School’s out!

A Clinical Psychologist’s guide to surviving & enjoying the summer holidays!

Meet Dr Nikki Mills, a local Clinical Psychologist & mum! We were really fortunate to get to chat to Nikki about life, family & work in Warwickshire so took the opportunity to glean her professional opinion on enjoying the summer as a family!

Hello Dr Mills, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Dr Nicola Mills, Clin.Psych.D, C.Psychol, but plain ‘Nikki’ will do! I live in Leamington with my husband and three amazing children who surprise me everyday with how very different they are from each other.

I’ve recently discovered a love of running and am a leader for a local women’s running group. I enjoy nights out with friends and am a huge George Michael fan!

I’ve been a qualified Clinical Psychologist for 13 years but started studying psychology aged 15 when I went to night school to do an extra GCSE.

Dr Nicola Mills Clin.Psych.D, C.Psychol

How long have you lived in Warwickshire & what do you love about it?

I’ve lived in South Warwickshire since 2009 but am originally from Buckinghamshire. I love the fact that we seem to have everything so close to hand here… countryside, parks, cinemas and shops. You don’t have far to travel to do anything.

You run Advance Psychological Services, how long has it been running & what led you to set it up?

APS has been my sole occupation for the last 2 years. After I had my youngest child I found that my previous job wasn’t flexible enough with the hours I needed to work around 3 children. That paired with increasing waiting lists, and the unsettling feeling I wasn’t providing the best service that I knew my patients deserved, prompted me to fully embrace the move to independent practice. Although APS is a psychological service that covers the whole life span I specialise in multidisciplinary autism assessments and am now able to see families from all over the country. We’ve even had families from Norway come to see us.

With summer upon us, is there anything in particular we need to look out for in our children?

Summer holidays mark a time of transition for children. They are facing new teachers, classmates and even new schools when they return, or start school, in September. Whilst a lot of children may have the resilience to take these changes in their stride, for others it can be incredibly anxiety provoking and may dominate their thoughts even during holiday time.

Often the temptation is to reassure children by telling them ‘it’ll be fine’, ‘don’t worry’, ‘forget about it for now’, etc. However it might be helpful to instead try to validate and contain anxieties rather than brush them aside. For example,

“wow, it sounds like you’re really worried about being in that new class, what I can do to help?”

Additionally children and young people might not actually know how to express their concerns and may show their fears in other behavioural ways such as being moody or defiant. Obviously these things can be normal ‘tween’ reactions but it might be worth checking out if it’s an expression of something else. For example,

“I noticed you seemed cross with your sister earlier and I’m wondering if maybe you’re feeling worried about having that teacher next term?”

If you’re wrong your child will let you know but it might just open a dialogue about other worries.

Dr Mills & Dr Baker, Advance Psychological Services

School holidays will soon be here & it can be a tricky for families to balance work/life/childcare. Do you have any top tips to keep it as stress free as possible?

It can be incredibly stressful to juggle children, work or other demands especially in the school holidays. Some children thrive on routine and find holidays difficult whilst others are glad for the time off. Similarly if you’re lucky enough to have some time off yourself you might not want to be refereeing squabbles or feeling the pressure to constantly entertain your children.

Whilst having some easy ‘go to’ activities in reserve for your children can make it easier, it can also be useful to allow them time to be bored (despite their complaints!). Instant entertainment is so readily available these days (iPhones, TV, laptops etc) that it doesn’t promote the same imagination or resourcefulness that being unoccupied does. Encouraging children to entertain themselves fosters independence and resilience.

What would be your top tip for helping busy families lead a healthy active lifestyle?

Being active has proven positive effects on mental health and wellbeing. If you can find an activity that the whole family enjoys together then you’re all more likely to continue doing it. This makes it easier to find time to fit it in amongst all the other demands on a busy family. We all like running and often attend events together. Or some cycle whilst others run. People should do more of what, safely, makes them happy and being active is a great way to help achieve that.

Thank you Nikki, great advice! We hope you have a great summer!

You can follow Nikki & Advance Psychological Services for more information on Facebook here Advance Psychological Services

or on their website

Photos provided by Advance Psychological Services

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