Top ten self-regulation strategies for children.

Although a parent’s natural instinct is to protect their child from upset and anxiety, it is inevitable that children will face difficult situations sometimes: the birth of a sibling, a house move, bereavement within the family or an episode of bullying at school. Children need to acquire self-regulation skills and learn coping strategies in order to deal with challenging situations independently. 

  1. Make space for down-time. Take a break and spend some time doing the things you enjoy: practising your football skills, knitting, drawing, gaming, dancing, listening to music, Lego. You can then become absorbed in your interest rather than your worry.
  2. Enjoy some repetitive physical exercise. Running, skipping, cycling, dancing or bouncing on a trampoline will burn off stress. Repetitive activities are particularly effective as they require little by way of conscious thought or specialist skill. Exercise releases tension, improves mood, increases energy levels and promotes quality sleep.
  3. Read a book or listen to a streamed story. To lose oneself in a good book is an excellent distraction technique.
  4. Use music to change your mood. Music will affect your emotions. Upbeat music will make you feel more energetic and optimistic, while music with a slower tempo will be calming. 
  5. Focus on the needs of others rather than your own concerns. Helping others will take your mind off your worries and encourage a sense of perspective. There are certain to be others who are worse off than yourself. Remind yourself of this and re-direct your energy into helping in a practical way by, for example, decluttering your room and taking unused toys, books or bric-a-brac to a local charity shop.
  6. Be creative. Colouring, drawing, modelling or writing a journal will clear your thoughts and help you to see challenges from alternative viewpoints. 
  7. Get out in the fresh air. Getting outside, whatever the weather, is known to relieve feelings of stress and worry. Going for a walk, a bike ride or a jog around the local park will all provide healthy down-time.
  8. Spend time with animals. Animals are excellent at keeping secrets and will love you unconditionally. Take a dog for a walk, clean out a rabbit, hamster or guinea pig hutch. You can talk to a pet and the animal will listen, never interrupt or insist on talking about themself.
  9. Experiment with relaxation techniques. Look for YouTube clips on yoga, mindfulness or breathing exercises. You may find something new that will help you to relax.
  10. Plan ahead. Organise something pleasurable to look forward to: a shopping expedition, inviting a friend to your house, visiting a grandparent, or planning a trip to the cinema or swimming pool.

SHYNESS

‘We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it’ 

Eeyore.

In a world that values the extrovert and admires the vocal and gregarious, shyness could be seen as a disadvantage. Unfortunately, many confident, verbose individuals have nothing of value to say, while their quieter counterparts possess the skills that extroverts often lack: thoughtfulness, empathy, loyalty, respect for others and an openness to new ideas.

However, if and when, a shy individual feels the need to appear more outgoing and confident, there are a variety approaches that they could adopt: –

  1. Join a group, so that the focus of attention is on the team rather than the individual; then use that group membership as a way to gradually adjust their mindset.

‘Part of why I started a band was due to feelings of shyness. It was a way to interact with people from a safe distance.’ Jarvis Cocker – musician.

2. Practise being confident. While competent, outgoing people may appear to breeze through presentations, speeches and performances, they will undoubtedly have put in a lot of practice to make it seem so easy. They will have practised and anticipated potential problems: nothing will have been left to chance.

3. Use technology and on-line communication in preference to face to face situations. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is painfully shy, but his world famous compensatory communication system is a phenomenal success.

4. Involve themselves in something they are passionate about in order to overcome their reluctance to be centre stage. 

‘It is sometimes our actions and determination that matters more than the volume of our voice.’ Rosa Parks – political activist.

‘I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.’ Greta Thunberg – environmentalist.

5. Be brave, deliberately stepping outside their comfort zone and making themselves cope with any resulting uncomfortable feelings. 

‘As an introverted child, my mother worried my shyness would hold me back as I got older. To help try and tackle this, my mother always challenged me.’ Richard Branson – entrepreneur.

6. Create an alter-ego. It is a surprising fact that many actors and performers were shy children; Their parents enrolled them for drama classes to help to boost their self-confidence. As a result, the children realised the potential of role play, were able to develop an alternative persona, and change their body language, clothing, appearance and personality in line with this alter-ego. Elton John is known for his outrageous on-stage performance, but admits to playing ‘a part’ in order to separate himself from his inclination towards shyness. 

Some shy individuals will prefer to maintain their natural preferences, and adapt the situation to suit themselves, for example: texting rather than phoning, writing a report rather than giving a presentation, and maintain a wealth of strategies they can use to circumnavigate awkward situations. 

The most common advice seems to be ‘Fake it until you make it.’ You’ll probably find everyone else is doing exactly the same.

Quel est la date de ton anniversaire?

Since 2002 entries for Modern Foreign Language GCSEs have fallen by almost a half. The government hopes that 90% of pupils will be studying a foreign language as part of their EBacc by 2025. With this target in mind, the Department for Education aims to increase the take up of languages, and, consequently have published revised subject content for French, German and Spanish GCSEs.

From 2024, pupils will study the most common vocabulary used in conversation and writing, (high frequency words), as well as grammar and pronunciation. Pupils will be expected to know 1,200 word families at foundation tier and 1,700 word families at higher tier. An example of a word family would be ‘manage’, managed’ and ‘manages’.

Educationalists appear to view these changes with a degree of scepticism. Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says that the changes made will put children off languages, rather than motivate them to take them up. 

‘At a time when pupils need to be enthused to learn languages, the government has chosen to make GCSEs both prescriptive and grinding.’

The main complaint is around the emphasis put on pupils learning the lists of high frequency words. These lists have been published to try to avoid the situation of children being faced in their GCSE exams with words they’ve not seen before 

However, one of the problems of static lists is that in the real-world, pupils will come across words they don’t know all the time, and will have to cope. It would be surprising if children visited European countries and only heard high frequency words. Often it is the low frequency words that provide clues in a conversation, and these words are not static, but relate to current topics of interest, for example, vocabulary linked to Brexit, Covid or the Olympics. Slang and informal words do not appear in the vocabulary lists, yet these are words that are useful for young people to know in order to communicate with same age peers. 

A second problem would be that pupils do not learn vocabulary to the extent teachers would hope. Research suggests that the average learner will learn about half of the words they are taught. Some children will not retain vocabulary because they find rote learning tedious, while other children are unable to memorise lists of random words, regardless of the amount of effort they make.

The overarching problem the government is hoping to solve relates to this perception of MFL exams being unfair because of the unseen vocabulary. It is felt this gives pupils with a good general knowledge and a wide English vocabulary an unfair advantage. These children are the ones who may have visited France / Spain / Germany, and seen road signs, place names, and menus. They may have been to museums, swimming pools, restaurants, stations and shops. In addition, the same pupils may have a good prior knowledge of word families, word origins and the roots of words acquired through regularly reading English literature. These advantaged pupils are likely to come from middle-class and upper-class homes.

The solution to middle class advantage lies outside the MFL classroom. It is ridiculous for the government to bemoan the fact that pupils with a rich vocabulary and good general knowledge will do well in language exams. Of course, they will. 

All educational research points to vocabulary and general knowledge being a vital component of academic success. We should be working to ensure every child has a rich and varied vocabulary. Unfair isn’t the absence of vocabulary lists; unfair is allowing pupils to move through school with poor lexical knowledge. 

Maths Anxiety

Tortoises can tell you more about the road than hares.

Maths anxiety is believed to affect about a quarter of the population. This would equate to more than 2 million schoolchildren in the UK. 

Maths anxiety is not linked to intelligence or ability. Three quarters of children with high levels of maths anxiety are above average achievers on curriculum maths assessments. 

Maths anxiety can affect any individual at any age or stage of learning. with recent studies reporting that children as young as four feel anxious about maths.

The causes of maths anxiety are varied and complex, but include:

  • The child being put under pressure, perhaps by being judged on how quickly they can produce an answer. 
  • The child feeling that they are in competition with their peers.
  • The child experiencing insensitivity from teachers, perhaps being ridiculed for getting something wrong in a lesson. Working memory is important for solving mathematical problems, and any anxiety will reduce the capacity of a child’s working memory. When a child feels anxious, they will struggle to understand any maths being taught. 
  •  Non-specialist teachers and the child’s parents transmitting their own lack of confidence in Maths, giving the child the impression that Maths is something complicated and difficult.

Maths anxiety can have far-reaching consequences. Anxious pupils will underperform, and their achievement be out of line with their underlying ability. This will create more anxiety which, in turn, will lead to more underperformance. The secondary-aged pupil may avoid choosing subjects that involve Maths in any form. Parents may avoid supporting their children with Maths homework. The individual may believe that they are incapable of improving their Maths skills. 

Solutions.

  • Reducing classroom pressure such as time limits in tests, would help to alleviate maths anxiety. It is important for pupils to work at their own pace, without feeling the need to master a mathematical concept immediately 
  • Teachers need to be aware that maths anxiety can affect students’ maths performance. Maths is a subject where answers are either right or wrong, and teaching methods that focus on quick recall, and on answers given in front of the class are unhelpful to the anxious child. 

Confidence is as important as competence when it comes to Maths achievement. 

  • When memorising is valued over understanding, slower thinkers may be put off Maths. Children need to appreciate that if they struggle with a topic, their struggle will lead to deeper understanding. Peers with good memories may not retain what they have learnt to the same level, as their lack of effort results in superficial learning. 
  • The idea that speed is a reflection of ability is outdated. A child does not have to be quick to be talented. Some of the world’s most able mathematicians think slowly and deeply. Society needs creative, flexible mathematicians to solve the challenges of the future, rather than those who are able to reproduce taught content at speed. Speed and fixed approaches will only get the mathematician so far.

In his autobiography, Laurent Schwartz, winner of the world’s highest award in mathematics, the Field’s Medal, described feeling “stupid” in school because he was a slow thinker, but he continues to stress that:

‘There is a distinction between the quality of our thoughts and the speed by which we generate thoughts. Just because we can think quickly, does not mean we think well or have thought an idea or insight through.’

Neurodiversity, sensory issues and the wider community.

Neuro-diversity is a term used to describe brain functioning and behavioural traits that could be considered different from the norm. Dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and attention deficit would all be considered to be examples of neurodiversity.

It is calculated that 15% of the population, or 1 in 7 individuals in the UK today are neuro-diverse. 

This 15% of the population attend schools, colleges, universities and places of work. 

When such a large group is marginalised, there are social and financial implications for society, in addition to the personal cost felt by the individual. 

A more inclusive society would bring innumerable advantages: increased creativity, improved social mobility, alternative problem-solving patterns, and a shift away from traditional thinking and the reinvention of the wheel. 

Possible ways to progress the inclusion of the neuro-diverse population: –

  1. Consulting neurodivergent individuals and groups.

The inclusion of marginalised groups within the mainstream community is about handling difference and empowering people. The size of the neurodiverse community means that they have a voice and their everyday experiences, positive or negative, need to be recognised. 

  1. Raising awareness among architects and urban designers around the planning of public buildings.

The needs of the whole population must be considered at the initial stages of planning, and adaptations not made as afterthoughts. The effect of spaces in schools, colleges, universities, offices and public buildings on those who use them must be thought through. 

Public buildings need specific zones: hubs for social interaction and conversation, dedicated areas for quiet work, and easily accessible calming, green spaces for relaxation and energising. All buildings need adequate sound proofing, sensitive heating systems, a good provision of natural light and access to fresh air.

  1. Increasing awareness among employers and teachers.

In schools, everyday accommodations should be available to all pupils: adjustable lighting, personal work stations, a good flow of fresh air, sensitive heating systems. quiet working spaces, noise cancelling headphones, visors to cut glare, and school uniforms that are designed with the comfort of the pupil in mind.

Key point = Good provision for the neurodivergent is good provision for all.

Adaptations at work need to include the same simple, generic accommodations as above, in addition to the choice of working from home if feasible, and flexible working hours.

  1. The use of assistive technology. 

Assistive technology, on-line working, and IT resources will help all pupils and employees to work more effectively, for example, alternative ways of recording and reading such as: speech-to-text and text-to-speech software, dictation tools, digital recorders and screen overlays. 

  1. Extending the understanding of professionals through mandatory training.

Mandatory training should include raising awareness around sensory issues, and the effect that sensory issues can have on an individual’s behaviour. Virtual reality software could be used to immerse the neurotypical population in the sensory world of the neurodiverse, with training to demonstrate the impact of anxiety, fear and panic on a child or adult. Such training must be mandatory for school staff, members of the emergency services, such as the police, and Human Resource departments. 

‘I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.’

(The Greatest Showman.)

Autistic Spectrum Disorder – hiding in plain sight.

Young children gradually learn to adapt their behaviour and language to suit different situations. They will behave in one way in the playground and another way in the classroom. They will use different language when talking to a grandparent and when talking to a friend. 

Children on the ASD spectrum find these adaptations to behaviour and language almost impossible to navigate. They have to be constantly alert in order to avoid committing social blunders, always watching their peers to work out what is acceptable and what is not. This continual social manoeuvring is made even more challenging because of the children’s poor understanding of the rules governing social interaction. If you laugh for too long or too loudly at a joke, you will be considered weird. If you don’t laugh at all, you will be accused of not having a sense of humour. 

ASD children will mask their natural responses and emotions in order to fit in, and negotiating such tricky interactions all day, every day will leave the children exhausted. 

Social communication difficulties are common in both boys and girls on the autistic spectrum. However, as a result of their early socialisation, girls tend to be compliant, sociable, considerate and more likely than boys to try to blend in with their peers. This behaviour will come at a high cost when the girls mask their real feelings in order to be the same as everyone else. The need for good social skills accelerates in secondary school, and this is the time when many children experience a dramatic decline in their confidence; feeling isolated and mis-understood.  

Traditional assessments for autism were designed with boys in mind, therefore boys’ behaviour is more likely to match the diagnostic criteria. The implications for women and girls of research that involves only male subjects, is just beginning to be acknowledged. Characteristics displayed by autistic females will not always fit the accepted ASD profile. For example, one recognised autistic trait is that of having all-consuming interests. Such interests have traditionally included: transport systems, mechanics, science fiction, numbers, computers or gaming.  Girls’ special interests are more likely to be socially acceptable, for example: pop stars and bands, horses or collecting soft toys. 

As a result of the lack of awareness about the presentation of ASD females, misdiagnosis is common: 42 % of women and girls receive at least one mis-diagnosis before securing an appropriate one. Common mis-diagnoses include: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and even schizophrenia. Women and girls are likely to experience isolation, loneliness, fatigue, anger and poor self-esteem as a result of such mis-diagnoses; but then be seen by professionals in relation to these secondary conditions, and prescribed unnecessary drugs or given ineffective treatment. 

The present government launched a consultation in the summer of 2021 to explore gender inequality within the UK health system and to recommend the improvements that need to be made. 

Following this consultation, the government will publish a ‘Women’s Health Strategy’ in the Spring of 2022. The need for research trials to reflect all members of society will be part of this strategy.

It’s been a long time coming, let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

The Great British Bake Off v The Great British Sewing Bee.

A recent survey by the Pew Independent Research Centre looked into the most meaningful and rewarding aspects of life as perceived by the populations of different countries. The most popular responses included: family, work, friends and material well-being. Britain was the only country to list hobbies in its top three choices. 

Not everyone has close family, extensive friendship circles or satisfying jobs, but everyone can have a hobby. During lockdown, and away from the usual frantic work / school routines, many people had the time to explore new hobbies or rediscovered hobbies they had previously enjoyed: gardening, walking, baking, yoga, photography, keep fit, cycling, reading, and creative hobbies such as knitting. embroidery or painting.

Hobbies have always provided a satisfying leisure activity and their contribution towards feeling of self-worth is regularly recognised. 

A hobby will: –

  • Extend an individual’s skill and knowledge levels. A specialist hobby might even lead to an alternative, more satisfying, career.
  • Give the individual something different to involve themselves in, taking their mind off challenging situations at work or in the home.
  • Make the individual a more interesting person, giving them something to talk about with knowledge and enthusiasm.
  • Provide personal challenge. An individual might take up ergo rowing and then enter a rowing competition; or decide to sell their pottery at a Craft Fair; or feel competent enough at flower arranging to join a community class.
  • Improve an individual’s social life, enabling them to make contact with others with similar interests. Perhaps they could go to a work shop, conference or training day, knowing that any activity will have a purpose and social chit-chat will focus on the task in hand.
  • Increase creativity. Thinking about a new hobby and its possibilities, will extend creative thought, as well as improving levels of concentration, focus and patience.

Matching the individual to their preferred hobby. (Answers at bottom of page.)

  1. Condoleezza Rice – politician.
  2. Winston Churchill – British Prime Minister.
  3. Cameron Diaz – actress.
  4. Mike Tyson – boxer.
  5. Rod Stewart – musician.
  6. Nicole Kidman – actress.
  7. Tom Daley – Olympic diver.
  8. David Beckham – footballer.
  9. Ryan Gosling – actor.
  10. George Washington – American President.
  1. Model railways.
  2. Snow Boarding.
  3. Knitting.
  4. Sky diving.
  5. Playing the piano.
  6. Ballroom dancing.
  7. Knitting.
  8. Fencing.
  9. Pigeon racing.
  10. Painting.

Answers: 1e, 2j, 3b, 4i, 5a, 6d, 7c/g, 8h, 9c/g, 10 f

Golden Slumbers

The most helpful advice to give anyone feeling anxious or stressed, is to get more sleep.

The many benefits of a good night’s sleep include: –

  • Improved memory – During sleep our memories are consolidated and new skills practised.
  • Increased creativity – The brain re-structures thoughts and ideas, often in creative ways.
  • Improved physical performance. – Sleep improves physical performance, whether the individual is an Olympic athlete or a child learning to skip.
  • Improved attention in the classroom – Sleep deprived adults feel lethargic. Sleep deprived children become hyperactive. 
  • Helping to maintain a healthy body weight – Anyone on a diet will feel hungrier when deprived of sleep.
  • Improved cardiac health – Sleep has a positive effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Improved reaction time – Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to an individual’s driving ability as having an alcoholic drink.
  • Increased emotional well-being – Mental stability improves after a good night’s sleep. If we have less than seven or eight hours sleep each night, we will suffer significant mental dysfunction. 

To get more sleep: –

  1. Stick to a regular sleep routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
  2. Avoid using electronic screens close to bedtime: the blue light the screens emit fool the body into thinking it is day.
  3. Avoid drinks containing caffeine in the two hours before going to bed.
  4. Avoid heavy meals immediately before bedtime: the body will think it is time to get up and start working. Have an easily digestible snack, a banana or a milky drink, to prevent pangs of hunger during the night.
  5. Spend the 30 minutes before bedtime winding down. Avoid activities that will alert the brain, for example, ringing a friend for a gossip.
  6. Body temperature fluctuates throughout the day and is at its highest in the afternoon. If the bedroom is too hot, it will be harder to sleep. 
  7. Make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet. Use an eye mask or ear plugs if the environment is too light or noisy. 
  8. Improve ventilation. If the room is stuffy, it will be harder to breathe easily, which in turn will disturb sleep.
  9. If, during the night, you think of something you must act on tomorrow, keep a notebook at the side of your bed and, resisting the temptation to think about the problem, jot the thought down and go back to sleep.
  10. Experiment with natural sleep remedies, for example, a small amount of lavender essence sprinkled on a pillow is believed to enhance sleep. 

‘Teach your children well.’ – Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Parents used to have children for practical purposes: to help out around the home or in the workplace, and to care for their parents in old age. Previous generations of parents didn’t feel they needed to expend much thought or energy on child rearing. Modern parenting is very different: alongside increased employer expectations, comes pressure to make family life more child-centred. 

Maintaining a holistic approach to child rearing: –

  1. Is it possible to improve on your parents’ child rearing methods or just to make different mistakes? 

It’s easy for each generation to criticise the previous one and to be determined never to make the same errors. 

A – ‘My parents didn’t understand peer group pressure. I had cheap trainers and all my friends had Adidas. My children will never suffer that sort of embarrassment.’

But will the children be spoilt and come to expect to receive whatever they ask for?

B – ‘My parents never complained to the school. There was a teaching assistant who picked on me, but they just told me to stay out of her way. I’m going to speak up for my children.’

But will children learn how to deal with difficult individuals when parents constantly intervene on their behalf? It is an unfortunate fact of life that other people will dislike you for no apparent reason.

  1. Do you want to get on or off the roundabout? 

Parents will fight to get their child to the top of the academic tree: a good school, extra tutoring to access top sets and additional music, drama and swimming lessons to ensure a broad and balanced CV. They will be delighted with their children’s exam results, their entry into a top university, recruitment into a prestigious company, their fast promotion and additional responsibilities at work. But is this really the sort of existence that parents want for their children?

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell children it will do them good to do things they don’t want to do. 

Adult life is often like a long and unpleasant piece of school homework: cleaning a dirty oven, enduring a weekend with your partner’s irritating friends, getting up at the crack of dawn for the long commute to work. Sometimes children need to be told to, as Nike would say, ‘Just Do It’.

  1. Encourage children to be content. 

Try to avoid saying things like: ‘You’ll enjoy school more next year when you’re in Mrs Walker’s class.’ ‘You’ll love it when you’re in Year 9 and can drop French.’ ‘Wait until you get to university; you’ll have so many friends.’ 

In later life, the child may continue to chase this elusive Never-Never Land: ‘I’ll be happy when I’m married’, or ‘I’ll be so much happier when my divorce comes through.’ ‘If I could get that job, I’d be happy’, or ‘I can’t wait to retire.’

  1. As a parent, you don’t always have to be patient and considerate.

Let the child see your dark side occasionally. This will help them to realise that none of us are perfect. Children and parents need to be accepted as they are with all their faults and foibles, rather than judged against some unrealistic ideal.

  1. Pick your battles, always keeping an eye on the overview. 

Don’t fret over fussy eating, an imaginary friend, a refusal to wear socks, or an irrational fear of rabbits. It is best to accept and accommodate this sort of behaviour and not make a fuss. The majority of children will grow out of such habits.

  1. Set the bar at a realistic height.

Your child is not spectacularly exceptional, and you will make their lives easier if you don’t tell them that they are. To improve children’s confidence, don’t build them up; be realistic about everyone else. Explain that we all: the Prime Minister, the Queen, Spider-Man, Gareth Southgate, headteachers and celebrities, feel misunderstood, vulnerable, embarrassed, anxious, awkward and frightened sometimes. No-one is better than anyone else: everyone is just doing the best they can.

  1. Accept that children seldom listen to advice.

It would save so much time and angst if children listened to the advice of their elders, but this is unlikely to happen and children will have to learn from personal experience. 

Every generation is different. Every generation has different concerns, perspectives and norms. Parental advice to children, (and vice-versa), will rarely be appropriate to the situation.

‘As the present now, will later be past; the order is rapidly fading. And the first one now, will later be last, for the times they are a changing.’

‘The Times They Are (Always) a-Changin.’ Bob Dylan. (1963)

Our Parents

‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ Big Yellow Taxi. Joni Mitchell.

It’s always interesting to read the articles in Big Issue from well-known figures about advice they would give their sixteen-year-old selves, (Letter To My Younger Self).

Each individual has a different story to tell. Some of the personalities had a privileged upbringing, others grew up in large, happy families or as a precious only child, while others had more challenging home circumstances. Every individual brings their life experience to the advice they would give their younger selves: not to worry about the opinions of others, to appreciate that life isn’t like school, to be more patient with themselves, to be braver, and so on. 

However, when talking about their childhood, there seems to be one reoccurring theme. All of the personalities expressed regret about their communication, or lack of, with their parents: –

  • ‘If I could go back now, I’d be kinder to my parents.’ John Lydon. Musician.
  • ‘My mum and dad have passed away, but I talk to them every day. I don’t know if they’re hearing me, but I need to talk to them.’ Billie Jean King. Tennis player.
  • ‘I’d love to go back and spend a day with my mum and dad and tell them how much I love them.’ Tom Jones. Musician.
  • ‘I’d tell my younger self that he could and should learn more from his parents.’ Sir Roger Bannister. Athlete.
  • ‘I’d tell my younger self to be more respectful of my parents.’ Chrissie Hynde. Musician.
  • ‘Perhaps I could have said things to my mother or father that would have made their lives easier.’ Grayson Perry. Artist.
  • ‘Even now, when people complain about how they are burdened with their mums and dads, I recoil. I often wish I had parents to tell me what a muck-up I’ve made in my life.’ Lord Bird. Co-founder of the Big Issue.

Perhaps it is only as we grow into our adult roles that we truly understand and appreciate our parents: –

  • ‘My mother was the heart of the family and influenced me more than I knew.’ Mary Robinson. Former President of Ireland.
  • ‘I think I wish I’d asked my father that, I wish I’d written that down, I wish I’d taped that conversation.’ Neil Gaiman. Author.
  • ‘If I could, I’d have tried to spend more time with my dad.’  Barry McGuigan. Boxer. 
  • ‘I’m not sure I even realised how amazing my dad was – but if I was 16 again, I’d tell him.’ David Cameron. Politician.
  • ‘If I could go back in time, I’d have a long, last conversation with my mum.’ Baroness Shami Chakrabarti. Politician and Lawyer. 
  • ‘I’d have liked to have more time to get to know my father.’ Philip Glass. Composer. 

Maybe we should learn from the regrets of others and be more appreciative of our immediate family while we have time. As Joni Mitchell sang: ‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’