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Mini toy Santa under cocktail umbrella in the sun

All the best for 2022

Dear parents, wishing you the best for this time of year.

I doubt you’ll be altogether happy – we’d be disappointed if we undertook this venture in pursuit of happiness. That may come, on occasion. But deeper is the worthiness of this work, is our integrity as we work through the barriers that get in the way of connecting with our children.

This is where we discover our own goodness in the face of a task almost impossible. And in reaching for our children, we discover the goodness of the little people we once were, and reach for ourselves, rather than leave our own little ones behind. Because we need company.

So my wish for you in this journey, over which, in the end, we don’t have much control, is company. Strong, solid, wise, generous company. Thankyou for accompanying me this year. Here’s to more company, whatever this next year brings.


Christmas greeting with photo of santa under cocktail umbrella in the sun

Creative Commons License
The materials on this page are free for reuse as long as you credit the author. See our copyright page for details. Please take note that photos may carry additional copyright conditions.
©2021 by Madeleine Winter.
The featured image above is “Christmas in the Heat” by Ivan Diaz

Man delights in child in play

Setting Limits on Holiday – Part 2: Connection Plan

In Part 1 we were pool side on holiday, and three siblings were happily playing, until suddenly, without much warning, the bigger boy was pushing the younger into the pool. They have lost their sense of connection (for whatever reason) and their behaviour is now driven by difficult feelings which are not “thoughtful”, caring or workable.

For the holiday to go well, you’ll need to develop a Connection Plan. This will help keep your children in good shape, and will give you room to step in, when necessary, to set limits to help resolve unworkable behaviour.

Resolving Sibling Squabbles

There are a few steps to resolving sibling squabbles. Step 1, which I’ll talk about in this article, is about how to build a deep sense of connection into your relationship with your children through Special Time.

If this is not enough to keep things co-operative, then you’ll probably need to move to a more direct intervention. In Part 3 of this series, we’ll cover how you can do this:  the importance of planning for trouble, keeping an eye on things through a “friendly patrol”, and limit setting.

Building Connection Credits

Step 1 in your Connection Plan will be to build up a sense of connection in your family. You’ll be putting Connection Credits in the Relationship Bank Account.  A healthy Bank Account will help to carry your family through difficult times, such as when the family, or family members, are under stress for some reason.  Events like starting a new job, illness, a death in the family, starting school, or (odd as it might sound) getting ready for and taking a holiday, can all use up Connection Credits, making the routines of daily life more difficult and increase the chance that your children will start squabbling with one another.

Muslim mother nuzzles daughter in hijab https://wp.me/a5jd3o-qVkOdd as it may sound, the difficulties your children have with each other also have a fair bit to do with their sense of connection with you.  To some extent, they are bickering with each other over you. Every child craves and needs one-on-one time with each of their parents or other important adults in their life. Offering them a regular time when they know they have all of you, and won’t have to share you, will ease the sense that they are competing for a scarce resource.   As Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Hand Parenting (Palo Alto) puts it “When their “gas gauge” is nearing empty, it’s time to put in more attention. You can plump up their capacity for tolerance. If their sense of connection with you is strong, they are better able to deal with whatever usually sets them off around their sibling.” [1]

There are many little ways you can build a sense of connection in your relationship with your child. You probably already have times when you are close with your children– hanging out together, preparing the food they like, reading to them. But one of the most efficient ways to build “Connection Credit” is Special Time, an adult-child playtime.

Continue reading

Man delights in child in play

Setting Limits on Holiday – Part 3: Stepping In

In Part 2 we started to build a Connection Plan that would help our children avoid squabbles and fights.

Part 3 – Stepping in when there is trouble – is coming soon!

Creative Commons License

The materials on this page are free for reuse as long as you credit the author. See our copyright page for details. Please take note that photos may carry additional copyright conditions.
The featured image above is What Next? by Madeleine Winter. CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 INT
©2022 by Madeleine Winter

Woman sitting by pool with legs in water, looking away distracted

Setting Limits on Holidays – Part 1

Family holidays can be a special challenge for us parents. It’s good to spend time together. But often getting to the holiday destination can be stressful, and by definition, everyone is tired and worn out to begin with. We parents are often really, badly, in need of some down-time.

Holiday Play

Three children play in pool with adults resting on lounges in backgound

On our holiday, I’ve been sitting pool-side, watching things unfold. Three children – siblings – happily playing, running off the deck into the pool. It’s a cheerful, creative, cooperative game. Something about chicken wings (hands tucked under armpits as they jump into the water) that seems to be hilariously funny.

When things turn bad

But suddenly, the game turns. Middle brother is trying to push younger brother off the edge into the pool. His face is locked in a tight, focussed grimace. Younger brother fights back, initially with laughter but as he resists with growing fierceness, it becomes a yell of protest. He looks frightened. Being smaller, he loses the fight, and ends up in the pool. He surfaces in tears and heads to the other side of the pool to Mum, and middle brother drifts off up to the other end of the pool, carefully not looking in her direction.

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Starting School Part 2: How to Unpack the Backpack

My daughter’s first day of school was one of the hardest days of my life.  Although we had  some times in the past when separating from one another had been full of feeKindergarten girl sitting on mat in classrooom looks at the camera. She looks happy.lings, we  worked through them together, and things, up to then, had been pretty smooth.  Cheerful up to that point, on this day she started to wail and cling to me as she lined up at the doorstep of the classroom.

The teacher looked increasingly alarmed, and then more and more annoyed with me.  Other children were beginning to waver in their confidence, considering joining my daughter in a serious cry.  Heartbreaking as it was, it just was not going to work for me to stay.  I walked away, my nerve ends on fire.  Over time it got easier, but I had to work hard at it. Continue reading

Starting School Part 1 – How to Pack the Backpack

Young boy walks along path with big red backpack

Starting school – for the first time, or at a new school, or even after the long summer break, can be a challenge for both our children and ourselves. We carefully pack their school bag with the things that will help them through their day – a nutritious lunch, a spare pair of pants and pencils. But it’s easy to forget our children carry an emotional backpack as well. Our special role, as parents and carers, is to help them pack and unpack that bag. It’s at least as important as a healthy lunch or a good night’s sleep. Continue reading

Special Time is Always about Something

Bull and close up of head with pincers.My friend and I were doing Special Time together with her 4-year-old son, Cameron, at the local park. There were a lot of bull-ants (a large and very aggressive kind of ant) on the ground.

Cameron told us that ants were very dangerous, and scary, and that we should get out of their way. Continue reading

It’s hard, and it’s not our fault

Covid-19 virus with crowns of hearts.

We need to keep a steadfast perspective: this is not our fault. What is being asked of us is necessary, but unreasonable. It is hard because of that, not because we have somehow not figured out the trick to doing it well. We are good. Our children are good. We want to come out of this holding each other close, if not physically, then emotionally. That is the most important thing. We all need to be held close.

A lot is being asked of us as parents at the moment. Managing school-at-home and work-at-home, working parents are running the risk of being “ground up in the gears” as the world of work and the world of schooling collide in the privacy of our home.

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Burning out

Mother pays attention to her child

This is fascinating. My own experience of all this is of a vague sense of displacement, discouragement, sadness, disconnection. Hard to put a finger on. Then I meet someone – today, the young GP at the local medical practice who I’ve never met before, and may not meet again.  And I feel better. We weren’t meant to be isolated from one another.

I’m not suffering trauma – illness, loss of work, serious financial stress – like so many are. But I’m suffering the loss of what was normal, predictable, finely balanced to keep me just on the right side of hopeful. 

This short news segment is worth a listen. He studies burnout, and says in the current environment, women are particularly vulnerable, as they shoulder the majority of the burden of managing work and children at home. So if you are feeling a little overwhelmed, take heart: it is overwhelming and impossible to do well enough. Its ridiculous to expect to be able to supervise young children and be employed at work at the same time in the same space. Be kind to yourselves, conscientious mothers.


Microscopic picure of coronavirus

School at home? Not!!

Personally…I’m not going to do school-at-home…I’m not going to turn myself into my child’s teacher…Let’s face up to what this really means – nothing will continue as normal, including the delivery of the school curriculum.

We find ourselves living in interesting times. Here in Australia we are more or less at the point of school closures, with parents being asked to keep their children home if at all possible. It’s probably just a matter of time before the restrictions on social gatherings are even more extreme. In many countries, physical distancing in response to the Corona Virus pandemic has meant that the schools are completely closed, and our children are at home. We are all being encouraged to stay home and limit our contact with others.

Many parents I have spoken to are optimistic about this chance to spend some extra time with their children. They are also anxious…if getting out kids to do homework is a hassle, what is getting them to do routine schoolwork going to be like, day in day out? Continue reading