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Childcare and Nannying

nursery-kids government childcare funding

Nursery fees and funding in 2024

By Childcare and Nannying, Finance
by Ben Murray
Dukes Education Group Ltd

As a parent of young children, nursery fees are often one of the most expensive outgoings of the household; in many cases as much as or more than rent or mortgage payments. The subject of funding for Early Years care and education seems to be a hot topic of conversation for many successive Governments. However, proposed significant changes in 2024 look to finally signal a package of benefits for parents paying for childcare, which better responds to the realities of this considerable cost. Although the reforms are not perfect, this year and next we should see eligibility extend to more families than ever and a saving in real terms on nursery fees. This, at a time where every other cost is increasing, can only mean a bit of relief for working families.

What does eligibility look like currently?
Some two year olds can get up to 15 hours of free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year. This adds up to 570 hours over the year, however, for nurseries that are open for 51/52 weeks of the year that same number of hours can be ‘stretched’. In reality, this means that for nurseries that operate all year round, your child’s 15 hours of free childcare becomes more like just over 11 hours of free childcare each week. Current eligibility for funding for two year olds is linked to household income and generally applies if your household receives other forms of Government support.

The term ‘free’ has also been a topic of debate with the current levels of funding, as the Government contribution covers the cost of care in ratios of 1:4 for two year olds. Most nurseries will then charge parents an additional fee for elements of their proposition that extend above the staffing costs, such as meals, extracurricular activities, trips, clubs, consumables and supplies. These elements may otherwise be included in the full fee without funding.

All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks a year, which can be stretched, the same way as two year olds funding, depending on the childcare provider. You do not need to apply for this funding as registered nurseries will do so on your behalf and apply this to your nursery fee invoice.

In addition to this, eligible working families with three and four year olds can receive an extra 15 hours of funding, up to 30 hours of free childcare in total each week. Again, this is available over 38 weeks a year so may need to be stretched to cover your child’s place if attending a nursery all year round, meaning just over 22 hours of funded childcare can be used each week.

What proposed changes are coming into place in 2024?
From April 2024, the entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare for two year olds is expected to extend to include eligible working families, not just those that generally receive other forms of Government support.

The term ‘working families’ has attracted Government criticism due to the thresholds at which the funding applies. We currently understand this to be, working parents who individually earn more than £8,670 (from April 2023) but less than £100,000 per year are those that are eligible.

If you’re in a couple, the rules apply to both of you, so you must both earn at least £8,670 and neither one of you can earn more than £100,000. (Taken from

This means that the accepted maximum household income to be eligible for the new funding is almost double if you are a two parent household, than that of a single parent household. Many high-profile voices within the Early Years sector are currently challenging the Government on this decision.

From September 2024, this same entitlement is proposed to apply to parents of children from nine months old, which is a huge step forward to support parents back to work and the first time that some of the youngest children have become eligible for funding.

The next phase of changes takes place in September 2025, where eligible working parents of all children over the age of nine months will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare each week.

Like the existing offer, depending on your provider these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year or up to 51/52 weeks totalling 1,140 hours in the year.

Where can I check my eligibility?
The Government’s ‘Childcare Choices’ website features a handy calculator which details the exact level of support your family will receive, and how to access it. This can be found at and provides information on current and upcoming entitlements for 15 and 30 hours free childcare.

To support your application for 15 and 30 hours free childcare and access your unique code which you will need to claim the entitlement, you can enter your details at where the step-by-step guide will detail what you need to do.

Your chosen nursery should now be in a good place to provide details on the cost of childcare within the new entitlements, detailing the levels of funding that can be accessed as well as any additional charges.

It is important to remember that childcare providers may administer the funding in a variety of different ways which can sometimes make comparing nurseries on cost more difficult. The best way to do this will be to ask the setting for fees payable for a full-time place with and without funding, and a place for the exact amount of hours/days you require with and without funding. This will give you a much clearer picture about the actual fees you will be paying each month and how the nursery has applied the 15 or 30 hours entitlements.

To discuss early years funding at our nurseries in Sussex and to book a tour, please contact your chosen setting directly. For Reflections Nursery and Forest School in Worthing, call 01903 251518 or visit For Hove Village nurseries in Brighton and Hove, call 01273 037449 or visit

To discuss early years funding at Riverside Nursery Schools in Surrey and to book a tour, please call 020 3475 0455 or visit

defiant toddler

Teaching your child boundaries

By Childcare and Nannying, children's health, Education, family, Mental health, Relationships, Special support needs
by Michelle Elman
Author, How to Say No

You will remember a time in your child’s life when “no” was their favourite word but as a child hits three to four years old, saying “no”, getting their needs met and communicating how they feel, gets a little bit more complicated. They start to develop Theory of Mind which means they start to get an awareness of the fact that not only can they think, but other people think too. Over time, this realisation turns into the knowledge that if someone can think, then they can think about you and they can also think badly about you.

As adults, you will understand that your own boundaries are usually in conflict with caring what people think, and children also suffer with the same issue, especially when popularity, fitting in and being liked by their peer group is such a high priority. This is where it is important to emphasis the need to keep boundaries in their vocabulary, starting with the simplest and first boundary we all learn – the word ‘no’.

As we all know, children don’t do as you say, they do as you do and therefore practising boundaries yourself is the best place to start to be an example to your children. Learning boundaries isn’t just something you should do for your children though, it can positively impact your life in many ways – from self-esteem, to protecting yourself from burnout, to reprioritising your need for rest and looking after your body. As much as children might struggle to do what you say, if you create an environment where everyone feels listened to, they often start to listen to you more too, if they feel heard themselves.

The word “no” is crucial to understanding how you feel, what you want and it also means that your “yes” has more power. If “yes” is the only word you can use, then that’s the default and your life becomes filled with meeting everyone else’s needs and demands. As much as a child using the word “no” may make your life more difficult as a parent, it’s important to understand that it’s a crucial skill as they grow up and become adults.

We want to foster a sense of independence and knowing how to communicate well, even if they still need to comply with the rules of the household or school. When they set a boundary that is simply not feasible, for example, staying at home alone because they don’t want to attend a family friend’s party, then you are still able to congratulate them on communicating their needs, expressing their boundaries and making them feel heard, listened to and respected.

If you lead with empathy, you are treating them with the respect you would with any adult who has their full autonomy and freedom to make their own decisions. I’m sure you’ve had evenings where you’ve not wanted to attend an event that you previously were looking forward to or there are times as an adult, you just want to be left at home alone to enjoy your solitude. For your child though, that might be unsafe and therefore communicating that to them, not only gives them respect but understanding as to the decision making process.

Saying something like “I know you don’t want to come tonight. I know you are tired and I wouldn’t want to come too if I had as long a week as you have. I can’t find anyone to stay with you last minute though and I do not feel comfortable leaving you at home alone so for your safety, you will have to come with us”. When you come from a empathetic standpoint, you can understand why a child wouldn’t want to go to a grown-up party where they have little in common with the people there, and it is easier to come up with a compromise, for example, “If you would like some alone time though, why don’t you bring a book and we can find a room where you can be by yourself while all the adults are talking?”

Teaching boundaries is also about teaching your children to respect other people’s boundaries so when you set rules about behaviour, make sure you echo the reverse. For example, if they don’t want their siblings barging into their room, then they also have to lHow to say noisten when their siblings say no to them entering their room. Emphasising that we also want to respect other people’s boundaries and giving them the language around boundaries is also really helpful. A boundary might not always sound like the word “no”, it can be “That doesn’t work for me”, or “I don’t like the sound of that,” and when you understand that this is someone conveying their boundaries, not only do they have phrases to listen out for but they have the same phrases they can use themselves.

‘How To Say No’ released by Puffin, is available now.

Adult Carers Week

Unpaid carers and their rights

By Childcare and Nannying, Legal, Relationships, Work employment
by Barbara Cormie
Marketing and Communications Manager, Action for Carers Surrey

Life as an unpaid carer can be tough – but it’s even tougher if you’re not aware of the rights you’re entitled to. The UK has nearly 10 million people in a caring role – people that are helping a relative or friend who is disabled, frail, or unwell, who couldn’t manage without this support.

People can become carers overnight, or can only realise they are carers over time, as a partner or parent’s health declines. And some people never know a life that’s not caring, as they are born with a disabled brother or sister.

carer adviceAlthough it can be rewarding, and deepen relationships, caring can also be extremely hard, and will often affect someone practically, socially, emotionally, and financially.

Statutory rights
But here in the UK there is some understanding of what a carer’s role entails, and in theory – there is statutory support for unpaid carers, and a number of rights which should help make lives easier.

Your rights include the right to a Carers’ Assessment, the right not to be discriminated against, and employment rights.

So what exactly are my rights?

The right to a carers assessment
Under the Care Act 2014, adult carers have the right to an assessment by their council, of their caring role, and to be provided with the financial and practical support they are found to need. The assessment should include finding out whether the carer is able – and willing – to care, as well as the affect on their wellbeing, and their access to work, study and recreation.

And under the Children Act 1989 and the Children and Families Act 2014, there is a requirement for councils to similarly assess the needs of parent carers of disabled children under 18. And under the same Acts, children themselves under 18 who are carers, have the right to an assessment, which looks at the impact of caring, and whether the young person wishes to continue caring, and if it’s appropriate for them to do so.

advisor chatYour employment rights
If you’re a carer juggling work with your caring role, then you also have employment rights. This includes the right to request flexible working.

And just this year, the Carers Leave Act was passed, meaning that from a yet undefined date in 2024, all carers will now have the right to up a week of unpaid carers leave. (The right to request some leave, was previously only available to certain qualifying employees.)

It is also worth checking your contract as increasingly employers are recognising the value of supporting carers in their workforce and you might find that you are offered more generous terms.

The Equality Act
In the UK people have protection from discrimination in employment, in education and when receiving services. You are protected from being discriminated against on the basis of various ‘protected characteristics’, one of which is disability.

So this means, a carer cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their ‘association’ with a disabled person. For example, if you were verbally abused by a shop assistant about your child’s mental health condition, then potentially you would have been discriminated against under the Act.

The Government, working with CAB’s guide: ‘The Equality Act: What do I need to know as a carer?’ talks through the Act, different situations, and how you might take action if you think you have been discriminated against.

Further information on rights
National charity, Carers UK, have lots of in-depth information on your rights.

Carer Rights Day
To raise awareness of carers’ rights and entitlements, the annual Carers Rights Day helps carers get the support they need – and this year it’s on Thursday 23rd November. So look out for events near you to help you find out more.

If you are in Surrey, please consider coming along to one of charity Action for Carers 10 Information Fairs, being held across the county, between 20-25th November. Action for Carers and many other charities and organisations will be there, offering advice and information about your rights, and caring generally. Fairs are ‘drop in’ and free. Visit to find out more.

Don’t struggle on alone
Try and find out what you are entitled to, and if you need any help, please give your local carers organisation a call.

Barbara Cormie is Marketing and Communications Manager for Action for Carers Surrey. Action for Carers are a charity supporting Surrey’s unpaid carers aged 5-95, with advice, information, free events and more. Visit, or call the Helpline on 0303 040 1234 for more information.

first pregnancy

What makes for an effective birth preparation class?

By Childcare and Nannying, Education, First Aid, prenancy
by Jackie Whitford

Are you expecting your first baby, or maybe wanting different advice or a different approach for your second or subsequent labour? Well, today you may well be spoiled (or confused) by the many choices and types of class and content on offer. Remember, the cost of the course does not necessarily reflect the quality of that course.

Let’s look at some of what’s available to you:

One day preparation courses
You should be offered an antenatal session (usually a day at a weekend) where you and your partner can attend your hospital’s approved preparation programme. This is usually run by midwives or health care assistants and will cover the physiology of labour, pain relief, breastfeeding, hospital policy and practice, including their policy on induction of labour.

Pros – you will have all the essential practical information and be aware of what to expect of the midwifery service in that hospital from a trained midwife’s or health care professional’s perspective. If you are planning to give birth in hospital, attending their prep session is a good idea – they are also free.

Cons – There may be many expectant parents attending. A lot of information is provided over five plus hours which may be hard to take in, or reflect upon, and discuss within the one day course. There is little chance to establish friendships with other parents-to-be.

Online courses
These are usually promoting a particular approach to labour and birth, and teach to a prescribed set of exercises and labour skills for those keen to have a ‘natural’ birth. Typically these preparation courses are based on hypnobirthing theory as originally devised by the American hypnotherapist Marie Mongan, although a number of British variations to the original programme have evolved.

Pros – Obviously convenience. You can go through the sessions at a time to suit yourself and at your own pace, repeating content if necessary.

Cons – You are unlikely to form local friendships this way. The quality of what is on offer is variable, as is the cost, and there is little or no opportunity for group discussion or any variation to the programme.

Weekly preparation for birth and parenthood courses
These weekly classes (usually two plus hours each class for five or six weeks) are offered from about 32 weeks pregnancy and are a very popular choice for pregnant women.

Each class covers specific topics, with time for discussion and practise of skills taught. Comprehensive weekly classes were started in the l950s by The NCT, although today many independent childbirth teachers offer weekly preparation classes. Women are encouraged to bring their (birth) partners to some or all of the sessions. Course content can vary, according to the affiliation and background of the teacher but should cover physiological labour and self-help skills, pain relief, medical interventions, breastfeeding and early parenthood. Numbers in these classes can be anything from two or three couples to up to 12. Most courses will also hold a postnatal get together when all the babies have arrived.

Pros – This is a more relaxed form of preparation with time to revisit, discuss and practise helpful exercises to assist labour and birth. A good class will take time to share and explore hopes and fears amongst class members. Latest independent research and books can be discussed so that women can feel informed, empowered and in a position to decide what is right for them. Very importantly, usually a strong support and friendship group develops which will be of huge benefit in the early days of parenthood and in many cases lasts for years.

Cons – These classes are usually held in the evenings when you may be tired and also you may not gel with the other women/parents in the group, especially if the group is very small. Also, few NCT classes teach hypnobirthing (which is a programme in itself).

So what else to consider in choosing your antenatal class?
What makes a good teacher? Good antenatal teachers do not emerge from just one place or profession. In fact some of the best teachers of the last 50 years have come from other backgrounds other than midwifery – teaching, hypnotherapy, physiotherapy, anthropology and especially women who have had personal experiences of positive birthing. It is wise to look into the background and relevant experience of your teacher before committing to a particular class – hopefully they will tick several boxes. Antenatal teaching qualifications are not regulated and some ‘would be’ teachers will offer classes after completing just a weekend training course, which issued some certification for paying and attending the course. Recommendations from friends are always a good idea.

In my experience, good antenatal teachers have a real enthusiasm and passion for their subject. They will have a firm belief in the innate ability of women to birth their babies and will spend time and practise teaching skills to aid this. They will also explore variations, special circumstances and medical practices and personal choices so you can work towards the birth you want. The class you choose should equip you for a positive birth however your baby arrives.

Jackie Whitford runs Birth Wise classes in Lewes and Henfield.

For further details please visit

foster family

Fostering as a family

By Childcare and Nannying, Fostering and adoption, fun for children, Mental health, Special support needs

The sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in fostering; they contribute hugely towards the success of fostering placements and make a valuable difference to fostered siblings as they settle into their new home. Fostering is a life changing decision and should be considered and thought about as a family.

Sometimes, the perceived impact of fostering on birth children prevents families from finding out more as they feel they need to wait until their children are older. However, for many of the families who foster for Brighton & Hove City Council, the experience has been positive and rewarding.

We asked foster carer Felicia to tell us about the role her children play in their fostering family. “Becoming a fostering family was a big step for the whole family, but becoming foster siblings was particularly special for our birth children.

At the start of our journey, I knew I wanted to foster children, but it was something that we had never approached as a family. It was important for us to ensure that we involved our birth children from the very start, to ensure they were happy with the changes and the roles they would take on. Our children were keen from the start. We love a busy house and the joy that many children bring to it. The more the merrier! We ensured that the children were also aware of the difficulties that they may face such as sharing their parents with more children and the sense of loss that they may feel when foster children moved on to their forever homes. It was important for them to have a transparent view of fostering, as well as to understand the joy and the challenges that may lie ahead. The children were involved throughout the assessment process, speaking with assessing social workers and meeting other birth children. They continued to express that they were keen to start fostering.

Five years on as a fostering family and I am truly proud of the difference that our birth children make to the foster children who come into our care. They welcome the children when they first come to our home and help to find toys to play with and make the children feel part of our family. Our children have demonstrated kindness, calmness and understanding towards children who have needed our support. As a fostering family of babies and toddlers, our birth children have been involved in helping our foster children meet many milestones.They have helped children learn to crawl, to walk, to talk and encouraged them with love and praise when they learn new things.The immediate instinct they show to comfort children when they are upset or unsettled is wonderful to see, as well as extending this kindness to other people around them.

We take regular opportunities to check that our children are happy to continue our fostering journey and every time we get a resounding yes!

Our birth children love to keep in touch with the children we foster when they move into their forever homes, where this is appropriate. It’s an honour and a privilege to continue in these children’s lives and see the bond between the children as they grow.”

We also asked foster carer Stella about the impact fostering has had on her children. “Our children have turned out to be very empathetic and sympathetic young people because they know that not all children and young people have a happy upbringing. This includes basic needs like having a clean, well-equipped house and a happy family home where they feel safe and wanted.

They have both grown up to be young people who are kind, just to be kind, not because they think they will get something in return.

They continue to constantly and consistently show the children we care for unconditional love and go out of their way to make the children feel that they belong in our family.

They have never complained about having to share their home, their holidays, their parents, their possessions, and their experiences with other children. People around us always tell us how kind, polite, empathetic, gentle and loving our children are, and we feel that as well as their happy upbringing, fostering has enhanced these qualities.

They have a great appreciation of having been part of a close, happy, secure, positive and encouraging family and we feel that this will continue when they themselves become parents.

We feel that they have learned skills and become people who will go on to become lovely parents themselves.”

Every day the children of foster carers welcome other children into their homes and their lives. They strive to make young people in care feel safe, happy and loved, and ensure that they can thrive. Fostering involves the whole family and the contribution of sons and daughters is vital.

If you have room in your heart and home to foster, the Brighton & Hove Fostering Team are keen to hear from you. They need foster carers from all walks of life, those with children of their own, and those without.

Visit for more information or e-mail to find out about upcoming online information sessions.

relaxed child

Calm not chaos!

By Childcare and Nannying, Education, Mental health, Relationships, special educational needs
by Sarah Fisher
Founder of Connective Family

Helping parents and children to connect

Parenting is easy – said no one ever! All parents and carers need a helping hand at some point or another, whether that’s from supportive wider family, friends or another source of help. Much heated debate and discussion exists on the merits of the ‘best’ or ‘latest’ parenting approach. But one thing’s for sure – there’s no one size fits all.

Parenting struggles come in all shapes and sizes – you might be struggling to connect with your determined three year old, trying to get your teen away from a screen or experiencing aggression from your child.

Dealing with challenging behaviour from your children is exhausting – you’ve likely already tried hard to sort things out on your own, you’re quietly worried and it can feel lonely at times.

What is Connective Parenting NVR?
Connective Parenting NVR is a therapeutic parenting approach with a firm focus on connection and presence rather than ‘traditional’ parenting. What does this mean? It means that it doesn’t try to change the child’s behaviour through using consequences or rewards, but through the presence of the parent or carer in the child’s life.

Let’s explain a bit more about it.

Connective Parenting is based on the principles of non-violent resistance (you might hear this called NVR) and draws on a wide range of therapeutic models. It’s a wholly ‘doable’ approach because it’s easy to adapt to whatever challenges you’re facing.

In a nutshell, Connective Parenting NVR can help you create a stronger connection, reduce meltdowns and feel in control. Connection brings positive change and works with all families – birth parents, foster carers, adoptive parents and kinship carers.

If we focus on building connections with our children, it starts to open the door to a different relationship, better communication and less disruptive behaviour.

So, where to start?
The Connective Parenting NVR approach is about us as adults looking after children and thinking about how we react and interact with them.

Start with you:
It takes energy to make changes and if you feel overwhelmed or like you’re running on empty, you need to work on this first, otherwise it’s hard or even impossible! Try some deep breathing, go for a short walk each day, read a few pages of a book, listen to music – whatever works for you.

Raise your presence:
Children need us to see them, hear them and acknowledge them, but if you’re feeling low or exhausted by their behaviours, it’s easy to back away. If this happens, their behaviours are more likely to escalate because they’re feeling a sense of disconnection. Think of it as connecting before correcting.

This is where you’re taking control of the situation as an adult in a calm and resolute way. Difficult, yes and even more so if you’re running on empty (note the point above!). There’s lots more on this but, essentially, by connecting before correcting you’re working on the relationship not the behaviour and through that reducing the challenges.

A bit about baskets!
Multi-tasking has become a way of life for many parents and carers. Add managing challenging behaviours from our child or children and it can quickly overwhelm the best of us.

Connective Parenting NVR helps to prioritise concerns using a simple basket technique. You can use three baskets, as below, or just focus on two – the small and the large one, it’s entirely up to you, whichever you find easiest.

Here’s how:
1. The small basket is your priority basket – no more than two behaviours you want to deal with, the things that must stop. Focus on this one first.

2. The middle basket is for those things you can negotiate on – things you’re not going to totally ignore, but will think about how to handle them at some point, like bad language. If there’s two of you, be consistent and agree what’s in each basket.

3. The large basket is for everything else – all the things that are annoying but that you’re going to ignore for now. This one will likely be full but ‘let it go’.

All of the above will help to build that stronger connection with your child. It might feel a whole lot like your child doesn’t want to connect with you – but don’t let that stop you from trying. Watch their favourite movie with them, send a text to say hi when they’re out, sit on the floor with them and play a game. Keep going and you’ll soon start to see positive changes.

Parents are often reluctant to ask for help in case people think they’re ‘failing’. But there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out. Often it’s good to try something new, learn a few practical tips and techniques and put them quickly into practice by adding them to your parenting toolkit. We all need one!

Sarah Fisher is a coach, author of two books and founder of Sussex-based Connective Family, an organisation supporting parents, carers and their families.


claim holiday camp money

FREE holiday clubs for eligible children: What is HAF and how can it help me?

By Childcare and Nannying, Education, environment, family, Finance, Holiday camps

Since 2021 the government has funded a programme called HAF (Holiday, Activities and Food programme) across all areas of the country.

Research has shown that the school holidays can be pressure points for some families. For some children this can lead to a holiday experience gap, with some children being:
• Less likely to access organised holiday activities.
• More likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health.
• More likely to experience social isolation.

In response to this research there are now a large number of holiday club providers who are offering HAF places to eligible children (from reception to year 11).

The aims of the programme are to ensure children:
• Eat healthily over the school holidays.
• Are active during the school holidays.
• Take part in engaging and enriching activities which support the development of resilience, character and wellbeing.
• Be safe and not to be socially isolated.
• Have a greater knowledge of health and nutrition.

Currently a very low percentage of those eligible are actually using their free places. It is really important to raise the profile of this programme across all areas to ensure it reaches as many children and families as possible. The benefits and opportunities this programme offers are huge, however many families are put off because they do not realise they are eligible or because they don’t understand what it means.

For any parent or carer who receives any financial support for their children it is worth exploring this further. There are a wide range of clubs that offer HAF spaces and we need to make sure these places are filled to ensure the continued funding of the programme. Whenever you see HAF activities being advertised please help spread the word and let’s get this great programme out to as many families as possible.

For further information please visit

empathy to children

Gentle parenting: Is there a ‘right’ way to raise your child?

By Childcare and Nannying, Relationships

Every family is different. The dynamic of siblings, home environment, and work-life balance are unique to each family throughout the world. This means that multiple parenting styles have evolved in your lifetime and beyond, including one named ‘gentle parenting’.

Gentle parenting encourages a positive relationship between the parent and child. The parenting style argues that kindness allows children to follow the rules out of love rather than fear. This is achieved through connection, communication, and consistency.

Dr Becky Kennedy, a child psychologist specialising in gentle parenting, believes this parenting style influences children for the better: “Our children are watching us and learning how we respond to stress and uncertainty. Let’s wire our children for resilience and not panic.”

Here, we’ll explore gentle parenting in more detail and consider whether it can be the ‘right’ way to raise your child.

How can you practice gentle parenting?
There are five crucial elements of gentle parenting. Follow these steps to introduce this parenting style in your child’s life.

In order to practice gentle parenting, you need to feel comfortable empathising with your child. This means putting yourself in their frame of mind before responding to their actions. If they are upset, for example, you can ask them to explain their feelings rather than assuming. So rather than shouting at a child for crying and acting out, you could take a moment to stand back and evaluate the situation.

Gentle parenting encourages parents to treat children how they would like themselves to be treated. After all, children may not be adults, but they deserve as much respect as any other human being. And just because you are in a position of power, you don’t have to use that authority to silence or force them into complicity.

Gentle parenting argues that the absence of discipline does not equal disorder. So you can still set boundaries, such as enforcing rules surrounding bedtime or negative language. In order to do this, the NSPCC recommends setting simple boundaries that are easy to understand, encouraging an open conversation surrounding these boundaries, and being willing to adapt and negotiate these as your child grows and develops.

Children are continuously growing and learning. As a result, they may not understand how to communicate their wants and needs. Gentle parenting argues that you must strive to understand the emotions and feelings of your child, even if they don’t have
the emotional intelligence to do this for themselves.

Discipline and reward
Gentle parenting encourages parents to communicate with children in calming tones, choosing to discuss mistakes rather than shouting as a form of punishment. So if they cry because they want to wear their favourite wellies and raincoat on a warm summer’s day, try to explain why they can’t before simply saying, “because I said so”.

On the other hand, you should also refrain from rewarding your child for simple acts. If they have scored at a school football match, for example, you should say “who passed you the ball” rather than “you did a good job”. Dr Beth Kennedy explains this as wiring your child for independence: “When you orient a child to focus on the impact of their feelings on you instead of the reality of the feelings inside themselves, you are wiring a child for co-dependency.”

What are the benefits?
It’s no secret that gentle parenting can be challenging. In any stressful situation, your immediate response might be to force your child into obedience. There are multiple benefits, however, that might help you persist with the parenting style.

Reinforcing calm
Children learn everything from their parents. No matter how small the action or reaction, they will learn how to replicate this for themselves. So you can reinforce a calm mindset within their lives by staying calm in the face of chaos.

Establishing social skills
Everyone is taught to follow the rules, but children may realise that they don’t necessarily ‘need’ to follow them. By establishing simple and understandable rules at home, children are more likely to respect these in their later life, such as at school or work.

Reducing anxiety
Imagine being shouted at by someone twice your height and size. You would no doubt feel anxious. It makes sense, therefore, that removing these negative behaviours will reduce these feelings for your child, both in and outside your home.

What are the negatives?
Gentle parenting can be overwhelming. It isn’t easy to face every emotional breakdown with calm while remembering to go against every instinct to ‘shush’ your child when they drop to the floor and scream while you’re out shopping. Sometimes parents struggle to find an equal balance between setting firm boundaries and being gentle.

Sami, a mother of three from Lancashire, found that her daughter acted out due to poorly executed gentle parenting. Instead of encouraging her child to behave, for example, gentle parenting led her daughter to misunderstand her kindness for weakness and act out regularly. But she has since learned how to set more firm boundaries.

So, is gentle parenting the ‘right’ way to raise your child?
There is no ‘right’ way to raise your child. All you can do as a parent is try your best. If you believe that a gentle parenting approach is the best for your child, then you should feel able to do this while knowing your child is being appropriately raised.

On the other hand, if you feel more attuned to an authoritarian or permissive parenting style, you’re free to explore these other options too. Everyone is different, and that’s OK!

Gentle parenting has multiple attractive qualities. While it may seem like the best idea to raise your child with these guidelines in mind, remember that you’re able to learn the ropes alongside your growing child. Be easy on yourself, and enjoy the beauties of parenthood one day at a time.

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Mother power

How to care less about what people think of you and your parenting

By Childcare and Nannying, family, Relationships
by Poppy O’Neill
best-selling author of mental health books
for children, teens and adults

We butt up against other people’s emotions every day, in real life and online. People tend to feel a lot more comfortable sharing their emotions and opinions with women, and once you have children in tow, some take it as an open invitation to provide feedback on everything from your appearance to your children’s behaviour.

Having other people’s emotions put upon you can make you feel like they are then your problem to solve, which can cause a lot of anxiety.

Gender stereotypes and other people’s emotions
From very early on girls’ emotions are treated as less important than boys. A study carried out by Sussex University showed that adults respond to babies’ cries differently depending on their sex, with greater sympathy shown to boys.

Gender stereotyping is the cause of many of the ways women are on the back foot socially, psychologically and economically. One of the most common ways gender stereotypes manifest psychologically and emotionally in women is often known as ‘people-pleasing’.

If you’re a people-pleaser, the prospect of conflict, being disliked or even disagreement can feel uncomfortable and sometimes even threatening. For people-pleasers, it seems like a better option just to go along with what other people think and want, even at the expense of their own needs. This disconnects us from what we truly think and want – we lose touch with ourselves by focusing on other people.

The first step to unlearning people-pleasing is to recognise it within yourself.

If you:
• Apologise often
• Struggle to say no
• Don’t admit when your feelings are hurt
• Often assume people are angry or disappointed with you

…you have people-pleasing tendencies. Once you can recognise people-pleasing in yourself, you have the power to take control. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the hard work. The secret is to learn to pause, name the feeling and breathe through the discomfort.

Other people’s emotions are nothing to do with you
The belief that we are responsible for the actions or emotions of other people is common among women. We’re brought up to be nice and to put others’ feelings ahead of our own. Becoming a mother can reinforce this because our children’s emotions are, to a certain extent, tied to our own. As we’re solely responsible for these tiny human beings for such a big proportion of the time, our own wellbeing feels like it’s dependent on keeping them calm and happy.

The key to letting go of the idea that other people’s emotions are our responsibility is to build a sense of trust. When you trust other adults to handle their own emotions and look after themselves, you can let go of some of that guilt that comes when you cancel plans, break bad news or give criticism.

What’s more, when you hurt your own feelings in order to save someone else’s, that’s not actually you being kind – it’s you trying to avoid your own discomfort. Many of us would much rather inconvenience ourselves than someone else, because the latter brings up complex feelings of guilt and shame that come from defying the stereotype of the selfless woman.

When you trust someone to deal with life like a grown-up, you’re showing them – and yourself – respect.

What you can and can’t control
Other people’s emotions are not within your control. Thank goodness they’re not, because it would be exhausting if they were! Focusing on what you can control, rather than what you can’t, can lead to better mental health and higher self-esteem.

Psychologists call the sense of how much power we have over our own lives a ‘locus of control’. Everyone has a locus of control that falls somewhere on a spectrum between internal and external.

Internal locus of control: The belief that you have some power over the events in your life and the choices you make.

External locus of control: The belief that events in your life and your responses to them are controlled exclusively by other people.

Of course, some things truly are out of our control, but the more we focus our attention on what we have the ability to change, the greater our sense of power, responsibility and safety in the world. For example, if it rains on your birthday you can’t stop the weather, but you can dress in waterproofs or stay inside. Those who focus on the weather will feel worse than those who focus on how they’ll adapt to the less-than-perfect conditions.

When you’re feeling stressed out by other people, it can help to remind yourself of what you can and can’t control.

What I can control
My responses
My actions
My boundaries
How I take care of my emotions.

What I can’t control
Other people’s emotions
Other people’s thoughts
Other people’s actions
Other people’s boundaries.

It’s natural to care about what other people think of us and how they feel, but putting other people’s feelings above our own is a recipe for resentment and burnout. Remember – you don’t need to make sense to others, and you can trust other adults to be responsible for their own emotions.

Mother Power by Poppy O’Neill is an honest and empowering guide to parenting for all mothers. Know and grow your power as a mother with this honest, guilt-free parenting guide that champions your own needs and wellbeing as well as those of your children. Available now in all good bookstores priced at £10.99.
loving hands

Your guide to overcoming separation anxiety: Leaving your baby for the first time

By baby health, Childcare and Nannying, family, Relationships

Baby separation anxiety is a real struggle for many parents. When the moment comes to leave your baby for the first time, your parental instinct kicks in. “Would my baby be safe?”, “What if something happens, and I’m not there?”, “Is my baby sad right now?” are only some of the questions that start spiralling in your head when you close the door and leave your baby behind, even if it’s just for one hour.

Although your baby is in safe hands, you can’t help but feel like your heart is breaking into tiny pieces, because you don’t know what’s happening with your baby every minute. Nevertheless, leaving your baby for the first time and getting over the separation anxiety is beneficial for both you and your baby. Baby brand, Nuby, explores how to cope with separation anxiety and make sure that your baby is safe and happy.

The earlier you overcome it, the better
Separation anxiety is normal and usually affects young children between the ages of six months and three years. It usually fades after that, but if the symptoms persist, it can have a long-term impact on your child.

The earlier you start practising leaving them, the easier it will be for them to get used to it and overcome any potential separation anxiety.

As a parent, you also might be suffering from some form of separation anxiety, so it’s important to take the right steps to leaving your baby for the first time.

Do it gradually
You don’t have to jet off on holiday the first time you leave your baby – this will cause turmoil to both of you.

Instead, practise being separate gradually. At first, you might dedicate a two-hour slot where you leave them in your house with their grandparents. It’s advisable that the first times you leave them, it’s with someone they know and in a familiar setting to ease the shock of separation. Later, you can start trusting a nanny or a childminder to take care of your baby while you’re away.

After the first trial, you can slowly start extending the time you’re away from them and even leave them at their grandparents’ and nanny’s house for a night or two. The more often you do it, the easier it will get.

Don’t hold onto the guilt
It’s normal to feel guilty when you first leave your baby. But just like in many other life situations, guilt is not a healthy feeling to experience. Even though it’s totally valid, try not to fall into the trap of self-agonising over the fact that you’ve left your child in the hands of someone else.

It’s something that you need to overcome, as it will help develop a healthy relationship between the two of you and not a co-dependent one. You’re teaching your baby to trust you but not rely on you for everything. Retrospectively, you’re learning that your child is its own person and will eventually grow and separate from you for much longer than an hour-long coffee break. So, the earlier you start the process, the better.

Give clear instructions
Babies have their own individual routines. Whether they like to have a snack right before bed to help them nod off or be read their favourite bedtime story, this is what they’re used to.

Your babysitter’s approach might not match that, so it’s important to communicate your baby’s precise routine with them. This will help your baby to settle and will ensure that there is no additional unfamiliarity and stress.

Pack a comforter
Before you leave, pack a bag of newborn essentials that will be at hand for your babysitter, and make sure to include a comforter.

While their main source of comfort, you, might be away, your babysitter can resort to their physical comforts. Perhaps your baby has a specific toy they like to cuddle or play with, or, for a newborn, they love being tucked in their cosy sleeping bag.

Prepare these items in advance, so that your baby can feel secure in an unfamiliar situation if needed.

Don’t sneak away
Easing your baby into the temporary separation is crucial. This applies to the moment your babysitter arrives and the moment you leave the house.

Dedicate some time to help your baby get used to their babysitter, whether that’s a childminder, a nanny or their grandparents, while you’re still there.

When you’re leaving, don’t just sneak away. Rather, kiss your baby and say a happy goodbye, after which your babysitter will immediately engage their attention and hopefully stop them from crying.

It’s also advisable that your babysitter picks up the baby right away, so that they feel secure in their hands and build a positive relationship.

Leaving your baby for the first time can be frightening, but it’s an essential part of the growing up process. Practising healthy separation from early on will ensure your child becomes its own individual and is able to be on its own.

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