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Wednesday 23 December 2020

It was the year 2020


We all know that 2020 has been a rough year. We were faced with our own mortality, took a financial knock and many of us lost people close to us due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We experienced different levels of lockdown, living and learning online and we were exposed to media sensations. We questioned our governments and some of us turned into conspiracy theorists. But as I look back on my 2020, I realized that among all the losses experienced and fears faced, I also gained new perspectives about my priorities and what is really important in my life.

The importance of connection

We teachers literally had only a couple of weeks of school to connect with the new children in our class, before lockdown came into existence and forced us to learn to connect online. I was incredibly thankful that we did have these few weeks of being together at the start of the year, as it made it much easier to maintain my connection with my little people online. But I missed the direct interaction and found adapting to this different way of connecting challenging. On the home front my hubby, our two boys and I created a new routine for us and made connecting a priority during this vulnerable time. We cherished every day, deliberately made special memories and purposefully made connecting with each other a priority.

Self-care is very personal

It might seem to just be the new craze, but there really is so much value to it. We get swallowed up by our busy lives and we forget to stop, breathe and speak kindly to ourselves. Granted, self-care can also cause more stress (which totally defeats the purpose) when we feel that we are falling short and judge ourselves or others for not making time for self-care. But I realized that self-care is a very personal act and that it will take different forms for every human being. Your self-care practices have to adapt to who you are and the life you live. Your self-care must suit your lifestyle and it must feed your needs. For some of us self-care might be a long shower or bath and for others cooking or reading. It may even be just taking a deep breath and exhaling it slowly with our eyes closed or visiting with our best friend once a week. It might be phoning your sister, playing a board game with your children or taking the dog for a walk. I realized this year that self-care is not about what activity I am doing, how frequently I get to practice it or even for how long I am doing it. For me it is about having that moment, where I can pull myself towards myself and take a conscious breath.

Polarity of change

Change is inevitable and it is not always easy. At times it can feel like a curve ball that has hit you between the eyes. I think that feeling overwhelmed by change, was a universal experience, that we all had to roll with this year and will likely continue to face next year. Dealing with such a large scale of change that impacted every facet of our professional and personal lives has been challenging. Everyone’s jobs were affected in different ways. Some of us lost our jobs, some of us created new jobs and some of us learned new skills as we were forced to adapt the way we do our jobs. We also had to change the way we interact with others and were faced with the significant changes brought about by losing loved ones. It is easy to get lost in the long list of changes we did not want and did not like this year. But I acknowledge that there has also been positive changes that helped us become far more conscious of our health and our environment. Our way of life has changed and our perceptions and level of appreciation has changed too. We might not always have control of the changes that come our way and at times they might temporarily throw us off balance. Ultimately, the only choice we have is how we respond to it and I realized how important this choice is, as our children are watching and learning from us every step of the way.

Family is priceless

My family… my tribe… my favourite people… This year reminded me of the incredible importance of family and to not take my people for granted. It reminded me to cherish them, love them and protect them. It reminded me that to be right or win an argument is really not that important. And it reminded me that making special memories with the people I love, will last me a life time.


So as I reflect on 2020, I choose to focus on what I have gained this year and hope that I will never forget to adapt, connect, cherish my family and close my eyes while exhaling.

Saturday 19 December 2020

The December gremlins

 It is December and we can finally exhale. It has been a rough year on many fronts. We are all looking forward to forgetting about this past year and relaxing from our daily routine. The entire family will likely end up eating more junk, consuming more sugar and having more screen time. We are often out and about, surrounded by more loud noise and our kids regularly experience unpredictable and unfamiliar situations. We find our kids whining, crying, talking back and acting out. It may even seem as if they are doing it especially when friends and family are around. We feel embarrassed and often react by overreacting.

It is not about you

It is important to remember that our children’s behavior is not about us as parents. It is simply their way of communicating their needs and the more extreme our children’s ‘performance’, the more desperate they are. During the holidays our children often find themselves in unfamiliar situations, they suddenly have a different or even unpredictable routine, they are surrounded by random people and eating unfamiliar food. Small children can feel extremely overwhelmed by all of this and will communicate this to us in ways that we, and others, might misunderstand and think is bad behavior.

Let go of the guilt

When this happens, especially while visiting friends or family, we might feel judged or even judge ourselves. It is important that we remember that we are human, our children are human too and we are all still learning. We need to go easy on ourselves and them and if anyone does make a judgmental comment, just smile and say: “they are still learning” and walk away.

Connect, reconnect and repeat

Our children regularly need to feel connected to us. Do not assume that just because you are home, that it counts as connection time, because during the holidays we are often surrounded by other people. Start every morning with some quiet time together. This can be cuddles in bed, breakfast together at home, exploring the garden or reading a story. The length does not necessarily matter, because it is about making that connection before the day’s activities start. Make sure to make time to reconnect during the day, even if just to talk about the day’s activities and experiences. You might be surprised how just a few minutes of reconnecting can make a huge difference in a child’s day and behavior. It is all about them feeling noticed and loved by you.

Help them anticipate your next move

Small children thrive on predictability. Yes, we can relax during the holidays, but we need to weave in some predictable routines for the benefit of our little people. Let your child know in advance what your plans are: ‘”we are going to visit granny’”, “we are going to the shops”, or “we are going to visit cousin Terry” etc. Even when our children are small, just talking about our plans, gives them a sense of what to expect and when our children know what to expect, they already feel more relaxed.

Take it easy

It is incredibly important to schedule in some downtime, especially for our young children. Our adult bodies have sensory filters, but this only develops as we get older. Most adults can have a conversation, while subconsciously cutting out all the background noise, the many colors surrounding us, the sun’s warmth on our skin, the smells of the different foods on the table in front of us and the constant movement of people walking past etc. When we are little and we are exposed to noise, movement, people, different temperatures, lights, environments etc. and our sensory filters don’t get sufficient breaks in between to digest it, we will react by crying, having a melt-down or demonstrate, what many consider as, ‘bad behavior’. If you have a busy morning planned, have a relaxing calm afternoon afterwards at home. If you had a busy day, make sure that the next day is a calm day at home. Downtime for our small children helps them to relax in their familiar environment, with their toys and their people, and it gives their sensory filters a chance to digest the over-stimulation.

This too shall pass

Our children are not small forever. They will grow up and move on. For now, let’s enjoy our kids and make special memories during the holidays. Take photos, laugh often, create your own special December traditions, remember to eat healthy in between and use this time to reconnect with yourself, your partner and your children, before the crazy rat race starts again in the new year.


Friday 11 December 2020

Our pets and the kids who get to love them


We had many different pets growing up including dogs, birds and chickens. We loved our animals and it was a great way for us to learn about responsibility, respecting all living things and the important role we play in the environment and society. Looking back, I realize that they were also very educational and helped us learn about their lifecycles from birth to death. As a parent, I wanted this same special learning experience for our children.


I believe that having pets around contributed to the development of our self-esteem, as we were responsible for these living creatures that were completely reliant on our kindness, compassion and care. We had to take care of them, fend for them and make decisions based on what we believed was the best for our animals. For example, although our dogs generally slept outside, on cold winter nights we would bring them in to sleep in the kitchen. And in preparation for winter we would fence off an area for our chickens to help keep them warm. Having pets also challenged our cognitive abilities. As we observed our pets, we developed the need to learn more, which forced us to do research and gave us the opportunity to interact with others who had similar pets. We experienced their lifecycles first hand and learned to compare this with the lifecycles of other animals. Even our social skills benefited as we shared our pets’ milestone achievements and talked about their adventures with others.

Having pets definitely also reduces stress and anxiety. As we stroke them, bath them, chat to them or take them for walks, we feel less alone and isolated with our pet companions. I have found that children find great comfort in pets and will confide in them regarding their worries, fears and needs. And I have also seen that children who are scared to talk or read in front of others, develop their confidence through practicing their oral or reading to their animals.

Decision making

There are a number of things to take into consideration before choosing a pet for your child. Do consider your child’s age and what kind of pet will be a good match for your child as well as the rest of your family unit. Parents have to commit to being involved right from the start, as you are your child’s primary role model. They will learn how to be caring and patient from watching your interactions with your pets. I recommend that you make time even before your new pet arrives, to sit down with your child, have a discussion and create a plan together that takes your child’s age and developmental level into consideration. Although you as their parent are ultimately responsible for your child’s pet, with your guidance, a lot of patience and consistent gentle reminders, your child will grow in their love for and understanding of their new pet and can gradually start taking over more of the care taking responsibilities.

Our experience

We recently adopted a bunny, who our boys have named Charlie. Charlie has made a very special connection with our youngest son. She is learning to trust him and in doing so is also teaching him the importance of trust. I watch him learning about loyalty, affection, and love as he holds Charlie and gently strokes her fur. He is clearly finding great comfort in connecting with her. We have realized that since we have had Charlie, he seems to be less emotional and more relaxed.

Having pets or other animals around evidently has healing properties. When we interact with them we are for a moment transported away from our other worries and problems, to a place where we can experience tranquility and enjoy their acceptance of us, just the way we are. Our animal friends quickly become part of our family and are our children too.


    As parents, it is always important to remember that when it comes to our children, that we NEED to be on the same team, and that we ...