“A new way to see and feel the world” is how one of my clients described choosing connection with our children. It doesn’t just transform your relationship with your child but also other areas of your life too: the way you’re able to see fellow humans, show up in relationships outside of your family and connect with others, listen to and hear other people’s stories, get clear on your values and set healthy boundaries.
This year I’ve seen more of the ripple effect in my life too. It’s been a year for re-assessing my values, getting clear on what I stand for, how I want to show up in the world and mapping out how I’d like to see Choosing Connection evolve going forward. As I became clear on my values, my vision for Choosing Connection became clearer too, as well as where it’s ok to let go of things that aren’t aligned.
2021 was another challenging year, with highs and lows, uncertainty and learning to expect the unexpected. Not everything may have gone to plan but what I’ve seen is that the more I’ve been able to choose connection, the easier it’s been.
The ripple effect works both ways. We see the positive change in our families in other areas of our lives, and another year of the pandemic has exposed how easily fear, distrust and prejudice infiltrates society too.
What I set out to do in 2021 and how it went
- Reach more families with a paradigm shift in parenting that honours children, as well as helps parents build strong relationships with their kids for more ease, calm and joy in family life. Read on to find out more about my blog, the online programme and community I created in 2021!
- Connect with my children and myself every day. My family will always be my no. 1 priority. This year I’ve been more mindful of my time and energy, recognising that the joy and fulfilment I draw from my work and taking care of myself improves my mental health and how I’m able to show up for my family. This year hasn’t been without its challenges, working out who it is my children need me to be as they reach adolescence, but I’ve been more able to commit to myself and my work without guilt, and connect even more deeply with my children as a result.
- Get moving and improve my fitness. This is where a school report would say could do better! I haven’t been as active as I wanted and needed to be this year and my physical and health has suffered as a result.
- Continuous personal development and learning. It’s my goal to continue to educate myself every year. This year I’ve dived deeper into adolescence and puberty, developmental trauma, and creating impact through an online business.
- My motto for 2021 was: Get moving! Done is better than perfect. I may not have met my personal fitness goals but I’ve otherwise set a lot of things in motion: on my blog and with my online course and community. 2022 will be all about gaining momentum and staying on track.
My year in review 2021
Choosing Connection on the blog
One of my goals in 2021 was to reach more families with choosing connection in our relationships with our kids. I’d been itching to start blogging again and finally publish all the text snippets and notes gathering dust on my computer, so when Judith “Sympatexter” Peters ran a blog challenge in April 2021, I jumped in. The goal of the week-long challenge was to write and publish a new blog post to start or revive your blog. I love the buzz Judith creates around blogging and blogging as a group means having the support and accountability to make sure I actually hit publish. I joined Judith’s blogging community, The Content Society, this year, too, so that I can get organised and fill my blog with lots of new content next year. Always better done than perfect :-)
In 2021 I was just getting started, in 2022 I will be publishing new posts regularly. Look out for new posts on my blog here and let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to see featured!
Connect with Your Child – my new online programme!
In 2020, I developed an idea for an online group programme for the parents and families I work with who want to choose connection and build strong relationships with their kids.
My 6 week online programme: Connect with Your Child
When Sigrun offered her SOMBA Kickstart programme to help female entrepreneurs create and run their first online course this summer, I signed up. A few weeks later, my Connect with Your Child programme was born with a first cohort of amazing parents.
Over four weeks, we explored four key principles for connecting with your child and the kind of mindset shifts that help us build stronger relationships. I made 16 videos, developed an accompanying course workbook with activities, tasks and worksheets, we met on a group call once a week for Q&A, and shared insights and experiences in a Facebook group.
It was an exhilarating four weeks and I learned so much about running an online programme. There was no time for overthinking, self-doubt, comparisonitis or procrastination, just doing!
What made the experience for me though was the feedback I got throughout. So many mums and dads experienced incredible shifts in the way they were able to see their child and themselves, and were able to connect with them in ways they hadn’t thought possible before.
That’s why I created Connect with Your Child and why I’ll be offering it again in 2022. You can read more about the programme here.
Connection Club – my new community for parents!
As Connect with Your Child came to an end, a number of participants asked if there was a way to carry on learning, sharing and growing together as a group. I created Connection Club, a not your average, international, relationship-based community for peaceful and respectful parents!
Connection Club: not your average, international, relationship-based community for peaceful and respectful parents.
Connection Club is an alumni community for parents who are already familiar with my four key principles for choosing connection, through Connect with Your Child or 1-1 coaching. Connect with Your Child is like the base camp to equip you for the parenting journey of choosing connection and Connection Club helps you find your individual path, with ongoing support and like-minded company for your journey.
In Connection Club, we have monthly topics and deep dives, Q&A group coaching at two different times each month to accommodate different time zones around the globe, a book club, a private members site with all the content, bonus additional resources, as well as a private Facebook group for continuing the conversations between live calls.
Anger & Aggression
Needs, Wants, Boundaries, Limits
In our first three months of Connection Club, we’ve had monthly deep dives into anger and aggression, co-parenting, as well as needs, wants, boundaries and limits. Our book club books in 2021 were Self-Reg by Stuart Shanker, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and Beyond Behaviours by Mona Delahooke.
Self-Reg by Stuart Shanker
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Beyond Behaviours by Mona Delahooke
I’ve got so much more planned for Connection Club and can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring!
My 45th birthday
My birthday falls in the middle of the year, on the 16th June, and this year I turned 45. As I’m getting older and approaching midlife, I feel incredibly grateful for each and every year. This year I thought it would be fun to look back at the first 45 years of my life, and to look forward to the next 45.
Candles on the birthday train, no matter how old you are ;-)
If this is the first thing you’re reading on my blog and you don’t know much about me yet, read the blog post I wrote: 45 Things You May Not Know About Me.
This birthday was my second birthday of the Covid pandemic and we were just coming out of our second lockdown-light. Shops and cafés had reopened, it was sunny, hot and 30C, so we went into town for the first time in a while for ice creams.
The highlight of my day was the night. One of my daughters had the idea that we could sleep outside in the garden under the stars. I’d mentioned to her that I’d never slept outside without a tent before. It had been a very hot day and the sky was beautifully clear. It was an unforgettable experience that I definitely want to have again!
Covid: the uninvited guest that’s overstayed its welcome
It became clear towards the end of the end of 2020 that Covid was going to be with us for longer than anticipated during those first lockdown weeks. I had, like many of us, hoped that we’d be in a different place by now, at the end of 2021. Instead, as we ring in 2022, we’re approaching a fifth wave, more hospitalisations and deaths, as well as tighter restrictions again. My heartfelt gratitude goes to everyone working in the health system who are continuing to fight for lives under the most difficult conditions. I wish for you, as well as for everyone who is sick, separated from or has lost a loved one, that it could be different.
Wellbeing over worksheets: a year of online school
School in 2021 continued online. Our kids had been back in online school since November 2020, and with the exception of a few days over a few weeks between Whitsun and the summer holidays 2021, spent almost the whole school year 2020-21 at home. It’s been a mixed bag. School learning in it’s one-size-fits-all approach, whether at school or online at home, doesn’t fit all.
Kids can flourish in the home environment, without the stress, pressures and confines of school and standard learning curricula, learn and have a much richer learning experience for it.
There are kids who want to go to school. Also who need the support of caring and trusted adults outside of the home.
There are kids who get on better with the distance online school creates.
There are kids who find sitting at a screen and filling out worksheets the worst possible way to spend their days (I don’t disagree!), let alone learn anything of value other than for passing a test they won’t remember in 10 years time
There are kids who experience online school in their homes as a violation of their privacy.
The science is clear: true, rich learning takes place when children experience emotional safety, when they are learning what is meaningful and relevant to them, and when their needs are met, in an environment with facilitating and caring adults who put the needs and experiences of children before any curriculum, whether at school or at home.
Over 29 weeks this year, I’ve supported three children with very individual needs when it comes to school and learning. Yet as a family, we’ve been fortunate. Both my husband and I work from home and are able to be flexible. Being at home with three young adolescents is also a lot easier than if we’d still been in the toddler years. I’m grateful for this time we’ve had together.
What I’ve found damaging are the messages populating the media that all that matters is the curriculum, catching up on missed school days, talk of reducing holidays and weekend school. The last thing children need after almost two years living with Covid is more school work, pressure and the perspective that they are somehow doomed to fail in life because of missed school during a global pandemic.
School attendance does not equate to education and what children, families and teachers really need are resources to support children, help them feel secure and regain their sense of emotional safety, as well as constructive ways to approach learning and education adapted to their new reality and experience.
Instead the handling of the pandemic has exposed the adultism in our society and how little society values children and families. Children aren’t a means to herd immunity and need to be protected from Covid too, the future of the economy shouldn’t depend on their completing piles of worksheets, they aren’t problems to be solved, nor should their presence at home be a matter of life or death, or mean the end of parents’ careers.
The world has changed and instead of instilling fear, upholding outdated ideas and expecting children, families, teachers and schools to catch up with the old, how about new paradigms in education and learning that provide for this new world and really protect our children’s future by prioritising their wellbeing over worksheets.
Shout out to science
On a more positive note, I’m grateful that we were all able to get Covid vaccines this year. My husband and I just had our boosters and our kids were able to get vaccinated as soon as they became available for over 12s in the late summer. With schools here open again since September, and ever increasing numbers, I’m glad and grateful for the science, brilliant minds, hard work and cooperation that made it possible.
The development of the Covid vaccines shows what humans are capable of. I wish we would see the same adaptive energy and investment in the education system too.
Movements that matter
When Friends the Reunion aired at the end of May 2021, I re-watched some of the old episodes. Such a different experience as a white woman and mother in my 40s in 2021, watching through the lens of the #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, anti-racism and LGBTQIA+ movements, compared to the 20 year old I was when I first saw it as a young, white, single, female student in the 90s. We’ve come a long way since then and yet we’ve still so much further to go for social justice and until we’re truly honouring human diversity.
This year’s share of Covid conspiracy theories, banning of rainbow flags and racism against footballers during the Euro Cup have shown in 2021 that it’s so important to get clear on your values and where you stand. For me it’s social justice and science. The film Don’t Look Up just released on Netflix is a satire for everyone but climate scientists. For scientists it mirrors the grim reality they’re already experiencing that will ultimately rob us of our real freedoms and ensure the irreversible destruction of our world: conspiracy theories, inaction, attempting to refute or simply just tiring of or turning our backs on science, movements fighting for solutions to climate change and social justice, pushing them back into the margins and being unwilling to have the difficult conversations or embrace discomfort, the awkward, the new or the different.
If it hadn’t been for an email requesting I pay import duty on a crocheted cushion my mum had made and sent over for her granddaughter, I might have just forgotten all about Brexit. On 1st January 2021, four and a half years after the UK referendum on leaving the EU, the Brexit transition period came to an end and quietly, overshadowed by and under the cover of Covid, the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU came into effect. The last 18 months have been hard with Covid travel restrictions and family behind closed borders. With Brexit, for the first time in all the years I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve become acutely aware of the distance to my family and first home, and feel very far away.
Home to England
For the first time in two years we were able to travel to England to see my mum, her partner and our children’s grandparents. We didn’t know whether it would be possible but were ready to go at short notice if the situation allowed. We decided the easiest and safest way for us to travel would be via ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich. This meant we could limit the number of countries we had to travel through and the risk of one of them being added to the no-travel list. Still, I had a list of 25 items to take care of before we could travel, including Covid tests no longer than 48 hours before boarding the ferry, completing the online documentation for each country travelled from, through and to, uploading vaccination certificates, booking the required tests for after arrival, as well as checking daily for changes to quarantine, testing or travel requirements and restrictions. With some relief, and without having overlooked or forgotten anything, we were able to board the ferry and get excited about seeing family again.
I love the sea. On the North Sea ferry between Holland and Harwich
As it turned out, getting home to Germany was trickier because we had to have negative tests no older that 24 hours to board the ferry back to the Netherlands. This ruled out tests by post so we had to find a test centre where we could get the results straight away. This meant planning in a day trip to Cambridge, a three hour drive one way, and an investment of more than 1000 € for tests for all five of us. Lucky for us, we had beautiful weather and were able to take advantage of being outside, visit my old college, Emmanuel, go punting and have a delicious picnic meal from the lovely, friendly and very accommodating people from Agora at The Copper Kettle on King’s Parade.
Taking the kids around my old college: Emmanuel College, Cambridge
It was a wonderful feeling to be able to hold my mum in my arms again after so long and feel the worry and stress of the last 18 months melt away. The kids were so excited to see their grandparents again and how they’d grown taller than my mum in the time they hadn’t seen each other. Since my mum lives quite remotely, we were able to spend a precious week together on the coast with lots of time at the beach, which I’d also sorely missed!
For the return journey, we took the overnight ferry. That was an adventure in itself and made the journey seem so much shorter, as well as keeping us and everyone else as safe as possible.
It wasn’t the easiest trip home we’ve ever had but it was worth it. I only wish we could have stayed longer and could say when we’ll be able to go again. I also hope that next time the situation will have improved and we’ll be able to see more of my family, and friends, too.
Puberty, a new stage of parenthood and family life
Before the start of the Covid pandemic, our children were very much children. Now, almost two years later, we have three adolescent children, all of whom have grown a good 20cm! When my son woke up one morning last week, he’d grown taller than me, seemingly overnight. Somehow puberty has crept up on us and a big part of adjusting to life in the pandemic has also been getting to know each other in this next stage of development, who our kids are and who they need us to be as parents.
It’s been a time of reflection for me. Our kids have great boundaries and can often clearly articulate their feelings and needs, in ways that I’m still learning and can learn from. I feel so much joy and gratitude for the people they’re becoming together with the grief that so much of their childhoods is already behind us and how different my role as a mother will be going forward. I’ve also caught myself heading into judgment and self-doubt as to whether I’ve done a good enough job, what about all the mistakes I made along the way and things I’d do differently if we could do it all over again.
When your kids grow taller than you :-D
The self-judgment isn’t helpful but it’s there. I’ve found what helps is to show myself the same empathy and kindness I would a friend or a client. With a different perspective, I can see that my kids might be bigger but they haven’t moved out, yet :-) We likely have another 5-10 years together at home. And they all love being at home with us and doing things together as a family! I remember that connecting with ourselves and our kids is ongoing, every day is a new opportunity for connection, the journey is the destination. We can always adjust, reset the course, as long as we can stay out of judgment, choose connection and stay in dialogue.
I’m sharing this so that if you’ve had a hard week or a hard year, you know that you’re not alone. The job you’re doing as a parent is so incredibly important and it’s never been harder than in the last 18 months.
A trip to Paris and exclusive time with my daughter
A highlight of my 2021 was taking a trip to Paris with one of my daughters at the beginning of November, once we were both fully vaccinated and in the small window when travel was possible. We’re lucky that it’s only a three hour train ride from where we live.
A beautiful day to climb to the top of the Eiffel tower
Before the pandemic, I’d taken a trip to Berlin with my son and promised my daughters that we’d take trips together too. I love having this time with my children individually. It’s wonderful being a big family, having siblings and a twin, and it’s also precious to have exclusive time and get to know each other in way that everyday family life doesn’t often allow for.
I love Paris and we’d talked about what we would do on our trip for a long time before we could actually go. We both love to walk so we spent every day exploring the city on foot, clocking an average of 15km every day!
I don’t believe exclusive time with our kids has to involve elaborate plans, travelling or expense. It’s the simple things in our everyday lives that build trust and connection. I make it my goal to connect with each of my kids individually at home every day. At the same time, it’s wonderful to create memories with someone and taking the trip together was unforgettable, so many experiences and memories that have brought us even closer.
Celebrating 20 years as a couple and family
In May 2021, my husband and I celebrated 20 years as a couple. My longest relationship adventure to date. Four years as young, carefree, professional, twenty-something soul mates, 16 years as a married couple and 14 years as parents. It certainly isn’t always plain sailing but with every year we get to learn and grow, and add another chapter to our story. Communication, listening and staying curious is everything. With a little help from Brené Brown, I’m learning to be vulnerable and experiencing the connection that’s possible through staying out of (self-)judgment, as well as how powerful the words “The story I’m telling myself is…” are.
“If you own your story, you get to write the ending.” – Brené Brown
Travelling in our twenties
A marriage proposal in Barcelona
Fun wedding day in Essex, England
Parents of 3 under 2s
Our growing family
The story continues…
Three books I’ve loved this year
As well as the books we read in Connection Club, here are three more books I’ve loved this year:
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
“This book has been written to examine some of the ways love heals and helps a person to climb impossible heights and rise from immeasurable depths.”
This is the last in Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography.
The story of Maya’s relationship with her mother, who sent her and her brother away to live with their grandmother when Maya was three. A story of courage and curiosity, hurt and healing.
The Lido by Libby Page
The Lido by Libby Page
“Sometimes, the only way to change your life is to swim outside the lanes…”
This was actually a re-read that I took off the shelf again this year because I loved reading it so much the first time around. It’s a story about two women of different generations: 86 year old Rosemary and 26 year old Kate. At first glance, they don’t seem to have much in common but as they stand together to prevent the closure of their local lido, they discover there’s more that connects them than they thought. It’s a story of connection, community and solidarity that I find inspiring, especially in the middle of the pandemic. Also it made me feel closer to my mum, who grew up in South London and is a swimmer too.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits by James Clear
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”
I’ve gained so much clarity this year and have finally got moving on some projects I was stalling on but still I’m prone to second-guessing myself, self-doubt and self-sabotage! Atomic Habits looks at habits from the perspective of who you want to become vs. what you want to achieve, that contentment comes from falling in love with the process rather than reaching any end goal, and that you can be the architect of your environment. In my work, we talk about choosing connection and building strong relationships with our kids being a journey, the journey being the destination, and that it’s the small steps and actions we take every single day that make the difference. Thinking about goal setting and the new year, I’m asking myself who do I want to be instead of what do I want to achieve.
What I’ve been grateful for in 2021
- My family and health
- My children for reminding me every day of who I want to be
- My husband for sharing this life with me and supporting my every venture, even and especially when I’m my own worst enemy
- My mum for staying close when we can’t be near
- My amazing clients and families I’ve had the privilege of working with this year, who’ve put their trust in me and experienced the magic of connection
- The technology that’s allowed me to stay connected to family and friends, work with families around the world, learn and be inspired
- Science, the health system and essential workers
- Our cats for a warm lap on a cold evening
My 2021 in numbers
- 79 parents welcomed to my 1-1 coaching and courses
- 16 course videos recorded, 17 workbooks, 22 Q&A group coaching calls, 4 deep dive masterclasses, 3 book club calls, 10 live videos, and 15 new blog posts
- 29 weeks supporting three kids with online school
- 1500€ paid for Covid tests to enable us to travel and see grandparents
- 20 years in a relationship
What’s coming in 2022
- Connect with Your Child will be starting with a new cohort in the spring!
- I’ll be focusing on even more support and making Connection Club the place to be for international parents and families choosing connection.
- I want to support 100 families individually through my 1-1 coaching in 2022.
- Content, content and more content! New blog posts, as well as a new format I’ll be announcing soon.
- I’ll also be prioritising my health and getting fit again.
- I hope we’ll be able to travel more next year, visit grandparents and family in England.
- My motto for 2022 is embrace vulnerability! Inspired by Brené Brown, I want to be bolder in sharing my message of rethinking parenting, for more connection, ease and joy in our family lives, as well as lasting social change and a more peaceful world. Read more about how I want to embrace vulnerability in 2022 here.