Is fear winning? 

God, I hate these posts. Paris, Manchester and now another attack in London. As a parent what do I do? 

I always try to stay positive. I’m factual with my son so as not to shelter him, but when two attacks on home soil happen within less than a month of each other it’s so much harder. 

Everyone says we won’t let fear win. But I’ll be honest, fear is creeping in.

I’m becoming fearful of going to busy events.

I’m becoming fearful of the reaction my oldest will have when I tell him I’m going to London in a couple of days.

I’m becoming fearful of catching the tube, or any crowded transport. 

I’m becoming fearful of other people’s divisive talk and racist rhetoric that’s gradually being allowed into our society. 

I’m becoming fearful of how political powers might respond to this rhetoric and the consequences that might follow. 

I’m becoming fearful of letting go of my son’s hand as he gets older and has to navigate the world alone. 

But regardless of my fears, I have to put a brace face on. I have to appear undefeated, unnerved by recent goings on. Because children cannot operate in a world of fear. They have to operate Ina world of positivity and opportunity. Yes they need to understand the challenges and ‘reality’ of the world, but equally they need to have a mindset that fear does not and will not win. 

So whilst fear seems to have crept into my home quietly, my children need to see me close the door on it. 

Ps – I’d love to hear how you stop fear entering your thoughts 

Breaking the News to a child

Last week, I was interviewed by a journalist for the Telegraph who wanted to know how I explained and answered difficult questions about current affairs to Boy1.

Its a really interesting issue because I’ve always wanted to make sure I don’t overprotect my children from the big wide world. In fact its my responsibility as a parent to teach them about ‘real life‘, but at the same time, I have to filter and edit to a level that’s comfortable for them, and me (to be totally honest).

We have the news on every morning, as I always tell him its important to know what is going on in the world around us, but I guess that world has always seemed quite distant from him and nothing to worry about.

So when, out of the blue, Boy 1 asked me about the Westminster attacks a few weeks ago (just before I headed to London), it took me by surprise. I had to try my best not to use the word ‘terrorism’ as I knew this might scare him even more. Instead I described this very angry man that wanted express his anger and unfortunately some people died because of him. But with any ‘deep’ conversation I have with him, I try to end on the positive, so explained that the police were on the case, keeping us all safe. Because, for a child, that’s the most important thing. They need to have confidence and optimism and it’s our job to maintain that view for them. 

When he asked my why Donald Trump had won the election if he’s such a mean man, that says horrible things about women and Mexicans, I had to explain that sometimes not everyone agrees with each other. That’s how democracy works.

I’ve found that in these situations its beneficial to put things in a context a child can related too, without over-simplifying the situation.Whether that’s through the importance of talking and compromising or helping those in need, it helps to put their mind at ease.

Through the interview I realised that whilst I try to be honest, I will still try to change the conversation in certain situations. Seeing injured bodies of innocent children that could the same age as his brother, or hearing about young people being attacked by their family members – he doesn’t need to hear that, not just yet.

But in a world of hyperbole and click-bait driven content, where youngsters have easy access to media, the challenge for us as parents is to ensure they are enlightened, not exposed. Educated, not excluded from the world they live in. We use this an opportunity to build strong citizens of the world.

Then, as in most cases, after about 5 minutes they’ll turn to you and ask ‘what’s for dinner?’.

X

PS – if you are really struggling for words to explain the news, I’d highly recommend a subscription to The Week Junior. Boy 1 loves it!

 

Donald Trump, Thank You!

Hard to believe, but I’m finding the positives in the arrival of the Trump

Donald,

21 days since you became president and I want to thank you.

Thank you for reminding us that we still have so much work to do to remove ignorance and intolerance from this world.

Thank you for teaching my children that if you judge and speak badly of someone because of their gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, everyone will stand up against it to prove you wrong, no matter how powerful you might be.

Thank you for teaching them that complacency is as disruptive as extremism. We will no longer take a good, or great, situation for granted.

Thank you for showing my children that if they disrespect women, they are disrespecting mothers, sisters, daughters and wives everywhere.

Thank you for shining a light on just how gullible and lazy we have become in our consumption of media. We will no longer click and share ‘news’ without verifying facts and sources.

Thank you for showing us just how many people are disenfranchised, disillusioned and discouraged from politics.

But most of all I want to thank you for bringing us together. For helping us to unite, regardless of race, religion, gender or even location. You are spurring us to build bridges, when there are threats of walls. Without you, so many of us would not be standing up to make our voices heard.

Donald, on behalf of everyone who believes in tolerance, freedom and fairness, I thank you.

Why 2016 Is The Year To Teach Kids About Democracy

2016 – the year politics and democracy changed. If anyone had told me at the start of the year that we’d experience a Brexit saga (oh, what a saga it is turned out to be) and that a property tycoon with no political experience would be within touching distance of becoming the next POTUS, I would have laughed in your face. Very loudly.

But with all the surrealism and confusion, on both sides of the Atlantic, I’ve realised we must use the period of time to engage children in the issue of democracy.

hands

Yes, you can have ‘family meetings’ to vote for which film to watch or what topping to get on a pizza. Pretty sufficient for a child, right? At the end of the day, they’ll probably be happy with either outcome, so no skin off anyone’s nose. But is that really a lesson?

What about when they’ve voiced their opinion and ‘done the right thing’ but things don’t go their way? What about when they see a parent, a family member, a commentator on TV is truly set back, shocked, angry and even upset at the outcome of a vote? Do we teach them to just give up, because they didn’t get their way? This is where the democracy talk really comes into its own.

I often like to say, ‘democracy is a chance to have your say, not a guarantee you’ll have your way’. Never has this phrase been so true.

The Brexit result fueled lots of anger, and every time my son hears Trump’s name, there’s usually some kind of negative story attached and it’s up to me to explain why these people are still ‘winning’.

My God, does it make me wonder if children might just lose all faith in democracy altogether when he hears people’s reactions to these victories. It might make many people want to give up, but as parents we have to remind our kids just how important it is to have the right to vote. Our western, first world freedoms often make us slightly complacent about voting because the differences between outcomes aren’t always life-changing, but we must remember that not everyone lives in a nation that lets people express their opinions.

We have the right to share our views and influence the direction our country takes through our democratic system. In fact, if we don’t like the system, we still have the right to debate it, challenge it and try to make changes by encouraging people to make a stand together and vote.

Children need to know that sometimes not everyone will agree with you. In fact, there will be occasions where that group is larger than yours so they will ‘win’. What’s great about democracy is the opportunity, not necessarily the result.

I read far too many articles about how young people have become distanced and disenfranchised from the political system – not just in the UK – and this is worrying. We should use this period of time as an opportunity to stir up more political passion in them than ever before. Ask them what they don’t like about the current political state, but also, what they think can be changed. We need them to stand up and attempt to change things. If they think politicians are ‘all the same’, then let’s encourage them to be the difference, rather than pleading ignorance. Be the change they want to see in the world….If now isn’t the time to teach this lesson, then I don’t know when is.

While debates, complaints, protests and strikes don’t always get the desired outcome, they are a step forward. They can be powerful weapon in making your voice and opinion heard. They can be liberating. A chance to engage in a conversation for better understanding of each other’s views and maybe persuade them to accept your view. Because sometimes just one extra voice or vote can tip the balance.

So whilst we wait to witness the clear up of the mess that is 2016 and ask ourselves if all this stuff really happened, let’s not forget to remind our children, democracy is good and that their one vote is always better than no vote at all.

XX

This blog post first appeared on HuffingtonPostUK

Schools out…whenever

Last week, pretty much every newspaper, news channel, parenting blog and the like covered the landmark ruling, pretty much allowing parents to take their kids out of school for holidays during term time.

Whilst I agree with the argument that it should be a parent’s decision to take their child out if they have been attending school ‘regularly’, I can’t help but think this is just one big first world problem. I come from a country where hundreds of people are desperate to get an education. Children get excited about the idea of going to school and learning. Parents send their children hundreds of miles away, to stay with family or even boarding school, to give them the opportunity of an education.

Yet, here we are, complaining because we want to save a few hundred pounds on an all inclusive to Mallorca. Is this really a case worthy of the High Court? Is our world so perfect that this is the issue we have to protest?

Now, I get that people want to go on family holidays, but don’t use the excuse of ‘family bonding’ to justify it. We rarely went abroad as a child. We visited parks, museums, played games etc and guess what, I’m still very close to my mother. Isn’t it a little bit insulting to poorer families by saying you can only bond with your children when you’re abroad?

Then people argue that they children can ‘learn so much more’ on holiday’. Let’s be honest, you and I both know that most family holidays are an excuse to have lie ins, lay about in the sun, eat as much as you want and crack open the sangria at midday without being judged. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s a great way to live for a week or two. But let’s not use education as a cover up for our need to just get away.

My worry with this whole argument isn’t about whether children should be permitted to take time out of school (although the 13 weeks they already get seems like plenty) or what they do when they are away. It is really about the example we are setting for children. We spend so much time teaching them about following rules and listening to their teachers, but now we are saying ‘follow the rules unless it is more convenient not to.’ I’m not saying children should become sheep and blindly abide by rules regardless. But shouldn’t they be encouraged to question, challenge and debate, instead of just ignoring the rules that don’t suit them?

The parents that have taken their children on term time holidays have done so in full knowledge that their school rules didn’t allow it and they would be fined. But they still went ahead. Why? Because it was convenient, in most cases financially. How can you distinguish this rule breaking from others, when talking to a 7 year old. I know I couldn’t!

I know I sound old now, but many young people are growing up with a sense of ‘entitlement’. They want what they want, when they want. We see too many cases of disregard for others, purely for their own benefit. Is this something else that we are just handing to them?

If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Sure you can complain about holiday companies, but is it really their issue? Plenty of products get cheaper when they are out of season. And what about the families that still wouldn’t be able to afford a holiday even if there was some price capping?

All that will happen now is we’ll see in an influx of parents taking their children on holiday during term time, causing more frustration for teachers and the pupils left behind. During this time, the government will be looking at ways to tighten up the rules and make it more difficult to take any time off at all, during term, regardless of the reason.

So whilst I might praise this ‘hero dad’ for sticking by his guns, I have a horrible feeling it might not be the happy ending we all hoped for.

xx