Phone Girl

5 tips for staying engaged with your kids and social media this summer

Earlier last year we interviewed Joseph the Dreamer for our Courageous Parenting podcast. A creator and storyteller, he went viral on TikTok at the start of lockdown and has since spoken and helped others, particularly parents in understanding how to navigate their children engaging with an online world. He now finds himself brewing kombucha for his business whilst still creating on the side! 
I asked him to share five tips for keeping up with your kids on social media this summer. 

  1. Get yourself an account! If it’s TikTok your kids are on- sign up? Maybe it’s clubhouse or patreon. Sign up and have a play so you understand what they are dealing and connecting with- even if you delete it a few days/weeks later.

  2. Engage in conversation with your kids around TikTok (for example). I understand they might not want to, but go in curious. You could ask questions like, show me your favourite TikTokerrs- or show me some of your liked videos - this could open up all sorts of conversations. Don’t jump ahead - this is not to tell them what they shouldn’t be watching, it’s more about listening and meeting them where they are and building trust. 

  3. Take this a step further. Ask them if they make any, or ask them what they would make if they did? I’ve always wanted to be someone on social media who is influencing rather than being influenced. This could open up wider conversations on the purpose of social media. Why we’re on there, to give or to get etc. What can your child uniquely give to the platform? Before you know it you may be your child’s personal videographer. 

  4. Why not play a game with your kids. When everyone is together go onto your phones and open up settings, down the list will be a button called screen time. Once everyone has pressed it maybe you can all have a guess at whose screen time you think is the highest and for what apps. Do you know what…you may even be challenged about your own personal social media use. This could potentially lead on to a chat about family contracts (Dr Susie spoke on this in her podcast with the NPI) or leading to a challenge to put phones down on a weekend etc. But…I reckon change may start with you. 

  5. And finally, maybe it’s not even about keeping fully up to date with what they’re up to, maybe it is just showing your kids you are present and there and have some grid for what they are engaging in rather than fearing it or controlling them. It’s so easy to fear something we don’t know, ask them to help you understand it too - use it as a connection point. 

If you are genuinely worried about your kids online social media use there are lots of places that can help - Parenting for Faith have written a really helpful list.
And of course pray- pray for bold children who know who they are in God and are unashamed for His gospel. 

By Megan Landreth-Smith, NPI’s Social Media Lead


Travel Tips

10 Travel Pack Tips For Days Out 

The school summer holiday is here! The opportunity to go for the day, perhaps to the beach or the countryside, maybe to a park or to a children’s farm, lots of places that we can take our children and young people with additional needs out to for them to enjoy. But for many of us, it might have been quite a while since we planned a day out like this, so here’s a reminder of some useful things to remember! 

  1. Plan your route and check your car
It seems obvious, but it’s worth checking the route that you are going to take. Is it one you are familiar with, or is it new? If you use SatNav then check that you’ve got the correct details. Might also be worth having a good old-fashioned map with you too, just in case of signal failure etc. Is your car ready for a longer journey? When was the last time you checked the tyres, oil etc. Have you filled up with petrol?
  1. Take some cash
We rely more and more on cards and our phones to pay for things these days, but there are still lots of places that only take cash. Make sure you have what you need for car parks, ice cream vendors, swimming pool lockers, amusement arcades, or anywhere else that you might need it.
  1. Snacks
Don’t assume that you can buy something to eat while you are out. If you get stuck in a good old British traffic jam, that will be the time that someone says that they are hungry. Pack some snacks for when you might need them.
  1. Drinks
Have some drinks with you, especially if it is a hot day. You may not be able to easily access drinks where you are going, so ensure that you have enough fluids to keep you all going.
  1. Medication
Remember to take any medication that you need with you. It is always worth taking some on the trip, even if you think you will be back in plenty of time. Delays can happen, time can slip by, and suddenly you’re late for some vital medication.
  1. Blanket
Useful in lots of ways. To sit on for a picnic, to wrap around someone if they are cold, to pull over someone if they are needing to shut the world out for a bit, to use for comfort if hurt.
  1. Suncream, sun hat etc.
Even the spring sunshine can be stronger that it looks, and a cloudy day can turn hot and sunny very quickly, so being prepared with sun protection is important.
  1. Waterproofs!
And, of course, we live in a country where we can have all four seasons in a day, so hope for the best, but plan for the worst by having waterproofs at the ready just in case!
   9. Favourite travel toys

What toys can your child not do without when you are out of the house? Make sure you have it with you, to play with, as a comfort, to be a part of the day out. If it’s a soft toy or similar then you could take photo’s of the toy at various places on your trip. And make sure you know where this precious toy is at all times!
  1. Camera/phone

And while we’re thinking of taking photo’s, make sure you capture the memories from the day by taking some photos and writing down some of the things that you did together. You could even scrapbook the day out together by adding some items from your trip so that you can look back on the day again.
There are lots of other things that you could add to this list, a simple first-aid kit for example, but I hope these reminders will help you to plan for, and have, some wonderful days out in the longer, lighter, sunnier, school summer holiday days ahead!

Shared with kind permission by Mark Arnold, The Additional Needs Blogfather.  Read more from Mark here.

Summer Holidays

10 Top Tips For A Successful Summer Holiday!

Whisper it very quietly, but maybe, just maybe, it might be possible to have a holiday this year! After over two long years of restrictions, lockdowns, red-lists, cancellations and reschedules, this summer might be the one where some sense of holiday ‘normality’ returns!
So, what do we need to do to prepare our additional needs children and young people for those holidays to come, whether they are overseas, UK based, or as remains the case for some of us, a staycation; here’s 10 top tips to help:

  1. Don’t leave it to the last minute – allow processing time
While the attraction of late holiday deals can be tempting, leaving deciding whether to go and where to go until the last minute can make it really difficult for children and young people who need processing time to prepare for a significant change. Plan as far in advance as you can.
  1. Take a mental ‘journey’ though the holiday – list the likely issues
Think about everything from the packing, the travelling, where you are going to stay and sleep, the things you are going to do on holiday, the people you might have with you and the people you might meet, the food you are going eat, everything. What are the likely issues going to be for your additional needs child or young person? List them, and then start to think about how to reduce the impact of each one. For example, if food is going to be an issue, could you contact the holiday provider and request a special menu? Or could you take some favourite food items with you?
  1. Create a ‘social story’ for the holiday
A ‘social story’ is a sheet that uses photo’s, symbols and words to explain a bit about something new or complex for a child or young person with additional needs. You could create one for the holiday to outline all of the different things that your child or young person needs to know, giving them the tools to understand what the holiday will be like.
You can find out more about social stories on the Reachout ASC website here:
  1. Create a ‘visual timetable’
Put together a plan for each day, using symbols or photo’s to represent each aspect of that day for your child or young person. If possible, have a photo of them on some Velcro that they can move along the timetable as you go through the day. It will help them to know what is happening now, next, after, etc. There is an example of a visual timetable template on the Reachout ASC website above, called ‘Our Day At Home’.
  1. Take favourite things
What favourite toys or items does your child or young person use to help them to feel safe and secure? Make sure these aren’t forgotten, but pack them in your hand baggage, you don’t want them getting lost! It may be that you could introduce a new item to take on holiday, something related to the place you are going; for example, if you are heading to Cornwall, you could get a toy seal to take with you for when you visit the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek. The toy seal could be your ‘holiday mascot’ and your child could have the job of looking after it.
  1. Having a ‘dry run’ and checking out special assistance
If you are going to fly, and if the airport you are going to isn’t too far away, you could take a journey just to see it, to have a look at where everything is. Most airports have special assistance for families travelling with a child or young person with additional needs, so it would be worth exploring what can be provided. Many airlines are supportive too, but it helps to ask for assistance well in advance.
  1. Have things to do
Whether you are flying, going by train, or travelling by car, there will be long periods with nothing to do. Take a pack of activities that can be brought out to fill these gaps. Depending on your child, this could be some colouring, a book to look at, some fidget toys to use, some Lego, or something on their tablet to watch or listen to, whatever helps them fill the time and not get bored.
  1. Remember snacks, drinks, medication, essential equipment…
We usually remember important things like tickets, passport, money, phones etc. but make a list of what else you will need. Do you need to take medication with you? Have you got enough, or do you need to request a repeat prescription well in advance? Have you got some snacks and drinks for the journey; don’t rely on being able to stop somewhere on the way, you might be stuck in a huge traffic jam just at the time someone communicates that they are thirsty or hungry.
  1. Work with your child or young person, ask them
Don’t do all of these things on your own; if possible, involve your child or young person. Seek their input, what are the things that they are worried about? What do they want to have with them to help them feel safe? What resources will help them feel in control of what’s going on? The more you talk about the holiday and work together through any fears, the more likely you are to have a successful trip. It’s back to that ‘processing time’ that I mentioned in Tip 1.
  1. And finally… it’s OK to have a staycation instead!

If it all seems too daunting, too much to manage for you and your additional needs child or young person, if the complexities of trying to have a holiday somewhere else are just too great, don’t put yourselves through a nightmare, have a staycation!

Some of the tips above will still work if you are staying at home but having trips out, and you can all have a wonderful time staying local and exploring what’s on offer there. And everyone gets to sleep in their own beds each night!

Whatever you are hoping to do this summer, I hope these 10 tips will be a helpful reminder of some things that we can all do to make summer holidays a little less stressful and a little more fun. Have a great time!

Shared with kind permission by Mark Arnold, The Additional Needs Blogfather.  Read more from Mark here.

School 1
New School?

How do we help our children with change, whether that's leaving home, a new school, new house or new member of the family?Growing up inevitably involves change but sometimes we don’t find it easy to manage. Here are some ideas to help you and your child journey through a transition together, whether that’s starting work, moving schools, moving house or another change of circumstances. 

1. Prepare yourself

Even if the change or transition primarily affects the child, you need to prepare yourself that there may be some unusual or more challenging behaviour as they work through it and that can be tough on you. They might sail through it, which is wonderful but if they don’t that’s very normal too and you need to make sure you’re getting the support you need. You could try:

  • Chatting to God about how you’re doing. Whether that’s just in your head or by scribbling or typing something in a journal. If they’re off to uni or leaving home, you’ll need to make the transition of not being able to see for yourself how they’re doing. This is a great time to really pray and learn to trust God that He’s looking after them.

  • Getting some friends lined up to pray. Let them know if there are key dates that might be tricky or send a quick text if there’s a particular struggle they can pray into. If it’s your child’s first day at a new school you might want to arrange to meet up with a friend or other parents after drop off.

2. Prepare your child

Let them know in advance that it is okay to find transition difficult. Be open and start the conversation early if you can. You could create a window into your life by sharing about a transition you’ve experienced, how you felt and how you managed it. You could also use examples of friends and family or Biblical characters who experienced change. What about reading the story of Abraham moving to a different country? You could wonder together about how he felt and how he kept trusting that God was with him even when everything was unfamiliar.

Make sure they know what is going to happen. Younger children or those with additional needs might benefit from a visual timetable or pictures or steps that they can look at. For teens leaving home, you might want to decide together in advance how long you’ll stay when you drop them off or how long it’ll be before they make a trip home.

3. Reassure them of what is the same

In the midst of change, it can be really comforting to remember what isn’t changing. This can be the big things, like how much you love them and also the smaller practical details, like that someone will still always be there to collect them or that they can call home whenever they need to.

Don’t forget to share that God is with them always and that He never changes. You could listen to or learn a memory verse song or catch together and ask God to give them a picture, word or Bible verse to remind them that He’s there. For my daughter starting preschool, God showed her a picture of my parents’ cat. When we asked God why, she said it was because he went off and had amazing adventures but always came back to his safe home and grown ups afterwards. We were able to remind her of that picture when she was feeling wobbly about being away from us. 

Also, for the things that you have control over, try to keep to the usual routine as much as possible. So if school’s all new, now probably isn’t a great time to swap bedrooms and push their dinner an hour later.

4. Stay connected

Keep them connected to you, to God and to home. Whether that’s allowing them to take a comfort blanket, photo or favourite teddy in their bag, a post it in their lunchbox or a quick midday text. If they’ve left home, pop a card in the post and arrange a visit or a set time that you’ll call. Remind them that you’re there and that you care.

Give them plenty of opportunities to tell you how they’re feeling. You might need to name the feelings they don’t have words for, you could try saying something like ‘I wonder if moving up day feels a bit scary’. You can use chat and catch to help them share with God how they’re doing too. You could use prompts like:

  • Tell God what you’ll miss most about your old school.

  • Share with Him what you’re most excited and most worried about for your first day at your new school

  • Ask him for an idea of what to do if you’re feeling alone or not sure what to do

  • Ask him if there’s anyone he wants you to especially look out for

If they’re having a particularly rough day or struggling to connect with God, you can use the steps from Session 7: Prayer ministry with children to help them reconnect with Him. Don’t forget you can do this over Skype or a phone call, prayer doesn’t have to be in person.

And remember, change is inevitable… except from a vending machine! As you walk through this transition with them, you’re not only helping them with what they’re facing right now but you’re giving them tools and skills for tackling other changes and transitions that’ll happen throughout their life.

Shared with permission by Parenting for Faith



Interview... Megan Landreth-Smith

Hi Megan, thanks for joining me!  Please could you introduce yourself and your role at the NPI? 

Hello! Yes I live in the West Sussex countryside with my family. My husband Joseph and my two kids: Moses who is 18 months and Heppy who has just turned 4! I joined the NPI almost two years ago now and am the social media lead! 

When did you become a Christian?            
I was bought up in church, but it wasn’t til 18 that I had my first true encounter with God that really marked and changed me. I was on a gap year in Kenya and I realised on arriving and being alone and in a new environment that I was insecure, uncertain and had no idea who I was. I called my parents asking to get me on a return flight immediately and I remember my Mum saying ‘talk to God, it will be okay’. I remember thinking how many times I had heard that and I thought it was so empty! What could God really do? Well…that night however with nothing else to lean on and feeling completely alone, on the bottom bunk in the tea fields of Limuru in a pitch-black room, I said ‘God if you’re real, you have to do something!’. To my surprise, I heard the audible voice of God say my name. He just said ‘Megan’. I sat bolt upright in bed in complete shock as there was no one else in the house I was staying in. I could go on and on in the story, but the tone of His voice in the way He said my name was all I needed to hear. I had grown up believing God was cross with me, wagging his finger from a distance with a frown on His face.  I realised He was full of love, kind, and gentle and had been waiting for me to come back to Him. Over the next few months and years, I saw my life completely 180! I am very thankful!
What does your faith look like in your day to day as a Mum?  Have any parts of your faith become more significant since being a Mum?
Wow! Before having kids my time with Jesus looked like hours of soaking in a room with worship music on, a hot cup of tea and a locked door. 
There is definitely a lot less of that but I do believe it has evolved and deepened in ways I may not even recognise right now. 
My faith may not be as wild in expression as it had once been - I may not be travelling the lengths of the world rescuing girls from brothels like I once was, but God made it really clear to me one night when Heppy was a newborn and I was crying in a pit of sleeplessness and a healing body postpartum and asking Him ‘how on earth will I ever love the orphan again or be a missionary when I’m struggling here?’ And he clearly said to me ‘are you saying Heppy is not enough?’  
I’ve found it’s easy for us to determine what is pleasing to Him. To say he valued my time abroad more than my time here as a mother, however mundane that sometimes may seem is not true. My kids are enough, and I don’t want to miss that. And it’s my job to bring Jesus here to our home, to invite him into everything and watch them flourish.  
I would highly recommend the book ‘Domestic Monastery’- a very short and digestible book.  it made me realise that truly each and every moment with my kids is an invitation to knowing him. And it is one of the greatest places to learn the attributes of Jesus, patience, kindness, and gentleness.  
So my faith has grow I believing that He delights in us. And that family life truly is the heart of God. 
How has becoming a Mum been different or similar to what you imagined?
I had nannied a lot before I became a parent and if I’m totally honest, I thought I would have parenting DOWN! Then along came Heppy, my breastfeeding was not how I’d imagined it at all in my head and I was SO overwhelmed?! She was losing weight and choosing to exclusively pump for her I was losing who I was too. I had made motherhood harder for myself through the unhealthy expectation I had put on myself. I didn’t know about the postpartum sweats or the hormones being all over the place. But in the midst of that, I had never felt love like it. I don’t think there’s anything to sum up motherhood, it’s beautifully messy but I wish the first time I had been kinder to myself. It’s easy to want to keep up appearances but the truth is the mum sitting next to you is probably struggling with something too! 
Please could you pass on any encouragement to any new Mums out there?
Run your own race. Our worlds now exist a lot on social media platforms and levels of comparison are probably at an all-time high. In front of our faces are the mums feeding without issues, mums with devotionals open at 4am as their kid's sleep, and families laughing and playing on the beach together on a weekend.
No family is free of struggle. Keep your eyes on your family. Find out what matters for your family. You are the best person for the job. 
I know when I started out I just wanted someone to tell me I was doing a great job. I didn’t need someone to recommend another book or another product I could buy, I just needed someone to say WELL DONE! YOU ARE A GREAT MUM! So if you need that encouragement today take it! And communicate with your person or partner what you need. I heard this once and found it useful- do you need me to fix it, or do you need me to listen. And listen was often what was needed!
Thanks for sharing your story, Megan.  We love having you as part of team NPI! 

Pollard family

Building Your Family Mental Health and Wellbeing

Despair and desperation filled my mind when my 14 year old daughter, Lizzie, became very ill with Anorexia Nervosa. I had a degree in psychology, but nothing prepares you for the devastating feeling of helplessness when mental illness affects your own family.
Thankfully, over time, Lizzie journeyed through to recovery, got to medical school, and is now a happy, healthy, doctor. So, here are a few thoughts from our journey that might help you and your family.

1. Be discerning about diagnoses.
If your child develops mental ill-health, it is important to talk with your doctor who might provide a diagnosis and a pathway to treatment. But a diagnosis is not a panacea, it brings its own challenges.
Once we ‘get a diagnosis’ we may feel that it is now the responsibility of clinicians to fix the problem, just like they would if they diagnosed appendicitis or a broken leg. And so, we might expect to watch passively from the side-lines, missing the opportunity for effective Family-based Self-help.
And our child may experience their own sense of impotence, if they are labelled with a condition which they feel now defines them. Early in Lizzie’s recovery journey my wife Carol and I decided that we would never describe her as ‘an anorexic’. She was Lizzie, a unique and beautiful person. Yes, she was living through an eating disorder, but there was much more to her than just this illness, and she had a whole life ahead of her. The diagnosis was indeed helpful in providing a pathway to treatment, but it should not define her.

2. Be confident in your capacity.
Increasingly, research shows the value of Family-based Self-help for mental health, especially when family members have been equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide appropriate support. This is why Family Mental Wealth (the social enterprise we co-founded to help other families - see has published the Headway: Parent Toolkit which teaches key skills drawn from the ‘New Maudsley Method for Skill-based Caring’, developed at King’s College and the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Learning these skills was not easy for me, particularly, because I am naturally a ‘Mr Fix-it’ kind of person. But gradually I discovered how to help Lizzie overcome the illness. It was Lizzie who had the lead role, I was just a supporting actor, but I had a vital part to play.

3. Remain full of faith.
Family Mental Wealth is not a faith-based organisation. But Lizzie, Carol and I personally recognise the growing body of research into the mental health benefits of spirituality (eg Miller et al, 2003[i]). For example, regarding eating disorders, a systematic review of 22 research studies (Akrawi et al, 2015[ii]) concluded that: ‘strong and internalised religious beliefs coupled with having a secure and satisfying relationship with God were associated with lower levels of disordered eating, psychopathology and body image concern’.
Certainly, in Lizzie’s case, there were significant steps forward in her recovery journey when Carol and I helped her to see it through the eyes of her faith; to know that God loves her as she is, and can enable her to grow into the fulness of the person she can be.

4. Hang on to hope.
When Lizzie was very ill, Carol and I often felt like we were in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. But the evidence shows that ‘hope for recovery’ is a significant factor to help people, and their parents, on a journey through a mental health condition. So, how do we maintain hope when we feel despair?
For those of us who cherish the Bible, there are biblical principles that can enable us to hang on to hope. For me, I found Psalm 30 particularly powerful… ‘Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’ I wrestled with that promise in the darkest times of Lizzie’s illness. I kept asking God when that morning of rejoicing would come. But, as Lizzie gradually progressed through the recovery journey, Carol and I discovered that we should not be living for one sudden morning of complete joy. Rather there were many mornings of small joys. We learned to be thankful for each one. We celebrated each little step along the journey. And we held on to the faith that there was hope and a future.

By Nick Pollard BSc (Psych), MBPsS, FRSA.
Photo of 
Dr Elizabeth McNaught with her parents Nick and Carol Pollard

[i] Spirituality, religion, and health: an emerging research field. Miller W, Thoresen C. American Psychologist. 2003; 58: 24-35.
[ii] Religiosity, spirituality in relation to disordered eating and body image concerns: A systematic review. Akrawi D, Bartrop R, Potter U, Touyz. S. Journal of Eating Disorders. 2015; 3: 29.
Family Mental Wealth

Boy reading Bible

Exploring the Bible Together

How many times as parents have we sat down with our children to help with their homework or school project and not known the answer or how to explain it to our children? Luckily, we have the internet to help teach us to teach our children. When we are really stuck we can even watch a video that helps explain things step by step.

Why then do we do this for Maths or English but not when we have questions or feel unsure about our confidence in the Bible?  At Bible Society, we work hard to develop resources that are engaging for all families no matter where they are on their faith journey and that are also really fun to do. If we wouldn’t do them with our own families, we wouldn’t encourage you to do them with yours.

One of our newest resources, designed for the entire family to gather around and explore together, is our Good New Bible – Family Edition. We partnered with our friends at Youth for Christ and listened to children and families as they told us what they wanted to see in a Bible. Every item was designed with you and your family in mind. We also know that every family is unique, so some items may not be in the Bible but are on our resource webpage, or will be uploaded soon. You can access the resources and 26 videos by scanning the QR codes in the Bible. Within the Bible you will find hundreds of interactive elements, tips on how to read the Bible, maps, and lots of space for drawing and colouring as well as prayers for your family and questions to chat about. This is a Bible that is designed to bring you closer to God, and closer to each other as well.

The different church seasons give us all moments to reflect on Jesus and his life. We appreciate that everyone is living busy lives, and we hope that as you journey with us through Lent, Easter and Pentecost you will find resources that work for you and your family. We have Wonder Walks for getting outside and reflecting on Scripture and books to read, as well as a whole suite of fun and engaging interactions to choose from during the in-between time from Easter to Pentecost. Our colleagues in the Catholic Church have also developed a number of Easter and education resources for the God Who Speaks campaign.

Families who are looking to widen their love of the Bible can join our Rooted Juniors programme. This membership scheme is aimed at children age 7–11 and gives inspiring stories from young people around the world as well as themes to enable them to grow their Bible knowledge.

One of my colleagues has said that if Jesus needed the Bible as the Son of God, then we really need it as the people of God. Our prayer is that we can walk alongside families as they journey through the Bible. You can find out more about Bible Society and our resources on our website.
Written by Kristin Stevenson, Children and Family Development Lead at the Bible Society

multi generational holiday

My Best Advice...

We’ve asked six parents of different generations to share with us some of their best pieces of advice.  We love what they’ve written, and really hope you find some encouragement for the journey.

Baby Toys
Under 5s...

The best piece of advice I have ever been given is that 'every child is different and what I soon realised: 'every mother is different'
I'd read a number of parenting books before I had kids, and so when my first child was born and she refused to feed, I interrogated myself. What was I doing wrong? How could I make things better? Why was I failing my baby? I put an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself. I'd tried everything in the book, everything on the online forums and in the end with that piece of advice I had to surrender and accept that every child and every mother is different and while it didn't work out this time, this may not be my story for future babies. 
In parenting, there are so many opportunities for anxiety to come in, and the not good enough's and the 'you're doing it wrong.' I believe God wants a different narrative. Find what works for your family, co-sleeping or crib sleeping, bottle or breast and trust that you with the help of God know your baby best! The author of the parenting books will have experience of the babies they have looked after but NOT yours! It will be different from the next family....because guess what...God made everybody differently! 

Megan Landreth Smith is a wife, mother of two and member of the NPI team

Primary Aged... 

Some of the best advice I’ve had for parenting primary school children came from the Parenting for Faith Course. A key thing has stayed with me is to give the children windows into our own walks with God. That has meant leaving the door ajar during my quiet times and not minding if they wonder in. When we’re in the middle of things and I’m prompted to pray for something or someone, I’ll often pray out loud. I try and let them see as much as possible of what it looks like in practice to walk with God, so they see it’s a normal and natural part of everyday life.
Another piece of advice I’ve held onto is never to criticise the church in their hearing, and I think that can be extended to their school. Church and school are such important, formative environments for them, and as we talk about and celebrate what’s good about them, big up their teachers and friends, it helps them engage positively when they’re there. They spend such a huge proportion of their waking hours in those places, may they know that they are good places to be.
Ellen Hunter Smart is a vicar’s wife and mother of four in the south west and is enjoying all that that entails!



Like all good advice, it’s so often passed on from those who’ve been there before us and that’s certainly true for my husband and I when it has come to parenting our teenage kids.  Just when you think you have some sort of idea of how to parent your children, this whole new teens-phase begins which is of course exciting, but also unfamiliar territory and brings about change in them and you.  First, regardless of age, never stop encouraging your kids and calling out was in good in them, but this has new poignancy for teenagers who can so easily have struggles with self-esteem. 
Second, we were told that the teenage years are like going into orbit for your kids, but they do ‘land again’ so be patient and be there for them, ready for conversations at any time of day!
Third, as parents, you move from being the ‘controller’ of your children to a ‘consultant’ of teenagers.  To keep your young children safe and well, you have to be in control so that they don’t do things that will harm themselves.  But the dynamic changes with teenagers and we have learnt that we need to be willing to listen and consider what our kids have to say, they need to feel heard and that their opinions matter, this approach can transform your relationship with them and build for the future.

Michaela Hyde is the executive director of Marriage Foundation, presenter of The Relationship Hub on YouTube and co-presenter on the relationship show,  ‘The M Word’ on Konnect Radio.  She is married to Nick and they have two teenage children.

young adult
Young Adults...

The thing about parenting young adults – I have two children in their early twenties – is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of advice or guidance that I can grab hold of. When my children were younger I was spoilt for choice; I could consume several new theories every week. Now, we parents of young adults are on our own. It seems that the parenting gurus lose interest by the time the kids are taller than their mothers and fathers.

So, all I have to offer is my own three-pronged piece of advice, and it is this:

  • Let go,

  • Keep in touch, and

  • Pray

Prayer eases my anxieties, and for my children – they want to know that I’m there and that I care, but they don’t want me telling them what they should be eating for breakfast!

Mark Chester is the Parent Support Manager at Care for the Family 



From the day our son and daughter-in-law first announced their pregnancy, we started to get lots of advice given to us from other grandparents of varying ages. The best piece of advice we were given was only do for the first what you can maintain for the rest. This didn’t really make sense, until he was actually born. As soon as we heard the news (he was born in lockdown, so we were unable to see him until he was nearly 6 weeks old) our urge was to go and buy loads of things for him. Every time I walked past a baby clothes stand in the supermarket, I would be tempted to purchase something new. I wanted to shower him with whatever I saw. But each time, that sound advice rung in my ears. Whatever we spend on this grandchild we would need to be prepared to spend on all the subsequent grandchildren. We have four children, so the number of grandchildren could potentially grow quite large.
That same advice spreads across into his spiritual life as well. Praying for him daily is easy and can definitely be maintained for others to come. We have also resolved to take lots of photographs of all our future grandchildren at every stage. Looking back at photos of our own children, we realise we have very few of them individually as babies; lots for the oldest, but all subsequent babies are mostly with siblings. With hindsight, maybe that would have been good advice for us as parents too.  

Paula Clarke is a mum of three adults and a teenager and grandma of one toddler. She is a trained teacher and also works with children and families in her local church

Great grandparent


I pray that my great granddaughters may be nurtured with wisdom by Godly parenting to enable them to have the courage to stand firm in the Christian faith and enjoy the fullness of life that brings and the peace that passes understanding.
My daughter told me that when she came back to faith after ten years away, it was helped by our overwhelming love, whatever she had done. I believe in bringing up children in the Christian faith. God is love, how can we go wrong? 

Lyn Goodwin is a gardener, artist and great grandmother of three 

Navigating Separation or Divorce

The breakdown of a significant relationship can be one of the most difficult experiences you can face. It often comes with a succession of related losses… perhaps the loss of financial stability, the loss of a cherished family home, the loss of friends and extended family and the loss of time with your children. It’s a metaphorical category 5 hurricane hitting your life. It can be incredibly difficult to process your own feelings, deal with all the practical fall out of a breakup and work out how to parent well with your ex. BUT there is hope.

Restored Lives provides support and practical resources

You are not alone and you don’t have to struggle through without support. Restored Lives is a charity dedicated to helping people recover from relationship breakdown.

By supporting people through separation or divorce, when a relationship is beyond repair, Restored Lives helps to reduce the negative effects on individuals, children and communities. It has created resources to support anyone going through the breakup of a significant relationship including an eight-session course for adults, a five-session workshop for teenagers and young adults whose parents have separated, a book, workbooks and how-to guides.

The Adult Course

The adult course welcomes guests into small groups of people who are all facing separation or divorce. Together they explore the challenges commonly faced when a relationship breaks down, from the emotional struggles to the practical issues including parenting, legal and financial matters. Each session is a mixture of video content and small group discussion. It runs online three times a year as well as in person in various locations across the UK (see the website for details).

The course is for everyone whether you have just ended your relationship or if it ended some time ago. Restored Lives originated in HTB, a London church, and the course is based on Christian values and is usually run by Christian volunteers who have experienced divorce themselves however it is designed for all faiths and none. We are passionate to love and support everyone, regardless of their beliefs, and as a result the main course content is not religious but we run additional optional sessions that explore faith related issues as for some Christians this is a key part of their recovery.

The small groups are arranged so that parents are with other parents whose children are broadly similar ages because the challenges of parenting children when you are no longer with your ex, change as children grow older. We discuss communication skills and the issues around shared parenting, co-parenting as well as single parenting providing resources parents can use to navigate all the issues that can arise around parenting as well as giving the children’s perspective on issues.

Restored Lives has consolidated expertise from professional counsellors, family law solicitors, mediators and parenting specialists to create a course that is stuffed with practical tips that will help you navigate your separation or divorce and reduce the harm of the process as much as possible.

Here’s what one participant had to say about the course: "The best thing about the course is being connected to a group of people who were in a similar position as I am and hearing how they were handling their situation."

Restored Lives also supports teenagers and young adults.

The charity has also launched a new workshop series for teenagers and young adults called Your Direction. This has been developed in collaboration with childrens’ charity Fegans (now part of Spurgeons). In a series of 5 workshops, Your Direction provides support and life skills to make sure teenagers and young adults are supported if their parents’ relationship ends. You can watch the trailer here.
Your Direction is an ideal complement to counselling but is also helpful even when teenagers or young adults are coping well.  It is an open, non-judgmental forum where they can meet others in their peer group who are facing similar situations. It gives them skills for life including communication, managing emotions, setting healthy boundaries, coping with change and letting go.
Here’s what a recent participant has to say about Your Direction: “I feel empowered to live my own life and feel that my parent’s divorce is an event and not a defining feature of my life. I also feel equipped to set boundaries and express my feelings comfortably.”
If you would like to find out more about Your Direction or the work that Restored Lives does please visit
 Restored Lives Logo

ChristmasAdvent Activity Ideas

It feels like 5 minutes ago I wrote a list of summer activity suggestions, and now here we are with Christmas on the horizon – how?!

With cold days and dark evenings, there’s more time spent indoors and sometimes it can be difficult to think of ideas of things to do with little ones (particularly that don’t cost the earth).  

Here are some of the pooled ideas of the NPI team, do let us know what you’d add!

  • Read, watch or act out the Christmas story
  • Bake/buy and take Christmas biscuits to someone on their own
  • Donate to a Foodbank
  • Get cosy and watch a Christmas film together
  • Make ‘fat cakes’ for birds for the garden – simple recipe here:
  • Attend a Carol Service
  • Visit the local library and borrow Christmas books
  • Build a Gingerbread House
  • Go on a welly walk, bring home any interesting leaves or branches and make a picture
  • Christmas music dance party
  • Hot Chocolate and all the trimmings!
  • Go on an evening drive and look for houses dressed up in lights
  • Make mince pies
  • Make reindeer ‘food’! Recipe ideas here:
  • Homemade decorations for the tree
  • Make gingerbread and save some for a friend
  • Make homemade wrapping paper
  • Put an encouraging letter through someones door
  • Put on a homemade Christmas puppet show
  • Make a door wreath
  • Make Christmas gifts for your postal worker, milkman or refuse collectors
  • Make a den for late night Christmas stories
  • Christmas Scavenger Hunt (Hide pictures of something festive all around the house/garden and encourage the kids to track them down)
  • Christmas carols over Zoom with family or friends
  • Late night walk with torches
  • Build a nativity scene out of Lego
  • Hide Christmas jumpers around your home - see who can find theirs the quickest!
  • Christmas PJs and making cinnamon rolls for Jesus’ birthday (an every year tradition for a member of our team!)
  • CELEBRATE… Happy Birthday Jesus!
By Kayte Potter, NPI Team



Compassion 1

Parenting, Poverty and Progress:
A Free Family Discipleship Resource 

If you’re a parent, caregiver, grandparent, children’s worker, or you play some part in teaching or raising children, you’ve probably found yourself thinking, ‘how can I raise children to care about the world around them?’  
We know God calls us to love our neighbour but may struggle to work out what that means in practice. So, how can we encourage our children to live out their faith and make a positive difference in the world?
That’s why Compassion UK has developed some free resources; a short video series, a five-part Bible study, and a children’s activity book, to help you talk to your children about big issues such as poverty and caring for the world around them. Each of the resources is explained below.
Parenting, poverty and progress - A Short video series
This short video series was produced in partnership with Care for The Family and St Luke’s Maidstone. In this series of 10-minute discussions, we explore five key themes connected with raising children to love their neighbour – how to create a place of love and belonging; how to make prayer and worship a natural part of family life; how can we help our children connect with their church community; how to be real about compassion; and how we can be intentional about justice.
The Compassion Collective
The Compassion Collective – produced by Compassion UK – is a set of five Bible studies for individuals, families, groups, and churches that attempt to address these questions and provide ways people can put what they’ve studied into practice.
Looking at the concept of justice, love, compassion, worship, and the church’s response, the series delves into scripture to reveal God’s mercy to His broken world. The author, Tim Robertson, reflects on God’s character, how we should respond to issues of injustice and looks at what God is already doing and how we can join in.
Compassion Explorers - A Children’s Activity Book For 5 to 11-year Olds 
Compassion Explorers is an adventure-packed activity book for 5 to 11-year-olds offering a whistle-stop tour of God’s beautiful creation, exploring what He has to say about big issues like poverty and love. Full of activities and crafts, it’s a fun and engaging way for children to discover more about the world around them.
About Compassion
Compassion is a leading Christian children’s charity working to release children from extreme poverty in Jesus’ name.  
At the heart of their ministry is a relentless passion to act with compassion and empower every child left vulnerable by poverty. Their approach to fighting poverty is highly focused and personal. Since 1952, they’ve been giving children the opportunity to escape the suffering and fear that poverty brings through their one-to-one child sponsorship model.
Compassion partners with the local church to care for children living in extreme poverty in their community. The local church knows local needs, they know how difficult their mission field can be, and they’re not going anywhere.
Where to go from here?
If you’d like more information about The Compassion Collective, or to find out more about sponsorship, please visit or call their friendly staff on 01932 836490. They’d love to hear from you and pray with you. You can also learn more about Compassion’s work through their regular monthly updates by subscribing to Compassion UK’s Prayer and Stories email here:
Written by Liz Boalch, Content Manager at Compassion

Imagination creativity
Faith & Imagination


Close your eyes, imagine a busy lunchtime club in a primary school, children giggling and chatting, decorating hearts and treasure boxes, exploring gems and beads, sharing what Jesus has just been showing them:

  • I saw Jesusheart was beating for me. I felt happy. Thats the first time I’ve heard Him!

  • I said to Jesus “Take this worry and it’ll be gone for ever.” He took it away. God came and held my hand and said “Whatever worry you have give it to me.” I really felt His hand…

These children were buzzing with excitement, they’d just experienced an Adventure Time: a prayer tool that helped them meet with Jesus using their imaginations.  A whole new way of engaging with Jesus was opening up to them, many for the very first time, and it was easy and fun and full of love and friendship. Full of who God is!

Jesus is with us in the busy moments of everyday family life. He is with our children when they are at school, He is with our pre-schoolers and babies as they play and explore, He is with us all the time…

The Godhead is endlessly creative in the ways He engages with us and our families. He is full of joy and delight in us, His children.

And He has made us to be like Him:
Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
He made us in His image to meet with Him in various ways, the imagination being one such way.  Our imaginations are a gift from the creator.
Creativity and imagination go hand in hand…
We can use our imaginations for good; for example by being creative, believing Gods truth and dwelling on good things.  Or we can use them for bad; for example by worrying about the future negatively or imagining awful things happening.
I believe God wants to sanctify our imagination; for it to be renewed and restored to be used for His glory and our benefit: God is super serious about what we think about and dwell on in our imagination, especially thinking about and engaging with Him!
Ephesians 4:23 (NLT)
Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
Romans 8:6 (NLT)
Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
We want the children in our lives to know God’s life and peace, to be confident, empowered and equipped by Him, to learn how to dwell on Him in their minds and imaginations.
Let’s help them use their God given imagination and creativity for good.
Ways to get started:
Start where your child is at - what do they like to do, what is their favourite thing to play with, what draws their attention, what do they talk about?
Anything can be a starting point, as God is in the everyday: a walk in the woods, a story, playing with cars and diggers, putting out the bins, a drive in the car, a favourite movie…
Listen to them, what are they saying, noticing, experiencing, and get pulled into their world of being easily awed and their endless wonderings.
And whilst you do this listen to Holy Spirit too, what is He highlighting, what is He wanting you to engage with, or learn about or just rest in?
Seek to create an environment of learning together, being humble and present and having lots of fun.
Get ready for your heart to expand with God’s love and revelation as you play with God and your child.
An idea to get you started!
Make a joyful noise Encounter Fun activity:
Psalm 100:1-2 (NCV) Shout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before him with singing.

  • Find some musical instruments, grab a pan and wooden spoon, or create your own with pasta/rice/oats in a yogurt pot/plastic bottle!

  • Explore the different noises you can create together such as shake, bang, tap?

  • Show your younger child how to play quickly and slowly, loudly and quietly and see if they can copy you.

  • Challenge your older child to create a rhythm for you to copy.

  • Say Lets praise Jesus together with our instruments. We can make a happy noise to say we love God and thank Him for loving us. Have fun making a joyful noise to Jesus together.

  • Why not shout out different things to praise Him: “Father God, You are good”, “Jesus, we love You!”, “Holy Spirit, thank You!”

  • Regularly launch into a 'family praise time' during your week to express your love and worship to God until it becomes a cherished part of your life!

Adventures with JesusSarah Cornthwaite is passionate about children knowing Jesus for themselves.  She is the founder of Adventures With Jesus and has a huge range of resources and tools for helping children to explore faith on her website, as well as on her Instagram page.  You can subscribe to receive her inspiring emails here.   Sarah also works within the Children’s Ministry at Vinelife Church, Manchester. She is married with three children. She loves running, gardening and baking brownies!





Witch costumes, sculpted pumpkins and trick or treating.  Yes, Hallowe'en is on the horizon... If you are a parent, carer or children's worker wondering about how/whether to mark it, then we've put a few links below to Christian resources on all things Hallowe'en - we really hope it's useful.

Halloween - How do we do Halloween well? Hear lots of stories from families about how they parent for faith at Halloween as well as articles helping us think this season through.  Resources from Parenting for Faith

Messy Church - Holy Halloween -  A practical plan for having fun as a family ... exploring the scariness and safe-home-ness of Psalm 23.

GodVenture - Alternative pumpkin carving and reflections.

Christians and Halloween - Thoughts, reflections and ideas from Lucy at Hope Filled Family.




Me?  Teach my kids the Bible? 

I dislike football.

As a teen, I had no idea what classmates were talking about on a Monday morning when discussing the matches of the weekend. I never saw the appeal of kicking a ball around at picnics or social gatherings. And that miserable party-pooper at University who turned down multiple invitations to go and watch football at the pub?

Yup, guilty as charged.

Because God has the most incredible sense of humour, He gifted me a son who is football-mad.  And when I say “football-mad”, I mean that he was kicking a soft ball with his knees as early as four months, sat in the baby bouncer.  We have footage of him scoring an amazing drop-kick past his dad, a few weeks off his 2nd birthday.  Football has dominated his life and his break-times as long as he can remember.

These days, at the ripe old age of 12, he has plenty of outlets for playing football: at school with friends, at home with siblings, after church with the random assortment of people that an after-church kickaround usually attracts.

But do you know what?

Sometimes I play with him. Yes, really.

Sometimes I listen to him chat about players, transfers, injuries and referee decisions. I ask questions and try to understand more.  Sometimes I watch matches with him (OK, the Euros were pretty good, I’ll grant you that).  And sometimes (hang tight, this surely deserves some kind of parenting accolade) I even let him talk me through his Match Attax cards.

What has happened in the last twelve years? Who have I become?  I certainly haven’t become a football expert.

What’s happened is that I’ve fallen crazy in love with my son.  I want to enjoy life with him, and because football is such a big part of his life, I can’t connect with him unless I make some attempt to connect with the football he adores.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t know very much about it. It doesn’t matter that the only area in which my football knowledge surpasses his is in the area of football anthems (“Three Lions” and “Vindaloo” both being chart hits of my adolescence).  What matters is that we do it together.

I honestly don’t think that teaching our kids the Bible is much different. It doesn’t rely on our knowledge, just our love for our children and our willingness to get alongside them in something hugely relevant to their lives (and ours). But somehow, the very thought scares us off.

We believe we don’t know enough about the Bible.  We worry that we’re too young in our own faith.  We expect we won’t have “the answers” (whatever that means).  We wonder whether this kind of thing is best left to the professionals: church pastors, children’s workers, camp leaders.

The truth is, the best person to teach your child the Bible is you. Yes, you – with all your unanswered questions, rarely-read Bible books and limited understanding. You are the one your child trusts the most, the one who sees them at their best and worst, the one who loves them unconditionally, the one they’re watching to see faith in action.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 says:

Impress [God’s commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The Israelites, to whom this passage was written, would have had ‘formal’ occasions to learn about God just like our children do in church. And praise God for all the amazing people who invest in our children on a Sunday.  But Moses is saying that that’s not enough! God’s Word is not just to be heard in a weekly church service or youth group. It needs to be chatted through, thought about, mulled over, discussed, questioned, tested.

A modern paraphrase of that passage might go something like this:

“Impress God’s Word on your children. Talk about it when you’re chilling at home, and when you’re on the school run. When you’re going to sleep and first thing in the morning. Write it out, hold it, wear it. Display Scripture around your home; surround your family with it.”

We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to read huge long chunks. And – you’ll be pleased to hear – we don’t need to start with Deuteronomy.

There are some brilliant resources to help – I have a helpful run-down of over 20 of the best Bibles for children and youth on my blog, as well as lists of children’s devotional resources and some great resources for family devotions too.

But you could just open up your Bible, read a couple of verses from a gospel, then ask your kids what they thought.  Just like I’ll go and have a kick around with my son, even though I have no idea what I’m doing, teaching our kids the Bible is about being willing, getting involved, learning from our kids and sharing what God has taught us.

Try it!

Lucy Rycroft is the founder of The Hope-Filled Family, a resource to equip Christian parents and adopters. You can connect with her on Instagram, where she’s currently sharing encouragements to #teachyourkidsthebible. Lucy lives in York with her vicar husband Al and their four kids, and is the author of Redeeming Advent and Deborah and Jael.



Baby Toys

Parenting Sermon Notes

One of the great joys of my life is being a father and a grandfather. So often it feels like we only get the hang of parenting by the time our children have left home, and it is certainly true that grandchildren make adults out of the parents and children out of the grandparents!

Here are four principles I have learnt through being a father and a grandfather.
  1. Commitment.  God’s example of commitment to us, his children, should be our example.  As God has shown covenant love to you and me, so we need to show commitment to our children.
    2. Compassion.  God’s love means that he wants the best for us.  We need to seek to be             those who love our children with a similar compassion.
        A compassion that wants the best for them.
        A compassion that wants to give them roots and wings.
  1. Care.  Out children don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.  We are to provide a social, psychological, and spiritual framework in which our children can grow. 
        Children spell love T.I.M.E. Should we give our children quality time or quantity time?
        The answer is: quality quantity time.
  1. Cost.  The parable of the prodigal is a lesson in parenting.  We must always be prepared to let our children go, but equally, we must always be ready to welcome them back, whatever the cost. 
        If your children are prodigals, keep your house open with hope.

        Written by Canon J John, who can be found at @canonjjohn and

Coffee Cake
Parenting Course - Why Bother?

The longer I work for the NPI, the more I see a hesitation around parenting courses – both running one (will anyone commit to it when life’s so busy?) as well as attending (why would I go on a parenting course!?)

While I can appreciate that the format of a traditional course might not suit everyone, and that there are many places to find good parenting tips and advice - extended family, books and podcasts to name but three, there are some great reasons to attend a parenting course and here are just a few we’ve come up with:

  1.  Chat.  Coffee.  Cake.  Repeat. Since starting work here, I’ve yet to come across an in-person parenting course that doesn’t feature a cuppa and cake.  Isn’t the table central to the ebb and flow of life?  When people gather around food and kind hospitality, conversation happens, connections are made and in time, trust grows.  An in-person parenting course invites conversation, questions and discussion and when this is centred around a particular aspect of parenting, it allows people the opportunity to grow, consider and reflect in a safe environment.
  1. Get specific.  Did you know that there are some parenting courses focused on particular areas?  For example, ADHD, ASD or handling anger in the family.  Some churches even run one off sessions on specific topics.  Hearing from trained facilitators and meeting with other parents facing the same issues can be both encouraging and empowering.
  1. One thing.  Obviously, parenting courses aren’t a magic wand to wave over your relationship with your child, but what if along the way you learn one thing that helps improve a tricky dynamic or a difficult issue?  Whether it be from something another parent says in passing (happened to me) or a PowerPoint slide from a facilitator, couldn’t we all do with a little help?
  1. Why not?  As the old adage goes, knowledge is power.  Just as we might attend a course to learn any new skill, how much more so when we find ourselves responsible for nurturing young life?  Often course facilitators are further on in the journey and have the skills and experience to impart wise teaching for the years ahead.  I guess what I’m saying is, well, why not?
  1. Research.  Back in 2019 a study by Kings College London concluded that there was a case for “considerable investment” in parenting programmes.  Prof Stephen Scott from Kings told BBC News that, "Parenting classes should be offered on a much larger scale, recognising that the quality of parent-child relationship is not just about individual psychological wellbeing but also has greater social and financial implications."*  Perhaps attending a course could be impactful for your family not just in the present, but could build a great foundation for the future too.


Summer Nature
Summer Ideas

Well, the holidays are here (along with the sun!  For now, at least…) and with them an easing of restrictions.  We know that the prospect of the long stretch of the summer holiday can be overwhelming, so we’ve listed 24 simple (and mostly free) ideas for spending time as a family this summer break.  So, without further ado…

  1. Hold a water fight in the garden
  2. Organise a board game contest
  3. Host a family Olympics
  4. Plan a shopping challenge, e.g. See what you can make for dinner with £5.
  5. Explore a local woodland – play games, climb trees and take hot chocolate in a flask
  6. Go paddling in the sea
  7. Have a sleepover in the lounge
  8. Camp in the garden
  9. Go on a nature scavenger hunt (for more ideas on the great outdoors, The Woodland Trust is a great resource)
  10. Organise a face painting extravaganza
  11. Plan a bike/scooter ride
  12. Have a picnic
  13. Make ice cream sundaes
  14. Get creative with pavement chalking
  15. Go on a late-night family walk.
  16. Have a family film night
  17. Organise a kite flying contest
  18. Splash in the paddling pool
  19. Pick some summer reading books at the library
  20. Visit all your local parks and rank them
  21. Send postcards from home
  22. Make your own pizzas
  23. Play with a frisbee
  24. Visit GodVenture for some faith-based summer activity ideas

We hope these ideas have provided some inspiration – you can find lots more here, on the Care for the Family website.

We know that for many parents, between the childcare and work juggle, there isn’t much rest time during the holidays.  Fegans have some great resources on self care, which are worth exploring for some inspiration on this important area of wellbeing.  If you are in a couple, why not take a look at these summertime date ideas from Care for the Family, which are inexpensive and sure to create memories.

We hope you have a happy and peaceful summer!




I don't know what I'm doing

By Annie Willmot of Honest Conversation  

Before I became a mum I had all these visions of transitioning seamlessly into the role. I imagined myself responding to my son’s gentle cries, settling him into his basket for the night, and just generally glowing as I went about my days, drinking hot cups of tea and enjoying his peaceful gurgling.

In reality, it was a little less smooth than that. And when I say ‘less smooth’, I mean rather than the gentle cruise I had perhaps pictured it was a bit more like trying to cycle down a cobbled street while wearing flip-flops and trying to carry a very full bag of shopping.

You can read all the books (there are a lot), browse all the internet forums, and be given all the advice but ultimately nothing will ever fully prepare you for the moment you’re left alone with your new tiny human. I vividly remember walking across the hospital carpark with our eldest son wondering, ‘Why on earth have they let us take him? No one has checked whether we’re equipped or qualified for this!’

Parenthood is wonderful and it is hard. You will feel both full of joy and completely and utterly exhausted all in the very same moment. And not matter how much you think you’ve prepared yourself, you won’t always have all the answers. Just when you think you’ve sussed one challenge there’s a new one thrown at you. One day something works, the next it doesn’t. 

I am someone who always struggled with the unknown. I like to know the right answer. I like to be in control. It’s not always possible to do that with parenting. I have so may unanswered questions everyday:

  • Why are they crying?
  • Is he actually scared or does he just not want to go to bed?
  • Would it have been better if I’d chosen a different nursery/school?
  • Did I even brush my teeth today?

The weight of unanswerable questions can be paralysing, preventing me from confidently moving forward for fear of not having the right answer. 
And I think the thing that makes it even harder is that it looks like everyone else has got all the answers. On social media we scroll through beautiful photos of other mum’s tidy houses and well-presented children. At toddler groups or church we sit amongst friends and hear how their babies are sleeping through or absolutely loving solid food. And older friends and relatives, clearly thinking we’re doing something wrong, tell us how they used do it ‘in their day’.
A few months after Id had my first baby, I was chatting with a friend who was also a new mum. I asked her, How are you finding it?’ She paused before replying, Can I be honest? Im not enjoying it.’ 
She was struggling. She loved her child but was finding being a mum hard and wondered whether it was allowed to feel this way. When she had tried to talk to her health visitor, rather than receive support or understanding, shed received unhelpful criticism that made her feel judged. Shed been made to feel that she should be loving every moment – or at least acting like it. 
When we choose not to pretend that everything is fine but instead say, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’, or ‘I’m really not having a good day’ it creates space for others to do the same. Our vulnerability allows others to join us in open, honest and vulnerable conversation.
Sometimes we can feel that talking about the hard bits of parenthood some how takes away from the good bits. As if by saying we’re having a bad day that we’re somehow discounting all the good days. But those things can exist together. And it’s good to talk about it all. Every last grubby, sticky and chaotic detail.
We will never have all the answers and there is so much power in acknowledging that. When we do we allow others to do the same and we’re able to build deeper connection and community with one another. 

What would it look like today if you chose to be completely and utterly honest about parenthood with your friends, your family, with God? 

Annie Willmot is passionate about community and connection. She is mum to two boys, and works as a funeral pastor, writer, speaker and for a local charity. She has written a book about parenting called Cold Cups of Tea and Hiding in the Loo and blogs over at



Parenting & Faith

I wonder what you thought you’d need to be a parent? I recently went to choose a gift for a new baby and was overwhelmed by the vast array of things you can buy for an expectant parent. Whilst many of these are beautiful or useful, they aren’t really what new parents need most.
Most of us learned the hard way. You need patience, coffee and… whatever your child demands of you at a given time.
Our children expect that we’ll have whatever they need, don’t they? Whether that’s a plaster for a scraped knee, a song to lull them to sleep or a repair plan for the toy they’ve just broken. They just assume we’ll know how to be a medic, a sports coach, a tutor, a taxi driver and of course a master negotiator.
Whether we feel confident in those areas or not, bit by bit, we figure it out. We get a bag and fill it with snacks and spare clothes. We google how to do the maths homework so we can help them. We teach them to talk, walk, share and problem-solve. We cheer them on for each tiny bit of progress and cuddle and listen to them when it’s tough. As parents, we learn to coach our children to help them thrive in so many different areas of their life.
But then for some reason, when it gets to the ‘spiritual stuff’, when it gets to God, we’re flummoxed. For most of us with a faith, we’d say we want to give our children the opportunity to get to know God in the way that we do. But, actually helping them to do that can feel difficult. Sometimes we don’t know where to start or what to say. Other times we worry about getting it wrong so end up not doing anything. Many of us feel we are so busy, with the treadmill of the rest of life, that it gets squeezed out.
And so that’s why Parenting for Faith exist. We’re here to resource and equip you to help your kids and teens meet and know God in the midst of the mundane, everyday bits of parenthood. You are in the best position to show your children what a life with God looks like. Not because you have it all figured out, but because you are with them through the ups and downs of a normal day. You also know your child, your family and your situation better than anyone else.
At the heart of our free resources, are five key tools. They give you confidence and skills to help and support your child as they grow in faith. They don’t need any extra time, a craft cupboard or a theology degree, so can you can use them any time, anywhere. In fact, they're perfect for when you're being the medic, sports coach,  tutor, taxi driver or negotiator.
To discover all our free resources including the Parenting for Faith course, the key tools, a podcast and hundreds of articles and videos, go to

By Anna Hawken, National Parenting for Faith Coordinator



Supporting Additional Needs Families

The road to acceptance can be a long one for families of children with additional/special needs or disabilities. Some can reach it more quickly than others, some struggle to get there at all. There are many stops along the way where parents and other family members can get ‘stuck’.

To help us understand a little of what these families can experience, as well as maybe how we can help, here’s a quick guide to ‘the road to acceptance’ written from my own experience as an additional needs parent. Everyone’s experience is different, just as all of our children are different, but perhaps my family’s story will give you enough of an insight into our world to help you to help others…
Pre-diagnosis – worry
Is there something wrong? Those nagging doubts that families start to get; are they just being paranoid? What might be wrong? Is it serious? How do they find out? Who do they ask? Are they really ready to know? Secretly, are they avoiding this? Eventually, they ask, or someone else asks, and they start to find out… and it can often take ages!
In our case, we noticed that James was not developing as fast as his older sister, Phoebe, had. At first, we put it down to boys not always developing at the same speed as girls. Then we had some hearing tests done (which James initially failed spectacularly… until we realised he had an ear infection at the time!) Bit by bit things got ruled out until we finally got a diagnosis.

Make comparisons with other children.  Make negative comment about their child's development.  Criticise their parenting.  Make unqualified 'diagnoses'.

Say encouraging things about what their child can do.  If tests or medical appointments are arranged, offer support if appropriate to do so.  Be willing to listen to their concerns.


Diagnosis – shock
What does this mean? They may not understand… so many questions… how did this happen? Was this their fault… are they to blame… did they do something wrong? Why did this happen… why them… why not somebody else?
Suddenly they are faced with the loss of the future plans and dreams they had for their child, for their family, for themselves… it all lies in tatters… it can be devastating. They grieve for what is lost.
When we received James’ diagnosis, he was only 2½ years old. It was a hammer blow to us all as we tried to understand what we had just been told; that James is Autistic and has Learning Disability (he has since added Epilepsy to his collection). Looking back now, we realise that we were experiencing grief.
Parents of children with additional/special needs or disabilities will experience this grief too, going through the various stages, maybe getting stuck at one of them (‘denial’ for example). Sometimes, just when they think they have made it to ‘acceptance’, something happens that spins them back to the beginning all over again. It’s like a perverse, never-ending, game of ‘snakes and ladders’.

Say that they must be 'special' parents to receive a 'special' child.  Blame the family for their child's disability.  Compare their child to someone else's you know.  Avoid them.
Offer practical help e.g. meals.  Sometimes there are no words, but just being there can be a huge help.  Introduce them to other families at church who have children with a similar diagnosis. 

Five stages of grief
Denial/isolation – overwhelming emotions, inability to control them, fight or flight instinct kicks in… denial of the situation, blocking it out, hiding from it and hoping it just goes away.
Anger – reality and the pain of the diagnosis breaks through their denial; it can burn deep and cause them to lash out at those trying to help. It can be terribly destructive and can and does cause relationships to fail… 56% of families with a disabled child have major or significant relationship difficulties or breakups.
Bargaining - “If only we had…” trying to rationalise it, trying to regain some control of the helplessness and vulnerability they feel. If they have a faith, they might try doing a deal with God “If you make this go away I’ll…” trying anything to protect themselves from the painful reality.
Depression – sadness and regret about the lost dreams, a deep sense of mourning for what is lost… coupled with a gradual and profound realisation that this isn’t going away.
Acceptance – not a gift received by everyone. It’s not about being brave, but a gradual sense of understanding the emotions that they are going through, of the changes that the diagnosis will bring for them, for their child, for the rest of the family, and a growing desire to move forward and make the best of things. Things will be different, but they can still be OK… They are ready to embrace not what might have been… but what is…

Say they are 'brave', or an 'inspiration' (they won't feel like it).  Tell them to move on or 'pull themselves together' (they can't).  Try to answer their questions about why God has let their child be disabled (we don't know).

Be there for them.  Listen to what they have to say.  Pray for/with them for God's presence to be with them.  Cry with them and let them know that God cried with them too.  Give them information about Care for the Family's befriending service, which links families to others nearby who are on a similar journey, as well as information about the 'Additional Needs Alliance' Facebook group and other similar support networks we might know.

What else can we do?
I have found ‘Welcome to Holland’, the story by Emily Perl Kingsley, a real help and have often passed it on to other families as well as children’s and youth workers. Families have experienced a change of destination; they have ended up somewhere they didn’t expect or initially want to go… how will they respond? How will it affect them?
Will they let this diagnosis be a negative drain on their lives? Stuck at ‘Denial’? ‘Anger’? ‘Bargaining’? ‘Depression’? So many are still there… where are the families that you are alongside? Or will they be able to use this diagnosis as a positive turning point for their lives? Having reached ‘Acceptance’, embracing what is, rather than what might have been, and if so to think about what they are going to do. How will this define them, and how can we support them going forward.
Encourage them that they do not go through this alone; we are with them and God stands with us. As he said to Joshua, he says to us Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6. And as he says to all of us; “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
So, let’s all go on the journey to discover that hope and future together shall we?

Mark Arnold (The Additional Needs Blogfather) is the Additional Needs Ministry Director for Urban Saints’, Co-Founder of the ‘Additional Needs Alliance’, contributor to a range of publications, and dad to James a 17 year-old Autistic, with Epilepsy and Learning Disability.  



Helping our children to navigate friendships after such a long time apart

2020 has presented many challenges for everyone including our children. Spending over five months in some form of lockdown, away from family and friends, has been really difficult.

In the first few days and weeks we tried to plan video calls with friends. But I quickly realised that my two boys aged 7 and 9 didn’t spend a whole lot of time really ‘talking’ with friends without the interaction of running around or playing games. Until that point, so much of their friendship and interaction was based on play or the activities they were doing together, and that was much more difficult to do through a screen, so those calls soon dropped off. Many of our children spent a long time without seeing their friends or having play dates.

Then with school restarting they are suddenly back with a lot of children for much of the day and are having to navigate different relationships again. Some kids will have slipped right back into friendships easily, going full steam ahead. However, there will be those who are finding it hard and we want to help all our children through this time of change. To be honest, I’ve had to remind myself of the important principles to adopt when interacting with others as well!

There are a few things we’ve found useful:

  • Help our children to listen
Sad to admit, but with so much time together at home through lockdown, we slipped into bad communication habits. We didn’t speak to one another quite as well as we normally would, especially when we were all trying to work, have Zoom calls and homeschool at the same time. A lot of the time we talked over one another and didn’t listen. If you take that into a friendship, it often won’t work out well! We’ve been reminding each other, and our children, about the importance of listening to others, hearing what they are saying and being interested in what is important to them.
  • Help them to care about others
My children have not had to think about others quite as much in lockdown. Going back to playing with other kids who don’t want to play the same game as them or who want to talk about something different has been quite a challenge. They are having to re-learn the importance of valuing others and their opinions, likes and dislikes.
  • Find alternatives to help cultivate friendships outside of school

Where we used to arrange playdates and have someone round for tea after school, we might need to think outside the box to help our kids spend time with friends away from the school environment. Are there activities they could do while on a Zoom call together? Or can we plan a socially distanced outdoor walk in the woods? It might take some effort and intention, but this could really help them to bond with others again.

Finally, there is a great opportunity to help our children remember that their Heavenly Father is with them always and they can talk to him when they are finding life tough. He can help them when they fall out with friends, feel frustrated or need extra patience.

Our children are incredible and we can help them grow in their relationships and develop skills for life.

Becky Denharder is Project Manager at Kitchen Table Project.  To find out more about Kitchen Table Project and to find inspiration for encouraging faith at home, visit their website here



Parenthood & Self-Care

As we look to the remainder of the year and ongoing restrictions and limitations, it continues to be unclear what life will look like a few months from now.  With schools now returned, but with bubbles and distancing in place, and the possibility of whole classes being sent home, for parents, walking through the uncertainty can feel overwhelming. And this is without potentially simultaneously navigating; redundancy, co-parenting, vulnerable health, a demanding career…

Maybe you’ve seen some of the blog posts and resources we’ve been sharing on social media and here on our website, but perhaps – if you’re a parent like me, – you’ve also felt inundated with articles and information over the past few months on a whole range of topics, to name a few; how to homeschool, top tips on working from home, how to survive video conferencing, doing church at home, the list goes on…

While this undoubtedly all has its place and use, as restrictions continue, I wonder how, as parents, we can best care for ourselves during this time. 

I was interested recently to hear someone reflect that when an airplane is experiencing turbulence, passengers look instinctively to the flight attendant for reassurance, and how similarly, in times of difficulty and stress, children look to parents to gauge the ‘temperature’ of the situation. 

While there is great privilege in setting an atmosphere in our homes, it isn’t always easy, and is near impossible to sustain without authenticity, just like there is only so long a flight attendant can fake a reassuring smile before leaving passengers unconvinced. 

For anything we would wish to model for our children, for it to be authentic for them, it needs to be authentic for us.  For example, do I feel self-acceptance or is it easier to just talk about it?

According to an article on self-love and acceptance on the Fegans website, “Self-neglect seems to be among the few universal trappings of modern-day living. But the foundation of a strong relationship begins with self-love.”

I wonder how self-love and acceptance feels for you at this time? 

If it feels like a struggle, I hope these final words from the Fegans article encourage you to begin the journey to self-care:

“When you feel good about who you are and you feel worthy, you naturally take better care of yourself and self-nurturing is the biggest part of self-care.  Take a close look at how you’re living. Are you taking time for the things that bring you joy? Are you eating and moving and feeling healthy and energetic? Are you sleeping enough?  If not, it’s time to make some serious life changes.  Finally, repeat the following statement out loud: “I am enough. I have enough. I am worthy.”
Kayte Potter is a part-time Administrator at the NPI, and a mother of three. 

Talking to kids about race and protesting

Talking about race with your children may feel strange or daunting or perhaps you’ve just never thought about it. Or maybe you talk about it all the time!
If we hope to build an anti racist, not just a passive, society we have a responsibility to begin with our own minds and those of our offspring.  In the early years it’s a great  idea to focus on simply modelling love, tolerance and a desire to understand others. Children are naturally curious, they will observe difference and may say things like “that man has brown skin”, our responses to these questions and observations should be open and age appropriately informative without any judgement or (subconscious) bias.
This challenges us to evaluate our own perceptions of others and to face and eradicate any bias, prejudice or discrimination we find within ourselves. We all have some.
As our children grow we can be led by their questions but it’s helpful to make race a regular topic of conversation. Have a think about what you watch on television? Are there many BAME lead characters? How about the books on your bookshelves, do they represent other cultures and races? If not, you could visit your library and maybe explore other cultures together, watch movies from other cultures too. How are various races represented in media? What is your phone/social media telling you about people of colour, what’s the truth?
We can dive much deeper with our teens, looking at the history of various other people groups. In the UK, why not learn about Black British history and Indian British history as a family. Explore institutional racism, if you are a white family, imagine how it would feel to be a black person in Britain today, seek to understand black British history as if it was your own story-how would that make you feel today?
Do you think it would make you want to protest against inequality? If you knew that your great grandfather had been born into slavery and had no rights as a human being do you think you would feel a strong sense of injustice?
Let’s try to raise curious, freedom fighting children. Children who are ready to stand up to racism and prejudice wherever they see it. Ready to protest for the rights of others and who see equality as a human right.
I’d like to raise children who are ready to protest and fight for what they believe to be right, recognising that sometimes we have to push against the authorities to fight injustice. We shouldn’t break laws for the sake of breaking them but we ought to break what binds others and robs them of their freedoms.
There is a place for protesting, and it is vital to seek to understand why protests become violent when a people group has been systematically oppressed and unheard for generations. Many have tried to fight for equality through education and peace, but the deeply institutional racism has remained in many countries all over the globe, leaving various people groups still experiencing a life of oppression, discrimination and injustice-and so we may see a different fight for freedom.
Educating ourselves, our children and our communities about the experiences of others is vital in the efforts to eradicate oppression and inequality.

By Hannah Blaize, mother of three curious cuties 


Why is our identity such a big deal?

I am from a privileged enough, Christian, farming background and tried my hardest to do everything 'right' - that was, 'right' from the perspective of what I thought others expected from me. I lived according to that rule, hoping to please, be accepted and fulfil a good, Christian, happy life.  I filtered my thoughts and actions through others for whom I lived, unaware that I even had a voice.

I lived abroad and have travelled a good bit, enjoying many amazing experiences along the way, yet in time, things began to unravel. Rather than take your time sharing the detail (a lot of which is not pleasant), I will bring you to the here and now which is me being me, a lone parent to a 5yr old boy and 3yr old twins, a girl and a boy. I've been through separation and then divorce, other relationships and another separation from the children's father to whom I was not married. As you will imagine, in there are many other stories, struggles and survivals. 

Our journeys are different but each one of us has a heart and a mind, it is how we use them to press on that will forge a change, hopefully a positive one, for our future and our children's futures.

How do we learn from our pasts? To dwell in them is often unhealthy, yet to glance back to regain forward focus can be necessary. We may notice scars but see that they are a sign of healing and learning - we acknowledge them with respect and press on. We may feel as though we are insignificant but let me remind you that no one has ever been created like you before, nor ever will be. You are absolutely unique and designed for a purpose that only you can fulfil.

If I can begin to see myself as God sees me, then the lens through which I view my life, my roles, my purpose and significance will all have the correct perspective. There will be far less need to debate, challenge and cross examine my feelings associated with being battered by every change or conflict.  I will remain secure, despite my circumstances.

So, living through a pandemic and all that it has brought both me and you, I now ask myself, has it changed my identity? Let's face it, roles will have changed, maybe financial circumstances will have been affected, relationships forged or severed, mental health implications faced, challenging choices made, exhaustion levels rocketed to unsustainable heights - who am I now? The amazing answer to that, is that God is still God and He holds me just as He has always done.  He is and can be a refuge (Psalm 46v1), a strong tower, a rock, a fortress, but He is also the God of all Comfort (2 Cor 1v3) and He holds me in the palm of His hand, so I need not be afraid. Hebrews 13v8 says "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever".

My identity is in Christ ... I am a 46yr old woman who does not work at the moment but is a mother to 3 children; I am a daughter; an auntie; a sister; a cousin; a friend; a neighbour; a volunteer; someone with a vision for the future to fulfil a work that only I can do. I would like to own some bluebell woods; I love to see trees and hear birds; I will hopefully always have a dog and be surrounded by family and friends. I need to work on patience and self-discipline. I need to look after my body more and yet be less concerned about my external appearance and more focused on my inward self. 

I may be broken but I have been mended and God sees me as all the more beautiful for having been broken. I reflect the image of God and can shine as the noonday sun, like a city on a hill which cannot be hidden. This self-assurance is a beautiful outward display of the working of God’s love on the inside. I hope that my life and identity live out this great truth.

Written by Ingrid Hatt, who blogs beautifully over at Faith in the Frenzy


Being with: A gift of relationship

“It’s important to stop and do nothing sometimes.”

How many of us have heard this? How many of us manage to ‘do nothing’?  This certainly isn’t something that comes easy to me. I wonder what unexpected things might open up for us when we are able to ‘be’, rather than to ‘do’?

The other day I was sitting in my garden waiting for someone to arrive at the door, so yes, I was doing something! I was waiting. The visitor was late to arrive and so I had the chance to sit and be. I put my legs up on a chair opposite me and enjoyed the sun. In this moment my pre-teen came up and sat on the chair where my feet were positioned and proceeded to put his legs up on mine. We sat like this for almost an hour, as he told me all about life at school – the most I have heard since he started at his new secondary school last September. I said virtually nothing. I listened. I was present.
Looking back on this encounter – which I must say happens rarely with my twelve-year-old son – I began to wonder what had made this special moment possible. Revd Dr Samuel Wells describes such an encounter as ‘being-with’(1). Wells says that ‘being-with’ involves showing up and paying attention. It doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?! Yet in the busyness of our lives, filled with our many thoughts, things that ‘have to be done’ and the pull of social media, the simplicity of presence and attention can be very difficult to achieve. Unusually, in fact very unusually, my mobile phone was not next to me and wasn’t even in the same place as me. Wells talks powerfully that in our world where being immediately contactable is a given, putting our mobile phone away is actually a way of saying “I love you.”(2)
Similarly, the idea of ‘being-with’ is at the heart of the parenting group we run at Connected Lives - Circle of Security Parenting (3). One of the things we reflect on during the group is to consider how able we are to ‘be-with’ our children in all of their feelings. This can depend on how able our own parents were to ‘be-with’ us in these emotions. As a facilitator, I find this exercise profound and for many parents this can be the starting point in a shift from thinking about parenting as a role to be done, and rather more of as a relationship to be entered into.
Many years ago, I went to live alongside people with learning disabilities in a L’Arche community (4). There I met a man whom I will call John who transformed my view of relationships. John did not speak, yet he taught me what ‘being-with’ looks like from the inside-out. John liked to spend time ‘being-with’ me. In his silence, in his presence, I came to know I was loved. Deeply loved. Loved in a way I had never known before.

Thanks to my visitor running late, I was given the opportunity to ‘be-with’ my son. This was not something I did to fill the time, but the real reason for being in the moment. Surely, this is the work of the Kingdom of God.

Written by Dr Helen Bell, Director of the Connected Lives Cambridgeshire Hub

1.A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God. Samuel Wells. (2015).


Giving Ourselves Grace for the Holidays


If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." -Galatians 5:25


As I sip a cup of late afternoon coffee, I am happily looking at my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We had to buy it--it was only 25 pounds. But it will fit in with all of my other pieces of home art that are a little bit worn, a tiny bit awkward. 


My home is eclectic. Some things are old, scarred but still lovely. I put a colorful cloth over them and call them classics. Some of my things are like the Velveteen Rabbit, worn but well loved. 


And that is how my very good life has been--beautiful and wonderful amidst many mistakes, many flaws, many immature moments. Yet, God's grace is like a beautiful cloth that covers the scars on my well- beloved old tables. His love and grace cover my imperfections. Now, as I visit with my adult children, they never say, "Remember the times our house was a mess." or "Mom, I remember a day when you did not have perfect behavior." 


Instead they say, "We belonged to one another in our home. We celebrated life. We ate a lot, enjoyed Christmas cakes and cookies and had endless movies, cups of tea and hikes. What a precious life we had together with all the love we needed."


As you enter a new holiday season, decide ahead of time that there will be disappointing moments, not all things will go as planned and someone might even get sick or a favorite activity you hoped to attend may be cancelled. A year of Covid has certainly stretched all of us in learning to deal with disappointed expectations. 


Determine that the most important gift to give this season is a heart determined to cultivate joy, and words of life that encourage.  If you can prepare your heart for this commitment ahead of time,  and decide to cultivate joy every day, messes and mess-ups will not cause you as much anxiety. Decide ahead of time to celebrate the moments as they come, to love generously and give forgiveness always,  and you will enjoy the days God provides. 


The grace of God is given in spite of our circumstances. His peace comes when our difficulties would suggest otherwise. 


While it is incredibly wonderful to set our standards high and live out great ideals, we must hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection. We won't be able to have grace for our children if we do not have grace ourselves.

At advent, we remember He came with grace and truth to bring life and wholeness into our hearts, because his heart was filled with compassion for us. He still has that same care for us today. We strive to follow His example in the lives of our children. We do not have to live by the expectations of culture, but we are led by God. We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and rest in His abundant grace and love. This is the way our celebration of advent will be remembered  by our children as the best time of the year.

Sally Clarkson is an author and speaker who has shared for many years about the value of motherhood and the potential for the home to cultivate life, love and faith. Find her at


Supporting Bereaved Children

Although it is not something we like to talk about, a child is bereaved of a parent every 22 minutes in the UK. It happens more than you might think, and that will be especially true during this pandemic.

As parents there are some conversations we can dread having with our kids as they grow up – from the constant “why?” questions to the science homework questions to which we don’t know the answer to.

One of the conversations we probably don’t ever think of having is the one where we explain to our child that someone they are close to has died, especially if that person is a parent, a sibling or much loved grandparent.

Pete English leads the ListeningPeople Project for which specialises in training anyone who engages with bereaved young people. With over 25 years’ experience Pete knows how bereavement affects children and young people. He says,

Children grieve very differently to us adults – for us it can feel like we’re in the sea with waves of grief constantly crashing around us, for children it’s often like jumping in and out of puddles. They can be inconsolable one minute and running off to play the next; incredibly angry to laughing and joking in an instant. It’s unpredictable and can be difficult to understand.

As they process their loss, out come the questions – often asked at the most inopportune moments. Pete says,

We might think we are protecting our children and young people by not explaining or avoiding talking about death. But it is incredibly important for them to know they can ask about the subject and trust the adults around them. It is the only way to avoid confusion and unprocessed grief building up in their young lives.

Teenagers may find it difficult to talk about their feelings or ask for help. They may seek and find support through social media, their behaviour may change, they could become withdrawn or feel angry and get involved in anti-social behaviour.

So how do we support our children and young people so that they cope with their grief in a healthy way?

Be honest with your child.  Avoid confusion and teach our kids they can trust the adults around them to tell the truth.

Use the right words. It can feel harsh using words like ‘dead’ and ‘died’, but terms like ‘passed away’ or ‘gone to sleep’ can cause fear and anxiety to children.

Understand your bereaved teenage child isn’t being difficult. Unlike younger children, young people understand that death is permanent, and even though they may be unable to share their feelings, they will suffer similar feelings of loss and grief to an adult. Include them in the conversation, give them information and the choice to be involved when someone close has died.

Be kind to yourself. There are no ‘rules’ when it comes to grief, but it’s exhausting being bereaved yourself and supporting a bereaved child!
With this support, children will experience their grief with a new level of understanding as they get older and reach a new stage of maturity and emotional intelligence beyond their years - something positive that can emerge from all the sadness.

Where to go for help:
Go to to search for information and support for you or your child - whether that be specific to your loss, or maybe just to meet others in a similar situation. We have over 900 organisations listed and a library of helpful resources and books for bereaved children.

To help a young person cope with a funeral we have a really helpful film you can watch together. CLICK HERE
Pete English’s ‘Tough Stuff Journal: Someone has died’ is a fantastic resource for parents to work through with a bereaved child. To read more and buy a copy CLICK HERE

By Jane Woodward, who is the Executive Director of At A


Faith, Hope and Motherhood

Becoming a mum brings so many changes to your life: your time, priorities, expenses, energy, maybe even your work life, will change. My own children arrived in pairs: first one set of twins followed, three years later, by a second set.

My life with God had always been focused on what I could give to Him. Yes, I knew that Jesus alone was my redemption, but I thought that following Him meant I should give everything in response to His sacrifice. And in the early years of motherhood that became my problem: I had nothing left to give, so how could God be happy with me?

Maybe you recognize this dilemma. Maybe you’ve also worried you’re not enough.

God is gentler than you think
Years ago, I heard someone teach that God has a special grace for mothers of young children. I’ve held onto those words. And the Bible says something similar:
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
And carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young. (Isa. 40:11 NIV)
God is an attentive shepherd. He is actively carrying your children. He will ensure you are not left behind. He is sensitive to your needs and full of love for you in this season.

If you are feeling lost on the journey, be comforted, He is not lost; He will gently lead you on.

It may be time for a new measure

I used to think that following Jesus meant offering Him more and more of my time. When I had four preschool aged children, this felt like an impossible standard to measure up to. But (eventually) the constraints on my energy became a gift. I couldn’t be on every team. I couldn’t attend every meeting. God had to show me what was really at the heart of following Jesus.
John Ortberg puts it well in his book on spiritual disciplines The Life You’ve Always Wanted:
‘Am I growing in love for God and people?’ The real issue [in spiritual development] is what kind of people we are becoming. (Ortberg, 1997)
Am I growing in love – hadn’t my entire existence become an exercise in love? Motherhood has taught me more about love, both the ecstasies and the heartbreaks, than any other season in my life. I encourage you that it is motherhood, because of its constraints and challenges, that will grow you into a person who loves with the God’s love. Ask Him to do this in your life.

Constraints are a blessing

Stick with me! I promise you this is good news!

We live in a world that prizes freedom, agency and action. But you only need to take a walk with a toddler to realise that life with young children is distinctly lacking in freedom and agency. Caring for young children means living under constraints: they have (endless) needs, move slowly (or too quickly in the wrong direction!), and they do not understand our adult agendas. It’s stretching and often difficult.

I love what Paul says about how God uses difficulties: ‘[difficulty] produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (Romans 5:4). Growth happens not despite the constraints, but because of the constraints.

If your difficulties have left you feeling hopeless, ask God to invite you into a new way of following Him.

I survived the early years, just about. But God used those years to build a better grounding for my spiritual walk with Him. Now when I stumble upon some new vulnerability, I remember that this too is a gift; this too can produce hope. I still look for His gentle leading. 

Lindsay Osborne is a freelance writer and proofreader living in Wales. She has four children and a very helpful husband. When she's not glued to her laptop, you'll find her pottering in the garden or drinking coffee.


Nurturing Sporting Potential

“Your dad, he’ll be looking down on you with such pride today, won’t he?” 
“No, he will not.” Kitrina Douglas answered the reporter’s question after she won the British Golf Open.
Her dad, who had been a major inspirer of her faith and golf, had sadly died a few months before.
Kitrina went on to say: “My dad’s pride was never affected by what I did with a little white ball on freshly cut grass, my dad was always proud of me.”
I don’t know about you but that is some high bar parenting there! Do my own three children think my pride in them is affected by their sport, school, or faith achievements? 
Sport plays a unique role in our society and offers the parent many opportunities, but also a number of challenges. 
At its best, sport offers our children fun, a team to be part of and an opportunity to grow in character as they experience the highs and lows which sport at all levels brings, alongside some wonderful experiences. For those of us with the Christian faith, I remain fully convinced that sport also makes a great partner in disciplining our children. 
At its worst, sport offers an all-consuming win-at-all-costs culture where failure, loss and mistakes are all seen as weaknesses and met with disappointment. In this culture, our children’s intrinsic value lies in their “trophies” of success, rather than being loved for who they are. 
The challenge for us as parents is that two children on the same team can have such a diverse experience of their time participating in sport. It is parents who are key to shaping their sporting experience. Obviously good coaching matters, but the research says again and again that the way parents interact with their children around sport has a massive impact. Now we all have a caricature of the ‘bad’ sports parent yelling from the sidelines, but it is the well-meaning sports parent who often stumbles in a number of areas that lead to the biggest impact on a young person’s sporting experience. I have the joy of working with coaches, parents and children in premiership football clubs and national teams as well as watching my own children take part at grassroots levels. The impact that well-meaning parents are making on their children in all of these settings is powerful and lasting for their child’s sporting experience and potential. 
So how do we as parents best support our children in getting the most from their sporting experience?
  1. Love them. Simple, hey! I think loving our children in a sporting context means that we express our pride and joy in who they are as they get out of the car to go play sport. Not as they get back in the car. Tell them you love watching them play. This is important because so often our children misread what we focus on. If they win, we tend to have a really excitable conversation with them, and if they lose we tend to change the conversations ASAP! Home is a harbour for our child’s sport experiences. Having a good, safe harbour enables them to have the joy and confidence to explore the waters beyond the harbour wall. 
  2. Ask them. Andy Stanley once said, “Our questions reveal our values.” Ask them this: “What’s the best thing I can do for you on game day or before/after training?” Then listen and take action. Sport is their journey. However, when they feel unhelpful but well-meaning pressure from us, that can start to derail that journey. As parents, there are times we will want to set out a child’s direction, but it is better for them to set their own as they participle in sport.  To provide a home that nurtures potential we need to support our children’s growth through being open and honest. Asking what they need from us regularly will are helping this nurturing. I ask all three of mine this once a term, as they grow and age the answers change, sometimes there is a difficult conversation, but always there is growing closer together as we learn to be open and honest about our feelings and needs. 
  3. Let them stuff it up. It’s never easy to see your child make a mistake in the sports arena, especially one you know they didn’t need to make. Homes that nurture sporting potential make mistakes. There is the grace to learn, the grace to forgive yourself. There is a love that doesn’t define a child by a missed opportunity. There is also deeper learning, around how we handle mistakes being made. In my experience, kids know about these mistakes and often are harder on themselves than we are. Making mistakes is part of life and so what a gift to help our children process the emotions, frustration and disappointment which comes from perceived failure. There are those parents who try to airbrush the error out. Saying things like “it doesn’t matter” or “it was the coaches/ref/other teams’ fault”. Such attempts sanitise the child’s experience to help them avoid the pain of experiencing a mistake, but this is not helpful. I don’t like seeing my children in pain, but helping them express that and process their mistakes is an essential skill in all areas of life. 
  4. Help them make headway. Yes, home is a harbour, but home also prepares children for the open seas of sporting life. We are open and honest and real about our mistakes so that our children can once again return to the sports arena and go again. We don’t just keep them in the harbour, we support them in having the courage and joy to continue the adventure. We listen, ask questions and tell stories that support them using our family values and character to enable them to thrive wherever sport or life takes them. A home that nurtures potential expects progress. 
I don’t want my pride in my children to be affected by what they do with a little white ball, a hockey stick or tennis racquet, but I do believe that the way I provide a home that nurtures potential will give them the skills and character to thrive in success and failure at work, home, church and on the sports field.
Richard Shorter is a Baptist minister and parenting coach. His business “non-perfect dad” works with some of the country’s top elite sports teams and schools. He supports coaches, parents and athletes to have quality conversations for better outcomes for young people. Visit to find out more about his work.


Faith, Hope & Motherhood: The Bible

When did you last pick up a Bible?

In the little years I had times when the Bible was like daily manna - encouraging and sustaining me, alongside periods of time when it sat on a shelf barely opened.  There were times of sheer exhaustion when I simply held it, praying without words.  There were times too when I felt guilty, surely I should be reading it more

I found at times that my ‘good’ Bible reading intentions did not match up to my reality; but I learnt that this was not inconsequential or to be dismissed, because the reality; the bleary-eyed mornings, the cleaning Weetabix out of the highchair, the potty training attempts, were my reality – they weren’t added extras or inconveniences, they were the sacrifice and treasure of the little years, they were me pouring out love time and time again – living the very grace offered in the Bible. 

While I didn’t always feel it, the truth was that as I held my babies and toddlers, I was held by the “everlasting arms”* of Father God, who did not look down on a tired mama and sigh, “If only you read your Bible more…” but who held me with delight and divine love.  The same love He has for you too.

Below are a few simple encouragements and creative ideas for engaging with the Bible in the exhausting little years. 

  • Keep it simple.  A meaningful verse blu-tacked to a cupboard, a favourite verse memorised.  How about something physical?  A candle lit – Jesus, you are the light of the World, and I believe you’re here with me.  A rock collected on a walk – I’m building my life on the rock, who is my shelter, defence and refuge.    
  • Apps.  Bible studies, prayer guides, Christian meditation – there are so many options both in physical form and through the mystery of the internet, so why not have a look?  Some we’ve used or been recommended are:
  • Bible in One Year by HTB Church
  • Lectio 365 (A daily devotional app that helps you pray the Bible)
  • NIV audio Bible read by David Suchet (yes, Poirot is available to read the Bible to you)
  • Podcast.  If you enjoy listening to podcasts and studying the Bible, the BibleProject podcast might be for you – Indepth conversations about the Bible and Theology.  Maybe you’ve come across a podcast on the Bible already? – let us know if you’ve found a good one. 
  • Art.  If you are interested in connecting with the Bible through art, Sister Wendy Beckett has some beautiful books on art and the Bible, including ‘Sister Wendy’s Bible Treasury’.  If your imagination is sparked by poetry, Poet-Priest Malcom Guite writes beautiful poems in response to the scriptures. 
  • Friends.  Not always possible or easily found in the little years, but reading the Bible alongside others, with space to ask questions, share encouragements and voice doubts can be hugely strengthening.
  • Rest.  Rest?!  In the midst of what can be an overwhelming season, I think the Bible can show us a path to soul rest – a rest that isn't pulled to shreds by striving or pushed into a whirlpool of shame, but is, as is so beautifully put in Psalm 62, “solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul."

Kayte Potter is part of the NPI team and is a mum of three.
*Deuteronomy 33 v 27




Five-year-old Tom has had a new bike for his birthday and can’t wait to try it out. In the park with his mother, he zooms off along the path, not really looking where he’s going despite her warning to watch out for potholes. Fifteen minutes later they are back at home; Tom is sitting on the kitchen table, tears streaming down his face as she applies copious amounts of kitchen roll to his grazed knees.

What happens the next day is an important test for them both. His mum can see he’s in two minds about going on his bike again, and the thought of him hurting himself further means she is sorely tempted to simply put a stop – at least for the time being – to any further attempt. But even as they both hesitate, she knows that what Tom does next is important in building his emotional resilience. He needs to learn from the experience – in other words, get back on his bike.

In an attempt to make their lives as stress-free as possible we try and fill in the pot holes and control their circumstances. But if living through a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the realisation that we aren’t in control. The reality is that our children will experience knocks and setbacks every day. They are unlikely to pass every test, win every match, succeed in every job interview, or never have a broken romance.

The old saying advises us to “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child”. As parents, we can’t, and shouldn’t, remove negative events, but we can help our children see them as part of everyday life. And we can pass on skills to help them cope. The truth is that an appropriate level of pain and difficulty can be a catalyst for building emotional resilience.

A definition of emotional resilience is the ability not only to ‘bounce back’ and recover from setbacks, but to ‘bounce forward’. In other words, it’s not just about getting back to normal after a difficult experience, but about learning things from it that helps us deal with future challenges.

Resilience is key to our children’s wellbeing. Resilient children tend to be more optimistic and motivated, think more creatively, develop strategies for problem-solving, enjoy good friendships, communicate well and have higher self-esteem. It used to be thought of as a characteristic more or less set in stone, but while some children will be more naturally resilient than others, professionals now view it as a skill that can be learnt.

Clinical psychologist Meg Jay likes to describe resilience as a heroic struggle: ‘It’s really a battle, not a bounce – an ongoing process that can last for years … [it’s] not a trait. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s not something you just have.’

Whether it’s a 7-year-old dealing with the frustration of a difficult Lego project, a 12 -year-old whose guinea pig has died, or a 15-year-old who has just lost out on the lead part in the school play, it is the lessons our children learn through struggle and disappointment that will be the seedbed for growing that important quality in their lives – emotional resilience.


Katharine Hill is UK Director of Care for the Family her latest book, 'A Mind of Their Own' (a great read!) can be purchased here.


Faith, Hope & Motherhood: Worship

The Westminster catechism says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” The direction towards which we are headed inevitably impacts upon our journey, and if we, as parents, grandparents and extended family members can live with that as our main aim:  to glorify God and to ENJOY Him and build that into our children, then the kingdom of God will flourish and our children will thrive in their own developing relationships with their heavenly Father.
How do we achieve that with these tinies? Whose main purpose seems to be to disrupt all that we previously saw as ‘normal’ life, day and night.  I believe exploring how to worship with this age range is as important for the parents as for the tinies themselves.
I think my challenge over the years has been:
“How do I continue to worship God in spirit and in truth when I have a little infant attached to me 24/7?
How do I enjoy God and glorify Him in the middle of the deconstruction of life as I knew it pre-infant?”
It’s a challenge that I’d like to pass on to you… how do we worship on those days when there’s been no sleep, when words are unspeakable, when we know that the sequence will happen all over again in the next twenty-four hours?
Because in the years of our parenting, particularly in these very early years, it’s the way we live, worship and follow Jesus that provides the primary model for our tinies.
Reflecting on this afresh, I am grateful that it didn’t all rely on just myself and my husband to provide examples of expressive worship, there was a lovely diversity available within our church community, ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who also provided safe, relational models. I have needed my extended church family and their various ways of expressing their love for Jesus, to help me demonstrate how to live a life of worship.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…”
Worship is an act of obedience to this commandment. It requires day by day discipline. And moment by moment fresh supplies of mercy. It requires authenticity, for our worship needs to be in spirit and in truth. We wouldn’t want our children to learn any other kind of worship, right?
I don’t have any sparkly tips to pass on to you about developing worship with your tiny tot, but I do want to encourage you to invest your ordinary, everyday life with a desire to enjoy God.
  • Revisit the tried and tested wisdom of the children’s song “Read your Bible, pray every day…”
  • Feeding babies and toddlers can take up time, it may help you and your tot to listen to some worship music or a section of scripture via an audio app. Feed body, soul and spirit.
  • Maximise the time used on chores like cleaning, ironing etc by singing worship songs, if you can’t remember the words, well, it’s a great opportunity to sing a new spiritual song! In those times when it’s the dark of the night and all you want is sleep but your tiny infant thinks differently… sing. Your song will strengthen you; your worship will become a lullaby or a declaration whatever is necessary in that moment.
  • If you feel terrified at the thought of singing then quietly repeat your favourite Bible verses, His word has power.
  • Speak out in your own spiritual language, allow the Holy Spirit to help you into His rhythms.
Do the things you did at first, when you first fell in love with Jesus, and they will be seen and heard and learnt by your tiny infant.
Let Love’s invitation draw you deeper into living a life woven with the rhythms of His word, with prayer, praise, worship. All day, every day. Let yourself be carried by His unforced rhythms of grace into the place where praise is poured out with each generation.  
Every day.
Ruth Price is a registered Movement Psychotherapist, specialist in early years development, attachment and filial play, mother and grandmother, and self-professed city-type currently acclimatising to life on a smallholding. 



Life in Lockdown - Thankfulness and Lament

It has been weeks since the country went into lockdown. ‘Normal’ disappeared over night and with it the services needed by many children and their families.  Children with additional needs have been affected most in this.  Some have been quietly reflective, others frustrated and angry, many questioning the rules and even God. Their much needed routine has gone, and seeing people break the rules is a struggle.  But equally, there are some children who are relishing the solitude because the stress of dealing with people and decoding social situations has been taken away.
You may have heard the phrase ‘behaviour is language’. In any child, especially those with additional needs, behaviour is often the language that tells us how they are coping.  Many children at the moment describe their feelings as a ‘big sadness’. Experts tell us that this is grief. Sometimes we’re ‘fine’. Other days we want to dissolve into a puddle of tears and loud sobs, or maybe punch a door.  This cycle of feelings that makes up grief is probably working around the whole family, but each adult or child, is at a different point in that cycle at any time of the day, which can be interesting!
Our children need to know this grief is normal, and that you and God are there to help. Not a fact to be shoe horned into conversation, but chatted about in those moments that sadness feels like a blanket. Explain your sadness. Show them it’s ok to cry. Stop and pray – nothing long, just a “Thankyou God that you understand how we feel”.
Some children find it enormously unhelpful to keep hearing that ‘this is in God’s plan’. If they don’t have the spiritual and emotional language to sort that through, it can translate as God being vindictive and cruel. They need the assurance that God is good, even in the middle of this pandemic.  A useful Bible verse is Psalm 56:8 (NLT) “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”. It may be difficult for some of our children to understand, but explain it as “God sees your sadness, He’s sad too, He understands and He’s with you”. Talk to your children about being sad and ways we can help each other.
Being “The strong one” all the time is not always helpful. Our children need an example of how to deal well with strong emotions. This may also mean apologising when we have been overly cross with them because we’re struggling too.  Create a small space in your home and give it a name “Our safe spot” for example. It could be a low coffee table, a popup tent or blanket fort. Keep it there.  This will be a focal point to take the fear, the anxiety and stress – and find hope and peace in the middle of it. But it will also be a place to sit with God, and be safe.  Discuss with your children what they would like in that space. Calming things to fiddle with – glitter tubes are good. Maybe have a bubble lamp. Have things to write or draw with. Have a simple prayer activity that you can do more than once – just search for ‘creative prayers’ on line.
Have a ‘thankful jar’. Every time someone finds a good thing – write or draw it on something to put in the jar. It might be food, a game, a socially distanced visit or a zoom call. It might even be that worm they found in the garden. Put in anything to be thankful for, no matter how small, and make it a habit.  In that space people can say exactly what they think without any fear. Make sure your children know God doesn’t mind if you shout at Him and tell Him stuff is unfair.
You don’t ‘have’ to give answers, the act of speaking out loud can be helpful on it’s own. But if your children want to silently scream their fear, that is equally helpful.  Give space to recognise and name these emotions. Give space to lament.  Have a thankful activity, because in the Lament Psalms, David always ended up praising God.  When you are in Lament mode it is easier to praise when you a faced with something to be thankful with. So, have bubbles you can burst as you applaud God for His goodness. Use scrabble to spell out your thanks, make them with plasticine, line up toys and say your thanks with each one. Do things around how your child works. If stress makes them line things up – use it to help them cope. And if at that moment no thankful thoughts come to mind, use the thankful jar.
Above all – involve your child in creating what is needed in that space. Let them lead. You may find that what they do is also a comfort to you.
Kay Morgan-Gurr is the Chair of Children Matter, Co-Founder of the Additional Needs Alliance and a member of the Evangelical Alliance Council.  You can read more of her work at


Lessons of Lockdown

I am a mum of one, soon to be two any day now, living in the West Sussex countryside. While lockdown changed many things for us as a family, our days have always been slow, we stay home and try not to rush. We walk aimlessly, watch birds and touch worms and sometimes we never leave the house. While things didn’t change dramatically for us situationally it seemed, spiritually and emotionally I’ve felt God speak to me about many things these past months. I’ve shared four of those things below, and I hope they bring encouragement to you in whatever stage of life you may find yourself.  

  1. Joy is an inside job
I’m going to own up and say that I have complained a lot in these recent weeks and months; my back aches, it’s been a struggle to walk, then there’s the lacking energy and low tolerance levels. I felt disappointed knowing I couldn’t see my family through lockdown, the loss of work, and my husband going through a difficult time emotionally. It’s so easy to focus on the problem and get stuck there in our own pity party letting fear take the joy and letting the news become the giant.
And then I remember…it’s a choice to believe I can have joy in ANY circumstance. My joy is NOT dependant on my husband bringing me tea in the morning, or how ‘well-behaved’ my daughter is that day or the status of the nation. I can actively make a choice to access the joy that the Father has won for me 24/7 and I want to show my daughter a life of joy!
In whatever situation you find yourself in right now, whether family crisis, financial difficulty, whether fear of COVID-19, there is joy available!
  1. Celebrate growth
I’ve recently become so aware of the amount of praise we pour out on Hephzibah daily; celebrating the sharing, the tidying away, the letter recognised, the sleeping through the night, and the kind heart. And what’s more, we celebrate the imperfections; they’re endearing! I don’t want to correct the way she mispronounces things, or the way she skips nine on every count to ten and I would never get frustrated when she trips up when she runs.
So why are we so hard on ourselves? After all, aren’t we still growing and learning too, and haven’t we been learning and growing more than ever in lockdown as we adjust to a completely new way of living? In becoming so aware of the praise we pour on her it’s only highlighted the lack of praise I pour out on myself.
How can you celebrate yourself today? How have you surprised yourself in these past few months? How have you grown?
  1. Where is your worth? 
Suddenly when the structures we have built around ourselves to keep us comfortable and gain some sense of normalcy are torn down or changed and our days quieter yet perhaps our thoughts louder, we may start to question where our identity and worth is. 
It was no surprise the country jumped at the chance to knit, bake, draw and write and some of the most beautiful creations have come out of this time. I find this is encouraging because it shows that God has filled people with His creativity, but it also shows that people are looking for a sense of achievement and worth.
I think as a Mum, I’ve had to deal with the restructuring of what is a ‘productive day’. When Joseph arrives home after a day of creating and earning, when it’s my turn to relay my day and I realise we’ve only really played in the garden and made dinner, I have to be confident to know- my worth isn’t in achieving, our worth has to be in Him. 
Know what He’s called you to in this season, and know even beyond that you are a son or daughter of the living God, and it’s our delight to love and be loved by Him! That’s where our worth is!
  1. Silence isn’t absence

I’ve noticed during lockdown that people started to exercise more. Alongside the back of our house runs a footpath open to the public and I would see so many people I’d never seen before populating that pathway during lockdown. People were immersing themselves in nature when they may have usually been in an office! In my getting outside to soak up the summer sun with my daughter, I watched the trees, looked at the flowers, and observed the squirrels dancing over our lawn. They were silent but the silence said so much. The silence brought peace and hope.
And I found myself realising that the many of the questions we ask God and are waiting for answers on- the answers are already here before us- in the acknowledgment of the blooming bud or the running stream. The truth is that God is ever-present just we, or (maybe just I) are waiting for him to speak by the megaphone or the mic. If He created ALL things, isn’t He always speaking and always present?
However you are emerging out of lockdown, feeling fearful? drained? hopeful? reluctant or lacking purpose? Know that God is so close! 
Megan Landreth-Smith writes on her website,, and shares beautiful images and words on her Instagram account, Our Slow Home (She also happens to be our fantastic Social Media Coordinator!)


Lockdown Life

If anything is for sure it’s that; we didn’t plan for this, we never expected it and we could never have prepared ourselves or our children for what 2020 (and now 2021) would bring.

The pain and heaviness of the pandemic has brought sorrow to many, and if your family has faced a bereavement as a result of COVID-19, we are so very sorry for your loss. 

If you have faced financial hardship or redundancy over the last year, we hope that you have been able to access some help and have people to support you.

Perhaps you’re currently doing the work and home-school juggle, wondering when things will return to ‘normal’, or perhaps there are other circumstances in your family which make day to day life a struggle.

Whether lockdown has (so far) been heavy, happy or a huge mix of experiences for your family, you are not alone, and at the NPI we want to encourage you in your parenting during this trying season.

A recent blog post by Fegans had some great tips for any parents currently on the home school journey, which we’ve copied here to encourage you today:

1 – You need to be more realistic. Just let yourself off the hook about education. You are their parent, not an educator.
2- Ask for help. If the technology is hard, ask for help from your other kids, from the school, from friends or grandparents. If your child needs someone to read over their work, send it to an Aunt. Although you are home alone with your kids, use your network to keep you going, People love to help.
3 – Be a team. Whether it is just you and your kid, or you have a partner and quadruplets think of yourself as a team. You are in this together.
4 –Focus your children down onto their core work. You can really help here, teach them how to prioritise and break big projects down. They don’t have to do it all right now. Let them slow down.
5- Keep your routines going. Go out for your exercise, Eat Lunch at a normal time, Keep play times.
6 – Keep the fun, once work and school are finished for the day, switch off your laptop and put your phone away.
7 – Endorse your kids, find aspects of what they do and praise them specifically. Also, give yourself some credit, you are doing brilliantly.

(we recommend the rest of the blog, which you can find here)

Parenting in a Pandemic


Like many parents, I never intended to home school my children.  Like many couples, my husband and I don’t normally spend Every. Single. Day. Together. But this is what lockdown meant for so many families, including ours. 

Here are some essential elements that kept us thriving (*mostly*):

Outdoors. The weather in the first lockdown was beautiful, so we spent as much time as we could outdoors – using our garden and the daily exercise allowance to hone bike trick skills, build a shed, plant flowers and play games.  Kids can’t climb the walls if there are no walls, as the expression goes.  We particularly missed the glory of those sunny days in the second winter lockdown when we spent much more time indoors. 
Carol Vorderman.  Did anyone else use her Maths Factor website for home schooling? She deserves a Damehood as far as I’m concerned.  Ditto the creators of Twinkl and BBC Bitesize.

Rest.  Near the beginning of lockdown we decided that between Friday evening and Saturday evening we would switch off all technology and enjoy family life at a slower pace (with lots of great food). When we were all home together doing work and school so much of the week, it helped to define the weekends for us as a couple and for the kids.

Serving.  Whether it’s been drawing colourful pictures for a local care home, shopping for shielding friends or welcoming a Foster child into our home, we have encouraged our kids to join us in looking beyond the walls of our house and to the community around us.

Clarity.  How is homeschool going to work and which one of us is going to take responsibility, and at which points in the day?!  And how are we going to do this in a way that puts relationship over arithmetic?  It took some conversations to work this out, as well as factoring in a few one-to-one times with the kids so they had our focus.  This, of course, evolved as lockdown went on.  When the second home school began, our work situations changed and it became even more important to keep communicating about this.

Laughter.  With all the pain, fear and anxiety around the pandemic, it felt important to create happy, fun memories with the kids - to laugh at the little moments, even in the midst of mundanity or frustration.  As novelist Wendell Berry put it, “Laugh.  Laughter is immeasurable.  Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

Other People.  It takes a village to raise a child the proverb says.  I think that’s true of marriage too.  My husband and I don’t exist in isolation, and we treasure friendships separately and with other couples where we can be honest, get wisdom, a different perspective and have a good laugh.  For all that WhatsApp, Zoom etc don’t offer in terms of connection, there’s such a lot they do, and we valued that.

Honesty.  While I believe all I say above about technology, there’s also been great sorrow this year at not being with the people we love in person.  As a couple we’ve felt this at different points, and helped the kids navigate it too.

Perseverance.  At points we’ve been exasperated, needed space from each other and struggled to communicate well.  At the same time, we’ve chosen to persevere in love, to laugh and to create new family rhythms, and as I reflect on the strangest of years, I’m grateful for that.

Kayte Potter is a member of the team at The NPI.  She has been married to Dan for 14 years, and they have three children.  This post was originally written for UK Marriage Week 2021