Communication

Connection and LinkedIn

Connections are all around us. To me connection is a positive word. It means I have a link with someone that, generally speaking, is a good one.

Some connections remain for a long time and others are shorter. They all have their purpose and that’s OK.

How do we connect with people today? It used to be mainly through school, friends, work or family.

Today’s connections are made in all sorts of ways. Social media, chat rooms, dating sites etc. LinkedIn is one.

I would like to know more about people I connect with, but how do I do it? At what stage does contacting someone via message or email become a nuisance? What is the LinkedIn etiquette?

We are all on LinkedIn for a reason. Why else would we make the effort to be on here otherwise?

I am here to connect with people and hopefully meet them to see who they are and what they do. My livelihood depends on making connections to get work. Being a small independent business is difficult but I love what we do. Making a difference to someone is a rewarding place to be. Even if only one person that attends a workshop learns and changes something in a positive way, it’s worth it.

What do other small companies do to get business? I know this is relevant to a lot of people!

Suggestions and thoughts are welcome!!

Please reply either in comments on LinkedIn or e-mail: ase@familyfocusuk.com

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This Can Happen....

Åse and I were very fortunate to be able to attend a mental health event in London last week called, This Can Happen. Tag lined, ‘Where Companies Address Mental Health in the Workplace’, over 750 people attended a day focused on making things happen!

One of the standout moments for me was when HRH The Duke of Cambridge joined a panel to share his own experience of mental health during his work with the Air Ambulance. This really highlighted how wide the net is flung with mental health affecting every single person in a variety of contexts and situations. His candor at how different stages of your life can produce different reactions to events really hit home. There is no ‘one size fits all’ or ‘box to tick’ to address mental health and this was really evident in the personal stories and discussions that were part of this event.

The more we talk about mental health, the more we chip away at the stigma around it and move towards a cultural shift in both organisations, communities and individuals. There is so much more talk taking place - such a fantastic change compared to even just a few years ago! Promoting open communication and genuine care and concern for each other is no longer the exception - but becoming the norm. Organisations are now getting serious about the business of mental health as part of their Corporate Strategies, but more importantly, they are really starting to care!

But what about us? What about those who are not working in big Corporates? What can we do? We need to care and communicate and to be part of the wave of movement where mental health and wellbeing are part of daily conversations. To be vigilant and mindful of ourselves and others and start our conversations with, ‘how are you feeling today?’ Ask twice: ‘how are you feeling today?’

One thing is certain. We can all make a difference, and together….THIS CAN HAPPEN!

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The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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People Matter!

I have just returned from a visit back ‘home’ to Cape Town where I’ve been reminded of what really matters.  And it is summed up in one word.  People. People who are family.  People who are friends.  And people who you have never seen before and will never see again.

The positive and vocal African welcome at the airport started a trip that was a humbling reminder of all that truly matters – connecting with people.

I always worry before ‘going home’.  Will I have to apologise for my lack of communication, my bad time management in that I never seem to keep in touch properly? Will I feel guilty that I’ve missed events and occasions and birthdays and I’ll never be able to make it up to my loved ones?  Guilt is a very real emotion for a lot of people – never more so than those living away from home.

And then, you see them and it’s as if time has stood still and you pick up exactly where you left off.  Conversations just seem to continue and the initial need to say ‘sorry for all I haven’t done’ – disappears.  Why is that?   

So much depends on the connections you have with people.  The relationships that you have established over time and the memories you have created.  If they are strong and intact then you will find that this solid foundation has not moved.  

So, this led me to consider the relationships around me now.  How much of a priority am I making the people in my life now?  I have had the privilege of moving over 9 times but with this comes a trail of people and friends left behind in different places that I want to prioritise, but find it very, very hard to find the time to do.  Am I forfeiting possibilities with people in the here and now by trying to maintain and hold onto connections from the past?  Is it physically possible to find the time, energy and resources to do both? 

Working parents also vocalise living with guilt that they are not spending enough time with their children and families. But working is a part of life and sets good examples for children on work ethic and responsibilities.

So what is the solution?

I believe the answer is being present in each and every situation and encounter with people as it happens.  Of connecting, focusing and being active in the moment so that the person (people) you are with both feels and knows that they are a priority for you.  If they matter, make sure they know it.  Make sure that the connection between you is one that builds layers each time you are together and that the moments have meaning for you both.

Every human being needs a purpose in life and no matter who you speak to, you will get a similar response.  A crucial sense of purpose that we all need is feeling connected to others and knowing that you matter to someone else.

So if someone matters to you - tell them.  Show them!  Make moments count and value your time and connections.  Don’t leave things unsaid and undone.  Live each day and be present in your life.   Build emotional blocks to give you (and them) a sense of purpose - which is a basic human need for us all.

People are a pivotal part of life and a privilege – make them a priority.

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Having it all?

I love podcasts and try to listen to different ones, recommendations from family and friends.

This morning whilst out walking, I listen to Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton’s High Low episode from 3 October where lots of interesting topics were discussed like Brett Kavanaugh and Having it all or not.

They talked about different views from women and the expectations that come with the various life choices we all have to make at times in our lives.

As a woman, it seems the choices are at times harder to make as the impact is still, generally, greater for a woman compared to a man. In particular the choice whether to have children or not.

What no woman can ever plan, is how life does change after having a child. We can plan certain things as much as we like; when and where to give birth, when to go back to work, childcare, sharing and being equal with our partners etc.

What we can’t plan is the emotional impact this massive change in our lives has. Not only have we got this little baby in our home, all of a sudden needing care and attention, but it also has it’s own mind and shows it early on. It might not be what I thought it was going to be like! Can I change my mind?! How on earth do I cope with this on my own? There is no manual to follow, only learning by doing.

Also, our partners might have different ideas about how to look after our child and that can become another problem to deal with. Not to mention mothers and mothers-in-law that might get involved and give advise whether we want it or not.

I think it’s important to talk and be open about fears, hopes and voice any concerns you might have. No matter how ‘silly’ they might sound, just say it! These are the things that brings us closer as couples and cements the relationship. Assumptions are the opposite and too many times, these are the things that break couples up! “I assumed she knew how I felt”, "He should know I want him to do this” etc.

The having it all is a myth as far as I am concerned. There is no such thing. You might have it all, but that does not mean “all” is good at all times. Life goes up and down and that is normal. Happiness is not a constant, it’s an emotion that comes and goes.

We all struggle at times and it’s not always what it seems…

Our children will grow up understanding that this is life and that’s OK. As long as there is love, understanding and empathy, we will survive and eventually thrive.

Talk to your partner, family and friends. Ask for help when you need it. Know that you are not alone! Even the HR department at work has humans working who also suffer at times!

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Children and work? What choices are there?

Becoming a parent is a big decision. Many factors come into consideration and a lot of couples might find that they have very different views on this.

With todays workplace politics and opportunities, the choices are not always clear. More and more women are just as ambitious and driven as men. Unfortunately, a lot of them feel the pressure to perform more than their male counterparts. What will happen to their careers if they go on maternity leave? Are they supported by their employers? Will their clients accept their absence?

There are lots of questions raised by women who are considering having a family and many of the feel alone in these decisions as their partners don’t have the same ‘risks’ to consider. There is also social pressure to consider like what other friends and family are doing and expecting of them.

The UK is a hard place to raise children if you have finances to consider. The child care costs are immense and not everyone can afford to use a nursery or nanny. So what do you do?

  • Firstly communicate with your employer, find out exactly what your rights are and what the expectations are from their side.

  • Discuss with your partner, well ahead, what is important to the both of you. As a mother to be, you have to be the one at home to start with but for how long? Can your partner take over?

  • What is your support network like? Can you child care share? What do others do in your area? At your workplace?

  • Be aware of the emotional impact having a child can have on you. Read up and be prepared. Not that you can be fully prepared, children do have a tendency to take you on a rollercoaster ride you’ve never been on before!

Most importantly though, enjoy your children! The years of having a young family passes quickly, believe it or not. Be present, do things together, talk and listen. Look after each other and yourself, remember this is a new life for both parents!

Here are a few links to help along the way:

https://fullfact.org/education/childcare-costs-england/

https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/

https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk

https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/work-and-childcare

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

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Are we present? The impact our phones have on our lives.

I have been noticing more and more how many people sit, whilst with others, on their phones while half listening to what the others are saying. 

The impact this has on a person is not to be underestimated. How does it feel not to be listened to? How does it feel to not be important enough to get the attention from the other person?

On top of that, it can be seen as rude and dismissive to use your phone when you are with others. Think before reaching for it! Can it wait?

This might sound melodramatic but it does have an effect on more people than we might think. Children in particular feel this in a subconscious way and their reaction can often be to play up and be 'naughty'. At least they get some attention even if it's for a bad reason...

What is it about phones and how they have infiltrated our lives in such a massive way? How did we manage before?? To think we managed to meet friends out somewhere and travel without a phone is hard to understand in today’s instant and 24/7 society. The expectation to be reachable alI the time is both positive and negative. It is very convenient to be able to reach someone and check mails etc whilst out and about. But, what choices do we really have? Do we really need to have it with us at all times? To spend an evening with friends and family without phones is more unusual than usual. It makes me sad to think the youngsters of today will most likely never know what it is to be properly present with friends. I have yet to see a group of young people hang without someone busy on their phone. I know I sound like an old biddy and that we need to move with the times but there is no way that communication via apps will ever be as good as face to face. To read someone’s body language, tone of voice and use of words are skills that are important in life. I do hope we can help our youngsters to understand and learn this.

I am as guilty as most of us to feel dependent and when I left my phone in a shop by mistake recently, the panic I felt was immediate. However, having realised this I am now starting to make small changes. I'll have my phone on silent without any buzzing several times a day and at night. I leave home without it if we go out for an evening. (not all the time but small steps...) 

It is an addiction and like other addictions, we can be weaned off it and get more in control of it than the other way around. Have a think about your own phone needs. How does it impact your life? Your family's? Friends? What can you do differently? 

To be present with another person is to be there, listening, noticing and converse because we want to or need to do so. Having a device next to you tends to get in the way. 

Enjoy your next phone free conversation! It's amazing what we can learn.

 

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Adversity and karma?

I too have faced adversity quite a few times in life and I know that having support, being able to talk and being heard are fundamental to getting through difficult and challenging times. No matter have tough these have been, my husband and I have somehow gotten through them by facing it all together. We have learnt that being transparent and honest has paid off. Friends and family have supported us and for this we are immensely grateful. Look after your relationships, be there for others and have empathy. 'What goes around comes around' is something we live by.

Here is an interesting article, a bit of a read but a good one;

5 Steps to Adapt to, Embrace and Transform Significant Adversity

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

written by Jocelyn Duffy, Communication & Contribution Strategist - I Help World-Class Leaders Develop Their Ideas and Master Their Messages

As entrepreneurs or those who live with an entrepreneurial spirit, it is easy to sometimes feel somewhat invincible. We’re in the zone, on a role, thinking outside the box, seeing things from a powerful perspective...and then, from seemingly out of nowhere life shows us something new, something exponentially more challenging than our everyday feats hits.

Being abundantly happy, successful, fulfilled or honoring our life’s purpose obviously won’t grant us immunity from sudden or inexplicable turns. Sometimes adversity or great challenges brushes in as a gentle whisper or a light tap on the shoulder; other times it’s a more pronounced nudge or a giant, unexpected wallop over the head (metaphorically speaking, of course). The later can feel like we’ve been gobsmacked – our life’s course halted, blurred or fully redirected.

Gobsmack: Completely dumbfounded, shocked. From the Irish word "gob" meaning "mouth" (Urban Dictionary)

When we get “gobsmacked,” we are left feeling naïve and unprepared, in spite of all the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gathered along the journey of life. The initial shock can feel like life has forced you off the proverbial cliff, and in the words of the late Tom Petty, there you are “learning to fly, but you ain’t got wings.” Coming down really is the hardest thing.

How do you mentally, emotionally and spiritually process what has happened? How do you reset and get your feet back on the ground, moving forward with life? 

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

Loving our experiences doesn’t mean bypassing the need to feel anger, frustration and sadness; it means that we keep moving through those emotions to reach a place of transformation, where love, instead of fear, leads the way.

Not convinced? Here’s a story of life forcing a friend of mine off a literal cliff:

C.J. Wilkins found enjoyment in jumping off of cliffs. He is a paraglider...was a paraglider – an exhilarating and dangerous sport that requires great knowledge of the weather and air conditions. As a veteran paraglider, he knew when it was safe to jump and he also knew the risks.

On a sunny summer’s day, C.J. jumped off a mountain in western British Columbia and got caught in the convergence of two air masses that spun him around and slammed him into the side of a nearby cliff. After great struggle, first-response crews reached him, air-lifting him to hospital an hour away. He underwent three surgeries to reconstruct his spine. It was questioned whether he would ever walk again.

At the core of who he was, C.J. was a serial entrepreneur. He knew what it was to hold a vision at heart, defy the odds, reach beyond the status quo and take calculated risks. Amazingly, crashing into a mountain hadn’t deterred his entrepreneurial spirit. He used that spirit to push through months of intensive rehabilitation, sharing photos and videos on social media and gathering a squad of cheerleaders.

Pushing the bounds of what was possible, one step at a time, C.J. began walking again. He found strength from his unshakable spirit and from great supporters in hospital and in his life – those who walked by his side, as slow as required, to help him regain his strength. The experienced had humbled him, though by no means did he allow it to stop him.

Over the months that followed, his mind pushed him beyond the matter of a frail spine, bolted together with 13 of pieces of metal. Not only did he walk again, he began to hike and bike with vigor, breaking all notions of what his physical capacity should be. C.J. was authentic about the odds, the struggle and the need for sheer determination, using them all as fuel for his quest to return to living a full life.

Within a year, he was hiking up mountains, keeping pace with friends who were in impeccable shape. When a follow-up surgery freed him to use some of his own natural body function (and liberated him of 5 of the metal plates), he sought higher mountains and tested the limitlessness of not only his recovery and resilience, but also his ability to reach heights not previously known.

C.J. achieved what he did because he believed it was possible, for himself and for anyone. He knew that he had what it takes to fly, even without wings. Embracing his second chance at life, he found another way to leap off of mountains by adapting and adjusting his passion and vision. Instead of paragliding off the mountain peaks, he shifted to biking up them. He found a love and thrill for taking on the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. He biked through France. It was clear that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.

By biking all the way up the mountain and getting the high of swiftly spinning his wheels through the trails on the way down, he had found a new way to embrace the mountains...the same mountains that had crippled him.

He chose to not hate the mountains – he chose to love them.

These experiences that push us off the proverbial cliff or employ the unexpected wallop come in many forms:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Job Loss
  • Major illness
  • The end of a relationship or partnership
  • Financial hardship

When they hit, the feeling is one of being swept away from (or swiftly off) our comfort zone, like a giant gust of wind redirecting our path. After giving ourselves the necessary time to feel and heal from the adversity, we have the choice whether or not to see the awareness and opportunity that has been created by the painful shift.

Regardless of how hard our experiences are – those mountains that move us – we can choose to love them. Our experiences are the hand that feeds our soul by showing us the potential we hold when we are pushed to the proverbial edge. If we open ourselves us to being students and learning from life, these events can also become the ties that bind us – proving opportunity to learn and teach something of immeasurable value. They can help us grow stronger as a collective society that supports one another in navigating life’s journey with greater ease.

Love your experiences – they are your teachers.

These forced leaps of life, steering up into the depths of the unknown, allow us the opportunity to be introspective, to reassess our current path and gain clarity of what really matters, to us and to those we support.

Here are 5 steps you can take to adapt to, embrace and transform significant challenge or adversity:

3 Choices to Navigate Significant Challenge and Become Boundless

1. Get to Know Yourself – While adversity often forces us to be introspective, it is also crucial to have self-awareness prior to facing tumultuous times. When we know who we are – our beliefs, values, attributes, abilities and attitude – we have a rock to stand on, so to speak. The more you know about what you are able to do, the more you can do all that you can, even when seated amid great adversity. Secondarily, self-awareness is key because when something happens that leaves us feeling like everything has been shaken or swept away, having the knowledge that we haven’t lost who we are is extremely powerful. No matter what you lose, you can never lose yourself or your ability to be resilient. This awareness can become the center-point and fuel for regaining your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength. C.J. knew that he could achieve the impossible, and he did. Choose to defy (“I am,” “I can,” “I will.”) rather than justify (“I can’t because...”).

2. Compassion and Small Action – Think of how you’d treat a child who has had a big fall. You aren’t going to force them to immediately get up. Chance are, you’ll comfort them and see what they need. From there, you take gradual steps and do what you can to ease the pain and help them restore their smile and their ability to run freely. The same should apply for how you treat yourself in the wake of great adversity. Take small steps, be supportive of yourself and find others to support you. C.J. was only able to walk again because of those who helped hold him up during his most difficult weeks of rehabilitation.

3. Befriend Change – Love your metaphorical mountains, big and small. Love the valleys too. Change, good or bad, foreseen or unexpected, opens the door to development and growth. If you’ve never so much as changed the location of your toothbrush, the contents of your kitchen or office drawers or taken a new route to the office, then any unexpected change will leave you lost for direction. Make small changes a regular part of your life. They will exponentially increase your adaptability to significant or unexpected change.

4. Maximize Your Momentum – Here’s where most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit: It takes an enormous amount of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength to keep moving forward after great challenge or adversity. Simply reaching the point of reinstating our previous “status quo” can feel like a momentous feat. Have you considered how much momentum you’ve build when you’ve worked so hard to rebuild or re-establish your life? What if you could continue to use that momentum to take you to place that you didn’t even know you could go? C.J. used the momentum of defying the odds to walk again and set it in motion to making his way to the mountain peaks, not only on foot, but also on bike, all over the world! Take stock of your strength, value it and make it your fuel. Do more than overcome. When you open yourself up to the possibility of what you can create in your life, for yourself and for others, you see how boundless you can really be. Let your momentum take you to where you are capable of going. Don’t stop at what you know, because getting gobsmacked has provided you with the opportunity to take your life to new heights. Be willing to venture into the unknown. Make the choice to use your momentum to grow from, transcend and transform your experiences...and perhaps to give meaning to the experiences themselves by using them to help, teach or support others).

No one ever said the journey of life was going to be easy. Destruction can be a powerful prerequisite and fuel for reconstruction – for building something more deeply purposeful than we previously knew possible. This is not to negligently say that “everything happens for a reason,” but rather that within every circumstance, we have the opportunity to use our experiences as the foundation to create something meaningful – something that fills our heart and helps ease the way for others.

Love your mountains. Let them take you into the unknown, for there you might just discover your boundless potential.

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How adaptable is your child? How adaptable are you?

Recent events have really got me thinking about the family structure and how adaptable it needs to be. This last week our family of 4 was a family of 2 and it was fascinating to see how we ‘adapted’! 

Adaptability is one of the most crucial coping skills we need to teach our children.  Every child will have a degree of adaptability as their trait, meaning how easily or fast they are able to adjust to changes in their environment.  It does not include the initial emotional reaction.  Eg:  If a parent leaves the home and the child cries (emotional reaction).  What happens then?  Does the child adapt and attach to the new childminder or is the child unable to adapt and continues to cry?

I found a lovely quiz to help you determine how adaptable your children are:-

Track your answers on the following scale from one to five:

  1. Do your children cry and get upset when you ask them to finish an activity and move on to something else?
  2. Do surprises upset your children?
  3. Do your children find it stressful to change ideas or routines?
  4. Do you feel like you have to coax or beg your children for days to get them involved in new activities?
  5. Is it difficult for your children to make decisions and when they do, do they agonize over their choices?

No                                                                                        Yes

1         __         2        __      3       __         4    __            5

Adapts quickly                                                          Adapts slowly

Looking at your answers you should relate to the following traits:-

LESS ADAPTABLE

  • More rigid
  • More resistant
  • Less comfortable with new people
  • Likes routine
  • Likes predictability
  • More cautious (less risky children)
  • Less influenced by peer pressure

MORE ADAPTABLE

  • Adjusts quickly to changes
  • Happy with new routines
  • Easier to parent
  • Go with the flow children
  • Flexible
  • Enjoy new things/places/ideas/activities
  • Can be impulsive and risk taking

As adults, we are much less able to change our innate traits or personality, so the more we can encourage adaptability in our children the more they will be able to adapt to the demands of adult and working life.  

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Conflict and courage

I've been working with a few different clients recently who are going through tough times at work. The common denominator is relationships with managers and work colleagues. They are finding it hard to fit in and to feel accepted by others and struggling because of it.

What can be done when this is going on? How can a person help themselves and what do we expect from management?

What we have discussed in our sessions is their own mindset and reactions in various situations. What have they become aware of? What choice do they have? 

A bully will keep on going when their victim reacts to them in a way that feeds their sense control. The feeling of being powerful is then reinforced and they will continue.

The subtle changes in our own reaction to a bully can be really effective. It's kind of like a tennis match where a ball is smashed only to be caught and not returned straight away. If we hold on to the ball and lobb it back in a nice, friendly way, the smashing becomes less fun.

By replying in a disarming way like "I'm sorry you feel that way" or " Goodness, I didn't mean to...." or similar, the person doesn't get ammunition to continue to be nasty. 

Acceptance of differences in the workplace is so important as we come from different countries, backgrounds and situations. We don't tend to know what is going on in someone else's life and why they are difficult to deal with at times. It can explain a behaviour even if it doesn't make it OK. 

As far as managing staff and the treatment of each other in the workplace, the company needs to provide training and make sure the managers are vigilant, understanding and empathic to staff that 'dare' to bring any issues to the table. It is hard to have to do this and no one does this lightly. To be heard and seen is vital.

When someone speaks up, others tend to follow or at least respond and say 'me too'. 

Be courageous, speak up and stand tall!

 

 

 

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Extended family....extended....

Åse wrote last week about the importance of connections and relationships.  How family is so important for your sanity as a parent – and in the absence of extended family living nearby – you need to make your own ‘new family’ with friends and neighbours.

This week I have a dilemma that hasn’t quite happened before.  My husband is away and both my children have important events taking place on Friday that both need my involvement.  I can’t be in 2 (very distant) places at once – so what do I do?  Like Åse, I have no direct family here in Surrey and so need to rely on others for help at times like this.

I have had the arduous task of moving 9 times in 10 years.  Despite becoming super-efficient at packing and unpacking, plus developing excellent muscles – I have also had to adapt to continuous new environments and new people at every turn.   Bonding and settling into new places is very hard when you move constantly, as is establishing those trusted relationships that are so necessary when you don’t have family living nearby.

So, who do I call in a situation like the one I am in for Friday?  Do I throw the net wide and call on my close friends who don’t live in the area, or I do disappoint one child over another?  This caused me a very sleepless night last night (as well as the VERY hot weather!) until I realised that I have teenagers now.  The responsibility for scheduling and decision making is no longer just mine to make.  I have two very capable teenagers who can join this discussion and hopefully work out a solution.

And I was right.  My daughter seems to have embodied the extended family culture in a very real way and has created a network that really staggers me in the community she moves in.  She can draw on help, advice and support (in this case transport!) in a way that I didn’t expect – showing me that it is never too soon to embody the concept of creating a family wherever you go.  Not just you – but every member of your family.  This led me to a very meaningful conversation with my son today about the relationships he is forming and how to develop this feeling of community that is so essential to successful relationships.

From my side, I am extremely thankful for my daughter who has such confidence and wisdom with the relationships she develops, and the adults who have taken her under their wing and are lighthouses for her.   I will keep this conversation up with my son…and help him to get there too!

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What is family all about?

As a person who has lived away from the country I grew up in and where my extended family still is, I have had to create new family along the way. I have my own family but any other family like grandparents, aunties and uncles are not here. Having two children, family was always important. Our extended families were essential to us so visits were a big part of any holidays we ever had. For years, the only holidays we could afford were visiting our family abroad. This has enabled a close relationship between my daughters and my Swedish family which I am so happy and grateful to have. I know my daughters feel very Swedish despite never living there.

When they were little, help from friends was essential. We became each others aunties and the kids always had somewhere to go and feel at home with. Juggling work and children whilst trying to organise child care was a challenge at times. This is where the 'aunties' came in. Their support and ability to step in was such a blessing. I remember being so envious of people who had family around to ask for help but what we had was even more amazing. My children grew up knowing and trusting other people outside family and experiencing different ways of being a family. This has helped them along the way in accepting others and knowing there is more to life than just being a certain way. Acceptance, tolerance and being non-judgemental of others are traits they both have now as adults. 

Having that kind of bond with friends where I could ask for help without feeling guilty was amazing. They helped me and I helped them. No one counted the times, we just did what we could for each other. I used local teenagers for babysitting and the girls loved some of them and others less so. They even became bargaining tools at times; 'if you do as you are told, I'll book Tamara to babysit next time'. Worked a treat! Rightly or wrongly...

To feel lonely can be tough and I know there are lots of lonely people out there. The thing is, we have to make an effort to look after our relationships whether they are at home, at school, at work or anywhere you meet people on a regular basis. We tend to get back what we put in so make that phone call, send that text and show you care and that you are here. Someone will appreciate it and feel seen. Significance is one of our human needs and we all need to feel significant to someone. Family or friend, doesn't matter. The feeling is the same so let's show others they are significant to us! 

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Summertime happiness?

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful summer and the streets are full of people with lots of friends, things to do and happy looking! Are they though?

A lot of people struggle in the summer with depression and anxiety. There are a lot of reasons for this like; high expectations, not pretty enough, body conscious, lack of sleep due to heat and/or light, different schedule and  routines. 

All these things can be discombobulating and disrupt everyday life.

There are lots of things you can do to help prevent summer depression and be able to actually enjoy this beautiful time of the year:

Know yourself and recognise the symptoms. 

Find someone to talk to about your emotions and take your feelings of sadness seriously. Keep fit Exercise, drinking enough water and stay in the shade and cool places when possible.

If the bedroom is to light, hang blackout curtains. Also use a fan to cool the room.

Be realistic about your schedule. What are your priorities and what can wait?

Be kind to yourself, do what you feel comfortable with. It's OK to say no if that is what is right.

We are lucky to have all the seasons in the UK so get out there and enjoy the summer! This too will pass too soon.

  

 

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Helping your child through tough times...

Do you have a teenager who has just finished a tough period of exams?  Or do you have a child that’s had to deal with a tough situation?  All children will experience degrees of stress at some time in their lives (peer pressure, bullying, school pressure, arguments with friends or family etc) and our influence, as parents, is crucial.

If your child is in the school system they will, at some stage, experience exam pressure.  And it’s not just about writing the exams, the stress of waiting for results is often worse – especially for an anxious child.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and anxiety in your children and help them maintain a sense of balance during difficult times.

  1. This too will pass.  Children and adults cope much better if they know there is an endpoint.  Overpowering feelings can be controlled by knowing that they are not permanent – and they will pass.
  2. Challenge them on unreasonable thoughts (extremism) and remind them of previous instances of success or coping.
  3. If necessary help them draw up plans for potential outcomes.  If they need certain results to continue with their studies – draw up a series of outcomes and paths they can take.
  4. Make sure they know you will love and support them unconditionally.
  5. Build their confidence and talk about how they are feeling.
  6. Use self-disclosure.  Tell them about situations you’ve been in and how you coped.
  7. Plan something fun for after results day or the end of term together.  An outing or a holiday is something positive to look forward to.

The coping skills they learn in childhood are essential to help them cope in adulthood – so use the time to guide and help them develop confidence and strategies to get through these stressful and difficult times.

If your child continues to battle or you need more help – don’t be afraid to ask.  Start with your school or GP or if you are really worried, get in touch with CAMHS.

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Emotional Energy & Relationships

Sitting here writing this blog today I have a flurry of excitement knowing that in a few days time I'm off on a weekend date with my husband!  Doesn't happen often enough but we always make sure we prioritise each other once a year on our wedding anniversary and get away, just the 2 of us, without children.  We feel that this is an essential part of our relationship success - to have a 24 hour (+) date where we 'ban' talking about the children and just focus on each other.  If you haven't done it lately - have a date!  Look each other in the eye when you talk instead of while you're folding the washing and make the other person in your life feel that they count.

Amongst all our work with parents and adults, one of the biggest concerns seems to be around relationships and emotional wellbeing.  We have been doing a lot of talking around this topic and the connection between emotions and energy.  There is no doubt that they are intricately linked and directly influence each other.

Think about a tower that is built upon layers with one of the most important layers (above physical) being emotion.  Without a strong foundation in how to understand, cope with and express emotion, it is very hard to feel energised or to exhibit energy as a person or in a relationship.  

How do you do this?  Emotions are often a big part of your personality and many people have learned ways of expressing (or not expressing) emotion.  We often hear people saying 'he doesn't say that / she doesn't communicate how she feels / I don't know what my partner is feeling', leading to conflicts in communication and the relationship.  Those who are not in relationships tend to feel that their emotions aren't important or other people really don't 'want' to hear about how they're feeling.

So.  Despite what you've done in the past, or how you were brought up, it is more important than ever today to address emotion and your emotional wellbeing.  Start with yourself.  Make sure you know how you feel about yourself and then tell those around you how you feel too.  This is particularly important for single parents who often have no time to dwell on their own emotions or wellbeing.  If you have a partner, prioritise your relationship.  Make time matter and don't put it off for one more day.  Even if it's just a date to the movies or inviting your neighbour over for lunch - give yourself the time to focus on relationships in your life (with a partner, parent, child, friend, colleague, family member, neighbour) - and make it count!

And from me...I'm off on my weekend date with my hubby to focus on emotions and re-energise!

 

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Why EQ?

EQ - Emotional Intelligence plays a big part in our lives. We might not be aware of it but it affects most areas. The awareness to develop our EQ is on the rise and is an important step in the fight to combat failing mental health. The connection between the two has been proven by many researchers including Dan Goleman. Here is an explanation of what having high EQ means:

  1. Self-awareness: If a person has a healthy sense of self-awareness, he understands his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how his actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.
  2. Self-regulation: A person with a high EQ can maturely reveal her emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of squelching her feelings, she expresses them with restraint and control.
  3. Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They're not motivated simply by money or a title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and driven by an inner ambition.
  4. Empathy: A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to empathize allows a person to provide great service and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.
  5. People skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust quickly with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them.

By using these skills we can avoid going further down mentally and possibly prevent mental health struggles. Become aware, listen and learn about your mind and body.

As far as children goes, they learn what EQ is mainly from us parents. If we are aware, they will become as well. We will always be their role models whether we like it or not.

Here is a great article on how to teach our kids EQ from ahaparenting.com:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/emotional-intelligence/foundation-for-EQ

Enjoy!!

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Your Role with Exam Pressure!

If you have teenagers writing GCSE’s or A levels at the moment chances are you are dealing with some different dynamics in the house.

There are a few things to remember as you navigate this time with your child. 

  1. Everyone learns in a different way.  If your child isn’t revising the same way you did at school, this doesn’t mean they aren’t revising!  If they are focused and showing discipline – don’t interfere with their preferred way of studying.  
  2. If they are battling and can’t seem to focus/revise without getting distracted, you may need to offer some help.  Perhaps help them draw up a revision timetable?  There are lots of online tools for this like:   https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/g/planner

Have they managed to access online help/resources?  Have you tried:-

https://senecalearning.com/  (full GCSE syllabus online revision help)

https://www.bbc.com/education/levels/z98jmp3  (stacks of quizzes to help with revision)

https://www.educake.co.uk/  (science revision)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=primrose+kitten  (Primrose Kitten on youtube has lots of help for revision)

https://evernote.com/  (fantastic online tool for making notes)

These exams are really challenging over a long, sustained period that will tax and strain even the most diligent of students.  So, as parents, perhaps this is the time to lay off the rules a bit and ease up on the demands and requirements in the house.

  • Let their bed stay unmade – or make it for them! 
  • Hang up their clothes for them or let that pile grow with no nagging from you
  • Bring them a cup of hot chocolate while they’re studying
  • Keep them hydrated with water and a few snacks
  • Make sure they take breaks and get some fresh air and stretch their necks
  • Above all – let them feel care for and supported by you
  • Let them focus on the big stuff (their exams) and you try and make the other parts of their lives a bit easier. 
  • Give them something to look forward to when their exams are finished (a holiday/treat/special outing/gift?)

You can go 'back to normal' when the exams are over!

Remember – you want to try and avoid undue stress.  Exam stress is created by fear (not knowing the work) and guilt (I haven’t done enough revision).  So if you can support your child to tick these 2 boxes – you will be doing a lot to help reduce their stress with their exams.

If you are worried about your child or their stress levels – get help.  Contact your GP or:-

http://www.studentminds.org.uk/examstress.html

https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/school-college-and-work/school-college/exam-stress/

Best of luck to all your children with their exams….

 

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Are you a helicopter parent?

There is a lot of writing about mollycoddling and helicopter parenting in the media. The impact of this way of parenting is not only on the families themselves but everyone else around them.

The schools are affected in a detrimental way as many children do not like the fact that they are just one in a group and not no 1. This causes them to act in a way to get attention and mostly in a bad way. Bad attention is better than no attention.

How can we help parents to understand that by overprotecting, paving the way and not saying NO to their children, they are creating insecure, low self esteemed, demanding little people who don't understand what acceptable behaviour is? 

Here is a great article by Amy Brown who is an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University. It's a well written article and sums up everything I want to say. Please read!

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/helicopter-or-lawnmower-modern-parenting-styles-can-get-in-the-way-of-raising-well-balanced-children-a7850476.html

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What is good parenting?

Good parenting means being responsive to the hand you’ve been dealt.
-Dr. Ross W. Greene

I really enjoy reading articles about parenting and the latest fads regarding families and bringing up children.

There have been a lot of information thrown at parents, in particular in the last 10 years or so. So many theories and ideas. Some work and others don't. 

The most important thing is to find what works for your family and that is not always easy. Also, each child is different and has different needs so one approach that fits all is generally possible.

I came across Dr. Ross Greene recently and really like what he teaches. His approach to dealing with behaviourally challenging kids seems so logical and makes sense. It has been tried with huge success in schools and homes in America and I would love to see it here too.

By meeting a challenging child with empathy and willingness to find solutions, the child learns coping strategies and how to solve these situations by themselves. Every child prefers to do well and when encourage and heard, they will do their utmost to do so. It's counter productive to punish and discipline when we don't know what their frustration is about. We and them have to understand the reason behind the behaviour and then teach the child to solve it themselves. With these coping skills, they can learn to handle difficult situations and grow to become independent and responsible. 

By asking specific questions we can find out what the lagging skills are and then define the unsolved problem. Include details related to who, what, where, and when. Ask; What expectation is the child having difficulty meeting? 

For more information please go to https://www.livesinthebalance.org/paperwork

It's worth the read.

 

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What’s with all the angry kids?

Another great read from one of my favourite authors, Maggie Dent. 

I can only agree with Maggies discoveries working with families. I too, have noticed increased problems with anger and violence in schools. Why is that? What is happening to our children? 

I can't but help to suspect lack of physical activity, outdoor play and too much gaming and screen time has had a massive impact on our society. Be aware and have boundaries, it does make a difference.

This article was originally published at Essential Kids.

As an author and parenting educator I chat to lots of parents and teachers, and I frequently get messages of concern. In the past few years, I’ve noticed an ever-increasing theme: our kids seem to be getting angrier — especially after school.

That may be a generalisation and one that is not based on peer-reviewed data. However, how to cope with angry children is a common conversation topic on and offline for parents everywhere. In fact, my most-viewed video blog on YouTube is entitled “Angry Kids”.

Anger is also something we’re seeing in our schools, with reports in recent years of a “soaring” rise in classroom violence among 4- to 6-year-olds! This is something we normally expect during adolescence. And we are not always talking here about kids displaying anger and frustration due to trauma from abuse, deprivation or abandonment, sensory processing challenges, or psychological disorders such as ODD, ADHD and those who have ASD. So what’s going on?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that anger is not the problem. It is a symptom of a deeper problem.

We know children do not have a well-developed pre frontal cortex, or “upstairs brain”, which we as adults (well most of us) are able to access to regulate our feelings, see situations from a wider perspective, have a degree of empathy, impulse control and the ability to delay gratification.

As we grow through childhood we grow not just in our ability to pass tests and developmental milestones, but in our emotional and social intelligence to better manage ourselves in lots of different situations.
With consistent, loving care and guidance from grown-ups we can learn ways to express our sadness, frustrations, disappointments and impatience without hurting ourselves, others or the property around us.

In today’s world thanks to the pressures of both the National Curriculum and NAPLAN it seems our young children have been reduced to sources of data and ‘brains on seats’ at school. Apparently the sooner we have them writing sentences, reading and getting busy with formalised learning, the better. I’ve heard of 4-years-olds getting homework, 7-year-olds with two hours of homework and a big increase in boys being suspended and expelled in the early years because of ‘inappropriate behaviour’. No wonder some of these kids are so angry or, rather, frustrated.

We have removed the high-quality, play based learning in much early years education and we have certainly demonised playtime in many primary schools by shortening recess and lunchtimes — in the mistaken belief this will make our kids smarter.

Herein lies a big part of the problem.

Grown-ups are stealing our children’s right to play — their right to have a childhood where they have autonomy and freedom to explore, to do, climb, to dig, to make, to pretend and to build all their competences not just their academic ones.

So what can parents do about it?

Fuel the brain

Like us, if children have not had enough sleep, water and good food, they will become irritable. Get them drinking water, avoid too much sugar (especially at breakfast and in lunchboxes) — and ensure a good night’s sleep.

Prioritise play

Without lots of real play, preferably outside (not virtual), even our smartest kids can struggle with making mistakes, losing and not getting what they want! Even more children struggle with self-regulation of their states of arousal, their ability to pay attention and often they are so physically passive, their nervous system simply builds up tension that can spill over into angry outbursts!

Make sure you prioritise play in your children’s day, especially outside play — stop at the park on the way home from school, hit the beach or just hang in the yard and let them have some completely unstructured play. Yes you might have to join in!

Monitor screen use

We tend to focus a lot on how much screen time our kids are having (as well we should). Pay attention also to what your kids are watching. Some cartoons teach our children how to be mean and nasty by using name-calling, put downs and exclusions.

Be present and listen

A huge part of helping kids through anger is listening to them talk about the feelings underneath. We live in a busy, chaotic world where parents often work long hours and children have to compete with technology for their parents’ attention. Ensure you spend time with your children, so they feel secure and that you are really there for them.

Celebrate the square peg

Feeling misunderstood is a huge source of frustration. Every child is one of a kind. Treating children the same without respecting individual needs, is really disrespectful and unhelpful. I can remember being compared to my well-behaved calm, quiet sister and it sure made me mad! Square pegs are not meant to fit into round holes — we need some square holes too.

Teach and model calm

Reducing stress makes a huge difference in our children’s lives. Take the time to calm your home and show your children how to calm themselves when they feel angry.

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