Parental Troubleshooting
By: Thinkably
On: April 26, 2022

Returning for her second appearance on our Instagram Lives, we asked our Therapist in Residence, Saskia Joss, to share her expertise on Parental Troubleshooting.

Saskia is a children’s therapist based in London. During her session, Saskia helped parents, caregivers and educators with their biggest burning questions about parenting, touching on topics of sibling rivalries, encouraging outside activities and autism support.

For those who missed it, or looking to get a quick recap, we’ve refined all the most essential points and insights! 

With the hot weather around the coming, what are your best tips for getting children outdoors and away from indoor activities, like TV and video games?

I think whatever age your child is, it’s really important to try and get them out of the house. I think the big thing people think is “if I take my kid out, it’s going to cost me a lot of money”

Always like try and set up something every day, where either you go for a walk or you give your kids less than a pound to go to the sweet shop around the corner and get something, just say that there’s an element of an everyday habit.

We know that it is great for mental health, getting outside is such a massive thing. It’s actually this thing called hard fascination. So that’s the way that we look at our eyes focused or unfocused, depending on how relaxing the context period is.

Hard Fascination is looking at a whiteboard at school, and it’s looking at your phone. It’s looking at the TV, it’s being in an office where the light isn’t good. And the second that we got into nature, and actually you only need to see six trees there to get your brain to go from hard fascination to soft fascination, allowing it to make endorphins and fully calm down your body.

I would recommend trying just anything that makes it easy for you to get everybody out, particularly on some holidays so that nobody just sits there and plays video games all day or watches films.

What happens if you have a newborn baby and your firstborn starts acting up, how would you approach that situation?

So it’s incredibly normal. It’s the most normal response for the older child to push back against the new child. I would be trying my best to find ways for the older child to feel like nothing has changed. Obviously, lots has changed.

Obviously, it also depends on the age of your older child. If the oldest one can understand what’s going on, you can do a bit more explanation.

I’d be trying to find moments where you can just be with them by yourself. If your child goes to nursery already, I might try to up their days slightly. So they’ve got more space away from the baby where they feel normal. If you’ve got other family members that can help, I would try and find ways to make a bit more space for your older child.

I would empathise massively. “Gosh, it is so weird for you to have a baby here. We were really expecting the baby to make so much noise.. We wanted to play with the puzzles and the baby just couldn’t do it. It was so annoying.”

It’s important to make sure we’re not slating the baby. We’re not saying we don’t like the baby, but we are saying babies are less capable than you are.

That was really frustrating when we were empathising with the real feelings for our child, without colluding in a kind of baby hating society. We’re not against the baby, but we are absolutely able to validate how the other child feels about the baby.

It will take time for it to normalise. And once it normalises your older child, we’ll work out what’s going on and how things fit, but any more structure to make it feel more normal for the first baby is a win.

How do you help a younger sibling to understand that they shouldn’t hit the other one when they don’t really understand what they’re doing yet?

It’s exactly the same as if a child tries to hit you. We don’t allow it.

And we move the child away and make everything. It’s mostly about safety. So you say, I will not let you hurt your brother or your sister. And we are going to move across the room until you can calm down. We’re not punishing children that don’t know what they’re doing, but we’re making a very clear line that we don’t accept unsafe behaviour that could hurt somebody else.

We’re making a safe space for the other child so that they don’t get hurt. And if it continues, I think you’d have to think about different plays, different plays zones. You might have to put one of those dividers up in your living room to make sure there’s space for both children to play safely for a short time until whichever child feels safer

It’s how quickly can I restore safety, rather than how quickly can I show that child they’ve done something wrong because they won’t understand. I will be focusing on safety and clarity rather than anything else.

But it’s not about punishment. It’s about safe boundaries for everybody.

What causes Sibling Rivalries? Are there any prevention methods?

I think there’s one thing that really can help in situations of sibling rivalry is for parents to manage the way that they speak to their children about each other.

So there’s a particular theory that comes from Melanie Klein, which is about the idea of splitting. Splitting means one person is the good person and one person is the bad person. Accidentally parents do it all the time. 

We’re trying to make sure that we don’t split our children, causing them to then fuel up a rivalry between each other. So it’s about thinking about how you were talking about your children? Have you branded your children? “The clever one” or “the sporty one” You don’t have to be the X one or the Y one.

So it’s about not really changing what you’re doing, but more thinking about the way that you speak and how long term the labels you’re giving off. When we label our kids in any way we make the other one feel like they’re not. And when we make the child who’s been labelled for, they’ve got to keep the label or that they’ve got a label they don’t want.

How can I help my autistic child regulate when she gets home from school? Are there any easy exercises or activities that she can do preferably alone?

It depends on the particular traits of your child’s autism. I would try my best to kind of make a space in the house, like a small space, particularly a little part of a living room, which is set up for them where they know after school, they can go straight there and start to calm down.

So maybe you might get a weighted blanket because that often helps particularly with security and to help children to calm down. I might make them a sensory box with, you know, um, pop it and all kinds of fidget toys because lots of children really enjoy them.

In this area, it would be good to include something they can listen to with headphones, not necessarily with the pictures, cause that would be overstimulating, but kind of a playlist that they can listen to on Spotify or Apple music etc. I would leave colouring pages or painting. 

With autism being such a wide thing and affects children differently, it’s something you’ll need to see a professional with more specifics.

How to contact Saskia:

You can just find me on Instagram, which is @saskiajosstherapy also my email address is 

If you’ve got something going on with your kids that you just want to talk through, and I’m always happy to arrange a phone call, it doesn’t necessarily mean your child needs therapy.

If you don’t live locally to me in London, it doesn’t mean I can help you. I’m always available to help. And I always want to help more people. The more families I can help the better – that’s why I do this. It’s to help as many people as possible.

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