Child Car Seat Guidelines To Keep Your Little Ones Safe

When you are planning your budget for the arrival of your new baby, one of the most important items to include, apart from the pram or pushchair, is the safest and most secure child car seat you can afford.

Using a child car seat is a legal requirement in the UK so make sure you learn the rules surrounding them to ensure you don’t get pulled over and fined.  (My US readers should check out the latest information regarding child car seat safety here).

The car accident statistics make grim reading. Each year around 25 children between 0-11 years are killed while travelling in cars with approximately 250 sustaining a serious injury and around 6,000 being slightly injured.

Even if you don’t have a car yourself, if you are planning to travel anywhere by car, the law says that children must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. (Source: UK Government)

As children grow, the type of child car seat they can use changes until, eventually, they progress to what is known as a child booster seat.

However, once children are over 12 or more than 135cm tall they must wear a seat belt.

In Ireland and in some European countries such as Germany and France, this height limit is higher at 150 cm.

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

When can a child travel without a child car seat?

The law says that “a child aged 3 or older can travel in a back seat without a child car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one”.

In most cases, though, this means that children under 3 must always be in a child car seat.

Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions to these rules are different if:

  • the child is in a taxi or minicab
  • the child is in a minibus, coach or van
  • the child is on an unexpected journey, for example, an emergency
  • there’s no room for another car seat

In a taxi, for example, if the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one – but only if they travel on a rear seat and they must wear an adult seat belt if they’re 3 or older.

Whilst children can travel without a child car seat or seat belt in a coach if they’re not available, they must travel in rear seats in a minibus if child car seats or adult seat belts aren’t fitted and seat belts must be used if they are available.

If your vehicle does not have room for a third child car seat in the back then your child must travel in the front seat with the correct child car seat.

Children aged 3 or older can sit in the back using an adult belt.

To be honest, I find these rules rather confusing and it would be great to see some sort of public awareness campaign relating to child car seat safety.  Unless parents go searching for these rules online, it is hard to see how they would discover them otherwise.

Buying a child car seat

For the first time parent, buying a child car seat can be quite daunting.  Not only are there loads of brands to choose from, but the car seats are classified in groups:-

  • Group 0 – weight up to 10kg (22lbs)  – birth to 11 months for boys, and 14 months for girls.
  • Group 0+ – weight up to 13kg (29lbs) – birth to around 12 months to 15 months.
  • Group 1 – weight 9-18kg (20 – 40lbs) – Nine months to around four and a half years.
  • Group 2 – weight 15 – 22kg (33lbs – 3 st 13lbs) – three years to seven years.
  • Group 3 – weight 22 – 36kg (3 st 7lbs – 5 st 9lbs) – six years to twelve years.

As you can see, to choose the right seat for your child, you have to consider their age and their weight.

Then there is the choice between rear-facing seats, where the baby obviously faces the back of the car seat and forward-facing seats for older children.

Safety experts say that rear-facing seats are safer than forward-facing seats for children under 4 years old and advise that young children should be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Despite this, generally, according to The British Medical Journal, many babies are switched from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat at 9 kg or around 8 to 9 months.

There is a wealth of other safety factors and design features to consider, for example, recline positions, the ease of adjusting the straps on the safety harness, compatibility with adult seat belts, washable cushions and a booster cushion for newborns who may be too tiny for even the starter car seat.

There are also loads of accessories to go with your car seat, from waterproof covers to toys you can attach to keep your little one occupied when on the road.

You can also buy pram systems where the child car seat can be attached to the pram frame so that you can lift baby straight of the car and onto the pram wheels without having to transfer them over from the car seat to the pram – no fun in the pouring rain and a gale I can tell you!

There is so much to consider that your best bet is to find a child car seat retailer who offers the widest choice and helps you compare the different makes and models at a glance. There are plenty of online retailers who will help you do this, such as Online4baby.com. and, during the current COVID-19 pandemic buying a child car seat online may be your only option.

We bought all our children’s car seats from Mothercare who have sadly gone into administration but their staff were able to demonstrate how to fit car seats in our vehicle for us – which was worth its weight in gold for a nervous first-time mum.

Whatever you choose, be sure that you are buying the best child car seat you can afford for your children and make sure you keep up with the latest Government rules and regulations.

If you in the UK, you are only allowed to use an EU approved car seat. Car seats approved outside of the EU (for example in the US), cannot be used in the UK and US-approved seats cannot be used in Europe. Whether BREXIT will affect this ruling remains to be seen.

And don’t be afraid to ask for advice. The best child car seat retailers won’t hesitate to answer all your questions – and don’t worry, you’re sure to have quite a few. I know we did!

Is it safe to use secondhand child car seats?

The Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents (RoSPA) advises that you do NOT buy a secondhand child seat as you cannot be sure of its history.

The child seat may have been involved in an accident and the damage may not be visible. The instructions might have been lost, meaning that you can’t be sure you are fitting and using it correctly.

Second-hand seats are also likely to be older, to have suffered more wear and tear and may not be designed to current safety standards.

If you must use a second-hand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend and then only if you are absolutely certain that you know its history, it’s not too old and you have the original instructions.

Wherever possible, buy a new child car seat for your child.

What Are the Different Childcare Options for Toddlers in the UK?

They say that raising a child takes a village, and anyone with a toddler is likely to agree! While working parents routinely need childcare, even families with a stay at home parent rely on external childcare at some point. If you have children, you’re expecting a baby or you’re planning to have a family in the future, it’s important to know what your childcare options are.

By having a strong support network around you, you can ensure that you have the help you need, as and when you require it. With this in mind, take a look at the childcare options you could use for toddlers in the UK:

Toddler Childcare Options in the UK

1. Day Nurseries

Nurseries typically care for children from birth right up to the age of five years old, so they’re ideal if you’re looking for a long-term childcare option. Private nurseries, local authority nurseries and even workplace nurseries are all available, but you’ll need to check your local area to find how many are situated close by.

It’s worth noting that reputable day nurseries can have long waiting lists and the facilities at each nursery do vary. If you’ve got your heart set on your child attending a particular nursery in your area, be sure to talk to them early on and find out how long their waiting list is.

2. Nannies

A nanny is typically employed by a family to take care of one or more children. Some nannies work on a live-in basis, while others live-out and only visit your home when they’re taking care of your children. Although this can be a great option when you want to access flexible childcare, it can be expensive. Furthermore, parents are required to adhere to relevant employment regulations when they hire a nanny.

3. Childminders

Childminders tend to be self-employed and take care of children in their own homes. In most cases, a childminder will look after numerous children at once, although there are limits on how many kids they can care for at one time.

If you’re considering using a childminder, do check that they’re registered with the relevant body and that their certificates are all up to date. Again, reliable childminders are in high demand, so there can be lengthy waiting lists involved.

4. Au Pair

Au pairs tend to be foreign students who want to spend time in the UK and there are many agencies that can help you to find the right person. You will need to provide your au pair with board, food, and pocket money, although individual contracts are negotiable. Some au pairs have childcare experience or qualifications, while others don’t. Typically, au pairs only stay with their host familiars for a matter of months, so this might be a viable option if you’re looking for short to medium-term assistance with childcare.

5. Family and Friends

If you have family members or close friends living nearby, they might be happy to help you out with childcare on a regular basis. If you pay them for their services, however, they will need to register as a childminder. If they offer childcare on an ad hoc, informal basis and there’s no payment involved, however, then it can be an easy way for your nearest and dearest to give you the practical help you need.

Financing Your Toddler’s Childcare

If you’re relying on a nursery, nanny or childminder to provide childcare for your toddler, you’ll soon see how quickly the cost can add up. Although parents are entitled to support with childcare costs, the fees often exceed the grants or free childcare hours you’re able to claim.

Before you decide which childcare options are viable for your family, be sure to consider the financial implications. This guide for parents from newhorizons.co.uk makes it easy to see just how much your budget will increase as your child grows. Fortunately, finance credit can be an effective way to manage your increased expenditure. With access to hundreds of quotes, New Horizons makes it easy to see what your options are when it comes to loans and credit. With a simple search, you can find out just how much you’re able to borrow in seconds.

Finding the Best Childcare for Your Family

When your child is being cared for by anyone else, you’ll want to ensure they’re safe and happy. Furthermore, you’ll need to know that your childcare arrangements are reliable and unlikely to change without advance warning.

Finding the right childcare option can make family life far easier to manage, so be sure to take your time and consider all the options. By visiting local childcare centres, talking to other parents and even interviewing potential childminders and nannies, you’ll get a good insight into which type of childcare is the right fit for your family.

I Had My Babies In My Forties

If you had asked me when I was a young career girl just setting out in the world whether I would be having a baby in my forties, I would probably have told you absolutely not. Back then, pregnancy in your forties seemed to be an accident of fate, not something a woman would, or could actively choose. Despite this, I had my children at 43 and 45 (I’m now 54) and I know that I have been extremely lucky.

pregnancy in your forties - baby on a bed drinking from a bottle

My grandmother had a child at 45 so, whether or not there is a genetic predisposition to being able to have children later in life, I’m still aware that I managed the best feat of my life just in time.

Pregnancy in your forties

Is natural conception still possible?

What was surprising was just how long it took. Despite being in my 40’s I somehow thought that conception would be nothing short of immaculate and when it took over a year, I found myself reading numerous books on improving your fertility the natural way and taking my temperature every morning to track ovulation.

My temperature never seemed to budge. Tracking the ‘ten most fertile days’ made sex about as exciting as cardboard and turned it from recreational fun to a chore and a duty.

I suffer an early miscarriage

I lost my first child at approximately 6-7 weeks. The charmless consultant gynaecologist we saw made it clear that he viewed this miscarriage as nothing more than a missed period. “You can hang on to see if there’s a heartbeat”, he told us, “or we’ll have you in and whip it out”. A managed miscarriage at home was the option we eventually took, wanting to see if the initial scans were wrong. They weren’t.

Pregnancy in your forties - Caitlin

Caitlin born 2007

It was back to the temperature taking and the headstands for about another year until, one Valentine’s evening, having practically given up, we went out for a romantic meal and got ever so slightly sloshed.

Caitlin was born the following November. And then, the October before Caitlin’s 1st Birthday, Ieuan was conceived. Having waited so long for Caitlin, we assumed it would take a couple of years to give her a sibling. I should have listened to my wonderful midwife who told me that once you have had a child, it’s as if your motor starts to work properly and that I shouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t take long.

Ieuan, born 2009

Pregnancy Scans

We were aware of the risks of late pregnancy. I had a nuchal translucency scan (which we paid for) with Caitlin and amniocentesis (on the NHS) with Ieuan. What we would have done in the event of any genetic problems, I still couldn’t tell you.

I had two perfectly healthy pregnancies

Aside from a slightly low iron level for which I was required to take supplements in order to be admitted for Ieuan’s Caesarian, I sailed through both pregnancies.

As an older mother, I was put under the care of a consultant and this led us down the route of a hospital birth close to an operating theatre and surgeons rather than the candle-lit water birth in a nearer hospital I fancied.

I suffered the discomfort of permanent indigestion for the first trimester with Caitlin and very mild morning sickness with Ieuan but that was it.

I did put on a lot of weight (4 stone) with Caitlin but I found that eating cheese was the only thing that stopped the terrible heartburn.

Both babies were born by Caesarian

Caitlin was delivered by emergency Caesarian as her breathing became laboured due to the umbilical cord becoming wrapped around her neck.  Ieuan was born by elective Caesarian.  I did have the option of a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarian) but given my age, preferred the reassurance of a swift and managed delivery.

The recovery time after a Caesarian is something to consider.  I had anti-clotting injections and had to wear special socks for a few days and, of course, driving and lifting were no-nos.  My recovery from both C-sections was swift and, apart from having to have antibiotics for an infected scar, I was quickly back on my feet.

I do think that having two Caesarians close together may have had an effect on my abdominal muscles and my back but that could equally be a factor of all the weight I gained.

I struggled to breastfeed

I really wanted to breastfeed but after 10 weeks with Caitlin, we discovered she really wasn’t putting on weight so we swopped to Formula.  When Ieuan was born he went straight on to bottle feeding.

I found breastfeeding challenging and certainly not the straightforward experience I was expecting.  There’s an art to getting your baby to latch on and you may well need to be shown how to do it.  Of course, some mums take to it like a duck to water, but I wasn’t one of them.

I should point out too that I find the bullying of those mums who choose to have their babies by Caesarian or those who, for whatever reason, choose not to breastfeed totally obnoxious.  Luckily I have not experienced either but I do know mums who have. In these cases, it really isn’t the baby who needs to grow up.

Why didn’t I do it sooner?

I have friends older than me who have had children at an equally late age. I also have quite a few friends in their mid-thirties who think that they have all the time in the world to reproduce, when the truth is, the clock is ever ticking. Some of my friends must look at me and think “well, SHE did it” but it’s easy to kid yourself, isn’t it?

I regret not having had my children at least ten years ago. In the end, my career (as a Marketing Manager and later Director) simply could not match up to the joy of having kids but I didn’t meet my husband until I was 41.

This is the dilemma facing many women. Do we put our heart and soul into a career and hope that Mr Right will just come along, by which time we may no longer be fertile or able to carry a child? Or do we pursue a partner and children whilst we are still in our most fertile years, hoping that we can resume our education and career when the children are in school?

Can Women Ever “Have It All”?

I am a great fan of the late Helen Gurley Brown (who, with her husband, created the Cosmopolitan magazine empire) and read her book “Having it All” (still available from Amazon) from cover to cover in my early twenties. Helen believed the sky was the limit – primarily in terms of work and sex, but I think most women will agree that today, “having it all” is an impossibility. That said, I’d still recommend Helen’s work just to admire her incredible work ethic and zest for life.

I’m now faced with the prospect of staying as fit, healthy and mentally ‘young’ as possible. Not so much because I worry about the opinion of other mothers (although I’d be lying if I said I was totally immune to it), but for the sake of my children. As Hubby says “well, we just can’t conk out early”…

Pregnancy in your forties is not a decision to be taken lightly. All pregnancies are life-changing and I think older mums face a different set of challenges in terms of juggling their health challenges with the needs of young children. Facing the fact that you might not have as long with your kids as younger mums can be hard – but there are no guarantees of long life at either end of the age spectrum, are there?

If you are considering pregnancy in your forties, I’d advise visiting your GP to check you are fit and healthy before trying to conceive so that you give yourself and your baby the best possible chance of a successful pregnancy and a healthy delivery.

The process may take quite a while and you may find out that you need help to conceive but it is better to discover this early on rather than risk the heartache of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.




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The Curious Case of Sherlock Holmes And A Mum’s Missing Career

It is a Tuesday. The rain is streaming down Baker Street. Still warm horses are steaming gently, their cab drivers sheltering under rough-hewn cloaks, chewing baccy and waiting for fares. Mrs Hudson has let me in and I climb the stairs in anticipation of meeting the great Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant, Dr John Watson.

I have come to interview Sherlock as my private detective in the case of “The Missing Career Opportunity”. His is one of the keenest minds of the last century and, since I have a time traveller’s railcard, there is no other applicant so worthy of an interview to help me find the job I have in mind.

The sad wailing of the Stradivarius greets me.  The great man looks me up and down with some disdain. There is a moment’s pause whilst he meditates on my somewhat bedraggled appearance.

” I see,” he says, nodding to Dr Watson to begin note-taking, “that you have recently travelled a path most dank and wearisome; your coat is cut to suit a woman of much smaller stature and there is an indescribable stain on your left collar”.

I am amazed by these revelations.  “Yes,” I concede, “I have travelled via First Great Western’ Steam Service from Cardiff and purchased this garment at Ye Olde Ebay.  The stain owes much to a toxic substance known as “Ribena”.  Mrs Hudson winces and retreats to the kitchen to prepare a brew of good, iron coloured British tea. Sherlock has his back to me and is toasting his knees against the open fire. When he turns around, his trousers are smoking slightly. “Well, I just hope it was the tooth kind variety”, he opines.

Mrs Hudson appears with a plate of cakes. Decent sized cakes made with real ingredients (in defiance to her own arch-nemesis, the evil Mrs Kipling). “Now,” says Sherlock, “what is this case, this so urgent case that requires my deductive genius and undeniable powers of observation?”. “Sherlock,” says Dr Watson, “your knees are on fire”.  After much flapping of today’s copy of The Times, Sherlock throws himself into a winged armchair and steeples his fingers.  His bright blue eyes are piercing.

“It is the case”, I say, feeling the emotion welling up, “of the missing career opportunity”. “Then, tell all you must,” says Sherlock and he closes his eyes to listen to the sorry tale I have come to relate.

“Some six years ago,” I begin, haltingly, I had a job. Not just a job. I thought of it as a career.  I worked in marketing for lawyers“. A frisson of mild horror vibrated around the room. I continued. “I had worked for many years to establish myself, a humble woman, as a trusty team member, a purveyor of ideas, a steady pair of hands and someone who never shirked from buying cakes”.

Sherlock snored gently. Mrs Hudson whacked him with The Times.

“Then, I… well… I”, “Go on” shouted the great man, “relay all! I am ready to hear”.  “Well, I said, I had a baby. Planned. Twice. And then, I became a stay at home mother“.  “This is indeed a serious case”, said Sherlock,  “the wilful throwing away of cakey-fied employment but, if I may be so bold, it’s not really up to Moriarty’s standard, is it?”

“Oh ho,” I say, feeling my dander rising, “You think not?  Do you know what happens to women like me trying to return to a job market awash with frisky young graduates, all with 10 A* levels?  Do you know how many decently paid temporary jobs there are left for mothers?  Do you know (by this point I am feeling an approaching fit of the vapours), HOW MUCH CHILDCARE COSTS????.

“Mrs Hudson, the gin“, shouts Sherlock, clearly well versed in the universal language of tear-sodden mothers at 4 pm.  I am braced by the aroma of Juniper.  Sherlock gets his pipe out and stuffs it full of something herbal and mysterious.  After the quarter pin of gin, I can no longer feel my feet.

“Your case is simple to solve”.  proclaims Sherlock.  “and you yourself are the criminal here”.  “What??” I say, gripping the arms of my chair since the room has started to swim slightly. “Indeed, Madam”

“Now Holmes,” says Dr Watson, “be gentle, she has to get back on that train”.

“Your crime is simply this – you have underestimated your own talent, dedication and hard work. You do a disservice, Madam, to all those for whom you worked before, who trained you, advised you, encouraged you and ate your cakes. Is it right that their investment should be cast asunder for all time?  No! You must take steps to put matters right”.

By this point, I am feeling vaguely ashamed. “Take steps, Madam” shouts Holmes, “take steps to right this injustice”. “How?” I ask, “Tell me, Mr Holmes, what should I do?  What can I do?  My children are young and I am cruelly constrained to be free only between 10 am and 3 pm”.

Sherlock picks up his violin. Its mournful tones fill the hazy air. Ignoring the fact that the music sounds uncannily like the theme from Coronation Street,  I prepare myself to receive the Holmesian wisdom needed to purchase my liberty.

“You must contact a strange and mystical organisation. They call themselves a “recruitment agency”. They are agents of employment; they help horse-mongers, philatelists, brewers and peelers, nannies and nursemaids and those whose interests are secular and scientific” says Holmes.  “Slow down,” mutters Dr Watson.  “How can I be expected to write that fast with a fountain pen?” Sherlock glares at him.

“You must face your fear. You must…” and here Sherlock stands and returns to toasting his charred knees in front of the fire, “stop making excuses”.

Snatching the pen from Dr Watson’s hands, he scribbles what can only be a clue of momentous importance on the back page of “The Times”. You will need this!”, he tells me, handing over a scrap of newspaper. I look at it.  “Henry Ford builds an assembly line for Model T Fords” I read.  Holmes snorts.  “The man is clearly mad.  No – look again”.  I stare hard at the paper. My eyes are swimming, my head is pounding and the air is full of a miasma of herbal fumes, gin and fondant fancies (without the annoying paper cases).

And suddenly, there it is – the clue I have been looking for – in the great man’s scrawl – “The Revamp-A-Mum Recruitment Agency – We Don’t Pay a Maxi-Mum the Mini-Mum”.

It strikes me at this point that the interview I have come to conduct has not gone the way I planned.  I have been roundly trounced in the questioning stakes.  I have learned little about the great man but, it seems, he has learned much about me.  Somehow, Sherlock has solved the mystery without my needing to employ him.

“Mr Holmes”,  I stammer,  “You have completed the assignment for which I required your help without us discussing fees.  I will contact this recruitment agency of which you speak. I feel you should be justly rewarded for your perspicacity”.

Once again, Holmes steeples his fingers and regards me with some amusement.  “There is one matter, nay one question, one confirmation of a future truth that you can give me”.

I breathe in, in anticipation at what this matter could possibly be.

“I had a dream, a vision”  (at this point Mrs Hudson stares hard at the smoking green fug emanating from Holmes’ pipe),  “that in the next century to come, all communication will be by means of an Apple”.

How could I disappoint him?  The truth needed to be told.  “It is true”.  I say. Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson look at me as if I am madder than Moriarty.

“What ho!” shouts Holmes. “Mrs Hudson, pass me a Bramley”.

5 Facts About Tummy Tucks that Mums Should Know About

Becoming a mother is often described as one of the best experiences of a woman’s natural life, but very rarely do they mention the insistent baby fat that comes with it all! In this post I’ll discuss why a tummy tuck can often be the solution mums need to get back into their former shape, as well as a few other essential points that will help make the experience more fruitful, since you will have a better understanding of what is to be expected.

Why Should You Go for a Tummy Tuck?

Nothing can replace hardcore exercise and a good, balanced diet. As a matter of fact, proper dieting and exercise will become an essential part of maintaining the effects of your tummy tuck sessions. Unfortunately, it cannot always be the only solution. The problem with following a strict exercise and diet alone to lose all your baby fat is twofold in nature.

Firstly, mothers need a few months at least to recover post-delivery, especially if the child was delivered via a C-section. Until the wounds heal, and they recover physically, the type of strenuous exercise necessary for heavy weight loss is out of the question.

Secondly, even hardcore fitness enthusiasts often find themselves at sea, while trying to lose fat from specific sections of their body, especially after they have gained a moderate to significant amount of fat.

Scientifically speaking, it is impossible to lose fat from specific sections of the body (spot reduction) through exercise and dieting alone. If the localised fat on your abdominal muscles and love handles have hardened already, it will become more and more resilient to being shed without direct surgical procedures such as a tummy tuck.

What is a Tummy Tuck?

The official name for what most of us know as a tummy tuck is an abdominoplasty. It’s a surgical procedure that is often included in a complete package for a mummy makeover. Keep in mind that the procedure can be applied to men who stand to benefit from abdominoplasty as well. Irrespective of one’s gender, one should expect their abdominoplasty to be able to:

  • Remove pregnancy scars, scars in general, sagging loose skin and abdominal fat
  • Strengthen abdominal muscles, giving them the compactness which they had likely lost due to ageing/pregnancy/excess weight gain

What a Tummy Tuck is Not

Although abdominoplasty is a full-on surgical procedure, it’s not a weight loss surgery by any means. Tummy tucks are a form of plastic surgery, meant to make the patient’s midsection look and feel better than before. The effects are mostly cosmetic, but also highly effective in removing stubborn pouches of fat from the stomach.

Weight loss surgeries such as a gastric bypass or a sleeve gastrectomy are completely different and are generally performed in morbidly obese patients, under severe threat from obesity-related diseases.

You Can Simultaneously Book an Abdominoplasty and a Mediterranean Vacation!

Plastic surgery and grand vacations may sound like two things that are poles apart, but they don’t have to be. Book a complete mommy makeover UK special package at the Baris Yigit Clinic in Fethiye, Turkey to extend your surgical procedure and turn it into an exotic vacation instead. See the ancient Roman and Lycian sites, or swim in the stunning Ölüdeniz Lagoon, before you head for the makeover procedures.

According to Dr Baris Yigit, it only takes a night’s stay at the hospital to recover from an abdominoplasty, and you can find more information about mommy makeovers here on his official website.

Are There Risks Involved?

Every surgery ever invented has varying degrees of risk associated with it, so an abdominoplasty cannot be an exception to that rule either. However, given that tummy tucks are generally not particularly risky, possible side effects are not as dangerous either. Post-surgery bleeding, delayed healing due to infections and a small likelihood of unexpected scars being left behind are pretty much all that can go wrong in rare cases.

All the same, it is still highly recommended that you let the plastic surgeon know about any existing health conditions (if applicable) beforehand. This will further minimise the chances of any complications. Also, keep in mind that the fewer procedures are included in your mommy makeover package, the lower your chances are of developing any future complications. Don’t put your body under too much stress at once, and do not forget to talk to your regular doctor regarding everything, before going under the knife.

These pointers should answer a number of questions for mums planning to go for a tummy tuck, and create at least a basic awareness regarding what should be expected. Your own doctor should also be able to tell you more regarding your medical suitability to various cosmetic procedures or warn you against possible risks that may exist.

What are the Real Effects of Lockdown on Our Children? Let’s Ask the Experts…

The events of 2020 have had an effect on the best of us, for better or for worse. But for our little ones who don’t quite understand what’s happening, it’s been a confusing experience to say the least.

We may struggle as adults to fully grasp the ins and outs of a pandemic, not least because we’ve never experienced one before. But the real challenge lies with parents trying to support their children who, as we know, rely almost entirely on routine in order to feel secure.

Think about it this way: without warning, our children have been told that they can’t hug their friends and family, that school is suddenly out of bounds, and that mum and dad have essentially stopped going out to work. This is a serious shake-up to their normal day-to-day routine, one which their emotional security depends on.

The team at Toys for a Pound asked a few experts in their field to share their views on lockdown and the real effect it could be having on our children, with tips on how to minimise any negative experiences for them.

Dr Sarah Mundy is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist specialising in child and family work. She outlined some of the main effects that the lockdown has had on school-age children.

  • Loss of relationships with teachers and other professionals (including mental health support and social care)
  • Social isolation
  • Frightening news coverage
  • Confusion around rules, distancing and masks
  • Worry about the future – exams, universities etc.
  • Potential mistrust in others – government professionals
  • Loss of routine
  • Lack of control
  • Stress around school work
  • Worry about losing loved ones
  • Specific fears about germs/going out etc.
  • Increased parental stress and lack of availability

She said: “Children may show increased anxiety through increased nightmares, showing a range of emotions (sadness, agitation, numbness), becoming clingy and anxious to caregivers, becoming more withdrawn, regressing to earlier coping strategies, becoming low and withdrawn. There are also concerns that those who are already vulnerable to mental health problems may show increased difficulties – e.g. OCD, social anxiety, health anxiety, being worried about physical appearance, already feeling low and isolated, addiction to screens etc.

“From my clinical work, it seems as though teenagers are struggling particularly with the changes. This is not surprising given they focus so much on peer groups as opposed to family at that stage. However, there seems to be an impact across all age groups. Interestingly, for those children who are adopted and are still quite young, I have seen some benefits of that extra time with their parents – perhaps the “nesting period” they missed when they were younger and when they were first adopted.”

Danger signs and how to help

When asked what signs to look for regarding poor child’s mental health, she said: “What is key is to notice significant changes in their behaviour and emotions – this is relevant to all ages but may show differently depending upon the child and their age.

“For example struggling to sleep, a change in appetite, a change in mood – such as becoming withdrawn or agitated, losing interest in socialising, seeming more fearful (e.g. about going out in case there are germs), being more concerned about their appearance, struggling with school work, seeming disconnected, finding it hard to trust others or accept support.”

PhDr Ivana Poku, who works as a motherhood coach and NLP practitioner, added: “A child being quieter than usual and not themselves is a sign. If you are unsure, it is always best to talk to a professional rather than potentially neglect something that can potentially lead to severe mental health issues.

“Make sure to talk to your children about mental health so they are used to the subject. We cannot expect our children to talk to us about mental health if we don’t talk about it in the first place.

“I also recommend parents showing their vulnerable side to their children. For instance, they can share with their children what they are scared of by saying “I am scared that something happens to you” and then ask them: “What are you scared of?”

Activities to promote wellness

Dr Mundy said there are some activities which can help keep your children in a good state of mind, such as:

  • sensory activities
  • outdoor play and learning
  • Joint (non-competitive) activities
  • Play-based learning
  • things that focus on regulating the body
  • Talking about feelings and experiences

Take a look at some summer toy ideas which are ideal for outdoors, from Toys for aPound.

Why Mums Should Hang Out With Their Teenage Daughters

As our daughters hit their teens, it sometimes seems as if parents are surplus to requirements.  Sometimes we are invited into their lives but on many others, shut firmly out.  Moods swing from elation to misery according to the throw of the hormonal dice – and that applies for both mum and daughters!

It can truly feel as if you are being tested and, worse, as if you just don’t have the parenting strategies or ‘magic’ solution to repair the fractured bonds which used to be impenetrable.

There are, I believe, two schools of thought.

There are those who think that hanging out with your tween/teen girls all the time is not a great thing.  It is mum cramping their style and living vicariously through her daughters.  You may remember a documentary about ’embarrassing’ mums who went clubbing with the daughters and competed with them for attention both on the dance floor and off – much to the chagrin of the girls.

But then there are those whose daughters become their new best friends and for whom time spent together just serves to bring them even closer.  They seem to have found the solution to the constant, knackering drama-fests that can envelope a hormonal household.

It’s always going to be a challenge where you have mums and daughters with equally strong personalities and especially if either one of those personalities is inflexible.  My mother had a very specific set of rules for behaving and doing things around the home – passed on to her, of course by my grandmother. From hospital corners on beds, to meals served at set times, my mother has always thrived on routine and structure.

Ours was never a ‘laissez-faire’ household where bedtimes varied and the occupants kept whatever hours they chose.

It’s only natural, I suppose to want our daughters to be like us and I’m guessing that, as they age, many of them will turn out like us – but that is no consolation during the tempestuous teen years.  In truth, it is surely far better for our daughters to be different, to be adventurous, to be rule-breakers and non-conformist.

Lots of us innocently push our own agendas on to our daughters – from the hobbies we tell them ‘they are sure to like’ to the books they ‘should’ read.  We only want what’s best for them – the best academic results to ensure they get a job for example.  The best job so they have a chance at saving a deposit for a place of their own. The best partner for a committed loving relationship and on it goes.

We forget that we got to be who we are and where we are through the lessons life taught us – and how many of those were from our parents?

But back to today – and what do you do if your relationship with your daughter is like living in a war zone – or at least prone to door slamming, tantrums and sulking (both sides!).

Do you ever catch yourself talking to your kids and realise that you are basically just issuing instructions?

“Clean your room”

“Do your homework”

“Put your clothes in the laundry basket”

“Make sure you eat a proper breakfast”

There’s not actually a lot of conversation or even relating going on.  Of course, sometimes if you ask ‘how was your day’ you don’t get much of a response but at least it’s an attempt to share their experience.

What we are not doing in this situation is actually seeing our daughters as individuals.

The adolescent brain has an undeveloped prefrontal cortex and a dominant limbic system which translates as being prone to drama. I’m sure you’ve noticed (!)

But this isn’t the only factor at play.

To quote one study, “childhood and adolescence is the core risk phase for the development of symptoms and syndromes of anxiety that may range from transient mild symptoms to full-blown anxiety disorders.” This includes depression.

So what is going on?

Environmental factors such as the pressure to conform by social media or to get 5 A* A-Levels may play a part for some.

Heavy social media use is actually linked to depression in young people, according to a study published in “Computers in Human Behavior”.

As women we are surrounded, still, by so many pressures no matter what we read about a new ‘woke’ society – made all the worse because so many opinions and views are sat upon and any sensible discussion immediately curtailed lest someone’s feelings be hurt.  It’s the unthinking ‘cancel culture’ of Twitter and the red mist descending over mature discussion in many other quarters.  History is to be rewritten rather than learned from which, to me, invalidates all striving, fighting and hard work of those who have trodden the path before us.

Teen girls are truly under pressure to perform which must make focusing on just ‘being’ extremely difficult.

And for us mothers, the worry about how our daughters will cope with all this creates a stress which makes us all the more prone to react with panic and censure.

When you have both mothers and daughters living in an atmosphere where there is a permanent threat of not fitting in, not making the grade and not ‘getting it right’, it’s no wonder fireworks occur – and that’s without hormones.

Some of our kids are working so hard with school work and extracurricular activities they literally have no time to themselves.

So what can we do about it?

Spend more time together just ‘hanging out’

Whether it’s watching a movie together, listening to music or a spot of online shopping, just spending some time without having to be, do or behave in a certain way can help.  Step out of the mother / daughter roles for a bit and just relax.

I think this is even more important where there are male siblings or fractious sibling relationships in addition to parental ones.

When there are no expectations to conform to the usual pattern of behaviour, it may be easier for mum and daughter to be open and honest with one another.

Let them teach you

Very often I’ll be writing a post or playing around with photo editing and my daughter will offer advice or show me a new way of doing something.  (One of the few positives of her social media use!).

You’ll be amazed what your daughters can teach you and it’s important that you let them share the world they are growing up in – it keeps you, in turn, younger and better equipped to relate to them.

The way to get through to our girls may not always be through conversation. Responding positively to the things they choose to share can develop bonds.  Caitlin loves to share funny videos (especially cats), memes and songs.

Rather than brushing these kinds of interruption aside – and it’s not so easy if we are working from home for example, making time for them can improve our closeness.

The trick is, of course, to focus on what she has chosen to share and not the maelstrom of clothes on the bedroom floor or rubbish that has missed the bin.

If you can master this, you may find that your daughter shares more with you more often.

Don’t Always Jump In With Advice

The urge to give advice is very strong isn’t it?  The problem is that it isn’t always wanted.  You’ll know from your own experience that the last thing you want when you are upset or feeling down is a lecture and a list of yet more things that you ‘should’ be doing.

A bit of kindness and empathy will go much further – as will listening without interruption.

Perhaps try a coaching approach – asking how she thinks should she should approach a situation may be more helpful that “why did you do that for heavens sake!”

The other thing to bear in mind is that you may not always know the full story.  If your daughter doesn’t trust you with her innermost secrets, any advice you give could be based on half the facts – and might actually make things worse.

Teens seem to amplify situations according to their moods – which seem to change from moment to moment.

What might be a nightmare scenario today may be just “whatever” tomorrow.

If we parents pitch in too soon we risk not only making it worse for our daughter but ramping up our own stress and anxiety too – and who needs that!

If you can implement these strategies you will hopefully see a reduction in the level of drama – or at least the frequency.  Start small with an hour or so dedicated to mum and daughter time that is sacrosanct and for you and her alone.

Of course there will still be battles and arguments but we are not powerless to create a different path.

For those of us lucky enough to still have a good relationship with our mother (and I am well aware that this does not apply for all), how you handle the teen years may be crucial in creating a strong and lasting bond with your own daughter.

School Anxiety:  6 Tips for Helping Your Child Start a New School Year

A new school year brings conflicting emotions for most children – as it does for us parents!  This year will be particularly stressful because, although ostensibly schools will be open come September, the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 has thrown a shadow of doubt over the forthcoming academic year.

Notwithstanding this, whether it is your child’s first year in Primary or, like Ieuan, their transition from primary to secondary school, they are probably experiencing a mix of both excitement and anxiety about what lies ahead.  It is a little easier for Ieuan than it was for Caitlin, as at least he has a sibling ready to greet him in his new school but even so, it is a daunting time – for all of us!

Overcoming these feelings isn’t always easy, but it can be done by following some simple guidelines for both parents and their children.

While there may not be a blanket set of rules to follow, the following are some tips that parents can use to have a more successful school year, regardless of how old a student is:

Familiarize Your Child With the Situation

  • Talk with your child about school, no matter his or her grade level. This can help curtail some of this anxiety.  Discuss such things as what subjects he or she will be taking, and who the teacher will be.  In addition, answer any questions that your child may have.
  • Share personal experiences with him or her. A child will be much more excited and comfortable if they understand that his or her parents “survived” school too.
  • Call the principal or other school staff to arrange a personal visit to the school, if possible. Try to meet one or more of the student’s teachers, who can provide a connection should he or she need one in the first few days. You will both also want to take a look around and see where the child’s classroom(s) will be, and so on.  If you are unable to get inside the building, even just a visit to the building’s grounds can be helpful.

Establish a Routine

One of the major reasons children have trouble with and in school is the lack of a set routine, and failing to enforce such a routine causes unnecessary stress for the parents and the child.

  • Parents need to create a back-to-school schedule with the child. Start this new schedule at least a couple of weeks before school starts.  Having a firm agenda to practice beforehand will alleviate problems of adjustment once school starts.
  • For example, aim for a set time of going to bed and getting up and generally consistent times for meals, baths and other daily actions your child is expected to perform.

Make Going Back to School a Fun-Filled Experience 

  • Go shopping for school supplies and new school clothing together. Having new clothing for the first day of school can increase the child’s self-confidence, and make the first day more exciting.
  • To make the shopping experience even more fun, make it an all-day event with a lunch date included. 

Set Up the Child’s Environment for Homework

  • Set up a space in the home that is comfortable, quiet, and has all the supplies the child may need.
  • Also, since younger children tend to follow a parent’s lead, “study” along with the child. Find a book to read, a craft to make, or some other activity to do that helps the student feel less isolated.  As a child gets older, study habits change, and he or she may elect to study independently of others.  Just keep in touch with how he or she is progressing.

Teach Your Child Organization Skills

  • Another key element to reducing school anxiety is being organized, especially as a student’s work becomes more plentiful and difficult. Encourage the student to keep a calendar or agenda of assignments and projects, and their due dates.  Ensure that the child has the supplies and resources that he or she needs to complete any projects.

Get Involved 

  • Volunteer as a classroom helper, a tutor, or a chaperone for school outings. You may also want to volunteer for the parent advisory council.  When a child sees his or her parents helping with school activities and providing input, the student feels more secure, more a part of the school – the whole experience becomes a “family thing.”
  • In addition, when parents invest time and talent in a child’s school, communication with the child’s teacher and the school staff is strengthened and more open, which simplifies working through difficult times if such situations arise. The more a parent is involved with a child’s school, the more settled a student may be.

Children are resilient, but there are times when new situations might be more than they are prepared to handle.  A new school year can be such a challenge, so parents must be aware of the possible signals of school anxiety, especially as the first day of school approaches.  Reacting to these signals is paramount to whether the year begins in a positive and controlled way, or in a negative manner.  Employing some or all of the above tips is a good way to start a new school year.

It’s also good to remember that your child’s education is a partnership between you, your child and their teacher.  Sometimes we think that education means just handing the child over for the school to ‘do their bit’ but research shows that academic performance is vastly improved where parents take an active role in teaching their children.

How To Keep Your Gamer Kids Safe Online

A couple of years ago, Santa gave Caitlin and Ieuan an iPad for Christmas.  The idea was that they would use these for ‘educational’ games to help with reading and numeracy skills.  Santa subsequently had the genius idea of combining the family’s ancient DVD player with a games console and delivered an Xbox.

I think every parent in the land can guess how my two now like to spend their time – to the detriment, I have to say, of homework, reading and good, old-fashioned outdoor play.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it should have been glaringly obvious that traditional games and hobbies were never going to compete against the instant, shiny-shiny, reward of games with sounds, flashing images and, most addictive of all, the chance to accrue likes and followers, some of whom are no doubt already on a police register somewhere. Yes, it’s all too easy to ignore the dangers of online gaming.

Do I blame myself?  In all honesty yes I do and I have a grudging admiration for those parents who have stuck to their guns and said no to games such as Fortnite when their offspring are a good couple of years off the recommended age for playing.

Whilst we use software to set time limits based around the school day, extra-curricular activities like football and ballet and a homework hour on Sundays, it feels as if we are fighting a losing battle against the tide of ever sophisticated games, graphics and in-app purchases.  You’d swear that Robux was an actual currency – and frankly, in our house, it is.

Now there is a certain amount of hypocrisy here, isn’t there.  You may have read the recent cases of children who have had to have counselling for their online gaming addiction (Fortnite being cited in both these cases). One child would wet herself rather than leave the game to go to the bathroom, whilst another was admitted for a suspected tumour of the bowel when, in fact, he was just completely constipated from, again, not leaving the game.

You can imagine the comments – “it’s the parents”, “just take the ruddy console OFF them” and so forth.  And who can say the commentators are wrong?

dangers of online gaming - black Xbox controller

In the middle of the long school summer holiday, gaming time has more than likely increased, not least due to the temptation to use the gaming console as a babysitter when you are trying to work from home.

Family battles concerning online gaming are only going to continue and possibly escalate if we don’t start to set new boundaries not only for our children but, more particularly, for ourselves in terms of what we will and will not accept for our kids.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Back in 2018, computer security company McAfee ran a campaign called “Don’t Play Games With Your Cybersecurity” focusing on educating parents about the potential dangers of online gaming and how they can best protect their family.  The research they carried out as part of the campaign raised some important issues which are even more pertinent in 2020.

For example,  it was found that:-

Rating guides are regularly ignored

Over a third of parents (41%) do not follow age rating guides or were unaware games even have an age rating, with nearly half (47%) allowing their children to play online games that are 3-5+ years older than the recommended age rating given.

Kids are chatting with people they don’t know

42% of children are now playing games where they can chat directly with people, despite nearly half (48%) of parents agree that their child is at risk of online grooming

Many kids are playing up to four hours of video games daily

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of parents allow their children to play one to four hours of video games every day and as the summer holidays hit, this could be set to rise

Kids are accidentally spending our cash online

Over a third of parents (37%) have had their children accidentally purchase something on a video game at some stage, leading to a potentially significant financial loss.

Parents aren’t talking to their kids about the problem

17% of parents do not talk to their children about any of their concerns. Children as young as 12 could be playing games that have been exclusively rated for more mature audiences containing violence, sexual themes and drug use.

If, like me, you are feeling like you are losing the battle against online games and your kids are no longer to sit still for more than 3 minutes without Flossing, demonstrating ‘Orange Justice’ at the bus stop or performing Hype in the middle of the library, then you’ll find these tips from Allen Scott, Consumer EMEA Director at McAfee very helpful.

dangers of online gaming: teenage boy in his bedroom playing video games on a large computer screen

The ABCs of how to better protect children while playing video games

Start conversations early

If you start talking about online safety early, it will make your job that much easier when your children get older. If your kids are young, start with simple rules like: “don’t open emails or messages from people you don’t know” and “decline friend requests from strangers.” You want online safety to be part of normal behaviour.

Be careful what you click

Most children have been using digital activities for entertainment from an early age, desensitising them to the potentials risks of online behaviour. Cybercriminals can use the popularity of video games to entice gamers to click on potentially malicious links. Think about what you are clicking on and ensure that it’s from a reliable source.

Control how long they play

Set a good example by minimising your use of devices around the home, but also use parental control software to set time limits on your child’s device use to help minimise exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.

Avoid malicious links

If your children are searching online for gaming tips or new games to download, a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can help them avoid dangerous websites and links, and will warn them if they do accidentally click on something malicious.

Be protected

No matter what anyone in the family is doing online, it’s best to use a security product like McAfee Total Protection that can help keep connected devices safe from malware. Just like any PC application, be sure to keep security software updated with the latest software version.

As McAfee’s Allen Scott says, “Gaming continues to be a popular pastime for many under 16s across the UK. There are many advantages to playing video games, and they can be a great tool at parents’ disposal during the summer months where they need to keep their children entertained while trying to manage everything else. That being said, it is imperative parents understand the cybersecurity risks their children are exposed to when playing games. They need to know what guidance and restrictions to put in place and how to keep their children safe online.”

There’s no time like the present to educate yourself about the risks of online gaming and to start talking with your kids about how to stay safe online.

If you’re convinced it’s all harmless, I challenge you to sit with your tween or teen while they play and watch how they play and how they interact with other players.  Many players have a microphone these days.  Or, if they use a program like Funimate, take a look at their profile and follower lists.  I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience which will leave you wanting to put some boundaries around your kids’ gaming quicker than they can log off. The dangers of online gaming for your kids will quickly become apparent.

Fellow parents – I salute you.  We have a big challenge ahead.

 

Tips To Help Your Kids Stay Safe In The Sun

Now that the hot weather has arrived and, while we finally have the barbecue summer we’ve been promised here in the UK, it’s worth reminding ourselves of what we should be doing to help our kids to stay safe in the sun.

Below you’ll find quick tips to help the family make the most of the glorious weather and stay safe in the sun without succumbing to the dangers of sunburn and dehydration.  Yes, they are all basic but it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when the sunshine hits.

If you’re like me, you haven’t been sleeping too well in the heat which I find tends to make me less than fastidious sometimes.  Incidentally, you’ll find my tips for helping your little ones to sleep in the heat here.

stay safe in the sun - little girl applying suncream to her face on a beach

Stay safe in the sun with these tips

Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day

There’s an old song which goes “mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun”.  I’m not sure that’s too politically correct any more but the NHS advises that in the UK you should avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm if possible.

Head for the shade, particularly with prams and pushchairs.

If you can’t avoid the sun then at least head for the shade.  Don’t leave tots in pushchairs out in the full glare of the sun, especially without sunscreen and a hat.

On the other hand, do not cover a pram or buggy with a blanket because it will restrict the flow of air and heat the pram up really fast. 

stay safe in the sun - two little girls playing in a rockpool on a beach

Photo by Brad Halcrow on Unsplash

Dress your kids to protect against the sun

Make sure your kids are properly covered and wearing a hat which is wide-brimmed enough to protect not only their face but their ears and neck too.

Invest in decent quality sunglasses for your children and make sure that they offer full UV protection.  Don’t forget that, over time, sun exposure can lead to cancer and cataracts. 

If you’re heading for the beach, consider UV swimsuits and beachwear.  These keep your little ones cool and protected from the sun both in the water and out.  Note that these are UV resistant so you’ll still need to apply the other precautions listed.

Use Sunscreen Properly

Get the right factor

When you buy your sunscreen, check the label carefully because it should not only have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against UVB but also at least 4-star UVA protection.

Chuck out the old stuff

Don’t think you can just rely on that old bottle lurking in the bathroom cabinet either, because most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years.  I like to be safe by buying new sunscreen every year but it’s just not worth risking skin cancer caused by sun exposure.

Make sure you apply enough

Most of us don’t apply anywhere near enough sunscreen either.  Adults should be using two teaspoons of sunscreen for your head, arms and neck but two tablespoons for your whole body, particularly if you’re wearing swimwear.

There doesn’t seem to be a particular recommendation for children but make sure that all exposed areas are covered – for example, ears, tops of feet, backs of knees and hands.

Make sure you reapply frequently

Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your child heads outside so that their skin has time to absorb it. Reapply at least every two hours, more frequently if your kids are swimming, playing in the water, or sweating.

You shouldn’t put sunscreen on children under 6 months due to the sensitivity of their skin.  This means you’ll have to use clothing to protect your baby. Keep them out of the sun as much as possible, use a stroller canopy; dress them in lightweight clothing to cover arms and legs and remember a hat!

Stay safe in the sun - two little children playing on the sand

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

When in the water …

If your kids are going swimming, the NHS advises that you reapply sunscreen straight after they come out of the water, even if the sunscreen is water-resistant – and also after towel drying which might rub it off.

And on the subject of swimming, if you are planning a beach holiday or are planning to spend lots of time around the pool, it’s worth investing in swimming lessons for your kids before you set off.  Every single year there are tragic cases of tots who lose their lives in pool-related or beach accidents.

Stay hydrated

You’ve probably read that if you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated and, of course, it’s very easy to succumb to dehydration in hot weather.

You should encourage your children to drink water before, during and after exercise.

Here’s how much a child needs to drink each day.

If your child starts feeling dizzy, sick or weak, then bring them inside or find some shade. Give them a drink of water (a sports drink would also be OK) and cool them down with a warm shower or sponge bath.  If their symptoms worsen or last for more than an hour, seek immediate medical advice. Here’s what the NHS advises for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Check your hose pipe water temperature before turning it on your kids

Hose pipes left out in the sun can get extremely hot and cause terrible burns.  Never turn the water on your kids without testing the temperature first.

Avoid bouncy castles

This is a personal choice but since there have been at least 2 recent cases of children losing their life through bouncy-castle related accidents, I’d avoid them.  There needs to be far greater regulation in place and formal safety procedures to ensure that cases like this never happen again.

On the road

If you’re travelling by car, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen to exposed skin as the sun’s heat can be very concentrated through glass windows.

Make sure you have the sun shades on the children’s windows and that your car’s air conditioning is in working order before you set off.

Take regular breaks for drinks and light snacks.  Pure water is always best to keep hydrated rather than sugary sodas and energy drinks.

If carsickness is a problem – even worse to deal with in hot weather – try my tips here.

And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this one – children should never be left in parked cars as the temperature can get dangerously high very quickly.

It is possible to stay safe in the sun and still enjoy yourself but, as with most things parenting-related, some advance planning and investing in the best sun products you can afford will make things a lot easier.

10 Ways To Teach Your Kids About Finance

There are a variety of important things that parents need to be able to teach their children. One of these things is how to deal with finances and look after their money. After all, the last thing you will want for them when they are adults is to find themselves struggling to manage their debt. But the best way to approach this is to share your knowledge with them about the financial facts of life whilst hopefully teaching them some fun money lessons at the same time.

fun money lessons - a piggy bank wearing a graduation hat in a library

The trouble is, so many parents simply do not know where to start when it comes to teaching your kids about finance.

So, to help, here are 10 ways that you can teach your children to help them have a secure financial future.

Show them that money doesn’t grow on trees

A common phrase is that money doesn’t grow on trees. Something that as an adult, we are only too aware of. However, chances are that our children simply don’t understand this concept, that money is not infinite and plucked out of the air.

A great way to demonstrate this is to show your children how you withdraw money from a cash machine, whilst carefully explaining to them that this money has come out of your bank account. You could even show older children the cash withdrawal transaction on your bank statement so that they can see the money leaving your account.

Teach them how to budget

It is important that your child learns how to budget. Kids need to understand that they are unlikely to have enough money to buy ALL the toys they want and will have to choose the one that they would prefer to buy the most.

Set an example for them by telling them about the different things that you would love to buy and why you can’t go out and buy each and every one.

Encourage them not to rush out and spend their money

If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll have very little patience. If they receive money, they will want to be straight off to the shops (or online!) to buy that toy that they have always had their eye on.

Instead, you should encourage them to temper their impatience a little and teach them the pleasures of delayed gratification.  Easier said than done, I know!

A great way to show them that you take a careful approach to your spending is to show them that you are thinking about a bigger purchase. Shop around with them, ask them to help you to compare the different deals that are out there.

Explain that saving a little more will help you buy something better, of higher quality, longer-lasting and more fun.

It’s the difference between blowing their cash on the latest collectable and having the money for an Xbox game or even a console.

Teach them that saving is cool

Saving can sometimes get a bad rap, especially when compared to spending. It is a good idea to teach your child that it is cool to be a saver. Especially when saving gives you a reward such as the ability to buy something nice for yourself.

Teach your kids that it’s often the little things that are bought on a daily basis can add up to a significant item of expenditure over a year. Curbing your occasional spending can really help you to budget for bigger ticket items.

A simple way to teach kids about the power of saving is to have a savings jar that you as a family pay into. Show your child how the money builds up over time, and let them know when you are using that money, such as for a holiday or a new TV.

Make a game of it.  Try the Penny Saving Challenge by saving the same number of pence each day that matches the number of the day in the year.  So on the 35th day of the year, you add 35p to the savings jar, all the way up to more than £3.50 in December.

This will give the family around £667 extra cash to spend at New Year. It’s one of those fun money lessons that really will make an impact.

Help them to keep track of their money

Being able to monitor your spending habits is an incredibly useful skill to have in later life, and this is something that you can encourage right from childhood.

If your child receives pocket money on a weekly or monthly basis, why not encourage them to make a chart? This could contain the pocket money that they receive each time, as well as what they spend it on. That way, they can keep an eye on where their money is going.

Get them to write a wish list of things that they want to buy

Having something in mind is a great way to achieve a goal. This is particularly true when it comes to saving.

If your child is struggling with the concept of putting away their money, then why not ask them to create a wish list of things that they want to buy?

You can write down how much these things are going to cost, as well as how many weeks pocket money that is, showing them how long it will take them to save for it.

Tech-savvy kids could create a wishlist on Amazon which will not only teach them how much things cost but is a great resource for relatives wondering what on earth to buy for their next birthday or Christmas present.

On the subject of presents for kids, the Monopoly board game is a great choice if you want to teach your kids about money and how a little bit of a strategy can make you a winner!

We also enjoy the Payday board game – go through the working month buying and selling items and see if you end up the richest player.

fun money lessons - a retro robot

Teach them about the importance of charity

Charity is important, no matter your generation. However, if a child doesn’t understand why charity is important, or how to donate to them, then this won’t carry on growing.

Encourage your child to give a portion of their savings or pocket money to charity, not all the time, just sometimes. That way, they have some awareness of what is going on in the world around them, and how some people are not lucky to have the same money as them.

Always have some boundaries

We all love spoiling our children, there are no two ways about it, after all, we love them. But spoiling them can have a negative impact later on in life.

You should try and set some boundaries on spending and what they can get, as this shows them that you are not always able to get what you want, and sometimes you simply have to wait for it.

Open a bank account for them

Having a bank account is something that we all need to have later in life, so why not introduce this concept to your child from an early age.

Go with them to the bank to open their own account, and encourage them to pay money into on a regular basis.

This means, that when the time comes to open an adult bank account, it won’t be quite as much of a novelty for them.

Let them make their own decisions

You may be tempted to take charge when your child wants to spend out on a particular item. However, it is better to let them make their own decisions.

If after a couple of days or weeks they decide that they have made a bad decision, then they will realise that they have wasted their money.

This will encourage them to think more carefully about the choices that they make in the future.

We all want the best for our kid’s future, and one of the aspects to think about is their financial stability. By teaching them everything that they need to know about money, you are giving them a great start that they can build on.

How do you teach your kids about money?

How To Monitor Your Kids’ Internet Usage

These days, most kids and teenagers will spend a lot of their time on the internet. This can be at school but also at home, either playing games, watching movies or chatting with friends on social media. Whilst this may provide hard-working parents will some welcome reprieve from being nagged at, it can also become a potential problem if left unchecked.

Firstly let’s consider the dangers of kids spending too much time online. Research has shown that spending too much time online poses some health risks including high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, obesity and increased chance of becoming socially isolated. Kids can also become irritable and less likely to want to do more healthier activities if they are solely reliant on the internet for entertainment.

So – the next question is what can be done about all this considering the internet is an integral part of all our everyday lives? Below are some top tips to help parents manage their kids’ web browsing…

  • Don’t deprive them of the internet completely, instead agree certain times of the day or week they are allowed to spend online.
  • Make sure the time they are spending online is not being wasted waiting for stuff to load as your connection is too slow. If it is the case then it might be time to see if you can get a deal on your broadband and get a faster connection.
  • Set up up content filtering either via your ISP or by downloading an application such as NetNanny which will ensure they won’t be able to access harmful or unsuitable content.
  • Talk to them. Teach them good old fashioned advice, like not talking to strangers or disclosing personal data online.
  • Put the computer they want to use in a communal area where you can keep an eye on what they are looking at. Alarm bells should start to sound if your child or teen repeatedly wants to go online alone or is secretive with their devices.
  • If they want to make friends with someone online, make sure they actually know who the other person is.

Following the above advice should allow for sensible and controlled internet usage without having to sacrifice the benefits associated with letting kids use the web. Although it can be easy to caricature kids using the internet as just mindlessly playing games or watching inane TV shows, in reality, there are some positives that come from them being online. For example, social media can help them keep in touch more with their friends whilst playing games can help improve reaction times and promote problem-solving skills.

In summary, the ubiquitous nature of the internet means it will play an increasing part in kids and teenage lives for years to come. However, this should not be seen as a negative as there are many benefits to this increased connectivity. Parents merely need to have a plan in place to monitor and manage internet usage by their kids.