Friday, 16 September 2016

iPad Usage Family Brainstorm - draft rules

Ok, we have exactly the same problems as a lot of other families: screens. Arrrggghhh. It can take over. And it can be so so difficult to get the kids off blooming things.

We had two super smug months when our son didn't watch any. At all! I'll just pause there for a minute...

It didn't last. Of course it didn't.

Because then the holidays started and well, that went out the window. It totally winds my husband up, while I, well erm, to be honest... I don't mind a cup of tea in silence, or I get a chance to just to one of the myriad of tasks that fills my day. Plus, it's not like we don't get the attraction: we watch box sets when he's in bed! (At the moment it's the third (!) season of the Americans.) I have experiments with having no limit, and if I honestly allow it - i.e. no checking in, no hovering etc - then he tends to stop after about 1-2 hours. But sometimes it does drive me up the wall too. Like when I want to do something else, mainly.

Bottom line is: we have too arguments around screen time. So on the weekend we sat down, and brainstormed together as a family. Here is what we came up with.  I was amazed at the son's ideas. And also that we do actually already have some rules around the usage that he understands and does follow.

Guess which ones were mum and dad's suggestions.

  1. You can watch 5 or 10 or maybe 4 episodes in one go.
  2. It is ok to watch iPad on holidays, and when it is not holidays but weekend. Sometimes.
  3. It is ok to watch iPad on aeroplane, but not when we are back.
  4. When you watch, don't swing the iPad because it can make you dizzy and you might fall of your chair.
  5. When it is school you can't have iPad, but just a teensy bit of telly....
  6. Weekends are fine to watch iPad in this house
  7. When it is time to stops, mummy or daddy ask son to stop, then everyone goes to play in another room.
  8. We must get that app so we can monitor his screen time.
  9. Or I guess we could use the timer...
  10. The management is always right.
  11. When it is time to stop, let's try a three step warning.
  12. No, let's have 10 or 14 step warning.
  13. When [it is time to] stop you turn iPad off at button at top.
  14. Or just close the cover to pause...
  15. Or I will hide the iPad under the sofa where adults can't reach.
  16. Or I will hide with the iPad under chair to watch some more.
  17. If we have too many arguments, then we will try with no screen time for anybody. 
  18. Just play instead of watching iPad.
  19. I want 84 mins divided by 10.
  20. Ok, we can round that up to 9 mins. on the Timer.
  21. It someone says it is too loud then turn the volume down or off.
  22. Don't watch alone. Always watch together.
  23. Find out what that music is on the favourite YouTube videos.
  24. Mummy and daddy should stop watching their phones all the time.
We all agreed to give this a go.

My favourite rules are 7 and 22.

I'm happy to say that this has actually worked since weekend before last. He gets 9 mins every now and then. 

This won't be the last time we brainstorm like this together.
I loved it! And it seems to work...

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

closeness without word - a few tips from dan svarre

Since our son moved in with us, four years ago, I have not stopped reading. Books about parenting, the brain, adoption & fostering, trauma and much more. While I have yet to read a single book where I agree with everything, there are certainly several books that have shifted my view. Books that have challenged, even provoked me. Books that have changed the way I parent. A great number of those books are from Scandinavia. To me they represent a HUGE gap in the literature in the English-speaking literature. Down to earth and practical books that do not talk down to us as parents. I am very tired of being talked down to. As an adoptive parent I have, and have had, a lot of professionals in my life, judging my parenting – be it positively or negatively. I know I am not alone in this experience of being judged. It comes with being an adoptive parent. It happens to us all. Before, during and – hopefully – after we become parents.

I gained a little more insight and inspiration recently, in finishing very good parenting book, in my mother tongue Danish. Dan Svarre’s Glade børn med højt selvværd – en forældreguide [Happy children with healthy self-worth – a guide for parents], Politikens Forlag 2008.

Many passages struck a cord with me. Especially, Svarre’s emphasis on the role of the parent, and the necessity for the parent to deal with their own childhood experiences. This is something I wholeheartedly believe in, and to some extend, something I was quite unprepared for back in 2012, when our son came to us. Apart from the depth of love that I feel for my family, the greatest surprise in becoming a parent for me was how it forced me to look at my own background, if I wanted to avoid the mistakes I and my siblings had been subjected to, but by that same token I also saw a need to realise what in my background had been good, and perhaps deserved to be repeated or even strengthen. That latter realisation only came later. And only after getting old-fashioned mad at my parents, an anger I let flow rather freely in another blog.

The longer I spend in my role as a mother, the more I realise it is not a role. It is being. There are no tricks, no quick fixes. For them or for us. There really only is being. Being ourselves at that. Our children are heat-seeking missiles for authenticity, perhaps more than most as their sensitivities have been fine-tuned to pick up moods and even slight changes in moods, to keep safe. I believe there is healing for both them and us in just that. Authenticity. Finding and living it is easier said than done. They know when we are not being true to our own selves. Better than us. Before we even realise. When my son points out my moods, it is my job to listen and be honest.

The quality of the connection with my son is very much something that it is in my power to influence. And it is something that I can choose to nurture or not. Much of the teachings about this parenting stint – the books, the courses, the workshops, the blogs – is about words, wisdom (or not) steeped in words. This blog included. I tire of words. Yet I know they are necessary. But often they are not.

So back to closeness without words, the title of this blog. With the author’s permission I have translated a short passage from Svarre’s book Glade børn. It is a passage from about closeness without words. In my opinion, we often overlook such subtleties in being with our children. In between all the practicalities, the laundry, the meals, the packed lunches, the keeping of appointments, the bath times, the bedtimes and so on. I also happen to believe that it is these moments of no words that we are really being asked to give when we are asked to give our children min. 10 minutes a day of undivided attention, as suggested by so many parenting experts, from Bryan Post to Laura Markham and Patty Wipfler. That always seemed a lean diet to me.

I think Svarre puts the importance non-verbal togetherness eloquently. This is what I strive for. It may be obvious to you, but I admit it wasn’t to me. And it something I work on. Consciously. Because practice makes the master. Or so I hope.

Anyway here goes an extract from Svarre’s book Glade børn.

Have a good life

As a parent the best you can do for your child is to have a good life. For you are your child’s primary and more intense relation through its early childhood, and the way in which you create your relation, will have lasting impact on, how your child may experience and live his or her own life. The principles and mechanisms are actually quite simple: Walk ahead. Lead the way. Show how you do it. Be what you wish to be reflected in your child. Create a good life for yourself. Create an atmosphere of containment, acceptance and enjoyment.

The principles and mechanisms for the development of your child’s self-worth are equally simple. Here are a few examples:

·      If you show your child, that you feel joy, value and enjoyment in its company, it will interpret it as, and feel like it, is valued.
·      If you emanate joy and fulfilment sparked by the sheer existence of your child, it will interpret and experience, that its sheer existence has value.
·      If you can be quiet together with your child in intense contact and in intense presence, the child will experience that its sheer presence has value.
·      If you receive your child and contain whatever emotions it may harbour, without necessarily having to try to create solutions [for them], your child will experience that its emotions are acceptable and, moreover, valued just as they are.
·      If you show your child that you accept and respect that it may have a need to withdraw and to be alone, your child will experience, that its very being is being respected and valued.
·      If you take responsibility for addressing an important and necessary conflict and can be attentive and accepting towards both yourself and your child, your child will experience that it has value.

It is the glint of joy in your eyes of seeing your child again, which is reflected in your body language, when your child returns from nursery, kindergarten or summercamp, that tells your child that it has true value. Thus you can support your child without using as much as a single word.

I’d only add that as adoptive parents that obviously we have not had the privilege of being the primary caregivers throughout our children’s childhood. But we hope to be principal ones. Getting there takes time and unstinting perseverance – on both parts.

The translation is mine, and so any mistakes are mine, and mine alone.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Lessons in self care

I've been bad lately. Very bad. Mad bad and mean. 

We had nearly 9 weeks of holiday (yes lots of inset days and other such nonsense). We've had a lovely lovely holiday, ending with a couple of weeks at home before school started again. Gradually building up to a school/work routine. At long blooming last! These last weeks at home have become increasingly fraught. 

With the 20-20 vision of hindsight I see it was my self regulation that suffered. But why?!? Why can't I look after myself when I am with my son? This is so counter to what I think about parenthood. Or it is modern parenthood? Or adoptive parenthood? Whatever it is, the outcome is the same. 

I was recently told that as adoptive parents we have to be more regulated than most parents. Well... To be honest I can think of non-adoptive who need that too. Point being that non-regulated parents suck. As does self blame.  Admittedly I am more than a little annoyed with myself for letting this slip so spectacularly. So I need to dissect it a bit. Bear with me...

I've lost my temper. Got super annoyed. Really really irritated. Audiably. Last night at 11pm I got serious ticked off for finding the son's bed wet. Again! My son sports the cleanest bed in this kingdom. I'm quick at the changes, have a waterproof system and have lots clean sheets. But I've had enough of ten extra loads a week. Grrrrr. I know it is not his fault. I know slamming the washing machine door with do precisely zero good. Quite possibly it may make things worse. This is a good example of when I should be able to contain my son and his water works. But I couldn't. Fact. Grrrr. 

This grrrr feeling, my dear, is a sure sign that I haven't really been taking enough care of myself. 

Self care. Ah. The self care. Not the paint your toe nails, go to a spa, practice some slow yoga and all that soft woolly prat every one talks about. It's not about money. Or marketing. It's about the self. Listening in. Refuelling. 

You really cannot give what you don't have. 

I'm a great believer in self care - especially for parents. Because how can you weather anything if your cup is empty or quite possibly nearly empty.

I've been telling my friend how important it is. She is getting divorced. Her three kids are constantly on her mind as she ferries them around and otherwise plays Tetris with her, their and her ex's schedules. She forgets herself. I worry about this. So when she stared to loose too much weight and felt very very low I laid it on thickly. 

'Who is the most important person(s) in your life?' I asked her. 

She didn't even draw breath when she answered that her kids are. 

'Wrong. You are.' 

My answer would have been the same as hers. The self care thing is a bit academic for me at times. I force my self to watch reruns of GBB. That's the bake off. Not Great Behaviour Breakdown. Though it could be. And I feel guilty all the way through. Not really as a pleasure. I'll have to work on that. And I can be pursuaded. 

The most important person is ourself.  Because we are the adults. And it is freaking knackering to raise children. In my case: raise a single child. 

Oh well ... so easy to see and say from the outside. I need my friend to tell all this back to me again. Grrrr. How did I forget? And what is the logic again? Isn't it just quite self indulgent?? 

That grrrr feeling is my red flag. And it has been raised a lot lately. It comes with stress. And lack of self care. 

So it's time to live what I preach.

I've gone away for the night on a job. Just one. The first in two years. My men are doing great. And I can wait to see them again. My husband practically ordered the ticket for me. 'Just stay the night!' He said. 

So here I am. Hours from home. First things first. A sun-filled stroll through the city I'm staying in, a good meal, early bedtime with a book, and a long restful night's sleep. All in silence. I shall speak again tomorrow when I do my morning's worth of work and then have lunch with a friend before I head home. It will be marvellous. 

There is more than one lesson in this.