Parenting Books, Tanith Carey’s The Friendship Maze and What’s My Child Thinking?

Tanith Carey and her latest book The Friendship Maze

Tanith Carey and her latest book The Friendship Maze - Credit: Archant

Whether your sobbing child comes home from school with tales of friendship woes, or your toddler sinks his teeth into your best friend’s darling daughter Tanith Carey​’s latest books help parents to navigate the pitfalls of childrearing

Tanith Carey and her latest book The Friendship Maze

Tanith Carey and her latest book The Friendship Maze - Credit: Archant

Whether your sobbing child comes home from school with tales of friendship woes, or your toddler sinks his teeth into your best friend’s darling daughter, the parental stomach lurch will be familiar to many.

Tanith Carey, who lives near Archway, has long been helping parents to navigate the obstacle course of childrearing, with books about hothousing, raising girls and finding shortcuts to the sheer guilt-ridden drudgery of it all.

Her latest book The Friendship Maze (Vie Books £10.99) aims to help children to navigate happier friendships. She’s also co-authored What’s My Child Thinking? (DK £16.99) with Dr Angharad Rudkin; an accessible graphics-led guide to child psychology from two to seven.

It lays out in speech bubbles both the child’s motivations and the often humiliated, irriated parental reaction.

“It’s the book I was looking for when my two girls were young, to understand what was happening in their brains,” says Carey.

“All I could find were textbooks on child pyschology. I’ve tried to distil down the research and make it incredibly clear because when you are in a difficult parenting situation, you don’t have time to read a text book.”

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From tantrums, to fussy eating, and after school activities, the reassuring and practical guide covers 100 scenarios.

Carey’s mantra is “see things through a child’s eye, to get a deeper understanding of what’s underlying their behaviour so you don’t overreact.”

“It looks at parents’ likely response, and their triggers because they can make the situation worse. It’s calming everybody down to get parent and child to meet in the middle and make a positive connection.”

The book is an evidence-based approach at a time when new parents are bombarded with “conflicted opinion”.

“New mums are more isolated now, and have high expectations of how their child is supposed to behave. They are acutely aware of how it reflects on them and how they are being judged by other parents. Instead of feeling alone or the worst mother in the world, this can give them to confidence to realise that kids respond in simple ways, so they deal with it better.”

Meanwhile The Friendship Maze aims to help parents understand the playround hierarchies that might be making their child miserable.

Once again, sensible advice helps to plot the politics of social groups, how they operate and how any given child fits in. Carey explains there are a small number of alpha children, a large body of fitters-in, a few maverick outliers and several who can be ostracised.

“I felt friendships were the missing piece that causes incredible stress but hadn’t been addressed,” she says.

“Children’s social lives are critical to their self esteem and their school experience. It’s hard to enjoy school if you are having problems with social relationships or don’t have any friends.

“It’s amazing how few parents understand the hierarchies; what’s normal and what isn’t.”

She warns that excessive screen time can affect children’s abilty to form relationships.

“We have started to realise the impact on children who haven’t had a lot of play or interaction, they have language delay and find it more difficult to express themselves,” she says, Adding: “Children don’t have hobbies any more or learn the love of reading when they are young.”

Enlisting a teacher’s help, broadening a child’s social circle with clubs outside school,and even teaching social skills to children struggling to fit in are possible solutions

“When a child comes home and says ‘no-one would play with me today,’ or ‘my best friend isn’t talking to me’ there’s that lift plunge in your stomach wondering, how do I make them feel better about themselves? You get overwhelmed by panic, worrying about bullying, and whether to intervene. We recall the worst situation that happened to us and how traumatic it was.

In every school, she says the social hierarchies are the same.

“A child might think ‘it’s just me’ but they shouldn’t blame themselves. We can help children to understand how cliques operate and how they are part of it. How the alpha child gets the power and the others try to get close so they control that group.”

She adds: “Some children have never fitted in. I look back at every club I’ve been in and there’s always one or two. But those children who feel constantly rejected can be taught social skills. Teachers can show children they are not different, they just think in a different way, there are messages of hope.”

Ultimately building resilience and inner steel is the key: “Human conflict and learning what to do about it is part of growing up,” says Carey who drily admits she’s seen some “very childish behaviour from parents who empire build by encouraging their child to be queen bee”.

“It’s ‘not the end of the world if they are not invited to every party, don’t expect to be liked by everybody, don’t build those expecations in them. Two or three good friends is enough.”

“Build competencies in children so they have a sense of who they are. Every child needs to feel they are good at something in this competitive world.”