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Cardboard Crafts: Fish Tank

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Following on from last week’s guide on ‘How to make a cardboard laptop‘, Evie and I decided to take it one step further.

This week, we made an interactive cardboard fish tank complete with fish and I have to say, we loved it!

Here’s a quick preview:

You will need:

1. Cut your fish tank


The fish tank shape is nice and simple – all you need to do is cut a little window in the front of the tank so you can see in.

Keep a reasonable amount of card on the surround to help the box keep its strength and rigidity.

We stuck down the edges to create a simple little frame too.



2. Draw your fish and seaweed

It’s entirely up to you how many fish you do; we chose to do four.

Using your different coloured card, just sketch the outline of a different fish onto each piece of card (Stuck for ideas, just do a Google search for fish templates for some inspiration!).

3. Let ’em loose with the paints!

The beauty of this next stage is that it doesn’t matter whether your kids stay in the lines or how they decide to paint the fish.

Evie got totally creative here with her paint pens and I think she did a fantastic job!

4. Give ’em some personality

Get yourself some googly eyes and stick them on as you see fit.

I mean, I think this part is relatively self-explanatory, but if you need some help as to where the eyes go, Evie will expertly demonstrate…

5. Get cutting

Now then, grown up…Time for you to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

Take each of your wonderfully fishy little shapes and cut them out as neatly as you can.

Evie expertly filmed me doing this, just in case you were wondering what cutting an object out looks like…

I know, right? We’re so helpful.

Well, would you look at that?

You’re a regular ol’ fish expert now.

5. Prepare your fish tank

Now you’ve got all of your fish ready and waiting for their new home, you need to get your cardboard tank ready.

We used blue card at the back of the tank and glued a few pieces of seaweed to the bottom.

These work really nicely for giving the tank a really three-dimensional feel.

6. Hang your fish

To hang your fish from your cardboard fish tank, you’ll first need to make a hole on each one somewhere near the top.

We did this by rolling a piece of plastercine into a ball, placing the fish on top and then piercing a hole using a golf tee (You could also use a ball point pen).

You’ll need to pierce a hole in the top of your tank, although grown ups…I’d suggest you do this bit yourself.

Next, you’ll need to connect a length of string from your fish through the top of your fishtank from the underside and out the top.

It’s a good idea to use something larger than the hole here that can be easily gripped by little hands…

This will give your child the ability to move your fish up and down in the fish tank for a truly interactive, sensory experience.

Et voila! You’re there.

Great job!

For other kids activities that you can try at home, have a read of this article, or for another great little cardboard craft, make sure you have a go at making a laptop too! Super simple and lots of fun.

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Guest Posts

Guest Post | Lockdown baby: A Dad’s perspective

This week’s guest post is written by Nick of @2_mindstogether. He talks about the experience of becoming a father for the second time during a national lockdown.

Having experienced both a lockdown and non-lockdown birth (3 years apart) you may be reassured to learn that these life-changing events weren’t that dissimilar.

Here’s our story, along with some top tips of how to cope with and support your partner giving birth during a lockdown.

Let’s face it…2020 was not the year we all thought it would be.

For me, 2020 was a huge year with the birth of my 2nd child. I wasn’t going to let the distraction of COVID come in my way but if I’m being honest, it was an extra thing to stress about.

It all began when the country (UK) went into a lockdown on 23rd March.

It was announced that all pregnant women in their 3rd trimester MUST stay at home and isolate until the birth.

The Government and top scientists were still unsure as to what harm COVID could cause an unborn child.

This was a strange feeling for me because all of a sudden, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to look after the household, even more so than usual.

It was down to me to do all the food shops and battle with the huge queues of people fighting their way into the store to secure the last remaining toilet rolls or pasta!

HANDY TIPS FOR THE LEAD UP TO THE BIRTH



Prepare well!
I can’t stress this one enough because when the baby is here you will realise how little time you have.

So, get planning those post-baby evening meals and batch cook in advance.

We did this and it worked a treat. It meant that there was one less thing to think about whilst adjusting to fatherhood!

Not only does this save money, but it also meant that the “Dad Bod” won’t appear from endless takeaways.

Be adaptable.
This is paramount in the lead up to the birth.

It could be as simple as doing additional tasks/chores in the house when your partner falls asleep on the sofa at 7 pm!

Yes, this is necessary to keep the house running smoothly (Us men also need to remember that our partners are growing a little human after all!)

• Keep calm.
I feel my most valuable bit of advice comes last; always remain calm in every situation.

Being pregnant is such a mix of emotions both positive and negative and in moments of panic or worry, a calming voice will always shine through. Sometimes all she will need you to say is “everything is going to be ok”.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was lucky enough to attend the baby scans (pre-lockdown), but I’m aware that many Dads are missing out on these special moments.

Scans are such an important part of the journey to meeting your newborn.

It’s like a jigsaw and you’re slowly piecing together the amazing gift you’re about to discover and being able to share these moments with your partner is so important.

During our pregnancy, I wasn’t to attend the midwife appointments which was a real shame because these are the only times she was in contact with a professional supporting her.

HANDY TIPS FOR APPOINTMENTS (OR LACK OF)

• Communicate.
Ask your partner how the appointment went and what was discussed, and listen to any concerns your partner has.

For me, it was about trying to be the most supportive I could.

It also allows your partner to talk through and process the information given to them clearly.

• Expect the unexpected
Secondly, during a lockdown, you need to plan for the worst-case scenario.

What if you tested positive for COVID-19 days before the birth? Can you really afford to run the risk of catching the virus by going out for non-essential activities?

Make sure you self-isolate for two weeks before the due date.

This is easier said than done and requires planning ahead for things such as food etc., but if done correctly and safely it should guarantee your presence at the birth.

The big day came and, surprisingly, I felt relaxed knowing that we would be meeting our new arrival.

I’m one of those people who likes to plan ahead and know exactly what the day entails. However, this completely changed when we arrived as the Delivery Suite was already full (at 8 am)!

They placed Lucy temporarily on a ward but no birth partners were allowed due to COVID.

This meant that we had to go our separate ways and I was told I would be informed when the section was going to happen.

I found this strange moment, but at least I didn’t have to witness Lucy’s cannula being fitted after several failed attempts (it sounded like the most traumatic bit)!

HANDY TIPS FOR HOSPITAL

• Be brave!
I had to remain strong for Lucy and put aside my phobia of needles in the prep for her c-section (epidural).

I don’t think she would have appreciated it if I had fainted and ended up on the floor!

Take snacks.
It’s hard work sitting around all day!

• Keep positive.
Your partner is bound to be her most anxious and be asking lots of “what if” questions.

Stay strong.
You need to remain as adaptable to the environment as possible, which takes mental strength. Hospitals are busy places and emergencies can occur at any point…so be prepared to wait your turn!

Take a charger!
You’ll be inundated with messages and will want to update certain people on progress, but you’ll probably want to watch or listen to something; you never know how long your wait will be.

Everything went well and our little boy had arrived in the world.

The major difference this time around was the limited time I was allowed with our baby and Lucy post-birth.

The two hours flew by and being told to leave by staff felt harsh and unnatural, but at the same time acceptance of the pandemic we were involved in soon took over.

Leaving the hospital that afternoon was strange.

Luckily, I was coming home to my 2-year-old and I was so excited to share the good news and tell him about his little brother.

It felt hard leaving Lucy, but I was confident that she’d be absolutely fine having done this all before.

I was obviously in the fortunate position to not be a first-time Dad, so I can only imagine how strange it would feel leaving your partner and first baby hours after becoming a father.

HANDY TIPS FOR POST BIRTH

Get stuck in
Taking an active role is important, especially when changing that first “tar” like nappy!

• Look after your partner
She’s bound to be shattered after going through so much, so be there for her and give her lots of reassurance.

Take plenty of photos
Capture the memories, especially videos; then you’ll be able to look through when you’re back home and everything isn’t such a blur.

The simple fact is that there is no blueprint as to how to parent.

Although we have been “winging it” from day one (and continue to do so now), it’s always good to seek guidance and support from others in those early weeks to reaffirm that you’re doing a good job.

In a lockdown, however, this can be tricky.

It was hard for us having limited contact with family and friends as they offer advice and support when it’s most needed.

Fortunately for us, we did feel lucky that this was our second child as it helped us to feel a little more confident.

All I would say is use the extra time that you have to get routines nailed, build confidence as a Dad and develop your relationship with your child.

Nick

Instagram – @2_mindstogether
Blog – www.2mindstogether.co.uk
Facebook – @twomindstogether
Twitter – @mindstogether_2

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Co-Parenting

A year of the Breaking Dad on Instagram

On the 27th January 2020, I was stuck in traffic on the way to work when the name hit me.

For those of you that have followed for a while, you’ll know that the run-up towards Christmas 2019 was one of the hardest few months of my life.

I’d sunk deep into depression and struggled with being a ‘co-parent’.

The thought of the first Christmas not waking up to see my little girl’s face hit me in September and got worse…and worse.

Unexpectedly, Christmas came and surprisingly, it was one of the best Christmases I’d had in years.

I was no longer in a relationship that wasn’t working, which meant I was in total control of the time I had with Evie.

Sure, it was less time than I wanted, but it was OUR time.

I realised focusing on what WASN’T was never going to help me.

OK, It may not have been the ‘happily ever after’ family life I’d hoped for, but for the first time, I realised the power was squarely in my hands to own every second I had my with daughter.

No more moping. I’d been slipping down a self-destructive path for a while; now was the time to face into it.

I decided 2020 would be different.

“The Breaking Dad”

Breaking, but never broken.

I thought it summed the journey to that point perfectly (And it conveniently rhymed with the name of one of my favourite TV shows).

This Instagram page is a journal. It holds me accountable to my daughter and my mission of raising a strong daughter. It forces me to be creative and focus on enriching her life.

12 months and just short of 12k followers later, I’ve been blown away by the sheer volume of fantastic people who use this platform – Kind and supportive people who embrace their roles as loving parents and inspire me to be the best that I can be.

What started out as a journey a single dad’s journey with his daughter evolved organically into finding love again with the most wonderful human, @always_rosie_ and her beautiful children.

2020 will forever be known in history as the year that COVID-19 struck. But to me, despite the hardshps we’ve ALL faced in the last 12 months, I’ll always remember it as the year I found myself as a father.

Thanks for following our journey.

Dan & Evie

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Follower Focus, Guest Posts

Follower Focus: The Windsors

We have so many fantastic followers on social media. Each and every one of them has an amazing story to tell and we wanted to share some here on thebreakingdad.co.uk. Our first ever Follower Focus is from one of our earliest followers, @WindsorFamLife, an amazing mum of five from Dorset!

I’m Gemma, 40 and a Mum of five from sunny Dorset on the South Coast, married to Darren and together we make up The Windsor Family!

My eldest daughter, Lottie (Charlotte) is 16 and she was diagnosed as having autism in June 2019. My eldest son, James is 15 and was born with Down Syndrome. My youngest son, Ollie (Oliver) is 13 and my youngest two daughters, Emily and Lucy are 7 and 5.

So, if your maths is good, you will have worked out that I had James when I was just 25, which isn’t at all common, as most women that have babies born with Down Syndrome are older mothers.

Darren and I met in 2002 and we had bought our first house together just a year later! A year later again in 2004 we had our first child and in 2005 we got married.

This brings us to December 2005, when we bought our next home and within 2 weeks of moving in we had James!

We didn’t know James had Down Syndrome and at the 12 week scan (which was the day before our wedding) they told me that I had a 1:400 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. Not to worry they said, you are very young! So we didn’t think of it again, until the night before I went for my C- section when it suddenly popped into my head! However as quick as the thought was there it was gone again as it was exciting to be meeting our second child.

James was born 5 days before Christmas and as they laid him on my chest in the operating theatre I was going cross eyed looking at his little nose trying to work out whose nose he had as it didn’t look like mine or Darren’s.

In recovery I tried to latch James on for a breast feed but he was so floppy and sleeping, he just wasn’t interested. So the nurse did his baby check on him instead and said to try feeding him again later.

While they did his baby check, a nurse brought me some toast and a drink, so I tucked into that not really watching the baby check but Darren however was watching and later told me they were spending extra time this time compared to our first baby’s check.

A few minutes later, the midwife went off to get a second opinion of another midwife. It was at this point they said they think our baby may have Down Syndrome as he showed several physical characteristics.

  • A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
  • A short neck
  • Small ears
  • A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
  • Small hands and feet
  • A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
  • Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
  • Poor muscle tone and loose joints

There are several different characteristics and James had most so they said they would send for a blood test to confirm if he had Down Syndrome but it would be 5 days for the results.

We took one look at him and it was like the penny had dropped! That’s why we couldn’t quite place his little nose, why he couldn’t latch to breastfeed and why he was so sleepy.

They then said he needed warming up and a tube feed of some formula as he hadn’t fed since birth, so they popped him in the hot cot for the night while I was on the ward expressing breastmilk like fury!

I didn’t get to hold him again until the next morning which was really hard. Once I was able to get up and walk I was straight in to see him and it wasn’t long before he was on the ward with me again.

We stayed in hospital for 6 days, which included Christmas Day which was heart wrenching as it was our first Christmas in our new house and our baby girl was at home without her Mummy on Christmas morning.

We came home Boxing Day night once James had finally managed a bottle feed and had his tube removed!

It hit Darren hard the first day he was told James had Down Syndrome and he came home and cried.

For me, it was a case of carrying on being James’ Mummy. He was a baby who needed me. However as the months went on and all my other baby friends’ children hit their milestones, it started to sink in that James had Down Syndrome and what this meant for him. It hit me hard around 6 months – I went onto antidepressants and was at an all time low.

However with time and support, I got better and excited that James is just an absolute superstar!

He is 15 now and has proved to me he can do anything he wants to in life!

If you’d like to share your story, drop us an email on [email protected] and let’s talk!

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Evie, Rosie and Tilly baking cakes toogether
Co-Parenting, Parenthood

A blended family: All the ingredients

I remember the feeling of sheer dread the first day I introduced Rosie to Evie. The idea of a blended family seemed scary.

Up until that day, I’d been living two lives since separation: Dad and Dan.

In my days with Evie, I’d be focused solely on her from the moment I’d collect her to the moment she went home.

In my days without Evie, I’d just wish the days away until I saw her again.

This phase of my life was a real journey of self-discovery; I’d always been terrible at being alone and then, here I was, alone…a lot.

I found mindfulness and yoga and really focus on finding myself and who I am. Lots of the answers were covered in this post, ‘10 things you should start doing for a happier life‘.

Then I met Rosie.

Things were great from the off and we spent (and still do spend) most of our time together and just enjoying each other’s company.

All-of-a-sudden my life outside of Evie mattered a little more.

You can read more about how Rosie and I met here.

We waited a while until introducing Evie to Rosie. I was so worried because it was uncharted territory. I’d never introduced a child to a new partner before so how would I know I was doing the right thing!?

I spoke to Evie’s mum first and made sure we took things VERY slowly – completely at Evie’s pace.

They met, hit it off beautifully our two little world’s collided.

My introduction to Rosie’s beautiful daughters came soon after and I’ve been blown away by how quickly they’ve become little best buddies.

It’s just so effortless.

We had such a lovely day making cakes together yesterday and life, it seems, is moving in the right direction.

I don’t know when it’ll be the right time to use the ‘blended family’ label, but it certainly feels like it’s not far off.

And you know what? That feels good.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, we made these Butterfly cakes.

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Activities

Cardboard Crafts: Cardboard Laptop

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We love cardboard crafts. But then, Evie loves playing in my office and pretending to be the ‘Big Bad Boss’ too.

We thought it was time to bring the two together.

Evie always enjoys playing on my computer and I think it’s a fantastic way to encourage computer literacy; it’s such an important aspect of everyday life in 2021.

I don’t know about you, but I spend more time typing than handwriting by a country mile, so I always try to encourage Evie to use a computer where possible.

Evie’s too little for a laptop of her own, so we decided to make one for our imaginary play.

This is a super simple cardboard craft project, but looks really effective.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

You will need:

1. Mark your your box


The first thing you’ll need to do is mark the shape of your laptop onto your box.

You’re effectively just going to keep two of the sides of the box, but here’s the important bit

You need to keep a small edge around the left, right and top of one of your sides.

This will give the freestanding section the rigidity it needs to stand upright.

2. Cut the box

Scissors are always a safe bet, but I find them tricky to work with when you get to the corners.

Over the years, I’ve tried all sorts when it comes to cutting cardboard.

Personally, I use a craft knife like this one, although please remember to keep it out of reach of your little nippers!

I’ve marked where you’ll need to cut on the diagram below.

Diagram of cut lines on cardboard box
Mark your box and cut, leaving a small edge on one of the sides for support
Diagram showing what laptop should look like when completed
Taking shape!
The box should now look like this.

3. Add a screen

No high-spec laptop is complete without a high definition screen!

Just cut out rectangle from some leftover cardboard (we used the lid of the shoebox), making sure it’s about an inch smaller on all sides.

Use plenty of glue, as expertly demonstrated by Evie, and get sticking.

Moving GIF image of daughter squirting glue on card

4. Add buttons

We were very loose indeed with our buttons and just made them roughly the same size. Depending on how careful you’d like to be, you could measure the buttons out.

Want a full QWERTY keyboard? You can use this as a guide…

Image showing QWERTY keyboard with key placement

You can stick the buttons using a simple PVA glue, just make sure you get a good covering because they have a tendency to come loose!

Fun with cardboard crafts! Happy girl next to completed cardboard laptop

5. Add accessories

No laptop would be complete without a cardboard mouse to go with it! Wireless, clearly.

Using a few leftover buttons and a little rectangle of card, you can add a little mouse to go with it!

Daughter looking happy next to completed cardboard laptop

Et voila! We hope you enjoyed this very simple cardboard crafts guide for kids.

This is one we really enjoyed and will definitely be doing again!

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out our activity guide here for low cost, super fun activities to do with your kids!

Completed laptop made from cardboard

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Parenthood

5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for

Parenthood is the best, without a shadow of a doubt.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take it as a given that parenting is the best thing ever.

You’re in safe hands, what you read from here is going to be our little secret. I won’t tell if you won’t…

Now, it’s time to dispense with the niceties about raising kids and…just tell the truth.

It’s bloody difficult.

I don’t know about you, but before I became a Daddy I definitely thought I would be awesome at it.

The following things used to drive me insane:

  • Children who cried on planes and the parents who didn’t ‘deal with it’
  • Parents who plonked phones in front of children at restaurants to keep them quiet
  • Parents who didn’t deal with temper tantrums

I could go on.

“Why don’t you just pull yourself together and just parent!?”

I mean it can’t be that hard, right?

GIF of Gordan Ramsey shouting, "Wrong"

Oh, how wrong I was.

My brother and his wife recently had a baby and by his own admission, it’s been a bit of a shock.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the stress, worry and often despair that children can bring.

I’ve learned so much about myself since becoming a parent.

To be honest, you won’t find most of them in an instruction manual, so I thought I’d share them.

Here goes.

Here are 5 things about parenting that NOTHING can prepare you for.

1. The first few months of parenthood is essentially sleep deprivation torture

Man looking tired and saying he hasn't slept in four years

We’re all patient, positive and happy creatures when we’re well-rested.

The problem is, resting well doesn’t generally come with the territory when a baby comes along.

A newborn baby hasn’t yet learned the sleep manners and protocols we’re so used to and trust me, they’ll let you know about it.

Using their greatest weapon in the battle against restful sleep, your baby will let out a cry that has so efficiently evolved over many thousands of years to be as awful to listen to as possible.

Just as you think you’ve settled them, they’re ready for round two.

…and three.

…and four.

Ever tried running on empty? It sucks.

We get irrational and we get very grumpy.

Those bags under our eyes? They’re now permanent shady little fixtures under what was once a pair of gleaming, bright and wistful eyes.

Data from thousands of men and women shows rest is at its worst three months after birth and could last up to six years.

See you in a few years, sleep. It’s been fun.

The early days are tough for sure, but it gets easier. You can never underestimate the importance of taking time for yourself and should work together as parents to find time to decompress.

I often say you can’t pour from an empty cup and sometimes having five minutes to recharge those batteries is necessary, particularly if you’re not sleeping much!

2. You were woefully under-prepared for parenthood.

Man shaking his head and saying, "I'm not ready"

I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of a car for a driving lesson.

I was terrified.

I’d watched people driving all my life and I’d been in the passenger seat countless times.

But everything looked SO DIFFERENT from the driver’s seat and suddenly the driving instructor’s life was in my hands.

That’s parenting.

I remember holding Evie to my chest for the first time and being so absolutely blown away by the beauty [and horror] of childbirth.

Side note:
There is no time in a man’s life that are more totally redundant as when they watch a woman, surrounded by other women, bring a life into this world.

If you can witness something like that and EVER suggest men are superior to women, you should probably stop existing.

When I held Evie for the first time it dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Putting her little [ish…Evie was 9lbs 11 when she was born] arms and legs into her first babygrow, I knew that I was the beginning of a long journey of discovery.

I felt hopelessly ill-equipped for it.

I often talk about parenthood as being like a secret club; you suddenly appreciate how much other parents we know are pretty much just blagging it!

3. Parenthood is EXPENSIVE.

I have never had less money in my life than in the first year after Evie came along.

Pushchairs, cots, bottles, formula, clothes, bibs, dummies and nappies…

…Oh, the nappies.

To be honest, I stopped typing the list because it’s not fair on you as a reader.

The point is, it’s a lot of stuff.

Even now, the biggest proportion of my disposable income goes on Evie by far.

It probably always will.

I’m OK with that.

That said, some of the best fun we ever have together is when we’re finding things to do at home on a budget.

If you’d have told me before I joined the ‘glamourous’ world of parenthood that I’d be making home-made ‘rainbow rice‘ and routinely baking with my little munchkin, I wouldn’t have believed you!

4. You WILL be that annoying parent who posts takes too many photos.

It’s early September.

The glistening summer sun is starting to beat its end-of-season retreat and autumn is on its way.

It’s here.

The kids are going back to school…

You make one fatal mistake.

You open Facebook or Instagram.

All-of-a-sudden, your feed is swamped with pictures of your friend’s child stood uncomfortably, harbouring a forced and uncomfortable-looking, grimace-like smile.

Why? Because it’s an important to parents, for some reason.

I mean, the biggest difference is that they’re wearing a different outfit know as, ‘School Uniform‘.

There they stand in all their generic glory, boasting a pitiful shade of red, blue or green.

Some kids, if they’re really unlucky, wear brown.

You’ll know the ones, they always look like they’ve accidentally stumbled across a time machine that warped them from World War II.

Why does the fact your child is wearing a school uniform for the first time in the school year mean anything at all?

Bad news Brenda, your kid looks the same in that picture as they did yesterday; the key difference being that they’re not wearing the unfortunate outfit you chose for them in the misguided pursuit of stylishness.

“I’ll never be one of those parents who over-shares their child’s meaningless milestones on social media because nobody’s interested.”

I mean, those are words I SAID.

Certainly not words I live by.

From the moment your kid enters this world, every single development is precious.

I’ll level with you.

At this moment in time, I have 37,995 photos stored on Google Photos account.

Screenshot of Google Photos storage with 37,995 photos

I shudder to think how many of those are of Evie.

The first time she opened her eyes, the first time she smiled, the first time she laughed (that was a video in case you’re wondering), the first time she slept on her tummy, the first time she had solid food…

Honestly, it’s ridiculous.

What’s more surprising is I could go back and pinpoint each photograph and when it happened, but I can’t find my car keys and wallet from 10 minutes ago.

Do you want to see the first time Evie went in a swing? No?
Baby daughter uses a swing for the first time

Too late, sorry – it was a milestone and I cared about it, so I shared about it.

After having children, you see that they very quickly become the centre of your universe.

If people don’t want to see it, they’ll soon fall out of your orbit.

Oh and a confession:

Evie’s first day at school was magical.

As a parent, I was absolutely bursting with pride to see my baby all dressed up in her smart little uniform and ready to kickstart her education.

So, Brenda…

Please accept my apologies; I will be posting every year for the foreseeable.

5. You’ve changed.

Children painting a father's feet

Up until the day your child was born, your life was yours.

  • Fancy a nap? Crack on.
  • Want five minutes peace and quiet? Sure thing.
  • Fancy nipping to the gym? Go flex ’til your little heart’s content.

Until you have children, you’re the custodians of your own destiny.

Whatever you fancy doing with your other half this weekend – you can.

[Within reason…we’ve just been plunged into another national lockdown]

Parenthood changes you, permanently. I can’t honestly tell you whether it’s for the better or worse, everybody’s different.

If you have children, see if you can relate:

  • I often look back at the first 27 years of my life and know that I”ll NEVER again underestimate the value of a nap.
  • Snot GROSSES me out, but I’ll regularly wipe it from Evie’s nose with my bare hands so she doesn’t have to be snotty.
  • Being urinated on, farted on, thrown up on and covered in poo…is, unfortunately, par for the course.
  • I HATE sharing food, but Evie can have whatever she wants…even if she decides she doesn’t like it and spits it back onto my plate.
  • I’m VERY GOOD at playing Mums and Dads
  • I’m AWFUL at doing Evie’s hair.
  • I smile KNOWINGLY at new parents who say they’re finding a newborn difficult when they haven’t yet experienced a two-year-old.

As somebody who has yet to or chosen not to have children, you might look at that list and think it sounds horrific…

For the parents reading, you’ll know that all of this stuff contributes to that magical journey we call parenthood.

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Lifestyle & Adventures

Your Questions, Answered!

A few weeks ago, I asked you to send in questions on through our Instagram stories and, to be honest, I was blown away by the response. 

So first… I’d like to apologise for the time it’s taken to answer them! This whole ‘Parent Blogger’ thing takes quite a lot of time, apparently…

Thanks so much for taking the time to get involved. I’ve linked you all below.

If you see somebody you don’t know, check them out and give them a follow!

Has Evie ever asked questions about why you and her mum are not together?

Evie was only just about 2.5 years old when we separated and so she wasn’t really old enough to understand.

Even when I was with Evie’s mum, I had Evie every other Saturday on my own whilst she was at work, so it was never a really noticeable transition.

The way Evie dealt with the separation was fantastic, I was in absolute awe of her.

It’s amazing how resilient children are and how effectively they can adapt to new environments and surroundings. 

What’s your favourite film?

Oh, tough question. I don’t really have a favourite if I’m honest…

Before lockdown, I used to go to the cinema a lot with my brother and I like A LOT of films for lots of different reasons. I’m a sucker for a comic book or a Star Wars movie though…

*Coughs* Nerd *Coughs*

Have you ever dated someone who doesn’t have kids? 

Of course! I’ve dated a few people without kids, but one of the challenges I found was that they never quite understood how important Evie was to me.

I know it might seem like an obvious statement, but when you’re used to being the priority when you’re dating other people and suddenly you’re not when it comes to me, that can be a bitter pill to swallow…Unless you have children yourself. 

Dating somebody with kids is a balancing act because you always want the person you’re with to feel loved and special, but you also need them to appreciate that you only get a small window of opportunity to raise your kids – I don’t want to waste a second of it. 

What I love about Rosie is that she completely gets it. 

To give you an example, we went to hers a few weeks ago to make mince pies and to be honest, Rosie and I barely spent any time together at all. 

For both of us, the priority was and is making sure the kids are always having a nice time. It usually involves us splitting up between the two older girls and Liza, the youngest. 

When we do finally get a chance to be alone together, it’s all the more special. 

What’s your best quality (or something you’re proud of) as a dad?

I think my best quality is that I am absolutely unwavering in putting my daughter first.

I see my purpose on this Earth as making sure Evie has the most fun-filled, loving and memorable childhood that she can possibly have – Nothing relationship, work or otherwise will ever get in the way. 

Did you ever doubt a bit about having the account public or private?

Yes, for sure. I toyed with the idea of creating a public Instagram account for almost a year before I actually did it. I spent a lot of time researching parenting accounts and realised that SO many people were doing it. 

I’m very careful about the information I publish on the account and take our privacy seriously; it’s something I think about often.

What’s the best thing about a blended family?

Seeing the bond between Evie, Tilly and Liza forming has been absolutely lovely. They already behave like they’re little best friends and play so nicely together – It’s the most rewarding dynamic to watch.

It helps to add an extra dimension to Evie coming over because she gets social interaction with children of a similar age, as well as just time with her old man. 

I also love that Rosie and I have quite a similar approach towards parenting, which is very hands-on. I’ve been able to learn a lot from Rosie and I’d like to think she might have been able to learn from me too.

I think the fact we can work together like that can only enrich Evie’s perspective on life as far as I’m concerned! 

Would you start a podcast too or just focus on YouTube for now? 


You may have noticed recently that I’ve been dabbling with a few different platforms aside from Instagram.

I’m working on developing this website, as well as gradually getting to grips with YouTube; expect more in ’21!

I’d like to ultimately film a YouTube series that can double up as a podcast too, but I’m also conscious that I don’t want to spread myself too thin. 

At the moment, the battle is that I work full-time hours and have Evie just short of 50% of the time…On top of the Instagram, blog, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook etc… I don’t sleep much.

What is the best thing you love about the bond between your new partner and your daughter? 

Oh, I absolutely love it when Evie gives Rosie a big old cuddle when she sees her.

It’s lovely to see how at ease Evie’s become and what a great addition Rosie’s made to both of our lives. 

I recently mentioned in this Instagram Post how Rosie would never try replace Evie’s mum and just love that she sees her role as adding value to Evie’s life, not pretending to be anything she’s not. 

Do you have a goal for the future?

I’d love for Rosie and her girls to move in with us towards the end of 2021.

We’re not in any rush at the moment and, right now, are quite happy to take things slowly.

I have a lot of things I need to do in order to get the house ready for them, so 2021 will be a year of saving and prepping. 

Aside from that, I’d like to keep working on the blog as well as the Instagram and hopefully grow it!

How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a dad? Did you feel ready? 

I was so excited! All I wanted since I could remember was to be a Daddy.

When I found out Evie was on the way, life changed instantly.

I remember feeling surprised at how real she felt already, even though Evie’s mum was only two weeks pregnant.

Evie was the first name that came to mind and although we went through just about every name in the book, Evie always just felt right.

Nothing in my life ever felt more like it was supposed to happen.

Although I never saw separation and co-parenting in my future, my role as a Daddy in Evie’s life has only become more important to me I’ve watched that little lady grow.

If you could give one bit of advice to co-parents, what would it be?

I’m actually in the middle of writing a blog post on co-parenting tips from the lessons I’ve learned; watch this space!

The biggest piece of advice I can give to anybody from personal experience is to strip out all emotion from the situation.

Separation and co-parenting are incredibly emotive subjects. It’s so easy for that delicate parenting balance to be thrown out at the flick of a switch.

If you can take a step back and look at the situation empathetically and truly put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you’ll realise that EVEN IF you think they’re being nasty, they’re probably doing it for the right reasons.

Focus on the intent rather than the outcome and remember that no matter what, your child(ren) MUST come first.

Since making your new relationship public, do you feel that men are judged/criticised more for moving on after a relationship breakdown?

100%! On the day I posted the first picture of Rosie and me, I lost 200 followers overnight.

Every time I share something involving her, along with the fact we’re happily building a life together, I get some sort of message or comment that suggests that I shouldn’t post about it.

The thing is, I totally get it.

Lots of mums wouldn’t like it if their ex were to post pictures of their new partner with their children, particularly those who are newly single and haven’t yet been through it.

My ex knows all about Rosie and I was as respectful as I could have possibly been.

I involved my ex in the decision to introduce Evie to Rosie, I took the process very slowly and we placed absolutely no pressure on it whatsoever.

We all have to move on at some point and, so long as Evie is happy, I’m happy.

How do you make sure your child’s education isn’t affected by co-parenting?

I don’t see why co-parenting would impact a child’s education if I’m honest.

The most important thing is that Evie has a supportive and loving environment, whichever home she’s in.

If anything, I think co-parenting benefits Evie because as parents, we each have less time with her for things like reading and homework, so we want to make the most of it! 

As far as Evie’s development goes, seeing Evie progressing and reading her first books fills me with so much happiness. She’s an incredibly bright little lady and all I try to do is reinforce that curiosity to learn with lots of praise.

I have no doubt that Evie’s mum does the same. 

What did you want to become (career-wise) when you were younger?

When I was growing up, I really wanted to be a journalist. I think deep down I just wanted to be Superman but settled on Clark Kent. 

I did some work experience for a newspaper and I HATED it.

I’m sure it’s not all bad, but I didn’t like the way the people stepped on each other to get a story or exploited others for coverage. 

I’ve always been into the design as well as copywriting (the focus of my degree) and I told the Editor at the newspaper that I wanted a career that would allow me to do both.

He told me categorically I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) find a job like that.

I now run a marketing team, take a hands-on approach and routinely get involved in writing, as well as design…every day.

Being able to roll my sleeves up and muck in with the design as well as copywriting has proven one of my greatest career assets.

The joke’s on him. 

How did you know when the time was right to introduce Evie to your girlfriend?

We really took our time with it.

Rosie’s separation was far more recent than mine, so we knew that meeting her children would be much farther in the future.

I wanted to be sure that Rosie and I were going to be staying together. I talked to Evie’s mum about it to make sure she had no issues with it. We’d both agreed early on in the separation that we’d leave it a minimum of three months and from there, we just gauged it. 

First, Rosie came for a day out with Evie and me and took a deliberate back seat (although Evie loved her almost immediately). Then, over time we just gradually increased the contact here and there. 

This whole process took a good few months and we still take it nice and slowly, making sure Rosie and I both get lots of one-on-one time with our respective kids. 

How did you and Evie’s Mum split Christmas?

We alternate each year.

Last year, Evie’s Mum had her on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until 14:00, at which point I picked her up,

This year, I had Evie until Christmas Day at 14:00, when I dropped her with her Mum. 

Evie’s mum has been great this year and really helped to facilitate a good amount of time with her between us – I really can’t fault her actually.

What did you want for Christmas?

I’m very easy to please, I don’t really need anything.

As cliche as it sounds, it was just the fact that I got to see Evie’s face when she woke up on Christmas Day this year.

That made me a very happy man.

That said, Rosie did surprise me with the most INCREDIBLE present for our first Christmas together.

I’m a bit of a boxing fan and I have a signed picture of Muhammad Ali on my office wall.

I mentioned when we first started dating that I loved it and hoped to get one of Mike Tyson one day.

Rosie remembered it and got me a picture of Mike Tyson’s first Heavyweight Title win against Trevor Berbick.

It was the most thoughtful and generous present I’ve ever been given!

Do you have any festive traditions? 


I wouldn’t say we have any festive traditions outside of the ordinary really.

Of course, the mince pies go out on Christmas Eve and Evie always has some new pyjamas and a little cuddly toy on Christmas Eve in a little Christmas box (This year I had a matching pair…), but otherwise, I’d just say it was all the standard stuff! 

What made you want to start blogging? 

Well, I work in marketing for a living and have written articles for commercial blogs for over 10 years now.

I ran a small blog when I was first starting out, which helped me get my first job and had never really done it since. 

I just love the idea of growing the website to be a platform of information and support for other parents.

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Parenting Hacks & Tips

13 low budget activities for kids to do at home

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Whilst the majority of children are back at school now, let’s face it – Keeping them occupied whilst at home can be tough sometimes; particularly when funds are running a little low in the run-up towards Christmas!

I thought I’d share some budget-friendly ideas for activities for your children based on what Evie and I got up to during the first nationwide lockdown.

Enjoy!

1. Making Rainbow Rice

Rainbow Rice Sensory

Although the warm and sunny days of the first lockdown have long since passed, this is a great little activity for kids if you want to to keep them occupied.

The great thing about making rainbow rice is that it’s perfect for sensory play. It’s amazing how much fun you can have with some dyed rice as part of a sensory bin; Evie loved doing this as a two-year-old and she still loves it.

It’s great for developing fine motor skills too.

What you’ll need:
– A few bags of rice
Plenty of bottles of food colouring
Sandwich bags
A large container

Get yourself a sandwich bag for each different food colouring you have and fill them with roughly the same amount of rice (You can weigh it if you like, but I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle…).

Add a good amount of a single colour into each of the different bags and tie each one up. We ended up with one bag that was brown, one that was yellow, one that was blue, one green and so on…

Get your kids involved with squeezing the bag and distributing the colour evenly around the bag. Talk to them about the texture and get them to notice how it changes as the bag becomes wet.

Next, leave the rice to dry for around 24 hours and, et voila!

Rainbow rice.

Things you could try:
– Burying a small toy in there and giving them a pastry brush. They aren’t allowed to use anything but the brush to find it – Evie loves this game!
– Separating the rice into colours
– Burying your hands in there and really feeling the texture
– Using an empty metal coffee tin as a rice shaker to make noise

2. Cardboard Laptops

This is a great little activity you can do at home with a leftover shoebox.

You can take a look at our more detailed guide for full instructions, but here’s a quick summary:

What you’ll need:
– A shoebox
– A craft knife
PVA glue

Simply mark the laptop shape (A full diagram can be found here) and cut it out, making sure to leave a good solid edge on one side to help it stand up.

Glue on your screen and buttons and add a mouse for some extra flare!

3. Cupcake Case Flowers

Easter came and went during lockdown this year, so we used these fancy little copper cupcake cases and made Easter daffodils.

What you’ll need:
– Cupcake cases (Try these!)
– Paint pens (Get ’em here)

Really simple idea, but looks great and makes for a lovely little craft activity if you want to change it up a bit.

Just stick the cupcake down and encourage your child to be as imaginative as possible with the shapes they make.

It’s amazing how much enthusiasm and excitement you can create with your little one with something as simple as a cupcake case.

Things you could try:
– Using the cases as wheels for a car
– Using the cases as eyes for a monster
– Using the cases as the nose of a dog

You get the idea!

4. Sandwich Bag Painting

Evie absolutely loved this one because she was able to get really involved with the making of it! I still have remnants of the tape stuck to my window…

What you’ll need:
– Sandwich bags (I prefer this kind)
– Washable paints (Any will do)

Fill some ziplock sandwich bags with different coloured paints and stick them to the wall or a window.

We used ours to draw little pictures with our fingers, which is a great way to get them thinking about the formation of shapes and letters.

Evie found it particularly funny when the purple and orange paints merged together to form what she delightfully referred to as, ‘blood’.

It honestly looked like we’d hijacked a blood transfusion bag and stuck it to the wall.

Maybe avoid mixing orange and purple, actually.

What you could try:
– Depending on their age, practise forming letters
– Form shapes and lines in the paint
– Draw faces together
– Mixing colours in the bag and talking about how you made it

5. Pepper Science Experiment

This is s great science experiment for kids.

If you’re looking for educational activities for kids, this is great since it helps to reinforce the importance of washing your hands…

What you’ll need:
– Pepper
– A mixing bowl
– Soap
– Water

Just fill the mixing bowl with water and get your child to put plenty of pepper into it.

Then, get Them to dip their hands into the water and watch how the pepper sticks.

Evie declared that it was, ‘So gross’ at this point and immediately went to the toilet to wash her hands.

Next, get your child to put a little soap on their hands and rub it all over.

Make sure they’re paying attention as they put their finger slowly into the water and then marvel as the pepper dashes away to the sides of the bowl.

Being the nerd that I am, I Googled why this happens – It’s all to do with surface tension. Very clever stuff and worth a try.

6. Make Salt Dough Hand Prints

Making salt dough is a great activity for keeping the kids occupied at various intervals during the day.

What you’ll need:
– 1 cup of salt
– 2 cups of flour
– 3/4 cup of water

To make salt dough, just mix together your salt and flour in a large bowl, then gradually stir in the water.

As the mixture binds together it’ll start to form a doughy consistency which you can mould however you like.

I wanted to make something we could keep, so I got Evie to use the rolling pin and flatten it out before making two big handprints in it.

After that, you need to stick it in the oven at a fairly low heat and just let it dry out.

Because it takes a long time to cook, you can start off in the morning, go and play something else and come back to it later on in the day.

I’m sure you can do it more professionally than we did; we weren’t very scientific with out timings…We just kept checking every now and then, before eventually taking it out when it seemed done ?.

7. Use your Surroundings

Introducing ‘Cushionland’! This one regularly makes an appearance at our house because it’s fun, easy-to-do and safe.

What you’ll need:

– Cushions from the sofa
– Floor space
– A strong reserve when they’re jumping

I love creating a safe environment for Evie to just go wild; even if that means leaping like a lunatic across the room.

The beauty of using your surroundings, if you’re not too precious on keeping your sofa immaculate of course, is that you can create sooo many games off the back of it – ‘The Floor is Lava’ of course being one of the favourites.

Sometimes it’s nice to just throw caution to the wind and have some fun burning off some energy.

8. Make Stamps

Having fun at home doesn’t need to be expensive and you can quite often make use of everyday items around the house. There’s something so rewarding about crafts for kids and Evie always loves it.

What you’ll need:
– Washable paint
– Cardboard Toilet Roll Tubes
– Masking tape

We really love doing little arts and crafts, but sometimes children just need a little push to get creative.

This is great because it focuses on teaching control, whilst reinforcing a little creativity.

9. Make a Sofa Den

What you’ll need:
– A sofa
– A blanket or two
– Some cushions
– Your imagination

This is one of my favourite games as a Daddy. I don’t know why, but there’s something about building a den that I just never seem to grow out of.

I love anything that involves imaginative play because I believe that imagination is the route to creativity and, in my humble opinion, I believe that creative people are successful people.

I want Evie to grow up always thinking outside of the box and challenging the world that is presented in front of her.

As a strong young lady, Evie needs to know that she can change the world if she puts her mind to it.

I know it sounds a little grandiose, but by literally changing our surroundings to suit our games, Evie is learning an extremely valuable lesson – the world is what you make it.

We love building a den and lining up all of Evie’s teddies or Barbies in there; you’ll usually find us in here at some point over a weekend!

10. Make a Pirate Ship

What you’ll need:
– A sofa (or two)
– Materials for the sail (We used an old curtain on a curtain pole)
– A plate for the ship’s steering wheel
– A sword and an eye patch if available
– A phone or tablet (This will become clear)

Pirate ships are a common occurrence in the Betts household and one of my favourite home activities for kids.

We often push the two sofas together and wedge an old curtain pole and curtain vertically to make the sail.

Evie pillages one of her plates from the kitchen drawer as a steering we’ll and will often make me walk the plank if I’ve been naughty (A bench from our kitchen table).

This is a fantastic game for really spurring on your child’s imagination, especially if you use your phone or tablet to play ocean waves in the background.

Let the adventure begin!

11. Have a Bake-Off

Baking Muffins

What you’ll need:
– A muffin or cake making kit

So, you like baking? I’m happy for you. Unfortunately, this is not a skill of mine and it probably never will be.

I’m never going to be Paul Hollywood and my muffins certainly won’t pass with ‘showstopper’ status, but do you know what? I’m not really fussed!

It’s easy to lose sight of the spirit of the activity, which for me is spending quality time with my daughter.

Mixing a few ingredients from a packet is a little lazy on the baking front, but my four-year-old certainly has no concerns about a soggy bottom and to be quite honest, never eats them anyway!

Taking the time to spend time with your munchkin whilst they’re learning that they make things (even with the aid of handy packet-based shortcuts), is a perfect way to encourage curious little learners.

To me, that’s what counts.

12. Get ’em thinking

Himiku Blocks Tower

What you’ll need:
– Himiku Blocks (Get ’em here)

In my opinion, kids learn best when they’re playing. Evie absolutely loves to be challenged and I try my best to encourage a curious, problem-solving attitude.

Himiku Blocks are little wooden shapes that can be stacked high and really get those brain cells going.

Evie will often sit for ages whilst she tries to work out how she can build the tallest tower possible and, to be honest, I quite find myself mulling it over myself!

13. Put ’em to work

What you’ll need:
A sponge
– A bucket
– A dictatorial mindset

Kids these days, huh? They just don’t understand the value of hard work anymore. Evie’s four – It’s about time she learned to contribute to the household…

OK, I’m kidding. I don’t believe in putting children to work, unlike many well-known household consumer brands and their unethically-managed sweatshops, but I do like to involve Evie in activities around the house from time-to-time.

In life, we all have to do things we don’t want to do; whether it’s going to work, doing household chores or for me, exercising.

I believe the secret is finding enjoyment in whatever you do, however much you don’t want to do it.

This is an attitude I’d like to instil into Evie, so we try to think up little games and challenges to make washing the car or doing the gardening more exciting!

Keep checking back! I’m going to add to this list over the coming weeks!

Nawal Houghton Divorce Coach
Guest Posts

Guest Post: Is Narcissism All That Bad?

This is an exciting one for us this week, as Nawal Houghton from Your Divorce Coach has kindly written our first ever guest post on TheBreakingDad.co.uk on a subject I think many people will be interested in – particularly those who are going through separation.

If you’d like to feature as a guest blogger drop me an email.

Ah yes this word “Narcissism”, it’s everywhere isn’t it? And certainly for me as an expert at divorcing/separating from narcissists, it’s the main reason my clients come to me seeking clarity and strategy in their divorce process.

Some of you may have heard some horrific stories about people having narcissistic parents, members of family, co-workers, bosses and even partners. I am willing to bet that for the most part, all you’ve heard is the bad stuff, I mean all you have to do is Google Narcissism and it’s all bad, bad, bad.

Just in case you don’t know what we are talking about here, Narcissism is a personality disorder where a person has an exaggerated sense of self, a deep need for attention from others and a total lack of empathy amongst a long list of other traits.

I am going to pivot slightly here now.

Narcissism isn’t always bad. There is ‘Healthy Narcissism’.

So hear me out and this may shock you. The vast majority of us are Narcissistic to some degree.

If we weren’t we wouldn’t brush our teeth, go to the hairdresser, go clothes shopping for the latest trends, and other run-of-the-mill daily tasks that we have come to accept as perfectly normal.

This is good, healthy Narcissism.

Healthy Narcissism is related to self-esteem and self-worth.

Narcissism needs to be identified looking on a spectrum.

On one end, you do have the malignant, covert Narcissists who will manipulate, gaslight and abuse you in order to achieve total control over you.

At the other end, there is healthy Narcissism. This is what we need to be conscious of when we talk about Narcissism.

We need to be careful about branding the word around and really try to understand what arena we are talking in and where on the spectrum this Narcissism that you are experiencing is falling on.

We almost need to be Narcissistic in everyday life.

Let’s talk real life. We are currently living in a pandemic. After a shocking rise in mental health cases around the world, the need to feel good is key.

If we are able to experience feeling joyful at these difficult times, then this is an example of when Narcissism is a good thing.

People have come to realise that Narcissism is acceptable to some degree in most aspects of our lives. For example, the need to big ourselves up a bit when we are in job interviews; my goodness we’ll even do this on a date.

Does this mean we are narcissistic? Again, it’s all about where they fall on the spectrum.

If Narcissism allows you to be more self-confident about certain things then again depending on how it is being used, that’s no bad thing.

We can spend hours scrolling through images and videos on the likes of Instagram, TikTok and Facebook, is everyone on there Narcissistic?

No, not everyone.

Yes, their selfies are exhausting, the display of perfect faces, bodies and lives hitting us at our core and causing us to come to realise the difference between Real life vs Insta life.

But, what do we know of their stories?

What do we know of their struggle?

There are so many factors we need to consider.

Perhaps what you may consider Narcissism is someone’s personal battle with their self-esteem and what you are seeing is their expression of gratitude.

Maybe if we were grateful about ourselves, would we have the ability to see their actions for something else other than egoism?

So how do I tell the difference?

If we think that we are dealing with someone narcissistic, what do we need to ask ourselves when we are trying to identify if we think we are dealing with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Consider the traits that you are looking at.

When trying to identify whether someone is Narcissistic, look at their behaviour.

What are the traits that you are seeing?

  • Are they verbally abusive? Are they mentally abusive?
  • Are they unable to understand the consequences of their actions?
  • Do they project?
  • Do you feel manipulated?
  • Do you feel unsafe?
  • Do you feel controlled?
  • Does it feel like you are walking on eggshells all the time?

These are all strong red flags and warning signs that you are dealing with a narcissist – And this where I help my clients.

Divorcing a Narcissist is harder than being married to one.

If you need help divorcing or separating from a toxic personality and/or Narcissist, then please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Nawal offers a free 15 minute discovery call and you can check out her Instagram for free daily content.

You can also download of her ‘Top 20 Phrases to use when communicating with a Narcissist’ on her website: www.yourdivorcecoach.org.uk.

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