This week I have a lovely lady called Jo Fitzgerald for our coffee break chat. Jo is passionate about helping children to cope with stressful and emotional events. I too agree that these topics are so difficult to address with children and any help and support out there is brilliant. Sadly these things are so common place and with the power of the internet comes children often hearing about quite grown up and emotional subjects.
So, first things first we need a cuppa! Are you a tea or coffee lady? How do you drink it and what is your favourite biscuit?
Whatever I’m in the mood for – I’m a Gemini, and very changeable! I love a good English Breakfast tea, we have a really good coffee machine at home and a LOVE an espresso doppio. I also adore mint tea. Never any sugar but – a biscuit? Don’t mind if I do. Hereby lies a dilemma MY FAVOURITE BISCUIT!!!! I HAVE TO CHOOSE??? Okay, I can do this (deep breath)It has to be a Malted Milk – takes me right back to my childhood, and I know the exact dunking time, so it never ends up in the bottom of the mug.
You have no idea the discussion this question caused in my household – a very fierce and passionate debate!
I absolutely love your story but please can you tell my readers a bit more about you and how your passion for helping children came about?
I’m a teacher – have been for years. I taught in the Middle East for 17 years, then (divorce) came back to the UK. I specialise in Early Years, it brings me great joy. 18 months ago my lovely husband said “Why don’t you finish work and start that business you’ve always wanted to, and write those books?” After I’d finished kissing him and cooking his favourite meal, I did just that. I set up ‘Tiny Sponges’. I started off making videos, writing blogs etc .. for parents of early years children. Giving them ideas for how they could help their children learn, and develop, through play. (I’m GREAT at playing – been doing it for the last 53 years!) I wrote my books – I have three more ready to go. Then, I realised that what was really important to me was helping parents teach their young children emotional well-being and resilience skills. So – I started my Facebook Group ‘Keep Our Kids Safe and Strong’ My Tiny Sponges blogs now really reflect this. I’m regularly published by the Pre-school Learning Alliance. Have been published in other FB groups too, and also contributed to an article in The Telegraph. I have to add that I haven’t made a bean yet – but I’m hoping this is all about to change – because Waterstones are launching my first book next month (Fanfare) (Drumroll).
Why did you decide a book was so important and how did the writing of it start?
My book is the result of running and belonging to many parenting social media groups. When something bad happens in the world there is blanket media coverage – it’s on TV, the radio, the papers, the internet. People talk about it and are emotional. Every time there was a terrorist attack, when a child went missing, when the Grenfell Tower disaster occurred … the same questions were asked and feelings expressed. “I don’t know what my child has seen” “I don’t know what to tell my child” “My child is worried” “I am anxious and I think my child sees this”… Every time! So I searched for information on what to tell/how to start a conversation around these events. There was little out there, almost nothing that was aimed at children. The BBC Newsround had a good site – but it was aimed at 10-15 year olds. So, I wrote a book.
What would you say is the aim of your book?
My aim is to make it easier for parents of children aged 4 – 10, to open up those difficult conversations in a non scary way. In a way that was structured for parents, with current advice and ways to make ‘family plans’ around these situations. It’s very gentle, the (rhyming) story of a boy, his dog and his parents – and there’s a parents section at the back with questions and things to talk about. Plus, anyone buying the book gets a free downloadable information pack.
Did you experience trauma in your early life that has inspired the book?
I lived through the IRA bombings, and had two close calls, I lived through a military coup in the Middle East. I witnessed a horrific house fire in my village when I was very young. My son was exactly the same age as Jamie Bulger. I KNOW that parents and children worry and get anxious – but I also know that talking about things, knowing what to do, and having a plan eases that worry and anxiety.
How do we get our hands on your book?
My book is being launched by Waterstones in June. I’ve put some advanced copies out to various people, teachers, the fire service, parents, authors, childcare experts, parent advisors. All the feedback has been incredible. With parents saying that their children expressed worries that they never knew they had. That families were able to plan and talk – and that it made everyone feel better. A few of them have said that they never had a fire plan in place – that it had really made them think, and they were able to plan as a family. Just in case.
Why do you think emotional wellbeing is so important to children this young and should children this young really know all of this?
Emotional well being is so important to me. I lost both my mum and my younger sister to suicide. Horrendous. We never know what life is going to throw at us – relationship breakdown, job loss, financial difficulty, illness, bereavement … I think that if we, as parents, carers, educators, equip our children with resilience skills from birth – they will better be able to cope with life’s obstacles.
In the last couple of weeks it has been reported that the numbers of PRIMARY aged children being referred to Mental Health services has risen by a third. Children as young as three are self harming. The Mental Health and family services in this country is underfunded, many services are shutting down. We are failing our very young children. It is up to us, as parents and carers, to do the best we can to give our children robust mental health.
I am sure many of my readers will love to find out more and follow you on social media and your blog how can they do that?
My blog is www.tinysponges.com
My Facebook page is Tiny Sponges
My Facebook Group is Keep Our Kids Safe and Strong
I’m on Instagram as Tiny Sponges
My Twitter is @tinysponges
Is there anything else you want to add?
Thanks so much for this Jen – I’ve really enjoyed it. Now – where are those biscuits …?
An extra for you guys…
If you want a sneak peak at Jo’s book it you can see it here.
Visitors can watch videos including:
- Jo introducing the book
- Getting lost
- House fires
- Terrorist attacks
Visitors can then sign up to download a useful FREE eBook with guidance for parents, etc.
Plus, when the book is launched, they will send them a money-off coupon for Amazon.
To read my previous Coffee Break stories click here.