The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

One thing I never thought I would be taking up again at 50 is running!  I did all that and got the t-shirt way back in my 20's and 30's. Keeping fit and healthy is of course a priority, but over the last decade it has been of a more conservative nature than returning to pounding the streets and parks of South London.  So what happened?

Well with a a staycation planned for our summer and lazy days stretching ahead with just the youngest teen for company, it struck me that we could both benefit from something to focus on and as I wrote only a short while ago having a shared interest with your child or teens is so valuable.  It gives us a common purpose, keeps us talking and keeps our relationship alive and as any parent with teenagers will realise that is not a bad thing.

There are some seriously accomplished running mumbloggers out there, Sarah at Mum of Three World for one and some like the fabulous Prabs at Absolutely Prabulous who like me is pushing back against midlife in style.  There have also been many wonderful and inspirational pieces written by other bloggers about their own Couch to 5K (C25K) journey including Charlie over at Mess & Merlot, who not content with reaching the 5K milestone, pushed herself onto 10K.  Aspirational indeed but for now we like all newcomers are just focusing on the first steps to 5K.

The C25K programme is not new, it has actually been around since 1996 and ironically was actually devised by a young man called Josh Clark with his 50 year old mother in mind, to encourage her to address her health.

When I hit 50 earlier this year I reviewed my midlife exercise regime with its focus heavily towards Pilates and Barre work outs and booked sessions with personal trainer Clare at Live In Fitness Retreat.  A 56 year old whose mantra is that "50 doesn't define us anymore", Clare took me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to HIIT, a way of exercising that can be done in just 12 minutes a day.  It was a real eye opener for me in terms of my cardio-vascular health, I managed the sessions and still do some at home, but it was evident that it was something I had neglected in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Josh Clark's mother and all the other 50 year olds like her I hope that apart from binding me in a shared agony with my daughter, running again will address that area of weakness for me.  But this experience is not just about me, the other half of the "us" is my daughter who is keen to return to school in September fit and ready for the hockey season ahead, with its gruelling training schedule of early mornings and late afternoons.  For her it is all about improving her stamina and of course hanging out with me!

So how has it been so far?  Well we are almost at the end of the third week of the nine week programme and I think I can safely say we both feel quite smug.  Firstly, because we have proved to the doubting boys in the house that the girls in the house can do "sweaty, heart pumping" exercise if we put our minds to it and secondly because quite frankly not every day has been easy!

There have been days when we have been too hot, too cold or soaked to the skin by archetypal English downpours.  Some mornings we have just been dog tired.  We have also been embarrassed as we pass people we know with the dulcet tones of Michael Jordan booming from our phones encouraging us to start, to stop, to run, to walk but most importantly to keep a steady pace and just keep going.

This aside, however, we have enjoyed the warm up walk and the chance to chat about "stuff"; the way we feel at the end of each session; the fact we keep on doing it not because we have to but because we want to and that as each run passes we have ticked another box, plus we are getting close to noticing a real difference.  Of course we have exchanged a few cross words along the way but we don't pant now, we breathe and not just in time with our own footsteps but with each other. We are in sync on our runs, supporting and coaxing each other along the way.

Josh Clark said that he wanted the programme to be easy and rewarding, recognising that we are creatures of inertia and need carrots to get moving and to continue.  In that regard, it is working for us thus far.  As beginners the schedule is sustainable.  I don't know how far we will go with it and whether once we reach the end and tick off our first 5K we will then join the masses running several times a week.  I do, however, hope that we will both reap the rewards of improved fitness and at the very least we will get together once a week for some more "us" time.  Watch this space!

 

Have you embarked on the C25K challenge or something like it?  If so I would love to hear how you coped.

 

Mummy Times TwoThat Friday Linky

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The Value Of A Shared Interest Between Parent & Child

What makes you tick?  Do you share any passions with your children? One of the many things I love about being a mother of teenagers is discovering shared interests that help to cement our relationship as adults and as a family.

As parents we are all guilty of enrolling our children from an early age in a multitude of clubs under the guise that it will be "good for them", whilst waiting quietly in the wings to see which ones stick and if we have a child prodigy on our hands - oh if only!

Those early day activities do have a role to play but the real moment of discovery comes with the secondary parenting stage when our children cast off the shackles of stage one parenting and start to own and nurture their own interests in a grab for independence of mind and spirit.   It is a moment of childhood metamorphosis.

It is wonderful to see them hit on something that ignites a spark and for which they truly develop not just a liking but a passion.  It is even better, however, if that something also interests you and will therefore connect you as individuals with a shared interest, rather than simply as a parent and child.

Of course with a boy and a girl in the house it is natural to assume the father will do all the boy stuff and the mother all the girl stuff, but that is an outdated viewpoint and certainly not the case in our house. I would be lying, however, if I said my eldest teenager's passions for rugby and cricket ignite a spark in me, but nevertheless I am genuinely interested in what it means to him.  So over the years that has meant standing in the back garden and helping out whilst he practises his passing (rugby) or bowling (cricket), turning up to support him when he is playing, trying to understand the rules and taking an interest in the detailed match analysis that always follows every game. Sport excites him and is a big part of him I cannot ignore if I am to understand and connect with him, although sports trivia and inside sporting jokes are clearly the preserve of my husband as are trips to watch live games or to play a round of golf.

Sport aside, on a more frivolous level  we also love shopping together (yah!) a male in the house that loves to look good after a wasted decade spent trying to persuade my husband that clothes maketh the man and are not just a necessity for covering nudity, is a relief I cannot quite describe.   My son has helped me to decide on many an outfit over the years and was my chosen shopping companion when buying my all important shoes for my 50th this year.  My husband would say it is a shallow shared interest of course but I beg to differ.

Sadly my eldest does not share my passion for reading, the theatre or art.   Over the years we have forced books upon both our teens but with our eldest it has been clear since primary that reading would always be a means to an end for him and not a pleasure.  A Freddie Flintoff biography remains to this day his favourite read of all time - as an English graduate I have despaired!  Similarly, with the theatre whilst we have enjoyed many a family excursion to national and local theatre, aside from a pantomine featuring the dance group Diversity after their success on Britain's Got Talent, it really hasn't flicked his switch but it doesn't mean we have given up - it is just a case of finding a compromise sometimes and we have had a few wins amidst the fails War Horse, Le Cirque du Soleil to name a few.

These passions of mine are all the reserve of my shared interests with my youngest teen who devours books by the truckload, adores drama from the perspective of a spectator, performer and director and is very happy to wile away several hours with me at the RA , the Tate or our local art galleries and has even started her own mini art collection as a result.

Similarly with my daughter, however, despite our female connection she shares a fistful of interests with her father I can't get close to.  Sci-Fi for one, YouTubers with extraordinary names, the Marvel Universe and Gaming and as she reminded me only this morning, it was as a result of my husband spending hours at a time making up stories with her toys and shooting videos that ignited her love of filming.

It is impossible for everyone in a family to like all of the same things but to survive the next phase of parenting and beyond it is essential to have some areas of common ground.  It is our areas of shared interest that give not only our family our identity but the relationships within it too.  If I think about my relationship with my parents now in their 70's, my mother's absolute love is gardening and it is through her that I have developed my own interest.  Growing up in Norfolk, outdoor coastal walks were a regular occurence and gave us the chance to come together as a family and this is something I still enjoy not only with my parents when I visit, but also in London with my own family, even if the views don't involve the sea.

As a family we have clocked up some fabulous experiences together including our Super Saturday experience at the 2012 Olympics and an array of moments from travelling and exploring different countries and cultures, something again that my own parents engendered in me during my childhood.   Comedy is also a shared passion and we all relish a night being entertained either from the comfort of our sofa or live at comedy clubs or the big venues with the likes of Michael McIntrye and Jack Whitehall - a new introduction for me by my teens in fact.

The truth is, however, it doesn't even need to be complicated, some of our best moments together have been enjoying a wet and windy walk around the common or sitting around a table playing a card or board game (Scrabble brings out the worst in all of us) and binge watching on Eastenders or Come Dine With Me whilst waiting for my own culinary masterpiece to materialise (think Wendy of Butterflies fame - if you are old enough of course!)

Parenting teenagers is a distinctive journey and the value of shared interests is nowhere more apparent than at this stage - they will provide a multitude of unforgettable experiences and are ultimately the glue that will bind you together for the stage beyond.

 

What interests do you share with your children and as a family?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

 

Tammymum Cuddle Fairy

 

 

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Sleepy Teenagers – How Much Do They Need?

With the exams finally behind us and the holidays stretching ahead it has struck me that one thing teenagers can do very well is sleep.

In our house there is a definite teen sleep pattern evolving that eschews that of the rest of the house and means not only are our body clocks not in tune but also we are out of sync on so many other levels as a result.

If he is not working to pay for his multiple upcoming summer holidays, our eldest will go out as we go to bed, arrive home as my husband goes to work, go to sleep as I get up and his breakfast is our lunch and so on and so forth.   As for our youngest, well she is going through a massive growth spurt at the moment and is permanently tired so needs no encouragement to sleep some more.

I am certainly not a morning person and relish the holidays and the chance for some extra shut eye, but my teenagers make sleeping look like an Olympic sport when not at school and I confess that on a couple of occasions I have resorted to the habit namely reserved for new mums of creeping in to their rooms and checking for a pulse for fear they have slipped in to a sleep induced coma!

Of course this whole scenario is ironic as I am sure like many other parents of teenagers will attest, the term time is a constant battle to get them to go to bed and get enough sleep, so if I argue with them now about cutting their sleep short and getting up earlier, they simply raise their eyebrows and challenge my logic.

Research from the National Sleep Foundation shows that teenagers between the ages of 14-18 need around 9 hours sleep a night, not only for their general well being but also to function at their best.

As adults, we are all too aware of the benefits of sleep.  It makes us more alert and we have more energy, we think more clearly and make better decisions and that of course means we are all much happier and enjoy life more, but just as with everything else in life though, it isn't just about the quantity of sleep but the quality.

Puberty, has a lot to answer for and as our children move through adolescence their internal body clock starts to alter which in turn affects their circadian rhythm making them more alert later in the day and moving back their time for feeling sleepy at night by about two hours, so it is a futile battle to get them to go to bed early as their body is simply not sleepy enough.

Combine this with busy schedules during the term time and the need to wake up early and go to school and invariably our teenagers are just not getting the amount, let alone the quality of sleep they need.

Cumulative sleep deprivation is bad for our health and as I know from personal experience with my menopausal insomnia, can result in mood swings, concentration issues and poor health and the same is true of teenagers.  They need sleep to ensure their brain grows properly and to make sense of the world.

I have featured a guest post previously from Dr Martin Lee at No Phone Zone on good sleep hygiene habits for our teenagers and the importance of ensuring they disconnect from the digital world when they go to bed, but what else can we do as parents?

Well during term time a routine and set bed time is important, but it would seem that during the weekends and holidays whilst it may go against every grain in our body and drive us nuts, it is advised to let our teenagers sleep to replenish their fuel reserves, but this should not be at the expense of any parental control.  If left to sleep indefinitely teenagers will experience a complete shift in their circadian rhythm which will mean that when it comes to the end of the holidays and returning to a normal routine they will struggle to adapt.

A good night's rest is vital mental nourishment and the holidays are a time for resting and throwing the rule book and the alarm clock for that matter out of the window but there is a point at which it is necessary to call "time teenagers please!"

 

What is your summer holiday sleep routine? Are your youngsters busy catching up on their sleep?

 

 

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Coping With Panic Attacks – A Modern Day Epidemic

"I think I am having a panic attack!  How can I stop it?"

Both my teenagers have asked me this question at some point during their young lives.  Panic occurs as a natural result of anxiety.  Yet anxiety is a term so readily bandied around nowadays that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between that which is genuinely life changing and that which is a fleeting response to a stressful situation.

We all have moments in our lives which we find stressful but anxiety at its most serious is debilitating and can drastically affect the sufferer's day to day life and that of those around them.

In the case of my teens both were experiencing moments of heightened anxiety as a result of exams, a normal scenario for many.  However, as  a sufferer of panic attacks myself some years ago I am all too conscious of the need not to dismiss another's anxiety out of turn and find myself naturally sympathetic to those coming out as a fellow victim.

My own experience was unprecedented.  There was no logical reason for it and that is often the most frustrating aspect.  It doesn't make sense.  But then again it is not meant to.  I consider myself to be a relatively resilient person but found myself knocked sideaways for a good 6 months by recurrent panic attacks.

Surviving or Thriving, the report released earlier this year by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that over a quarter of people in the UK say that they have experienced panic attacks at some point during their lives.  That is not an insignificant number and justifies the need for an emphasis on treating and caring for our nation's mental health.

The challenge with anxiety lies in recognising when you have a problem that could benefit from expert help.

So starting with the basics, what is a panic attack and what does it feel like?

If you talk to anyone that has had a panic attack one of the first things they would say in describing one is that they thought they were having a heart attack or rather what they imagined a heart attack to feel like anyway.

A racing heart is a classic physical symptom of a panic attack, along with an inability to breathe which can lead to a period of hyperventilating, sweating, severe nausea and trembling.

The triggers, however, are less easy to identify and that is what can make treating them seem like an uphill struggle.  Whilst the fact you are experiencing panic attacks is due to a period of stress past or present and your body's physical reaction to it, the specific episodes themselves are not linked by a common situation.

My first attack occurred in a shopping centre discussing bed linen with a shop assistant.  My second walking to collect my children from school.  My third in a queue in the post office. One of my worst was in Athens on top of the Acropolis, marring what was an idyllic moment during a family holiday.

None of these situations were stressful and that is the difference between an isolated attack induced by a specifically stressful scenario like sitting an exam, standing up in front of hundreds to give a speech or fighting off an attacker and an actual disorder.

I had experienced some stressful situations in my life a divorce, a parent with cancer but at the time of the attacks themselves my only stress was the everyday kind, but it is possible after periods of intense stress for something small to trigger a physical reaction that can then spiral out of control if ignored.

Treating panic attacks requires the sufferer to recognise the onset of an attack and know how to control it.  That is easier said than done of course.  The feeling is overwhelming and the memory of how it renders you helpless so terrifying it can be a self-perpetuating problem as you become taken over by it.  The fear of having another attack also comes with its own problems including a reluctance to go out or put yourself in a social situation where you may not be able to control  an attack.

I am not an expert.  I only have my own experience and treatment to draw upon but that has been enough for me to encourage others not to dismiss panic attacks as a "passing phase".  This is particularly easy when dealing with young people as teenagers are notorious for behaviour which can easily be dismissed as "just a phase they are going through".

I have been reminded of the agony of panic attacks recently by the stories of two young teenagers known by our family and both the same age as my daughter, just 14.  The first is the daughter of a very dear friend and the second a school friend of my daughter's.

There was a time when I was reluctant to discuss my own experience, preferring to push it to the back of my mind as an unfortunate episode, but of course as with everything there shouldn't be a stigma associated with panic attacks and sometimes personal recommendations can make a difference in helping others to make sense of what is happening to them or someone they know and if that someone is a young person then that is a job well done.

CBT played a big role in my recovery.  As someone who had always historically shunned therapy I surprised myself with how quickly I embraced it in this instance.  It helped me to make sense of what was happening which I couldn't do on my own.   Once I grasped that I could train my mind to take back control of my body I became less anxious about the attacks and more willing to explore contolling mechanisms that worked for me.  Ultimately the objective was to remove the fear and get my mind to a point where it would forget what panic attacks were.

Nutrition was also important.  My body was being swamped by adrenaline during these attacks and I was encouraged to remove any other stimulants to my nervous system.  Caffeine and sugar were the obvious ones.

Exercise and an emphasis on controlling my breathing were addressed with regular Pilates sessions.

Aside from these lifestyle changes, I also had what I fondly refer to as my panic attack first aid kit which comprised a few things that gave me the confidence to continue as normal, safe in the knowledge that if something did happen in public I could manage it.  A bottle of water to splash on my face, a brown paper bag to manage my breathing and a barley sugar to remove the nausea became permanent accessories in my handbag for when the attacks came knocking.

Collectively all this helped get me to a point where the attacks not only no longer scared me, but became shorter in length as a I learnt how to manage them and then eventually they occurred less frequently, until such a time as I wasn't experiencing them at all anymore. There is no real danger to someone from a panic attack other than the one that their mind may create and that is why it is one of the most treatable anxiety issues and where the phrase mind over matter has never been more pertinent.  My key piece of advice for what it is worth, is don't dismiss panic attacks as a phase, seek help early and take control before they control you.

 

Have you suffered from a panic disorder or know someone who has?  Do you have any experiences or tips to share?

 

 

 

 

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Enough Is Enough.  Standing Up To The Frenemy At Last

Friendship upsets are all part of growing up but some can be more damaging than others.  Youngsters of all ages have minor disagreements, but the world of our tweens and teens is made more complex by the added dimension of controlling and manipulative behaviour, characteristic of the frenemy.

"How is it possible for someone you regard as a friend to simultaneously be your enemy?" My daughter has asked me this question on numerous occasions over the last year as she has continued to try and navigate a rather toxic friendship.

The behaviour of a frenemy is deceptive.  Driven by a need for control the frenemy is good at making you believe that you are friends but in actual fact mutual respect is absent and their acts of friendship superficial, as they mask their real intention which is to exert power over you.  Their game is played on a different level to the playground bully.  For them it is all about domination.

My daughter suffered at the hands of playground bullies during her final year at primary school.

She is by her own admittance "quriky".  Typical "girly" stuff has never been top of her agenda.  Of course she cares about her appearance and rejoices in a girly shopping trip but not as much as she enjoys conversations about SIMS, Pokemon or Marvel.    Sci-Fi movies win over Disney any day of the week.  Jack Whitehall is her idol not Justin Bieber.

As a 10 year old girl these differences were regarded as odd by some other girls but the boys of course loved her for it.  Faced with a table of girls at lunch talking about the latest nail polish colour or a group of boys discussing the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe the boys won every time, satisfying her inquiring mind.   As a result she had a lot of what we refer to as "friend boys".

Unfortunately, there were some girls who spurred on by jealousy or confusion about their own identity, delighted in drawing attention to her differences, making catty comments and generally making her miserable.  It was a testing time.

Schools of course insist that they have a zero tolerance policy toward bullying.  But how easy  is it for them to pick up and what does zero tolerance mean exactly?  A watchful eye?  A warning?  How much do our children have to suffer until someone intervenes and says "Enough is Enough!"

During my parenting years I have learnt that there is an unspoken rule amongst children in the playground that you don't snake, ie snitch.  To complain to a teacher about the way you are being treated by someone else is deemed weak, unacceptable and a sure fire guarantee that your life at school will be beyond miserable until the day you leave.

We considered talking to the parents outside of school, after all the primary school world is a small one, but we didn't because both our son and our daughter insisted it would make the situation worse, so we bit our tongues and encouraged our daughter to turn the other cheek and rise above it, whilst her "real" friends built a protective wall around her.

With the advent of secondary school, we rejoiced, glad all that could be put behind us and she and we could move on.

The first year was bliss.  She moved to an all girl environment.  Admittedly we were unsure initially how this would work but it did.  We had never seen her so happy "at school".  Then unfortunately along came the frenemy.

My daughter's character shifted a gear. Naturally outgoing and vivacious she became more withdrawn and reclusive.  Her love of drama and hockey diminished.  Her interests changed.  She was at this girl's beck and call, shunning her other friends to spend time with this girl who would then always let her down at the last moment.  She lost her joie de vivre.  It was quite simply soul destroying to watch and we felt powerless to stop it.

Then out of the blue there was a pivotal moment.  The frenemy called time on their friendship.  My daughter fell apart and we picked up the pieces whilst praying that would be it.  Then just as quickly the frenemy apologised but in such a way as to suggest my daughter was to blame.  Cautious now my daughter thankfully didn't jump straight back in but some contact was resumed.   Frustrated perhaps by my daughter's reluctance, a period of cyber bullying followed.  My daughter adhered to all the recommended guidelines and blocked her online but not before I had taken screen shots of the messages.   My patience had worn thin. I didn't give a damn about the rules of the playground anymore.  Her welfare was my priority and I wanted my daughter back how she used to be.  I insisted she keep away from this girl or I would have to escalate the issue at school.

Of course to someone like the frenemy, being shunned was a dent to her ego and whilst my daughter has followed my advice and remained courteous whilst keeping her at arms length the frenemy has continued wherever possible to make hurtful comments, intimidate my daughter during class by sitting and just staring at her, or even interrupting her conversations.  Individually these are all little actions but collaboratively they are very undermining.

Then last week happened.  My daughter stood up to her.

The frenemy confronted my daughter accusing her of being immature for ignoring her.

"Do I need to remind you how you treated me last year? Do I? What is wrong with you? Your behaviour was not normal.  The way you treated me was wrong. Now leave me alone!"

I listened quietly when my daughter relayed the story of her response.  "Mum, I have never felt such rage.  I was so angry.  It came from the pit of my stomach.  I was shaking so much afterwards.  I am sorry."

Sometimes, just sometimes, sitting quietly, turning the other cheek and saying nothing is not enough.  My daughter has endured more than her fair share of upset at the hands of others and this time she had had enough.  She fought back all by herself and I am proud of her for that.  There was  no need for her to apologise to me.  There is a time in everyone's life when it is time to stand up to your enemies and last week was the right time for my daughter to do just that too.

As a parent would I do things differently if I had the time again?  Probably not. I am pleased that my teens discuss issues openly with us otherwise I think this scenario could have been so much worse, but in terms of stepping in I had to respect my daughter's wishes.  She was the one dealing with the situation day in, day out and it had to be her call. In the end though the frenemy was shown up for what she really was, as are all bullies.  As for our tweens and teens they need to be encouraged to speak up and put a stop to bullying once and for all.

 

Have you had any similar experiences as a parent?  How did you cope with them?  If you are a teacher I would love to hear your perspective.

 

 

Mummy Times Two diaryofanimperfectmum Motherhood: The Real Deal

 

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Guest Post – Potential Effects of Smartphone Overuse Syndrome In Teenagers

Are you or your teenagers addicted to your smartphone?  Do you argue about the presence of phones at mealtimes?  Do your youngsters sleep with their phones in their room?  A ubiquitous accessory nowadays, it is so easy to fall into the trap of constantly checking our phones for news and messages at all times of day and night.  This obsession, however, to always have our phone nearby is reaching epidemic proportions among our youngsters in particular and seriously affecting their mental health.

Dr Martin  Lee is a Consultant Rheumatologist and Associate Senior Clinical Lecturer currently working for Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Hospitals and Newcastle University. He has a specialist interest in Young Adult and Adolescent care and created the concept of No Phone Zone in 2016 based on his reflections that the overuse of smartphones (particularly at bedtime and during the night) was having negative effects on his patients’ sleep hygiene, mental and physical wellbeing, interpersonal relationships, productivity and online safety.

Here Martin shares his thoughts and findings - it is serious food for thought as we move further into an age of increased smartphone usage.

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene and the Potential Effects Of Smartphone Overuse Syndrome (SOS) In Teenagers

Smartphones have fundamentally changed how we live and their functionality has had many positive impacts on our lives. The invention and rapid evolution of smartphones now means that access to the internet, social media sites and a multitude of applications is rarely more than an arm’s length away, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, are there potential downsides to this technology that could be having a negative impact within our homes and on our lives?

Smartphone Overuse Syndrome (SOS)?

As a consultant physician working in the UK with an interest in adolescent and young adult care, I witness first hand potential negative consequences of mobile phone technology almost on a day-to-day basis. I believe that smartphone overuse has the potential to hinder relationships within our families and also have a negative effect on our own, and our children’s, sleep patterns and mental health.

Teenagers are frequently referred to my clinic complaining of chronic fatigue, daytime sleepiness, pain and headaches. These symptoms are frequently accompanied by symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, low mood and feelings of anxiety. When taking a history from these teenagers, a key and recurrent theme is frequent access to the internet and social media, often using smartphone technology and often at night.

Trends in smartphone use in Teenagers (parents look away now!):

Over the past decade there has been a huge increase in electronic media use in teenagers. In 2010 a survey of over 2,000 American youths aged 8 to 18 found that they spent an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media.

With the increased availability (and reduced costs) of smartphone technology, there has been a rapid increase in both smartphone ownership and smartphone use among teenagers. A recent study found that American college students spent nearly 9 hours a day on their mobile phones!

In 2016, Deloitte published its UK mobile consumer survey. Key findings of this report include the fact that about 91% of 18-44 year olds in the UK own a smartphone. Nighttime smartphone usage was particularly high in the teenage population and about half of all 18-24 year olds check their phone in the middle of the night.

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) in partnership with Digital Awareness UK (DAUK) recently conducted a published a survey of 2,750 pupils aged 11-18, looking into teenage use of mobile devices overnight and the impact this is having on their health and well-being. The survey revealed that almost half (45%) of teenagers checked their mobile devices during the night. Of these teenagers, 23% checked their mobile device more than 10 times per night. Other findings of the survey included the facts that 68% of teenagers said that using their mobile devices at night affected their schoolwork.

Smartphone use and sleep:

Alongside increases in smartphone ownership and use in teenagers, recent data also suggests a shift towards poorer sleep patterns over the past decades. These changes include going to bed later, taking longer to fall asleep, shorter sleep duration, poorer sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness. Several other studies have demonstrated a relationship between mobile phone use at night and shorter sleep duration or increased daytime sleepiness. There are 4 key reasons why smartphone use in evenings and at bedtime could potentially have a negative impact on sleep quantity and quality.

  1. Sleep stealing (sleep can potentially be displaced by smartphone use at night leaving less time for sleep).
  2. Smartphone use at bedtime can lead to increased mental, emotional or physiological arousal and therefore interfere with time to onset of sleep.
  3. Light emission from smartphones that use LED technology (‘blue-range’ light) may disrupt our sleep by interfering with our body’s melatonin secretion and its in-built 24-hour clock.
  4. Smartphones left switched on at night can disturb sleep and reduce the quantity and quality of deep or ‘restorative’ sleep.

Smartphone use and mental health disorders in teenagers:

It is well known that there is an association between depression and sleep disturbance but studies have also found that sleep disturbance can lead to depression in teenagers. One study of over 17,000 adolescents published in 2012 reported an association between nighttime mobile phone use and poor mental health, suicidal feelings and self-harm. A further study of over 300 teenagers published in 2015 found that smartphone use in bed before sleep was related to shorter sleep duration and higher levels of depressive symptoms.

Conclusions:

There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that teenagers are using smartphones more and more and that smartphone use at night can have a negative affect on sleep and mental health. I believe teenagers and their families should be educated about sleep hygiene and the potential effects of smartphone use at bedtime and at night. This education should include advice about setting limits on smartphone use or introducing phone free areas of the home or times of the day.

Martin's passion and commitment for pioneering a change in the way families manage their smartphone usage is heartfelt.  He truly wants to make a difference.

If Martin has forced you to question your habits and those of your youngsters as he did me then you can find out more information at  www.nophonezone.co.uk and for those of you who would like to take steps towards creating phone free zones in your own home, Martin is offering a discount on his fun nophonezone bags with the code MOTHEROFTEENAGERS.

It is an unspoken rule in our house that phones are banned at mealtimes as this is when we come together as a family.  Equally iPhones and iPads are left in our home office over night, but for an 18 year old sometimes the temptation can be too great to have it close by. Interestingly, however, my son has been strict with himself during the exam period and of his own volition has been switching off his devices an hour before going to bed.

The result? Well no teenager likes to admit their parents know best but he has delighted in the fact that he is sleeping better, waking earlier and is less lethargic.   Whether he continues it full-time beyond the exams remains to be seen but for now we are all enjoying reaping the benefits.

Are you worried about your tweens or teens and their smartphone usage?  Do you have any rules in your home regarding smartphone usage? Did you find Martin's piece helpful?  I would love to hear your views.

 

 

 

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Essential Festival Tips For Teenagers & Their Parents

The festival season is upon us again and for many teenagers attending their first festival is an undisputed rite of passage, as they celebrate the end of exams and enjoy some quasi adult independence.

As a parent it can be a testing time but it can be made easier.  The first time my eldest teen went I spent days, (maybe weeks) talking to not only parents of teenagers that had already been, but also young twenty somethings full of festival "know-how".Image result for festivals

Now it is me that friends are contacting for advice so for those who maybe in a similar situation this year with their own teenager here are my top tips for reducing your stress and making their experience a lot easier.

  • Ticket PDF: we learnt the hard way!  Make sure they download a PDF of their ticket onto their phone in case they forget the paper version!
  • Tent: Don't send them with your best "family" tent, as it will smell like an underground toilet as people stumble past and pee at will in the middle of the night.  Buy a cheap pop up festival tent from Argos which they can just leave behind. It is also a good idea to buy one slightly bigger than they need so there is room for them to store their kit and still have room to collapse after a day's partying.
  • Tent Finder App: Gone are the days of attaching a flag to your tent to help you locate it amidst the sea of tents, now finding your tent in the middle of the night has just been made easier with the launch of a new app from Boutique Camping that lets you mark where you pitch your tent using GPS and then is saved as a pin on your phone map - genius!
  • Phone+Portable Charger: They will get separated from their friends and will regret it if they don't take their phones. Most festivals have lockers for hire and come with charging sockets which are worth hiring otherwise get a portable charger such as iMuto which they can use to charge their phone several times over.
  • Bum-Bag: To store their valuables when they are partying.
  • Wellies: They are ubiquitous with festivals but there are 2 important things to bear in mind, firstly don't send them with cheap ones or they will return with blisters aplenty after days of sweaty dancing and secondly they will want a change of footwear at some point - wellies 24/7 is really only for the foolhardy or for those that just don't dance!
  • Mac-In-A-Sac: Even if the forecast is non-stop sunshine, remember this is England after-all.
  • Headtorch: For those moments when they may need to find the loo in the middle of the night and want their hands free.
  • Bin-bags: To store dirty clothes, rubbish and stick over any holes that may appear in their tent.
  • Giant Wet Wipes: These are a shower in a bag essentially and as the novelty of being dirty wears off after 36 hours, they will thank you for forcing that extra packet in their rucksack as they head out of the door.
  • Deodorant/Toothpaste: No explanation needed, but make sure it is a roll-on deodorant, our teenager had his spray can confiscated in a bag search at his last festival.
  • Plastic Bottles:  Some festivals are more rigorous than others, but glass bottles are a no-go so decant liquids into plastic bottles to ensure they can keep hold of it.
  • Food: Festival food is expensive and even teenagers have a limit on how many buns they can eat containing a variety of meat.  Fruit in a tin is perfect for those mornings when they wake up wanting something resembling fresh and juicy, plus it will help to get their blood sugar up.  Beyond The Beaten Track is also a good range of hot meal kits recommended by DoE, but they will need a stove.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Festivals are germ farms and anti-bacterial gel is a necessity before they tuck into their festival grub, to avoid spending days huddled in a tent with food poisoning.
  • Loo Roll: They can never have too much!
  • Medical Kit: Neurofen (because they will get a headache!) and blister plasters!
  • Berocca: A high dose of vitamins and energy in a tablet for the days when they are wilting and need a pick-me-up.
  • Sunscreen: All teenagers dismiss it, but sunstroke is not a good look when you are trying to be festival cool.
  • First Aid by British Red Cross: Medical assistance is widely available at festivals but sometimes problems arise that need immediate attention.  When my teenager choked it was the fast reaction of a friend that saved him.  This app from the British Red Cross is full of practical tips on handling everyday scenarios.
  • Water: For re-hydrating and cleaning.

A final word of warning goes to the parents....Teenagers like to think they are invincible but humans were not designed to withstand 3-5 days of continuous drinking, eating rubbish food, jumping and sleep deprivation, they will return smelly, grumpy and exhausted and totally disinclined to answer any questions.  Expect grunting of a disproportionate nature from anything you may have experienced before and for them to sleep for close to 24 hours - yes seeing is believing!

Do you have any top tips to share?  Please let me know in the comments.

Editor's note:  This post was first published last year and has been recently updated with some new tips. 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Do We Prepare Our Children For Failure?

Our house is a hotbed of exam anxiety at the moment as our eldest is in the final throes of preparing for his A'levels.  I have followed all my own advice and even that of others about managing his stress but it is tough - he is worried.

This is it, the culmination of years of hard work and as he sees it the end of the road if he gets it all wrong.

"Is this what panic feels like?" " I am not going to get those three A's." "Who was I trying to kid applying for the Russell Group Universities?  I am just not clever enough. "  "I am going to defer and do it next year."

As the days pass  this is the conversation that repeats on loop at varying intervals from morning until night.  There is no respite.  True to his revision timetable he appears like a parrot on my shoulder at 40 minute intervals to either discuss what he has learnt, what he is about to learn or his heightened anxiety.

There is nowhere to hide.  I am hunted from dawn until dusk.  Such is the plight of the SAHM of a teenager taking exams.

My youngest teenager meanwhile sits in the neighbouring room diligently preparing for her own Year 9 exams and living in constant fear of being shot down in flames if she so much as mentions one syllable of the stress word in his presence.

It is no surprise that our teens are susceptible to moments of self-doubt and anxiety when under so much pressure to succeed. As parents we evidently adopt all the strategies of reassurance at our disposal in the hope that we can allay their fears long enough to get them to walk through the door of the exam room and turn over the paper.  I have dug deep this week to placate and reassure him not only of his own ability but of our confidence in his ability. He was worked tirelessly and deserves to be rewarded.

The truth, however, is there are no guarantees.  Despite thorough revision, every year some pupils do fall short of what they need to go to University and the scramble for clearing places through UCAS commences.

What's not often talked about, however, is that upwards of 60,000 students use the system every year to find a place at university, and for many of these, it's a positive experience and out of initial failure comes success.

More than 30 years ago I was one of those students.  I can still remember the moment like it was yesterday.  Waiting patiently for the postman to deliver the scrap of paper that would deliver the verdict on which course my life would take next. The shock.  The disappointment of my parents.  The "oh shit" moment, followed swiftly by "what next?"

I phoned my first choice university, they agreed to defer my place if I boosted one of my grades.  I did that in the next academic term and then secured various work placements and went travelling.  My academic journey took a different pathway but it wasn't a bad one.  It was the best time of my life and benefited me in so many ways.

Personally I don't want that for our son.  I want him to succeed first time around.  I was studying humanities.  It could be picked up at any point.  He on the other hand is a mathematics whizz and in the debate over the gap year option, he was advised to keep at it and surge ahead on the crest of his wave.  If, however, like me he doesn't deliver what he needs we will obviously turn to Plan B and make it work.

In the meantime, the message is clear.  "You can only do your best."  

Underlying this however is the fact that he isn't prepared for disappointment or failure.

"I haven't failed at anything yet.  I wouldn't know what to do."  These were his words yesterday.  I reminded him of my own plight at his age.   I wasn't ready for it either.  Nobody is.

So how do we prepare our children, our teenagers for disappointment and for failure?

Simply, you can't.  I certainly wasn't prepared.  I knew after my exams that my chances of achieving what was necessary were slim but I hoped I was wrong.  Isn't that what we all do? Hold on to hope.  Even if our son messes it up, he will rage for a bit, get hysterical but until the verdict is delivered on the morning of 17th August he will still hold onto hope.

Nothing can prepare you for that punch to the stomach that says "You fell short this time."

Three years ago our daughter faced disappointment when she didn't secure a place at her first choice secondary school.  In hindsight it was a blessing in disguise but at the time she was beside herself.  She has come out a stronger person and unlike her brother is far more balanced in her approach to stress and the possibility of failure.

My mantra in being a mother of teenagers is communication, honesty and sharing.  There will be some things that as maturing teenagers they don't want to disclose but I hope that over the years I have developed a level of trust that guarantees them the assurity of at least one thing and that is my support, our support - that regardless of the outcome we will be there for them in the same way my parents were there for me and still are.

The world may feel like it is ending but it won't and they will survive.

The truth behind all of this is that you can't be prepared for failure until  it happens.  Failure itself is the only thing that teaches you how to cope with it.  It doesn't matter how much we say as parents to reassure our children the harsh cold reality of failure is the only teacher but it doesn't make them a failure.

An exchange with Alison at Unique Minds Counselling reminded me that persuading our teenagers to "Believe" in themselves is paramount. I know that as a parent I am not alone in that quest and Alison was spot on in her advice "The stress they put themselves under often engulfs them and they can only see life in one direction.  I try to encourage them to see that life has many pathways and whatever the outcome of exams - doesn't define them as a person." 

 

As featured on HuffPost

 

 

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