New year, new beginnings – changes to the divorce process in 2022

By | family, Legal, Relationships
by Julian Hunt
Head of the Family department Dean Wilson LLP Solicitors

The government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed in June 2020 and aims to implement major reform to the divorce process, becoming law on 6 April of this year.

Julian Hunt, Head of the Family department and member of Resolution, has been an active campaigner in the move toward no-fault divorce and has lobbied local MP’s in favour of the same.

What is the legislation’s main reform?
The Act will remove the concept of ‘fault’ in divorce proceedings – a welcome change to the divorce legislation that has not been amended in any significant way for over 50 years.

What is the current regime?
If a couple want to divorce, they have limited options to choose to present their petition on. Set out as five ‘facts’, these are: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation without consent.

If a couple wish to divorce quickly those options are limited to the grounds of adultery and unreasonable behaviour, with the less contentious divorce routes only achievable after two or five years separation.

The prospect of a long and unnecessary wait often means that parties will choose the blame route with the unwanted result of intensifying conflict and causing long lasting damage, particularly impacting future co-parenting.

Why doesn’t the current regime work?
The current regime fosters animosity between parties by encouraging the assignment of blame, which can lead to delays in obtaining the end goal of a divorce and can have a knock on effect if the parties have children related matters to resolve at the same time.

The need for a no fault divorce process was highlighted in the recent case of Owens v Owens.

Mrs Owens issued her petition based on Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour in which she stated she could not reasonably be expected to live with Mr Owens anymore. Mr Owens defended the petition on the basis that his behaviour had not been unreasonable when looked at in the context of their marriage and the Court agreed with him. The Court found no behaviour that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with and as such the marriage could not be said to have irretrievably broken down and her petition was dismissed. Although Mrs Owens appealed, it was held that judges could only interpret and apply the law handed to them and that under the current regime the petitioner is required to find fault in the respondent.

This decision highlighted the need for a no fault divorce process. Mrs Owens was left in the unenviable position of having to wait out a five year separation in order to proceed with a divorce without her husband’s consent.

What is the aim of the reform and why is it needed?
An acrimonious divorce consumes parties’ lives, and that acrimony usually spills over, even once the Decree Absolute is finalised, especially where children are involved. The fault system encourages discord which often affects the parties’ mental health, as well as the mental health of any children (especially if they are old enough to understand what’s going on). Therefore, divorces using one of the fault-based facts are usually quite traumatic to the parties.

A common misconception under the fault based regime is that the bad behaviour of one party will affect the financial outcome of the divorce, when in fact one has no bearing on the other, unless the behaviour is sufficiently extreme but, these cases are extremely rare.

Parties tend to settle finances subsequent to issuing their divorce petition and the tone of blame is usually carried over so as to frustrate and slow down the financial proceedings which in affect helps no one, including the Family Court whose resources are overwhelmed already.

The proposed changes should simplify the divorce process and reduce conflict from the very start. Parties will then be able to focus on the important issues like children, property and finances bringing resolution more quickly and amicably so that both can heal and move forward.

What will be the new regime?
The new legislation aims to make a number of significant changes, such as:
• Replace the ‘five facts’ with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown (the Court then must take this statement as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably);
• Remove the possibility of contesting the divorce;
• Introduce an option for a joint application;
These changes will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Family law – what’s next?
The Law Society are currently campaigning for legal aid to be reintroduced for early advice, particularly in family law and we at Dean Wilson LLP believe this would be a further welcome step to focus parties’ minds on the practicalities at hand of separating joint lives into separate healthy and happy futures.

Dean Wilson LLP’s reputation has been built upon our ability to deliver and exceed our clients’ expectations. For over 100 years our success has been founded upon our client focused approach, backed by the knowledge and expertise of our lawyers.

Potty training – The when and the how

By | family, Potty training
by Harriet Crouch
Parent and Childcare Consultant

When it comes to potty training, the thought alone can feel completely overwhelming. It’s not quite as simple as; ‘Your child is now 2 so let’s ditch the nappies’. In fact, there are a number of signs to look out for before even thinking about starting on your potty training journey. Attempting to get rid of nappies too quickly can result in withholding which can cause a whole host of other issues so it is always best to wait until your child is definitely ready.

So, when do we know when our little one is ready?
Generally, children will be ready around the 2 to 3 year mark and from there, there’s a number of things to look out for – they may have longer periods of dryness, awareness of what is in their nappy or letting you know when they are having or needing a wee or poo. Some children may begin to seek privacy by hiding when they are pooing. It is important to say that of course, all children are individual and may be ready earlier or later than this general age band.

Once your child begins to show signs of readiness, you don’t need to book a week off work or rush to the shop to replace all nappies with pants. Instead, take a gradual approach and remember that potty training isn’t just about your child being able to sit on the potty for a wee or poo -it’s much harder than that. They’re learning a whole new set of skills – recognising the feeling of needing to go, communicating that to an adult in good time, getting themselves to the potty and then they need to undress themselves before they have an accident. These are things that up until now, they’ve not had to think about.

When you start to notice your child may be getting ready to potty train, set them up to succeed by encouraging them to dress and undress themselves, talk to your child about their body and what it’s doing, talk to them about what’s in their nappy and let them watch you on the toilet too. You are your child’s best role model so talk them through everything you’re doing as you do it. For example, when getting dressed; “One arm in, the other arm in, legs in” and so on.

Withholding can be really common in young children and can be triggered by a fear of the potty, a painful bowel movement or even being scared of seeing their poo in the toilet! After all, it’s unlikely your child has seen what’s in their nappy during a change. It is therefore, really important that in the preparation for potty training, you show your child what is in their nappy and encourage them to describe it – “Wow, that’s a big brown poo”. Avoid using negative language around their bodily functions. Although it is usually a joke to hold your nose and say “urghh stinky”, it can cause your child to become self-conscious and may lead to withholding when potty training occurs.

In the lead up to potty training, have the potty available for your child to use should they choose to but without any pressure to. It can be a nice idea to have it next to the main toilet so that they have the option to sit on it whilst you’re using the toilet.

So, what do we do now?
Your child is showing signs of readiness, they’re now able to pull their trousers and nappy up and down, they’re telling you when their nappy needs a change and you’ve spoken about poo more than you ever thought imaginable… Now is the time to get to the shops, child in tow, to pick some cool pants! It’s really important that you make it more exciting by getting them involved in the process.

Stick to tackling day times first. Nights can take a little longer and that’s very normal.

Most importantly, try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your child but be confident that you’ve set them up for success by preparing them before this stage.

Harriet Crouch is a Parent and Childcare Consultant providing non-judgmental support and advice to families with children 0-7years.
Downloadable Parent Guides and bespoke support packages available at
Instagram @harriets_mini_explorers for more parenting tips and advice

Choosing the right primary school for your child

By | Education, family, Legal, Relationships
by Emma Willing and Antonia Felix
Mishcon de Reya law firm

The choice of a child’s school is one of the most important decisions parents will make. For separated parents in particular, the decision can be more challenging, especially if living arrangements are not settled or if there is divergence of views as to the best educational setting for a child.

The deadline for parents (of children due to start primary school in September 2022) to apply for a state primary school place is 15 January 2022. Following the making of an application, the offer of a school place will be received from the relevant Local Authority on 16 April 2022.

Emma Willing and Antonia Felix from Mishcon de Reya’s Family and Education teams consider some of the common issues and questions which can arise when choosing the right school and making the application as parents.

Who has the ability to make a decision about where a child goes to school?
Provided both parents have parental responsibility, any important decisions in respect to a child, including regarding education, must be made by the parents jointly.

If agreement cannot be reached, or one parent has acted without the other parent’s agreement, it may be that a method of dispute resolution such as those discussed below can assist. Ultimately, if parents cannot reach an agreement, an application can be made to Court to determine the issue in dispute.

The Court’s primary focus in determining such a dispute will be an assessment of what is in the child’s best interests.

What is ‘parental responsibility’?
Parental responsibility defines the rights and responsibilities that an individual has in respect to a child, and determines who has decision-making power in matters such as education, religion and medical treatment.

The birth mother of a child automatically acquires parental responsibility at birth. This does not apply to the father or non-birth mother (in the case of a same-sex female couple), unless they were married or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the birth.

If the parents are unmarried, the mother is not required to enter the father or non-birth mother’s name on the birth certificate and if she does not, the father or non-birth mother will not then have parental responsibility. Despite this, if agreement cannot be reached, there are Court applications which can be made in order to obtain parental responsibility.

How can a disagreement about schooling be resolved?
While some separated parents will be able to reach a decision about the choice of schooling between themselves, others may encounter difficulties and the situation can become increasingly stressful as the application deadline looms.

There are various ways in which to resolve a disagreement:
Family member / mutual friend – A trusted family member or mutual friend may be able to assist parents in discussions. This can be particularly useful to diffuse a situation of conflict and involve someone neutral in the discussions.
Mediation – A mediator is a neutral facilitator. The mediator will be entirely independent from the parents and their respective solicitors (should the parents have them). While the mediator can facilitate and encourage discussions between separated parents, overall resolution can only be reached by agreement. Following an agreement reached by mediation, it is then advisable for both parents to consult with their own solicitors in order to formalise any agreement reached.
Arbitration – An arbitrator can be jointly appointed by the parents to make a decision in respect of the dispute. The advantage of arbitration is that resolution can normally be reached far more quickly than through the Court process. The arbitrator can impose a final outcome on the parents. However, unlike mediation which may result in an agreement, the parents may feel that they have less control over the eventual outcome.
Round table meeting/discussions between solicitors – There can be discussions between the parents’ respective solicitors either via correspondence or at a so-called ’round table meeting’ (which does not, despite the name, have to involve the parties sitting together) to resolve the issues.
Court – If agreement cannot be reached and parents do not want to use arbitration, an application can be made to Court. This should however be seen as a last resort.

What other planning can be put in place to avoid future disagreements?
It is advisable for parents to engage in discussions about the choice of a child’s school early. Where possible, parents should seek to meet or engage a third party to facilitate discussions around six to twelve months in advance of a school application deadline. Careful planning and thought is required, including attending school open days, considering up to date Ofsted reports and speaking to other parents. The earlier discussions commence, the sooner any areas of disagreement can be identified.

Parents should consider diarising future dates when applications are required to be made or assessments taken throughout their child’s education, and seek to approach the process together wherever possible.

Deciding between a mainstream school or a special needs school
Some children need more support than others to gain as much as they can from their education. A child may have been diagnosed with a medical condition, disability or special educational needs and there may be a professional assessment setting out what kind of educational help they need.

For children who need more help than a mainstream school would normally be able to provide, a plan in England called an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan will be issued (following a formal assessment) by the local authority where a child lives. This will detail the child’s educational needs and the support they will receive.

Many children with an EHC Plan in place will go to a mainstream school, and the law gives children a right to a mainstream education if parents want this. However, parents may decide a child will be better supported in a specialist needs school. The local authority will discuss schooling options with parents when a child’s plan is drawn up, or reviewed, and must consider the parents’ views. The final decision rests with the local authority, however, if the level of provision is not agreed, an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal may need to be considered.
All mainstream schools in England and Wales will have a staff member, known as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who is responsible for arranging support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN).

Before making a decision – whether you are separated parents, a single parent or two parents together – the key is to do research in advance, and discuss your child’s needs. Try to talk to other parents at the school, and ensure you visit the school to see first-hand how it is run.

What steps should parents take if issues arise with a Local Authority once the offer of a school place has been made?
First, it is important to remember that there is movement with school places after offers have been made during the spring and summer period. If a child does not have a place in one of the schools selected on 16 April 2022, then contact should be made with the local council to obtain details of schools with places. The council may be able to assist, avoiding any need for parents to engage the appeals process.

It is also possible to put a child’s name down on a waiting list at a preferred school via the school or the council (the ‘admission authority’ for each school must keep a waiting list open for at least the first term of each school year).

Even if a child has a school place, it is possible to go on the waiting list for another school. Parents should not automatically reject the place offered, in case doing so may result in a situation of a child having no school place. It is important to be aware that for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 the class size is limited to 30 so the school can refuse the appeal if the limit has been reached.

Tips for bringing up a compassionate child

By | children's health, Education, family, Relationships

Compassionate children are ones that naturally grow into kind-hearted adults, as the values instilled in them through their childhood will be carried into their later life.

The key to raising compassionate children is through being conscious of your parenting techniques and the values that they’re teaching them. Here, MindBE Education shares tips for bringing up a compassionate child:

• Use storybooks to frame ideas

When you read a story ask questions about how the characters might be feeling. How would your child feel if they were that character? What might the character have done differently to be kinder? By highlighting these actions and feelings your child will develop a greater sense of empathy and perspective that will carry forward into their own life.

• Use a persona doll or puppet to discuss issues

Sometimes children don’t like to talk about things but will happily engage through a doll or puppet or other forms of play. If your child is facing a situation or there is an issue in the air, talk to your child and discuss how the doll or puppet may be feeling. Discuss how it might make you feel and what strategies the puppet could use to feel better. By talking about issues and situations that come up we can instil the values of kindness and compassion in our child.

• Teach your child to be kind

Modelling kindness yourself is the easiest way to do this. Do you smile, hold the door open or help your neighbours? More than anything a child will pick up on the cues from the adults in their life. If you are kind and compassionate your child most likely will follow your lead. When you do something, you might explain why you tried to help another and how we can be of service to others.

• Create a sense of gratitude in your home

Being grateful is linked to being a compassionate person. When we are grateful, we can feel empathy for others who may not have something we do. We can ease fear and anxiety and focus on the good which leads to a more loving outlook in the world. Try to take turns every night at dinner to say three good things that happened that day or encourage your child to write a gratitude journal each day.

MindBE Education offers teacher and parenting training courses and resources so that they can better teach children to build compassion, courage and confidence. MindBE Education was founded by Dr Helen Maffini. An international educator, author and consultant who has worked around the world, Helen is a certified emotional intelligence trainer, a Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner and a positive psychology leader.

Five tips for preparing your first born for their new sibling

By | family, Health, prenancy, Relationships, Uncategorized

When you’re getting ready to welcome another baby into your family, you’ll no doubt want to share the excitement with your first born. By getting them involved with all the pre-baby organising, you can ensure your son or daughter is just as prepared as you are for the new arrival. Here, Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director at Write From The Heart shares her tips for getting your little one ready for a sibling.

With another baby on the way, there’s sure to be many things you’ll be planning, and one of those should be helping to make it a positive experience for your first born, too. It’s only natural that your little one might feel a bit left out or upset knowing they won’t be mummy or daddy’s only child, but this doesn’t mean they can’t warm to the idea – especially if you get them involved with the exciting preparations.

Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for getting your first born prepared for their new sibling.

Make a special announcement to them
Telling your little one that you’re expecting another baby can seem nerve-wracking, but if you approach it in the right way, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Creating a special announcement that gets them involved is a great way of doing this. For example, you could throw a mini tea party with plenty of their favourite foods, games, and decorations and reveal it to them during this and tell them they’re soon going to have a little brother or sister who they can do this with.

You could even give them a little gift that they’ll be able to share with their new sibling. This could be a game they could play together when they’re a little older, or a book they could read to the new arrival.

Allow them to help pick decorations for the nursery
If you’re planning on giving your nursery an overhaul before your little one arrives, it might be a nice idea to have your son or daughter help you with it. If your child is too young to help to do any painting, you could get them involved in different ways. For example, once you’ve narrowed down a few options of paints or wallpapers for the walls, you might want to ask them which they like better and go with that one.

If your child loves drawing or painting, you could even have them create something special for the newborn that you can frame and hang in the nursery.

As you will be spending quite a lot of time in the nursery, whether that’s redecorating or organising your baby’s drawers, it’s important that you try to get your little one involved as much as possible. Allowing them to help you make big decisions and being given their own responsibilities is sure to make them feel happier and more prepared to be a big brother or sister.

Get them involved with the naming process
Thinking of a name for your baby doesn’t always come easy, especially when you haven’t met them yet. This is why some parents like to come up with a few good options so that they can see which suits their newborn better once they meet.

If you’re struggling for some first or middle names, or you simply can’t pick between a couple, why not let your little one help? They’re bound to come up with some that you’re not too keen on, but by spending some time together looking through baby name books and writing down your favourites together, your son or daughter is sure to feel special – plus, you’ll have plenty of options when it’s time to meet your new baby!

Read them stories about other siblings
There are sure to still be periods of uncertainty for your child about having a new sibling, even if they appear excited at times. To help ease any worries and show them how fun it can be to have a brother or sister to share family life with, I would recommend reading them stories about siblings.

Whether the storyline is about fun adventures that siblings can go on together or gives your little one ideas about what types of games they could play together when the baby is a bit older, it’s sure to make them a bit more enthusiastic and excited.

To make it a bit more personal, you could even look for books that can have the character names personalised to match your son or daughter’s name, so they feel extra special and relate with the character more.

Let them choose a gift for the baby’s arrival
Letting your child select a gift from them for the baby’s arrival can be a great initial bonding experience, especially when they choose something that your newborn can cherish for years, like a cuddly toy or a blanket.

So next time you head out to the shops for some baby supplies, why not take your son or daughter with you? Head to the newborn baby section with them so you can be sure anything they choose will be suitable for a tiny human.

If you’ve already decided on a name, you could even let them choose a personalised gift, like a soft toy with your baby’s name embroidered on, or a memory box that they can help to fill when your newborn has arrived.

Ease your child’s nerves or jealousy about a new sibling by getting them involved as much as possible with the preparations. By giving them responsibilities and getting their opinions, they’re sure to feel much more valued and excited to meet their new brother or sister!

The importance of learning to share

By | Education, family
by Stephanie Hope
Author of “I Don’t Have to Share”

Commonly used phrases in any childhood social setting are ‘Can you share?’ or ‘Sharing is caring’. Sharing is seen as an obligatory attribute that our children must implement from a very young age.

The pressure within society to raise kind, generous children that always share can result in caregivers forcing children to share before they’ve learnt empathy or self-regulation.

If sharing is forced it can feel like a punishment, consequently, the word share is no longer understood as an act of kindness and generosity, rather something unenjoyable.

Sharing is an important part of friendship forming; learning this skill allows children to play co-operatively by taking turns, developing patience and managing disappointment. Allowing children to experiment with sharing and not sharing will contribute to understanding compromise, fairness, and conflict resolution.

It is crucial we recognise and accept that sharing is difficult, even for adults and especially for young children. Some children will be more likely to want to share than others and all children develop at different stages. Ergo, a child who is more possessive is not being bad or unkind.

So, what can we implement as caregivers to organically instil sharing?
1. Keep sharing optional
Adults can decide which of their belongings to share and with whom. When an adult is using something, another person waits until they are finished, children should be taught and given the same respect.

If we force children to share, they will leave the encounter feeling aggrieved, not generous. Unsurprisingly, they’re less likely to share after that.

2. Model generosity
Copycat behaviour in children is universal, so when sharing it’s important to label it. If we model frequent generosity and sharing it is likely our children will implement the same.

3. Encourage
Give plenty of specific praise when you observe your child sharing with their peers, “That was really kind of you to share your snack with Toby, did you see how happy it made him?”

Specific praise will encourage repetition of the behaviour and help identify how sharing made them and others feel. Eventually children will take the initiative to share without influence to reap its positive rewards.

4. Make exceptions
There are many scenarios a child not sharing should be accepted and respected. Some examples include; if a certain toy is special to them, if they are still focused on an activity, or if they have set up their own imaginative game.

5. Guide children to come up with solutions
When we intervene in a social interaction by insisting that a child shares, we are also interrupting a learning experience. If children are refusing to share, rather than insisting that they take turns or give up a toy, instead, guide them to finding their own solution or compromise. “There’s only one car and you both want to play with it, what could we do?”

6. Teach assertive responses
It would be beneficial for children to learn a handful of phrases they can use repeatedly in social situations where they don’t have to share and have decided not to. Pairing positive assertiveness with kindness will help them develop respect for themselves and for others.

To summarise, learning to share with grace is progressive. With plenty of opportunities to practice, conflicts included, children will discover the importance of sharing and respectively when it is okay NOT to share.

To help children identify some situations in which they shouldn’t have to share, award-winning authors Toni McAree & Stephanie Hope have released a bright, rhyming book controversially titled ‘I Don’t Have to Share’. Readers follow a fun character, Haz the Monster, through different scenarios where he is asked to share. How Haz the Monster responds to his peers teaches children assertiveness, confidence, and respect in regards to sharing.

“My Mum says I don’t have to share this toy, it’s my special one you see, I’ve had it all my life and don’t want anyone touching it but me.”

‘I Don’t Have to Share’ is available now on Amazon. £5.27

pets and children

Five great pets for small children

By | family
by Dr Margit Gabriele Muller
Leading vet and award winning author

It is wonderful for small children to grow up with pets. It not only provides them with a companion and friend but also teaches them responsibility and life skills, enhances their self-confidence, and keeps them happy and healthy.

However, parents might find it hard to choose which pet is the most suitable one for their child. The right choice depends on the child’s age and character – introvert or extrovert – and also on the family’s financial situation and how much time and space they have. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and parents should carefully consider their own personal circumstances and then decide which pet to have. It should never be a spontaneous decision as having a pet is a big responsibility.

To help with decision making, let’s look at some suitable pets for small children.

Dogs are definitely one of the most preferred pets for children. They can become a child’s best friend, trusted confidante and loving companion that will accompany them through their childhood. Although lots of parents favour a puppy, an older well-trained and well-behaved dog is more suitable for small children. They are much more relaxed and forgiving with children and also have a greater protector instinct.

Having a dog gives a child self-confidence and self-esteem and also develops their nurturing skills. In studies, dog ownership has also been linked to improving children’s immune systems and overall physical and mental health. The life expectancy of dogs is between 10 to 16 years making them ideal pets for childhood. This, however, does come with a long-term responsibility and financial implications.

Rabbits are a real favourite pet for kids. They are adorable and have a gentle, sweet personality. Small kids love their fluffy fur and enjoy cuddling and playing with them. As rabbits need care when handling, they are an ideal pet for kids to learn how to be careful and considerate with other living beings.

Rabbits can become very tame. With time, they can learn to come when you call their name and jump up on your lap on command. They are perfect for feeding by hand, for example with carrots or lettuce which is great fun for small children to do. Rabbits can also be toilet trained so that there is not much mess when they run around. If your kids would have loved a dog but that’s not possible, then an added bonus is that rabbits can be trained to walk outside on a leash. Their life span is eight to 12 years which makes them ideal long-term companions.

Guinea pigs
Guinea pigs are much loved by children as they are very funny pets. It’s best to keep them in pairs as they need company and should not be kept alone. Guinea pigs are usually good natured and friendly pets that can become very tame.

Guinea pigs require a lot of ongoing attention and want to be entertained and stimulated. Therefore, they’re an attractive pet for small kids as they can play with them a lot and give them their love and affection. Guinea pigs can be easily carried around or held which is enriching for children. Their life span of around five to seven years makes them great pets for small children.

Birds, and especially budgies, are among the most favorite pets for children. They are ranked directly behind dogs and cats in worldwide popularity. Budgies are really suitable birds as they become very friendly, tame and affectionate. They are very docile and can become
great companions.

As they are very sociable birds, budgies should be kept in pairs or larger groups. Children enjoy observing how they play with each other because it provides great entertainment and fun. In addition, it’s a real delight to hear them chirping from morning till night. With attention and training, some budgies even try to mimic human voices.

They are inexpensive and low maintenance to keep. Their life expectancy ranges between five to eight years, but with good care they can live even longer.

Fish are not on the list of ideal pets for many parents. They are often thought as being a bit boring for children, but fish are actually ideal pets for children in general and particularly for children with allergies. A beautiful aquarium with multiple fish of different colours relaxes nervous children and can considerably calm them down. The same applies to children with attention deficit disorder as it helps them to concentrate and focus more.
Fish can even have a beneficial impact on diabetic children!

Fish in aquariums require proper, constant care which can be a good task for children as they learn responsibility and how to take care of an animal. Their life span ranges from three to seven years depending on the fish species and proper care.

Parents should try to find the most suitable pet for their child – there are many options, and they shouldn’t just go for the most obvious pet without considering all the factors. Finding the right pet can lead to a wonderful relationship that brings great benefits for both the pet and the child.

Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, leading vet and award winning author of Your Pet, Your Pill: 101 Inspirational Stories About How Pets Lead You to A Happy, Healthy and Successful Life
out now, available on Amazon.


nuggets and chips

Five ways to help your children develop a positive relationship with food

By | children's health, family, Food & Eating

If dinnertime has become a battle, try these tips from Denby’s Hayley Baddiley to encourage your children to eat better.

One in five children in the UK consume 78% of their calories from ultra-processed foods, according to research from Imperial College London. Unhealthy eating habits such as these can lead to various health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. It’s also possible that picky eating could be a symptom of, and may worsen, some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety (Healthline), so it’s important that your children maintain a positive relationship with their food.

As a parent, you’ll know all too well how fussy some children can be when it comes to mealtimes. It’s entirely normal for children to go through a phase of picky eating, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. Luckily, there are a few simple tricks you can try to get them to eat more of the good stuff.

Get children involved in the kitchen

pizza kidsKids love being involved with grown-up tasks, so one of the best ways to encourage a healthy relationship with food is by asking them to help out in the kitchen. Allowing them to handle the ingredients at each stage of cooking a meal helps them become more familiar with the food they’re eating, and is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety at mealtimes.

There are a whole range of different tasks for your children to do, no matter their age. Little ones can help wash vegetables and measure out ingredients, while older children can help with chopping, peeling, and stirring. Just choose child-friendly recipes and consider making dishes they can put together themselves. For example, you could create your own pizzas or fajitas, and your children can choose whatever toppings of fillings they want.

Grow your own produce

grow vegeisIf you’ve got the outdoor space, why not grow your own fruits and vegetables? Not only is this a fun way to teach your family about where their food comes from, but your little ones are also more likely to eat the food if they’ve grown it themselves. By the time a new ingredient is ready to plate up, your child will already be familiar with the shape and smell – all that will remain is to taste it!

If this will be your first time gardening, then it’s best to start with something small and simple, such as a few lettuces or a tomato plant. But, as you practise and your children become more confident trying new things, you can start to expand your garden to even more varieties of fruit and vegetables. Try growing courgettes, carrots, potatoes or strawberries, depending on what your children like to eat, and what you’d like to encourage them to try.

Make mealtimes fun

Turning mealtimes into a game is another great way to encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with food. Consider creating a rewards chart and give everyone a star for each fruit or vegetable they eat. Why not add an extra element of competition by offering a prize to whoever has the most stars by the end of
the week?

Making mealtimes more of an occasion can also help reduce stress and encourage your little ones to eat better. Prepare healthy snacks for a family picnic or serve up a tasty summer salad outdoors. You could also host weekly themed nights, complete with decorations and a menu to match. This is a great way to encourage children to try something new, while also making it a fun experience for the whole family.

Get creative with presentation

pretty platesSometimes, all it takes it a little creativity to get your little ones to eat their meals, so it’s worth taking some extra time to present their dishes nicely. For example, experimenting with colour and choosing a vibrant array of vegetables served on matching tableware is a great way to make your dishes look more appetising. Add an extra touch of artistic flair by making fun faces out of the ingredients.

You could also encourage children to become more independent when it comes to mealtimes. By plating up each element in serving bowls and urging everyone to help themselves, you can ease the pressure of trying new things. Giving your children their own set of tableware can also help them feel more independent at mealtimes, and they’ll be more likely to engage with the food you serve up.

Hide your fruit and veg

In some cases, it’s the taste and texture of vegetables that can put your little ones off eating them. So, one of the easiest ways to get your children to eat their vegetables is when they don’t know they’re there at all! This is a great way to up your family’s vitamin intake, especially if the children haven’t been swayed by your previous tactics.

Hide vegetables in pasta sauces, pies, and tarts. Disguise puréed carrots in some mashed potato. Make rice from cauliflower. Or use a spiraliser to create pasta from carrots or courgette. If you mix it in with a small portion of normal rice or pasta, your little ones might never know the difference.

Fussy eating in children is very common, but by trying these tips and tricks, you can encourage them to develop a healthier relationship with food, and they’re much more likely to keep up these positive habits as they get older.
Images ©Denby.

Is open conversation the key to online safety?

By | Education, family
by Jennifer Grey and Hasna Haidar
Freelance writers

When we all retreated into our homes last year, many of us relied on social media and the internet to connect with the outside world. From using apps to catch up with the grandparents to finding ways to keep entertained without going out, the internet was a lifeline enabling us to have fruitful days at home. It also allowed our children to continue to study remotely, to keep in touch with their friends or to stay occupied while stuck indoors.

But, while all these positives about the online world may hold true, it’s an unfortunate fact that lurking within the digital space are predatory individuals and problematic behaviours. With research finding that abusive online behaviour towards children increased during lockdown, it’s important that we educate ourselves – and our children – on online safety. After all, the digital world will likely continue to be a presence in our lives long after lockdown. Below is a list of some of the potential dangers your children might face as they navigate the web – and how you can help.

Cyberbullying, and why empowerment, trust and honesty are needed to tackle it.
Cyberbullying refers to harassing or intimidating behaviour, or behaviour intended to embarrass someone, that takes place over the internet. The Office of National Statistics found that one in five children in the UK experience cyberbullying, while two in five experience bullying in person. Over the course of the pandemic-related lockdowns, it’s possible that this has shifted further towards the former.

If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, they may be feeling ashamed, worried, uncomfortable, scared or confused. What’s more, they’ll likely be reluctant to tell you what’s going on. Fostering an open and welcoming environment that starts when your child begins to use internet-connected devices can help your child feel comfortable coming to you for help when things go wrong.

Three major aspects that’ll help you do so are empowerment, trust, and openness.
• Empowerment
While your first instinct may be to monitor your child’s social media usage to help you spot warning signs, it can be more effective in the long run to ensure your child has the tools and knowledge to navigate the digital world safely. This includes learning how to block or report people online, using and coping with comments on social media.
• Trust
When discussing cyberbullying or any other online safety topic, keep your comments positive and non-accusatory so your child feels trusted instead of defensive. Your child needs to know you appreciate how they might be feeling, and that you’re on their side.
• Openness
Make sure your child knows your door is always open for further discussion, approach conversations with an open mind, and reassure them that they don’t need to hide what they’re experiencing online.

Issues with inappropriate content
Another unfortunate reality of using the internet is exposure to inappropriate content. Your child could watch poor-quality shows that aren’t created with the proper educational milestones in mind, play games that are unsuitable for their age, or even stumble across age-inappropriate content. A phenomenon that’s been recorded recently is content that appears child-friendly, but has been created by shady individuals specifically to trick children and their parents.

Inappropriate content could also take the form of your child receiving – or indeed sending – nude or sexually suggestive imagery online. This may happen due to predators coaxing, tricking or threatening underage children to send inappropriate photos, or could take place on a peer-to-peer level with children sending and requesting nude photos to and of their friends. A recent survey found that 17% of those aged 15 or over had shared a nude photo of themselves online. Yet, it may not be commonly known that being in possession of a nude photo of an underage person – even if that person is yourself – is a crime in the UK.

How to broach the issue of inappropriate online behaviour with your child
It’s important that your child understands the principles of safe internet usage. You may want to have a conversation about online safety – tailored to their age group – as soon as your child begins to use internet-connected devices. When doing so, keep in mind that, for many children, the line between their online world and their offline world is often blurred, with both worlds being equally real. In order to have a true conversation about online safety, it’s important to take into account how your child views the online world.

It’s also worth approaching your conversation as a general one about your child’s life – both online and offline. If you take a relaxed and gentle approach, it’ll help your child feel more relaxed too, and more willing to come to you if they do have issues. Some of the things you may want to talk about include:
• What they enjoy doing online.
• What apps they’re currently using.
• Who their online friends are.
• How being online makes them feel.
• If they’re worried about anything in particular.
• Whether they can trust what they see online.
• What they should do if they saw or heard something they didn’t like online.
• How to identify when they’re overusing apps.
• How they can stay safe online, any tips they have for you, and any tips you can give them.
• How to maintain a healthy balance between the offline and online worlds.
• Where the privacy settings are, and how to report or block users.
• What types of content are appropriate for them to view.
• What types of content are okay for them to share, and what is not okay.

Switching to appropriate social networks
While some social networks are aimed at a younger age demographic than others, all social networks have the potential to allow children access to inappropriate content. It may be worth ensuring your child only uses social networks designed – and exclusive to – their age group, such as Spotlite and GoBubble. These can be safer spaces for younger internet users; allowing them to gain an insight into social media use without the added risk of encountering inappropriate content or questionable users.

Through helping them find safe ways to navigate the internet, fostering an open dialogue with your child, and demonstrating to them that you understand and are supportive of their online world, it’ll be easier for you to ensure your child has a happier experience online. Having honest conversations about online safety while celebrating all the good that the internet can bring can help ensure you’re taking a positive and productive approach to this aspect of your child’s life.

Hasna Haidar is a freelance copywriter and data researcher, covering topics in technology, education, and parenting. Jennifer Grey is a freelance writer, covering the internet, social justice and lifestyle.

dad la soul

The importance of looking out for dads

By | family
by Jim Coulson
Dad la Soul

If you only ever watched sitcoms from the 1970s, you would not only be disappointed by the lack of oranges and browns in 21st century home decor, but you would also have a very particular view of dads.

You know the sort – straight home from work, slouched in an armchair, pipe on the go, paper in hand, ignoring the kids and demanding his dinner on the table from the wife. Of course, sitcoms shouldn’t really be our yardstick for historical accuracy, but this is a stereotype of dads that, in some minds, still sticks.

Dads are still edged out of parenting in the eyes of society. Whether it is the range of food that has been ‘approved by mums,’ as if that gives it some higher authority than anything dads would give the green light to, the advert for cream cheese that shows incompetant fathers unable to keep track of their own babies or poor old Daddy Pig from Peppa Pig who seems incapable of performing even the most basic of domestic functions. So often popular culture falls back on the idea that fathers are useless in the home and only fit to be the breadwinner.

You see it in comments from strangers to dads out with their children, congratulating them for “giving mum a day off,” or those Facebook videos entitled ‘when dad is left alone with the kids’ followed by tedious, sub-You’ve Been Framed-standard footage of children falling over.

Just consider the idea that dads shouldn’t be left alone with their own kids. Just think about what that message says to others about the status of dads.

Of course, this isn’t the reality with most dads. You will probably know a whole host of dads who are interested, engaged and fully involved with their children. So why doesn’t this factor into our thinking more often? Why do we still advertise ‘mum and baby groups’ when they are actually open to anyone with an infant? Why do some establishments still only have changing tables in the ladies’ toilets? Why are men still eyed with suspicion when they hang out by a park on a Saturday morning, as if they couldn’t possibly be there with their own children?

There are around six million dads in the UK with dependent children, according to the Office of National Statistics, and research by Dad la Soul found that 73% of them admitted to being lonely. In addition, 76.2% say they felt left out of family life. With 96 men under the age of 45 lost to suicide every week, it is time we addressed these issues. It is time to talk.

Talking is not something men traditionally do. Well, talking about mental health, that is. Because the real damage of these ‘hilarious’ silly dad characters you see everywhere is that they compound the prejudices that society already has. Men are seen as having no emotional depth; they are told to be strong, to not be emotional, to hold in their feelings, to be stoic, to not complain. But that is not healthy.

Dads need to be seen as equal partners, they need to be respected as parents, they need places to meet other dads and talk about feelings, not football. Well, okay, feelings and football, if they wish.

Facebook video makers, advertising executives and television producers have a duty to represent fatherhood as it is, not how it was in the 1970s. Although, those browns and oranges are surely due a comeback.

Do it for dads. Do it for the good of families. Do it for Daddy Pig.

Dad la Soul battles social isolation using play, music, craft and the arts, with playdates for dads and their children in Worthing, Chichester and online.
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