Are they getting enough Low risk independence?

Welcome to a series about encouraging independence in school-aged children. Parents know they should, but in an age of overprotective parenting, it’s just easier, quicker, safer- insert your word here too if we control it all. I hope we can take a fresh perspective to our ideas about independence during the school years. I’d welcome your feedback

School aged children and their pull for independence. How all families need low risk independence activities to start this journey. | seriesThe journey from dependence to independence is rough for parents and children. It requires us both to take risks. What makes it difficult is that we both see the risks very differently.

I leave you in the car to return the trolley in the supermarket and I’ve made a calculated risk. You decide to leave your friend’s house at the time you’re supposed to be at home means you’ll ride faster and may not be as careful. Both are risks but I believe my risk is better thought through.

We know that children have to experience risk and that there’ll be a lot of mistakes along the way before they get it right.

I think we skip that middle part, a lot.

It is going to take a lot of mistakes along the way. So here is the conundrum, how do we let children experience risk, fail and make mistakes in a society where it is so socially awkward to admit mistakes and failure? I think we do this through low-risk independence.

So here we are in the school age years a ripe time for increased independence. But are the children really getting reasonable risk and independence?Independence is more than just filling up a trust bank.

Independence is more than a trust bank.

If they make enough deposits into the trust bank then they get this magical independence. Most children have no idea how to make deposits of trust that is acceptable currency in their parent’s trust bank.

Questions to ask your children:

  1. What do you have to do for me to say that you can visit your friend at the top of the road by yourself?
  2. How did I know you were ready to be by yourself at home for 20 minutes?

I’ve often heard parents say, “I can’t trust him so how will I know he’ll do the right thing. He can’t be independent. I have to watch him otherwise, things will go wrong.”

Everyone starts from here. Children are dependent. They need us. Then soon enough they need us to teach them or step back enough so they can explore safely.

It’s the stepping back and the teaching that we often neglect in this school aged stage. Teach them how to stay home alone, for example. Take the time to share what to do over time depending on your child and their abilities.   Some of your children are ready quickly and some need the step by step training. The best way I’ve found to do this is with low-risk independence.


Next: What is low-risk independence?


10 Questions to ask your child instead of “What was your grade?”

10 Questions to ask your child instead of -What was your grade-- that work on growth, failure and success

As children move through the grade levels they start to have more tests and quizzes. Since the results are in numbers they are quickly translated into the letter grades.

I’m a big fan of summative assessment at the end of work that sums up what’s been learnt in a few sentences and one thing to work on. This is where the child can see the next step to progress and what to do to get there.

With only the numbers or percentage they see they didn’t get the 100% which isn’t obtainable for all anyway. Worse they don’t have a direction to go except, I failed.

Failure isn’t bad.  It is bad if there’s no direction to know where to go from here so the children get on the course to success.

Since we see our children with more tests and quizzes naturally we wonder how they are doing when we see them at the end of the day.

Are you like most of us parents and fall into the trap of asking about test grades, quiz grades and scores almost immediately and get sucked into the vortex of talking about grades?

“How was your social studies quiz?”
“Did you get your grade for that math work?”
“Ohh, 85% buddy!”
“Where’s your paper?”
“What was the class average?”

Do you get stuck there and wonder how in the world did it come to be all about letters and numbers? You are not alone.

So if you’re stuck in the grades vortex and want to talk about all the other things that happen in school too then read on. [Read more…]

Creating Comfy Family Holiday Experiences

Don't add heaps more on your plate during the holiday season. Create your comfy family holiday experience where you are fully present, less stressed and have no guiltWithout all the go go go of the holiday season you could be really enjoying the season. Have you noticed your calendar getting full? That time comes from somewhere.

We found in our family that it was our downtime. It was our connecting time over meals. It was our unscheduled evening. This tilt from stillness towards busy happened slowly and gladly. Of course I want to go to the carol concert and the turning on the Christmas lights, that’s what the holiday season is about!

Soon enough though it is easy to overstuff this warm lovely holiday feeling with stress, anxiety, yelling and hurry.

This year we’re getting back to warm comfy family holiday experiences that include stillness, taking it slow, observation and time. We are tilting back to a slower family holiday season that helps us all experience the peace, wonder and enjoyment of the season.

For that to happen we have to be intentional right upfront. Put it on the list as a priority as you plan.

Gift yourself a simple family season walks you through creating a family holiday that is filled with what your family needs. It’s easy to become swept along and as we get closer to the holiday we as parents are gritting our teeth and really don’t enjoy the season.


Simplify your family holiday season and choose to find the stillness. This isn’t a one size fits all. There’s a robust set of questions to get the family talking about holidays then and holidays now. Each question helps the family craft the family way of simple holidays- at least for this year.

After you’ve created your holiday vision you’ll be curious to look at the family traditions around the holidays. Do they need adjusting, replacing or dropping altogether? I’ve included some simple holiday traditions that don’t have to increase the busyiness but support the stillness, the spending time in connection as family.

After the experiences, with your eyes fully open to your family you want to make your family simple holiday season outline. We talk about gifts, toys and budgets, easing the commercialization and sensory overload.

Set the stage for your simple family holiday season with these tips, prompts and discussions that bring comfy and cozy to your family home

Available in two formats, PDF or KINDLE.



Send to your Kindle app or device


Have both formats to cover all devices. Great to share with your partner.

To be able to honor stillness, slowness to really appreciate the family holiday season here are some comfy things we will be doing this year. I hope you join us!

  •  Sitting together or alone when the Christmas Tree light is the only light in the room
  • When you can sit down with a hot chocolate and watch a holiday movie together- to the end!
  • Feeling the crunch of the snow, leaves or twigs as you stroll through the park. Hearing the animals and seeing the birds.
  • Stocking up on those favourite Holiday smells diffusing through the house that remind you of the season.

It will be because of the stillness that we can enjoy the gift giving, serving and peace of the family holiday season.

How are you going to slow down and enjoying the stillness of the family holiday season this year?

Mini Rite of Passage for school aged children

One to remember! Celebrating and connecting through a rite of passage and it doesn't have to be big and expensive. Yes please!Are there gateway ages or specific markers in your family when special things happen? Examples might be doing laundry by themselves, collecting for a charity via shoebox or a mission trip or a special trip with a parent/grandparent?

Usually when we talk about rites of passage we think of birthdays, weddings or graduations.  These are usually grand ceremonies that take months of planning and often lots of money to celebrate.

But I’m thinking about smaller significant pointers in our family that we cherish for the memory they give and are no less significant because we don’t spend the big bucks. These rites of passage as small significant celebrations of the passage of childhood.  They don’t just happen anyway like losing a tooth.

A rite of Passage offers a time of coming together to celebrate a place in childhood that every significant adult in that child’s life may share something special into their life.

We don’t have enough of these times when adults pour love, wisdom, kindness and faith into children’s lives.

Traditionally a rite of passage has a ceremony ( birthday party or wedding ceremony). They also have a symbol. (exchange of gifts, cards and perhaps a ring).

For this rite of passage within our family we honored the ceremony by being together and shared it with friends and family afterwards.

Part of the reason for a slimmed down version was timing and location and the other is that we wanted to have a more intimate mini rite of passage. In the same way a 21st birthday celebration is different to a 3rd birthday.

It is planned and anticipated like any other rite of passage.

The Watch

Celebrating family values: mini rite of passage for school aged children that are simple and special

They have had novelty watches before. But very soon into elementary school we noticed that our children needed to be more accountable with their time.

  • They asked about the time.
  • There’s a need for an alarm clock.
  • They wanted to go to a friend’s house.
  • When we needed to meet them they needed to know when to leave.
  • It was a time when we weren’t together all the time so they couldn’t rely on us being their timekeeper.

It is easier to see the passage of time with an analogue watch, otherwise time seemed meaningless. We have a large digital clock and we could see that 5 minutes or 15 minutes were just numbers but the power to understand time came from seeing that the movement of one long hand through to another place really gave them a better understanding.

Be able to tell the time using an analogue watch or clock was a responsibility of age. They were old enough to try and master.

The process

Each of our sons spent time differently mastering learning to tell the time using an analogue clock. We had plenty up in the house. At different times they had bought games, flashcards, made up games and they asked all the time what the time was or told us what they thought the time was.  There were text books, stories, their brothers and friends who all were willing to help teach reading an analogue clock.

Each child on their own timeline, they all learned to tell the analogue time at different ages but they mastered it and were very excited. The testing time is a much anticipated time as each child has worked hard to master quarter to vs quarter past and five to vs fifty- five minutes to.

Once you can tell the time using an analogue clock you get to go with the whole family and choose a watch ( from a preselected group).

Making it special

The watch is waterproof, has date and time and often a second hand. They don’t have to take it off for swimming or showering- they can loosen it though. ( Bonus because otherwise they would lose it or leave it!) We chose a mid priced watch because it had to endure the rough and tumble of life. It needed to be something special but not too expensive that they would worry or fret. We were after simple, significant and special.

We had an unboxing at home all gathered around the table. It was often the same year they had a digital alarm clock so they can get up independently in the mornings. They learn to set it and we make a big deal about asking the time from them for weeks.

We mentioned on the way home from buying the watch that it’s part of learning to respect time and be timely. Perhaps this would have been better to have talked more about it at the unboxing. Everyone talked a little about time and the uses of their watch. Skype and phone conversations revolved around watches and time for weeks to follow. They wear the watch proudly .

It’s their first watch from our family.

Broken watches we replace and lost they replace.

It’s been interesting to see how each child has chosen watches within a similar family.

Mini rite of passage is no less significant

There are so many simple, significant and special rites of passage we could do to celebrate childhood transitions. Points in time that each child eagerly looks forward to that highlight the next stage in their passage to adulthood.  They work hard to get there. Space where parents, friends and family can talk about values, lead with smiles and encouragement and celebrate a new hard done achievement.

While many rites of passage are traditionally attached to a specific time like graduation only happens at the end of a school season, these rites of passage are when your family chooses. The important part is the anticipation, the significance and the final celebration. Not all the kids will be as excited but they will remember.

Are there gateway ages or specific markers in your family when specific things happen?

I’d love to have a conversation about celebrating specific things or rites of passages. What’s your opinion? Have you done any?

For more simple schedules and family traditions have a look at my board .


Join the school based moms Facebook Group where we talk about things like this and more ways to connect with our school age children.


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Such a simple and powerful idea- mini rite of passage

Facebook groups for moms with school aged children

Great Facebook Groups for moms with school aged childrenIf you are a parent of a school aged child and you’re out of the breastfeeding, baby led weaning stage it can be hard to find your people online. Each stage of parenthood is just a big ball of lots of questions and like everyone else I loved going to forums and Facebook groups to get real answers and share my questions.

Now in a different stage there are fewer general Facebook groups that are aimed at the school aged set. We have different and still lots of questions. We need the same support, prod, me too and sometimes encouragement. It is trickier because we don’t want to share big details.

It’s different now the children are older but we still have questions. Our time online is different too perhaps we were able to get online more when the children were younger but now work, other children and commitments limit our time.

I’ve found 5 great thoughtful and peaceful Facebook groups that offer specific advice that cover the school aged parents. These groups stand for great values and contain lots of information from the hosts.

Real Food For Real Families

Real Food for Real Families Facebook Group


Who doesn’t have the worry of what to cook for dinner? Whether you menu plan or not we often cook the same things. Wouldn’t it be fun and interesting to peak into hundreds of different homes and see meal ideas? Members of the group post photos of their actual meals.

Browsing through the feed is great if you’re looking for ideas. It’s great when you have questions like, I have half a chicken leftover and I’m tired of cooking X and Y what do you do with half a cooked chicken. See Real Food For Real Family Facebook group

Society of Nimble Parents

Society of Nimble Parents Facebook Group

This is a group for moms with school aged children who embrace simple and slow parenting. Since there’s not one right way to do parenting we will try lots of different things. It’s what makes our parenting messy. Here we think about parenting ideas and reflect on whether they are right for our family.

We know that one side does not fit all. We have the courage to do differently, that’s what keeps us nimble unassuming parents actively parenting now for next.

I help moms create calm and peaceful rhythms, routines, rituals and systems so their families thrive. We have challenges and talk about the podcast topics. See Society of Nimble Parents Facebook group


The Savvy Parents Club With Galit Breen

The Savvy Parent's club Facebook Group

If you are feeling clueless about social media and want to know more because the kids have electronic devices now? Then we can all learn together as Galit shares her vast knowledge about how to keep our children online safely. It’s not all don’t let them on a device but Galit teaches and shows how to navigate tough situations.

When you’re child comes home asking to using a new app or you see an app, then this is the place you can ask questions and understand. Depending on what is talked about during the week, Galit usually does a live recording and shares some great information with cheatsheets.   See The Savvy Parents Club With Galit Breen Facebook group

Respectful Parenting: Tweens & Teens

Respectful Parenting: Tweens and Teens Facebook Group

If you want to learn a new skill in parenting or life being totally immersed in it is a great start. Maybe you just fancy a tune up or to be around likeminded folks who parent the way you do. Sometimes though you’re just stumped with a particular parenting situation and you’d love a fresh perspective.

Robin runs a great group where lots of positive people ask great questions. This parenting style is very particular and the guidelines of the group clearly state what works within the group.

Parenting tweens and teens is a tricky area and if you’re trying to find your groove then this is the next step up from the younger, infant and toddlers group. It uses the RIE philosophy. It is great to catch scripts, wordings to use with your children. There’s a range of situations that happen to us all and the advice is sensitively handled and well moderated.  See Respectful Parenting: Tweens & Teens Facebook group

What Do I Say?  Answering “Why?” & Explaining Concepts

What Do I Say? Answering "Why?" & Explaining Concepts Facebook Group

Have you ever been floored by the why questions your child asks? It is just the start when they are in the why stage. When they are school aged and come home with a note about words they used, what should we say to them as parents? Now there’s a place where questions the kids ask that stump us and when we’re in a situation what might be a good answer. It’s a unique group with questions like,

My  X year old child has learnt a new word ( swear word) what’s the best way to deal with it?

These types of questions just don’t usually come up when you’re with your girlfriend talking. This is a large active group also run by Robin of Visible Child. Great group if you are looking for kind and thoughtful answers encouraging connection.  See What Do I Say?  Answering “Why?” & Explaining Concepts Facebook group

Being in a good Facebook Group isn’t just for the beginning years. When you find the right one they support you in a particular stage and help your family to grow.

What are other helpful, peaceful Facebook Groups that support the mom of a school age child you would recommend?

Leave your comment

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Great Facebook Groups for moms with school aged children

Start your own family reading challenge

Have some reading fun with a family reading challenge. Start a new traditionWhen children read just one type of book we’re happy they are reading but we hope they will read other things too. In this first in this series I shared what we do when this happens to us.

The second tool to encourage reading is to develop a family reading challenge.

Start your own reading challenge

I was inspired by the Modern Mrs Darcy’s reading challenge and Imagination Soup to make one for our family. This would encourage them over a year to read a range of books.

It looked like a neat family tradition that lasted, matched our love of reading and looked fun for everyone.

We started in January and have dipped in and out of the challenge throughout the year.

After a crack lesson in EXCEL they built a table and now keep their reading challenge record. Apart from a few mishaps the online tracker is working better than the paper reading record. ( I think they just like getting on the computer to type!)

How the family reading challenge is working?

We’re currently into month ten and the challenge is going well. They are noticing a range of books and trying books they would not have tried before.

It’s great to hear them looking at books not just at the cover and the blurb but wondering if they have a female main character or when the book was first published.

They have also discovered borders and fill colours on EXCEL so the recording takes a lot longer.

I don’t know if they are going to hit their targets but we’ve all had fun finding new books.

There was no pressure to read the whole book if they didn’t like it. What’s the fun in that! But they did have to try and explain why they didn’t like it before giving it up.

Although 12 books a month seems like a lot they also knew they would have summer ( 2.5 months) and all the holidays to catch up and read as well as during school time. It didn’t seem too much.

Consider 6 books in each set for the younger or struggling readers and encourage them to go over once they get all 6 read in each category.

How to start your own family reading challenge

  1.  Consider the types of books they are already reading and the ones you would like them to try. It’s all about expanding their horizons and forming opinions.
  2. Push the boundaries of genre. There are plenty of good books you know your children won’t even look at because of gender, age or some other reason. Encouraging them to read books where the main character is the opposite gender is a good way for them to dip into a new genre perhaps with a chance to choose the book.
  3. Consider the different ways to read ( online, ebook, physical book, audio etc). Children like us have preferences but let them explore but encouraging them to try books in different formats. An audio story on a long trip is a great pick for the whole family
  4.  Pick 12 categories for the older or ready for reading challenge children and consider 6 categories for the younger or struggling reader. It’s not supposed to be overwhelming so adjust to your family. We went with two children with 12 categories and one child with 6 categories.
  5. Don’t go crazy with the categories you want them wide enough to find books but not too narrow that you can’t find anything.
  6. Order books through the library. Ask friends. Let them be the detective.
  7. Have fun with categories. Every year there are bestseller children books. Children think everything is old so for fun we have a category of a book that was published before they were born. ( because of course that was so long ago!) It’s fun to watch them flip through books and researching books.
  8. Consider your family values and experiences. Let them influence your reading. If you travel or have extended family overseas learning about the country through stories is excited and meaningful. If you’re a city family learning about the country.
  9. Print your customised family reading list challenge for each child.
  10. Encourage a record keeping system that works for them. We tried online. You can print a simple record, write in a journal, make paper chains or another way that works for your child.

The one thing we didn’t do was ask for book reports. We had conversations about books as usual but we didn’t want to make it feel like school. I know lots of children love book reports but mine didn’t. If yours do them go for it!

If you want to take a peek at what ours looks like you can download them.

Lastly, have an end date. We started at the beginning of the year so we had the end of the year but you don’t have to do that. Birthday to birthday or holiday to holiday work just as well.

Have some reading fun with a family reading challenge. Start a new tradition


  1. Overhauling reading when they read just one type of book
  2. Start your own family reading challenge

Parent’s guide to transitioning from doing the packed lunch

Step by step guide for parents who are teaching their children how manage the transition from them doing all the lunches to the kids doing all their lunch. How to do the lunch transition in manageable stagesReady to make the transition from you doing all the school lunches and handing over it to your children? Read on for a step by step plan and some printables to help you.

Like all good systems for our family this one isn’t a quick fix or set it and forget it. There’s a huge amount of detail here that I spread over a several posts. The system isn’t that hard but I want to share the details so you see how to adapt for your family.

One of the milestones in our house is making your own lunch once you transfer to the big school. As part of being independent and learning to manage time, wants, needs and constraints, learning how to put your lunch together is a great opportunity for failure, mistakes and success.

We’re not one for throwing them into the deep end of, ‘ Today I’m making your packed lunch and tomorrow, good luck. Have at it.’

Instead we’ve tried to show a step by step approach that responds to their stage and ability. Also we have tried to make it as much of a rhythm as possible. If it is too rigid things fall apart. The boys have to learn to go with the flow, adjust, make do and move on.

Here’s the intermediate step of moving from parent only packed lunches to our children being able to start and do most of the lunch process. They’ll see all parts but the focus is on getting this new intermediate rhythm down.

1 Make it known

We talked a lot about responsibility and making your own lunch soon and eventually decided we wanted to do it at the secondary/middle school transfer stage. No surprises. They know it is coming. Set your time.

2 Have a lunch system

Monday we always have a fish based lunch. I stock a range of fish tins that alternates each week. We talk a lot about variety which discourages having the same meals the next day or days. ( However good and yummy it is!) We also talk about colourful meals and not the yellow ( or same color ) diet. Tuesday and Thursday is usually the same meal.


Click here to get the cheatsheet of lunch theme days


One of the meals is usually a free choice. Children have their favourite meals so this free choice slot gives them some autonomy to have that special meal. It also helps them start thinking about their own food needs without being told or guided all the time.

It’s easy to make lunch when it comes from the list on the fridge. But for many children in years to come they will need to make a variety of foods themselves. They develop the confidence in times like these. Here is just a taster of that and this free choice slot also accounts for leftovers from dinnertime that are just great for lunch.

Wednesday is the only one I really have to think about. Somedays Wednesday and Friday are the same, just like Tuesday and Thursday. That is our system. It makes days easier and predictable. If you want some ideas for your own lunch theme days, go here.

The next part of this system is a crucial step we often forget when we’re transferring knowledge in a family. It’s also what will give the most independence and confidence to your children.


Step by step guide for parents who are teaching their children how manage the transition from them doing all the lunches to the kids doing all their lunch. How to do the lunch transition in manageable stages

Alternatives to the sit down lecture

The sit down lecture.

Nobody likes it.

Alternatives to the sit down lecture that encourage connection and reduce the shutting down that happens in family discussion

Whether you’re called into a room, have a table between you or sitting side by side, it’s with a head hung low we all approach the sit down lecture. Well that’s how it was in our house.

I don’t know how we got into the rut of lecturing but I guess we have so much to say as parents it just flows right out of us! Ha! With some reading and distance from the situation I could see that what I was saying was just not working. In fact, less is more. Simple is better.

When we invoked the sit down lecture we wanted discussion and answers. The sit down lecture was the most ineffective way of getting discussion and answers as it encouraged lecturing from the parents and silence and zoning out from our children.  It took a long time to see this because I guess we were in the moment.

If we want discussion then there has to be time to think, reason, gather thoughts and come out with a response. With parents staring, facing or sitting next to their children the pressure is paralyzing. They become more worried about saying the right thing and what is the right thing, will I get into trouble? What do they really mean? and before long they are spinning out disconnected, glazed and shutting down. You often can see it happening right in front of you if you favor the sit down lecture method.

Of course we mean well. We just are tackling it the wrong way.

When you have information to share, want information and conversation from your child there is a better way than the sit down lecture. Their first thought when we call them is, what have I done now? We confirm how serious it is by how many adults are present? If we bring paper or objects, it’s like we’re lining up against them and we’re actually all on the same side.

Over time we suggest three alternatives to the sit down lecture that remove the hostility, get conversation and reduce the amount of shutting down.

Go for a walk

The movement changes the whole dynamic. We were meant to move. We often don’t move enough. Most children appreciate the movement so they fidget less and we stop being distracted by their movement and get derailed with discipline because of both our actions.

There’s a lack of eye contact which reduces the pressure to respond immediately and gives time to compose and speak. Some of us have an angry resting face or look like we’re always asking a question or seem annoyed by the tone in our voice. These are confusing signs we often don’t even realise we do and if our children just listened to the words we said the misunderstandings would be better.

The very same with our children. I have a son who smirks. It’s like a tick. It happens quickly and involuntary. I get derailed by this smirk. If we’re side by side walking I don’t see it. I react to his words. He’s working on the smirk and what it represents as I’m working on things too.

In nature/ on the beach

There’s something soothing and calming about the sounds of being outside in nature. If you’re by a reservoir, country park, beach, village lane, hedgerow save the opportunity for those valuable discussions for when you can hear those ambient sounds. It’s harder to be angry and frustrated. There’s something about being outside that cools us off and opens us up to conversation.

The walk can take you in your neighbourhood but the nature walk helps with the listening. There are less distractions of sound. More of the senses are involved with touch and smell. There are more things to fidget with as children try to figure out their ideas it’s easy to toss a stone, grab a twig, scrunch some leaves, cradle a shell, build a sandcastle or a stone tower.

Play a game together

By the time we get to the sit down lecture, either we are frustrated or both of us are frustrated. We have something to share and we should be listening to hear what our children have to say. Unfortunately in the heat of the moment this isn’t always the case. You too?

If we’re not by a lake to skim stones and don’t have a wood pile to move, the next things are some heavy work get rid of this pent up energy and get to the conversation. Games like basketball, any of the catching games, football, freezbe allow both parties to get the frustration out safely and turn the energy into good.

As the mood and tone changes there’s opportunity as the parent to encourage their accomplishments and see some improvements. There are so many unspoken rules in families it is no wonder children fall foul of them often. These games though have clear rules and they are less likely to feel they are doing everything wrong.

There are alternatives to the sit down lecture. Any of these three things need not take a lot of time. I’m reminded of the quote.  You don't get a second chance to make a first impressionShow the children how to share by reducing the stress, slowing down and giving them and you time to carefully navigate this tense field. We’re all learning. The ways we get our point across matters in our families, in our relationships, in our schools and in our work.

We’re discussing a TED talk about slowing down in our Facebook Group so we have opportunities to connect with our children. Look for the posts on TEDx Talks Uncovered. When you’re not so hurried theirs always time.

TEDx Talks Uncovered- video bookclub for parents creating their family way |within our Facebook group

**Pin and Share**Alternatives to the sit down lecture for families looking for connection and resolution without the battle

Two places + two resources for Positive Connection, calm and conversation in the morning

No matter how the morning starts here are some places for positive connection, calm and conversation in the morning There’s a lot of hustle in the mornings to get the kids up and out. We have our morning routines. We try not to nag and fuss. It’s great when each child can get up and move through the morning without us but it’s not every day, not all the time and maybe we’re not there yet. So morning runs become tense because we’re all up against a time limit. We’re all seeking positive connection. It’s just complicated.

It’s not a calm time but it can be a connecting time.

Our voices are sharp and loud or maybe silent and absent. The tension is rising.

There are two points in the morning run that we try to hit as parents, whatever their ages and bring positive connection, calm and conversation.

  • Breakfast
  • Leaving out the door

Both these points allow for a time to slow down, catch breath and do something different. If we rush rush all the time there’s no built in pause. We need a pause in the morning to catch breath, think of next, imagine the day, prepare and be right. If we rush head long without having times to stop and pause we often find out too late that we missed something.

Positive connection at breakfast

Perfection would be our son or sons sitting down with us for breakfast together. This is our most unlikely situation but we encourage them to sit down as we continue the kitchen duties that keep us in the same room. This is a win. This time could be a time to gulp down or chow down quickly. Breakfast is what’s often skipped if we are running late so this might be a new choice to choose this time for connection. Having this particular time on our radar helps us all start the day off right with breakfast. It’s a good check in. We notice. We adjust. We support.

Leaving out the door is also a good check in time of positive connection as we get to say some fun things to set up the day even if it is just a hug, blown kiss ( if they are mad at us) or an I love you. Our aim as parents is to watch them leave with a wry smile on their face. Humor or jokes help that and it’s also a chance to redress the balance after the morning getting ready.

Keeping that positive connection as they leave

  • Do you have your smile in your pocket? ( incase you need to find it later)
  • Have you switched your ears on ( click as we imitate it) ?
  • Today is a clean slate where mistakes and learning all happen.
  • However mad, late or okay everyone says goodbye. How you say goodbye is up to you.  We’ve been through many. A good attitude starts the day off well.

Conversation might not be easy but just being in the same area helps with connection. Mini Post it notes labels support connection when you can’t be there. We’re trying out some new breakfasts from around the world instead of the traditional cereal and milk breakfast we’ve been used to. He needed something more filling and lasting. So in the microwave I had a bowl of soup ( leftovers) and a little sticky note, reminding him about the naan bread to go with it.  First day. First time. It needed to be effortless. Sometimes you get notes back. A note says a lot.

Mellow calm times in the mornings

Conversation isn’t like at meal times later in the day when you can have Character conversations and ask about the day because a lot has happened and everyone wants to share. Mornings are mellow. Mellow times as everyone is waking, dragging and going at different speeds. Here are two positive connection and conversations that happen that give you a chance to talk about something together, in the moment or later. The common cry in many households is that you don’t have much in common to talk about. Here the journey in the car or conversation for later starts from these two things. The seed is planted and time gives us chance to have opinions.

Positive connection, calm and conversation starts with these resources

Classics for kids works for elementary and middle school children. They play a selection of classic music around a theme or a composer and recently they’ve had some interviews too. You don’t have to monitor what might be played ( Bonus in the morning; one less thing to do) The music is interesting and each one is different and it’s not long. It’s not just the music but we learn background and the story behind the music. I don’t know if they take it all in but the music certainly holds a calm and tense-free space in a household that is busy ramping up for departure.

A new discovery for us is, Listenwise with daily current news events with questions. Sometimes it can feel like Russian roulette when you turn on the news, will the news be okay to listen to or will I have to monitor it all? If you’re looking for news and conversation without the worry then I think you’ll like Listenwise.


We found a short news story ( 2minutes 6 secs) that we could listen to right there on the smartphone while eating breakfast. Afterwards there’s a chance to answer comprehension questions, if we like, but to be honest they launched straight into their own questions and conversation. They did look at the questions afterwards. As a platform we loved it. Short news items some current news and other stories. It’s great for upper elementary, middle and high schoolers. There are other great premium features. But for parents at home the basic free plan worked really well for us.

Find other calm and connection ideas as you listen to my parenting podcast on iTunes and Stitcher

Back to school: Shaping the Parent Mindset

Back to school-shaping the parents mindset 5 things to consider for our families in the back to school season and beyond that start with mindset and trickle down harmony, calm and unityWhat would happen if you started with a definite mindset about what you would do and will not do?

This year I set the challenge to my three sons to make a list of what they really needed for school by looking at their school resource list for their upcoming class.

Immediately they printed and wrote a long list of things and we went to the shops and for the first time, I got to stand on the side and almost say, “Are you done yet? ” As they whizzed up and down the aisles trying to find the right paper and folders. It’s a challenging time but only a part of the great back to school activities.

Getting ahead of the back to school activities gives us a peaceful start. Creating routines and systems take time and probably it’s not the best idea to change everything at the start of school. Instead talk about the flexibility of these first few weeks as we all settle into routines. Some of the routines are new and testing and many cozy and familiar- whatever the routine just letting the children know that we are working on finding something that fits for us as a family and for ourselves helps take the edge of perfect.

As your area starts the back to school season you’ll become deluged with offers and ideas. As parents we hold the spaces for our children to dwell in whether we decide or things just happen. We set the tone for the school year.

Here are 5 things to consider for our families in the back to school season and beyond that start with mindset and trickle down harmony, calm and unity.

1. Rotate new contributions

As they get older they need to experience different chores or contributions. It’s easy to set and forget contributions and children get stuck doing the same contribution for years.

Gender contributions happen in many families sometimes because we don’t notice that the girls are washing dishes and the boys taking out trash. They all need to do all these basic types of contributions and at least know how they are done. Is it time for a change?

What we think and do makes all the difference What if we started with the right mindset? 5 things to consider for our families in the back to school season and beyond that start with mindset and trickle down harmony, calm and unity2. Start with agreements

“If only they helped me more!”

Often children are oblivious to what needs doing. Proximity doesn’t indicated noticing and understanding. We do it so well. We need to teach and show, often.  When you have a family conversation about how they can help or even what is help ( this is your house too- maybe we need to talk more about the language) then… solutions happen. They aren’t helping you. They are helping the family and everyone benefits.

3. Graduate to new chores and contributions

What are some new life skills and contributions they might master this year?

Are they ready to wash a laundry load of clothes? they might start with the towels and sheets or jump straight to their laundry basket. Maybe they’ll bike to school?

Will they make their own lunch or set out their own clothes and bags?

Will they make their own plan for what they do in the morning or when they come back from school?

With age and stage comes responsibility. It’s things like coming home from the neighbour’s house on time that help you earn the gifts that come later. Often our children don’t understand the responsibility part and focus too much on their rights. It’s up to us to share this process better.

4. Family media plan

Technology can’t lead us by the nose. We have to have our family ideas. Granted these will shift and alter during the year and as things come up but we need to continue the many conversations around media use in our homes, at school and everywhere.

5. Values

Conversations and time help unite a family who are pulling in multiple directions. Whether it is one down day or night a week, meal times, car pool or group texting we pull together when there’s a common theme.

As you get ready for the new school term, here’s a handy list of seven things to consider that support our families just by our mindset.

Download your copy here

Acting on our Parenting mindset

Back to school reminders for Parents


More back to school conversations

Back to School: Family Values for the Month

Back to School: Figuring out the Family Media Plan

Our walk to school

Being ready to support through the new school term

Raising Playful Tots show 36: Waldorf Education with Janni Nicol

Raising Playful Tots show 37: Back to school

106: 7 Ways to Raise Responsible Tots

107 Back to school for 5 year olds and under

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