Posts tagged as: Parenting

Symptoms of Depression in Children and Young People

As a foster carer, it is essential that you can recognise the symptoms of depression in your child.

Depression is a mental health condition that is more commonly associated with adults. However, children and young people can also be affected by it, with one in six children aged 6-16 suffering from a mental health condition, such as depression.

In 2020, the NHS reported that children in foster care are at much greater risk of experiencing poor mental health than those in the general population.

That’s why as a foster carer, it is important to be especially vigilant for signs of depression in your child. In some cases, the children that are under your care may have come from traumatic backgrounds, and the transition these children have had into the foster care system can be a turbulent and challenging time for them. Sometimes, the things they have experienced in their past can act as a trigger for depression.

Throughout your fostering journey, you should keep an eye out for the signs of depression in children, as depression can pose a significant risk to your child’s wellbeing.

Here are some of the warning signs of depression in childhood, and the steps you can take to support your child.

What to look for

Depression isn’t always easy to identify, especially in young children. However, according to the NHS, the most common symptoms of childhood depression include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Feeling tired or exhausted all the time
  • Sleep problems (such as sleeping too much or too little)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Withdrawing into themselves (not interacting with friends or family)
  • Loss of confidence
  • Appetite changes (such as overeating, or refusing to eat)
  • Dramatic changes in weight
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling numb or failing to express emotion
  • Thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Self-harming (causing deliberate harm to themselves)

Problems at school can also be an indicator of depression (and other mental health conditions) in children and young people.

Remember, a child doesn’t have to exhibit all the symptoms above in order to be suffering from depression. They may only exhibit a few at a time.

Spotting the signs of depression in young children can be difficult, but we are here to support you.

Supporting your foster child with depression

If you suspect that your child may be depressed, it is important to get help earlier rather than later. The longer that your child experiences feelings of depression, the more profound an impact it can have on their life and development. It can also increase the risk of their depression developing into something more long-term.

Remember to stay calm and make full use of the services and resources available to you. As their foster carer, there are many things you can do to help support them throughout the difficulties they are experiencing.

  • Take the problem seriously. Remember that although this may not seem like a big deal to you, it could be a major issue for your child.
  • Speak to your Supervising Social Worker. You should get in contact with your Supervising Social Worker immediately if you believe your foster child has depression. They will be able to guide you through getting the right support for your foster child.
  • Have a talk. Try to have a conversation with your child about how they are feeling, and what is troubling them. See our advice on how to talk to children about their mental health. If your child doesn’t want to talk, don’t force them. Reassure them that you are there for them if they need you.
  • Educate yourself and them. It’s important that both you and your foster child understand what you are dealing with. Here’s where children can learn about mental health online.
  • Seek professional help. If you are concerned for your foster child’s wellbeing, it is important to seek additional support from a mental health professional, such as a GP.

Where to get help

There are a variety of different charities and services you can use to get help. Some of these include:

  • Samaritans: call 116 123 (open 24 hours a day), email [email protected], or check your local Samaritans branch
  • MIND: call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (weekdays from 9am-6pm)
  • YoungMinds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (weekdays 9:30am-4pm)

If you are a foster carer with Compass Fostering, you should also reach out to your support team for more guidance on dealing with childhood depression. As a carer with Compass Fostering, you also have the opportunity to undertake specialist therapeutic training that will further your understanding on how to deal with depression in children.

You can speak to your Supervising Social Worker about further training, or look at the courses offered here.

How Compass Fostering aims to support children with depression

At Compass Fostering, our key objective is to improve the outcomes of children and young people in the foster system. We aim to provide the services and support to improve the self-esteem, confidence, life chances, achievements and stability of the young people placed in our care. Part of this involves finding new ways to combat the mental health risks that they face, including ensuring that all of our foster carers are equipped with the knowledge and professional guidance to deal with mental health issues, such as depression, as effectively as possible.

That’s why all of our carers undergo essential training throughout their induction as a part of our REACH Training programme. This programme aims to empower our foster carers with the resilience and education necessary to support a child throughout adversities such as depression. In addition to this, all our carers have access to extensive and ongoing support throughout their fostering journey.

When you join the Compass Fostering family, you’re never alone. If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer with Compass Fostering, and want to find out more, get in touch with us here.


Where Can Children Learn About Mental Health Online?

In 2020, we experienced something we never thought we would: a global pandemic. This pandemic has continued for far longer than any of us could have imagined and, by the looks of things, will be continuing for the foreseeable future. Now, more than ever, is a time for us all to not only look out for ourselves, but each other too.

Over the course of several lockdowns, general mental wellbeing has been a key focus for individuals, teachers, parents and caregivers alike when it comes to the children in their care. We know how important it is that children have the right support available to them and know exactly where to go, should they have any concerns about their own mental health.

It is for this reason that we have collected together some of the best mental health online resources for children and where they can learn a little about what mental health actually means to them.

How has COVID-19 affected children and their mental health?

YoungMinds conducted research toward the end of last year that suggested that over 32 percent of young people who had a history of mental health problems felt as though the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health drastically. This research also suggested that over half of the young people in the study said it worsened their mental health.

The pandemic hasn’t only led to a rise in agoraphobia cases, but general health anxiety too. Mind, a UK leading mental health charity has stated that they have seen an influx of people contacting them regarding COVID-19 and the effects that lockdown is having on their mental health. Along with this, the charity Beating Eating Disorders has seen over a 30 percent increase in the amount of people ringing their helpline services.

The Policy and Research Manager at the Children’s Society, Richard Crellin has stated that young people with or without mental health conditions are finding the COVID-19 pandemic to be extremely triggering. He stated that they are constantly exposed to scary statistics on the television and across the internet, which is one of the reasons they may be feeling that increased level of anxiety. So – what does this mean for parents and carers and what do you do if you’re worried about your child’s mental health?

Resources to help your child if they are struggling with their mental health

We have become increasingly reliant on technology – especially in recent years due to the pandemic. We have learnt that almost anything can be transferred online: from our social lives to online grocery shopping.

Woman comforts crying young girl.

Although some people find this prospect a scary one, it has bought a lot of benefits too and mental health resources online for children and young people is one of them. If your child or foster child had no previous evidence of a mental health condition, but is beginning to show signs of one, there are a few places you can look for online resources to help them out:

Mind

Mind are the UKs leading mental health charity. They provide advice, support and aim to empower people who have or are experiencing difficulties with their mental health. Mind run a Infoline, offering information and advice on mental health which can be reached via phone (0300 123 3393), text (86463) or email ([email protected]).

Along with this, Mind have created a page dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic and what that might mean for mental health. This includes information for children and young adults who are worried about the pandemics effect on their mental health.

The Children’s Society

Working towards improving the lives of vulnerable children and young people, The Children’s Society have put together a variety of resources online that could help during these troubling times.

The Children’s Society know how important it is to support young people through this mental health crisis and have created a COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing hub on their website. Their dedicated info and support page also offers help on subjects such as loneliness.

YoungMinds

Another leading mental health charities that are fighting for children and young people’s mental health is YoungMinds. YoungMinds offers a Parent Helpline that you can reach on 0808 802 5544.

Along with direct help for parents and carers, a child can also visit the website for advice and information on looking after their mental health and selfcare tips to stay on top of it.

YoungMinds also have a blog where young people help to contribute to and read about other people’s experiences.

Emerging Minds

Emerging Minds are a network dedicated to reducing the mental health crisis in children and young people. They have useful advice for parents and carers on supporting children who may be worrying about the pandemic, or children who have become more distressed since COVID-19 has been around.

Parents and carers can also access webinars that focus on supporting children and young people throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Unfortunately, many children have already been experiencing mental health conditions before the pandemic hit and need further help now, more than ever. The main thing to know, when dealing with a child who has existing mental health issues, is that all emotions are valid. No two people are going to experience mental health issues in the same way and some people might feel emotions more intensely than others.

The main thing to know is that support is there if you or the child in question needs it. The NHS mental health directory is full of helplines, websites and information. Alternatively, if you need serious help, always call 999 in an emergency.

Unfortunately, children in foster care are experiencing an even higher rate of mental health issues. For this reason, we are looking to find more incredible people to help foster vulnerable children in need of a home. You can request a digital brochure today if you think you might be right for the role. If you have any questions regarding fostering, please call us on 0800 566 8317 and we would be happy to answer them for you.


More media, less social: social media and teenagers

Currently, many parents and carers worry about the impacts of social media on the children and young people in their care. Younger people, especially, are heavily influenced by the world around them; so, what does this mean when they spend hours at a time on their iPads, laptops, and mobile phones?

Adolescence and young adults are in a period of extreme development, both emotionally and physically, and technology plays a large role in how they develop. Experts are now concerned that social media, text messaging and general use of the internet could be the reason a lot of teenagers and young people are experiencing anxiety and low self-esteem. Which leads us to ask ‘does social media affect teenagers?’

In a survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health, studies showed that the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram all lead to people under the age of 21 feeling anxious, depressed and lonely. What else do we need to know, what should we be looking out for, and is social media affecting teens?

Constant communication

Teenagers, especially, are brilliant at keeping themselves entertained, and none of them are strangers to staying up late at night. Recently, it seems to be more and more common for teenagers and young people to be online in their spare time, whether that be texting, scrolling or sharing things, all from their fingertips.
Before the likes of online messaging, people would communicate face to face, or over the phone – and could escape from other people as and when they needed to. Now, children and young people find it very difficult to ‘switch off’ and very rarely are able to take a break from communication. As you can imagine, this can be quite overwhelming for young people, especially when they don’t feel as though they can escape.

How does this impact self-esteem?

As we grow up, we are learning to navigate the world around us, and we should be allowed to make mistakes; especially when we are young. Social media makes it very easy for children and young people to think mistakes don’t happen to anyone else but themselves; and this is where problems arise.
Children and teenagers constantly being able to see their idea of ‘perfection,’ and the illusion of a perfect life isn’t a healthy way for them to navigate their way through childhood and early adulthood. Seeing heavily edited and staged photos can make them notice their imperfections even more and, as a result, give them low-self-esteem from an early age.

What should parents and carers do to help?

This might all seem hopeless, or you might be wondering what you can do to help the children in your care. Fear not, there are a few things you can do to help minimise the risks that are associated with social media usage.
• First and foremost, it is essential that you set a good example to the children around you, by demonstrating a healthy social media usage. If the children and young people around you see you scrolling through Instagram for hours, they are likely to do the same. By setting yourself strict guidelines for how much you use social media, your children and young people will indirectly copy you.
• Along with this, it is extremely important that you make them aware that you are available to talk to, whenever they may need you. If they spend a lot of time on social media, they may be exposed to images that upset them; you need to make sure they feel comfortable enough to ask questions as and when they arise.

There are plenty of ways children and young people can disconnect and get to know the world, offline. Some of the best advice is to help them find a passion, away from social media; be that a sport, a hobby or learning something new. By doing this, that low self-esteem they may have been developing could turn into self-confidence instead and send them on their way to become both physically and mentally healthy young adults.

If you have any more concerns or questions regarding a child you’re caring for, or you are looking to become a foster carer, please get in touch with us on 0800 566 8317 or alternatively you can request a digital brochure today.


9 Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Racism

Talking to children about racism can be a tricky topic to navigate – but this should not put you off talking to your children about it. We all need a helping hand sometimes, which is why we have collected a list of children’s books about racism that might help you start valuable conversations about race. This is an important topic for children and racism should never be ignored.

A is for Activist

A perfect addition to any toddler’s bookshelf, A is for Activist is an alphabet book that aims to teach readers about ways they can take action, question and stand up for any injustices within their community. This book is perfect for any parent or guardian who is looking to inspire change within the younger generation.

Let’s Talk About Race

Let’s Talk About Race likes to get right to the point. This book emphasises that there is more to a person than just their race. Although it is important that children are aware of differences, it is also important for children to realise that people have similarities too.

Lester says that “I am a story, so are you. So is everyone.” And this is the key message he shares throughout his whole book.

The Other Side

From the perspective of a young girl, The Other Side explores the life of Clover living in a segregated town. She forms a friendship with her white neighbour, Annie, and become friends despite the divided world around them. This book is a brilliant way to introduce the concept and negative impact of racism to your child. By opening the conversation that people are different, but it shouldn’t affect how we treat and respect them.

A Kids Book About Racism

With clear and concise explanations of what racism is, this book will not only teach your children, but open your eyes too. This book will allow parents to start the all-important conversations surrounding race and racism, while inviting their children to ask their own questions.

Child of the Civil Rights Movement

Paula Young Shelton is the daughter of activist Andrew Young, who famously organised along side Martin Luther King Jr. This book tells the story of the beginning of the civil rights movement from the perspective of the author as a child, as she participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery when she was only four years of age. This book is incredibly influential, especially when explaining to children that they are never too young to make a difference and to stand up for what is right.

Collage of book covers.

Ron’s Big Mission

Similarly to Child of the Civil Rights Movement, Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden created this book to encourage children to make changes to the world around them. Ron’s Big Mission is a picture book all about Ron McNair, who was an American astronaut. When Ron was younger, however, he famously refused to leave his local library until he was issued a library card.

This book is a brilliant read to demonstrate resilience, bravery, and determination, but along with this, it highlighted how little black children are represented in literature and in children’s picture books. Ron’s Big Mission was a breakthrough on initial release and should still be being read to children today.

I Am Not a Number

I Am Not a Number is a book is for slightly older children (we suggest between 7 and 11) and was written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. Like many books on this list, this book was based on a true story; the story of Dupis’ grandmother when she was an 8-year-old girl.

In her childhood, she was taken away from her family and placed in a residential school, where she was forced to use a number instead of her name. The book explores the abuse she experienced and the treatment she received while at the residential school. However, she never forgot about her family and her culture, and understood the importance of remembering about your heritage, even if others do not.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Despite being well known for her dancing career, Josephine Baker was also an extremely determined civil rights activist. This award-winning picture book by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson tells her story through compelling illustrations, words and brings Bakers story to life.

The Stone Thrower

The Stone Thrower is a children’s version of a book by Jael Ealey Richardson, about her father, Chuck Ealey. This book explores Chuck’s life and his experience growing up as a black child in a racially segregated community.

Chuck fell in love with football, and despite facing challenges with poverty and racism, he became a record-holding sportsman. Despite his skill and determination, due to his race, he was never picked to play for the NFL (National Football League). However, he overcame this once again and was chosen to play for the Canadian Football League, and even led his team in his first year with them.

These books are a great starting point to get these important conversations started. These stories about racism should help you to not only educate your children, but to broaden your own understanding. We all need to play our part, and a great starting point is to educate ourselves and our children, to make a better future for everyone.

Find out more about fostering with our top picks for foster care books here.


Building Strong Sibling Bonds Amongst Foster and Biological Children

Coming into a new home can be an intimidating experience for a foster child – and creating a welcoming environment is one of the most helpful things a foster family can do. Parents set the stage for the relationships their foster children will develop within the family, but siblings play a vital role in helping a new arrival feel at home. Bonding with siblings can be tricky initially, but with the right encouragement fantastic relationships can be forged.

Creating a good relationship between foster and birth children can benefit both sides. Developing strong sibling bonds helps children learn cooperation and develop better social skills and conflict resolution. Siblings give one another a sense of connection and belonging that many foster children do not always have, and these relationships often carry on into adulthood. In fact, children with strong sibling bonds are more likely to have healthy and secure relationships with others as grown-ups.

How to help new siblings bond

As a foster parent, you play a vital role in helping to build these bonds – and there’s plenty you can do.

• Prepare your children before your foster child arrives
Discuss expectations and make sure your children know that it may take a while for their new sibling to feel comfortable or sociable. Come up with some ideas for how your children can help welcome their new foster sibling before their arrival so your children feel prepared.

• Give each child a safe space to retreat to
It’s important that young people can define their own boundaries and build a relationship in their own time.

Sometimes it’s a slow process, and sometimes it happens quickly – as foster carers Nicola and Lee and their 15-year-old birth son found out when they welcomed a 16-year-old foster son into their home.

“The boys got on from day one,” says Nicola. “They both have calm temperaments and were able to navigate living with someone new easily.”

Whether the bond happens quickly or slowly, allow your children to set the pace and make sure they each have a safe space to be alone when they need to.

• Take introductions slowly
Don’t expect your children to get on right away. Instead, focus on helping them find things in common so they can build a bond on their own.

• Create shared sibling experiences
Encourage your children and your new foster child to do things together, such as playing games or building things, can be brilliant sibling bonding activities. Nicola and Lee’s birth son is an avid martial arts competitor. When their foster son arrived, he joined in on activities like kickboxing.

“It was a great icebreaker,” says Nicola. “After a while he decided it wasn’t for him, but to be able to have an activity that they did together was brilliant and brought our foster son out of his shell.”

It's important not to force children to spend time together, that can feel like a punishment. But do make sure to create activities that everyone can join in with.

• Share family experiences
Similarly, the best ways for families to bond is through sharing the experience of doing something new. Try a ropes course, go crazy golfing, or take a family trip – the memories you create together will start to create shared experiences.

• Establish new traditions
Family traditions are a great way to create bonds, and you can help your foster child feel part of the family by starting new family traditions and rituals that include them. Some easy traditions to start include a weekly movie night, weekend trips to the park, sundaes on Sundays, etc.

• Focus on cooperation
To help build those initial bonds, get your children involved in activities that require them to work together, rather than compete against one another.

• Encourage your children to help one another
If one child is great at Maths, ask them to help their sibling. If another child is football-mad, get them to show their sibling some moves.

Giving siblings ways to help one another can build a nurturing relationship – and that help can be as simple as welcoming a new sibling into their friend group, as was the case for Nicola and Lee’s sons. Since they’re similar in age, their birth son was able to introduce their foster son to a group of friends to help him feel welcome.

“As time has gone on, our foster son has made groups of his own friends too,” Nicola says. “The boys spend time together frequently but are also very separate, which keeps a great balance.”

• Help your children talk through their emotions
Help them develop the language they’ll need to be able to talk through issues on their own by discussing feelings openly as a family. Take it slowly and be sensitive to the fact that your foster child may take a long time to open up. That’s okay – the more you model good emotional regulation as a family, the easier it will be for your children to learn these valuable skills.

Providing a safe home for a foster child can change their life forever. If you’re considering welcoming a child in need into your family, please get in touch with the Compass Fostering team to learn about the process and the support we offer our carers.


Helping With Homework: Supporting Children With Schoolwork

Getting involved with your children and figuring out how to get kids to do homework can be a struggle. But there’s no reason it needs to be!

As a foster parent, you can play an active role in encouraging homework which in turn will help your child with their education path. Younger children will need different guidance with their homework than older children, and providing homework tips can build your relationship. Homework is a great way for you to identify your child’s areas of strength, where they need some help, and to understand more about their progress.

Prepare the space

Create a positive work area – set up a comfortable workspace for your child and make it inviting. Little adjustments to suit them and their individual needs will work well – like making sure the chair is comfortable and the right height. Good lighting is also helpful- don’t strain your eyes! Make sure they have everything they need – such as a laptop to work on and pencils, pens, books or paper for making notes.

Distractions – if there is an option to set up a desk in a communal area of the house such as the kitchen, this can help discussions between you and your child – making it easier to get involved without it feeling like an intrusion. It is a good idea to arrange their homework desk away from the TV and any digital devices or toys. Removing distractions will help them focus – including noisy siblings.

Timetable sessions

Supervising – set a time for your child to complete their homework – give them enough time but be firm when it comes to making sure they are finishing their tasks. Helping to build a routine will get them into good habits. They will be less likely to protest if they know they are expected to do their homework at set times.

Be fair – while you may feel that your child could do with more time to do homework at weekends, children need playtime just as much as they need to study. The chance to enjoy non-school related activities is as important for their personal growth and development as school and study.

Getting homework finished – be clear that you expect any homework set by their teachers to be completed.

Helping children focus on their homework can be tricky, as you'll need to contend with multiple screens!

Be realistic

Getting things wrong – remember that it’s okay to to make mistakes and for answers to sometimes be wrong. Giving your child the right answer won’t help them in the long run. It also won’t help their teacher to see where they are struggling and where they are achieving.

Problem topics – if your child doesn’t understand parts of a subject, this is a great way for you to spot problem areas or as a way of highlighting issues to the teacher, so that extra help can be arranged if needed.

Planning – for older children with a heavier workload, you might like to create a homework diary together, so that both you and your child can be on top of their deadlines. This can also help a child to learn to manage their own time without leaving everything to the last minute – a skill they will need for life.

Be positive

Be present – checking in with your child to see how they are doing, and gently asking if they need your input is reassuring. Avoid using a red pen to highlight mistakes – it’s neither positive nor encouraging!

Some useful links for parents on homework:

● Discover online tips from the experts in child education, Hodder Education.
● Find helpful advice from real teachers at Teacher Toolkit.
Family Lives has information on how to successfully create a homework routine.
● Our Education Team has put together a handy resource list that could help with homework planning.

When you become a foster carer with Compass Fostering, you will be supported every step of the way. We provide training, resources and a supportive community to help you become a confident carer – get in touch to find out more.


Video Social Networking Sites Parents Should Know About

Apps Covered

It’s natural to be concerned about what your child is getting up to online. It’s easier to keep an eye on them when they’re younger. You’ve got parental controls, child specific sections on streaming platforms and generally when they’re younger you’re in charge of their devices.

It’s a little harder to keep up with online usage once young people get into their tween and teenage years. They’ve got a whole computer in their pocket, access to the internet on the go and generally like to keep their social life private from their caregivers.

Here’s a list of social media sites and apps that are most popular with young people.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram logos
These are the three main contenders when it comes to social media platforms. Believe it or not, Facebook is becoming less and less popular with young people (just when we thought we’d got to grips with that one)!

Facebook

Facebook is the social networking site that you can share your comments, pictures and other content to a user’s profile. You can select a certain group of people, your ‘friends list’ to see your content or choose to share your content publicly.

Twitter

Twitter is a social networking site designed to promote conversation and keep you up to date with the latest trends. This is where many people get their news as you ‘tweet’ in real time, and it’s public by default.

Instagram

Instagram is largely a picture sharing website, but due to a recent format change it is becoming increasingly shopping focussed. Your profile can either be public or private and users can share ‘story’ content with a list of ‘close friends’ for 24 hours.

Whilst these are not necessarily social media apps that revolve around videos, all three have the option to share pictures and videos to the user’s profile. You can ‘go live’ on all three, meaning you’re open to real-time comments that the user could potentially do without like targeted bullying, mean or inappropriate comments from strangers or harassment.

You can change your privacy settings on all three apps. Facebook has the most options regarding who can see what on your profile down to individual posts, whereas Instagram and Twitter have the option to go completely private. You can learn here how to change your privacy options for these apps.

Snapchat

Snapchat logo
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps with children and young people over the last five years. Users can share pictures, videos and messages that are designed to ‘disappear’ once viewed. Much like many other apps it uses the ‘story’ feature to allows your contact list to see certain pictures or videos for 24hrs.

It’s important to warn users that while pictures do ‘disappear’ from chat logs etc, people can still screenshot (save these pictures) onto their own phone. It’s important for young people to know that everything on the internet can be traced back!

Omegle

Omegle has been under fire as a video social network as it can show inappropriate content.
Video sharing social networking sites like Omegle have been around since 2009, similar to Chatroulette.

The website is a chatroom that links two strangers together either via just text or if you both choose to use your camera- by camera too. There is opportunity of talking to much older people, which can lead to exploitation or risk of inappropriate content via video chat.

Encouraging your children and teens to be SMART when they are online is a good start for websites like these. The internet is full of people they don’t know but being able to navigate how they communicate with them is key.

Monkey

Monkey uses a lot of personal information and location within their app.
Monkey is an app similar to Omegle and Chatroulette. It’s an app that connects you to ‘like-minded people’ for 10 second video chats. The app connects you to others by using your Snapchat username.

This app uses a system very much like Omegle, and because the users don’t know who they’ll get pop up on their screen, it could be anyone doing anything. It uses artificial intelligence to help detect if inappropriate or explicit content is being shared, but this doesn’t always get picked up.

Users are required to state their age before they sign up to the app but there is no verification of this, so young people can lie about their age and get access to the app easily.

Video sharing social networking apps can be a force for good for teens, especially those that find socialising in person difficult. Monkey’s main aim is to encourage friendships by connecting people with similar interests, but with the anonymity element this can come with risks.

TikTok

TikTok logo
Originally named Musical.ly, TikTok is one of the most popular online live streaming video social networking sites from the last 12 months. If you haven’t seen your tween practising dances in the kitchen then you might not be too familiar with the app.

TikTok rose to popularity during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, with bored children, teens and even adults at home taking to the app to dance, sing and mime their way to being viral. You can go live on the app or film your own videos and upload them as posts.

There’s a special section on TikTok for children under 13 that includes additional safety and privacy features- so tweens can join in too without seeing some of the more mature content (things like swearing and references to sex etc).

As with many social media, there have been some controversial uploads on the app with inappropriate and disturbing content going viral before being taken down. The app has brought in strict banning and reporting of accounts to help keep their users safe.

Keeping up to date with the most popular apps can feel like a losing battle; but keeping your children safe online can be easier when you know what to look out for, and what settings are best. Having an open dialogue with young people and how they consume their content is a good way to keep a positive conversation going.

At Compass, we encourage every young person to explore their identity in a positive, healthy way. We offer our foster carers an extensive array of training for safeguarding young people both online and in person. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more about fostering.


Five Easy Crafts to Keep Children Entertained This Winter

Our bright home crafting ideas come to life when the weather is bad. Using items that can mostly already be found at home, these activities are fun and easy. They don’t cost much and can keep children entertained for hours.

Activities with your child can help the bonding experience and create lifelong memories. Arts and crafts can help improve coordination, which benefits a child’s development. We’ve put together some of our favourite cool winter crafts (excuse the pun)!

Story crafting

Create your own storybook – use a notebook to write a story with the people in your family as the characters. Will you be solving a mystery together, or go on a trip to the zoo to see the lions? The possibilities are endless. Where will your imagination take you?

Adventure crafting

Indoor memory game treasure hunt – use pebbles, shells, buttons, or thimbles and decorate to make them look like people in your family. Use glitter glue, pieces of felt and coloured paper to make trousers or skirts. You could even colour the items in and draw on the faces using felt-tip pens. Hide around the house for the children to find. A great activity for a rainy day.

Arty crafting

Create a Diorama – taking inspiration from your child’s favourite sea creatures, using an old cereal box, a few coloured pens or child-safe paints, you can create your own 3D underwater scene in a box. Cut off the front facing side of the box to make the base for your scene. Paint the inside walls of the box blue. Draw, paint and colour in seaweed shapes and animals, cut these out and hang from the top of the box with string – or stick them to the sides. Add pebbles or shells collected from seaside walks to bring your underwater ocean scene to life.

Recycled crafting

DIY windchime – create a windchime for your garden or balcony using driftwood or a stick, old keys and colourful paints. It’s fun to bring materials you might have thrown away, or items you find in your own garden and turn them into something usable.

Paint the 5 keys and the wood in co-ordinating colourful sections and allow them to dry. Tie a piece of string to either end of the stick so you have a way to hang it. Attach string to each of the keys and hang them from the stick, making sure they are close enough together – you want them to chime in the wind. You don’t have to use keys – anything that will make a noise when the wind blows through it will work.

Nostalgia crafting for older children

Create a family photo album – with photo albums a thing of the past, most children are unfamiliar with the concept of a photo book or scrapbook. Children of all ages, including teenagers, love to look at photos of their friends. Creating a book of memories is a great way to build relationships and family bonds. Print out digital photos, cut out and stick them into a book to build your own, or design your photobook online.

Create a scrapbook – collect photos and tickets from activities you have enjoyed together and build a home scrapbook for all the family. You could decorate and theme each page – a summer holiday, Christmas, birthdays, or personal achievements. You might even include a page for the family pet.

Arts and crafts websites with affordable kits and tools for every budget:

● The Art and Craft Factory has a great selection of cheap and cheerful supplies.
● Find low-price crafts at Every Crafts A Pound.
● Stock up on supplies for your craft box at Little Crafty Bugs.
● Discover the range of low-cost crafting essentials at Craft Clearance.

If you liked these winter crafts for kids, we also have Christmas themed craft ideas too!

Providing a safe home for a foster child can change their life forever. If you’re considering welcoming a child in need into your family, please get in touch with the Compass Fostering team to learn about the process and the support we offer our carers.


Winter Activities for Children: Indoor and Outdoor fun

It can be tough to entertain children when the weather gets wet and cold, but with a bit of creativity there are lots of winter activities for kids that can keep everyone occupied.

From indoor games and crafts, to cold-weather outdoor activities, we’ve rounded up our favourite ways to spend a chilly winter’s day with children. So get the hot chocolate and cold-weather gear ready – winter needn’t stop you from having heaps of family fun!

Indoor

Game tournaments. Whether your children prefer video games or board games, it’s easy to organise a friendly tournament by making a leader board, setting silly challenges, and giving everyone prizes.
Make a bird feeder. The Natural History Museum has a great tutorial on making a simple bird feeder out of a plastic bottle, along with tips for getting the most out of your bird feeder. Keep a chart of the different birds and wildlife you see visiting your feeder.
Build a fort. Chairs and sofas are good for structural support, while blankets, sheets and towels make walls and roofs. Fairy lights and lamps set the mood, while pillows make the floor a super comfy spot for colouring, reading, or playing games.
Build with toothpicks and marshmallows. How tall can your children make their structure? Who can build a bridge? This is a simple (and tasty) STEM activity for young children.
DIY play dough. Flour and salt form the base of this long-lasting homemade play dough from The Imagination Tree.
Make pet rocks. Go rock-hunting in the park or your yard, then decorate your rock finds with paint, glitter, googly eyes, and whatever else you can find to make a portable pet.
Homemade slime. Oozy slime is a delight for children – and it’s simple to make at home. Fun Science has several recipes depending on what’s available.
Make a hallway laser maze and play secret agents. Start small, building your maze out of streamers or ribbon and adding more as your children conquer the ‘laser beams’. Set secret agent challenges to make the game more exciting.
Indoor snowball fight. Get creative to have an indoor snowball fight using extra large pom poms (or even balled up socks – just hide all the breakables first).
Puppet theatre. Big boxes are useful for building a stage, while socks make great DIY puppets. Between building the set and planning the play, a puppet production can easily take up an entire day.
Have a spa day. Break out the towels and robes and do each other’s hair, make homemade face masks, and paint finger and toenails while sipping on cucumber water (or juice).
Stage an indoor campout. Clear a space to set up a tent inside. Turn off all the lights and tell spooky stories around a torch. Serve hot dogs, marshmallows and hot cocoa, and snuggle up for an overnight sleep out in the tent.

Winter activities for children can be creative indoors and outdoors- you might just need some props!

Outdoor

Winter scavenger hunt. A great opportunity to help children learn to identify things they find in nature, scavenger hunts can be easily be tailored to any environment or season. Challenge your children to find things like leaves from certain trees, acorns, pine cones, or mushrooms. For anything living, a ‘look, don’t touch’ policy is a good idea.
Stargazing. While the sun sets early, take advantage of a clear evening by wrapping up warm and going stargazing. The National Trust has some great information on what to watch for.
Chalk art. Wait for a dry day and make your street or local park a bit more cheerful with some coloured sidewalk chalk.
Build-a-nest challenge. A great activity to get kids thinking more deeply about nature, task them with building a bird’s nest. Set the stage by learning a bit about birds together (RSPB has some good resources), then head to your local park and scavenge for nest-building materials like twigs and dried leaves for the outer layers, and moss and softer materials for the inner layers.

The winter months can be especially trying for children with unsafe homes. Providing a warm, safe environment for such a child can change their life forever. Get in touch to learn more about becoming a carer with Compass Fostering.


How to Stop Siblings From Fighting and Keep it From Happening

Arguments between siblings are a natural part of growing up – but when they dominate family relationships or turn aggressive, fighting between brothers and sisters can cause real problems.

Our foster carers know this all too well. Not only do they often have their own biological children’s spats to contend with, they’ve also experienced adding other children – often with traumas of their own – into the mix. Compass carer Kate has fostered children for over 20 years, and her birth children were only 6 and 8 years old when they welcomed their first foster child into the family. She’s learned some valuable lessons on dealing with fighting between children – biological and foster – over the past two decades.

We’re sharing our top tips on handling and preventing fighting between siblings, backed by behavioural science and real-life Compass Fostering experience.

Be clear about family rules

Children of all ages and backgrounds cope best when they know what’s expected of them. Work with your children to set clear family rules and decide the consequences for breaking them – involving the children will help them feel a sense of ownership and agency over their own behaviour.

If you’re bringing a new child into the home, be careful to introduce rules slowly so you don’t overwhelm them. Be consistent in implementing rules and consequences, and keep a copy where everyone can see them, such as on the fridge.

Respect each child’s boundaries

Every child is unique and will react to the same situation differently. Some children are comfortable expressing themselves verbally (sometimes too comfortable!) while others may find it difficult to put their feelings into words.

Be understanding of your children’s personalities, and respect their boundaries – as Kate learned to do with her first foster placement. “She was about 14 or 15 and didn’t want to engage at all,” says Kate, “and my children didn’t understand why.”

“Sometimes a young person just doesn’t want to talk to anyone and that can be difficult to navigate. I had to explain to my children that it wasn’t their fault she didn’t want to talk, but it wasn’t her fault either.”

Reward good behaviour

When you see your children taking steps to get along, give them praise and encouragement. Reward consistent good behaviour with positive affirmations and activities you know your children enjoy.

Help siblings bond over things they have in common

Finding common ground can help children develop stronger bonds. Kate has often used this trick over the years to establish a relationship between her biological children and new foster children.

“If a foster child is holding something of their own, for example a teddy or a toy,” says Kate, “I’ll say, Oh! my daughter has one just like that! Why don’t you go and get yours too? Then they find that they have something in common – because it’s difficult for young children to find things in common with one another.”

Reduce sibling rivalry

Sometimes parents stoke the fires of sibling rivalry without intending to do so. Take care to reduce sibling rivalry by:
• Avoiding labels, such as ‘the smart one’, ‘the sporty one’, etc – even positive labels can create friction between siblings.
• Treating each child with compassion, even when one has been aggressive towards the other. Try not to treat them as if there is a ‘victim’ and a ‘perpetrator’.
• Not taking sides and staying calm when an argument breaks out – this will help you react with a level head.
• Not comparing one child to another.

Don’t place blame

Squabbles are normal amongst siblings, but it’s important not to place blame when rows break out.

“As soon as you blame any of the children for anything that’s happened that’s when it can get hairy and you’ll get pushback,” says Kate.

“I turn it around a little bit – instead of saying you’ve started a fight so go upstairs, you can say why don’t you go upstairs and play by yourself for a bit and the others won’t annoy you? Don’t use blame or punishment, as it can be really damaging for everyone involved.”

Reduce opportunities for fights

Pay attention to when and where arguments tend to happen, and take steps to prevent fighting. If your children often squabble over who gets to pick what to watch on television, set up a schedule so they each get a chance to choose. If they fight over toys, make sure there are enough toys to go around.

While you’ll never be able to prevent every fight, reducing these ‘hot spots’ in the home can help create a more peaceable atmosphere.

Give children tools to work it out themselves

Learning to get along and resolve conflicts is a valuable lesson for children – in fact, it’s one of the long-term blessings of having siblings. Encourage your children to work out their differences on their own by giving them the tools to do so.

Give suggestions and ask questions, such as is there a way each of you gets a chance to play with the toy? and let them set up their own arrangement. Over time, they will hopefully only need gentle reminders to find their own ways to resolve problems.

While sibling relationships sometimes take a little work – and go through the occasional rough patch – the bonds that your children form when young will last their entire lives. Kate’s children, who are now in their 20s, have benefitted greatly from having foster children in their home.

“My daughter has grown up with fostered children so she’s fantastic with young people,” says Kate. “She’s a football coach now, and teaches our foster children in the garden. The relationships carry well on into their adulthood and I think it’s amazing.”

If you’re considering becoming a foster carer like Kate, please get in touch and our team will be happy to answer any questions.