How to Raise a Financially Literate Child

The following is a short excerpt from my book BETWEEN: A Guide for Parents of Eight to Thirteen Year Olds:

Arguably, the way we, as parents and carers, handle our own finances – the example we set to our tweens and what we teach them about money – will be the strongest influence on how they handle their own personal finances as they grow. I’ve always found it strange, and a little worrying, that this area is omitted from school lessons. After all, it’s something we all need to understand as adults and yet our tweens and teens are so ill prepared. I thought I had done a pretty good job when my children were small, until one day, at a festival, my then six- or seven-year-old pointed out a cash machine with a ‘Free money withdrawals’ sign. He called me over and said, ‘Look, Mum – they’re giving away free money. Quick, get some out!’. I spent the next half-hour explaining bank accounts, credit and debit cards and cash-machine withdrawal fees to him, pointing out that sadly, it wasn’t the money that was free, but the withdrawal.


Fast-forward a couple of years and I was sitting in the living room watching TV with another of my sons. An advert came on for a home-equity-release company. My son thought it sounded like a great idea and suggested that we should call the company and request they pay us some money. It took several minutes to explain to him that it wasn’t quite as simple as calling up and requesting free cash.


The financial pitfalls of the modern-day world are complex and many. From understanding payday loans to interest-free credit purchases, buy-now-pay-later schemes and companies offering to buy any vehicle (for considerably less than the market value), there is an urgent need for our tweens to understand the financial world they are about to enter into. And yet there is so little formal schooling on these issues. It’s vital, then, that parents and carers themselves raise their tweens with a sound financial education.

What does your tween need to know about money?
The best way to discuss money with your tween is to bring it up in discussions that happen organically – say, in response to an advert on TV or a real-life event. If you are mindful of the need to teach your tween about money, you will find plenty of opportunities to naturally talk about it.


Pocket money is an important way for tweens to learn about money experientially, as is giving them the opportunity to earn their own money. We’ll look at these ideas a little more later on in this chapter. For now, here’s a list of financial topics that I would aim for your tween to understand as they approach their teen years:

• The difference between a credit and a debit card.
• The difference between a credit balance and debt

• The difference between a prearranged and unauthorised overdraft.
• How interest rates work (for purchases and earning interest on savings).
• How to look at how much credit really costs (including payday loans and personal loans).
• The difference between renting a home and buying one (including how mortgages work).
• How to compare the cost of different items and services.
• How discount codes and coupons work and where to find them.
• How to run a monthly budget.
• How to plan savings (especially for an item or activity).
• How taxes work.
• Household bills and a rough idea of their cost.
• How investments work.
• Why gambling is so risky and why they are unlikely to win (including fruit machines, scratch cards and the like).
• How salaries work – how often they are paid and what the average salary is for a full-time worker in the country you live in.
• How sales work in stores and why they often aren’t as good as they appear (for instance, how the price of an item might be temporarily raised for a few weeks, so that it can then be cut dramatically for a sale, making the reduction appear more generous than it really is).
• How giving to charity and donations work.

So many adults today have a poor understanding of personal finance concepts, and I think this lack of knowledge – among other causes – plays a big part in the levels of personal debt and financial difficulties that many struggle with. We really must not leave our children’s financial instruction to their formal education because it is severely lacking in schools.

I passionately believe that all parents should teach their children to be financially literate and allow them to learn to earn, save, spend, donate and budget money in the safety of the family home from a young age. If we don’t, we are doing our children a huge injustice that may impact them negatively for many years to come.

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds.

Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

How will Covid Lockdowns Impact the Social Development of Babies and Young Children?

I have had so many questions recently from parents with babies and toddlers who were either born during, or shortly before, lockdown who are worried about their child’s developing socialisation skills and whether separation from friends, wider family and other babies and toddlers of the same age will have a lasting negative impact on their child’s ability to socialise when lockdowns lift.

I wanted to write this article to reassure all parents in this position that this is one thing that they need not worry about (because goodness knows we all have enough to worry about right now!).

Primary socialisation for babies and toddlers occurs within their immediate family unit and home. This is the most important type of socialisation, as it teaches children the norms, beliefs and ideals of the culture and society in which they live. In short, children learn how to behave around others because of their interactions with their primary caregivers and as such this type of socialisation is usually limited to the child’s immediate family and is most important to children from birth to five years of age.

The type of socialisation that takes place outside of a child’s immediate family and home is known as secondary socialisation. This is the sort of socialisation that takes place in baby and toddler groups, nursery and preschool, extended family and friends and the like. Secondary socialisation means learning new rules and understanding the actions of a much wider group of people (both of the same age and different – ie other toddlers and adults). Because young children learn to primarily socialise with their main, everyday, caregivers, secondary socialisation requires less learning and adapting from them. Basically, it tweaks what they already know from their time with us and builds on the most important foundation of primary socialisation. Secondary socialisation continues throughout life, into the teens and adulthood (you can read a little more on socialisation types and development HERE if you’re interested)

I hope you can see from this that the most crucial aspect of socialisation is that which happens within the child’s own immediate family – primary socialisation. Lockdowns, furloughs and home working (and the result that many parents are spending more time with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers) actually mean that for many children primary socialisation is more increased than it was in pre-Covid times.  Or, in other words, rather than worrying about a lack of socialisation because of lockdowns, the very reverse is happening. A baby and toddler who receives a large amount and quality of primary socialisation at home is actually likely to be more sociable by the time secondary socialisation eventually kicks in.

What about babies and toddlers who haven’t met wider members of their family yet? Or who haven’t yet started any type of daycare? The answer here is to give them time to adjust and settle when they do.

It’s likely you will see an increase in separation anxiety initially (see my video on this above), however it won’t last forever, keep everybody’s expectations realistic. New bonds will be formed and attachments will grow with time and patience. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, safe in the knowledge that you are everything your child needs!

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

5 Ways Dads and Other Carers Can Settle a Breastfed Baby

I’m often contacted by parents who are worried how their baby will settle when the mother is breastfeeding and can’t be around at sleep time (when the baby usually only settles to sleep on the breast). The following 5 tips can help:

1. Try to prepare in advance. Every time mum feeds to sleep play the same piece of white noise or alpha music (see mine HERE) and snuggle a lovey up to your baby. Also try a couple of drops of baby safe diluted aromatherapy oil on mum’s neck or collar for over 3mth olds. Hopefully your baby will link this music, scent & comfort object with mum and when they are used by dad/other carer the baby will be comforted by the sensory cues.

2. Don’t fixate on giving a bottle to sleep. Just because baby usually breastfeeds to sleep it doesn’t mean they actually need the milk itself to sleep. Often it is about connection. Giving a bottle before the bedtime or naptime routine and *not* expecting the baby to go to sleep with the feed takes the pressure off. Also, many babies will do better with open top ‘sippy’ style cups that they can lap milk from, than a bottle.

3. Have a nap/bedtime routine. Again, one that is practiced lots before the separation. Dad/carer should try to copy the routine as much as possible, doing the same things in the same order – e.g: bath, then massage, then read a certain story book etc..

4. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Contradicting myself on point 3! – don’t be worried if this routine doesn’t work when mum is not around. Instead, get creative and find something that works for you. It could be a car ride, a walk outside with the baby, dancing to music with a strong beat, cuddles skin to skin etc. Often dads/other carers find magic ways to get babies to sleep that mums can never copy!

5. Stay calm and nurturing through any tears and reset expectations. It’s unlikely naptime or bedtime will be as calm and easy as it is for mum and that’s OK. Expect tears. That doesn’t mean dad/carer is doing anything wrong, it just means that they’re not mum. It won’t always be like this. Until things change, it’s all about staying calm, deep breaths and holding and comforting the baby through their tears and upset. It is much better for your baby to cry while being held by a loving caregiver, than crying alone in a crib etc.

The NEWLY UPDATED Gentle Sleep Book – out now! If you would like to understand and learn how to improve your baby, toddler, or pre-schooler’s sleep WITHOUT cry-based conventional sleep training, this is the book for you!

sleepbook-1

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

Why You Should Make a First Period Box for Your Tween Daughter (and what to include in it)

Making up a ‘first period box’ for girls, before they start their periods (known as menarche), helps them to feel prepared and by demystifying products that they may use, the whole experience becomes far less anxious for them. Making up a first period box also allows you to discuss the different selection of sanitary protection (san-pro) available, so that she can make an informed choice about her preferences.

Sanitary options include:
Cloth san-pro – These are sanitary towels or tampons made from fabric – usually cotton or bamboo – that are washed (in the washing machine on a regular cycle) and reused after each use. Towels usually have poppers and ‘wings’, so they can be easily fixed in place, and they come in lots of cool patterns and colours. While the initial outlay is more expensive than it would be for disposables, you soon save money.
Period pants – These are special knickers that have a moisture-wicking-and-retaining lining, meaning that no other protection is needed. They look remarkably like normal underwear and come in a range of sizes and colours. Like cloth sanpro, the initial outlay is expensive, but you save money in the long run. Sometimes they are used as an added layer of extra protection, like towels or tampons, to prevent ‘leakage’, which can be particularly useful while at school if your tween has an especially heavy or erratic flow (which is common initially).
Menstrual cups – Soft cups, usually made from silicone or latex, these are inserted into the vagina and collect menstrual blood. They need to be regularly emptied but can be washed and reinserted. They are usually cheap to buy.
Regular sanitary towels – These are the disposable stickon towels that most are familiar with, although you can buy special tween/teen-sized ones. Many of the main companies will send free samples if you request them on their websites, so your tween can find the one they are most comfortable with.
Tampons – Again, one of the two most mainstream choices, alongside regular sanitary towels. Here, your tween can choose between a tampon that comes with an applicator (a special tube that can make insertion easier) or a non-applicator type, where the tampon has to be inserted with the fingers. Once again, most of the well known manufacturers offer free samples on their websites.

What Should you put in a First Period Box?
Although several companies sell ‘first period’ boxes, I prefer to make my own, not only because it is cheaper, but because you can personalise what I included. Here are some ideas:
* A selection of sanitary protection.
* Some new comfy knickers (including spares to keep in their bag in case of any leaks).
* Some wipes, in case of any accidents and if hand-washing facilities aren’t available when changing protection.
* A hot-water bottle or heat pad, in case of discomfort.
* Some snuggly socks . . . just because (who doesn’t feel more comfortable in soft socks?). *A couple of bars of favourite chocolate
*A fun face mask (of the cosmetic, not Covid type).
*Some little motivational quote cards.
*A bottle of favourite bubble bath or shower gel.
*Some herbal or fruity tea bags, or hot chocolate sachets.
*A packet of tissues.
*A small gift – e.g: some hair ties or a favourite body spray.

And finally….*A book about puberty if she doesn’t already have one.

When Should You Make a Period Box?
It’s a good idea to make a first period box either before, or as soon as you see the first signs of puberty. I would aim to make one by the time your daughter turns 9 years of age, but don’t hold back giving it to her – or explaining the contents – until she starts her period though, the earlier she has it the better. Explain what the items are for and suggest she might want to keep some items in her school bag, just in case her periods begin while she is at school. Most importantly though, this means she will have everything ready, which means that if you are not around at the all important time, you can trust that she doesn’t have to try to find whatever she needs herself. This gives girls an element of control which I think is useful for helping them to prepare for their menarche.

This article was adapted from BETWEENIf you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

Why Children are Never Naughty (and what really causes their problem behaviour)

Children (whatever age!) are never just “naughty”. There is ALWAYS a reason for their behaviour. Naughty is the tip of the iceberg, it is a wholly inadequate word to describe what the child is experiencing and it sets us on the wrong path of discipline.

This is why I always look for the underlying causes of their behaviour, because only then can you help them with their unmet needs and struggles – and it’s only when you investigate the reasons that you can expect to see a genuine, long-lasting, positive change.

Common discipline methods that focus on quick fixes through ignoring, rewarding, praising and punishing are always ineffective because they are naive to the underlying reasons, they gloss over them and focus superficially on creating fear and compliance. They’re like sticking a plaster on an infected wound and hoping it goes away because you can’t see it temporarily, but we all know that what’s happening under the surface gets bigger and deeper. This is why so many who use these techniques struggle so much as their children get older.

What’s the alternative? In my Gentle Discipline Book I talk about asking 3 questions every time you are struggling with a behaviour:

WHY
HOW
WHAT

Why is my child doing this? (look for the reason), How are they feeling (consider their emotions and empathise with them – leading to a more collaborative and connected solution) and What do I hope to gain from my discipline? (do you want to solve – or just palliate the problem). These questions are the answer to more holistic, mindful, long-term discipline solutions.

Of course, you also need to cope in the moment – what I call Emergency Discipline – this is about keeping people safe and stopping dangerous/harmful behaviours as they happen, but you must remember – this is NOT a complete discipline solution, so the behaviour will keep on happening, however well you handle it in the moment, until you work on the Why, the How and the What.

If this article has piqued your interest in gentle discipline, check out my new discipline book.  It is released under the title ‘The Gentle Discipline Book‘ in the UK and under the title ‘Gentle Discipline‘ in the USA and Canada. The book covers common tricky behaviours from babyhood right the way through to the teen years and how to cope with them in a gentle and effective way

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

The Bridge Between Two Worlds (a free excerpt from my new book BETWEEN – for parents of 8-13 year olds)

The following is an excerpt (the introduction) from my new book BETWEEN – a guide for parents of 8-13 year olds, which is out now!

‘We were still children, for all that we thought we weren’t. We were in that in- between place, the twilight between childish things and grown- up things.’ Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook , Christina Henry

Time passes in the blink of an eye. Surely it was only yesterday when that warm, mewing bundle was placed in your arms, eyes fixing on yours with all the intensity and knowing of an old soul who has lived many times before, yet in a tiny body, so fragile and new. Through sleepless nights and weary days, you came to know each other. Your world and your priorities shifted, and you slowly assumed a new identity that centred upon your child. A child who orbited you like a satellite, with you the safety of a home planet and the constant pull of gravity keeping you tied as one. Their dependence on you sometimes felt so very heavy, so all- consuming, and there were days (and many nights) when you reminisced and wished for your carefree past.

Oh, how appealing were thoughts of being able to sleep without little limbs starfishing next to yours, to visit the bathroom alone or eat in peace. As weeks became months and months rolled into years, the sweet, busy, joyous and sometimes claustrophobia-inducing toddler years, in which a little sticky hand permanently reached for yours, gave way to the early school years. Full of glitter, junk modelling, phonics books and a plea for one more bedtime story. Then bam, before you can take a breath, you catch a glimpse of your child as the teenager they soon will be. A certain way they hold their jaw, peer through their impossibly long eyelashes or throw their head back as they laugh. And all at once, you realise that baby is no more. That child is fast becoming grown. Yet, they are not quite there. Life is now a strange dichotomy of big parenting (my term for raising more mature, physically larger children with more complex problems and emotional needs) and little parenting (raising small children with physically exhausting, yet relatively simple needs). This is the world of the in between. The bridge between two worlds. Not yet a teen, but not completely a child either.

The between years are bittersweet: the loss of early childhood and yet the promise of such a bright and open future; mourning their baby days, while enjoying the thrill of looming independence. These times can be confusing, not only for your child but for you, too. The in- between – or ‘tween’, as many refer to them – years of childhood are a unique period of development often overlooked. Advice abounds from multiple sources for the first five years of parenting, the beginning of childhood, you may say, yet it starts to tail off when children start school. It is true that once they are well settled at school, you often have a smooth ride parenting-wise for a couple of years, with the challenges of toddlerhood well behind you and those of the teen years far in the future. While ages five to seven may lull you into a false sense of security, it soon becomes apparent that around the age of eight, new challenges start to appear, as the outside world increasingly influences children, their behaviour and their relationships with others and themselves. It is often at this point that parents reach out for help and advice as they struggle to understand their children.

A year or two later, as your child’s age reaches double digits, things change again as puberty really starts to kick in, with all the emotional and physical issues that accompany it. And once puberty is well established and the teen years are imminent, the challenges of parenthood change yet again, with a new quest for independence, changing schooling, friendships and peer interactions bringing fresh concerns. The tween years finish at age thirteen, when your child is officially a teenager, and help and advice for parents picks up once again. Despite the age demographic label changing on your child’s thirteenth birthday, however, not much changes emotionally or physically for at least the first couple of teenage years (something we will look at in more detail in Chapter 1). You could argue that there is little difference between an older tween and a teen, aside from the label.

The middle years of childhood tend to be overlooked entirely, with a black hole of information until the teenage years – thirteen plus, the last years of childhood. When I was a parent for the first time, I often wondered if people thought that these in- between years  – those between eight and thirteen  – were inconsequential and uneventful. Did the lack of age- specific advice mean that nothing much happened in these years? On the contrary  – the tween years are some of the busiest developmentally and often the most challenging for many parents. Raising a tween can often leave you feeling like a parenting beginner all over again. The child you knew so well seems to change so rapidly, fluctuating almost daily. This middle period of childhood can be difficult for both parent and child. New behaviours surface giving you the same worry and confusion you felt as a new parent all over again, only without the support that you had during the baby and toddler years. Even though we all went through this transition ourselves, it can be hard to access our memories and even trickier to recall information we may have learned in school biology lessons many years ago. Despite these new challenges and changes, there is so little information available to help you on this journey. This book is aimed specifically at filling this gap – your handbook as you cross the bridge from childhood into adolescence, together with your child. It is the book I wish I had read when I was in your position.

The problem with ‘the youth of today’

Have you ever noticed how our society is mostly kind and accepting towards younger children? So long as the child is small and cute, that is. When children approach adolescence (a term technically used to describe the period from the onset of puberty through to adulthood), acceptance and tolerance wane hugely. It is much harder to find a child cute if they are taller than you, I guess. And I think in many people’s minds, size correlates with cognitive ability and emotional development – the presumption being that if a child is beginning to resemble an adult physically, they should behave like one, too. Unfortunately, this is not the case (something we will explore at length in Chapter 1), and this common misconception can lead adults, particularly those from older generations, to frequently admonish ‘the youth of today’. Tweens and teens are often labelled as lacking respect, particularly for their elders, and as being unruly in their behaviour. But these views usually tell us more about the person holding them than they do about our children. Clearly, they represent some form of memory bias, with adults remembering their own qualities at that age with a more positive slant; and they may also tell us a lot about how these people were themselves parented.

Research has shown that adults who had a strict authoritarian upbringing are far more likely to find fault with today’s tweens and teens. 1 But the youth- of- today phenomenon is not new. Adults have been complaining about tweens and teens for cen – turies, and likely will do for many more to come. As it happens, the youth of today are no worse than their predecessors. In fact, there is evidence to show that adolescents today are considerably better in many ways than those from previous generations: rates of smoking, underage drinking, drug use, 2 antisocial behaviour and teen pregnancies 3 have fallen, while academic achievement, concern for the environment and acceptance of diversity have risen. Today’s youth are, in fact, something to celebrate, rather than lament. How exciting that we are the generation raising them!

Building a strong, secure and open bridge

My aim in writing this book is to provide you with the information you need to help your child traverse the bridge from childhood to adulthood, while being mindful of your own needs, too. Your child still needs you to help them to feel secure and to steer them on their journey. Your input will help to reinforce this bridge and to grow the independence and confidence needed for the future. Importantly, your relationship during this period will help to keep both the entrance and exit of this bridge open, allowing your child to cross back over to you when they most need you. All the backwards and forwards, toing and froing are characteristic of this stage: little parenting, blending with big parenting, dependence meeting independence, holding on and letting go. Your openness and support during these years are key to building the relationship that you will have with your child in the future.

Throughout this book, we will constantly examine your relationship with your child and why it matters so very much, especially in Chapters 2 and 3, where we will discuss common problematic tween behaviours and what tweens really want (and need) to grow into happy and secure teens and adults. The relationship you have with your tween also provides the foundation for their future relationships with others. However, as they grow, they will often encounter difficulties in these new relationships – Chapter 4 looks at friendships in the tween years and what you can do as a parent when they don’t run smoothly. Chapter 5 delves into your tween’s relationship with themselves and how to encourage good mental health, now and in years to come. Finally, on the relationship front, Chapter 6 looks at romantic associations, consent and diversity in sexuality  – subjects it’s never too early to discuss with your tween, yet which are often delayed and avoided by so many. Later in the book, we will move on to hot topics surrounding the tween years and issues commonly raised by parents. Chapter 7 considers personal hygiene and how to encourage tweens to understand and take care of their own bodies (including pre – paring for menarche – more commonly known as the onset of periods). Chapter 8 delves deeper into body image and why the tween years are key to helping your child grow into an adult with good body acceptance – one who is more likely to escape the seemingly ever- growing pressures of the diet and cosmetics industries. In Chapter 9, we focus on raising tweens who will advocate for others, and how to cultivate in them an empathy for the world around them and a willingness change the world that they live in for the better (rather than changing them to fit into our cur – rent world). Our tweens are our future, so we should raise them to know that they matter, and that they can make a difference to whatever cause they choose to devote themselves to. No book about tweens would be complete without a chapter on screen time, or ‘how to get your child off their games console’ and Chapter 10 is just that. This generation is growing up online more than any before. We can’t escape the lure of screens and their influence over almost every element of our lives. Raising tweens to be screen savvy  – to utilise the amazing possibilities that they present, while avoiding common pitfalls  – is so important. Chapter 11 looks at schools – at motivation, homework and academic and other achievements. The transition to secondary (or high) school is a huge milestone in the life of a tween and one worthy of some discussion. Chapter 12 is all about financial literacy, which I believe it is vitally important; yet it’s something that is just not discussed with tweens in our society. Classes about how money and debt work are completely absent from the school curriculum, but may be one of the most valuable life lessons you can give them.

Chapter 13 is the final chapter, which is no coincidence. It feels right to leave you at the age when your child becomes a true teenager – the official end of the tween years. Parting is the theme of this chapter: how to let go and give your child wings to fly (especially when you feel like holding on tight) is something many struggle with. How much independence is too much, or too little? And how do you cope with your own feelings as your child reaches towards looming adulthood. Although this book is about your tween, it is also about you as a parent, and it feels fitting to end with a chapter that concerns you as much as your child. After all, you will always be standing at one end of that bridge, watching with pride as your child continues their journey through the in between, but ready and waiting with open arms should they need to return to you again.

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then check out BETWEEN – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

10 Ways to be LGBTQ+ Supportive When Raising Children

The following is a short extract from my new book BETWEEN – the ultimate guide to raising children from 8 to 13 years:

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

1.Check your own Biases

Most of us were raised in a heteronormative world, rife with homophobia and transphobia. Those in the UK who attended school between 1988 and 2003 would have been affected by Margaret Thatcher’s government’s Section 28. This was a clause prohibiting councils and, most importantly, schools from so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, with Thatcher famously saying: ‘Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life.’ This meant that sex education and related support in schools and from social-care services legally had to avoid all LGBTQ+ issues, resulting in widespread bullying and homophobia. The law was abolished in 2000 in Scotland and in 2003 in England and Wales, but those who grew up in the Section 28 era, could be – and were – affected, and it is very possible that you have some conscious or unconscious biases because of it. As with all aspects of parenting, you must confront these beliefs and how they may affect your child and your relationship with them.


2. Don’t Make Any Assumptions or Label Their Feelings  

Try not to make any assumptions about your tween, their sexuality or gender identity. Your assumption may be entirely incorrect, and regardless of what you believe, your tween may identify differently, or may not yet fully understand. Tweens can and do experiment with their gender identities and expressions of it, but never indicate to them that it is ‘just a phase’, no matter how positively you try to phrase it. This stage may pass, or it may not. And for those for whom it doesn’t pass, the labelling of their identity as a phase is extremely damaging.


3. Be Open and Encourage Conversation

Let your tween know that you are always happy to talk with them about anything, or just listen, but never pressure them into conversations, or try to encourage them to ‘out’ themselves. Even if you believe that your tween is LGBTQ+, wait for them to broach it with you in their own way and in their own time.

4. Demonstrate Unconditional Acceptance

Make sure your tween knows that you love them unconditionally, no matter who they are, or who they may be attracted to. Your love and support of them will never change. Also, don’t presume that they instinctively know this. Tell them often.


5. Celebrate Differences and Call out Bad Behaviour  

Be positive about differences and celebrate all sorts of families and couples. Let them know that you value love and identity in all its glorious differences. Actively search out television programmes, films and books featuring those from the LGBTQ+ community and make it a normal part of your family life to demonstrate acceptance. Call out friends and other family members for homophobia and transphobia and check yourself if you say something that could be offensive. Allowing negative talk from others can lead LGBTQ+ tweens to develop something known as internalised homophobia or transphobia (where they themselves believe it is wrong and hugely struggle with their feelings and identity).


6. Watch Your Language

Don’t talk with your tweens about when they grow up and ‘get a boyfriend’ or ‘get a girlfriend’. This language assumes that they are heterosexual and is part of our heteronormative culture. Instead, use inclusive language – ‘Whoever you may love when you are older’ or, ‘When you get a boyfriend or a girlfriend’. If and when your tween does ‘come out’ to you, don’t stop talking about potential romantic partners. Some parents can feel uncomfortable and so stop mentioning future loves altogether, but this lack of conversation can be keenly felt by LGBTQ+ tweens.


7. Keep Your Concerns to Yourself

Don’t mention any concern you may have for them as a LGBTQ+ tween. You wouldn’t mention concerns if they were heterosexual, so there is no need to mention it if they are LGBTQ+. If you do have worries, remember, they are yours, not those of your tween. Sharing with them will not help them but could hurt them. Similarly, don’t raise concerns that you won’t become a grandparent or similar. Once again, there is no guarantee of grandchildren if your children are heterosexual cisgendered and there are many ways for LGBTQ+ individuals to become parents.


8. Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Don’t presume friends of the opposite sex are always romantic or tease your tween about it. Similarly, if your tween does tell you that they are attracted to those of the same sex, don’t presume they are attracted to all their same-sex friends. If you are straight, you are not automatically attracted to everybody of the opposite sex and you have many platonic friendships; the same is true for those who identify as LGBTQ+.


9. Watch out for Gender Stereotypes

Be mindful of gender stereotypes in your home and family and try to avoid them as much as possible. This could be in what you say, phrases you use, toys you buy and so on. If friends or relatives keep sending highly gender-stereotyped cards or gifts, gently ask them to stop doing so and suggest what they may consider instead.


10. Encourage Autonomy

Allow and encourage your tween to have freedom over their own appearance. For instance, give them as much autonomy as possible with their hairstyle and their clothing, regardless of their sex.

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

13 Signs Your Child is Rapidly Becoming a Tween, or Teen

If you have a 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 year old, the chances are you’ll recognise most of this list. How many ring true for you?

  1. Their Birthday and Christmas lists start to feature less toys and more clothing, computer games and (expensive) tech. It’s goodbye to shopping in toyshops and hello to anything that requires a charger (and don’t under-estimate how often they will steal yours).

2. They spend longer and longer in their bedroom and less time with you. When they were little, you longed for these days when their ever-presence felt stifling, but now that they’re here, you look back wistfully and secretly hope that they will ask to spend the evening with you again.

3. Leaving their bedroom is like a trip to Ikea – you come out with unexpected armfuls of glasses, plates, bowls and towels.

4. Their trainers start to smell like those of an adult. One day you sniff and wonder what the awful smell is in your home and realise that the culprit is your child’s shoes. They smell like they belong to a 46 year old man who has run two marathons in a day. Gone are the days of kissing those sweet baby scented toes – now you’re frantically googling if odour-eaters are really effective.

5. You’re no longer mummy, or daddy, but mum/mom and dad, or – sometimes even just your first name; which isn’t all bad, as at least it reminds you of what you’re actually called, since everybody now refers to you as “XXXXX’s mum” or “XXXXX’s dad”.

6. They start to take an interest in your toiletries and make-up and spend more time in the bathroom. If you use hair gel, expect to buy twice the amount you used to and consider investing in shares of Lynx and Impulse.

7. You start to feel the urge to get a dog, to fulfil your need to nurture something as a baby once again and have at least one member of the family who still idolises you.

8. You still feel a twinge of broodiness when you walk past a newborn, but now you’re glad you’re out of the stage and have full nights of sleep and a house free of baby paraphernalia and loud toddler toys and the thought of going back fills you with a slight sense of dread.

9. They start to speak in weird code words (dench, peng, dead and allow anyone?) and anacronyms (LMHO – laughing my head off FYI) and cringe when you use words like ‘cool’ (or try to use the same words that they use).

10. They tease you about your taste in music and listen to music that you’ve never heard of (hello Marshmello – no, not the stay puft type, and BTS – of K-POP fame; yes, more anacronyms!).

11. They start to have a real opinion about what’s fashionable and what isn’t (all of the clothes you used to buy them) and shopping trips start to become fraught with tension when you both dislike each other’s choices.

12. You struggle to understand anything they are doing at school and secretly dread them asking you to help them with their homework, since you have no idea what a fronted adverbial or simultaneous equation are.

13. They pretend that they no longer care about Halloween and dressing up for World Book Day, however once you persuade them to join in, you catch a glimpse of the excited little kid that they once were (they’re still there, beneath the spots, grunts and backchat!).

p.s: you still love them like crazy though – tween oddities and all!

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

Preparing Tweens for the Transition to Secondary/High School

Did you know that the transition to secondary school is considered to be one of the most stressful life event for children? There are many things that you can do to help to prepare your tween though, so that they feel as calm and excited as possible about starting – and the earlier you start the better!

The following is a short extract from BETWEEN, my book for parents of 8-13 year olds:

“Whatever worries tweens may have about the transition to a new school, the two most important responses from parents and carers are, firstly, to listen and, secondly, to empower them to cope with their concerns. The following tips can help with the latter:


• Reassure your tween that all new starters will have worries, even those who look cool, calm and collected on the outside. Help them to understand that a degree of apprehension is totally normal with such a big transition ahead of them.
• Give your child a little notebook and suggest that they write down any concerns or questions they have. You can check on their questions every couple of days – or
daily, if you think that would be better – and if you don’t know the answers immediately, promise you will find out for them as soon as you can.
• Even if the school is running settling-in sessions, ask if you can have a video tour of the building, or at least some photos of your child’s new form room and form tutor. Familiarising themselves with these before the beginning of term can help them to feel more comfortable when they start.
• Do let your tween’s form tutor and whoever is responsible for student wellbeing know if they are feeling very anxious before starting. Often, schools have special settling-in procedures for tweens who they think will struggle.
• Try to buy any uniform needed several weeks before the start of term, so that your tween can wear it around the house, including new shoes (blisters in the first week aren’t fun). If they must wear a tie as part of their new uniform, keep practising at home until they are a pro at tying it.
• See if you can find other new starters and arrange a lunch date with them before term begins, as soon as Covid restrictions allow. Local social-media groups are good for linking up with other parents.
• Make sure your tween knows where to go and who to ask for help at school if they are lost or feeling out of their depth. Also, check that they know what to do if they feel ill or are in pain (including period pain) while at school. Usually, this will be a visit to the school nurse’s office.
• Try to focus on the positives. Ask your tween what they are most looking forward to about starting their new school. Speak about the new opportunities they will have and the activities they love. You could also find out what lunchtime and after-school clubs will be running and share the list with your tween, to build excitement.
• Try to get hold of a map of the school before they start, so they can familiarise themselves with the entrance, their form, the school hall, the canteen and the toilets.
• Do a couple of practice runs of their school journey, especially if your tween will be using public transport or walking.
• Try to get them as organised as possible before starting, checking that they have the right stationery and equipment packed in their bag, so that everything they need will be to hand.
• Give them some coping mechanisms for when things feel a little too much (the tips in Chapter 5 will help).”

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

This is the Hardest Age to Raise According to Research

There’s no denying that the early weeks and months of parenting are exhausting. Babies need constant attention around the clock. Until three months of age, a baby’s body clock is not fully functioning, meaning they have no concept of day and night. They need to feed frequently and need parental reassurance and contact as much as physical sustainance. Sleep becomes a thing of the past and something you wish for in wistful, shattered moments.

Time passes in the blink of an eye and before you know it, your non-sleeping baby has turned into a boddler, not quite a baby – not quite a toddler, zooming around your living room on all fours, putting anything not bolted down into their mouth, drooling and babbling away. Then the toddler years begin and your little one becomes a real person with a real personality. “No” and “mine” feature at the top of their vocabulary, it’s a good job they’re so cute, because the tantrums can be hard to cope with at times.

The toddler years give way to the relatively easier pre-school years. By now, you’ve found your footing as a parent and you’ve probably stopped googling quite so frantically (your search history full of “how do I get my child to sleep through the night in their own room?” and “how can I get my toddler to listen to me?”) and things feel far more settled. The early school years bring a sharp learning curve, along with oodles of junk modelling, glitter (so much glitter) and hastily arranged World Book Day costumes. Once you get over the after school restraint collapse and a few friendship teething issues you start to think that the most difficult years of parenting are well and truly behind you. Onwards and upwards from now on, revelling in a little more new-found independence each year.

……but then the tween years hit. Like a freight train.

The years between eight and thirteen can leave you feeling like a parenting beginner all over again. They bring backchat, rudeness, defiance, highly emotive responses (SO many big emotions!), selfishness, “I hate yous”, sulking and door slamming. The close relationship with your child, that once felt so stiffling in the toddler years, now seems to be slipping away and you begin to question what you did wrong, why does your child now prefer to spend their time shut away in their room rather than spending time with you? Why do they prefer to spend so much time online over family time? (and what if all their friends have phones or games consoles, but you’re not ready for your child to have one?). Then there’s the first time you find porn in the search history on your child’s electronic device, the time when you notice their body changing (a slight flash of hair, or whiff of body odour, or extra curve) but don’t know the best way to approach “the talk” with them, the time you catch them looking in the mirror and exclaiming that they’re “fat” or “not pretty”, the time when they say something racist or homophobic, or the time that their friendships turn sour and your heart could break for them (and that’s without dealing with their first relationship heart break).

Add to this, the transition to secondary, or high, school, finding their footing in an environment where they are the smallest and youngest, having come from a place where they were the biggest and oldest. All this combined with anxiety about Covid, climate change and their changing place in the world, and the tween years are a hotbed of anxiety, worry and stress – and that’s just for the children.

The tween years are as much a transition for parents as they are for tweens, just as we feel truly comfortable with our place as ‘mummy/mommy’ and ‘daddy’ they start to break away from us and their childhoods in general. The first birthday, or Christmas, that you realise you are no longer shopping in the local toy store is heartbreaking. Parents are so ill-prepared to give up the make-believe and wonder they spent a decade creating for their child.

It’s no wonder then that research finds that the hardest years of parenting are the tween, (or middle school if you’re in the USA) years. They may be less physically exhausting than the early years, but emotionally they are so much more exhausting. Arguably, they are also less fulfilling as a parent than the early years. Watching your baby and toddler grow and develop and reach new milestones with big teethy grins and giggles brings much needed affirmation and pride for tired new parents. The tween years are bereft of reward by comparison.

Neither your child, nor you, has or will undergo such a huge transition again. The transition from childhood to adolescence. This journey from one land to another brings so many new challenges for both parent and child. I often thought that there should be a second period of maternity, or parental, leave in the tween years, where it is arguably needed the most, but where most parents are now firmly entrenched back into full-time employment. The teen years in comparison are easier. Yes, there are still huge emotions and they present their own anxieties and challenges (the fear of your child driving their own car, alone, is top of my list!), but things level out somewhat. A teen’s brain is a little more organised than that of a tween and your relationship with them is usually far less up and down by then. Personally, I’ve found the teen years a sweet, welcome, relief from the tween ones with my own four children.

There is no easy answer for parents of tweens, except to understand that although this stage is indisputably difficult, it’s normal and importantly temporary. You WILL get through it – together, and there are easier days around the corner.

I never understood why there was so much help, support and advice available for those with bumps, babies and toddlers, but a sheer lack of any of these for the tween, or middle, years – a time when parents desperately need guidance and support. That’s why I wrote BETWEEN – it’s the book that I wish I had read when my own four children were tweenagers, packed full of information and tips, drawn from the latest biological and psychological research – and most importantly – real world experience, I wrote it to be a ‘hug in a book’ for parents of 8-13 year olds. A guide to hold your hand as you, in turn, hold your child’s hand (on the days they will let you that is!) as you cross over the bridge with them; the bridge between the land of childhood and adolescence. I hope it helps you on your journey!

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds, out March 11th ’21. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.