Powerful Parents, Routine, SLEEP, U Time

NEW YEAR OLD YOU?

Okay its cliché New Year New YOU right?

Wrong … this year there’s going to be a difference …  it’s the old YOU we want back. Flat belly, super sexy, slim, confident, and stress-free, you remember how it used to be pre -baby (well pre -motherhood really, most of us mum’s are past the baby phase and with teenagers in toe we still blame the baby weight for not feeling great.)

Well 2020 marks a new decade, it’s a big milestone so it’s time for big changes!

FRESH START

January, we turn to resolutions to make changes in our lives, and the number one for most mums is to lose weight or eat healthier. 

But usually by February, that all falls by the wayside as motivation wanes and our old habits return to comfortably seduce us back to the familiar foods we know and love. 

As a Mum and nutritional therapist, myself, I know how all too easy it is to do. I may want to change but my family may not, and staying strong and encouraging them can be a difficult task when I’m also craving certain foods and drink. 

Most of us know that we should exercise, eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and get a good night’s sleep, its common sense, but how many of us actually do that every day? 

And if we don’t, how can we make our kids? 

Just knowing what to do, doesn’t make it automatically happen. 

As Voltaire’s dictum goes; 

 ‘That common sense is not so common’ 

We know what we should be doing to help ourselves as well as our children but often we just don’t know how or where to start? 

As our childrens most influential role model starting with ourselves is key, and here are 7 tips to get you started in 2020. 

1. No plan is a plan to fail – Snacking and eating at irregular times of the day stimulates weight gain. A good regular mealtime routine just like the one you would provide for your child as part of the U URSELF Routine is just as important for you as it is for your child. So, plan ahead, decide a menu of meals in advance and write a list of ingredients before you shop, this means you’re more likely to stick to the plan. Preparing meals in advance and batch cooking with a few key ingredients helps too, as well as taking your own packed lunch to work. Stocking your kitchen with healthy snack options and discarding unhealthy options is advisable, when we are starving it’s easy to reach for a quick fix in sugar or salt. You can’t rely on will power in those moments of weakness so best not to put temptation in front of you. To boost your motivation, keep a journal of everything you eat and drink either buy a nice notebook or use an app on your phone, there are some really good free ones where you can scan bar codes on food to keep track of every calorie or oz of fat. This can be a real eyeopener. I use MyNetDiary https://www.mynetdiary.com/ on my iPhone s its free, quick and easy!

Research has proven that those who write their goals down meaningfully increase their chances of success in achieving those goals by 30% and keeping track as in using the above app and measuring your progress along the way helps you to increase your chances of success by a whopping 60%!!!!

Reviewing your goals is a must, it keeps you motivated, on track and shows you what changes need to be made and helps you to see your progress. You can’t conveniently forget when you record what you are eating and drinking. Being honest with yourself is essential to maintaining or losing weight.

2. Meal monotony – Eat the same meals, boring I know but that’s the secret to eating less, your taste buds are less likely to overeat when you’re full, if what’s on offer is a boring plate of food they are used to, and this will stop you over eating. Plan meals in advance and shop online for the ingredients, this way you won’t be tempted to buy the foods you don’t want or need, saving you money as well as calories, opt for soup, salads, fish pulses and drink plenty of water. You may not like fish or salad for example, but love chicken and vegetables and that’s okay, just eat lots of veg instead. It’s important to find those foods that you do like, not to eat things because you think they’ll help you to lose weight. Don’t deny or forbid yourself- this is important because the reason diets don’t work long-term is because we can’t deny or deprive ourselves forever and why should we?

The key to permanent weight loss is finding a healthy lifestyle that you can enjoy and live with forever, not until you reach your weight loss goal. 

3. EAT MORE- for most of us it’s not how much we eat that causes us weight gain it’s what we are eating. Ironically another key to losing weight is to fill up, when we are hungry, we make unhealthy choices. Bulking up on healthy, nutritious food prevents us feeling ravenous.

Foods that are filling are those that weigh more, have larger volume and a higher water content (more on this later under Water). Fruits and fibre, beans, lentils, quinoa, oats and barley absorb water and are high in fibre. Water and fibre add bulk making you feel fuller for longer and the good news is, water and fibre have zero calories. To lose weight we need to choose more slow carbs too, these are known as low glycaemic foods or low GI foods, these make you feel full for longer as they keep your blood sugar even, preventing cravings, regulating your appetite and helping you to last longer between meals so you are less inclined to snack. These are what we call ‘good carbs. A low GI meal inhibits a spike in insulin, promoting satiety and rate of weight loss. You can find some low GI Recipes here https://www.gisymbol.com/low-gi-everyday-meal-plan/

You will consume more volume and weight without feeling hungry by adopting a low-density diet.

4. RESISTANCE EXERCISE- Now I need no excuse to resist exercise, this is something that comes naturally to me, in fact out of all the possible addictions in this world I could have, exercise is probably one of the only ones I don’t have!!!

But I’m only joking, when talking about resistance exercise I’m referring to muscle strengthening. We need to work our arms, shoulders, legs, hips, back, chest and abdomen at least twice a week to be of any benefit, using heavy weights to lift or using our body weight such as push or sit ups, or using resistance bands, if you’re a scaffolder or do manual work you’re ahead of the game. Also, if you do any sporting activities regularly such as rugby or gymnastics. But you do need to push yourself when strengthening those muscles to the point where you feel you can’t possible do one more lift of crunch. But this muscle building needs to be done gradually so you progress over time and eventually 15 repetitions turn into 50, as your strength and stamina increase. This is important as we age as resistance exercises can help to prevent brittle bones, and increasing your muscle mass helps you to burn more calories, so the more muscle the better. If you are reducing your calorie intake you will lose muscle as well as fat however, when including muscle strengthening exercises you keep hold of more muscle and end up losing more fat. It also accelerates your metabolism which means that you continue to burn calories hours later following exercise, according to Melby et al., 1993 your BMR is elevated for up to 15 hours after exercise, due to the oxidation of body fat, and it increases the effectiveness of your nutrient uptake in your muscles reducing insulin-related fat storage.

Seems there are no better reasons to use weight resistance training to burn fat and build muscle – this doesn’t mean though, you have to go to the gym lifting heavy weights, as a parent especially of younger children you probably won’t have time or a babysitter to allow for this, but don’t worry, all you need is a couple of hand weights or a resistant leg exerciser that can fold away, or some stretchy bands, and if you only have ten minutes a day that’s all you need to feel and see the positive changes that can occur over time, with consistent use. Excuse me while I convert my clothes horse back to the weights bench I bought one January, aeons ago….

5. SOBRIETY

Anyone who knows me will know I love a drink, but I know that although alcohol is socially acceptable and even associated with good times and celebrations, it’s still a neurotoxic, psychoactive drug that depresses the central nervous system. That’s why the government offer guidelines for how many units we should drink a week, but who pays attention or really knows what they are? Well in the UK it’s no more than 14 units per week for both genders last time I checked https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/latest-uk-alcohol-unit-guidance/

Still means little to me, after a few I’ve lost count of how many glasses of wine I’ve drunk let alone units per glass. But if we are counting calories shockingly, for anyone trying to lose weight, there’s approximately 500 calories in a bottle of wine!

Add to that the fact alcohol makes us feel hungry and crave unhealthy food types, then its best to stay away completely if we want to be slim and trim in 2020. But I’m no party pooper, if you socialise there’s great alcoholic beverage alternatives these days or low alcoholic ones.

Low alcoholic drinks are poised for big business in 2020 but I don’t particularly like the taste of them, in fact, most of us drink for the buzz not the flavour we get from booze, so many of us will be better off with a normal soft drink. My favourite is flavoured, fizzy water, it still feels like a treat compared to the plain still water I drink all day, as it’s got the sweet fizz to fool my brain into thinking I’m having a reward. This is important as having rewards is vital to changing our habits. Some of us may not be motivated by rewards so we may want to focus on avoiding a negative consequence instead, such as a hangover.  As we age, we do tend to suffer more with hangovers as our bodies struggle to metabolise alcohol, and we fight intoxication and dehydration, then as soon as our liver has had enough, we get a headache.

6. WATER – THE ELIXIR OF LIFE

That’s when our faithful sober friend, water helps, by drinking buckets of the stuff, we dilute that alcohol and relieve that banging head.

Our bodies are around 60% to 70% water in weight a day. Some of us can be carrying an extra 10 to 15 pounds of excess water daily, which has become trapped in our tissues.

This excess water causes abdominal bloating, face & eye puffiness and cellulite, and it can be caused from many things such as;

• Food sensitivities

• Nutrient & antioxidant deficiencies

• Medication

• Hormones i.e. menstrual cycle

• Not enough protein

• Not enough WATER!!!

Yes, ironically not drinking enough water can actually cause water retention.

WHY WATER?

Our kidneys need water to flush toxins and waste from our bodies, but when water reserves are low i.e., we haven’t drunk enough water, our kidneys end up storing water.

On top of that, not enough water and our lymphatic system slows down too.

When this happens and our bodies can no longer carry waste away, that waste then accumulates in fat cells leading to cellulite, particularly in women.

And what better reason do we need to increase our water intake, than the fact that it suppresses our appetites, and naturally helps our bodies to metabolise stored fat?

As an added bonus drinking enough water gives us clearer complexions. After only 5 days of not drinking any alcohol and increasing my water intake someone commented to me this week, on how good my skin and complexion looked.

And of course, when we are drinking plenty of water then we are not drinking too much caffeine, fizzy drinks and fruit juices. All of which cause us to gain weight and increase our daily calorie intake considerably.

WEIGHING ALL THIS UP

Our weight changes due to our hydration levels.

Make sure you weigh yourself at approximately the same time of day, with similar hydration levels


Therefore, if you do weigh yourself regularly, for accuracy make sure you weigh yourself at approximately the same time of day, with similar hydration levels. For more in-depth readings you can also buy Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis [BIA] scales, because these can measure your body fat percentage and hydration levels.

HOW MUCH WATER DO WE NEED?

Water is essential for survival.

We can live without most things but not water.

It maximises our muscle functions, rids our bodies of excess water, and increases our metabolism. But to do all that efficiently we need to drink about two litres [or eight glasses of water] a day, for our bodies to function properly.

On top of that, in hot weather we should all be drinking more than the recommended daily amounts.

And did you know that if you are overweight, you will need an extra glass for every twenty pounds of excess weight you carry?

HOW CAN WE INCREASE OUR WATER CONSUMPTION IN ORDER TO LOSE WEIGHT?

– TOP TIP 1

Get into the habit of always carrying a bottle of water with you wherever you go!

– TOP TIP 2

ADD WATER TO MEALS

To help with weight loss, drink plenty of water prior to and during meals.

Also, drink your daily calories in vegetable soups, because soups fill up our stomachs more and for longer.

Research has also shown that low energy density foods- that is foods that have a high-water content such as stews and soups, and foods such as salads and fruits that are naturally high in water; reduce appetite and make us eat less high calorie foods.

So, we need to increase our intake of water rich foods, as well as foods that absorb water during cooking, such as rice and pasta, if we want to lose weight without feeling hungry.

WATER THE ELIXIR OF WEIGHT LOSS

So, there you have it, weight gain can be attributed to water retention, and paradoxically water can be the answer to weight loss.

So, in either case drink up if you’re trying to lose weight!

This was my actual fridge when on that weight loss journey a few years ago. No room for food, that’s why I must have dropped those 2 dress sizes so quickly????

7. SLEEP- We are all different and the amount of sleep each one of us needs will vary, some will bounce out of bed after 6 hours of sleep, others need 9 hours to feel refreshed. Quality and quantity of sleep is important. As parents though both of these are usually in short supply. Getting our children into a good bedtime sleeping routine early on is best as that will give us the time we need to relax, unwind and eventually get a good night’s sleep ourselves.

PARENTS NEED SLEEP MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE

What can be worse than a tired child?

A tired parent and child of course!

Lack of sleep is not only detrimental to children, it’s also detrimental to our own mental state. If we can sleep soundly, undisturbed, and comfortable for around seven hours a night, we will be in a better position to deal with our children the next day.

But if we scrape by on a couple of broken hours here or there, we are likely to find ourselves overreacting on Auto Pilot Parenting Mode.

Everybody experiences times when they can’t sleep at night, but if its ongoing with no apparent cause, and it isn’t to do with physical factors such as temperature or something we can identify with such as pain, then we need to be proactive and find out what the cause is.

Being a parent is exhausting enough when we can sleep, let alone when we can’t.

Our children can seem more challenging at those times when we are tired, and their unwanted behaviour can seem worse than it actually is.

Although their behaviour is actually worse when they don’t get enough sleep. This is because the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain, is more active when a parent or child is sleep deprived. This explains why a tired child is usually very emotional for no reason and parents are angry, impatient, and frustrated more.

Together, a sleep deprived parent and child is an emotional disaster.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Lack of sleep can be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing, none of us should be deprived of the basic necessity to sleep.

Lack of sleep is also accumulative, and its much harder to catch up on missed sleep than you may think.

That’s why we have to catch up on sleep whenever we can.

Even if this means a nap in the day to make up for lost sleep at night.  Parents sometimes avoid their children taking daytime naps, fearing they won’t sleep as long at night, but the reverse is actually true.

Sleep deprived children have the worst sleeping habits, and those who nap in the day, actually sleep better at night. Children who need, but do not take a nap in the day, become overtired.

Once irritable, they find it difficult getting off to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night.  This results in further irritability and oversensitivity the next day, causing challenging behaviour which can then lead to hyperactivity, especially at bedtime when they should be tired.

As children get older, days get longer, and nights shorter, then, more than ever, they need to rest from all the stimulation and digest the information and experiences from the day. We need to allow them the freedom to sleep whenever they feel the need to, not just when we want them or don’t want them to. This way, they will sleep more soundly at night.

If their mind and body is telling them to sleep, no matter what their age, from five weeks to fifteen years, then they need it.

  • How do you feel when you do not get your nightly quota of sleep?
  • Do you ever feel so tired you struggle to get through the next day, only to go to bed that night unable to go to sleep?

Children do too! They get overtired and stimulated, resulting in unhealthy sleeping patterns. The only solution is for them to sleep whenever they can, to restore the balance and improve their sleeping habits.

  • Think about a time when your child kept you awake all night for whatever reason. Then imagine how they must have felt and how tired they must have been the next day, probably ten times worse than you, I bet.

They do not understand why either we or they themselves are irritable, annoyed, upset, and emotional when tired. This becomes a sleep deprived combo not to be crossed.

To check out subjectively whether or not you’re getting enough sleep take a look at The Epworth Sleepiness Scale  https://epworthsleepinessscale.com/about-the-ess/

We need sleep to normalise hormones: melatonin and cortisol. Cortisol regulates our immune systems, metabolism, blood sugar and stress response any lack of sleep will instantly impact your cortisol levels. Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is needed to regulate metabolism, the immune system, reproduction and co-ordination. Not having a regular sleeping routine or working nights or shifts, change these hormones. If trying to lose weight sleep deprivation won’t help, research shows when you sleep less you eat and drink more calories and if you are fighting to stay awake, you are probably going to turn to high sugar and high fat foods and drinks.

I can think of no better time to renew my mattress, bed clothes and most importantly my pillows, than a new decade. We spend a whopping 26 hours asleep in our beds in our lifetime according to a Dreams online article by Gemma Curtis https://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/your-life-in-numbers-infographic/

Unfortunately, for many of us we spend that tossing and turning. Comfort is crucial for this heavenly retreat we call bed, so investing in this is a true investment in our health and wellbeing. Satin sheets are great anti-aging, skin creasing fabric for looking younger, longer and also for cheeky sensual early nights with a loved one, but for comfort, cotton in the highest thread count that you can afford is the best chance of a soothing, peaceful deep sleep.

It’s also advisable to get into a regular sleep cycle by going to be bed and waking up the same time each day, including weekends (forget those lazy Sunday lie ins…ooops I forgot we don’t get those anyway we are parents!)

And don’t eat big meals where you are stuffed, or drink alcohol for at least 2 hours before bed. Poor nutrition can also cause chronic fatigue, so avoiding sugar and stimulants such as alcohol, coffee, tea and chocolate is recommended along with including more vitamin C into your diet and eating healthy antioxidant-rich foods.

Keeping your bedroom around 16°C to 18°C degrees is the best temperature for encouraging a good night’s sleep too.

So, whether its a fresh start you’re after or finding the old You that you know and love, I wish you a happy, healthy, fun, sprinkled with sleep, Mumilicious 2020!

Your Time is the Present, Enjoy the Gift,

Em x

Photos thanks to:  Denise Karis on Unsplash

Photo by Natasha Spencer on Unsplash

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

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Behaviour, Routine

Parenting Peace at Easter

Why do you throw rocks before you, the path ahead is smooth?’ A wise Sage once said, he must have been describing parenthood?

Old Habits Die Hard

Habits can work for or against us.

When it comes to routines in our children’s lives such as brushing their teeth, going to school and sleeping and eating at a set time, these are all good for our children.

They are in essence healthy habits.

Even if they fight it, all children need and like the predictability that routines offer. But routines are also good for us parents too.

Routine’s help to eliminate uncertainty, stress and unnecessary arguing with our children, while giving us the time for ourselves that we all need. When we all follow the same routine harmony follows us. It gives the day order, and time serves a purpose in our lives. We become more organised and productive and are able to plan ahead and pre-empt things ahead of time.

That’s why routines are such effective and valuable parenting tools.

They make it easy for us parents to deduce a lot from our children’s behaviour, when followed consistently, on a daily basis.

For example, if our children have had enough sleep, we can rule out them being tired when they misbehave or get upset. But if we know that they have not had enough sleep, then we will be able to see where the problem lies.

Routines also help us to proactively pre-empt beforehand, our children’s likely behaviour. Helping us to better plan and accommodate for those times when there have been interferences in their routines. For example, if we know they have not had their nap, we can avoid taking them to soft play until after they have had a nap.

Having this knowledge helps us limit a lot of unnecessary upset, for not only our children but for ourselves too. Over time with a consistent approach to routines, our children becoming over tired, hungry, bored or over stimulated, will be almost eliminated, as routine’s will meet those needs in advance, before it’s too late.

Also, by offering our children food before they are hungry or by putting them down for a nap before they desperately need one, we help them to feel understood, cared for and content. This prevents tears and tantrums for both ourselves as well as our children, because trying to soothe an over tired baby to sleep, is a very stressful time for all in earshot, so it’s never a good idea to wait until it’s too late.


When we find our children’s behaviour bad, it’s usually because we are trying too hard

Even when we have solid, well established routines in place, our children will still push those boundaries along with our patience. But parenting needn’t feel like a constant battle or struggle.

What if there was an easier way to control our children’s behavior, without being a controlling parent?

Easy does it!

When children are proving hard to control, the easy path often seems …. well …. too easy!

So, we dismiss it as an option and carry on the hard way out of habit.

This is when habits can work against us and become bad.

But when we find our children’s behaviour bad, it’s usually because we are trying too hard.

End the Battle & Win the War

One long summer school holiday (you know, the ones that seem to go on for ever, or you soon will!) A Mum came to see me in despair, saying she had lost control of her children and didn’t know how to get it back?

She felt as though she was, (in her own words);

‘Fighting against them in a constant battle about everything, and feeling defeated all the time.’

My advice which surprised her, was to go along with her children whenever she felt totally powerless, and to see what happened?


I wasn’t suggesting she leave her children to their own devices, and let them walk all over her, encouraging them to take advantage of her apathy. I just wanted her to accept and allow their demands temporarily, while she regained her confident, composure and sense of authority and self.


While she regained her confident, composure and sense of authority and self.


This was to show her children she was not accepting their behaviour powerlessly. Instead, she was showing them that she didn’t mind either way how they behaved.

This reversed psychological approach, not only confused her children somewhat, but as intended, it equipped her to deal with their behaviour.

POWERFUL PARENTS

There was no more struggle.

Instead of feeling powerless and beaten, she was able to manage normally challenging situations, easily.

By her thinking that she was choosing how to feel, she felt empowered, rather than feeling powerless.


Feeling powerless suggests, there’s isn’t a choice how to act or feel, and nothing one can do.  

The truth is, there’s always a choice and parents are never powerless. We have all the power, all the time.

I assured her that her children would soon get fed up of misbehaving, once they realised, she did not care and they weren’t getting any attention for their behaviour.

PEACE AT LAST

What she soon noticed was, her children had stopped wanting or asking for the things that previously she was not allowing them. By her not disallowing her children the things they wanted, the battle was over.


They hadn’t won the war though, because really, they didn’t want those things they were fighting for in the first place. All they were interested in was the battle. So, she ended up peacefully winning the war.

SIBLING RIVALRY

If its not us battling our children in a war of wills, then its our children fighting with one another. Nothing drives parents more crazier, than refereeing their own children. You love them all equally but when they are squabbling with one another, its hard to be calm, collected and fair.

The temptation is to blame one child, usually the elder as they should know better or tell them all off, even if one child is innocent. The secret to this common parenting dilemma is, learning to go with the flow more (as in the previous example, where the Mum let go of control) as we practice the Art of Intervention.


If its not us battling our children in a war of wills, then its our children fighting with one another.

The Art of Intervention

We are not ignoring their petty bickering; we are merely being a silent observer, intervening only when absolutely necessary.

Knowing when to intervene in our children’s behaviour and when not to, is a fine art to master. It takes a lot of thought, patience and practice.

We have to stop ourselves from flying off the handle at every incident and decide if it’s really such a big issue?

Does their behaviour warrant a reaction from us that is likely to upset not only our children, but ourselves too? 

If it’s not that important then, we have to learn how to let it go, nine times out of ten, none of its really that serious anyway.  This is not an excuse to get out of correcting our children’s unacceptable behaviour though, they have to abide by the rules, in order to keep themselves safe and healthy. 

It’s knowing the difference between those times when we need to correct them, and knowing when they have to learn how to correct themselves. For example, when they are squabbling with friends or siblings, it’s not always necessary or helpful for us to jump right in and intervene.

It’s important to step back and let them get on with it at times, and let them argue amongst themselves as they learn how to resolve their own issues. This is the only way they’ll learn how to get on with other people and how to resolve conflicts, in a safe, nurturing environment. 

When our children hurt the ones they love, it teaches them when they have over stepped the mark. It offers them the opportunity to apologise and make up, or forgive the other person too if they feel they were justified. Silly little squabbles can be resolved between children with -out adult interference, so if it’s not our battle, then we don’t need to fight.

Going with the flow means allowing peace and acceptance. We may not associate the two with parenting? But they are utmost, when it comes to moulding desirable behaviour in our children.

What- ever our children do or don’t do, we can still feel at peace in ourselves.

Wishing you all a peaceful Easter, until next time,

Stay Present,

Em x

Routine

Help it’s the School Easter Holidays!

Children all over the country are jumping for joy. Schools out for Easter, YIPEE!!!!

Or maybe ‘No way!!!?’ If you’re a parent crying into your coffee?

Its not that we don’t want to spend time with our delightful cherubs, eating chocolate eggs and playing the days away. It’s just we know how difficult its going to get after day three, when the sun stops shining and we’ve run out of art and crafts/ films/ books and things in general to entertain them.

And if you’re fortunate enough to have more than one little cherub to love and entertain, then you know that sibling rivalry and warfare will ensue. In this blog this week, we’ll cover entertainment, next week we’ll tackle sibling rivalry and staying sane.

Our children crave our time and attention and delight in any we offer. So, with their normal routine disrupted, if we just try to leave them to get on with it, they’ll probably misbehave in order to grab our attention. Partly because they just won’t know what to do, other than get hypnotized by a screen or digital device. Believe it or not children actually like being told what to do? It’s usually they way we go about telling them that’s the issue, not the instructions themselves.

School and childcare are great for our children because it gives them a structure to their day, which is broken up into various activities. They are also in the company of others their own age and they know what is expected of them, when and where and more importantly why?

At home through the holidays, this all goes out the window. They wake up too early or too late. They eat treats and snacks at various times of the day. If they have siblings they bicker, if they don’t have other siblings, they are alone or in adult company, which soon gets boring. Often, they lack the physical and mental exercise, as they’re not running around the playground or walking on the school runs, or stretching their brains. Meaning that at bedtime they are not tired and end up going to bed later, as there’s no school the next day. After a few days they don’t enjoy spending time with us as much, because the novelty has worn off, and our nagging is irritating us as much as them.

But stress not, there are ways to ease all this.

Following (and also in next week’s blog post) you’ll find a few pointers to restore some balance, keep them happily busy, keep you sane and help you regain your composure these hols.

Keep to Routine

Our childrens Routines are simply their everyday activities such as going to bed or eating dinner at a certain time.


Lack of routine causes confusion and that results in misbehaviour.

Children especially like the predictability and stability that routines bring in an otherwise chaotic and confusing world. Lack of routine causes confusion and that results in misbehaviour. If our children don’t know what is expected of them, when or why? They get confused, angry and upset.

It scares them not knowing when or what to do, or not to do as the case maybe? It’s best to have a routine in place that they are used to. Giving them a set of instructions that they can learn to follow, until eventually they become an automatic habit is best.

Once they are in the habit of say, having their tea at 4.30pm and going to bed at 7.30pm, let’s not break those healthy habits because it’s the school holidays.

If we do break them then, re-establishing that routine again when they return to school won’t be easy!

US Time

It’s great to spend family ‘Us Time’ together, but trying to please more than one child at the same time can be difficult. Each will have different interests from the other, and will likely try to compete for individual attention, but being blessed with more than one child can make finding time for each one challenging.

Although, generously giving of our time can become a stretch, each child will benefit from the attention of one on one time, making them feel special and important.

That’s why it’s important to factor in ‘US- Time’ for each individual child, by asking each one to write a list of the things they would like to do during US Time. One child may be a football fanatic but if your other child isn’t, then taking them to football matches isn’t going to be the time they will enjoy. Of course, they’ll be times when they will have to tag along, but this isn’t what we class as ‘Us Time’. Maybe the child who doesn’t enjoy football  can stay at a friends for a few hours, while you take the other child who enjoys football to the match?

But also try to find some common ground, family Us Time together is still important and finding things we all like to do, is a lot easier when we have a list to look at and can see where everyone’s preferences lie. So get all those individual lists together, including your own, and plan to do those things you all enjoy together, alongside individual Us Time.

But Us Time is not all about doing a certain activity or going anywhere in particular, it’s about being together. What’s most important is that you enjoy each others company and look forward to spending it together.

However, there are times when we all need some alone time too.

All children with time can grow to enjoy their own company, as long as they are given the opportunity to do so and receive adequate US Time, with us.

We’ll soon discover that after adequate Us Time that, our children soon bore of us and demand our attention less, naturally stepping back a bit, and giving us the space we need for U Time.

U Time

U time is exactly that, time just for YOU.

The truth is, even if we could give our children  a hundred hours a day, it would never be enough. Our children’s need for our time and attention is insatiable, and can never be constantly met, no matter how hard we try, or how much time we dedicate to them. We need to clearly communicate the importance of time just for ourselves to them, in a way that stops them from feeling rejected.

We can do this by explaining that, we won’t be able to devote time just for them later to do whatever activity they want to do with us, if we don’t finish what we need to do first.

We have to let them know in no uncertain terms, that we expect them to leave us alone to get on with it. Our children need more than a playmate from us, they rely on us for everything, including their clean clothes. So finding time to do chores, as well as time to pursue our personal goals is vital.

It’s not selfish to satisfy our own needs or do what we have to do, to provide the best life for our family. It’s the one thing that prevents us feeling resentment towards our children, for taking up all our time and energy. Therefore, it’s the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and our children. 

Sometimes we can fall into the parenting trap, of being so focused on our children that, we lose the desire to pursue our own dreams and ambitions.

If this sounds like you, then now would be a good time to list as many things as you can in ten minutes that you would like to do, if only you had more time. This is where writing your own list, when getting your children to write their lists for Us Time, is also handy for some U Time ideas and inspiration.

This will give you the clarity you need to discover what it is that you really want to do?

This list is not to include things such as spring cleaning your children’s bedrooms; this is the time to list those things that will make you happy when doing them, for no other reason than pure pleasure or relaxation.

Things like investing in a spa day, taking up windsurfing or whatever else happens to be your cup of tea. Try to be as adventurous as you can, but it’s not necessary. Even reading a book or going for a walk are great ways to spend time on you. All that matters is that it’s something for ‘You’ that ‘You’ really want to do.

MY U TIME LIST

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Having things to do that you look forward to will keep you balanced and refreshed, so don’t neglect U Time.

This will help provide some free alone time for our children to ponder and daydream, but it’s also a good idea to plan some activities to occupy them too, until they learn the skill of occupying themselves.

Free Play

Over the past fifteen years as a Childminder, I’ve had the opportunity to observe different age groups of children, all playing together. At the beginning of my career, I felt the need to structure and plan activities and to keep them all busily occupied.

Now, experience has shown me that children require as little adult intervention as possible, and more free choice and opportunities for spontaneous play.

This is when they have real fun and enjoy each other’s company, and when you hear real laughter and joy.

When we interfere or try to entertain them constantly, they don’t learn how to amuse themselves, and inevitably get bored when left to their own devices. This can lead to negative or positive attention seeking behaviours. 

Give them the props, materials and resources, and leave them to it. A bowl of water in the garden and some plastic cups, never ceases to entertain little ones. Or some junk household recycling, can be used to build and create any number of things from their imagination.

Its not about technology or toys or going to expensive softplay areas or days out, an afternoon in the garden or trip to the local park is just as good. School holidays needn’t be expensive, the best things in life really are free.

However, If you have children of varying ages, or you want to keep them happily entertained for longer, a little intervention or guidance and some structure can be good.

Finding ways to stretch an activity, as well as their imagination and concentration is useful. Like suggesting they paint a treasure map and write a short story to go with it, while writing some clues to find hidden treasure for us to find, that they can make from junk materials such as bottles and boxes or play dough. This can extend an activity and prolong their interest and creativity.

Sometimes we can give our children too much choice and this can overwhelm them. We may think that by giving them lots of toys or laying out different types of creativities to do that we are keeping them occupied, but this can have the opposite effect.

If we follow their every desire and whim, then no sooner than getting the paint brushes out, they will be onto the play-dough shouting ‘Finished what’s next?’


No sooner than getting the paint brushes out, they will be onto the play-dough shouting ‘Finished what’s next?

Leaving us exhausted and frazzled by the end of the day, as they un-contentedly and continuously flit from one activity to another.

Adding interest to an activity as in the above treasure map suggestion helps, but sometimes, we have to let them just get on with their own business of playing.

Until next week, enjoy the hols, stay sane, Stay Present,

Em x