Welcome to Spill the Milk, where we ask some of the UK's most famous mums and dads to reveal all about the wonderful world of parenting.
We caught up with author, activist, presenter and mum-of-two, Katie Piper, about why caring for our children’s mental health is so important, advice on having self-confidence and why she doesn’t take being a mum for granted.
Looking after our children’s mental health has never been more important following the pandemic
Sometimes, we just need some positive affirmations to get us through those difficult days. Although you might not think it, the little people in our lives could do with some tools to manage their mental health too, which is what Katie’s new childrens book, All You Need, is all about.
“My first ever children’s book has stemmed from all the adult publishing I've done. My books are often around affirmations and self help and I wanted to continue that messaging with a book more appropriate for children. The lead character is called Teeny Mouse, and Teeny goes on this journey, where she finds out what qualities she needs to be a well rounded and happy mouse. There's texts about courage, kindness and joy. Ultimately, the story ends with her finding out how important calmness, stillness and peace is. I really hope that it's going to generate lots of positive conversations between adults and their kids.”
It was Katie’s own daughters, Belle and Penelope, who inspired Katie to write this book, and following the pandemic, she had her own personal fears about the impact it not only had on children’s mental health, but also their reading skills after missing out on so much school.
“I've got two young daughters and they often asked about my books, and they would do affirmations with me. So I really wanted to get that message across in a way that was a bit more approachable for kids, because my adult books weren't as suitable.
“As well as that, we all saw this worrying dip in the mental health of our children following the pandemic. But I think also what a lot of people didn't realise is there was a real decline in literacy as well, because there had been so much disruption in education. It was really important for me that the book, not only had this sentiment around, affirmations, and mental health, but I also worked closely with a really good illustrator, so that children who had kind of shunned reading would come back to it because of the beautiful drawings and that would hopefully pull them back into reading and enjoying it.”
Katie Piper’s debut picture book, All You Need [SPCK Publishing] is available from February 17th at all good book retailers.
Reading is amazing for bonding with your child
We’re all guilty of skipping a few pages in the book or simply running out of time before bed for some dedicated reading time, but Katie has some simple tips for encouraging your little one to not only read more, but also enjoy reading with you.
“I think it's about finding stories that appeal to them, like the actual sentiment, so they have something they're interested in. Also let them pick the book so they feel like they've brought you to the story because they chose it. My kids really love it, because for them, it's like a bonding time, it's when they get our undivided attention.”
For things to flourish, other things have to suffer
If she's not on our TV screens, she's writing a book or campaigning for charities. And Wonder Woman Katie does all this while bringing up two kids. When it comes to perfecting the juggle, she’s very open and honest about not having the answers.
“I don't ever want to come across that I have the answers to juggling everything and that it's easy, and there's a formula everyone should follow. I think it's about knowing that when something is flourishing, other things suffer. That is actually probably everyone's reality, so don't beat yourself up. There are small things you can do. Organisation is always key, not hitting snooze, laying things out the night before, leaning on others, but ultimately, accepting that we're all living in a bit of chaos!”
I never take being a mum for granted
Katie has been very open and honest about her fertility struggles in the past, and understands more than anyone that being a mum isn’t something that should be taken for granted.
“My life experiences have made me realise what a privilege it is to be a parent, because I think when you're really young, you just assume you're going to be one. And then when you get older, different things happen. You realise it's not a given for everybody. So I always try to draw myself back to that when things are really unbearable.”
Find your self-confidence before it’s too late
Katie has always been an advocate for body positivity, and we know how feeling confident in yourself physically, can transform your confidence mentally. As a mum, she understands how common it is to feel self-concious in your ever-changing body, but her advice is very simple.
“You'll stop worrying about what other people think when you realise how little they think about you. You can walk around feeling hyper aware, feeling too awkward to go to the gym, feeling too self-conscious to wear a bright colour, but half the time, people are more involved with themselves. They're not worried about what you look like on the treadmill, or if that colour was too bright. And by the time you get to that realisation, it's often when it's too late, you're ill or you're old, or you're at the end of your life. So don't wait to be dying to start living.”
What’s next for Katie?
As well as being a regular on Loose Women, Katie will be on our screens every week during the summer as the Katie Piper Breakfast Show is making a return.
“It’s going to be on every Sunday morning throughout the summer. My kind of lead audience is mums because we are the only ones not hungover and up early on a Sunday morning. Sometimes we are hungover, but we still don't get to layin. Some mums haven’t even slept and might still be up breastfeeding.”
As well as her Sunday Breakfast Show, Katie is currently filming a new five part documentary series around the very unspoken topic of facing pregnancy and motherhood in prison.
“It's very much a world that hopefully a lot of us won't ever experience. I've been meeting a lot of the babies and the parents involved in that world, and it's been really interesting. It's been sad. It's been uplifting. It's a subject a lot of people don't know much about but might be quite fascinated by.”
Babies Behind Bars will be on our screens later this year.