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Are your children body confident?

I wanted to share this article as this week sees the launch of the Loose Women Body Stories campaign.

Most parents are well aware that a child’s self-image can have a huge impact on their psychological and physical health.  However, a report recently commissioned by government minister Jo Swinson has shown that children’s perception of how they look can affect their academic achievement, their contribution to society and even their choice of career.

Costing the Invisible is based on research carried out by the Centre for Appearance Studies at the University of the West of England.  It brings together evidence from 25 studies about the effects of body anxiety on girls and women.  The studies questioned girls and women from five continents and forty-nine thousand participants aged between ten and sixty took part.

The report includes some worrying statistics, including the fact that one in five girls don’t put up their hand in class as they don’t want to draw attention to their appearance.  One in seven girls would skip a class for the same reason.  The report also reveals that poor body image and lack of self-esteem create barriers, especially for high-achieving girls.  It’s estimated that poor self-image deprives the economy of 200,000 business women.

Our looks are a part of who we are and it’s normal for girls to express their personality through their clothes and makeup. However,  problems occur when society emphasizes appearance above everything else.  This puts girls under enormous pressure.  Jo Swinson believes that  “huge amounts of creativity and ambition would be unlocked if we could relieve girls from the critical scrutiny of a society obsessed with a narrow and unrealistic ideal of beauty.”

This is where the Be Real campaign comes in.  Founded in partnership with Dove, Be Real is a national movement which aims to build a body confident nation.  They claim that  “low body confidence is damaging people’s lives.  It affects everyone-all ages, both sexes-and starts young.  It impacts people’s physical and mental health and holds them back in life, stopping them from achieving all that they could.”

Be Real wants schools to promote body confidence as soon as children begin their education and they have published resources to help schools do this.  Indeed, Dove has recently called for Body Confidence to become part of the national curriculum from key stage three onwards.  My daughter’s school is already trying to build their pupils’ self-esteem and one of the simple tools they are using is  V.I.P Friday.

V.I.P Friday involves a member of year six being chosen to be a V.I.P for the day.  The teacher, one girl, and one boy are invited to write down something they like about the VIP’s personality, with the aim of boosting their self-esteem.  This may seem a very small thing, but my daughter came home beaming when she was chosen and I encouraged her to display her positive comments on her bedroom wall.  V.I.P Friday works well because it helps pupils to identify positive aspects of their personality and, crucially, the compliments are not based on appearance.

Dr. Emma Halliwell, one of the authors of Costing the Invisible, says, “when society teaches girls that their appearance is intrinsically linked to their value as a person and that their looks matter,  society undermines girls’ and women’s potential to thrive.”

Our children need to see that they way they look is only part of who they are.  If they are to develop into confident fulfilled adults, we need to support them by identifying and encouraging the talents, interests and character traits which make them unique.

 

A letter to my only child.

I had you when I was thirty.  Your arrival was a source of great joy,  as I had recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and never thought I’d be well enough to be a mum.

As you grew from baby into toddler, I knew that  it was only a matter of time before  people would start to ask when I was planning to have another baby.  Daddy and I had decided that due to my health and a few other issues, it wouldn’t be wise for us to have a second child.  At times I felt sad about this, but I always reminded myself how  blessed I was to have one healthy child.

One day, I was chatting with another parent, when the conversation turned to how many children we wanted. When he discovered that I wasn’t planning to give you a sibling, he looked horrified and told me that  I was selfish and that he “could never do that to a child.”  I was so shocked that I couldn’t find the words to explain why  I had made such a difficult decision.

For a while, I was haunted by this conversation and started to believe that I was indeed a failure for having just one child.  All of my friends seemed to be having second and third children and I longed to do the same for you. But as you grew older and your personality began to shine, those feelings were dispelled. I realised there are good things about being an only child and that you seemed happy, independent and generally excited about life.

When I was young, I don’t remember ever feeling lonely and holidays are definitely more fun when there are two of you to build sandcastles.  My worst fear was and still is, that you, my only daughter, will experience lifelong loneliness. I  worry that as daddy and I grow older, you won’t have a sibling with whom you can share your concerns and eventually, your grief . We hope and pray that you will build  loyal friendships and that you will meet a warm, supportive partner with whom you can share your life.

I’ve always tried to prevent you from feeling  lonely by giving you plenty of chances to mix with other children; but as a sibling myself,  I will never know what it is really like to be an only child. However, I do know that I am extremely proud of you, my happy, creative, fun-loving daughter and that I will always do my best to give you every chance of happiness.

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Carry on camping!

Camping.  Even the word fills me with dread, bringing back memories of stumbling around a dark campsite in the middle of the night, desperately hunting for the toilet block. I’ve only been camping once since I had my daughter and it was a disastrous experience!

When I was seven, my parents took my sister and I on a four week camping trip to visit my Austrian relatives. We transported our tent through Belgium, Germany and  Austria, eating whipped cream with every meal and creating wonderful memories. It was hard work for my parents, who had to erect the tent every other day and drive hundreds of miles in a car that was leaking oil. But for my sister and I, the trip meant four weeks of blissful adventure.

Looking back on our Austrian holiday has got me thinking. Maybe it’s time to try camping again. Just for a weekend. It has taken me seven years to recover from my last experience of camping with a child in tow. Last time, my daughter was two. Full of enthusiasm, we bought a huge tent and all the equipment  a young family could possibly need. At one in the morning, we found ourselves sitting in our freezing tent trying to persuade my little one that it wasn’t a giant sized playhouse. In the end, we abandoned the campsite and took her home to bed! The next day, it took two hours to take down the huge tent. Never again, I remember thinking.

Fancy going camping with your family? My advice is to think carefully about what kind of camping you hope to do before you buy the tent! Are you planning the odd weekend adventure or do you plan to spend a week at just one campsite?  Pop along to your nearest Go Outdoors store (other camping shops are available) and have a look around. Go inside the tents and investigate the different designs. You may think your family of four will be fine with a four man tent, but it’s always worth allowing a little extra room in case it rains. And it will rain.

Make sure that the tent you choose has a separate inner and outer, otherwise you’ll spend the trip reminding the kids not to touch the sides. You also need to check whether the tent is well ventilated (especially important if you are camping somewhere hot or wet!)

If you do go for a big tent, detachable compartments are  handy, as they allow you to use the space flexibly. Think about the design of your tent. Are you happy sleeping in adjacent bedrooms or would you prefer your little angels to sleep opposite you? Do you want a large living area, so you can sit around a table and eat?

Equipment you will definitely need includes warm sleeping bags, torches and a reliable lamp. Camping mats or airbeds make the experience more comfortable and if you plan on cooking, a portable gas stove is a must.

Buying a tent is an investment which could last years and there is something special about waking up to the smell of grass and frying bacon. My Austrian camping adventure is now a cherished childhood memory. But now that I’m a mum, I guess it’s my turn to put up the tent.

Do you like camping? I’d love to hear about your experiences, good and bad!

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Pancake perfection

Being a freelance copywriter means writing about things I’m interested in (baking, home interiors, books, parenting) and things I don’t know much about (fishing, men’s fashion, sheds).

When I receive a new brief I eagerly click on the link hoping it’s a topic I can relate to. So I could have broken into song when I recently discovered I had to write about pancakes!

Check out my article over on the dotcomgiftshop blog. It’s full of handy hints, and tips for achieving pancake perfection. I’ve even included links to gluten and dairy free recipes.

As part of my post I have to link to lots of food bloggers and I think you’ll agree that some of their images are mouthwatering.

So whatever you’re taste in toppings, have a great shrove Tuesday and happy flipping!

 

 

 

 

Love your local library

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Books matter. Reading matters. And libraries are essential. In fact, Big Issue founder John Bird believes that cutting libraries will result in us needing to build more prisons and more homeless hostels.

John’s opinion is based on facts. Literacy is absolutely key when it comes to children’s life chances. The Reading Agency says: “reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.”

Did you know that low levels of literacy cost the UK an estimated £81 billion every year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending? Doors close when you can’t read or write confidently.

I’m blogging about this today because this week sees the launch of the Big Issue’s literacy campaign. It’s aim? To give the marginalised a chance and, crucially, to keep libraries open.

My local library is an oasis of calm and creativity which brings together people from all walks of life. Parents and tots gather there to hear their favourite stories read aloud, while teen and adult book clubs meet to discover new authors.

For children with chaotic home lives, libraries offer a quiet refuge where they can focus on homework, receive expert advice from library staff  and use computers.  Vulnerable adults also use the facilities to escape the cold and enjoy some much needed company.

I speak from experience. I live in Birmingham, where several major libraries face closure or reduced hours. My local branch in Sutton Coldfield has recently been granted just a few months’ reprieve to find a way of staying open. And this is a library which runs a hugely successful summer reading scheme,  with hundreds of children signing up to read and review books throughout their holidays.

Until recently, I worked as a supply library assistant throughout Birmingham, so I know how well-used many of the branches are. During the day, library computers were fully booked up by people job hunting and filling in application forms. Sometimes I’d arrive for work in the middle of  a poetry group performance group. At other times I’d have to tiptoe around the children’s section while a group of pre-school children listened to stories. It was always a pleasure to help our littlest library users choose and scan their books afterwards.

At half three, groups of older children would appear, asking for help with homework and photocopying  or printing. Then there were the visitors who just came to sit in the warm and read the paper. They came every day.

The new library of Birmingham may be impressive but in my opinion, nothing can replace the accessibility and familiarity of our smaller high street libraries. The Big Issue’s campaigners believe that closing hundred of libraries and leaving local authorities so strapped for cash that they need to slash services, doesn’t meet the requirements of the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act. This states that authorities must provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” for all.

Even if we don’t use libraries often ourselves, surely we owe it to our children to fight for their survival?  Author Neil Gaiman said:

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means at ts simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books and letting them read them.”

Through the lending of books, libraries offer our kids unrivalled access to a vast world of literature, imagination and knowledge. In my view, they are a national treasure, as are the qualified librarians who manage them. Do we really want to lose them forever?

The Big Issue literacy campaign aims to agitate for a future for libraries. They also plan to work with partner organisations including the Reading Agency, to “get books into the hands of as many people as we can, for free.”

Please lend your voice to the campaign if you can. Together, we can keep the library doors open for our children.

 

Join The Big Issue’s literacy campaign. Fight for libraries – and the future

Today we launch our new Big Issue literacy campaign. We believe books matter. We believe reading matters. Help us spread the word.

Source: Join The Big Issue’s literacy campaign. Fight for libraries – and the future

How to banish the winter writing blues

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Image credit: Martin Whitehouse

This gorgeous image captured by my husband sums up my week. It has been filled with frosty dog walks, steaming cups of tea and snuggly slippers. At times it has been tricky keeping warm while I’m writing. I love the winter but I admit that even I can’t wait for for the sun to regain its warmth!

While dreaming about summer holidays, I’ve discovered some cracking travel blogs  that are crammed with handy holiday tips. Here are a few of my favourites.

Dotcomgiftshop

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Dotcomgiftshop have just published a piece packed with holiday tips. Choosing your destination, travelling with tots, packing advice and travel essentials are all covered in this practical post.

Need Another Holiday

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Travel addict Clare claims that she’s always in need of another holiday. And why not? After all, she is a busy working mum. Clare blogs about her trips to Europe, North America and Africa, as well as how to plan your holiday, renew your passport and travel with a young baby in tow.

This blog’s gorgeous gallery of images alone makes it worth a read. But be warned. Just one visit could result in you booking your next break.

Mums Do Travel

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Award winning blogger Gretta writes about travel with and without her two teenage daughters. As I’m off to London with my hubby and teen in a week, I headed straight for  her posts Family friendly places to stay in London and Things to do in London with kids. Perfect. The rest of her blog is  equally family friendly. I’ll be back.

Vagabond Baker

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Constant traveller Rachel has seen grizzly bears in Canada, eaten with the Bedouin in Syria and seen the sun rise in Helsinki. Lucky lady!

In 2007, Rachel and her hubby sold their possessions to fund a 14 month trip round the world. Since then, they’ve travelled through Asia by train, explored Scandinavia and camper vanned around New Zealand.

This is a blog bulging with adventure and delicious recipes, as baking is Rachel’s favourite way to relax. Anyone for chocolate Guinness cake with white chocolate frosting?

Ah well, it’s back to copywriting for now. Do let me know if you have any favourite travel blogs. In the meantime, roll on Spring!

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