Teaching Children Financial Wellness through Saving and Investment Options

Around the world, parents have common goals they want to achieve both personally and for their children. One of the most common is the ability to set aside money for the short- and long-term, but the majority of households find it difficult to save for their kids.

A recent survey highlights these issues among parents, noting that an average of £561 per child is set aside each year, equating to just over £10,000 by the time the child reaches adulthood. Although that amount is not pocket change, it doesn’t feel like enough for many parents wanting a stress-free financial life for their children.

If you desire to set your children up for financial success later in life, the good news is that you have a handful of options at your disposal. Saving even a small amount month to month can make a difference, particularly when tax-free accounts are used in the process. If saving is top of mind, options for Junior ISAs and SIPPs are helpful to understand both in how they work and the benefits parents and children receive from each.

Breaking Down Junior ISAs

A Junior Individual Savings Account commonly referred to as a Junior ISA, is a smart way for parents to save for their young children. For the current tax year, up to £4,260 can be set aside, and the funds in a Junior ISA are tax-free. Parents have the option of selecting a fixed-rate ISA for their children, or a shares ISA which allows for investment for the long-term. Both categories of ISAs have benefits, but special considerations as well.

The main purpose of a Junior ISA is to provide an incentive for parents to plan ahead financially for their children. A finance specialist from a website used to compare ISA rates explains that the advantages of saving in a Junior ISA extend well beyond setting up a savings fund. When parents use an ISA as an opportunity to educate their children about the benefits of saving for the long-term, showing them how a small amount of money grows over time, they are likely to make smart financial decisions when the funds reach their hands as an adult. This means children who receive Junior ISA savings when they turn 18 have a greater chance of utilising their money for further education costs, purchasing a home, or saving for their own retirement goals.

Benefits and Things to Consider

In addition to offering up a learning opportunity for children, Junior ISAs are full of other benefits. First, funds in the account are not taxed, either at the parent’s tax rate of the child’s, and they remain tax-free once the savings are transferred at the age of 18. There is also flexibility in how the funds can be used. Also, Junior ISAs can grow above and beyond the initial contribution from the parents. With a fixed-rate ISA, the amount of growth is capped at the rate provided by the financial institution, but there is little risk involved as the account balance cannot go backward.

With a shares ISA, parents have several investment options to choose from, some which may provide a higher rate of return than a fixed-rate option. However, there is risk involved in this choice, as investments are not guaranteed. Consider the options for how to save within a Junior ISA, and compare choices from various bank and investment providers to determine the best rate or investment plan available.

SIPPs for the Long-term

In addition to a Junior ISA, some parents opt to establish a self-invested pension plan, or SIPP, for their children. With this strategy, up to £2,880 per year in contributions can be made for a child. However, unlike a Junior ISA, SIPPs have an additional 20% tax relief added to the pot, creating a total of £3,600 in savings each year. Parents do not pay taxes on the money set aside in a SIPP, nor do children when they receive ownership of the account.

Where a Junior ISA automatically transfers to the child when he or she turns 18 and funds can immediately be used, a SIPP differs. This type of account has a much longer timeframe, as it is designed to be a vehicle for additional retirement savings. SIPP funds cannot be used without a penalty until the account owner turns 55, so it is important to consider the need and desire for long-term savings under this plan.

Advantages and Drawbacks

The biggest advantages to SIPPs for children is the ability to set them up for a financially sound future. Starting a child early down the path of saving for their own retirement can be an invaluable gift, as well as a teaching moment each year the account grows in value. Additionally, the tax relief that tops SIPP contributions is hard to come by in other accounts.

Parents should take note that Junior SIPPs often involve investing within the account, and that comes with the risk of loss. Also, SIPP contributions cannot be used for financial goals before the age of 55, so they aren’t well-suited for education funding or major purchases as a young adult. A Junior ISA is a better fit if these objectives are the priority.

Both Junior ISAs and SIPPs offer a powerful way to save, with their tax benefits, savings and investment options, and long-term timeframes. Parents should consider how and what they want to contribute to their child’s financial future before creating an account and take into account their own financial needs before doing so.

Create Impressive Travel Videos With These Tips

Would you like to be able to capture better videos of your trips to share with your friends and family? Maybe you’d even like to produce travel videos of your own and publish them on a travel blog or social media?  This is certainly one of my goals for 2019!

If you want to do any of that, you need to be able to record videos while you travel that actually look impressive – which can be challenging. However, there are a few simple tips that can help and will allow you to capture amazing travel videos more easily.

Avoid Shaking the Camera

One of the main reasons why video footage shot while travelling doesn’t look that good is because the camera often shakes too much. That affects the quality of the video and makes it look much less impressive.

The best way to avoid shaking the camera is to use a tripod or monopod stand to help keep it steady. However, that may not always be an option while you’re travelling.

If you’re going to be recording video footage while holding the camera in your hands, there are a few useful tips that could help you keep it steady:

  • Always hold the camera with both hands.
  • Keep your hands closer to your body so that your elbows can rest against it and provide additional support.
  • Control your movement while shooting and walk and turn slowly and steadily.

Find Good Light to Record Videos

In most cases, you’re going to have to rely on natural light to record videos while travelling, and you may not have much control over when you record videos.

That being said you should still make the effort to find good light to record videos whenever possible – as it could dramatically improve your videos.

Ideally, you should look for light that is warm, diffused, and evenly distributed across the subject and the scene that you’re shooting. The one time of day that fits the bill perfectly is the golden hour – which is roughly the hour right after dawn, and right before sunset.

In contrast, the midday sun is one of the worst times to record videos – as the light will be harsh and directly overhead – making shadows deeper.

Dial Up the Camera Settings

Make no mistake you don’t need to buy an expensive video camera to record impressive videos while you travel – but you should try to increase the resolution and frame rate that you record in.

Most modern cameras are able to easily record videos at resolutions of 1080p Full HD – and you should make sure yours is set to do the same. If your camera allows for it you may even be able to record at higher resolutions (i.e. UHD or 4K).

The frame rate is arguably more important than the resolution, however, especially for travel videos. A higher frame rate will make movement in the video look smoother, and typically travel videos have lots of movement.

Although you could get by on a frame rate that is at least 30 – you should aim to record at 60 frames per second. In some cases, it may be worth recording at a slightly lower resolution if it is necessary for a higher frame rate.

Make a Decision About the Audio – Early

Before you start to record any video footage while travelling, you need to make a decision about the audio.

Simply put you need to decide whether the audio that you record is going to appear in your final video or if you’re going to discard most of it and replace it with background music.

If you do intend to keep the audio you need to take steps to make sure that you record audio that sounds crisp and clear – otherwise, it could drag down the whole video. Unfortunately, the built-in microphone on most video cameras isn’t that great, so you should think about investing in a good external microphone instead.

Try to select the type of microphone you use based on the audio that you want to record. A lavalier microphone is a good option if you want to record your own commentary, as it can clip on to your collar. On the other hand, a shotgun microphone is more suitable if you want to record the audio coming from a specific location.

Naturally, the post-production stage is important as well and can help you to really take your travel video footage to the next level. For example, if you use Movavi Video Editor you could even add photos in by following the steps at www.movavi.com.

Overall none of the tips listed above should be that difficult to implement, yet each one will help improve the videos you record while travelling by leaps and bounds. In fact, even if you don’t have a trip planned just yet, you should try them out – just to see the impact they can have.

Re-registering Kids After Marriage – Have You Done It?

Well, it’s only taken me 7 and a half years to get the kids’ birth certificates altered to state my married name rather than my maiden name.

If you have your kids unmarried and you then marry the natural mother or father, you are required to re-register the birth of your child.  It is a legal requirement under The Legitimacy Act, Section 9.

There seems to be no particular practical reason for doing so other than ‘looking married’ and yet you are expected to visit the registrar in person to make the necessary amendments.

The form (LA1) is simple enough to complete.  Mother and father fill in their respective sections and sign.  You take your marriage certificate and birth certificate(s) to the registrar who then makes the amendments and prints you out an updated copy of the certificate (£4 each).

It does seem rather an anachronism these days but I suppose dotting the i’s and crossing the ‘t’s is a good thing when it comes to any form of government documentation.

Why it took me so long I don’t know.  Perhaps a tiny bit of me wanted to hold on to my maiden name (Brooks) – the last vestige of my days of independence!

Whilst I can’t see the point of not taking your husband’s surname if you are going to all the faff and expense of marriage, I do understand why some feel reluctant to do so.

My recently remarried sister has hyphenated hers.  She is now Mrs Brooks-Nayar.  It sounds very grand, doesn’t it?

I did suggest the idea to Mat but he wasn’t keen.

Oh, I don’t know – I think Mr Brooks-Hobbis has a nice ring to it.

Still,  the kids, somewhat confused about what I was signing are reassured that I am keeping them.

At least until the next Minecraft related strop, that it is.

Then I just need to decide whether I get them christened.  As I haven’t quite got around to that either!

How to Deal with Your Child Moving to Another Country

Having your child move out is one thing, but knowing they are moving to a whole other country can leave you with many mixed emotions. We want the best for our children, but every parent worries; even more so when their children are in another country. Whether your child is emigrating, going travelling or studying, not having them close to home is difficult to deal with.

Talk It Through

When your child gives you a big shock such as this, it can be too easy to be overwhelmed with emotions and not listen to them. Finding out why they want to move can help you understand and realise that this decision may be best for them. If they are telling you, they are probably pretty serious about the idea and have good reasons for it.

Assist in Finding Them a Place

Knowing your child is living somewhere safe can really help in putting your mind at rest. There are many accommodations that are security protected, which you can view online to get an idea of what they are like. For example, you can find places to live at Collegiate such as this luxurious student accommodation in Lisbon. This student accommodation is in the centre of Lisbon, meaning no travelling after dark to the outskirts, and is a great way for your child to make other friends, and most importantly, stay safe.

Look at The Positives

Having tunnel vision in this situation is no good for anyone, especially not for you. Instead of seeing this as your child leaving home and being far away, look at all the positives that also arise from this. If your child lives at home or is quite dependent on you, this gives you the chance to begin to move on with your life and start doing things for you. This could mean more nights away with your partner or even a chance to start a new career or start a new hobby. Having your child in another country also gives you the added bonus of being able to visit them. This doubles up as a holiday and a way to discover new places.

Talk to Someone

Many parents have been through similar circumstances and it is okay to be upset and anxious about this decision. Speak to your partner, if you are with your child’s parent, as they will probably be feeling the exact same emotions as you, even if they are not showing it. Talk to friends and express your concerns. Sometimes, having someone to vent to can help rid some of the anxieties that you are feeling, however silly they may feel. With great inventions such as Skype, you will never feel too far away from your child.

It is natural to be upset, and you don’t need to hide this from your child, as long as you still support them with whatever decision they make. We all deal with news like this in different ways but bear these few things in mind if your child tells you they want to move to another country.

Tween Drama Is EXHAUSTING!

Oh lord.  If you thought toddler tantrums and naughtiness were a struggle, wait until you have tweens.  I am already wandering around the house muttering “well, the teenage years are going to be a blast”.

Our house is a toxic pit of menopausal and pre-pubescent hormones covered liberally with love and cuddles and sprinkled with a layer of dust the house seems determined to insist on no matter what level of housework is applied.

To be fair, the housework has tended to take a back seat to blogging but no more!

The thing is, it all changes in a second – a move from sibling bonding to all-out bickering over slights, real or imaged and a facial gesture which is interpreted to mean you’re a complete idiot.

Yes, step forward the eye roll.  Ieuan (9) has the eye roll off-pat and can even roll them till you see on the whites of his eyes which is very unsettling.

Caitlin (11) specialises in the stomp and door-slam combo (odd for a graceful ballerina but there we are).

They are constantly on the move.  At meals, they are up and down like a pre-Brexit stock exchange.  Every idea has to be acted on; every toy they’ve just remembered unearthed immediately.

You can guarantee that as soon as you pick up your knife and fork, one or the other will get up to make a drink.  Cue another argument if the sibling isn’t also offered a drink.

There are constant reminders to use cutlery (“but Mum, some of our friends don’t”!  Really??? At 9 and 11???).

I’m not sure whether they are winding me up or not but there are apparently kids who will eat everything that is not baked beans with their fingers.  And the beans are eaten with a spoon.

The school run has not improved.  At 30 seconds to departure we are still shouting “coats, socks, shoes, hair, school books” in one combination or other – this despite having reminded them every 10 minutes or so since 7:30 am.

At the moment they start school at 8:45 am but when Caitlin starts secondary in September she’ll have to be there for 8:30 am.  I am bracing myself already.

It’s odd because at this age they really are a cross between the lovable youngster who has just left toddler-dom behind and the angst-ridden, stroppy and insecure teenager.

Tween girls preen and pose with their phones.  The hair toss is already in evidence.  They have already “been there, done that”.  They dress like their favourite YouTuber and talk almost entirely in the language of memes.

Friendship groups swirl and reform with the tide; best friends change in an instant and they seem to struggle with the concept of having more than one close friend – or rather how to juggle two or more friends without a major fall-out – especially if it’s on WhatsApp!

But threaten to give some of the ever-increasing scree slope of cuddly toys to the charity shop and there’ll be tears before bedtime.

They vacillate between old and young at the drop of a hat.  This week Peppa Pig is back in vogue.  Peppa Pig! Either that or its the saccharine gloop peddled by the Power Rangers (flower arrangers, the husband calls them who, frankly would be more use), all teen bonhomie, braces and “hey man I love you”.

Bring back the Clangers.

The challenge for us parents is to know how to respond and at what level.  How serious an issue is this or are we, to use the husband’s favourite expression, being played for more attention, more pocket money, more screen time (highly likely).

We’ve adjusted the software which governs our kids’ screen time this week to give them a couple of hours a day and then switch off.

Hands-up, things had got marginally out of control here with wall-to-wall gaming at the weekends.  Take their screens away and it’s like having a pair of zombies wandering around the house.

They simply do not know how to entertain themselves.

Of course, we take them out for fresh air.  They have plenty of books and art materials.  But getting them outside to play is practically impossible.

Still, I am heartened by the fact that Ieuan loves drawing and Caitlin is playing the piano again.  There is still weekend ballet and football.

Make the most of whatever peace there is while you can would be my tip!

My nerves are frazzled.

Are you enduring tween dramas too?  What are your tips for parenting tweens?




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The Arctic – An Often Overlooked Winter Wonderland

When we think about the places we’d like to go before we kick the bucket, we don’t tend to think about the Arctic.

We dream about a world cruise, or going somewhere exotic, like Easter Island.

That’s all too often because we associate going on holiday with going somewhere warm. I believe that when we think like this, we’re missing out.

The Arctic has always been a place that conjures up a sense of magic.

Perhaps it was all the talk of Santa and his elves working tirelessly, winter after winter, to make toys when we were children.

Or perhaps you got that sense at school, as I did, that it was one of mankind’s last frontiers.

The last great challenge on Earth for heroic explorers like Roald Amundsen. It is for those reasons that the Arctic has always held a certain allure for me. Its that spirit of exploration it evokes; it’s the epitome of conquest.

But exploring the Arctic is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, the reckless and the brave. Anybody can now go there and see what it has to offer and, more importantly, return home safely.

There are so many unique holidays now available that we’re spoiled for choice.

Imagine travelling to Alaska, one of the last true wildernesses on Earth.

You could meet local Inuit tribes and immerse yourself in their culture. You could walk for miles absorbing the beautiful ice-capped peaks and deep fjords of this beautiful state. You could meet some of the most amazing land animals on Earth.

How about watching a bald eagle swoop down to catch its prey or a brown bear swimming in a lake? What about a moose, an alpine giant, chewing on some cud?

If you prefer Europe to the States, you can now venture to the most northernmost points of the continent.

If you go in the summer, you’ll have the opportunity to view something spectacular: the midnight sun.

For a couple of months in the summer, the sun never sets. You could watch it bounce along the horizon, only to tumble back up, high into the sky.

The Arctic also offers a way to get around like no other: dog sledding. This one has been on my bucket list for some time.

Mathew Hobbis dog sledding in Canada - arctic travel - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Husband got the chance to try dog sledding in Canada

Mathew Hobbis dog sledding in Canada - arctic travel - motherdistracted.co.uk

You can now be chauffeured around the Arctic in style. Many companies now offer multi-day expeditions so you can experience life just like the natives. The dogs are well-trained, eager and friendly.

What better way to see the beautiful wildlife this region has to offer?

And finally, who could forget the majestic aurora borealis?

I know that this is one of those cliches that finds its way onto everybody’s bucket list, but so few ever get to see it. And that’s a real shame because seeing it has never been easier.

As the solar wind penetrates the Earth’s magnetic sphere, charged particles are funnelled towards the poles. When conditions are just right, it’s the most breathtaking light show on Earth.

Menopause: I Didn’t Expect To Be DIZZY!

Having stopped taking the contraceptive pill around 2 months ago due to being diagnosed as menopausal,  I have been expecting one or two menopausal symptoms to turn up.

And boy, have they ever.  Was I expecting menopausal dizziness?  No, I was not!

menopausal dizziness - a woman in a blue top pinching the bridge of her nose

Every time you turn on the TV or scroll through Social Media at the moment you’ll find women talking about their menopause. The silence shrouding what can be a pretty miserable experience is finally being lifted making it OK to discuss what our mothers and grandmothers could not.

So, to share my experience so far, here are just some of the delightful symptoms I am experiencing and which, in this blog, I will be addressing in the future, together with suggested lifestyle changes and ways to manage them.

You may be younger, or older than me, of course, and experiencing similar symptoms.  We need to all start talking and support one another.

So far I have experienced:-

  • Brain fog
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Vaginal atrophy
  • Pelvic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Aching joints and bones
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Increased Tinnitus
  • Insomnia (and increased nightly trips to the bathroom)

The pill I was taking was Noriday, the progesterone only pill, and my GP did tell me that it was possible that it had been masking menopausal symptoms.  I think that is a definite.

I’m not sure if I have been experiencing full-on hot flushes yet but I do feel my temperature rise dramatically from time to time.

The worst thing is the dizziness that has hit me.  I feel like I’ve been on a boat!  I have a blood test on Monday (the works) to discover whether this is a menopause symptom or something else – I’m really hoping it’s the menopause!

I think the worst thing is that you no longer feel in control of your body.  I find myself experiencing a new twinge or random ailment brewing and uttering “what NOW???”.  There seems to be something new at least every week.

When I was younger, I would have the energy to cope with this; to take the bull by the horns and start exercising or dieting or something.

At the moment I’m so bloody knackered I just want to go to bed and stay there.  The tiredness is really draining.

The kids are in the middle of full-on ‘tweendom’ which brings its own challenges and because the Husband is away a lot I am spending a lot of time on my own (whilst walking like a drunk on a cruise ship).

I know I’m not alone by, bloody hell, menopause and menopausal dizziness is no joke.

Are you going through anything similar?  What lifestyle changes have worked for you?




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Smart tech to make your home life easier (and safer!)

Many of us now have at least one piece of smart tech in our homes and these little devices can be really handy. We’ve got a smart speaker and use it to check the weather, local cinema times and play our favourite songs on a whim. It’s so convenient and has so many practical uses that I wouldn’t be without it now.

Whilst we’re yet to add another smart device into our home, I’m currently eyeing up the Ring doorbell. And I’m definitely not the only one looking into purchasing more tech for the home. A recent study found that us Brits will spend a staggering £10.8 billion on smart home technology this year.

But smart home tech can seem a little daunting at first, particularly as some of the latest gadgets resemble items straight out of science fiction. To help introduce consumers to smart home tech Legal & General have released a video series focused on the latest gadgets and the best devices. Featuring former gadget show host Suzi Perry, the series walks consumers through the latest tech in four short films.

In the first instalment, Suzi checks out options for home alerts, including smart home surveillance systems which can recognise whether somebody is a stranger.

In the second instalment, Suzi explains the benefit of IFTTT, an app which syncs smart devices together. For example, with IFTTT you can pair your oven timer with your lights, so your lights flash to let you know when your dinner’s ready.

In the third instalment, Suzi showcases the devices which alert us in the event of fire or water damage in our homes. Smart water detectors identify leaks before water has time to do major damage, whilst smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors send alerts to our phones as soon as they detect something is awry.

In the final instalment, Suzi takes a look at how we can achieve peace of mind when we are away from home for longer periods. These include a device which shuts off all electronics in the home and the smart doorbell I have my eye on, which shows you who’s at your door.

Do you have any smart home devices? What item wouldn’t you be without?

Men: Is Finasteride the Solution to Hair Loss and Does It Really Work?

Somebody may honestly tell you that you could do with a good cut, but the truth is you’re hanging on to the last bit of hair you have.

If you’ve got dull, thinning hair you may look at the magnificent lustrous tresses of a guy like President Donald Trump and wonder how someone of his age is holding onto those golden locks. You’ll be wondering how to solve your hair loss problem so that you can also have healthy looking hair again and get your confidence back.

Halt the Production of DHT

You will no doubt not be satisfied to know that many other men like you also experience hair loss or bald spots. Male pattern hair loss isn’t caused by you not eating the right foods or using the wrong shampoo. True, a hair-boosting shampoo and consuming nutritious foods can help a lot, but hair loss essentially occurs when the hormone known as Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) prevents hair follicles from getting vital nutrients. Finasteride works by stopping the production of this DHT.

There are of course other potential causes of hair loss but what you’re dying to know is ‘is there hope for hair loss?’ and the answer is a resounding yes! And yes, Trump’s doctor has revealed that the US president has slammed on the brakes to hair loss by taking a small dose of the prostate-related drug Finasteride to tackle male pattern baldness, and you can too.

Some General Information points on Finasteride

• It is considered the most effective hair loss medicine available.
• The main active ingredient is Finasteride. Each tablet contains 1 mg of Finasteride as well as a number of other inactive ingredients.
• Extensive research has gone into its production.
• Finasteride is not to be taken by women
• It can be bought through reputable pharmacies, always check they are fully verified before placing an order, Oxford Online Pharmacy is a good example of a licensed, regulated healthcare service provider. They’re a family business, employing skilled, experienced healthcare professionals and pharmacists who make patient safety a top priority. The Pharmacy is one of the few to have gained the Care Quality Commission stamp of approval.
• Finasteride comes in different pack sizes and therefore different prices. There is a 4-week pack as well as an 8-, 12- and 24-week pack
• Delivered safely and discreetly to your address

Perseverance is Key

Finasteride isn’t going to be some out-of-reach treatment for you. It’s available by private prescription in the UK and is as easy as popping one into your mouth each day and drinking it down with a glass of water. You will start to see the effects of the treatment within 3 to 6 months. This may seem a bit long, but don’t give up.

Persevere for at least 12 months. It’s an oral, prescription-only medication. Its brand name is Propecia and it is the generic equivalent. It will bring wonderful relief to you knowing that it can reverse your hair loss and that it is effective in 90% of men, especially when combined with scalp massages and microneedling.

Give your Hair another Chance

Finasteride is effective, slowing hair loss in men and stimulating regrowth. Good looking hair isn’t a matter of course – it needs constant care, and there’s an excellent chance that Finasteride works and cares for your hair and gives you a bonus too – feeling younger.

References:
The Telegraph. Finasteride: does Donald Trump’s favourite hair loss treatment really work? Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/finasteride-does-donald-trumps-favourite-hair-loss-treatment/

 

 

Is WhatsApp Bad For Our Children’s Mental Health?

My two have been using WhatsApp.  And I really really wish I hadn’t let them.  Let me explain.

Caitlin is off to secondary school in September whilst Ieuan will be completing year 6 in primary.  Mat is away during the week, more often or not, so the job of school pick-ups and after-school club management falls to me.

The pair of them now have old, out of contract phones with a pay as you go sim.  The purpose of these is simply so that I can get hold of either one of them when we’re in different locations.

Already many of their friends have mobile phones and networks of friends have been established on Whatsapp and Snapchat.  This, irrespective of these social media platforms’ recommendations of a user age well above that of 11 and 9.

In case you don’t know, the minimum recommended age for WhatsApp, as of May 2018 is 16.  For Snapchat, it’s 13.

The problem is, for parents, that you don’t ever want to feel your child is excluded.  I heard tales of sleepovers and parties being organised via WhatsApp where the kids who didn’t have a phone didn’t get a look in.

There seems, it has to be said, something rather brutal about Year 6 friendships.  My own experience mirrored this.  By 11, however, I was already in the secondary school to which Caitlin will go in September and already pretty much excluded from there on in right up to upper 6th form.

hated my time at school to the point where I avoid school reunions like the plague as it brings back so many memories of being left out.

If you experience something like that, it tends to weaken your resolve to shield your kids from something which might not necessarily be the best thing for them.

Frankly, I wish I hadn’t caved in because, already, you can begin to see the troublemakers, the braggarts and, unfortunately, the bullies.

Of course, when the kids are actually in school, all is sweetness and light.  But, I worry that we are encouraging our kids to become keyboard worriers of the worst kind.

I also wonder how many parents monitor their kids’ phone and social media usage.

The husband takes the pragmatic view that our kids will just need to learn how to deal with it but with the growing awareness of how fragile our children’s mental health is, I’m not sure that is enough.

And neither is expecting parents who, themselves are probably addicted to social media, to be able to guide their kids through the minefield of falsehood, the photo-shopping, the fake and bought followers, the text speak and the potential for cyberbullying of the worst kind – at least without some support and guidance.

If kids of 11 are already using the block button, rather than inviting each other round to play, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Explaining to an upset 11-year-old why someone who ostensibly is fine with them in class has just blocked them is not the easiest thing.  Kids this age don’t have the experience to be able to file it under “don’t give a stuff” as we adults do (eventually).

One minute everyone is getting on like a house on fire then someone takes offence and BAM, unfollowing, blocking and nasty comments.  Let’s be honest, we see this stuff daily on platforms like Facebook but not from young kids.

And has WhatsApp strengthened any friendships?  Not in the slightest.  If anything it is a confidence sapper, a source of criticism and a mirror of where there are discord and difference, rather than a place where fun and camaraderie is the focus.

Anyway, as the Husband would say, “We are where we are”.  Whatsapp has been removed and will be staying off for the immediate future.

Ironically WhatsApp is the only platform I don’t use – other than to learn of Ieuan’s football match locations.  I’d rather use Facebook Messenger.  To me, WhatsApp is even more pointless than Snapchat – and that’s saying something.  Aren’t we done with dog ears and tongue pictures yet?!

The need to be liked, to form networks and gangs is a strong one but for us parents of tweens and teens, social media has just added an extra complication – and a potentially dangerous one at that.

We need to get our heads out of our phones and start looking at what’s going on.  We’re all in unchartered waters – and the current is very strong indeed.

The Best Natural Aphrodisiacs For Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start planning for a special day (and night) with the one you love. We all know about the staples: roses, hearts, chocolate boxes, anything pink and red.. but to really get the fire going, plan your dinner to inspire romantic feelings with some help from nature!

Incorporate a few of these natural aphrodisiacs to get you both in the mood.

Natural aphrodisiacs to try

1. Chocolate

Fortunately, this one is already built into the holiday! But don’t settle for cheap, sugary milk chocolates, dark is the way to go. It stimulates the heart rate, increases touch sensitivity and releases pleasurable endorphins like dopamine.

2. Ginseng

Brew a warm cup of ginseng tea to go with dessert – it releases emotion-enhancing phytoestrogens in women and improves libido for both sexes.

3. Oysters

If your significant other isn’t a fan of shellfish, don’t force this one because oysters are one of those foods you either love or hate! Traditionally, this is a male-only aphrodisiac said to boost testosterone production.

4. Almonds

Almonds, on the other hand, are said to be a female aphrodisiac. Certain nations use them to symbolise fertility and it’s said that just the smell can increase women’s passion.

5. Asparagus

A few hundred years ago, it was a French tradition to serve asparagus to newlyweds before dinner. The thiamin and folic acid in asparagus help the body produce natural histamines that contribute to libido.

6. Bananas

It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out why bananas are linked to sexuality! But it’s not just the shape – they actually contain enzymes and minerals that have been known to enhance libido in men.

7. Basil

Cooking some pasta for you and your lover? Consider trading tomato sauce for pesto (especially since pine nuts also have aphrodisiac qualities).

Basil has been linked to love for thousands of years, especially in India and Italy. And eating it is actually not necessary – the aroma alone is reported to improve mood and emotional state as well as blood circulation.

8. Ginger

The way this spice increases circulation is what makes it so effective as an aphrodisiac. It increases sensitivity to touch, and, as an added bonus, it improves digestion. Nothing worse than a stomach ache ruining your plans.

9. Chilli peppers

If you and your lover are a fan of spicy foods, chilli peppers are a great way to turn up the heat! They generate physical responses like increased heart rate and circulation, clear your sinuses to improve your senses and release happiness endorphins.

10. Strawberries

What could be more appropriate for Valentine’s than this heart-shaped red fruit? Another item besides asparagus that made it on the French newlyweds’ menu was strawberry soup. The fruit doesn’t directly affect libido, but it does release endorphins that keep us happy.

Since everyone’s body responds a little differently, try out a few of these foods (or all of them!) to see which work the best for you.

The best part is, all of these foods have other great health benefits as well, so whether or not they work as love-enhancers for you, using them is a win-win.

You’ll find more natural health tips at http://www.alkalife.com.au.




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Will You End 2019 Richer Or Poorer? Time To Plan Your Financial Year

Getting to grips with family finance is really important now that the UK economy is so unsettled by the ongoing BREXIT negotiations.  Some mums are even stockpiling tinned foods and medication because they fear lots of their staples will vanish if no deal is reached. Has there ever been a more uncertain time in recent memory for family finance?

Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of budgeting and putting a bit aside for a rainy day. This is something that the Husband and I drill into the kids on a daily basis.

Financial Planning - pile of pens and coins

There’s nothing like teaching them the power of anticipation and the value of saving up for the things they really want.

But now, more than ever, it’s time to get to grips with our cash and to plan for as stable a 2019 as possible by setting solid financial goals.

I think I inherited my financial caution from my parents.  I can still hear dad’s voice behind me when about to squander my pocket money on a copy of Jackie or some Black Jack chews (4 for a penny!). “You don’t really need that, do you?” he used to say.

Mum and Dad were both born in 1939 just in time for World War II and having experienced rationing their attitude to saving is a lot more stringent than that of most Millennials.

When you’re young you always think you’ll live forever and you really can’t envisage the day when you’ll need your pension – or what desperate circumstance might arise when you’ll need to get your hands on some cash quickly.

Financial planning - Ieuan adding Minecraft to the family weekly shopping list
Minecraft is Ieuan’s number one shopping item

When you become a homeowner (which is increasingly looking a rather remote possibility for Caitlin and Ieuan), it is often a bit of a shock to be landed with bills for replacing a boiler, rewiring the electrics or fixing a leaky roof!

Equally, though, you don’t want to spend your life always worrying about whether you should be enjoying yourself.  We are only here once (depending on your personal beliefs of course).

Life is too short to wallow in guilt about treating yourself occasionally.

Planning your financial year is the answer.

It’s time to pick up our pens and planners (some of us still haven’t got to grips with Google spreadsheets) and create a budget which will cushion us against financial shocks whilst still adding a frisson of excitement to 2019.

And I’m sure we are all looking forward to a more exciting and happier year than 2018 which seemed to chiefly feature BREXIT and the looming nightmare of Donald Trump.

I am 55 this year and those of us over 50 are aware that retirement is, if not exactly looming on the horizon, something that needs thinking about.  Saving is pretty critical in these years and you really don’t want to be dipping into your savings pot to fund large items of expenditure.

I’m sure most of us don’t want to start taking out large, and often expensive, loans either.

One way to release funds for things such as home improvements like a conservatory or adapting a property to meet mobility needs, or that long-promised cruise, is by equity release.

Now obviously you will want to make sure that you take independent financial advice to look at your finances as a whole and to plug any gaps which might need urgent attention – especially your pension and possibly funeral planning.

But equity release may well work for you. This is where you obtain funds derived from the value of your property whilst still being allowed to live there.

Saga helps those over 55 with its equity release service and, used sensibly, this can help you gain greater control over your finances.  Make sure you do your research first before signing on the dotted line.

So, what action points are on the Hobbis Family’s planner?

Financial planning - Caitlin writes out the family financial plan
Caitlin plans to raise money by selling the family’s endless supply of coat hangers

Our Family Finance Goals For 2019

Here’s our top 5.

Plan for Christmas

Still far and away our biggest expense.  This year we’re trying to save £3 a day up to the first of December which should give us £996.

Pay Off Our Holidays

We have two weeks in Devon booked with Toad Hall Cottages and need to pay off the balance around March.

If our funds will stretch I’d like to take an extra week towards the end of the summer holidays (when everyone is in dire need of something to remove the boredom and boost the spirits!).

I’d also look to have a few shorter breaks and take a lot more day trips.

Budget for carpet

Just the word tends to make my soul sink but it has to be done.  We took all the carpet up hoping that wood floors would help with allergies and reduce dust.

They do, but the house creaks in the night like an old galleon and it’s impossible to creep about without risking waking the kids.

Plus we’re hoping to dampen the sound of our next door neighbour’s occasional belief that he lives in a night club in Ibiza and ramps up the volume of his stereo accordingly.

We’ll make sure we time our purchase around bank holidays and general sale periods when there are often great deals to be had.

Reduce our food bills

The key to this is menu planning and shopping list writing. It’s something I’m still trying to discipline myself to do.

Otherwise, it’s too easy to wander around Tesco throwing ‘things you fancy for tea’ in a trolley which, 9 times out of 10, wouldn’t make a nutritionist very happy.

Then there’s Ieuan’s “Mr Kipling” habit but since Mr Kipling’s cakes are rapidly reducing to the size of microdots, it might be time to get baking again.

Save more by using vouchers and discount codes

If you avoid impulse buying and plan your purchases sensibly you can often save by buying through cash-back sites like Topcashback which is free to use.

So that’s our top 5. I think it’s a good idea to sit down with the family (and the kids!) and discuss financial objectives for the year.

It’s never too soon for little ones to grasp that their parents have to work for their money and that there are some things which have to be paid for before Roblox, Minecraft and anything with a puppy printed on it.

Have you planned your financial year yet?  What difference do you think BREXIT has made to your decisions surrounding family finance?

*Collaborative Post