Surviving Christmas, ways to manage the stress.

Well, we are galloping towards Christmas. For many families it does not resemble the John Lewis or Tesco advertisements of collaboration and joy.  It can often create conflict meeting up with family members who you may not see all year.  You might be starting to feel a sense of dread of whether the children will sleep or eat the food that’s been cooked by someone else, you may be divorced and have to manage with very little time, or you may not even see your children for Christmas and have to wait for another day in the holidays.

Tips for surviving Christmas

Here are my tips and a video especially for anxious children, to  take the stress out of Christmas.

1.Offer Predictability and Routine

Agree on a plan each day,  or prior to staying with relatives or friends. Your children will know what’s going to happen and what’s expected of them.  Ensure there are activities.They may get bored especially if you are in someone else’s home. Many parents and children can be anxious away from home. You may be seeing family that the children have not seen for some time, so you could: Continue reading Surviving Christmas, ways to manage the stress.

Does my child have OCD?

Many parents attend my clinic knowing that their child is anxious but when do you know that your child may have OCD? let’s think what it is, when you need to be worried and how  you can access help.Does my child have OCD

What is OCD ?

Obsessive compulsive Disorder comprises of two parts, obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are always unwanted and can be intrusive. They can be thoughts or even images that and are very upsetting for young people and children.


Some Examples of Obsessions

  • Worrying that they or others members of the family or friends feeling contaminated.
  • Worrying something bad will happen to family members
  • Feeling that you or others may become really ill.
  • Suffering from violent and sexual images
  • Needing everything to be neat and tidy.

Suffering from these thoughts can make your child feel unsafe, sad and uncontained. Your child may then feel that they need to do, certain things to help them to feel safe and these are called “compulsions”, we often call them safety behaviours. Often the compulsion can seem very illogical and the sufferer knows this, so it’s important to recognize this. Suffering from OCD does not mean that your child is being naughty or that they cannot receive help.

Examples of Compulsions or rituals

  • washing your hands lots of times or in a certain way
  • counting or saying things in your head, often this can be certain number, a child I worked with had to do everything in three’s
  • asking the same question over and over again
  • avoiding certain numbers when counting
  • tidying your room lots of times, even though it already looks nice and tidy
  • checking lights switches lots of times
  • checking the door is locked

How does it make your child feel?

Children feel very out of control, they may want to avoid situations and may seek more reassurance. It can often Boss of their lives. For parents this can be hard too as parent can become involved in the OCD.

Is it common?

The Royal college of psychiatry report that OCD can affect people of all ages irrespective of their class, religion or gender. It usually starts in childhood. It is thought that 1–2% of the population have OCD. This means that at least 130 000 young people suffer with OCD.

What causes OCD?

We do not know the cause of OCD for certain. Research suggests it may be due to an imbalance in a brain chemical called ‘serotonin’. It may also run in families and in people with tics (jerky movements) in the family. Very occasionally, OCD can start after an illness. It can also occur after a difficult time in their life like having an accident.

When do I need to worry, red flag

Many children have mild obsessions from time to time that do not interfere with their everyday life or level of distress, my son went through a stage when he suffered from some obsessions, he was very anxious at the time but did not have OCD. Seek help if you respond to yes to the following questions from the Royal College of Psychiatry

  • Do the compulsions upset distress your  child?
  • Do they interfere with the child’s everyday life (e.g. school, friends, etc.)?

If this is the case then seek help via your GP or you can the ask the school if they have  school nurse. They are able to make referral into Child and Adolescent health services or you can contact me for a private consultation.

In addition, this is  great website for OCD click here





Implementing Effective House Rules for your Family

Do your children know what your House/family Rules are? Do you have many or non at all?

Working with hundreds of families, I know that each family has unique rules and they come in different shapes and sizes. Rule are important to help your child feel safe and contained. Remember these can be discussed together in family meetings, be an Authoritative Parent,  is the most effective parenting style.Implementing family rules

Common Examples are:

  • Not hurting each other physically
  • Shouting,
  • Dawdling,
  • Fighting and squabbles.
  • Phones/screens off at 8 pm.

However many parents make the mistake of using words like NO…. NO MORE…. STOP DOING… When you use  words like this, your child is not entirely clear what they need to do differently.

Make Rules Effective by using:

Continue reading Implementing Effective House Rules for your Family

Anti-Bullying Week

It is Anti Bullying week from the 13th to the 19th of November. The focus is ‘All Different, All Equal’.  It is coordinated by the Anti- bullying Alliance.  Unfortunately I have seen many children who have been bullied and it is not improving.  Click on here for my blog for what you need to look out for, on What every parent needs to know about Bullying.


Some scary Statistics from Ditch the Label :

  • 5 million young people (50%) have been bullied within the past year.
  • 145,800 (19%) of these were bullied EVERY DAY.
  • People who have been bullied are almost twice as likely to bully others
  • Twice as many boys as girls bully (66% of males vs. 31% females).
  • 57% of female respondents have been bullied, 44% of male respondents and 59%
  • of respondents who identified as trans have been bullied.
  • 24% of those who have been bullied go on to bully.


Continue reading Anti-Bullying Week

Does my Child have ADHD?

I know how easy it is to search the internet for a diagnosis like ADHD. It’s a common reason for parents to make contact. In this blog we are going answer some common questions you might have about ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD means attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  It is a condition that makes it unusually difficult for children to concentrate, to pay attention, to sit still, to follow directions, and to control impulsive behavior.

Does my child have ADHDWhile all young children are at times distractible, restless, and oblivious to parents’ and teachers’ instructions, children with ADHD behave this way much more often than other children their age. And their inability to settle down, focus, and follow through on tasks in age-appropriate ways makes it very hard for them to do what’s expected of them at school and can lead to lots of arguments at home.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Continue reading Does my Child have ADHD?

Understanding Anxiety in Children

In my  in private practice and my  Camhs role, I work with parents who have misunderstandings about Anxiety. Anxiety is a normal and natural feeling and everyone experiences from time to time. It is a symptom of fear and the good news it can be explained with some simple neuroscience. So you can listen to my video or read on for a much more detailed explanation.

What Causes Anxiety?

The response has evolved from prehistoric times and it was our body’s way of preparing for a challenge and it is our alarm system when we are in danger or under threat.It goes back to caveman times when we needed to react quickly to fight, run and keep our food.  It gets switched on by our Amygdala, which is a small almond shaped and deep inside the emotional brain. This is part of the oldest system called the limbic system. It is a “mindless” physical response and we know how it can feel, pretty horrible. We may feel sick, sweat go red, breathe faster and more. The Amygdala is like a guard protecting you from danger. It can detect a threat 1/10 of a second faster than our brain takes to make a conscious thought.Amygdala

Continue reading Understanding Anxiety in Children

Are you ready for Family Meetings?

Family Meetings are one of my most favourite positive parenting solutions and as Family Practitioner, it is very normal to talk within a family context. Many families are not sure that they are ready to integrate them into their routine. In this blog, we will discuss the benefits, how to plan and my tips to implement a successful family meeting. Here is my short video, for a more detailed view read on:

Benefits of Family Meetings:

They are an excellent way for families to communicate regularly and they will promote and encourage many skills such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Harmony
  • Shared decision making
  • Setting rules
  • Distributing rules fairly
  • Thinking about the week ahead
  • Listening
  • Spending time together
  • Settling conflicts
  • Praise

Continue reading Are you ready for Family Meetings?

Nightmares vs Night Terrors


As Autumn draws in the evenings are getting dark which can upset children.Waking in the middle of the night from a bad dream can be very frightening for children. Nightmares, although a perfectly normal part of childhood, are nonetheless scary for youngsters and if they become habitual, can be unsettling for their parents, as well.

What is Normal?

Studies show that as many as 40% of children between the ages of 5-12 experience occasional nightmares, and night terrors, more disturbing types of episodes, are seen in up to 4% of children in that age category. Nightmares can begin as early as two years, but they typically peak in frequency a few years later. In children who do experience nightmares, they sometimes happen on a weekly basis. So, restless sleep from scary dreams is quite natural in childhood. Continue reading Nightmares vs Night Terrors

Baby Sleep Science

Are you feeling really tired right now and desperate to have a good nights sleep and you are not sure how to help your baby. Did you know that your baby is not born with a natural inbuilt 24-hour clock.? You can read on but also click on my short video


Developmentally, a baby’s biological clock (circadian rhythm) begins maturing at about six to nine weeks of age and does not work smoothly until about four to five months. They have two sleep states, active and quiet. In active, you will notice your baby’s eyelids fluttering, body movements, and even grunts. In quiet, there is slower breathing. Continue reading Baby Sleep Science

3 Ways to help your child make friends

3 ways to help your children make friendsI know that many parents worry about their children making and having good friends. I am sure it was easier for some than others.  Some children are more extrovert than others, some develop more advanced social skills. Social skills are a important factor in making friends.  Research show the quality of your child’s  relationships is an important protective factor in self esteem and resilience in later life. Here are three ideas to encourage your child’s social skills.

1. Communication

How do you communicate with your child, do you listen?, do you ask how they are,? are there times when you all talk together such as family meetings? How we communicate is an important factor in our child social skills. Encouraging your children to ask questions will enable them to initiate a conversation with friends.

Share with your child that people like to talk about themselves and they like talk about what they like doing. So, asking about hobbies is a safe conversation breaker!  Brainstorm some hobbies, to help your child think of some ideas.

You can then role play with your and your child taking turns. If you start first this can help to model what to do and say.  Using Puppets, cuddly toys, playmobil and lego are great for this. Then ask them to do an experiment and try this out at school or somewhere they can feel safe to achieve it.

2. How to make an invitation

I know how hard it is for some children to ask for something.It can be something simple such as can I play with you? Can I sit next to you, can I join in?

Brainstorm ideas of what your child would like to do, think about what they might like to ask. Then role play, in this part its really important to role play and to help them understand what happens and what it means if someone says no.

Children may need a bit of help to understand it may not be personal. Practice with them so they know how to make the invitation sounds real. If they are anxious, and don’t want to do it,  ask them what would need to be different for them to go into school or go to a out of school activity or how can we help to lower the “worry”. Always go at your child’s pace.

3. Building a safe and secure relationship with you.

Children have different temperaments and some may be more introverted than others. You can really help them outside of the home by putting in the hours to develop a safe and secure relationship, so keep talking praising, spending time with your children too. I know it can eel an enormous task and if you need help ask for it.

With Love Catherine, would love to hear your ideas.