Written by Dr Ioanna Nixon Illustrations by Smaro Karipidou
What happens when a wee rabbit wants to become an astronaut? His friends think this is funny. He is only a little rabbit after all! He starts having seconds thoughts about it. Until Dr Betty shares her own story with him. And everything begins to change.
A perfect Easter gift for the little ones! For kids and grown ups on daring to dream big!
Available at Amazon kindle edition from 👇
For printed and signed copies please get in touch!
A book about hope, motivation and empowerment. Needed in our most strange and difficult times.
How can we help our kids dream?
How can we help them take action to see their dreams through?
How can we help them see failure as learning rather than a threat, a boundary to their imagination and actions ?
A story to take us on a colourful journey of hope, on daring to dream big!
“Can I be more than just a wee Rabbit? Asked Jack
First of all, there is nothing wrong with being a wee Rabbit. It doesn’t matter what I think Jack. What matters the most is what you think”
Looking forward to your feedback! Till then, dare to dream big! The world needs it!
I have a dream, as 2021 is about to pass, about a new year of recovery, restoration, resilience, and reinvigoration. A year when we will wake up each day with the mindset of “new day, new me”.
It has been a difficult, challenging year. A year in a VUCA world. For those non familiar with the term VUCA, it stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. As a mom of two young boys, and an NHS Consultant oncologist I had to navigate my way through VUCA day in, day out. Have you been the same?
Life is not a straight line. Many unplanned events can happen that are hard to accept, manage and get through. So, I decided to write about how we, moms and dads out there can navigate through times of crisis. How we can be resilient when things are uncertain and ambiguous. How we can keep it all together. Dedicated to many of us who last year dealt with significant life-changing events, uncertainty and situations that challenged their resilience.
“Dear 2021, You have been an utterly tough year. Let’s face it…you took me out of my comfort zone in every single level. You came along with many challenges to the point I am unsure where exactly to begin. …………………..
Dear 2021, a year ago I never dreamed of saying this, but THANK YOU. You have been the most transformative and restorative year in my life.
2022, I ‘ve got your back! Reminding me every day “New Day, New Me”.
Here is my farewell to 2021. You can tell you are missing the story, or else my challenge. I don’t think that matters. Challenges are different, however is there a way we can manage through and thrive through? Time to share with you what I discovered over the last 363 days. I figured out that to cope and balance first thing and most difficult of all is to accept and embrace everything. Accept the challenge and fully attend. To enable one to understand. Then self-empathising, before asking myself the 1-million-dollar question:
How can I help? How can I support myself get through?
We as parents frequently forget to ask that question until a challenging situation forces us to. Juggling a busy life, even at times of calm, we forget to be self-compassionate. Practicing self-compassion is central to being more resilient and enable us to be compassionate parents. It is a necessary component to foster our wellbeing and wellness.
So, in the challenging 2021 I kept reminded myself of the following:
Be kind to myself. What does that mean in action? It means looking after yourself.
For me it meant showing the same kindness I show to my patients and my families. I started paying attention to my thoughts and deliberately change the way I spoke to myself. I became friends with my imposter and soothed the inner voice that would worry about everything or think no action is enough.
Put a routine in place of actions of self-kindness.
Maintain a self-care routine: make your wellness your priority
Speak to yourself like you would speak to someone you love. Pay attention to the words you use.
Breath. Honour your pauses. Take a pause. Give yourself permission to take a pause. To me this was a hard one. As a mom of two and a career person, pauses where not on my daily routine. Working is speedy pace, I felt at times I was running a marathon sprinting. For odd reasons, it felt right, and it was hard for me to actually give myself permission to take a break and pause. Step by step I learned how to honour my “pauses”.
Incorporate 5-minute breathing spaces in your daily routine. Just stop and breathe. There are several online tools and apps you can use for breathing.
Seek new knowledge and learn new skills: cliché, but knowledge is power. It offers a whole new perspective, new ways of approaching a challenge, it generates new ideas. It can lead to opportunities! You can also learn more about how others dealt with a similar challenge in life.
In my case, I read many books. I decided to invest on the foundation to develop others and obtained a diploma in coaching. Becoming a coach helped me become more self-aware, practice active listening and improve relationships with others.
I started trying new things too. Completely new. including active listening, to myself and others and removing all the background distracting noise. Incredible things start to happen once you truly listen, understand.
Maintain a growth mindset: At times I would catch myself having a “black or white” thinking, only to remind me to challenge this. Look at the bigger picture, embrace a growth mindset and practice saying the phrase “I can’t yet”. There is so much power hiding in this little word!
At the same time, I realised the incredible power of marginal gains. Baby steps and perseverance.
Try new things
Express your creativity
Keep a positive perspective
What symbolises my journey is planting a red lion flower. As I witnessed it blossoming and looked after it, I saw the reflection of my own recovery and restoration. I now feel much richer. Not in physical belongings, but in experiences, in gratitude, in self-awareness, clarity, courage, new knowledge and friendship.
Going back to my story, my baby steps took me far! Not compared to others and their journey. Compared to where I was 363 days ago. My biggest treasure is being more in the here and now. Being present in the moment. Accept I am work in progress; we all are!
Dr Ioanna Nixon, PhD, MPH, FFMLM, FRCR Consultant Oncologist Executive Coach (Leadership, Career Development, Resilience Coach)
An opportunity to talk openly about cancer in children and to raise awareness and find ways to support children live with and beyond cancer.
I will take you on a time machine, back in September 1999. I was just about to start as a first-year student in medical school and I accompanied my mother to a 3 day trip with children with cancer on remission and their families. This trip, through observations and interaction with children and their families set the scenes for me as a doctor. What I observed was that despite the diagnosis and having been through a difficult treatment, children are resilient. They would play and enjoy. They would communicate, engage, and dream about their future.
I remember me asking a boy what he wanted to be when he grew older. He looked at me and said “I want to marry you and become your husband”. Aside this being my first wedding proposal of serious consideration…I discovered how much will power, motivation and resilience children have. Cancer does not and should not define them.
I also remember the feeling of community How supportive families where between them. This “human centric” journey oozed empathy, compassion, and resilience and supported even stronger my decision to become an oncologist.
Undoubtedly, cancer is a devastating diagnosis for people of all walks of life and any age group. However, childhood cancer is special in the way of unique patient needs, but also the needs of the family supporting the child. In our times, treatments have evolved and according to the International Society of Paediatric Oncology(SIOP) nearly 90% of children can be cured. In addition, huge efforts are focused on the level of support for children and their families through the cancer journey, not only by the health and social care sector, but also the third sector: clinical and non-clinical networks are working in synergy to support children and families from diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. The aim is not only to improve cure rates, but also foster quality of life and support children physically, emotionally, and mentally to grow into a healthy teenagerhood and adulthood.
For all I know we should not let cancer be a barrier a child’s dreams.
What can we do to help?
We can find ways to engage. An idea can be to support a cancer charity for children or organise a funding event. More importantly we should not think of cancer as a taboo. We should talk about it openly, understand more about it, about how it affects children and their families and how we can support children live with and beyond cancer.
Dr Ioanna Nixon, MPH, PhD, FFMLM, FRCR. Consultant Clinical Oncologist Executive Coach (leadership, inclusion/diversity and resilience).
“There is in the worst of fortune the best chances for a happy change”
Glasgow, April 2020. I am on my way to take the train to go to the hospital. As I walk I see a playground, one of the playgrounds my children used to play. I feel a sense of emptiness and sadness, along with impatience for a future where all playgrounds are full of children playing, interacting, learning and laughing together.
Undoubtedly the pandemic forced many changes upon us. As a doctor, I have seen and lived how my colleagues, teams, patients, families, the whole system coped. As a mom, I know the challenges that parents faced during lockdown and continue to now. To me, like to many, dealing with uncertainty was difficult and finding ways to reassure my young kids about present and future was a learning journey. Home schooling was also a challenge, but I accepted I can only do my best.
But…what about the children? How did they cope and how are they coping now? What are their needs? Where is the evidence? How can we talk to them about COVID-19 and the pandemic in a way they can understand? How can we support and reassure them?
So here I am, on the 5th April, one day after David’s forth birthday, seeing him building a massive lego castle. I asked him why the castle is this big and his response came as a surprise. “To hide there and stay there to protect myself “his response was. Children understand far more than we anticipate. David was insecure and scared of what was happening. I felt I needed to explain to him what was going on in a way he would understand and also in way that would not stress him and provide him with reassurance. There is no better way of doing this than a story.
So, Jack Wee Rabbit and Dr Betty were born to explain coronavirus to children. In just a few days the book had over 3000 downloads and thanks to dear friends and colleagues got translated into 10 languages. This story is proof that we all need information tailored to our kid’s needs, but also very importantly that at times of uncertainty people want to help each other and do the best they can. Like all my friends who without questioning translated the book and I am grateful to it.
The book helped us a lot, however I still had many questions on COVID-19 by my kids. “Will I catch COVID-19 and get very sick?”, “Will you get sick mom?”, “Will the pandemic ever stop and when?”, “What is vulnerable?” are only a few of these. Does this sound familiar?
Adding to what Jack and Dr Betty story tells us, studies confirm that kids need information on coronavirus and the pandemic. From what children reported in a survey conducted by Edgehill University, they wish to receive information from their parents, school and also from TV(1). Children also need honest discussion about coronavirus as they reported feeling the information they receive is underplaying the pandemic and the impact of coronavirus on people. Research also revealed that 50% of parents worry that lockdown will have a negative impact on their children’s live over the next year(2). Children reported feeling lonely, not getting enough satisfied with their lives and not having control.
Reality is that children will continue to receive information on COVID-19 pandemic. It is difficult for them to understand, adapt to all the changes and also understand the changes to the rules. It is also difficult for them to understand why adults might be anxious and stressed too.
So, what can we do as parents to support our children during this transition in the post-lockdown period?
Help children to manage the information they hear: allow them time and space to express how they feel about it. Offer the opportunity to ask questions and share what is in their minds. Listen with fascination and be in the moment with them. Welcome any ques.
Filter the information and be in charge of how your child makes the interpretation of these.
Encourage their questions and answer to these with honestyand clarity. This needs to be tailored to their developmental stage.
Feel comfortable to say “I don’t know”. At times of uncertainty it is expected that there are questions we can’t answer and this is ok. We can be tempted to make promises that everything will be ok, however this is a great opportunity to teach them how to cope with uncertainty and build on their resilience.
Accept your own stress and anxiety: it is important that we are self – aware and understand our own worry and anxiety during this time.
Provide them with reassurance: children get worried about illness and death and may think this will happen to them. Discuss with them their worry and reassure them that very few children get sick.
Empower children: Offer them control by discussing what we can all do to stay safe. Re iterate the importance of hand washing- Jack and Dr Betty song is a good family singing while hand washing for 20 seconds.
Be present for them and open to all their questions.
It is ok for them and for us to feel anxious, worried, insecure. It is ok. We are learning during this time and we can use this as a unique opportunity to teach them how to cope and become more resilient.
Because if as Euripides said “There is in the worst of fortune the best chances for a happy change”, we can use this knowledge and learning to develop a better future for everyone, more importantly the children.
Dr Ioanna Nixon, Oncologist and Career, Performance, Leadership and Resilience Coach
A graduation, a pic-nic, and another story of joy hiding in the smallest things.
Hello again! When I was a child, I remember how important it was to know my family was proud of me. It was important they celebrated my efforts, achievements and that they were also there for me when I experienced failure. As a mom of two boys, aged 10 and 5, I try to always remind myself of how important it is to show my own kids how proud I am for them. Show it in a way they understand and for all the things that matter to them. The things they feel proud of and also the things they feel they could do better at or experiencing as failure.
Here is a common story. 9 years ago, when George, my eldest, was 1 year old, he made his first little baby steps. His first unsteady little steps! I very vividly remember how I felt on that day. He was trying and falling and keep trying till he actually made his first steps. He was so happy I was so happy and of course a wee celebration in the house followed with hundreds of pictures. No exaggeration here, literally hundreds. The same thing happened when he managed to hold his spoon and started eating without help. Once again, hundreds of pictures and a wee celebration of this milestone. Same thing when he said his first word, counted to three, learned to read his first word. Does this sound familiar? Have you also been there? Since then there have been many milestones in his development that we celebrated, showing how proud we are for his efforts and achievements.
What about the daily achievements? How do we acknowledge these and show our child we are proud of them? More importantly, what about what the child experiences as a failure, which is probably the most important time we need to express how proud we are of them? As a working mom, juggling a career in medicine, I know how difficult it can be and how much guilt we sometimes feel when we are not present when something important happens. Or when we are too busy at work or too tired. I know this for fact, as I am also walking the walk. First thing first, get rid of any guilt and let us explore TOGETHER how we can praise our children for the little and big achievements and give them pride in failures. Do this in a way they understand. In a way that matters to them and is meaningful to them.
Research suggests although we are all proud of our kids, the way we are communicating this is not always good enough. Research also highlights how important it is to praise our children to support their development at all levels.
It is important we express this and communicate it effectively to motivate them, teach them how to be proud of themselves and how to accept themselves. Teach them how to learn from success and failure, turning both into steps for future development. Descriptive praise, encouraging efforts and using rewards are a few ways of doing this effectively. Using all above is the recipe to behavioural change:
Descriptive praise: tell your child what it is they did that made you proud of them. Explain to them why rather than simply saying “I am proud of you”.
Encouraging efforts: acknowledge the effort and praise it. “I see how much effort you put into your homework today. Well done!”, or “tell me how you made this drawing. I like the colors and the theme. How did you make these choices?”
Rewards: using treats tailored to your child’s likes is a fantastic way of telling them they did a good job!
Combining all three above works magic! When we praise, encourage and offer reward for a certain behaviour it is more likely our child will adapt this behaviour. The precondition is we need to notice positive behaviours in the first instance. Our brain is wired to notice negative behaviours more than the positive ones. As parents we should be aware of this and make deliberate effort to notice, praise, encourage and reward positive behaviours.
Words carry a lot of meaning and weight. Our parenting magic words are:
I love you: I know I have not revealed a secret, rather than pointing the obvious. However, saying “I love you” is vital. It creates the psychological safety for the children to develop, become self-confident and self-appreciative and thrive.
“I believe in you”
Support and Encourage
“Just Go for it!”
Interested and Curious
“Tell me how you made this”, “Show me how you did this”
“I am proud of you”: tell your child you are proud of them. Important we express this in a way that our child understands it. Equally important we validate what we say. We explain why we are proud. Every accomplishment, small or big deserves a celebration and acknowledgment of the effort your child put into that accomplishment. Rituals are a very good way to do this. Tailored to the child’s interests and likes, a special treat to celebrate. A note saying “you did this!”. Very important to express how proud we are when our child experiences failure. Don’t compare the child to another child or sibling. If the child does this themselves explain we are all unique and different. Explore with them what it is they feel they could have done better and what they can do to improve.
Walk beside you
“I am here, no matter what”. I walk with you, beside you. Not ahead or behind. Beside you. I hold your hand when you need me to. I am letting you explore, be curious about the world and sharing my knowledge with you. I am here for you, see you grow and become your unique self.
A kind reminder this is not at all about us moms and dads. Very importantly remember we are all perfectly imperfect. There is no perfect child or perfect mom or dad.
It was this Friday my youngest son graduated from kindergarten. Because of the pandemic we could not attend the ceremony. However, he returned home so happy and proud wearing a graduation hat, holding a little paper bag with treats he would not share with anyone else in the world, labelled as “you did it!”. The school, despite the barriers and obstacles made it so memorable for the kids. Using love, care and creativity!
The weather was good, and we had a celebration picnic in our local park to make it memorable. Lots of colourful baloons too.
Regardless the weather, a cuddle, a smile and our parental magic words: I love you, I am here and proud of you.
Dr Ioanna Nixon, Oncologist and Career, Performance, Leadership and Resilience Coach
Last Sunday was not a very good Sunday. My 5 year old son, David was not very well. He woke up with his cheeks looking red and hot and had a temperature of 39. Not great, especially at times of COVID. So, our Sunday was all about making him feel a bit better and organising COVID PCR tests. Explaining how the COVID testing is done didn’t go down very well. It brought a lot of crying and begging “not to have it”. It also brought up a number of questions about coronavirus you would not expect a 5 year old to ask. And the following dialog between a 5 year old and a 10 year old.
David (5 year old): what if I have covid? George (10 year old): you will be fine. Kids are find and just carriers. Unless you have the Indian variant. David: What is Indian Varia? Do I have varia? George: Variant, I said variant. This is common type of that virus. David: will I be sick? Will COVID ever go away? George: it probably won’t. David: won’t it?!!!!!!!! IT WON’T GO AWAY???? MOM!!!! George is saying COVID will never go away. George: I didn’t say that. It will probably become like the flu.
The above conversation happened in seconds. It clearly indicated that my kids, like all kids, understand far more than I thought and also make their own interpretation about things Time for clarity and a covid chat…We chatted again about what the virus is and why we still need to be vigilant: keeping a 2 m distance, wear mask and hand washing. We also read again Jack Wee Rabbit is scared of COVID 19. Dr Betty can help book, which is free to download from our website and translated in many languages. Luckily it did help again.
When a 5 year old is under the weather they need love and care. In fact, when anyone is under the weather – even Despicable Me- most likely what they need is love and care. David is no exception, so Sunday was a cuddly day and also a movie day. Amongst other movies we watched SOUL, by Disney and Pixar. I can’t recommend it strongly enough, especially during our difficult times, However, I will not spoil anything by talking you through the story, which is amazing! What I will share though is the amazing impact it had on a wee 5 y old unwell boy and his two exhausted parents. SOUL was a reminder that living is an art. The secret in life is simple, somewhat as simple as just enjoying “being” and find meaning at “doing”. With all the ups and downs.
With all the ups and downs David slept. Monday woke up and was a different, brand new day.
Dr Ioanna Nixon, Oncologist, Author and Executive Coach at Health Empower
Today Jack Wee Rabbit is sad. His friend Lisa the cat is very sad and wouldn’t want to talk to him. Mommy Rabbit told him that Lisa is sad as her dad is “no longer with us” and is now a star up in the sky.
Today, Jack and Dr Betty talk about loss. How can we support our children through grief? How can we discuss circle of life with them? What can we do to support them through grief and mourning, while we are mourning too? We asked our friend Irini Klishiarchi to discuss this sensitive and so very important topic.
”Discussing the circle of life with our kids is very important. Often a story or a movie can help us explain this to our children. Lion King is one of the best. Mufasa will always live in the memory and life of Simba. So will our departed beloved ones”.
Dr Ioanna Nixon, oncologist, author and executive and resilience coach
Mourning is defined as the feeling of sadness and grief that one feels after a great or significant loss. According to Buckley, McKinley, Tofler, Bartrop (2010), the death of one or more loved ones is one of the most stressful situations a person will experience during their lifetime.
The stages of mourning are: denial , anger, negotiation, depression, and acceptance.
Children who experience the loss of a parent, sibling or grandparent go through this process and have the same needs and problems as adults do when dealing with loss. Frequently it is mistakenly believed that children overcome death, the process of mourning and all related problems much faster either because they do not “understand” or because they forget. Parents often choose not to talk about the departed, which is not allowing the time and space for the children to ask questions, to express their feelings and accept the “loss”. Reality is that children do understand and need the time and space to discuss and express themselves.
The duration and the way of expressing mourning is different in each child and depends on the parental approach, the social or cultural background and also the age of the child.
Understanding loss and death is an evolutionary process; a 5 year old child externalizes death differently compared to a 15 year old teenager.
Children up to the age of 3 do not understand the meaning of death, but they understand the “absence”. They cannot express themselves, thus react with problems sleeping and eating.
Children from 3 to 6 years old, perceive death as separation. During mourning, regression behaviors (urination, finger sucking) may occur.
Children from the age of 10 understand permanence, so phobias, mood disorders and aggressive behavior can occur.
Adolescents fully understand the situation and their approach varies: they may support the family, isolate, or even want to manage their emotions on their own. Sometimes they react cynically and show anxiety, seemingly unwarranted anger, poor school performance, provocative behavior or intense sadness.
WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING TO SUPPORT THE CHILD?
Prepare the child for a possible loss. Talk to them about the circle of life.
Maintain composure, which will probably determine the context in which children will experience mourning safely.
Spend time with the child (walks, food) and encourage them to express himself.
Understand and accept it is normal for children depending on age to have trouble sleeping, nocturnal enuresis, eating disorders, nightmares.
Encourage expression of emotions.
Highlight that life continues and offer stability and reassurance.
We should also try to:
Explain in simple words to our child what death means.
Talk to them about the cycle of life.
Ask the child if they want to be at a ceremony (funeral, burial, memorial) and also explain the meaning of these ceremonies.
Give them time.
Preserve the memory of a loved one, eg photos, stories, or to create “a box of memories“.
Not exclude joy and laughter from our life. Continue to have joy in life and celebrate holidays and birthdays.
If time passes and the symptoms do not subside, or if we feel that we do not know what to do we should seek professional help.
Jack Wee Rabbit is scared of the dark. He finds it hard to fall asleep if his room is dark. Mommy Rabbit needs to turn a light on.
Today we are exploring fears, starting with fear of the dark. Jack Wee Rabbit and Dr Betty discuss this with their friend Irini Klishiarchi, parenting coach to shed some light on not only the fear of dark, but also on how all moms and dads can help children when they are scared.
Surely this phrase sounds familiar! When we hear this there are underlying emotions, one of which is fear. Fear is one of the seven emotions and experts claim we all experience fear for the first time when we are born. The reason is we are forced out of the comfort of the womb and enter an unknown environment: the world. So, being scared of the dark is associated with the fear of the unknown and the unexpected. Fear is a survival mechanism and its role is to “protect” us from dangers.
Why should a small child be afraid of the dark?
Fear is part of and also associated with the developmental stages of a child. It is developed mainly due to external stimuli. Fear “appears” at the age of 1-4 years, which is the age when we encounter fear of animals, lightning, thunder or planes. At the ages of 5-8, children explore and realize the meaning of “death” and may be afraid of ghosts, criminals, the death of their parents or even their own. Gradually after the age of 8 and these fears decrease.
The fear of the dark can be “triggered” by a series of events, as well as the temperament of children or some special characteristics. A 2-year-old child, for example, needs to “learn” because they simply don’t “know”. There may be someone in the immediate family environment who has the same fear, such as an older sibling. It may be related to something they saw on TV, to some parental behaviors, or a relevant experience such as a power outage.
Can moms and dads help?
Of course they can. Depending on the age of the child, there ae different things parents can do to support their child. The first thing is to observe the child’s reactions and take action to make the child feel safe.
What can parent’s do?
For younger ages when children cannot express themselves:
Observe behaviours and patterns before going to bed, such as grunting or sucking their thumb.
Be self-aware of your own reactions and responses to the child’s behavior.
Develop a daily sleep routine eg bathing, eating, reading a bed time story, low lighting
Leave the doors open
Always hug and stay in physical contact until the child feels better.
If the child is older you can also:
Discuss with them. Ask open questions to explore what it is they are afraid of. Let them “show” you and also name their fear
Answer any of their questions and talk them through what they want to know.
Reassure them. Show them you will be by their side whenever they needs to.
Affirm. Celebrate all small progresses.
Spend more time with them in the environment he is scared of.
What should parents avoid doing?
Making fun of or downplaying their fear.
Trying to “intimidate” or punish the child using what they are afraid of as a threat.
In some cases, the initial fear can turn into phobia. Phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistence, duration. It is also intense and becomes irrational. In these cases the help of specialists is needed to support the child to overcome this phobia.
Do not be afraid of fears! Fear has a role to play as an emotion and it is ok to be scared at times. Always remember that both the complete lack of fear and the excessive fear can create problems in people’s lives.
Irini Klischiarhi, perental and family coach Illustrations, Editing, Translation from Greek, Dr Ioanna Nixon
I love you mom. Everyday. You are the best mom ever.
Today Jack Wee Rabbit and his friends send their wishes to every mom on Mother’s Day!
Dr Betty wants to say to every mom that they are doing a great job!
Jack asked some of his friends what they want to say about their moms and also what they want to say to their moms
Here is what they said…
About my mom…
“I love my mom as she is special. She is my mom!”
“I love mom because she bakes cakes. Sometimes they taste good. When she doesn’t burn them. Don’t tell her I said that”
“My mom makes me feel special because she gives me cuddles”
“My mom plays lego with me. I love her”
“My mom smells good and I love her”
“My mom makes me my favourite food and I love her”
“My mom has a soft voice and doesn’t shouts at me”.
“I do lots with my mom. I like being with her and play”
“My mom always knows what to do when I am sick”
I want to tell my mom…
“I love you. You are the best mom in the world!”
“Mom, I love you. Can you make me cheesy pasta now? Please?”
“Mommy I love to bring you flowers and make you smile!”
“I love you mom because you make cakes for us and you try hard.”
“Mom, I want to tell you I want more bedtime stories. I love you”
“Can I have more treats during the week please? Please please mom. I am a good girl most of the times”.
“I am getting you a special love heart balloon for Mother’s Day!”
“I love you”
“When I grow older I want to be like you”
Dr Betty is smiling while reading these quotes.
She is thinking to herself how amazing, honest, open, sweet, genuine and curious children are. She wants to tell all moms in the world to enjoy every step of their child’s development, cherish and nurture them, support them and learn together with them! No matter how challenging life can be at times, no matter the circumstances, you are resilient and resourceful. So are the kids and they should always remember that.
Moms out there, you are enough, so drop some of the guilt. Have a growth mindset on raising them, relax and enjoy every step of the parenting journey.
“What is bullying?”, Jack Wee Rabbit asked Dr Betty. “Is it acceptable? Is it normal? “
Today we are discussing this very popular, important and sensitive topic. Our good friend and psychologist Irene Klischiarchi is discussing with us what bullying is and how we as parents can tackle this.
All children matter and everyone has the power and responsibility to stop bullying behavior.
In recent years, the term bullying has entered our lives for good… We hear about it in the news, in the workspace, in schools, everywhere…What is bullying?
It is complex to define bullying, but fair to say it is a phenomenon that includes forms of violence. The word comes from the English word bully which means “bully”, which in turn comes from the Netherlands! But what about bullying at school? The term bullying at school is nothing more than “school bullying” and refers to the use of forms of violence between children. It is usually practiced by the “strong” to the “weak”. It involves harassment done deliberately, unprovokedly and systematically, in order to impose the “strong” and to humiliate the “weak”, by provoking either physical or mental torture.
Cyberbullying (threats via the internet, publication of personal moments with photos or videos).
What role can the family play?
It is crucially important for the parent to observe their child. Children who have experienced or are experiencing bullying at school may not be able to talk openly about this with an adult. However, there are non verbal signs we can pick. These can be:
Coming from school with bruises or scratches that they cannot justify, with torn or lost books, or without cell phones and even clothes.
Complain that they are alone without friends, or they do not want to be around their classmates.
They do not want to go to school
Underperforming at school.
Physical and emotional signs, such as decreased appetite, complaints of abdominal pain or headaches, bad mood, outbursts of anger.
These behaviors and signs should be the wake up call for the parent so they can stop the bullying and support their child.
But is school bullying a family issue? Are the parents “responsible”? Is it right to intervene or not? Can they catch up? How should they handle a situation? There are many questions. We will try to answer some of these questions today.
Research suggests that Children (victims) who are more likely to be bullied, have some mental or physical health problems (eg depression, overweight, high degree of myopia, high altitude, very low height, stuttering, etc.), avoid socializing (parties, school activities), have increased stress, have low self-esteem, reduce their own personality, prefer not to express their personal views. The family can support children to be self-confidence and have self-esteem. Reassure them of their self – worth and the value they bring to the world.
On the other hand, research suggests that children (perpetrators) who use violence, have frequently either suffered violence from the family themselves or imitate violent behaviors experienced in the family environment, may have experienced emotional or physical neglect. Once again family plays a crucial role in the upbringing of a “bully”.
How can family help the “victim” and the “bully”?
A parent can help the child “victim” to speak openly, to trust and encourage them to make new friends, and engage in extracurricular activities. The family should praise the child for his abilities, to actively “listen” without judgement. In other words, family can and should play core role in building up the child’s confidence, reassuring them it is safe to talk to them about any matters arising, reassuring them “they are there for them always”. Making the child know they are unconditionally loved and supported.
On the other hand, the child “perpetrator” needs help and support to defining a code of values, to manage anger and other negative emotions, understand boundaries and consequences and equally feel ‘heard”, loved and supported in the family.
Both children need a family environment that support self – awareness, self-acceptance and acceptance of boundaries. They need their family to enable them build relationships of trust and become the best self they can be, while always respecting others. Parental counselling can have a role in supporting parents .
What can a parent do to prevent it?
Start simple! Respect daily routine and teach boundaries. Spend quality time with the child and reward their efforts!
Above and beyond everything, let’s not forget: all children are a priority! All children are entitled to a wonderful life!
Irini Klisiarchi, parenting coach Translation from Greek/illustrations, Ioanna Nixon