Keeping Your Children Safe Online #WhoIsSam

When did you last talk to your children about staying safe online?  Was it as recently as this week? Or was it last month or even last year?  In an online survey by the National Crime Agency (NCA) 15% of parents hadn't talked to their children for at least 6 months and another 15% had never had the conversation at all.

I can remember the first online safety presentation I attended at my teens' primary school over a decade ago.  Since then there have been countless more throughout the secondary school years, reminding us as parents to stay alert, to continue to monitor our children's online activity and not to sit back on our laurels and think "job done" because it is so easy to do just that isn't it? The problem, however, is that whilst the digital world is advancing so rapidly so too is the resourcefulness of those whose intention is to harm our children.

Where there is a will there is a way and the threat of online sex offenders and their use of live streaming platforms to reach our children with a large number of comments in real time is increasing rapidly.  Once on these platforms, offenders use a variety of techniques to convince young people they are their "secret" friends and then go on to manipulate them to do what they want.

Adequate parental controls on networks and electronic devices are a necessity in every household, but so too is talking to our children frequently about healthy relationships and staying safe online.  It is great that our schools are doing what they can to educate our children about the dangers and the warning signs, but it is vital that we do the same and reinforce the messages not just once but regularly.

#WhoIsSam

With the Christmas holiday on the horizon and no doubt an increase in screen time among children nationwide, the NCA and National Police Chiefs' Council are running a campaign over the coming week to raise awareness among parents of the need to protect their children by talking to them about the kind of behaviour that could put them at risk.

A short animation narrated by a fictional character called Sam and released with the hashtag #WhoIsSam shows how offenders attempt to build relationships with young people online. It is powerful in its simplicity and to the point, just the kind of hard hitting message that is needed.  My daughter's response on viewing it was "That's creepy" and it provided the perfect gateway for us to have a discussion.

Despite my foray into blogging I am still not as technologically savvy as maybe I would like, so when it comes to online security in our house this is handled by my husband whose liberal use of filters has caused a few lively arguments with the teens in the past not least when their internet access was blocked at 9pm and they still had homework to finish.

The chats on the other hand are my territory and although with older teens there is generally a lot of eye-rolling, alongside comments of "I'm not stupid mum!" I am relentless with my questions and supervision of their online behaviour, preferring to always err on the side of caution.

How Often Do You Discuss Online Safety?

Alerted about the #WhoIsSam campaign I questioned my own vigilance and asked some fellow parenting bloggers how often they chat to their children about online safety and how up to date they considered their own knowledge to be.  Here is what they had to say:

"Like it or not my kids are growing up and in an ever changing world filled with technology. I monitor my kids phones, tablets etc and online playing and will do for the foreseeable future but I will also continue to trust them to tell me if something happens. Ironic really that the technology that we are using to communicate is forcing us to communicate more with our children. As a teacher and a blogger I consider myself quite tech savvy. However, I have been caught out by comments made during online games. It shocked me that our kids can be targeted on our own sofas."  Catie, Spectrum Mum

"I’m always chatting to my kids about the dark side of the Internet. I don’t sit them all down to discuss it, its something I just regularly ask them - what they are doing online, who they are talking to and if anyone strange contacts them what to do. They often groan, telling me they know!! It’s a world they need to be aware of, and I don’t hold back on letting them know the dangers. No point sugar coating anything. As for my online knowledge it's as up to date as it ever will be. My kids are way ahead of me on the latest apps out there, but with a good grounding on dangers etc, I’m confident they won't be drawn into anything untoward (at least I hope they wont!) but sometimes, with the best will in the world kids can be hoodwinked." Sharon, Everyone's Buck Stops Here

"I had a conversation with my kids about this just last week. Both are into online games but I don't let the younger son join any gaming groups that have strangers and that do not have his elder brother in. We regularly talk about how adults may pose as children to befriend them. Also, they do not respond to emails, WA messages or any friend requests from anyone unknown. I also check their profiles and emails from time to time. I read regularly about online safety but your query is nudging me to google and learn more about any recent developments or updates." Rachna, Rachna Says

"I’m always dropping comments into conversation about internet safety, only to be met with a wearied “yes mum, I know!” (But it makes me feel better!). I used to think I was internet safety savvy - going to all the talks at the schools etc.. but then I realised that I wasn’t and I’m not. Because with the best will in the world parents can’t keep up with what’s out there. This is why it’s so important that digital citizenship classes take place in schools." Alison, MadHouseMum

"We have an ongoing dialogue about internet safety at home with our kids as well as through their schools. Our kids are not allowed internet enabled devices in their bedrooms, any internet usage happens in public areas of our home.  I don't know how to measure my knowledge.  I'm definitely not as up to date as my 15 year old daughter so when I hear about a new app we discuss it." Liberty, On The Lighter Side

"We had a very good safety awareness talk given to both kids and parents last year at school which made us all more aware of how to keep safe online. I have talked to the kids regularly about it and checked what they're up to and a big rule is they are not allowed to talk to anyone on any of these games they play. I'm hoping the school does the talk every year as it opened our eyes to how easily grown ups can pretend to be other kids and how susceptible the children are. Whole thing still scares me though." Susie, S.H.I.T

"We talk about internet safety often. Really when it comes up in conversation. We do tend to have these types of conversations in the car! I’m pretty up-to-date because we have training at school about internet safety. The children have quite a bit of education on this too in schools. All in all I’m very happy with their internet safety although every time I do a course, I panic because of all the things that could go wrong! It’s v v scary!" Sophie, Old House In The Shires

"It’s actually been a few months since we really had a proper discussion about internet safety. My eldest is thirteen and I was comfortable with her on Instagram as I’m on it also and I can monitor her as well as see that she keeps the setting on private. I also have sign in access so still can delete things if I don’t like what she follows and we can discuss why. When she wanted snap chat I knew nothing about it so I said no. I told her I’d review the decision in a few months time. In general it’s more an ongoing discussion and just having a good trusting relationship with her. I actually have to admit I’m not up to date with online safety. My husband is in IT and so I leave that in his hands, he knows how to monitor what they do online and install safety measures. In saying that though it makes me realise I shouldn’t just rely on him, I really need to get more involved!" Mac, Reflections From Me

"Gosh I think in answer to the 'last time' I probably nag my 13yo on a weekly basis! But this has really made me stop and think. I totally agree with the comment about digital citizenship classes especially as much as I'd love to emulate others' example of not permitting devices in the bedrooms, that is where my kids often do their homework and so much of their schoolwork is internet-dependent. Sadly, just because I'm a blogger and my work means I'm online a huge amount that doesn't translate to me knowing ALL the dangers and loopholes that exist out there." Prabs, Absolutely Prabulous

"About two weeks ago I discussed with my daughter which you tubers she was watching. We had a similar conversation only a month before too. I think I'm reasonably well informed and I know I'm a lot more careful than some of my friends. We don't let the children take as many risks as we might do. I keep them off a few platforms for example but they are never disconnected from their friends so they're happy." Janet, Falcondale Life

"It comes up often at the moment because the phone has only been around since May. At the moment I am more on top of digital matters than my daughter is. No Social Media yet but I think What's App does a very good impersonation. We have already seen the ramifications. In terms of learning about online safety, the school are very much on top of this - well to the extent they can be. We had a very useful session recently which really got me ahead of the game on top of the things I know from being a user."  Nicky, NotJustThe3OfUs

ThinkUKnow

"Knowledge is power" said Sir Francis Bacon and as parents we can never be short of information on how best to protect our children and particularly in this digital world where technology has crept into all our lives so rapidly.

New guidance for both parents and children on the risks posed by live streaming is available from the NCA CEOP's educational website Thinkuknow.  As someone who was previously unfamiliar with this site I can only say to all parents wanting to brush up on their knowledge please do take a look for yourself as it is a truly valuable resource. Information for children is categorised by age from tots to teens and there is also a dedicated area for parents and carers with practical advice and tips on keeping our children safe online.

During a recent week police forces and the NCA arrested 192 offenders on suspicion of child sexual abuse offences.  As parents these figures act as a disturbing reminder that we need to be ever vigilant of the threats to our children and make sure we continue to keep on top of their online behaviour as well as keep our own knowledge up to date.  Monitoring our children online is a necessity not an option.

 

What do you do to keep your children safe online?  How much do you know about online safety?  Do you think you are up to date or could you do more?

 

 

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Mum Muddling Through  Post Comment Love Lucy At Home Blogcrush Week 43 

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Teaching  Children to Take Academic Responsibility

Guest Post

Claire Adams is a regular contributor in the blogosphere and I have always enjoyed her writing so was delighted when she asked if she could guest post for me.  For those of you who haven't come across her before, Claire is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can find her online writing and giving tips about lifestyle and development as a regular contributor at highstylife.com.

Teaching our children the value of an inquiring mind is a cause close to my heart.  It is a stepping stone to independent learning and here Claire pursues this and shows us how we as parents can teach our children to take academic responsibility. 

From a very early age, children have a tendency to identify with some segments of their lives and to completely disregard others that they don’t find appealing, or that don’t resonate with them. Education for the large part seems to children like a forced responsibility, as if they would rarely opt for going to school in the first place if it were up to them – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

It starts when you encourage them to think for themselves and question everything, not blindly accept what they’re presented with, thus helping them embrace the value of learning through thinking, as opposed to merely absorbing information. But in order to own up to their success, failures (of equal value) and choices, our role as parents can be a pivotal one.

Provide perspective early on

While they are still in primary school, children have a tendency to view everything through creativity and play – which opens up wonderful opportunities for creative thinking, problem solving and independent thought development. However, as they step into their tween and teen years, context becomes all the more relevant for them to understand why they are making an effort in the first place.

Not to impress others (us, their parents included), or to get a satisfactory number on a piece of paper, but to enrich their lives, broaden their horizons and, most importantly, equip them for their life ahead.

This is a time when their childhood dreams of becoming astronauts or vets can be brought to life with the right choices. So, talk to them, tell them your own experience, and ask them if they see value in what they are taught at school, how those skills and knowledge can help them succeed later in life.

Know when to step aside or in

Mothers know all too well, how tempting it is to bring out our Wonder Woman self and bring hell to anyone or anything who tries to harm our kids. But they often need us to do something else, they need us not to bail them out, and not to solve their problems for them. Facing responsibility, consequences as well as achievements is essential for their future choices. Ultimately, they need to learn we should all clean up our own mess.

Then again, certain warning signs may indicate that it’s time for an honest one-on-one, if you see they’re frustrated, slipping with their work, showing no sign of positive engagement, or that their behaviour has changed. Help them by teaching them to view this as an opportunity to grow, a positive challenge to learn or improve their time-management skills and overcome their limitations.

Teach them to ask for help

Teens are relentless independence-seekers, and they might find the school work difficult, but they will often avoid admitting they need help. Fostering this independence is commendable, as long as it results in them taking action and developing problem-solving and proper coping techniques, but if they are truly stuck, they need to understand the value of asking for help or guidance, whether that is from their parents or their teachers. Not everything is everyone’s strong suit.

Once they realize that temporary help is another way towards greater independence, they will be more inclined to seek help to overcome learning obstacles. They need a stimulating learning environment that cultivates critical thinking, and offers the tools to handle academic challenges properly, and we all know that’s not easy to come by.

Focus on commitment

I’ll never forget our neighbours daughter’s violin recitals and the hours she would spend playing and perfecting her skills in the days and months before the performance. She was a hard worker and a gifted child, but her stage-fright was so severe she would often freeze on stage or play poorly despite all her practice. Her mother would always praise her, not falsely for the poor performance, but for all the effort she had previously invested in her playing.

Our childrens' grades, teachers’ comments and results often won’t correspond to the amount of work they invest in their studies – they will sometimes do brilliantly well despite poor studying, but they will sometimes fail despite doing their absolute best. Commend them for their dedication, discipline and effort, not merely the end result. This way they will learn how to value their effort above other people’s judgement and they will learn not to give up at the first sign of trouble in their later academic years.

Claire Adams:

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Three Steps To University Open Day Success

Choosing the right university is about so much more than the course.  It is about the location, the environment, the facilities, the extra-curricular activities and the ambience.  What appeals to one student won't necessarily appeal to another.  These are decisions that can't be made from a distance online.

Open Days dominated our weekends this time last year and whilst a thing of the past for us at the moment, I have been reminded by friends going through the process this year of just how valuable they are.

Your teenager needs to go along and get a feel for the university, after all you wouldn't buy a house without seeing it first would you?So where to start?  Well irrespective of where in the country your teenager may be looking to study, the principles for getting the most out of an Open Day are the same. Just follow steps one, two and three.

Step One – Choose visits wisely

Whilst it may not be possible for them to visit every university on their prospective list, there is no doubt it is an important way to help them make a decision, so encourage them to visit three of their five choices at least.   Their decision on where to visit may be dependent on distance and travel expenses but that aside, they should also check the Open Day dates of their wishlist universities to see if there are any clashes.

After each visit, make sure they make a list of what they liked about each university and when looking at other potential universities, look out for those positives to make comparisons.

Location cannot be overemphasized.  Help them to think about where they would like to study – is it a big city university where they can have easy access to all the opportunities and entertainment a major city has to offer? Or would they prefer to study at a campus university which is predominantly in a rural setting, where they can lead a student-centric life and feel part of a close university community?

We live in London, a city with everything on our doorstep but our son opted for a campus university away from home and this is also a big consideration in making that final choice.  How close to home do they want to be?  If they can't decide before the Open Day then make sure they visit both types, home and away and can compare the two.

Open Days are also a good way for them to eliminate those universities that don't tick all their boxes too.  Those that excited our son in the prospectus fell short of his expectations when he visited, which just goes to show that what looks good on paper or online may not pass the close and personal test.

Step Two – What to do when they get there

Whilst as a parent you may have a view on their university selection, ultimately it is their decision to make.  They will be the one studying and living there not you.  Make sure they go prepared with all the questions they want the answers to. This is their opportunity to see the facilities; meet the academic lecturers who will teach them; meet the students who are currently studying there and find out what goes on at the university, besides the lectures!

Examples of some questions they might want to ask:

  • What is the local area like? Where is the nearest supermarket? How easy is it to find a part time job?
  • What sports clubs and societies are there at the university? They might have a specific interest in mind or they may want to try something new.
  • What is the social life like?  Is it campus focused or do students tend to head off campus to socialise?
  • What are the different accommodation options and how do they compare?  If it is off campus, how far away is it?

Make sure they also ask any specific questions about their course to the lecturers. This is the main reason they are there after all.  Universities usually do a presentation about the courses on Open Day or they might even be lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak one-to-one with them.

Encourage them to look out for any specific campus tours or interaction sessions for their subject area so they get a real taste of what is involved each year, as these are a great way of getting a feel of what their chosen course might be like. If they can find a student helper (often called ambassadors) that is studying their course, this is an excellent way to find out directly from them what the course is really like.

Most importantly and one thing that really helped our son was getting in contact with students from his school who were already studying at the universities he was considering and doing the course he was applying for and arranging to meet up on the Open Day and chatting not only to them but their friends.    

It is not a time to hang back or be shy, they need to make the most of their contacts if they have them, speak up when meeting lecturers and other students and avoid "wishing" they had done so later.

STEP 3 – Trust their gut instinct!! 

After taking everything in at an Open Day persuade your teenager to take a minute to step back and listen to their gut. Back to the house analogy - we all know when it just feels right.  Similarly after each visit they should probably have a good idea about whether it could be the type of university they would like to study at just by listening to their instincts.

They need to think about the people they have met throughout the day, the students and the lecturers.  Can they see themselves working alongside them?  Can they see themselves living with them?  Time spent reflecting will avoid regrets later.

Of course having family or close friends at an Open Day with them is great as it's good to listen and share opinions. Personally, however, I think the best test is for them to do a trip alone.  Many universities will invite students back for a second visit once an offer has been made and accepted.  These are known as Offer Holder Days and as going it alone is what this next stage of their life journey is all about, step back and let them explore once more by themselves.  Ultimately, it is their life so let them make it their decision.

Have you been through this process?  If so what advice would you add?  If not is there anything you want to know?  All comments welcome as always.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

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What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?

What are your views on drinking alcohol in front of your children?  Do you make a conscious decision to abstain when with your children or just not to drink to excess?  Have you ever been drunk in front of your children?

In a new report released by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) 29% of parents admitted to having been drunk in front of their children, whilst 51% said they had been tipsy.  Out of the parents that admitted to having been tipsy, 29% of their children said they had been embarrassed by their parents' behaviour as a result and 19% said they felt they had been given less attention.

Invited to take part in a discussion on the findings of the report I was asked whether I drank in front of my teens.  My response quite simply was yes I do.  Asked my opinion on drinking in front of children I expressed the view that it was all about moderation.  Yet the English language is a fickle beast.  Moderate drinking can of course mean different things to different people, one person's glass of wine can be another's bottle.  So parents where should we draw the line?

The differentiating factor for me is responsibility.  We are bombarded by "responsible" marketing messages every where we look but the pinnacle of responsibility is surely responsible parenting.

As adults we know what it is to overstep the mark.  Thus, when it comes to alcohol, it is important as parents we exercise self-control when with our children.  This is at its height when they are younger.  Whilst that early parenting phase for me is well and truly over I was always conscious of the need for a sound mind at all times in case of an emergency.  In fact my husband and I have clocked up quite a few A&E trips with our children over the years and aside from being able to drive, a clear mind was very much a necessity on every occasion.

As they grow and move through the tween phase, our children become more perceptive and aware of boundaries of acceptable behaviour.  Add to this the benefits of education.  Tweens soak up information like sponges .  There is nothing more enjoyable than your child returning from school and brain dumping everything they have learnt in a series of "Did you know?" statements.  Included in this is the introduction to PSHE lessons and its important messages on social media, bullying, puberty, drugs and alcohol.  Tweens are suddenly armed with facts as well as an inquisitive mind.

In the report 11-12 year olds described alcohol as "like sugar for adults".  Well that must be bad then.  After all we spend our lives telling our children to cut back on sugar.  Fizzy drinks are banned, juices and smoothies with their abundance of natural fructose must be limited, along with biscuits and cakes and sweets are forbidden.

Well to be honest in my house all of these things are allowed in moderation.  Yes there is that word again.  But it is a word which for me encompasses the necessary sentiment.  It is about the avoidance of extremes.  My children know the difference between what is acceptable and what will send their dentist or me into a tail spin and them out of control.  Isn't it the same with us as adults when it comes to alcohol? By all means enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer but just know when to stop when children are present.

Now as a mother of teens have my parameters changed?  Almost certainly.  That is not to say I lose control and dance on the table, but a lazy Sunday lunch with teens is one of midlife's pleasures and is more likely to end with a board game, a movie and an afternoon nap than a trip to A&E.

That said, it doesn't mean I have abandoned parenting responsibly.  Control is the defining point in all of this and is one that we emphasised to our eldest teen when he started on the teen house party circuit and more recently when he headed off to university to confront the first hurdle that is Freshers' Week and its inherent heavy drinking culture.

There is no right or wrong.  It all comes down to a matter of personal choice and everyone's choice will be different, even within families.  The only element to remember is that we are setting an example for our children at all times with food, exercise and alcohol.  Ultimately, however, our children will make their own decisions regardless of the example we have set, or what they have learnt and they will almost certainly make some mistakes along the way because that is life. . In the meantime, whilst flying the flag for responsible parenting, let's also remember life is for living - in moderation of course!

 

Did you see the report? What are your views on drinking in front of your children?  I look forward to hearing your views.

 

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How Do We Build Our Teenage Girls’ Self-Esteem?

Has your daughter ever called herself ugly?  If so how did you react?  Did you - like me - respond with a sharp intake of breath and a vehement "No you are not!"?

At the time of this shock announcement from my daughter I was in Paris on a girls trip, basking in the early evening sun, glass of wine in hand, overlooking the courtyard of the Louvre, after an afternoon touring the Dior Exhibition. My happiness boxes at the time were well and truly ticked.

The call started innocently enough with general chit chat about school, her mates, her test scores, hockey practice and then bam! Out of nowhere "Mum I'm so ugly.  It'not fair. Being a teenager really sucks!"

Only six months ago she had challenged the perception of pretty described by her classmates, dismissing it as no more than the stuff of barbie doll dreams and flying the flag for being an individual not a type; championing the value of personality over beauty.  Maybe as a result of this I had rested on my laurels too much, confident that she was well rounded and as such had missed some vital signs along the way.

My response was met with the retort "You are my mother, you have to say that!" As mothers we all want our children to be happy and that means shouldering their anxieties too when they come along.  I had spent 14 years trying to bring up a confident young lady, who I hoped would embark on this final stage of her journey to adulthood feeling good about herself.  Everyone praises her outward social confidence but if she felt like this inside had I failed?  UCL's recent Millenium Cohort Study revealed that a quarter of 14-year old girls are depressed.  Did this episode make my daughter one of them?

My maternal heart strings had been pulled and right then all I wanted was to see her beautiful face, her wide grin, give her a big hug and remove this "ugly" word from her list of personal adjectives.  But until I returned home, words were all I had at my disposal.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Ugly like hate is a strong word, reserved for extreme circumstances. There are those that argue if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then ugly must be too.  It is like a good bottle of wine, all a question of personal taste and what one person finds beautiful or ugly will be different to the next.

This is not, however, about defining what is ugly but rather pinpointing what we as mothers of teenage girls can do to boost their self-esteem.  A strong sense of self gives them the emotional scaffolding they need to handle these moments of self-doubt and criticism.  No-one had called my daughter ugly, just herself and even if it is just the once that is enough.

Beauty and appearance are thorny issues when raising girls.  Our girls are vulnerable.  All it takes is one throw away comment at the wrong time and their sense of self-worth can become quickly wrapped up in this  body image nightmare, which even if they don't come to it until later, is still an issue to be confronted, not trivialised or ignored.

Dove's Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) is committed to helping young girls as well as women have a healthy and positive relationship with the way they look.  Part of this is their Uniquely Me programme which gives parents heaps of practical advice and activities to help their daughters remove the emphasis on looks and focus on their inner "me" to boost their confidence.

So what can we do as parents?

  • Model a healthy self-image.  Therapist Michele Kambolis says “Our words and actions have a powerful impact on our children.”  If we as mothers adopt a self-critical approach we risk our daughters following suit.
  • Praise them not only about their looks but for their effort.  Saying “I really like the way you put your outfit together” instead of “You look gorgeous”, puts the focus on their effort being the most important element, not the end result.
  • Don't under-estimate the significance of fathers.  Daughters look to their fathers for assurance, guidance and approval.  In her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Meg Meeker argues that a father has a valuable role to play in in guiding his daughter through a potentially toxic culture.  I was glad my daughter had her father whilst I was away, they have a strong bond and he was quick to intervene.
  • Congratulate them on all their achievements and don't forget to praise their imperfections as well. Remind them that life is not perfect all of the time and mistakes and disappointments provide valuable life lessons too.

Alison Bean, a fellow mother of teenagers, counsellor and psychotherapist had this advice when I asked her:

"As a mother the most important thing to remember is to communicate with our children. Encourage them to talk about how they feel, and why they feel ugly or dislike themselves. Don't dismiss their negative thoughts. This may be hard to hear at first, and all you want to do is cry out " you're beautiful to me inside and out" but their feelings are real to them and need to be acknowledged. As parents we need to make a conscious effort to balance our own compliments to them and try to direct our praise away from just their appearance and focus on the things they are good at; sports they play, art or creative work they excel in, musical instruments they play. Furthermore encourage them to spend more time with people they feel happy with, family members or close friends who don't constantly judge. This will help them to feel better about themselves, which in turn increases their self esteem and self worth."

In our family, we advocate a philosophy of sharing which I hope allows our teenagers to express their concerns, but more importantly gives us the opportunity to step in and provide support before an issue manifests itself into something bigger.  Our teenagers need to know that we are on their side as parents and nothing is more valuable than unconditional love for those moments when their confidence takes a knock.

 

I would love to hear from you if you have had a similar experience or have some thoughts to share on building self-esteem.  

 

 

 Mum Muddling Through DIY Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blogger Recognition Award

Over the summer I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award.  Firstly by Catie at Diary of An Imperfect Mum who has provided me with invaluable support on my blogging journey so far and "she who remains anonymous" at Old House In The Shires, a newbie blogger and fellow mother of teenagers with a house and garden to die for.  Check out her instagram feed for some quintessentially English scenes. Thanks to you both for thinking of me, it means alot.

To be honest I hadn't heard of the Blogger Recognition Award prior to being nominated.  It's not in the uber league of awards and is quite simply all about a bit of mutual appreciation.  It's not easy this blogging malarkey, it takes time and effort and this award is a chance for bloggers to acknowledge other bloggers and spread the blogger love in the process, which as we all know is a big part of the blogging code of conduct.

This kind of tagging is not for everyone and that's fine, but it is quite nice to recognise the efforts of others once in a while and to give each other a big pat on the back. Wherever you are on your blogging journey, everyone likes to know that someone enjoys what they write.

So without further ado...

The Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 10 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Mother of Teenagers 

Parenting is not a perfect science and we all seek advice at some point on the journey, whether from family and friends or online from experts and kindred spirits.  When I started this blog last year I was facing some milestones in my life, becoming  a mother to two teens and turning 50.  My blog was born as a response to that.

Mother of Teenagers provides a discreet glimpse at the reality of parenting teens; the highs, the lows and the bits in between whilst hopefully giving some practical advice along the way.  This is all interspersed with comment and discussion on the issues surrounding midlife that matter to me and hopefully to others too.

We all have a valuable voice to add and during my blogging lifetime I have met (if only virtually in some cases), some truly like-minded people and savoured every moment.  The job of being a mother is never complete and as I embark on this second half of my life I look forward to the new parenting and midlife challenges ahead with the added support of my online friends.

Advice to New Bloggers - In a Nutshell...

It's not as easy as it looks.  You will get disheartened sometimes, but don't give up and don't hesitate to ask for help.  The blogging community is supportive - reach out and embrace it.

My Nominees (in no particular order)

I hope you will all be tempted to join in and if not at least know that you are among the many I enjoy following.

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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 JakiJellz 

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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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