It’s okay to… have another go

This looks a bit like me when I feel confused about something!

Can I tell you a secret? I don’t always get things right the first time I do them. Sometimes I don’t even get things right the second time.

Can I tell you something else? I don’t always call these events mistakes. Because, do you know what? If we don’t get something right the first time, instead of being a mistake (which sounds like something bad), we can always think of it as an opportunity to get it better the next time.

And do you know what? That’s okay!

Do you see the difference? A mistake means that something has gone wrong. That doesn’t sound very positive, does it? However, if we change the way we think about what happened, we can make ourselves feel better – that is, tell yourself that you’ve just given yourself a chance to get better.

Let’s look at an example.

Maths. I don’t always find Maths very easy – my brain finds it hard to twist and turn itself in the ways it needs to in order to get the correct answers. That means that I quite often get things wrong.

Something about this answer doesn’t look quite right…

Instead of just giving up and saying, ‘Ugh, I made a mistake, I’ll never get it right’, what else could I say? Here are some ideas:

• I didn’t get that right, but my answer was close – let me look again and see where I took a wrong turning;
• Instead of thinking that I can’t do this, let me look again and see what I’m missing;
• I’m not going to give up, I’m going to rethink the strategies I’ve been taught;
• Plan A didn’t work – there are 25 more letters in the alphabet I can work through!

Looking at things in a different way can often help us to a good solution

Can you think of some other things to say to yourself instead of the following negative statements?

• I made a mistake BECOMES
• This is too hard BECOMES
• I can’t make this any better BECOMES

The best thing about the problems we often have is that there is always a solution, and it is usually quite a simple one. The hardest thing is sometimes speaking up and asking for help. But, do you know what?

You can do it, I believe in you!

You can do it!

It’s Okay… to be different

Can I tell you a secret? I don’t like The X-Factor. Can I tell you another secret? I don’t like tea or coffee. I can tell you another one – one of my favourite types of music is classical.

He likes shorts, she likes jumpsuits – still best of friends!

Now, you might have read those secrets and thought, ‘Who cares?’ or you might have looked at them and been shocked and horrified – ‘Who doesn’t like The X-Factor? What a strange person she must be’, is what you might have thought.

Watching the X-Factor, or enjoying something else?

If I don’t like something that you do, does that mean that we can’t be friends? In most cases, it probably doesn’t. You don’t have to stop being my friend because you know that I don’t like tea or coffee, do you? In the same way, I won’t stop being your friend if you tell me you prefer One Direction’s version of the Blondie hit One Way or Another. If you don’t know who Blondie are – that’s okay, just ask anyone over the age of 30 and they’ll tell you.

Sometimes, though, it feels hard to be different.

It sometimes feels hard to be different

It can feel hard to have a different opinion when lots of other people feel differently to how you do. If you are playing with your friends at school and everyone says they absolutely love Little Mix but you think they are the worst band to ever have walked the planet, that can be quite hard to say, can’t it?

Speaking up with a different opinion certainly isn’t always easy.

Everyone likes different things, and do you know what? It’s okay! What you must remember is that being different doesn’t necessarily mean you are wrong.

DIFFERENT DOES NOT MEAN WRONG

Different does not always mean wrong

Can you imagine if absolutely everyone loved drinking the same things, eating the same things, listening to the same music and watching the same TV programmes? We wouldn’t need to have shops or different TV channels or radio stations as we would all just eat the same thing all the time while watching the same programme all day every day.

That would get boring quite quickly, wouldn’t it?

Heading in the same direction can sometimes be a bit boring!

Being different is actually wonderful. It is wonderful because it shows that you have your own thoughts and feelings and opinions, and they are all just as important as your parents’ or your brother’s or sister’s or friend’s.

Trust me: being different is wonderful.

Being different can be fun and pretty cool

If you find it hard to be different, here are some ideas you could try:

  • Look all around you for differences – look at the trees, flowers, and animals and compare their differences.
  • Think about your friends and family. List some of the differences you can see between you all, thinking about your likes and dislikes, your accents, clothes you like to wear, and so on.
  • Practice talking about differences in your family. For example, if two people support different football teams, talk about why each one supports the team they do.
  • Other ways you can practice talking about differences in your family is to set up a mini debate: each person could choose a favourite animal (as long as they are different!), and take it in turns to talk about why that animal is their favourite.
  • You could also practice by talking with your friends about differences. Talk about the foods you like, the music you like to listen to and the books you like to read. Remember, if someone likes a food that you don’t, neither of you are wrong – just different.
  • Were you born in the same place you now live? Many people come from different towns, or even different countries. Talk to people who come from places other than the town you live in now. I live near Manchester now, but I was born in Scotland, so there are lots of differences between me and my family. I have a different accent, I grew up next to the sea instead of in a big town, and there are foods and drinks that I like which aren’t as common where I live now.

Being different isn’t always easy, especially if people don’t understand those differences but the key point to remember is that it really is okay to be different, and being different does not mean being wrong.

It’s Okay… To find things difficult

You don’t need to hide if you find things difficult

Can I tell you a secret? I sometimes find things difficult to do. Even writing this article was tricky at first – I tried to open up my document on my laptop to start typing and… nothing. Well, I got that spinning circle on my screen, which means that the computer is thinking about doing something, but nothing is actually happening. Eventually I had to switch the laptop off, turn it back on again and hope that it would start working. And do you know what? It did!

A laptop which works makes us happy!

There is another secret which you might not know – absolutely everyone finds things hard at times. Your parents, grandparents, friends, teachers… everyone. And there’s something else – sometimes people find the same things hard, while at other times we struggle with different things. For example, I find running up big hills quite difficult, but someone else – maybe you! – might find that super simple and easy. I think, though, that we would probably all find it quite hard to run up a mountain which was covered in treacle! Can you imagine a mountain covered in treacle? Wow, that would be a sticky mess!

Imagine covering this mountain in treacle and trying to climb it – probably tricky, but maybe fun!

There are many things which have the potential to make us struggle a bit. And do you know what? That’s okay! There is no rule written down anywhere which says that everything should be easy for everyone all of the time. Trust me, I’ve looked. Because everyone struggles, maybe that helps us to think about the things that we each find hard.

Take school, for example. There are loads of things which you do at school:

  • Sport
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Maths
  • History
  • Geography
  • Music
  • And so on, and so on, and so on.
Do you find art easy or difficult? What about your friends?

That’s a lot of stuff! Have a look at that list and see which things on there you would say you are good at. I bet there’s at least one on that list. Can you think of any more to add? Can you see any connection between the things that you are good at and the things you like? Quite often we find that we like the things we are good at, and we are not so keen on the things we find harder. That makes sense, so again, remember that it’s okay to feel like that.

When we do find things hard, it is also sometimes hard to ask someone else for help. Here are some possible reasons – see if you agree with any of them, or if you can think of any more. So, we might feel:

  • Scared
  • Worried that the teacher will be angry with us or too busy to help
  • Worried that people might laugh at us
  • Worried that we might not understand even after we’ve asked for help
  • Worried about standing out from everyone else for asking for help
  • Worried that everyone else apart from us understands
Does it sometimes feel like everyone else puts their hand up apart from you?

Guess what? These thoughts are really common and so, again, it is totally okay to have them. Although it is okay to have these thoughts, though, they aren’t very helpful, are they? They just leave us with a big knot of worry in our tummies. So, I have come up with some different thoughts for you to try and put in your head, to replace those worrying ones:

  • What if someone else in my class is also struggling with the problem, and also feels scared to ask? I could really help me and them out by asking for help. I’m going to do it!
  • The last time someone asked for help in class, no-one laughed at them. Hmm, that means that they probably won’t laugh at me either. Right, I’m going to do it!
  • The last time someone asked for help in class, the teacher didn’t shout at them. Hmm, that means that I probably won’t get shouted at either. Right, I’m going to do it!
  • If I don’t understand after it has been explained to me, well, that’s really not something for me to worry about. I need to tell the person that I didn’t understand, because they need to know they didn’t really explain very well and they need to try again for me. I deserve to understand as well as everyone else in my class.

Do you see the difference? These thoughts show that we all deserve to understand as well as anyone else round about us, and there are things we can do to help with that. There are also things that other people can do to help – but they need to know first, so try to take that first step and ask the questions you need to. If you don’t manage to ask when the whole class is sitting together, you could maybe go to the teacher’s desk or you could ask just before you go for break or for lunch.

Teachers and other adults are here to help

Guess what? Sometimes things that we are worried about feel huge in our heads and in the rest of our bodies. But guess what? There is usually a solution which is quick and easy to find, and which can make that huge problem shrink like a balloon which has been popped.

Burst those problem balloons!

Remember: It’s Okay:

  • to find things difficult
  • to worry about asking for help

But, remember: It’s Okay:

  • to speak up and ask for that help
  • to check again if the answer wasn’t clear
  • to change your thoughts, to make the big worries into popped balloons with quick and easy solutions.

Two things to try:

  • Ask your teacher or parent/carer for help with something you have been unsure about
  • Instead of saying, ‘I don’t know’, ask, ‘How can I find out?’, or ‘How can I better understand?’
Think of the difficult things in a different way and see if it helps

 

On being the parent of a 9 year old

If I had been doing any other job for 9 years, you’d probably expect me to be pretty good at it. At the very least, I would be expected to know what I need to do each day when I turn up for work. Having been a parent for 9 years though, I find myself almost as clueless as I was on day one. At least back then I had nurses, health visitors and midwives hovering around in the background who I could glance at helplessly.

Helpful nurses
Look, smiling, helpful and reassuring!

Well now. Some days I feel on top of the world with my 9 year old. We get on, we chat, we laugh, we understand each other. I ask her to do her homework? She does it, without being asked twice. I don’t even have to ask her to help clear up the dinner plates, or to brush her teeth at bedtime. I know, amazing, right?

Our family, on a good day

Other days? Dare I say it, at the moment, the majority of days? There is attitude, there is a smug smile and a defiant twinkle in the eyes. There is basically very little chance that we are going to end the day on the best of terms. This is because she knows how to push the buttons which get me from zero to hot-headed banshee in 2.2 seconds. And don’t we all know how it goes – when the anger comes in, the control is lost and it is very difficult to bring it back.

Now, the premise of this whole website is that feelings, of whatever description, are okay. In that vein, anger is okay – it is at least understandable. What needs to be done though, is to find a way through the anger, and to deal with it quickly and efficiently in order to provide the best possible role model for the little person (don’t tell her I called her a little person, whatever you do).

In trying to calm myself down from tonight’s confrontation – I am not proud of myself, before anyone lambasts me – I did a quick online search for other websites covering the behaviour of 9 year old girls. I have found this, and man, I really needed to read this tonight.

I am leaving it here for now – if you have kids, particularly girls, of this age, I recommend you read the above link. It gives perspective, and it also serves as a reminder that you are not alone.

World Mental Health Day

Tomorrow, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day. It is the perfect day for me to launch this website: mental health is one of the key features of this site which will hopefully soon become very apparent!

This website is a safe space. It is safe because I have been through many things in my life which have granted me great empathy and there is no judgement here. The main premise of Say It’s Okay is that we all have feelings, both good and bad, and that’s okay. For example, it is okay to feel sad, it is okay to feel worried, and it is okay to feel blue. There are ways of coping with these feelings, but the basic premise is that we should not shy away from them.

I have been messing around with this website for weeks, thinking to myself that by 10 October I will have managed to get it all singing and all dancing and looking simply fabulous. Well, guess what? I haven’t managed (yet!) to make it so, but that is not important for now. That will come. And indeed, I am trying to view my website a bit like a mirror of my life. For, after all, when will our lives ever look perfect and when will we be all singing and all dancing?

For now, please know that you are welcome, whether you are 5 or 65. Content will be added in the coming days and weeks, which will hopefully help you with your worries and concerns, hopes and fears.

If there is anything you would like me to focus on, let me know – I want this to be a joint effort!

And please, be patient – I will continue working hard to get this website looking ‘just so’. Or, at least, ‘good enough’, for isn’t that all we can hope for?