Gratitude

When we were kids, gratitude was a fundamental part of our everyday lives; birthdays and Christmas always ended with us sitting down to handwrite thank you notes; play dates and birthday parties were followed by a phone call, thanking our friend and their parents. This was expected, even after we had thanked them at the time.

These habits continued into adulthood; if we were invited to a dinner party we would go along with a small gift for the host or hostess – a bunch of flowers, some chocolates, a bottle of wine – to thank them for inviting us. The day after we would call and express gratitude for the meal and their hospitality.

As the years progressed and technology became ubiquitous, we would e-mail, SMS or WhatsApp our gratitude. This always bothered me somewhat as it seemed impersonal, but I accepted that the times had changed (I must just say that my sensibilities will simply never allow me to thank people for anything significant via Facebook or Twitter!)

Over time, I have witnessed the steady demise of genuine and heartfelt gratitude. Thanks is now expressed as quickly as possible. It is often limited to 3 characters – thx – in a text or e-mail or – more-often-than-not – not expressed at all. This is a tragedy and not simply because the demise of gratitude would seem to be reflected in a general demise of civility and good manners. The real tragedy is that when we lose gratitude, we lose joy.

In their poignant and powerful book, “The Book of Joy” two great spiritual leaders and joy junkies the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu point to gratitude as a key ingredient of a joyful life. Along with compassion for others and the ability to reframe ones’ reality more positively – to see the glass half full if you like – spiritual leaders and psychologists alike agree that a life of gratitude is a life more joyful. This is why we see the current trend of gratitude journals and self-help books that teach us about the power of being thankful. Without gratitude, we become cynical, hard and cranky.

As a parent my greatest desire for my child is for her to be happy. My wife and I can often be heard sprouting the old cliché; “We don’t really mind what she becomes, we just want her to be happy!” But for her to nurture true happiness and joy, we must teach her to practise gratitude and we must model a life of gratitude ourselves. By cutting our moaning, choosing to see the good and the beautiful in others and the world around us; by celebrating regularly, we model a lifestyle of gratitude and we plant the seeds of this in our little one.

And yes, she writes hand-written thank you cards for her presents and she calls people to say thank you for a party. However, for as long as she is under my roof she will never –  I repeat, never – thank someone using Facebook or Twitter!

Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. 

All his writing – regardless of topic – is dedicated to the memory

of Anene Booysens and Emmanuel Josias Sithole. 

justin@peaceagency.org.za  |  www.peaceagency.org.za

Sports Drinks

Approximately 25% of South African children and adolescents are currently either overweight or obese. One factor driving this is the excessive consumption of sugar and other refined carbohydrates.  A common source of refined carbohydrate in our children’s diets comes in the form of sports drinks that may also contain minerals, electrolytes and sometimes vitamins.  These drinks are aggressively marketed to children and adolescents – they claim to enhance performance, and to replace fluid and electrolytes during and after exercise. Incidentally, sports drinks are not necessarily healthier than carbonated soft drinks, as often promoted.

Careful consideration is needed when choosing what and how much to give your child during and after physical activity in order to prevent excessive sugar and calorie intake that could contribute to the problem of overweight and obesity. The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport offers some useful advice. For the average child or adolescent involved in routine physical activity, a sports drink is typically unnecessary and water only should be encouraged for optimal hydration. Only those young people engaged in vigorous, long-duration and/or high-volume training could benefit from a sports drink that is carefully considered and planned within a well-balanced dietary intake.

Only where exercise levels are high and prolonged (typically more than 60-90 minutes) could a sports drink be beneficial to help meet the energy requirement needed to sustain exercise capacity and performance in both youth and adults. As far as electrolyte replenishment goes, sports drinks typically do not contain very high amounts of these, but replenishment can be achieved by eating natural, unprocessed food before or after exercise. The same applies to the vitamin and mineral content of sports drinks.

Similar to regular cool drinks, excessive sports drink ingestion adds significant calories without adding any other nutritional value. This could compromise optimal growth, development, body composition and health, especially in those who do not exercise sufficiently to warrant sports drink ingestion. A well-balanced dietary intake is encouraged as the best and safest way to get the full range of nutrients the body needs for energy, growth and development. Children and adolescents should have free access to water throughout the day and during exercise, and should drink water routinely as the first beverage of choice.

Let’s get back to basics and encourage our children to drink simple, old fashioned tap water.

Dr Glenn Hagemann

MBChB. Dip Anaes. MedSci

(Sport Medicine)

031 312 1136

Anxiety in Children

Anxiety is a normal reaction to something that is viewed as threatening. The fight or flight response is the body’s reaction to a perceived danger. Childhood fears are usually short-lived. However, some children continue to experience debilitating anxiety, which can have a crippling effect on their self-esteem and need help. Children may suffer from separation anxiety, specific fears like fear of the dark, or, as children get older, they may experience performance-based anxiety around schoolwork, tests or sport or/and social anxiety. Help is needed if your child’s anxiety is ongoing and is affecting his emotional wellbeing. ‘Worries are like weeds – the more you water them the more they grow’

A. How you can help your child

• You can help your child by first seeking help for your own anxiety levels if you too suffer from anxiety. Anxious children need to know that you, their health and safety provider, feel confident that their environment is safe.

• When your child says he is worried or behaves anxiously, first validate his feelings. Listen to him and offer comfort. Acknowledge his fears and let him know that together you will overcome these fears. Sore tummies and headaches are genuine responses to anxiety, but do NOT keep your child home from school. And whatever you do, don’t tell your child that if they feel unwell during the day, you will come to fetch them! Anxious children can, and often do, become very manipulative.

• Routines help the anxious child to feel safer. Get your child to school on time so that he doesn’t begin his day feeling flustered. Avoid overscheduling your child’s day and try to set a calm example.

• Make sure you provide a healthy diet and limit TV viewing which often aggravates anxiety.

B. Teach and practise relaxation skills so that your child can learn to control and calm his body when necessary.

• Deep breathing is the first tool to teach. Make sure the shoulders are relaxed then breathe in through the nose to the count of four. Hold breath to the count of four while quietly saying to oneself, “I am okay.” Breathe out through the mouth to the count of four while imagining all the stress and tension draining away. Deep breathing calms the body.

• Add a distraction tool. After 3 deep breathing cycles, ask your child to name 3 things he can hear, 3 things he can see, and 3 things he can touch. If he feels a little dizzy after the deep breathing, let him cup his hands over his mouth and take several breaths in and out.

• Progressive relaxation helps a child to become  aware of the difference between tense and relaxed muscles. This involves breathing slowly as described above while gradually focusing on relaxing a different part of the body, starting at the feet and moving on up to the legs, the tummy, back, shoulders,  arms, hands, neck and head. This is a good bedtime exercise to help get your child relaxed and ready for sleep

  Regular exercise is a great way to improve self-confidence and to reduce anxiety.

• The “And then what” technique can also be useful. For example, if your child says he is worried you won’t fetch him on time, you respond by asking “And then what?” Each time you child replies with a further worry, you respond with “And then what?” This helps a child to think through the fear and often to realise that it is unfounded or not so serious.

An excellent workbook for children who stress too much is “What to do when you worry too much” by Dawn Huebner. There are also many story books dealing with anxiety. Some of my favourites are “The huge bag of worries” by Virginia Ironside and “The worry glasses” by Donalisa Helsley.

However, if your child’s anxiety escalates or continues to impact negatively upon his wellbeing, seek professional help.        

Sheelagh Bargate – School Counsellor

Inspiration for lunchboxes

The daily routine of packing lunchboxes is the pet hate of many busy moms and dads. Here are some practical ideas and tips to get you through the morning:

1) Shopping ahead and being prepared; this is probably the most important aspect of being “on top of things”; aim to buy for the week ahead; stock up on fresh vegies, fruit, snack items, muffins etc; maybe do some baking. Remember to cook extra at night, to allow for more options in lunchboxes the next day.  Being organised helps us to be more mindful of the necessity of adding good nutrition and flavour and thus winning the lunchbox battle.  This all takes TIME and EFFORT-we owe that to our children!

2) Nothing greasy; limit the fried, fatty foods and snacks e.g. Fried samoosas, pies, sausage rolls and other high fat options, as much as possible. These add unnecessary calories to the diets of children and add on extra weight to those little bellies. They lack nutritional value and are deficient of adequate vitamins and minerals for growing bodies-this is also the “easy way out!”

3) Something wheaty; multi-grain breads eg. Seed loaf/ low GI-brown/ rye/ soy-linseed etc-these break down into glucose over a longer period of time, keeping hunger pangs at bay and assisting with more stable concentration throughout the school day.  Vary  breads with other options such as wholegrain wraps and crackers eg. Provita/ plain Digestive biscuits/ rye crackers.

4) Something meaty, milky or cheesy; Options include low fat yoghurts/ drinking yoghurts or yogi-sips/ smoothies into which fruit can be added/ cold Milo/ Nesquik/ SMOO (low GI milkshake powder); lean red meat (silverside or sliced beef), meatballs, skinless chicken cut into strips, turkey slices, boiled egg, biltong sticks, cheese blocks, roasted chickpeas, baked fish cakes, baked beans/ plain butter beans in small Tupperware, leftover savoury mince on sandwiches.

5) Go slow on the sweeties; sweets and even chocolates in the lunchbox are a NO-NO!  They are very high in unhealthy fats and energy and completely absent of any good vitamins, minerals and fibre.  Rather aim for more nutritious options like fresh fruit portions/ fruit pieces on small skewers or mixed into plain yoghurt, plain dried fruit (even mix these with nuts), fresh fruit pieces added to bottles of plain water or even diluted fruit juice, frozen overnight to be enjoyed ice cold in the lunchbox.

6) Go “raw” more; experiment with more fresh salad options in the lunchbox eg. baby tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, celery sticks, raw mushrooms etc.  More attention needs to be given to this group of foods in lunchboxes, as children are eating less and less of this food group, with dire consequences.Yes, it does take more time, but these options can also be prepared/ cut the night before-Remember the “being prepared” advice above!

7) Lastly, always remember that children (big and little!) are very VISUAL. Colour, texture and aroma of fresh foods in the lunchbox is what they love and enjoy.

Practice these guidelines in the weeks ahead and hopefully, there will be some happier mums/ dads and some healthier little tummies out there!

Julie Peacock – Registered Dietician

Factors of school success

THE 4 CRUCIAL FACTORS OF SCHOOL SUCCESS – AND HOW TO FOSTER THEM

The best learners have 4 key qualities under their belts. And of course, while all children have different temperaments, if we do our best to foster these traits we will be helping put in place the very bedrock of success.  They are:

• A positive attitude

• Persistence

• Resilience

• Good motivation

A positive attitude: these are the children who set off for school in the morning believing they are going to have a great day, learn something interesting, and enjoy being with their friends. This attitude towards school stems from a positive attitude they have learned at home, so as parents we need to practice talking to our children in positive ways.  We need to: praise them for their achievements, praise them for trying, and encourage them to see themselves as good and capable people.

Persistence: We need to foster grit and “stickability” in our children by making it clear that mistakes are a normal part of learning and that persistence pays off.  Let them see that we often have to try and try again to get something right.  Praise them when they keep on trying, and if something is really going badly for them, help them deal with their frustration by thinking about ways of doing it differently, or taking a break and then re-visiting it.

Resilience: Life isn’t always easy, friendly and pleasant.  Much as we ache to protect our children from all things unpleasant, we aren’t going to be able to.  What matters is not the setback-but how robustly children are able to deal with it.  We need to build up our children’s confidence so that small blows won’t knock them off their perch, and help them come to understand how difficult situations can arise.  We need to tell them mistakes are an essential part of learning, and talk to them about how the world is made up of all kinds of people, who behave in different kinds of ways, and that problems that result from this are not always their fault.  We need to show them how to look for ways to make a difficult situation better, and how, if nothing works, to learn to let go of the situation and move on with their lives.

Good motivation: Children learn best when they understand why they are doing something, and can see a good reason for mastering it.  Motivation takes time to root and grow in younger children, but it pays enormous dividends later.  Foster it by encouraging them to learn because it is fun and enjoyable, because it helps them to do and understand new things, and because it gives them a new feeling about themselves and their abilities.  That way, as they get older they will come to know how to work for themselves and their own goals, and not just to please other people.

FELICITY TONKINSON – Educational Psychologist

Offices in Umhlanga and Ballito,

Ph: 082-4872674 or 031-5612789

What is Mind Moves? Part 1

HOW?  Learning is an active process that requires a fully developed and integrated brain, sensory, nerve and muscle system. Many children find learning challenging or are not living up to their potential. By the time some children reach high school they may have made incorrect assumptions about their academic ability which adversely affects their confidence and sense of competence and worth. Nerves link the senses, brain and muscles to one another, literally forming connecting pathways. Problems arise when certain of these pathways are immature and haven`t formed adequately. This results in the brain and muscles not working together properly and subsequently behaviour becomes affected, resulting in labels like  `poor or slow handwriting’, `speech difficulties’, `ADD, ADHD’, ‘tactile defensiveness’, ‘clumsy’ and ‘low muscle tone’ to name but a few.

The following SOS signals may indicate that a learner is not coping and where they may need help:

• Physical SOS: Clumsy, low muscle tone, poor concentration, cannot sit still, battle to concentrate, dislike physical games and sport, can`t tell left from right, problems with balance, eye-hand coordination, crossing the midline, slow task completion and often complains of a sore tummy before school.

• Emotional SOS: Overly emotional, bite nails, chew clothes, towels or hair, poor impulse control, constantly need reassurance, does not accept NO.

• Social SOS: Can`t wait or share, battles to make friends of own age, clown/ bully/victim, emotional outbursts, poor self-regulation and impulse control.

• Intellectual SOS: Poor language development, avoids school and school work, would rather play or watch TV than work, problems with perception, letter recognition and formation, spelling, reading, maths, memory, concentration and task completion.

Research in Neural developmental has advanced substantially in the last few years and has supplied us with a greater understanding of the underlying causes of learning and behaviour problems.

WHAT? A whole new approach to learning and behavioural problems has opened up.

Mind Moves builds the really important neurological foundations to support development of skills through working with the primitive reflexes –these form part of the most basic wiring in the brain and of the entire body. If faulty, the higher part of the brain that deals with more cognitive skills like reading writing, comprehension, memory, etc. is not the priority when the brain needs to decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore. When a primitive reflex is still active it means the first priority of the brain is to pay attention to movement, posture, pencil grip, eye movements, etc.

WHERE? A Mind Moves Reflex Assessment would reveal if there are any aberrant reflexes or the Mind Dynamix Profile (MDP) would give insight into learning style and preference to ensure every child maximises his or her potential.

Based on the results, a home programme of Mind Moves is prescribed. These are fun movements that are specifically designed to repair and strengthen those pathways, resulting in improved behaviour and learning. They basically rewire the communication network between the senses, brain and muscles, thereby enabling effective learning to take place.  It`s a drug free alternative! 

When the brain is ready, learning is easy.

Mind Moves® has been accredited by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and the HPCSA

Fathers Day: Striking the balance between tough and tender

With Father’s Day around the corner it got me thinking about how fathers have to strike the balance between being both tough and tender. How dads ‘are’ with their children has a massive influence on how they will value and respect themselves down the line. When children are able to trust both their dads’ toughness and tenderness, these are just some of the benefits:

• Raised confidence levels

• A sense of security

• Self-respect

• Assertiveness

• How to be male (in boys)

• How to allow yourself to be treated by men (in girls)

• How to express emotions in a healthy way (in boys)

The PAPPA effect

While we all use different terms of endearment for the fathers in our lives, I’ve used the term Pappa as an acronym below for effective fathering:

P………Present: This means emotional and physical presence and being really ‘in the moment’ when you are with your kids.

A………Available: Don’t be so busy that your kids think you don’t care. I always remember the heart-wrenching Chicken Soup for the Soul story of the boy who found out how much his dad’s time was worth per hour at work, and saved up enough to buy an hour of his dad’s time.

P………Proud: Teach kids to value themselves by valuing and believing in them. Show pride in both their achievements and their journey in getting there, even it if is a place in the D team! Please don’t live vicariously through your children. It is an unfair burden to expect them to perform so that you feel good about yourself. Your children are not you and may never become a clone of you. Love them for who they are, not what you expect them to be.

P……….Protective: Dads are a symbol of physical and emotional security and they are often less easy to manipulate than mums when it comes to implementing boundaries. Your role is to teach your children to become resourceful and resilient in themselves, to learn independence, little by little. These are the tools they will use to create their own happiness and success one day.

A………Attentive: Pay attention. Listen. Talk and share. Do things together – dates with your daughters and adventures with your sons.  Always, and in every moment, strive to be a celebration and example of positive human connection.

I am so grateful to my own dad for the pivotal role he has played and continues to play in my life. The quote below says it all for me and I hope it sums it up for you too.

Dads, here’s wishing you a very happy Father’s Day. May you be celebrated, honoured and adored and keep aiming to strike the balance between being tough and tender.

My gift to you.

Nikki Bush

Creative Parenting Expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of

Tech Savvy Parenting,

Future Proof your Child and

Answers to Awkward Questions

Tech Savvy Parent

Does your child have a cellphone, tablet or ipad? Is it a prerequisite at your child’s school? Social media is here to stay and it’s only natural to worry about how you can keep your child safe online.

So how familiar are you with the social media apps your children can access? Educate yourself about what’s available and establish good ground rules from the start.

Online mobile apps available:

Age restrictions appear in brackets.

Facebook (13)              Instagram (13)       

Snapchat (13)              Twitter (13) 

Tumblr (13)                   Whatsapp (16)     

Qooh.me (-)                  YouTube (16)           

to mention a few. The list is growing all the time.

These apps can become addictive and precious time will be wasted daily if some restrictions and controls are not put in place from early on.

Do you know…

• Your child’s password?

• What the age restriction is for the mobile apps they have?

• How many followers your child has and is following on Instagram?

• How many friends your child has on Facebook – and who they are?

• What friends your child has on Snapchat?

1. Draw up a contract between you and your child when they first get a phone. Make sure they understand your rules clearly, so there is no doubt about any of them. Be consistent. Once decided upon, they should be non-negotiable. (These can be reviewed as they get older.)

2. Decide on a place in the house where cell phones can be charged overnight. Google: A Sample of a Cell Phone Contract for Parents and Tweens for some ideas. Never allow this to be done in a child’s bedroom. This rule should also apply to friends that stay over.

3. Limit the number of apps your child is allowed to access.

4. Monitor your child’s phone on a regular basis.

5. Don’t allow cell phones to intrude on quality family time.

6. Show good cell phone behaviour yourself which your child can model.

7. Have constant discussions with your child about cell phone issues. Security, responsibility, cyber bullying, sexting, online strangers, cell phone etiquette etc

Popular apps used by younger children:

Instagram: (13) Users take and share pictures and videos. Photos can be altered.  Parents need to supervise. Set privacy settings to only allow friends they know to see images. Turn off the Geo-location feature.

Snapchat: (13 ) – Users send photos and videos. Images ‘disappear’ once viewed. Some children are using Snapchat to sext.  Children may think photos disappear forever but a screenshot can be taken and the image can go viral.

Qooh Me! (No age restriction!) This addictive app enables users, of all ages, to ask one another questions anonymously. (There is no age restriction or privacy settings!) Parental supervision required!

For further reading: Tech Savvy Parenting Book 

by Nikki Bush.

Keep abreast of what’s out there and don’t miss talks on this topic by Emma Sadleir.

Children's feet: Solemates for life

Maintaining and caring for a child’s foot will benefit their health, mobility and well-being throughout their entire lives. Here is concise practical advice for the maintenance of your child’s feet.

What’s important when buying children’s and teenager’s shoes? 

• Length: Shoes should be 12-16 mm longer than the longest toe, 8mm for sandals.

• Width: Slightly wider than the foot

• Heel height: 0- 6mm for toddlers through to primary school.

• Heel type: Broad base for stability and made from shock absorbing material.

• Uppers: Natural material uppers and linings e.g.leather.

• Toe shape: The toe area of the shoe should be foot shaped.

• Toe depth: Deep enough for the child to wiggle his toes.

• Fastening:  Laces, straps or Velcro fastenings across the top of the foot, and a closed heel or heel strap across the back of the foot.

• Sole: Must be very easily flexible.

• Lightweight: Infants 30g, Toddler 110g, Child and Adolescent under 220g per shoe.

What style of shoe is best? 

Either a style that grips across the top (instep) of the foot and across the back of the heel OR low across the toes but combined with an ankle strap and fastening across the back of the heel.

Avoid backless styles as they force the foot and toes to curl to keep the shoe from falling off. With time, this unnatural muscle action can cause hammer toes or foot imbalances.

How often do I need to change my child’s shoes?

On average, children’s feet grow at two sizes per year in the first four years of life.  After age four, growth is one and a half sizes per year thereafter until growth finally stops in adulthood. This means checking foot size at least every 6 months.

How often should I inspect my children’s feet and toenails?

At least once a week, inspect children’s feet for inflamed nails; red, white or brown pressure marks on the top of the small joints of the toes, below the ankle bones and at the back of the heel.  If they complain of itchy or painful sites or you see any rashes or hard, raised areas on the skin, seek professional advice immediately.

Toenails must be inspected regularly and trimmed as required. It is not true that you must always cut toenails ”straight across”, rather follow the shape of the toe. Leave at least 1mm of the white of the growing nail showing.

My child’s feet are terribly smelly. What can I do?

Children have naturally sweaty feet, alternate shoes to allow the shoes a full 24 hours to dry out, and avoid nylon socks that encourage perspiration. Natural fibres or specially marked athletic moisture wicking socks are better.

What can parents and teachers do about promoting good foot health?

Set an example with your own choice of footwear.  Review school guidelines on shoes.  Discuss foot health and foot issues with the children. Regard foot health with the same gravity as other health issues. Watch the way children walk and if you notice an imbalance, coordinate a foot screening day with your local podiatrist.

©Anette Thompson & Associates Inc.

Incorporated Podiatric Medicine, Suite 111, Musgrave Park, 18 Musgrave Road, Berea, 

Durban, South Africa. 

Tel +27 31 201 9907    Fax +27 31 201 5750

Satellite practice in Durban North

The daily challenges of full school days, homework and extra-murals often means that our children’s nutrition becomes less of a concern, especially true to full time, working parents!  One needs to remember though, that the knowledge of sound nutrition principles starts from a young age and sets a firm foundation for a healthy body, healthy self-image and overall better performance, both in the classroom and on the sports field.  What children consume on a daily basis affects how they feel, think, act and perform. Teachers will tell you how poor concentration in the classroom is so often linked to whether the child has eaten or not!

All children have unique nutritional requirements for growth, bone deposition and muscle development.  Furthermore, their age, gender, rate of growth and physical activity levels also determine their ultimate nutritional needs.  They require more energy, protein and certain vitamins and minerals, compared to adults and with smaller tummies, they need smaller meals and snacks more often than we do.

Inappropriate diets for children include those that are too low in energy/ carbohydrates, those that are fat-free or too low in healthy fats and those that are too high in protein.

 A well balanced diet in children should:

1)         Sustain energy levels through more even glucose concentrations in the bloodstream, to assist with behaviour, concentration and improved performance on the sports field.  Peaks and dips in energy levels are a major factor in affecting focus and endurance in young children.

2)         Promote optimal growth and development; particularly important for children as they enter their teen years, where boys grow vastly in height while girls are often more prone to gain weight quickly, due to all the hormone changes in their bodies.

3)         Optimise fibre content –  constipation is a problem in many children and we need to gain knowledge on how to read food labels, what constitutes fibre in the diet and how much your child should be eating.  Adequate fluid intake goes hand in hand with fibre recommendations.

The excessive addition of sugar to so many of our foods these days, is wreaking havoc with many of our children’s weights.  Many children turn to sugary foods as a means of satisfying emotions, and these foods are an integral part of the childhood obesity that we are seeing today.  When youngsters develop the habit of eating in response to emotions, they may face difficulty succeeding at losing weight effectively.

With the firm, loving support of involved and empowered parents, a child does not need to become the victim of a lifestyle of poor food choices, resulting in poor health and disease.  We are role models to our children in so many ways, and good nutrition and healthy food choices are an integral part of this!

If you are concerned about your child’s eating, consider consulting a Registered Dietitian in assisting you to determine where the source of the problem lies.  Refer to www.adsa.org.za to find a Dietitian in your area.

 

Julie Peacock, Registered Dietitian, 

Tel: 031-5637470 

(w)/ 082 5199 636 (cell),                                 

E-mail: jpeacock@vodamail.co.za