Parenting expert Jo Frost returns to TV on Jan. 28 in UPtv’s Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour. Each week, Frost takes her mobile office — a decked-out RV — into a community where she can meet with and offer advice to more people than ever before. She also does an in-home consultation with a family who desperately needs intensive help. The British former nanny has been a staple of American television for over a decade, so she and I chatted about the new direction of her show, the challenges facing today’s families, and Frost offers a bit of advice to you (Which I totally snagged and am using!).
Jo Frost: Hello Kellie! Hi, I’m here.
Kellie Freeze (Channel Guide): Hi! Thank you Jo, for taking time with me.
JF: Thank you!
CG: So we’re talking about your new series on UP, which premieres January 28th, Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour. Jo, how is this series different from other things we’ve seen you in?
JF: It’s different because organically it’s really been taken to the next level of being able to help the community and everybody in it. For me, it was incredibly important to get that across with this brand new format. I’ve been a staple at many people’s homes for over a decade now. And I think that in a world that’s been so uncertain with obviously a recession and families having hard times, we want stability in our lives. And I’ve been that stability in people’s homes watching every week for a very long time. And for me, the reassurance of knowing that they have me in their homes being able to provide that support, that advice and really being their cheerleader, was incredibly important.
Families know me. I was a parental expert, a family advocate, to be able to come to, and to trust and to be able to talk about their family challenges. It was important to me to be able to carry on that mission in America and to take it to the next level and be able to help the community as well.
Because, helping one family I would be inundated with the neighbors and the families and people come up to me in the streets in the towns, while I was filming. And I would see them and I realized that I just needed to take it to the next level. We’ve got to help the community as well. You can’t be in one family’s home helping them, I’ve got to be able to help a mobile space where I can go and give advice and bring that conveniently to these families. And so, that’s really how this format really got developed. Very organically and knowing that that’s what I thought was needed for these communities across the whole of America. It’s a big country, so lots of towns, lots of communities.
CG: Tell me how you’re going to be getting out into the community. I know that one of the things that I thought was really interested was something called “On-the-Spot Quick-Fixes”?
JF: On-the-Spot Quick-Fixes really are what I’m doing in my mobile office … Have you seen my mobile office?
CG: No, tell me about it!
JF: I have a mobile office. I literally travel in my mobile office to these town squares, to the communities. I let people know by flyers and radio and social media and they turn up. Think of it as a hub for you to be able to go and get your parental advice. That’s exactly what I do and it’s a massive, really big tour bus. It gives me space to be able to have families in there. Whether it’s one child and they’re talking to me about their own personal issues, or a family of 6, they’re all in the big tour bus. Having this mobile office enables me to be mobile, and to be at their door. Imagine it’s the equivalent of a child’s mobile library except you can be able to come as a family and get instant advice.
It’s been marvelous. From pediatricians who have children, to teenage kids who have stepped into the mobile office to ask me advice, it has been wonderful. It has allowed me to be able to bring the advice to the doorsteps of these families.
CG: You’ve been a big part of American families for a decade and in those 10 years I’m sure that the problems facing families have changed, especially as social connectivity has increased and personal interactions have decreased. What are some of the biggest problems facing families today?
JF: I think really we’re looking at how families spend time together. It seems increasingly that there seems to be a lot of stress on families with respects to inflation and the cost of living. Taking on more jobs to be able to support that. The recession over the last decade has provided a fresh lease on life for many families. Some have been able to reinvent themselves and take on new careers, for others, it’s certainly had a negative effect with foreclosure and leaving homes, and children being very much affected by that. I feel like the work and the home balance is ever more increasing the families trying to find that balance and get that right.
And, certainly we want to look at anxiety. Anxiety and stress on families as a whole, and teenage anxiety, and mental health disorders. I certainly feel each has increased over the last decade in response to that stress.
You mentioned earlier on Kellie, social media and those distractions and how that can really detach us as a family if we don’t become mindful. If we choose to be disciplined enough as a family, and be able to address that we are evolving as a family and as a world; the reality is we’ve got to look at how we monitor and regulate social media use, and embrace the new things that are happening.
CG: In this ten episode series, where are you traveling?
JF: I visit the Southeast and I also visit places in California. It’s been really interesting to continue my journey and being able to look and help families in different parts of the states because it’s so diverse. The Southeast all about real, Southern hospitality, but you can also find some families who are very reserved. They’ve got problems and they want you to help them, but it takes a little bit more of them warming up. They’re still very hospitable, but at the same time that they are aware and worried about how other people will judge them. How they will be perceived by their neighbors and the community.
The country is so big and there’s so much going on all the time you’ve really got to understand some of the regions that you’re in, and I feel to a degree I’ve had good homework of doing that over the last decade. You get a feel more than a flavor with respects to the families and where they live in relation to America as a whole.
CG: Have you noticed that certain problems affect various regions differently, or are the problems that face American families pretty universal?
JF: I would say that you get universal family challenges but they may be more prominent in different regions. For example, in the Southern region, I find that the husbands — the southern men — are more resistant to hear what you have to say. There’s a lot of pride, so I have to be very mindful of how they may have been raised. You have to be able to look at different angles in how you connect with these fathers in these regions.
I can’t say that every father is like that, but certainly in the South, I would certainly say that the men are very proud. They want to make their wives happy, and their wives are asking for help and they’re aware of it, but there’s a little bit of resistance to come out straight away and be very forthright with what those issues may be. They may see that as being a failure.
When they meet you and they recognize that you’re there to able to help the family, and they get past their own judgment, and the camera crew, they recognize that you’re just a woman who really gives a damn about helping families. They want to offer you a beer afterwards. “Hey that was kind of cool” and “I’m glad you told us that!” they admit, “Yeah, I can be a little bit stubborn at times. Anyway, do you want a beer?” It’s cool afterwards. It’s good.
CG: Does it ever surprise you that making a few tweaks can turn a family from dysfunction to fun?
JF:What never gets old is how families when they really are committed and willing, the change that can happen so quickly. You’re going to see in this series that really some of these episodes I’ve really been able to go in and get them on the first step of the ladder. For them to come to a place of identifying what those issues are, and being able to work on them, and continue to do so long after I’ve gone. And that’s why it’s important for me to be able to have the consultation afterwards as well; so the aftercare is just as important and these families are truly cradled right the way through. Their hands are held; it’s important that the whole production — Nanny Jo Productions — is making these shows and so us as a team know the importance and the sensitivity of these families that have these real issues. These are real families with real issues.
I can tell you after all these years of helping families it still touches me. There are times when I’m teaching, and I feel choked in the throat. I can’t get a sentence out I’m just going to cry because I feel so touched. When you watch humanity you watch human beings that are so committed and willing and wanting to change and you know that comes from a place of love.
They dig really deep and … It never gets old, Kellie, I don’t know how to express it sometimes …It just never gets old. You just “wow. Wow!” To me, that’s so inspirational, it really is. It helps so many, because other families are struggling and can relate.
This show is not like other formats you’ve seen me do before. It’s not about just naughty toddlers, and parents drop in how to gain some control in their lives. It’s truly about the whole family.
I’ve created and developed a format that really allows the viewer to see that it’s not just about helping the parents, or the child, or the teenager. It’s about really looking at the whole family, the whole family as a unit. I think that’s what’s incredibly important to understand, we’re all affected by each other in some way or another. We are somebody’s brother, sister, auntie or grandma or even husband and uncle. Were all family.
CG: Jo, this show premieres in January, is there a piece of advice you can give families to start the new year in a way to jump start their relationship resolutions?
JF: I would say as far as resolutions are concerned, just make one. Just make one. Just one. We get so enthusiastic, we write down 5 or 6, “I want to do this, I want to do this, I want to do that.” Just write down one and really look at how you can support that one resolution. You hear the flippant words it’s such a buzzword and very flippant with respects to “consistency”. In order to be consistent which creates success, you have to look at how you can be consistent in order to do something, repeating over and over again and be consistent at that. What does it take from you to be able to do so? So looking at that framework.
I’ll say to families, “Make one resolution, and then work out together how you can be consistent in doing that so that you achieve that.” If that’s spending more time together than prioritize those weekends when you are together. Recognize the things that distract you; when the distractions are identified, you can make that a priority. The one thing I can see, Kellie, is that when something a priority for us, we make it happen. When it’s that important to us we make it happen. Always.
CG: So you’re advising people to reframe their lives, find one change that needs to make, an make that change a priority and be committed to it?
JF: Absolutely! The reality is, people say, “my family is a priority.” People can get complacent until they see that something’s not right. They see it’s not right, they feel it’s not right and they feel the strain. I think we’re forever working on ourselves as individuals, and how we keep all the balls spinning — or shall I say the plates spinning.
In life, isn’t it to take off the plates rather than keep adding? There is … This is kind of salute in America to families that can juggle 20 plates. It’s like we’re giving the wrong message. We are saluting people who are juggling 20 plates. “Oh, look at that mom, she’s juggling 20!” Well, the idea is to take it off so that you’re juggling less instead of this reward of “Look at me! Look at me! I’m a fine juggling act! I can do 20! I can do 20!” Then we’re all stressed out and you feel sick, and you’re ill, and you don’t really enjoy now the process of parenthood. Take off!
Spiritually, I believe it’s about taking off of your plate. Having the discipline in your self to be able to say, “No, not this weekend, because the priority is actually being at home with my family and we’re going to go and do this together.” You’ve got to be able to a make those decisions and be okay. Be okay with that and acceptance of that. Nobody gives that to you. Nobody says, “Well, it’s okay.” You need to find that piece within yourself, and that in itself is a process.
The reality is at the cost of that can be quite detrimental. If it’s that important we make it priority and then we work out how it’s going to happen. When a family says, “We don’t eat at the table anymore, we just don’t get together.” Then make it a priority! Actually communicate with your family, “Hey I know your home this weekend, would love for us to sit down and have family dinner. Let’s make that happen.” No difference to what you’d do I’m sure if you haven’t seen a girlfriend in a very long time. “I’m in town, let’s carve out this time. Let’s make it happen.”
CG: Jo, you are so insightful. I’m going to take some of the things you’ve just said and take them home to my own kids and my own husband.
JF: Wonderful! How old are your kids?
CG: I have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old and they are wonderful boys but as you said, I’m juggling a lot of plates. Actually, I’ve been thinking that we need to do less so we have more time together. After what you said, I’m going to commit to that change.
JF: It’s true! The plates are so true! There you go; there you have it. You’re a classic example of what I’m saying. It’s like there are some things you just have to say “no” to, but I think we can get so caught up in that, “The Jones are doing it next door, so we’re doing it, and everybody seems to be doing it. Oh! It seems to be rather trending and let’s all do it.” Hey, fashion trends all the time but I’m sure you don’t wear some things that are in fashion, right?
CG: [Laughter] I think the shirt I’m wearing is ten years old! [Jo Frost Laughs] Thank you Jo for your time, this is fantastic advice for familes everywhere. Best of luck with Jo Frost: Nanny on Wheels.
JF: Thanks Kellie! Cheers! Bye.
Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour > UP TV > Thursdays beginning Jan. 28 at 8pm ET