Monday, 20 May 2019

Looking out for the mental well-being of my kids


"I didn't have a good day today."

"Oh dear Jane, what happened?" I asked sincerely whilst being aware that we should already be in the bath. Bathing with our six year old daughter is as much a practical as bonding thing in our house.  We've three kids so it's any easy way to save the water and all that.  I also find it's a time without TV,  iPads, toys etc and we can actually chat.

"Emma said I couldn't play with her or our friends.  I wasn't allowed to be with them in the playground or sit on the benches."

"Why not honey?"

"I wasn't wearing the right hair clips.  Can I have the same hair clips mummy?"

A three minute description of the hair clips and where to get them followed. Her bottom lip stuck out and her eyes dropped to the floor.

One thought crossed my mind instantly - I hate this.

I never seemed to fit in anywhere at school. My awesome dad was in the air force and we moved every two-three years. New schools, new uniforms, new hair clips.  The school skirt for one school was completely out of fashion for the next.  I had no idea about fashion anyway and ended up going for what I liked.  In the long term that was a great philosophy but it didn't work with... well the 'hair clip' girls.

Jane has always liked pretty things. As I had two boys before Jane I revelled in it.  Before she was out of the buggy she pointed and signed the Makaton for diamond as we past the brightly lit jewellery stores in the American style shopping malls.

She's been pleased with pretty dresses and accessories. If I liked jeans and trainers, why couldn't she like dresses and sparkly leggings?

And whilst I supported Jane with the idea that not being allowed onto the bench because of her clothes or accessories was very silly of Emma, I couldn't help but think in my head - I'll get you the best damn hair clips there are and show that Emma what's what....

I have two older boys, both have autism and are mostly concerned with their own opinions and interest.  Frankly, I've always felt unprepared for these kind of conversations with Jane. I blamed our materialistic society and so on and so forth.  But in my mind I clocked this up as something to learn about and be aware of.

In the latest Good Childhood Report by The Children's Society, the two areas of life that made children most unhappy was firstly school.. and secondly their appearance.  Girls told them they are more unhappy with their appearance than anything else.  For boys, it was worrying about their schoolwork. And it’s been this way since at least 1995 when the Society started their research.

The findings also show that over half of our kids say they hear comments or jokes about the appearance of their peers 'often' or 'all the time'.  They identified the most important quality for girls and boys to have at school is that they are 'good looking'.  Nearly half of girls think this is the most important quality.

The third most important qualities for girls to have was that they were funny... and 'have good clothes'. Working hard at school was one of the least important qualities mentioned.  Additionally, if a girl believes that having good clothes is important she is also, according to report, more unlikely to be happy.

Now I know kids will always be kids.  And trust me, as a mother of two out of three children with autism, ADHD and other things too, I know that kids can see differences.  But at the same time I want to make sure I help my daughter as she grows to have every opportunity for good mental health. My eldest son struggles with anxiety and I see how this can affect his life.

I also want to let my daughter grow into the woman she wants to be. But this means supporting her and allowing her to discover who this is too.  In some ways it's not so different from being mum to my boys, autistic or not.  I want all my kids to grow up to be what they want and how they want.  I may just have to become more familiar with sparkles and hair clips for Jane.   And that's great, as long as it's all for the right reasons.

Young Minds have very helpful information about 'body image' and places to find help.  
Visit them for more details.  

For further information from The Children's Society, please visit their website.

16 comments:

  1. This post has really got to me. I can totally imagine having that conversation with my own six year old Daughter. She's such a sensitive soul and my heart breaks when she has to deal with anything that makes her sad. I hope things works out for you. All we can do is try our best to support them. #TriumphantTales

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  2. Oh school can be so harsh and it just never stops. My daughter has been invited to take part in an after school sports programme for girls including surfing at the beach for excelling in PE this year. She is year 10 and won't go as her 'cool mates' aren't invited and that would look bad!

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  3. Its so hard to get the right balance, yes we want to teach our kids that some of these things are just silly but at the same time I too would be out buying the best hairclip I can. I remember as a child just wanting to fit in and being so happy when I did. There are no easy answers xx

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  4. Isn't this keeping up with the Jones's mentality so rough? Little ones can be so mean to each other. And yes, I'd be out there getting even better hairclips! #KCACOLS

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  5. As Jade said, there are no easy answers in this scenario. My mom NEVER made sure I fit in with my looks. Throughout elementary school it was hell for me, but by the time I got to high school, it became was everyone identified as ME. I was the country cowgirl in town. I was wearing cowgirl boots LONNNG before it was cool! When I became an adult, I appreciated the fact that my mom pushed for me to embrace my uniqueness.
    What's sad, is with the society we live in today, her method may not be the best approach. Hence, why I say, there doesn't seem to be an easy answer. Now, kids get overly bullied to the point of death in our school systems (at least here where we live that's the case.)
    I hope you find the right an answer for your daughter. As her mother, I know you're well equipped to do just that because a mother's intuition is quite powerful! From all the things I've read so far, you take these decisions to heart and think well on them. #KCACOLS

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  6. What a tough subject to start tackling. It's worrying how deep-rooted anxiety over appearance is, and how young it starts to show. It's scary to think of how much influence the media and TV will then have on these insecurities. I don't know what the solution is, but her being willing to talk to you about this and having such a good bond is a great place to start. #KCACOLS

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  7. I love your way of thinking around these things, the way you want to support your daughter in developing into 'her true self', so to speak. I wish I'd had more support in that way, as I really wanted to express my personality a bit more through clothes etc, but my mum didn't want to spend money on me. I'm not pro excessive consumerism and I don't think we need or should (or could) shop our way to happiness, but when a person is happy to spend money on themselves, I think they should be at least as generous to their own child.
    I also hope that Jane's friends soon realise that choosing friends based on hair clips is not how it should be done xx

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  8. I've been surprised, and not in a good way, at how early all of this starts. I'll admit that I wan't ready for some of the conversations I've already had to have with my 8 year old about peer pressure and things like that. Its sad #KCACOLS

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  9. I hate the way kids do this. I hate the way the jerks aren't pulled up either. I'm sure their parents would be appaulled to know. It's hard to not play the game tho.

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  10. Oh, your poor little girl. My son is almost 6 and he too talks to me about the things that worry him in the quiet of bedtime. It’s lovely to find a time like this when they can open up to you. I just wish we could protect them all the time. Instead, we have to give them the tools to survive and succeed in what can be a very cruel, unfair world. Thanks so much for linking up at KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time. :)

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  11. The problem with younger children is that I'm not sure they really understand the hurt they are causing with these kinds of comments. I fully sympathise. I once made the 'mistake' of sending my son to football club with a Sports Relief T shirt. A group of boys told his that it wasn't Sport Relief day and he shouldn't be wearing it. My son was devastated and begged me for a football kit so he was the same as all the others. The thought of mortgaging my house to buy his a football kit for a club he didn't support did not thrill me. Thankfully, we found England t shirt and shorts and this seems to have been acceptable. Its tough being a kind and tough being a parent! #KCACOLS

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  12. School can be a nasty place at times. My daughter is 13 and we have had to deal with a fair bit of nastiness this school year. I am lucky that she has a good group of close friends who don't care what she has or hasn't got. She did remark to me while out shopping that a lot of girls at her school were buying expensive body mists and perfumes, she said that she would rather stick with the ones she has as the expensive ones smell awful and she didn't want to waste her money on something she didn't like just because they did. I was quite proud then.
    #KCACOLS

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  13. This is such a difficult issue, especially at this age when kids are still so innocent and we want them to stay carefree and unaware of these kinds of worries. The other day I heard my beautiful five-year-old berating how ugly she was. It's ridiculous and heartbreaking. #KCACOLS

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