In line with everything else in life, the cost of having a baby is only going in one direction, and that's upwards. It's estimated that the cost of preparing for your baby is approaching £2,000 - that's the total for all your baby equipment such as cots and car seats, as well as your initital stock of nappies and clothes etc. Of course there are ongoing costs too, with the lowest estimates for caring for a baby coming in at £1,000 a year. These costs may be very conservative for parents who want to treat their baby to high end equipment - the upper costs associated with raising a baby can virtually be limitless!
All of this comes at a time when your earnings are likely to fall because of maternity leave. It's so important that you plan for this lifestyle change. Luckily we get good notice of a new baby arriving - typically nine months! Start putting aside a little bit of money as soon as you know that you are expecting, or start to spread the cost by buying pieces of equipment as you go along. Prepare your new baby's bedroom in this time and start kitting it out with the furniture that you'll need.
There are ways that you can save money - look out for secondhand equipment at boot sales, on eBay or at NCT sales. Look for good value alternatives such as supermarket branded goods. Don't feel that you have to buy one of everything that is available - make pragmatic decisions about what equipment you may be able to survive without.
There's no arguing that having a baby doesn't come cheaply, but hopefully you'll find the joy of having a new member of the family more than reward enough to see you through these early years. Costs don't necessarily decrease with time, but hopefully your budgeting will be more used to a larger family in time...
Paternity leave has changed enormously over the last few years to the point where it could be beneficial for many families to consider this in place of more traditional maternity leave following the birth or adoption of a new child. There may be many different situations where paternity leave makes sense, given your family circumstances, but the rules surrounding how and when it can be taken are fairly rigid, so make sure that you have planned in advance and are certain that this is how you wish to proceed.
Pay throughout paternity leave is capped at a little under £140 per week. Ordinary paternity leave may be taken for 1 or 2 weeks and must be taken within 56 days of the birth or adoption of a new child. Additional paternity leave is the newer and more flexible arrangement whereby you can take between 2 and 26 weeks off, depending on how much maternity leave your partner has taken.
In order to qualify you must be employed, so there is no entitlement for self-employed workers, and you are taxed and must pay National Insurance on top of the pay. You must also give your employer a minimum amount of notice and have been employed for a qualifying time period.
Find out more detail on paternity leave at the government website.
With the collapse of HMV we are seeing another high street retailer close its doors - sad news for their employees, but also sad for high streets around the country and for their former customers. We've seen a pattern of closures over the last few years, although some chains that have edged towards collapse have been saved at the last minute. The first part of this pattern is that gift vouchers and other forms of credit are halted, and shortly after, stores are closed, either selectively or wholesale.
Closure of so many retailers has left consumers with millions of pounds of worthless gift vouchers and gift cards. In these troubled times it really makes you think about the value of these lines of shop credit. The recent recsession has hit every retailer and it's almost impossible to predict who will go next. The worst part is that customers have loyally bought gift vouchers as a way of gifting money with the intention to buy something fun, so that the money doesn't just end up paying the bus fare or for a drink. However, these same customers would be heartbroken to learn that their gift was now worthless.
In hard times it really does beg the question as to whether you should gift vouchers or rather give money instead. While it may be considered vulgar to give money (who perpetuates that myth?!), at least money will keep its value, is universally accepted and immune to the collapse of individual stores.
If you want to gift money to your children, nephews, nieces or friends for their birthdays or other events, then consider carefully how safe that gift is. The store you have in mind may seem to be trading buoyantly but we tend to sit on gift vouchers...how will that store fare 6 months or a year from now? In this uncertain economic climate, perhaps it's time we saw a return to the traditional gifting of money. At least your hard earned cash won't be written off overnight at some time in the future...
For some families, especially with those one parent away on military service or working far from home, there is the added stress of a parent being absent for long periods of time. How best can you cope with this added complication?
Although it may be difficult and strange at first, the fact is that you can make it a positive time for the children as well as yourself. How? Here are a few tips.
Keep busy: establish a routine and try to stick to it. Keep yourself busy too and keep in touch with your friends and family during the absence. You may wish to keep a diary and note you experiences, feelings and how you cope... good or bad! It's a private journal, so be honest.
Stress: it's easy to say 'avoid stress', but you can help with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. You don't need to go crazy... a good brisk walk around the neighbourhood can do wonders for your stress level and help reduce tension.
Help: ask for help when you feel it is getting too much. Call in some favours and get friends round or ask to drop over for dinner. Organise an occasional night out with your friends... get a babysitter or call on family to mind the children while you have some fun with your own friends.
Phones and letters: communicate as much as you are able with your loved one: email, skype, text, phone, write; do whatever you choose best and keep it regular. It will help them as well as your little ones. Involve the children by sending packages together and letters with their drawings and pictures.
Talk: make sure you speak to the children and share your worries, and experiences with them. They will feel more involved and will be a great comfort.
Remember it's just as difficult for the absent parent, missing seeing their family, as it is for you. Good Luck!
If they can ride a scooter, eat with a spoon and fork, sing the alphabet and reach the top of a playground climbing frame, then even the littlest children can help around the house. Introduce chores and rewards and get your little ones used to the idea of being helpful around the house. Here are some jobs that young children can help with:-
- Putting shoes away: teach your little ones to pair up shoes and place them nicely by the door, or wherever you store them, when they get a little unsightly.
- Collecting rubbish: if you have waste bins around the house then invite your children to collect them on bin days so that you can empty them into the dustbins.
- Laying the table: give them the right cutlery and see if your children can lay the table for you. They may have seen a table set hundreds of times, but see if they know where the knife, the fork and the spoon should go themselves!
- Putting out washing: it's so easy to discard dirty clothes at the end of the day and leave them all over the bedroom - yes, even you do it, and you'll wonder why the kids do in a couple of years! Have them take their dirty laundry through to the washing basket.
- Straightening the bed: if they aren't in a cot any more then your little ones should be able to straighten their bedclothes in the morning. Encourage them to do so, and to lay their pyjamas under their pillow.
- Turning off the television: if your children watch a little bit of TV, teach them to turn it off when you ask them to. Most children love turning things on and off, and they will love the responsibility of this job. Hopefully it will make it easier for you to extract them from the telly when you need to!
There are so many chores that you can find for your little ones to do. Draw up a reward chart for them, or even start giving them pocket money, just a few pence for each task. The reward is only half the motivator, most children will also be driven by the fact that they are being helpful around the house, and receiving praise for being so.
Once you have children, it becomes much more difficult to move house because we enter into routine based on our locality. Many couples choose to move house before starting a family so that they are in a home suitable to raise a family. If you are in that situation, then look out for features that make a new area 'family friendly'.
Many prospective parents check out schools in their area to ensure that they are in good catchments. Remember though that you are at least 5 years away from starting school and that catchments change frequently according to population changes. Be especially careful of school catchment areas that can shrink - local development may create new houses aimed at families nearer to schools, pulling the catchment boundary in. Buying a house that is just inside a known catchment today may fall outside in 5 years time.
Before school, you will be spending lots of time entertaining your little ones as they grow from babiest o toddlers. Make sure that you have good family facilities nearby, ideally within walking distance of your house. Amenities to look for include parks, soft play, a library and swimming pools. Other 'attractions' that you might want nearby but not necessarily on your doorstep might include farms, zoos or theme parks.
When you have your first baby, you will welcome support from local groups and networks. Look for active playgroups in an area, and approach the NCT for information about activities in an area that you are not familiar with.
From a practical level, a local shop within walking distance of your home can be a blessing. Small convenience stores often stock everything that you might need in an emergency, for you or your new family. Check out public transport links too, even if you have a car, as there might be times when you can't rely on a car and still being mobile will be important.
Although it is possible to move house once you have your family, it becomes more difficult once you become entrenched in the local community and settle into a routine that suits the family, not to mention the sheer cost of moving. Choose wisely now and hopefully you will find a lovely family home in a great location that will see you through for years to come!
Picking a name for your new baby is not easy; do you canvass grandparents and friends with your ideas? Do you keep it simple, short and easy for the baby to say when they are older or do you go for something elaborate? Do you go for conventional or really way-out names? It seems that a surprisingly large number of parents - over half! - actually regret the name they originally giver their baby.
Some say it doesn’t reflect the baby’s true personality or that they felt pressured to give a name so didn’t take enough time. Some say that they didn’t like the name in the first place and just over 25% say the name became too popular so went off it when they heard lots of other babies being called the same thing.
Research has been done by Northwestern University in Illinois to look into the impact that names have on babies and children. That there is an impact, he says, is testament to the number of baby name books that are on the market... parents clearly feel its a big and serious job. to name their child appropriately.
In 2011 approximately 58,000 people changed their own name according to the UK Deed Poll Service. This is some 4,000 more than the previous year. However, ten years ago this number was nearer 5,000 people changing their name each year!
Safer Internet Day is organised by Insafe each year in February to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology specifically for children and young people. This year's awareness day is Tuesday 7th February 2012.
The 2012 Safer Internet Day (SID) will focus on the idea of discovering the internet with your children and will use the slogan: "Discover the digital world together... safely!" It will encourage families to work together to stay safe online.
Insafe unites national Awareness Centres in 27 countries in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Russia. The centres comprise of organisations who work together to raise internet safety awareness at a national level. Partners include schools, libraries, youth groups and industry to promote good e-safety practices. Networking at a European level allows centres to share information, showcase successful initiatives and draw on others' experience.
Have fun online, but be sure to keep yourself and your little ones safe too.
Occasionally it might be necessary or useful for a nursery or school to ask for parent helpers - you may wish to go on a trip or need extra supervisors to visit a local landmark. This is great for the parents to get involved, great for the children whose parents are being invited to come along... but it can be less than great for the childcare providers or teachers unless the guidelines are laid down in advance. You don't want the parent just helping their own child and tending to their needs and theirs' alone to the detriment of other little ones.
- Choose the parents carefully - if you can, invite those you know are level-headed and reliable.
- Put parents in charge of a group that doesn't include their child.
- Give parents clear guidelines of what you need from them and what is expected.
- Introduce them to the children and say, loudly, so that the parent hears "Mrs XX will be looking after all of you today." Just so its clear to the parents its not just their own child being taken care of.
- Make sure timings are made clear so parents leave when you wish to return to normality.
- Find out if any parents have any special skills that might be of interest to the children or help... e.g. gardening, sewing costumes etc.
Guidelines for Parent Helpers could include information such as:
- Emergency telephone numbers and all staff numbers in case of separation.
- How often and how to count and keep track of the children.
- Any special needs, equipment, diets or allergies of the children.
- Exact route, timetable and itinerary of trip.
- Reminder about taking the children to the toilet during the trip.
- Make sure they are not over familiar with the children.
- Be clear about importance of confidentiality and encourage discretion.
Parent helpers do not have to be CRB checked if they are working with children in groups and alongside other qualified practioners but they should be CRB checked if they are going to be alone at any time with the children.
A new service has been launched to help parents and child carers who suddenly find that they have lost track of one of their children. Find My Child offers an iPhone app, voiced by Mariella Frostrup, with which you register information about your children. A subscription of just £3 per month allows you to raise an alert in the event of one of you losing sight of one of your children. Raising an alert sends a message out to other Find My Child users in the vicinity, sharing a picture so that they can help look for the missing child. Should they find them, they can then call the parent directly and work together to reunite the child.
Find My Child respects everyone's privacy, only sharing information on a 'need to know' basis. Usually your registered photo of a child will remain completely private, it will only be shared when you need to source help in finding your missing child.
The app is aimed at covering the period immediately after your child goes missing, to the point where the police can be involved in a search. Should you have to escalate to a police search, this 'window' typically lasts up to three hours, but obviously you are more likely to find your child within the first 30 minutes. Find My Child uses 'social helpworking' to bring everyone in the area together to help you in your moment of panic - a perfect use for a smartphone app!
The cost of after school activities and clubs is getting so very expensive. Should you choose ballet or rainbows? Beavers or football? French club or swimming? Half of parents are having to cancel their children's after school clubs because its just getting too expensive.
Some research carried out by MyVoucherCodes has discovered that over a third of parents say their children do not take part in after school activities and many of those have had to stop the clubs because its just too expensive.
1,192 parents were questioned by MyVoucherCodes to look at parents habits when it comes to children's clubs. A third said that their children did not take part in any after school activities. 24% said their children did activities on an occasional basis. Of those who did not attend clubs the reason given was, according to more than half, that the parents had to save money.
A high percentage, 27%, said their children did not want to do any after school clubs. And, of those who did attend activities on an occasional basis said the reason behind this occasional attendance was that the children were "too lazy"!
While many clubs are expensive and require special equipment or uniforms, many are not. Rainbows and Beavers (a weekly hour long meeting with games and activities) costs about £20 a term. Play groups and church children's play days range can costs as little as £1 a family for each session. Library play and stay sessions can be as little as 50p per child.
So, it is more a question of choosing activities that are appropriate and affordable rather than just saying no to all activities.
Over 17,000 children are separated from their mothers every year in this country because they are sent to prison, a fact that is causing children to experience harmful emotional, social and psychological problems.
The Howard League for Penal Reform suggests that many of the women jailed could have been punished by setting them to community tasks instead of custodial sentences which would have saved 11,000 children from separation. Many of the women in prison are awaiting trail or indeed are found not guilty, meaning that the separation is not necessarily essential. Separation is very damaging for children who are not even allowed access, as many visiting hours are scheduled during school hours and weekend parental/family days are being reduced because of budget and funding cuts.
Twelve women's prisons exist in Britain, and just over half have a mother and baby unit which equates to fewer than 70 places. It has been suggested that non violent crimes be dealt with on a local level with secure, local units being used to house women closer to their families rather than in far away prisons.
Over a third of women in prison have children under five and half have children under 16.
Shocking facts to face... even more shocking and sad for the children effected.
Sometimes, you just want to break free - do something different, try something new, break the rules! It's the same if you're a child. So often we insist that the children follow a routine, do things in a certain order, and follow various rules. However, just occasionally, its fun and exciting to do things in a different way. Here are just a few ideas to suggest to the children to shake things up a bit. You could ask their ideas and see what they come up with. Make sure they understand though, that this is a special, unusual kind of day and not the norm...just in case they get any ideas!
- Have a picnic breakfast: pack breakfast and go to the park or countryside and have a lovely picnic.
- Paint the leaves: take a paintbrush and some poster paints and get the children to paint some leaves on low branches in the garden. It's great fun!
- Spread a rug in the living room for a picnic lunch if it's raining. Wrap the food as if you were going on a real picnic!
- Get the children to choose dinner. Show them what you have in your fridge and get their suggestions for what to make with it. You may need to pop out to get more ingredients.
- Blend a breakfast cereal. Take handfuls of different cereals you have in the cupboard and make a new special brand.
- Have frothy hot chocolate (warmed very slightly in the microwave) rather than milk, just for a change.
- Make a robot out of cardboard boxes and cartons... any recyclable rubbish you find at home. Be as creative or zany as you like and decorate the robot in a crazy way then invite him for tea! Set a place at the table and serve up dinner!
- Get paintbrushes and paint the outside of the house with water.
- Eat something you have never eaten before. Go to the supermarket together and choose your menu.
Going for walks is an ideal way to spend time with the family - it's free, it's healthy, it's outdoors, it's fun and educational and it's something you can all share together no matter your age or ability. You can do it with other families, on your own or with other family members. It can be a long, all day affair or just an hour trek. It can be in all sorts of different terrain: woodland, seashore, farm land or country paths. Most of all, it's something to enjoy!
- Getting the children out of the door: older children may have opinions on going for walks so do make sure you describe the walk as an adventure; an excursion or something exciting rather than just a walk.
- Think of activities to do while on your adventure: collect things (feathers, pebbles, leaves) or spot things (acorns, birds, animal tracks).
- Play "follow the arrow": take 3 sticks and arrange them in an arrow. Send the children ahead and get them to make the arrow shape that will guide you all home.
- Follow My Leader: get the children to decide on the route. Ask them which paths to take or which way to turn.
- Make a map: draw a map of the route as you go, marking on special land marks.
- Snacks: take snacks to keep energy high and moral positive! Offer snacks when they find things or spot something fun.
- Play camouflage: send the children ahead and get them to hide. When you are near get them to jump out and surprise you!
- Do other things along the way: if you see logs, try and climb them, if you spot a brook try and cross it and any good climbing trees must be conquered! Help the little ones to climb up - they will love it!
- Be prepared for weather changes: take waterproofs as you don't want to be caught in a shower!
- Take the right equipment: make sure everyone has wellies or walking shoes to avoid hearing moaning children (and adults!) if their feet get wet.
- Listen to the children: if they get tired, try not to force them to go on... it may put them off for ever!
None of us like too much change in our lives, but when changes are afoot in a children's life it can really affect them in a big way. It is really important to try and handle any changes in a sensitive and thoughtful way, to manage it proactively and to deal with it as if you were a child, not like an adult. Here are some thoughts about helping children cope with changes in their life.
- Chat to them about the change. Choose a time when they are calm and happy and speak easily and in a supportive manner.
- Talk about what your child enjoys at school and in clubs and then talk about what they don't like. This will help them feel confident enough to chat and may unearth some interesting facts you didn't know about.
- Talk about friends and people your children play with.
- Talk to their carers in private and discuss the issues.
- Try to keep to a routine and keep things the same.
- Give plenty of reassurance.
If a child is not coping with change you may spot some of the following:
- They become clingy and fearful to leave you
- They may become panicky and breathless
- They may complain of illness and headaches
- They may become less inclined to talk and communicate
- They may loose interest in activities
- They may become bad tempered and angry
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