• Getting boys to talk

    Some kids talk more than others.

    If you’ve got more than one child chances are you’ve noticed this. Some of that is down to temperament and some may be attributable to gender. I have a daughter who is very extroverted. She used to come home from school and tell me everything that had gone on in her day in the first 2 minutes. I had to gear myself up for the onslaught the minute she got home.

    I became really grateful when the kids got home at different times so I could focus on all their different needs. With Gemma my challenge was just to listen, not to jump in with advice. When I buttoned my lip and let her know I was listening the storm would blow itself out and often she would find her own solutions. She would talk in order to work out what she thought about things.

    She just needed to be heard.

    I also have two sons who happen to both be introverts. They like to think through things before speaking. When they got home from school they liked to chill out and wouldn’t offer anything about their day until the evening. I had a friend with a son with a similar disposition and she used to say she only found out what was going on in her son’s life through what I told her I’d heard from my boy.

    Many boys don’t talk about their feelings. Traditionally men weren’t encouraged to and perhaps unwittingly we still give boys messages that in order to be a man they need to manage alone. Sometimes parents still say “big boys don’t cry” or we tell them not to make such a fuss or to be a big boy. If we tell our children to ‘man up’ what do we mean?

    If dads model talking about how they feel about stuff then boys learn that it’s ok for men to do so.

    The best way to get a boy to talk is not to sit down for an eyeball to eyeball conversation but to do an activity together. This is what Steve Biddulph calls ‘sideways talk’. Some of my best conversations with my sons have been while we’ve been walking or even doing the washing up together.

    When I picked them up from school we were more likely to get a conversation going if we were walking home. Usually pumping them for information about their day didn’t work. We all know that the answer to the question “How was your day?” is “fine”, with all the information that doesn’t convey. Young children live in the moment and often can’t be bothered to dredge up what happened earlier in their day.

    Some will actually want to keep their school world separate from home. They certainly won’t tell us anything if they think we’re going to judge, criticise, or perhaps even advise them.

    You start the conversation. Tell him about your day. Tell him about age-appropriate things that you care about. Thank him for listening and maybe tell him you feel good talking to him. If you think he has something on his mind tell him you think he might be a bit worried about something. You can tell because of his body language or facial expressions or because of what he has said or done. Try to put yourself in his shoes. If you think you know what he’s feeling describe what that might be like for him. He might not talk now but you’ve opened the door for a conversation. If he does talk don’t say much, just nod a lot. Don’t judge and DON’T offer advice.

    I remember when my older son was preparing (or not) for exams he started being mean to his younger brother. He used to do that a lot when he was younger and I was afraid we were slipping back into old patterns. In my anxiety and frustration I was tempted to tell him off or punish him but I realised in time that it might be connected to the exams that he showed no signs of caring about.

    I talked with him about how he might be feeling, detailing his anxiety, wondering whether he was afraid of letting us down, speculating that it might be difficult to follow in his academically able sister’s footsteps, even that he might be cross with himself for not having worked harder earlier. He didn’t say much…but his body language changed –his shoulders were less slumped and he made more eye contact. And his behaviour toward his brother changed.

    I’d like to say he aced those exams but that would be fiction. But he developed better habits for the next set and, more to the point, he learnt to process his feelings well and find appropriate outlets for his frustrations and fears. This son still doesn’t talk a lot about his emotions but he is a great conversationalist and has good emotional awareness - he knows how to manage his feelings.

  • Improving your child’s attention span

    Does the fruit of your loins whom you love to death sometimes seem to have the attention span of a gnat? Does your darling child forget what you’ve asked him to do on the way to do it? Are you worried about their future at school?
    My boys used to fidget, get up and down, need the loo, stare out the window or chase imaginary rubbers around the floor rather than focus on homework.

    Instead of concluding that lack of focus is hereditary (as you get distracted by incoming emails and Face book messages) consider first what is realistic to expect for your child’s age (and gender). Under 8s generally fidget and wriggle around a lot and it isn’t always an indicator that they’re not paying attention. Boys generally move around a lot more than girls do. They are impulsive and they forget things. All of this is normal. Research gives us a rough rule of thumb for how long children should be able to focus on a learning task.

    Attention span for learning = chronological age + 1

    This means that a 4 year old should be able to focus for about 5 minutes on a task that is a learning activity. He can focus for a lot longer on a game that he’s engaged in. So motivation is a key factor. This is a clue for adults trying to get kids to focus –try to make the task interesting or fun!

    Other things that will help expand on your child’s ability to focus that you might like to try in the holidays:

    1. Limit time spent on electronic games and TV

    Most children’s games and TV are designed to be very fast-moving –they flick from one image and idea to the next very quickly, discouraging sustained thought and puzzling out solutions. Several US studies have found that too much time in front of a screen can affect development of the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for planning, attention and self-control.

    2. Encourage activities involving sustained thought and listening

    Get children interested in construction toys, craft and jigsaw puzzles and give them mysteries to solve such as on http://kids.mysterynet.com/ Play games that involve careful listening like Simple Simon.

    3. Provide opportunities for physical release of energy and enough sleep

    4. Make sure kids are getting enough ‘down time’

    Kids need down time to just think and be creative. Make sure they have some non-scheduled time where they can just gaze out the window and come up with some brilliant scheme.

    5. Use descriptive praise

    When we praise our children descriptively and specifically it really focuses their attention on what they’re doing in a much more effective way than by pointing out what they get wrong. Comment when they’re focused on a task and they’ll do it more.

    6. Build your child's emotional intelligence

    Research shows that parents can influence the development of the pre-frontal cortex and encourage emotional intelligence in their children by recognising and validating their children’s feelings. When they do this children can process their feelings and move on. This greatly assists focus. Kids can’t pay attention to learning tasks when they’re consumed by emotions.

    When you ask them to do something just get them to do one thing

    Children under 8 can’t retain more than 2-3 pieces of information at one time.

    If you use these 7 fun, easy ideas your child’s ability to focus will definitely improve. If you found this useful please share it, and look for more interesting tips on www.theparentpractice.com. We’d love to hear from you –what can your child spend hours on?

  • Little Wedding Guest

    Whilst the main preoccupation most of us Mum’s have on receipt of a wedding invitation is what shall I wear. When the little ones are invited too, the questions invariable multiply – with the most pressing two often being: what do they wear and how am I going to keep them on their best behaviour for an entire day?

    The Outfit: Boys

    Even for us grown ups, we want to know what type of wedding its going to be so we can dress appropriately. This isn’t however just about fashion, there is nothing worse than spending the entire day trying to pull your 6” heels out of slightly soggy garden turf. The same goes for kids of both sexes. So firstly work out if its going to be more ‘city chic’ or ‘classic country’. With that ticked, finding the right shoes and outfit will become a lot easier.

    Country weddings are great for kids as invariably there is loads of space for them to run and play, so bear this in mind when selecting an outfit. For boys, unless it is very formal, for a country wedding, we would avoid suits, as chances are your boys will be want to charge about and get hot and sweaty, making a suit both impractical and impossible to keep smart. Instead why not try accessorizing a plain trouser and shirt combination with a cute bowtie or tie. Not only does this look adorable but it keeps them looking smart without them feeling constrained. We’d then add either a blazer or sleeveless tank top, as both look super smart but are easily taken on and off.

    For a city wedding suits are fabulous – they look stylish and even after a long day he will still be looking cute. When buying a suit as tempting as it is to buy large so it lasts, don’t overdo it as little ones quickly look swamped in suits and you will have real problems with the fit, so it is rarely worth it. If suits are too formal, then a classic pair of linen trousers and a shirt with a subtle print. We’d avoid anything too bold, unless it is a solid colour. Another alternative that we love, are French shorts (think long ¾ length shorts). These can look both adorable and very smart and only need to be paired with a plain shirt or you can add a bit of extra flourish with a bowtie. Just make sure you have the right shoes as they will be on show!

    The Outfit: Girls

    The options for girls are endless. For country we’d choose something with a pretty print that is loose fitting so she can run and play as much as the boys. Light colours are great for summer but with all the canapés and cake you may want a print that doesn’t show every tiny mark. You will also be asking her to sit still for quite a while during the ceremony so if there is anything vaguely itchy or tight you’ll regret it. For the same reason we’d steer clear of bows and details she can fiddle with – its inevitable, they will break or fall off and there will be tears! The same goes for accessories, if she loves them great, if she doesn’t like her shoes or her hair band hurts her ears, it won’t last the day, so just leave it at home.

    For city weddings we love dresses with a simple silhouette, so think block colours and clean lines. Girls also love long dresses so these are perfect for weddings as it definitely makes them feel very special. If you are moving between venues don’t forget she may need a smart little coat or jacket so plan ahead, a scruffy cardigan or raincoat won’t quite cut it. Kids are often put at the front in the photos, so you need to make sure they great outfit isn’t ruined by an ill-matched coat or shoes. If you have gone simple on the dress you can go to town a bit with the hair, but keep it soft and pretty. Braids are big this season so are a good place to start.

    As Good as Gold

    Now it might be a little old fashioned to want your children to be ‘seen and not heard’ but as much as most people love to have them there and want them involved, it really isn’t their day and you have to be more than mindful about how the bridal couple might feel about children running riot on their big day. So as tempting as it is to let them entertain themselves whilst you knock back the champagne, even with all the grandparents, aunts and uncles there, as we all know, this is still very much your watch.

    The trickiest part is always going to be getting through the wedding ceremony itself. As with everything, prepare them for what is about to unfold, if you aren’t regular church-goers, talk to them about the ceremony, the hymns, readings and sermon - that way they know what to expect. If you have a baby, it goes without saying, if you can, sit at the back and next to the aisle. If they start grizzling get up and go, don’t just hope it will stop – if they sense you starting to get stressed then things will only escalate. With older ones when the fidgeting strikes, it is very tempting to offer up your phone – this definitely works, but all too often at some point they manage to accidentally switch the sound, drop it or start to ask you loud questions about the game they are playing with. If you can and they are old enough, as an alternative approach, try and engage them in the ceremony – give them a little pop quiz to fill in – how many bridesmaids are there? How many hymns did we sing?

    Not only will this help keep their attention but it may help them enjoy the ceremony rather than feel its simply to be endured. If they are too small - bribery is also a very useful tactic that we certainly wouldn’t frown on. Packets of raisin or Haribo for extreme situations, do keep them quiet, so keep them handy.

    The reception itself is generally much easier to manage as more often than not, there are other kids to play with or doting relatives to help occupy them. Do bring snacks as it’s a long day and the canapés are probably not going to be to their liking. In a similar way, the wedding breakfast might not be suited to little ones so be prepared as the chef and waiting staff might not be able to quickly rustle up some fishfingers and peas. Our other top tip is to make sure they know when to expect bedtime. With the party in full swing, they aren’t going to want to leave and this could lead to a full on meltdown after a wonderful but exhausting day.

    However the day goes, weddings are such special days that you are building memories as a family, both good and bad, that will last well beyond the day itself. So keep a sense of humour, a smile and a great pair of heels always helps.

  • Can boys play with dolls?

    I think parents these days are often mindful about stereotyping on the basis of gender and try to avoid it by not dressing their children in ‘gendered’ colours (but did you know that up until the early 20th century pink was thought of as a strong boys’ colour?), providing them with opportunities to play with toys and to take part in sports or activities generally associated with the opposite sex, exposing them to different role models (in literature and in reality) and speaking to them in gender neutral terms.

    But it’s actually really easy to get caught out by little gendered remarks that slip out unnoticed. For instance have you told either your sons or daughters to ‘man up’? What does that mean? If it means to toughen up and be strong is that an attribute just for men? If it means don’t give in to your feelings or don’t talk about your feelings or, worse, don’t have those feelings, what are we saying about men and emotions? The answer to that last question was made abundantly clear to me once when I was giving a workshop on Raising Boys. I was talking about encouraging boys to identify and manage their feelings when one father said “I would question my son’s masculinity if he was talking about his feelings”!

    Sometimes with the best of intentions we’ll say things like “big boys don’t cry.” In hundreds of little ways we give our sons the message that it is weak and unmanly to express emotion and to be a man is to cope on your own. Statistics show what terrible repercussions this has for adult men not seeking help when they need it –men don’t even go to the doctor let alone ask directions! More seriously the suicide rate is much higher in men than women.

    It’s just as problematic if we’re giving limiting messages to our daughters. Have we fallen into the trap of calling our daughters ‘bossy’ for behaviour that we would find acceptably assertive in our sons? I hope you’ve seen the wonderful you tube video ‘Run like a girl’ by Proctor & Gamble which aims to celebrate the phrase rather than allowing it to be derisory.

    And of course there is still much stereotyping in music, the media, video games and in film through images and the behaviours portrayed by men and women despite recent efforts by children’s programme makers. Certain ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ qualities are ascribed to men and women. And children will be exposed to a lot of gendered stereotypes in shops with pink and blue aisles and packaging as well as boy toys and girl toys.

    There is much that parents can do to avoid these stereotypes and to offer contrary images and messages to those absorbed through the media etc. But what if, in spite of your best efforts, your child is the one coming up with stereotypes for boys’ and girls’ behaviour?

    One parent told us that her three and a half year old son had been making comments like "only boys can play with this…" to which the mum responded that "Actually boys AND girls can play with the same toys!" she was curious as to where this fixed attitude came from as neither she or her husband had ever consciously stereotyped boys vs girls. She said she always tried to use gender-neutral words such as ‘firefighter’ instead of ‘fireman’ etc.

    It is perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate behaviour for a young child to explore his or her identity including gender roles. Research has shown that children may be born with gendered tastes in toys, in that girls prefer dolls over cars and nothing we do or say can change this! However up until the age of 12 months boys are equally interested in dolls. It is only after this age that boys show a preference for toys with wheels, whereas girls continue to prefer dolls. This suggests that this is attributable to social factors rather than genetics. By the age of 3 or 4 children have surprisingly definite ideas about what behaviour and dress is appropriate for boys and girls.

    By this age most children when interviewed give stereotypical answers about behaviours appropriate for male and female dolls -100% of the children interviewed in one study said the female doll liked to clean the house and took care of the babies while the male doll went out to work!

    These perceptions of ‘boys’ toys’ or ‘girls’ toys’ and dress and behaviour show a normal, healthy development of gender identity and a natural inclination to want to fit in with their sex. This adapting to belong is a sign of good social skills but parents are wise to offer contrary messages as well. The strongest message we can give our children is through what we model so if boys see their dad sewing on a button or cooking a meal they will think that is an appropriate activity for a male. Likewise if mum mends the fuses or changes a tyre then obviously women can do those things. Children will model themselves on the same gender parent so dads please let your sons know its ok to talk about your feelings.

    Children this age are very black and white –it’s only as they get older that they can understand the grey areas of life, including the idea that boys and girls can do things beyond the stereotypes.

    What do you do to discourage stereotyping? Does it work?

    If you found these ideas useful check out lots more of our resources on www.theparentpractice.com including our online course.

  • Best Present Ever for a Mum

    How would it be if your child turned around to you one morning and said “Mummy, I think this is the best morning I have ever had…..” and you knew that was because of what you had just done? You. Super mum. Deserving of the highest accolades on Mothering Sunday.

    A parent in one of our classes told us this is what her son said to her recently and it brought a tear to our collective eye.

    By way of background this mum told us that their usual experience of morning getaways was the all too familiar horror story of rushing, nagging, dawdling, nagging, feet-digging in, nagging, cheekiness, telling-off, daydreaming, SHOUTING, crying, threatening, more crying (this time mum) and pulling out of hair. We all know how it goes. She would wake the kids up in plenty of time and get herself dressed so that she’d be available to marshall everybody. She’d go into their rooms and no progress would have been made. At all.


    Nobody would have even started on getting dressed. And by now 20 minutes would have elapsed and the timetable would be seriously jeopardised. So she would berate them for not doing anything. They would look at her puzzled and she would wonder how she’d spawned such half-wits, and realise it must be her husband’s genes. Well when you’re working with poor material you have to be creative. So she’d try again. “If you get dressed and come downstairs quickly I’ll let you have Nutella on your toast.” She’d go downstairs thinking she’d provided the necessary incentive and get going on the lunch boxes.

    15 minutes later there would be no sign of anyone so she’d go back up again to find two half-dressed children playing with the Sylvanian families. More shouting and children wrangling ushering and they were downstairs but she felt like a worn our dish-cloth and it was nearly 8am.

    Well our mum had just done our class on Descriptive praise so she decided to try it. You know descriptive praise. You don’t? You don’t know about the magic key that unlocks cooperation? The secret formula to motivate your child? The thing that is guaranteed to bring a smile to a little face (and your child’s too) and that leads to “Mummy, I think this is the best morning I have ever had…..?” If you don’t know about descriptive praise you must be new to our blogs. If we didn’t tell you about it at every opportunity we would be derelict in our duty. We would be failing in our mission to bring happiness to the families of the world.

    So let us tell you now. It’s not rocket science. It does what it says on the tin. You just describe what they’re doing ….positively. You notice something small (and we mean small) that they’re doing that is good, or possibly that is not bad. And you mention it to them. Sometimes you’ll add what positive quality that behaviour shows.

    So you might say: “I see you two have got out of bed. That’s a good start to our day. That’s a lovely smile to get us off to a good beginning Jacob. Pause. Ella, you put out your clothes last night which will make things quicker this morning. That was really sensible, wasn’t it? You prepared for success! And you are getting really good at getting your dress on yourself. Would you like me to help with your tights? …Jacob I see you’ve got your pyjamas off now….Oh Ella, thank you for helping him with his shirt. What a kind sister. I love it when you two are being so helpful. I need to put lots of pasta pieces in the jar so Daddy can see what a great morning we had when he comes home.”

    And if you think nobody talks to their children like that, we concede it is different from the norm. But the norm is as described above. And the norm doesn’t lead to “Mummy, I think this is the best morning I have ever had…..”

    So what would you like? Would you like to talk a bit weirdly to your kids and watch them beam at you and each other, stand a bit taller in front of your eyes, feel more confident and be more cooperative? Would you like them to start their day feeling happy and thinking you’re the best mum in the world?

    We thought so. You are the best mum in the world, especially with descriptive praise in your toolkit.

    Start using descriptive praise today. It’s free and the results are miraculous. If you want to know more about it check out our face to face courses and our online courses here. Tell us how descriptive praise worked for you at admin@theparentpractice.com.

  • Why the Work Grass isn't Always Greener

    Why The Work Grass Isn't Always Greener

    I work shifts. As a parent (especially a single one), I always believed this would be completely non-conducive to having children. Given Ava is now in full time nursery and can be dropped off at those beautiful gates as early as 8am and collected as late as 6, I always assumed that a Monday to Friday 9-5 would be the only solution that would allow me to work. The holy grail for the single mum some would call it...

    Turns out that this might not completely be the case.

    With the right job, an understanding boss and the flexibility to have some control over which days you are in, working shifts can be an amazing blessing in disguise for a single mum. I only work nights on the evenings that Ava is at her Dad's. And on the odd occasion that I have to work a night that she isn't, I have a couple of pretty understanding sisters always willing to lend a babysitting hand. Yes, I sometimes have to work weekends. Yes. It totally kills that Friday feeling. And that can suck. But I usually only work a Saturday or a Sunday. Meaning I get one of the weekend days off to do what I please.

    And the reason I so adore the balancing act of having a 3 year old and working shifts? Because it often means I get a day off during the week. And if I didn't I wouldn't have a chance to write. I spent months pining after a 9-5. Searched fruitlessly for what Dolly Parton was singing about. I believed that because I was a working mother, it would make my life so much simpler. But then I realised - I would never get any time to myself. I wouldn't be able to go to the gym on a Monday morning when everyone else was at work. I wouldn't be able to do my supermarket shop on a quiet Wednesday afternoon and avoid the trolley rage and demented mamas of a Sunday Tesco visit. I wouldn't catch up on any writing I needed done because by the time I clocked off, picked up my girl, got home, did dinner, bath and bed, all I would be fit for was a glass of wine and an episode of Eastenders.

    Then after 5 straight days at work the weekend would come along but I would be too busy spending quality time with Ava, making soup, cleaning the house and doing the weekly shop to worry about sitting down in front of the laptop and getting my write on. And so I have realised that the grass isn't actually always greener. And the fact is I have the best working situation I can be in right now if I really want to keep all my little balls in the air. The balls being my job, my child and my fledgling writing career.

    Every few weeks I will get a weekend off. And being such a novelty, it really is a treat. Leaving work on the Friday and coming home to a take out and a long lie the following morning is relished. Saturday's spent catching up with non-shift working friends enjoyed. Maybe even a dinner party at mine on the Saturday night. And Sunday's are the best days. Walks through the park with a loved one, walks to the park with the little one. Bloody Mary's and brunch at a new little deli or a pint in your local then home for a Sunday roast.

    In bed by 7pm with nothing but the Sunday supplements and a massive bar of Galaxy for company. I do miss my Sundays. And adore the ones I have off. In the words of The Bangles. That's my fun day.

    But the truth is that even if I worked 6 days a week and my only day off was a Thursday, you would still find me on that Thursday on the laptop. Banging away at the blog, meeting a writing deadline or just simply applying for more freelance jobs. Stopping only for coffee and a quick look at the time in anticipation of when I get to go pick my baby up. And without the flexibility and non-conformity of shift work, I simply wouldn't be able to do that.

  • Designer Ski Wear Essentials for 2015

    If you are taking the kids skiing for the first time, the bottom line has to be if they are cold or uncomfortable they will put more energy into whining than skiing. The other consideration is that, unlike adults, kids won’t think twice about charging head long into a giant snowdrift or rolling around to make snow angels – that’s the fun of it. As a consequence, they are unfortunately, even more likely to suffer if they don’t have quite the right kit. So as your trip is likely to be short, its best to get it right from day one.


    So here is our 101 guide to ski wear essentials:

    1. Base Layer:

    First they need a base layer, avoid vests like the plague, in fact anything cotton or wool will do anything but keep them warm. Cotton holds moisture and if they sweat even a little bit, they will quickly find themselves damp and cold. Look for long thermal vests and long john that are breathable and wick the sweat away; merino is especially good. You also want it to fit reasonably snuggly, so try and avoid the temptation to buy several sizes up so it will last. With the number of layers they need, if it is too big they will feel too bulky and finding moving difficult (you really don’t want to end up carrying them because they are struggling to walk).

    2. Mid-Layer:

    Next the mid-layer which is worn over their long underwear, and under your ski jacket and ski pants. You’ll be relieved to hear that a basic fleece works well, most decent fleeces are breathable and they are great for keeping the wind chill off. As with the base layer, it is worth avoiding anything too bulky. It might look snug but with everything else they have on it will just make them feel uncomfortable.

    3. Ski Jacket:

    If you can, borrow one or there is a good market for kids second hand ski gear so it is worth exploring this option. If you do end up buying one, invest in a ski jacket that is waterproof or at least water-resistant, insulated, and breathable. This is where if you have well fitting base and mid-layers you can afford to buy a bit bigger, just make sure they can still move and aren’t overwhelmed by it. If you can find one they can actually do up themselves, it is worth its weight in gold.


    4. Ski Pants:

    These need to be waterproof, insulated, and long enough to be pulled down over ski boots. Especially important for little ones, make sure they have a snow cuff that pulls down over the boots, otherwise its too easy for snow to end up inside the trousers and down their boots before you have even started. Whilst salopettes are definitely a nuisance when it comes to getting changed (and importantly going to the loo) they don’t run the risk of falling down and are less irritating for young kids, so we’d recommend these over trousers – also as they are adjustable you’ll probably get more than just one season out of them.

    5. Ski Socks:

    It is tempting to think that socks won’t matter but this is one place you don’t want to skimp. In order to keep their feet warm and dry, they need a pair of socks that is slim-fitting and ideally wicks away moisture. Thin socks are better than thick as they let you feel the sole of the ski boot and give you a better sense of the movement. Again big bulky socks that wrinkle in the boots will just be uncomfortable and can lead to sore feet. No matter how cold, avoid the temptation to put on multiple layers of socks. If their ski boots are too stuffed with socks, air can’t circulate and their feet will end up getting cold.

    6. Gloves:

    Make sure the pair you buy either comes with elasticated cuffs (so they stay attached to the wrists when the gloves have been taken off) or get a glove string that does the same thing. If they lose their gloves, it is game over so securing them is essential. For little ones, we’d definitely vote for mittens over gloves, they are easier to put on and warmer than gloves. Again fit is everything if they are too small the air won’t circulate and they’ll end up with cold fingers and if they are too big they’ll be falling off, so take your time finding the right pair. The other important consideration is to find a pair they can put on themselves - if at all possible. You’ll be amazed how many times they can manage to take their gloves off, if they aren’t the ones having to put them back on. If you are especially worried about cold hands you can also buy glove liners that give some added warmth.

    7. Ski Helmet:

    This is an absolute necessity and a legal requirement in some places. You don’t need to buy one, most ski hire shops rent them and this way you can ensure year on year they are getting the correct fit. We’d also recommend balaclavas for under the helmets as being the best way to keep their faces warm.


    8. Ski Goggles:

    Even if it doesn’t feel like the sun is shining, the bright snow reflects the sunlight, and higher altitudes means the sun's UV rays are more powerful. Ski goggles will help protect their eyes from ultra violet and if you can find some with polarized lenses they are even better at reducing glare. In addition make sure you take some sunglasses for the kids to wear when you are outside having lunch or out and about.

    Other top tips:

  • Label everything, especially goggles, mittens or gloves.
  • Apply a thick layer of sunscreen and give them some lip-salve to pop into their pockets.
  • In case of emergencies, it is also worth sticking a note with your name and phone number into their pockets.
  • Be patient, the first time will always be the hardest.

    Please visit our fabulous range of designer ski wear for children

  • Finding 'Me Time'

    Before I had Ava I was pretty good at prioritising myself. Nights out were cancelled when I was in desperate need of some alone time with a movie and a massive box of Dairy Milk. Hangovers were spent indulging in take-out on my own and catching up on all the sleep my 25 year old self missed out on during the week. When I needed a boost I got my nails done. When I wanted some pampering I went for luxurious bubble baths that lasted for hours or I took myself to the nearest shopping centre where I could blow lots of cash in River Island without feeling guilty.

    Then I had a child. And all these self-indulgent, first world perks suddenly became a distant memory.

    Given I didn't go back to work until Ava was 15 months (and I had a partner who was either working away or 70 hours a week), Ava and I pretty much didn't see the back of each other. Not that I'm complaining. But the pair of us were thick as thieves. And my little shadow pretty much went everywhere with me. Shopping trips became a nightmare. Have you tried getting a buggy with a screaming baby into one of the Topshop changing rooms? Not easy. Hair appointments became impossible. While the odd file and polish was doable, the chances of a 10 month old sitting in her pram for 3 hours while you get a full head of highlights, cut and colour was slim to none. Movies were interrupted every 40 minutes by a baby who refused to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. And you can forget bubble baths. Even now my so very loved Lush bath times are regularly interrupted by a three year old throwing Wotsits into the water and spilling my wine.

    Not that I resented any of it. I understood that this was all just part and parcel of becoming a mother. But I missed my 'me' time. Excuse me while I outwardly cringe at my ridiculous woe is me mother cliché.

    Then something I had hoped would never happen happened and her Dad and I split up. And suddenly Ava was away from me a couple of nights a week. And I was able to spend so long in the bath that I emerged like a wrinkled prune. I could nip to the supermarket without a squawking child in the trolley taking bites out of the butter. I could go for a beer and burger without bouncing a small person on one knee. I could go for lunch without desperately asking every single member of staff for the wifi password so she could watch Balamory. And I really appreciated this new time I got to myself. If for no other reason that the distraction it created from missing her like hell. And I missed her all the time.

    Now Ava goes to nursery 5 days a week. And as I work shifts I often find myself with a couple of days during the week to myself. I can write up that blog post I have been meaning to do for ages and actually take the time to take proper pictures for it as opposed to crappy hurried ones taken with my iPhone. I can try on 30 different dresses in River Island until I find the exact one I want for work. I can go for sushi or a latte and read Marie Claire instead of the latest Peppa Pig magazine. And finally I can go to the gym.

    I will never be a huge lover of exercise. I have always been more inclined to skip lunch to save calories rather than do a half hour on the treadmill. But thanks to some personal training sessions and my new found freedom, I have been finding working out a perfect way to get the me time that I have been craving for such a long time. To think. To get lost in my music. To just do something that is genuinely only for me and not for anyone else. And it's kinda great. And I am kinda loving it.

    And I haven't felt one ounce of 'Mum guilt' yet.

  • Will you stop fighting!

    How to Get Involved When Siblings Fight

    Does it really push your buttons when your kids fight? When they’re home over the summer holidays they’re in each other’s company more and they may goad each other out of sheer boredom. You know sibling fighting is meant to be normal, but seriously, over who gets to open the door when dad gets home? Which, after all, he does every day.

    Really? What did you envisage when you brought into the world a sweet little sister or brother for your adored first-born? That she should become a punch bag for him? That he should call her all manner of names and tease her? That she should provoke the life out of him?

    I thought not.

    You were probably like me with fantasies of them playing happily together and keeping each other occupied while you watched over them benignly with cup of tea in hand.

    When my boys were younger I thought we’d made a serious mistake in having more than one, one which we hadn’t worked out until too late.

    My older boy turned into a monster around his brother. He tormented him endlessly and seemed so aggressive with him I envisaged a future where I would be visiting him behind bars as I thought he’d turned into a psychopath.

    The advice I received was to stay out of their fights. I tried to do this but it was as if I’d given permission for the older one to bully the younger. My younger child felt abandoned. I could understand why I shouldn’t take sides in their disputes but I needed to do something….didn’t I?

    Studies have shown that effective intervention has the effect of reducing the number and intensity of sibling rows. (Perlman, M and Ross, H ‘The benefits of parent intervention in their children’s disputes: An examination of concurrent changes in children’s fighting styles.’ Child Development 1997).

    Faber & Mazlish’s Siblings Without Rivalry had some good ideas.

    Parents need to know when to get involved in their children’s arguments and when to stay out of them.

    We need to distinguish between minor squabbles and major on-going battles. We decide upon our intervention based on the level of dispute. We need to be ready to intervene when the children seem to be struggling, or the situation is potentially dangerous, but our intervention is only to encourage and support them to resolve their dispute constructively themselves.

    And when we do intervene, we need to do so in ways which not only encourage children to sort out their own disputes but which also support the children’s relationships, and reduce the risk of long term conflict.

    If we take sides or impose judgments not only does the accused retaliate later but the children don’t learn how to resolve matters themselves.

    The basic approach is to:
    • describe the problem
    • acknowledge how each child feels
    • help the children find a solution; support them in using more constructive conflict resolution strategies

    Example: Jack, aged 5, wants to watch Peppa Pig on TV but Bella, aged 8, is watching her ‘Frozen’ DVD and singing (loudly) along to ‘Let it go’.

    Jack saysI want to watch Peppa now Bella” and Bella just says “no”, so Jack hits her, saying “It’s my turn now horrible Bella.” And Bella shouts and hits him back. Jack cries.

    Dad thinks it’s time to intervene and doesn’t say “Ok, you two that’s enough. Bella don’t be so mean, give Jack a turn." (He did that last week and it ended in tears all round – Dad too, well, almost.)

    Dad: Jack I can see you’re upset. We don’t hit in this family. Can you tell Bella what you want, rather than calling her names?

    Jack: She’s being mean. I want a turn.

    Bella: But it’s my turn now. I want to watch the end of this video.

    Jack: You watched it on the weekend. I want to watch Peppa now.

    Dad: (Dad has some sympathy – he wouldn’t mind some respite from ‘Let it go’ himself.) Jack is saying he wants a turn to watch his show. Bella is saying she’s not ready for her turn to be over….Hmm…That’s a tough situation...I know it can be hard to wait, Jack.

    Jack: I don’t want to wait…I want to watch Peppa now! Bella gets to watch her show all the time.

    Dad: You feel you’re not getting a fair go? Can you tell Bella that and ask her when she’ll be ready to give you a turn? Bella can you tell Jack, without hitting, what would be a fair time for you to have on the video.

    Jack: It’s not fair Bella, you had a turn on the weekend and I haven’t had my turn for ages. When will it be my turn?

    Bella: Ok Jack! You can watch Peppa when the next song is finished. Why don’t you be Olaf?

    Dad gives lots of descriptive praise for both children for resolving this situation constructively.
    Both kids feel heard and they have learnt how to assert themselves without hitting.

    Managing sibling conflicts is one of the most difficult parts of parenting. Helping children to resolve disputes without abusing power or resorting to name-calling or violence is a great gift.

    Do you have brothers and sisters? If so do you still have that level of sibling rivalry or are you close now? My own brother denied my existence when I was in my teenage years and now we are very close. What did your parents do that helped or hindered those relationships?

    If you found this useful do share this blog with friends and family and subscribe to our newsletter.

    Happy parenting!

    Elaine and Melissa

  • Going Back to Work

    By Dawn Young, our lifestyle blogger.

    Two weeks ago my daughter turned three. And I decided to make the jump back into full-time work. Up until this point I had worked two days a week while Ava went to nursery two days. As a single mum this worked out perfectly for us. However, starting November Ava has a full time place at nursery five days a week. And I will be going into work four days a week while spending one day a week doing any writing jobs I have from home. And how do I feel about this massive jump for the both of us? A little scared if I'm honest.

    Right now my little cherub is snoozing in her bedroom. Top of the covers, bum up, face smooshed into the pillow. It's 5pm and it's stressing me out. Despite various attempts to wake her after she crashed out halfway through the supermarket shop, she is obviously exhausted and is taking this little late afternoon siesta whether I like it or not. I'm grouchy and annoyed. I have a deadline on two writing pieces that I have to get done tonight. If Ava sleeps now she will not go to bed. If Ava doesn't go to bed I won't get my writing done. If I don't get the writing done then I miss the deadline. All the while I have a bed that needs made up, a flat that resembles a Chinese laundry (thanks night training), a chicken that needs stripped of it's meat and a pile of dishes needing done.

    And I haven't even started back to work full time yet.

    The truth is it's time. I'm starting to struggle for things to keep Ava entertained. My Pinterest list of places to do and fun activities for toddlers is waning. She's getting as impatient with me as I am with her. And deep down I know she needs more stimulation. I know that I do too. I see those stay at home mothers who give up their work right up until that last baby is starting high school and I salute them. I really do. They must have the patience of a saint. Something I know I lack. And I think Ava knows it too. While I'm a little nervous that she is too young to go into full time childcare, or that she might hate me for it later when she stops remembering me being the one who takes her to the park on a windy Wednesday, I also know that that kid is going to be baking, shell sticking and glitter pimping to her hearts content Monday to Friday. Something that she loves and an area that I lack.

    A fascist to the end I have always incurred quite a regimental 7pm bedtime with Ava. So you can see why I am getting so stressed out at her current slumber situation. It's now five thirty and I'm starting to twitch at the realisation that it'll be at least 9pm before I get her to bed. Soon my strict bedtime regime will be unrealistic anyway. Some nights I will only just make it to the nursery for 6pm. But I will make it by 6pm so those other fascists that run the nursery don't fine me. By the time we do dinner, bath and actually spend some quality time together there is no way I want to put that kid to bed for 7pm. By the time I get all the little things I want to get done like the laundry or that soup made there is no way I am going to have the desire nor energy to write what I want to write at ten o' clock at night. To write what I need to write. To fulfil that desire to let the constant stream of words that jumble round about my head on a day to day base somehow form sentences. To keep that going. It's important to me that I don't stop but I sometimes wonder how I am going to find the time. And it's stressing me out.

    So I am guess I'm a bit over-whelmed about how it's all going to turn out. I guess I'm a bit scared that I won't keep on top of things. And I guess I'm a bit of a failure if I don't manage to keep all the balls in the air that I see so many single working parents manage to.

    But mostly, I guess I need to stop worrying about situations that haven't even happened yet ... and go try and wake my kid up!

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