Seedlings For Parents Blog

Interview with Amy Zempilas

Interview with Amy Zempilas

Q. Please explain a little bit about the children you have including their differences in personality and character. (I want mothers to understand that every child is unique and special)

A. I have two beautiful girls, Ava 5 and Chloe 3.

Ava is very conscientious and energetic and loves one on one attention.  She’s always asking me to look at her drawings, watch her dance and loves to chat. I love the vibrant, effervescent person that she is – but I do find it challenging to give her the attention she wants. I try to teach her that she sometimes has to wait and it’s OK for other people to receive attention too.

Chloe is a little happier in her own company and is very affectionate. She is very headstrong and gets upset if she doesn’t get her own way. I have to choose my battles and be firm with her with behaviour that is not OK.

Q. What do you love the most about being a mum?

A. I love having two little friends with me to learn and laugh with and have fun with.  We love going on adventures and I love listening to my girls and seeing the world through their eyes. They say and do the funniest things. I really love watching them grow into interesting, unique little people.

Q. What is the hardest thing about being a mum?

A. It is a 24/7 job – it can sometimes be relentless and challenging and hard and overwhelming. On these days I’m often reminded of a song my parents sent me called ‘It Won’t Be Like This For Long’.

I’m very aware that kids grow up so fast and I have to try and make the most of every day.

Q. Have you ever had days when you have thought ” I just can’t do this anymore”? What have you then realised or seen that has made you realise that you can keep going.

A. Absolutely! My hubby is away a lot for work and I’ve had weeks where the girls and I have been sick and sleep deprived and I have had just had no energy. In these times I remember to keep it simple and the advice a child health nurse one gave me.

‘As long as you love your child, feed them and keep them safe – you are doing a good job’.

I think there is lots of pressure on us as parents to be giving our kids the best of everything, when really our kids just want us to love them.

Q. Have you ever felt that mums compete against each other and how does this make you feel?

A. Luckily I have a really supportive network of mums; both working mums and stay at home mums – but yes, sometimes I do feel there is competition –  I try to stay away from that as much as I can.

I’m doing the best job I can today – I can only control what I do and how I behave.

Every mother and family make choices that are right for them and we need to respect and support each other.

Q. What do you think mothers should do to support one another?

A. Be kind! When Ava was 18 months old, I had been at an appointment which ran late, which meant Ava missed her nap time. I desperately needed some groceries – so instead of taking her straight home for a sleep, I went into the supermarket where Ava had a complete meltdown. A lady walked past me and said ‘ That child needs a smack!. I left the supermarket feeling really defeated and upset. We need to be encouragers, to tell each other ‘You’re doing a good job’. We are often our own worst enemies and feel like we’re not doing a great job at parenting and juggling all the things anyway – so we just need to be kind to each other.

Q. Some mothers would think that because you are in the unique position of having wealth and prestige that being a parent is easier for you. Please explain the qualities you think any woman can possess to be a good mother and elaborate on how anyone can be a good parent regardless of the financial position that they find themselves in.

A. Yes people often make assumptions that I have a Nanny or regular help, and that would be amazing – but I do it on my own with support from my mum and dad. I am a part time solo parent with my hubby often being away for work (every weekend during football season), and that’s just the way it is. There are thousands of FIFO families in Australia and I have friends and family that are full time solo parents.

Giving your children your time is the greatest gift – to sit and play a board game, read a book together or have a chat over a meal are some of the best times I have with my girls.

I love giving them screen free time – we will often pack up a picnic and go and sit in Kings Park.  It’s so relaxing and fun, the girls run around and pretend they are fairies and enjoy fresh air and we get to chat and really enjoy each others company without the distraction of TV or iPads.

It’s the simple things that kids remember. They don’t need the very best of everything or expensive things.

Easter Escapades

Easter Escapades

Unfortunately Easter has become about what we can get instead of what we can give and is extremely commercialised.

Whether you are a Christian or not, Easter is a time where we should be encouraging families to reconnect and finding opportunities for our children to connect with nature too.

Every child needs to know that they are an important part of a family. They need to know that they do not exist in isolation. As parents we need to provide opportunities that allow our children to build a genuine connection to immediate and extended family members.

Celebrations such as Easter and Christmas allow us to do just this.

Instead of just encouraging family members to come to your home, think about taking your get together out into nature.

There are so many beautiful picnic opportunities to have and so many benefits to our children being exposed to the beauty and calmness of nature.

In nature children learn to become curious and begin to explore. Their imaginations thrive with the curiosity. Their self esteem grows as they connect with the nature that surrounds them but never judges them. Children develop patience and watchfulness when surrounded by nature and each of these qualities enables them to be a more confident and resilient human being.

If you want to ensure that your nature visit still has an Easter feel, then set up an Easter egg hunt amongst your natural surrounds and encourage children to get Easter crafty using the natural resources around you.

Encourage family members to find their inner child and work with the children to explore and get curious. Take plenty of pictures for your child to treasure once you return home and enjoy being in the present moment with your family.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter!

That One Special Toy

That One Special Toy

Over 60% of children in the western world will become emotionally attached to cuddly toys, blankets and even smelly old scraps of material because they give the child a sense of safety, warmth and have a nurturing effect.

My eldest daughter, Carley, loved her “blankies” and we made sure she had a few. Now that she is eighteen we had all the scraps of her “blankies” made into a treasured doona cover.

My youngest daughter Ciaan, loves her stuffed dog Larley. That is them in the picture above. Interestingly, while most children get attached to that one special toy or blanket around the two year old stage, it was Ciaan’s life or death hospital stay that saw Ciaan attach herself to Larley who spent every second with her in hospital.

These special toys have a calming effect on children They can help a child deal with separation anxiety, changes in the family or the family routine, stressful situations and for that reason they are extremely important to a child’s emotional development.

Often these toys and blankets are called comforters, “Because they help a child make the transition from complete dependance to independence, experts sometimes refer to security objects and transitional objects (Kuttner, 1997)

Quite often children believe that these things that they are attached to actually have a life of their own and therefore they treat them as if they are alive. I have been in trouble a number of times for not holding Larly correctly or not giving Larley enough kisses!

Some children love their security toy so much that they struggle to give it up when it comes to school and this can become a problem as other children may tease the child and the child is not moving through the developmental phase of being able to self soothe without the object.

This is when it is a good idea to explain to the child that their toy needs some rest time so they can either let their toy have a rest on their bed or in their school bag but it needs to be left alone so that it can be with them when they come home.

If the child takes it to school, let the classroom teacher know that it is there. The teacher can then decide when the child can have time with the toy and when to encourage the child to leave their toy in the bag.

My daughter is ten now and still loves to sleep with Larley every night and I think Larley will be somewhere with her in her adult years as well.

Larley does not affect her ability to self soothe and while he was an important part of her emotional development he is now just a special childhood treasure.

As parents we need to acknowledge the importance of these toys to our children and allow them to believe in the magic of them being alive as we gently guide them into their older years with the ability to self soothe and problem solve.

Back To School Butterflies

Back To School Butterflies

Yes, all children have them, back to school butterflies – the mix of nervousness and excitement as they prepare to start a new school year with a new teacher, possibly new students in the class and separation from their friends.

As a teacher I found that it was usually the most anxious parents who had the most anxious children. Our children mimic what they see in us and we have to be very aware about the messages we are putting out through our body language, facial expressions and comments. We may think that our children don’t hear but they do!.

Instead of being anxious you can actually be well prepared to help your child, using a few strategies that I talk about more in-depth in my book Parenting Through The Primary Years which is available at www.seedlingskids.com

The first step is to ensure that you only speak very positively about the new school year. Help the child to get excited about the prospect of making new friends and getting used to a new teacher.

Ensure that your child is are really well prepared with everything on his/her booklist and the correct school uniform. There is nothing worse for a child than to stand out as “different” on the very first day of school.

You also need to let your children know that those anxious feelings are completely normal. To help them to identify why they have those feelings, get them to write down everything that is worrying them on a “worry Ladder”. There is a template for this in my book.

Once you have helped your children to identify what is worrying them, sit down and put all those worries into perspective. Help them think of the worst case scenario for every worry and why it isn’t so bad. You will see in the book that by putting theirs worries into perspective they learn not to put so much precious time and energy into some of their concerns, allowing them to continue enjoying their childhood.

On the big first day you need to tame your own worries and fears and even hold the tears back. Role model courage to your children as you take them to their classroom, wish them the best day ever and give them a quick hug and kiss goodbye.
If you linger your child will sense your anxiety and begin to feel the same way. Time and time again I have seen children dropped by their parents who linger until their children cry, because they don’t want the parent to go, but as soon as the parent does leave these children settle beautifully.
If you are really worried ask the teacher to call you in ten minutes if your child still has not stopped crying.
Trust your children’s teachers and know that they only have your children’s best interests at heart.

When you pick your children up from school talk them through the day. If you have concerns that they are still unsettled get them to fill in another “Worry Ladder” and see if they have added anything to it.
If you show your children that they can talk to you about anything at anytime, you will help build their confidence and resilience.

All the best for the new school year!

Teaching your child to be persistent

Teaching your child to be persistent

Today my ten year old daughter had her usual Saturday morning swimming lesson. She enjoys her lessons and we have explained to her how important it is to know how to swim, especially in a country like Australia where we spend many hours in a swimming pool or at the beach.

This lesson was to determine whether or not she had passed her Level 7 certificate, which would allow her to go to Junior Squad. Ciaan has actually gone for this certificate twice already and I think she was convinced that it would be third time lucky, however this was not to be.

Her teacher explained to me that, while she has a beautiful stroke technique, her endurance needs work. She needs to be able to do more laps of the pool without tiring too quickly.

The teacher spoke to me very gingerly, as if half expecting me to kick up a fuss as this was the third time that Ciaan had not passed. She even suggested that, if I wanted her to pass, she would pass her.

Was I disappointed? Yes, I was disappointed for Ciaan because I knew how much she wanted it but I also know that I want Ciaan to understand that, sometimes in life, we fail. Sometimes we have to keep trying, over and over again, until we get there. I also want her to experience the amazing feeling of true pride that she will feel when she accomplishes her goals by herself, without any shortcuts. I don’t want to put Ciaan into a situation where she is unable to cope with the expectations of Junior Squad and suffers even greater loss of self esteem.

Ciaan was very quiet on the way home in the car and when we got inside the house she burst into tears. She sobbed and told me how unfair it was that this was the third time that she had failed. She threatened to give up swimmingaltogether and looked set on allowing this failure to ruin the rest of her weekend.

I was tempted to tell her that the teacher said that she can do Junior Squad if she wanted too, but I wouldn’t be allowing her to experience this difficult but important life lesson so, instead, I held her tight, hugged her and shared stories of the many times that I have failed and have had to be persistent in life. I shared my feelings of anger and frustration, my sense that something was wrong with me and then we talked about how everyone in our world has their own failures which they need to overcome. It is through failures that we learn to become stronger people.

There is a fantastic You Tube video called “Famous Failures”. It is worth watching and discussing with your childrenso that they understand that, while it is true that they can be anything they want to be in this world, it takes hard work, determination, obstacles and failure along the way.

Welcome

Welcome

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to my very first parenting blog for our new website.

I am so excited to be able to offer a resource to parents that provides the same common language that I teach in schools. It is my objective to have parents, teachers and other organisations that work closely with children, speaking a common language that gives children simple and effective strategies to manage the many childhood issues in our world today.

Of course it might be difficult for you to accept what I have to say if you didn’t see that I had credibility.
I am passionate about what I do for a few reasons. The first reason is that I am a mother of two, beautiful daughters. Carley is 18 and Ciaan is 10. They are the reason I get up every morning and they also drive me to make this world a better place for them to live.

I know that one day (maybe not too long from now for my eldest daughter!) they will decide to spend the rest of their life with a partner. This potential partner is more than likely to have been exposed to the craziness of the world and I can only hope that he has been given the strategies that I teach to resolve conflict, manage anger, recognise and manage feelings appropriately so that he treats my daughters with the value and respect that they deserve.

The second reason that I am so passionate about The Seedlings Program and The Magic Coat is because I was a teacher for over twenty years. I would see children on a daily basis, unable to focus on the lessons provided for them because they had numerous worries running around their little heads such as, “Who will I play with at lunchtime?”, +Will mum and dad be fighting when I get home?”,” Will I have something to eat when I get home?” I realised that, while we have a massive focus on the importance of our children’s academic success, not nearly enough emphasis is placed on the needs of teaching our children social/emotional intelligence, confidence, resilience and the ability to problem solve.
I decided to do something about it and created The Seedlings Program for schools and The Magic Coat resources for parents, children and children’s organisations.

I also realised, through my own experiences and through discussions with thousands of parents over the years, that it is really tough to be a parent in this rapidly changing world. There are some incredible parenting experts who have books and presentations to share but I love sharing from the perspective of someone who continues to talk with and work with children of all ages in school.
I am able to ask the children questions and really gain an understanding and perspective of a number of different issues through a child’s eyes that I am then able to share with you, the parent. When we can see things through the eyes of a child it makes it a lot easier to understand how to best deal with the situation.

I want to offer you effective strategies and tools that really make a difference to your family,
I want you to view me as a family friend who will openly share with you my good days and my not so good days, with both my own children and the thousands that I work with each week.

I have written a parenting book called “Parenting Through The Primary Years” which is part of the premium subscription as an e-book or you can find it in our shop. It offers you an amazing array of strategies that you can begin to use immediately with your children.

I can’t wait to share so much more with you. My next blog will be up next week.

From Experience With Love,

Di x