Saying Goodbye – my tips for helping children deal with the death of a pet :(

The end of last week dealt us with the challenge of nursing a sick pet and finally having to say goodbye.  Of course when you get pets you are aware that at some point they will die (unless they are a tortoise, like our other pet Tiggy, who will probably survive us all!). But, I was still not prepared for how to deal with it.

One morning last week I discovered one of our chickens (actually my favourite, Blueberry) collapsed. I showed her the water and food in an attempt to get her to drink and eat but she was extremely weak and not at all interested. I decided to bring her up to the house where we fed her water and yoghurt with a calpol syringe (not calpol though!) for a few days. At times she seemed to be pepping up but on the second morning she was even more lethargic and we decided to take her to the vet. At this point I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be coming home so I prepared the Ps for this outcome and we headed to the vet. Obviously when you home educate your children it’s impossible to do things like this without them, but it is also an important life lesson (and as Pickle is interested in working with animals when she grows up she was actually quite excited about her first visit to the vets!)

The inevitable happened and the vet and I concluded (with the 3 Ps listening on) that the fairest outcome would be to euthanize Blueberry and say goodbye 😦  The vet left us for a few minutes and we all had a cuddle; Poppet and I both had a little cry while Pickle held it together and Piccalilli just kept kissing Blueberry! Now I know some people will be reading this thinking “It’s just a chicken” and I even said to the vet that I didn’t know why I was getting upset over a chicken, but as she said: she’s a pet with her own personality who became a part of our family.

We returned home where Pickle disappeared off and I realised she’d gone off to have a cry – she is very private about her emotions and when I went to give her a cuddle she initially didn’t want me to see her crying but I explained that it’s ok to be sad because we all loved Blueberry. She then decided that Blueberry had gone to be with Great Gran Audrey because she had loved birds 🙂

I feel that learning to deal with death is an important life lesson and these are my top tips on how to cope with this tricky time:

Don’t hide your own feelings. If you feel sad don’t worry about showing your children. If you don’t feel sad, make sure you respect their grief and help them to express their feelings – they shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty and should feel proud of themselves for their level of care and compassion.

Involve them. Where possible let them be a part of the process and give them a chance to say goodbye if you decide to euthanize your pet. Obviously not everyone would want to take their children to the vet with them, but it definitely helped the Ps to see the vet trying her best to help Blueberry.

Reassure them that they weren’t responsible in any way. They also might need reassurance about significant others in their lives. The evening after we said goodbye to Blueberry, Pickle had a big wobble at bedtime so we had a long chat about her feelings and worries.

It can also help to think about the developmental stage of the child involved as their comprehension of death changes as they grow up:

Birth to two years

  • no real understanding of death
  • can sense emotions of those around them
  • may show some signs of irritability
  • need reassurance and usual routines

Two to five years

  • do not understand that death is irreversible and struggle with abstract concepts such as ‘heaven’
  • pick up on emotions of those around them
  • may show irritability or regression
  • will usually ask lots of questions but only capable of showing sadness for short periods of time
  • need reassurance, usual routines and concrete words (avoid “Blueberry has gone to sleep”)

Five to ten years

  • begin to understand the finality of death
  • might be very fearful or fascinated
  • could display aggression or somatic symptoms
  • will need to talk and be able to ask questions
  • stick to concrete words

Ten plus

  • more aware of the finality of death
  • often less willing to open up
  • Somatic symptoms and anger or guilt
  • will need to be given time to discuss their concerns

We are all missing Blueberry but I think the Ps have dealt very well with the experience.

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Blueberry before she was ill.

The most important thing when making solar powered toys is…

… to wait for a sunny day!

The big Ps have been really enjoying learning about where energy comes from, so I thought it was the perfect time to tell them about the solar powered toys I’d bought for them to make.

In some ways it was the best time as they were so enthusiastic about making something that is ‘green’ after they have been learning all about renewable energy. In many ways it was the worst possible time: I have been feeling under the weather today; Piccalilli was having one of those days where she just wanted to be picked up (not easy when you’re trying to make an intricate robot!); one of our hens has been poorly so she’s in a box in the dining room requiring regular water from a syringe; there was no sun!!

Anyway, we did it and it looks great, but we have no idea if it works or not!! Let’s hope for a sunny day tomorrow 🙂

Losing my cool…

So I’m usually writing about the fun aspects of home educating, with the odd traumatic day thrown in for good measure, but I don’t often write about the days where I lose my cool and wonder why on earth we are doing this!  Last week I had one of those days and have avoided thinking about it too much since. However, I kind of see writing as therapy and figured it was time to get it off my chest…

Our mornings are generally slow and steady as it’s rare that we have to rush out of the house before 10ish. This is one of the lovely aspects of home education (although on those occasional days when you really need to be up and out it’s definitely harder!). So the day I lost my cool was no different to usual; we didn’t have to be anywhere in a rush so the Ps played happily upstairs while I sorted things in the kitchen. Little Piccalilli came down as she wanted her breakfast, but the big Ps continued in their contented play.

As it neared 10 o’clock, and I remembered that we had to be out in half an hour, I called upstairs that it was time to get dressed. Well, you’d have thought I’d just thrown a grenade up there and declared war by the reaction that followed… Suddenly the calm, peaceful morning turned to chaos and the happy siblings turned instantly into enemies. The screaming started, followed by a lot of banging, followed by loud shrieking (which I think was meant to be crying in an attempt to get me to go up). I tried to ignore it initially – isn’t that the done thing? Let them sort it out themselves? Don’t get involved in every sibling battle? Well, after a few minutes of screeching and obvious physical fighting I thought I’d better check that nobody was truly hurt…

When I got to the top of the stairs, Poppet was standing in the middle of the room naked and screaming – Pickle was nowhere near her and I couldn’t work out what the fuss was all about! I lost my cool instantly… I screamed at her to get out. She screamed at me that Pickle had been sitting on her and hurting her (which seems to happen a lot!). I screamed at Pickle that that was inappropriate behaviour. She screamed at me that Poppet had taken her clothes away. I screamed, they screamed, we all screamed… and no ice cream was involved at any point!

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I completely lost it; I told them I was leaving; I told them they were going to school the next day; I really lost it…

Thankfully I had a tiny bit of self control left and on hearing Piccalilli downstairs calling for me “Mummy stop shouting”, I realised I had lost it and went downstairs. Piccalilli got me a tissue and we had a big cuddle.  When the big Ps came downstairs they were very remorseful, as was I, and we talked it through.  We discussed why getting dressed and other transition times always seem to be so difficult and we discussed the types of behaviour that we all displayed that was negative and how we should have behaved. We wrote and signed a new family contract and agreed to have another meeting in a week (tomorrow) to discuss how we were getting on.

I am not proud of losing it.  But I am proud of how we dealt with it and turned it around. We are all doing pretty well at sticking to the new family contract but transition times can still be tricky… we’re working on it though!

 

New Year, New Challenges…

I don’t often bother with resolutions as it feels like setting yourself up for a fall! I do like to set myself little challenges though so have given myself a few challenges for the next few months.

  1. Mindfulness – The lovely Stinker gave me a beautiful colouring book for Christmas. I plan on using this regularly and doing lots of colouring and relaxation with the 3Ps
  2. Meat-free – We have decided to avoid buying meat throughout January for a few reasons including the high cost of good quality meat. I’m not at all daunted by this as I’m not really bothered about meat, although I might miss bacon! I have a feeling this challenge will extend further than January…
  3. Dry January and February – I read recently that unless you’re an alcoholic it’s pointless having dry months, but I think this is a silly statement to make. We are doing it for health reasons (to lose a few excess kilograms!) and to save money.
  4. To write another blog – Don’t worry I plan on continuing to write this one on a personal level but I am thinking of writing one giving advice about different aspects of home education and healthy living… I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on!

Holiday Happiness…

So, for us Christmas was over on Sunday – the big girls went to the Panto with their Nanny and Daioo (Granddad) and while little Piccalilli slept, the Stinker and I took down the decorations and tree (which was practically bare by the time we’d pulled everything off, so it’s a good job Christmas is done for another year!). Since, Piccalilli occasionally disappears off and returns to tell me that the Reindeer had gone – this has bothered her more than anything else as he was filled with chocolate coins most days by our Elf! I love the Christmas break, but I’m also happy when the house gets back to some level of normality… Saying that, I don’t enjoy the holiday coming to an end!

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I love holidays mainly because we get to have the Stinker around more (the biggest bonus of him still working as a teacher!) and relax together. It’s definitely not all smiles and happiness though… So here is my roundup of the highs and lows of Christmas and New Year 2015-2016:

Highs

  • Piccalilli’s enjoyment of the whole Christmas period – she’s the perfect age for the magical moments and watching her little face light up every time she realised that more chocolate coins had been delivered really made my day many times!
  • Lazy mornings in bed – ok, so as we home ed we often have slow mornings but these are always missing the Stinker who leaves early for work. So lazy mornings with all of us present are lovely.
  • Quality time with extended family – we see some members of our family often but to spend quality time chatting, playing games, and just being together is great.
  • Three happy little girls – well, they weren’t happy all the time (see Lows below!!) but on the whole they enjoyed the excitement of Christmas and the lovely presents they received.
  • Feeling proud – Poppet made us very proud on a couple of occasions. Firstly she played her recorder and cornet (both of which she’s only been learning for a few months) in a concert with the home ed band she is a part of. Secondly she sewed us all Christmas presents – I became an emotional wreck and cried when I opened the pillow she’d made for me!! I’m expecting floods of tears next Christmas when she makes me something even more intricate with the sewing machine she got from Father Christmas 🙂
  • Laughing lots – Pickle is turning into a fantastic comedienne and often has us in stitches. Her little impromptu sketches can be hilarious and I particularly love watching Poppet and Piccalilli laughing uncontrollably at her!
  • Theatre trips – we were very lucky to be taken to see Annie (thank you Auntie Krusty and Uncle Big Dan!), which was amazing, although the constant singing of Annie songs since is starting to grate on me (and I can’t get them out of my head!). The big Ps also had their annual Panto trip with Nanny and Daioo which they always love 🙂

Lows

  • The weather! It would have been lovely if it had snowed, or even just stayed dry – the rain really does make things more difficult, although we did still get out as much as possible and the New Year’s Day walk was great fun, especially when the big Ps (who had not been getting on well for a few days!) decided to roll in the mud.
  • The bickering – I know it’s normal and I live with it daily but I do wish they’d stop during the holidays!
  • The trip to Hospital – luckily nothing major but of course I felt awful because it had been me who had opened the door and trapped Pickle’s finger in the hinge ripping her nail half off (but her fault really for standing behind the door to have a strop!)
  • The end – as I said earlier, I really don’t like it when holiday times come to an end 😦

Parks, Paddies and Promises!

This time of year can be pretty stressful for everybody, but when you’re trying to juggle getting organised for the big day (and beyond) with keeping three hyper girls from exploding… well, let’s just say I’m in need of a break!

The past week or so we’ve spent a lot of time either walking to (the long way!), at or walking home from our local park – it’s nothing to shout home about (and even less so since the council removed the house and slide to stop teenagers’ shenanigans!) but the fact that it’s a stone’s-throw from home makes it the perfect escape on damp days when we need to get out.

Our last visit resulted in a huge paddy by Poppet about the fact that Pickle wanted to swing higher than her! But at least we were out getting some fresh air – positive thinking and all that 🙂

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Poppet’s paddies – it could be the name of a book, although I’m not sure who’d want to read it! Joking aside, her ‘moments’ are currently more regular with more gusto and I don’t know if it’s an age thing or something else…

Yesterday evening Poppet was due to be invested into Beavers. She’s been going since September and even went on camp last month (see Different Directions…); she was so excited about saying her promise and the Stinker and I were invited to watch. As soon as we arrived I saw her demeanour change – it’s hard to describe but it’s like she goes into herself, physically shrinking away from a situation. The next thing I knew she was over with us, crying and trying to clamber up on me. It’s difficult to know the best response in these situations so I often find myself trying to cajole her to do whatever it is she is shying away from: “You’ve been so looking forward to it”, etc. But Poppet is very stubborn so that was that – no promise.

However, five minutes later the tears started again (as I thought they would) when the realisation set in that she had lost the chance to do something she did really want to do! Luckily the leaders are fantastic and waited until the end, when nearly everyone had gone, to do Poppet’s promise with her.

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The Stinker is understandably concerned that she needs to overcome this issue, but my thinking is that, no matter how stressful I find her paddies, we need to find another way of dealing with them. We’d both predicted that it would happen last night so maybe we could have altered the outcome by changing our behaviour (or just not turning up to watch!)

Does anyone else have any experience of these sorts of issues and any golden nuggets of advice you could share?

 

 

Super plants really do help you sleep!

I’ve just got back from a rare evening out at the pub with some lovely friends who I wish I saw more often… We ended up sitting out in the garden area huddled under one of the tiny two-bar heaters, breathing in other people’s second-hand smoke (yuk!)

We are all into natural living and so had a few discussions about living chemical-free lives, something we are aiming to do as much as possible. We were talking about super plants and it made me think I should share the link for ’12 super plants to help you sleep’ that I read recently. So here it is…

Since reading this we moved our aloe plant into our bedroom and I really think it’s helping me. I also plan on going back to the 90s and getting lots of spider plants around the house! Let me know how you get on…

Christmas crafts: spiral Christmas trees

Sunday was all about making the house as Christmassy as possible with lights and decorations. It also involved Christmas crafts that all the Ps could do together while I cooked dinner and the Stinker felt sorry for himself (after a night out on the razzle dazzle!)

Spiral Christmas trees

You need: green paper or card, Christmas stickers, felt pens, scissors20151206_180141x

  1. Draw a spiral on your green paper or card
  2. Decorate with stickers or draw pictures, ensuring they stay between your lines (I was amazed by how well Piccalilli did hers!)
  3. Cut along the lines carefully
  4. Decorate the other side (we did this after we had cut out as otherwise wouldn’t have known where our lines were!)
  5. Hang up 🙂

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We all (yes all five of us!) enjoyed making these trees and they look very effective. We are planning on making lots more!

Oh, and if you like the look of the little Father Christmases hiding above, have a look at my post on Loo Roll Father Christmases!

Changing routines for the better.

‘For health and sanity, build good routines. But disrupt them now and then, too’ Psychology Today Sept 14 2010

We are naturally creatures of habit, meaning that routines usually make us feel safe and secure. There are many benefits of having routines in a family where the children outnumber the adults, but these routines can also cause problems of their own on occasion!

For us, bedtime exists. I know this might sound like a strange comment, but I’ve met many home ed families for whom this is not the case – I understand that this works well for some families, but I find that we all need some sort of bedtime routine and therefore time to ourselves in the evening.

However, since we started home edding, and so usually the Ps are less stressed and tired out, we have been finding bedtimes to be a particularly difficult part of the day. So we took the scary step last week and changed our bedtime routine. The Stinker commented after the first (and successful!) evening that it felt like such a big change because we’d essentially been doing the same thing for at least five years!

When I say routine, it certainly wasn’t a strict one and the Ps were fine with occasional change (if we had a night away, etc), but we used to go upstairs together and share the whole bedtime experience, which was becoming increasingly tense and noisy and therefore not the relaxing time it aimed to be!

Pickle put up the most resistance to the change, which was interesting considering she always used to be the one who ended up angry or crying! But I think she’s now realising that the new way is better for her because she gets more attention from the one-on-one bedtime!

Essentially we are now staggering bedtimes – not at a paticular time but whenever the Ps are tired and early enough to give the Stinker and me some time! It makes perfect sense and we have tried it before, but for some reason it’s working this time whereas it didn’t six months ago!

Our old routine had definitely gone down the route of having a negative effect on all of us. The new one is currently a much happier road to travel, but has also made us all aware that it can be good to try a different way when the old one gets too tough. Happy bedtime everyone 🙂

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Taken a few months ago when bedtimes were still light, but Piccalilli has the best place to spend the evenings!

Christmas Traditions part 2 aka Parenting without punishment!

‘However exasperating a child’s behaviour may be, it’s still – in most instances – age-appropriate.’ Psychology Today June 19 2015

I try to remember this when the girls are pushing boundaries and my buttons; I try to remember that they are only little; I try to remember that I don’t agree with reward and punishment, bribery and threat.

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘convincing’ our children to do what we need (want) them to do – if we are in a rush to go out, bribery can be the best way to cajole them along. Then I feel guilty and wish I’d just started organising everyone ten minutes earlier!

My aim is to raise three strong girls who are confident in themselves and know their place in the world and the effect they can have on other people. I want them to be themselves and not be afraid to show their true feelings and opinions,  but with an understanding of how to do this respectfully.  Having three strong-willed young ladies can be very trying at times, but I try to remember that I don’t want to mould them into mini-mes (even though two of them are appearance wise!) and their personalities are actually developing positively – we often get lovely comments on how kind, caring and helpful they are from both strangers (at trips to the library or museums) and new home ed friends.  So on the days when they are pushing my buttons,  I try to remember these positives.

So, back to our Christmas tradition part 2 – Elvis the elf! I know that some people use an elf to warn their children that someone is sending messages back to Father Christmas about their behaviour,  whereas our elf is actually a kindness elf (inspired by The Imagination Tree) who gives the Ps ideas of different activities they could complete to be kind and helpful. Last year he suggested ideas like: taking some unwanted toys to the charity shop and buying some food for the Foodbank.

Despite the focus on kindness and lack of threats, the Ps have decided that Elvis reports back to Father Christmas about their behaviour as well as the kind things they do. I guess this is difficult to avoid in the threat-heavy society that we still appear to live in, but I’d really like the Ps not to feel this negativity. I think that no longer attending school, where the focus on reward and punishment (or at least lack of reward!) is understandably so high, means they will move away from this way of thinking.  I just need to remember to avoid the bribery and corruption! Wish me luck…