How to Teach Your Teenager to Say ‘No’

How to Teach Your Teenager to Say ‘No’From family pressures and work commitments to relationship issues, it can be hard to say no. Over the past month we have talked about the importance of drawing your boundaries. From the practical “5 Ways To Say No” to a look at how our family of origin affects us in, “How Does Our Childhood Affect Our Ability To Say No?” we have explored about why so many of us struggle to utter the word “No.” Today we conclude our series by offering some insight in how to speak to your teenager about drawing boundaries. The adolescent years are filled with peer pressure and opportunities your young person may be unsure how to navigate. Here are some practical tips you can offer them as they learn how to say no.

When it comes to

Alcohol and drugs (when ALL your friends are doing it)

If the weight of peer pressure is heavy, make a point of letting at least one other friend know that you do not do drugs or alcohol, and ask them to support you should you need the back up. Anticipating the situation will allow you to feel prepared and more confident. You might like to write down all the reasons why you choose to say no and read them to a trusted friend. Practice in front of the mirror: Say quite firmly and deliberately, “No thanks, tonight I would really like to have …….” Notice how you feel as you say this.

When it comes to

Sex (when you're NOT ready but your partner is)

Your body is your own and ultimately no one else has the right or authority to demand or take sex without your permission. It can feel awkward or even scary to say ‘no,’ however doing this is your way of saying that you value and respect yourself. It is okay to say, “I’m not ready to have sex.” You do not have to apologise or feel guilty for a decision that is rightfully yours to make. You might like to reflect upon the fears you have around the consequences of saying no. Rejection and guilt are powerful because they are feelings experienced in your body. Recognise these feelings as they have the power to manipulate your integrity. If your partner is not ‘cool’ with your response, recognise that this is their issue, not yours.

When it comes to

Buying something totally ridiculous and expensive

Be firm with yourself. Remind yourself that the feeling of happiness you get from this initial purchase will disappear very quickly. This litmus test: Leave the item on the shelf, and give yourself a day or more to decide how much you really want and/or need the item. I have used this strategy numerous times and have discovered that I will forget about the item. If a friend is putting pressure on you to buy, a gentle but also firm and honest response like, “It is lovely however I have a budget, so I’ll give this a miss.”

When it comes to

Breaking up

I am not sure that there is ever an easy way to let someone down gently, because their feelings have been invested in the relationship just as yours have. However, being kind but honest and upfront is important to ensure that there is no miscommunication.

When it comes to

Over-commitment

Is there an easier way to say “no” to that extra class/social event/internship you just don't have time for without feeling SUPER-guilty? “I’m sorry. I can't do this right now” is a very valid and respectful response. If you are further pursued, reply that it doesn’t fit with your schedule, and change the subject. Many of us find it difficult to say no when we are put on the spot, so practice saying, “Let me go away and think about it and I will let you know.” This ensures that you are not pressured into saying ‘yes’ when you mean to say ‘no’ and you can prepare yourself beforehand. Remember that each time you say yes to someone or something else, you say no to you and your priorities.

When they won’t take no for an answer?

If someone won’t take no for an answer and you have repeated this, you have the choice of walking away from that relationship or possibly garnering additional support from another trusted friend to reinforce your ‘no’. Remember that another person’s unwillingness to accept your no does not make it invalid.

What are the benefits of learning to stand your ground and say no?

Every time you find the courage to say no it is like exercising a muscle that needs stretching and strengthening. It feels difficult and painful because your ‘no’ muscle is under-developed. You just need to give it time to get stronger so that it is easier to say and it will in time, providing that you practice. Over time you will

  • Feel stronger and more grounded.
  • Identify who you are, what you want and what makes you happy.
  • Be more confident to express your own opinions and be your own
  • Have more time to say ‘yes’ to the things that really make you happy
  • Reduce stress
  • Have more energy

Being able to identify your needs and be an advocate for your own needs is absolutely essential to your health and wellbeing as you age. Where a person fails to learn this skill in younger years, self- confidence disappears, unhappiness and feelings of stress and anxiety increases and the physical body becomes unwell in response.

Learning to say no is a life skill not to be minimised. Taking the time to start practicing it today is an investment not just for the present but also for your future health.

Do you struggle to say no? Maybe your teenager needs support as they figure out how to draw their own boundaries? Then here’s what you need to do; contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

How the transition from ‘teenager with parents’ to ‘adult with parents’ is like playing Xbox on Level: Hard

By Jessica Morris

Introduction

In a recent blog, I reflected upon the challenging transitional process that a parent experiences when your teenage children transition to a young adult. Family conflict is inevitable because each family member is in unfamiliar territory. The article, ‘How the transition from ‘parents with teenage children' to ‘parents with adult children' is like solving the puzzle of the Rubik's Cube’ focused upon how parents can make this process a little smoother.

Now, Guest blogger and freelance journalist Jessica Morris addresses the same issue, focusing upon how the young adult can make the process smoother, likening the process to that of playing Xbox on Level: Hard. Are you curious? Jessica’s writing style will engage you, entertain and give you food for thought. (You can follow Jessica Morris at http://www.jessicamorris.net )

How the transition from ‘teenager with parents’ to ‘adult with parents’ is like playing Xbox on Level: Hard.

TransitionSometimes the transition into adulthood, especially in a family environment, is long and gradual. Other times, I feel it is more of a sudden lurch as if I have suddenly missed a step and am attempting to find the ground. It is, as it was said previously, like a Rubik’s cube. Yet I feel it necessary to make this more relevant for generation Y and instead liken the transition into a complicated game on Xbox. Have you ever stood in front of a television and attempted to mirror the movements of a figure on the screen while playing one of these games? Each time you complete something correctly you are rewarded with points, but fail to match the screen and you are left with nothing. Actually, this is not true. If you are playing with others you will probably be left with some embarrassment, laughter and possibly a vendetta against the rest of your friends as you look forward to watching them misstep to Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ on Dance Central. Ultimately, until you have practiced these movements over some time, you will look more like a duck rather than a competent dancer. I feel as though transitioning into the mindset of an adult within your own family is much like this. Both the young adult and the parent will inevitably face the task of copying each other’s movements. Often the other will be perceived as old fashioned, too provocative or even shameful. Yet we are given the task of learning to appreciate and at times mirror these movements- these differences that now define these individuals in the family unit as their own person. They determine their own movements and choose how to respond to those of their family members.

This transition will take time, much like the time it will take as you increase your ability to mirror the movements on a screen. Sometimes these movements we are each trying to replicate or even understand are slow and gradual. We understand how they have developed and why they are being performed in such a way. When this occurs, it is perhaps simpler to appreciate our parents. We see them as separate entities to ourselves, and so we must learn to be gracious and appreciative of the differences in their actions and words. Perhaps we will even notice similarities in how we both do things. But still there are other times this transition is more like dancing to Nicki Minaj on level: hard. In other words, members of the family are asked to pop, lock, push, pull, jump, punch and kick intensively, sometimes without warning; and they are asked to do it together.

There will inevitably be conflict in these times. The parent may want to jump when their child insists on doing a back kick combo. Other times the parent may feel completely dumbfounded as they watch their child complete these new, somewhat questionable movements, without any thought to what their parent’s opinion is. As a young adult baring a different colour on the Rubik’s Cube to my parents and as the choreographer of my own life, I would agree that a successful transition involves both courage and humility for both child and parent.

The Courage to:

• Dance to the beat of your own drum and navigate life on your own terms, rather than by your parent’s expectations.
• Speak up for yourself when you feel you are being treated as a child rather than an adult.
• Admit your struggles to your parents when needed and listen to their advice.
• Physically and mentally remove yourself from the home and begin to form your own life.
• Determine your own values, actions and behaviours and take responsibility for these.

The Humility to:

• Listen to your parents and allow them to express themselves, even when you might disagree with them.
• Have a conversation so you might understand their point of view.
• Accept that this transition is hard for your parents, be kind and work with them as you both seek to navigate it.
• Accept that in some capacity your parents will always see you as their ‘baby’. This does not have to make you dependent on them; it means they have a unique and intimate connection with you. Respect this and allow them to be a part of your life. Learn the healthy medium between the role of child and self-sufficient adult.
• Befriend your parents and get to know them as adults.
• Be gracious when they fall into their old patterns or behave in ways you don’t understand or disagree with.

If you are in a period of transition and desire the opportunity to talk and receive support through this challenging process you can call Colleen for a FREE 10 minute consultation on 0434 337 245 or if you would like to make an appointment to see Colleen, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling's online appointment diary.

 

How the transition from ‘parents with teenage children’ to ‘parents with adult children’ is like solving the puzzle of the Rubik’s Cube

rubik cube

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Remember the old Rubik's Cube? 6 colours and 6 faces with 9 stickers on each face. Each face turns independently so that the colours are mixed up. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must consist of entirely one colour. Invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik, it is a toy for all ages and consequently one of the world's top selling toys of all time. You may have had one as a child. You may even have one now. I wonder if you have had success in solving the cube and if so, how long it took you? I have to confess that any attempts I have ever made to solve the cube puzzle, have been met with frustration and impatience.

Like the old Rubik's Cube, a family system undergoing transition from ‘parents with teenage children' to ‘parents with adult children' takes on a complexity not easily resolved. Typically, each person in the family unit has their own ‘colour' while at the same time, adapting to the rest of the family system in such a way that personal and family identity is interwoven, the colours of the Rubik's cube mixed. Teenage years herald the beginning of the movement towards ‘solving' the puzzle of the cube, as adolescent family members begin to challenge family rules and values and move towards being separate, if you like, finding their unique face on the cube. This movement towards separation finds it's developmental resolution as the new young adult ‘leaves home' (literally or figuratively) to find their own place in the world.

Any transition takes time. It is never a linear process. We all move towards change and growth at our own pace. There are moments when the process of change feels overwhelming and frightening, so that we regress into former, more comfortable ways of functioning. There are times when we find ourselves stuck. Other times we experience accelerated growth. When a family goes through a significant transition, the process of change takes on a complexity, not dissimilar to the Rubik's cube puzzle, that each member of the family system has to navigate and resolve.

This has been my own present experience, having recently holidayed with my own adult (20 something) daughters. Being in close proximity much of the time, my challenge as a parent was to recognize and acknowledge that my daughters are no longer children dependent upon and answerable to their parents, but adults in their own right, functioning as separate from us and to be treated with the respect we give to other adults. Like the puzzle of the Rubik's cube, this is a challenging and frightening experience. It is a grief experience because as a parent I have to ‘let go' of the child I have cherished. How to do this successfully?

The key to a successful transition can be summed up in two words: courage and humility.

 

The Courage to: 

  • relinquish the child you gave life to, who you loved, protected, nurtured, guided and provided for.
  • relinquish your authority as a parent.
  • relinquish your personal expectations of your adult child
  • let go of the child I knew.
  • allow your adult child to have their own opinions, values, personal preferences and approach to things.
  • accept and acknowledge that your adult child is their own separate self.  Being different does not have to be a rejection of you.
  • watch your adult child make choices that you would not make but encourage them just the same.
  • withhold your judgment when you feel disappointed or disapprove of their actions.
  • risk getting to know this new adult in your life.

The Humility to:

  •  acknowledge that ‘my way' is not the only way. ‘My way' may not even be the right way on some occasions!
  •  respect and give respect to your adult child, treating them as an equal.
  •  listen and learn new things.
  •  acknowledge when you have ‘stuffed up' (and you will).
  •  apologize when you are wrong.
  •  share your own ‘wisdom' when you are invited to do so.
If you are in a period of transition and desire the opportunity to talk and receive support  through this challenging process you can call Colleen for a FREE 10 minute consultation on 0434 337 245 or if you would like to make an appointment to see Colleen, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling's online appointment diary.

Transitions: 5 Steps to Help You Leave Home

Moving_forwards_by_captivatedimagesIn this article, Journalist and Guest Blogger Jessica Morris reflects on, and gives valuable advice about the process of leaving home, both from the perspective of the young person and their parent.

Leaving home is a natural step in the process of growing up. Aside from the obvious act of physically leaving your parent’s house, there is a progression prior to this. Getting your driver’s license and then a car stretches the bond a teen has with their parent; they are given a sense of independence. Likewise, when a teen gets a job and their own income, this also alters the parent/child relationship dramatically. And after the child leaves school, there is an innate sense that they are free to do as they choose. After a while, the young adult feels as though they are a boarder in their parent’s house. They may still rely on their parents in times of trouble, but they are now able to facilitate their own life. Therefore, the act of moving away from home routinely follows these steps.

A young adult will be excited to live their own life, but may be unprepared for the realities of true adulthood. As someone who “left the nest” relatively late, 23 years old to be exact, I have had to adjust to becoming totally independent as I moved across the globe. Aside from the normal pressures of moving away from home, I have also had to adjust to a new community, a new residence and a new job. While I am still adjusting to life in Florida, there are five things I have found fundamental during my transition from home. I believe many of these also reflect the changes and challenges other young adults go through. So for all the parents who are concerned for your ‘babies' welfare, take note of these points and young adults, read these and allow yourself to relax. Transition is always difficult, but these five steps might make it a little easier.

1. Stay in contact with home

This may sound simple, but the balancing act of investing in the lives of your friends and family while also developing your new life is a challenge you will constantly juggle. Make time to contact those you are close too. It will be difficult, but fight to keep the relationships that matter. You will inevitably lose contact with some people, this is normal. Don’t allow yourself to become bitter about this; it is a natural part of life.
Parents don't force your relationship; let your child initiate contact. Give them the space they need to start their own life. Begin to develop an adult relationship rather than one purely reliant on your care of them.

2. Develop new relationships
Moving away from your community can be lonely, so make a point to reach out to new people. Housemates, colleagues, sports teams or church groups are excellent ways to meet likeminded people. Step out and purposely develop relationships. This is a new chapter in your life, embrace it.

3. Take time for you
Each person’s experience when moving away will be different. Some will have all the basic skills down pat, but will struggle emotionally. Others may be unable to cook or do their washing, but still be quite content away from home. Give yourself the time to feel these emotions, try to stretch yourself and develop new skills.
Parents, the fact your child may still rely on you for meals, washing and even finances is to be expected, but have boundaries.  Remember as much as this move is about your child's independence, it is also about yours. Teach your child the skills they need, and schedule times to catch up over dinner.

4. Be realistic
The prospect of leaving home can be romantic and full of adventure, but try to stay level headed. Do you have the finances to live away from your parents? Do you need roommates? Consider what you will eat and if you will cook, and don’t assume moving in with your friends means there will be no conflict. Be prepared for the challenges that will come, stretch and ready yourself for them as best you can.
Parents, there will be times your child needs your support whether this be emotionally, physically or financially. Let them know you are available and to what capacity you can give them this, but don’t coddle them. Allow them to make mistakes, let them create their own budget (or lack of). Allow them to ask for help.  At times it may feel like you are watching a car wreck, but this is all a part of the experience your child wants and needs.

 5. Be kind to yourself
You can plan the move from home down to precise details, but you cannot guarantee how things will pan out. There will be nights you feel more emotional, allow yourself to cry. There will be days your body freaks out, you will dramatically add or lose weight and may find yourself displaying symptoms of stress or anxiety. This is okay. You are establishing a new life for yourself; it is going to take some time to adjust. Ride this as best you can and learn new habits to keep yourself healthy.
Parents don’t stress or panic, your child will be fine. Remember you went through this process too.

About Jessica Morris

 Jessica Morris is a 22 year-old free-lance journalist living near Melbourne, Australia. Passionate about pop culture and how this intersects with mental health, faith and social justice; she seeks represent this generation within the media. You can view her work at www.jessicamorris.net.
If you would like to know more about how to navigate your present transition experience or need support as you experience your own transition contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.

 

Relationship Issues: 3 principles to ensure strong, healthy boundaries

As a person who has had to put significant effort into learning the art of strong, healthy boundaries in relationship with others, I have considerable empathy for individuals who struggle to maintain their personal boundaries and suffer as a consequence. I was reminded about the devastating impact that an absence of boundaries can have, when my friend, Sally (not her real name) shared her story on Facebook. Sally consented for me to share her story and photos with you. I have called it:

Jasper’s Ultimate Challenge for the Vegie Patch.

Cusworth 4Sally recently relocated and has been spending her weekends blissfully re-designing the backyard. Being a ‘green thumb’, she was very excited to discover the ‘remains’ of a once thriving but alas, now very neglected vegetable garden. The image of fresh vegetables on the dining table spurred her in to action and in no time, there were ‘posts’ on Facebook displaying a vegetable garden par excellence.

 

Cusworth Fence 3However like in all good fairy tales there must be a villain. The villain of this story is a likeable fellow – ‘puppy dog’ eyes, a long tongue that needs no invitation to lick your face whenever possible, a hyperactive tale, 4 hairy legs and comes to the name ‘Jasper’. Jasper means well of course, but he does get bored when the family are out, so ‘sampling’ the veggie patch wasn’t such a drama – until Sally arrived home to be confronted with the mess.

 

Not to be deCusworth Fence 1feated, Operation Dog-Proof-Vegetables commenced. A boundary fence needed to be made, and so a visit to Geelong's recycle renovation yards gleaned a gate, ironwork and finials which would become the new boundary. Within a fortnight, the fence was standing, and order was restored to Sally’s beautiful vegetable garden. The End

Postscript – Fortunately, Jasper still survives thanks to a sturdy and impenetrable boundary.

Who is your Jasper?

Do you have a ‘Jasper’ in your life? Partner, parent, child, employer, work colleague, friend or other; ‘Jasper’ is friendly, energetic, warm, enthusiastic and has the potential to overwhelm you by their easy, optimistic, encouraging and often manipulative ways. Most ‘Jasper’s are not conscious of the methods by which they manipulate; however they are intent on your co-operation and involvement. ‘Jasper’ is not good at listening, frequently fails to understand the needs of others and does not like or hear the word ‘no’. As a result, you feel perpetually frustrated, resentful and exhausted.

What to do? We can take a ‘leaf’ from Sally’s book.

Here are 3 principles  to ensure strong, healthy boundaries:

1. Give up trying to reason with ‘Jasper’ and expecting him to understand. This rarely works, so why keep doing it?

2. Take responsibility for your personal boundaries. No one can build those boundaries for you, it is your work and you need to own it.

3. Access the resources and support you need to build your boundary. You don't have to do it alone.These may include:

Further reading: I recommend a book by Dr Henry Cloud called ‘Boundaries’.

Talking to a Professional Counsellor who is skilled to: – facilitate dialogue that will promote self-knowledge – challenge beliefs that have prevented you from keeping strong, healthy boundaries (such as guilt, fear and/or the need to please) – coach you around self-assertive skills – support you as you put your personal boundaries in place.

Journaling: Writing allows you to reflect process and integrate your experience. By getting in touch with your thoughts and feelings, you will promote personal awareness and insight and feel more empowered to build strong boundaries.

A Family Therapist or Family Counsellor who is trained to work with two or more people, may be a resource when ‘Jasper’ is willing to talk about your relationship and how to improve it.

It can be hard, challenging work if you have not had experience building a strong, healthy boundary however it will be worth the effort. You will feel less vulnerable, more safe, respected and in control of your life.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and/or other relationships and need direction and support to restore communication and strong, healthy boundaries, then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

Geelong Counselling: How To Support Your Child’s Recovery From Addiction and Stay Sane At The Same Time

YoSee_the_sun_by_captivatedimagesu feel helpless, desperate and exhausted from lack of sleep and your constant ‘vigilante’ activity. You constantly question ‘what did I do to deserve this’ and, weighed down with the feeling that ‘I must have done something wrong’ you spend restless nights reliving all your greatest parenting catastrophes, wondering if ‘that was when things fell apart’.

You are a prisoner to your child’s unpredictable mood swings and anti-social behaviour. Your trust given is a trust broken and dangerously verging on irreparable. Repeated failed attempts to ‘fix the problem’ and a declining bank balance which is challenged only by your declining physical and/or mental health, have a ‘ripple effect’ on the wider family unit. Family relationships suffer as they are forced to take a back seat to the child whose substance issue demands complete attention. Family conflict erupts as the substance dependant member catapults the family from one crisis to the next.

If you identify with this experience, then this message is for you:

You did not cause your son or daughter’s alcohol or other drug problems.

You cannot ‘fix’ their problem.

 So here is how to  support your child's recovery from addiction and stay sane at the same time:

 1.  Try to provide support to your child rather than judging or criticising them. Criticism and judgemental words are powerful, having the effect of wounding your child further and creating distance. Your child will feel isolated, misunderstood and defensive.

2.  Avoid contributing to the situation, or colluding with your child’s behaviour by making excuses for them, paying their bills or apologising for them. Support your child not their drug use.

3.  Trying to avoid verbal and/or physical confrontation with your child will only worsen, not help, the situation. If you have fears for your own or your family’s safety, you should contact the police. You can discuss the possibility of taking out an intervention order.

For further information on alcohol and other drugs and Family Drug Support, go to the following links:

Information on alcohol and different drugs: DrugInfo.adf.org.au
Family Drug Support: fds.org.au
Family Drug Help: familydrughelp.org.au

 

If you are experiencing difficulties in your parenting or  need  support and encouragement, then here’s what you need to do, contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or you can make an appointment to see Colleen by booking online now.

5 Tips That Grandparents Who Support Their Grandchildren Due To Substance Abuse, Need For Self-Care

i_love_blossoms____by_captivatedimagesAre you a grandparent raising your grandchildren as a result of their parents’ inability to care for them due to a substance abuse problem? At a time of life where you anticipated being free of the responsibilities that come with raising a family, your daily life is preoccupied with the school routine, transporting children to extra curricula activities, time constraints, discipline, parent/teacher interviews and financial sacrifices (to name just a few). It can be a very lonely and isolating experience, observing your friends as they enjoy their ‘life after children’ and the freedom to pursue activities that you can only dream of!

It is normal to experience a range of conflicting emotions as you grapple with your present reality:

  • Grief and Loss – The hopes and dreams you held such as travel, financial freedom, work satisfaction, a richer social life, a new hobby has taken a ’back shelf’ to the necessity of providing a home for your grandchildren.
  • Happiness and Joy – The unexpected pleasure of being connected in a more intimate way with your grandchildren and experience their own development milestones and achievements.
  • Disappointment and Anger – You adult child cannot take responsibility for their children or their own wellbeing. Promises are repeatedly made and broken.
  • Sadness – You witness the sadness, disappointment and confusion that your grandchildren experience at the hand of their parent.
  • Helplessness – You are aware of your physical and health limitations having to parent for ‘a second time’ and you feel powerless to change the situation.

As care-giver to your grandchildren, you have a responsibility to access the support you need to care for your health and wellbeing.

Here are 5 tips that will provide you with the support you need as you raise your grandchildren:

  • Talk with a friend or counsellor. This may help to clarify things in your mind and help you to work out how to handle the situation.
  • Join a support group. Sharing your thoughts and experiences with other people who are facing or have faced the same issues, can help you to cope better and feel less isolated.
  • Familiarise yourself with the relevant drug and its effects. Understanding how it works and why people become dependent on drugs will help you understand what your child is going through.
  • Try to balance supporting your child with making sure the grandchildren are safe, happy and secure.
  • Look after yourself, both physically and mentally. It’s important to look after yourself so you can be a good carer and can support your grandchildren.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your parenting or  need  support and encouragement as you parent, then here’s what you need to do, contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or you can make an appointment to see Colleen by booking online now.

Secrets: When A Place To Call Home Is No Longer Safe

Set in 1953, A Place Called Home is the insightful portrayal of a wealthy, pastoral Australian family and the impact that the changing times have upon family relationships. The drama examines the costliness of keeping family secrets: Elizabeth Bligh, the family matriarch is the
keeper of a family secret that Sarah Adams, a nurse sharing passage on board ship traveling from England to Australia, unwittingly discovers. The drama unfolds as over a series of events, the secret threatens to unravel in spite of Elizabeth's best efforts to keep Sarah Adams away. As more secrets are exposed, like a stone cast into a pool of water that sends out ripples far beyond the stones original size, family relationships are tested and fragmented.
A Place To Call Home  provides an insight into human behaviour and the extraordinary lengths we will go to in order to hide things that, if exposed, will threaten our safety and security. We witness the negative impact that a family secret in one generation can have upon the generations to come when perpetuated. the On the other hand, courage to expose a family secret carries with it the risk of hurting the people you love, family conflict and rejection.
If you are in a position of colluding with a family secret, I invite you to consider the impact that that secret has had upon family members (including yourself) and family relationships, past and present. Secrets are perpetuated as long as we collude with the secret-keeper to remain silent. The decision to separate oneself and speak the ‘truth' into the situation is likely to be a formidable task and will be met with powerful resistance however the long term impact will far outweigh the initial cost.
If the place you call home is no longer safe by virtue of the fact that you are no longer prepared to keep a family secret, and as a consequence you have angered or offended another family member, the risk of family fragmentation is high. Speaking your truth respectfully, without becoming belligerent or condescending is no easy task in the face of strong resistance.
Here are 4 steps that will guide you through the process:

1. Seek a professional counsellor to do your own inner work

Blaming others and ruminating over hurts, past and present, feels justified but have you noticed that your anxiety, anger and pain demand 24/7 attention from you? These feelings are harsh task masters, requiring 100% commitment from you; you can't eat, sleep or think clearly, your mind so absorbed by the family crisis at hand. The overwhelming nature of these feelings spills out on to others as you ‘recruit' other people to be ‘allies' whose role is to listen to the retelling of your story of anger and hurt and share their shock and sympathy – offering you a moment of comfort and self-justification. More importantly, the retelling of your story reinforces and escalates the distress you feel as your mind continues to look for further evidence to justify your feelings. Remaining in that state creates  ‘stuckness', ongoing conflict and health problems.
Being separate from your family context, a professional counsellor is able to  respond to your story with empathy and compassion without reinforcing the distress you feel. A professional counsellor's role is to help you to clarify your feelings and understand how your particular family dynamics have informed your own perspective. Your ‘different' position in the family can be ‘reframed' from a developmental perspective that views  movement away from ‘sameness to difference' as differentiation and therefore a healthy movement, but at the same time a movement that inevitably upsets the family equilibrium and therefore initially invites a negative response.

 2. State your ‘position' respectfully and without blame

Your counsellor can coach you in how to communicate in a manner that is respectful and maintains your own identity and dignity.

3. Remain connected with the other wherever possible

Remaining connected wherever possible is a statement about the value you give, not only to this relationship but also family connectedness. To achieve this you speak and act towards the other with kindness and care. This behaviour goes against your basic biological fight/flight response already triggered by the perceived threat to your safety. Remaining connected is a counter-intuitive response that will have the effect of breaking the negative cycle of interaction that your now changed behaviour has initiated. By refusing to counter-attack with something equally hurtful, the energy that fuels the negative interaction dissipates and the other party is forced to choose how they respond. Responding kindly and calmly allows you to ‘let go and move on'. It is an incredibly mature position requiring courage and humility. Are you up to the challenge?

4. Remain connected with the extended family

Where two family members are in conflict, extended family members are ‘invited'  to align with a particular party. By implication, an alliance with one person is also a choice to be ‘cut off' from the other. When you choose to remain ‘separate but connected' with the family member who has made the choice to be offended, you also prevent the extended family from fragmenting. Make a point to communicate with the other significant people in your family from a position of compassion and humility, recognising the inevitable distress that they will be experiencing, in order to prevent further misunderstanding or untruths.
By being brave enough to speak your own truth, you give other family members permission to do the same as they feel ready.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your family relationships and need direction and support to repair and heal your family relationships  then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

Parenting: 5 Tips To Help Your Children Cope With The Chronic Illness Of Their Sibling by Jessica Morris

waiting_for_the_right_moment___by_captivatedimagesI can only imagine how difficult it is for parents as they care for a child with chronic illness. The constant trips to and from the hospital; 24/7 care at home; not to mention the financial stress of the situation are unfathomable to me at such a young age. Yet amongst all this chaos, have you ever considered how your children are coping with this chronic illness? Not just the child who is being carted around from doctor to psychologist and then to the naturopath, but also their siblings? The truth is chronic illness does not just affect the person diagnosed; it also impacts the immediate family in every way possible.

Working at a school, I have had a glimpse of the challenges that many parents go through daily as they attempt to care for their child, get them to school, work a full time job and then make it back by home time. In short, life is difficult enough for the average parent without the added pressure of a chronic illness. Whether this illness comes as debilitating anxiety, depression, cancer, Chronic Fatigue, Lime Disease or some unknown bacteria that is as of yet unidentified, it becomes well known to every member of the family.

It is possible to try and shield your children from the illness that their sibling is undergoing; however the fact that they will have to attend school while their brother or sister gets to ‘lie on the couch and watch TV all day’ will eventually cause them to ask questions. As a child who had a sibling with chronic illness all through high school, I have been able to see what was beneficial for me and what I needed in order to cope with this strange condition that debilitated my sister 24 hours a day.

If you have a child who is currently going through chronic illness, here are 5 tips on how to approach this topic with their siblings:

1. Be honest

Children and teenagers will pick up if something is wrong in their household, particularly if it involves a sibling who is now being doted over by their parents. Tell them what is wrong, give them the details of the illness (as best suited to their age and maturity) and tell them if it can be cured.

2. Allow them to help

Let’s face it, your children may not be able to do much to help their ill brother or sister, but this doesn’t mean they can’t try. By allowing your children to ‘help’ by drawing a picture, cooking, cleaning up or even feeding their sibling they will feel useful.

3. Don’t compare them to their siblings

If your child is anything like me, they will quickly realise how unfair it is that they HAVE to do everything that their sibling is unable to do. Whether this be attend school or do chores it will seem unjust that they have to carry more of the weight. Explain to them why your expectations of them are different from their brother or sister, and show them that they have many privileges that their sibling is unable to partake in.

4. Validate your child

Your child will probably become envious of the attention their brother or sister is getting. They will long for that time with their parents as well as some of the ‘privileges’ their sibling receives. Let your child know that it is ok to feel this way and listen to them. Explore how you can best show your healthy children how valued they are and try to spend time with them.

5. Be patient

Just as you are learning to be patient with your child and the fact that they are experiencing an illness you have little or no control over, the rest of your family will also have to learn this patience with each other. This period will challenge you and your family, but draw together and consistently show your appreciation and love for one another to strengthen your family unit. By doing this, you will not just be supporting your ill child, but also their siblings.

About Jessica Morris

Jessica Morris is a 22 year-old free-lance journalist living near Melbourne, Australia. Passionate about pop culture and how this intersects with mental health, faith and social justice; she seeks represent this generation within the media. You can view her work at www.jessicamorris.net.

 

If you are experiencing difficulties in your parenting or  need  support and encouragement as you parent, then here’s what you need to do, contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or you can make an appointment to see Colleen by booking online now.

Parenting: What Can I Do To Safe Guard My Child From Substance Abuse?

awaiting_the_day______by_captivatedimagesWhat can I do to safe guard my child from substance abuse? is a question that nearly every parent would like a ‘water-tight’ answer to.

From the moment of conception, your world changes forever as you are confronted by the knowledge that it is your job to nurture, provide and protect this precious life that shares your blood. Never have you felt more vulnerable than as you gaze upon your newborn child, wondering about the miracle of life and the intensity of your love for this child. In those early years, you are focused on the task of raising this child to be a ‘good’ person. You do all you can to protect your child from harm and teach them to respect and care for their own health and wellbeing.

However there comes the time when you can no longer protect your child. In order for your adolescent to develop towards a mature, well-adjusted adult, it is imperative that they separate from you and find their own identity. Called individuation, this is a biological imperative that drives your adolescent to learn independence in order to survive and thrive as they stand on the threshold of adult life. With their growing independence comes the need for you as a parent to step back and allow your child to explore their world and learn how to function independent of you.

But, you ask, can I you trust my adolescent to make wise and safe choices without me?

Seemingly overnight, your child undergoes a personality transformation: private and brooding, angry and insolent or just plain disagreeable and moody. Spending hours on social media, you feel shut out and unappreciated by this stranger in your household. Your anxiety heightens with the distance that has emerged between you and your child and with that, the fear that your adolescent will be vulnerable to other influences inviting them to experiment with drugs.

The good news is that you can have a very positive influence. There is a growing and strong body of research indicating that parental influence is the most underutilized tool in preventing adolescent substance misuse.

What does the research tell us?

  • Parents are most often identified as the individuals who have talked to a child about drugs
  • Young people consider parents to be credible sources of information about drugs
  • As agreements between young people and parents go up, drug involvement goes down
  • A supportive, warm relationship with one significant adult can be enough to protect a young person against adverse events
  • Effective parenting is a key factor in reducing adolescent risk-taking behaviour
  • The likelihood of alcohol misuse can be seen as a direct result of low levels of parental action

The key to ‘safe-guarding’ your child from substance abuse is primarily your relationship. Where your adolescent feels secure, accepted and encouraged, they will remain connected to you and therefore less vulnerable to negative influences. On the other hand, where your adolescent feels criticised, blamed, judged and misunderstood they will feel insecure and more vulnerable to the same negative influences. Above all, be aware that your anxiety is very likely to be communicated in ways that have a negative influence on your adolescent, so be pro-active about any anxiety you experience and talk to a counsellor about it.

If you are aware that the connection you have with your adolescent is insecure, give consideration to seeking professional help to support your relationship. A professional family counsellor can assist you to recover and rebuild a supportive and secure relationship with your young adult.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your parenting or  need  support and encouragement as you parent, then here’s what you need to do, contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or you can make an appointment to see Colleen by booking online now.