Hello Jo! So, you have a brand new show, Jo Frost: Nanny On Tour, and you’ve been filming in Holland. Tell us a bit about that.
It’s been a great experience. This new format I’ve developed allows me to go into English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries to share my professional expertise. The Dutch have been very embracing as they’ve been waiting patiently for a decade for me to go to Holland and help families there.
How does Nanny On Tour work?
I travel in a mobile office that enables me to offer a parenting clinic for families. It’s proved to be very successful as the help is right on their doorstep. I’m happy to say that I’ll have the opportunity to travel to many other countries doing the same thing – as well as going back to Holland this year to film a second series.
Are parenting problems in Holland similar to British parents’ concerns?
Some of them are similar, and some are based on Dutch culture and lifestyle. Problems usually come down to the age of the child, family dynamics and lifestyle.
They have more relaxed laws about drugs and sex in Holland. Do you find this affects how children are brought up?
They have more liberal laws in Holland, but make no mistake – they’re still laws to abide by with age restrictions and rules to be obeyed. Just because there are coffee shops on corners and a Red Light District, it doesn’t mean the Dutch have lower standards when it comes to raising their children. Like any other country, they have their challenges, but I’d say they’re quite firm in their notions about social conduct and the behaviour of their children.
Could British parents learn anything from the Dutch? And could they learn from us?
Always! I hope that, with every family featured on my programmes, other parents learn something new.
Will we be able to see Nanny On Tour here in the UK as well?
I’m hoping to be able to release this information very soon on my Twitter account. You can follow me @jo_frost.
You’re the bestselling author of books such as Confident Baby Care, Toddler Rules and Toddler SOS. Why do you think your books have been so successful?
Becoming an author is one of my proudest achievements. My books have been translated into many different languages and are helping millions of families across the world. I love to write and create these books from beginning to end. I put their success down to how practical and useful they are for families worldwide.
Do you have any more books coming out?
I’m due to release one early next year. You’ll have to stay tuned to Twitter – and my website, www.jofrost.com – to find out what it’s going to be about!
You’ve become a National Spokesperson for Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT), raising awareness of food allergies and anaphylaxis. What do you hope to achieve in your new role?
I live with multiple severe food allergies, environmental allergies and asthma. My role at FAACT is to make those of us who live with life-threatening allergies more visible.
I hope to raise awareness and change things for the better. Equality and inclusion is so important. I hope that, through education, people will become more empathetic and conscious of the changes they can make and the laws they can create that will potentially save lives.
Allergies and anaphylaxis are on the increase – it’s a fact. Correct diagnosis and medication are extremely important for helping people with these conditions go through life confidently and without fear.
Help for parents
You talk about having a good work/life balance, and how important it is for family life. What would be your top three tips for achieving this?
1. Identify what’s most important to you and your family, because when something really matters to
you that’s what you focus your time and attention on.
2. Respect the boundaries between work and home life – it allows you to be more effective in both. You can’t have quality time with your kids if you’re on the phone trying to deal with work; and you can’t give your all to your job if you’ve got one eye on the kids.
3. When you’re ‘off’, you’re off! Everyone needs a break from work to recharge and rejuvenate. Pace yourselfor you’ll run the risk of burning out.
Do you still use the ‘naughty step’ with children? And do you continue to teach parents to practise the SOS technique (Step back, Observe, Step back in)?
Yes, if it’s appropriate to the situation, I still recommend the naughty step to unruly kids, although there are discipline consequences I use as well. I make my recommendations based on circumstances and whatever > problem the parents are dealing with. As for SOS, this will always be an effective tool that allows parents to resolve issues adequately without getting caught up in the drama of the moment.
Growing healthy minds
Do you think these methods will stand the test of time?
My methods aren’t based on trending ideas. They’re based on the importance of understanding children and applying positive tools to help families interact in a functional manner. As I’ve been using them for 25 years, I’d say they’ve already stood the test of time.
You’ve talked about the concepts of mindfulness and gratitude, and how you can encourage your children to be more in tune with these ideas. Could you give us three tips on how to do this?
1. Communication is key, because you can talk about these concepts as part of your daily routine.
2. Encouraging thoughtfulness for others develops empathy and appreciation, and helps children
have less self-absorbed natures.
3. It’s important for children to see their parents and other adults practising charity and goodwill. They learn from example, so they need to observe you being more mindful and grateful for what you have in life.
You’ve been vocal about the fact that children are spending far too much time online and using technology. Why do you think it’s bad for kids?
It’s not so much that technology is bad for kids, because recent advances now allow information to be received at the touch of a button, which is a really good thing. It’s also made the world a much smaller place, because you can have immediate contact with people across the globe.
However, if you have a young child constantly on an iPad because it’s being used as an electronic ‘babysitter’; or if your teenage daughter is telling the world her woes because she doesn’t believe she can talk to her parents about her concerns; or if your son spends all his time simulating violent acts on computer games making him desensitised to situations in which he could be more empathetic… then, as a parent, you definitely need to be highly responsible and regulate your child’s access to all technology.
Early development and learning needs to be taught with human interaction. It feeds your little ones’ brains.
What would be your advice to the parents of tweens and teenagers for building their children’s self-confidence?
You have to take time to listen to your teenagers. As much as you should be there to help them resolve situations, you also have to trust that they can figure solutions out for themselves. It’s important for you to believe in your kids and ask questions that will help them question > themselves. You need to give them responsibility and, by example, you have to show them that you have confidence in their own confidence. You must support your children emotionally, offer constructive advice and give authentic praise as and when is necessary.
Looking to the future
You’ve talked about maybe adopting a child at some point. Is this something you’re still thinking about?
Yes, it’s well documented. My feelings haven’t changed. If the time is right, it’s certainly an option for me.
Do you and your fiancé, Darrin, have any wedding plans yet?
Yes! Don’t worry, I’ll let you know exactly when it’s happening! I don’t want you to miss anything!
And what do you have coming up work-wise, on TV and other platforms?
I’m currently travelling to numerous countries and cities, helping families with their challenging situations; I’m in the middle of writing another book as well – which is exciting – and the rest I have to keep schtum on right now – sorry. But watch this space!
Introducing baby number 2
Being the parents of a newborn is a life-changing experience, but it can be even more tricky to navigate your way when there’s already a little one at home – something the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate, are no doubt discovering after the birth of Princess Charlotte. Toddlers often rebel against the new arrival taking their place as the baby of the family, and start displaying jealous, challenging, insecure or aggressive behaviour. What must little Prince George think of his sister?
‘Like any other parents of a toddler and a newborn, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be going through a period of transition since taking Princess Charlotte home in May,’ says Jo. ‘But there are several ways to make that transition easier for everyone.’ So, what’s Jo’s advice?
1. CELEBRATE THE NEW ARRIVAL
Blow up balloons and make it a celebration when the new baby comes home. When you’re enthusiastic and high in spirits, you really do lay down that positive energy for the older child.
2. INCLUDE THE OLDER CHILD IN CARING FOR THE BABY
If, like Prince George, your older one is coming up to two years old, it’s likely he will be very curious. It’s important to involve the older sibling and find times when they can be ‘little helpers’. It’s a new dynamic for the whole family and you’ll want to make sure the siblings have time to bond. This can be as simple as letting your older child nuzzle up to you alongside the newborn during feeding time. There’ll be those lovely moments when you see them bonding and you’re telling your little one, ‘Not so hard – be very gentle because she’s a baby and you’re a big boy now.’
3. DON'T PANDER TO - OR CAHTISE - REGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR
Children may revert to babyish behaviour, such as wetting themselves, using less-advanced vocabulary, and insisting they need help with tasks they’ve been capable of in the past. How parents handle those regressions is important. Understand that this behaviour is purely in the moment, and it’s vital to be sensitive and encouraging and say things like, ‘Oh, you can use your big-boy voice! You can do it!’ The idea is to actively encourage children to continue with their development.
4. IF YOU CAN'T SLEEP, AT LEAST TAKE TIME TO REST
New parents often feel that indescribable and euphoric high when their minds are racing and they can’t sleep, but it’s necessary to take quiet moments whenever you are able to in order to keep your energy levels steady. Even if you can’t get a full sleep, just resting and calming yourself can be so helpful. If your older child is still at an age when he needs afternoon naps, you should use that time to rest yourself, rather than catch up on chores. But even if your eldest has grown out of daily nap times, there can still be opportunities for you to rest while he is colouring or doing a puzzle, and those rests can sometimes be almost as good as a sleep. Give yourself permission to take a five-minute break whenever possible.
5. SEEK OUT AND ACCEPT HELP
The royal family will, of course, have a really professional and experienced nanny who’ll be able to iron out any wrinkles and keep on top of things. Kate’s mother will also be on hand to help, and that will play a vital role in making the transition a smooth process. Not everyone will have that kind of support, though. You need stamina to get through those first, critical months with a newborn while still meeting the demands of your toddler, but nothing is impossible. Be willing to accept much-needed help wherever it comes from – friends, colleagues, neighbours or family.
Credits: Images; David Carlson, Hair and make-up; David Marvel