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.

5 Tips To Help Your Children Cope With The Chronic Illness Of Their Sibling

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.

Teenagers: “I don’t want to go to school!” When a sick day is more than an excuse

Boy in Deep ThoughtMany people say that their high school years were the best of their lives; that they were filled with the making of lifelong friends, lifelong learning and unforgettable memories. I’m not quite sure what high school these people went to, because I am unashamed to admit that my high school years were the hardest of my (albeit short) life.

Rather than looking forward to seeing my friends every day, I woke up with a ball of elastic in stomach at the thought of who I would partner with in class, or if a group of girls would allow me to sit with them during lunch. A day before a class I particularly disliked I would come down physically ill and start to tear up. As I progressed, anxiety about subjects I was particularly bad at evaporated and morphed into constant stress regarding whether I was good enough to get a high score in the subjects I had always excelled at. High school was brutal, and I needed all the support I could get.

The importance of parental influence in attending school and their role in my thriving in its harsh environment became apparent to me when I was just 13 years old. I woke up one morning and walked around school in a zombie like state. On the second day this occurred I switched off completely and all I could do was grunt. The following morning my mother woke me up and told me three very important things:

1. I had depression

2. My parents were going to get me help

3. I did not have to go to school that day

Oddly enough, the fact that I did not have to attend school that day has stayed with me as a defining memory in the last decade. It showed me that my mother accepted that what I was experiencing was valid; that she believed I could no longer fight such a battle alone; and that my health was of far greater value than any expectation placed on me by the community.

I learnt very quickly that my parents influence and the actions of my teachers and mentors had a significant impact on my recovery.  When I was encouraged, supported and given leeway in my studies to focus on my health, I thrived and was able to resume going to school and completing tasks I had once felt nauseous about.

Due to the support I received from my family and school staff, I eventually started going to school full time in my final year. This means that it took me five years to become what I viewed as ‘normal’. Each year in between involved me battling to get to school, and frequently visiting the school office to ask my father to pick me up early. In retrospect, I am able to see what was helpful in this period and what wasn’t.

So for every parent, grandparent or guardian who has a Gen Y causing chaos in your home every school day as you nearly force them to get to school, here are some simple rules that will hopefully help you and your Gen Y as you approach the next six or so years of education.

1. Let your Gen Y know that their experience is valid and that you realise this is not an excuse to miss school.

If your Gen Y is struggling to get to school frequently there is a good indication that something is wrong in their life.

2. Don’t force them to get to school.

This is not to diminish the importance of an education or the fact that your child needs to resume a somewhat ‘normal’ life. Rather, it can enable your child to work through their anxieties, fears or other issues in a safe environment before they feel somewhat ready to return to school.

3. Reinforce the importance of school as a healthy aspect of your Gen Y’s life.

If your child is not working towards going back to school first on occasion, then progressively to the capacity their health will allow, they will lack motivation and the skills needed upon their graduation.

4. Approach your child’s school and make them aware of the situation.

There is any amount of strategies and ways staff can support you so your child doesn’t fall further behind or experience a harsh transition back to school.

5. Seek outside help.

While the support of my family and school were fundamental in my recovery, having a counsellor who could listen, support and challenge me, enabled me to want to return to school. As a parent or guardian, you do not have to face this battle alone. Seek the help of a professional not just for your child’s health, but for your own.

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.

Family Transitions: The Empty Nest

Geelong counselling- empty nest for families in transitionYou have invested possibly 17 – 25 years of your life into your son or daughter. The years hold memories of laughter, tears, celebration, struggle and pain. As a parent there have been times when the responsibility of raising your child has been costly and you have looked forward to the day when they would be independent and living their own life.

On other occasions, the prospect of your child leaving home may have brought with it a profound sense of loss. All of these feelings are normal and part of the human experience. It is important to acknowledge the complexity of emotions you feel as you make the adjustment to living without your adult child at home.

When our children leave home we can feel physically and emotionally empty. Our feelings are telling us that we have suffered a significant loss and we need to grieve our loss.

The period of grief is different for everyone however if you find yourself stuck in this grief for a lengthy period of time, reflect upon the following questions to help you process what your ‘stuckness' might be about.

1. What role did this child have?

A. In your family

Some examples of typical roles family members have include: ‘the peacemaker', ‘the clown', ‘the good girl', ‘the helper’, and ‘the negotiator'. When that person is no longer present to maintain their role, it upsets the equilibrium of the family unit. It takes time for the family members left behind to adjust to the change.

B. In your relationship with your partner

Frequently when couples experience unresolved issues in their relationship, a child will become the confidant and friend for one of the parents. She becomes the container of your feelings and emotions and can be relied upon to intuitively understand your needs. In this way, the couple can remain together without the tension becoming unbearable. When she leaves home, the couple are confronted with the problems that were never resolved and find themselves isolated from each other.

2. Does that child have particular significance for you?

For instance, is he

  • The youngest child, your ‘baby'?
  • The child that survived significant trauma at birth?
  • The child that reminds you of your now separated or deceased lover?
  • The child you never thought you could have?

When a child holds a particular memory or experience for us, it can be particularly distressing to ‘let go' of them.

3. What meaning do you ascribe to your child leaving home?

Leaving home is necessary for your adult child to become his own independent and separate person with his own beliefs, values and lifestyle. When we don't allow our offspring to separate from us, be it physically or emotionally, we stunt their growth as normal functioning human beings.

Sometimes a parent can feel rejected when you see your child so eagerly leave home and take on a lifestyle that may not be reflective of your own. If you can identify with this, understand that this is her opportunity to explore who she is. Neither of you want a carbon copy of yourself!

4. What other friends and interests do you have?

It is very normal to discover that in the business of raising children, you have neglected to invest in your personal development and social network. Take time to reflect upon your own hopes and dreams for the future. It may be your time to begin something that you have always wanted to do but never had the time.

You may also have neglected your relationship as a couple and feel like your living with a stranger. It is important to sit down together and talk about your hopes and dreams as you anticipate this next phase of your life together. Get to know each other again and be intentional about doing some activity together.

As you read this, you may find you identify with some of the experiences I have described. If this is the case for you, then you may find it helpful to talk to a Counsellor about your experience to help you fully understand and process your loss.

It may be the right time for you and your partner to seek Couple Counselling to ensure that this next phase of your life together is a satisfying and rewarding experience.

If there are other family members still living at home, it may be well worth you doing some Family Counselling together to talk about the changes that are occurring.

Counselling will help you to understand how your child leaving home impacts you and the people around you. It is important to talk about your experience so that you are able to process and integrate it, and identify what it is you need to do in order to move on and embrace a new beginning in your life.

If you want to grow, experience wellness and reach toward your full potential 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.

 

On Tolerating Our Differences

I still remember the first time that I recall feeling different.

My family had relocated from a White Anglo- Saxon suburb in Geelong to an inner city suburb populated by Greek/Italian migrants, in Adelaide. Religious Instruction, was a weekly curriculum feature and children were grouped according to the faith declared by our parents.  I was a painfully shy girl, and when it was time to go to our separate classes, I sat quietly at my back-row desk, to afraid to ask the teacher for help. The adult who walked into the classroom was completely foreign to my experience. A large bearded man, in a black robe, strange looking hat, and a large cross hanging around his neck. When he started chanting in an unfamiliar language, I was frightened of what I didn't understand and terrified that he would discover  he had  an ‘alien' in the room. To my embarrassment, the priest became aware of my presence as I tried to mimic the other students doing their  prayer ritual. I was swiftly evicted from the classroom and taken to the more familiar group of white Anglo Saxon Christian  children!

Being different was an embarrassing and ultimately shaming experience.

My presence was not welcomed nor tolerated. The message I received that day was that I did not fit in, I did not belong. I learnt that being different was lonely, uncomfortable, unsafe and to be avoided at all costs.

It is this fear of being different and the need for acceptance and belonging, that encourages us to forge our identity according to the group identity – its' beliefs, rules, dress code, language and behaviour.

Fear of difference breeds misunderstanding, intolerance and hate. It sets people against one another, isolating us by virtue of the barriers we build to keep the people who are different to me, out. Families, workplaces, communities, and nations are fractured and destroyed by fear and our inability to tolerate what is different to our experience.

One of my greatest challenges has been to overcome my fear and learn to tolerate difference. I have had to find the courage to let go of the fear of what I don't understand or tolerate and be curious and accepting of people who are different to me, without feeling threatened by them  or feeling the need to challenge or change them. Being respectful and kind to others, learning to welcome difference and allow it to enrich our lives is a quality that matures us as individuals and builds a stronger, more resilient community.

I have learnt that in spite of the things that make us different – our race, culture, beliefs, lifestyle – that as human beings we are all connected. We all want to give and receive love, experience joy and sadness and have the same basic needs to sustain life. As different as we all are, we are not so different.

If you want to grow, experience wellness and reach toward your full potential 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.