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Straightforward and Supportive Strategies for Parents and Children

April, 2009
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  Any parent will tell you that when you take on the responsibility of raising a child it comes with the free gift of anxiety in all its forms, intermittent exhaustion, and often reality altering love and devotion. I have a five-year-old son myself and can attest first-hand to the agonies and the ecstasies of parenthood.

  What follows is a collection of simple and effective principals, ideas, and strategies that are the result of my own experiences and those of the wonderful friends, families and educational professionals that I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with over the past 17 years.

  This advice does not apply specifically to children with learning differences and is by no means ‘rocket science’ (as we say in England). However if you take only one or two of the sentiments that follow and implement them successfully with your family then I will have written something worthwhile.

  The Two Commandments: Eat Well. Sleep Well.

  It is thought that up to 60% of what contributes to our optimal health, well-being, and functional ability comes from what we eat. We all know  that we need to aim for a balanced diet low in sugars and refined carbohydrates, and which contains plenty of fruit and vegetables. However, all too often families who have decided to implement a healthier diet become particularly preoccupied with the green leafy stuff and forget to include sufficient water and lean protein (about a palm sized portion at every meal). Protein and water are crucial components in the creation of new brain cells and of chemicals that enable the brain to function properly. Protein is also involved in muscle development and the production of slow burning energy.

  If our children are going to eat well then the whole family needs to adopt a healthy diet. For some families this will take considerable time and persuasion, and so if you can change nothing else about the way your family eats then make sure that everyone has a great breakfast to set them up for the day.P & C

  Unfortunately, sleep deprivation and parenthood can be synonymous so it is important for all parents to repeat the mantra “I need to sleep just as much as my child does”. Creating clear signals that help young children to understand night time and daytime and to keep them in their bedrooms is very important; something as simple as a night light plugged into a timer socket will indicate when it is time to go to bed and when it is okay to get up. This strategy alone can significantly reduce the need for nagging and endless night time negotiations.

  Ensuring that very early risers have supper about an hour before they sleep can also help to keep them horizontal for a little longer.

   Maintaining predictable wind down rituals involving simple yoga or breathing exercises, gentle massages, and bedtime stories can also smooth the way to the ‘land of nod’. For more difficult customers creating a ‘sleep force field’ can be effective, where you tell the child those particularly stimulating or electronic toys “just don’t work in your bedroom after six o’clock”; although it also requires some slight of hand on the part of the parents involved!

  As a general rule computers, TVs, game boys, PSPs and the like do not belong in bedrooms (particularly teenage bedrooms), and overstimulating action packed television programmes are the arch enemy of the good nights sleep for everyone. Children grow, and cells regenerate whilst we sleep; so if for no other reason than you could do with looking that little bit younger it is worth taking the time to ensure that you and your family sleep well.

  Limit tension and confrontation

  Try to create a relaxing atmosphere at home. All too often home is where we unload our troubles and frustrations on the ones we love! Lighting, music, and scents can be very powerful mood alterers so use these in as many positive ways that you can think of.happy family

  Head off conflict

  When you can pre-empt arguments by getting out of the house, changing the subject, separating and sending the child to their room before the argument happens, or (if you have sufficient composure)by provoking the fight straight away to get it over with; this works better with little ones than with teens!

  Create strong routines and rituals which mean that everyone knows what is going to happen; this will reduce the need to ‘nag’ as predictable events are generally more easily accepted by everyone.

  Make positive changes

  If there are skills and behaviours that you would like to change or develop in your children then the following principals can make the process a positive one rather than a ‘mountain to climb’.

  • Accept that there are no ‘quick fixes’.
  • Change what you can, chip away at problems rather than exhausting yourself with overwhelming and inconsistent campaigns.
  • Prioritize; don’t do too much at once.
  • Track progress in some tangible way; this will prevent you and your child from becoming demotivated when the road to your goal is rocky.
  • Motivate your children – don’t fight them; consider your child’s way of looking at things and build positive rewards into the process.
  • Maintain a balance between making positive changes and recognising what your child has already accomplished and is good at.
  • Build resilience and self esteem by helping your child to identify their strengths and by discussing your own strong points and weaknesses in a relaxed and positive way. Be a role model by being upbeat and optimistic about the ways in which you could improve your own skills.
  • At the end of the day remember to ‘choose your battles wisely’; it goes without saying that your relationship with your child is the most precious commodity of all and if you feel it is being damaged by the changes you are trying to make then GET HELP.

  The cavalry

  Sometimes we all need to ‘call in the cavalry’ when things get tough and there is a small but growing community of educational, counselling and therapeutic professionals in Beijing. These are the people to seek out when the challenges of being a ‘good’ parent or child seem overwhelming. Your school or doctor will have a list of contacts. Networks such as Beijing Café can also be a great source of information.


By Elsa Elliott

Elsa Elliott is a Special Educational Needs Teacher and has worked in both mainstream and special schools in the UK and Asia for the past 17 years. At present she is the Director of Education Services with School Source International and provides educational consultancy services to families and schools in Beijing. She can be contacted at: bjeducationconsult@live.com

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