Parenting is not a perfect science and as for the perfect parent, well quite simply there is no such thing and no-one knows that better than my next Fabulous Females guest Anita Cleare, a leading UK parenting expert, writer and coach.
Being a parent is one of life’s great rewards and whilst each age brings its own challenges, the teenage years require a significant gear change in parenting approach and that has undoubtedly never been more apparent than this year.
Our teens have suffered inexorably as a result of lockdown and the unprecedented restrictions on their lives and this has forced many of us to not only seek advice but also to reconsider how we parent.
Anita says in her interview that her own teen years left her broken and “after painstakingly putting herself back together”, has dedicated her career to helping families build a family life that is good for the parent and the child.
Anita’s unique quality is as a coach talking not only as one with extensive professional experience, but also as a parent and one who has overcome many hurdles herself. It is this honesty which I think makes her stand out.
Her motto, “dig deep and keep putting one foot in front of the other”, are words I can relate to and give me some hope that I might be doing something right in guiding my teens, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. Anita’s advice to her teenage self “You will be happy” are equally words that will no doubt strike a chord with many.
As parents we have first hand experience of the teenage journey and know just how tough it can be; yet whilst there may still be some resonance with our own past experiences, our teenagers are living in a more challenging world right now and sometimes we all need a little support along the way. Anita is there to give just that.
Anita is the co-founder of The Positive Parenting Project which offers advice to all navigating the parenting journey and more recently Whatever Together, an online community where parents can connect anonymously to share the stress and worries of parenting a teenager.
Her credentials speak for themselves. I hope you will enjoy reading what she has to say.
- Who is or was your role model?
Anybody who acts with integrity and dignity and empathy.
- What motivates you?
It sounds really corny but I want to be genuinely helpful and make a difference to people. My most precious moments are when parents contact me after they have read my book or attended one of my webinars and tell me how it has impacted on them or their children. One parent emailed me a couple of weeks ago and said my advice had been “life-changing” and I cried!
- What are the values you hold dearest in life?
Kindness. And trying your hardest to stand in someone else’s shoes.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far & how did you overcome it?
My husband says I am the most self-realised person he has ever met. It took me a while to understand what he meant by that but I guess, if I am honest, my teen years left me rather broken and I have painstakingly put myself together again bit by bit. My challenge now, as a parent, is watching my son go through the same thing. And that, truthfully, is even harder.
- What is your proudest moment?
I have had some amazing Proud Mum moments, like when my son won his rowing medals and qualified for Henley Royal Regatta. The pride was bursting out of me – I must have looked intolerably smug! But, on a deeper level, I am proud of myself for having got through some really tough times and still being here and still trying.
- What motto do you live by?
Dig deep and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
- What advice would you give to your teenage self?
You will be happy.
- Who gave you the best advice and what was it?
As a troubled teen I found an informal mentor in my drama teacher Mr Easey. He never really gave me advice but he let me come and sit in the drama studio while he was eating his sandwiches at lunchtime and we just talked rubbish. He never told me to go away or that he was too busy. I’ve no idea how he put up with me, I’m sure I was a real pain to have around. And I know he took some flack from other teachers who thought he ought to be discouraging me. But the fact that he accepted me for who I was, didn’t ask questions, didn’t push me away and just patiently put up with me was exactly what I needed at that time and what I wasn’t getting from any other adult in my life. His kindness saved me in ways I cannot explain.
- Is there anything you regret or would change about your life so far?
I try not to indulge in regrets. It is good to reflect on events so we can learn but the past cannot be changed.
- If you could be successful at something else in life what would it be?
I am a bit of an exhibitionist deep down so I wish I could dance or sing (I can’t!).
- How would your friends describe you?
That depends on which era of my life they got to know me! I think my Mum friends would be surprised by the wild child I was.
- What makes you laugh out loud?
My husband. We share a sense of humour – it’s the making of our relationship!
- What would your autobiography be called?
Ouch, what a question! I can think of lots of very pretentious titles (A Lone Scraper Stitched the Sky, Knees Dug on Hessian, The Tree With Its Lights On, It’s Time to Go Home Now) but I can imagine my editor grimacing as I say them all! So I’d probably let her choose.
- What does being a modern woman mean to you?
I am so grateful to have been born at a time in history and in a place when women have so many choices. But there is still so much to do to enable girls and women everywhere to be truly empowered. My ideal modern woman is someone who doesn’t ignore her privilege or accept her lot, who takes nothing at face value, who interrogates cultural power and strives to make a mark that will positively impact people’s lives.
- What would be your desert island essential?
Books. As many of them as possible but definitely Jane Austen.
- In your own words – ” A fabulous female is…..
Editor’s Note: If you would like to learn more about Anita you will find all you need to know at www.anitacleare.co.uk including details of Whatever Together the online community for parents of teenagers and her new book ‘The Work/Parent Switch’ which blends child development theory with practical parenting tips to help working parents pre-secondary school. You will also find Anita on Twitter @thinking_parent and on instagram @anitacleare_parenting and @whatevertogeth1.