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Mental Health and Us

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, it’s important to me and so many people I know. So I have collated a group of mental health stories for you to read through. I am honestly blown away by what has been so corrageously shared. I know they can help us all to see that no one is alone in this battle with poor mental health.
Thank you so much to all of you that have contributed. Hats off to you all. We are all in this together and we are all bloody awesome!  
My Story

 

After having my eldest daughter I felt completely out of control. I was now a mother, I was now living with my boyfriend, I now lived away from home and I now no longer am carefree. I struggled and I felt awful for struggling. I had suffered from depression on and off in the past and it was clear to everyone else that I had postnatal depression but what I wanted to focus on now is what this episode in my mental health story did to the way I view my body.
I had always been bigger than others, not “fat” but bigger. When I went to university I over drank and ate rubbish and definitely was overweight. When I was pregnant I made the most of ‘eating for two’ and the pounds piled on. This should have been fine but I have always had an issue with the way I look. Having been called “Fat” “Chubby” “Chunky” a huge amount through my adolescence it’s always hard to shake it off.
So that’s how I took control of my new life with a child. I stopped eating. I would go a day with a spoonful of granola, no lunch and then a tiny dinner (which I got away with because I said I ate a huge lunch). At my lowest weight I was 7 and a half stone and I am 5’7″, I felt okay but I really did want to lose more weight. I started throwing up my meals and I spent days feeling dizzy.
I am not sure what changed it but eventually I went to the doctors, I didn’t weight little enough for them to count it as a “proper” eating disorder (yep!!), but I was sent to a psychiatrist because of my post natal depression. I got some help there and the psychiatrist said that scales do not dictate what is an eating disorder, so along with PND he treated my eating disorder too.
Now I don’t think you ever get over an eating disorder, I think you just manage it. I see myself as looking different to what others see and I genuinely feel shocked when clothes fit me because when I look at them on a hanger I am certain I am double the size. I work hard to keep my mind balanced with all of this, I exercise but I have limits (I once had a relapse when I became addicted to exercise), I also have to sometimes set out meal plans so I eat three meals a day. It’s tough and I have struggled but I feel proud of myself to get to where I am now. Taking each day as it comes.

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Craigs Story

“I have a fairly long history with mental health but I’ve only come to realise this recently at the age of 35, amazing really how long we can go and then realise we had the problem for such a long time.
Things stem from my youth and various relationships I have had.  Things got bad recently around Christmas, Christmas is a particularly bad time of year for me as I lost my nanna (who I was very close to) around that time, my mum and dad split up when I was a kid so Christmas always becomes a bit of a tug of war and I’ve had very depressing times that can be accentuated around Christmas.
Last year 2018, was bad, I didn’t have a regular income, didn’t have a great relationship with my wife and I wasn’t being a great guy.
It got so bad that at times I had been known to smash my head against a wall because I’ve found everything too hard, this was due to lack of sleep and my brain not switching off, I just could not sleep. All parents know what lack of sleep does to them but when you can not even sleep when you are allowed to your brain starts to do very scary things.
I’ve just recognised this recently and have managed to take some steps to sort it, I’ve joined a gym (lifting weights really helps) and I have started therapy which has helped so far.
I am definitely on the mend and feeling better but know I will have bad days but I can manage them.”

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Amie’s Story

“I’ve had depression and anxiety since I can remember, but I didn’t know what it was.  As a child I was nervous around people I didn’t know, I didn’t feel good enough, clever enough (didn’t know I was dyslexic at the time so I was just treated as stupid) I wasn’t pretty enough or slim enough, looking back on it now it’s sad how at such a young age I felt so unworthy, and I wasn’t even big!  

I always felt like the fun fat friend at school, and while I actually wasn’t fat, being made to feel that way by everyone, including my own mother I comfort ate…. And surprised I ended up fulfilling what I was being told. I wouldn’t go out without make up, and I developed acrophobia, when shopping in busy places I had to have headphones pumping music in my ears to keep me calm, I didn’t go to concerts and events of any kinds really made me feel uncomfortable as I thought people where laughing at me, and how I look.  When I reached my teens and I started clubbing with friends I would get very drunk to keep these feelings at bay, when drunk I felt fabulous, a feel that would last until I saw a photo of myself. I got male attention and that made me feel good about myself.

At 17 I met my now husband and we would end up in huge fights due to drink, so when I went to university I slowed my drinking down and by the time I left I didn’t drink any more. I went to New Zealand for a few months and lost a lot of weight, not on purpose but I dropped from a 14/16 to a size 10, and I felt great. Since joining the film industry in London and working long hours I’ve put more and more weight on, having children also hasn’t helped with that and I don’t like the person I see in the mirror.  

I know now that my depression and anxiety is caused by a few things, how I feel about myself being a main one, sleep being another main one and mum guilt being the third. After baby number 2 I want to work on all of these things for me! That’s the important part, I feel better when I am slimmer and I feel like I look good, for me not for other people, and now I’m a mum I care less what they think of me, but I want to be healthy for me, to make sure I’m here for my children, I want to run around with them and not need to sit down after a few minutes.  I want to get the sleep I need, that my body and mind needs, it makes me a nicer person to be around and makes me able to situations better without spinning.

I’d like to add that while I have both depression and anxiety I am also happy, I don’t use the term suffer and I don’t let it define me! I may have family members who have lost their battles against this disease (that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be!!!) including my Grandmother and younger brother, I will not let it beat me, we’ve come close but I am a survivor, and now I have children I will fight harder.   

I will always be there to help others, and would say to check in with others as sometimes it’s the happiest people who have the lowest times.”

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ANONYMOUS

 

“I have always suffered with depression in one form or another. I can remember the time it started; I was 10 years old and my Mum told me she was expecting my baby brother. I was so paranoid that harm would come to her or the baby, I’d spend 10 minutes before I went to bed checking that all plugs were out of sockets and switched off and that there were no obstacles in the way, so my Mum wouldn’t fall over.

 When my brother was born, I continuously washed my hands as to not give him germs. I’d then wash the taps because I touched them and then wash my hands again. It got so bad, they used to bleed. I also remember making my friends wash their hands before they walked in my house! Although I grew out of the cycle of hand-washing, I then became a worrier. About literally everything.

I became increasingly anxious and after being bullied at school, it quickly spiralled into depression. My history teacher told my parents he was concerned as I was often hunched over in his class. However, my love of performing arts helped and singing always made me feel better.

 

When I was about 18, I started to get a desolate feeling…like I was missing something and absolutely hated being alone. I would have panic and anxiety attacks often and found the smallest task, like turning a key in a door difficult. I started on a course of anti-depressants and things got a little better, until I went to Drama school, I came off them and had a year of hell and would often break down and cry on my again. I spiralled further and looking back now, I was close to suicidal. My parents would often call my boyfriend (now husband) to check on me as they were worried I’d ‘do something silly’. I went back on another lot of ADs and things got better. That was until I came off them to have my baby.

I had a tough pregnancy and although my beautiful baby girl was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me, I felt awful. I couldn’t breastfeed and the lack of sleep made me feel like I was down a pit that I couldn’t get out of. I felt that because I wasn’t breastfeeding, I wasn’t really her Mum, after all, anyone can feed a baby with a bottle.

 

The anxiety became worse and I’d even worry that changing my perfume meant she’d not know I was her mum. Back on the pills I went. 5 years on and things are a lot better. I have accepted the fact that I will be on ADs probably for the rest of my life. I’m lacking serotonin – I have a chemical imbalance. If I had diabetes, I’d need insulin, it’s just one of those things. I’ve also learnt to be more accepting of myself, I’m not perfect and nobody is. The best I can do is live life the best I can and show my daughter positivity.

 

You are not alone x

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Louisa’s Story

 

“This is my third time living with anxiety & panic attacks and I’m not embarrassed posting about it and neither should anyone else. Yes it’s exhausting battling with your own mind. Just because it’s not a broken arm or leg doesn’t mean the person isn’t broken inside (although so many still struggle to see this!).

 I’ve suffered with panic disorder for over 7 years! I avoid going places such as shops, the park and restaurants because I fear I’ll have a panic attack in public! I get sad because I feel that I can’t enjoy the normal things or day to day life, everything I do feels like such an effort!

 

Mental illness does not mean that the person is mental!

They are not weak, in fact they are the strongest people you’ll know. It’s the hardest,most  challenging thing to battle with your own mind. Nobody knows what that person is going through unless they’ve been through it themselves and even then we are all different.

 

Don’t isolate people just because they’re different inside, people with depression deal with things in different ways.

 

So keep inviting these people out, keep asking these people if they want to do things and keep asking these people if they’re OK!! Just because they say no does not mean they don’t want to, it’s their inner voice from stopping them doing the things they want to do.

So bloody hats off to everyone dealing with this because you are certainly not alone!!”

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Donna’s Story

“Growing up I never felt like I fitted in, we would move around a lot which meant always being the new kid with no friends,  I was bullied for being too tall or for my big feet or something else to do with the way I looked or acted . It really affected my confidence with over time affected my body image.
I was never one of those children who looked at my body and hated it. I was ok with how I looked but the comments and abuse over the years from my step mum and step brother just chipped away at me bit by bit.
I think my body image was majorly affected when I became ill with an eating disorder in 2006 . And a big part of an eating disorder is the way in which one views themself. I would spend ages looking in the mirror and pulling at all this fat I saw that cycle continued for years on and off and most recently two years ago I relapsed pretty bad with the anorexia and self harm etc and tried to take my life twice which led to a mental health unit.
I really do think body image plays a huge part in what holds me and many others back from recovery.
This person I see in the mirror looking at me, she has no future, she is ugly and she is fat but logically that’s just the body dysmorphia speaking but it’s very real to me .
I think in this culture today so many people blame poor body image on the media with models and celebs and all these fad diets, that we must look a certain way, or eat certain way. Personally for me my body image and eating disorder etc were not in anyway affected by all of that. It’s almost quite a selfish illness in the sense I feel I am the only one struggling and I only see myself as fat and a problem . I don’t look at a celebs and envy them but I know many people do. I feel we need to be more kind to ourselves and treat ourselves as we would somebody we love like I would never tell my friend she was fat or ugly or deserves to die or starve or whatever the issue maybe .
At this current moment I’m stuck at a point where I’m not ill enough for help which is stupid! But I’m too unwell to go to work and a job I like to do is now at risk unless in the next 4-6weeks I make changes in regards to my food intake and other factors – self harm, laxatives abuse etc .
I want to be able to speak up about my health and my issues and not feel embarrassed I work in a job where my arms are on show and I have a lot of recent scars and people do ask what it is and I want to be able to share my story because if it helps just one person that is enough.
Mental health matters and we all need to get alongside others even if it is just a text or a coffee .
I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and I’m in no way recovered I struggle daily. I live day to day and that works for me”.

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Jamies Story

“I always thought my issues with my mental health started in my early-20s when I suffered with severe depression which resulted in a suicide attempt.

I’d come out of a toxic relationship and I thought I had no one to turn to. This was the early-noughties when mental health, especially for men, was still a taboo subject. My mates were very ‘laddish’ and seemingly unapproachable, whilst my parents had split and we barely spoke as a family. I was embarrassed and unable to cope. Life went on like this for most of my 20s, hiding my problems behind a mask of booze and late nights.

I relocated to London when I was 28 and perhaps it was the new lease of life, the culture, social acceptance or just escaping my old haunts, but I felt good, and after meeting my now wife, it was the happiest I’d been in years. Then in my mid-30s my depression struck again after a case of bullying. But thankfully, with mental health now widely talked about, it felt easier to express my feelings. So much so, I launched my podcast, Man Talk, to share mine and other men’s experiences to try and help others who might be suffering.

Last year I sought a private therapist and with her help, began to put the pieces of my life puzzle together, to understand why I react like I do to trauma. As I said, I always thought my mental heath issues began in my 20s, but after my therapy sessions it became obvious that my teenage years actually shaped me more than I thought. I was the classic anxious teenage boy; confused by puberty, sex, emotions, hormones, girls, and stressed with school, peer pressure and young life in general. I was also bullied at school. I bottled everything up and just got through those years. And that’s the issue, as it is with so many young men; unable to talk, unable to express troubles and emotions.

Thankfully things are changing, but more needs to be done to ensure young men are able to seek help, and not sink as dangerously low as I did.”

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Anonymous
“I am mum of two young boys, run my own marketing business and have been married for 9 years. We moved as a family to Essex 4 years ago for my husband’s job and knew from time to time he would need to travel for work, but never in our wildest dreams believed he would be away for over a quarter of 2018.
In July 2018 my husband headed off to the illuminated skies of Tokyo for a 4week stint working on jets. I was nervous, I was excited, giddy for him, but I was sad for us being left behind. My heart was beaming with pride, but my head was angry, upset and a feeling of missing out being trapped with my boys, cooped up and alone.
My friends were all aware of me being a solo mum and shortly rallied round to find a mothers help for tea and bedtime sanity relief.  I would have offers of midweek playdates, lunches at weekends and offers to stay away with friends. The intention for company was there, but stark reality is I was just too tired to commit. The continual hamster wheel of parenting; cooking, washing, doing homework, stopping tantrums and fights plus being self-employed was just too great.
My husband started to see a change in me, I could no longer keep in the angry thoughts in, the jealously of his time away; be it working or free time.
In January 2019 that our world crumbled, my husband had been away in November for a month then back at Christmas and then away again. I thought I was ok, I thought I could handle it – I couldn’t. My mother kept calling me to say ‘don’t facetime him, don’t tell him how you feel. He can’t do anything to help, he’s 6,000 miles away!’ I couldn’t contain it, I facetimed telling him exactly how I felt, shouting, completely out of control and finally hanging up to only run, sob and curl up in a ball hoping and praying the children didn’t find me.
I didn’t want him to think I was fine, I wanted him to feel my pain.
I realised that my behaviour was out of control. I decided after this moment that I needed help. I was a danger to myself and my family. So I went to my doctor, she was amazing. I told her everything and she couldn’t believe how much pressure I had put myself under. She confirmed I had anxiety and depression promptly prescribed anxiety meds and started to already feel the benefit within a week. The medication had given me the chance to step back and see the bigger picture.
The bigger picture was yes my husband is working away, but he too is feeling all the same feels as me. He too feels trapped, trapped in work and not able to stay with me and the boys.
I was and am to this day extremely sad that our relationship had to go so dark and murky to get us back on track. We have been together for 16 years, lived through 2 redundancies, 2 miscarriages, had 2 children, moved 3 times and still this was the biggest and scariest time we have experienced. I had contemplated leaving him, was self-harming and even uttered the words of suicide. This was not a passing phase, this was real.
Thankfully the meds were working, my anger had depleted, my aggression to normal situations had subsided and I was able to see things for what they really were. I am by no means fixed, but I am acutely aware of the stress my husbands trips put on me and our marriage.  He has insisted no long trips until June which is a welcome break.
I will forever be ‘brothers in arms’ with anyone who has to endure long periods of time without their partners, who are single parents and suffer mental health issues. It’s the hardest, loneliest and most selfless duty a parent can do and so very few understand it.

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Helens Story

My anxiety started about 9 years ago after a traumatic year that involved finding out my unborn baby was disabled and my 2 year old being incredibly poorly.
My anxiety relates to the health of myself and my family. As soon as I feel a twinge or a little bit off colour I immediately think the worst. The kids can develop a sniffle of a temp and I immediately think the worst.
My mind goes into overdrive, thinking of all the worst scenarios, and how we would cope if the worst was to happen. The anxiety can creep up on me out of nowhere. My heart starts beating a little faster, my mind starts racing and I begin to panic. My mind is going at 100 miles per hour, imagining the worst possible outcome to the situation. I skip straight past the rational conclusion and go straight to panic stations.
I have to concentrate on my breathing to ground myself and have a conversation in my own mind, telling me it will be ok, making sense of my irrational thoughts. I don’t have a day go by where I don’t have a moment of anxiousness but I have learned to control it better now.
If you suffer with any form of anxiety you are not alone, don’t be afraid to talk about it, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You will be surprised by the amount of people who struggle with this.

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Thank you so much for reading and I hope these stories have helped. Lots of love and as always I am always here xxx

 

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Children Mental Wellbeing – Exercise

This is my third blog this week celebrating Childrens Mental Health Week, we have covered sleep and food, now we are going to talk about exercise.

I don’t know where I would be without exercise, for me my choice of physical activity is running and I mean it with all sincerity when I say running keeps me sane if not keeps me alive. During a run I process thoughts and enjoy the great outdoors, after a run I feel tired (in a good way) plus I feel that I have accomplished something and that my body is strong. What I also find is that because I run and have put my body through a workout I respect it a bit more, that means I am more likely to make good food choices. Most importantly fo rmy mental health running makes me sleep better. Sounds amazing doesn’t it so why dont we teach our children the basics of how good exercise is for us and how it helps us have a health mind as well as body.

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Rainy muddy runs are the best

Just remember though any exercise is good for you, a walk, a play in the park, a run around the garden. They all have benefits for your kids and getting them outdoors and active is so incredibly important when children are known to spend too much time looking at screens. Let kids explore and let them face simple dangers, we have to let our kids grow and physical exercise goes hand in hand with that.

How can exercise help our childrens mental wellbeing?

  • Builds confidence
  • Manages anxiety and depression
  • Increases self esteem
  • Improves cognitive skills
  • They will reach new goals
  • Meet new friends and gain social skills
EXERCISE RELEASES ENDORPHINES WHICH CORRELATE TO A HAPPY CHILD

Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6-8 is linked to fewer symptoms of depression two years later.

I felt that the best way for me to understand and explain how exercise can help a childs mental wellbeing was to get some information from three professional companies. One is a one line fitness company, one is a fitness centre and lastly a sports coach. I wanted to hear about how they think exercise benefits our children

Online – Muscle Fit Nation

natahn muscle fit

Online fitness wear brand and fitness advocates Muscle Fit Nation have an excellent attitude to exercise. They want to promote health and wellbeing, to motivate poeple to work hard so they can fulfill their dreams. I managed to get Nathan to write some really great words about exercise and mental health.

“Being in the industry we hear of many different ways and reasons why people stay active. One is mental health and we believe this is becoming one of the main reasons people are more active nowadays. Being active releases endorphins which has a positive effect on your mood and wellbeing. 

Whether it’s an adult or child struggling with mental health eating well and exercising regularly can have a huge impact on their life. 

Firstly, let’s start with eating healthly. We feel with a good balanced diet people will feel better within themselves (I.e have more energy, immune system working correctly, bowels working correctly). If you can start to feel healthier and more energetic then you have more chance of improving your mental wellbeing. 

Secondly, if you have a balanced diet so you feel energised because your taking in the right amount of nutrients then you are more likely to exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym, this could mean running, walking, cycling, just something that increases your heart rate. “

If you would like to know more about Muscle Fit Nation Click here

Fitness Centre – Gymfinity

When I first heard about Gymfinity I was blown away by such an amazing club, partly due to my girls loving gym but also by the vibrance and postive feeling it gave me (and this was me just looking on their website). Then after getting in contact with Josie at their head office I heard that they promote positive mental health and even have a campaign called Gymfinity and Beyond. This is their way of showing through personal experience how exercise (in their case gymnastics) has helped mental health.

The club values speak volumes about the company as a whole;

Deliver the very best child-focused gymnastics and ninja programs, that teach “totally crazy superhero flying tricks”

Build safestate-of-the-artpurpose-built clubs with “spongey cake floors and rainbow crayon colours”

Create a club full of encouragement, inspiration and motivation, where every child matters and only the “nicest humans in the world” are coaches

I also spoke to club manager Andrew Brunning who said

 “Our club recognises that in order to be healthy inside and out it’s important to take steps to look after your body and mind together. Sports activities like gymnastics and ninja at Gymfinity Kids are a great way for children to get active in a safe and nurturing environment with a positive coaching approach.”

I would also like to attach a link for you to read which is Stellas story about how Gymfinity helped with her mental health, this is part of their #gymfinityandbeyondcampaign to read click here

Local Sports Coach – Scott Forbes

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Lastly but certainly not least I had the pleasure of speaking to local sports coach Scott Forbes. Every child in my local area knows this guy because of his upbeat and fairly infectious personality, I have never seen one person be able to tame a party of 40 children like he can. The ex professional footballer now coaches football teams, runs activity holiday camps, 1 on 1 personal trainer plus probably the most in demand party service in Essex. He is busy man so I was so happy that I have been able to get  him to write a few words about why he thinks that teaching the kids helps their mental wellbeing;

“I have been working with children now for 25 years and mental health and exercise have been proven to be closely related – and more so in children.  Additionally, creating a positive communicative environment is not only key for self development, but key to social development in all ages.

My ethos for teaching exercise is that fitness should be fun. How else will they find the drive and desire to take part unless it is fun. Using fun to inspire exercise makes desire to exercise consequential. Exercise releases endorphins which trigger positive feeling, and so the cycle continues. 

My job to help children develop in a positive environment, growing their confidence and allowing them, within reason, to express their own selves and be proud of who they are.”

To contact Scott yourself Click here

I think its clear from all three professionals that the importance of exercise for our children mental health is not one we can ignore.

You dont need to pay for exercise

I know I have used clubs and coaches as sources for this blog but that is because they are professionals in the field. What I wanted to reiterate that exercise does not need to cost money, but encouraging your child to keep active really doesnt hold a value for their health.

Yes joining clubs and having professional around them does have benefits but the most important thing is that all children get fresh air and their heart racing so get out and kick a ball with your daughter or climb trees with your son, encouraging them will give them the confidence to do these things all on their own.

Thank you for reading

Jo

All Thei

 

 

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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Food

This week is Childrens Mental Health Week and I am writing three blogs highlighting the main areas that we can actively work on to help our children have a healthy mental wellbeing. Previously I have done sleep and I will finish with exercise. Today I am going to be writing about food.

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I love food, my family loves food. I love to cook, my family doesn’t always like what I cook but its about getting your children to try new foods and broden their tastes, the world would be a boring place in my opinion if we only ate a few favourite dishes. Educating our children like this is our job as parents. Anyway, this blog isnt about ensuring your child like sushi but for me to discuss how important what your child eats and whats in their diet, and how it can have a very positive effect on their mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.

Having a healthy diet has shown these benefits

  • Doing better at school
  • Feeling better about themselves
  • Feeling better about their bodies
  • Feeling better about their abilities
  • Coping better with stress
  • Managing their emotions
  • Sleeping better

The other factor that to me is ultimately the most important thing is that we much teach our children to be healthy and also teach them to cook so that in adult life they can do this for themselves. The more knowledge we have about food, the better choices we make about what we are eating.

What should my child be eating?

Each child is different so there is no fixed rule about what should be eaten and when, children are different sizes and do different amounts of exercise so there can be no strict rule on how much they should eat. There are charts that show you guidelines by the British Nutrition Foundation which I have attached here. These are based on your childs health in general but I would like to focus on their mental health.

For a healthy mental health we need foods that

  • give us energy
  • keep us full
  • that we enjoy

 

If we have energy then we can achieve more, when we achieve more we feel better about ourselves. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING

When we are full we able to concentrate on what we are doing and do it to our best ability. It will also enable us to have a great nights sleep. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Enjoying food shows us that we can enjoy something. One of the signs of depression is not enjoying food and struggling eat. Having food that you enjoy and you know is healthy is a winning combination. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Its not that confusing and its no different for children. I could say that kids need pulses and nuts all day but its not going to happen, they simply wont eat it.

So lets work through the day.

Breakfast

It is the most important meal of the day and it does ‘break the fast’ so we need to make it a good meal. One common mistake with children is feeding them sugary cereals, they are no good and thats the end of it. Not only will children get a rush followed by a crash from sugar it will also potentially give children a sweet tooth.

My advice is to give a non sugar coated cereal such a weetabix, shreaded wheat, bran flakes and if necessary add some honey and fruit. Wholemeal toast is a good option too with butter and honey or some palm oil free peanut butter. These foods will keep them full and learn better at school. Keeping alert in lessons will mean that they learn more and their confidence will flourish.

Even on the weekends I wouldnt recommend “treat” cereals on both days. You want your children to achieve things on the weekend, whether it be a great painting or a really muddy walk. Giving them a good breakfast will enable them to have the energy to learn new skills that are not the ones that are taught to them at school, we want our kids to seek new adventures (essentially not be stuck to screens where the adventures are made for them nor have no energy from poor food choices).

If you are feeling flashy then eggs are the ideal breakfast with a lovely wholemeal bagel, packed full of protein, fats and carbs it really is a brilliant start to the day.

Lunch

Packed Lunches – The amount of rubbish that is so easy to put in packed lunches is endless. A packed lunch is what our child is having in the middle of their “working” day. We need it to be packed full of fruit, veg, protein and carbs. I give my daughter a small wholemeal roll or pitta with cheese or ham or chicken (she doesnt like having tuna at school as it smells fishy!!). Then I will add a little cheese block or a bit of salami depending what the sandwich is. I then have one of those compratment lunch boxes so I put different vegetables in each (fruit is for snack time). I do allow her some crisps or a different treat but I pick baked crisps or some ricecakes.

Lunches at home generally can be similar to packed lunches. I find my kids love a “picky” meal and for my older ones I just do a bigger sandwich.

Dinner

Kids need carbs! To get them through the night they NEED carbs. Yes they also need protein and fat and veg but to ensure good sleep then carbs is the answer for children. Also they burn calories at a fast rate so carbs are perfect.

Pasta (wholemeal is better), jacket potatoes, rice (again wholemeal is best), sweet potatoes, noodles… these are easy bases for all your favourite meals. For a full break down on what your child could and should have then please follow the link above but here are a few of the meals we have at home.

  • Spaghetti bolognese with hidden veg, soya mince and wholemeal pasta.
  • Chicken noodles with loads of much loved veggies (sweetcorn, peppers, brocolli etc)
  • Jacket potates beans and cheese (stick a salad on the side and its a great meal!)
  • Salmon pasta with philadelphia. Veggies on the side
  • Chicken curry and rice. Stick some chikpeas, cauliflower and spinach in the mix!
  • Sweet potato fries, keep the skin on and make a homemade nandos!!

What is a great thing to do once a week is let your child cook with you. Not only will this allow them to see what is going in their dinner, they will also learn how to prepare and cook it (this process is going to make them more likely to eat the meal). The other thing that cooking with your child will do is allow you to have a time to talk, maybe for your child to open up about potential issues that have been affecting them, when the mind is given a different task some of the underlying issues can come out.

Snacks

At school I only allow fruit, I dont allow cereal bars because they are packed full of sugar. If in need a box of raisins comes to the rescue.

At home I make fruit salad bowls and I also make sure I have rich tea biscuits in the tin. These have the lowest amount of sugar in them and my girls love them, dont get me wrong the girls have treats too. I just try to limit them. I also ensure that they only get them when they have eaten ALL of their dinner/lunch.

Yoghurts are also great and much needed for the calcium.

I know all this already

I am sure I am just rambling away to people who know far more than me (or not and nobody is reading it so it doesnt matter). I am not claiming to be a professional in this area I just know that what we eat will help our kids to have a clear and healthy head to take on the challenges of their day. Fuel your kids to achieve their absolute best!

Thank you for reading

Jo xxx

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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Sleep

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Today marks the start of Childrens Mental Health week 2019 so I thought I would write three blogs. Each blog will be centred around one subject that really affects all of our mental health. The blogs will be about Sleep, Exercise and Food. I think that if we can instill in our children lives healthy relationships with these subjects and give them tips to help them through difficult times we will be giving  them a great foundation for their current and on going health (mental and physical). So the first of this trio of blogs is sleep.

mental health week

SLEEP

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Sleep is so important to our health. Not just mental but phsyical too. While we sleep our body repairs itself from the strains it has been through that day and it allows our brains to process all the information it has taken on and goes through all of the memories it has retained. During these hours our body works to support a healthy brain function as well as maintaining our physical health.

It seems obvious that we all need a good nights sleep and it is no different for children. In fact children are learning at a rate of knots, growing constantly and developing minute by minute so they need more sleep so to allow for growth of their body and mind. Sleep lets them tackle the new skills that each new day brings. Hence why children generally need 10 hours sleep a night (give or take).

How does lack of sleep affect our children?

There are many physical and mental issues that can arise due to lack of sleep. I am focusing on mental health rather than phsyical but in every way these two are linked so here are a few problems that may occur from lack of sleep (I have attached the NHS gudelines for how much sleep your child needs below);-

  • Slowing down of physical development
  • Lowers immunity to germs
  • More accident prone
  • More anxious
  • It is linked to obesity and diabetes
  • Feeling unable to cope with normal situations
  • Lack of appetite/raised appetite

 

What if my child sleeps too much?

Normally a child wont over sleep, they generallty sleep when they are tired and once in a while will sleep in excess of their normal amount by a few hours. They probably just need this as they are tired.

If your child has slept a lot more than normal all of a sudden they may be coming down with something so keep an eye on them and check their temperature etc.

If your child regularly over sleeps (meaning for example a 5 year old needs 10-12 hours sleep so if they are sleep 14+ hours regularly that is over sleeping) then it may be a sign of some other problems going on. It is not a good habit for children to regularly over sleep and if they continue to do so it may be a sign of certain mental health problems as well as physical ones. Remember children should be full of energy, that is why they may go to bed from 7-7. My youngest daughter doesnt sleep great but she also doesnt stop! If a child over sleeps and then is inactive all day with little energy then it may be a sign of one of the problems below;

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Sleep opnea

Here is a link to the NHS site showing how many hours sleep children should be having HERE

How can we ensure our children get a good nights sleep?

I am going to list some tips and ideas to get your children to have a good nights sleep, remember a child that sleeps well, means a parent can sleep well …

  • Have a set bed time
  • Have a routine in the evening. You dont need to bath a child every day but its good to have a nice relaxing time before your child gets into bed. Stories are the best way to unwind with your children. I would suggest at least 2 stories.
  • Time to talk. Quite often children store all their worries up until just before bed. This can be fairly frustrating for us parents who are ready for down time or need to get onto the next job on the list. We must try and give kids a moment to share so that they dont go to sleep with these worries or thoughts swirling around their heads. Its better than them waking in the night!
  • No screen time for an hour before bed (tablets, phones and tvs). Apart from the content that is on the screen making your child awake and excited it is also the simple factor of the light coming from the screen. The light that comes off screens (is a blue light) which affects the melatonin production and fools the brain into thinking that its not ready for sleep. This is just as important for us adults. I put my phone down and read before bed, its helped me a lot.
  • Eat. Having enough time before bed (a couple of hours) is good plus having enough to eat so that your child isnt hungry. Try to avoid “fast food” type meals in the evening. A more wholesome meal with carbs will keep your child fuller for longer. Also avoid sugary food and drinks for a few hours before sleep.
  • Make their bedrooms a lovely place to be. Lots of kids want to get into bed with their parents (unfortunately this wont help anyones sleep even though snuggles are lovely), try to make your child see that their room is best and keep putting them back to bed. I know it can  be hard.
  • Dim the lights. Keeping their bedrooms as dark as possible will help them sleep sounder for longer. Each child is different and I know my youngest has her room far too light for my liking but its still with dim colours and lamps.
  • Set a time to get up. This is simply by doing the maths (see the link earlier to show how much sleep your child needs). Getting them to wake up at a regular time will make it easier to get the bedtime routine running smoothly. Plus a child needs to get on with their day, a productive day is great for the brain and the mind. Staying in bed long into the morning leads to lethargy which isnt a good for anyone. (This is important for over sleepers and helps them break the routine).
  • The temperature of your child and their room needs to be right. My youngest daughter has night terrors and often it because she is too hot (this is just an example of how the temperature can affect us). Onesies are popular and snuggly but often too hot for the middle of the night. We are all different and you know your own child but being too hot in bed can lead to a very fractious and unsettled night.
  • Get exercise every day. I am not saying that your child needs to run cross country in the morning and play a football match in the afternoon but children should be active every day. Runing around in the garden, going to the park, swimming and generally wanting to be up and about playing is essential to a good nights sleep. I will talk more about exercise in my next blog.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you if you have any problems with your child and sleep.

Sleep really is the be all and end all for us to be “okay”. Our mood can be very much dependant of a good night sleep and for children who have to learn so much every day its essential to keep their minds, brains and bodies healthy.

Thank you for reading and the next blog will focus on exercise.

All Thei

 

 

 

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Let Harry Kane get on with being a Dad

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Yesterday my Husband told me about a tweet that he thought would interest me. He was right, I did and it has played on my mind ever since.

Harry Kane (Tottenham and England footballer and all round nice chap) had a new daughter this week and sent a quick tweet out letting everyone know baby Vivienne had been born and also to say how proud he was of his fiancee going through labour pain-free. I am sure the tweet was made in the blink of (a very tired) eye and he didn’t think much more about it.

Well maybe he should have because The Guardian felt that the tweet was so insulting that they got a journalist to write an entire article criticising him for doing so and basically telling him he had offended and added pressure to a large amount of women in the process. I really hope that Mr Kane and his lovely fiancee are ignoring it all focusing on baby Vivienne’s poo, feed and sleep patterns (in that order).

So to this article written by Barbara Ellen for The Guardian. She gives it a subtitle “As the England footballer has discovered, how you have a baby is as competitive as football”. For goodness sake Barbara where did you get all this tosh. He simply said he was proud of her. He didn’t say she was better than any other mum, he didnt say he wouldn’t have been proud of her had she had pain relief, he was just proud she hadn’t. Perhaps it was because him seeing a baby come out of his partners vagina looked like the most painful thing in the world (he is right) and he himself could not imagine doing it without being on 17 morphine drips. (Although I am speculating here).  Like most men viewing childbirth (or any woman) its mind-blowing.

In your article you seem to compare it to someone having their appendix out without pain relief, it’s not the same and you know it. Something happens in childbirth (I am not medical so wont even try to name stuff) which means we (mothers) have loads of adrenalin in our bodies that allows us to go through it, with or without pain relief we will experience some kind of pain (before, during, after) yet we go through it again if we have another child. The magic also happens in the way the cervix dilates to 10cm and allows a surprisingly big head to travel out. Add to this the euphoria of finally meeting your darling child and I think you get the idea. If you had your appendix out they would cut you open, the adrenalin would not be there nor would a little cut suddenly grow to 10cm and the removed appedix is hardly worth meeting. What you are suggesting is too hard to fathom. (Although if someone has had an appendectomy done it without pain relief then bloody hell credit to them).

I have since read tweets with reference to the article where women agree that he should not have said anything to do with pain relief and he should focus on the health of the baby (and mum). All I can say is that he just tweeted a quick tweet and honestly it is their  (the Kanes’) birth story and they should be allowed to focus on which ever bit they want. I went on to read that by praising the lack of pain relief he was not highlighting the importance of breastfeeding or mental health, this made no sense to me. Every time we praise anyone for anything we could be offending someone else who can’t or hasn’t done it. Why does everyone make everything such hard work.

What I am trying to say to you Barbara is that you didn’t need to write the article, you are making “fake news” and by doing so I am sure you have added stress to the lives of a couple who have just had a newborn baby. I can’t work out why you wanted this, as we know a mother is in a very delicate situation after giving birth and even the slightest thing could send a woman into depression so shame on you and shame on the guardian.

Lets just leave it – as all women who give birth with pain relief, without it, with a planned or emergency cesarean are all women we are proud of. Congratulations to Harry, Kate and their beautiful healthy daughter.

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My Daughters Hip Dysplasia

 

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Some of you will have heard of hip dysplasia and some of you will not have. I am sure you remember at the hospital when they check your babies hips at birth, part of what they were checking is for hip dysplasia. When babies have it there are many different treatments. Some are placed in a spica cast which immobilises the movement in the hips, so allowing them to heal or form properly and others have operations early on. It must be hard for mums and dads to have to see this but from the numerous groups I am now a member of many of these babies go on to be absolutely fine and have no future problems. Having said this there are babies and children who aren’t as lucky and end up having to have quite a few procedures throughout their early years. With my daughter it was a very different case, as with her there was no indication when she was very little.

 

5 years ago Anya started complaining about pain in her hip, she was 7 years old. It wasn’t constant nor was it so painful that I initially felt there was anything to worry about, I thought it was growing pains or something like that. After a few episodes when I could see she was uncomfortable and then her teacher mentioning it at the end of school I took her to the doctor. We were sent to hospital for an X ray but came back with nothing to show on it. This went on for another 2 and a half years, trips to A&E and being told there is nothing wrong. Then one day a few months after an x-ray was taken I got a call from my GP saying that it had been reviewed and that they thuoght Anya had Perthes disease. This is when blood doesn’t reach the bone and so eventually the bone will deteriorate. Obviously I was very worried and we were referred to an paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Addenbrookes Hospital.

 

It was at this appointment that we were told that it definitely wasn’t Perthes disease (huge relief) but it was hip dysplasia (worry again). It was clear from the X rays what the problem was and before I could catch my breath the surgeon was talking of which surgery would solve the problem. Anya’s hip didn’t sit correctly in her hip joint, it was as simple as that and surgery was the only option, if we wanted her to be pain free. It was also explained that if we didn’t operate, early arthritis and a new hip would be likely.

 

Over the next 6 months we had a few meetings with the surgeon. It was decided that she would have a femoral osteotomy on the right leg which would change the direction the hip sat in the socket. It was major surgery and as I had never seen any of my babies put under anaesthetic before, let alone cut open, bones broken and pinned together, the whole thing was hard to take in. The waiting time was lengthy with the NHS but eventually in November last year (Anya was 11), we went in to have the surgery.

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Anya was so brave. She had had a small procedure in the summer to put dye in the joint, so she was aware of what the going to sleep process would entail. She didn’t like it much last time so they gave her a pre-med which made her cry with laughter by the time time she got to theatre mearly from being pushed down the halls and waving at strangers. We left her for nearly 5 hours in theatre, I know this is Anya’s story, but for me those hours were the strangest and hardest of my life. I had complete faith in the team but still there were always risks. It was a struggle seeing her in recovery too as she would not come around and hours later she was still sedated (I think she just liked the sleep). She had also lost a huge amount of blood in surgery and was lucky to not need a transfusion, which will obviously lead to a slower recovery.

 

The next day the realisation of the extent of what had been done hit home. Firstly Anya was very sick from all the drugs and in huge amounts of pain, the morphine button was being pressed constantly and she went days eventually without eating. The hardest thing to see was that though they assured us the operation was a success she really couldn’t move at all. Though I think part of it was her fear, for the next 48 hours they spent managing her pain and eventually she sat up. The 3 days expected in hospital became a week, but in that time Anya became able to walk with her crutches and was taught to get up the stairs safely.

 

I am now going to jump to where we are 5 months later. It’s been a long 5 months with the logistics of getting Anya to and from school and catching up on school work. Then there were the few falls that she had (one of which was me throwing her out of her wheelchair – worst mum ever), these falls resulted in a pin that was keeping the plate on her bone in place moving. Her bone growth was also slower than it should have been but we are where we are.

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So now, we still have weekly trips to Addenbrookes for physio and just last week we faced our next huge hurdle to overcome. Anya’s legs are now different lengths, to such an extent that more surgery will be needed. I have to say I am pretty devastated but at the age of 12 being told by orthotics you will need to have “special shoes” made for life, I know it is something we will have to do.

In fact Anya will need another 3 operations, 2 (at least) to correct the leg length and one to remove the pins and plate and shave some of the hip bone away at this operation as her physical shape has changed. It is now wonky (her words are “I am like KIm K but only on one side). We knew it may show but not to this extent. There is an element of vanity here but I don’t believe that a girl her age should live with this if there is another option and they will be doing an operation anyway to remove the pins and plate when they shave the bone.

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Anya has shown the most amazing amount to courage to get through all this, the time in hospital, missing her friends, the endless appointments, the pain, the scar, having to walk with a crutch still. I don’t think many 12 years olds would cope so well.

 

We are not at the end of Anya’s hip dysplasia story and so I hope soon to write another blog about a child who can run again. I know that what we have had to do is so that Anya is pain free but I would be lying if I didn’t feel so much guilt about so many aspects of it all. If only I had spotted the issues earlier, if only I had pushed when we had the endless trips to A&E, if only I could be the one going through all this instead of her.

I know that it could be a great deal worse for Anya, and I am well aware that there are a huge number of children (and adults) coping with much more but as a mother I have found this extremely challenging. We are lucky to be where we are, and have the NHS, but I just wish this chapter of our lives will be over soon.

 

I have asked Anya to write her feelings and outlook about what is most definitely her journey

 

“When I was told I had hip dysplasia I was quite shocked and scared. When the surgeon showed me (on an x ray) what was wrong it seemed really obvious. In some ways I felt relieved because I finally had some sort of resolution to the problem. It was overwhelming, because they immediately started talking about operations, but I felt like I was in good hands.

 

Now I have had the operation the pain that I had in my hip has gone but I have pain elsewhere because of having the surgery and my (now) uneven legs make my back hurt. I am not nervous about having to have the upcoming  operations but I know that the results are not guaranteed so that scares me a little. I think the biggest issue is that it’s been so frustrating, I can’t do things I want to do, or see people I want to see but I know I am so lucky to have the care I have from the hospital and my family.”

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My family and my mental health

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The past month has been a struggle, I have felt myself slip backwards into depression and I have tried to fight it off but last week I knew I needed a helping hand, so I went to my GP and have gone back on antidepressants. Obviously part of me is disappointed in myself, though I know it’s not my fault but I think there was proud feeling in myself for being off the pills and coping solo, but was I coping? Or was I struggling through?

Having to take antidepressants and/or having depression is a sign of weakness to some, many feel they can cope on their own and even just admitting that they are not coping can seem like a personal failure. Another huge problem that occurs amongst mothers is that mental health can be used against them, by other parents, by friends and even by partners, I have had situations where I’ve been referred to as “bonkers” or “a nut job” once people knew about my depression. As long as people treat mental health like this people will not push to get diagnosed and then help.

The problem with all of that is that your mood and mental state really does affect people around you, so by not wanting to accept what is happening, feeling scared of other reactions or wanting to try and control something that is out of your control you may actually be damaging others as well as yourself.

As a mum it is our responsibility to look after our children (same for dads, but I am speaking from my outlook). So yes, I did well to come off the antidepressants and not feel quite so numb by them but I have also done well by asking for help and getting myself back up to where I should be. When you are stuck “in the fog” as I call it, it’s hard to see out. Early last week my daughter came in from playing outside, she was crying and explained she had ripped her school trousers, “oopsie daisy” I replied and she looked at me shocked with tears rolling down her face. She wasn’t crying because she was upset about ruining her trousers, she was crying because she was worried that I would get cross. We spoke about it and she said I got cross a lot at the moment. She had a point, my fuse was short and I was snapping. I blamed it on tiredness, which will have added to it, but I realised that she was right and that little kick up the bum by my 7 year old made me pick up the phone and call the doc. Inside my fog I couldn’t see that for myself.

My daughters worry about me, as all children worry about their parents, and when I am sad, they will feel sadness too, when I am angry, they will sense it. On the flip side when we are happy I believe that children feel in their element, spurred on by their parents joy. It works both ways, as we mirror our children also, but sadness/ anger/ disappointment, these are all emotions that are consuming and ones that dont we want our children to be dragged down to.

So here I am, a week into a new course of antidepressants and I don’t feel too different but I wouldn’t expect to after a week. I do feel pleased with myself for taking a positive step and know I have done right by my family. My main concern is that the new drugs will numb me and prevent me from expressing myself (I have only be writing my blogs since January and have been medication free all that time), so I hope that my mind allows me to write.

The most important factor in all of this is that my kids need me stable, they don’t want to see me cry and they dont want me snapping. Normally I am an over excitable, fairly immature mother, it may not conform but it’s what my kids know and who they love so when depression makes me something different it’s time to change.

I hope that any of you who are feeling on the edge will give themselves a break and go and see a doctor, you may not need medicine, maybe just a chat, it will help and its integral for us to care for our mind. It’s the most important thing, physically, mentally and spiritually. We owe it to our children and our family to make sure we are okay. Let’s teach the next generation that mental health is acceptable and support each other and respect ourselves.

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Separated parents, parenting together

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We live in the modern world and a considerable percentage of us are not with the mother/father of our child. This is the case with me, but I have 2 ex’s and 3 children. My eldest two from my first marriage, and my youngest from a relationship after that. Having to deal with ex partners/husbands/ wives can be a nightmare, especially at the beginning, but what I have learnt along the way and what I am still learning is that having a “bad” relationship is unhealthy and destructive to your child, but also for your own well being.

When I was going through my divorce I never thought my ex husband and I would ever be friendly again, we couldn’t talk to each other and used (very expensive) lawyers as go between, by the end of the divorce and child residency I alone wracked up a bill of £30,000. It is such a ludicrous amount of money, but when I look back at it now do I regret that cost? no I don’t, because through it all, through all the courses and meetings, mediation and solicitors letter, I learnt a great deal and I am proud of my relationships that I have with my daughters fathers. I learnt from my first break up how to deal with the second and a lot of it is quite simple.

There was a stage where, during our court process, the only words that were passed between my daughters’ father and I were via a ‘communications book’, now thinking of it it seems awful but actually it was a very sensible way to ensure that no bad words were ever passed in front of the children, also this communication book could be called into court at any time so it made us be think before we wrote (this was a valuable lesson). It is something that both the court and CAFCASS would recommend if needed. In fact the suggestion of a communication book came about because we were both sent on a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) course by the judge. You go separately but I wasn’t sure about it but knew I had to, and I am so pleased I did. We were shown a heartbreaking film which demonstrated the impact that poor communication between separated parents has on children. As a group and with the teachers we discussed the film, one point that was reiterated and is very common in the modern age were messages sent via texts and other apps, due to not having to face the person, nor hear the voice it is easy to let the situation become angry and words can get typed that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face (obviously this is the most common way to communicate, but while things are fraught its most likely the worst approach). If an argument happens in this way, the parent who has the child in their care will be affected by it and that will impact the child, it made me realise how destructive it was. Sometimes now, when I am in a conversation with either Dad and I can feel it veering towards bad vibes the conversation stops for another day. 9 times out of 10 nothing more needs to get talked about, it was all in that moment and could have easily escalated.

Whether it’s in the early stages, or further along (when new partners are involved, or house moves happen), it is sometimes very hard to come to an understanding of what is going to happen with decisions to do the children, it is easy to always find fault in the other parent’s suggestions due to anger you may feel. What was reiterated by SPIPs was the fact you cannot control the other parent (whether straight after the separation or 5 years down the line) and you can only be responsible for yourself. What I also found very true was that up until recently you had been in a relationship with this person, you had loved them at one point (most probably) and you had chosen to have a child with them. So to then change your tune after breaking up and conclude that the other parent is incapable or has faults will not only seem insincere but also will be projected onto your child/children as perhaps a feeling they did not come from a loving relationship. Your job as a parent is to be the adult, and the best thing for your child is to support the other parent.

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After our course we came up with a child residency order which was agreed on but then was altered a few years later. During the second round of the court process we were sent to CAFCASS and we had meetings with a team who spoke with great insight into co parenting and the benefits for children. We covered many topics and made ‘contracts’ about the upbringing of the girls, they helped us open up communications and taught us that it was imperative for our kids to make decisions together. I am not saying it was all easy, but due to the fact we were not in the midst of our own break up, it allowed us to be productive rather than blaming each other. Some relationships, even years later constantly blame and have a power struggle, but I will talk about that next). The point that was very evident was that we were not in a relationship anymore  and so though we could make it hard for the other person and throw words at each other, the only person it will ever hurt is the child.

When my next break up happened, things could have been very difficult and I think that our relationship and break up could have ended in a high conflict situation, but I am really proud at the decision from both of us to to have a unity for our daughter. We knew she was and is the only thing that matters and once you come to terms with the fact you are not together there is no need for anything other that parental duties.

High conflict parents will be the first to tell you that it’s not their fault, I have met many people like this, and it is not a criticism (I absolutely understand how it feels, its where i was many moons ago), but it is hindering themselves and their children. They will always blame the other parent and I can clearly remember a judge in court one day telling me that once you get in to a situation where you are constantly arguing it is only with mediation that you will have some calm. To quote The Happy Family Lawyer “They will be so far involved in their own conflict that they won’t be able to see the ‘wood for the trees’. Only with specialised professional assistance can these parents improve their parenting techniques.”. It is also key to remember that it doesn’t matter who started or didn’t start an argument, you are not in control of anyone else but yourself, it takes two to tango and I am sure when these explosions occur between two ex’s the starting discussion is a distant memory.

So to conclude on my journey, most of the time I have a calm and steady “friendship” with the Dads of my daughters, I have learnt that they will ALWAYS be in my life, so why would I waste my energy feeling any anger for them (not that I do), but when something annoys me, I don’t rise to it, as long as my children are safe and well that’s all that matters. I also always try to be respectful, so always including them in decisions about the girls, for example which school they go to or whether to have certain immunisations. No matter who the children reside with the majority of the time, it doesn’t give you the right to be sole decision maker. (That being said it is not the resident parents job to inform the other of when events are happening or school choices are being made, both sign up to school emails and both keep upto date with the milestones of your children).

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I have summarised a few important factors that I learnt so far on my journey and I am always interested in hearing feedback from my blogs, or just any other information anyone has about successful co parenting.

I will attach links to a few websites that I found very helpful, especially the programme booklet for the SPIP course I went on.

  • Respect that your children may have different feelings to your own
  • Do not use your child as a messenger
  • DON’T make it a power struggle
  • Think about what you can do, not what your ex partner should/ shouldn’t be doing
  • Make small steps towards the end goal
  • Look after yourself and be the best you can for your children
  • Have faith in the other parent, no matter how they treat you don’t fight fire with fire.

CAFCASS

SPIPS

THE HAPPY LAWYER

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And Then There Were None

Is your child starting school in September? Are there nerves on your part? Here I discuss my feelings and how they are not as straight forward as just seeing my baby taking the next step.

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In 6 months time my youngest baby will be starting school and I am not entirely sure how I feel about it. Having been through this process twice before I know what to do and I know the process involved, the dilemma of whether its too early to get the uniform in July (they may grow a whole metre over the summer holidays!!!), the mad trip to Clarkes to get a generic pair of shoes that you have to prize from your child’s feet so the patent stays intact come their first day and the dreaded visit from their teacher to your home where all of sudden you come over all Kirsty Allsopp, baking bread, buying soft furnishing and lighting candles (and then blowing them out pronto as you don’t want said to teacher to think you would ever have a flame within a 100 yards of your precious 4 years old, bad mummy).

No, I am okay with the starting school prep and so I was unsure what this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach was all about.

Frankie is definitely ready for school (and that’s not always the case, especially as she is a June baby, but with 2 older sisters she wants to move upwards). I have no doubt she will be a child that clings to me at the door but eventually it will get easier, she is definitely my cheekiest child, partly due to encouragement from her siblings but her preschool tell me she is one of the quieter ones so hopefully school will bring the balance of cheeky and quiet to a level. She is ready learn, she wants to write and read but with all the kids it’s hard to give her enough time but she copies her sisters and knows letters and small sums (I think this is genius but I am sure its not!!), she has also taught herself to get dressed in preparation for PE (its bloody handy for me too in the mornings!). I mean this all screams of a child counting down the days to September, yet I am not counting them down, I am wanting them to slow right down so I can savour having a little person at home a bit longer.

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I know now that there is a double edge to this sword that is reception class. Not only am I going to be passing my final child over to the institution that is education (which is not a negative, just that it’s hard to swallow that she is no longer “mine”) but, and this is not as easy to admit, I also have to work out what the hell I am doing?

Up until now I am a full time mum, I have 3 daughters, 4 step children, 2 dogs and a husband… but in september though I will still have those things, I will also have 6 hours free (apart from a house to clean, washing of the masses, cooking, shopping, dogs etc), but to the outside world those hours are free (Monday to Friday). So basically if we cut  the crap here, I need a job, I need to do something, I need an income. Of course with that will bring the changes to our household, potential breakfast and after school clubs (bloody expensive), the fact the housework, cooking, cleaning the toilets etc will have to be split between myself and my husband (will it work?) and that I may not be there for the school runs nor have as much time with the girls full stop. It’s impossible (almost) to find a job that fits in with school hours, but, the positives would be that I am contributing financially and feel equal in the household which is not something I have felt, well I did when I was a single mum (and I am sure many of you understand where I am coming from with this). What fills me with dread is that I don’t know what I can do, nor who the hell would want me! I have been a mum for so long I feel useless as a fully fledged adult, I will have to get used to being Jo and not Mum (how very odd).

So with this I realise that while my 3 year old (4 in June) is making all the necessary and natural changes and progression into school life, I need to take note of her actions and apply myself too, I have 6 months to sort this shit out. It’s an exciting stage for our family and I need to grow some balls and get on with it, if Frankie can do it, I can do it too.

The next journey for Frankie and myself is a positive one, and though daunting on a maternal and personal level, there are so many joys to come. In myself it’s the start of letting myself grow and the restraints of small children becoming looser, and for Frankie the joys of the first nativity, learning to read and I can’t even imagine her little twig legs at sports day (but if she is like me then competitiveness will be ugly). I know lots of you out there will be feeling something similar (or at least I hope you do) and whether it’s your first, second or fifth child to have their very first day in september, good luck and take your tissues.

I will write a follow up blog to this with the outcome, it may not be pretty or it may be bloody glorious, who knows???

Thanks for reading

Jo

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