Wednesday Wisdom

August 25, 2021

Small Steps

By Dr Kathy Weston

Small Steps


Gulp. I made that fateful mistake of checking my work schedule for September. I am due to give 26 talks in schools (yes, in one month!). Happily, giving talks to parents never feels like work and instead makes me feel that I am right where I should be; disseminating the most up to date, evidence-based tips that busy parents need to know and, hopefully, can implement easily, to good effect.

In an attempt to quell any back-to-real-life-and-school nerves, at this point in our planning for September, apart from worrying about school shoes, labelling all those sports’ clothes, buying books and new pencil cases, try to slot ‘things to look forward to’ into your family diary. In my experience, September often flies by in a rush of adrenaline. If you can manage to book a few small treats or events to look forward to, which will linger like juicy carrots at September’s finish-line, it can make this first month of the new academic year much more palatable.

Having small things to look forward to isn’t just some advice I have pulled out of the air; it is one of those evidence-informed tips that psychologists routinely suggest, so let’s try it. The things that we might anticipate with joy don’t have to cost money or involve going anywhere. It might be booking in a phone call with someone dear or staying in as a family for a movie night.

Sometimes, when things feel a little overwhelming, it can be a good idea to simply break down the period of time into chunks. I am not thinking about the vast stretch from now to December. I am just peering into September and trying to make sure it works as well as possible for my family. Chunking can give us a modicum of control at a time of year that can feel very demanding.


Anyone who knows me well knows that I never recommend a service or product to another family that I haven’t spent my own money on first.

A few months ago, after moving house, I decided that I needed some urgent guidance when it came to home organisation, so I hired a professional, Tracy Ross, AKA, the Mary Poppins of the organised home. Once I got over the initial embarrassment of realising that my Christmas tree lights were still up when she arrived in May, and the fact we owned at least twenty bottles of black shoe polish, Tracy and I worked through the house until it was a haven of labels and folded tea-towels; everything had a logical place. Tracy didn’t just ‘sort stuff out’; we bonded over the psychology of getting rid of things and how her role often involves working through the emotional connection we have to things.

So, during tidy ups, when we came across something with enormous sentimental value, but which looks to the outside world like it belongs in a skip, Tracy gently scaffolded the chat by asking pertinent questions; questions that propel you towards reflecting on the purpose of holding on to particular items and closer to a concrete decision.

The main point of telling you my Tracy tale, is to share how good it made me feel to get rid of stuff, but also to convey that it’s an exercise that requires some support. This will particularly be the case for those who are clearing out homes after the death of a loved one or helping a friend who tends to hoard. The good news is, I have managed to persuade Tracy to do a webinar with me (open to all), so everyone can benefit from her words of wisdom.


Surely one of the greatest joys of the summer has been watching the Olympics and relishing in the accomplishments of others.

I am greatly looking forward to the Paralympics games, which got underway yesterday. Did you know that 33 different sports featured in the Olympic games, with 339 individual events. For parents in Tooled Up schools, we are creating a simple resource that helps children and teens to recognise the huge variety of sports out there, ready for them to explore. Keep your eyes on the resource library. It will be arriving later this week!

As we move towards the September start line, let’s try and do so with constructive calm, but with a concomitant sense of excitement for the learning opportunities that lie ahead. Peppering September with weekly things to look forward to can help fuel family life and give us a sense of purpose, which is critical to both individual and collective happiness and wellbeing.

Are you a Tooled Up member?

At Tooled Up Towers, we’ve been reflecting on how much our resource library has grown over the last year. It now contains hundreds of evidence-based articles, activities, podcasts, videos and tip sheets, designed to help you support your children effectively.

Some of your favourites over the past 9 months have been our summer activity resources (you’ll find them in the ‘school holidays’ section), our advice on boosting children’s self-esteem, our series of wobble resources, which help children to work through any anxieties, our 100 acts of kindness activity, our top 50 ideas for keeping active at home and our fantastic Wellbeing Journal which is perfect for tweens and teens.

We’re particularly proud of all of the podcast interviews (and exclusive podcast summaries) that we’ve done this year. They’ve now been listened to almost 40,000 times! Highlights over the last few months have been our discussion about the Everyone’s Invited movement and gender inequality with Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, our chat with gaming expert, Andy Robertson, about the varied benefits of computer games and our recent interview with Professor Tamsin Ford about emerging patterns in young people’s mental health, post-pandemic.

We also introduced our Researcher of the Month feature, where we interview researchers about new publications that are highly relevant to parents. So far, we’ve learned about the importance of play, improving sleep, the benefits of kindness and treating depression. Happy listening!