Use Christmas 2019 to surprise and encourage your teenager!

At the heart of each of us is the need to be loved, accepted and to belong.

In 2019 giving environment friendly Christmas gifts is important. However, equally important is using Christmas 2019 as opportunity to show how much we love and appreciate our child in a unique way which connects with them and it isn’t about the money.

Unfortunately for my family, “gifts” is not one of my “love languages” and I can’t say that buying Christmas presents as ever been a highlight!  So I started thinking about how could we use Christmas presents to invest in building up and encouraging our children rather than just spending money on a quick fix present which is appreciated in the moment and then forgotten…

My suggestion is a “Christmas Love Box”.

A Christmas Love Box is not about money, it is about thought and time. Each of our children is unique and we often don’t tell them how much we love or appreciate them, particularly as they get older when sometimes we may not even like them at times.

The research on building positive family relationships focuses on how we should be more encouraging than negative, nagging, criticising, reminding, shouting etc. Being encouraging can be difficult, particularly through adolescence and often our children do everything they can to undermine our relationship with them.

Therefore, this Christmas is your opportunity to tip the Christmas present scales in your favour and hopefully open a door to building a more positive relationship with your child in 2020.

So, what is a Christmas Love Box:

  1. Get a box – you can either buy a ready-made box or use a shoebox and cover it.
  2. Spend time thinking about each child, list what they mean to you, what their interests are, what you appreciate about them, how they receive encouragement.
  3. Write a letter/card to them summarising the above.
  4. Write a list of small gifts that really mean something to them e.g. special chocolate/sweets, can of their favourite drink, unique pair of socks, notebook + pen, voucher, stationery, tickets to the cinema, 1-2-1 special day with you, gloves, moisturiser, hair gel, photos of you together + family photos, charger cables, headphones, torch, hat/beanie, special pain, aftershave/deodorant/perfume, shower gel, soap etc. Most of these don’t have to cost a fortune – it isn’t about the amount you spend it is about the thought you put into it.
  5. You can wrap up each present or not – your choice and then put them in the box, wrap it up with your card/letter and wait for Christmas Day.
  6. You could also do this for any significant others e.g. your parents, partner, best friend etc.
  7. Surprise them on Christmas Day

Here are some ideas for your letter/card:

NOTE: Final tip, please make sure that all your words/comments are authentic and genuine – children see through tokenistic comments/disingenuous words of appreciation etc. Try to focus on how hard they worked, their approach, perseverance etc. rather than simply listing achievements as this will help them develop a Growth Mindset.


I have put this Christmas Love Box together for you because I/we just wanted to do something a little different this Christmas to show how much I/we love and appreciate you.

I/we know that life has been challenging at times, however, I/we are proud of how you have coped/managed etc.

I/we love seeing how you… (Help your sister… Play football with… Help around the house…)

I/we appreciate your thoughtfulness and kindness to…

I/we enjoy your positive outlook and life and appreciate your enthusiasm for…

I/we know how hard it is been for you to…

I/we enjoy seeing you grow and develop into the person we always knew you could be…

I/we see the potential within you and appreciate how you have worked to…

I/we were proud when you achieved… However, we were more proud of how hard you worked and how determined you were to…

I/we know how you struggled with… But are proud of how you coped/persevered etc.…

I/we would like to say thank you for being you for your…

I/we enjoy spending time with you – think about what you might like to doing 2020 as a family

I/we would like to have a regular (activity) – think about what you might like to do together and we will book some dates in

We hope you have a great 2020!

Happy Christmas everyone and let me know how you get on!

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My moment at 8.49am on Tuesday 30 October

Day-to-day there are 1000’s of moments during which we have choices and make decisions, from the mundane to those which can change how we feel about life and what we do.

Sitting on a beach at 8:49am in Moraira, Spain on Tuesday 30 October, I had such a moment.  Enjoying the peace and warmth of the morning sun, I decided I would go for it and start the process for setting up a micro-business to support and encourage parents. I have been surprised at the difference this decision has made, having a new focus has made me happier!

Having finished work at the end of August, I have been enjoying a new life of being “a lady who lunches”! I have loved the novelty of having time to do stuff I want to however, if I was being honest with myself, I did feel a little lost.

I felt myself drifting and struggling with not having a focus – you can only clean and tidy the house so many times and I had even started rolling clothes, watch out Marie Kondo!

During September, as my energy levels returned so did my mojo and I knew there was something missing but wasn’t convinced I had the energy or motivation to set up a new business because life at home was so easy.

As I am discovering, it is a very different experience being at home full-time, I used to dream about it when I worked full-time and now recognise that it has its own pressures and it isn’t quite what you expect it to be.

So, even though I was enjoying myself, if I was being honest, I didn’t find it as satisfying as I expected and found not achieving much frustrating.

I knew that if I was going to keep going I would need to include the things I enjoy doing, which include:

  • Parenting with all its challenges and rewards.
  • Managing staff and seeing them flourish and thrive, making a positive difference in people’s lives in the workplace.
  • Leadership development and coaching (remarkably similar to parenting).
  • Reading, researching and understanding people and behaviour – trying to understand why we and others behave the way we do and how we can change behaviour using the latest research and evidence.
  • Developing and running my own parenting workshops.
  • Having cups of tea/coffee and chatting with family and friends!

So, why wouldn’t I take the next step to set up my business and make my hobby my Plan A. Combining all the things I enjoy into creating a face-to-face focused business aiming to encourage parents and providing common sense advice over cups of tea/coffee and cake (of course!)– focusing on helping them feel better about themselves in their day-to-day parenting.

I know I have so much I can share to help parents get a better understanding of why their children behave the way they do as well as why they parent the way they do, practical advice to help when things go wrong as well as how to build resilience and cope with anxiety and other mental health challenges.

Everything I talk about and share is always grounded in evidence – I do the reading research, distil the key learning points, apply common sense and then share my learning with parents during my Parenting Cafés and hopefully future courses.

I want to create something parents want and look forward to! I know that putting parents at the heart of everything I do is key, which is why I am planning to write a regular blog about my experiences in setting up my new business.

So, this week I have started setting goals for myself and filling in my new weekly planner. 

In my study, I now have a bowl of 365 marbles and take one marble out each day so I can reflect on what I have achieved as well as lessons learnt. I don’t know where this exciting journey will take me but at least my days should no longer drift…

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Taunton Parenting Cafe

I would like to invite all parents of children from 9-19 yrs to the new Taunton Parenting Cafes!

I want the Café to be a welcoming, encouraging and safe space where parents can discuss parenting pre-teen and teenage challenges and find practical help, support and encouragement. 

This is what parents said about my June Parenting Café:

“Brilliant!  Exceeded my expectations”

“It was a welcoming, non-judgemental space where you can talk openly about the challenges you face of the parent.”

Each Café will be on a Monday from 7 PM-8:30 PM at Company Spaces, 2 Bridge Street, Taunton, TA1 1UB

I am Ruth James and will be running “Building Confident and Resilient Teenagers” courses in association with Taunton Doctors organises.

Each Café will focus on a teenage challenge, include a short talk by me and there will be plenty of time for discussion, the topics for the next 2 are:

7 October: How we can help our pre-teens and teenagers manage their anxiety, stress and worries

18 November: Helping our pre-teens and teenagers cope when things go wrong

I will be on hand to give parenting support and advice so there will be plenty of opportunity to ask any questions about parenting you may have. 

Please contact me if you have any questions at or 07718178111

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Exciting new workshops for parents of teenagers in 2019

Family life can be tough, particularly when you have teenagers. No two days are ever the same, one day life can be amazing and then the next it isn’t, you can feel overwhelmed, unable to cope and have no idea what to do…

New for 2019

I am so excited that in 2019 I will be launching a new series of workshops focusing on “Building Resilient Families”.

Having had 3 teenagers, I am already including topics like managing behaviour, building your teenager’s self-esteem, managing screen time, dealing with rudeness, how do to talk so teenagers listen etc.

But, I want to make sure that my workshops answer your questions and deal with the issues you are facing, so, please let me know what your biggest parenting challenge is by emailing me at

So what is my new approach to parenting?

Families, whatever their shape, influence everything we do. Ask any parent what they want for their children, and no surprise, they want their children to be “happy” – but what is “happy”? Having positive family relationships is an important part of “happy” but, as we all know, that is easier said than done with teenagers.

Since I set up Surviving Teenagers in 2012, trying to understand what is behind teenager behaviour has absolutely fascinated me, I must have now read over 60 books as well as spoken to well over 500 parents! Using this research I have put together a new, innovative approached parenting which aims to transform family relationships.

I couldn’t do this if I didn’t practice what I preach, so I have been developing my approach to parenting over the last 10 years with my children (the oldest of which is now 23!)

As my daughters will tell you, I am far from perfect but my research and learning over the last few years has made a significant difference to how I parent and I can genuinely say that we do have positive family relationships and we all enjoy spending time together.

All my children are very different so using a different approach for each one has been key and I have been able to develop a personalised approach based on a better understanding of who they are and who I am as a parent and why I parent way I do using a model I have developed.

Family life is hectic so keeping things simple and practical is my mantra, so my workshops focus on how I can better support parents cope in your busy day-to-day lives.

My new approach is different to anything I’ve come across, it focuses on understanding ourselves, our children and the 3R’s of family life, relationship, relationship, relationship.

It is often the simple things which make the biggest difference in relationships. All too often it is our emotions and assumptions that get in the way of building positive family relationships and we don’t or can’t see the wood for the trees i.e. we focus on struggling with day-to-day relationship challenges rather than standing back and changing how we approach our children.

Helping parents to understand how you could start opening the door to new ways of building more positive family relationships is my reason for doing this, helping and encouraging families to bring new perspectives and understanding of each other will hopefully allow you to transform your day-to-days.

If you would like to know more, please email me at

Ruth James

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Making 2018 a “Happy New Year”

building resilient mumsWhen I ask most parents what they want for their teenagers, they want them to be “happy”.

Happiness does not necessarily mean having more money or stuff, the evidence suggests that more money does not make us happier. We all have an “optimum level of happiness” and even though we may experience temporary euphoria with a job promotion, financial gift or even winning the lottery, after a period of weeks or months we get used to this new money and life continues as before as we strive towards the next anticipated goal which will make as “happier”.

Interestingly, giving to others and spending time with people is more likely to make is happy than money or things.

So what will make our teenagers happy? Ironically, part of this answer is having a good relationship with their parents even though they may do everything to sabotage this. Often, their behaviour is driven out of a lack of self belief and this is so clear to me when I talk to parents.

The problem is parents often misinterpret their teenagers’ reaction and perceive them as being rebellious or difficult. Whereas, if you look behind the behaviour their teenager is clearly struggling with GCSEs, friendships, body image, a comment on snap chat etc. You can usually trace back shifting behaviour to something going on in their lives.

Unfortunately, we can get into a habit of constantly reacting to our teenagers, even using a particular tone of voice, which of course never ends well and undermines our ability to build a positive relationship with our teenagers.

Perhaps in 2018, our New Year’s resolution ought to be to look behind our teenager’s behaviour, to try to understand what is really going on in their world and perhaps be a little more patient with them.

On the positive, in 2018 I would encourage you to do what you can to build them up, affirm them, complement them – catch them doing something positive for a change. They may not show a positive reaction to any of this but trust me, they do appreciate it, it can make a difference and even open the door to a more positive relationship your teenager.


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