How to Maintain Connections as an Absent Parent

The key thing in this article is that despite being an absent parent, you are one who wants to develop or maintain a connection to your children. Having the will to make it work in spite of the challenges this presents is the key.

How specifically you will connect is entirely down to your own circumstances. With facilities like Skype and FaceTime, if they are accessible to you both then they are of course a very powerful alternative to meeting face to face. Depending on the level of enthusiasm from the child in participating in these sessions (which the absent parent should not take personally because, lets be honest your children probably have a better social life than you and will at time have their friends over and be too busy to speak) it may fall upon the adult who is present (other parent/carer etc) to encourage the child to take up the opportunity to engage in these sessions. This could include encouraging the child to sit down and talk or even sitting with them to remind them of things that have been happening in their lives.

I appreciate that sometimes, the absent parent may be separated from the other parent and that this may cause a lack of willingness to support the child in participating in these sessions. As much as possible, the parents need to forget their own feelings for each other and whether they credit the other parent with being a ‘good enough’ parent or not. Every child has the right to two parents. If both are willing to be part of that child’s life then one should not get in the way of the other doing so or attempt to pollute the others relationship with the child. Let their child have their own relationship with that parent and make their own conclusions about them. Protecting them from what you believe to be true about that parent will not serve a positive purpose because the relationship you had will of course be very different to the one your child has.

The absent parent will need to make extra efforts in finding out about the child’s interests and most importantly begin to show an interest in those things themselves. For example, I had a client who had a keen interest in Skylanders. I’d never heard of a Skylander until I met this client. I could tell that in creating a connection, it was a way in if I would be prepared to indulge in their world. I could tell you all about Spyro the Dragon and Swamp Force if you asked me to (I’d appreciate it if you did because this information has only been useful to me with this one client and it feels like redundant knowledge). Don’t just ask them questions about it, do your own homework so that you can hold a conversation with them about it.

If they have a project to do at school, send them some website links to help them out. Know who their friends are and what the dynamics are like and persist if they appear to not reciprocate the interest. You’re the adult and you mustn’t give up on them if they doubt your sincerity.

You don’t need to be there to be there.

By Gemma Bailey

Calming a Child with ADHD

ADHD is made up of two key challenging disorders. Attention deficit and hyperactivity. Both of these disorders can exist without the other, meaning that someone can have attention deficit without being hyperactive or they can be hyperactive without attention deficit.

A few years ago, I was approached by a parent who had a child with ADHD. As she had 2 other children, both of which had their own difficulties, she was finding it very difficult to help the oldest child (who had the ADHD diagnosis) to keep out of mischief.

He had a tendency to leave a trail of destruction around the home and to then disappear when he knew he had done something he shouldn’t have.

Talking to the parent with the boy there was quite a challenge too because his attention on anything other than cars would last for 3 minutes as a maximum. I was starting to mental make a list of all of the different activities I’d need to throw at him in any one session just to keep him from dismantling the ikea chairs in the office. (He did do this with one of the chairs!)

However, I noticed that with his cars he could focus in a way. It wasn’t focused as you might seen another child play with his cars. He still seemed to flit from the blue car to the red car, or from the car on wheels to turning it upside down and opening the doors or crashing it into a plastic tree, but by his standards it was focused all the same.

The other quirk was that he didn’t seem to connect easily. He was happy to mainly play on his own and go to mum every now and again with a request or to show her something, but he seemed almost annoyed when I started to show an interest in his car world. He wouldn’t answer me a lot of the time and if he did it was a one word answer as if he was too busy to deal with me!

The mother had initially enquired as to whether I could use some hypnotherapy with him to settle him down a little and perhaps help him to concentrate better. In the context of how most people would imagine hypnotherapy to be – an eyes closed deeply relaxing trance state – I made it clear that we were unlikely to achieve that with him. Even if he hadn’t dismantled the chair, I doubted that I had the ability to get him to focus for long enough to create a trance like that.

However, I did believe that within his own abilities there would be something I could make the most of and I felt that the answer would be in the cars somehow.

After mum went outside to leave me on a one to one with him for a short while, I picked up one of the cars and began to move it around the track on the floor at a similar speed to him. His car was moving pretty quickly so I made the sound my car would be making if I was driving it at speed.

After a time, I changed the speed of my car, as if I were shifting down a gear. The engine hum I made was lower and I moved the car more slowly. I remained in each ‘gear’ for a minute or two before dropping down a gear and slowing the speed of my car as I did.

I didn’t notice at first, but gradually he began to slow down too. Not just his car but his whole demeanor seemed less highly strung. When I eventually stopped my car, he stopped too and looked me square in the eye and said “Would you like this one?” and handed me the car he had.

Not only had we suddenly got connection but his energy output seemed to have settled to a manageable level. The next time I saw him we transferred the racy sounds of the car into the speed with which he operated, so that when mum said “Take it down a gear” he could replicate the sound of the car engine becoming lower and take a breath, then begin to move more slowly alongside that. It didn’t ‘cure’ his ADHD but it did give them a technique to help him to focus and behave in a more settled way.
By Gemma Bailey

Resolving Friendship Problems in the Classroom

As we have known for sometime, it can be a challenge to focus on our work when we have other emotional problems that we are simultaneously attempting to resolve in our minds. There is only a small number of things we can do at the same time and concentrating on one subject whilst attempting to deal with our emotions in reference to another subject is not something many adults have fathomed, so for a child it would be even more of an undertaking.

It’s important that children are supported in learning how to manage difficulties in friendships in a way that gives them responsibility over creating their own desirable outcome. A school I had visited recently in reference to the coaching and one to one sessions NLP4Kids practitioners deliver around mental well-being, told me that the children are perfectly confident, but many struggle with resilience.

In asking a few more questions I discovered that a child would perhaps fall out with their friend and bad words would be said from one to the other about each other, and they would become stuck at this point.

They would then report the problem to a parent or teacher. It went to a teacher, the teacher would end up getting bogged down in the nitty gritty details of who said what first. If it was reported to a parent, the parent might end up going to the school to make a charge that their child was being bullied. It seemed that neither had the solution when it came to giving the child the right resources to sort out their own disputes.

A Montessori teacher I know once told me how she would say to pupils in her school “Are you bringing me a problem or are you bringing me a solution to a problem? Come back and tell me when you have found a solution to the problem and tell me about that instead.” if a child came to her with ‘tittle-tattle’ about how the other children were treating them.

This attitude from the adults forced the children to get creative and formulate their own solutions to resolve their friendship problems. This was not only more empowering for the children, but it also provided them with the opportunity to build their own resources to deal effectively with similar problems on their own in the future.

In addition, it freed the teachers from getting their time tangled up in petty disputes and reduced the number of parents who came to the school to complain about the bad words someone else’s child had said about their child. The children would report less because they would figure out more on their own.

This alleviated a culture of “I have a problem and someone else needs to fix it.” It put ownership squarely at the feet of the child.

NLP4Kids practitioner focus on educating children around how they can think and react in situations like this with the activities we provide and the questions we ask. Very often, children do have the answers they need already, but as we all do they get tangled up in the moment and forget to think in the most helpful way. By having children create plans about how they would behave and react in difficult situation they can be better prepared to deal with them independently in the future.
By Gemma Bailey

Creating Motivation to Change in Teenagers

Once upon a time there was a lovely communicative child who had a great desire to please their parents and enjoyed playing with their younger siblings. One night they went to bed and when they woke up the next morning, to the parents horror, the child had turned into a teenager.

Whilst the parents knew that it was not a permanent state of affairs, they also know that they would have to wait for the period of puberty to be over before they would once again meet the child they had known as a child, and that when they would come to meet that young person on the other side, they would be older and different to the child they had known before.

Aside from the physical changes, hormonal changes and adjustments that happen in the teenage brain, the other significant change that parents find are the changes in how their child now acts towards them on a social level.

During teenage years, our young person is going to be testing the boundaries. They may form new peer groups and lose interest in the ones they had previously. The people that used to be able to influence them (including parents and teachers) may find that they now are unable to have the same impact when it comes to motivating the teenager.

This is often (though not always) coupled with an apparent laziness when it comes to taking the action parents really wish they would take. Whether it’s finishing an assignment or cleaning up their mess. Suddenly there is a sloth living in the house where once there was a sporty child!

As teenagers are seeking to move into adulthood, it’s important that the adults around them respect that they are in this transition phase. That may mean that you begin to talk to them slightly differently. That you ask their opinion more, share more with them about the challenges of adult life (within the realms of what is appropriate and not overwhelming). They need to get the sense that you now see them as on a level nearer to your own so that they can appreciate that you respect them. If you want to motivate them, they have to respect you first. However, this is something that you may want to consider your approach to carefully. This new respect is not a right of passage of becoming a teenager. It must be earned. So if you have certain behaviours or habits you’d like your teenager to change or particular tasks you want them to complete, trade with them. They will get more freedom or respect once they do X.

Keep the communication channels open. When there are opportunities to converse, take them as they may not always be open to telling you about their inner most thoughts. By taking the opportunities to converse as they arise you can ensure you find out about their current interests and you can then have a way to connect with them in the future. Typically it’s the throw away comment that they make just as you turn your back to walk away that is your ‘in’ to creating engagement. Keep yourself available to listen to them so that they know they can reach out to you when required. By having good rapport you have the opportunity to lead them towards the conversations you need to have to motivate them without resistance.


By Gemma Bailey

Overcoming School Anxiety

Typically (though not always) school anxiety occurs after a transition. That transition could be from nursery to primary school, from primary to secondary school (most common) or after a change of schools as a result of a change of circumstances (such as moving house to a new area for example).

School anxiety can be just as terrifying for the parents to experience as it can be for the young person who is anxious. The young person may become physically sick or respond with such extreme behaviour such as crying and screaming that the parent can be caught off guard and end up reacting in a way which is unhelpful in getting the anxiety to pass.

The vast majority of the time, and certainly with younger children, the anxiety will pass quickly once the child realises that the parent will persist with taking them to school. In fact, as a nursery nurse, the majority of the time a young child would react badly when the parent brought them to nursery, they would be totally settled and having fun within a matter of minutes. The parents were left feeling rotten and the child was simply making a protest at having the parent leave them.

However, with much older young people the motivations behind feeling anxious will likely be very different to a protest about having to go to school.

Here are just some of the thoughts that might underpin someone’s school anxiety:

Fear of not being liked by their peers
Fear of a specific teacher
Fear of being bullied Fear of not being able to cope with the work
Fear of getting lost in the school grounds
Fear of being shouted at Fear of older/bigger children
Fear of being sick in front of others (emetophobia)
Fear of parents not returning or something bad happening to their parents whilst they are in school.

There may be other fears and there may well be a combination of many of these fears.

As an NLP4Kids practitioner, our role is to ‘chunk down’ on the problem of ‘school anxiety’ so that we get the details of what is behind the anxiety and work on those specific worries. It’s easy to buy into the idea that it’s everything about the school that is a problem all of the time. It’s important that we help the child and the family put the problem into perspective and begin to disprove the idea that this is a permanent, totally stuck problem.

Finally, it can be helpful for the young person to be offered the opportunity to see the school from other perspectives and it really comes down to the school at this point to offer some flexibility in supporting the child in overcoming the anxiety.

I’ve noticed that when I am public speaking, I like to ‘scope’ out the venue somewhat – even if it’s just a room with a stage, I really prefer it when I can have a moment to get on that stage and take a look at the place before the delegates arrive. It helps me to feel as if I own the space somewhat.

Is it possible for the child to visit the school out of school hours. To get familiar and comfortable with the place, to feel like they own that space a little more. It could begin to offer them a greater sense of comfort and authority so that their anxiety begins to reduce.
By Gemma Bailey

National Story Telling

For me, the art of decent book writing comes down to three main things:

  • Attention to sensory detail
  • Apprehension/uncertainty
  • Relief/humour

Last year I had an article published about effective story telling and ultimately how if you can tell a story well, it really can bring even a poor story to life. But a well written story can captivate even the most mundane orator.

For example, right now, as I write this article, I can give you certain sensory data, or not.

I could say, my fingers are clicking away on my iPad screen. That’s a fairly accurate explanation.

Or I could talk about what I see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think and REALLY give you a bigger picture.

Since I’m in Mauritius at the time of writing this article (December 2015) Here is a story tellers way of describing my circumstances.

My iPad is generating more heat than I’d like, as my ordinarily trimmed fingernails tap at the screen as I write. Having had a hair cut before travelling, my blonde (currently very blonde due to sun exposure) tresses are at a tricky length – neither quite right for a ponytail or above the neckline, making heat rash below my hair line an irritation but not enough of a distraction to distract me from the overall clammy, sticky tropical heat. I’m well aware that I’m here in my shorts and everyone back home in the UK is under heavy duvets, listening to the pummelling rain upon the glass windows.

My only near comparison is a water filter in the swimming pool lit in an inviting pool behind me, with its constant water cleansing system a reminder that more than one of us is still here working after the lights at the bar went off an hour ago. If I can get this final article done a weight will be lifted.

Can you gauge the difference in the context of the amount of text generated? It requires more work doesn’t it?! This is simply a build up of sensory information that was not included in the initial description. The crucial fact being that every listener will ‘tune in’ to various elements of that sensory information in a different way than others.

Some listeners are auditory, meaning that they enjoy what they hear and the descriptive sounds. Some are more visual and enjoy descriptions in what they see, some are kinaesthetic and like to know about texture, temperature and feeling, and others might want to know about thoughts, or even smells and tastes.

If you’re telling your story to those who are highly visual, go ahead and talk mainly about what you see in your story – but how do you know they are visual? What if in that moment they are using some others sensory system? Can you build a better story by giving them access to richer sensory data?

Crucially can you teach them to become better storytellers by encouraging them to do the same?


By Gemma Bailey

Making School Transition Seamless

More schools are becoming aware of the importance of helping children transition from primary to secondary school and how vast the change in environment can feel for some pupils.

There is often some distinct sensory differences between the two environments. Primary schools tend to be quieter, with less ‘people traffic.’ There is also a tendency to have one ‘base’ for lessons in primary schools, whereas in secondary there are many different buildings within which certain subjects take place.

My biggest worry when I went to secondary school, was the ‘map’.

I remember the first day there and we initially were given a timetable of the lessons we would be attending each day and the rooms we would need to go to in order to attend those lessons. That was enough of an overload in itself! The environment of one classroom with one teacher who taught a variety of lessons was the norm. Suddenly now there were many lessons, with many different teachers (who I had yet to meet), in many different locations.

And I’d never read a map before. Map reading skills hadn’t come up. Geocaching didn’t yet exist either. But there I was, currently in B block and needed to be in D block. The aerial view of the tops of the buildings in black and white squares seemed to bear no resemblance to the crowds who were bombarding me from all directions in the corridors or the walkways.

As we would say in NLP, the map was not the territory!

But the silliest thing of all was that I mentioned this concern to no one. I assumed it was only a wally who couldn’t figure out the damn map, until very recently (29 years after leaving school), I bumped into an old school friend and blasphemed about the map for the first time. Only to discover that she had exactly the same problem, and like me had never found the correct source with whom to articulate her concerns.

So to make for a smoother school transition, for me, it would have been to have a trustworthy non-judgemental adult who would have said “How are you doing? Are you ok?”

Many schools do now offer a counselling service but often these services are reactive instead of proactive.

That is to say, that they are there to help you when you ask for help. For young, brand new year 7s who want to appear strong in their new environment and who are ‘keeping up appearances’, it is all too easy to avoid reaching out and asking for help, even if the help is readily available.

The solution relies within proactive interaction with each individual. Reaching out to them in a confidential one to one basis and asking the question “Are you ok?”

And in my case “Do you understand the map?*”

*Map reading skills are significantly improved since secondary school!

By Gemma Bailey

The Van Gogh in Every Child

There was once a news article in the London news in which they were studying the prices people paid for abstract art.

As an experiment, they got some very young children (under the age of 5) to create some paintings. The paintings were of the same quality as you would usually expect from young children. There were some lines of varying lengths, unsymmetrical shapes and blobs.

The only real difference between these works of art and the ones that tots would normally create at nursery, was that they had the children paint onto canvases and to use oils paints instead of their usual poster paints.

Once dried, the pieces of art were placed in front of leading art critics and gallery owners. They were first asked if they were familiar with the style and if they could recognise the artist. Then they were asked to give the piece a price tag that they would expect it to fetch, if placed in front of a keen collector of modern and abstract art.

It will probably come as no great surprise that the ‘experts’ were coming up with all sort of guff! Some said they recognised the artist or made statements like “This shows some similarity to the work of…”

They seemed to be completely fooled!

On average the work of the toddlers was priced around the £125 bracket. Their parents watched flabbergasted at the shenanigans on a TV monitor away from the experts and were suitably impressed that their children were awarded with an expensive talent at such a young age.

The experts later met the artists and concealed their embarrassment by claiming that the children showed real artistic promise and that their skills should be cultivated.

And they were right to say that. Art is typically considered to be the subject that adults encourage when all hope of a bright future in an area that requires good grades in English, maths or science have long been dashed. Art, much like music and drama, is one of those subjects that many children crave and few are encouraged to flourish in, with it being seen as less important than the more academic subjects.

And yet art offers young people a means of expression, an outlet of creativity and a sense of achievement and satisfaction that they may struggle to achieve in other learning areas.

For those who are less academic and more creative, a keen interest and ability in art can offer them a much needed acknowledgement. It can give them praise that they might have otherwise bypassed and can therefore boost self-esteem for those who thought that they were all but hopeless.

With art and the creative activities associated with it, encouraging young people to access different parts of their brain to more traditional subjects, surely the intellectual exercise that this provides – stimulating different neural networks to develop new ways of thinking and even problem solving -can only been seen as a good thing.

Creative distancing ( teaches us that new ideas can be applied to problems when we use our minds to create different perspectives on problems. When we undertake an artistic challenge, our brain is used in a different way to when we use it for academic skills. By embracing art as a vehicle to underpin academic skills in young people, we can give them access to new problem solving, expanded ways of thinking that they might not otherwise have had the potential to learn.

By Gemma Bailey

Celebrating Children

There’s a great Ted Talk by Mellody Hobson in which she talks about equality and diversity. In the video she acknowledges the solution to the Small Pox epidemic, as coming from a dairy farmer.

Can you image all of the scientists and health leaders coming together to try and find a solution to the epidemic – the brightest of the bunch who were stumped about a way forward in developing a vaccine?

However a dairy farmer had noticed how his milkmaids never developed the illness. In presenting his findings, a solution was uncovered. The vaccine was created and it was bovine based.

The main purpose of her Ted Talk was to highlight the need for diversity in the workplace, to create more racial equality.

A step forward from that way of thinking, is to begin to develop ideas and solutions to everyday problems based on the input from not just multiple races, but multiple wealth, education levels and age groups.

Children have a way of thinking that is different to the rigid ways of thought that have solidified in adult minds.

Have you heard the story about the door?

In a test, 100 people were given the task of opening a door. It sounds simple enough right?! So one by one, people approached the door. They pushed it, pulled it, tried to slide it – and no, it wasn’t locked! Out of the 100, only 3 managed to successfully open the door. So what was so special about this door?

The hinges were on the same side as the door handle!

Out of the 100 people that tried to open the door, the 3 who succeeded all had something in common. They were all children. You see children do not have the conditioning that says, “The hinges would be on the other side of the door handle because that’s how doors always work.”

Since they haven’t had the same repeated experiences over and over again in life, their mind is free from conditioning and they are more comfortable with accepting the unexpected.

It’s a well-known fact that if you want to be a great magician, you need to be able to fool children! Magicians rely on our brains having an expectation of an outcome. For example, they throw something in the air and our eyes will track upwards because we are used to that being the experience when something goes up in the air. In some tricks though, the release of the item launched into the air, never actually happened. Our adult minds that are preconditioned to an expectation, will fill in the gap with a hallucination of what we *think* we saw. Children (who are not conditioned in this way) will happily report to the magician “But you never let it go. You pretended to throw it but it stayed in your hand the whole time. Then you tucked it up your sleeve!”

Knowing that such smart, trustworthy minds exist, I wonder how many more untapped ideas could solve everyday adult problems if we gave children more opportunities to express their thoughts about how the world could be better.

Perhaps it’s their ability to see the world in its simplest form that makes it possible for children to find solutions that adults can so easily miss.

Instead of seeing children as assets for the future, once they have been educated and reached their full potential, consider how their thoughts and ideas can contribute to communities, families and schools at the age and stage they are right now. They might just surprise you!

By Gemma Bailey

The Magic of a Good Book

Books can take us to another land. They have the potential to evoke an imagination that brings the unreal to life and can captivate the hearts and minds of even the most uninterested readers.

Great storytellers have been sharing their surreal worlds with young minds for centuries. And the beauty of reading to children is immeasurable. The words, when expressed with the feeling with which they were written, can create a roller coaster of emotion and intrigue. Have you ever read a book that you were unable to put down – even though you knew bedtime was long overdue?

Or perhaps you can recall the torturous anticipation when your class teacher told you it was home time, as you sat on the carpet having just had read to you, the next chapter of your end of the day story?

There is a real gift in how good storytellers tell their stories, not just in how they write. But how they pronounce, intonate and pause in their delivery of what they have written.

Fantastic stories deserve to be read with the passion with which they were written and even a simple story can take on a whole new lease of life when it is read aloud in a compelling way.

As adults who read to young children, it is our duty to make reading one of the most compelling skills to learn. To make books appear more than just black letters on a white page and to use every ounce of our energy, acting and intonation to fully engage with the story and its characters.

Consider the difference between the two examples below:

(Read this paragraph aloud or in your mind in a monotone voice. Do not express any words or voices.)

The flea bitten monster once again scratched his large, hairy belly that hung over the dirty cloth which covered his rude bits.

“No!” He exclaimed. “No one makes it out of here alive. That’s the rules.”

Sophia paused to think, cleverly disguising the thought-pause with a long intake of breath as if she were building up to say something profound and important. Only she had no idea until she reached her entire lung capacity what that profound and important thing would be. All she knew, as she slowly drew in that breath, was that it was her most important breath she would ever take. The oxygen that filled those lungs needed to oxygenate her brain enough to come up with a very smart idea. An idea that was so good, it would save her life.’

If you’re a great storyteller you would have found that to be a very difficult exercise!

Now tell the story with the commands inserted below. Notice how it feels different to read the story and be the recipient hearing that story.

The flea bitten monster once again scratched his <next 3 words say them slowly with an air of disgust> large, hairy belly that hung over the <emphasise> dirty cloth which covered his <elevate your voice as if you are surprised> rude bits.

<With aggression> “No!” He exclaimed. <emphasise “no one”> “No one makes it out of here alive. <Stagger the words as if there is a full stop between each word> That’s the rules.”

Sophia paused to think, <pause as if you are thinking, then say the next few words speedily to add drama> cleverly disguising the thought-pause with <breathe in long breath staggering the new few words between your breath as you do it> a long intake of breath as if she were building up to say <state in a profound way – as if making a pledge> something profound and important. Only she had <emphasise no idea> no idea until she reached her entire lung capacity what that profound and important thing <drop tone as if disappointing that you do not yet know> would be. All she knew as she <slow down> slowly drew in that breath, was that it was her <emphasise ”most important breath”> most important breath she would ever take. The oxygen that filled those lungs needed to oxygenate her brain enough to come up with a <emphasise very> very smart idea. An idea that was so good, <pause and say the last few words slowly> it would save her life.’

It’s not a skill that comes naturally to all, but it is a skill that anyone can learn. When you know how to deliver stories in an engaging way, every book can become a masterpiece and the reader can glean as much entertainment from reading it as the audience can from listening.

By Gemma Bailey
G29 Regus Breakspear Park Breakspear Way Hemel Hempstead, HP2 4TZ
Phone: 0203 6677 294