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 🙂

Learning to tie shoe laces in 10 minutes… honest it is possible!

Recently Poppet has mastered the art of tying shoe laces. She’s been able to tie knots for over a year but bows were a write-off at that point! Last week she learnt to do her bows in about 10 minutes!

‘How is this possible?’ I hear you cry. Well, here are my three top tips to make this challenging task a lot less stressful (for child and parent!)

1. Wait until they’re ready!

Over a year ago Poppet first asked if we could teach her how to tie laces. So we dutifully bought her a fake wooden shoe (well, she didn’t have any real ones with laces – they’re all velcro these days aren’t they?!) and showed her how to do it.  After a lot of tantrums (from her and us!) the wooden shoe was relegated to an under bed storage drawer and forgotten about. When she said last week that she wanted to learn to tie laces again we had a little hunt and luckily retrieved the shoe!

2. Make it fun 🙂

There are lots of ways to make learning fun and with lace tying it’s actually remarkably easy:

  • Before getting on to actual lace tying, spend some time playing lacing games – cotton reels or beads on laces and lacing cards are great. You don’t have to buy lacing cards as it’s easy to make your own (although the Early Learning Centre ones are strong, cheap and colourful), but the most important thing is to have a firm, fray free end to your laces.
  • Try tying on a large scale – we had a go with skipping ropes in the garden. It was fun and we had a lot of laughs getting out of the knots we found ourselves in!
  • There are also some cute rhymes (some of which I remember from 30 years ago when I learnt to tie laces on a cardboard picture of a shoe with holes punched in it!) The rhymes mainly seem to revolve around bunnies but, with a bit of imagination, I’m sure they could be adapted to suit any child’s interests. We stuck with a version of the bunny rhyme from my childhood: Over, under, around and through, meet Miss Bunny, pull her through.
  • If you need to model the process it can be best to sit behind your child with your arms around them – Poppet found this hilarious!

3. Stay calm!

I know this can be easier said than done, but I would say that if things are getting too stressful then maybe your child isn’t quite ready.

Good luck and let me know if you beat our 10 minutes!

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!

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…

Our Christmas Traditions: part 1

For me Christmas is a chance to include a bit of magic in our lives and to spend lots of quality time with family. I am not religious, but I do feel that it is important that my children know the origins of the celebration and not just the current consumerism focus that seems to have taken over.  I find Black Friday intolerable and the Ps know that gifts do not always have to cost loads of money, if any at all.

All that said, of course making it magical does take time and money.  So today (the Sunday closest to 1st Dec) is traditionally our Christmas tree buying day; for the past few years we’ve visited a quaint little farm where we can buy the tree and get into the spirit of Christmas with their craft fair and Christmas activities.  This year they also had a Shetland pony dressed as Rudolph which the big Ps sat on – we’d assumed that the £2 per child would include a little walk around, but no! (Sometimes Christmas gimmicks really are a rip off!)

This afternoon was spent in the lounge with the fire blazing, decorating the tree with as many ‘balls’ as Piccalilli could possibly fit on (all quite low down!)

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I know some people don’t agree with starting Christmas until a few days before the actual day, but for us it’s all about having a magical build up to the big day and making the most of it while the Ps are young enough to really enjoy it.

Tomorrow our elf will arrive to begin our Christmas tradition part 2…

Feeling thankful…

If you’re American you are probably celebrating Thanksgiving today and although this tradition is not part of our culture I am still feeling thankful today for:

  • The Stinker – I spent my morning out shopping while he was at work… It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen to make our lives happier for now (not me shopping all the time I hasten to add!) I’m thankful that he’s happy to support me and the Ps in every way possible.
  • My parents – I’ve said it before (in Mum’s the Word…) but if it wasn’t for my mum and dad we, literally, wouldn’t have the life we have now. They help us out in so many ways and we are eternally grateful for their support and guidance.
  • My big blister – As I’m sure is the case with all sisters, we have gone through stages where we weren’t close, but my sister is my best friend and I trust her implicitly ~ she would be the one, along with her lovely husband Uncle Big Dan, to become the Ps guardians if the need were ever to arise; in the meantime we really appreciate the time they give to them, and us! (We had a lovely surprise visit from her today when she was extremely lucky to meet Father Christmas and Rudolph!)
  • Extended family – As I’ve said before, I’m lucky to have a small close family and we love spending time with Grauntie Jane, Gruncle Jim and cousins Marie and Joe. Their time and support over the years have also helped us to get where we are and I have many happy memories of the younger me having lots of fun with my lovely cousins 🙂
  • Old friends – Today I spent the morning catching up with an old friend (not old old, but you know ‘old’!) Despite moving away from each other (we used to live one street apart and now it’s close to 45 minutes) we try to meet up as much as possible at our halfway point – shopping, cuppa and cake anyone?! Don’t mind if I do! Old friends are so important – they know you from a time before and it’s always good to reconnect with that old you and to share fantastic memories with fantastic people. Last weekend I also saw some old friends and despite the conversations being interrupted often, by the children who now outnumber us, it was just nice to spend a few hours in their company.
  • New friends – Over the five years since we left the city to live in the country I feel lucky to have made lots of lovely friends through different areas of life: dancing and exercise, craft groups, baby and toddler groups, school, home ed groups, neighbours and now blogging! I’m very thankful for the friendship and help of these lovelies in many different ways over the years: from childcare to the loan of a wheelbarrow to the delivery of some 3p sweetcorn (you know who you are!)
  • The Ps – They are all I ever wanted (as I wrote about in Stop, I want to get off!) and despite the challenges they bring, I am so thankful to have them, and their bonkers ways, in my life.

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So today I have been thinking about all of the wonderful people who enrich our lives, therefore this post is dedicated to everyone who knows me – thank you 🙂

Mum’s the Word…

For me, family has always been the most important thing. I don’t come from a large family and I often think this makes it easier to be close, as there are less people to share yourself between!

When we were kids, although we lived nearly two hours from grandparents and cousins, we saw them every holiday for extended periods of time. I always hoped that things would be the same for my girls and, despite having no cousins of the same age to play with, in some ways things are better. We only live an hour from family so the Ps get to see them regularly, particularly their nanny (my mum): she has visited us weekly since Poppet was born, helping out with childcare when I had to return to work after maternity leave with all three girls. Many of my friends comment on how lucky I am to have such a superstar for a mum, and I realise this is the case.

Since we began home edding, my mum’s visits are often my saving grace! If we’ve been having a busy week and I’m tired (That’ll be most weeks then!), I know I can have a bit of a break when nanny’s here – I’ve even managed to fit in child-free cafe visits with friends and long hairdresser appointments! Or I get to spend one-on-one time with one of the Ps, often Piccalilli, while nanny does baking  or sewing with the big Ps.

I also get to revert back to the rare position of being looked after by someone else, which can be a lovely feeling, especially when she likes to shop, cook and clean for me (or that’s what she tells me anyway!)

For me, the best thing about my mum’s visits are the chats – we’ve always got on well (even when I was a slightly rebellious teenager, I still enjoyed spending time with my mum) and I trust and respect her knowledge and opinion.

I can only hope that one day my girls will have their own children and will want me in their lives too.

Thanks Mum, love you xxx

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