This came up on my Facebook memories today & it is still very relevant and worth sharing (scroll to read the full paper).
It’s what drives ‘Bridge the Gap’ The research is there to support all we say - starting children at school at a young age has detrimental effects on their emotional well-being.
Why do we choose to ignore this?
‘When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion’.
With more children than ever before developing mental health problems, it is critical that policy makers start looking at the full picture, the whole child, from the very beginning.
Cutting down on time needed to build the strong foundations in their three prime areas of development has a huge effect later down the line. You can build for so long on weak foundations but continue to build on them and what you’ve built will crumble.
‘In Finland and some other developed countries, formal academic education doesn’t start until the age of 7, when children are deemed to be mentally and physically ready for the challenge (though students in Finland have had access to high-quality preschool, which would affect their performance in kindergarten)’.
I will never stop being an advocate for change in our education system, but in the meantime I will strive to ensure we are doing all we can to support children’s emotional development. If teachers and educators work together we CAN help to bridge the gap that our system has created.
Our children deserve it 🌈
I’m very happy to say things have been very busy at Bridge the Gap lately, though I feel the website and blog have been neglected as a result. So I thought I’d pop on and have a little catch up with you all.
Firstly, I want to thank everyone who has supported us on our social media accounts lately. As I’m sure you are aware, social media is a huge part of business in 2018 – especially a business like ours, where we are sharing such important information with parents and carers of children and young people. It helps us to reach more people and creates momentum around the movement that we are supporting. Many people that have had nowhere else to turn have found us through social media. Some children that have been discharged from CAMHS but still need support, and children and parents who are struggling to know where to turn next.
Every like, every comment and every share help us to reach more people’s timelines. Even if you can’t relate to a post yourself it might be something that one of your friends can relate to. For this reason, and this reason alone, we ask you to interact with our posts, share them with your contacts and invite your friends to like our page. We don’t make any money from social media, but we have been able to help parents that were feeling alone, the more parents we can reach the better.
Right, that’s the admin side of things out the way!
What have we been up to?
We have been working very hard to develop our Teacher Training Programme. It has taken a lot of development, a lot of research and a lot of consultation but we are close to finishing a new and updated training course for educators that we will be launching before the end of the year. If you work in education then please join our mailing list to be kept updated.
We keep our courses affordable for schools and that’s because we want as many teachers, early years professionals, dinner ladies and teaching assistants to receive this training as possible. We believe our training offers something very different and we are proud of our engagement and feedback, which is sure to rise with the updated course coming soon.
We have also been updating our parent workshops - we are constantly researching and studying to make sure we are up to date with the latest papers and findings to ensure that our seminars and workshops give you information and strategies that matter. We have incorporated a little more on the development of the brain, more on childhood anxiety and have made it more relevant for parents of pre-teens and teens. The feedback so far has been fantastic, and we look forward to delivering this newly updated seminar to more parents over the coming months.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Baasit Sidiqqui who is taking plenty of time off the Gogglebox sofa to launch his fantastic initiative titled ‘Let’s Pitch It’.
‘Let's Pitch It’ and ‘Let's Pitch It Juniors’ are day long workshops run by Gogglebox’s Baasit SIddiqui. The workshops have been created to raise aspirations for disadvantaged students in later years primary, and early years secondary schools. The kids involved get to pitch an idea for a TV show. They do their own research and development into their ideas and get the chance to win several prizes both for their schools and for themselves. The workshops, delivered by Baasit himself, start in January and are already gaining high praise from a number of educational institutes. Baasit was a teacher for many years and his passion for reaching children and raising their aspirations is infectious. We are looking forward to collaborating on some events soon, so watch this space and join our mailing list to be kept in the loop.
I had the idea many months ago about creating community drop in clinics where parents could come and access free advice. I am looking for schools and community centres who are willing to host these clinics for free. All we need is a few refreshments, volunteers (to serve drinks and give a warm welcome), a room and a welcoming environment – if you feel you can help in any way then please do get in touch. We would like to get the first one off the ground before the end of the year, but we can’t do it alone. By next year we hope to be doing a clinic fortnightly at various points across the city. This support is needed and vital, so any help you can give is appreciated.
Lastly (for now, so you don’t fall asleep) I am almost ready to deliver our seminar online which I hope will help many parents who have contacted me but are living outside of the East Midlands. I am still finding my feet with the software but I’m ALMOST there! I have many of you on our mailing list for this already but if you are not then please do join to be kept informed.
There are 2 other lovely events coming up as well which I am excited about! I feel I have bombarded you all enough for now, so I will do a full blog post on this for you a little nearer to the time – it warrants a post of it’s own.
So, as you can see we have been very busy and have lots going on. It is time for change and I can feel momentum building in this movement which excites me greatly. Please, be a part of it.
Thanks for reading and please do check out our social media to read useful articles, information and gain support – many thanks, Jennifer.
Crawling is an incredibly important stage of child development. It allows children to develop their upper bodies strengthening the trunk, shoulders and hand muscles. The mechanics of crawling also stimulate different areas of the brain that are important for future learning.
Some children miss this stage of development but don’t worry, just provide plenty of opportunities for crawling to happen; even as they get older.
Keep children away from chairs! They spend a long time sat on chairs at school so make sure you provide the opportunity for them to develop the core strength needed to do this with steadiness and confidence.
They have a lot to think about once they’re at those school tables so the steadier they are, the better their posture is, the less they have to think about.
You don’t prepare children to sit on a chair by sitting them on a chair. Contradiction?
You don’t go out on the motorway driving until you’ve had lots of lessons and gone down the quite streets, you have to practice all the skills needed first to get to that point.
Crawling is a skill that is great for developing both physical and cognitive development so encourage it in your home.
Do the colouring lying on your tummy on the floor, build train tracks, set up small play on the floor, push cars, crawl through tunnels or under tables.
And chairs? Leave them for crawling under unless they are sat on them for meal times. If your child’s feet do not meet the ground when sat on the chair then ground them by providing a stool to place their feet on.
Crawling so much more than getting from A to B.
When children come into this world they are small and so dependent on us. They have so much to learn and it is our job to facilitate that learning; the problem is there is so much parenting information how are you to know what to dismiss and to listen to? This is especially true when it comes to tantrums.
The BEST advice is one that comes from evidence based research, based around your child’s brain development. When we understand ‘why’ our children are reacting in specific ways, we are able to respond appropriately to enhance that development.
Tantrums are a part of your child’s emotional developmental. When they are born they do so with the capacity to feel the same emotions as we do as adults.
‘By the end of the first year, children usually have displayed the primary emotions of joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and surprise. The secondary emotions such as embarrassment, empathy, envy, pride, shame, and guilt appear later when the child has reached a higher level of cognitive development’. Barb Grady
When a child has a tantrum they are releasing emotions that they haven’t the ability to verbalise yet; they have not yet found a strategy for coping with.
Children can either repress, express or release their feelings. Repressing their emotions is not good for their well-being and therefore it is important to remember that tantrums are healthier than a child repressing their emotion.
As adults we can find it hard to open up and talk about how we feel, often we ignore our primary emotion until it explodes into a secondary emotion like anger or sadness. Children are the same. There are SO many emotions to experience yet being able to name them, recognise how they feel in our body and then be able to talk about it is a skill we often expect our children to do when we are unable to do so ourselves.
‘The Anger Iceberg’ from the Gottman Institute is a great visual for helping us see just how many feelings can be underneath the surface of our anger.
Young children do not have the capacity to deal with primary emotions, their brains are developing cognitively so it is to be expected that as they begin to experience these primary emotions for the first time it overwhelms them.
‘The tantrum you permit your child to have is a way of releasing emotional energy and clearing her emotional system so she can think again. When an upset arises, we want to put an end to it as quickly as possible (especially if we are in public or at our in-laws). Some parents try distraction or reasoning; others use intimidation or force. Whatever the methods, conventional wisdom says that it’s our job to end the upset. We require our children to repress their upsets and be “good” again. We don’t want them to grow up uncivilised, and we don’t want to feel or look like “bad” parents with “bad” children.
Contrary to what we’ve grown up believing, tantrums and other expressions of feelings are actually useful. A tantrum is like an emotional sneeze and the usual struggle of parent versus child at emotional moments does not have to take place. We can throw away the judgement that meltdowns are a mark against our children and ourselves. Then we can begin to change our perceptions and the way we handle our children’s emotional outbursts.’ Barb Grady
I love the term ‘emotional sneezes’ it’s a fantastic way to describe them. Barb says it all so well...
‘If you now believe the truth that tantrums are healthy emotional releases, what is your role? All you need to provide is support and warm attention. It takes courage to listen to your child’s tantrum from beginning to end. It’s usually an emotional wringer for the parent who tries it. However, the results are thoroughly convincing. Your child feels heard. She sees that you’ve stayed with her though the worst of how she felt. Her mind clears, and life is OK again. As parents gain experience staying close through their children’s emotional storms, they find that the trip no longer feels quite so risky or gruelling. Their child’s upsets, which once seemed to point to a serious failure, now simply signal the need for a good cry, or a good tantrum.’ Barb Grady
So we know that tantrums are a good healthy stage of development but how do we deal with them knowing that? The first important thing to remember is to share your calm and not to join their chaos. Take deep breaths and remember that this will pass and you are helping your child learn with a stage of development just as you were through weaning, crawling and walking.
Below is Barbs advice on how to deal with a tantrum.
1. Stay close to your child and keep him safe, but don’t try to stop him. A tantrum is full of noise and movement. Your child may become hot and perspire. He needs to writhe, wiggle, and throw himself around to get the frustration out. Make sure he doesn’t hurt himself, gently put your hand between his head and the floor, so he can use force without hurting himself. Let him know you are on his side by saying things like, “I’ll stay with you.” Most tantrums are relatively short. Once it is listened through, a tantrum clears rapidly, perhaps with some giggles and warm affection between the child and listener. This transformation of your fallen-apart child into a gently reasonable person is one of the real wonders a parent can work.
2. If you are in a public place, you may carry your child to a more sheltered spot to ride out the tantrum. Children often pick public places to tantrum. It might be that they feel safer to explode with lots of people around, or perhaps the strain of being in an adult environment finally overloads their tolerance. Often it’s worth the trouble to move your child to a less public place, so you feel freer to handle things thoughtfully. Most onlookers will be glad that you look like you know what you’re doing. In fact, most have been there at one time or another. Don’t worry too much about others.
3. Try to remember that your child’s frustrations aren’t your fault, or hers, and that this tantrum is a good and healthy event. Often, being exposed to our children’s’ emotions makes us feel emotional. Set good boundaries and realise that your child has a right to express his emotions and to release them through tantrum.
‘Aren’t we reinforcing a lack of control? This is a common question. Supporting a child to complete a tantrum looks permissive (if we believe what our parents believed), but it isn’t. Permissiveness is ignoring misbehaviour or failing to set reasonable limits on behaviour. It doesn’t help children when their misbehaviour is ignored or when reasonable limits aren’t set. Children rely on us to let them know what is OK and what is not OK. Step in when your child is going off track and gently but firmly prevent any hurting, grabbing, throwing, destruction, withdrawal, or giving up. Go ahead and limit the child, physically stopping the behaviour, but allow the feelings while you are holding those limits. Tantrums, crying, trembling, and perspiring in the release of fear, and all the loud noises that go along with that release, are not misbehaviour. They are part of a healing process.
Permissiveness and punishment result in patterns of behaviour that grow in depth and difficulty as the child signals that she can’t think and needs emotional release.’
When your child is expressing an emotion this way, respond with love and acceptance. We know so much more about brain development in the last 20 years than ever before and it’s important to listen to this new evidence. We now know the importance of emotional development. We used to want children to be seen and not heard but we now recognise that as being unhealthy, the way we have dealt with tantrums in the past has also been unhealthy.
Using emotional literacy from a young age helps children develop this important part of the brain which is so vital for long term health, resilience and well-being.
Name your primary emotions to them, name all of their emotions for them. Vocalise your own strategies for dealing with emotion, be consistent and make it habit. Read books that allow children to experience emotions that are difficult to process for them, don’t protect them from the hard stuff. Use role-play with small world toys to explore the world of emotions and give them opportunity to come up with their own solutions e.g. “Oh, he’s fallen over. He looks sad. I wonder what his friend could do to help?”
Have fun! Play is the best way to learn anything and the same is certainly true for emotional learning. We need to understand how to support this important area of development the same way we do the physical areas.
It is the foundations for life that we build upon; let’s make them strong.
Before becoming a parent I had an idealistic view of what type of Mum I would be and the overriding opinion of my non existent mum role was that I would be perfect. Yes, I would be the perfect Mum. I would do all the things that the books said I should do in order to raise a healthy, well-balanced, intelligent, happy child.
I would feed them all the right foods, take them to the park every day, play board games before bed, have warm pyjamas ready for them to slip on after bath time, I would, obviously, limit TV to just 20 minutes a day and I would ALWAYS put them first; if they were awake they would have my attention.
Enter 2 children. Oops.
The thing that I had never considered was that the 'parent rules' are always changing and when my children came along I didn't receive the personality transplant necessary for me to become the perfect parent I had anticipated.
Life happens, and continues around being a Mum, which quickly saw my Mum guilt set in. 'I shouted' 'they didn't eat a homemade purée' 'I watched TV for half an hour whilst they played without my attention' 'they watched TV for half an hour whilst I ate toast and drank tea in the kitchen' etc etc.
Apparently the food I gave my son quite happily as a baby was not right to give my daughter 6 years later, the weaning age had changed, school intakes had changed I felt like somebody had picked up the goal posts that I felt half decent at scoring in and moved them to another football pitch I hadn't a hope of reaching.
I got ill when my daughter was just 7 months old and the things I could do were more limited, I had to let others do some of the caring I so desperately wanted to do, I had to watch my Dad play with my new baby whilst I sat in the corner just, well, being ill. Enter more guilt.
I was ill for a long time and having periods of not being able to do my daughters hair, take my children to school, do their packed lunches, cook their dinner, bath them and just play made me feel so guilty and very sad. I certainly wasn't filling the vacancy of the perfect parent role I had previously created for myself.
Whatever your reality is as a parent I think guilt just comes with the territory and it is something I am learning to let go of in my self-love crusade. Newscheck...we aren't perfect. We will never be the perfect parent because it doesn't exist. We were made in such a way that means we will make mistakes and we will at some point do a lot of the things we swore we would never do as a parent. Do you know what, I'm a good enough Mum; I'm good enough.
My children are safe, feel loved, fed, clothed, given life experiences and attend school everyday. I'm good enough.
I actively listen to my children and when I’m too tired I tell them so and then sit and have a cuppa to recharge my batteries before starting again. I’m good enough.
We laugh together, talk through why I shouted yesterday, watch TV together and get fresh air in our lungs. I'm good enough .
I spend time with my husband and friends with and without my children and when I leave them they are with grandparents or friends who love and care for them. I'm good enough.
You all get the idea. Some circumstances happen that are out of our control and some are in our control but we are human, we don't lose all of our own feelings because we have started to care for our children's. I do my best with the situations presented to me at the time and that is all I, that any of us, can do.
I asked my lovely friend one day how when I was shouting at my 2 to get their shoes on before leaving the house how she managed to do it so calmly and so relaxed. Her response? "What do you think I was doing before opening the front door and walking the walk?"
So let's try not to fall into the parent trap, let's cut ourselves some slack. We are all in the same boat despite the fact the boats all look a bit different with different oars, they are sailing through the same lake. We are never going to be perfect...but I am always going to keep trying to be 'good enough.'
There is NEVER any judgement at Bridge the Gap, we are all doing the best we can to be ‘good enough’.
“What have you got to be stressed about? You’re only 5!” I’ve heard many parents utter these words but the fact is children feel stress the same as adults except it effects their developing brains.
‘When we put too much stress on children we reduce their ability to think, rationalise and tune into their instincts & enjoy good health’ Jane Evans - Childhood trauma expert
By giving your child coping strategies you are giving them lifelong skills to protect their health. Emotional literacy is so important for this.
Think about how you vocalise stress, model your own strategies to them “Mum/Dad is frustrated because I’ve got all this cleaning to do. I’m going to take 10 deep slow breaths to help the funny feeling in my tummy and chest to go away.”
You may feel awkward at first but consistently modelling and vocalising how you manage these feelings gives your children permission to vocalise their own and gives them strategies to help cope with them.
Stress is something we all feel in life, it's unavoidable so the sooner we start developing ways to deal with stress the better equipped we are for life.
Please do get in touch with any questions
As parents it’s sometimes helpful to share our experiences and tips that have helped us along our parenting path; the rise of the family bloggers and vloggers demonstrates how we like to tune in and find out how other parents get along.
If we are being honest and giving people an insight into our parenting reality it can be very informative and empowering. However, if it’s a heavily filtered version of the truth with all the ‘bad bits’ taken out it can lead others onto a path that is striving for perfection. There is no perfection. There is no perfect parent. We are human and are designed to make mistakes and learn from them. Just like children need to make mistakes.
A post I read recently left me feeling a little concerned that we could potentially be losing sight of what is important. The post was talking about ‘top cleaning tips’ for when a friend calls last minute to ask if they can pop in. “We all have a couple of those friends don’t we?” it stated. Erm, yes, I do hope so!
The tips continued to tell us how to hide toys out of sight, clean the bathroom sink, fold washing away, spot clean a mirror and basically how to make it look like nobody really lives there. As I read it, in my mind I was thinking if my friend said they needed to pop in:
1. They may need to talk to me or need some support about something.
2. I must fill the kettle and check for tea bags.
3. Immediately scour the cupboards for biscuits.
This is my friend! They are not coming to my home to try and catch me out and find my house messy, they are coming because they want to see me. And eat the delicious cakes I bake; bought from Aldi.
We all know people whose houses are immaculate all the time. The ones where you sit on the edge of the sofa instead of slumping back. The ones where you don’t accept the offer of a biscuit in case you drop some crumbs. The chances are if my friends came around and saw the house immaculate I would make them feel pretty rubbish about the pots they’d left in their sink at home, or the pile of ironing they have left to do. Either that or they’d think I was expecting the Queen to visit.
With my child development hat on I find it quite frustrating to hear how all the toys get tidied up whilst the little one is napping or if someone is coming around. Children need to know that they can revisit what they were doing, pick up where they left off otherwise they may have to start all over again with what they were trying to achieve the first time. You wouldn’t do it with a half-finished jigsaw, so why do it with other games-in-progress? Maybe they just needed a little break but were looking forward to continuing after they’d had 40 winks.
When I was little I was allowed to lay out my toys behind the sofa in the lounge. My Sylvanian Families would be set up for weeks and every time I ‘visited’ Sylvania I would continue the story, developing the characters and storyline. (What I put some of those poor little creatures through doesn’t bear thinking about!) Then I put them away myself when I had finished playing and moved onto Sindy and Skipper.
Now, I’m sure it drove my mum a bit mad when she went to draw the curtains, but she knew it wasn’t forever and quicker than she could fathom, or would wish for, I would be upstairs in my room reading ‘Nikki’ comics and listening to Michael Jackson and The Pet Shop Boys on repeat. Childhood doesn’t last forever, it goes quicker than we can imagine.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t ever tidy the toys away but do it with your child. Talk to them, and if they say they’ve not finished with a toy maybe let them leave it out. If they are too young for that maybe just leave the stuff they were playing with. If they are emptying everything everywhere and not really sitting and playing, then the chances are they have too much and just don’t know what to do with it.
I LOVE reading parent blogs cleaning hacks are great (I love a motivational cleaning post) if it’s clear that it’s OK not to do these things too. If we are constantly striving for perfection or stress about the state of our house when a friend is popping in last minute, then what message is that sending to our children?
More children are developing problems with their mental well-being than ever before, and we have a real responsibility to help them embrace their own uniqueness and to encourage them to let people love them AS THEY ARE.
Saying the words is one thing but modelling the meaning behind them is even more important, by doing so you’re giving your children permission to do the same. My 10 year old is currently getting upset with her hair, “why are THESE bits (pulling at Loose hairs at side of head) here?!” my answer is, “...because it’s hair”, and then check my hair has enough of THOSE bits exposed (there ALWAYS is) before leaving the house with a smile on my face and a reassurance that if it’s OK for Mum then it’s OK for me.
Look, there’s no perfect solution but I plead with you to consider it the next time a friend asks to pop in. Find a happy medium you’re comfortable with. Our homes are for living in, being with family, making memories and sharing a cuppa with friends. Pour that tea, put out that plate of biscuits and watch them sink back into the comfort of your home; as it is.
Now, do you really need to spot clean a mirror to do that?
‘Dear Damian Hinds, OFSTED forget our 4 year olds are NOT GCSE apprentices’ Michael Rosen
I couldn’t agree more. We need to change the rest of the education system not the best we currently have!
Take education OFF the political agenda and hand our children’s education and well-being over to child development experts...let them create something that means our children feel valued and heard.
Let them create something that allows ALL children to flourish. Let them create something that allows children to learn holistically as they are meant to. Let them create something that allows children to develop a passion for lifelong learning. Let them create something that builds both confidence and resilience. Let them create something that recognises our children are the future of our society as a whole, not just the future of industry and business.
Hand it over and watch the government gain the results they are so desperate for; handing it over does NOT mean it comes at the expense of academic achievement it will only enhance it.
Bold Beginnings DOESN'T tell us that the foundation stage isn't what's best for children it tells us that what awaits them afterwards isn't.
Let them create something for the children and NOT for government
Kindness is something we all strive to be on the receiving end of but how many of us are able to be reflective of how kind and compassionate we are ourselves?
Children are not born to be kind, they are born to survive. The survival instinct is strong and the need to find a connection is paramount in children surviving and thriving in the world. Children look up to those who they have created strong connections with and mimic their behaviour and language, they develop their ‘right and wrong’ moral compass from what they see modelled to them.
What do you do to teach your child kindness?
I am witness to many, many cases of children being unkind to each other daily. Let’s be clear that this is ABSOLUTELY normal in young children as they develop; these experiences help them to develop empathy. Causing and being on the receiving end of unkind behaviour in some way or another, be it physical or emotional, enables them to experience a range of emotions that help to develop the frontal cortex of their brains that is responsible for their social skills, problem solving and judgement.
As it is not something they are born with it is something that must be taught, just like math, spelling or science. And, just like any area of learning, experiences play a vital part in these skills developing; experimenting, learning from mistakes, figuring something out for themselves all helps them to have a good understanding of whatever area of learning they are exploring.
Compassion and kindness is something that of course gets looked at and talked about in schools but let us be honest – schools are busy places with a huge academic curriculum to teach and other areas of children’s holistic development just simply do not come as high on the agenda as academic subjects. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather my children grew up to be kind, compassionate and resilient with a genuine passion and determination to make good in the world than achieving high grades in all school subjects.
That’s where we as parents can make the difference. We must take the time to teach our children how to be kind. Don’t ever take it for granted that they just know - they only know if they’ve learned it in some way, and even then mistakes will be made, just as we adults make mistakes.
Firstly, think about how you talk about other people in front of your children. Are you guilty of standing in the playground with the other parents having a moan about another child, teacher or parent? Your child will see that and want to emulate you, so don’t be surprised if they then go into school and imitate that behaviour amongst their friends.
Secondly, think about how you demonstrate kindness to your child. Kindness, like many other aspects of emotional literacy, is contagious. Do you tell them to stop being silly when they are upset about something? Do you take the 10 minutes at bedtime to sit and really listen to them and respond to what they are saying? Do you help them to be reflective in their own behaviour or do you automatically side with your child if they talk to you about a playground dispute?
Thirdly, schools don’t see everything. Be aware that as children get older they become more able to adapt to different situations and environments so although a class teacher may see a child of exemplary behaviour it is unlikely that your child will be the same in front of their peers. Talk to them about how they may feel in certain situations and how they may respond. Nobody expects their child to be the one who causes upset but that’s not realistic. Be realistic.
Lastly, think about how your child communicates through their smart phone or other device and who with. Children are using iMessage, texts, Whatsapp and other forms of online messaging from a much younger age than we could ever have imagined 10 years ago. And it goes without saying that 10+ year olds haven’t yet developed the skills to use these resources as responsibly as we like to believe. In fact, I know many adults that send messages that say far more than they meant them to! What we say when we’re face to face with someone is clarified by our facial expressions and body language - when you take them away it is all down to the words, and words can be easily misinterpreted.
Monitor what is said via this medium and talk to your child about it. I plead with you to not give your children free reign on these devices from such a young age. You are in charge and they need to be taught how to use these devices safely, kindly, gradually. Giving them the responsibility is simply TOO MUCH for them to handle amongst everything else that is going on in their jam packed developing brains.
Talk to them about the importance of non-verbal communication and how, with that vital element missing from online exchanges, even if they are not intending to be unkind their words do not have the same delivery as they do face to face. Ask them to stop and think “Would I be happy for my mum/dad/friend’s mum/teacher to read what I’m going to send?”
Your child is not entitled to any privacy when it comes to their mobile phones. Police recommendations are that you should have FULL access to what is on their phones at any time. A phone is not the same as having a locked diary under a pillow. Because it is not a way of capturing your thoughts, but a way of sharing them, it has huge potential to harm if not monitored and used correctly. Make that clear to them so that they know from the beginning that this is the agreement take it or leave it.
This helps you to keep them safe by giving you time to educate but also to help educate and teach them about kindness and compassion online.
Remember, kindness is contagious. What do you do to teach your child kindness? Born to survive, taught to be kind.
Jennifer Wyman is founder of Bridge the Gap and an emotional education consultant and trainer. A qualified early years practitioner and mum of two with over 21 years experience within the early years sector.