Thursday, 18 June 2015

Teenager at home

Do you have a teenager in the household? We are about to for the 2nd time. 

Having a teenager in the household can be difficult for families. Young people may develop ideas, beliefs and even some values that are really different to those of their parents. Even though this is part of the normal process of moving towards their independence, parents with teenagers may struggle with how much independence they should be allowed and at what age this is to happen.

Having been through the teen process once already I was thinking that I had more of an idea than most. Not true. Each child is so different that you can't apply one set of rules for one and expect that it will easily apply to their sibling. There is no cure-all for this. Each young person is an individual and needs different advice and different levels of advice as maturity progresses.

The big thing that I would like to stress is that communication is vital with teenagers.
Keeping the lines open is the key. It is different to communicating with younger children and can cause conflict and stress if handled badly. Following some simple tips may help to improve communication with your teenager.

I suggest that you always seek professional advice if you are concerned about your family members at any time, this includes your relationship with your teen. Issues that can affect communication with teenagers.

Do however remember that there are always bumps along the way.

Being an adolescent means rapid changes. These changes can be difficult for the rest of the family as well, especially the parents. Letting go can be difficult, however as parents we need to recognise that: A child’s job is to grow up and become an independent and hopefully sensible and mature adult.
As a parent, you need to help young people through this process. Try making decisions together.
Try to discussing the issues to reach an outcome that is acceptable to both you and your teenager.

Remember that a youth point of view may differ to yours. Differences might occur when they take up different activites that you may not understand or even like. Try to see this with the perspective that they are learning to be their own person, learning to be independant from you. This is a good thing. You will always feel responsible for your child’s wellbeing and safety, no matter how old they are. When children reach their teenage years, they start to make their own decisions. Sometimes they make the wrong ones. It is really important to try to be supportive and not critical. They will (hopefully!) learn valuable lessons from their mistakes.

Obviously they still need guidance, as a parent there are times when you will need to step in and remind them of this. Hopefully by the time this is needed you will have already formed a respectful relationship where the communication is (most of the time) a two-way street. During this time of constant change, both parents and young people need to take time to care for themselves. That can include going to their rooms. There is nothing wrong with either your teen or yourself needing some "me" time. Just as long as there is also so family time including the teenager.

You need to show you value your teenager and their uniqueness – show them your unconditional love. Remember that conflict is inevitable when people live together.

As your teenager grows to have some differences with you there is bound to be the occasional clash. Clashing with your teenager is normal and to be expected. Do be careful not to undermine the relationship between you and your teenager.

Try not to be too negative, harsh or judgmental. After all you too were a teenager once.

Here are some suggestions to help you to keep the lines of communication open:
  • Make time to spend with your teenager. Chatting before bed or while you are eating a meal together can lead to some great opporunities to share information. 
  • Try to listen more than you speak. You will find that this is a really important communication skill with teenagers, as they quite often want to share but will shut down if you don't give them the time to open up. 
  • Make time to spend together – teenagers are often busy with school, friends and other interests, but you can have a conversation with them over breakfast and dinner. Offer to take them to or pick them up from places; this will provide other opportunities for conversations. 
  • Try and have some fun times with your teen. Growing up can be a serious time, ensuring that you teenager laughs with you will help you to build your relationship for when the times get tough. 
  • Take the time to listen to their music, watch their television shows with them and go along to their sports practice sessions. A parent who is a regular part of the life of a teenager is more likely to be the one they turn to when they need someone. Continue to take an active interest in their life. 
  • Encouraging your teenager with the words "I love you" may seem obvious, but a loving parent is what a teenager needs. Teenagers handle crisis times in their life, a lot more confidently, when they know that they are loved. Don't be afraid to tell them often. 
  • Demonstrate your love using whatever physical contact they are comfortable with. 
  • Celebrate their achievements, forgive their mistakes, listen to them when they have a problem and show interest in how they plan to solve it. 
  • Support them in their problem solving. Feeling included and special is vital for every young person’s sense of positive self-esteem. 

Something that I have seen a lot of parents struggle with is the sense of rejection by their young adult. I have felt this myself and would encourage you not to try and make them feel guilty about it.
They still love you, it's just that sometimes there are other priorities and quite often they will simply expect you to understand. Be the 'grown-up' and show them that you do understand.

Another thing that I believe in is apologising when I am wrong. A lot of parents won't do that and it doesn't set a good example to your teenager. You expect them to apologise to you, give them the same respect.

You can change negative communication into positive communication.
Suggestions include: Select what is important to argue over. A basic guideline is that safety issues, like not getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking, are always worth fighting over. I know a lot of parents may differ in opinion with me over this idea, but things like cleaning up the messy bedroom might be best to ignore – just keep the door shut! Offer constructive criticism.

Acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. They will know themselves when they have got it wrong and don’t need to be reminded by you.

Give your teenagers the right to more freedom once they start showing that they can behave as a responsible person. I have in the past explained to my teenager that there is a trust bucket, when the bucket has been knocked over and emptied it will need to be refilled and this may take time.

It is often a good idea to include them in the decision making process when it comes to house rules. Be a bit flexible and let them have a say. Make sure that you explain some of the stricter rules to them. Things like who they can and can't get a ride in a car with. Why they can't get in a car when a friend has had some alcohol. Why they are not allowed to go to a party when the parents are not home.

Don't always be so quick to say "no" to your teenagers request. Think about it first and if you do say "no" it is a good idea to explain why. Most reasonable teenagers will understand, even if they don't let on to you that they do.

If you become worried about your teenager and you feel that there may be an issue that they are having in their lives that needs professional help, then the following places might be a good place to start:

Family relationship advice line -

Headspace - National Youth Mental Health Foundation -


Simply start with your local Doctor. They will know where to start looking for help.

Good luck with your teenager. We all need a little luck, as long as we manage the rest as we go.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Why won't my son read to me?

My husband and I are avid readers. We both always have been and always will be.

We have read to both our boys since they were old enough to listen. We gave them picture books made of thick cardboard, explaining pictures and words. They both had plastic bath books to read, suck on and chew on as they felt like in the bath. Both boys were encouraged with role playing about the books that we were reading to them, using teddy bears and other soft toys to represent characters in the book. Both boys had several books read to them in bed each evening before going to sleep. Even when they were reading books themselves we used to read to them.

Reading is great if someone else is doing it.

As our oldest started school he discovered that reading was fun. For a while. Then he stopped wanting to read aloud to us. According to him he loved us reading to him, but wasn't so keen to read back to us. So through the first few years of school we tried so many different techniques. I must admit we even resorted to bribing him. Of course that didn't work. 

As parents we worried that we hadn't been a good enough role model for reading. So we made time each evening to sit with him and just read. He could read quietly with us. Of course we were worried that he wasn't reading correctly because we couldn't hear him pronouncing the words. So we went to see his teacher. Encouraged that he was reading aloud at school, and doing very well at it we stopped worrying quite so much. 

Then came the note home from the teacher in year 2. This note asked if we could come and see her about reading issues our boy was having. Ah ha we thought. That's it. He must be having been struggling with reading and feeling embarrassed when reading out to us. According to the teacher our boy just seemed to be having reading. No explanation as to why. Helpful. Nope!. So we got his eyes checked, maybe he was having trouble with his eyes. 

We bought books. Books about dinosaurs, books on planes and even books about soccer. None of these seemed to do the trick. During his primary years he read what he had needed to for school and not much more really. Then one day we walked into his room and he was sitting on the bed reading a book to his little brother. Hallelujah! I quickly rushed back with the camera and took a photo. (See below...)

My oldest reading to his little brother.
When I asked him why he was reading to his brother he told me that reading is important so his little brother needed to know this.
So maybe we hadn't wasted our time. 
I remember always reading to my little brother.
Interesting enough was the fact that in high school he started reading books cover to cover all by himself. Books of his choice, still they were real books with real words and very few pictures.
For his 21st Birthday his little brother gave him the entire series of Game of Thrones books. Interesting how things change with age.

Should we have worried? 
“Worried Word Displays Afraid Troubled Or Concerned” by Stuart Miles

According to the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood 'Reading to children at age 4-5 every day has a significant positive effect on their reading skills and cognitive skills (i.e., language and literacy, numeracy and cognition) later in life.' This information comes from a research paper by the University of Melbourne. If you want to read this Click Here.

There is an organisational website called RIF (Reading is Fundamental) and on this site is an article about kids who can read but simply don't.  In this article it lists Why some kids don't like to read and What won't work when encouraging them. Most parents of kids that don't read probably try a number of different methods for getting their kids to read. If you are interested Click Here to read the article. 

There is also a list of 20 ways to encourage kids to read. I think over time my husband and I tried all of these. 

In the end he reads. Did he go to University? No. He did end up being a fully qualified trades person who topped his year in study and is now considering putting himself through Uni in a few years time with his trade to help him. 

My thoughts are that at the time the worry was worth is. In the end everything we did seemed to work, it just took it's time. 

Reading to a dog?

This is an interesting idea starting up in schools in Tasmania Australia. School children are reading to dogs instead of adults or other children and it seems to be taking away some of their fears of reading aloud.

Just a note that our youngest is an avid reader. So we are at least a little more worry free this time around. Phew!

“School Boy” by digitalart

What books are a favourite with your children?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Stewed Plums

Plums, plums, plums

So we have a loaded up plum tree out in the backyard. What are we going to do with all of these plums this year? We decided we really needed to pick the plums before they all landed on the ground and the dog ate them. Not good for him I know, but as a golden retriever Hercules is a bit of a pig when it comes to any form of food on the ground. Especially something as sweet as plums.

We had a bit of a debate. Should we try and make jam? To be honest I have never tried this. So we looked up some jam recipes. Looked easy enough I thought. 

Well no that idea went down like a lead balloon. My husband thought it would be too messy. Don't get me started on how he loves to clean in the kitchen. A good thing I hear you say. Well not always. Trouble is I'm a bit of a messy cook. I am learning not to make so much mess. After all of these years of marriage I have learned to put away as I go, a trait that makes my husband a happier person to be around. So I figure it is worth the effort.

So back to the plums. 

We decided to stew the plums. Yum I thought. So my husband went out and picked some. Some huh, 7 kg of plums as it turns out. As you can see by the picture below there are still plenty left on the tree.

Time to cook the plums
Plenty of plums left on the tree.
I looked up lots of recipes on how to stew plums. I've done it before but thought it might be nice to see how others did it. In the meantime my husband started removing the stones/seeds. I ended up helping as this was going to be a long job. I found a great recipe and showed it to my husband. Jamie Oliver, that seemed like the best place to start. Interested? Nope so we just did our own thing. Actually my husband did his own thing. He wanted to cook them himself.

Cooked Plums in a large saucepan
7kg of plums in there.

How much sugar? 

Well according to Jamie it is 2 heaped teaspoons per 500g of fruit. As I started measuring out the sugar hubby decided that what was left in the bottom of the large sugar container was enough. "Plenty here" he said and dumped it in. Oh well I guess we could taste as we go.

How much water? 

So again I looked to Jamie for inspiration. The answer was 2 tablespoons of water per 500g. "I've boiled the jug, so I'll just put the whole jug in". was what my husband said. So in went one jug full of water, and then another.

How long to cook it for?

Until it looks and tastes cooked I said. "OK". 

The result?

Well the result was lovely. Maybe a bit too much water, we had to siphon some off at the end. However as you can see I even had some on my porridge this morning.

Stewed plums on porridge.

Now to figure out what to do with those left on the tree ...

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I'm not tired!

I don't want to go to bed!

Children need sleep. How do I know this? Well I can do some research and find out that children need down time, they need to rewire their brain and they need sleep for their bodies to grow.

On The Valley Sleep Center website where it tells you that
"The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. The damaging effects of sleep deprivation are evident everywhere you look.  For children the stakes are even higher, the consequences more dire and farther reaching." It then goes on to list 10 reasons that children need sleep:
1.      It Gives Their Body a Break
2.      It Lets Their Brain De-clutter
3.      It Helps Regulate Emotions
4.      It Helps Them Grow
5.      It Builds Up Their Resistance
6.      It Protects Their Mental Health
7.      It Helps Them Make and Keep Friends
8.      It Helps Them Stay Healthy
9.      It Lets Them Learn
10.    It Gives Them Energy
For more information on this list click here

On an Australian parenting website it reminds us that:
"Toddlers need 10-12 hours sleep a night. Most of them can do with an hour or two in the middle of the day as well." Along with lots of info about bedtime routines.

On the WebMD website about children's health it explains about good sound sleep for your child. How "sleep ensures he or she will have a sound foundation for proper mind and body development".

“Children's Book And Character Shows Reading For Kids” by Stuart Miles
Reading to and with Chldren can be a useful way to get them to bed.

However being a parent means that I have a much simpler way of telling that children need to go to sleep. This is because not only do they get tired and grumpy without it, so do I.

Setting a bedtime routine is really important. I have tried to be strict enough that they follow the rules, with enough flexibility to allow for holidays and nights out. This is really difficult. One of the rules of thumb I have always followed is to figure out if it is best for the child or for me. Having a regular, and decent hour, bedtime is a rule that is best for all members of the household.

One of the first things I learned about getting children who can talk, into bed either in the day or at night is don't argue over bedtime. That is just a formula that ends in tears for all involved. I remember the first time my oldest decided that he no longer needed a day sleep.
"Why do I have to go to sleep?" he asked. My answer was "because you are tired". Of course the response was "no I'm not". Then I tried to reason with "you must be, we just spent the last 2 hours running around the park, playing on swings, climbing up equipment and having races", to which the yawned response was "nope". End of discussion as far as he was concerned. Great so what now? Well I did let him stay up and what happened? You guessed it, he collapsed in a heap on the floor in the middle of playing with his toys right before I served dinner.

Did I consciously allow that to happen again? Not on your life. Naturally there where times when it did happen, however each time I knew what I was in for. From then on I used to insist on at least a time of laying down, with many of these ending up in sleep. Yay!

As children get older. They start to struggle against bedtime. Part of it is pushing the boundaries. As they age bedtime gets pushed to be later and later in the night. The most difficult thing to do is to keep to the bedtime that you have set. Being strict about bedtime is hard! Sometimes you end up moving your whole routine around so that you can get them into bed at the right time.
“Boy Lying And Rubbing His Eyes” by Ambro
I'm not tired!

There is some great info on the Empowering Parents website. Information for parents of both young and older children. On this site it says: "As every parent knows, fights over bedtime can be one of the biggest power struggles you’ll have with your child, whether they’re five or fifteen. 
The truth is, many kids just don’t want to go to bed at night. For most of them, I think it’s because they’re afraid they’re going to miss something." Yes, yes and yes.
Realize that the problem-solving skills of younger kids are less evolved; they often have problems with impulsivity and frustration control. 
If going to bed is frustrating for them, it’s likely that their behavior is going to escalate into an unpleasant situation." Yep!
And this - "FOR OLDER KIDS
Take the Electronics out of the Bedroom 
Check in on Your Kids before Lights out". A big tick on that one.

I love my boys and will do everything I can to give them a happy life. But when it comes to going to bed you better believe that it's one of the rules I really try not to break.

Every household is different and every child is different. If you find that you or your kids are struggling with anything here in Australia there is always Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Parentline - click here for the different phone numbers for each state.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A healthy breakfast for children

Eating breakfast is the first meal of the day and also said to be the most important. 

And it is!

While adults need to eat breakfast each day to set them up for a productive and energy filled day, children need it even more. Children have growing bodies and developing brains and need regular refueling often, from food. When children skip breakfast, they don't get what they need to be at their best.

Eating a nutritious and wholesome morning meal can save you time in the long run. By recharging both the brain and the body, you'll be more efficient in just about everything you do. Children need this every single day.

So what is the best breakfast to feed your family, especially the children in the family? There are so many sites about what to eat and more about what not to eat, that quite simply it becomes overwhelming if you start trying to do research on the internet.

As a parent my biggest issue is making sure that my family, especially the younger members, don't have sugar filled cereals. When my children have friends come to stay, so many of them ask for the sugary cereals and are surprised when we don't have these.

One of the sites I really like for helpful information on children in general is When looking for great breakfast ideas for kids I found this information in the following article:

"Ideally you should be looking to get your kids to eat around 20 percent of their daily calories at the breakfast table."

Admittedly this article appears to be written by a company that makes breakfast cereals, however it is still a good reminder that we need to be careful when preparing breakfast for children.

Now there are lots of sites where you can find "easy to make breakfasts for children". Something I have found is that some of these breakfasts can not only take time, but seem like they'd be a great idea for a treat but not an everyday meal.

The most common foods I found to be healthy and easy were eggs, muffins, pancakes and shakes.

“A Boiled Egg In A Cup” by Mister GC
Boiled egg

 “Happy Kid Holding A Glass Of Milk” by photostock
Glass of milk

One of my favourite breakfasts to make that my entire family enjoy is French Toast. That is so easy to make and fun to cook. I let our youngest help to cook this. He loves the fact that it is messy (dipping the bread in the egg) and quick to cook.

“French Toast For Breakfast” by foto76
French Toast
No matter what you end up feeding your children for breakfast it needs to be something that will help them to be happier, healthier and stronger young people.

So what's for breakfast tomorrow?

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Parenting in the school holidays

I'm bored! The catch cry of the school holidays.
In the past holidays I have had to send my kids to vacation care. I found that there are pros and cons to doing this. Of course there are days when the kids simply don't want to go. On those days of course I found myself always questioning whether I was being a 'horrible' parent or not. More often than not though they get to do some fun stuff with lots of other kids their age, coming home quite happy after a full day of activity.

So a day of feeling guilty because you are hard at work and they are getting to play the day away. Does this make sense? Doesn't seem to. After speaking with a number of different parents with many differing parenting styles it does however seem to be a part of the joys of parenting. I have often wondered why it is that I feel guilty when leaving my kids in the care of others. It seems that this is something often referred to as 'mother guilt'. There are lots of places on the internet with information on this, including the blog post Managing feelings of mother guilt here on the site.

I have wondered if this makes me an 'over protective parent'. Again there are loads of sites with information, however it seems like a thin line to tread. Do you find that you are having too much input into your kids lives? Maybe you feel it is not enough and they feel it is too much. This can be a struggle as well. I have read recently about a 52 year old mother in France who dressed up as her 19 year old daughter and tried to take her place for the Baccalaureate English exam. This is a very difficult exam. However to try and prevent her daughter from failing she was willing to go to these extremes. Would you go to extremes like this to stop your kids from failing? As much as I love my kids I know that they have to have a few fails before they can get their successes.

So now that I work from home there is no need for vacation care. Does this make things easier? You'd think so wouldn't you. But starting this week there has been the dreaded cry of boredom. To be fair because my boys are so far apart, they don't get to spend a lot of time together. At times it feels as if I have 2 'only' children. The biggest thing that I notice is that kids love to spend time with others their own age. So reality is making this happen can take a bit of  social organising. However once that skill is in hand and you are organsing these 'play dates' and 'sleep overs' all in all it helps you to remember that having your kids happy is what counts.

Thank goodness for great websites like I found some great activities here like DIY Bubbles and Melted Crayon Art. So on the odd days when we can't organise the catch up with the cousins or friends there are some great suggestions for keeping young minds busy.

 All in all I think that whatever you try to do it will work out, on the condition that you have the safety and happiness of the child in mind.

When does school start again?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

My parenting style. What's that?

Do you get confused about your parenting style?

How often do you feel like you are not sure of what you are doing as a parent? For me it is a regular occurrence.  I often question if I am doing the right thing. Am I turning out children who will become fun loving, happy and healthy adults?

I find that my style for parenting does not always match with what my husband does. So what do I do? Naturally all of the parenting books you read say that you must consult and come up with a mutually acceptable parenting plan? Easier said than done? You bet!

How is this possible when you have grown up in two completely different households with extremely different parents? Well there must be some common ground or you wouldn't have been together in the first place I guess. This is a struggle that my husband and I often stumble over. We are a typical case of opposites attracting, this sometimes makes it tricky to come to an agreeable decision.

Our boys are aged 21 years and 12 years old. You'd think by now that we could agree on everything. Nope not really.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and he is a good person. We struggle a little with the fact that our oldest is just like me and our youngest is a lot like him. I question things about parenting. Should we be just as strict on the youngest as we were on the oldest? Should we try a different method of parenting? Not that we are unhappy about the way the oldest child turned out, but there are 9 years between them and times have changed.

Recently I had my mother-in-law tell me how she used to think I was too hard on my children. However as it turns out, according to her our boys are the only decently behaved kids in the family. I had to hide a smirk and just nodded and smiled. As the quote goes from the Madagascar film "Smile and wave boys, smile and wave".

I remember my Dad sitting on the end of my hospital bed just a few days after my oldest was born. He turned to me and said "now remember, kids don't come with a training manual". My response was a simple.."why not?". It was about then that I started to get an inkling about how tough being a Mum might really be. Little did I know the joys and sorrows that parenting involves.

In the end I don't think there is necessarily a right or a wrong way of parenting. Especially when we are all different and so are our children. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all the same. However this doesn't make the job of being a parent any easier.

No matter what I do or how I try my kids will turn out to be who they want to be. And in the end I believe that this is a good thing.

Still, hopefully a little guidance from Mum can't hurt too much. I hope not because they get plenty of it.  I love being a parent and would not give it up for the world.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I look forward to sharing some of these highs and lows from the perspective of a parent who doesn't have babies anymore, just boys growing into men!

I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.