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Sian, a youth and children's counsellor, is joining as a guest blogger

Willow the Wonderer is a 'passion project' for Darren and I. The stories we write come from reflecting on our lives and wisdom we've learnt along the way, and also the memory of what brought us wonder and joy as we were growing up.

At the end of the day, these are stories we wish we'd grown up with - and to see it resonate with others like it has, is a wonderful bonus.

We wouldn't however, profess to have any expertise in childhood development or psychology otherwise. Rather, we see ourselves as keen learners in the field and relish every opportunity to get feedback from those more qualified and who work with children on a day-to-day basis 'in the field' - whether they be counsellors, psychologists, early childhood educators, teachers, librarians - or indeed, parents and grandparents!

So one of the things we put in place early on when launching Willow the Wonderer was our First Readers Group.

Our "First Readers Group"

Like so many other people starting a new (ad)venture, we started off with reaching out to everyone in our community - friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and aquaintances - who could offer us insightful personal and professional feedback into our work, and who we could trust to be objective straight talkers :)

Thus the First Readers Group was born.

As it stands, this group includes folks from many social, cultural and professional backgrounds for example, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, technologists, marketers, illustrators, artists, therapists, fitness instructors and yoga and meditation teachers. In addition, the group also includes several psychologists and counsellors with expertise in child, family and relationship counselling as well as librarians, school teachers and early childhood educators.

Once our first book was ready, we shared it with our First Readers Group - and it was their endorsement that gave us the courage to release it into the wild!

And this tradition continues to this day - this group is always the first to get a read in.

Children's books endorsed by experts

One of the strongest advocates for Willow the Wonderer books from the onset was Darren's older sis, Sian Pryce-Chisholm. Sian is a fearless, principled lady who, serendipitously, is a qualified and registered therapeutic counsellor with over a decade experience as a child and youth counsellor.

Sian wears her heart on her sleeve - she will tell you how it is - and we love her for that. She is also deeply passionate about the work she does as a child and youth counseller so we were keen to get her views on the book.

Sian's feedback on Willow the Wonderer picture books lined up with what other psychologists and early childhood educators in our First Readers Group were telling us:

"These are exactly the type of stories that we need to be telling children today."

We particularly loved how Sian put it to us. She said,

"I like this because it teaches children that no matter what is happening out there, you can always come back to yourself to ground yourself, to calm yourself and to find happiness within yourself."

In saying that she captured the essence of Willow the Wonderer and the series that was to follow.

Earlier in the year, we asked Sian to record a short video with her professional take on Willow the Wonderer picture books. We shared this through our social media - and the rest is history.

It's been great to see so many people like, share and tell their own stories off the back of it. Most of you may have already seen the video - but incase you haven't here's a snapshot

A children's counsellor who is a 'big kid at heart'

Photo of a middle aged brunnette woman in a casual summer dress who is smiling - she works as a youth and children's counsellor

Sian is a registered therapeutic counsellor with over a decade of experience in the field.

A long time Melbournian, she relocated to sunny Queensland in 2020 where she now lives with her husband, Craig, and teenage son, Cynan. Her eldest daughter, Cerys is studying nursing and continues to live in Melbourne with her grandmother.

Sian has always had a strong interest in people and passion in helping them find peace in their world. She runs a private practice in Nerang, Queensland, catering for young and older people, and also counsels teenagers and their parents at local high schools.

Most importantly, she self describes as a big kid at heart - a must have requirement for anyone in the Wise As family!

Young girl in pony tails smiling - old photo taken in the 70s
'A big kid at heart'

Learning from experts

Life is one long learning experience and nothing beats learning directly from subject matter experts. So it was a no brainer to invite Sian to join us a guest blogger to share her expertise - which she graciously agreed to.

Sian and I had a wide ranging chat a few weeks ago on some of the things we can explore through her blogs and maybe even in podcasts in the months ahead. Here's a short preview to wet your appetite.

1. The beautiful bond between grandparents and grandchildren

The vast majority of people who buy our books are grandparents and it is not hard to see (from the notes they ask us to include in the package and just overall) that they are madly in love with their grandchildren :-)

The deep bond that forms between children and their grandparents is indeed, a beautiful thing. I've seen it with my parents and neices and nephews, and personally experienced this myself with my grandmother (dad's mum/aaji).

I have my own theories on how and why this transpires but am curious to understand what other people's experience has been, what Sian see's in her practice and indeed if the pscyh literature had got anything to say on the topic. This may very well turn out to be our first blog ...

2. Do people finally learn 'parenting' once they become grandparents (and why does it takes so long ;-)

This topic was inspired by a dialogue that transpired between Joanne Scholz, Emilynne Capelli and Julee Redgen on our facebook post where we shared Sian's video.

Joanne loved what Sian had to say and added that,

"I have learnt more about parenting and being a parent as I parent my grandchildren…Strange as this may seem, I feel like I’m a better grand parent than I was a actual parent!!!!!!"

Emilynne replied with a resounding agreement, describing how she looks forward to their "feisty, communicative, adorable 3yo from 0800 til 1700. Our favourite day of the week. She added, "I also like how being with her and her older sister compels me to keep learning, growing, changing."

Julee also agreed with Joanne, adding,

"I think it’s because we don’t have all the pressures we felt as parents ourselves."

I loved reading this exchange and am keen to hear Sian's take on it. She isn't a grandmother (yet) but her kids are all but grown up so am sure there will be an interesting personal perspective she would bring to this chat as a parent.

3. What is the literature on how children coping in this very fast changing world? What brings them joy, what causes them angst and what can we do to better support them?

Another topic that I am explore with Sian is how are children processing this 'brave new world'.

I think it's fair to say that the world in which children are growing up today is unlike anything anyone of us experienced or could have conceived of - there are just too many social, economic, technological, environmental and geo-political forces converging at the same time....

So how are children processing all this - is it a cause of worry or are they just getting on with it - children after all are a lot more adaptable then us lot. What if anything can we do to support them?

Sian's first blog comes out in two week so keep an eye out!

We'll publish Sian's first blog in two weeks so keep a look out for that.

And let us know what you think about the topics above and what more you'd like to hear about.


If you'd like to learn more about Sian's counselling practice, please visit her website.

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