Joanne Jewell, the creator of Mindful Parenting, is a British-trained child and adolescent counsellor, who spent some of her teenage years as an expat in South Africa. Her time in South Africa had instilled a desire to explore the world and Joanne together with her husband jumped at the opportunity to move to Dubai in 2007 with their three sons who are now 22, 20 and 16. Joanne came highly recommended to me as a ‘parenting expert’ although it is a term Joanne rarely likes to use about herself. She feels strongly that parents are the real ‘experts’ when it comes to their own children but her parenting courses are designed to equip and educate parents with knowledge to help them deal challenges with children of all ages. I attended her course for Parents of Younger Children (Age 4-8 years) and learnt a tremendous amount walking away with practical information empowering me as a mother going forward. The course has given me tools to set my values and boundaries to help be the parent I want to be. Of course, it takes much practice to make these changes, and still everyday we try to incorporate this connection with our children, and it doesn’t involve any form of time out.
Parents with different parenting philosophies and backgrounds will be able to take away much from the course. I actually shout less or get less frustrated and connect better with my children. Joanne discusses much over her 5-week course explaining the science behind a child’s brain, what we as parents should realistically expect from our children, about what empathy really means, how to solve problems with your child, how to set boundaries, using effective praise and so forth. The other 9 women on the course also showed me that everyone was facing their own challenges, most not so different from mine, and we all benefitted and learnt a great deal from each other as well as from Joanne. I highly recommend attending one of her courses, and hope to attend her sibling course later in the year.
Can you tell us a bit about your professional background?
I changed careers shortly after my 3rd son was born in 2000 and re-trained as a child and adolescent Counsellor. I then worked in a school in the UK before coming to Dubai and working as the School Counsellor here up until 2015. I set up the School Counsellors network back in 2008 and am still actively involved in supporting and working with them. I always ran workshops for parents in the schools that I worked in and these were very popular with both the parents and schools. My training was child-centered and I also practiced both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness work with the children and adolescents that I supported. In addition, I am an EFT practitioner, NLP Master and qualified Hypnotherapist. I bring all of my training and practical knowledge into the support I give to families. I am also very interested in neuroscience and how using the up to date scientific information we now have can support our relationships with children.
What made you decide to set up Mindful Parenting?
Having spent over a decade working with families it became very apparent that there was a real lack of support for parents – other than medical or clinical interventions which is often not appropriate or relevant, there is very little up to date, hands on, practical education. I wanted to offer parents affordable, science based education that incorporates the skills of building relationships, coaching and emotional intelligence. I wanted to offer the type of support I wish I’d had as both a new parent and during the different stages of my children’s lives and development.
Can you describe the different workshops that you have?
I offer workshops for parents of children from birth up to teenagers. These are split into developmental stages so that we can focus on the skills and strategies that are appropriate for each age group and also have common threads and an ethos that runs through all of them. “Enjoy Your Baby” is the only workshop which is aimed specifically at mums and focuses on the first year of a child’s life, the significant changes that we experience as a mum, providing us with practical strategies taught in a supportive environment. We then move on to Workshops for Parents of Toddlers (Age 1-3yrs), Parents of Younger Children (Age 4-8yrs), Parents of Pre-Teens (Age 9-12yrs) and Parents of Teens (Age 13+). I generally recommend that parents attend the workshop appropriate for their eldest child as I find this to be the most helpful to them. I also offer a ‘Sibling Rivalry’ Workshop for parents and this is a follow on for any parent who has attended a previous Mindful Parenting Workshop.
Can you describe typical scenarios that would inspire a mum to sign up to one of your workshops? Is it just for mums who are fed up/exhausted/curious?
Mums and Dads are inspired to sign up for many different reasons, it could be a specific challenge they are facing e.g. behavior, developmental stage, new baby, change in family situation etc. Many parents choose to attend in order to simply learn more about their children or for self-development or in preparation for an age that they haven’t experienced before.
How many other parents are there in each session?
The maximum number of parents in any workshop is 12, however most workshops are usually between 8-10 so it is a small, very supportive and non-judgmental environment in which to learn.
Do you also offer private consultations? Who would this be suitable for?
Yes, I do also offer private consultations and these can either be held at your home or at my office in Media City. These can be suitable for anyone, many parents choose to book a private session to get some immediate help if they are waiting for a workshop to begin, some parents who travel or work away a lot choose them to fit in with their schedule and others choose them to focus on one specific issue that is of immediate concern.
From your workshops and consultations what do you hope each parent will walk away with?
Every parent sets their own goal at the beginning of the workshops so I really hope that they achieve these. In addition, I hope that they will feel more supported, empowered and knowledgeable about the parent they want to be as well as having the skills and strategies to achieve this.
Where do most of your courses take place, and how do parents sign up?
My courses are currently running in Media City and I am being supported by my good friend Rehana at Babies & Beyond who provides me with a lovely room to host my workshops. It’s a great, central location with plenty of parking and amazing views!
What are your personal thoughts on time out?
Time out can be a very effective strategy for adults and parents to utilize themselves if they need space to calm down and think what to do next. Young children, and particularly those below the age of 5, don’t have the capacity to think logically about their behavior, what they did wrong, why and what to do next time. In order to teach children, the most effective strategies are based in neuroscience and involve us using our fully formed adult brain to connect with our child and help them to calm down so we can then teach whatever we want to teach – usually these are boundaries. Time out used with children is ineffective as it breaks this connection and therefore misses an opportunity to teach.
When parents recognize certain negative behaviors in their children who might be 9 years old or 16 years old, is there still time to put things right? What suggestions do you have as a starting point?
It’s never too late to change and we know that the brain continues to learn and make connections up to until the day we die. The starting point is to connect to our child, educate ourselves to understand where our child is developmentally so we can use appropriate strategies to teach them in the way that is most effective for them. In order to connect, we need to be able to manage our own emotions and stay calm, this allows us to use our logical brain to calm the situation down rather than respond merely with emotion which may inflame the situation.
What are three personal family values that you hope to instill in your three boys?
Integrity, gratitude and compassion are my key values, which means my role is to focus on living by and using these values in my own life as well as in my interactions with them and others.
What is your greatest fear as a mother?
Part of being a mindful parent is learning to recognise our emotions whilst not being overwhelmed by them. I have often noticed how having children raised my anxiety levels, I also notice that making decisions when I’m anxious is not very useful for me or my children! I aim to parent from a place of hope and curiosity rather than fear and I believe this has been a positive experience for both my children and myself.
For mothers struggling with two or three children between 4 – 7 years old, can you give them 1 tip to survive the day?
I remember being this mother and it can be challenging both emotionally and physically – my 1 tip would be to constantly remind yourself that you are a good enough mum and a good enough mum makes mistakes sometimes and learns from them, apologises when she needs to, asks for help when she needs to and takes care of herself as well as her children.
What three things did you learn about yourself when raising your boys?
That I struggle on a lack of sleep! I learnt that even though I didn’t really know how to be the mum I wanted to be, I could learn how to do it and learning on the job is often the best way. I also learnt that I didn’t have very effective self-calming or self-soothing strategies so I picked some that I thought would work for me and practiced them every day until they became a natural part of my life – mindfulness really helped me to do this which is why I have incorporated it into my daily life. I also learn that connection was the key to everything – sorry is that more than 3!
What do you personally like to do as a family?
We love to travel, to cook together, to have pets in the house, to play cards, to talk, to visit nature and watch animals wherever and whenever possible, to learn new things and to always watch Star Wars films as a family!
Favourite holiday destination as a family.
That’s a difficult one as we really have 2 – South Africa, to see the animals and The Maldives to snorkel and dive – again with animals!
For more information www.mindfulparentinguae.net
Dates for next courses click here