Tips for promoting young children’s wellbeing

Young children's wellbeing

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton, author of Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing, provides some very useful and easy tips for supporting young children’s happiness at this important stage in their development.

Wellbeing is a term we hear a lot about for adults and young people, but we don’t hear so much about it for young children. We know that the rates of teenage mental health problems are rising alarmingly, and we are aware that children and young people are feeling increasingly stressed and distressed. I passionately believe if we can help young children to have a good wellbeing then we are setting them off to a great start in life. But to help children have a good wellbeing, we need to be proactive about it.

One critical aspect of a child having good wellbeing is by them knowing that they are loved – that they are loved for the unique and precious individuals they are. Parents and grandparents clearly have a crucial role in letting children know that they are unconditionally loved, but I also believe that key workers, teaching assistants, children’s workers also have a role in showing children that they are loved and wanted. We show this through the words we use and the way we hold children. Part of my job is as a nurture consultant; I have seven children and schools that I support throughout the year. Every time I see one of my nurture children I ensure I show delight in seeing them that day. I smile at them, I look them in the eyes and tell them how lovely it is to see them today, how much I have been looking forward to our time together. Continue reading

The Way of the Hermit – an interview with Mario I. Aguilar

 

 

Mario I. Aguilar is Professor of Religion & Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion & Politics at the University of St Andrews. He is also a poet, an eremitic Camaldolese Benedictine Oblate, and has published widely in his interests in the theology of contemplation, the history of religion and issues of interfaith dialogue. We asked him some questions about his new book – The Way of the Hermit – and his life as a hermit. 

 

A hermit’s lifestyle is one of solitude and seclusion from society. When and why did you decide to become a hermit?

As I mentioned in the opening of my book I always wanted to be a hermit. However, this wish had to wait for years as I was a missionary in Africa and then started an academic career. To become a hermit or a monk requires a long process of discernment and this process was carried out over a period of twenty years with the informal support of different spiritual directors. I would say that the decision was taken when Cardinal O’Brien encouraged me to follow this different path within the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. The hermitage and the daily routines developed out of an ongoing prayer life rather than out of an institutional setting. This was seven years ago in Scotland and then I opened a hermitage in Chile.

Some people might find it surprising that you are a professor of religion and a political activist, as well as a hermit. How do you balance these two different sides of your life?

There is only one single life in every human being, thus a hermit relies on a discipline of life where the day is marked by several activities. The life of a hermit, in my case in the Benedictine tradition, starts very early (3.45am) with meditation and silence until it is time to start the university day. During the day, I extend that prayer to those whom I teach and my fellow researchers. Political activism happens naturally because it is an extension of God’s action in the world, a world that should live more deeply justice, peace and understanding. I return to the hermitage happy to be left with God but with reports to be written on behalf of asylum seekers, correspondence, and my own academic studies currently related to India and Tibet.

Your book, The Way of the Hermit, documents your conversations with hermits in Scotland, Chile and India. Did the lives of these fellow pilgrims seem similar or different to your own, and in what ways?

The lives and hopes of all human beings are very similar as the Dalai Lama would reiterate. Thus, I have found a deep communion and friendship with others who seek the Absolute in India and Chile. Particularly in India I have met over the years Buddhist monks, Hindu Sadhus and Sikh scholars with whom we have shared not intellectual thoughts but our very souls, eating together, chanting, and laughing about the joys of being together. I must confess that I have found that many people who live a religious commitment tend to be sad, I do not understand that. On returning to see others at the Golden Temple or in the bathing areas of Varanasi I have always found a warm hand and a ready smile. God has given us a journey and it is great to do it with others even when in silence.

The book explores how living a life of silence and contemplation can contribute to interfaith dialogue. Could you explain how this is so?

The Western world uses too many words, too many texts and too many twitters. We try to understand something to accept its relevance. In silence the quarrels disappear because in silence and contemplation we cannot run away from who we are: human beings on a journey. The many dialogues between faith practitioners in conferences and formal meetings are very fruitful indeed. However, I have found a deeper dialogue sitting in silence with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Sikhs because it is that very silence that binds us. I cannot speak Punjabi or Hindi but I can understand our common language of silence, reverence and devotion.

What have been the toughest challenges you’ve faced while living an eremitic lifestyle?

It has always been the challenges from outsiders who want a writer and a monk to become a small celebrity. I have had to clarify many times that hermits do not need other hermits to carry on their lives and that I do not have meditation classes in my hermitage. The keeping of a daily structure and discipline gets interrupted sometimes but I return to read the lives of hermits I admire and that set a very clear example for me: Abishiktananda, Bede Griffiths, Raimon Panikkar, and those sadhus without name who have inspired me in India over many years.

Do you have any advice for readers who would like to apply eremitic practises to their own lives?

Set a small routine of prayer and meditation for your daily life, start and keep to it. Do not read about it, or talk too much about it, just do it! And the Absolute will be waiting for you.

The Way of the Hermit is out now. Why not join our mailing list for new books on religion and spirituality? Sign up here.

How important is empathy within our care system?

Frightened

Bo Hejlskov Elvén is a Clinical Psychologist, and author of Frightened, Disturbed, Dangerous?, Disruptive, Stubborn, Out of Control?, Confused, Angry, Anxious? and Sulky, Rowdy, Rude?, based in Sweden. He is an independent consultant and lecturer on autism and challenging behaviour, and an accredited Studio III trainer. In 2009, he was awarded the Puzzle Piece of the Year prize by the Swedish Autism Society for his lecturing and counselling on challenging behaviour. 

Frightened, Disturbed, Dangerous? Those words are often used to describe people in psychiatric care. Historically, schizophrenia is one of our oldest diagnoses still in use. Our oldest diagnoses describe people whose behaviour was unpredictable and clearly different than that of other people. Today, we still see descriptions of people with psychiatric conditions described as disturbed and dangerous despite all the knowledge we have contradicting those descriptions. The words we use to describe people affect the way we think about them and our methods for working with them. If we believe that a person is dangerous, we will keep our distance and even react faster to the person’s behaviour. We are also more prone to react with force.

Continue reading

Ageing and Spirituality: What does it mean to grow old in the twenty-first century? by Elizabeth MacKinlay

ageing spirituality 21 century“Many of us have the potential to live out their later years with hope, resilience and growing into fullness of life, coming to new realisations of what it means to grow old in the twenty-first century.”

Elizabeth MacKinlay is a registered nurse, an Anglican priest and Professor in the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University. Here she discusses changes in the field of ageing and spirituality since the first edition of her book ‘The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing‘ was published in 2001. The updated second edition of this seminal text was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in February 2017.

The first edition of my book The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing was published in 2001 and since then we have continued to learn so much more about ageing and spirituality. What really started my interest in this field, both as nurse and priest, was the question of why, given the same medical diagnosis, two different patients could have very different outcomes, even with the same medical treatment. There seemed to be ‘something more’ that we needed to understand.
This continuing search has led to a number of studies since then and much listening to older people. The crucial factor in the different outcomes for those living with the same diagnosis often seemed to come back to matters of meaning and hope, which for me are strongly linked to the spiritual dimension, to the very depths of our being.

When I was researching for and writing the first edition of this book I was really seeing ageing from the outside. I was listening intently to the stories of people who were growing older, wanting to know what the actual experience was like. I was particularly interested in knowing how people saw meaning in life and the way they lived out spirituality in these later years.  Continue reading

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A Message To My 10 Year Old Self – from Fox Fisher

Fox Fisher is an illustrator, non-binary Trans campaigner, co-founder of Trans Pride Brighton and runs the My Genderation film project. He is the co-author of children’s book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl. 

Click here to watch Fox’s message to his younger self.

Fox Fisher

Trans Day of Visibility is an important day to raise awareness that not all trans people have the opportunity to be out and proud about who they are. Trans people still have to hide away parts of their identity out of fear, because of stigma and because discrimination. This day serves as a reminder that everyone should be able to be themselves, regardless of gender identity. We cannot truly live in an equal and just society if certain people have to hide away parts of themselves and do not have the freedom to be who they are. 

When I was growing up there was no visibility of trans people and I had no one to look up. I didn’t know of anyone who was trans and I think that if representation and visibility had been at the same point it is now, I would have come out much sooner and saved myself from years of self-hate and depression. Thankfully, today things have taken a huge shift and trans people are able to come out sooner and live as their true selves. 

This is why I felt it so important to co-create a children’s book where we never find out if the central character, Tiny, is a girl or a boy, because it shouldn’t matter and everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their gender.

Fox’s new book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl, is out in May. Click here to find out more.

Follow Fox on Twitter and YouTube.

How to Find Your Authentic Voice – Top Tips from Leading Speech & Language Therapists

Speech and Language Therapists Matthew Mills and Gillie Stoneham work at the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic in London. They help transgender and non-binary clients to find and maintain their authentic voice. Here, they share some useful tips on how to develop the voice that feels true to you. 

Your voice is a totally unique and personal expression of your whole self. It enables you to express your thoughts, feelings and ideas, to form meaningful relationships and tell your story. We cannot hide our voice and when we speak it reveals something about our age, gender, emotional state, culture, education. It is a very human experience to feel vulnerable when we speak, especially in front of a group or where we feel the stakes are high. Whilst the unique quality of your voice is partly determined by your body, voice is something which we do. It is an activity that can be crafted and developed. With exploration and practice, you can find and sustain the voice which fits with you. Everyone will have different and highly individual goals.

Continue reading

“I don’t feel bad about who I am anymore” – Wenn Lawson reflects on the positive experiences of his transition

Wendy, pre-transition

I began my transition of physically moving from my cis-gender (assigned female at birth) to the man I am now seen to be, only 4 years ago. Although it has taken a very long time to recognize my gender dysphoria (I was 61 when the penny dropped) inside my very being I thought and felt very male ever since I can remember. I’m saying ‘male’ because it seemed to be the very opposite of female! I know gender is a spectrum of varying experience, and being female can vary from being ‘very girly’ along a line to being ‘Tom boy,’ but still happy to be female. I lived as a ‘Tom boy’ all of my life, but it wasn’t enough. Since knowing my true gender is male and letting go of all the physical female parts of me, I have never felt so much at home. I didn’t know I wasn’t home until I got here. Why did it take so long? Perhaps because of my autism which causes delays for me in building connections.

Being and feeling connected to my male self is now a reality. Some trans individuals decide they don’t need to change their body in order to feel complete in their trans identity. For me though, my dysphoria meant I couldn’t look in a mirror or allow my wife access to parts of myself during times of affection. My female body was alien and didn’t belong to me. Now, the alien has gone and I’m complete again. Living with such a dis-jointed self was literally tearing me apart. Now, those torn and wounded places that were so foreign are in harmony again and I look in the mirror and see the full reflection of all that I am.

The journey has (still is) been long, painful, exhausting and costly. But, the view from the top of this mountain has meant all the effort is worthwhile. If you asked me would I do this again, of course I won’t have to, but, my answer would be ‘yes.’ I cannot emphasize enough the joy of feeling so connected! All my senses and even my cognitive processing is more in line and less fragmented than before. I make decisions with less fear, doubt and indecisiveness. I have autonomy in ways I never thought possible. My autism hasn’t changed and I still have lots of sensory issues that I need to attend to and cater for, but, I don’t feel bad about who I am anymore.

Wenn

To read more about Wenn’s experience of transition, follow this link to his new book, Transitioning Together.

“There’s no going back now!” CJ Atkinson on what Trans Day of Visibility means to them

We asked author CJ Atkinson what Trans Day of Visibility means to them personally. 

International Trans Day of Visibility was founded in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating transgender people’s successes, and is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments and victories of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and raising awareness of the essential work that is needed not just to save trans lives, but to make the world a little bit more accommodating.

Trans Day of Visibility 2015 was a tipping point – an explosion of trans people taking to Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook to show their beautiful, hopeful faces, intending to demonstrate one important thing: trans people exist. For me, TDoV 2015 was a personal victory: it was one of my first public “there’s no going back now!” coming out moments as, with strep throat and feeling rough as anything, I posted a selfie and whispered ‘here I am’ into the void.

Continue reading

Tony Attwood on autism – how our understanding and approach has developed over the last 30 years

To mark JKP’s 30th anniversary year Tony Attwood has written about JKP’s role in developing the world’s understanding of and approach to autism. In this article he also touches upon his own experiences as a clinical psychologist/author, and what he thinks will be the key areas of discovery in the future.  Continue reading