Trauma: what it is and helping your child

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Trauma is prevalent in human culture, with the roots usually lying in childhood. Here we look at what trauma is and some approaches for working with young people. This includes the holistic work done by the charity Body and Soul.

Trauma: what it is and supporting your child

In this blog we examine what trauma is and how to work with young people who may have experienced it. We also get excellent insight of a holistic approach used by Body & Soul Charity by the Assistant Director Jed March. This interview is lower down on the page and covers the restorative work that this charity is doing. 

Nobody wishes to think of a child going through something traumatic. Such experiences are deeply destabilising, can have a devastating impact on the child’s psychological and physical health, and may also take years to recover from. It can be due to unforeseen events, such as the death of a parent or sibling, or may be due to abuse in the home or chronic neglect.

Trauma in childhood is sometimes called complex trauma, childhood trauma, or developmental trauma, and it is important that once it is identified, it is handled correctly to help your child get the best outcome and to assist in their recovery. We will first share a bit more about definitions of trauma and how it can appear.

What is trauma?

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5, or the DSM 5, trauma can be described as:

But trauma can also be the result of being exposed to short-term or long-term stressors, where the threat of violence, sexual violence, abuse, or neglect is common. 

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can increase the risk of a child becoming traumatised as they get older.

Symptoms of trauma

Spotting trauma in a child is tough, as there tends to be a lot of secrecy around it, and it can be hard to differentiate from conditions like autism spectrum condition or ASC. This does not mean that children who have a diagnosis of ASC have been traumatised and, similarly, children who show signs of trauma may not have ASC.

Symptoms of trauma in children can include:

How to talk to your child about trauma

It can be hard to talk to children about their trauma. However, it is also not something that can, nor should, be ignored.

Explain to your child that it is completely normal that they have both physiological and psychological responses due to what they have been through. You can help them use a set of words to describe how they are feeling, such as foggy, sacred, anxious, or unsettled. In relation to the bodily sensations, you can ask them where they are feeling unwell. Most children who have been through trauma will experience headaches, migraines, upset tummies and even fast heart rates due to anxiety. So, ask them if it is their chest, head or tummy causing them to feel unwell. 

Be prepared that there may be times when your child may not be able to communicate why/how they are feeling unwell due to multiple symptoms hitting them at once. Be patient; take them somewhere safe and calm until they are better able to articulate their emotions.

Talking to your child
Patience and understanding is key for talking to children who have experienced trauma.

Strategies to help a child who has been through trauma

Each child who has been through trauma will have different things that can help them to feel safe and calm. However, there are some ways that you can help them better regulate their emotions so they feel more in control when they do become unwell.

Identify triggers

Children who have been traumatised will have triggers. This may be something like enclosed spaces or loud noises. Identifying these and talking them through can help your child feel more in control, and then, with the help of school staff and therapists, they can become better at managing their responses to them.

Routine

A child who has been traumatised can be helped with a simple routine. This will allow them to feel safe in their surroundings. Aim to set a time for breakfast, lunch, dinner, bath time, bedtime, and so on. Place the routine somewhere accessible, like the kitchen fridge or in their bedroom. Do not change or alter it without discussing it with them.

Build trust

Set aside time each day to talk to your child. This can be done via toys, doing puzzles, or even looking at bugs in your garden. These small things accumulate each day and will help them trust you. Trust is crucial for helping children overcome trauma and to feel safe in themselves and the world.

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Trust is a process, but is instrumental for effective communication.

Calmness is key

You will need to make the home environment as calm as possible. No loud noises and no changes in the routine. Try to keep the level of noise in the home down, especially at night, as sudden loud noises can inadvertently cause a child who is traumatised to become scared.

Self-manage

A child who has been through trauma may lash out and have meltdowns. This is a normal way for them to manage their emotions and should be expected.

As an adult, you should never shout at them, smack them, or punish them for this. This will heighten their fear and potentially reverse the progress that they have made in managing their trauma. If you feel yourself becoming angry, remove yourself from the situation if you need to, and seek support / someone to talk to, to help you better manage your emotions. You are only human, and this can be a very challenging situation to handle.

Promote a healthy lifestyle

A person who has been through trauma is more likely to struggle with levels of high anxiety due to the learned response to the events. So, if you are aiming to help a child manage their trauma, you need to promote a healthy lifestyle to get rid of some of that excess energy. 

Here are some ways to do this:

An approach to trauma: Body and Soul Charity

One of the Bright Heart directors, Ryan Stevenson, has been a volunteer therapist at this charity for 12 years. He has witnessed the impact that this charity is making, from its group of dedicated staff and volunteers. 

This interview covers the important work that this charity is doing and is very informative as to a holistic approach that looks at the whole child and their community setting.

For more information, please get in touch with the charity here.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. Bright Heart tutors are experienced supporting children who have experienced trauma. 


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Diagnosing special educational needs (SEN) in children

Diagnosing special educational needs (SEN) in children

        

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It can be initially challenging to diagnose an SEN, as well as for parents to receive this news. However, a diagnosis should be seen in a positive light as it can help you understand your child better and make adjustments for them to be happier.

Diagnosing special educational needs (SEN) in children

Special educational needs (SEN) are not always easy to identify. SEN is spotted early on in some children, but in others, it might not be diagnosed until they are older. A later diagnosis could be picked up if a child has experienced problems in their personal or academic lives.

What makes a diagnosis difficult is that many of the characteristics of SEN can be put down to normal childhood because children develop at different rates. In general, parents tend to be the first person to spot any changes or differences in their children.

If you suspect your child might have SEN, this blog post is here to help. Here, we will cover what SEN is, how it is identified, and the steps you can take to get a diagnosis so you can help your child get the most out of education.

What are special educational needs?

Special educational needs can affect a young person’s ability to learn. A child has an SEN if they have a disability or learning problem that can make it more difficult for them to learn than other children of the same age.

If an SEN is spotted early on, children can receive additional support, and provisions can be made so they are not limited in any way.

Some signs of SEN in children include difficulties and frustration in the following:

Some examples of SEN are:

This is not an exhaustive list.

How are special educational needs identified in children?

Every child is different and will develop at a different pace. Not every child with the above characteristics will have SEN.

Early years settings like nurseries and schools have a responsibility to spot SEN. Healthcare professionals can also identify it. Your child might have special educational needs if they have a mental or physical impairment – including a learning difficulty, mental health issues and physical disability – that makes it harder for them to learn.

If a child has SEN, they might need extra help depending on their individual needs in the following areas:

Some children may only need additional support for a short time when at school, and others might need help throughout their school lives.

Diagnosing special educational needs (SEN) in children
A child with sensory processing challenges.

What steps can I take if I think my child has SEN?

If you are worried about your child’s behaviour or development, there are some steps you can take. Depending on what stage your child is at, you might wish to speak to your GP or the local council Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Service for advice about SEN and referral for assessment.

If your child is in school or nursery, it is advised that parents follow the steps below to voice their concerns:

Step 1: Speak to the teacher

Raise your concerns with the class teacher as early as you can. In this meeting, you can tell them how your child is coping and provide examples of where you believe they are struggling. The teacher may wish to share anything they have noticed and make suggestions for the support available to move forward.

Step 2: Meet with the Senco

Every school has a SEN Coordinator (SENCo) who ensures that special needs provisions are met. If you or the school is concerned about the progress your child is making, then a meeting with the SENCo will be arranged.

You can talk about whether the SENCo feels your child has SEN and the support the school can provide in response. Take note of everything discussed and agreed upon in the meeting so you can keep track of your child’s progress. If it is necessary, you can request that the school arrange assessments from specialists like a Speech and Language Therapist or an Educational Psychologist. The support your child receives at school should be regularly reviewed in line with their progress.

Meeting the Senco
Meeting the SENCo should be a priority.

Step 3: Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment

If your child is not progressing with additional SEN support through their school, you can apply to the local authority for an Education, Health and Care needs assessment. This application can be made by yourself or the school.

If the school does not agree to a further assessment, you can go private with an educational psychologist report, which costs around £500.

In the application, you will need to:

The local authority will assess your child to see if they have or may have SEN and outline what provision may need to be taken.

The assessment will determine if your child needs extra provision through an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). If an ECHP is issued, it will outline the budget for the additional support provided.

If an EHCP isn’t granted, you can appeal it.

How long does the process take?

Special educational needs (SEN) can be diagnosed at any time. Some children are diagnosed when they are born, while others are diagnosed at school. For some, it could be years before diagnosis, and others may never get one. If you make a formal request for assessment, the Education Authority must make a decision within six weeks.

Are there different processes for diagnosing different special educational needs?

Diagnosis for SEN usually starts with a referral from the school or your GP. After this, the above steps are taken. For some diagnoses it can be helpful to talk to SEN specialists in that particular area, however, this is only after seeing an educational psychologist.

It can take time to adjust to a SEN diagnosis. However, it is essential to ensure your child gets the help and support they need to get the most out of their education. A diagnosis should be looked at in a positive light as it can help you to understand your child’s condition better and celebrate the progress they make towards their goal and adjusting to their diagnosis. With the proper diagnosis and support in place, you can watch your child’s motivation and confidence around school grow.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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Body image and self-esteem

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A poor perception of body image in teenagers is an issue for mental health and well-being. We look at some behaviour for parents to be mindful of and provide tips to help improve self esteem.

Body image and self-esteem

Teenagers have always struggled with their body image. Puberty and external influences can lead to self-esteem issues and poor mental health. The situation is becoming more acute as shown in a recent survey by Stem4, a youth mental health charity. In November 2022, Stem4 surveyed 1,024 teenagers. The results raised concerns about the impact of social media sites such as Tiktok on self-esteem and body image. The survey found that three out of four children as young as 12 dislike their bodies and are embarrassed by their appearance. Eight in 10 young people aged 18 to 21 disclosed they are self-conscious and unhappy with the way they look. 

The research cites social media as the leading cause of poor body image and low self-esteem. Teenagers admitted they feel pressured to live up to the unobtainable appearance of influencers. It is also concerning to see that nearly half of those questioned admitted to excessive exercise or self-harm. The full report from Dr Nihara Krause, consultant clinical psychologist and founder of Stem4, is available here.  Dr Krause demands that social media companies take action. She wants these platforms to change their algorithms. She is concerned about the nature of the content young people see online.

It is clear that our society relentlessly focuses on appearance. How can parents discuss these topics without upsetting their children?

Teenager looking in mirror of a vehicle
Puberty can be a stressful time for teenagers and body image; this can be worsened by social media.

How do I know if my child has body image concerns?

Teenagers are often very private and hide their worries. If your child is not vocal about their feelings, other indicators of body image worries could be that they:

It is increasingly common for teenagers to become obsessed with exercise and healthy eating. Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with eating “pure” food. It can often be masked with a sudden commitment to healthy eating, for example becoming a vegan. Orthorexia is used to cope with negative thoughts or to feel in control. People who use food in this way might feel anxious or guilty if they eat food they consider to be unhealthy. Not all young people who eat healthily are orthorexic. It can be a positive step if a young person makes changes to their diet. Keep an eye on the situation and if you feel that it is becoming an obsession seek support.

The media has traditionally focussed on the effect of social media on teenage girls. Recent research shows that the prevalence of muscular male bodies on social media has a toxic effect on the self-esteem of young men. Boys compete on TikTok to be “buff” leading to anxiety, stress and body dysmorphia. A recent New York Times article reports that so-called bigorexia, which includes an excessive focus on protein diets and intense muscle-building goals, has hit concerning levels. If your child is developing an unhealthy relationship or obsession with exercise, help them to establish some boundaries. Limit the time they work out each day or encourage less intense activities.

teenagers exercising
Parents should also be mindful of obsessive exercise with teenagers.

What can I do to help my child improve their self-esteem?

If your child talks negatively about themselves, keep the dialogue open. Practise active listening rather than dismissing their concerns. Let them know it’s normal for people to feel different emotions about their bodies and that most young people struggle with their appearance. Avoid focusing on their weight or body shape, especially around puberty, as this can have detrimental effects. Suggest things you can do together to make a positive change. If they are worried about their weight, offer to exercise with them for example walking, jogging or even an activity like yoga.

If your children spend too much time online following unhealthy role models, limit their screen time and ensure they do other activities to support healthy connections. Suggest positive accounts to follow, such as @s0cialmediavsreality. This account compares real images to their filtered posts.

If your child is overeating, then decide as a family to choose healthier options. Don’t buy junk food or snacks. Treats should be an exception rather than a rule. Cut out fizzy drinks and make jugs of water filled with fresh limes or lemons instead. Involve your children in the cooking process and let them pick out recipes to cook together at the weekend.

Black teenager smiling
Encourage your children to be kind to themselves.

3 ways to promote positive self-esteem:

  1. To combat negative self-talk, remind your children that they would never describe a friend that way. Encourage your child to be kind and respect themselves.
  2. Focus and praise non-appearance-based qualities in others so that they can recognise and value their own. For example, highlight when someone goes out of their way to help someone else.
  3. We can all lose perspective at times. Remind your child that most people are so busy worrying about themselves that they don’t notice as much as you might think.

Small changes can make a big difference…

A haircut or a new skincare regime can make us feel more confident. Talk to your child about the parts of their image they are worried about and see what healthy steps they can take to address them. For example, if your teenager is struggling with acne do not ignore it to avoid offending them, offer to take them to the doctor to seek support. Clothes make a big difference too. If we wear outfits we like and feel comfortable with, we feel more confident. Take your child shopping and find styles that suit their shape.

Adolescents are heavily influenced by their peers. Help your child find supportive friends who don’t put them down. If you are concerned that they are being bullied online or in a toxic friendship talk to them about it or seek advice from their school.

Parents need to model body confidence. Above all, avoid criticising your appearance in front of your children. If we feel shame about our bodies, our children will pick up on this. If you are worried about your weight and need to improve your health use this as a way to demonstrate healthy weight loss to your children. Discuss how you feel with your children and focus on improving your health as the main motivation rather than appearance. Avoid fad diets or restrictive eating; we cannot expect our children to rise above societal pressures and feel confident in themselves if we fall into the same traps. 

If you are concerned there is lots of support available online. Stem4 has developed a new app called Worth Warrior. Worth Warrior helps young people overcome negative body image and low self-worth.

Other resources

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their body image or self-esteem. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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Children’s mental health and emotional literacy

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Children’s Mental Health Week is an important event to bring attention to children’s well-being. We also look what can be done to improve emotional literacy and promote positive mental health.

Children's mental health and emotional literacy

The mental health of young people comes to the fore at the start of February with Children’s Mental Health Week, organised by Place2Be. They estimate that 1 in 6 children today have a mental health need. That is an increase from 1 in 8 in 2019. Prevention, early identification and support are essential for young people. Research shows that more than half of all adult mental health problems start before 14 years old.

People often consider mental health to be low mood, anxiety and depression. Instead, we should see it as enhancing our capacity to cope with and enjoy life. We should all develop and nurture a sense of positive mental health. Learning how to deal with life’s stressors and creating a sense of self-esteem and self-control is vital.

smiling child
Mental health is also about enhancing our capacity as humans.

Emotional literacy and emotional intelligence

Emotional literacy helps us recognise our feelings. Emotional intelligence helps us understand, use, and manage them positively to relieve stress, communicate well and empathise with others. It allows us to:

Parents should model emotional literacy and intelligence. Talk to your children about your feelings. For example, describe how you’re feeling.

“Just to let you know, I’m on a bit of a short fuse today as work is very stressful at the moment. I’m sorry that I might not be as patient as normal. I’d appreciate it if you get ready quickly so we can leave the house on time.”

Describing times where you felt hurt, ashamed or angry teaches children that everyone has negative emotions. It shows them that these emotions are natural. 

To promote emotional literacy, ask “How are you feeling?” instead of “How are you doing?” Encourage children to reflect on things that annoy or anger them. Ask them how they can handle the situation differently next time.

Dad talks with son
Parents can model emotional literacy by talking about their feelings to their children.

Five ways to promote positive mental health

1. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is at the centre of emotional intelligence. It’s the ability to understand your emotions. We must measure our strengths and weaknesses honestly and remain open to strategies that can help us improve.

What can I do to help my child improve their self-awareness?

People who practise mindfulness meditation report increased self-awareness. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a few minutes every day. There are many guided meditations that you can find online. You can also do some breathing exercises like those recommended by the NHS.

2. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is being able to control your feelings and impulses. It helps us to think before we act.

What can I do to help my child improve their self-regulation?

Set aside time at the end of the day. Ask your children to pay attention to their mood. Encourage your children to describe situations that upset them. Discuss calming strategies, such as breathing exercises, temporal distancing or positive self-talk.

Temporal distancing gives us time or space to distance ourselves from the current situation. For example, if your child is very nervous about a test at school, ask them to consider how they think they’ll feel about it in six months. Will it seem as important then? Doing this can help them gain perspective and feel less nervous about the situation.

Help your children use cognitive reappraisal. They can change negative thinking if they’re aware of their thought patterns.

Catastrophising involves taking something negative and blowing it out of proportion. All-or-nothing thinking involves seeing things as only good or bad. If your child tells you they find something impossible, say, ‘That sounds very challenging. Is there any other way to look at this situation?’

You might also occasionally notice your own distortions and share them.

3. Delayed Gratification and Motivation

This is when we defer gratification to achieve greater results. It enhances productivity, initiative and enjoyment of challenges.

Phone notifications, social media, setbacks, and boredom can distract us. Pressure and stress can also harm our motivation and capacity to defer gratification to achieve a greater goal.

What can I do to help motivate my child?

When studying at home, keep devices in the kitchen and allow children to check them once an hour. Incentivise exercise, organisation, or revision by creating rewards charts and goals. If they’re working towards a meaningful goal, it increases motivation and productivity.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognise and understand the feelings, views and needs of others. It’s being able to put yourself alongside another to understand their experience.

Active listening plays a key part in empathy. Many people believe they’re good listeners, but the reality is often different. When we share a problem, we don’t usually want advice, reassurance or to hear about how someone else dealt with that issue. When we’re upset, we want someone to listen to our feelings and understand us.

Make sure to model active listening when talking to your children. Encourage them to listen to a friend or family member without trying to solve their problem. Instead, ask them how it might feel to be them.

I heart you
Encouraging talking about feelings can create a space for children.

Social Skills

The ability to work well as part of a team and recognise the value of relationships is a key factor for positive mental health.

What can I do to support social skills?

Encourage your children to take part in after-school clubs or team activities. Support a wide range of friendships and explain the benefits of healthy, positive relationships. Model your positive relationships and discuss how friends and family members have helped each other over the years.

There’s so much you can do at home to develop healthy coping strategies and build resilience in your children. Ask your child’s school for support if you worry about their mental health or want to find out how they discuss these issues in PSHE. Remember that good nutrition, sleep and exercise are also essential to healthy brain development and well-being.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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Navigating the summer holidays – tips for parents

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We look at how parents can support their children during the summer holidays and some key areas to be mindful of. 

Summer holidays & your child: tips for parents

We often presume families are excited about the end of term. However, six weeks off may be daunting for some of us. Parents and young people often struggle without the structure and support network of school.

Summer holidays also offer the opportunity for more freedom for teenagers. Many teens want more independence and want to attend festivals or concerts without their parents. The summer holidays are tricky to navigate; here are some tips to help keep your child on track so summer can be as rewarding as possible for everyone in the family.

summer holidays
Parents often have to navigate requests for more independence from teenagers.

Routine and diet

While all young people do better with structure, this is particularly true for children with SPLD as they are dependent on the predictability that school provides. Without routine young people are more prone to anxiety, behaviour issues and tantrums.

It is tempting to allow your children to decide their bedtime and what to eat during the holidays, but it is much better to set expectations and stick to them throughout the summer break. For example, you could let them go to bed and wake up slightly later than term time, but be consistent to avoid overtiredness and consequential emotional outbursts. For younger children, be sure to factor in some downtime each day so they can rest and relax away from the sun.

Summer holidays usually involve ice creams and restaurant visits; whilst this is great and something to be enjoyed as a family, we need to find a balance. Incorporate fruits and vegetables and plenty of water into their diet. Avoid fizzy drinks as too much sugar can lead to behaviour and sleep problems. Children can also be very picky and might not like the food the hotel has on offer, so stock up on non-perishable, nutritious snacks such as nuts to supplement
the meal times.

Children respond well to consistent responses in terms of praise and discipline. The summer holidays can be very testing for parents, but it is helpful to agree on rules as a family and outline the consequences for not adhering to them. Be consistent; implement the rules and reward good behaviour whenever possible. We must also recognise each child’s individual needs to set realistic expectations.

When older children want more freedom and independence, discuss with them what you think reasonable rules are. For example, suggest that they have to be home by 10 pm or you will pick them up from an event or party. If they want to stay over at a friend’s house and you do not know the friend very well, ask to speak to their parents or invite the friend to your house first. Make your home a safe and easy place to socialise. Make sure you give your children privacy so they feel comfortable being there with their friends. Do not interfere too much, but be consistent with your expectations. If children socialise at your home, you will have an insight into what they are doing.

Unfortunately, there are risks as children get older. Parents should talk to young people about healthy relationships, alcohol and drugs. Talk to Frank and Let’s Talk About It have resources to help parents navigate these potentially awkward conversations.

child on bed with laptop
Some structure and routine is still needed in holidays; this is best discussed with the family in the beginning.

Encourage your child to practice self-care

Self-care is all about what we can do to keep ourselves feeling good. It helps us to look after our mental health and wellbeing. Four key areas linked to self-care are listed below with examples of activities you can encourage your children to try. More support and guidance are available on Anna Freud Website.

Physical well-being

Even if we are not very busy, we are not necessarily relaxed. Summer holidays are a time to recharge; ensure to build some relaxation techniques into your family’s weekly or daily routine. It can be as simple as focusing on breathing. For example, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. Try this for three to five minutes in a quiet place.

We must have time away from technology; we all feel pressured to be constantly connected and this pressure can cause unrecognised stress. Encourage your child to turn their phone off for an hour each day and make sure they switch it off before bed to avoid disrupting sleep.

Exercise releases endorphins which help us to feel good. We should all aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, ideally 60mins. This can be a brisk walk, a game of football, a run or a workout. Your child will feel so much better afterwards and it will boost their self-esteem too.

children on walk in woods
Time away from screens is recommended as well as to move the body.

Emotional well-being

It is important to encourage supportive friendships. The summer holidays are a good time to foster friendships outside of school or to spend more time with cousins and other family members. Do not allow your child to feel pressured to be in constant contact with their school friends all summer. Encourage your child to take a break. They will feel refreshed and be excited to see their friends at the start of term.

Try gratitude exercises; this is where you write down three things you are grateful for each day. You could even do these as a family with younger children.

Be creative

Organise creative activities or encourage older children to do this independently. This could be creative writing, painting, photography, or cooking. These are all great forms of self-care and your child might develop a new hobby or skill over the summer.

Practical tips

You may have to work during the holidays and older children do not need constant supervision. They must organise their time if you cannot. Discuss with them each evening what they plan to do the next day and encourage activities and positive relationships as outlined above.

For all children, the summer holidays are a good time for reflection and a time to set goals for the future. What do they want to do differently next term? What clubs do they want to join? Is there any work they can do over the summer to help revise topics they found tricky? Use the end-of-year school report as a basis for this discussion and revisit it after a few weeks.

Even with the best-laid plans, you may see regression and worsening behaviour during the summer holidays. It will not always go smoothly, but be kind to yourself as parents and understanding of your children.

Child motivational speech
Holiday planning can optimise your holidays, but don't worry if things don't always work out.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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How to support your child during exam season

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Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally looks at how parents can support their children during exam time and how they can be effecitve with their learning.

How to support your child during exam season

Exam season can be stressful for the whole family. It is difficult for parents to know how best to manage revision at home, especially if this is the first time your child is taking public exams or end of year assessments.

Helping your child to succeed will vary according to their needs and strengths. Some children will need help to make revision timetables, others with sorting and filing notes and handouts and others someone to prompt them to stay focussed or to help them get started with a task.

exam classroom
Exams and studying can be daunting for children, but there are some things parents can do to help

Key things that parents can do to support their child:

Realistic revision expectations and tips for revision timetables

It can be hard to decide how much time to spend on revision per day, especially as everybody does it differently. The most important thing is to make a revision timetable to avoid devoting the first week of study leave to the first exam.

During term time 2 hours of revision per evening for GCSE and A-Level students is an achievable goal. Most homework tasks set now should be part of revision.

During study leave, GCSE and A-Level pupils could follow their school timetable and revise according to the lesson they would usually have at school. When they have subjects that they do not have a set exam for, such as PE or PSHE, the focus should be on a weaker subject that they feel needs more time. It is important to take regular breaks. I would suggest 45 minutes of study followed by a 15-minute break. It is a good idea to keep their phone in a different room or to put it on to not disturb and only check it during the 15-minute break.

Here is more information about creating effective revision timetables.

study timetable
Before revising, make sure your child creates a timetable to guide them

5 simple revision strategies

If your child is struggling to revise, focus or retain information, you could try the following strategies with them.

1. Asking questions - the 6 W's

You can apply this exercise to many topics in a variety of subjects. Choose a topic and ask your child six questions about it using the following prompts:

Who? How? When? What? Why? Where?

Your child could make brief notes under each of these prompts or create a spider diagram – topics can include volcanoes, forces, shapes, religious groups, characters in a novel etc.

2. Ask your child to teach you

For every topic, ask your child to teach you the content in a way that is easily understood, well-structured, and simplified into several key points. They can retain information by talking aloud and “teaching” the topic that they are revising. They could prepare keywords and definitions and perhaps six important points for each topic before they present the topic to you.

It is estimated that we can take in 10% of what we see, 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we say and hear, and 95% of what we teach someone else. This is why teachers can remember a lot of facts!

You could suggest a three minutes time limit to teach a topic. You will be amazed at the results. They could also teach siblings, themselves in the mirror or talk into a voice recorder on their phone.

3. Flashcards

Flashcards are excellent in helping to revise key topics. Ask your child to put a question or a word on one side of a small piece of card and write out the definition or key facts on the other. They can then place the cards on a table and revise by remembering the important details before checking the answers by turning over the cards.

You could buy coloured cardboard – a different colour for each subject – and your child could carry these around with them. They could work with a friend to test each other.

4. Note making

Revision means that you need to be active in the way that you learn. This will inevitably mean that your child will need to write out information to help them recall certain information. The best way to recall information is to present it attractively.

a) Spider diagrams

Record the topic in the spider’s body.
Place keywords at the end of each leg.
Provide some information under the keywords.

b) Flow charts

A flow chart is a common type of diagram that represents a process. Your child should use diagrams to help remember key points and details in all of their subjects. In Languages, they can create diagrams to help them to remember the days of the week, rooms in a house, seasons etc. Add pictures and colour.

c) Closed book note making

This approach will allow them to test themselves after they have read over a section of notes on a topic in any subject. The point of this methodology is that it can help you get information out of your head and onto the page – a key element of exams.
1. Take a piece of information and skim read through it.
2. Read it again and identify the six (or eight, ten, etc.,) most important points – you can number these on the text.
3. Turn over your notes and write out the main points from memory.

5. Mind maps

Your child can use mind-mapping techniques to help you to absorb information in all subjects. Developed by Tony Buzan, mind-maps are an excellent way of taking in information and allowing you to make all sorts of links and connections. This is how you mind-map:

1. Take a large sheet of paper and turn it on its side.
2. In the centre of the page, draw a logo or heading that sums up the topic that they are studying.
3. Draw several large branches coming out of the central topic heading – these are the key themes. Write the key theme along each branch.
4. Draw smaller branches coming out of the main branches and write along these as they begin to develop their topic.
5. At the end of branches, they can draw pictures that help them to memorise the information.
6. When your child has finished their mind-map, it should resemble the picture that you would see if you were underground, looking up at the roots of a tree.

More information can be found here about mind maps.

mind maps
Mind maps: simple but effective for learning

Retaining information

Educationalists have analysed how information is retained and it has been argued that there are seven keys to memory, six of which are listed below. We naturally remember things that are:

1. Funny
2. Outstanding
3. Personal
4. Emotional
5. Linked to our senses
6. The first and last thing we learn in a reading or revision session

With this in mind, try to remember revision notes by making connections, rhymes, links or visual images. These should be funny and personal to your child.

It is of great importance that, when revising, your child (and the parents) do not become unduly stressed or anxious, since a calm, relaxed mind learns much more efficiently. Encourage your child to be kind to themselves and to not become cross when they are unable to recall an answer – simply reveal and read the answer.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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Digital well-being: finding a balance for your family

Phone applications

        

Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally looks at how parents can support their children during exam time.

How best to support your child during exam season

Exam season can be stressful for the whole family. It is difficult for parents to know how best to manage revision at home, especially if this is the first time your child is taking public exams or end of year assessments.

Helping your child to succeed will vary according to their needs and strengths. Some children will need help to make revision timetables, others with sorting and filing notes and handouts and others someone to prompt them to stay focussed or to help them get started with a task.

Key things that parents can do to help their children:

Realistic revision expectations and tips for revision timetables

It can be hard to decide how much time to spend on revision per day, especially as everybody does it differently. The most important thing is to make a revision timetable to avoid devoting the first week of study leave to the first exam.

During term time 2 hours of revision per evening for GCSE and A-Level students is an achievable goal. Most homework tasks set now should be part of revision.

During study leave, GCSE and A-Level pupils could follow their school timetable and revise according to the lesson they would usually have at school. When they have subjects that they do not have a set exam for, such as PE or PSHE, the focus should be on a weaker subject that they feel needs more time. It is important to take regular breaks e.g. 45 minutes of study followed by a 15-minute break. It is a good idea to keep their phone in a different room or
to put it on to not disturb and only check it during the 15-minute break.

Here is a link with more information about creating effective revision timetables.

Family going on a walk
A family walk in the evening can be a rewarding routine away from screens.

Five Simple Strategies

If your child is struggling to revise, focus or retain information, you could try the following strategies with them.

1. Asking questions - the 6 W's

You can apply this exercise to many topics in a variety of subjects. Choose a topic and ask your child six questions about it using the following prompts:

Who? How? When? What? Why? Where?

Your child could make brief notes under each of these prompts or create a spider diagram – topics can include volcanoes, forces, shapes, religious groups, characters in a novel etc.

2. Ask your child to teach you

For every topic, ask your child to teach you the content in a way that is easily understood, well-structured, and simplified into several key points. They can retain information by talking aloud and “teaching” the topic that they are revising. They could prepare keywords and definitions and perhaps six important points for each topic before they present the topic to you.

It is estimated that we can take in 10% of what we see, 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we say and hear, and 95% of what we teach someone else. This is why teachers can remember a lot of facts!

You could suggest a three minutes time limit to teach a topic. You will be amazed at the results. They could also teach siblings, themselves in the mirror or talk into a voice recorder on their phone.

3. Flashcards

Flashcards are excellent in helping to revise key topics. Ask your child to put a question or a word on one side of a small piece of card and write out the definition or key facts on the other. They can then place the cards on a table and revise by remembering the important details before checking the answers by turning over the cards.

You could buy coloured cardboard – a different colour for each subject – and your child could
carry these around with them. They could work with a friend to test each other.

4. Note making

Revision means that you need to be active in the way that you learn. This will inevitably mean that your child will need to write out information to help them recall certain information. The best way to recall information is to present it attractively.

a) Spider diagrams

Record the topic in the spider’s body.
Place keywords at the end of each leg.
Provide some information under the keywords.

b) Flow charts

A flow chart is a common type of diagram that represents a process. Your child should use diagrams to help remember key points and details in all of their subjects. In Languages, they can create diagrams to help them to remember the days of the week, rooms in a house, seasons etc. Add pictures and colour.

c) Closed book note making

This approach will allow them to test themselves after they have read over a section of notes on a topic in any subject. The point of this methodology is that it can help you get information out of your head and onto the page – a key element of exams.
1. Take a piece of information and skim read through it.
2. Read it again and identify the six (or eight, ten, etc.,) most important points – you can
number these on the text.
3. Turn over your notes and write out the main points from memory.

5. Mind maps

Your child can use mind-mapping techniques to help them absorb information in all subjects. Developed by Tony Buzan, mind-maps are an excellent way of taking in information and allowing you to make all sorts of links and connections. This is how you mind-map:
1. Take a large sheet of paper and turn it on its side.
2. In the centre of the page, draw a logo or heading that sums up the topic that they are studying.
3. Draw several large branches coming out of the central topic heading – these are the key themes. Write the key theme along each branch.
4. Draw smaller branches coming out of the main branches and write along these as they begin to develop their topic.
5. At the end of branches, they can draw pictures that help them to memorise the information.
6. When your child has finished their mind-map, it should resemble the picture that you would see if you were underground, looking up at the roots of a tree

More information can be found here about mind maps.

Family going on a walk
A family walk in the evening can be a rewarding routine away from screens.

Retaining information

Educationalists have analysed how information is retained and it has been argued that there are seven keys to memory, six of which are listed below. We naturally remember things that are:

1. Funny
2. Outstanding
3. Personal
4. Emotional
5. Linked to our senses
6. The first and last thing we learn in a reading or revision session

With this in mind, your child should try to remember revision notes by making connections, rhymes, links or visual images. They should make these funny and personal to them. It is of great importance that, when revising, your child (and the parents) do not become unduly stressed or anxious, since a calm, relaxed mind learns much more efficiently. Encourage your child to be kind to themselves and to not become cross when they are unable to recall an answer – simply reveal and read the answer.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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Resilience: what it is and how to build it

boy on top of hurricane ridge, olympic national park, washington

        

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Bright Heart

This month we look at  resilience. This is an important strength for your children to develop. We look at some tips for parents in this regard.

Resilience: What it is and how to build it

Resilience is the ability to get back on your feet after experiencing a hardship. It is a valuable trait that allows people to get through even the most challenging parts of life. It doesn’t mean never feeling hurt, angry, or bitter – it means being able to accept those emotions and not let them affect your entire life.

Resilience is best taught from an early age. When a person learns to be resilient when they are young, they end up growing into emotionally mature and capable adults. The type who can manage their emotions and circumstances, no matter what they are.

When it comes to children, though, it can be tricky to teach resilience. It takes time and patience from the parent. Luckily, it is more than doable if you know what you’re doing.

Tree in a desert
Every child can build resilience. This will last them for life.

What are some common setbacks for children?

Children experience a lot of setbacks that they must learn to bounce back from. They are learning curves and opportunities for the parent to teach them the art of resilience. Some of them include:

Some of these setbacks are a lot more serious than others. Getting a poor grade, for example, is incomparable to the loss of a family member. It’s important to consider that children feel emotions differently from adults, though. You might think a challenge in their life is not that big of a deal, but to them, it might be the greatest challenge of all.

Why resilience is so important for children

While you can’t expect children to show emotional maturity in everything they do (they are still learning, after all), it is important to help them bounce back after a challenging time. Otherwise, the setbacks will harm their academics, attitude, and general happiness. You want your children to thrive, and that means building resilience.

Plus, the more resilient a child is, the more confident they are. It helps them understand negative emotions, as well as the fact these emotions won’t last forever.

Sugar Ray Leonard motivational quote
Overcoming setbacks is the path to sucess and greater confidence.

How to build resilience in children

Now that you know how important it is for children to build resilience, you likely want to know how. Luckily, we have the answer right here. It takes time, but it’s more than worth it to ensure your child handles challenges well and grows into an emotionally mature adult.

1) Build strong relationships

Strong relationships are the key to resilience. When a child has a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult that they can rely on, they are far more likely to bounce back from situations. A role model is even better.

If your child struggles with a piece of homework, for example, having a trusted adult there to help them makes a world of difference. That could be you, as a parent, a teacher at school, or perhaps a tutor. If they have people who have their back, they will know that they can get through anything.

2) Let them make mistakes

Shielding your child from making mistakes will not help them grow. Instead, it will make them believe that they are immune to making mistakes – that you will always be there to ensure that they don’t. That won’t build resilience!

Let your child make mistakes (small ones, of course). Mistakes like putting too much sugar on their cereal or using too much water on their watercolour painting will help them face a challenge head-on. It might frustrate them at first, but they will learn from it.

3) Encourage them to keep trying

Resilience is built in the early years. You need the patience to grow for resilience to take hold. That’s why you should always encourage your child to keep trying, no matter what.

That is especially important with school work. When your child reaches an equation, book, or science problem that they can’t solve, you must encourage them to keep trying. Help them where you can, but don’t let them give up. Hiring a motivating and positive tutor can help when confidence is low. If they have someone there to help them through it, they are more likely to push through and thus build resilience.

4) Let them feel their emotions

Telling your child to get over something is not the way to encourage resilience. Instead, it will make them push their emotions down, which isn’t helpful for anyone, especially children! Allow them to feel upset, frustrated, or hurt when they experience a setback. That is a part of their growth. Then, once they feel better, tackle the problem with them head-on.

5) Encourage self care

It is never too early to teach self-care. When someone experiences a setback, it is healthy to do activities that make them feel better. Your child will benefit from learning how to look after themselves properly, especially when going through a challenge. Activities like reading, taking a breather, and talking to someone they trust are all great ways to lessen the emotional impact of a setback.

5) Don't do everything for them

It’s tempting as a parent to do everything for your child. You want them to have the best, after all. You might tie their shoelaces for them in the morning. Or, you might pack their school bag every evening. When they reach an age where they can start doing these tasks for themselves, though, let them.

They might struggle at first, and that is OK. In fact, that’s the biggest step toward becoming more resilient! Let them struggle (to a point) and then allow them to succeed independently. Over time, this will help them flourish. They will take that mindset into other tasks, such as classwork and playing musical instruments.

6) Celebrate the successes

When your child pushes through a setback and comes out the other side, you must celebrate that. Show them how well they have done. Tell them that they are strong for doing it – even if it was just a small setback. Remember – things that seem small to adults can feel enormous to children.

Building resilience in children means adapting new parenting techniques. It’s essential for raising a child that grows into an emotionally mature and self-aware adult.

boy on top of hurricane ridge, olympic national park, washington
Building resilience is a journey.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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How to deal with relational aggression and bullying – advice for parents

Confident young girl

        

Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally discusses relational aggression and bullying and how parents can respond to this. She also provides some helpful tips on how to avoid or manage it.

How to deal with relational aggression and bullying - advice for parents

Traditionally we might think of bullying as a physical act or a verbal insult by older children or a group of children targeting those more vulnerable, but this is often no longer the case. Relational aggression takes place within friendship groups. It can be very distressing and affect self-esteem, increase anxiety, and cause depression.

What is relational aggression?

Relational aggression is a type of bullying which includes threats or attempts to damage someone’s relationships or social status. It includes excluding people from the group, using silent treatment or threatening to withdraw a friendship. It can involve sharing secrets, spreading rumours, or ‘banter’; for example, mocking their appearance. Perhaps the hardest thing to understand about this form of bullying is that the victim often wants to remain friends with the perpetrators and will do anything to remain part of the group. Often a victim can become a perpetrator to try and win back favour by excluding someone else.

As a parent, you may witness a deterioration of a friendship that seemed very positive at first. It can start with a few negative comments disguised as jokes. Victims are then labelled as oversensitive or dramatic if they express they don’t like it. These friendships start intensely, but then the victim is suddenly dropped for someone else. They have to witness their exclusion via social media posts. Once the relationship is damaged the victim feels vulnerable and can be called ‘needy’ or ‘clingy’ if they try to repair the friendship.

How to respond as a parents

It is always tempting to jump in and try and sort it out on your child’s behalf, but this is usually not the best course of action. Your child needs to feel in control of the situation and know that they can trust you. You need to listen and explain that they cannot control what other people say, but they can control how they respond. 

The first step to take is to encourage other friendships. Suggest new clubs or activities and invite someone different to go with them. Praise your child and highlight all that is good about them; this will help rebuild their self-esteem.

Confident young girl
Self love and building self esteem is key to resilience.

It is very important to agree on what action to take with your child. Do they feel confident talking to a trusted adult at school? Would they like you to do it on their behalf? The school is probably aware of friendship dynamics within the year group. Ask them to support your child to make new friendships through seating plans or planned group work. You do not need to raise it as a bullying issue at this stage if your child does not feel confident to do so. You can inform the school that there are friendship problems and ask for a meeting in two weeks in case the situation persists.

Unfortunately, relational aggression is very hard to prove. Some children are so skilled at this type of bullying that no one would ever suspect them of hurting others. It is manipulative and sly. Keep screenshots of any online incidents and a diary of events as evidence. If the unkind behaviour persists, present the evidence to the school in a meeting with your child. Managing relationships is a difficult task. 

Unfortunately, your child will probably encounter other negative friendships in the future; this can be a time to establish boundaries and build resilience. However, it is important to have time frames and stick to these as your child will likely be reluctant to report it to the school for fear of retaliation. Explain to your child that if the situation has not improved in two weeks, despite the positive action taken (outlined above), then it must be reported to the
school. The school will have lots of experience in dealing with the issues, but they will not be able to take disciplinary action without your child’s cooperation and evidence.

Relational aggression is learned behaviour. We should encourage our children to be upstanders and challenge unkindness, rather than bystanders who are complicit in the bullying.

Children learn how to interact socially with their parents. If you gossip about other parents or purposefully exclude people from social gatherings, you should not be surprised when your child does the same thing. Show your children what it means to be kind and loving. Parents need to model positive relationships. We often point out our friends’ weaknesses instead of verbally celebrating their greatness.

Discuss the dangers of gossip, backstabbing and rumour-spreading with your children. Teenagers do not tend to think about the negative consequences of their actions. As a result, they may engage in relational aggression without even thinking about how this behaviour could impact others. Help your children recognise who is loyal and who is safe. Talk to them about relational aggression. They should be able to recognise it and name it.

Top tips to avoid relational aggression

1) Teach your child to be an upstander

Upstanders are people who stand up for victims. Some children are stronger than others; encourage your child to intervene or attempt to stop the aggression taking place in their circles. It could be something as small as making eye contact with a victim whilst the incident is happening. Encourage your child to ask the victim if they are ok and be kind so that they do not feel alone.

children supporting each other
Supporting and standing up for one another is an important value to teach your children.

2) Carefully manage your child’s online activity.

Relational aggression often takes place online. Your child needs a break from their friendship groups; ensure that they take some time away from their devices each day. A helpful way to do this is to set boundaries and limits for the whole family.

3) Create opportunities for your child to meet lots of new people outside of school

Sports or other activities are an excellent way to make new friends. The focus during practice or games is on the activity and therefore there is less social pressure. They are also likely to meet people with similar interests in these settings. It is important to remember that being part of a clique or excessive togetherness is not healthy. The
healthiest kids have friends in different social circles and a variety of interests. Do not encourage your child to stick with only one group of friends, but instead encourage them to branch out and meet new people.

What to do if you find out your child has been the perpetrator

It is never nice to hear that your child is the bully, but it is necessary to address this behaviour and help them manage the root of the issue. It might be a reaction to something taking place at home or a way of them trying to impress a friend. They might be feeling insecure as they are struggling at school and are being unkind to divert
attention from their shortcomings.

Take steps to help them seek forgiveness for their behaviour. Tell them to apologise to those they have upset and explain they will have to work hard to repair friendships and rebuild trust. Ask the school if they have a mentor or counsellor who could provide support and finally take the steps mentioned above to foster self-esteem so that they do not need to belittle others to feel confident in the future.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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The importance of travel for a child’s education

learning by travelling

            

Bright Heart Owl Logo

Local and international travel is important to broaden your child’s mind. Here the benefits are discussed and ways you can make this more thoughtful.

Exclusively written for Bright Heart by J Wright

The importance of travelling for a child’s education

A journal article on Science Direct recently examined the benefits of family tourism. Researchers found that parents’ well-being increased through memorable travel experiences. Interestingly, the study also revealed that generic skills in children also showed improvement through tourism as well. This is not the first study that suggests travel can create a positive impact on young minds, and play a key role in their education.

There are many things that a classroom — or virtual classes — cannot teach. Children and teenagers have to go out into the world to develop a keen understanding of human life. They need to visit new places and stimulate their senses for effective learning. Mobility is a natural partner to learning, because it exposes us to other people, places, cultures, and things, reshaping our perspective into something new. In this article we will explain how to travel locally and abroad, and the equipment you can invest in to make the trip easier for you and more fun for your children.

learning by travelling
There is much to be gained from local and international travel for a young mind.

Travelling locally

Travelling abroad may feel more exciting than a jaunt to a nearby town, but travelling locally teaches your children to not underestimate the beauty of their own country. Domestic travel informs us of the experiences in other communities, and lets us appreciate the cultural, architectural, and natural highlights we often take for granted. For children and teens, travelling at home also helps make what they learn about the nation’s heritage and history much more tangible.

So plan to tour another city for the next school holidays, or take a cross-country drive and make educational stops along the way. If that’s not doable, then bring your children to neighbourhood landmarks; the familiar spots on a walk will eventually help them form connections between their locale and their identity. You can even go to a nearby park to see native flowers, trees, insects, birds, and animals that they might only recognise from a book.

Travelling locally will help your children master public transportation — which is a basic life skill they should learn before adulthood. Riding buses and trains can equip children with street smarts, and even train their manners. As lifestyle writer Lazzie Lynn writes, children are natural explorers. You can’t really keep them locked up in a room, then expect them to behave like tamed, mindful adults when they’re out in the world. Ease them into the experience by asking them to observe how other people on the commute behave; you can even instruct them to compile their insights on travelling as a short-term passion project. As they get older, invest in a Zip Oyster Photocard so children under 18 years old can enjoy discounted travel on Tube, DLR, and London Overground journeys.

old map and compass
Each new place offers history, geography and learning about different cultures.

Travelling abroad

Travelling abroad leads to a better understanding of the world. When you’re exposed to languages and cultural differences, you’ll find the underlying similarities in humanity — which is important for developing tolerance and acceptance.

To get your young children emotionally invested in the trip get them involved with their packing by giving them their own suitcase. Trunki makes wheeled carry-on cases of excellent quality. Not only can your children pack their favourite things in them, you can pull them along when they get tired. This will give them a greater appreciation of the trip.

For teens, you can even ask them to do some research and help plan the trip by finding interesting places to visit. Simple responsibilities like this allow them to stretch their problem-solving skills, especially when travel plans don’t follow through. As parents, you’d be able to model the appropriate response, and guide your children to become more resilient.

The bonus to international travel? Access to the internet isn’t readily available. As we wrote in ‘The Importance of Sleep’, young minds should take breaks from electronic devices, especially when it’s close to bedtime. Without access to a cheap connection, your kids will be able to unplug and unwind to the fullest.

Exclusively written for Bright Heart by J Wright

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Please get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this article or would like to find out more about our nurturing approach to tuition..


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