Help your child prepare for school

Help your child prepare for school

We’re really lucky that our daughter is getting the opportunity to start processing her feelings about starting Reception in September each time we drop her brother off at the school. Last week she started crying as we were leaving his classroom under the pretext of wanting me to pick her up. I was unhurried and relaxed in the warm sun and felt able to Staylisten. “I’m not going to pick you up Sweetheart, you can walk just fine.” She wailed that she couldn’t walk, her feet were cold, she needed me to carry her. I gave her my full focus and warmth and said simple things like “You wanted me to carry you.” I was worried the noise might disturb the classroom, so I scooped her into a corner of the playground and sat by her as she flailed and screamed on the ground. She was still crying about her feet being cold. Then she said quietly “Anyway, the teachers in my class aren’t nice.” I love that she was able to now work on the real upset. I responded that it is a big school with lots of new children and teachers and every time I said that it allowed her to sob heartily. She has been really excited and positive about starting this school so I know that these were feelings of fear moving through. She was able to offload all her doubt about not knowing where to go and not knowing the other kids. Then as the feelings died down she needed another pretext to keep offloading about. She became fixated with the play equipment that...
When you fall apart you know you’re in the right place

When you fall apart you know you’re in the right place

Here’s my daughter getting the Embercombe after party started. Rock N Roll kiddo. We just got back from an inspirational family camp there called ‘Grow the Grownups.’ I returned my kids to their dad filthy, covered in bites, scratches, blisters and bruises, itching, exhausted, sun-kissed and with matted hair, but with their hearts and imaginations swollen by an epic tsunami of love, friendship and connection. Sign of a good week I say. I realise I wasn’t quite prepared for what transpired, having naively anticipated a relaxing, gentle week of play and connection with my kids. I blogged here about the last time I took my kids away for a week and they delivered a textbook version of what we call ‘Spoiled Outing Syndrome.’ This is where you have a special outing or trip with children, lavish them with attention and they respond by screaming the place down. What is really happening is that when you have time to really be present and unhurried with your child, their brain senses the extra emotional safety available and makes use of it to offload feelings about times in their life where things have been harder. The body is a clever self-mending organism, which likes to dump out old hurts and recover its optimal ability to function. Except this time it was me who had the Spoiled Outing Syndrome. I totally melted down for the first couple of days. Finally after holding so much together in my family and for others week after week, I had reached a community of willing supporters, many of whom were highly skilled in listening. At first I...
Why does my kid lose it when we are having the loveliest time?

Why does my kid lose it when we are having the loveliest time?

Hi from the beautiful sun drenched Algarve, where I have made an impromptu winter escape with my two kids. They are having a delightful time, splashing in rock pools, running about my aunt’s gorgeous villa, loving each other and… crying a LOT! This afternoon after a sweet morning of Special Time we set out for another adventure at the much adored local beach. Except my daughter did not set out; she stood naked outside the front door refusing to wear clothes, get into her buggy or walk with us. “I’m cold, I’m cold, I won’t go to the beach” she wailed on repeat. I listened “I hear you, I’m sorry you don’t like our plan right now.” And I listened. And about 40 minutes went by, by which point her brother was running out of patience. Now she was howling “I want a different Tshirt” and I was reminding her that the one on offer was just fine. “I’m dying of boredom, I don’t even want to go anymore” now my son was sobbing too. I was fairly under-resourced and getting fed up by this point and vented to no-one in particular “I’m just trying to take you guys for a picnic on the beach, nothing horrible ya know!” And then the penny dropped. Spoiled Outing Syndrome. That is the technical term at Hand in Hand Parenting for this kind of phenomenon where you are having a lovely time and your kid loses it for no apparent reason. And sure enough, the wailing about the Tshirt progressed into a quiet “If Daddy were here, you could take Zephyr to...
Why African babies REALLY don’t cry… and why Western ones might need to!

Why African babies REALLY don’t cry… and why Western ones might need to!

*******This is a response to a previous article by a Kenyan author. I appreciate that Africa is a vast and diverse continent and that it is not appropriate to generalise. By using the term ‘African babies’ I am referencing and responding to Claire Niala’s description of parenting practices in Kenya.******* I read the original article ‘Why African Babies Don’t Cry’ some years ago and loved it. I even told folks about this article as a Breastfeeding Counsellor and had it linked on my website for some time. Yes! I thought, all babies need is for us to respond to them. And they do undoubtedly need that. There is still a very predominant cultural throwback to the Victorian era when it comes to parenting, which does not encourage responding to babies’ needs for fear of making them too dependent. This has thankfully been debunked by developments in recent neuroscience, however the paradigm shift will take some time. So I’m glad that someone is fighting the corner for babies. And, what I’ve discovered more recently is that quite likely, our babies DO need to cry sometimes. Now just to be clear, let me define exactly what I mean by this. Ideally, just like ‘African babies’, babies from anywhere else would get fed and held and their toileting needs responded to before they even need to cry. However, ONLY when these needs are all met it may be totally justified and even beneficial if they still cry. *** Edited to add – some babies may be crying due to undiagnosed medical conditions and these of course need to be addressed. *** Crying...

The longing epidemic

I sit here watching YouTube clips of Jamie Catto, musician, producer and leader of inspirational, spiritual workshops. He’s talking about feeling intense pressure on your chest, pain across your solar plexus and the benefit of noticing these interesting sensations. I’m feeling them. I feel a weight pressing down on my lungs, a sharp pain in my heart and a strangling sensation around my throat. Emotionally, I feel a confused amalgamation of anxiety and nauseating longing. As I allow it to expand, it gets intense and I sit back and watch with curiosity and affection. The feelings arising in me are actually in response to Catto himself, the intensity of which has come and gone for some weeks, since I met him. I feel like the kid, Kenny in South Park, who vomits every time he sees the girl he likes. My Somatic Experiencing therapist, Bevis Nathan, has tasked me with watching Jamie Catto and allowing the sensations. Although it would be easy to get confused; Jamie is a smoking-hot creative genius, wise teacher, loving coach, glorious embodiment of entrancing masculinity, dedicated single dad and actual live rockstar, I’m not taking this infatuation too seriously. I’m aware that this is a projection of my early longing for one parent or both. Longing is a feeling I realise I know well. And as I reacquaint myself with it, I notice it everywhere. In lyrics of songs, artists expose themselves as stalkers and I realise I’m not alone. Billboards advertise to that longing, promising to numb or distract from the borehole in our hearts. Why is that sense of longing such an...

Love tickles, knee squeezes and licks

While I’d consider us as a fairly loved up, snuggly, nuzzly clan, the truth is I’ve had to actively force myself to be physically affectionate with my kids. Not because I wouldn’t want to show them affection, but because it wasn’t wired in my brain under Mothering 1.0. I’ve had to actually train myself to kiss them goodbye each time I go out. Children need to feel connected to us as much as they need air. Affection is like a beautiful thread that strings the connected moments of a day together. I don’t know when I started using love tickles, but they are a sweet way to say “I’m right here” particularly if I’m driving. I usually just slip my hand into my child’s lap and that’s the code to say “I love you”. Their part of the code is to tickle my hand. It feels warm and fuzzy. Or let me know they are feeling off track by whacking my hand, which is fine too. Other little check-ins between chores or separations might be hugs or nuzzles, knee squeezes or running my fingers through their hair. My kids never want to be touched if they are feeling upset, so I back off if they resist my touch. We do lots of kisses and little licks in our house too. I’m really grateful to my husband for injecting abundant use of the words “love you” into our family; something that was rarely said in mine. And I think we need to make the effort to connect physically even when our children grow beyond the sweet intimacy of the early...