Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

mince-pies

This week I’m thankful because:

  • Pete finishes work for Christmas tomorrow. This gives us three days of quiet before the children break up. We intend to have our own drama-free Christmas lunch. I think there should be hats.
  • The school carol concert is over, and with it all the routine-disrupting rehearsals. The girls sang enthusiastically, looked in the right direction at least 50 per cent of the time, and amused us by winking and grinning at us throughout.
  • I had a lovely day of self-care on Sunday, while Pete took the girls to the cinema (they saw Ferdinand, which I gather was very funny) and then to their cousin’s birthday party. I slept. Then I listened to podcasts. Then I made mince pies. It was blissful.

  • At the end of last week we met with the heads of adoption and fostering for our LA who told us what had happened at the previous week’s multi-agency meeting. We’re being referred to the Child in Need team in order that they can do whatever assessing they need to do of exactly how difficult things are for us as a family. Then they can tick a box that will allow us to apply for funding for a weekly SEMH boarding school place for Joanna (which has so far been declined by the SEN department who think shuttling her back and forth an hour each way every day is fine). We also talked about respite and what that might look like in practice and we are working together on a plan. AND they wanted info from me on safe holding training and CPV because they are reviewing their policy! No problem. (It’s here if you want a copy.) So there’s still nothing actually tangible right now, but things are moving, I think.
  • I have pretty much finished my Christmas shopping – just a couple of things still to get and I am having a shopping trip with my mum today. Top of Charlotte’s wish list is an Elsa dress, but the only one I’ve found has a button that plays Let It Go. So obviously that little device will need to be removed and the dress sewn back up, because there are limits to my tolerance! I’m thankful to have a mum who is very handy with a needle and thread, so I might delegate that to her if she’s willing.
  • The rest of my Christmas preparations are still in disarray, but I’m fine with that. How about you?

What are you grateful for this week?

Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉

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Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

This week I’m thankful because:

  • The Playmobil nativity set-as-Advent-calendar is working really well. We are still constructing the stable at the moment and the girls seem to be really enjoying it. No pieces have yet been chewed or lost.
  • Yesterday we celebrated St Nicholas Day. This has been a tradition we’ve enjoyed with the girls for five years now, and we love it. On Monday after school (when they came home a bit a lot dysregulated, because school + December = too much change to the schedule) we watched the VeggieTales DVD about St Nicholas (also part of our tradition). On the night of the fifth, we all leave a shoe outside our bedroom door. ‘St Nicholas’ then fills them with treats overnight This year the girls got a Smiggle pencil sharpener and rubber, some chocolate coins, and a little Lindt Father Christmas and reindeer. We’ve never made any attempt to pretend that St Nicholas is anyone other than us, because that’s how we roll with truth-telling and not wanting to alarm them with the idea of strangers in the house. So the whole St Nicholas thing is done with a nudge and a wink and it is just a simple part of our family’s Christmas experience that I really love. I also enjoyed Charlotte’s idea of putting Paddington’s welly out with her boot, just in case he picked up a bit more chocolate.
  • Reindeer jumperOn Tuesday I had an afternoon away from my desk that didn’t involve going to a meeting! I did a bit of Christmas shopping (including this fabulous jumper for Joanna) and took a bit of time out in Starbucks just to stare into space and zone out in the name of self-care. It was lovely.
  • Last week’s multi-agency meeting happened. No-one has yet told us the outcome – we have to go to yet another meeting to hear that. It’s this afternoon. I am so sick of having meetings when a quick email exchange would be so much easier (and provide a paper trail for their promises). But that’s what’s on offer, and so off we go to find out exactly how much of what we’re asking for is going to be a fight. I’m thankful that at least this is some sort of progress.
  • I have some freelance work on this week, which I love. It helps me feel like I am using the parts of my brain that being mum doesn’t always reach. I feel much more me when I am working. I’m thankful that I get to balance both.

What are you grateful for this week?

Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉

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Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

Advent calendar

This week I’m thankful because:

  • It’s nearly Advent. I put our Advent calendar up yesterday. These bags have become a bit of a family tradition. Some years we put notes in them to indicate a particular treat or activity, such as having a hot chocolate and watching a DVD, or making biscuits. Other years it’s the easier route of emptying a couple of bags of fun-size chocolates into them. This year I bought a Playmobil nativity set and have put a few pieces in each day. AND chocolate. The thing is so heavy I’ve had to add knots to the string at strategic intervals to stop all the bags sliding to the middle. I’m trying not to think about the likelihood of bits being chewed, sneaked to school and given away, broken during meltdowns, etc. I’m hoping we can do this.
  • This week is crazy busy, but we are surviving. On Monday Pete and I visited a potential SEMH school for Joanna. It was good, we liked the headteacher, and they are fully on board with PACE and appropriate therapeutic approaches. They just don’t do boarding, which is what we are pushing for. When I mentioned this, the head was great. He said he’d gladly tell the SEN department they were full if it meant us getting what we wanted from them i.e. the other school.
  • Post-adoption support, CAMHS and SEN are finally meeting today (as we have been asking them to for the best part of a year) to put together a multi-agency response to us. I’ll let you know whether it is anything near the package of support we have been asking for.
  • It’s properly cold, the days are shorter, and I love it. I think I was basically born to hibernate. I am unashamedly typing this from under the duvet. It is lovely.
  • I am of the opinion that once it’s December, it’s mince pie season. I don’t do anywhere near as much baking now as I did pre-children, but this weekend I hope to get those going. I’m thinking that the tree can wait another week though. Am I right? When are you putting your tree up?

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 

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Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

New hat

This week I’m thankful because:

  • After a year containing more overseas trips than I can remember, and having just spent four days in Sweden for work, Mr Meadows is home for the rest of the year. He brought me back a rather excellent new hat.

  • Charlotte (7) was able to tell me how terrified she is of maths lessons and how she copies her friend because she has absolutely no idea what the questions mean, let alone what the answers are. Obviously on one level it’s heartbreaking, but if we know, we can help. Her teacher had no idea. Our suspicions were aroused when we were presented with an exercise book full of correct answers at last week’s parents’ evening, because we know how hard she finds maths when we do it at home. One meltdown over homework later, and a few PLACE-esque curious questions, and we had the best conversation about her emotions and how she bottles them up at school that we’ve ever had. Conveniently, I’m writing her EHCP form at the moment, so I filled in her section verbatim.

  • Next week is crazy busy – visiting a potential SEMH school for Joanna, taking both girls for genetic testing, meeting the powers that be at CAMHS, and a multi-agency meeting happening as a result of Pete’s latest email copying in all and sundry including our MP. It’s unclear whether we’re invited to this last one – no-one has actually said anything directly – but the fact that they are finally going to discuss the CPV, the girls’ CAMHS provision, and Joanna’s SEMH school place (and whether this can be a weekly boarding place) is progress.

  • Joanna injured her wrist while managing what was by all accounts an epic save in football yesterday. I got a call from school and took her to the GP, who decided it was almost certainly just a sprain. The on-call doctor saw us within 10 minutes! If I make an appointment online it takes 5 weeks! I then found her a sling (which she LOVES, because attention), took her for a sneaky hot chocolate, and returned her to school. Within seconds of our return the sling attracted all the melodramatic gasps from her friends that she could have hoped for. So I’m thankful (a) that it’s not more serious and (b) that we managed to get it all sorted out quickly. Also I got to be supermum in her eyes for a couple of hours which made a nice change.

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 

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Do you emerge from a meeting, a phone conversation or an exchange of emails with the professionals who are supposed to be helping your family, feeling, well… like this? 👇 Then you need these five tips for dealing with professionals that will help you take back control.

Five game-changing tips for dealing with professionals

dealing-with-professionals

1. Dress like them

By which I mean, dress as though you are at a business meeting. Don’t let them look down on you as ‘just a parent’. I work from home and live in jeans and jumper most of the time, but for meetings with teachers, social workers, and medical people I wear work clothes – usually black trousers and a tunic top – which is similar to the kinds of things worn by the professionals who work with our family.

dealing-with-professionals

2. Take framed photos of your child(ren) to meetings

This is a tip from Yvonne Newbold’s excellent book The Special Parent’s Handbook. I did this at Joanna’s EHCP review meeting, because so many of the professionals there had never met her and we were there to make potentially life-changing decisions for her. I wanted them to remember the little girl behind all the paperwork – the girl outside of the school environment who is still utterly vulnerable in the hands of the decision-makers. I’m pretty sure it helped. It certainly showed them we were serious about representing her best interests.

dealing-with-professionals

3. Ask ‘What would you do?’

A helpful technique I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed and was reminded of in Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier this week is to ask the professional who stands between you and the outcome you want, ‘What would you do, if you were in our situation?’ This makes them pause, if only for a few moments, to consider things from your perspective. They may have more information than you about potential solutions and loopholes in the red tape. This is a good way to help nudge them into suggesting practical compromises or ways forward.

4. Escalate!

If you want to get things done and people are dragging their feet, get free and easy with the CC button. Copy in the head of department, the county councillor, the MP… this often results in emergency meetings being called and conversations being had that you were previously informed couldn’t possibly happen. Oh look, now they can.

5. Write kick-ass emails

I know your time is precious and this thing is frustrating and you have Big Feelings about it all. And I also know that the recipients of our emails sometimes don’t read them as thoroughly as they might. But we’ve got this. Writing good emails can get results. It’s often the easiest way to get your message directly to the top of the organisation you’re dealing with.

The who, the what, the where, the when, the why*

(*This is a quote from my favourite episode of my favourite TV programme. Bonus points for naming it in the comments. 😉 )

I’ve previously tried hard to be professional in my tone, keeping it measured and taking out some of the more emotive stuff. But it turns out that doesn’t get results. Letting a bit of emotion show seems to be working better. If, like us, your children are hurting you and each other and you feel desperate because help is too slow in coming, say so.

Emails with action points are likely to get good results. And a strong subject line doesn’t do any harm, either. This might sound ridiculous, and of course it shouldn’t be necessary, but thinking of your message to them like a marketer thinks of their audience can help. (Yes, for me and Pete this is our day job, and we like to think we’re quite good at it, but it’s not rocket science. You could start here if you want to read more about basic principles of copywriting.) If you prefer, write it as you would write a blog post.

The paper trail is important, and if you end up needing to refer back to something you wrote several months ago, how much stronger is your case if you can quote the email where you laid it all out clearly and said exactly what action was needed and why. So write them a belter. And don’t forget to CC your MP if things need a bit more of a shove.

Bonus patriarchal nonsense tip

A bonus tip – that I really hate to share because it is unfeminist, unfair and enormously frustrating, but we’ve found that when Pete emails it gets a better response. What’s different about his writing? Not much, though he is much less concerned about being concise and polite than I am.

Even if it’s an email we’ve written together, sending it from his account seems to result in more action. So maybe, if you’re female, get a bloke to grumpy it up a bit/send it from their account/experiment with seeing whether this makes a difference for you. I’m sorry. Just throwing this one out there for you to take or leave.

If you have thoughts or experience of this, please leave a comment – it irks me but I really think there’s something in it, and I want to know if you’ve noticed this too.

Do you have any other tips that help you get the results you want when you are dealing with professionals? I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.

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