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sad child

It’s OK to cry – letting our children know they can feel sad

By family, Mental health, Relationships, Special support needs

We’ve all been there: your toddler’s sobbing because their strawberries are being served in a bowl rather than on a plate, or you’re playing in the park and they start crying over a tiny scratch. It’s natural to respond by saying, “Don’t cry, you’re OK.”

It’s a fact of life – babies and toddlers cry. The reasons they cry change as they get older, and so do our reactions. We tend to be more forgiving of infants (although a colicky baby can put anyone’s patience to the test), as we know that crying is one of their only ways to communicate.

Once children start to walk, talk, listen and follow simple directions, adults can become less accepting of crying. Parents naturally want to prepare their children for the world beyond home, and sometimes we react as though expressing negative emotions is a sign of weakness.

Crying can be a way of processing any strong emotion. Toddlers, of course, cry when they’re sad, but they might also cry when they encounter something new, confusing, unexpected, or difficult.

Here are some ways to help your toddler work through big feelings without telling them to stop crying:

Validate and empathise
A simple step is to just say “I can tell you’re upset” or “That looks really frustrating for you and I can see why.” It may help and it shows you care. At this age, your toddler is crying for a reason, even if it doesn’t make much sense to you.

Notice how you are feeling when your toddler starts crying. We may tell our toddlers to stop because we’re frustrated or out of time and patience. Watching our own reactions can be an instructive way to tap into our own empathy.

Finding the patience to listen to your toddler struggle to communicate with you in a difficult moment can be hard, but even with a limited vocabulary, they want to tell you about their feelings. Some of it may come in the form of words, some from body language and other cues.

Circle back
Your toddler is starting to remember more and more. A day after a tough episode, revisit it when your toddler’s in a calmer state by saying something like “Remember when you were so sad yesterday?”

For further information on child development issues please visit

family at theatre

An unforgettable experience…

By dance & Art, Relationships, Theatre

Theatre is a magical world where stories come alive, and for children, it’s an incredible and joyous experience. They have the opportunity to witness a diverse range of theatrical performances, from captivating plays to spectacular musicals. The joys of the theatre for children are many, offering a unique and unforgettable experience that can help foster creativity, imagination and a lifelong love for the performing arts.

One of the most significant benefits of theatre for children is its educational value. Theatre productions can transport children to different times, cultures and places, offering a multi-sensory learning experience. Whether it’s a historical play or a musical based on a classic tale, children can learn about various aspects of history, literature and culture in an entertaining and engaging manner. This helps broaden their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.

Theatre ignites the imagination, allowing children to explore and create their own world of make-believe. Watching actors bring characters to life, witnessing the set design, costumes,and props, all inspire children to think creatively and visualise different possibilities. They learn that anything is possible on stage, encouraging them to dream big and explore their own creative potential.

The theatre provides a platform for children to build self-confidence and express themselves. Attending live performances allows children to see others perform and showcase their talents, which can inspire them to do the same. Some theatres even offer drama workshops and classes for children, helping them develop their acting skills, public speaking abilities and self-assurance. Through theatre, children learn the importance of teamwork, collaboration and effective communication.

Theatre can be a powerful tool for emotional development in children too. Seeing stories unfold on stage allows them to connect with the characters and experience a wide range of emotions – joy, sadness, fear and empathy. This emotional engagement facilitates the development of empathy and a deeper understanding of human emotions and experiences.

Theatre offers an opportunity for children to appreciate and celebrate different cultures. In the UK, there are numerous productions based on diverse stories and traditions, allowing children to become exposed to different perspectives and experiences. Experiencing the music, dance and storytelling of various cultures through theatre helps foster a sense of respect, understanding and acceptance for cultural diversity.

Attending a theatre performance can create lifelong memories for children. The excitement of entering a beautiful theatre, watching the extravagant sets, hearing the live music, and witnessing the talented performances all contribute to an unforgettable experience. These memories often stay with children into adulthood, forming a deep appreciation for the arts and inspiring them to continue enjoying and supporting the theatre.

The joys of the theatre for children are boundless. From educational and creative development to emotional growth and cultural appreciation, attending theatrical performances offers an enriching experience that leaves a lasting impact. The South’s vibrant theatre scene provides countless opportunities for children to be captivated by stories and transported to new worlds. So, let us cherish and encourage our children to enjoy the magic of theatre, fostering a lifelong love and appreciation for the performing arts.

blended family

How to blend when the blender stops blending!

By Fostering and adoption, Relationships
by Sally-Ann Makin
Potter’s Houses Nursery Settings and
Makin Connections – Family Consultancy

Families eh? Big ones, small ones, ones with just animals? All shapes and sizes have their challenges and we share reels and funny memes about the dynamics and we talk and compare stories about the trials and tribulations. But rarely do we talk (unless in our safe coven of non-judgemental friends) about just how hard it is to blend two families and have harmony. Not just hard, it’s almost impossible. I’m yet to speak to a parent of a blended family who finds it as breezy and enriching as they would like the world to think.

Let’s start with parenting styles. These are very much based on a combination of what you’ve learned from your own upbringing, the parent pals you keep, and your own personal beliefs. Very rarely will they align with your partner’s parenting style – this is where it gets tricky. When you raise a child from birth together, you only have each other to bounce off and you navigate parenting together (if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive partner) and you learn about your baby, who is equal parts of you both, together. When you blend a family those values and ideals you’ve raised your children with, will be different to those your new partner has raised their children with, and then we have potential conflict. Before you blend your children, you probably have this romantic idea that because you love each other and you both understand what it’s like to bring up children from a broken home, that you’ll be understanding and supportive at all times. Until their child isn’t very nice to your child and your mama-bear instinct kicks in, and all of that understanding goes out the window. Because no matter how much you love and adore your new partner, your babies are first and foremost your priority – and they’ve already been through enough. Sounding familiar?

So, how do we get past those tricky times where nobody wants to compromise and none of the children seem to like each other? You’re dealing with children who are naturally devious and intrisically selfish and competitive and potentially damaged by their previous experiences. Albeit, often lovely children with good manners who are well-raised and loved – but they can’t be perfect all the time. How do you learn to love someone elses children, who you’re still getting to know, who have so much of someone else in them that it’s hard to see past the flaws that you naturally ignore in your own children? How do you make everything fair and equal when they are different ages and have different abilities?

My husband and I have six children between us, one of which is ours together and I’m telling you it’s a never ending struggle to make sure everyone is looked after emotionally, physically, physiologically and mentally while ensuring that our new, and still in the fictional honeymoon period marriage, doesn’t suffer. Oh and don’t forget we need to run our various businesses and keep a house and make time for friends and extended family. It’s not what you see in the movies, it’s graft and it has nearly broken us a thousand times. We agree on a lot of things, and without wanting to sound too biased, we do genuinely have a lovely bunch of children who for the most part get on well and in comparison to many we are really fortunate. But that doesn’t mean anything about it comes easily and we are often exhausted.

I have a little ‘how to’ that seems to be working for us though and I’m going to share it with you in the hope that it can support more families to blend.

1 Be reasonable in your expectations of all the children regardless of age or background. Being fair and equal won’t work because for children nothing is ever fair and they’re always hard done by, so be reasonable instead. Set achievable goals for behaviour expectations, allow their feelings and responses to change and be heard even if you don’t like what you’re hearing. You have one shot at this.

2 Be understanding – put yourself in their shoes, get down to their level if they are young and try to imagine what their life feels or looks like, maybe it’s not what you thought.

3 Don’t compare – I know, that’s insanely hard! But it’s so important to understand that all children are not the same. My nine year old views the world very differently to my ten year old and they’ve had matching upbringings. Now imagine how differently my 15 year old stepdaughter sees things and we can no longer expect the same from them all.

4 Be affectionate – sometimes it’s hard to give a child who isn’t used to affection a big cuddle but as awkward as they might find it, they need it. Physical touch supports the release of endorphins – the happy hormone – as well as being a strong love language.

5 Priortise your marriage – if the children are all safe and healthy as your paramount focus then make your marriage a priority – make date nights happen no matter how tired you are, stay up later than the children, even if it’s half an hour to finish a conversation, have things in place that model to the children your authority and union in a gentle way. My husband and I have ‘a dessert club’ so every evening we sit down together with a cup of tea and a dessert, that we don’t have to share because they’ve had their own, and actually we are adults so we can! Be united, back each other up and don’t ever let the children think they’re winning!

Model what a healthy, loving and secure relationship looks like so your children seek that in their future partner and not the previous examples that have been set. Love each other beyond all measure because you’re both finding it hard and one day when they all leave home and start their own lives you’ll be all each other have.

For more tips or just for a chat, we offer family mediation at Makin Connections – we can help you connect.

Sally-Ann runs Makin Connections, Garden of Eden Preschool, Potters House Preschool and Blossom and Bloom Day Nursery.
For more information please contact her at or call 07939 620934

ok not to be OK

It’s OK not to be OK

By Childcare and Nannying, family, Mental health, Relationships
by Katie Gowers Watts
‘Diary of a Warent’ blogger

When maternity leave ends, returning to work is an emotional tug-of-war.

diary of a warentMining for diamonds
As maternity leave draws to a close, I find myself emotionally lost, once again. In so many ways I’m looking forward to the return of my professional self, excitedly daydreaming about super-stardom and frankly, ‘being a somebody’. But on the other hand, it hurts.

We’re all familiar with the autopilot words of independent women, the world over. “I’m so ready to get back to work” and “Bring on adult conversations at last”. As for me, my grit and determination shine brightly, but hidden in the shadows of my ambition, is an undeniable anxiety.

Parenting is like mining for diamonds. On average, you need to move 250 tons of earth to find a single carat of diamond. But when you do, you have something indestructibly beautiful. Raising children, through blood, sweat and tears, you’ll deal with 250 tons of sh*t (literal and metaphorical) but the beauty you unearth is like nothing else. It’s invaluable.

It’ll be over when it’s over
Firstly, when this ‘baby phase’ is over, I know I’ll miss it for all time. It’s why almost every parent in the history of parenting says, “They grow up too fast” and “Cherish every moment”.

Secondly, my husband and I are unlikely to have any more children. And so, when maternity leave ends this time around, it ends forever. I’ve been silently dreading it for months.

I doubt that we can ever have too many diamonds, but we can definitely run out of energy and time for another 250 ton dig.

Run for it
Thirdly, whilst I have thankfully rediscovered my sense of self (which can elude you for a while after having a baby), I’m worried that other people’s perceptions of me may have changed. Like ‘buggering off to have a baby’ makes me seem professionally incompetent.

In the early years of senior school, I was roped into running the 800m race on sports day and you had better believe I wanted to win. On the day, with my friends and school-house cheering me on from the sidelines, I ran like the wind – until the last 100m. I realised that my friends, my confidence in human form, were together, united in the crowd – and I was out on the track, all alone. I felt exposed and vulnerable. I buckled and deliberately dropped from 1st to 4th place, afraid to take the podium alone.

Almost 30 years later, going back to work carries a similar irrationality. I want to win, so badly! But my team, my confidence in human form, is now the family I have created at home. And I find myself back at the start line, feeling exposed and vulnerable once again.

Warenting is a competitive sport
Put your hand up if you’ve ever encountered one of those delightful people who brag about giving birth ‘naturally’, probably without pain relief, in a bid to out-birth others? To ‘win’ at giving birth. A fine example of how unanimously irritating one-upmanship can be. Let’s keep it real – if you have given birth, then your body either (painfully) contracted and stretched in ways that don’t seem humanly possible, was (painfully) torn apart from the inside out, or was (painfully) sliced open and stitched back together again. As my midwife once told me, “There is no easy way to get a baby out”. So, however you did it, ‘fist bump’ to you.

Dads, you are credited with 0.011% of the workload. Thanks for your help. (little in-joke there for my husband!)

Warenting is a competitive sport. I have known plenty of women throughout the course of my career, who proudly flaunt the brevity of their maternity leave. They wear it like a medal of honour. “Oh, I only took (*insert short amount of time) off work. I couldn’t wait to get back to the grind” and, “I was responding to work emails from my hospital bed, like 10 seconds after giving birth”. If that’s you, then good for you, I get it. But it’s not me.

Emotional dumbbells
Why do we view physical pain as strength, yet emotional pain as weakness? Since our struggles are such a heavy weight to bear, perhaps we could think of them as emotional dumbbells. The more we lift, the stronger we become.

So, yes I want a badass career, but no, I don’t want to leave my kids. Yes, I want professional success in abundance, but no, I don’t want to sacrifice meaningful parenting moments. Yes, I want to stretch my maternity leave for a while longer, but no, I haven’t lost my ambition.

What I want to say, to shout even, is, “I don’t want to be at work instead of being with my baby. But also, I do want to be at work, absolutely bossing it”.

It’s OK not to be OK
Some of us are wrongly programmed to feel as though admission of our struggles is an admission of guilt. Like it’s telling people we’re not strong enough, not good enough. And as we all know, there’s only one solution…

I’ve turned it off and back on again, and instead of pretending that I don’t give a hoot about something I find painful at times, I’m acknowledging it.

Because as a mother, it is my right to feel this way. And it’ll be OK. Because it’s OK not to be OK.

You can read the full version of It’s OK not to be OK’ and additional ‘warenting’ blogs

written by Katie, at

Divorce help

Court is not the only way

By family, Legal, Relationships
by Rachael House
Partner, Dutton Gregory

Contrary to what we may see on television, when couples divorce or dissolve a civil partnership, there are not many people who say to their lawyers “I want to take my ex to the cleaners!”. In my experience the majority of people say the opposite: “I want to be fair but get what I am entitled to”. In that circumstance, I commend my client for their sensible outlook and discuss with them the ways that settlement can be achieved without going to court.

We will then attempt to engage the spouse/civil partner in an out of court route such as mediation, the collaborative process, round table meetings, arbitration, a private financial dispute resolution hearing or early neutral evaluation. This list of options has grown in recent years, so there are plenty of routes to keep people away from the overworked and underfunded courts.

Despite all the options, it can sometimes become apparent that each party’s perception of what is fair can differ, or one party is an ostrich and does not engage in any meaningful negotiations. This can result in a stalemate in negotiations. Thus, an application to the Family Court to ask a Judge to make decisions for the couple can sometimes seem the only way forward. This can result in the parties both having an outcome imposed upon them that neither of them is happy with. Furthermore, each person will have spent many thousands of pounds in legal fees and may be stuck in the court system for a number of years.

If the above is not enough to put people off going to court, there is now even more of a deterrent in the form of two new elements being applied to the process in 2024:

1 Parties to court proceedings will need to let the court know what their thoughts are on trying to reach settlement outside of the court process, rather than staying within the court arena. If they do not wish to negotiate out of court, then they have to justify why they should not have to go and try an out of court route. If the Judge is not satisfied with the answer, an order can still be made to send the couple off to try and progress matters outside of the court arena.

Furthermore, if the Judge is not satisfied with a party’s engagement, they can make that person pay towards the other person’s legal costs. The court has long been trying to get couples to engage in out of court processes, and so is formalising the process from April so that couples will need to be much more alive to the risk of paying even more money to their ex if they show no interest in trying to move their disagreement away from the court.

2 The press will be allowed to report on court hearings. Initially just in proceedings concerning disputes over children – but this is expected to extend to financial proceedings in due course. This will be subject to strict rules on not naming the parties. There has been a pilot in place across a number of courts in England and Wales, but as from 29th January it has been extended to include 16 more courts including Guildford.

Imagine feeling nervous already about going to court but then having a journalist gawping at you as they type every word on their laptop, hoping for a juicy snippet of detail to entice their readers about the way the relationship has failed.

If your relationship has broken down and you are wondering what the difference is between the out of court routes, here is a summary:
Mediation – a third independent party helps couples reach a negotiated agreement.
Collaborative process – negotiations face to face with lawyers and a firm commitment to try and stay away from court.
Round table meetings – negotiations face to face with lawyers.
Arbitration – a jointly appointed arbitrator makes a decision that will be binding on the couple and become a court order but is more flexible and much quicker than court.
Private dispute resolution hearing/early neutral evaluation – the assistance of a specially trained person acting as a judge identifies and seeks to resolve the issues in the case, with the aim of limiting overall legal costs and time delays.

I know there will still always be situations where court is unavoidable. However, I hope that more people will become aware that going to court to resolve their issues is fraught with risk as to the uncertainty of outcome, speed, cost and privacy.

Rachael House is a specialist family solicitor at Dutton Gregory so if you want advice, then please contact Rachael House on 01483 755609 or

legal rights for grandparents

Grandparents’ rights

By Legal, Relationships

Jennie Apsey, Solicitor in the Family Department at Dean Wilson LLP,

explores the rights of grandparents.

In an ideal world, all family relationships would be strong and healthy, and everyone would get on. However, family arguments do happen and sometimes have significant consequences. Whether as a result of falling out with your children and their partners, or as result of them going through an acrimonious separation or divorce, you may find that access to your grandchildren is restricted or completely cut-off, which can be a very painful experience.

Do I have any legal rights as a grandparent in England?
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren and the law primarily recognises the rights of parents in matters concerning the upbringing of their children. However, under the Children Act 1989 what is in the best interests of the child is the primary consideration and therefore all is not lost should you find yourself being denied a relationship with your grandchildren.

What should I do if I am not being allowed to see my grandchildren?
If you find yourself in this situation and you have been unable to negotiate with the children’s parents to come to an agreement, you should see if you can resolve the issue amicably with the help of a mediator. A trained mediator could help you come to a satisfactory agreement without the need for any court orders and they are likely to understand the sensitive and emotionally stressful nature
of the situation.

What happens if mediation is refused, or it breaks down?
In this instance, it is important to take specialist family law advice. Only people with Parental Responsibility have an automatic right to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order, and grandparents will require the permission of the Court to make an application. In practice, the application for permission is dealt with at the same time and on the same form as the application for a Child Arrangements Order (form C100). You will need to explain your reasons for making the application, and in the majority of cases permission will granted and the application issued after consideration of the following:
• The grandparent’s relationship with the grandchildren;
• The nature of the application;
• Whether there may be a risk of any harm to the grandchildren if the application is granted;
• Whether permitting the grandparents to have contact with the grandchildren would have any negative effects on the rest of the family.

What happens when an application is issued?
The parents of the children will be notified of the application made by the grandparents and a hearing will be listed. If no agreement can be reached at this stage of the proceedings, further hearings will be necessary, culminating in a Final Hearing at which oral evidence will be heard from both parties. During the course of the proceedings, usually with the help of Cafcass, the Court will obtain the views of the grandchildren, providing they are old enough to express them.

The Court will make a final decision with reference to the Welfare Checklist found in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989:
• The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the children concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
• Their physical, emotional and educational needs;
• The likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances;
• Their age, sex, background and any characteristics of theirs which the court considers relevant;
• Any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering;
• How capable each of their parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting their needs;
• The range of powers available to the court under the Act in the proceedings in question.

The Court must put the best interests of the children ahead of any other considerations including the wishes of the parties. If the Court believes that contact with the grand-parents is beneficial for the children, they will grant a Child Arrangements Order which will stipulate the terms of that contact.

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.


happy children in forest

The power of a small prep school Embracing the ‘try everything’ philosophy

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Nature, Primary school, Relationships
by Charlotte Moore
St Christopher’s Prep

In a world where education is often evaluated by standardised testing and one-size-fits-all metrics, nestled in the heart of a vibrant community, small preparatory schools are quiet powerhouses that have a unique charm. They offer a distinct advantage over larger educational institutions, such as smaller class sizes, a strong sense of community, and individualised attention from teachers. They punch well above their weight through a compelling philosophy that sets them apart – the ‘try everything’ approach to learning.

This philosophy encourages pupils to engage in a wide range of experiences, regardless of their interests or perceived talents. This inclusive model is particularly feasible in small prep schools, where the environment is often more adaptable and personalised than in larger institutions. The imperative of a ‘try everything’ philosophy is not just to expose pupils, but to embed a spirit of curiosity and cross-disciplinary agility.

The encouragement to engage with various subjects and extra curricular activities reflects a deeper understanding of the education process – it’s through experience and reflection that genuine learning takes place. Pupils are taught to value the journey of learning, to embrace failures as learning opportunities, and to develop a growth mindset that views challenges as stepping stones to mastery.

Pupils are invited to dip their toes into a variety of subjects and extra curricular activities – from arts to sciences, sports to technology – and discover passions they may not have known they had. They might find themselves coding a robot in one class, sewing a blanket in another and rehearsing a Shakespearean play in the next.

The key to this method is the idea that true learning comes from exploration and experimentation, which isn’t always found in textbooks. In a rapidly changing world, it is ever more important to be adaptable and have a broad skill set as well as specialised knowledge. From teamwork and leadership in sports, critical thinking in debate clubs, to innovation in STEM projects, pupils become well-equipped for future challenges. Such an education cultivates adaptive individuals who can thrive in the dynamic environments of higher education and the professional world.

Small class sizes of typical prep schools allow for highly individualised attention. Teachers are really able to nurture the curiosity of each pupil, encouraging them to take risks in a safe and supportive environment. Not only does this foster a love of learning, but it also helps to build resilience and confidence, both of which are qualities that are essential in both personal and professional lives.

A small prep school often has a much closer-knit community which provides more leadership opportunities. With fewer pupils to compete with for positions on school councils, drama productions, or as school prefects or team captains, pupils are able to step up and lead in more areas. This close-knit environment fosters a greater sense of responsibility and community engagement.

Small prep schools are able to promote an inclusive culture where hobbies and abilities are not dictated by societal expectations but by personal exploration and growth.

By encouraging all pupils to get involved, and try everything, teachers are creating opportunities for collaboration. It also helps break down barriers and fears. Those pupils who may have been reluctant to join a robotics club or a sewing club, for fear of not fitting in, may discover a love for engineering or garment making. Not everyone is naturally gifted at academics or sports but by being encouraged to join in, those who may have thought they were not great, may still find joy in doing it.

Subjects can often be compartmentalised but this ‘try everything’ approach supports a cross-disciplinary learning. Pupils applying their historical knowledge in English discussions or their artistic sensibilities in science projects shows a holistic educational approach that small prep schools champion.

Smaller class sizes and a more diverse lesson curriculum helps broaden the horizons of pupils so they become more rounded human beings when they progress to their senior school. These people are prepared to not just navigate the world but shape it into something better. A smaller school can be an incubator for future leaders. With the access to teachers and the excellent resources and opportunities the pupils have, these schools help ignite curiosity and arm the pupils themselves with the tools needed to build a fulfilling life. Alumni of small prep schools often attribute their success to the versatility and adaptability that was nurtured in their early education.

The ‘try everything’ philosophy at a small prep school is a powerful tool for education and is not something to be missed. It champions the idea that pupils should be encouraged to embrace a multitude of experiences, helping to shape them into adaptable, curious and innovative thinkers. In schools like these, the power of learning is limitless, and the outcomes are as diverse as the opportunities that they provide.

St Christopher’s Prep is an outstanding independent co-ed prep school. Please call 01273 735404 to discover how we could be the perfect match for your child’s educational start.

smiling tween

Parenting tweens

By family, Relationships
by Kelly Cox
Parent Coach & Trainer at Connective Family

The transition from childhood dependency to adult independence – it’s scary stuff!

We often think of teenagers appearing in our homes the morning after their 13th birthday, like the scene from Kevin and Perry. But actually pre-teens or ‘tweens’ develop from about eight to 12 years of age.

During this time our tweens often start to worry more about what other people think of them, they may become more self-conscious, keen to fit in with peers and even confident children can become more insecure. This can be a time where we start to see bullying.

So, what can we do as parents to stay connected with our children while they navigate these years?

Our parenting journey is an ever-changing landscape of rough roads, smooth country lanes and mountains, which is why being able to adapt to our child’s needs is crucial if we want to create a calm and connected home life.

Prioritise self-care
The most important thing we need to remember is that we cannot pour from an empty cup. Parenting leads us to pour from our cups constantly throughout the day, so looking after ourselves is crucial.

When we practise self-care, we allow ourselves to self-regulate more often and to allow ourselves to be less reactive to stressful situations. For some, self-care is small daily acts and for others is weekly or monthly acts. It’s whatever works for you, find what you need to help you to stay connected and calm.

Remember, it takes a village to raise a child
It’s important that, as parents and carers, we are connected with others who have a positive impact on us and our families.

Some examples of this might be:
• Maintaining positive relationships with teachers and support staff at your schild’s school.
• Encouraging positive relationships between children and sports coaches.
• Having positive relationships with friends and wider family.
• Asking for help when needed from appropriate people.

Keep up the parental presence
Being able to maintain a positive connection with our children is key to making them feel safe and supported, which in turn has a positive impact on behaviour and wellbeing.

You can increase parental presence in a number of ways to suit you and your child. Some simple ways you can do this include:
• Watching a movie of their choice with them.
• Popping your head in to see if they want a drink or a snack.
• Being in the room with your child.
• Going for walks or drives in the car together.
• Giving them a lift somewhere or picking them up.
• Spending time one-to-one with them doing something they enjoy.
• Taking an interest in a hobby or interest that they have.

Think connection over correction
We’re not saying that we should never correct our children but if we think and practise connection first, we often don’t need to correct.

If a child behaves in a way that we do not approve of, then it’s important that we try and think why they may be behaving in this way.
What are they trying to tell us or what are they trying to gain from this?

We often hear adults saying that children are just ‘attention seeking’. However, if we reframe this and think of it as though they are ‘attention needing’ or ‘attachment seeking’, it leads us to think more about connection rather than correction.

Tweens or teens will often push away from their parents (remember your tween and teenage days!?) so it’s important that we maintain a connection but also allow them to have a little more freedom. This transition between childhood dependency and adult independence can be a scary process for many children, particularly if they do not have the skills to navigate this.

And finally…
We so often hear so much negativity around teenagers, but if we stop and think about what they are navigating in life and the changes in their adolescent brain, then we realise how truly amazing they are!

They’re finding their way through education, friendships, relationships with teachers and other adults, handling intense emotions, changing bodies and external pressures such as social media. And they’re told, often daily, that choices they make today will affect the rest of their lives – despite the fact that their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for planning, prioritising and making good decisions, is the last to develop.

The tweenage brain is a wonderful thing!

Kelly Cox is a parent coach and trainer at Sussex-based Connective Family,

an organisation supporting parents, carers and their families.


Which primary school?

By Education, Primary school, Relationships

Applying for a state primary school in the UK is a crucial step in a child’s education journey. The process can seem overwhelming, especially for first-time parents or those new to the country’s education system. However, with the right information and preparation, it can be a straightforward and manageable task.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to apply for a state primary school.

1. Understand the basics
Before you start the application process, it’s essential to understand some key concepts:
• Catchment area
State primary schools often prioritise children living within a specific catchment area. This means your residential address can significantly impact your school options.

• Admissions criteria
Each school has its own admission criteria, which can include proximity to the school, siblings already attending, or other factors like religion or special needs.

• Key dates
Keep track of application deadlines, as they vary by region and school. Generally, applications are due around January for entry the following September.

2. Research schools
Begin by researching the primary schools in your area. You can use magazines like ABC, online resources, school directories and word of mouth to compile a list of potential schools. Pay attention to OFSTED ratings, which indicate school quality, and visit school websites to learn about their programmess, facilities and admission policies.

3. Determine your preferences
Consider your priorities when selecting schools. Think about factors such as location, school size, teaching approach (e.g. Montessori or traditional) and extracurricular activities. Make a list of your top choices based on these criteria.

4. Check admission criteria
Review the admission criteria for each school on your list. This information is usually available on the school’s website or through your local education authority. Understanding the criteria will help you assess your chances of securing a place at each school.

5. Visit schools
Whenever possible, visit the schools you’re interested in preferably with your child. Open days and tours provide an opportunity to get a feel for the school environment and meet staff members. It can also help you decide if a school aligns with your child’s needs and your expectations.

6. Complete the application form
Most schools in the UK use a common application form provided by your local education authority. You can usually find this form on the authority’s website or request a copy from the school. Fill out the form accurately, providing all required information, including your school choices.

7. List schools in order of preference
On the application form, you’ll typically be asked to list your preferred schools in order. It’s crucial to rank them carefully because this order can affect your child’s chances of getting into their top choice.

8. Proof of address
Be prepared to provide proof of your address, as this will be a significant factor in school allocation. Utility bills, council tax statements, or lease agreements are typically accepted as proof.

9. Sibling priority
If you have other children already attending a particular school, mention this on your application. Many schools give sibling priority, increasing the likelihood of your younger child being admitted.

10. Submit your application
Submit your completed application form by the specified deadline. Be sure to keep a copy for your records and request a receipt or confirmation of submission if possible.

11. Wait for offers
After the application deadline, you’ll have to wait for the local authority to process applications and allocate school places. This process can take several weeks, so be patient.

12. Respond to offers
Once you receive offers from schools, you’ll need to respond promptly. If you’re offered a place at your top-choice school, accept it as soon as possible.

13. Appeals process (if necessary)
If your child doesn’t get a place at your preferred school, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeals process varies by region, so check with your local education authority for guidance on how to proceed.

In conclusion, applying for a state primary school involves thorough research, careful planning and adherence to deadlines.

Understanding the local admission criteria and prioritising your preferences will increase your chances of securing a place at a school that aligns with your child’s educational needs and your family’s values. Remember that the process can be very competitive, so it’s essential to be well-prepared and flexible in your choices.

Good luck with your application!

teach your child about endangered animals

Teach your child about endangered animals

By Education, environment, Forest School, Nature, Relationships

The topic of endangered animals can be a difficult one for adults, let alone children. How do you explain, in simple and sensitive terms, that human action is destroying the planet and subsequently wiping out entire species of animals?

It’s the younger generations that are going to suffer the most from the impact of climate change, so it’s in their best interest to learn the hows and whys as early as possible. Knowledge is power, after all.

Here, My Oceans has put together their top tips for teaching children about endangered animals.

Use sensitive and simple language
There’s a fine line between being realistic and just plain terrifying. Children must understand the severity of the situation, but you should try to avoid harsh words and confusing terms that they’ll likely not understand.

Don’t: “Human ignorance is killing innocent animals; when the population of a species has declined at least 70% for reasons unknown, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declares it as endangered.”

Do: “Endangered animals are animals that have become so rare that they’re at risk of disappearing forever! This is why everyone must come together to take necessary the steps to protect them before it’s too late.”

Get the whole family involved
Make this a family activity by getting the whole crew together! If your children have older siblings who perhaps already know about endangered species, it still might be a good idea to get them involved.

Most little ones subconsciously mimic their older siblings, so they’re far more likely to take an interest in the topic if their brothers and sisters do too. Plus, helping save the world is a fantastic family bonding activity.

Find children-friendly books
If you’re not the best at wording things, or if your children need a little more clarification, look for children-friendly books that address the topic.

Fortunately, there are hundreds out there which are ideal for children aged three to 11.

You can find books that explore specific at-risk animals, such as ‘A Polar Bear in the Snow’ or ‘Give Bees a Chance’. This might be good if your child has a favourite animal that they want to learn more about.

There are also books that explain the subject of endangered animals in a general sense. Recommended reads might include works such as ‘My First Pop-Up Endangered Animal’s by Owen Davey and ‘A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Animals’ by author Millie Marotta.

Books are a fantastic way to enrich a child’s learning, especially for topics that might be a little upsetting or confusing. Set aside some time to go through each book together.

Let them ask as many questions as they need to
Children are incredibly curious – sometimes too much so. However, it’s important you let them ask as many follow-up questions as they need to.

If you want them to get their head around a totally bewildering subject, you should expect and prepare for an interrogation.

Some questions might be outrageous (hey, children are children) but do your best to give clear, honest answers to help them further grasp the topic.

Think of ways to help
Now that your little ones have a better understanding of what endangered animals are, you must plan all the ways that you can try to help the cause together.

As an adult, you’ll probably know the obvious solutions (more on those below), but this brainstorming session should be about encouraging your children to the discussion.

Nudge them in the right direction but let them feel like they’re the ones contributing awesome, life-saving ideas. This will make the children feel much more motivated to carry out the ideas in the next stage.

This is perhaps the most important part of teaching your children about endangered animals: putting those plans into action.

Once you have your list of solutions, research each one until you have a good idea of your ‘who, what, when, where and why.’

Types of activities you could consider include:
Adopt an animal
Expose your children to endangered animals in a fun way that promotes responsibility. Your small monthly donation can help fund crucial work, plus, in exchange, you’ll typically receive a cuddly toy, regular updates, and a certificate.

Make eco-friendly lifestyle changes
Many adults have adopted bad environmental lifestyle habits, and bad habits are hard to shake. From early on, before these negative routines cement themselves in your children’s life, teach them:
• How to recycle, and why it’s crucial we do so
• The importance of eco-friendly products (such as plastic-free toilet paper and reusable shopping bags)
• How to reduce energy usage
• To avoid single-use plastic
• To eat less meat.

Raise funds together
There are plenty of UK charities for protecting endangered animals and their habitats, such as People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and WWF.

A possible ocean-specific charity you could support is the Marine Conservation Society, an organisation working to achieve a cleaner, healthier environment. Think of exciting ways to raise money for these charities, such as bakes sale or walking fundraiser.

Visit an animal shelter or wildlife centre – a super educational way to support a fantastic cause while helping your children to comprehend the topic in greater detail. Find your local animal shelter or wildlife centre and volunteer your time feeding the animals, cleaning and tidying habitats, or just being a companion.

Incorporate fun activities – children love to play! Playing is crucial for their development as it benefits a variety of skills, including cognitive and social. As you embark on this journey of better understanding endangered animals, look for fun activities that’ll help and engage them:
• Arts and crafts
• Roleplay
• Puppeteering
• Painting and drawing
• Singing and dancing.

They have the power to change the world
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re raising your children with the right beliefs, attitudes and knowledge. Theirs is the generation that will be hurt the most by the impacts of climate change, so it’s only right we give them the necessary tools to fight back – as early as possible.

Support them in grasping the severity of the situation in a way that motivates them to help the cause. No one is expecting a six year old to single-handedly change the world, but soon that six year old will be a fully-fledged adult that has a much better chance of doing so.

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