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Behaviour: How do I improve my discipline without getting too strict?

Everyone has different ideas about what is ‘too strict’ so it is a good idea to spend some time thinking about the boundaries that you want to put in place. If other family members live with you, or spend a lot of time with your child, make sure you either come to an agreement about the boundaries you will set, or tell them what boundaries you want to put in place.

Once you are happy with these boundaries, you need to start making your child aware of them by telling them when they do something you don’t want them to. Try to speak to them calmly and in a quiet but firm voice and use simple language they can understand e.g. if they are using bad language you may say ‘I don’t like it when you use words like that. They are not nice and will make people cross with you. You mustn’t use them again.’

It’s good to focus on the action as being wrong and not the child. Be specific about the behaviour you don’t like. Once you have introduced a boundary be consistent with enforcing it. If your child is finding it hard to follow, try using a star chart to reward them for good behaviour.


Behaviour: My child has become withdrawn and will not communicate with me. What can I do?

Let your child know that you are concerned about their wellbeing; tell them calmly. This can open up the channels for communication or at least help to reassure them that they are not alone. As a concerned parent, you may be finding it difficult to remain calm and patient with a withdrawn child due to your own worries and anxieties about their reasons for withdrawing. This is perfectly understandable however it may perpetuate the problem further as your child may become more anxious, worried and withdrawn. A calm and patient approach is therefore ideal.

Some children find it easier to write their feelings down. If your child is old enough, it may be worthwhile giving them this option. However, it is important that you do not give your child a deadline for this writing to take place as this may defeat the purpose and lead to less communication as opposed to more.

As difficult as it can be, applying less pressure on your child to communicate may lead to better communication. Just letting them know that you are there for them and will listen if they want to talk can often be enough.

You can read more on the subject of talking to your children here.


Bullying: My child is being bullied. What can I do?

If your child is being bullied, the most important thing for them to know is that you have listened to them and you are taking it seriously. Talk to the class teacher and headteacher or person in charge of the place where the bullying is taking place.

Ask what the person in charge is going to do to help and keep asking until they give a specific answer e.g. assigning an adult to monitor them. Make sure that you keep in touch with the school or organisation where the bullying is happening to update them on how your child is doing and get feedback on strategies they have tried. Talk to your child about the things they can do for themselves e.g. ignore the bully, get friends to help.


Behaviour: Why is my child displaying mood swings?

Between the ages of 10 and 12 years, children are typically experiencing signs of the onset of puberty. Mood swings can be identified as one of the classic signs of puberty. Despite this, parents often find it very difficult to deal with mood swings and the unpredictable behaviours which accompany the moods. However, it is important that additional reasons for your child’s mood swings are considered. Some of the other factors to discuss with your child include changes in the family and home situation, pressures that your child may be experiencing at school and friendship dilemmas or difficulties.

When dealing with mood swings, it is important to keep the channels of communication between yourself and your child open. Suggested ways of doing this may be:

  • Reassuring children that they can talk to you about anything that may be causing them concern.
  • Making sufficient time and space to listen to your child on a regular basis.
  • Interacting with your child regularly. This can be done during everyday activities such as cooking, walking to school together, or simply during meal times.

Education and School: My child says they have no one to play with at school.

Ask your child if there is anyone they would like to make friends with. If they name someone, ask that child’s parents if they would help them make friends by doing something together, such as going to the park after school. Invite people around who are in the same class. Ask other parents what clubs their children go to and join them too. Talk to the teacher – do they have or can they set up a buddy system?


Education and School: My child has SATs this year, I am worried

Don’t be worried! The SATs just give an indication of progress over time in the core areas of literacy and numeracy. They have no impact on the future schools your child can attend or eventual career choices, but they might give you a better idea of your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. SATs may also be used by the school to ensure your child is in the right class for their ability in a particular subject, or to give access to either support or more challenging work.

Talk to your child about the SATs to see if they are worried too and reassure them that they should just try their best and you’ll be happy with that. Tell them about other things you are proud of too, especially things the SATs don’t test like social skills, friendships, sports, art, music, etc.


Education and School: I am worried about my child changing schools

Go and visit the new school or possible new schools and talk to them about their values and goals to find somewhere that matches your needs. Talk to your child about their feelings and where they want to go, they may have their own ideas based on where friends are going or things they have heard about schools. Talk to other parents with older children in the schools you are thinking of to see what they say. Look at the school’s website and, if you are interested, their Ofsted report, which you should find a link to on their website.


Education and School: I need some help to make a decision on the right secondary school for my child

There is a right school for every child.  Choosing the school that will optimise your child’s potential is important.  The process usually begins at the end of Year 5 and most schools provide information and advice to parents.  As complicated as this may sound, it is essential that you understand clearly the options available to your child.  Body & Soul has many years of experience on this issue and is available to advise, guide and support you during the very competitive secondary school selection process, both directly or through referrals to agencies.

If your child has the added challenge of being HIV positive, choosing the right school becomes even more crucial. Seek guidance from your child’s current school and/or Body & Soul.


Nutrition: Should I Breast Feed?

If you are HIV positive the current advice for people living in the UK is for you to use formula milk to feed your baby. This is because there is a risk of your baby becoming infected with HIV through your breast milk. You can find further advice and guidelines at the British HIV Association website.


Nutrition: How can I tell if my baby is ready for solids?

It is always a good idea to talk to your GP or health visitor if you are not sure if your baby is ready for solid food. These are the 3 accepted clear signs that, if seen together, indicate that your baby may be ready to start solids alongside their formula milk:

• Can your baby hold their head up and sit up? Your baby needs to be able to maintain a steady, upright position, to take their first foods.
• Have they developed basic eye to hand coordination? Your baby needs to be able to look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth all by themselves.
• Can your baby swallow food? Babies who are not ready for solid food will use their tongue to push it back out of their mouths.

Other general signs to watch out for include:
• Is your baby curious about what you’re eating? Is your baby eyeing your meals and reaching out to try foods you’re moving from your plate to your mouth?
• Is your baby making chewing motions? Your baby should be able to move food to the back of their mouth and swallow. As your baby learns to swallow efficiently you may notice that they dribble less. Your baby may even have a tooth or two.
• Has your baby gained a healthy weight? Most babies are ready to eat semi-solids when they have doubled their birth weight. This may happen before or around their sixth month.

Remember, none of these signs on their own mean your baby is ready for solid food. Try looking at the NHS website for further advice, including ideas about how to get started and first foods.

NHS Weaning Information


Nutrition: How can I help my baby develop healthy eating habits?

Ideally once your baby is eating solids, you would aim for them to get used to your own pattern of eating, for example 3 meals a day and a few healthy snacks.  Feed your baby a little at a time and try giving them the same variety of foods that you and your family usually eat.  This will help them to be less fussy in their eating habits later on, is a cheaper alternative than bought baby food and ensures that you know what has gone into their food.

Try to give your baby a variety from the four main food groups: fruit and vegetables; bread, rice, potatoes, pasta; milk and dairy foods; meat, fish, eggs, beans. It’s best to avoid sugar, salt and very fatty foods or very hot, spicy foods. Some babies enjoy mildly spiced foods, but they can’t tolerate highly spiced foods to start with.

Give your baby sips of water from a cup or beaker at mealtimes. If you give your baby fruit juice, keep it to mealtimes only and dilute it well. Add one part juice to 10 parts water. Try not to use food as a bribe or reward. Instead, give your baby plenty of hugs, kisses and attention.  The NHS website has a suggested list of the types of food your baby’s diet should consist of.


Nutrition: What is weaning and when do babies start weaning?

The tern ‘weaning’ means introducing your baby to solid foods.  There’s no right or wrong time to wean, however current NHS guidance states that it’s safer for your baby if you wait until they are at least six months old to introduce them to solids. This is because their digestive system needs time to develop fully so that it can cope with solid food.  It also means that there is less chance of them picking up an infection from food, as their digestive system is more mature or of having a bad reaction to food, as their immune system is stronger. If you feel your baby is hungry for food earlier than six months, it’s worth offering extra milk first, or perhaps trying out a different formula.  Your GP or health visitor will be able to give you advice should you be worried.

However hungry your baby seems, keep them on just milk until the end of their fourth month (17 weeks).  If you decide to start giving them solids before 6 months make sure you get advice from your health visitor, GP or look at the NHS website for foods to avoid to help prevent food allergies.

NHS Weaning Website


Nutrition: Getting Started With Weaning

To begin with, how much your baby eats is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating solid food. They will still be getting most of their nutrition from infant formula. Babies don’t need three meals a day to start with, so you can begin by offering foods at a time that suits you both.

You might like to try offering food to your baby before or after a milk feed, or in the middle of a feed if it works better. If the food is hot, make sure you stir, cool and test it on the inside of your wrist before giving it to your baby. It may take your baby a while to get used to these new flavours. You can make the food a little blander by mixing it with a few teaspoons of your baby’s milk.

Some babies prefer to feed themselves with finger foods from the beginning of weaning, rather than to be spoon-fed. Whichever they prefer, remember to always stay with them when they are eating in case they choke. At about seven to nine months, most babies are ready for finger foods cut into bite-sized bits but remember to still always stay with your baby when they are eating because there is still a risk of choking. Some ideal finger foods for this stage are: tender cooked carrots and sweet potatoes, cooked pasta shapes, ripe bananas, bread or toast and fruit such as pear or melon. Finger foods encourage your baby to chew, even if they don’t have teeth. Your baby will suck or bite the food using their gums and this also helps speech muscles to develop. Cutting finger foods into stick-shapes makes it easier for your baby to pick up and hold.

The NHS website has further guidance on first foods and next steps


HIV Medication: My child’s doctor has recommended that my child starts HIV medication. Should I be worried?

Your child’s doctor will have been carefully monitoring their health from the time they were diagnosed HIV positive to ensure they are thriving and staying in good physical health. This will have included regular blood tests to look at their viral load and CD4 count.

The best time to start HIV treatment will depend upon many things. Even if your child shows no signs or symptoms of their HIV infection, doctors may choose to start treatment to improve their general heath or to prevent further damage to their immune system. If you are worried, ask your doctor to explain why they feel now is the time for your child to start treatment. It is important that you are comfortable with the decision and understand why it is the best time for treatment to begin. Unless there is an urgent medical reason for medication to be started, your child’s doctor will do their best to take your wishes and feelings into account.

There is a range of HIV medication available for children, many of which have been developed specifically for infants who are too young to swallow tablets. Unfortunately, a lot of HIV medicine has an unpleasant taste, especially in syrups and powder form. Talk to your child’s doctor to ensure whichever medication they are recommending can be taken in a way that will suit your child. Since no one drug can fight HIV alone, your child will take several drugs every day once treatment starts. He or she will have to take them exactly how your doctor tells you to. Your child can’t miss doses or stop taking the drugs or they won’t work.

If your child has already had HIV named to them, you can use our animation about how HIV treatment works to help explain to them why it is important that they take their medication.


HIV Medication: How will adjusting doses/changing medication affect my child?

The doses of medication for children are often based on factors such as their height and weight. Your doctor may need to adjust the dose to ensure their medication is working effectively as they grow. Alternatively, doctors may suggest adjusting doses or changing medication in response to side effects your child is experiencing. These unwanted effects are often mild, but sometimes they are more serious and can have an impact on your child’s quality of life.

New medication may bring new side effects, such as changes in body shape, muscle problems, or vomiting. Ask your child’s doctor what the common side effects for their new medication are so you will be ready to help and reassure your child if they experience them.