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New parenting initiative Huddl to stage talks with expert speakers at Trinity Park, Ipswich, to help children cope with the pressures of modern life

PUBLISHED: 10:11 18 July 2017

Katie Lawson and Lucy Flack have set up a new parenting organisation called Huddl.
Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Katie Lawson and Lucy Flack have set up a new parenting organisation called Huddl. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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What’s going on in the teenage brain, how can we teach our children grit and resilience and how do we keep them safe online? These are just some of the questions two Suffolk women hope to help answer with the launch of a parenting support initiative they believe is long overdue. Sheena Grant found out more.

We all want our children to have carefree, happy childhoods but are the pressures of modern life affecting their ability to do so and how can parents help? Katie Lawson hopes her new parenting support initiative, Huddl, will provide the answers.
Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoWe all want our children to have carefree, happy childhoods but are the pressures of modern life affecting their ability to do so and how can parents help? Katie Lawson hopes her new parenting support initiative, Huddl, will provide the answers. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

From increasing academic demands to the unrelenting gaze of social media and the internet, the pressures facing modern generations of children are so intense - and new - that parents can struggle to help their offspring find a way through.

According to the charity Young Minds, one in 10 five to 16-year-olds now suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder.

And it seems no-one is immune, as mum-of-three Katie Lawson discovered in her own family when her niece was diagnosed with pre-pubescent anorexia, at the age of just nine.

“She had great parents and a lovely home life but that didn’t spare her,” says Katie, who lives at East Bergholt.

Pressure to do well at school can adversely affect young people. One of Huddl's expert talks this autumn will look at how to foster grit and resilience in our children, and ourselves.
Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoPressure to do well at school can adversely affect young people. One of Huddl's expert talks this autumn will look at how to foster grit and resilience in our children, and ourselves. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Thankfully, her niece is now doing better, having had specialist support at Great Ormond Street Hospital, but the experience led Katie to think more deeply about what could be done to give parents the knowledge and expertise to help their children navigate growing up in 21st Century Britain.

She knows she’s not the only parent wrestling with these issues. Last autumn, her long-time friend Lucy Flack, who has two primary school-aged children and lives near Framlingham, organised an event for local parents to learn more about mindfulness, a technique that encourages moments of mental stillness to help develop strategies for dealing with life’s stresses and strains.

Such was the interest that it was over-subscribed so Katie, who worked in sponsorship and event management for 15 years, and marketing professional Lucy started to talk about what more they could offer to meet the obvious need.

“When you have babies and young children there’s no shortage of help and advice to tap into, from the National Childbirth Trust onwards,” says Katie. “And while increasing numbers of schools are giving pupils a greater understanding of mental health, parents can be left behind, trying to cope with things they often feel ill-equipped to tackle. We’re bombarded with mixed messages about how to parent ‘the right way’ but few of us know where we can up-to-date expert information on the most current, concerning topics.”

So the friends founded Huddl, a social enterprise offering “support for the parenting journey”. A series of events will take place this autumn at Trinity Park, Ipswich, at which experts will give talks on a range of subjects including social media and internet safety, the teenage brain, anxiety and developing grit and resilience.

“Each three-hour event will cater for around 300 people and aim to give parents top tips and recommended reading to take away,” says Katie. “We are really excited about this and hope the events will give parents the confidence and knowledge to help their children so that problems and mental ill health can be prevented from happening in the first place. We don’t want to scare people, we just want to allow them to find out a little more so they feel empowered about setting up online devices safely for children to use, for understanding teenagers and cultivating grit and resilience.”

The idea is that Huddl will become a community of mutual support, compassion and learning and offer a platform for parents to gain knowledge and practical tools to deal with their difficult and ever-changing role. The first three talks will be held in Suffolk but there are plans to roll Huddl out further, perhaps even nationwide, with talks in Norwich and Cambridge next year, a regular newsletter, blogs and webinars, parent conferences, regional advisers and family festivals.

“Suffolk is where we live and where our children go to school so will always be very much the focus but we also think Huddl has so much to offer parents further afield too,” says Katie.

As a social enterprise, 10% of Huddl’s profits will go to charity - Suffolk Mind will benefit from the first three Trinity Park events.

■ The EADT is Huddl’s local media partner. Tickets for the Trinity Park events cost £15 each talk or £40 for all three. To find out more visit www.huddl.uk, #jointhehuddl, www.facebook.com/HuddlParenting/.

Under discussion will be...

Social media & internet safety

The pressure to communicate continually is a new-found anxiety. How do we find the best balance, ensure our children are safe and have the strength to ‘walk away’ when they are in distress? Jonathan Taylor, who was lead covert internet investigator with the Metropolitan Police and now advises on the dangers of online grooming, Dr Emma Bond, associate professor at Suffolk University and author of Childhood Mobile Technologies and Everyday Experiences and internet safety campaigner Lorin LaFave, whose son Breck Bednar was murdered by someone he met online, will examine the issues on September 14.

The changing teenage brain

Scientific research is revealing how the brain changes as children move into adolescence. What’s going on at this key stage of life, why is everything so overwhelming and how can we communicate better with our teenage children?

Speakers Dr Rosemary Taylor, a UN advisor, regional editor of The Good Schools Guide and international speaker on the development of the teenage brain and Natasha Devon, who was the Government’s first ever mental health champion for schools, will reveal more on October 10.

Anxiety, grit & resilience.

Some children bounce back easily from setbacks while others find it hard to keep going. What is it that enables some young people to learn from their failures and what does it mean to be resilient? How do we develop this skill in ourselves and our children?

Speakers at the November 14 event will be author Dr Tina Rae, member of the European Network for Social and Emotional Competence and trustee of the Nurture Group Network and Elizabeth Wright, winner of three Paralympic swimming medals and co-founder of education programme Resilience Wellbeing Success.

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