Boost Your Wellbeing

Wellbeing challenge

What would your ideal present be for Mother’s Day?

Flowers?  Prosecco?  Chocolate?   A boost to your wellbeing?

What impact would a boost to your wellbeing make to you and your family?

If you  or a parent you know could do with a wellbeing boost then perhaps this 2 week programme could be just the thing.

What is it?

It’s 10 small challenges designed to help focus you on your wellbeing and take steps to give it a lift.

How does it work?

It’s all done via a Facebook group.  All you have to do is be willing to try to complete the challenges and reflections over the fortnight.  

It starts on Monday 12th February, its free of charge and if you want to be involved or to have a bit more information e-mail Julie at or click below to join the group.

Please note places are limited

Count Me In!


‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)



How often is it the way things are done rather than what is actually done that causes us the most joy or pain?  Little things sometimes make the biggest difference.

I recently had a situation where I needed some significant help.  I was very fortunate.   I received not one, but two very generous offers, almost identical except for one thing.

On paper either offer brought about the same result.  Both offers were made out of love, care and generosity and yet,  despite all of this there was one unintentional, but fundamental difference.  One offer made me feel empowered – it was a symbol of trust and confidence in me.  The other left me feeling as if I’d failed and my need of help was a sign of something lacking in me.

Little things sometimes make the biggest difference.

The question this raises for me is when do I inadvertently do this to others and most of all my children?  How do I ensure that my approach conveys my faith in them?  How do I maintain boundaries and guide them, but also build that sense of value, worth and confidence?

It’s all too easy to do something positive for our children, often at our own expense only to lose that message of love and nurture  by how we do it.  For example, when we agree to play or help, but add in eye rolls or  sighs what do our children hear   Equally we take time not just to generically praise our child, but get on their level, be specific and using eye contact how much more powerful is our communication.  In the same way a message to our child to explain what needs to be done can become a dictated order or a clear request just by shifting our words or tone.

It’s all too easy to do something positive for our children, often at our own expense only to lose that message of love and nurture  by how we do it.

I wish I had all the answers – a set formula would be great, but being a parent is far more of an art than a science.   As I negotiate the ups and downs of my own parenting journey and I walk with others on theirs I know that there is no one who gets this right all the time – we’re all human – it’s the main message our children receive most of the time that needs our attention.

If we take time to pause and reflect not only on what we want to happen, but how we want it to happen.  If we consider what message our children receive from the way we do things.  If we make that extra effort and initiate those small but significant changes then how much does this increase the chance of them hearing and truly grasping the depth of how much love, value and worth they have that drives all that we do for them.  This is surely one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.


 Thinking Space

If you’re interested in spending time online with other parents who are taking time to pause, think and prioritise wellbeing and build emotionally healthy children and families then join us at:

Never ask for parenting help. Ever.


I’ve recently booked myself in for what can only be described as a public speaking bootcamp. I’m kind of dreading the day, but as my work increasingly involves me to speak and present (in a different way to teaching) I am aware that I need to hone my skills, overcome some of my fears and ensure that my work is of the best possible quality.

There’s no shame in that and previous attendants of the course are more than happy to offer video reviews and recommend the experience.  Learning and developing new skills is surely very commendable.

Unless you’re a parent.

I’m sure we can all think of situations where there are unstated, but never the less firmly adhered to rules.  In the world of parenting there are masses , but I would argue that the following five are universal.

Try these for size…..

  1. Once you are past the sleep deprived haze of the early years you should innately know exactly how to raise a human being through to adulthood. Whilst we all joke that there is no manual you must never seriously acknowledge that you really don’t have a clue what you’re doing most of the time!
  2. If you find yourself in a situation with your child where you don’t know what on earth to do, your child behaves badly in public or you feel totally overwhelmed then YOU must be doing something wrong.
  3. If you don’t enjoy family life, haven’t found the perfect family/work balance or find that it is a bit more like running up a descending escalator than a lovely stroll through a forest glade then you should feel horribly guilty and inadequate. It’s only raising children – people have been doing this for millennia.
  4. If you parent “correctly” then your children will be absolutely fine. Follow the right formula ( although what this is no one can quite agree) and it will all be straight forward.
  5. The most important rule…….. NEVER EVER ASK FOR PARENTING HELP. If you do – keep it secret.  If your child has a diagnosed and recognisable condition then that’s ok.  Otherwise all problems and issues your child faces are entirely your responsibility and must be a result of bad parenting choices.   Far better to invest your time and money shopping, at the gym, on a spa day, a holiday and hope it goes away because despite being made up of unique human beings everything should be perfectly wonderful most of the time.


Sound ridiculous?  Of course they are.  I don’t know anyone who would say they actively subscribe to these views and yet actions speak louder.   Pause and think about how often you have felt that others have negatively judged your parenting and then reflect back on these rules and see if there is a link.

I’d love to say that I sail through parenthood without feeling the impact of these, but when my tired 4 year old comes out of school and greets me with a stamping of feet and a stroppy comment there’s a massive internal battle for me.  Do I make my  response calm, remembering she’s tired and to work with her on this at a better point in the day or do I give into the urge to be seen as a parent who won’t be spoken to like that and tell her what’s what?  How much does my concern about other people’s perceptions of my parenting impact what I do?

There is a real stigma to access help as a parent.  I could quote multiple examples, but talk to any parenting support service provider and they will tell you one of the biggest challenges is recruitment.  We all recognise the need to and importance of providing support to parents, but it doesn’t need to apply to us – it’s for other parents!

We all hold limiting beliefs that sometime need to be brought to light and I would argue that these are rules, albeit subconscious, that as a society we impose upon ourselves and other parents.  They are insidious and cruel and yet scratch the surface and you will find they are very potent.   The result of which is so many parents suffer in silence, labouring under the myth that they should know how to parent perfectly without training or support and somehow their children will be “successful.”

There’s a lot to be said on this topic and as a coach working with parents it’s a topic very close to my heart.  Too much for one blog so I’m going to pause, rather than end there, but firstly I would ask how much have you encountered these rules or even found yourself believing them?  Maybe even ask yourself the following questions:

Would you be happier to tell your friends you were going to puppy training classes or getting parenting support (for the record I am not suggesting children can be trained like puppies)?  Dog owners who learn to appropriately care for their pets are usually seen as responsible and loving.  Is the same true of a parent accessing help?  If you knew of a parent who was accessing help what would your honest initial reaction be?

Most of us who have children know that there’s no way we’re going to make it from 0-18 without hitting some speed bumps and obstacles along the way.  Imagine if, in those sometimes painful or challenging times, each parent knew there was a whole heap of support out there and people cheering them on for equipping themselves to be the best parent they can?

It’s the little things



One of the most common challenges among parents is wrestling with feeling that we could do better.  Sometimes that wrestling spurs us to be the best possible parents to our children.  Too often though it’s a weight of guilt that just robs us of the joy of family life.

Some of you will already know  our experience of being parents has been a little “back to front”.  We started with teenagers as foster parents and gradually our family has got younger and younger and included our birth children.

This unconventional route into parenthood has really given us, early on, the valuable lesson of the importance of the little things.  A recent short message from one of our foster children was a reminder of this.  He’s not so much a child now – actually a man in his 20s.  He messaged to let us know he isn’t going to be around for Christmas, but could we arrange a time to talk.

For us this means so much and this is why:

Parenthood is without a doubt hard work – physically, mentally and emotionally.  For anyone who has had to wash PE kit, attempt to pair endless amounts of socks, regularly soothed a baby to sleep, cleaned up ALL manner of bodily fluids (baby or teenager ones), done homework with a reluctant child,  dealt with raging tantrums,  done the school run, made a million or two lunchboxes and meals, challenged difficult behaviour, encouraged confidence, stood on the edge of a cold football pitch, played all manner of imaginary games, listened to monologues on topics you have little interest in outside of the fact they matter to your child, battled to get out of the house on time with everyone wearing shoes and coats, etc etc you know that there is a side to this role that is can often be unglamorous, uncomfortable and inconvenient.  This service to another human being(s) is, however, an act of huge love.

To regularly ensure that another’s needs are met is a massive feat.  Whether you are able to do all of this single-handed or like most of us you are part of the village that is contributing to raising your child it is not a role you undertake for an easy life.

The thing is these little things all matter.  They are like sowing seeds into someone’s life and one day – probably not for many years –  they recognise this person loved me so much that they did all of that for me.  For us it comes in the form of a young man with a difficult past wanted to connect at the time of year when family is heavily emphasised.   In those moments all of the hard work is totally worth it – they have contributed towards building a most treasured relationship.   These little seeds when consistently tended help create an environment of safety and security and nurture that tells another person they are precious and valued.

It’s too easy to belittle these acts of service and focus on what we haven’t done or our  mistakes (we’ve got a whole list of those, small and large).  It’s also far too easy to get bogged down in the detail.  Little things do matter, but only as much as they are a reflection of the big picture.  How often do we feel bad because rather than regularly producing  home made, organic hand picked dinners , Captain Birdseye is chief chef?  If  you’re regularly putting food on the table then well done you.  Too many children don’t have that.  If your children have clothes that fit and are clean(ish) then fantastic.  Bonus points if you iron them – we gave up that when we went to 3 children and learned that ironing had to fall into the realms of luxury along with sleep and going to the toilet alone!  Whilst we’re now back to 2 children the ironing hasn’t ever properly resumed!

When we strive so hard to get it “right” we can get lost in the detail.  It’s great to think, analyse and consider, but the reality is this CAN YOUR CHILD RELY ON YOU?.

When the pull between the demands of your life leaves you feeling guilty then ask yourself this – when I promise to be there for my child how much can they trust this and what tells them this is true?  Remember the old adage actions speak louder than words (or intentions).

Can your child trust that you are their greatest advocate and that when the storms of life hit you will walk by their side no matter what?  If this is the case then pause for a moment.  Set aside the list of the things you feel you should have done or didn’t get right and instead give yourself a massive pat on the back (in between pairing socks)!


My Elfless Shelf

Warning – contains strong opinions!  If you are a big fan of elf on the shelf then please don’t read this!


During half term I had the rare treat of a day off!  No children.  No work.  A  proper, time to myself kind of day mooching round some charity and gift shops with tea and cake thrown in – utter bliss.  During this trip I had a proper encounter with Elf on the Shelf.  I’d sort of heard about it before, but here I was with plenty of time to look AND read the story – Eek!!  The title of this blog may be a give away, but I was left a little alarmed.  Whilst on the surface it looks very cute and finding the elf in the morning and seeing it’s adventures might be fun (although a whole lot of work I don’t need in December), my shelf/ves will remain very much elfless!!

As I was reading the box I was straight back to last Christmas and the puzzlement I experienced when my 3 year old was asked on multiple occasions if she’d been good so Father Christmas would bring her presents??  Stop right there!  When did presents become rewards for good behaviour?  (No I didn’t say that in my reply– I nodded politely.  Nearly a year later I still haven’t worked out what an appropriate response should be to this question that is usually posed with the kindest of intentions.  If you have any  suggestions then I’d love to hear them.)

I know the whole Santa knows if your naughty or nice thing isn’t a new concept, but it’s not one I’ve heard given any serious emphasis before. Maybe it’s because up until now we’ve had older children in our care so we’ve not had to worry about them taking it seriously. However, as a parent of younger children, Elf on the Shelf feels like taking it to a different level.

Pause and imagine that for a moment your partner decided to tell you that in the run up to Christmas they were watching your every move very closely and regardless of extra pressure or stress, work wise or home wise that if you didn’t meet the standards they set you wouldn’t get your Christmas present.  Being totally frank if my husband implied that my Christmas present was dependent upon me completing all my share of our household responsibility to the agreed standard in order to get my Christmas presents he would be told exactly what he could do with said present (and it wouldn’t be taking it back for a refund!)  If it’s conditional then perhaps it should be called a Christmas reward and not a Christmas present……….  Anyone else feel uncomfortable with that?

Secondly, who’s going to be the parent on Christmas day who watches their child go to their stocking all excited only to find that Santa’s decided that they were so badly behaved in December that their stocking is empty?  No loving parent I know is going to do that!  If you are threatening a consequence that you don’t mean then what does this say to your child about how reliable and trustworthy what you say is?  Maybe they’ve never tested you that far, but what if one day they did?  What would you do then?  What happens if you don’t do the things you say you will?

I know once 1st December arrives, unless you are exceptionally fortunate, most parents need to brace themselves.  The combination of over excitement, multiple extra events, being indoors more, dark evenings and end of term tiredness mean that parenting without frequent meltdowns, sibling fall outs and general stress can be more challenging than trying to get a herd of cats to complete an obstacle course on a windy day.    I’m also pretty confident empty threats of withdrawing presents are NOT the solution to this.  There has to be a better way.

According to the Oxford Dictionary gifts are “ A thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present” To be a gift it surely be given without condition not subject to behaviour or achievement.  They are a demonstration of love and care NOT approval or even being deserved.  Having seen how much time, effort and expense so many parents go to in order to give their children gifts that they will love I am convinced that the intention is to show their children love, that they’re valued and to give them great memories of Christmas.

When we make a gift subject to good behaviour, be it through open threats or through cute little elves we take something really precious out of Christmas and that message of love and valuing the person is compromised.  In a season that is all about giving generous gifts to those we love we can send our children a very powerful message.” The question we must ask ourselves: is whether the message we are actually sending is the one we want our children to receive?

Parent vs Teacher – The Homework Debate


There were a number of things I expected to happen when my daughter started school in September. Getting out of the house on time would be a challenge.  Tick.  Despite putting clean uniform on her everyday she would, more often than not go to school accessorized by toothpaste smears and breakfast crumbs.  Tick.  By midway through the term she would be VERY tired and grumpy after school each day.  Tick.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that by mid-November she would have 26 pages of homework – all incomplete.  26 pages for a 4 year old in addition to reading regularly!  What’s more I have no intention of completing them unless my daughter shows a sudden burst of enthusiasm. Before we had even hit October half term I had been called aside by the reception teacher who said to me that my 4 year old had told her “My mummy says I don’t need to worry about homework.”  What’s worse is that is exactly what I did say to her.  In my defence she was anxious about going to school because she hadn’t done the first 4 pages and daddy does hold the same view, but it’s mummy who has to see the teacher most days!

As a former teacher I feel very torn.  I don’t want to undermine the school or be the nightmare parent – I know all too well how much pressure those who work education are under and how staff in schools work incredibly hard to serve their pupils’ best interests, but just a short way into the school year and already there is a clash as to what really is in my child’s best interests.  In my heart of hearts, however difficult I find the position I don’t believe it is right for her to come home and be pushed to slog through 4 pages of handwriting each week.

I’m not sure my daughter’s teacher was particularly impressed with my parenting when I said I would rather she (my daughter not the teacher) was out in the garden hunting for bugs and worms or doing some craft or just resting.  She may well be capable of learning to read and write ahead of the targets for her age and yes I do very much value her education, but I also value her wellbeing.  If she’s already exhausted at the end of the school day and I enforce/cajole/bribe her into doing her homework she may well be able to write just that little bit sooner, but if I just go with what I’m told I should be doing what is the true cost of this?

Here’s just a few…

Playtime – the more time we spend on homework, the less we spend on playing.  Fun, freedom to explore is all part of learning and growing as a child and so important.  There are many well researched articles to back that up that I cannot ignore this important part of my children’s childhood in order to strive for academic success.  I also hope that I’m teaching her the value of downtime – in a society where it is common to complain of stress and pressure I’d like to start early on with showing my children how to manage this.

Our relationship – if, instead of being the safe place where she can be grumpy and tired after school, I become the enforcer of more work what impact does that have on our relationship?  I’ve got no problem with setting boundaries where necessary, but I’m not sure that there are many benefits to making homework one.  We do a little reading if she’s in the right frame of mind and then it’s time to play or relax or just cuddle. I’m convinced that this calm space puts her in a much better place to learn the next time she’s in school.

Lost love of learning  – after years of working with children who were very disaffected with all forms of education and apathetic towards learning,  to see my own children’s love of learning and exploring the world is PURE JOY.  What a gift to find everything so interesting, to have an urge to explore and know more and how much does this become all too easily lost?  I am desperate for my children to thirst for knowledge and understanding and to remain fascinated with the diverse world in which we live and I’m not sure a heavy load of homework is the way to achieve this.

Overwhelming expectations – my daughter has many of my traits – she’s driven, focused and likes to get things right.  Great qualities, but push them too much and they become unhealthy.  If my husband and I push academic success as the number one goal at the cost of all else then that pressure will at some point come back to bite us all.  You only have to briefly look at some of the factors that increase the risk of self harm and eating disorders in teenagers to start to question this.   Of course I want her to do well at school, but it really isn’t the only measure of success in life.  I want offer her the best opportunity to be emotionally healthy, to be positive and resilient and to be kind and caring towards others.  After a day at school any of those is a big ask let alone if we chuck in lots of handwriting.

It’s all too easy to follow the crowd or just to go along with what the teachers say because we believe they know best.  My daughter’s teacher is lovely and I have a huge amount of trust and respect for much of what she says and does.  However, I think on the topic of homework she (and the school) are misguided.

Whether it’s 4 year olds and homework or 14 year olds and a myriad of other issues, , as parents we need to regularly pause and reflect upon the potential impact of where others are leading us and our children and whether it is actually the right direction.  Whether I battle 4 pages of homework a week or take on the mantle of the parent who refuses to do homework the real question I need to ask is:

What longer term path do these actions and decisions put my child on?

Research evidence of the benefits of homework and you’ll soon discover that the jury is well and truly out.  There is huge debate amongst educators about homework and no clear evidence to confirm its benefits conclusively.  My suspicion is that it will depend on the child, the home circumstances, what the homework is and when and how it is offered – so many variables it’s impossible to measure. By not making my daughter do her homework am I encouraging a lack of self discipline or devaluing her education?  I don’t believe so, but I must honestly consider this too.

learn through playNeither my husband or I are wholly against homework.  When our children are older I expect homework to become a more regular part of her (and our life) but until someone can give me evidence to the contrary our every instinct as parents says the current homework load for 4 year olds is not healthy or helpful for our child.  As with most parents we make the best decision we can with the information we have and hope we’re getting it right.  That’s the path we’re on – in 20 years I’ll be able to tell you  if it was the right one!



If you’re interested in reading a little more around this try the following:




The “Luxury” of Self-doubt


If you’ve ever found yourself constantly questioning your own judgement and abilities, thinking “who am I to do ….?” Or  “Everyone else is so much better at….” Or simply “I can’t” even though there’s no real evidence to prove that.  If you change outfits before you go out multiple times only to still feel a bit rubbish or if you often feel stupid or don’t apply for that great job/course because you just don’t quite believe you’re good enough then you’ll be pretty familiar with self-doubt.  Perhaps, instead, you just feel the need to prove yourself all the time or compete with others or to constantly demonstrate your skill and worth.

Self-doubt comes in various shapes and forms, but whatever form it takes, it sucks.  I know I and many others experience it disproportionately to our skills, talent and abilities.  How often do many of us look at ourselves and see something totally different to what the rest of the world sees? How often do you look at yourself and find yourself lacking despite evidence to the contrary – qualifications, feedback from others, previous successes?

Whilst questioning ourselves is common, how often do you question the cost of this pest on your life?  What would you be doing if you didn’t have those doubts whispering in your ear?  What is the impact on your relationships when you misjudge yourself?  How much time and energy is wasted on these things?

In one way it sounds preposterous to claim that self-doubt is a “luxury” when I know I, and so many people wrestle with this, often quite painfully.  However,  I am increasingly starting to think that it is in the realms of far too costly and I’m  wondering if it’s a luxury that I can afford.  I’m not talking about believing I’m superwoman, just not bending the knee to the voice that says “you’re not good enough” or “you can’t.”  One of the things I love about coaching and how it has benefitted me, is how it shines the light on the limiting beliefs we hold and how much they are based in fact or fiction – start down that route and it’s a scary, but exciting adventure.  When I start exploring the evidence that says “I can’t” and I find it’s actually far more shaky than I thought it sets me on a whole different path.

When I pause and reflect on the number of things I haven’t done over the years because of self-doubt it’s actually quite scary.  The scariest part is that I don’t think that I have been aware of that being the real reason.  Sound familiar?  If not, just consider for a moment how often your anxiety levels rise when other people are watching you?  How often do you hold back for fear of what others think?  How often have you made an excuse to not do something that actually was probably not the strongest reason when you truly reflect on it.

Having made the scary jump from employment to self-employment this year I can tell you that I am more aware of my own self-doubt than ever before.  When you are your own boss you no longer have that safety net of someone else having to give you feedback or guide your work – it’s all down to you and it’s sink or swim.  Whilst it’s great to be reflective, analytical and to evaluate your work –  self-doubt, for me, if unchecked, is a fast track to overwhelm, inaction and living life out of fear not hope.  It has the potential to keep my life as small and risk free as possible at the expense of all adventure and learning.  If I live like that what am I missing out on, what is it doing to my business, my relationships and what am I modelling to my children?

The thing is that whatever our area of self-doubt – body image, academic prowess, parenting, work, relationships, self-doubt can be a poison – it can suck the pleasure out of things that otherwise might bring great joy and fulfilment, it can cause us to hold back or make poor choices for fear of the wrong things and most of all it can cause us to pay a high price with nothing in return.

So the quick fix or magic wand? I’m not sure there is one –  how many qualifications, encouragements from others, likes on Facebook do we need before it goes away?  What is enough?  Change has to come from within and we are all a work in progress.

For me the awareness of what I am thinking and doing is key – it means I can now make a choice – to listen to that self-doubt  – or to take a step back weigh my decisions and choose to risk.  Is self-doubt a luxury that I can afford – actually I don’t think it is – can I afford to waste the opportunity to grow business that supports families, builds confidence in others for fear of putting myself out there when everything tells me I have the skills to do it (except that little voice of self-doubt)?  In 20 years time am I going to look back and regret taking brave steps forward or staying safe because I was too scared to do otherwise?  What if other people don’t like me or what I do? Pushing through self-doubt is hard, but it’s possible and exciting and worthwhile.

If you can afford to live in a small safe bubble and that’s ok for you then great, but if the cost of that will be huge regret then I would ask you again – can you afford it?  What is the impact on your children and relationships? What would it cost to make a change? Is it truly necessary to carry on as you are or is it actually in the realms of luxury?

Here’s the acid test…..ask yourself the question “If I had all the confidence I needed what would I do/say/think/feel?”  If the answer is something different to what you’re doing now then maybe it’s time to stop and think – what is the self-doubt costing you and is it a price you want to pay?

Starting School – endings and beginnings



In a few days the moment  I have been dreading will be upon me – I’ve been emotional about this for weeks now, so how I’m going to hold it together when the day comes I have no idea.  My daughter is starting school.  Whilst many of my friends with older kids are counting down the days left in the holidays, craving the return to routine and surviving on wine and chocolate, I feel a huge sadness at the end of a very special chapter.  I know that this also marks the start of a new and exciting time for my daughter, that she’s ready for the challenge and that my son will benefit from a bit more of my attention with his sister otherwise engaged.  I still wish though that I could press pause and hold onto this time just a little longer.

I know once we’re into our new groove it’ll be fine and this time next year we’ll be all too ready for the return to routine – I’ve done the school routine before and I know the ups and downs of it all too well.   The real issues for me right now are firstly that I am really going to miss my daughter’s company – she’s funny, bubbly, chatty, affectionate and always on the go.  In the midst of some pretty challenging times over that last few years she has been a daily ray of sunshine and I know when she comes home she’s probably not going to be at her best for a while!

Secondly, I am no longer able to manage my daughter’s day.  (I’m hoping that me finding this a challenge is more out of being protective than total control freak, but it’s probably a bit of both!) I have to entrust it to someone else and hope and pray that they “get her”, that they are kind and supportive and that she meets other children who bring out the best in her and her in them. That process of letting go as a parent is tough and I am glad to know that I am not on my own in this – that the tears I will probably shed as I leave her on her first day are a rite of passage for so many parents.

The thing is that whilst I regularly wish I could press pause and that the end of a stage is sad, rather than focusing on the loss this is, in actual fact, a reminder of all I have.  To reach a change and growth point is a privilege so many people don’t have.  When I consider the many people I know who would have loved to have children, but for various different reasons– not meeting the right person, health issues, infertility – it didn’t happen then I am reminded how I am one of the lucky ones.

I’ve met parents who have experienced miscarriage, still birth and bereavement so never even got to those stages.  I know others with children who have major health issues which mean the usual stages are so much more complex or not even possible and I’m so thankful I actually get to do the things with my child that I’d imagined doing.

I am also reminded of a friend of a friend whose daughter is the same school year as mine.  After a long battle with cancer she’s not here to help her child put on her school uniform or wave her off for her first day – to have the joy and heartache of letting her child go one stage at a time.

So often the hopes, dreams and our expectations when we consider having children are vastly different from reality – illness, relationship breakdown and a million other problems – so when we get to go through the usual stages in the ways we imagined doing it then that truly is a gift. So despite the fact that this is a significant and emotional change I am going to choose to celebrate it as a mark that we are so blessed to have got here – to live in a country where my children can access free education, where I am fortunate enough to have made it to this stage with them and to be ready to hear about her experiences, successes, frustrations and all the ups, downs and in-betweens of school life.

I can only hope that I will be able to go through so many more of these emotional stages of letting my children go and watching them spread their wings as this is surely the ultimate role of parents.  I may also need to take out shares in Kleenex!

school uniform

Why my daughter may be wearing pyjamas to nursery.


There is a high risk that at some point soon my daughter may be going to nursery in her pyjamas.  This is not because I can’t be bothered to put her in proper clothes, but because on a number of occasions she has refused to get dressed.  Just to be clear she does like nursery and she does like wearing her clothes, but if it is a morning when quite frankly she’s not in the mood to go out at the time the adults deem necessary her current tactic is to announce that she’s not going to get dressed!  Whilst I have a grudging admiration for her stalling tactics the bottom line is that I feel I have to set a boundary here – school is looming and last time I checked attendance and time keeping isn’t optional according to your mood!

Given that we have reached a stage of mostly independent dressing trying to force her into any form of attire would be an entirely pointless activity and one I’m not personally comfortable with.  I’m also not going down the road of bribery – she’s got 14 years ahead of her in full time education.  That’s a long time! So my current approach is that we ARE going to nursery – if necessary with pyjamas on.

At this point I feel the urge to try and justify how I’ve set my boundaries – to establish that I am not a terrible parent or uncaring or harsh etc  and this sums up for me the problem that I see so many of us encounter as parents when it comes to setting boundaries.  Not only do the majority of us not want to be in conflict with our children, there is also the  issue of how other people perceive our parenting.

We know that as parents we have to set boundaries.  However unless you are super confident and don’t ever question your own judgement then it’s probably going to cause some personal angst at least some of the time.  Throw into the mix what other people may or may not think of you or the issue you’re setting a boundary on and it’s no wonder that as a coach confidence is one of the biggest challenges I see parents encounter.  It’s one of the biggest drains on parent wellbeing  and one of the huge benefits of coaching.  Whilst my clients know that I don’t offer advice or tell people how to parent I still quite often get the question “What do you think…..?”  Actually it doesn’t matter what I think of your parenting style – you are the expert in your child and you will have a far better idea what is best for them.  My job is to help you clarify what this is and identify how you’re going to  achieve this.

Setting boundaries is a minefield because there is no universal agreed guideline on where these should be set.  Our own upbringing, values and the needs of our family unit all vary so much.   What is the “right” bed time?  When do you let them do xxxx on their own?  What if “everyone else” is doing xxxxx?

Sometimes I see fear of what others think or being deemed “bad parents” holds us back from giving our children the opportunity to flex their wings and test out the consequences of their own choices.  Let’s say my daughter does call my bluff and go to nursery in her pyjamas.  Would that make me a bad parent or would it help my daughter to realise that me encouraging her to get dressed is for her benefit? If my teenager is late for school because I don’t drag them out of bed, layout all of their clothes and then spoon feed them their breakfast does it make me a parent who is trying to teach responsibility or abdicate my own?

Like so many things it boils down to our own knowledge of our children and how we deliver actions.  Boundaries can be set down in hugely loving ways or dominant and cruel ones.  What for one child can be oppressive for another can free them from anxiety and worry.  Sometimes not bailing our kids out can be the most loving thing ever, even though inaction is harder for most parents than constantly picking up the pieces.

There will always be others who will do things differently to us, particularly in the spheres of family life and actually it is possible to parent differently to your friends and both be right if it is the best thing for your child.  The big challenge is holding our nerve confidently and lovingly.  So if you see a little girl in pink pyjamas on her way to nursery then please know that I am picking my battles, I love her more than words can say, I think carefully about what is best for her and I whilst time will tell whether I made the right decision it was the best decision I could at the time.


Post script – I wrote this blog a little while ago and I am glad to report that my daughter has made it through the whole of nursery without attending in her pyjamas.  However we do have school starting soon……..

The Evil of Screen Time


If there was a pub quiz round on Cbeebies currently I would have a good chance of winning. Find an episode of Topsy and Tim that I haven’t seen and I will be speechless!!  Shockingly my knowledge of current affairs or anything of a more intellectual view would, at this point in time come second to Cbeebies.  That’s because we watch quite a lot of it. I also know quite a few sections of certain Disney films off by heart too.

Whilst I am far from being the only parent in this situation I still find myself on occasions wanted to justify to the world my children’s screen time.

For some reason there seems to be this underlying belief that screen time means poor quality parenting about which we should feel terribly guilty. Pretty much every parent I know has a hang up about this borne out by the number of times I’ve heard mums (dads do this a lot less) say “I know it’s bad, but I let them play on the iPad/watch……”

Is all this guilt we experience around screens really warranted and if so why are we not acting on it? Whilst I admire families who don’t have a TV and rarely use screens I haven’t felt the need to go down that route.  However, feeling guilty without it leading to action or change is pretty much a waste of time, energy and emotion.  If you can relate to this then rather than feeling inadequate/guilty/anything that drains you I’d encourage you consider some of the following:

  1. Work out what your real issue with screens are.

The best way to do this is to identify what life in your house with screens would like in an ideal world.  Imagine you had a magic wand and everyone would go with what you thought best – what does a healthy and balanced approach to using screens look like for you – consider not just time span or device, but also content.

When we fostered we ended up in the sticky situation of debating with one of our children about taking a games console on holiday.  To me the thought of taking a full blown console on holiday was unthinkable.  To my foster child going on holiday without it was fairly torturous.  My issue – holidays are sociable times and games consoles often kill that.  In the end we came to a compromise – we’d take the Wii, but not the Playstation.  My husband and I then agreed that we would go and buy/borrow a couple of new games  & enough controllers for one each– the net result – a lot of sociable fun and a fantastic holiday with our young person.  Because we had identified the real issue with the screen we were able to find a way forward that work for all of us.

  1. Keep it in context

Look at the big picture of all that you do not just the time they spend on a screen

My preschool kids watch TV pretty much every lunchtime – to be totally honest this is because by that point in the day I need a bit of time where they sit still and don’t talk to me.  I love their company and conversation, but sometimes I need a few moments break – the TV gives me that and I don’t really feel guilty unless someone else sees me doing it and then I need to point out:

  1. We’ve usually been out all morning – they will have been doing a whole heap of activities ranging from running around, to socialising to reading to using their imaginations – the lunchtime screen doesn’t stop them doing that.
  2. It is the only meal time where they’re allowed to watch a screen and they know that boundary. We sit and eat together pretty much every tea time and talk – the TV isn’t stopping that.
  3. I am really careful about the content – Cbeebies is pretty awesome – there is load of educational stuff and NO ADVERTS .
  4. I am a much nicer mummy to be around in the afternoon if I’ve had a few moments of peace. The thing is that’s not their only screen time – they also spend half an hour watching nursery rhymes on you tube while I’m cooking tea (far preferable to tearing round the kitchen and getting injured or us all descending into meltdown). We also watch films together quite often.  My personal view is that like many things it’s not the screen that’s the problem it’s how we use it.


  1. Set boundaries based on what your child and family needs not what other people do.


Everyone else…” does not live in your house or fall under your responsibility.  You know your child best, your values and lifestyle and you are best placed to manage what they (and you) need. 


So often parents feel guilty when they’re little for any screen time and then giving them free reign when they’re older because “what can you do..?” From when they are small to when they are older we need to consider their screen use carefully – lose the guilt and gain some assertiveness.  Screens used well mean great social contact and access to a whole world of learning.  On the flip side if they’re going to school exhausted because they’ve been online at 2am or experiencing overwhelming peer pressure with no escape that needs to be managed (there’s probably a whole other blog around this topic).  Sometimes as parents we have to make tough decisions to protect our children.


Given that it is going to be hard to function in the adult world without being able to use a screen (don’t even get me started on the headache of my in-laws and internet use) our children need to be confident and competent screen users. However they also need to be wise and to have healthy boundaries. If we, as parents,  rather than feeling guilty or powerless, learn to confidently set and manage and model boundaries early on then our relationship with our children and screens might be an altogether  happier one.