I want to teach my kids resilience

key life skills to teach kids: resilience


I’ve had mental health on my mind a lot this season. My previous post highlighted some personal stuff from the last year and a half, and I also went through a period of burn-out in the late noughties that was only resolved when I had to take a break with maternity leave. Commuting to London for work did not agree with me! These seasons of life have taught me a lot about my own mental health and the need for a balanced life, one that works for me. We all have different levels of stamina both mental and physical, and the modern behaviour of publicising our best selves on social media has emphasised the struggle with comparison and what makes ‘a good life well lived’ ten-fold. Having children heightened that need for me to listen to what my body tells me, if only because I’m an introvert who gets frazzled after hours of being talked at but also because it has made the weight of responsibility to ‘raise my children well’ more, well, weighty.

And it is. As parents we are well aware of the multitude of skills that our children need to learn to grow into well-rounded adults. Many of these skills they will just pick up by observation of their peers and the adults in their life, whereas others need more careful teaching and modelling. I asked myself what key life skill I want and need to teach my children, and it is obvious to me now that this skill is resilience.

Resilience means that when bad things happen, we have mechanisms in place to help us cope, and important things like sleep and eating well are prioritised. Resilience means learning to ask for help. It means knowing that hard things are not necessarily bad things, and  knowing how to handle disappointment and stress. Resilience means knowing that mistakes are not failures and that learning from them without beating yourself up is important. Resilience means being able to spot the circumstances and situations that affect our mental balance for the good and the bad and to have a plan to manage our well-being so we are not caught short. Resilience means not being tossed around by every wind of life but developing a thick enough skin to not constantly live offended or hurt. It means not hiding away from difficult conversations about what life is really like; showing them that their value does not lie in perfection or in trying to be someone they are not but in knowing who they are; teaching them to be prepared to work to achieve what they want and how to manage their emotions.

Resilience means moving on, learning from the bad, embracing the new, and learning to be adaptable and flexible. It is a huge skill to hone over a lifetime and I have barely scratched the surface, but I would rather my kids already had a good grounding to work from. It’s a daunting task to be honest, and really, it does bear the question ‘what the hell was I thinking wanting to have kids in the first place?!!’ Thankfully, it is hard but also fun and interesting and you learn as much from your kids as they learn from you, and thank goodness for that!


The answer to ‘baby brain’: BeetsBLU PagerTag review

BeetsBLU pagertag review

I used to think that ‘baby brain’ not only was a terrible misogynistic stereotypical word that would never cross my lips but also a complete myth.

It’s still a term I dislike, but unfortunately I’m one of its victims. I got pregnant and started to leave my phone on trains and lose my keys in the house, which had NEVER happened before, and I have never been more embarrassed. Five years on, my brain still isn’t what it used to be. I mislay things a lot more than I used to, which is not helped by mischievous kids who like nothing more than to play hide and seek with the TV remote.

In late June I was approached by a company called Beets BLU to review their PagerTag. I can honestly say it has helped with this brain problem in the last month, and even more so on holiday right now.

PagerTag is a digital key fob that basically tracks your valuables using Bluetooth Smart. It works with most smartphones (some Android don’t have Bluetooth Smart so best check before you order), and you just attach the small slim pager to the item you don’t want to lose and link it with your phone, and you’re off. In terms of size and weight, it attaches to things with a thin string and weighs nothing so it’s really easy to carry around. You can slip it into luggage or wallet or attach it to your keys very easily. You could also, I guess, put it on your kids and pets so as not to lose them either, which feels a bit wrong but might actually be a really good thing if your kid is one of those that runs off, especially in a crowded place.

BeetsBLU PagerTag Review

You can do all manners of other things with it too:

  1. It sounds an alarm on the key fob and the smartphone when the Bluetooth link is lost (around 33 feet/10 meters in line of sight, less in some conditions)
  2. It has a remote control (accessible on the key fob button) which allows you to do certain actions on your smartphone, like: play/pause music, talking clock, voice memo, fake text or phone sound and more.
  3. Proximity detection with automatic sound alert : there is a radar function which sounds an alert within a designated proximity. The app also detects and stores the last known location of a key fob at the moment of disconnection.

I’ve not figured out all these things yet, because I really only need the alarm but it’s a handy little thing.

BeetsBLU PagerTag review


I tested it throughout July and will definitely carry on using it in future, but here’s my little Pros and Cons list to give you an idea of what it’s been like:

PROS: small, lightweight and it does exactly what it says and it does it well, so you really do not need to lose your keys ever again! It looks like I’m not listing a lot of pros against the longer cons list below, but ‘does what it says on the tin’ is as good an endorsement as you could hope for imo.

CONS: I’m going to play devil’s advocate and mention the few frustrations I’ve had with the product. They’re not big things and are purely a matter of preference rather than anything wrong per se but:

  • I wish that I could turn off notifications. I don’t like that it is always live on my phone. I get a static notification on my phone that tells me whether or not the pager is connected to the app at all times. It winds me up purely because I don’t want a constant reminder that I have this app on my phone, if you see what I mean. It’s like having an annoying thought scratching the surface of your brain that you just want to switch off thinking about but can’t.
  • I don’t need to know where my keys/luggage are all the time. 99% of the time, they are not lost. What I do want, is that when I can’t find them, I can activate the alarm. I do not want the alarm to activate itself automatically when I get further than a hundred metres from my keys. Especially when I’m popping to the loo at a work conference (for a quick email check on my phone), my phone starts to vibrate and I have no idea whether the alarm activated itself in the other room, disturbing 50 university professors and the head of school. This happened the first week I tested it and I got so paranoid that I turned Bluetooth off so as not to risk a repeat.
    As it turns out you can configure the alarms to not ring, or to only sound on the fob or the phone or both, or, I guess, you can just use the proximity tool when you’re out of range. So all of this can be sorted out easily HOWEVER I wish it was easier to figure out other than by trial and error, and this leads me to my main ‘bug bear’:
  • The instructions aren’t super clear. It took me the longest time to figure out exactly what steps were needed to make it work and actually stopped me from setting it up straight away, mostly because I’m an idiot and my eyes totally skipped over the bit about downloading the free app onto your phone. That’s because it’s all written in ridiculously small letters that look like T&C small print, with unhelpful headings like Configuration and Usage, as opposed to a clear first you do this, then this, then this, and a separate section for resets. I thought that once the Bluetooth link was on, it would just work but no, you do need the app (of course). I’m not a complete luddite but yeah, that was not my finest moment and was totally stupid. Still, I can’t help but think it would be great if the instructions were a little bit better designed. They could do with better labelling, with clearer 1, 2, 3 steps and some actions capitalised.
  • I wish there was an alternative way to attach the PagerTag to things other than the string. I don’t have a better idea (I’m so not an ‘ideas’ person) and I’m sure magnets on electrical devices are a really stupid idea. But keys and luggage are not the items I lose the most. My keys are in my bag most of the time so it is rare that I need to find them. So what do I need this great product for? My phone and the TV remotes. Mostly because KIDS. They play on my phone and drop the remotes down the sofa and leave them in obscure places. My TV remotes don’t have anything on which to hook the string to, so I can’t use it with them. And then of course, there is the irony that I need to connect the pager to my phone so it makes no sense to keep them together as I can’t use one to find the other, or I need to use a different phone to find this other one. Complicated stuff.

Finally, I also left the Bluetooth unconnected to the pager for too long and received a red notification on my phone asking me to reconnect the two. I waited too long to do this and by the time I’d done this, well, Bluetooth couldn’t reconnect. Ironically, in the meantime, I’d lost my keys so I couldn’t use the PagerTag to locate them. I found them again a minute ago and had to reset the devices but that was easy to do by following the settings instructions on the phone app. The moral of the story is: keep the link alive!

BeetsBLU PagerTag review

NOTE from the author: I was given a BeetsBLU pager in exchange for an honest and fair review. I did not pay for it and only accept to undertake sponsored reviews for products that are relevant to this blog or of particular personal interest. I wasn’t asked to give a good review, just an honest one. I also told them I’d post this in July and it’s August now, yeah me!

In addition, please note that this site uses associate links. if you choose to purchase products via the links provided, I receive a small percentage which goes towards the upkeep of this site at no extra cost to you.

Raising Bilingual Children: Confessions of a Struggling Mum

Raising bilingual children header 20160518

I have been having a few wobbles lately about what is, at this time, my utter failure at raising bilingual children. It’s not something that bilingual parents talk about online very openly that I’ve seen. There are a lot of blog posts about the theory and practices that work at raising bilingual children, and a lot of ‘this is how we do it’ posts from active bilingual parents, which are, to my eyes, all very much success stories. They have their ups and downs for sure, but their children are able to express themselves in the minority language very successfully. This is, to my shame, not one of these posts. The truth is, my children are not bilingual at the moment.

Good intentions don’t make children bilingual

When I first thought about having children and being a mother, I had no doubt that I would raise bilingual children. I was born in France and lived there for 18 years so of course my children would speak French and have a bi-cultural upbringing. I assumed that I would speak French to them all the time and that whilst it would not be straightforward, it would still happen quite naturally. Little did I know that the opposite would be true.

The reality is that I have struggled to speak French to them almost from day one. It was never going to be easy but I managed somewhat in the early months because I was spending a lot of time at home alone with Little Girl. But then I made friends; I spent more time out of the house with a lot of people. Little Girl discovered CBeebies, TinyPop and endless YouTube videos of people playing with toys, opening Kinder Eggs and playing video games (watching other people play video games, that’s the kid equivalent of Gogglebox I guess). By the time Luciole turned up, her sister’s social life was entirely in English and I was unable to sustain the level of interactions required in the minority language for the girls to learn it.

I know the theory about raising bilingual children. I did my research and knew that the only way it could be done for us was with the One Parent One Language method, and that I should endeavour to speak French to them all the time, and certainly at home. We have bilingual toys, DVDs in French and a lot of French books, which I read with them regularly. But that is no good if I can’t ever remember to speak French to them. It’s been nearly 5 years and I still have to remind myself every morning to do it, and I have forgotten by the time I get down for breakfast.

The reasons why I am failing at raising bilingual children

I attend a French toddler group and I have tried to explain to the other parents how difficult I find it to speak French to my children, but it seems no one understands my struggle at all. People look at me as if I was from another planet, because not a single one of them struggles with speaking French at home. I have left there feeling self-conscious, embarrassed and ashamed that I am failing at something that should come naturally to me. This is a sore point right now, and I have stopped going because it makes me feel wretchedly inadequate.

How do I even begin to explain this? I am a year away from having lived in England for as long as I have lived in France. And the truth is that I have worked damn hard to integrate. I am still French in many many ways, but before the kids, I didn’t speak French in my day-to-day for 13 years. Now, aside from with the girls, I don’t speak French to anyone, and I don’t listen to French radio or watch French TV, and why would I when I find British radio and TV vastly superior? I haven’t thought or dreamed in French since my first year in England. Initially when I first came over, I had no desire to live in a little French ghetto and had little contact with French people where I lived, which was very helpful in terms of learning the language and getting to grips with life in the UK. And my life has pretty much carried on like this. I get a bit homesick from time to time and listen to French music, watch French films and cook food that reminds me of home more than usual, until the homesickness passes. I can’t afford to go back to France for a visit more than once a year; I speak to my parents on Skype every week, and that’s pretty much it. So it would be an understatement to say that there is little of my life that is directly French aside from a few food and routine-related things.

So the reality of my life right now is that to speak French to my girls on a daily basis, I have to do myself violence and go against every natural instinct in my body and mind. If I’d had them when I was still new to England, I suspect it would have been no trouble at all. But I have lived in England too long. I have embraced everything in my English life and I haven’t loved France enough to have retained any instinctual desire to speak French. I can speak it as well as ever but it’s never the first language in my mind or on my lips. It doesn’t help that I wasn’t sad not to return to France after my year out; for various reasons, I had no particular desire to go back. But now speaking English is my normal, and to try to revert to a way of being I haven’t been in so long, well, I have a massive internal dissonance going on that I cannot see ending any time soon.

I feel like a big fat failure about this. I am very much failing my girls and I don’t know how to reverse it. It’s easy to say that I should just start speaking French to them, but I’ve tried so hard. And the first thing that comes out of my mouth, ALWAYS, is in English. I catch myself sometimes and repeat things in French after, but three quarters of the time, I literally forget. I forget! And I am gutted and feel guilty but there’s only me and I am not enough. If it was a flaw I needed to work on, it would be different, but there is nothing inherently wrong with loving and speaking English and it being a part of my identity. However it is stopping me from being able to raise my children bilingually and I have no idea how to get past it.


photo by Amador Loureiro via unsplash

Potty training reflections

potty training

Everyone has a potty story to curl the toes of most child-free persons and not a small amount of card-carrying parents. In the next few weeks and months, I am going to embark on another potty training adventure with Luciole and I am not particularly relishing the thought, considering how long-winded an affair it was with her sister. At the moment, 2.7 yrs old Luciole is well aware of what she’s doing, but has no interest whatsoever in telling me about it until after the event. Instead, she waits until she has a brand new nappy on to use it as clean canvas for her little jobs. She sometimes even gives me 5 minutes respite before I have to change her again.

When we were first helping Little Girl to use the toilet a year ago, I once lay in bed and listened to the joyful shouts and exclamations emanating from downstairs ‘you did a poo in the potty, well done! Woohoo!’, which was one of those ‘what is my life?’ moments that you get every so often as a parent. The reality of parenting is that our successes are as random as they are dependent on the child, their personality, the circumstance, hell even the time of day, and there’s only so much mitigation you can do to steer them one way or another.

I have a friend whose eldest self-trained early, and whose second also self-trained before she was even 2. I would not have believed it possible had I not seen it with my own eyes. And despite her early difficulties with the toileting process, Little Girl took to being clean at night like a fish to water. No amount of reading, prep or training could have predicted this outcome, it’s just something she did (can I hear a hallelujah!).

potty training toddler

I’m being a bit lax this time and am just waiting for the summer holidays before actively steering Luciole to be clean. We have carpets everywhere downstairs and I just can’t face it. Potty training is still my parenting nemesis, the one thing that is just pure pain for me from start to finish. She has a potty, knickers that she loves to put on top of her nappy-pants, a potty training book, access to poo-themed YouTube videos (yes they exist, and she found them on her own), and generally she has an endless fascination with pee, poo and body parts so surely it is bound to happen at some point in the next six months.

Language Development and Bilingualism

language development blog header 071114


One of the many questions a parent may ask themselves when trying to raise a bilingual child is: ‘will my child be at a disadvantage?’ ‘Will his understanding be delayed?’ ‘Will she be able to advance at the same pace because of having to learn two languages or more?’ The answer to all of these is a categorical no according to current research. Being bilingual is beneficial in many areas of life, especially in the early years. But there is also the reality that a small percentage of children the world over have language development issues for a variety of reasons.

Little Girl has a lisp, in that she can’t pronounce the ‘ch’ sound at all. ‘Elle zozote’, as we say in French. It’s cute but I have been aware of it for a while as a potential ‘thing’ to look out for. She is only three years old so it hasn’t been on my urgent to-do list but I have noticed it, especially around her peers who don’t seem to have the same problem. Until recently, I didn’t know if it was an issue or not, and I had no real way to figure it out on the sly. When can you start talking about language delays anyway? Is there really no correlation between language development delays and bilingualism? These are real questions and it’s not that easy to see the wood for the trees when you are in the thick of it. Information isn’t exactly readily available unless you notice a problem yourself and take it to a specialist. As a parent with a basic understanding of biology and an even better knowledge of how to use Google, I didn’t want to blow it out of proportion but I didn’t know where to turn either to get some basic information without committing a crime against my brain by going on Wikipedia.

Then about a month ago I got an email from our local family centre advertising a Speech and Language Therapy drop-in clinic and I jumped at the chance to get it checked-out.

The observation was very laid back; Little Girl was presented with pictures of objects and animals and asked to describe them before putting the cards in a big red post box. The therapist went through a lot of words, most of which Little Girl knew (phew) and I was even more gratified when she saw a picture of a frog and said ‘grenouille’ (‘she can’t put a French sentence together but she does know some words!’). At the same time I was gradually getting twitchy watching the therapist write something down next to 90% of the words. I had never noticed before but Little Girl pronounced almost all of them a little bit wrong. It was mostly bog standard stuff like poon for spoon, tair for stair, wabbit for rabbit, bruss for brush and soo for shoe. And all the ‘th’ sounds, which are typically English and even I don’t know if I say them right all the time, so I wasn’t surprised to hear her mangle them a bit. Still, seeing this on the page was concerning.

It turns out that her development is completely normal and appropriate for her age, including all the ‘sh’ and ‘th’ stuff. And the therapist was very positive about the fact that we were trying to raise her with both French and English; she had no concerns at all. She did say that considering the pool of words and sounds she has to learn, a little delay was possible but nothing to worry about.

What I didn’t know, and I suspect most parents don’t either, is that a lot of pronunciation doesn’t settle until a child is five or even six years old! Not only was all of this information completely new to me, but it also felt like something I should be aware of without needing to go to a special clinic because I am worried. This sheet below is the most helpful thing I’ve seen all year.

Normal language development 0 - 6 yrs old
Normal language development 0 – 6 yrs old