Teens sitting the Junior or Leaving Cert in June may be at breaking point – as are their parents – and if so, Judith McAdam and Emma Lloyd are on hand to help with their Pre-Paving the Way for the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert workshops, both taking place in Ely House, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 on Sunday May 19th. The Junior Cert event will take place from 1.00 to 3.00 p.m., while the Leaving Cert event takes place from 5.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.
In our Winter 2017/18 issue, our Positive Parenting writer, Anna Cole, shared her advice on how to be there for your child during those tricky preteen years. She brings all of her wisdom as a parent educator, researcher, writer, and a certified instructor with Hand in Hand Parenting to this moving article. To learn more about Anna’s work, visit Hand in Hand Parenting with Anna Cole or go to www.handinhandparenting.org.
By Anna Cole
As the trees lose their leaves once again and the ‘dark half of the year,’ as the ancient Celts called it, begins again, I’m reflecting on the long road of parenting. From the moment of conception to that busy, grumpy pre-teen standing in front of you looking for their school shoes, it can seem like a long, long road. ‘Parenting ends with the death of the parent,’ my mother used to say. This saying communicates something of the commitment, protectiveness, attention and ongoing love a parent feels for their infant, then toddler, child, preteen, teen, and finally young adult to full adult.
After ten years or so of walking this road, those of you who are parents of preteens may turn the corner from the early years of parenting and find that you no longer have a warm bundle of enthusiastic hugs and giggles flinging herself at you as you return home from work. You are no longer in such high demand to give piggy-back and horsey rides, and you are no longer hearing the squeals of delight evoked in children by such simple pleasures. This comes with a mix of relief and regret. Our children – as they grown into preteens – don’t need us so much any more, right?
Wrong! They need our love and they need to feel our good attention just as much now as they did when they clung to us, sobbing, on their first day at school. They need to feel our confidence in them, and our conviction that they can find their place in this perplexing and sometimes hostile world. So how do we, who have been on the parenting road now for a decade or more – unpaid, unacknowledged, often unsupported and likely quite exhausted – keep shining our light of love on our preteen? Don’t be deceived: the newfound independence you see in your preteen isn’t a sign that your ‘use by’ date as a parent will soon be up.
The single strongest indicator that an adolescent will reach adulthood without experiencing pregnancy or violence, becoming addicted to drugs or tobacco, or dropping out of school is parent-child connectedness. Together or apart, parents of preteens and teens play a vital role in anchoring their growing child in emotional soil that will help them thrive. Here’s something you can try in your homes with children of any age to stay connected amidst the rush of the everyday.
Set aside time, each day if possible, and weekly at the absolute minimum, to clear your mind, turn off your phone, and stop working, checking emails or clearing up the house. Be fully, warmly delighted in your preteen. Use a timer and give the space you are creating a name: ‘Mum and Me Time’ or simply ‘Special Time.’ Follow your child’s lead with an open heart and an ‘anything goes’ attitude. You are still the adult and you still get to say a warm but clear ‘no’ if risks are introduced that would impact safety.
For that fifteen minutes, or half an hour or so, your preteen gets to feel you, fully there, warmly present with them and for them. You put your adult concerns to one side, and don’t bring any of your stuff about chores not yet done to your preteen. During ‘Special Time’, gently and warmly offer eye contact or a hand on the back and be there fully for your child. Your warm attention is a healing balm for your preteen’s nervous system, often ragged from a long day of peer group interactions and inevitable jostlings for position at school.
If you’ve never tried this before and your preteen resists your warm attention or pooh-poohs your ‘Special Time,’ try doing it unannounced. Imagine they’ve just got home from school, you are working from home, and you hear them come in. Get up from your laptop and put your phone down. Go and warmly greet them. Shine delighted-in-them attention their way. You can glance at a watch or a clock as you begin and silently commit to keeping your attention with your preteen for the next five to fifteen minutes.
You’ll be surprised at the results. At first you may get a teasing and an incredulous ‘what’s wrong with you?’ from your preteen. This is a measure of the distance between this warm, uncomplicated attention from you, and the other times when you were distracted or demanding something from them. Roll with it, respond playfully, and contact in your own body the ache of the preteen longing for the same kind of affectionate attention they received when they were a sweetly exuberant four-year-old.
Anna Cole, PhD, is a parent educator, researcher, writer, and a certified instructor with Hand in Hand Parenting. She can be found on Facebook at: Hand in Hand Parenting with Anna Cole. www.handinhandparenting.org
A Tantric View on Parenting and Sexuality, Part 2
By Dawn Cartwright
Adolescence, a time of growth spurts, hormones and emotional outbursts alongside fi rst loves, invincibility and sexual awakening. This is a time of transformation from childhood to adulthood. Many criticise the unruliness of this age, but some dig beneath the surface and uncover the beauty and tenderness also present. Adolescence is sexuality in its purest form, full of aliveness, innocence, courage and an optimistic belief in the power of love. A little understanding goes a long way in creating an environment where adolescents are cherished, and sexuality and the passion it instills brought out of the shadows and into the full light of acceptance.
Early Adolescence: 9-14 years Puberty begins.
The brain sends signals that unleash hormones that initiate the radical transformation of the brain, bones, muscle, blood, skin, hair, breasts, sex organs and libido. Boys may experience nocturnal emissions or ‘wet dreams’ and menstruation begins for many girls. Both may explore masturbation as an outlet for sexual arousal and curiosity. Early adolescents are often highly engaged with nonsexual interactions, such as online chatting and texting. One minute they’ll act like a child, the next like an adult – the process of becoming an adult is not linear and your child will move forward and back.
They’ll be dealing with peer pressure, popularity, acne, sexual arousal and hormonal changes. Listen and empathise rather than just dishing out advice. Also, their limbs are growing faster than the rest of their body so they lose balance more easily and can feel insecure about their bodies. Spend time swimming, rock climbing and cycling together to accompany them in building confidence and balance.
Feed their focus, development & positivity
This is the month that teenagers head back to school. School poses many challenges; new timetables, new teachers, a whole new routine, long days, exam challenges, interaction with many peers again etc. Self-confidence, positive mental health and good coping mechanisms increase a teenager’s resilience and ability to embrace it all. Anna Land, teacher and CNM Nutritional therapist, tells us how we can really help our teenagers through good nutrition and good gut health!
Gut health is fundamental in wellness. Our language contains many references to the gut; ‘to have the stomach for something’, ‘to have guts’, ‘go with your gut’. Our ability to take in goodness from our environment is dependent on the ability of the gut to digest, absorb and assimilate. The microbial balance in our gut can affect both digestion and absorption but it can also affect our elimination and immunity. Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance in the colonies of the bowel flora and can be caused by stress, excess sugar, low fibre intake, antibiotics/various drug therapies and decreased immunity.
Eating regularly throughout the day is very important to sustain a student’s energy levels to cater for their busy schedules.
As a teacher, I see what many of my students eat on a regular basis. It is great to see some students bringing in their packed lunches comprising of wholemeal bread sandwiches, salads, fruit, left-over vegetable stir-fries from the previous evening’s dinner and water. I do see a lot of students who eat white baguettes packed with processed meats, sugary carbonated drinks, packets of biscuits and crisps. Excessive consumption of these processed foods can cause an inflammatory response in the gut. It can also have an effect on a student’s ability to focus in class, concentration levels and overall personal ability to perform effectively in school. So to ensure your teens feel their best in school, keep their lunches wholesome.
A student’s mental health may also be affected by what they consume. The brain and gut develop from the same part of the human embryo and therefore share many nerve endings and chemical transmitters to which it remains linked through a large nucleus. This collection of nerve cells is partly responsible for controlling anxiety and fear. In animal studies, low grade gastrointestinal inflammation results in anxiety like behaviours. But supplementation with probiotics is associated with a reduction in these behaviours.
Serotonin is a happy hormone associated with wellbeing. 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract. It is manufactured in our bodies from the amino acid tryptophan; this is derived from the food we eat. Serotonin influences not only mood but can affect memory and mental clarity and is dependent on good gut health.
Students and their parents can follow these simple steps to begin re-balancing the gut flora and optimise mood and mental clarity.
Steps You Can Take
Eat a fibre–rich, whole foods diet—it should be rich in beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—all of which feed good bugs. Raw foods are also excellent for nutrients and have serotonin boosting properties.
Limit sugar, processed foods, animal fats, and animal protein—these provide food for unhealthy bacteria.
Avoid the use of antibiotics, acid blockers, and anti-inflammatories—these all have a negative effect on gut flora.
Take probiotics daily— these healthy, friendly floras can improve your digestive health reduce inflammation and allergy and help increase correct absorption.
To support the growth of probiotic bacteria, also choose foods known as prebiotics that naturally contain lots of soluble fibre, such as bananas, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, honey, leeks and onions.
Help the good bacteria in the gut by including yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso, garlic and onions, probiotics which include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, keep the lining of the colon healthy and improve gut motility.
Add anti-parasitic herbs into your meals, such as thyme, oregano, garlic and cloves, help to destroy worms and parasites in the gut.
Include foods rich in tryptophan; almonds, bananas, beans, cheeses, chicken, eggs and oily fish, turkey and yoghurt.
To find out more about training at CNM, see www.naturopathy.ie or call 01-2353094.
To contact Anna Land ring 086-0524580. Anna is the administrator of the Irish Association of Nutritional therapy (IANT) which has members practising all over the country.