Russian-Ukraine War:

Russian-Ukraine War:

First of all, I wanted to write to you all about the Russian-Ukraine war as I  know that it can be a great source of anxiety in children and teenagers. I also want to mention that I would like to send my love and support to all the victims of violence. At this time, I am sending special love and support to Ukraine. Despite not being a very religious person, I am praying for the war to stop. 

I cannot start to imagine what children and families are going through in Ukraine, but my ability to help it is limited. Writing this article is motivated by my vision to support parents and children the best way I can. I find one of the best things I can do is share my experience as a life coach for children and teenagers and what I have learnt that could help those kids struggling to make sense of what’s happening. I spoke briefly about some of these coping strategies a few years ago when the Grenfell tragedy struck. 

I also want to mention that, hopefully, what I am relating below doesn’t apply to you or your children. The teachers I have talked with don’t seem too concerned but are aware they will need to address the topic at some point. If you still choose to read the article, it might give you some ideas as to how to address other difficult topics. 

So, why am I a bit concerned about the Russian-Ukraine War? 

After two years of a pandemic, a war has started in Ukraine. If our children hadn’t gone through lockdown, fear, anxieties, and complete disruption already, this awful news now comes on the back of all these. 

Despite being a Life coach for children, I have to admit I have taken my eye off the ball. Over the last two years, there has been so much going on, when the war started I have to say that part of me said: What else can happen now? Do I have the strength to deal with this? Somehow, I felt a combination of exhaustion from extremely bad news, sadness and, let’s be honest, worry. These combinations made it difficult for me to think deeply about those that we have to care for in these moments. 

A conversation with my teenage daughter brought it all to the surface yesterday. As we were having dinner, she asked: If Putin attacks Amsterdam or London, would we flee? Where to? After all,  a Russian-Ukraine war is a global affair. 

Initially, I dismissed it as a teenager playing in her mind with current topics, but it quickly became apparent that she was slightly worried (I can tell because her laugh becomes a bit forced). It turns out these conversations are happening without us (parents). My daughters – and I can imagine, virtually every teenager is exposed to loads of very visual and hurtful information. They are picking up ideas and making statements. My daughter said, “Somebody told me that it is very likely that Putin will invade us now”. 

That’s when the penny dropped for me. The fear is there, the lack of clarity, the uncertainty, the powerlessness that we are all affected by, is also reaching them.

So how can we help children and teenagers process the Russian-Ukraine war?

Children process the Russian-Ukraine war

Children and Teenagers should be able to talk nonsense, laugh at silly things, misbehave from time to time and feel a bit careless. Then, start from scratch again the next day. For the last two years, this has been taken away from them, and now it is a very real war not far from our doorstep. 

And this is my first advice to you as a life coach for children: please do not play it down.

Children and teenagers are exposed to a huge amount of information that we, parents and teachers, don’t control and they are making assumptions about this. They might be worried and scared. Also, remember this is not just another event, it builds on the fears and worries of the last two years and it is very close to us. 

So, what is it that we can do? How do we talk with children about the war in Ukraine? 

I am sure there is a lot of great advice available already (I will include some links at the end of the article) and this is just my point as a life coach for children and teenagers. 

I want to share with you 5 points for you to think about. Here is a summary and below I will go into a bit more depth with each of these. 

Do not assume your child/teenager is immune to it. 

Obviously, teenagers are seeing the news on TikTok and the conversations about the Russian-Ukraine war are happening. This means that they are consuming probably a vast amount of information that we, if you are of my generation, probably are not seeing. A lot of that information might be right but experience tells me a lot of it will be wrong or even made up (fake news) for clicks and likes purposes (unfortunately). 

Younger children might not have access to a mobile device but they are very likely to be exposed to the news as well. Maybe you are watching it on TV, the news bulletins on the car radio when you are taking them to school. I am aware some schools provide news for children (i.e. BBC) and this will certainly feature there. 

Again, most children will see it as something distant but some children might be more affected by it. 

Over the last year, virtually every one of my colleagues who work with children say the same: We are seeing more and more severe cases ((anxieties, OCD, nightmares, aggressive behaviour than ever before). Just imagine how fragile some children might be feeling now. 

I certainly hope that your child is well and grounded and only appropriately concerned about the events, but please do not take it for granted. 

Have the conversation: address or create the conversation 

how to talk to kids about the Russian-Ukraine war

As it happened with my daughter, they will eventually share information. It might be a comment somebody made, it might be a question, it might be your kids talking between themselves. If this happens, take the opportunity to talk to them about the Russian-Ukraine war

If they ask you, be ready to explain a few ideas. I will share some now. If they talk between themselves or drop a comment, ask them: Do you want to talk about it? I can imagine it’s a bit confusing. Some will say yes, others will say no. Even if they don’t want to talk (or maybe precisely because they don’t want to talk) keep an eye on them. 

A few simple tips to help you have the conversation about the Russian- Ukraine war:

● Manage your feelings and state of mind. It is important to acknowledge our own feelings, and equally to understand how they can affect others. Our children will need reassurance and trust. For this it is important we are calm and focused. It is not about hiding our feelings or lying about them, but managing them in an adult manner. Equally, it is not about pretending to know everything, but to share what we know with them in a calm way. 

● Allow time. Don’t rush the conversation. Maybe they only want a simple answer, but make sure you have the time in case the chat evolves. If you stop it half way, they might think you are hiding something and that creates uncertainty. If they want a simple answer, make sure it is one they can understand and trust : 

○ Are we in danger? I believe we are perfectly safe. The country has all the defences it needs and the friends it needs to keep us safe. 

○ Is this WWIII? No it is not. It is a very sad situation between two countries. 

● Aim to be factual about the Russian-Ukraine war.  and help them be clear on their sources. As much as their friend’s dad might know somebody who knows, or they watched it in different TikTok videos (“everybody is saying…”) it is important to explain how we have to be cautious with the information we receive, contrast and use our common sense. It is critical to help them separate between: facts, rumours, possibilities and plain fake news. You can even use pen and paper and put different ideas in different boxes. 

● Help them get perspective. This is not denying the huge tragedy happening, but helping them manage their feelings. They might be hearing about war in Europe, help them put distance into context, relate it to some trip you might have made. 

○ For example: do you remember when we drove to Bristol to see grandpa and grandma, was it long? Well, this situation is happening 150 times further away. And that is for cars. Imagine slow trucks. You can bring out a map and trace those two journeys. 

● Relate the Russian-Ukraine war to something they can understand. I have drafted this idea for younger kids and with a few tweaks you can adapt it to teenagers: 

● Imagine that some people you know are being bullied by others. You want to help, but there is a big gap between them and you, maybe a river. What can you do? (It’s great if they come with some ideas of their own). You could tell the bullies to go away, you could send something for your friends to defend themselves, you could definitely show them that you are there with them. Those friends are not having a good time, but our support can help them overcome it or make them feel better.

● Be ready to address some worst case scenarios. They might ask, what if they still invade other countries? What if they use the nuclear bombs? What if their planes bomb where we live? In this case you might want to use some visual aids (with younger children) like wooden blocks or toys of different sizes and maps (with older ones). This is how I would go about it. 

● Most countries are like kids, they have friends and people they don’t get along with so well. In this case, we have one country who is being nasty to another (one toy against another toy or mark the counties in the map). Next, we have a bunch of other countries that are friends and have vowed to defend each other (loads of toys on that side or mark all the NATO/EU countries, be careful to use some measure that is not only the size of the county as in their mind geographical size might equal strength). All this group of friends are ready to defend themselves and anybody else. Do you think this single toy will attack all these toys? And what would happen if he was to do it? 

And I could carry on with ideas, but I hope these few points give you a good way to start.

What else can you do to help them manage their feeling about the Russian-Ukraine war?

Life coaching children and teenagers

It is important to understand that nothing I can say or do will have a permanent or sudden effect in their worries. It might help and alleviate but we can’t see them as magic recipes. 

The usual approaches to managing feelings complement our toolbox. Minimise exposure to news in the house. Help them express their feelings by drawing or whatever activity suits them, give them a combination of activities (sport, etc) but also ensure they have free time and, most importantly, time with you. Aim to act as normal as possible in your daily life, be careful with those throwaway comments (i.e. what else can go wrong in this world?). Also, if this works for you, talk to them about contributing to donations or support in some way. Do not feel this has to be done exclusively towards the war in Ukraine only, it can be useful to guide their helpfulness towards any activity they can see contribute to a greater good and provides them with a sense of community. 

Lastly, let them know that people will be talking and it’s important they share with you whatever they hear as sometimes those comments (remember the point about rumours and fake news) can be hurtful. 

Time consideration. 

If you go back two years, to the start of the pandemic, it will give you an idea of what we might expect here. 

If the conflict is resolved speedily (I am at pains to consider what that might mean), it is likely there will be some reverberations but the media will calm down and with that the panic too.

If the conflict continues (not sure if that is a much better option, to be honest), it’s critical to continue the conversation, ensuring they have an open communication with you, they can reframe what they feel and put it into perspective. 

As mentioned above, it is in the last few months that we are seeing the real impact in mental health of the pandemic in children. If your child is affected by this situation, it might not be immediately obvious. Keep an eye on them and if you have any reason for concern, please do address it.

Suggested reading.

Teaching Financial Literacy For Kids

Teaching Financial Literacy For Kids

Welcome to another article of HelpingKids Parent Academy. Today I want to talk about financial literacy for kids, but first a celebration.  🎉 This is now our 18th article since September 2019 and it seems we are getting a few things right. Thank you for your comments and support. As always, feel free to send us questions or topics you’d like us to elaborate on and we’ll do our best to cover those ideas.

I want to talk about Money. Sometimes a dirty word, sometimes an obsessive word, many times, a confusing topic, especially for parents of younger children who are just starting to think about financial literacy for kids.

I am aware this topic doesn’t rank very high in the list of worries for parents. In fact, it is probably more of a curiosity than anything else. Yet, money and our personal approach to it is one of the most important things that will determine our children’s future. I have heard saying that our relationship with money is our relationship with ourselves. Well, I am not so sure but definitely, it is a strong part of who we are.

In this article I want to share with you: 

1.      General background ideas about financial literacy for kids and parenting 

2.      Thought-provokers to help you define what is that you’d like to pass to your children about money

3.      Tactical ideas on how to help them learn to manage money. This part is mostly for children from 10 onwards, but I am sure you can adapt it to almost any age.

I am very open to this topic and respect equally those people who are ambitious about their financial goals, as much as those that are not motivated by it. I don’t see it as right or wrong but as an opportunity to teach other ideas.

I see money education as a way to teach responsibility, compromise, planning, decision making, and even empathy.

Financial Literacy For Kids

If you think about it, every financial decision we make will have the above connotations and much more. Buying an ice cream after school in the summer could be just a treat my teenager daughter/son chooses to do, but what happens when those treats escalate, when he or she feels she has to go to Starbucks (or the coffee chain of the day) and spend several pounds on treats just because their friends are doing it. It is not a question of money, but the thought process before spending that money.

On another level, think about children saving or raising money for a specific cause (to buy a new phone or to support a charity project). It takes planning,  goal setting, decision making, and, in certain cases, a huge degree of empathy.

The decision-making process before parting with money is an important part of financial literacy for kids, what we teach our children and how it affects future decisions.

In one of the links I include below, they have the following quotes (please be aware I haven’t cross-checked them, but they make sense to me):

“Parents are the number one influence on their children’s financial behaviors”

Basically, our approach to money will dictate our children’s relationship, or lack of, with money. Nothing shocking there, parents are always the first and many times the stronger influence in our children, but an important reminder.


“Children as young as three years old can grasp financial concepts like saving and spending. And a report by researchers at the University of Cambridge commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Money Advice Service revealed that kids’ money habits are formed by age 7.”

Again, not shocking as we know that our children’s personality is almost fully formed by the age of 6. However, it is interesting how wide an effect it can have.

Considering these ideas, it makes a lot of sense that we take some time to think about money.

Many of you are thinking: darn, my kid is 10, I blew it by now? Or “my kid is only two, I don’t have to worry about this for a while. 

In both cases, it’d be better to consider your views. In the first case, because, as a life coach for children, I believe and see every day how we all can change and learn differently. In the second case, because the sooner you start thinking about financial literacy for kids, the easier it will be.

Financial Literacy For Kids

In the following part of the article, you will read a lot of ideas for your children. I would like you to consider them also for yourself. Remember that your relationship with money is their first influence. Basically, you have to talk the talk and walk the walk.

So, up to here, the general ideas on Money. Again, not a concern at the same level of anxieties or challenging behaviour, but an important concept nonetheless. 

And now, we start with the part defining what is important to us (and hence for our children) about money. 

When I was in the corporate world, we constantly repeated the concept of starting with the end in mind (From the 7 habits of highly efficient people, Stephen Covey). I still use it for a lot of my work and in this case, it is a great example of how to use it.

How do we begin teaching financial literacy for kids?

So, starting with the end in mind, fast forward a few years. If your child is below 10 years old, fast forward to when they are fifteen. They start socialising, their demands are more specific (and expensive), the peer pressure is affecting them, they are becoming independent persons.  Maybe they have organised fundraising activities for charity or even they have got a job (babysitting, dog walking, chores around the house or for neighbours, etc).

If your child is in the teenage years, take them forward to their early 20’s. They might be living by themselves. They are either in higher education or working. They organise their meals, laundry, etc and social interactions (trips, concerts, evenings out) are a massive part (in time and importance) of their life. again, they will have friends with more and less money, they will see people with expensive clothes and people who can’t go out every evening as they don’t have the cash. You might be their source of income, a complement or they are managing fully by themselves.

Once you have made a picture of what could happen (remember, this is guesswork, only to help the next part), now think about what is important for you to teach your child about money. How do you want him/her to react to money, money issues, wealth, unexpected circumstances etc. 

Place them in different situations and see what comes out. Put yourself in the good, the bad, and the ugly of situations. Think, how would you like your child to respond in those situations. Furthermore, think about how you react and see the pattern emerging.

Here are some ideas for developing financial literacy for kids

·         How important is it to save money? 

·         How do you go about saving?

·         Do you save for a short-term reason/goal?

·          Do you save for security? (you never know when you’ll need extra cash) or because you have extra cash?

·         What happens when they ask for their birthday as a very expensive present? 

·         How do you want them to understand the concept of value? 

·         Do you prioritise their satisfaction (getting the present) or the money spent? 

·         Do you give them a budget to think about? 

What about their relationship with their peers and money? 

Their friends all (it’s never all but they will claim they are the only ones who don’t have it) have the latest phone/shoes/clothing brand.

·          What would you want them to do? 

·         How would you want them to think? 

·         what would you like them to say to their friends?

·        Their best friend’s birthday is coming. This friend is very important for them and they are looking for a present.

·         How do you support them on the money front? 

·         Give them a budget?

·          Look for what is right? 

·         A combination? 

·         Want to impress their friend with a great present?

·          Or think it’s better something personal with a nice handmade card?

Perhaps financial literacy for kids  can develop through games.

They are into a computer game and stuck in one level, they can easily do it by spending money on certain gadgets, or they can work themselves through it. They have tried several times and failed. 

What is the reaction you’d like them to have?

Imagine them receiving a small but meaningful amount of money.

 What would you like them to do with it?

How would they use it? 

Treat themselves because they deserve it, go on a trip of a lifetime, save it, save part and treat themselves to something smaller, invite their friends out… 

Now, a more left-field idea. Imagine money was a person. How would this person behave, what would this person do, where would be this person’s priorities. What type of things would this person do in his free time?

One thing I have learnt after 10 years of coaching children and parents, is that many people don’t practice the strategies we develop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of you don’t do the above exercise. It is fine, but I also know that if you have read so far, you will think about financial literacy for kids. That’s all you need.

Take a bit of time when on the bus or the car or walking the dog to think about it. We don’t need a lot of time, just a few ideas and you’ll be able to form yourself with your own concept of money and understand if that is the one you want to share (pass down) with your children or you need to make some changes yourself.

Maybe you only need one of those questions above, take that one and explore it.

And this part concludes the second area I wanted to share with you: the thought provokes.

Finally, as I said at the beginning, I wanted to share a simple approach that I believe has helped my own daughters and many others. If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that no idea will work for everybody. Hopefully, you will get the important concept behind it and take it or adapt it as you see fit. 

Again, there is a lot of information online about pocket money, when to start giving it, how to do it (a fixed amount, based on chores, etc). 

I personally think that before the age of 11, the children can get the concept of money, saving and decision making in a general way. Financial literacy for kids will be influenced by the talk and behaviour you display.

It is normally between the age of 10 and 12, when children are about to move to secondary school when they will start managing their own money. It is also here when independent, decision-making and responsibility towards their “income” becomes important.

At this time, parents are faced with important decisions. Do I give them money, how much, what is included in that money, what if they ask for more money. Do I give them money once a week, once a month, or as and when they need it? As before, my job is not to tell you what to do, but to expose you to ideas so you can make your own choice.

An approach that I like for financial literacy for kids is the following:

We start with defining the weekly amount of pocket money you can provide to your children. Be mindful of their lifestyle and how much they truly need. Include what areas of spending are their responsibilities (treats and special purchases) and which ones are yours (i.e. birthday presents for friends, school/sports equipment, etc.

Once you have done this, have a conversation with them. Tell them that they are old enough to manage it and that you trust them to make their own choices. Be also clear on what is included and not. If needed, write it on paper. Likely, you won’t get all the eventualities. When new occasions happen just think for yourself and tell them whether it is within their responsibility or yours.

I recommend then, to open a bank account just for this, set up a direct debit for their allowance, and ensure they have a debit card they can use. Most banks will offer this for young people and you will have access to their transactions. In the UK, when the kid is over 13, they can have direct access to their transactions. At this time most kids will have a smartphone and can download the bank’s app. This is a hugely important part of the process. They have the money, but they also have the mechanism to track their expenditure. It is important they take ownership of this with the full resources.

When they get extra money (birthday, Christmas, etc), ask them (or strongly suggest) if they want to put it in their account so they can keep track. It is very important you also consider how relatives or other adults might be affecting the learning of financial literacy for kids. Sometimes we have “uncle or Auntie” who will give them money for no specific reason. Ensure your children can share that with you as it might mean they are finding themselves with too much money for your goals.

Now, they are ready to start using their money (or not). Give them two or three weeks of no control whatsoever (the card won’t allow them to spend more than they have). After this period, simply ask them: how are you getting on? How much money do you have left? How have you spent the money? 

Some children will be able to give you full detail of their expenditure. Others will be very vague, and a few will avoid the topic altogether.  This is a very important part as you will start noticing their default approach. Are they keeping track, do they even bother about it? And you can check if those approaches are aligned with what you want them to learn.

Repeat that conversation every week or every other week. Talk to them casually about it, if they go out, ask them how much they spent and how that computes with their allowance (i.e. well if you went to the cafe and spent £2.95 in there, that is more than half/third/a fifth of your allowance, how are you going to get by the rest of the week?).

So far, this will only prepare the groundwork for financial literacy for kids. The interesting conversation happens when there is something they really want and they don’t have money, when they run out of money altogether, or when they are stopping themselves from doing things because of money.

These are the important talks. Whatever you do, be mindful of rescuing them. If you step in, they will likely create the idea that mum and dad’s bank will be there. You will not allow the learning to happen.

Some kids will ask you permission to get a job (or will find a way to get money). Again, that is another decision you might want to help them make. Is it right, is it the priority, what implications it has in their social, academic, and personal life?

I wish I could explain all the possible eventualities, but we would be here forever. Also, I don’t think you need it if you have done your thinking and thought-provoking about how you want to teach financial literacy to kids. It will not give you all the answers, but it might give you the criteria to make the decisions.

I now want to leave you with a personal story. 

My daughter, 14 at the time, was not much into saving. She would manage her money, don’t ask much but wouldn’t have much in case of “need”. One day, while doing the supermarket shopping, I asked her:
Me: how are you doing with your money?
Her: ok
Me: how much do you have?
Her: I am not sure
Me (thinking): hmmmmm what’s going on here. Alarm bells are starting to show
Me: well, you have your phone. Why don’t you check?
Her: I will later at home when I get wifi
Me (thinking): ok, this promises to be interesting. Alarm bells are all going now.
Me: It won’t take much, please do it.
Her (moaning and not wanting to do it, eventually caves in)
Her: I have £7
Me: oh… as it is Saturday morning, you got your direct debit for £5 yesterday and you didn’t go with your friends, it means you had £2 in your account. 
Her: ……. 
Me: oh well. You better think about it.
I was tempted to give her some money. I didn’t want her to stop doing things with her friends or to feel less than them. But I didn’t do it. She didn’t ask for it either which was very encouraging. She blew it up but owned it. 
Now, the not-so-clear part.
A couple of days later, we met the lady selling their Big issue in a supermarket close to our house. I frequently stop and have a chat with her. I was walking with my daughter. When the lady sees us she says: oh, this is your daughter? I didn’t know that? She is so nice, every time she sees me here she asks me if I want something. She gets me a chocolate bar or something. She is so nice.
And that’s when I melted.
I struggled with the decision. She has to own/manage her own money, but she is also showing generosity and not even asking for emotional credit from me. I had no idea she was doing this.
I then opted to top her account a bit, ensuring she knew it was because of her good heart and generosity. We still had a chat about her managing her money and she came across as a lot more conscious of the need to do so.
I found that this process was a huge learning for them as well as for me. It has clearly opened conversations that we wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for it.
And that is for me in this article. I hope you enjoyed it and gave you some food for thought.

As always, please take the ideas and adapt them to your situation. There are many ways of going about any topic, the important part is to be clear on what you want them to learn and how you contribute to it.

Children and Technology; How to empower your kids

Children and Technology; How to empower your kids

Hello and welcome to another article, this time I want to share with you a very hot topic: children and technology

I must admit I have been putting this back in my list of articles. In my conversation with parents and children it is almost as controversial a topic as homework. Also, on a personal level, I wasn’t sure if I was getting it right for either my daughters or myself. This was until a few things happened and the result and feedback encouraged me to go ahead and share my experiences and strategies with you.

There is another reason for me to write this article:  I have seen parents taking two strategies to deal with children and technology and neither of them works in the long term.

Option 1: very limited or no technology policy

Option 2: let them regulate themselves, as long as their work is done it’s ok.

If you are in one of those approaches, I truly wish you the best. If you can make it work, let me know. 

Let me start narrating what a 15 years old told me.

“Javier, I wake up at 7, and from the very first minute, I am tense. I know I have a long day ahead of me. I go to school thinking about if I got my homework right, if I will get caught by a teacher doing something I shouldn’t, or maybe they think I am doing something I shouldn’t. I must put all my attention into lessons because it is an important year. All through the day in school, I feel under pressure. When I get home, I am mentally tired, and yet I have two or three hours of homework to do. The only way for me to let some steam out is with the Xbox. I play mostly fortnight because it’s quick, and I am good at it. If I don’t do well, I can have another short game. I evade myself; it is fun and I can do well. There are no expectations. Then, I realise I have wasted an hour or two and now it is late, I am more tired than before and less able to concentrate, yet I have to do the homework, my tension is off the scale. My mum comes and tells me off, I know she is right, but I can’t accept it. She is the one putting pressure on me. Well, she is not always doing it, but my problem is the same. At this point, I am only panicking.” This is often a problem with children and technology as a means of procrastination. I mention tips for motivating kids for homework in a previous article you can read it here.

I don’t want to sound scaremongering. Of course, there are thousands of children who play games and use technology that doesn’t go through this process. However, as a dad/mum, do you want to take your chances?

Now, let me give you another very different example about children and technology.

Lola is a very articulated, charming 10 years old girl. All her school friends have an iPad, they use it in school and most of them are creating groups to text each other or play. She is fuming because her mum has a no-technology policy. This is what she says to me:

“Mr Orti, I don’t get it. I am the only one. I thought there were two or three more in my class, but everybody has the iPad, they are sending themselves messages, I am totally excluded. I must make up excuses to not give them my email or details. I tell them my iPad is being repaired because I am so ashamed of being the only one. They all can do whatever they want. I have all this rules and policies that my mum says, and I am very upset and angry. It is not fair; I am the only one. Everybody else has their iPads”

You can think the two examples of children and technology are very different (a boy, a girl, ipad, Xbox, texting, playing, talking with friends, evasion from pressure) and you are right. However, you would be missing the role that technology has in those kids lives. And that role is the same.

Fundamentally, children are using technology for one single purpose: to connect.

Many children use it to connect with their peer group, other children use it to connect with themselves. The latter is what we normally would see as evading themselves, letting behind the busy life and stress and finding a safe space.

When I see young teenagers using Snapchat, Instagram or Tiktok, what they are doing is creating a virtual world/bubble of safety (or so they think) for themselves. 

children and technology

Imagine their use of technology as your use of imagination when you were a child. I can imagine you are thinking this is a silly analogy, but it is not far from the truth.

When we were kids, we would spend hours (at least I did and not always at the right times as some of my teachers will testify) in our heads, creating a safe world of adventures, or fun, or connection. I can think, for most people, those worlds would be populated and there might be challenges, and good guys and bad guys. And we would overcome those challenges, and we would feel amazing and relaxed and having fun.

Well, when children tell me about Minecraft, or Fortnite, it is not a million miles away. It is just that they are doing it via a device rather than their imagination. 

So, we could say, children and technology it is not so bad then? In the end, they are just using their imagination through a device. 

Well I don’t believe in black or white statements and there is one part that we haven’t yet talked about.

While our imaginary worlds could be amazing, we would either have it on our head or we would need our friends to create them. 

Technology allows them to share those worlds or imagination. This forms an even stronger sense of belonging. They share their experiences and they belong to the group. This fact reinforces the sense of connection to a disproportionate level.

So, when a young person is spending time on their games, they will have many reasons, but the fundamental need that is being fulfilled is the need to evade to a world where they feel connected.

There is a big part, too big for this article about children and technology to go into detail about their need for connection. The reality is that the more connected they feel with their family and physical friends, and stronger sense of belonging they have, the less important that technology will be. So, what is driving their need for connection? or in a different way: what is driving their sense of being left out?

As I said, that is a topic for another whole article as what I want to do on this one is to propose strategies for you to guide your thinking, approach to technology and how your children use it.

Here is my experience from hundreds of sessions of life coaching teenagers.

Let’s start with the basics, according to me. Technology, like most things in this life, is not either good or bad. It is what we make of it. Also, like it or not, our world has changed, and our children are living and will live in a world different from us. They will live in a world in which technology will play a fundamental part in their lives.

I have heard the concept that the future generations will be divided (unfortunately human race does always separate) between those that understand and manage technology and those that don’t. 

I am sure you have heard or read headlines about how Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids, technology free. I have done some research and have only found anecdotal information about this and, when expressed, it was more a question of restricting usage rather than avoiding it. 

As mentioned, this article is not so much about technology, yes or not. It is about how to manage children and technology in a way that empowers children now, and in the future.

Here are my two principles for what I will share with you next:

1.      I believe in teaching and empowering children to make decisions in an age appropriated way.

2.      Children are not mature to make many decisions and you cannot delegate the one about use of technology. However, you can help them learn.

What I want to say is that, as much as I love my children and want to empower them to make the right choices, I would not give my 14 years old my car keys or let her open a bottle of whisky.

As parents, we have spent a lot of time teaching our children right from wrong (tell the truth, don’t lie, do your homework, don’t play with knives, look before you cross the road, which movies are appropriated for each age). Yet, we haven’t done the same for technology. In many cases, we have delegated that responsibility to them by the mere fact that we haven’t taken it.

Well, it is our responsibility. Any kid below the age of 16, in my opinion, is not suited to make the call of how they use technology. 

Going back to my two principles. It is our responsibility and now the question is to help them make their age appropriate choices.


This works in two levels: firstly, it is which games, apps, etc will they be exposed to. Secondly, it is about how long they can use it. 

Start thinking about those but be ready to adapt your decisions to your children and technology (keeping your criteria). Then you can continue with the rest of the article.

I am now going to fast forward and assume that a big proportion of you reading this article are finding themselves in the difficult situation of managing your child’s usage of technology (i.e. time). I am going to assume that your young person doesn’t have any restrictions.

Here is a strategy to adopt that has worked very well.

I have built it up in steps and I hope this helps you see the process. If you have read other articles, you’ll know I do like my processes.

Step 1: First things first: start with the data

Use your phone, tablet, or computer data before you do anything. In general, we will all be poor judges of our habits, (we will tend to overestimate what we are doing well and underestimate what we are doing wrong (have you seen the tv program: secret eater?). Your child, of any age, will struggle to give you an accurate estimation of the number of hours (I don’t think you can do this in minutes) they spend on the screen. Using real data is a must if you want to have a reasonably adult to adult conversation.

If you can’t extract data, time them over a few days before you have the conversation, set up parental controls to time them (not to control them yet). 

I can imagine this first step of dealing with children and technology overuse can be painful for some of you and your children. It wasn’t easy either for me, but it is critical to do it. An option is to do this as a group, for instance, you will install and share the same information with them reg your usage.

Helping kids successful parenting

Step 2: have the first conversation (yes, the first, there are a few more to come).

I call it explain the situation. In this conversation it is fundamental to keep a level-headed approach, simply stating what you have observed. It would go something like:

I want to talk to you about your screen time. I have been observing it and I think it is a bit out of control. I have noticed how; on average you have used your phone/iPad/computer for almost two hours per day. 

I know it might seem little but if you consider this is 14 hours per week, it is like a whole awake day per week spent on your screen when you could have been doing loads of other things.

I am a bit worried about this and wanted to let you know.

At this point, stop it there and let them explain themselves. Don’t engage in conversations or challenge their assumptions. Simply mention that it is way too much.

Step 3: Defining the problem and setting up the rules.

After a few weeks (two or three is good enough) of continuous monitoring, you will find out that nothing or very little has changed (if it has improved, give them a medal!). It is time to have the second conversation. Again, remained calmed and fact based. If your kids are struggling with homework, exams or other areas they like it is a good time to bring it in. For instance:

A few weeks ago, we talked about your screen time. I have noticed nothing or very little has changed. At the same time, I have noticed your grades haven’t benefited from this (or have noticed you anxious about your friends, or tired in the mornings). Now I am a bit worried and I am not sure you are conscious of how much you are using the screen/games/etc.

I trust you are a clever boy/girl and you can make your own choices, but unless something changes, I will need to make the choice myself. Should we give it a few weeks and see what happens? But I must warn you that unless you manage this, I will have to step in.

My experience is that this will generate some short-term benefit, however most likely it will quickly revert to usual habits.

It is also important to define what you think is a suitable use for children and technology. There are loads of information online about this and you can use some of the links below to make up your mind. Obviously, this will depend by age group and maybe you want to bring some weekend/weekday flexibility.

Step 4: Activating the rules.

Now, assuming your children are like the vast majority, is when the potential argument happens. In order to defuse it, we will take a three-step approach. It is time to limit the usage, but it is important to ensure you don’t make a personal fight of this. There was an agreement, you gave them the choice (in several occasions) and they haven’t full-filled their part of the bargain. Here is a small script:

I am afraid nothing much has changed. We agreed to limit your screen time to certain times and a maximum number of hours, and you are still well over what we decided. I am afraid I need to set up some blocks, but I want to do it in a way that helps you. I understand it is important for you, so we have to get to an agreement.

I suggest blocking it during homework time and at certain times before bed time. 

Or: I suggest you have a maximum number of hours (hour) per day. 

I am not going to limit you to those hours as I know it can be annoying, but I want to trust you and you will make the right choice.

I must admit I feel a bit bad about this because it is almost setting them up for failure, however it is also a big generation of self-awareness. At this point, please continue to bring up the things they like they are not doing or the things they need to do (homework, grades, reading) that they are not achieving. This part is hugely important as it will dictate the next step.

Step 5: Implement the limits.

Now, there is no need to wait a few weeks. A few days will be enough. Most likely they will not change their habits and after a few days, while the conversation and “agreement” stills clear in their mind, prepare for the difficult conversation. It goes something like this:

This is the fifth conversation we have about this and nothing has changed. I have given you as many chances as I could, but I haven’t seen any result. It is now time for me to totally limit the time you spent on screen and when you can use it.

In this step, technology is your ally again. Use the available blocking technology and parental controls rather than physically engaging in shutting down the computer or taking their phones away, this way you can prevent some friction with children and technology while still creating an important boundary reminder.

“I will block the computer for a number of weeks. You still have X minutes during the day, and I am happy to extend that on the weekend to X more minutes.”

My personal advice here: in for a penny, in for a pound. It will be annoying to them and it is likely you will have at least one argument; you might as well go the full length and limit it as much as necessary. You can always give them something back and they might thank you. The other way around (taking further time away from them) will only result in regular conflict.

Step 6: review.

Teenagers and computers

In my experience, you will need between three to six weeks to establish new habits. It is important you don’t deviate from the plan. Be aware they are crafty kids and they will look, and most likely, find ways to bend the rules (find passwords to unlock it or spend time in their friends’ phone). After this week, you will notice a big change in the family dynamics. They will still not like it and you can give them the sporadic change of routine, however, be mindful that if you break the rules too much, it will be hugely difficult to re-establish them.

Step 7: Give them some lead way.

Assuming all has gone according to plan after one or two months, you can have another conversation with your children and technology use. Think about holidays or weekend flexibility, This is about devolving a small part of responsibility to them, under the agreement of sensible usage. For instance, if you have hugely limited their use of screen (i.e. 15 or 30 mins per day) you can give them special dispensation for the weekends. It is important to use this to rather than break the rules, to reinforce them. 

“I have noticed how responsible you have been on your screen time (not that they had an option) and I am so pleased. I have noticed you …. (sleeping better, more focussed, less anxious, talking more with us, spending more time with your siblings/friends). I think we can open up the rules a bit but only a bit, you are still in school and it is important to not change them too much. Also, I am counting on you to be mindful on how you use it.”

In this stage, it is important to understand that you can only give them the time you are happy for them to use. Expecting too much from them will only result in frustration.

And this is it. This is my strategy for helping empower children and technology and the one I explain to many parents. I am aware there are thousand of variations (i.e. I need to use the computer for my school work) but I hope it gives you an indication on how to go about it.

Finally, a hugely important point:

how will you do this for yourself? Chances are that you are also abusing your screen time when at home. What is a good amount of time for you? How will you limit it?

You can take this approach and do it with your children, rather than for them, creating something together, spending time playing, talking, cooking, etc.

Are you finding it scary the thought of parting with your phone? if so, it only says that you really need to get going. If it’s not scary, remember we are all poor judges of what we do, get your screen time data and see what you think.

I hope you liked the article about children and technology and have got some ideas on how to go about it. As always, take the concept and adapt it to your personal situation. It is important you start a process you feel you can deliver. Changing the rules halfway through or not monitoring or avoiding the conversation will not help them.

Have a lovely day and do let us know how you get on with it.

Suggested reading

Decision making skills; empowering your teen.

Decision making skills; empowering your teen.

This week I would like to talk about teaching decision making skills in continuation of the article named.  I want my children to be happy.

In that article I explained how life coaching teens is about giving happiness vs helping our children decide for themselves and giving them the tools to learn. In that article, I also explain the key areas for us to educate our children at the different stages of their life. 

I think this article, I want to continue with the topic of helping our children be happy, but also giving you a bit of a thinking process to use when teaching decision-making skills

So, why am I telling you all this?

 Because during our kids’ formative years, what we tend to do is to provide for our children. We provide material things and give them the best and most supportive environment possible. Nothing wrong there, is it?

However, are we helping them be happy by themselves? Or are we providing the happiness. If it is the latter, then it means that when we are removed (i.e. school, or friend) they might not be as capable of judging by themselves or develop poor decision-making skills. So, how are we equipping them to be happy without us? 

Life Coaching Teenagers

When talking about life coaching teens, one key idea that I share with parents is the Sympathy trap. When our children are facing a difficult situation (and this will vary by age) our instinct will be to jump it. More than helping resolve an issue, we will be tempted to do it for them or virtually do everything.  These behaviours go from writing a note to the teacher, to ask the coach to give him/her more play time. In some cases, parents might keep away from school (he is a bit tired today) several times, or even ask the young person to ignore what their teachers are saying.

Now, with our hand on our hearts… who can blame the parents? We just want to give them as much happiness as possible. Also, it makes us feel good, loved, great loving parents and that time and those hugs we get when we resolve the situation make us feel like superman/woman.

On the other hand, children will learn, slowly but surely, that when they feel delicate (and this is a vague word on purpose) they will be getting support. As this action-reaction is repeated a pattern might be created with a powerful underlying message: dad/mum will solve it for me. Rather than using their decision-making skills and feeling empowered.  

Having worked as a teen life coach for many years, I need to highlight a possible further step, we can also see a potential (as not every kid will develop it) belief being formed: I cannot resolve it by myself because I am….. (insert here your choice of words and you won’t go far off: weak, unreliable, clumsy, shy, etc). 

When those beliefs are formed in a child’s mind, it becomes so entrench that will start limiting them. Their confidence, self-esteem goes and they will start either retrieving into themselves (pulling out of things they enjoy), giving up easily or becoming disproportionately competitive (as a way of masking their lack of confidence and lack of decision making skills).

And we have now created for ourselves the sympathy trap.

Our kid is delicate, can we fix it and give them back decision making skills?

Darn, I keep hearing Bob the Builder all around: can we fix it? Yes, we can! And the more we fix things, the more they need us to fix them for them.

can we fix it.

Now, I want you to consider an alternative approach to life coaching teens. Of course, you will have to adapt this to your child’s age but I am confident you’ll get the idea.

Step 1: how critical is for my child to resolve this situation? 

    If it is important go to step 2

    If it is not critical: work on active listening and avoid making suggestions. You might want to use some of the ideas in further steps, but your role here in be coaching teens, becomes more of a listener rather than an active participant.  

Step 2: what is the most important lesson my child can learn from facing this situation?

(resilience, confidence, conflict resolution, responsibility, autonomy, etc). Be aware that a lesson had doesn’t mean a lesson learnt. Repetition is crucial to learning and developing their decision-making skills.

Step 3: what is my role in this situation and what are my child’s role and responsibility?

How can I help my child take on his responsibility to resolve this situation? How can he/she also learn that important lesson. As a rule of thumb, it is ok to be involved with your child but the less involved you are in the actual situation and resolution, the better.

Step 4: What support or tools will my child need to resolve this situation by him/herself?

This is a critical step, avoid from giving them the solution, allow them to work this out by themselves. You can make suggestions, but remember it is their responsibility to eventually take on those ideas and use them.

Step 5: Stand back.

Let them do their part.  

Step 6: Help them assess how it went.


What worked well, what didn’t work. Help them connect with the key learning they are experiencing. I.e.: “what you did talking to your friends is a sign of confidence. Well done.”

This can be a frustrating step as some kids will either not do anything, or not do as discussed with you. That’s fine. Remember whose responsibility is to resolve the issue in life coaching teens, you are empowering them to take control.

Step 7: most situations will not be resolved in one go. Go back to step 1 and repeat.

As children learn to manage things for themselves, they will gain confidence and resilience. They will become more autonomous and, most importantly, they will learn they have great decision making skills to resolve those situations. This will have a great impact on their self-esteem and overtime, a great impact on how they judge their ability to be happy.

Of course, I am not advocating for a robot approach to parenting.  In life coaching teens, sometimes we will need to step forward and have those conversations. Sometimes we’ll need to give them plenty of cuddles and comfort. What I am advocating is to be discerning about when and how to take each approach.

And that’s what I wanted to share with you in this article how empowering decisions making skills can be!  Be mindful of our desire to provide for our kids, as sometimes the best thing we can do for them is to let them fence for themselves.

When using this approach, start with the areas you feel better equipped to delegate and you child better equipped to address. Then start giving them more space to resolve situations by themselves.

If it helps, keep in mind the line of “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Suggested reading.

Happy Kids with Confidence and Independance.

Happy Kids with Confidence and Independance.

In this article I wanted to talk about how to raise happy kids without falling in to the trap of providing happiness

I Just want my child to be happy.

Hello, and welcome to this article. I seem to be developing a habit of calling out the traps. While it is not a language I normally use, I can see these habits in a lot of my work and sometimes, a flashy title helps people understand the concept better.

In the previous article, we talked about the fairness trap. It is not fair! Your kid making of right and wrong or fairness a battle and parents failing to keep up.

In this article I want to call your attention over another topic, the sympathy trap. I am conscious many of you will read this and think I am a cold-blooded person, or a parent/coach out of the nineteen centuries. Well, I am not. I consider myself a tremendously caring person with very modern and well-trained views on parenting and supporting young children.

So, let’s start from the beginning.

When I ask parents, what is that they want for their children, everybody says the same: I just want them to be happy.

so far so good.

So, as modern parents, how do we go about having happy kids?

In my experience, I have noticed a confusion between
– Helping and supporting our children to be happy
– Giving them happiness.

What is the difference?

For me, the first is the role of an educator. The parent helps the children understand and learn how to make decision, what is right/wrong and how they can achieve their own goals.

The second, is the role of a provider. I give the children what they need to be happy kids or what they and/or I think they need to be happy.

In the hundreds of conversations, I have with parents, I haven’t seen yet one that admits doing the second more than the first, however their behaviour is very different from their thoughts. Think about how many times you had to go back to school because your child forgot their homework, or the notes written to the teacher excusing the kid from something they don’t feel like doing.

On a more extreme side, think about all those side-lines football parents. How they shout and confront referees or coaches because they are being unfair to their children.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. The second is a lot easier than the first. The main reason is because we feel more in control of the outcome. If I go and complain to the school/teacher I am certain I will pull my weight and they will do something about my kid. However, if I work with my child to prepare him for a conversation with his teacher, he might be taken for a ride and nothing will change.

Before we go any further. I want to share something that I see as fundamental in my work as a life coach for children and teenagers. Just bear in mind that these ideas (age groups) will vary depending on the maturity of the kid.

Fundamentally, this theory (which I learn ages ago but can’t seem to find where I learnt it) says that in our early years we evolve in chunks of three years (0-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15. 16+). What I have observed is that the kids needs from us vary significantly in each of those stages, however we are not always ready to adapt our role.

Here is a brief summary of what I think is important in each stage to support happy kids. Of course, it is for you to assess and decide. My main goal is to prompt you to think on how your role change as they change.

Happy kids toddlers

0 to 3 years old

We provide a nurturing safe space for our children. We care for them, their education, their social interaction and we surround them with love.

4 to 6 years old

4-6 year old

The child starts school and socialise more. We provide them with academic and social support. We spend time talking to parents and teachers to ensure they are surrounded by great people and they have the best experience possible in this important formative years for supporting happy

If there is a problem (i.e. friendship issues) they tend to be small and reasonably “easy” (for the lack of a better word) to resolve. We talk to them, talk to the teacher or whoever to resolve it and restores their happiness.

I see as critical that we start talking to them about choices and options. This will be in an age relevant way and only on the topics that are suitable to them. However, this can also be brought up when conflict happens

A couple of examples:
– “I know you are upset for us not doing what you wanted, you have the choice to continue being upset and we will probably get upset as well, or you have the choice to understand our decision.”

“You know it is your bed time. You have the option of going to bed, or reading in bed for a few minutes. It is your choice”

I always advice parents to provide a limites number of choices for them to think about. Two is ideal, but you can suggest three if needed. All those options will be aligned with your primary goal. Giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility will build mutual trust.

7-9 years old

7-9 year old

Things are starting to get more difficult. The social interactions (best friends, birthday parties, etc) are getting more complex. The dynamic is changing. Academic (school and homework) are becoming more demanding and we really want them to be successful, happy kids in all those areas. We spend loads of time with them, we talk to the football coach, spent hours in cold weather watching them play football. Tell them how great they are, buy them new sports kit, provide tutoring and aim to give them great birthday parties and christmas is again full of joy for us.

At this time, we also start noticing how some of our effort is not being appreciated. That expensive toy they wanted, sits there unused for weeks. There are some more arguments around about work, decisions or bed time. The child start sharing what other parents do (aren’t they all better than you? They give them more money, buy them more expensive stuff or allow them to have much more freedom). Yet, we aim to compensate that and provide our best for them. If we need to stop treating ourselves to something, we’ll gladly do it and they will have what they need to succeed.

Yet, every now and then we have the doubt of saying: why am I pushing myself? Is it really being appreciated? But we dismiss those thoughts and continue our taxi driver duty to take them to every possible activity, our teacher duty to ensure they have the work well for next day, cooking and cleaning duty is a given. We just want them to be well, happy kids and to give them all the possibilities to succeed

I think this stage is crucial (as well as the next) to educate our children in decision making and choices. It is important to set some balance between them and us. to ensure the accept our efforts and recognise them, not desiring praise or constant positive comments about our great parenting efforts, but as a recondition that everybody in the family have their role and responsibilities.

At this age, children are now realising they are not toddlers anymore. They have mixed feelings between all the comfort they had when being a young boy or girl and the desire to start testing their independence. It is our role to help them realise they are growing up and they have a lot to look forward to.

10-12 years old

preteen happiness

Big change to secondary school and becoming pre-teens. Their social life is taking off. The possible concerns are more marked and there are great highs and big lows.

Our role is pretty much the same as in the group before (provide everything they need) but the demands are becoming more difficult to meet.

If you remember one thing from this stage: teach them decision making. This means, help them assess what’s happening, what the possible solutions or outcomes, help them identify what is the right criteria to make a choice (within their area of responsibility. You have yours, they have theirs) and take ownership of making it happen and the consequences of it. Expanding autonomy and responsibility from this stage is important in developing thriving, happy kids.

At this age, hey might choose to stop learning music, or give up football. You have taken them so far, now they can make their own choice. If they chose to give up something, feel happy you exposed them to it. You can continue exposing them to new choices (new sports, new activities, etc) but, in my view, it is now their decision.

As mentioned several times. This has to be put in the context of what areas they can chose and what areas are off limit for them. For instance, going to school is not a choice they can take. Where to go on holidays, can be brought up for discussion but it is the parent’s choice as it involve finances and time (both of them precious). However, giving up flute, mandating or karate can be their choice.

My rule of thumb is: if I feel they gave it enough opportunities to make a decision, I will let them make it.

The more they learn about decision, the better prepared they will be for the next stage.

13-16 years old

teenager happys

Independence. Happy kids want to do things on their own and we allow them to take freedom. They have a nice mobile phone, they have money to buy clothes or go out with their friends. Most children will be perfectly loving and have a solid social and academic environment, however from time to time the arguments come up. The social interactions are way more difficult than anytime before, the potential conflict seems to be out of our reach to help them with. As parents, it is fair to say that we might feel out of our depth in how to help them deal with situations.

This stage is in critical combination with the previous. Independence comes with responsibly and decision making. They will only make good use of their independence if they have learnt to make choices, to understand what is right for them and what they won’t accept.

I am aware what I will write next might scare you, but I think it’s important for you to see it this way.

When you sweet boy or girl is 14yo, they will go out with their friends. They will go to the park after school, they will start coming home later, some friends will have parties and they will be invited. As neither you nor them what them to feel the odd one out, they will go to some of those parties. You won’t be there. Maybe even no other adult will be there.

Other kids, will bring alcohol, or pull out a joint of weed. They will offer it and pass it around.

They might start flirting and having some sort of emotional relationship.

In all those moments and many more, they will have to make decisions, the hardest ever as they will be under peer pressure (omg, they are all having a go a the vodka, maybe I should do it as well). The only way to help them make the right decision, is to help them learn about decision making and the responsibility that comes with their independency.

As you can imagine, I can continue writing forever, especially about helping parents to raise thriving, happy kids. But as a way of finishing this article, I wanted to leave you with a simple thought.

There is an outdoor clothing company called Berghaus.
Their tag line is: Trust is earned.

I believe my role is to educate children to be able to earn the trust they desire.

I hope you found this article useful. Please continue reading other articles and let me know your thoughts. The beauty is in the combined learning, every article will provide further information and different perspectives. Then you can chose how to go about it.

Further reading

It’s not fair! dealing with children’s sense of fairness

It’s not fair! dealing with children’s sense of fairness

In this article Javier tackles the sense of fairness in children and how to avoid the fairness trap by encoraging uniqueness and individuality.“It’s not fair!”

How many times as parents have we heard this? How many times have we gone over the odds to please everybody only to find the little ones (and not so little) fighting a corner that will only end up in frustration and, most likely, an argument?

I have to be honest, as a dad this was one of the most frustrating things to deal with. I would pride myself on being an honest, fair dad. As a young boy I hated when parents or relatives would award special dispensation to my older brother (oh… how I hated it! It still makes my stomach churn). So, when I became a dad, I made  fairness my flag… oh dear, I didn’t know what was coming.

10 years ago, I became a Children and Teenager Life Coach. In this time, I had thousands of conversations with young people and parents and can’t remember how many times this line has come up. As with my own family, it was a source of discomfort as I could sense something was going on and didn’t know how to tackle it.

Let’s illustrate this with a real case with a strong sense of fairness.

We are going to call this girl Gaby, of course, not her real name.

Gaby is a 11 years old girl. She has an older brother. Gaby is showing a very difficult behaviour at home, she is argumentative and would not hesitate to pick up a fight. More importantly, she will not give up until a final decision has been made. In most of the cases, she eventually manages to either get her own way or drag everybody with her, which seems stupid but there is some sense of achievement on this: “now it is fair because everybody is miserable, not only me.”

When I talk with Gaby, she spends most of the time talking about her brother and in virtually every situation, she is comparing herself to him.

Some comparisons made were:

If he does sport, why doesn’t she do it.

If he is not engaging in her arguments, why is he not doing it?

If he engages in argument, why are their parents not punishing him more as he is the oldest one?

If she has to take her exams (her brother already did), why is he not doing them?

If she has to do homework, why doesn’t her brother do more than her, as he is the oldest one?

If her brother was to stay up longer at night or have any specific treat… well, better not think about it.

Ok, granted, this is an extreme case and most parents will not experience this level of conflict, but it is not unusual to find similar situations in our daily parenting duties. Especially where there is a strong sense of fairness involved.

In many conversations I have heard parents (talking about other parents) say things like: they are too soft, they don’t have any rules, they need some discipline with her/him. In my experiences, it is always easier when talking about others than when facing those dilemmas ourselves. My job is not to judge, but to help.

Going back to Gaby and her parents. 

Her parents are lost and can’t figure out what to do. If they are too soft, it seems she is taking them for a ride. If they are too strict, hell breaks loose, and the conflict goes to extremes they can’t deal with. It is important to call your attention to the article about control that we published earlier. While the parents will have certain lines, they will not cross, children will not have those lines and will cross every line they can to get their own way.

A lot of the parents are frustrated because they think it is a premeditated behaviour: She is pushing me, she is pushing the limits, she is testing me.

And here comes something I also hear from parents a lot of the time: “but we don’t entertain that behaviour” or “ we never reward those things” “she doesn’t get her way”.

Before I start the next paragraph, I want to issue a disclaimer: I love the parents and children I support. I trust them all. But they tend to be poor judges of their own behaviour. So, take the next part of the article with my best intention in mind and use it to see your actions in a different way.

What are the normal outcomes of this conflict situation? and, most importantly, how it can be perceived by the child and their sense of fairness? Here are a few ideas:

 Parents escalate the argument (the kid will not get her way), there are arguments, bad energy, and tension. The whole time is ruined, and everybody is in a bad mood

     The child’s potential subconscious perception: “well, at least now we are equal and I am not the only one upset.”

 Parents try to sooth the young person (of any age) giving them attention while not giving them whatever they desire 

  The child’s potential subconscious perception: I got their attention, if I behave a bit more they will eventually forgive me and give it to me.

Parents try to compensate with other options (she can’t have more tv time but she is offered staying around later)

The child’s potential subconscious perception: I got something out of this, I could get something else.

Parents hold for a while, but eventually give up. Maybe you say: “no, you can’t see more telly” and then, after some conflict you concede “ok,you can see five more minutes” which eventually turn to 10 por 15.  These events tend to be low to medium intensity, but very frequent. Think about you kid interrupting you as they want you to do something for them right away and you put everything on hold.

The child’s potential subconscious perception: Ok, that worked well.

There is another part of the situation, this one happens a while later after the conflict, in case there has been an argument and/or shouting. Most parents that I know, will aim to make peace at some point, normally before bed time and ensure their kids go to bed in a good mood, as well as them going to bed with the feeling of having resolved the issue. Basically, we kiss, make up and let’s hope for a better day tomorrow.

Do the different situations sound familiar to you? Do you see a sense of fairness causing conflict in your home? 

And then, we just have to wait until the next outburst happens. 

It is not fair!

But it’s not fair for them, the kids,  or for you the parents.

I have to admit the next bit of the writing is a bit hard, but here it goes. If you can recognise yourself repeating one or several of those behaviours: it is not working. It will not work and it will only probably get worse. Sorry to say, but something has to change. You can wait for your child to change but think: who is the adult? who is able to change? who is more mature and can make better decisions?, yeah, it is you. Until you change your approach, your child won’t know what to change.

But let’s go back to the sense of fairness that children feel and how to deal with it. 

Well, I have some news. In my personal opinion, my role as a dad it’s not about fairness. In fact, being fair is probably the worst I can do for my children because it doesn’t recognise their individual needs.

As parents, I believe that our job is to provide each of our children with what they need at each time, respecting their uniqueness and boosting their individual opportunities. 

From this point, the “it’s not fair” argument doesn’t resonate with me at all, and I hope this article helps you see things in a different light.

If one child is sick, he/she will need more of my attention.

If one child is going through a difficult friendship situation, he/she will need my support more.

If one of my children are struggling with certain work and the others are doing well, then I have a duty of helping the one struggling. 

If my teenager daughter wants to go out, it is clear I would not set the same home-time to her than to my pre-teen daughter.

Those are obvious examples, but we can extend that to so many things.

Of course, there are other areas in which fairness is important. Just be careful and clear on which ones they are.

The point of this article is to help you avoid the Fairness trap. When your child tells you “it’s not fair” or displays a  misplaced sense of fairness,  just stop for a few seconds and consider this: Is this a fairness situation? Or is it a situation of doing what is right for each child independently?

We could complicate this topic as much as possible, but I like to keep things simple and I will leave it there. 

Avoid the fairness trap, If you feel it is not appropriate to consider fairness, don’t even go there. Don’t entertain the conversation. 

Aim to provide what each of your child needs at each time and they will be fine.

I know, I know

It is a lot easier said than done. But if you ever doubt, just think of the potential of not being clear on this point.

The goal is to make them each feel unique in their own, not by comparing themselves with their other siblings. Reinforce their uniqueness, individuality and self . They won’t take those 15minutes more of tv with them but they will take their sense of self and being appreciated as such with them for the rest of their life.

Suggested reading.

Hypnotherapy For Children And Teenagers

Hypnotherapy For Children And Teenagers

In this article I talk about Hypnotherapy for children. Let me start by introducing Chloe. Chloe (not her real name) was 10 years old. She is charming, fun, and smart. Her parents are devoted parents who always think about their kids and spend a lot of time with them.

Chloe also had a not very well-kept secret. She was afraid of cats, dogs and virtually every animal you can think of. When I say afraid, I mean scared to death of them. A complete irrational phobia.

One day, as she did every day, she left home, to go around the corner to her friends’. From there, they would walk with her friends’ mum to school. 15 minutes after she left, Chloe’s mum received a call: where is Chloe? We are waiting for her.

You can imagine how Chloe’s mum felt. She run out of the home, called on doors, stopped people and the whole neighbourhood was searching for her. Luckily, after 15 minutes they found her crying and wandering around.

Helping kids face fear
Hypnotherapy for children can help them conqure fear

This is what happened, when Chloe had left her house, on the corner, she saw a cat. Just laying there, doing nothing. Her irrational fear took the best of her and she went into panic. She could not go too close to the cat, so she opted to change sides of the road, but with her mind in a complete panic state, she changed directions as well, lost her bearing, and panic grew even further. After a minute or so, she was in such a state she could not tell right from wrong or reality from imagination. 

After this incidence is when Chloe’s parent contacted me to have a hypnotherapy session.

I can imagine many of you saying: what? Hypnotherapy for children? What is this all about?

I can also imagine some others thinking: hmmm, now that I think about it, maybe it’s a good idea.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify something. Different to other articles, this time I am not sharing techniques that you can use. Of course, you can get the ideas and learning, and I’d be happy if you so. But Hypnotherapy requires training.

You may ask, “How can hypnotherapy for children help my child”

My reason to write this article is not to sell what I do or my success. My reason is to help you decide on what is the right approach to help your child. I believe that the more honest information you have, the better you will be able to decide and the more sucessful a parent you will be. Like me, you will find many great practitioners and I want you to be able to select the one that will help you and your child the best. 

With this in mind, let me tell you more about hypnotherapy for children so, if you need to, you can make a call.

As you might know, I am a life coach specialised in working with children. In my life-coaching I use specially adapted techniques and approaches from Neuro Linguistic Programming and they are fantastic. Just like for adults, CEO’s or fashion designers, this tailored approach works fantastically well for children giving them, and their parents, understanding and strategies. 

I have been doing this job for almost 10 years and absolutely love it.

However, a few years ago I was concerned. In some cases, I was just not seeing the difference that the children and parents needed. Or at least, I wasn’t seeing as fast as I expected. In a particular case, I felt the client was feeling frustrated with the outcome.  That’s when I started to look for alternative ways to help my young people. Eventually I came across Marisa Peer and Rapid Transformational Therapy. 

If I say that doing this training changed my life and that of so many of my clients, it will be totally accurate.

But let’s start with some principles that are important for you to understand about hypnotherapy for children or hypnotherapy for teenagers.

  1. I will only see children over 5 or 6 years of age.
  2. Hypnotherapy is not a substitute or shortcut for day to day parenting. 
  3. There is no one size fits all: The hypnotherapy approach for children varies massively by the different age groups, the topic to resolve and their maturity.

Secondly, let’s clarify a few important points.

Hypnotherapy is basically the power of suggestion or, better said, the power of self-suggestion. As simple as that. No dark magic, no messing with the head or anything like that. What hypnotherapy does is to build a vision of how the young person wants to live their life, free of worries or bad habits.

There is no side effect of hypnosis. none, zero, nada. 

Hypnosis works by reaching to our less rational mind, our subconscious. In hypnosis we  leave our thoughts and connect with our feelings. Children, and especially young children’s brain haven’t developed the rational part, so they are constantly using the more emotional side of their brain. Basically they are in constant hypnosis (as a way of explaining). Hypnotherapy for Children (under 10yo) is as simple as telling them a story that links into what they and their parents want to achieve. As well as they react to story telling, they can react to hypnosis , we just do it more efficiently as we use repetition and a tiny bit of trance.

Will Hypnotherapy for children help Teenagers?

For teenagers, in my experience, the hardest thing is for them to want to want to change something as that implies accepting their role in whatever is happening and facing some difficult emotions. Most teenagers, especially those experiencing very difficult situations, will blame everything under the sun but themselves as a way of avoiding facing those feelings.

And finally, but most importantly: hypnotherapy cannot make anybody do anything they don’t want to. There has to be a desire to change before anything can happen. 

I hope the brief points above help to clarify some confusion about hypnotherapy 

So, now, to explain how and why hypnotherapy for children works so well

The first thing is to separate children into three groups. My personal groups are: 5-8, 9-10, 10 and older.

I create this separation based on my experience of their maturity and how they respond to working with an adult.

For children between 5 and 8 years old

Hypnotheraphy for kids through story time
Storytelling helps children connect with hypnotherapy

As mentioned above, hypnosis is as simple as story telling. In this story we make them the primary character. They also find a support character. For girls they could chose Fairies, for boys, they might want a cartoon character or a person they respect. I am always mindful of talking with parents and ensuring that person is acceptable to them as a role model. We then create a story in which they feel empowered to do something, or connected with friends or whatever they want to achieve. Finally, we can then extrapolate those feelings and success to their day to day situation. My very young clients only need one session. Recently I have helped a young girl get rid of her night terrors and a boy get a full head of hair after being bold for over a year. The power of self-suggestion.

For children over ten years old

 I follow a two steps approach. Firstly, it is important for them to feel comfortable with the person, so we spend maybe one or two sessions getting to know each other. We talk, play games and I explain the fantastic power of their mind. I share with them some suggestibility games so they can see the effects that sending certain instructions to the brain have on them. It never fails to generate laughter. At the same time, I do what we call “set them up for success”. Many children come to me thinking something is broken, and my first goal is to make them doubt that idea. Help them think: well, if that boy or girl managed to resolve this situation, maybe, just maybe I have a chance.

Once they are comfortable, we can do the session.

hypnotherapy for kids exploring the mind
Exploration is key in hypnotherapy for children

In the session, we help the find the root cause of what is happening to them. In hypnotherapy for children, we explore the events, causes or memories that created certain belief in their mind. When in hypnosis we cannot avoid being honest with ourselves. In coaching, many young clients deflect, ignore or openly lie to my questions. I don’t mind as it is not personal, it is only a sign that they can’t face those emotions. In hypnosis, they want to resolve them, they don’t deflect. 

Once we have found that core reason, we can then resolve it and empower them to feel great, feel resilience, express their confidence, show their resilience, or whatever they want to achieve. We then create a personalised recording that helps them repeat those great feelings over and over again, until they become second nature to them. The type of the recording depends again on their age and maturity. Some children can take a more adult-like recording others will still love their story telling.

So, how does this all look? Let me give you a summary of what happened in Chloe’s session.

Firstly, while in hypnosis, she could easily point to a birthday party when she was five or six years old. The birthday girl had a new puppy and all the girls were so excited to see and cuddle him. As you can imagine, a young puppy surrounded by screaming girls will quickly become very afraid. What is that the puppy did: bark. That bark took Chloe by surprise and scared her. In that moment, she created the belief that pets are not trustworthy and they can hurt you. As she was exposed to more pets in her daily life, the belief grew in her mind to the proportions already shared.

In the recording, her fairy godmother (that’d be me making a funny voice) gave her the power to understand and listen to the cats and dogs. She could look at dogs (cats, guinea pigs, whatever) and assess if they wanted to be left alone or they felt like a cuddle. She also had the power to respect them, giving them space, and they would respect her. We then did some visualisation rehearsal, all in hypnosis, and she decided how to go about those. Sometimes she chose to leave them in peace and create space between them. In others, she felt comfortable to get closer and even caress the dog or cat.

And that’s it for hypnotherapy for children, the young person listens to the recording consolidating those ideas and visual images they have. As they repeat the listening, it becomes part of them.

There is only one downside to this story. Chloe’s parents have now the dilemma of what dog they will get for the family, as she has done so well (with friends, in the park, etc) around pets, that she is adamant they need a dog in the house.

hypnotherapy for children, happy ending

I can’t thank Marisa Peer enough on my behalf and on behalf of my clients… in fact, also on behalf of my own daughters and they had sessions and have helped them massively.

I hope this article helps you understand more about hypnosis in children. I have hundreds of cases to share, but I think the ones I mentioned are clear enough.

Please feel free to ask me any question. I would be happy to help you find the right solution for you and your child.

Further reading

Giving Children The Confidence to succeed

Giving Children The Confidence to succeed

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Helping Kids understand the Coronavirus

Helping Kids understand the Coronavirus

Hello, and welcome to another article of the HelpingKids Parent Academy series.

This is about the situation we are living in right now with the coronavirus pandemic. We’d like to give strategies to help our children make sense of what is happening. We wish we as adults could have a better understanding of what is happening, as it can be difficult to keep calm and explain it adequately.

HelpingKids. If you don’t know us at HelpingKids, we are life coaches for children. We have been supporting young people for ten years in London. We have also been helping parents and schools when going through difficult times like the Paris or London terrorist attacks or the tragedy of Grenfell Towers.

With a bit of luck, coronavirus will not affect you in a way similar to those situations, but there is understandable concern, especially for children.

If you read the news, you will see lots of suggestions already on what to do at home and keep your young ones entertained. This is not what we want to give you.

In this article, we want to provide you with my ideas on how to help children in three specific areas:

  1. How do we help children understand the situation? How can they make sense of people potentially being sick, especially their grandparents and relatives?
  2. How to help them accept that they might have to be confined to home with not much activity, friends and mental stimuli as they are used to.
  3. What is essential to consider when preparing yourself for spending a considerable amount of time in a reduced space with your children?

There may be many more questions, and we will not be able to cover everybody’s interests. Please do contact us (details below) and we will do our best to help.

How do we help children make sense of the situation?

Communication to children will vary according to age group. We see three key stages: below 6 years old, between 6 and 9 years, and over 10 years old.

If you have children in two or more of those stages, keep a consistent approach because they will talk to each other. If they find they are receiving conflicting information, it will create unnecessary worries. Also, your older kids must understand the different conversations happening so they can be consistent with what you are saying to the younger one(s). 

Let’s start with the youngest group and work our way up.

Children below 6 years old

The youngest group won’t be too concerned with death or illness. They will be reasonably blocked from news and won’t have a lot of time for those. It will only become a problem as a reaction to the change of dynamics (no school, no clubs, no meeting friends). It is important to tell them that there is an illness going around. Don’t include adjectives such as ‘severe’ or ‘worrying,’ keep it neutral.

Tell them that we can have some little things inside us and not notice anything. We can give those things, the illness, to other people without realising it, and those people might become ill. So we can keep ourselves and others safe, we have to stay home and wash our hands, etc.

Use some physical items for children to be able to visualise what you are talking about. You could use a post-it note with a sad emoji on our clothes, or pretend their toys are actors. As we rub shoulders with others (or the toys shake hands), the post-it changes. If one of those people is ill, then the post-it note can make them feel worse. 

Try not to personalise it (i.e. “people like your grandpa can get more ill”) because it might only cause unnecessary concern. Keep it reasonably neutral and external to them, using things like their toys to explain.

Also, explain that there are a lot of very smart and hard-working people (doctors, scientists, nurses, etc.) working to resolve this situation. They are the best in the world, and they are improving every day.

You could have a secondary army of toys, a lot bigger and definitely their favourite ones, facing the other toys (the ones with the post-it notes) and kicking them out.

The ‘three yes’ strategy

This idea is to increase their chances to agree with you. Ask your child three questions that will likely result in a ‘yes,’ and finally ask the one question you want them to agree with. 

For instance: 

  • Do you now understand what I am trying to explain to you? (If they say no, go back to the explanation)
  • We want everybody around us to be healthy, as well as we want to be healthy? Is that right?
  • And we want to do what we can to help them be healthy? 
  • Do you now understand the importance of staying at home?
  • Also, do you now understand the importance of washing your hands when we tell you?

As you can see, the strategy is reasonably straightforward, very visual and neutral in the tone. We are also keeping calm and showing our faith in the scientists and doctors as the good army to defeat the bad army.

Children 6 to 9 years old
Depending on their maturity, adapt the same script for the next stage. They might have some questions or have heard things in school. Keep it calm and confident and this will transfer to them.

Try a drawing game. They can draw the baddies (the virus) and how they spread around. Then they can draw the good guys, making them bigger and stronger than the baddies.

The child can rip up the drawing with the baddies and bin it. This can be a great exercise as well. You can refer back to washing our hands and binning the paper.

Children over 10 years
Older children are more conscious. They can benefit from the same explanation, but in a more adult way. If you have younger children, expose your older ones to the child-friendly version. Then have a separate chat with them to say “Is there anything else you want to know? Do you understand how important it is for all of us to keep healthy and help others be healthy?”

If you don’t have younger kids, try an age-relevant adult-to-adult conversation. They might not have all the vocabulary or ability to express themselves, but they can understand things about as well as you. They will know what a virus is and how it goes from person to person. They will have learned all this in school. If your school has given any specific information about coronavirus, please ask them for the script or ideas. The more consistent you are, the better.

It is essential to pay attention not so much about the illness or the virus, but focus on what they can do.

Pay attention to what they can do, not so much about the illness or the virus. They can exercise, wash hands, help with cleaning, ensure they don’t sneeze on their hands and keep their distance from people at risk.

It is critical to help the understanding of these children. Ensure they don’t feel too concerned. Focus on a simple routine and keep calm. Involve them in creating ideas to do at home or with neighbours. They might want to volunteer help to others. Ensure they understand personal safety recommendations and to try to co-ordinate with others doing the same. Rather than starting from zero, they might want to find out if somebody is doing it already.

Overall, they are mini-adults and can understand the situation. Help them focus on what we want to happen (hygiene, keeping healthy, helping each other) and be positive about the work that professionals are doing.

Limit listening or discussing COVID-19 news

We might want to listen to and discuss every piece of news that comes to us, have the TV on, or rant about what somebody has done. Shield kids as much as possible from over-listening. They will hear a lot of news whether you like it or not. Try to keep some time and space where you are not talking about it.

Visualise the situation with dots

Help children understand the proportion of the problem. We have done the ‘dot visualisation’ exercise below for children of different ages, and it works very well. 

Important note: most of the data below for this activity is from:

We took the following data: 

81% of people infected only see mild symptoms

14% of cases need hospitalisation (help)

5% of cases are important

There is a piece we don’t have which is the proportion of people who will contract it (symptoms or no symptoms) or not at all. We are assuming it is 50/50.

Dot visualisation

Ask the child to draw a dot for every person on a single piece of paper:

50 dots in blue (representing the proportion of people who will not contract the virus (This is the 50/50 number we are guessing)

40 dots in a different shade of blue: representing those that can have the illness but will virtually not notice anything or very little.

7 dots in green that represent people that might need help and be taken to hospital

3 dots in orange, representing people that need a lot of help.

They end up with a piece of paper full of blue dots with a few scattered green and orange dots.

Now, revert to the idea of how we are very lucky. We may be one of the blue dots, but it is vital to the green and orange dots that we stay at home, wash our hands and stay healthy. 

This exercise (apart from distracting children by drawing dots) helps them put any situation in perspective.

So far, we have covered a lot of ideas on how to communicate the situation to children in a friendly way.

We have covered a lot about communicating the situation to children in a friendly way. Don’t shy away from the conversation but help them and yourself to keep calm and focus your energy on the crucial things.

We assume the vast majority of you reading this article will be “a blue dot” so no need to extend into what happens if your relative is taken to hospital. If you need help with this topic, please contact us (details below).

How to cohabit with young people for a long period  

Many parents are planning games, activities and new things to do. There is plenty of great advice around, so we won’t cover that.

Here are five areas to consider. Personalise them for you and your child:

  1. Routines and structures. These are fundamental for any child. Routines and structures give them certainty and a feeling of safety. Aim to set them up as soon as possible. You can always change them, but do not wait until they happen by themselves. If this happens, your routines and structures will vary a lot from theirs. 

If your child is young (under 10) create a visual representation for parts of the day, similar to what they have in school. One symbol for playtime, one for lunch, one for homework, one for sleep time. Then share it with them. You can move it around but aim to have similar structures every day. You can proactively use the time to learn something, draw, play an instrument, improve a language, etc. 

Do not make routine the only rule. Make sure you bring variety, have a picnic on the floor, take half-day off to mess around, or organise some spontaneous multiconference call with their cousins, relatives or school friends. Routines are important, and a bit of variety makes it even better.

  • Time. This is a delicate concept as the adult perception of time in children, in our experience, only starts from the age of 10. For younger children, a week or a month morph into the same: an unknown piece of time. Talking about when this will finish, as an inmate counting down the days to release, will not be very helpful. It may create tension and the youngest ones will not comprehend what “two weeks more” means.

    Focus on the routines and aim to have a healthy positive day, every day. The conversation of time can only be addressed with: “We don’t know, and we are all aiming to do the best with the time we will be there.” Take each day as it comes.
  • Worries. Some children might worry about not having enough food, or not knowing how their grandparents, relatives or friends are doing. Regarding the second part, it is important to help children express those worries.

    Technology can help us, and we can use different video conference systems to keep in touch. They can create group games or activities; you’d be amazed at how creative they can be.

With more real worries (food, money, etc.), it is essential to help them be conscious and relaxed about it. Tell them how you will be allowed to go to the supermarket, or your company still pays you while you are working from home. If this is not the case, tell them that you have savings or relatives helping out. Whatever financial situation you have, don’t underestimate these worries, but make sure you address them honestly and constructively.

  • Space. Even the luckiest of parents with big houses will bump into their children regularly. There will be a need to be together and a desire to be left alone, sometimes even at the same time. Respect their space and explain how they have to respect yours and the communal space.

    Think in this way: theirs, yours, everyone’s. Define which area of the house is which type and tell them about the rules that apply in each. For instance, they can sing and dance in their room but not in the living room. The same applies for activities. Each one of the people in the room has the option to have time together and time alone.

    With young children, this is more difficult. It is even more difficult if you are a single parent. If you can access help, please do it to give yourself some space. If not, try to get children to have some quiet TV time or sleep time where you can get some time for yourself. Explain that you need some “mummy/daddy time for yourself” and make this a rule.
  • Expectations and responsibilities. This is potentially a source of problems. When the person usually doing a specific task (cooking, washing, putting the rubbish out, etc.) cannot manage, in a situation of self-isolation, this might be more difficult.

    We may get upset by them messing around just after we have tidied up. Or they might get frustrated with us always picking on what is not right. Realise that this is likely to go for several weeks, and co-habitation implies mutual respect as well as mutual flexibility. Finding the balance will be critical.

    Develop an agreed chore list, so they can help for 30 minutes a day keeping the home tidy. When they do their tasks, it is easy to take that for granted. Ensure you praise them for doing their part.

It is a new situation for all of us, but there is more information than any time before. Think about these ideas, come up with your own, share and suggest these to others to learn from your experience. If one thing is coming out of this situation, it is the fantastic community support everywhere.

As life coaches at HelpingKids, we are here to help you anyway we can. 

If you would like to get in touch, find us via social media (below) or send us an email/text message. We will do our best to reply right away. 

Wishing you all the best,

Javier Orti -Founder and Director HelpingKids

Amy Moser -Coach, Helping Kids