UA-99606640-1Thursday Thought – Welcome to The Frugal Family
    • Trying to entertain four kids while two of them decide to swap rooms makes for an exhausting day... glad they choos… https://t.co/LacLjGzaDy

      Aug 18, 2018

Category: Thursday Thought

Review of Hopster App for Kids
Review of Hopster App for Kids
This post has been sponsored by Hopster and written by Mrs F x

We were offered the chance to have a play with the Hopster App on a Kindle Fire (it’s not been on there before, just on the App Store…), as we have one and don’t really use Apps very often and had the long holidays looming I thought we could give it a try. The age range it’s aimed at is 2-6 which covers are two youngest children so it seemed pretty perfect timing!

The App was easy to download via the Kindle, I decided to put it onto my very old one which I use for reading. The girls don’t have their own devices and I wanted them to have to ask to use it so I knew what they were up to! There are no other apps on there so it’s easy for them to find and access on their own. The downloading process was simple and quick, and I really love the cute graphics and characters.

My 2 year old got the first crack at it all while her sister was busy (she soon came over when she heard the music) – and with the help of her even bigger sister she started playing the Monster Match game – matching shapes to their shadows.

What I liked about Hopster was the the wide choice of things to do in one app, and it was all totally perfect for the age range which allowed the girls lots of independence (and Mummy got to make a cup of tea…)

  • Games
  • Books
  • Music
  • Art
  • Around the World
  • TV Shows

I also really liked that everything is linked to the Early Years learning objectives, so there is a lot going on ‘in the background’ that the children are unaware of, but as a parent you know it’s great learning and reinforcement of key skills. There are no ads on Hopster, but when we downloaded it, it said there are in app purchases – we’ve not come across any yet – so you do need to be aware of that.

So far I can’t find any downsides except there is so much to do I felt they could play all day on it so have initiated them to the family rules on electronics! There are of course lots of free things online but I do get tired of all the pop ups and how limited the games etc are, with Hopster there is a lot in just one app so you don’t need to have 50 downloaded taking up space! There are discounts if you pay for longer periods of time, the highest cost is £4.99 per month.

If you would like to try the Hopster App free for one month, you can sign up here. This should be just long enough to manage the bulk of the Summer school holiday, we found it really useful for long car journeys…

 

 

We are part of the Amazon Affiliates programme which means if you choose to make a purchase after you click one of our links we receive a small compensation – at NO extra cost to you. Thanks so much if you do, it’s how we can keep going x

If you are thinking of getting a Kindle Fire, I think they are much better value than a tablet – at just £49.99 (usually less with some special offers) you can have Apps, Games, Books, Internet and Movies etc – the Fire For Kids starts at just £1.99 per month and they can use it safely with a huge range of restrictions that you can add e.g. only being able to access games when they have read a book or you can set it to shut down at certain times of day or after a certain amount of usage. They are the Christmas present after a great deal for We’ve been really impressed with them.

Our Summer Plans
Our Summer Plans

Long School Holidays – Love It or Hate It?

So, this month, week and DAY hasn’t really gone to plan! We’ve had visits to A&E, unexpected changes to childcare dates, and a pre-booked event that has actually come at just the worst time it turns out… so lots of learning has taken place, some ideas have been shelved for next Summer and we are doing our very best with late nights and copious amounts of tea.

That’s just how life goes sometimes and constantly re-evaluating the goals is a normal part of family life I’ve discovered. Here is our plan for the Summer, both personal and business and hope you will join us.

On the Business front…

Whether you love them or hate them, or a bit of both – you do have to deal with them. Here’s what we have to help you:

  • On the WEBSITE home page will be a daily free for frugal idea, suggestion, link.
  • Our INSTAGRAM will have a daily pic of what we got up to and what we spent. We use the #spendlessuselessdomore and would love for you to get on board and share with us what you get up to as well.
  • Our other social media will be dipping in and out and sharing the most popular items above. You may want to join our FB Group for Free & Frugal Fun for Kids with lots of freebies and ideas. There are also tons of freebies in our Spend Less FB Group, although not all children focused x
  • For local people to us, we also have a Nottinghamshire UK Events printout you can download in the SHOP this will be added on Mon 23rd July.
  • For those looking for a more sustainable start to the Summer, or indeed any season you can also buy our e-books with practical, easy ideas for low waste, low cost, ethical living.

 

On the family front…

We have two weeks away in Cumbria this year, we haven’t had two weeks all together in over 11 years – since before the kids! It’s very needed, and although the place we have booked is tiny, I’m so excited by going to a new area and seeing new things, we have researched lots and joined English Heritage using our Tesco vouchers, we already have National Trust membership and have found lots of amazing things to do nearby –  but we also need some downtime and it was cheapest to go right at the start of the holidays when we usually don’t do very much.

On our return we have some play days booked, some TV watching to do and weather dependant some park visits. We are very lucky to have great local amenities. Later on we have some family visiting and I may take the opportunity of extra adults to do a few trips to places we have never been as the adult:child ratio wasn’t too great!  We are then away in Kent with family right at the very end of the holidays, and also have to fit in buying uniform (this post may help), lunch boxes and all that jazz. I suspect it will drag and go by quickly all in the same day! Here are some of my thoughts from previously on this strange phenomenon

 

Here are my top tips for managing the long holidays…

PLAN – it’s not easy or always fun, but it will make your life better in the long run. Here is a calendar to print out and help you.

DISCOVER – use the internet, FB Events, local magazines, the library, friends and anything else you can find to get the lowdown on local events and activities. Most places have LOTS of free things going on so take an evening to do your research – don’t forget museums and galleries that often have extra things for families.

RELAX – you don’t have to be busy and have fun every second of the day, the kids need downtime from school and probably would like to just chill out. Remember to make time for pj days.

SHARE – you are not alone, every family from your nursery, school or toddler group is also missing them so see if you can get together at a park, house, local event and share the load a little.

ASK – people will assume you already have plans unless you give them the dates you don’t, ask for help or a play date or to borrow a DVD or whatever. You could even set up a Facebook group and chat that way with all the parents you know in the area?

STOCK UP – my kids eat a ridiculous amount in the holidays, we always have an Approved Foods order to just stock up on snacks and picnic food at a good price. If you use this link to make a purchase from them we get a small commission so thanks x

ENJOY – in the midst of all the preparing and cleaning up and arguments and unpredicatable weather try to take a few moments to enjoy the wonders of parenthood, the growing and changing of your children and yourself – the amazing experience this whole show is. You can’t do it all day long, but just once in a while take a breath!

 

Do You Check Your Bills?
Do You Check Your Bills?

Save Money, Save Energy

Before I can start my Summer planning I like to sort out our household bills and accounts to see if any savings can be made – this is something I encourage people to do annually and if you have your copy of our free e-book you may have already started. Utilities is always a good place to start as the market is very open, but most of us are too lazy or busy to regularly change our accounts to new suppliers. This often results in being automatically moved on to a Standard Variable Tariff at the end of your contract – which can be costly. This post has been sponsored by ENGIE, and written by Mrs F x

I was surprised (and pleased) to learn that ENGIE have made a promise to always move customers onto their cheapest comparable tariff available when their contract ends. They have called this their Rate Rollover Promise. We worked with ENGIE on Clean Air Day and were impressed by their attitude towards customers and the environment.

The Rate Rollover Promise rewards their loyal customers by always making sure they are on the cheapest comparable tariff that ENGIE offer – rather than keeping low rates only for new customers. I found this a refreshing attitude as so many companies do not reward loyalty, and I usually encourage people to change their suppliers often. This promise could mean you no longer need to keep changing; but can stick with a company that value your custom.

Did you know when your fixed term contract ends most suppliers just automatically move you onto their Standard Variable Tariff (SVT)?

This is not likely to be the cheapest option – and you will be paying that rate until you actively move your account or request to change onto a better rate. It’s up to you to be on top of all these dates and agreements… which isn’t easy if you are also trying to keep other plates spinning!

When you sign up to a supplier it’s normal to go with a fixed term price for 12 or 18 months, this is great as both you and the company can plan what is going in and out – however if you don’t keep an eye on when that fixed amount is coming to an end you can suddenly find your bills have changed.

The SVT is a variable amount, so it can go up and down making it hard to estimate your bills. This is an industry standard figure, and many people are paying more than they need to for the same supply as they haven’t checked if there is a cheaper rate available.

As accounts are usually charged by the unit of electricity or gas, avoiding an SVT could make a huge difference to your bill. A recent study commissioned by ENGIE has found that millions of British families could save an average of £121 a year off their energy bills if their provider switched them to the cheapest available tariff rather than the Standard Variable Tariff. That could be a considerable saving for a family, and is why policies such as ENGIE’s Rate Rollover Promise can be so beneficial.

Checking and potentially changing your utility companies is a really important way to keep on top of your finances; and could save you a significant amount of money. Once you are in the habit of looking at the largest bills like gas and electricity you can start to review other regular outgoings like:
• phone packages
• internet charges
• tv costs
• travel
• childcare
• clubs and activities

It’s important to feel in control of your outgoings, to know how much and when the money leaves your account so you don’t have any nasty surprises, and most importantly you can start to plan ahead.

One way to make this sometimes boring or frustrating process more fun is to have a sliding scale of what you will do with any savings you make…
If we save £50 we will…
If we save £100 we will…
If we save £150 we will…

 

When did you last check your monthly outgoings?

Bullying and Your Child
Bullying and Your Child

Bullying and the Power of WeParent

If you follow our Just One Thing series on Facebook you may have seen us interview Nick Tustin one of the founders of the website WeParent. I really like this site and have used it for support and ideas in parenting our four wild cards – even with 15 years’ experience as a lecturer in personal development I still need ideas and back up when the kids behaviour is challenging or new. WeParent is a wonderful resource full of strategies that are easy to access, helpful and ‘doable’.  Nick has very kindly offered for 10 of our lovely readers and followers to win a one year subscription for We Parent – this is a really amazing offer, you can enter by commenting on this blog post with your child/ren’s age and the hardest thing about parenting below:

ENTER NOW!
Win an Annual Subscription to WeParent with a simple comment x

 

There are already a number of parenting issues available on the site, and there is always a free strategy each week. We have used the Sibling Rivalry strategies on many occasions lately… However there is also a NEW topic that has recently been added that we wanted to highlight as it’s so very important.

The newly created resources are to support children and adults with the issue of bullying. I wanted to work through this with our kids as it’s such an  relevant topic, but also because I don’t feel it is always clear to children what we mean by bullying – they know not to do it, but I’m not sure they always identify the behaviour to stop. Alongside the sibling rivalry we also have to manage how our four kids interact with each other and this is a really great topic to discuss with them all.

I took a look at the resources on WeParent – and this is what I thought…

The Module is called Preventing Bullying and is in four modules, each aimed at supporting children to identify and deal with bullying – and helping parents to manage their own feelings! Having  created and taught Assertiveness I felt confident in that module, but there is always more to learn, and I gained great insight in the first module as I have only ever worked with adults (before my own children).

Getting Started:

Introduction to the topic and what will be covered etc. I particularly like the age appropriate options as this is essential when working with children.

Teaching your Child About Bullying:

This had lots of useful ways to discuss what bullying is, what behaviours might happen and also what it isn’t. We had a long discussion about banter and teasing and when that could become bullying, it was great that the kids came up with lots of examples themselves of things they have seen at school. We also took time to look at our own behaviour and when we might have behaved in ways that weren’t nice for people around us, even if that wasn’t our intention. It was a topic the kids were happy to discuss.

I liked that at the end of that topic you can choose which one to share next, that flexibility is nice as you can respond more to your own situation.

Assertiveness:

We chose this next, I feel fairly happy talking about this as it’s one of my favourite ideas to teach – discussing it with children was fascinating! A lot of this module is actually work for the adults to do, and experience tells me that we can all work on our assertiveness skills. Modelling behaviour is such a powerful way to teach children, this is really an essential module for all parents regardless of the topic – it’s a wonderful life skill. The strategy on Decision Making is also excellent, with a solid set of ideas to support children in learning to make ‘good’ decisions and a step by step guide for adults to set things up well so that children have the opportunity to make decisions in ways that you are comfortable with.

The module is well planned and offers lots of information and support.

Positive Sense of Self:

There are 3 strategies for helping children develop a positive self image, and they are all described and clearly explained so that adults can easily start to implement them. The modules all work well together and you can of course go back and re-read or try things again. This is long term strategies for making real change in the behaviour of the whole family, it does need all adults ‘on board’ to be effective, as they will lead by example and reinforce the messages.

If you feel concerned that your child is being bullied, or if they are the bully – there are a number of ways to manage the situation. The first, I think, is to manage your own strong emotions – as parents protecting our children is a fundamental and passionate response and we need to be able to control ourselves when discussing bullying and trying not to judge, but to be open and to listen. So here are some pointers:

  • Ask open questions and LISTEN to the answers
  • Discuss what bullying is in age appropriate language
  • Discuss how it would/does feel to be bullied
  • Focus on positive self talk and assertive responses – help children write a list of their qualities
  • Model assertive behaviour and language – use ‘I’ statements as much as possible
  • Speak to outside people as you feel the need e.g other parents, pre-school, school, health visitors.

I was impressed by the quality of the WeParent strategies, the flexible learning and helpful  and practical suggestions. It’s clear that the modules are written by actual parents (lots of well known advice is from people without kids) and although it requires energy and focus, the strategies are easy to follow and it’s great to feel you have something concrete to read and go back to as a parent. I’m really grateful to Nick and the team for letting me take a look at the modules and use the site to see what I thought, and to help me as a parent of four independent children! I have genuinely used the site and often ‘popped in’ for an idea or just to remind myself that these are common issues for kids – mine are quite normal… well… mostly…

 

 

I’ve also come across a really great book to help with managing behaviour  (both adults and children) called Cool That Volcano by Peter Blake – I really liked the style and tone, as well as the content obviously!

Review of Rockford’s Rock Opera
Review of Rockford’s Rock Opera

What a fascinating experience it was to review this Ecological tale about Extinction for children…

You can download the Apps from all the app stores, the first instalment is free and the next 3 parts are at a very low cost.

We loved that it was all produced in the attic!
We loved that children weren’t dumbed down to
We loved that there is no in app purchasing options or advertising
We loved the innovation
We loved the Rock!

Clean Air Day 2018
Clean Air Day 2018
This post has been sponsored by ENGIE, and written by Mrs Frugal x

So – who knew there was a Clean Air Day?!

Of course, there is a ‘Day’ for everything it seems but this one caught my eye as we have been looking at our car use during June, as part of our Family Life theme. This theme has been an opportunity for us to look at quite a few different things we could change or help us re-focus on things that we’ve been meaning to do but still haven’t got around to…

We knew that we had special plans for #plasticfreejuly – you may have seen we are having a daily idea to help ourselves and others to reduce their single use plastic consumption? You can still sign up to join in and get your daily email worksheet here x

After plastic, our next biggest area to tackle here at Frugal HQ is that we have two large diesel cars – in fact to be totally up front one of them is a van. When we first went with diesel it was after being told that it was the best option for long journeys – which is mostly what we do. Mr F cycles to work, or if he’s out of the office he takes the train as much as possible. He also has to fly on occasion, but we can’t really do much about that…

When baby 4 arrived, we had a problem – our other children were ALL still in car seats which are just really big. Obviously, it’s only safe to make sure they are all using the correct seats, but it meant that we could only fit in our Zafira if we used both the seats in the boot – which in turn meant we then wouldn’t have a boot – so no double pushchair, no dog, no large amounts of shopping etc. We had a roof box, but I couldn’t reach into it and there had been a height/scraping experience already.


Essentially, until our oldest child was tall enough to go without the booster and could be wedged in between two siblings we couldn’t all make a visit to family and as we had a very poorly relative 200 miles away we needed another car. After searching online for an 8-seater car and looking at the costs we got pretty down-hearted – we finally found the perfect vehicle for us in our very own small town! After sorting a bank loan we brought Frosty home, a 9 seater van with a handbrake on the wrong side… it’s taken me a while to get used to driving such a huge vehicle, but it has been so useful for all the times we fill it up to go out and about (which is a lot).

What isn’t so great is how much we all rely on our cars and vehicles to get around, and how much air pollution that causes. I’ve teamed up with ENGIE to take a look at how each of us can reduce the impact we have on the environment in support of Clean Air Day.

You might have seen us over on Twitter talking about this, we had a poll to see how often we all used a car… you can check our account and ENGIE too x The results are quite interesting so far with over 50% of us using the car daily, you can take part yourself or check the most up to date voting here.

 

So… what to do about it?

Here, at The Frugal Family we are working hard to come up with ideas that save money and save the world so this is an area we can have a big impact in. Here are 5 simple ways ENGIE & Global Action Plan suggest you can reduce your emissions and support Clean Air Day.

1.  Switch off the car engine when stationary, especially if stuck in a traffic jam.
2. Regularly service your car; and learn how to check the oil and water yourself.
3. Keep tyres well inflated, your car manual will give you the correct pressures and you can top up at most petrol stations for a small fee.
4. Car-share; especially if you commute into a large town or city, or are going on a long journey with spare seats. We share our planned days out for the school holidays to friends so usually have our spare four seats filled! You can register on LiftShare in the UK, remember to follow their safety guidelines x
5. Test drive + consider buying an electric car, especially if you have a regular known journey and can predict your time/distance. ENGIE offer a green fixed price plan specifically for electric vehicle drivers that offers 100% renewable energy! Learn more here.

 

And here are some more ideas from us!

• Walk more and research public transport options, particularly special services for local hospitals, airports etc. There is likely to be a scheme to save money by paying ‘up front’ – it will have a weird name, like the Oyster card in London and Mango in Nottingham.
• Find out how much it costs to run your vehicle by the mile/km and use that to make a judgement about each journey. Include tax, insurance, service etc – ours is 55p a mile.
• Combine journey’s as much as possible – to reduce your trips.
• Dust off, borrow or request a bike – buy a helmet and give it a go!
• Check out our Transport ideas for more suggestions x

You can get even more really innovate ideas from the Clean Air Day website here – I was so pleased to get some new ways to reduce air pollution and to breath better air that I had never really considered.

This is one part of our Family Life I really feel I can make a difference to – it will mean a few changes to some of the groups we attend further away and moving to a local one we can walk to, but the Summer really helps with using the car less and so Clean Air Day has come at a good time to remind us all the impact we can have.

What could you change to reduce air pollution?

Miscarriage…
Miscarriage…

There isn’t really a fancy or funny title I can put here, and I only want you to be reading this if you want to, and know what it’s going to be about so anything cryptic would have been unfair. It’s not a nice topic, but it is an important one. I was intending to add it to our Bumps and Babies theme, but that was such a joyus theme it felt wrong to add in there, but as we are now focused on the broader topic of Family Life, I feel miscarriage sits more comfortably here, and it is without doubt a family issue.

I have my own story, some of you will know it better than others, but I wanted this post to be wider than my own personal experiences and so have invited the lovely Rosalind Bubb to give us a more measured support for miscarriage. Here are her thoughts:

How to ease the pain of a miscarriage


Hello, my name is Rosalind Bubb and I’m a therapist. I’ve had twelve miscarriages and no children, but I’m in the unusual position of being very happy and peaceful and well, in spite of all of this.

That’s why I support others who’ve had miscarriages, and also those who are “childless not by choice”. I know how hard it can be. And I also know that there are ways to make it less painful, which are not commonly known about – but unless someone shows you what they are, you just have to struggle through it all the best you can.

When we’ve had a miscarriage it can be extremely upsetting and painful. It can feel as if our heart’s been broken. And sometimes it can be hard to talk about, and we don’t always realise how common it is, or get the emotional support which we really need.

There are 3 things which I think it can be helpful to know about, when we’re trying to recover emotionally after a miscarriage.

1. There’s been research carried out by Drexel University in the United States, into the emotional impact of having a miscarriage. They’ve discovered that most women do not even begin to feel back to “normal” again for a minimum of four months (and it can be quite a lot longer than that.)

I think many people expect that we “should” be over a miscarriage much sooner than this – and if you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s very common.

2. The same research showed that the intensity of grief which many women experience when we lose a baby can be as strong as if we’d lost someone close to us who’d been walking around in our lives. Again, I think if you haven’t experienced this you might not believe it, but if you have, then you probably completely understand.

3. In addition to these two facts about the length of time it takes to recover, and the depth of grief which you’ve experienced, there’s a third important element which affects how quickly and completely we can recover emotionally after a miscarriage – and that’s to do with just how unpleasant (or even traumatic) the experience was for us.

It’s very common to see and feel some really horrible things, when we lose a baby. And sometimes these memories can haunt us, and make it even harder to put these events behind us. Even if we try to push them to the back of our mind, they don’t always stay there, and they can flood us with grief and pain when we’re least expecting it.

Fortunately, there are tools which we can use to ease all of this pain, grief and trauma – but most people don’t know that they exist.


Although I’ve had twelve miscarriages, I can truthfully say that it actually feels now as if I’ve had none – and I know that that’s a very extraordinary thing to say, but it’s true. They no longer cause me any pain or regret, and I actually no longer wish that it had turned out differently – and this is why I support others.

I use two very powerful and gentle self-help techniques, to help you to change the way you feel. One of them is EFT “tapping” (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and the other is TAT (Tapas Acupressure Technique.) These two tools are very simple and effective, and you can use them on yourself, any time you want to ease the pain and to feel better than you do now.

If you would like support to feel better after a miscarriage (no matter how long ago it happened) I can help you in two different ways. I do individual sessions with people, wherever they are in the world, using Skype and Facetime. And I also have an online Miscarriage Support Program, which allows you to feel better at any time of day or night, from the comfort of your own home.

Please go to my website www.miscarriage-support.com and I invite you to download my free Guide, “9 Ways to mend your broken heart after a miscarriage”.

And if you have any questions, or would like an informal chat about how I can help you to feel happier and more peaceful after a miscarriage, please feel very free to be in touch. I would be delighted to support you.

Thank you very much for reading this, and I’m sending you love and warmest wishes,
~ Rosalind xx

 

Personal Perspective

Statistics tell us that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage – sadly the odds were higher in our experience, and I have needed help and support from wonderful friends, family and I made use of the excellent Miscarriage Association in the UK. It is something that so many people experience, and yet something that most of us still don’t feel at ease to discuss – and I have no idea how men deal with the issues (that’s a whole different post…). It is desperately sad, and while I’m happy to discuss it or answer any questions I still don’t really feel like writing about. I will always be ‘one short’ and I’m welling up right now just thinking about it…

 

I guess I do need to join Rosalind’s group!

Frugal Father’s Day
Frugal Father’s Day

How to have a Frugal Fathers Day… it can be done x

So we managed with the Mums to have some thoughtful and inexpensive ways to say I Love You – and now it’s Dads turn, you will see a theme no doubt and a few freebies as well x

Here are 5 frugal ideas for thoughtful, personal gifts:

1. Do a chore instead of them, you can do it yourself or ask a friend or even pay but think of a job that dad does which isn’t his favourite thing and give him the week off.
2. Have his favourite dinner, drink and pudding. Even if no one else likes it.
3. Use our free Winner Certificate to celebrate an important man and their contribution.
4. If you have children in the family use a free download from Mrs Mactivity to make a card or gift.
5. Arrange a meet up with their friends. Men are generally not as good at keeping in touch with friends as women, you could book a free online meeting, send a text to all go to a certain pub or café or arrange invite them over to the park. This could be a whole family event, or just a Dads Night Out – but be led but what they would prefer not by what you would normally do!

If you are going to buy a gift, consider getting something that’s meaningful or useful, or an experience rather than an item – just because it says Dad on it, doesn’t make it any of those things! Research tells us that people enjoy and feel a real benefit from activities over things… just sayin’.

You could also consider supporting an organisation that supports men? Here are a couple we particularly like…

KINGS Grooming – a wonderful new start up to create ethical and cool products as well as giving profits back to tackle men’s mental health issues. Support their crowdfunding campaign if you’re able to x
The Kick It Out Campaign – tackling all forms of discrimination in football, they have a shop of course!
The Men in Sheds Association – supporting men to find community and activity around local ‘shed’ groups. You can find a local group or set up your own with their brilliant website, you can also contribute to their work.

I can’t have a post about men and fathers without counting my blessings that my own man and father to my kids managed to make it home alive and unharmed from his time serving in the British Army, if you know a veteran or serving soldier that needs support, or would like to help those who do I can’t think of a better organisation than the Royal British Legion. There are lots of different organisations in this field now, and choose what you feel connected to but I love the way the Legion supports families x

Like all of these commercial ‘Days’, we take the attitude that it’s a good thing to have a reminder to celebrate some great people in our lives, if you know of people that might struggle on this day think of a way to support them, the easiest way is to just be open and ask if they would like to meet up or if there is anything you can do to help them manage the day.

If you would like to honour a Dad that is no longer with you there are many ways you can include them in the day, by having a picture of them up for the day, remembering their favourite joke, sharing your favourite stories and memories of them, all wearing their favourite colour or a sports shirt for their team, visiting a favourite place of theirs etc.

If the whole idea of Fathers Day is unpleasant because of a personal situation you can just ignore it all together, take yourself somewhere you are less likely to be invaded by images and adverts about dads and have some time ‘off line’. Or, you could celebrate a male role model that you do admire. You’re the boss.

Sleep Deprivation… and how to cope
Sleep Deprivation… and how to cope

There are so many ways that being a parent is tough, it’s an emotional roller coaster for a start! If you add in some fussy eating or a troubled sleeper your own health and emotional wellbeing can very quickly become fragile. When we find it hard to manage our behaviour and yell or slam doors we can add guilt to the list of things that are not going the way we expected. Our vision of parenthood can take a real knock – and on a bad day, or while awake in the early hours we wonder what on earth we were thinking starting along this road.

The really important thing to remember is that you are not alone, every parent has been at the end of their tether, and most will cross over it many times. It doesn’t make you a bad parent – it makes you a human being. Just the fact you are reading this, trying new things, willing to ask for and accept support makes you a brilliant parent.

Sleep deprivation in particular is a real and daily problem for many parents – your body will often adapt quite quickly, and you may be able to do a 2am feed without really waking up. However if you are woken by a child in distress, who may need to be changed or the bed changed, who may be having a night terror- that wakes you up in a very particular and abrupt way. When this goes on over a long period of time your body and your brain cannot adapt as easily and needs extra care to keep you functioning.

So, what do I know about it? Why should you read this? I have four children, the oldest is just 9. I yell – even with years of professional experience and teaching assertiveness my seven year old daughter can push my buttons with one sentence… I have been frustrated, and I will be again (quite possibly tonight). I also have early risers, one with night terrors and two who have regular nightmares. I also have these qualifications and experiences that allow me to come up with a strategy or new ideas to try very quickly, so my ‘moments’ are shorter and less often.

Children with night terrors are usually still asleep, and despite shouting and all sorts of other behaviour you may not be able to hold them, but will probably want to stay in the room with them until it passes – be kind to yourself and be comfortable. It is a very stressful experience, and they will go back to sleep before you do; anything that helps you to bring your emotions back into balance to allow for sleep is a good thing. You could have a trial with a journal, hand cream, foot rub, hair brush, quick tooth brush, meditation, reading, wordsearch – your bedside cabinet may look like a jumble sale for a while, but finding something that soothes you is like magic fairy dust. You may also think of ways to move your bedroom, or your child’s bedroom around to make this period as easy as possible on everyone.

I’d love to help other parents with ideas that might work for you too… here are just 5.

1. SING – this sounds so frivolous and stupid, but it really can help restore the chemical balance of your system. It doesn’t matter what you sing, with music or not, in the shower, with the kids just release some tension. You can belt out some great ballads, even have a cry – it’s all good for your emotional wellbeing. If you can join a singing group of any sort you may also get an evening out and some social contact which also help to balance periods of intensity at home.

2. EXERCISE – another essential for balancing our bodies. Most important is to aim for fresh air/outdoor activity as much as possible – this is good for you and the kids. The weather in the UK hasn’t really helped with this very much, but as much as possible try to go outside, even if it’s just a short walk or play in the garden. You could borrow an exercise DVD from the library to do with the kids watching or joining in, practice yoga, or just put the washing away and change the beds which is like a marathon in our house…

3. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART – to solve sleep problems in adults or children, you are probably going to try lots of different things, embrace all ideas and suggestions but remember to listen to your inner voice as well. What works for someone else may not feel comfortable for you, and that’s ok. When you are up at night and may feel frustrated try to use your breathing to help steady yourself, deep breaths with a count of five in between. You may also want to totally change things just to see what happens… children change every single day, so nothing you do is likely to be the same forever. Try having white noise in their room, weighted blankets, play music – whatever you try you will learn more and at least feel you are not stuck in your own private Ground Hog Day. You should also prepare for your own needs while up with children, perhaps take up a drink or snack or an electronic reader…

4. EAT WELL – one of the hardest things about our emotions being all over the place, and being tired is that our eating habits usually suffer to. Either we can’t be bothered and don’t eat at all, or are too tired for healthy home cooked options and go for crisps and cake. What your body really needs when it is having a tough time is really nourishing foods to keep it working. On a better day, or on a weekend try to do some batch cooking, so you have some food in the freezer for the week or if you have slow cooker, get in the habit of using that. Then fill up the fridge with snack foods that are good for all of you – fruit, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks etc. For easy meals chuck some potatoes in the oven for jackets, have pasta with a nice sauce – we often worry so much about what the kids eat and let our own bodies suffer.

5. TALK – one of the biggest issues with sleep problems is that in the moment you are on your own, everyone else is asleep. It can feel very lonely. Make sure you take opportunities to talk about your situation, or just to talk in general with other parents. Online groups are amazing and can offer great sources of information and like-minded people – but you also need real contact at toddler groups, other parents from school, support groups, friends, neighbours – whoever you can talk to just to feel human again. If you are up all night it can be even harder to drag yourself out and about, but that is usually when it is most vital – even having a friend over for a cuppa at your place will give you that adult human contact to put the world back into perspective. If you have someone that lives overseas, it may be that they are wide awake eating dinner when it’s 2am here, if so they can be a great resource for you x

Not everything works, or is possible, for everyone but you do need to prioritise your own health so that you can do all the things required of you to be a parent. Use your support network to help you, if you don’t have a support network then get working on creating one! It might be much more valuable for you to have a sit down and rest and don’t change the beds this week, or make the packed lunches the night before so you can have a shower in the morning?

If you are in a relationship you also need to consider the impact that disturbed sleep patterns and exhaustion might be having on you both. That’s a whole new article, for now just remember you are a team and need to feel that way about each other… We have a whole section on Relationships on our Frugal You page if you feel that would be useful – remember these days don’t last forever x

The Dating Game…
The Dating Game…

This is a tricky topic for me as I’m clearly no expert (having been with the same partner for over 20 years) and when I was dating there was no internet!! BUT I am an expert at human relationships, managing self esteem, being assertive, positive thinking and most other healthy mental exercises required to put yourself out there in the dating world. I would really value your comments so please add your pearls of wisdom and experience.

Ethical Dating

Firstly you have to meet someone, and I go on a lot about the importance of knowing and being able to express your VALUES – and when meeting new people you are much more likely to have a positive experience with an element of shared values, so looking in areas that you are more likely to find those shared values is a good place to start. If you do prefer the online route to view and read about a person before you actually meet them, there are a number of internet dating sites that profess to be attuned to ethical or environmental people – here are a few to get you going.

www.greensingles.com
www.naturalfriends.co.uk
www.ecolovers.co.uk
www.ethicalsingles.com
www.green-passions.com
www.greenlovers.co.uk

Some sensible guidelines when meeting people you don’t know for the first time: (talking for hours on the phone or texting still isn’t ‘knowing’ someone x)
  • Meet in a public place
  • Let someone you trust know where you are and agree if you will text them or they will call you to check in
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have credit to make calls
  • Make sure you have enough cash for a taxi or whatever you may need if you choose to leave
  • If meeting up in a large group, discuss the plan and make it clear you may leave if the group decision isn’t something you want to join in with
  • Of course you want to look your best, but remember that you also want to be a bit comfortable and be able to relax a little!

 

If the online thing isn’t for you, there are a number of group dating businesses that host dinner parties, days out or theatre trips where people meet in smaller groups with a shared interest. You could arrange this yourself by spending time doing the things you really enjoy and meeting people socially perhaps via volunteering? There are also holiday companies for single people and organisations like Gingerbread – who specialise in supporting single parents with finding a new partner, or just socialising at all.

Essentially, unless you fall in love with the person who delivers your post – you will need to go out and meet people to find one of them that makes your tummy go gooey.

The hardest part of the whole process is finding out if you make them feel that way too.

It may be that you need to actively put yourself in places where you are more likely to meet like minded people – but still being an honest and authentic person you will need to have  think about a creative way to do that. For example, if you love Italy, have been there many times and love the food and culture then maybe taking an Italian evening class would be a good idea? You will learn a useful skill for yourself and are likely to meet people that also love Italy – some of whom may be single… You could also look in people’s shopping baskets for ‘dinner for one’ type deals and stalk them, but that doesn’t seem as healthy…

 

We’ve created this infographic to give you some starters with the dating world, making sure that you remain open and honest – while also keeping yourself safe and sound.

 

 

Frugal Dating

Once you have agreed to meet up with someone you then have to remember your frugal values and goals. Make sure you are clear from the outset about whether you are going to ‘go Dutch’ or buy your own tickets to the cinema etc. It’s nice to be treated, but you may also want to have enough money with you that you can pay your half or the whole amount should you or they run out!

If you are on a strict budget it’s much easier to be up front about that, and offer ideas that you are happy with. Some frugal suggestions could be:

  • a picnic and walk
  • visit to a museum or gallery (especially if they are free)
  • using a Groupon or other  voucher for a meal or experience
  • Just having a drink rather than a meal – meeting at different times may help
  • finding a free local event like a fair or outdoor cinema
  • borrow a new outfit rather than buy one
  • use memberships you already have – a trip to the gym, a National Trust visit, a discount code or just a free drink in Waitrose!

 

Dating should be fun and if you do meet someone you want to see more of, that’s a very exciting time. If you are genuinely happy on your own that’s fine too. There is not just one perfect person for you, there are lots of people you could be happy with – the most important part of the whole process is that you have to be happy with yourself (mostly) first. If we don’t believe ourselves to be essential nice and loveable we will be inherently suspicious of people that profess to love us – because they must have something wrong with them! I have a video going up tomorrow all about this and will link to it from here as soon as it goes live x

Wishing you happy times ahead.

 

 

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