Losing just 39 minutes of sleep can impact kids, so how can we help?

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A new study has highlighted how losing just 39 minutes of sleep in a night can impact children. So what can we do to help kids get the best night’s sleep possible?

Losing just 39 minutes of sleep can impact kids, so how can we help?

As adults, we know just how much sleep affects our ability to go about our daily lives. Following on from those nights where we toss and turn, getting through the next day is a whole lot harder. And, it’s the same for kids. In fact, it might be even worse.

In a new study, published this week in Jama Network Open, researchers found that a difference of just 39 minutes in a child’s total sleep can have a big impact on them.

Monitoring 100 participants between the ages of eight and 12, the children were asked to alternate between a week of going to bed one hour earlier than normal, and then one hour later – with one week of going to bed at their normal time between those two changes.

Both the children and their parents then filled out questionnaires, rating their sleep disturbances and impairment during the day, as well as their quality of life as it relates to their health.

The assessment asked the children questions about whether they felt they were able to pay attention while in school, as well as how they felt physically.

Prior to the study, all the children who took part regularly slept between eight and 11 hours each night, and were also generally healthy. What the researchers saw after one week of the children receiving 39 minutes less of sleep each night, was the children reporting lower overall wellbeing, and they also found it more difficult to cope at school.

“Sleep is such a fundamental human requirement that, when it eludes us, it can have a negative impact on our day-to-day lives,” says hypnotherapist Angela Brown. “The impact of poor sleep can range from poor concentration to challenging behaviour, inability to learn new tasks, stress, anxiety, and depression.”

With so much at stake, how can you best support your child with their sleep? Angela has some suggestions:

1. Establish a routine

“Keep to a routine with a set amount of sleep. This helps to get our circadian rhythm back on track, so we feel more alert and able to function effectively.”

2. Set the scene

“If we can control the stimuli in the bedroom, it can have a positive effect on our sleep. Things to think about are the weight of the duvet – lighter for summer, heavier for winter. Thick curtains or black-out blinds, so our brains know it is time to sleep. No blue light, so no phones, TVs, or electrical devices in the bedroom.”

3. Encourage exercise

“With as little as 30 minutes of activity, such as walking, running, and playing, we increase our ability to concentrate, giving us a chemical reward by generating positive endorphins, which help us to cope with life’s ups and downs.”

4. Control the light

“Our sleep is affected by the amount of sunlight we get. If we’re sitting inside on a computer by a window for 30 minutes, we might get 300 lumens of light on a sunny day. Whereas if we went outside and had a drink in the sunshine we might get as many as 25,000 lumens of light. That means more vitamin D and melatonin, which are

Is constipation making your child miserable?

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Is constipation making your child miserable?

Every parent goes through That Phase. The one where your child, no matter what you try, seems to struggle to poo. It’s estimated up to one in three children in the UK has constipation. at any one time, thanks to illness, poor diet, fear of using the toilet, and poor toilet training.

It comes as no surprise that constipation can make little ones miserable. Younger children experiencing constipation may not fully understand why they are in discomfort or pain. This can lead to them becoming grumpy, having trouble sleeping, and struggling to explain why they are feeling uncomfortable. A recent poll of over 1,000 parents for Docusol Paediatric found that two-thirds of parents (66%) report their child getting grumpy when constipated, leaving half (50%) of parents feeling helpless and unsure of what to do. So, what can we do to help our kids feel more comfortable and have more regular bowel movements?

Is it common for children to be constipated?

Pharmacist Sultan Dajani, advisor to Docusol Paediatric, commented, “We assume that emptying our bowels should just happen as a normal bodily function; an instinct. Right? We don’t have to teach newborn babies how to empty their bowels – they just do it. Yet, constipation in children is incredibly common.

“It’s estimated that around one in every seven adults and up to one in every three children in the UK has constipation at any one time. Three-quarters of parents polled say their child has had constipation at some point. Almost four in 10 (39%) of parents say their child has experienced constipation two to three times in the last year, while more than a quarter (28%) say it’s happened seven times or more. The knock-on psychological and emotional effects are often underappreciated.”

So, why is it so common for children to be constipated, how can we recognise the signs, and what can we do to help?

Why do children get constipated?

Children can become constipated for a wide variety of reasons. Common causes can include:

  • Being early on in the toilet training process (which can mean: children ignore, resist, or don’t recognise the urge to use the toilet; feels pressured; or may be interrupted when trying to go).
  • Changes in diet. This can include when weaning, trying new foods, going through a ‘fussy eating’ stage, or starting at a new school or nursery.
  • Not eating enough high-fibre foods (including fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals or breads).
  • Routine or big life changes, such as starting at nursery, reception, or a new school; moving house, or having a new sibling, can cause feelings of anxiety, worry, or stress, which can lead to constipation.
  • Not drinking enough fluids (which can lead to dehydration).

When children get constipated, they can find it painful to poo. This can lead to them trying not to poo or ‘holding it in’, which c

Children could overcome phobias in just three hours, study claims

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A new five-year study claims that, with the right support, children could quickly resolve phobias

Children could overcome phobias in just three hours, study claims

According to the NHS, an estimated 10 million people in the UK live with a phobia – making it the most common type of anxiety disorder. More than just a feeling of being scared of something, phobias can be all-consuming, occasionally preventing us from going about our days in a healthy and secure way.

Common phobias include spiders, snakes, heights, enclosed spaces, or the dentist – and while some may only react with mild anxiety in the face of their phobia, others may feel completely incapacitated. But now, in a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers from the University of York and the University of Sheffield have developed a new approach to treating phobias in children.

Working with 260 children across 27 mental health services in a five-year project, the researchers wanted to understand whether it would be possible to treat a phobia in a single three-hour long session – rather than multiple sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as is the current standard.

The three most common phobias of the children were: fear of animals, vomit and blood, and injury and injections. The treatment sessions included exposure therapy. In the case of a child who had a fear of dogs, the therapist would first direct the child to watch a dog through a window. When the child became ‘bored’ of this, the therapist would coach the child to open the door and, then, gradually get closer to the dog.

“We found that this single three-hour session reduced a child’s phobias and in most cases resolved them, at the same success rate as multiple sessions did,” Professor Lina Gega, director of the Institute of Mental Health Research at York, says. “Our method was based on the premise that the opposite of fear is boredom, and children can become bored quite quickly of a repeated activity.”

As Professor Gega highlights, there are a number of issues with the current approach to treating children’s phobias with multiple therapy sessions. Namely, the child might experience anxiety each week ahead of the session. But also, these sessions intrude on the child’s life, are costly to the NHS, and do not account for limitations to accessing the sessions.

“We often find that with multiple sessions, the drop-out rate is high, so now that we know that just one three-hour session can be just as effective in children, it could open up new opportunities for clinical services to reduce waiting lists, resolve attendance barriers, and save money.”

Resolving a phobia faster has more benefits than might first meet the eye. The study pointed to the fact that severe phobias can often be related to other conditions such as ADHD and depression. It’s therefore possible that resolving the phobia more quickly may enable clinicians to identify other problems, and better support their patients.

“Fears are actually a very rational part of what it means to be human; fears can protect us from getting hurt,” Professor Gega says. “It is only when these fears start to prevent us from doing things in daily life that they can become a clinical issue.

“You can imagine, however, how liberating it is for a chil

How to spot the signs of anxiety through the ages, from kids to teenagers

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From young children to budding adults, anxiety can present in, and affect, young people in different ways as they grow up. So how can you spot and support it?

How to spot the signs of anxiety through the ages, from kids to teenagers

Anxiety is a natural part of many of our lives, and it doesn’t just affect adults. Though the triggers and stressors may be different, many children experience anxiety, with the NHS finding that across five to 19-year-olds, around one in 12 (8.1%) reported an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression.

The point at which anxiety becomes a problem is when it begins to affect their everyday life, and gets in the way of them flourishing. But what does anxiety look like in children and young people of different ages? And how can we best support them at each stage? Here, with help from Hasret Tekin, a child and adolescent therapist, we highlight what to watch out for.

Under five

“This age group usually experiences anxiety in the form of separation anxiety,” Hasret explains. “It is in line with normal child development that children may experience separation anxiety from their primary caregiver from age six months to three years old.”

Hasret explains that you may notice your child is more clingy than usual, perhaps because they are worried that you will leave or disappear – at this age, they may not understand that you will come back. It might be that big life events such as starting nursery or school spark this reaction, and the anxiety might present as tantrums and protests, and unresolved it could lead to regression (such as wanting a dummy or a nappy), sleep problems, and phobias.

Five to eight years old

When a child reaches this age group, it’s likely that they have moved beyond separation anxiety, and instead the root of their anxiety is tied up in new developmental stages such as school problems, friendship issues, and self-esteem dips.

“They may feel worried about being likeable among friends, feeling shy in social scenarios, nervous, and clingy in new situations,” Hasret explains. “Some levels of performance anxiety and perfectionism are also common in this age group. When the anxiety becomes problematic, you may notice sleeping difficulties, bad dreams or nightmares, bed wetting, becoming irritable, tearful, unhappy, or withdrawn. Fears are also common in this age group as a manifestation of anxiety.”

Eight to 11 years old

Similarly to the previous age group, Hasret explains that the anxiety is likely to be tied up with their development stage, but on a larger scale. However, children in this age group may also have more of an awareness of external stress.

At this age, they may have more life events to refer to, such as conflict at home, parental separation, the death of a grandparent, illness, or sibling problems. With a greater understanding of these scenarios, they might develop anxiety about rejection, take on worries about the health of a loved one, pick up on money stress, or begin to compare their lives to those around them.

11 to 14 years old

“This age is pre-adolescent and adolescent years where the anxiety is usually about the transitions,” Hasret says. “There are many things children say goodbye to in this age group, such as the end of primary school. They have the anxiety of t

What is parentification, who does it affect, and is it always bad?

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Our relationships with our parents can be complex. Yet, many of us know we can count on them to provide emotional support, advice and guidance. But what happens when our roles become reversed?

What is parentification, who does it affect, and is it always bad?

Even at the best of times, our relationships with our parents can be complex. Yet, we all know there are certain responsibilities we can rely on them for whilst growing up (and often beyond): to provide unconditional love and support, to protect us, give us a home, support us while we’re getting an education, seek medical care on our behalf, and help teach us right from wrong.

But what happens when the roles become reversed? And what kind of long-term effects can that have on who we become as people?

What is parentification?

While growing up, did you ever feel like you had to help take care of your parents or siblings? Perhaps you were expected to help look after a middle brother or sister, while your parents looked after the youngest? Maybe you were expected to help learn how to change nappies, give baths, or make tea for your siblings when your parents were busy. Or perhaps you had to take on helping more due to a parent’s long-term or chronic illness.

These can all be signs of parentification. Parentification is when you take on excessive levels of responsibilities that can impact your development. This could mean taking on tasks around the house that are too much or shouldn't be expected of you at that age, or taking on emotional caring responsibilities, which can lead to you hiding or suppressing your own needs, wants, and desires.

As explained by one Counselling Directory member, “Parentification occurs when a child is put in a position where they have to grow up ‘too early too soon’. For highly empathic children, because they have the warmth, compassion, and depth that is beyond the normal, their family members come to – usually unintentionally and unconsciously – lean on them.”

While having a little responsibility can be beneficial and is considered a good thing, too much too young, or inappropriate types of responsibility, can have a detrimental effect.

The parent-child relationship

Emotionally, it is reasonable to expect unconditional love and support from our parents. Physically, it’s normal to expect food, shelter, and some form of structure. Together, all of these things can create an environment where we can safely learn, grow, and mature. But, sometimes, that relationship can become reversed. Instead of giving these things, a parent expects to receive them.

What is parentification, who does it affect, and is it always bad?

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