Tooled Up Events
The home of evidence-based resources on all aspects of parenting, education and family life
Organisation that are part of our Tooled Up Education community can provide their parents and teachers with access to Dr Weston’s exclusive resources, covering areas such as aspiration, resilience, mental health and behaviour.
As a member of the Tooled Up community you will have access to a whole host of evidence-based resources, which will enable you to support your children or students in a way that makes their lives and educational journeys both easier and more enjoyable.
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Dr Weston's Wednesday Wisdom
In an ever increasingly busy and demanding world, Wednesday Wisdom provides a reflective 2 minute read every week that readers constantly tell us they look forward to. Full of topical and relatable experiences that help provide reflection, motivation and support in achieving a balanced family life.
Over the years, thousands of people have benefitted from, and continue to enjoy, the parenting and educational talks from Dr Kathy Weston at Tooled Up Education and have subscribed to Wednesday Wisdom. Join now for free to get your own weekly digest of motivating, interesting, and thoughtful parenting advice from Dr Weston herself.
“I just wanted to say how grateful I am to read your Wednesday Wisdom email. Perfect size for the time I have to engage and reflect and think about the topics you touch on. It helps me to evaluate my parenting and take a step back to look at scenarios that play out.”
Parent – October 2020
Wonder and Curiosity
Last week’s Wednesday Wisdom focused on the new frontiers presented by artificial intelligence and how its potential influence is proving to be unsettling for children and adults alike. This week, I wanted to go back to beautiful basics and remind us all about some of the most fundamental aspects of learning and of innovation.
Parenting Question of the Month
I’m a single mum with a 12 year old boy. How do I address the topic of hormones, changes to body and give my son comfort, so that even though I’m not his father, he can still come to me to talk, discuss and emote? I want him to feel open and willing but also appreciate this is probably something he would naturally go to his dad for.
Our Promise: We will answer all questions, and, whilst we may share your question and answer to help others, we will never declare who asked it.
Researcher of the Month
Dr Lucy Foulkes, Prudence Trust Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.
Dr Foulkes’s research focuses on mental health and social development in adolescence. She is particularly interested in whether efforts intended to reduce mental health problems, such as awareness-raising campaigns and school initiatives, may inadvertently increase these problems in some individuals.
Over the past decade, there have been extensive mental health awareness efforts in the western world to improve public understanding about mental health problems. Despite this, reported rates of mental health problems have increased. In a recently published paper, our Researcher of the Month, Dr Lucy Foulkes and co-author, Dr Jack Andrews propose that there is a cyclical relationship between the two.
There is some evidence that the rise in the reporting of mental health symptoms follows an existing trend which started several decades ago and which could be attributed to a wide range of factors including social media, austerity, income inequality, academic pressure and the Covid-19 pandemic. In this paper, Dr Foulkes and Dr Andrews hypothesise about the impact of mental health awareness initiatives as one additional contributory factor.
Improved recognition of mental health problems is hugely beneficial and might lead to more help-seeking and treatment, help reduce rates of deaths from suicide and provide more accurate prevalence rates of mental health problems. However, Dr Foulkes suggests that caution is needed about the delivery and content of these awareness efforts. Some campaigns encourage individuals to notice, label and seek help for negative psychological experiences and promote the use of psychiatric terminology. This may lead some people to overinterpret and overpathologise common, mild and transient psychological experiences as mental health problems. One consequence of our awareness of the vocabulary of mental health without a corresponding depth of understanding is the misuse of terminology. For example, someone might say that they ‘suffer from anxiety’, when feeling anxious about certain tasks is perfectly normal.
The paper suggests that interpreting and labelling psychological experiences as mental health problems can, in some cases, lead to changes in self-concept and behaviour that bring these symptoms into existence in a self-fulfilling prophecy, a theory that is backed up evidentially in various studies. Dr Foulkes further suggests that the relationship between the rise in mental health symptoms and awareness programmes could continually escalate. As prevalence rates increase, awareness efforts increase in response and the pattern continues cyclically, intensifying each time. She calls for this hypothesis to be tested empirically in future studies.
Implications for parents:
Consider how mental health terminology is used within family life. Think carefully about the language you use when describing everyday psychological experiences. It’s important to teach our children that some experience of negative emotions and stress is a normal, if unpleasant, part of life and our goal should be to equip ourselves with helpful coping strategies to manage it. Model coping strategies that work for you and explore strategies that might work for your child. Know how to be a good listener and promote and model active listening as a valued skill. The Samaritans has some excellent tips to help.
If your child is exhibiting genuine signs of depression (low mood, irritability and/or not getting pleasure from usually pleasurable activities for at least two weeks), anxiety that is impacting on their day to day life or other worrying symptoms, such as self-harm or disordered eating, it is vital to seek clinical advice.
Implications for schools:
Dr Foulkes notes that, “If empirical evidence emerges that mental health awareness efforts can indeed lead to overinterpretation, then there is an urgent need for evidenced-based guidance for how to continue such efforts in various settings (e.g. schools, social media campaigns) while minimising the risk of harm.” In the meantime, she suggests that we need to move beyond raising awareness that mental health problems exist and towards explaining their complexity, exploring the fact that mental health problems lie on a spectrum, where different issues require different levels and types of support. Practical initiatives which tackle difficulties (such as bullying or loneliness, for example), rather than simply raising awareness, might help to alleviate or improve distress.
Tooled Up News
A Few of Our Favourite Things
Sometimes, a sense of excitement builds at Tooled Up Towers when we discover some hidden gems buried in the research papers that we come across in our work. Sometimes, we shop in bookshops, attend talks or see things when out and about that we really want to tell our families
Happy International Women’s Day
It’s International Women’s Day today. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity. International Women’s Day has devised a number of missions to help forge a gender equal world and note that celebrating women’s achievements and increasing visibility, while calling out inequality, is key. These are things we are passionate about at Tooled Up, and for Tooled Up subscribers, we have plenty in the library to help break down stereotypes and raise awareness of some remarkable women.
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