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Nicky, Author at A Step at a Time

Supporting Children with Sad Feelings

Posted by | anger, anxiety, child therapy, depression, loss, sadness, sensitive children, well-being | No Comments

When children feel sad it can be heart-breaking for parents, sadness is a huge emotion and quickly starts to fill up whole days and affect many aspects of life. When a child feels sad it can quickly make adults feel helpless or frustrated that they cannot make it right. However, sadness is a normal emotion and we will all experience it at times in life. So how can we support it? What does sadness look like? Struggling to find happy feelings Feeling tired or have no energy Not wanting to have fun / do things they previously enjoyed Expressing that they are disappointed in things Feeling that they are missing something or someone Complaining of feeling a bit gloomy or low or empty Being frequently tearful or expressing that they want to cry Changes in food intake Changes in sleep patterns Irritable or angry Complaining that everything is ‘hard’ Feeling…

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Bedtime, sleep and children

Posted by | Adventures of Brian, anxiety, child therapy, sensitive children, separation anxiety, sleep | No Comments

One of the greatest issues that I ever speak to parents about is bedtime and sleep… Whether it is: Difficulties getting to sleep Difficulties staying asleep Restlessness at bedtime Nightmares Night terrors Separation anxiety We all know how it feels when we have not had enough sleep… and when children do not get enough sleep the impact can affect the day or the days surrounding it.   So why do we need sleep? Sleep is an incredibly important function, for both our body and our minds. Sleep is needed for: Healing the body Repair of the body organs, muscles and bones Reduces inflammation in the body Reduces stress Increases concentration and focus Improves memory Improves problem solving Improves performance (intellectual and physical)   How much do children need? So how much sleep do children need? Great Ormond Street Hospital released the following guidance on sleep: Infants 4-12 months – 12…

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How do we grow children’s self-esteem?

Posted by | anxiety, Children's Therapy, confidence, self-belief, self-esteem, self-image, Stress, Teenagers | No Comments

Self-esteem is a word that we throw around frequently, but do we really recognise the impact of self-esteem in our child’s life? Do we see the impact of self-esteem on their lives? Or perhaps you’ve started to look at your child in comparison to their peers and begun to worry about how they are feeling about themselves? So, let’s start at the beginning….   What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is the value we place on our own worth. It is the opinion we have of ourselves. The way we view our worth in the world. It can be positive or negative, and the level of our self-esteem impacts the way that we see the world and the events that occur in our lives.   What does positive (or high) self-esteem look like? Positive self-esteem can look like: Being able to recognise our strengths Being able to recognise our achievements Feeling positive…

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Why we can’t hide from the dangers of social media…

Posted by | anxiety, boredom, Children's Therapy, computer games, depression, gaming, mental health, school, screen time, social media, Teenagers | No Comments

Every week in my office I see trends and patterns of issues that are occurring in the wider world, particularly those affecting children and teenagers. These act as great insights to my work, and allow me to then set about increasing the information, resources and targeted support that I offer to parents – you thought all these blogs were random? Not a chance…….every week there is a theme from the challenges facing parents, children and local contacts such as schools, local authorities and tutors etc. What’s occurring?  Since lockdown, social media has increased it’s agenda in my world. Whilst it was a fantastic commodity during the craziness of full lockdown, it comes with it’s own dangers and perils, often: under the radar out of parent sight not discussed causing high levels of distress Which ever is your poison, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest or Snap Chat, they all have…

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Why we need to ensure our teens are not ‘too’ busy

Posted by | anxiety, body-image, boredom, confidence, depression, low mood, mental health, self-belief, Stress, Teenagers | No Comments

How busy is too busy?  How quiet is too quiet?  Something that I have noticed in my time as a child and teen therapist, is the far reaching extremes that can occur in children and teen’s diaries and the trends that then occur in mental health. The issues that often arise are either:  teens whose diaries are too quiet and have no focus, leading to isolation, to teens whose diaries are so busy they leave little/no time for downtime and lead to overwhelm Careful monitoring therefore becomes paramount to helping strike a careful balance. As the world operates 24/7, our diaries become filled with back to back events, commitments and social situations. However, for a child this can quickly make their world feel overwhelming and out of control. Their inbuilt desire to meet expectations can often mean that they will push through these emotions and the first indicator we see…

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Flatten the mental health curve at home!

Posted by | anger, anxiety, boredom, Children's Therapy, confidence, depression, low mood, mental health, self-esteem, sensitive children, Stress, Teenagers, trauma | No Comments

As we exit lockdown and resume a semblance of normality mental health has become the buzz word of the moment. But, how do we ensure that we are actually planning for mental health and not just playing lip service to the current trending terminology? Mental health describes a child or adolescent who has a positive sense of self and their abilities, a child with good mental health has good coping mechanisms to manage everyday stressors. Mental health can be seen as a continuum, moving between mental health and mental ill-health. We all have mental health, and as such, we will have times in life when it may be better or we may struggle. For those who regularly read my blogs, you will have seen the timelines I released early on in lockdown predicting times and areas when we need to be aware of our family’s stressors and also key events which…

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Top Tips for Back to School!

Posted by | Adventures of Brian, anger, anxiety, mental health, school, self-esteem, sensitive children, separation anxiety, Stress | No Comments

As the world prepares for the return to school, parents up and down the country are getting the uniforms ready, purchasing new school shoes and packing lunch boxes…. But what else do we need to consider to prepare our children for a successful return to school? Get organised Double check school lists and requirements Make a shopping list and do it in one hit to reduce stress Wash uniform a few times to soften it up Plan a packed lunch menu so prepping is simple Practice putting uniform on and moving around to adjust Practice the walk to school to open conversation Prep everything you can the night before so the morning is less stressful   Get consistent Start getting up earlier in the week leading up to school to lessen the shock Start going to bed at ‘school times’ to adjust body clocks Create a morning ‘school’ routine and…

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Why treating mental health is like peeling an onion

Posted by | anger, anxiety, bereavement, boredom, Children's Therapy, confidence, depression, mental health, parent separation, self-belief, self-esteem, self-image, sensitive children, separation anxiety, Stress, Teenagers, trauma | No Comments

Mental health, and the treatment of it, causes so many families chaos, confusion and frustration. Accessing support can be difficult and in some cases impossible, and when support is accessed the expectations can differ from the outcomes. When working with clients, I frequently talk about mental health being an onion. Onions have layers and layers that you can peel back.  Some mental health issues are isolated, and therefore can be stripped in one go, therefore only requiring 1-2 sessions. Other mental health issues have developed over months, years, have multiple affects and triggers and therefore require us to strip off more layers to return to positive well-being – therefore requiring multiple sessions over a period of weeks or years. In some cases, clients will have attempted a number of therapies for only 1-2 sessions and when not finding an immediate cure give up and move to the next therapy. Others,…

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Posted by | Adventures of Brian, anger, anxiety, bereavement, boredom, child therapy, confidence, depression, disordered eating, grief, mental health, self-belief, self-esteem, self-image, sensitive children, separation anxiety, Stress, Teenagers, trauma | No Comments

As lockdown eases in some places, and starts round two in others, the world feels like a strange place to navigate. For the many parents that I am speaking to on a daily basis, the concern for child and adolescent mental health grows. The uncertainty of the world, the disruptions to education and the distortions to social lives, for many, has created a wealth of mental health issues, ranging from low level to crisis. But, as a parent, what do you need to be looking for? And at which point should you be stepping in and looking for help?   Signs and symptoms: Seeing signs of mental ill-health as warning flags is a great way to keep things in check. I frequently work with children who, in the face of adversity, coped like a trooper. However, in the months/years after, then began to struggle. Because life had resumed to a…

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Planning for the summer – Helping children to manage expectations and develop patience

Posted by | Adventures of Brian, anxiety, boredom, Children's Therapy, confidence, relationships, self-esteem, sensitive children, well-being | No Comments

After months of disappointment, life being tipped upside down and some massive changes to daily routines, as adults we can feel discombobulated, and for children, many feel like their brains are about to explode. Supporting children to make sense of the world and to feel safer is key to building their resilience and helping them to manage natural anxiety. With the summer holidays now upon us, there is a wonderful opportunity to support children to start putting their worlds back into order so that they are well prepared for the return to school. Our brains run on patterns; every opportunity, sensory experience, place we visit, thing we hear is quickly run back to our brains stored knowledge to check if it is ‘safe’ ‘acceptable’ or ‘similar’ to what we have known before. If something matches then we can push forward, if not, it can raise anxiety levels, adrenalin or fear…

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Computers, teenagers and mental health

Posted by | anger, anxiety, boredom, Children's Therapy, computer games, gaming, mental health, screen time, Stress, Teenagers | No Comments

Technology has taken the world by storm in the last ten years, and with it, brought new levels of graphics, entertainment and browsing. Long gone are the days of being impressed by a Commodore 64 or a Gameboy, as platform games and interactive social media platforms now absorb hours of our days. Whilst technology has opened new forms of communication, entertainment and interaction, alongside the blessings, for many it has brought a new curse onto their households. A curse that few people can avoid, adults, teens and children alike. Whilst some can take and leave electronics, easily switching off and putting them aside. For others, computers and electronics create unhealthy attachments and create huge emotional responses. The Royal College of Paedatrics and Child Health, surveyed 109 children and young people and found that: 88% of children and young people (11-24 years) acknowledged that screen time had a negative impact on…

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An open letter to parents of children with eating disorders

Posted by | anxiety, body-image, disordered eating, Eating Disorders, emotional eating, mental health, self-belief, self-esteem, Teenagers, trauma | No Comments

*This blog is not medical guidance. If you have concerns about your child’s eating behaviours please consult your GP for referral and support.   Dear parent, I know that you haven’t got a clue what to do right now, whatever you say is wrong; too caring and you are ‘suffocating’, too strict and you ‘don’t care’ and say nothing and you’re accused of ‘ignoring my needs’. Here’s the thing about my eating disorder, it’s not me, it’s part of me but it distorts my thinking and actions at the core of my being. I don’t mean to snap at you, yell, scream, tell you that I don’t want to be here anymore, but it’s suffocating the energy out of my soul and preventing me from using logic and rationale right now. Some days I have control of it, some days it has control of me. On those days I feel…

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Strategies to support children: Homemade Sensory Boxes

Posted by | anger, anxiety, boredom, Children's Therapy, confidence, grief, low mood, self-belief, self-esteem, sensitive children, Stress, well-being | No Comments

Helping children to manage their emotions and learn to regulate them can be a daunting task. Children’s rapid brain development means that whilst they develop logic and reasoning from the age of 5, they can often be impulsive, as the frontal cortex of the brain, which controls logic develops much later. In fact, the frontal cortex development continues into adulthood, so recognising that children need our help to develop reasoning and control is the first step to connecting and helping them. The later development of the frontal cortex means that children; are more likely to act on impulse are less likely to think before they act are more likely to take risks or act out risky behaviours have difficulty considering the consequence of their actions may behave in inappropriate ways Therefore, as adults, supporting children to develop the knowledge and understanding of these areas is important in their social and…

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Supporting Parent/Adult Mental Health

Posted by | anxiety, depression, low mood, mental health, relationships, self-esteem, Stress | No Comments

Whilst I frequently write about child mental health, this blog is a shallow dive into adult mental health, to support parents, carers and wider family members who may need some support. Mental health, whilst a subject more frequently written and talked about, is still shrouded in its own elements of taboo and stigma. The reality, all of us have mental health. In its simplest form, mental health is a pendulum, swinging back and forth throughout our lives between good mental health and ill mental health.  Different life circumstances, situations and experiences may influence the pendulum in the short, medium or longer term. So, what dictates our responses to this? For the majority, core factors that affect our reactions and the impact and duration of the impact on our mental health include (but not exhaustive): Previous life experiences Our state of mental health at the time of the event Our resilience…

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Supporting children with angry feelings

Posted by | anger, anxiety, BWRT, Children's Therapy, confidence, low mood, self-esteem, Stress | No Comments

Why do we get angry?? Everyone has a different response to anger, and the reason for this is that everyone interprets the environment, relationships and situations differently. This is dependent on previous experience, developmental stage and our understanding of our own emotions and triggers. As such, no response to a situation is right or wrong, but merely our own response formed from our pre-learnt reactions. For children, as their brain development is in an escalated period and changing daily, their response to situations may not be what is deemed ‘acceptable’ or ‘desired’ but will, like our own responses, be a response to the emotions that they are feeling internally and the learnt responses they have developed to date. These may be their ‘fight-flight-freeze-faint’ responses, they may be responses learnt from previous experiences or they may be learnt responses from the people around them. So, where do these responses come from?…

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