Cooking Up a Happy Stepfamily is like a Slow Burning Casserole – here are some great tips to help!

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

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Show notes:

In this episode:

  •  Advice To Help When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School: Teen Depression and School Refusal
  • 9 Proven Child-Rearing Tips That Can Help You Feel a Better Parent.
  • Sue Atkins in Conversation with Lulu Skantze from ‘Storytime’ one of the UK’s biggest subscription magazines for kids

Listen to the Full Interview on The Parentverse

Connect with Storytime Mag


Ways to feel a better parent

Boosting Your Child’s Self-Esteem – kids spell love T-I-M-E

Catching Kids Being Good.

Setting Limits and Being Consistent with Your Discipline.

Making Time for Your Kids.

Being a Good Role Model.

Making Communication a Priority.

Being Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style.

Showing That Your Love Is Unconditional.

Knowing Your Own Needs and Limitations as a Parent.



Why Embracing Change Is the Key to A Happier Life

Change affects every aspect of our lives.

But many of us probably aren’t as well equipped to deal with changes as we think.

Even positive changes can stimulate our stress response.

So you may be subconsciously stressing even if you feel relatively ok.

We’re still living through stressful and uncertain times

Every parent gets angry at their kids sometimes.

It doesn’t help that there are always the endless pressures of life: appointments we’re late to, things we’ve forgotten until the last moment, health and financial worries and pandemic problems – the list is endless. In the middle of that stress, enter your child, who has lost their cuddly toy or homework, or is teasing & winding up their sibling, or is downright argumentative. And we snap.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Set limits BEFORE you get angry….
  • Calm yourself down BEFORE you take action….
  • Press your Pause Button….
  • Listen to your anger, rather than acting on it….
  • Remember that “expressing” your anger to another person can reinforce and escalate it….
  • WAIT before disciplining….
  • Avoid physical force, no matter what….
  • Avoid threats….
  • Respond don’t react….

How to Tame Your Temper – Article by Sue Atkins


Practical Tips on How to RESPOND Rather Than REACT. My Pause Button Technique


Answer : 

School refusal is when children get very upset about going to school, and they won’t or can’t go.

Children might refuse to go to school because of worries about leaving home, learning difficulties, social problems or other reasons.

The best way to get children back to school is by working as a team with the school.

If school refusal is related to issues like anxiety or depression, children might need mental health support.

It’s good to acknowledge children’s feelings about school, but let them know that you expect them to go back to school.  To read my answer to this question in more detail, please visit my Podcast where I describe the signs of school refusal and tips to overcome this issue.

Signs of school refusal

If your child refuses to go to school, you might feel that school nights and mornings are a ‘battle of wills’. Your child might:

  • cry, throw tantrums, yell or scream
  • hide or lock themselves in their room
  • refuse to move
  • beg or plead not to go
  • complain of aches, pains and illness before school, which generally get better if you let your child stay at home
  • show high levels of anxiety
  • have trouble sleeping
  • threaten to hurt themselves.

Causes of school refusal

There’s rarely a single cause of school refusal. It might be linked to anxiety or worries about leaving home, a phobia, learning difficulties, social problems at school, or depression.

School refusal might start gradually or happen suddenly. It can happen at the same time as or after:

  • stressful events at home or school or with peers
  • family and peer conflict
  • starting or changing schools
  • moving home
  • bullying or teasing
  • problems with a teacher
  • poor school results.

By not going to school, a child might be able to:

  • avoid scary things – for example, tests, certain teachers, the canteen and so on
  • get out of social situations with peers or teachers
  • keep an eye on what’s happening at home – for example, if a family member or pet is ill.

Understanding your child’s school refusal

The first step to working on your child’s school refusal is trying to understand the issue from your child’s point of view. This means you can go to the school with useful information.

Identifying why your child is having trouble going to school

Talk with your child about school and why they don’t want to go. Try to find out whether your child is having problems with peers or teachers, or whether they’re trying to avoid something. For example, ‘If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?’

If your child finds it hard to talk about the problem, ask your child to rate each part of the school day – for example, the bus ride, classroom, specialist classes, teacher, peers, recess and lunch breaks. Younger children might find it easier to tell you how they feel by pointing to symbols like sad faces or smiley faces.

Think about whether there’s anything happening at home that’s making it hard for your child to leave and go to school. For example, have you had a death in the family or recently moved house? Is your child worried about someone at home, or is your dog unwell?

Finding solutions to school refusal

Help your child to problem solve any obstacles about leaving home or going to school. Clearly define the issue, then brainstorm possible solutions. Choose the option that has the best possible outcome.

Tell your child that you’re going to work together with their school to help them go to school.

Talk with your child about seeing a counsellor or psychologist if they feel they can’t manage their worries or fears about school.

Working with schools on school refusal.

The best way to get your child back to school is by working as a team with your child’s school. It’s a good idea to start by talking with your child’s classroom teacher, home-room teacher or year coordinator.

Here are some things you could cover:

Explain what’s going on for your child and why your child is refusing to go to school – for example, bullying, learning difficulties, mental health problems and so on.

If your child is experiencing bullying, talk about how this is affecting your child. You could ask the school about their strategies to manage and prevent bullying.

Ask whether other support staff, like the student welfare coordinator, school psychologist or counsellor, can help your child. Ask whether you can have regular updates on your child’s progress and support needs.

If your child has a learning difficulty that makes it hard for your child to enjoy learning, ask what support the school can offer.

If your child needs ongoing support to stay engaged in school, ask the school about forming an attendance student support group. This group can work with you to find the best ways to support your child’s attendance.

Talk with the school about a gradual start back at school for your child. For example, your child might be able to start with a shorter school day or with their favourite subjects, and build up from there.

Children have the right to learn and develop in safe and healthy school environments. If school refusal is related to school-age bullying or teenage bullying, it’s always best to work with the school on the problem.

Working on school refusal at home: practical strategies

Here are some practical things you can do at home to encourage your child to go to school.

When you’re talking to your child

Show your child that you understand. For example, you could say, ‘I can see you’re worried about going to school. I know it’s hard, but it’s good for you to go. Your teacher and I will help you’.

Use clear, calm statements that let your child know you expect them to go to school. Say ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. For example, you can say, ‘When you’re at school tomorrow…’ instead of ‘If you make it to school tomorrow…’.

Show that you believe your child can go to school by saying positive and encouraging things. For example, ‘You’re showing how brave you are by going to school’. This will build your child’s self-confidence.

Use direct statements that don’t give your child the chance to say ‘No!’ For example, ‘It’s time to get out of bed’ or ‘Jo, please get up and into the shower’.

When you’re at home with your child

Stay calm. If your child sees that you’re worried, stressed or frustrated, it can make your child’s anxiety worse.

Plan for a calm start to the day by having morning and evening routines. For example, get uniforms, lunches and school bags ready the night before, get your child to have a shower or bath in the evening, and get your child to bed at a regular time.

Make your home ‘boring’ during school hours so that you don’t accidentally reward your child for not going to school. This means little or no TV or video games and so on. You could think about not letting your child use their phone during school hours.

Get your child to do work provided by the school while at home. This will help to make sure your child doesn’t fall behind with class work.

Provide consequences that reduce the amount of attention your child gets for not going to school – for example, an early bedtime or limited time with you at night.

Getting to school

Get someone else to drop your child at school, if you can. Children often cope better with separation at home rather than at the school gate.

Praise and reward your child for going to school. For example, if your child goes regularly, they could earn bonus technology time, a special outing with a parent to their favourite park, or their favourite meal for dinner.

Your child needs your love and support to get back to school. So focus on any efforts your child makes to go back, be patient with your child’s progress, and try to keep any frustration to yourself. This will help your child build the confidence they need to get back to school regularly.

Getting professional help for school refusal

Families can get professional help to learn about managing school refusal and to sort out the problems behind it.

If your child is saying they feel sick, make an appointment with your GP to check it out.

If there are no physical reasons for your child feeling sick, your GP might refer you to a paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist.

A psychiatrist or psychologist will usually do an assessment to see whether the school refusal is linked to issues like anxiety or depression. Therapies and supports for school refusal will probably work better if your child is also getting help for anxiety or depression.

It’s a good idea to ask your child’s health professional about any strategies you can use at home to support your child’s return to school.

Your GP will probably talk with you about a mental health treatment plan for your child.



I’m working 1-2-1 with around stepfamily rows

Cooking up a happy step family is like a slow burning casserole!

The Difference is a blended family contains a stepchild, but also a child born to both parents


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Stepfamilies – Are You Finding it Tough to Blend? WEBINAR

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