Mindfulness is, simply put, the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment. It works well for all ages, and especially for people who have suffered from trauma and instability in their lives – making it a powerful tool for positivity amongst teens and children in foster care.
For a simple practice that’s open to anyone, mindfulness has a great impact: it improves focus, reduces stress, leads to better sleep, boosts the immune system, teaches emotional regulation, increases compassion for oneself and others, and builds inner resilience.
While mindfulness is considered a safe practice for most people, for foster teens and children who have experienced severe trauma or who may be suffering from PTSD it’s best to seek guidance from a medical professional before beginning.
5 steps for teaching mindfulness to teenagers and children
1. Be mindful together.
One of the best ways to get your foster teen to try mindfulness is to show them how mindful behaviours can help by practicing them together.
Ask your teen to help you in the garden and encourage them to engage their senses by smelling the different plants and feeling the different textures. Or try eating mindfully by setting aside any distractions (like smartphones and tablets) and take turns describing your food to each other, really paying attention to details like the smell, taste, and texture.
There are many simple ways to bring mindfulness into your daily life – even age-old activities like looking for shapes in passing clouds can encourage you and your teen to bring your focus to the present moment.
2. Use metaphors and visualisations.
For people who are new to mindfulness, some activities like meditation can be a bit hard to manage at first. Use simple metaphors to help your teen understand what’s going on in their minds, and how they can take control.
One helpful metaphor is to think of the mind like a monkey, jumping from thought-branch to thought-branch all day long. The monkey is useful when it comes to keeping track of our daily lives, but when he’s running the show, things can get a bit hectic. Learning to listen to your monkey mind without letting it take over is one of the goals of mindfulness.
Another popular visualisation technique is to picture your thoughts as clouds floating across the sky, or as boats floating by on a lake. They can be acknowledged, then left to continue drifting away.
3. Get physical.
Using physical props and movements can help easily distracted teens stay focused.
Yoga and mindfulness walks are both simple ways to combine gentle exercise with mindfulness. In yoga, keep focused on the breath and the sensations of the body, while mindfulness walks involve paying attention to the world around you – the colours, the smells, the sounds, etc.
Body scans are a type of relaxation technique that involve slowly focusing on each part of the body in turn, while prayer beads are an age-old tool for concentrating on prayer and meditation.
4. Find the right environment.
Choose the right space and the right time to minimise distractions like noise, hunger, fatigue, and other interruptions. Mindfulness doesn’t have to take long, but it is much easier to do in a calm and quiet space.
5. Give your young person the control.
Let your teen choose how and when to do mindfulness activities, and encourage them to experiment on their own using apps or videos. Mindfulness has a much greater impact when it’s something that you do for yourself – particularly for independence-seeking teens – but they’ll probably need a nudge.
Many apps, like Headspace and Calm, include prompts to remind users and will let your teen track their record for days in a row. You can even join them in your own mindfulness practice to encourage a little friendly family competition.
Are you able to give a teen a stable home? Reach out to our dedicated team at Compass Fostering to find out more about how you can become a foster parent.
Any parent or carer knows how difficult it can be to watch your child struggle with anxiety. While a certain amount of fear and worry is normal and will usually pass in time, anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with your foster child’s daily life.
It can be difficult to figure out how to deal with anxiety in children, but there is plenty of support and information available to help you get started. Let’s look at common fears in children and see how to recognise when your child might need help coping with their anxiety.
Common fears and anxieties
Normal concerns and worries include separation anxiety (distress brought about by leaving a caregiver or being left alone), as well as fears and phobias like being afraid of animals, insects, storms, heights, water, blood, and the dark.
Certain life changes can also bring up anxiety for children, including starting a new school, being away from home, tests and exams, and going through puberty. Shy children may also feel anxious in social situations (read more about how to help your shy child here).
Most foster children will have a degree of trauma in their past and may deal with occasional anxiety due to recurring instability in their lives – but these worries become a problem when they begin to impact on daily activities.
Signs of anxiety in children
Anxiety presents in different ways for different children, spanning both mood and physical changes.
Changes in a child’s behaviours and demeanour can indicate a growing problem. Irritability and clinginess, being tense and fidgety, and having frequent crying fits or emotional outbursts can all be signs of stress. Children can also lack confidence, experience negative thoughts, or attempt to avoid triggering situations, such as going to school or seeing friends.
Difficulty sleeping, such as waking in the night or having bad dreams, is a common sign of anxiety. Loss of appetite, wetting the bed, and frequent headaches or tummy upset are also symptoms to watch for.
Causes of anxiety in children
Childhood can be tough, particularly for foster children who experience more instability and change than most. Big life changes – such as being put into foster care or changing carers – can trigger anxiety, as can traumas like car accidents, house fires, or witnessing or experiencing abuse.
Family arguments or frequent fighting amongst caregivers can also be a source of stress for a child, as can changing social dynamics, such as those experienced by teenagers at school. In fact, teens are more likely to suffer from social anxiety than younger children.
How to help your anxious child
It’s difficult for any carer to watch their foster child suffer with anxiety when they could be learning and playing, but you can help.
- Talk to your child about their fears and worries. Avoid judgement; accept and empathise with your foster child’s feelings. For example, if they are afraid of the dark, show empathy by acknowledging that sounds scary.
- Work with your foster child to find solutions. Come up with ideas together – for a child afraid of the dark, you might suggest using a nightlight, leaving the bedroom door open, or giving them a torch for when they get scared.
- Try not to let your child’s anxiety stop them from doing things, rather search for ways to reduce the amount of fear or worry they experience. Positive thinking can help combat smaller worries. Talk through their ‘worst case’ scenario, and how they could handle it – help your child see that they will be okay even if their fear comes true.
- Talk to them about anxiety, if your child is old enough. Learn together about what happens in the brain, how anxiety builds up and eases off, and work with them on developing coping mechanisms to manage their feelings.
- Try simple relaxation techniques – these reduce anxiety in both adults and children. Use easy breathing techniques, like breathing in for three counts and out for three counts, or introduce more involved practices like mindfulness and yoga if your foster child is old enough.
- Make a ‘worry box’ and encourage your child to write down their worries and put them into the box. Once a week, sort through their worries together and discuss what was worth worrying about and what wasn’t. Help them come up with a plan to handle similar worries if they come up again. The goal is for them to feel in control of their worries and not the other way around.
- The GP is always a good first place to start, especially if you’re worried your foster child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder or other mental health issue.
- YoungMinds has tools for helping children cope with anxiety.
- Youth Access offers advice and counselling for young people.
- Reach out to the Compass Fostering team for more guidance on helping your foster child.
Are you ready to provide a safe and secure home for a child in need? Get in touch to find out more about becoming a foster carer with Compass Fostering.
According to the NHS, we should be keeping children active for a minimum of 60 minutes every day – and while they’re bound to get some activity in during their school day, it’s unlikely to make up the full hour.
Physical activity is important for children of all ages, with a host of physical and mental benefits. Physically, exercise helps children strengthen muscles and bones, maintain a healthy weight, and sleep better. Mentally, being fit can lead to better concentration, reduced stress, higher self-esteem, more confidence, and improved social skills.
Luckily, lots of fun and easy ways to help get children moving are simple for any parent or foster carer to manage! Check out these eight tips to help you encourage your child to be more active.
How can we encourage children to be more active?
1. Play sports with them.
School sports and after-school activities are great, but since they don’t always add up to enough exercise on their own, you can bolster your foster child’s activity level by helping them practice.
Alternatively, take up a sport or game that the family can do together, like frisbee, cycling, or rock climbing.
2. Prioritize time for exercise.
Many children have a lot on their plates with schoolwork and after-school activities, so it’s key to set time aside for exercise.
With younger children, make sure they have time every day to run around and explore – most youngsters will get enough exercise just by being their curious selves.
If you’ve got a teenager (or your child isn’t naturally energetic), structure their time to include physical activity every day.
3. Get fit as a family.
Show how fun and beneficial exercise can be by keeping fit yourself. If you struggle to get enough exercise in your life, then make getting fit a goal for the whole family.
If you’ve got teens, try starting a family exercise group using a training app like Strava, or signing up for exercise classes together. For younger children, encourage activity by setting a goal for the whole family – such as completing a long bike ride or hiking a local mountain – and then train together to reach your goal.
4. Choose active toys and provide a safe environment for play.
This is particularly important during busy times of the year when you might not be able to oversee your child’s activity as much as you want.
If you have a garden, make sure it’s clear of any dangers and provide plenty of outdoor toys. If outside space is hard to come by, try making a dedicated area in the house where your child can be more physical and stock it with active toys like play tunnels, mini trampolines, and movement games like juggling and Twister.
5. Use technology wisely.
Limit recreational screen time to 1-2 hours a day to keep it from becoming a bad habit.
Instead, harness technology to help get your foster child active. On top of traditional training favourites like Strava and Nike Run, lots of apps get children moving, like the UNICEF Kid Power app that pairs with a wrist tracker, or Fitness Kids that lets children compete against one another alongside animated videos.
6. Go exploring.
Take walks or bike rides as a family. Find new neighbourhoods and parks to explore, or try using scavenger hunts and colour walks to keep your child engaged.
An easy scavenger hunt is to find one item beginning with every letter of the alphabet, while colour walks see you looking for each colour of the rainbow in turn and letting what you find dictate your route.
7. Have a dance party.
Dance parties are a great way to get active when getting outside isn’t much of an option. Put on some music and get grooving! Silly outfits and dance battles can help keep children interested -or challenge yourselves to learn a dance routine together.
8. Embrace their competitive nature.
A lot of children are naturally competitive. Try activities that test your foster child’s speed or endurance, like races.
Family sports days can also be fun – get your child to help plan activities, and invite a few friends to join and play as teams, or make it everyone for themselves. Add in some silly prizes and you have the makings of a great – and active – day!
For more tips on staying healthy, including activities for disabled children and children’s sports in your area, visit the NHS’s Change 4 Life.
Bring more life into your home by welcoming a child in need! If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, get in touch to find out more about fostering with Compass.
Social media often gets a bad reputation when it comes to how much time children and teens spend glued to their phones – but there are lots of ways that social media can be a tool for good in the hands of a teen.
As a foster carer, you can make social media a positive experience for your foster teen by helping them to be aware of the risks and empowering them to take advantage of the benefits.
The ups and downs of teens and social media
Social media issues for teenagers can be rife, and most parents are aware of the dangers. Cyber-bulling is a real problem, and studies show that too much time spent on social media can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression amongst teens who compare themselves to unrealistic ideals they see online.
While these are serious concerns, you can help your teen limit the negative consequences by encouraging them to enjoy social media in moderation. Teens need time to enjoy life offline – exercise and face-to-face socialisation are both important for their growing brains and bodies.
In fact, a 2019 study found a strong link between the negative effects of social media and a lack of exercise brought about by too much time spent online. That means balancing time on devices with plenty of physical activity can help mitigate some of social media’s more harmful effects.
Face social media together
• Empower your teen to use social media safely.
Talk about what is safe to share online and what isn’t, and make sure your foster teen knows what to watch out for to avoid online predators, scammers, and cyberbullies. Teach them to recognise false information and to think critically about what they read and see online.
Help them understand the risks to their mental health and self-image and decide together how to deal with these feelings if they come up. Make sure they know how to change their privacy settings on different platforms.
Looking for more guidance on internet safety? The UK Safer Internet Centre has a host of resources for teens from 11-19.
• Encourage self-expression.
Not only can social media be a great way for teens to explore new things like art, culture, and history, it’s also a versatile tool for self-expression. Many creative teens use social media to showcase their own art and performances, while others use it as a platform for building a unique personal brand through what they share and how they engage with online communities.
Using social media in this way can teach a teen digital skills and build an online presence that will put them in a good position for future education and job prospects. You can help your teen build their digital skills through online and in-person courses, such as photo/video editing and content creation. Check out BT’s Skills for Tomorrow portal for a host of free family resources.
• Keep connected.
For foster children, social media can be a useful way to keep in touch with old friends and family members and build important connections for the future. It also helps many teens strengthen friendships and build communities around shared experiences and interests – particularly when it’s not possible to see one another in person (like when schools are closed, or across long distances).
Being a teen can be lonely if you feel like you don’t fit in, but you can always find someone who’s interested in the same things you are online – whether that’s someone who loves the same band you do or someone from a similar cultural background.
• Inspire your foster teen to do good.
With the world more connected through social media, teens today have access to a lot more information on global issues – and many more ways to have an impact. Consider 17-year-old Greta Thunberg; in two years, she’s been able to reach a global audience with her message of fighting climate change and now has an Instagram following of over 10 million.
Help your teen find an issue that they care about and encourage them to get involved and have a positive impact, such as promoting community initiatives and organisations.
• Be involved.
Model healthy social media use by not looking at your phone during meals or family activities, and limit screen time close to bedtime.
Follow your foster teen on social media and make time to chat with them – in person and in a non-judgemental way – about what they and their friends are posting and seeing online. Share interesting and educational feeds with them and keep communication open so your teen knows they can talk to you if they see or experience anything upsetting online.
Teenagers can be truly inspiring with the passion and energy they bring, but many teens suffer without a safe space to grow up. If you have the room to give a young person a stable and supportive home, get in touch today. You can also read our article about fostering teenagers here.
Most foster children have faced difficult challenges in their lives, which may have included instability, separation from their parents, and other traumas. Moving homes and leaving families can create a lot of uncertainty and inhibit a child’s sense of belonging and self-worth.
That’s why it’s so important for carers to help their foster children rediscover their inner confidence. Having confidence helps build the resilience to face any challenges ahead – and can greatly improve a child’s long-term prospects such as education and employment.
Confidence is also key in social situations, and increases a child’s ability to adapt, even when things don’t go the way they want.
So, how can you help your foster child build their confidence?
How to build confidence in children and young people:
Make time for play
Play is a safe way for children to try out new things and build new skills, which will in turn help build confidence. They get to practice decision-making, work cooperatively with others, and discover their inner strengths. Open-ended and creative play, in which children aren’t pressured to achieve any sort of final outcome, is particularly important for building confidence and self-esteem.
Working through a situation or experience through play – like playing dentist or doctor – can help a child feel more comfortable facing the real-life experience.
Give chores and help set goals
Show your foster child that what they do is valuable and makes a positive contribution to the family by giving them household chores.
Work with your child to set goals, from schoolwork to behavioural achievements – and celebrate when they complete them. Being able to mark their accomplishments can help a child build confidence in their abilities.
Listen when your child speaks, and talk to them about issues that are important to them and to your family. Show your foster child they’re important by how you react to their ideas and their actions, and encourage them to think critically and independently. These are valuable skills for building confidence, self-assuredness, and resilience.
Encourage trying new things
Encourage your foster child to try new things, but make it safe for them to fail – confidence isn’t about being good at something, it’s about having the resilience not to let failure stop you from trying. While so much of a child’s world is about measuring achievement – such as grades – it’s important for them to also experience learning from failure without feeling like a failure.
Give lots of the right kind of encouragement and praise
Encouragement and praise are great, but pay attention to the words you use. Try to frame success in terms of effort and perseverance, rather than the final outcome.
If your child studies hard for a test, praise them for their effort no matter what grade they get. Build confidence by encouraging the behaviours that lead to success rather than innate ability.
Help them discover their passions
Encourage confidence building activities for children to pursue. Make sure to show your own enthusiasm in the things they’re interested in – if your child shows a natural talent or passion for something, whether it be drawing, sports, or animals, encourage that interest as much as you can.
People naturally become better at things they enjoy because they do them more often. Encouraging your foster child to spend time on a passion will let them see how investing time and effort into an activity can really pay off.
Be confident in yourself, and share with your child how you overcome disappointments, mistakes, and other life challenges.
As parents and carers, we can sometimes try to shelter our children from the difficult life situations that we face. Sharing how you overcome these challenges with your foster child will give them a positive model for how to face the same kinds of difficulties in their lives.
Show them that they belong
For foster children, a feeling of belonging to a family and a community is a significant step towards building a sense of self-worth.
Show your foster child that they’re a valued member of the family by hanging their artwork and pictures of them around your home. Encourage them to get involved in community activities, and attend community events together to help build their feelings of belonging.
Are you ready to help a child in your community by providing a safe and happy foster home? Get in touch to chat with our friendly team about how you can be a part of the Compass Fostering community.
While it might seem to you that teenagers are always sleeping, in reality most teens don’t get as much sleep as they need – with 7 out of 10 sleeping less than the recommended minimum of 8 hours.
Why do teenagers sleep so much, why is it important for them, and how much do they really need?
We can all agree that the coronavirus pandemic has brought widespread change for us during 2020. The way we’ve lived our lives has been overhauled and our day-to-day hasn’t looked the same since the beginning of March – and that’s just us grownups. But what about our children and young people’s lives?
While smoking in your car isn’t illegal on its own, thanks to legislation passed in 2015, smoking in the car when children are around is. This important law applies to every driver in England and Wales, and protects children from the harm done by secondhand smoke.
Here’s what you need to know, and a few tips on other ways to stay sane with children in the car.
Is it illegal to smoke in a car with children?
It’s illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying anyone under 18 years of age, and both the driver and the smoker could be fined £50 for doing so. Under the same legislation, anyone in a car carrying a child could be fined for not stopping someone else from smoking.
If you’re caring for a child who’s on the shy side, you’ve probably noticed that it can be a little difficult for them to make friends – especially in all the bustle of school. The good news is that there’s lots you can do to help your shy child gain confidence.
Support your child to show positive behaviour with these effective behaviour management strategies.
Behaviour management can help children learn how to act appropriately by giving them structure and guidance. Positive behaviour management strategies work by rewarding good behaviour instead of disciplining for doing something wrong. Rewards can be as simple as praise, a popular activity, or a favourite meal.
Millions of Muslims around the world will be celebrating the start of Ramadan this Thursday. Ramadan is considered to be most holy month in the Islamic calendar; it is a month for devout prayer and fasting during daylight. Sometimes it can be difficult to explain why Ramadan is important, especially to children or young people who may have never heard of it before.
While the rest of the country has been stock piling toilet rolls, the Compass Education team have been stock piling a list of useful home schooling websites in preparation for possibly long periods of school closures. These websites should ease that slight feeling of anxiety about how we are all going to cope with the Corona Virus Limbo and come out the other side.
Internet Safety for Children is a hot topic at the moment. Children are gaining their own digital independence from as early as the age of 10, a recent study by Ofcom states, so keeping an eye on your child’s internet usage is key when it comes to their safety.
Significantly less children are reading for pleasure; The National Literacy Trust has found. In 2019, just over half of 8 to 18 year-olds said that they read for fun, and only a quarter of young people read daily.
We all have a role to play in helping to make sure that the internet is a safe, fun place for young people to explore. This Safer Internet Day, we’re celebrating children being able to express themselves online, whilst being SMART.
We are not born knowing what it is to be a boy or a girl or with an assigned gender; whether we like pink or blue or cars or dolls, but we are encouraged into a binary from a very early age. If your child begins to continually reject their gender’s stereotypical traits, it can be surprising and sometimes unexpected.
The night before you collect your results try to get a good night’s sleep. Getting your results can be both an exciting and anxious time. Make sure you know what time and where to collect your results and aim to be on time.
Well done if you have achieved or succeeded your grades!
If you tried your best but haven’t quite achieved the grades you hoped for or needed for your next step whatever that may be – don’t panic!
If you have applied to a college and haven’t achieved the exact entry requirements, contact the college in the first instance. Colleges can be flexible and depending on your grades it may not make a difference however it is advisable to call them. On some occasions you may be offered a lower level course which just means you have an extra year of study but this can be a good thing as you will gain more skills and knowledge along the way and give you a good understanding of your subject for the following year’s course.
Sixth form and year 13
For sixth form and year 13, if you haven’t achieved the desired grades speak to the post 16 adviser within the school, they may be flexible with entry requirements depending on your grades.
However if you do not have the desired grades for 6th form it is hoped you have a back-up plan of another school or college place. Call the school or college immediately on receiving your results.
Many colleges will accept applications on results day if they have the places available on their courses.
If all else fails and you find yourself without a post 16 or college place, there are other options such as apprenticeships and training providers offering courses which have start dates after September.
Most importantly speak to the adults around you who will help you to make decisions.
Unhappy with your exam results?
If you are unhappy with your results, speak to your teachers about the best options for you. You might decide to see your exam paper, go for a review, or re-sit your exam.
Congratulations if you have achieved the grades you needed for your chosen University course.
If you haven’t achieved the grades you needed you can apply for other courses through Clearing.
Clearing is a service from UCAS which gives students a final chance to apply for a university course beginning in September. It runs from mid-July to September each year.
In Clearing you can see which courses have places remaining. You can use Clearing if you:
- have already completed a UCAS application
- apply after 30 June – You’ll automatically be entered into clearing if you apply late for your course (after 30 June)
- didn’t receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
- didn’t meet the conditions of your offers
Finding a course through Clearing
You can find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September. Not all universities or courses have vacancies, and some may be filled quickly.
You can contact universities and colleges about getting a place once you’ve got your exam results.
Learn how clearing works
Accepting an offer
You can only accept 1 offer. When your place is confirmed, you have to accept it and can’t look for another place.
Help & advice
Contact the UCAS Exam Results Helpline for free advice – 0808 100 8000
Useful websites and apps:
Apprenticeships – www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch
The Princes Trust – www.princes-trust.org.uk
UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Application Service) – www.ucas.com
National Careers Service – www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
Child line (free 24 hour counselling service for children and young people) – www.childline.org.uk
Stop Breathe & Think. A free mindfulness, and meditation app aimed to reduce stress and anxiety – stopbreathethink.org
Calm. A free meditation app to reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier – Calm.com