Supporting children in challenging times
On Tuesday of this week I was delighted to be asked to join an expert panel in the Up Your Brave series, hosted by Natalie Cutler-Welsh.
There are a range of topics being covered, designed to help raise the state of resilience, health & happiness. This panel was tasked with coming up with top tips for supporting children in challenging times.
I was privileged to be in the company not just of Natalie, with her wealth of knowledge but Celia Hogan from Little Kiwis Nature Play and Anne Cullen, from Anne Cullen.
Celia, is an educator and advocate for nature play, building resilience and improving mental health and wellbeing through nature.
Anne, is a speaker, Advanced coach with MAP coaching institute & parenting specialist and spokesperson and parent advisor for the Natural Parent Magazine.
I think it is a valuable watch for any parents with primary aged children. You can view the replay here: https://www.facebook.com/natalie.cutlerwelsh/videos/10157274094012399/
Top tip #1 – making sure we are talking to our child in their “love language”. Does your child thrive on one-on-one time, physical contact or rough play? Whatever ticks boxes for them is a great place to focus.
Top tip #2 – parenting to a personality type. If we do have a perfectionist child, for example, then taking that into account when we are talking to them enables us to communicate more effectively.
Top tip #1 – enable our children to play outside. It enables them to stay emotionally and physically healthy. It’s even more valuable if children are able to do unstructured and imaginative play. For example, having a range of random items (called “loose parts”) that can be utilised differently during play. A stick, that can be a sword, a wand or a giant spoon, for example.
Top tip #2 – making sure we are calm and emotionally equipped to deal with what is happening for our children. Having that personal time just to get outside and walk makes a big difference to us and supports our mental and physical health.
Top tip #1 – focus on our child, really listen to what they are saying and look at things from their perspective. Tuning in to really hear them, putting aside everything else for that time so we truly do focus on what they are communicating.
Top tip #2 – focus on our child’s strengths. Point out the things that our child is doing well and try to put the frustrating things aside. Build them up by giving praise and finding ways to verbally reward the positive traits and behaviour.
This is critically important from an eating perspective too. It is so easy to get caught up in what our child cannot do and focus on that, rather than looking at the positives and how to expand upon those. I know when I am talking to the parent of even a very selective eater, my focus is on where there are windows of opportunity. Where is there the potential to make progress?
Top tip # 3 – model the way you want your child to act. Speak to them in the way we would love to be spoken to – think of how differently we can communicate with our child as opposed to a partner or friend.
Top tip #1 – routines. For me structure and routines are super important, especially when it comes to food and feeding. You can read more about it here: https://theconfidenteater.com/blog/picky-eating-support/routines/
And here: https://theconfidenteater.com/blog/other/structure-routines-are-important-even-in-uncertainty/
Top tip #2 – comfort. The more comfortable we are the more relaxed we are able to be. This gives us more emotional and mental support. Controlling the environment to the best of our ability is a great starting point.
For my boys, in regards to school, this started with some really basic components. Where could they sit and do schoolwork where they were comfy, warm enough, not going to be distracted and separate (actually separate was definitely first!)?
This is again, an important part of eating well. If we don’t feel comfortable in ourselves, about the food or in regards to the environment then it’s going to be a real challenge to eat well. I will put together a blog specific to this in the next week or so as parents are often surprised at what a difference setting everything up to be conducive to eating can be!
Judith is mum to two boys, a tween and a teen. My dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
I delight in showing parents how to get picky eaters eating in simple, gentle, practical steps that anyone can master. I graduated from Cambridge University and have qualifications in nutrition, parent education and am a trained telephone support worker for ParentHelpline. I am currently working towards a Masters degree in Psychology. I would love to understand more of the “why” behind fussy eating and to eventually spearhead research in this area.