Relationships

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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What does family mean?

Following some recent conversations about our Company name ‘Family Focus UK’, Åse and I were prompted to pose a new question on our homepage…‘What does family mean?’

When we joined forces, Åse and I were both working predominantly with parenting and we were both extremely passionate about its importance and the family structure. We wanted to focus on this notion of ‘family’ - hence our choice of Company name, Family Focus UK.

However, the tremendous growth in the talk, publicity and awareness of mental health and wellbeing has morphed our work from a purely parenting focus to one that includes a wider scope of topics. So then. Do we change our Company name from ‘Family’ to ‘something else?’

Absolutely not! Because the word ‘family’ is no longer a singular explanation from an olde-worlde version of 2 parents and 2 children. Family has evolved over time to encompass so much more:

In the context of human society, a family is a group of people related either by consanguinity (recognised birth), affinity (marriage or other relationship) or co-existence

Members of the immediate family may include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Members of the extended family may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings-in-law

Family can relate to places of work or associates by proximity

In most societies, the family is the principal institution for the socialisation of children.

The word "family" can be used metaphorically to create more inclusive categories such as community, nationhood, global village and humanism

We believe that family is a lot more than your birth connections. Family is your community that you build around you. Your work colleagues, football club, your Church, your choir, your neighbours and school friends. Family is the unit you connect with that brings value to your life and gives you purpose. Family can be given to you with birth, or you can create it yourself by forming relationships and connections that matter.

So - who is your family? What are you doing to protect them and nurture them? Do they know that you consider them family? If so - show them!

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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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Perfectionism and Mental Health

Most of us will relate to the word ‘perfectionist’ and will probably have images of someone who can’t leave things undone; who sets extremely high standards for themselves and others; often appears stressed and under pressure and seems to be intolerant of those who don’t behave or perform to their high standards.

Perfectionism is one of those character traits that can be a real positive (if channeled correctly) but can also be a big contributor to stress and burnout.

So what are the characteristics of perfectionism? 

Fear of failure:  You see failure as a reflection on your abilities or your value.

All or nothing thinking: You are very black or white – right or wrong.  You have a tendency to extremes.

Defensiveness. You hate criticism and often get very defensive if you think someone is pointing out your weaknesses or (perceived) failures.

Finding faults with yourself and other:. You are often on the lookout for imperfections in yourself and others. You tend to be largely overcritical of any mistakes and feel it’s important to correct people when they make a mistake.

Inflexibility:  You have a very high standard for both yourself and other people that is a rigid line that needs to be met.  You often say words like ‘must’ ‘should’ have to’ when you speak.

Excessive need for control. You like to control other’s behaviour and thoughts as you see it as helping them from making mistakes (whether they’ve asked for help or not).

Difficulty delegating:  You will often say to yourself ‘if you want this done right – do it yourself’.  You have a tendency to micromanage others around you.

The biggest concern with perfectionism is the link between these ‘workaholic’ behaviours and the drain on your mental and physical energy.  The relentless drive to work to perfection leads to a very rigid thought process and an increase in your body’s (negative) stress response.  Perfectionists often experience anxiety over their performance as they feel unable to live up to (often) unrealistic standards.

Often, a perfectionist creates a cycle of behaviour where exacting standards (which cannot be met) leads to more effort in a strive to achieve and then perceived failure which starts the cycle again. This will affect your energy, your emotions and ultimately your relationships, home life, relaxation and your ability to work. The result is often burnout, depression or the inability to cope with your levels of stress. 

So, before your perfectionism traits start to manifest in excess stress or failed relationships.  Ask yourself some questions and do some reading about how to combat the negative effects of perfectionism and channel the positive traits.

Some websites that might be of interest:-

 https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Perfectionism.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/depression-management-techniques/201203/handling-perfectionism

https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/perfectionism-children/

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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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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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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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What keeps a relationship going?

When there are two people bringing up children together, the kids take up a lot of time. Some relationships can break under the strain of this and unfortunately around 40% of marriages end up in divorce. Why is that? Do we give up to easy? Have high expectations?

Research shows that lack of communication and having different expectations can eventually lead to separation. 

Couples that prioritise each other tend to have a closer relationship and work things out in a better way. By prioritising each other I mean spending time together without kids on a regular basis, support each others other hobbies, 'allow' each other time out with friends and have a united front with the kids. To undermine each other is immensely demeaning and to not feel appreciated slowly but surely works away inside.  A main reason partners give up is not being heard and feeling ignored. Lack of sex is another one.

Here are some useful tips, see how many you can tick off!

1. Show that you appreciate them.

When you've been married for many years, routine can become a slow relationship killer. A little bit of attention when a partner comes home can work wonders. Studies show that nearly half of partners that have cheated, say it was because of emotional dissatisfaction - and not sex. When we don't feel connected or appreciated, we become vulnerable to the advances of others who pay attention and are complimentary. 

In his film "Annie Hall," Woody Allen states that "a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies." I believe he was right.

2. Say thank you for the little things.

Keeping track of the positive things a partner does and thank them for them for it will show that you notice what they do and that you are grateful. We all need to be noticed and appreciated!

3. Be honest and communicate.

If you are feeling neglected and need to be seen, say so before it gets too much. We assume our partners should see and understand but that doesn't always happen. Share worries what ever they are, financial, self confidence, appearance, friends and of course, the children.  

4. Foster relationships outside your marriage.

My girls' trips are an important part of the marriage. As are my husbands biking or rugby trips. These weekends away with friends are important to be a better wife, husband and parent. Spending time with others and enjoying new experiences makes us more interesting to be around. 

There is plenty of room for other relationships in your marriage, and I don't mean romantic or sexual ones...

5. Don't sweat the small stuff. Or deal with it straight away!

There are big things and there are little things. The big things - addiction, illness and unemployment have a massive impact on a relationship but most of us don't have problems of that magnitude. Most of us have problems that are more like petty and repeated annoyances, which then grow into massive issues that effect how we are with each other.

Pay attention to the small things and address them before they explode! It's the unsaid resentments that will eventually do a relationship harm.

6. Let it go. Yes really.

Sometimes the best way to address a problem is to just walk away from it - as in seriously let it go. Chose your battles wisely, sometimes things are said that shouldn't have but know it's not always intended. Let it pass. Forgive and forget more. Remember why you married this person in the first place and the reasons behind it. They are most probably there, just hidden at times. What is really going on in their life right now and what do they need from you?

To really let something go requires also letting go in your head, if they stay there, they will come out in on way or another. LET IT GO!

7. Recognise the ups and downs.

One thing I am told quite often by a client is 'I just want to be happy'. Happy is not a constant, it's an emotion that comes and goes. Sometimes we love our partners to bits and the next week we can move out. By recognising this and allow the downs to come and then go, we can be safe in the knowledge that this is normal. The trick is knowing that you won't stay in either place forever. Most marriages are spent in an emotional middle ground. It's that place where you know what your partner is about to answer and says a comment that you were just about to say. Knowing someone pretty much inside out and feel safe. There will always be struggles but facing them together makes you stronger. Remember that!

8. Be kind.

Tendencies are that when we are in a bad mood, our partner soon knows about it. We have to let it out somewhere, right?! Yes we do, but not at home... There are lots of ways to off load stress and moods. Our partners deserve our love and kindness. What can I do today that will make my partner happy? Watch that rom com she loves but you hate? Go to the car show that he loves and you hate? By doing things for our partners we show them our love. They feel special and appreciated. It's like filling up a cash machine with notes; sometimes we need a large withdrawal and if it's already low there will be a problem. Keep it full as much as you can!! 

Be intimate in every way possible, it's not all about sex. Intimacy is about showing care and consideration, tell them you love them, give compliments and surprise with gifts every now and then. Touching, hugging and holding counts just as much. Look after each other!!

 

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What's work and life balance about?

This is a pretty constant question in working parents lives... Stress is a big factor that most companies have employees signed off work due to. Wellbeing in the work place and at home is something we can all do more of. 

How do we achieve this? What makes life easier to cope with for all of you in the family?

Here are a few tips:

Coping strategies

1. Leave stress at the door

You do a good job of keeping a happy face at work, but maybe when you come home, you let your family have it. You may be inadvertently taking out your stress on your family and doing harm without realising it.

If you’ve just ended a particularly stressful workday, pause before you walk through your door at night. Do some deep breathing or listen to some calming music. This helps get you in a better mood before you see your partner and children. It will be noticed.

2. Share tasks

No one enjoys household chores, but they are things that have to be done. Evenly dividing chores like doing the dishes, taking out the rubbish, vacuuming, washing the dog, and raking the garden can prevent future conflict.

If everyone helps, no one person will feel put upon. It also allows for teaching moments with younger children so they learn not to become frustrated when they aren’t fully capable of completing a task. In the process they will learn skills they will need to live on their own.

3. Eat together

Dinner hour is one of the most important times in a family’s life. On nights you’re not rushing off for ballet or football practice, sitting in on a parent-teacher evening, or book club, plan for your family to have dinner together. You get more than one good thing out of this.

According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, children who eat meals with their family at least three times a week are 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods, and 12 percent less likely to become overweight.

A study from Brigham Young University found that those adults who sit down to a family meal in the evening reported their jobs to be more satisfying and healthier; suggesting dinner itself can reduce stress.

This time together provides an opportunity for communication and relationship building. It allows you to find out about things that might be causing your children stress. You can help them prevent future problems and teach them how to respond to the pressures they are facing now.

4. Have family activities

You don’t have to plan elaborate trips to theme parks or grand weekend outings. Setting aside one weekend a month or one night a week to spend as a family keeps communication channels open and allows you all to bond as a family. Play board games, do an art project, or go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or even cost money.

5. Keep communication open

You know your children and spouse best. When they are acting differently or don’t seem to be themselves, you will likely pick up on that quickly. Instead of avoiding the obvious, ask what’s going on. Moody teenagers may rebuff your questions, but letting them know that you’re available to talk may encourage them to come around.

More ideas:

-     Sleep is vital. Sleep deprivation is a MASSIVE problem so do your best to get those hours in.

-     Exercise. We all know it... What's the excuse? Override and do it!

-     Laugh! Humour brightens up most days.

Good luck and look after each other!

 

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How to help when your child does something wrong...

We've all been there.  Made a stupid mistake and been petrified of the consequences.  Who did you turn to?  Who does your child turn to?  

As children grow and develop they need to develop their own moral code for right and wrong behaviour.  This is mainly governed by the culture and customs of your own family and the ethics and morals you live by.  But as they get older, they will be influenced by external factors.  Friends, school and the constant onslaught from media and social networks.

Throughout your child's journey, from toddler years to young adult, you have a role to play.  Especially in the pre-teen and teen years!  This is the time when your 'lighthouse' structure (blog of December 4, 2017) is so important.  

When your child has made a bad choice, your role is to support them to overcome the negative experience they've had.  Be a lighthouse for them and help them recognise:-

1. It was not an OK thing to do. They need to own their poor choice.

2. They are sorry it happened and be able to apologise to all who have been hurt.

3. Repair the wrong and make it right.  This is known as 'restitution and restoration'.

4. Forgiveness.  Help them forgive themselves and others.

5. Acknowledge the valuable learning experience.  They need to be aware of what they've learnt so they can grow from the experience.

If you can guide and support them with these pointers at every turn, they'll learn how to do this for themselves and develop integrity - grow into thoughtful and mature young adults.

Remember the best example you can give them is YOUModel this behaviour when you do something wrong!

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Environment, climate change and families

As parents we need to teach our kids about the environment and what we can do to help earth survive.

Of course, as with everything we do, we are our kids role models and need to show what recycling is, energy saving and buy green as much as possible.

Research shows that we use way to much chemical cleaning products and that our health is affected in a negative way. It's much better to use natural cleaning products like vinegar, lemon and bicarbonate of soda. There are much more allergies and intolerances around now than ever before. Why is that?

According to studies, we have cleaned away our natural resistance which has caused our immune systems to be less effective. By using natural products we can boost this and help the environment at the same time. 

Composting and recycling is becoming more and more common but there is still too much plastic and packaging. Talk about it with the kids and make them part of the decisions. Where can you shop using containers or paper bags in your area?

Make 2018 a year of change towards less plastic, less chemicals and environmental awareness. Small changes can make a big difference!! It's our children's future.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/talking-to-your-kids-about-climate-change/

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Core beliefs, us and our kids

I came across some good articles about core beliefs and the impact they have on all of us.

What do we want for our kids? What kind of beliefs are good or bad? How can we influence them in a positive way?

Core beliefs are assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world that we mistake for fact. They can be both positive and negative.

As a coach and therapist I know there's a reason that conversations about adult problems often involve discussions about childhood: We developed three core beliefs during childhood that affect us today.

1. Your Core Beliefs About Yourself

Your childhood gave you a sense of who you are as a person. The messages you received from your parents, siblings, teachers, and peers taught you something about yourself.

Your experiences helped you determine if you were kind, smart, socially awkward, shy or likeable. And once you gained a sense of who your are — and how others perceive you — it shaped your interactions and choices.

2. Your Core Beliefs About Others

Childhood taught you a lot about other people, too. Are people inherently good? Do they actively help others? Or do they hurt one another on purpose?

If you experienced a loving, nurturing childhood, you might have learned that it's safe to trust people, and it's good to help others. If, however, people weren't so kind, you might have learned that other people will hurt you or abuse you.

3. Your Core Beliefs About the World

Kids who grow up in caring environments with few adverse events might believe the world is a relatively safe place. They may look forward to a bright future in a peaceful world.

Kids who experience harsh and unpredictable events and those who endure chronic stress may believe that the world is a scary place, and that, no matter what you do, you'll struggle to succeed.

How we are as parents will no doubt affect our children. How it affects them is something we can influence by being aware of our actions. Awareness and knowledge is key and the more we learn and put into practice, the better off we all are. 

For further reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201709/3-ways-your-childhood-shaped-your-core-beliefs

http://allparenting.com/my-family/articles/971263/instill-positive-core-beliefs-in-your-child

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New Year Resolutions Anyone?

Whether you like New Year's resolutions or not - the start of the year is always a good time to just take a breath and reflect.  

Parenting is not a static state - it's a constantly changing and evolving dynamic that needs you to be adaptable and somehow keep up with the kids!

As we go into the start of 2018 it's a chance to think about a few things:-

  • Live in the moment.  We know for sure, that children who feel loved and cherished thrive.  Be sure to love the child you have - with all their ups and downs, challenging behaviours and experiences.  Keep celebrating every step you take together and keep moving forward.  Same applies to both you and your partner!
  • Connect with those you love.  Quality time is about connection and emotion - not just teaching.  Hug your child, listen, commiserate, laugh, play, cuddle, listen some more!  Turn off your phone and get away from the computer and just be in the moment, together - connecting.

  • Yes - you have to keep role modelling!  If you want to raise kids who are considerate and respectful they need to copy the right behaviour.  If you can't keep your emotions in check - they won't be able to either.  So, take a deep breath and speak to them with patience and respect and model the way you want them to speak to you.

 

  • Your children will make mistakes - so will you.  There is no such thing as a 'perfect parent' or 'perfect children'.  But resolve this year to be a family that thrives together, to create a family that makes choices (together where appropriate) that move you all forward in the right direction.  It's hard work - but it will pay off.
  • Parenting is a journey - filled with different paths and routes to choose.   Don't worry about what you can't control, choose what feels right for today and what will bring you the most joy and connection with your family.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year!

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The extra challenges of single parenting...

We blog about parenting issues, and we work with all parents, but yesterday at our Thriveinthework2017 event we were asked about any 'extra' advice for single parents - so here are some thoughts.

Did you know that there are currently 1.9 million single parents in the UK?  So if you feel that you are travelling this journey alone - you are actually part of a very large community experiencing the same thing.  Details of support groups and websites to access more information are below.

A few pointers to think about as you navigate this journey:-

  • Find a work schedule that works for your situation.  Don't be afraid to ask for flexitime or to adjust your working schedule.  Companies are often able to accommodate this.
  • Schedule and stick to 'kid-free' time.  Your choice!  Going out, seeing a movie, just reading a book - but you must allocate time for you!
  • Don't stress about what you can't control.  If your partner is late to fetch your child, there is very little you can do about it.  Try to focus on what is within your power to control (ie your reaction to their lateness!)
  • Make sure your children have good role models for both men and women in their lives
  • Use 'count to 10' whenever you need to.  It's hard to be 'on' ALL the time. You're allowed a few minutes to pull yourself towards yourself to stay calm! 
  • You're not competing against anyone - honestly.  Stop trying to 'be better' than anyone!
  • Prioritise.  Remember the 80/20 rule.  80% of what is really important can be done with 20% of the things on 'your list'.
  • Point out good qualities in men as a single mother, and women as a single dad.
  • Praise and congratulate yourself - you are doing a hard and fantastic job.
  • Multi-task eg test your child on his times-tables while cooking dinner

Above all - be kind to yourself and allow yourself down time to just enjoy your children.  The time passes so quickly....

Some useful links below

https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/

http://www.singleparents.org.uk/

https://www.relate.org.uk/

 

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