tables (up to 12 x 12)

The times tables are absolutely ESSENTIAL in the maths tests. They will need to know the times tables thoroughly so working on these is one of the best skills you can give them.

  1. Learn the required spellings

Have a look at the resources page; there is a resource which outlines all of the Year 6 compulsory spellings. They are likely to be used in the SAT Spelling paper.

There is still time to make a real difference – both to their academic progress and their personal confidence in sitting the tests.

If they are struggling with confidence, and you think they could use some extra support, why not get in touch. As “the kids coach,” I’ve helped many children learn the tools and skills they need to ensure they stay calm and focused during stressful periods, such as tests and SATs.

As the Costa’s kids coach, I help children learn important life skills such as managing stress and confidence around test situations. If you are worried about your child’s stress, or even how your concerns might be impacting on your child, please get in touch for a free consultation: andrea@inspiredlearning.es

Going Back to School With a Smile

Going back to school after the holidays isn’t always that easy; the whole family are used to lazier days, more relaxed routines, later nights and longer lie-ins. Returning to a normal routine can mean mixed feelings. Parents and children may well miss the relaxed and precious time as a family, enjoying the break from getting up early, homework, and the pressure of performing well at school. etc. Conversely, it’s also a time when things can get back to a normal a familiar structure and routine.

So, what as a parent can you do to make the transition a bit easier?

  1. Firstly, it’s a great opportunity for a fresh term and a fresh start.

Hopefully you have had time to share their termly report with your child/ren. If not, why not sit down over the next few days and go over all the positives and talk about the targets the teacher has set. It’s the perfect time to re-fresh everyone about some key areas for focus and attention, and how you can work on these together. Remember, keep it light, as holiday mode isn’t yet geared up for the full on mode!

  1. Share the positives of being back at school.

The children will get to catch up on all their holidays news with friends and peers they may not have seen over the break.  Many children respond well to the structure of the school day and focus on the positives if they like their class teacher, or new after school activities, and enjoy learning new things.

  1. Be honest – share that you enjoy the holidays and having them at home too.

Children love to have the time and attention of their families. Share with them how much you love it too and pick out all the positives. “I love it when….” Tell them you feel the same way, yet this is what life is – we have periods of school time and periods of holiday time, and we can look forward to both.

  1. getting organsied

  • Yes, time to get the school bags out, go through them and throw anything away and re-pack for a fresh term. Ignore any old letters squashed at the bottom dating back to last November, yet merely remind the children to pass on to you any letters they get from home!
  • Check that school shoes, gym shoes and indeed school uniform still fit while you have time to get a few shopping days in around any national holidays.
  • Check for any forgotten homework activities while there’s still time to get them completed without too much of a rush!
  • Time to get a back to school hair cut?
  • Recheck the school timetable – do they need their gym kit etc for the first day back – it’s amazing how quickly these routines get lost in the slumber of the holidays
  1. Sleep

For the whole family, holidays mean later nights and longer lie-ins (if you’re lucky!) Body clocks have become used to this rhythm and so to avoid in inevitable resistance to both going to bed and getting up earlier, start to talk about with your children now. If they are old enough ask them what time they think they should start going to bed this week – striking the balance of being on holiday, yet preparing for the start of the new school term. One idea could be to start going to bed half an hour earlier per night, and start the day a little earlier too.

6.If your child is starting a new school – check it out

If a new school term also means a new school, why not go to the school and test the route and where to park? Yes, it will be busier on the day but at least you won’t be caught out by one way systems, no parking zones, or limited parking. Have a look at the building and the playground. Perhaps you could call the school, and they would be amenable to a visit – it all depends on the school.

  1. Talk about stress / anxiety / worries

Perhaps there are reasons your child is not looking forward to going back. Listen to their worries and tell them they have done the right thing in talking to you about it. If you are worried or unsure how to help them, please get in touch as I’d like to help them – and you be – prepared and feel like they have tools and strategies to successfully manage their concerns.

  1. Enjoy the last few days of the holiday!

Enjoy the holidays – ask the children what they would like to do and share your ideas too. Perhaps there are one or two things that were promised at the start of the holiday that there hasn’t been time to fit in as yet. So, why not plan them in for the remainder of the holiday or even at the weekend if the school term has already started? Family time is precious, so while it’s great to prepare for the back to school routine – enjoy the holiday feeling and time together as much as possible!

Hopefully these tips will make the back to school transition a little smoother. When the children are in school – what will you do to be good to yourself?!

Helping Your Child Learn at Home

#1 What They Need to Hear – and What You Can Say

#1 What They Need to Hear – and What You Can Say

Whatever type of school your child goes to, they benefit from having their learning supported at home. There are a plethora of ways in which your child’s school may expect you to do this: reading with them, helping with, and taking an active interest in, their homework, learning weekly spellings and learning off by heart the times-tables. There is no doubt that support from home can reap huge benefits in terms of building a child’s confidence and developing a passion for, and interest in, life-long learning. You may even be approached by your child’s class teacher to give them additional support at home in a particular area.

Trouble is, helping them at home can be difficult.

So, how to help? First of all, the message behind what we say to children is hugely important. Here are my top messages that your child needs to hear when you are helping them at home:

  1. “Our working together at home is a great way for us to spend time together and for me to help you with your learning” working with your child at home is not a punishment, nor because they are “not very good” at something, nor because they did something wrong – it’s an opportunity. Try to ensure this message comes across right from the start. Your child may be feeling very insecure about “having to do extra work at home” so tell them you believe in them. You’re great – you are a bright, intelligent wonderful person and I am proud of you – boosting your child’s self-esteem goes hand in hand with learning, and that means hearing lots of positive messages about their attitude to learning and the effort they put in.
  2. Let’s TALK to each other about your learning today – lots and lots of talking! Tell me what you know, tell me what confuses you – this is so important – it’s a DIALOGUE – not just you talking and them listening and doing. A two way conversation is essential when working with your child at home – how else will you know what they know or do not know if they aren’t talking to you about what they do and do not know? They need to be able to explain what they are stuck on and what they have learned. If they can explain it, they can do it – that is the big test to see if they really “get it”
  3. We are going to work together for 30 minutes MAXIMUMchildren (and you) need to know there is an agreed, set time limit for how long you will be working together, and to be honest even 30 minutes can be too long, especially if they are young Primary aged children. Stick to the agreed time limit – if they’re on a high when they finish, they will want more tomorrow. If you and they are becoming upset, agitated, highly frustrated– leave it, end the session for today. No learning can take place if they are highly emotional and you can’t be calm and patient if you’re upset and frustrated too. There’s no point making it a situation that needs to be battled through – say calmly that maybe it’s time to finish, end the session on a positive, and both go and do something else.
  4. We learn through making mistakes – we all make mistakes – even as adults – and it’s OK – this is an important about powerful life lesson – if children are unafraid of making mistakes they will learn greater resilience and risk taking. Try not to make a big thing over them making mistakes, as that can make children nervous which then causes them to shut down and stop learning.
  5. I’m not frustrated with you – I’m frustrated that I can’t make this easier for you – yet – if you are explaining something one way, and it’s not working for your child, you are the one that needs to change the way you are explaining it – try a different way, make a story out of it, use characters from their favourite book or TV – just make a change in your explanation. Try using counters – anything that they can physically see and move to help them count etc. Please don’t keep doing what you are already doing if it’s not working. Ask your child exactly which bit they don’t understand and maybe that will help you too.
  6. Here’s the answer – lets work out how to get it together –yes – really – give them the answer! It’s not cheating! The idea is that the children become familiar with, and start to understand, the concept so they can repeatedly get to the answers – it’s not about getting that answer correct. Give children the answer so they can work back from it. This gives them the power and understanding to continually repeat and apply their learning to new areas.
  7. We’ve had enough for today – let’s do something different – celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate! Always end on a positive and treat them (and you) to positive words and then something totally different.

I really hope these are a good starting point and please let me know how you get on! If you’d like any support in working with your child at home, I coach internationally using Skype / Facetime / Whatsapp etc. Coaching will enable you to support your child at home more easily and with increased patience and understanding of what will work – and what won’t.

Teen Talk – Preparing For a New School

This part of my blog is based on the advice of a pre-teen called Milly. Through coaching, Milly is learning how to make being her age a little less complicated – for herself and others around her. She would like to share her ideas, in the hope that she can help others going through the same kind of things.

Starting A New School

“Everyone gets nervous about starting a new school. I’m really excited but I’m also really nervous! I’m nervous that the teachers won’t like me, that I won’t know what to do, that I won’t make friends – and that my Dad will be super annoying when he takes me to school and embarrasses me in front of everyone.”

Here are a few bits of advice to help make the start of either a brand new school, or a new school year, less stressful:

Teachers

New teachers can be scary, and that’s because you don’t know what their rules and expectations are. You may have heard that Mr X or Mrs Y is really strict, so just keep it in mind; wait and see how it goes. Just be calm, smile nicely when you meet them and listen to what they are telling you about the behaviour they want to see in class. Teachers are always more strict in the beginning because they want a good start to the school year – for them and for all the children in the class. You’ll get to know them soon enough, and they will get to know you. So give it a bit of time, is really my best advice; smile, be polite, and wait and see.

If you’re worried about reputation, and you are going to a new school, remember, every year is a fresh start. No one really wants to deliberately get into trouble (and that’s a different blog post if they do). Mostly, you don’t have a reputation – you’re just worried about getting one on your first day. You’re worried you will do something wrong, or get lost, or your bag won’t fit into the locker etc. You worry that a teacher will see and you’ll get into trouble. Remember, teachers see this every year, and they are really hoping that, if you do have a reputation, this is the year you can break free of it, or if you don’t they are not looking to give you one. Really. Stick with others and watch what they do.

I Don’t Know What To Do

Everyone that’s new has this worry – even adults starting a new job. It’s completely OK and  normal to worry about this. You are in a new pace, with new people, with new routines. My best advice is to carefully (but not actually staring at others because that’s a bit weird) watch and see what others do and follow their lead. If you’re not sure, it is also a good way to start talking to someone and ask for their help.

“I’m worried that my bag won’t fit in my locker, that I’ll lose my locker key or I won’t have anywhere to put the key.”

I wrote down some of my fears – some are just there to worry you and you need to say to yourself, “I am going to out that at the back of my mind and deal with it if it really happens.” I talked to my mum about the key and we went and bought a key ring, so if I needed it, it was there. I also checked my school uniform to see if there was a loop on the skirt. There was, so we made sure I had a thing on the key ring to clip it onto the loop – if that’s what the other girls did and if we were allowed. I also worried about getting lost so I decided I would always stick with a group and try to just chat and say “Hi” to other people, even if I didn’t know them.

Making Friends

Lots of people worry about making friends – it is normal. My best advice, even if you are really shy, is to smile, and say “Hi”. This is a good first step. If they don’t respond, then have a few prepared things to say. My advice is, try not to stick with only one new friend as it might stop you making friends with other people too.

At my old school, I used to take a book onto the playground and read all the time. It was a great way to protect me as I had something to “disappear” into and then it didn’t really matter if no one was my friend or invited me to play. Actually, this isn’t true – of course it hurt. I now realise that the book made it look like I am not interested in talking to anyone else, so I’m not going to do this in my new school.

“Honestly, just talk to everyone – soon people will realise that you’re friendly and they will come up to you and start talking. I know it’s easy to say and I am really going to give it a go when I start my new school this week.”

Dad

If you’re worried about your parents embarrassing you on your first day, maybe because they have been teasing you about it, or you are really unsure, then find another adult to share your worries with, if you can. Just check-in with them that he’s not really going to give you a big hug and kiss and hold your hand when you go to your new school – and you’re 11 years old – because that’s so embarrassing. He’s probably only joking, but if it is on your mind, try to ask someone for help. If that’s not possible, try to say politely but firmly, “Dad, I am a little bit worried about this teasing. I’d really like to have a good start at school, so please I need your help to make that happen.” If you’re polite and share your feelings, hopefully the message will get through.

Teen-Talk: New School – New Friends

This part of my blog is based on the advice of a pre-teen called Milly. Through coaching, Milly is learning how to make being her age a little less complicated – for herself and others around her. She would like to share her ideas, in the hope that she can help others going through the same kind of things.

Making New Friends

“Friends aren’t always something you get straight away – even if that’s what you really want. It’s easy to feel like you just want someone to hang around with, but then they can actually stop you making new friends.”

“Some people really have a thing about popularity and they will be mean to you just so they can be friends with the person you are friends with. And then, the friend you used to be friends with, starts being mean to you because that’s what the other person wants. But, if the false friend is being mean to your old friend, then that’s not friendship at all. That sounds weird and complicated, but people my age will get it.”
“Sometimes making new friends is scary and really you want them to like you. Be yourself – not the person they want you to be.”

Some strategies on how to make a friend:

  • Smile
  • Ask them their name and tell them yours
  • Ask a question about what they like to do or what TV they watch
  • Give a compliment
  • Be aware of things you do when you are nervous, like talk too much – acknowledge it and then move on to chatting about something else
  • Remember – everyone can be nervous when trying to make new friends, even if they do not look nervous.

 

Go on… What’s Stopping You?

mistakes, fear and learning – love to learn, make mistakes and down with fear

The most essential ingredient for all learners, whatever their age, culture, nationality or languages spoken, is to be unafraid when approaching new learning.

make mistakes – it’s ok

The old saying that primary school teachers often use; we learn by making mistakes, is relevant to us throughout our lifetime – whatever we are learning about.  Naturally, this is easier said than done, as many of us have perhaps had trouble learning or acquiring new skills in the past. Our previous experiences and attitudes often shape our approach to new learning.

take risks – have a go

Many children (such as myself all those years ago) start off with an enthusiasm for school and learning. However, sometimes, something happens and they start to lose their confidence and enthusiasm to try new things. It could be something so small and seemingly insignificant, yet that uncertainty in themselves, or their ability, seems to flourish and prosper with far more determination than their initial blossoming desire to learn. Suddenly it’s not so easy to just “have a go” – they have become afraid. They are afraid of making mistakes, of looking silly and start to feel foolish. It is then that they start to copy whoever is sitting next to them and they worry about how they look in front of their peers and their teacher. The hands that once willing went up to answer all manner of questions start to waver mid-air, or stop being held up altogether. This learned fear can have far-reaching consequences to our self-confidence and self-esteem.

a little inspiration – and inspired learning was born

As a primary school teacher for many years, both in England, Scotland and with over a decade of international experience, I have seen many children who initially lacked confidence in themselves and their ability to learn; it transcends language, culture and gender. However, with a little inspiration, someone to inspire them, all this can change, just like a little bit of magic.  When children grow their wings of self-confidence, when they have their passion for learning reignited – or even lit for the first time – that really does look and feel like magic.

It has been my pleasure to see this in so many children over the years and this is why I am inspired to write this blog; to tell their stories and to hopefully hear some of yours.

It is my dream to make inspired learning a reality for children and adults around the world. Together we can inspire all learners, whatever their age, for today, tomorrow and for the future. Once you start to believe, there are no limits. Where are your wings taking you?