Family Transitions

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This week Prince Charles is in the spotlight again, not for his Royal role, or lack of it, but for his role as a grandparent. Accusations and assumptions are being printed linking his apparent absence from the new Prince Louis life with suggestions of a rift with his son prince William. Assumptions based on the untimely death of Princess Diana and the betrayal of divorce and its impact on a family unit over time. According to an article in the Daily Mail, the Middleton’s ‘offer the happiness and family stability he never knew as a child.’  I found myself sympathising with Charles. For although, not a grandparent myself, I am a mother.

I found bringing up my children wonderful, difficult, rewarding and surprising. Just when I thought I had got it right, or I had understood the situation, wham, something else would happen and the whole roller-coaster would begin again.

Naively, I thought when they reached adulthood we could carry on as adults. But no, they were still my children whatever age they reached. The coming and goings of new partners for them was interesting. Be welcoming, but don’t get too attached as just when you had embraced someone and felt they were part of the family, suddenly they weren’t anymore. Your grieving was not important as your child was to be supported in either their decision to break off with the relationship or needed support in their grief. You were only a bystander no matter how many meals you had cooked or washing of laundry you had done for the previous relationship.

The hardest part is the one I am going through now. When your child finds the one of their dreams and seems to leave your family for the new one. The excitement and individual differences that new relationships hold as they move on into new adult relationships can be hurtful when your own family unit is found lacking, be it for finance, opportunity or personal struggles. When the life you have lived is the only one you have had to work with and through and it is found not to match up with the new one.

There is sadness but happiness as you recognise that your child has grown up and moved on, making their own choices. For isn’t that always what you wanted? An independent, strong person. Capable of more than you could ever achieve. But when there are important milestones you just hope to be included because actually even though you wanted to be the best parent ever, the most you can ever achieve is to be good enough. We all have personal issues we carry within us and as we change and grow older some of those issues don’t change, they stay inside us, tiny voices of doubt.

I am sure that Charles, looking back would have done things differently. After all hindsight is a wonderful thing. But at the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail correspondent I would say- be kind. For in the end, no-one except ourselves knows the struggles that go on inside every adult, each of whom contain a child who has never grown up or who believes in the fairy-tale of a perfect family unit. For every fairy-tale has its own set of adversities to overcome before the ending is reached. Traditionally that is when the male and female marry and live happily ever after. But to be a parent is to realise that that is just the beginning of real life and sometimes there are no happy endings.

No attribution requested

WITH MANY THANKS TO THE AUTHOR

 

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Sibling Rivalry…Uggh!

(3 minute read time.)

Take two kids in competition for their parents’ love and attention. Add to that the envy that one child feels for the accomplishments of the other; the resentment that each child feels for the privileges of the other; the personal frustrations that they don’t dare let out on anyone else but a brother or sister, and it’s not hard to understand why in families across the land, the sibling relationship contains enough emotional dynamite to set off rounds of daily explosions.

(Adele Faber).

Sibling Rivalry…..Uggh, it’s one of the things that most parents struggle with knowing how to handle and one of the things that often causes us to reach the end of our tether, no matter how hard we try and stay calm.

Much of today’s popular advice about Parenting still ignores emotion. Yet emotion is what fuels all behaviours, including sibling rivalry and spats and it’s emotion that fuels our responses too.

The ultimate goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient, compliant child, but one where we as parents can empower them to problem solve and internally regulate their own emotions from a young age. Therefore the secret lies in:

  1. Your perspective: how you perceive why siblings argue. If you can see it as a process and a natural part of their development,  a practice ground if you like, of your children testing the waters of  interacting and managing relationships, then you can encourage and empower them to learn problem solving techniques and the skill of co-operation.  But also to see all behaviours as a communication of a need. There will be a positive intention behind the poor behaviour always.
  2. How you manage the situation and react. Do you use discipline for learning opportunities and teaching values, or for punishment?

So here are some Weller Way top tips based on a Positive Parenting philosophy which I hope you find helpful:

  • Allow your children to have differences: Only step in if it gets out of hand and they are not able to sort it out themselves
  • Hitting, kicking, pushing etc is the result of a child having exhausted all the options of having his needs met. Because he doesn’t have the necessary brain development to control his feelings or think of ways to solve a problem, we can step in to help, but first:
  • Consider your attitude to conflict. Do you find it difficult and always want to shut it down?
  • Their argument is not your argument, therefore Don’t take sides: Make observations and describe what you see happening without judgement. This acknowledges each child’s perspective. Ask questions, rather than telling them to “STOP THAT”. Ask if they can come up with a solution, before you suggest one.
  • With older children, we can ask |”why do you think I am concerned about what I am seeing?”
  • Identify the need…”name it to tame it”.  Is it a need to protect something they are working on? Is it fuelled by wanting a sense of ownership? Or is it hunger, tiredness, frustration etc?? Understanding the need does not mean you agree with their behaviour.
  • Put the limit on the behaviour, not the need. A limit should be something you want them to learn, and must be something that you can carry out consistently. Limits tie into family values: e.g We don’t hit each other because we love and respect each other. This builds awareness of  the WHY  certain behaviors are wrong.
  • Don’t use guilt i.e “What is wrong with you”, or “I am so disappointed in you” or “why can’t you behave like your brother”.
  • Don’t use a withdrawal of 1:1 time as a consequence, as this will have a negative effect on self esteem. Remember the behaviour is not the person.
  • Work on your own mindset and internal state. If we yell , they will yell more. It is better to remove yourself for a moment to breathe and count to 10, before tackling the situation in anger and frustration.
  • Try games that build teamwork and boost sibling co-operation.
  • Offer 1:1 un-interrupted consistent attention to each child where you can slot it into your routine and which feels natural.
  • Highlight and praise the uniqueness of each child using statements like: “I love it when you…..”

       From their struggles to establish dominance over each other, siblings become tougher and more resilient. From their endless rough-housing with each other, they develop speed and agility. From their verbal sparring they learn the difference between being clever and being hurtful. From the normal irritations of living together, they learn how to assert themselves, defend themselves, compromise. And sometimes, from their envy of each other’s special abilities they become inspired to work harder, persist and achieve.                  

(Adele Faber)

Some top Weller Way tips for a Parenting Detox

We have set new goals at the beginning of a new year since ancient times. I have read that the ancient Babylonians, 4000 years ago  are believed to have been the the first people to make New Year’s resolutions and then the  Romans made promises of good conduct to the God Janus, for the following year.

It is common to set personal intentions around Diet, Alcohol, Weight, Travel, Career or Business, Education, Hobbies, Self Help and Bad Habits, but do you consider setting any intentions regarding your family life, and specifically your Parenting? As a Family Relationship Coach, my role is to help Parents identify what the main problems are that are causing unease and conflict within the family and set goals that will overcome those obstacles to family harmony, which lead to  much more family functionality. Family functionality is a family where everyone’s needs are met and are balanced.

Does it feel good to live in you family right now? Are you living with people you like and trust and who like and trust you? Virginia Satir said that “Knowledge is important for people making, it’s not just about instinct and intent”. We all know, or have found out that Parenting is one of the most complicated jobs on earth, that doesn’t come with a training manual. Part of the reason it’s complicated is because we often get stuck, stuck in loops of un-productive behaviour, stuck in same old ways and stuck in peas in pod type parenting, which doesn’t acknowledge identity.

This is a guide to help you set your Parenting intentions for the year . I’ve tried to keep it simple and straight to the point, being mindful that January opens the floodgate of articles of “new year, new you”! But also because too often in our frantic worlds of trying to fit it all in, the simplest and core foundations get lost or forgotten.

A great starting point to set your intentions is to review what the problems have been.

” Problems will always be with us. The problem is not the problem; the problem is in the way people cope. When we learn to cope differently, we deal with the problems differently and they become different.” (Virginia Satir)

For older children a positive way to tackle this is to hold a family meeting to set your 2018 Family Vision. This gives everyone a safe space to be honest, and if it is followed by something fun can be an enticement. Group rules can be set in advance to avoid confrontation.  Some good questions to ask depending on the age of your children include:

  • What went well in 2017?
  • What was difficult?
  • Does everyone think that the boundaries are working?
  • Ask your children what they would like to achieve this year for themselves and then ask them what support they need from you  for this.
  • What would you like to happen in your family this year?
  • What will help you achieve more balance in juggling it all?

This type of meeting is a good time to remind children about established boundaries , why they are in place and the consequences if they are ignored.  Re-define if some are no longer age appropriate. Can you introduce more responsibility to encourage independence?

If you have young children , a conversation with your partner could take place along the same lines.

Are the boundaries working ? If not, do you want less nagging, yelling, commanding? Do you want to Engage, not enrage? You can achieve this by choosing your battles in accordance with your values. Spend some time reflecting on what small stuff you can let go of. Can you practice more patience and flexibility? You can do this by employing more active listening and watching, watching  for non-verbal cues to understand your child’s emotions.  Matching or mirroring non-verbal cues instantly boosts connection as your child unconsciously experiences  a deep acknowledgement.

Give Space and ownership around Emotions, which helps children understand that they are entitled to their feelings. By dismissing feelings by saying, “don’t be angry”, children don’t learn to trust their feelings and develop their own inner compass. Dismissing children’s feelings or trying to manage them is a classic sign of helicopter parenting, as is  telling your child what they are feeling , encourage them to name it themselves.

Practice and teach resilience to help children understand that mistakes and failures can be overcome, and talk about what could be done differently next time to get the outcome they wanted.

Use discipline as a teaching opportunity, rather then relying on punishment to stop negative behaviour. Try to avoid time out’s by seeing the behaviour from your child’s point of view. Consider what is the positive intention of that behaviour, by doing so, this can help you help your child find another way to achieve his positive intention without the negative behaviour and invites gradual change. This stops children thinking of themselves as “mean” or “bad”.

Reflect on Communication styles. Can you choose more positive and temporal language  when you speak to your children?  and with smaller children encourage  the words thank you wherever you can in order to start building an awareness of Gratitude . Acknowledge positive behaviour, through praising effort over achievement more than criticising the behaviour you don’t want. And sometimes if you don’t know what to say, don’t try, just hug it out instead.

Be mindful that the World is becoming more complex and the challenges our children face are much more complicated. Ask more questions instead of making judgements. Be open-minded where there is no conflict with your values.

Set a Consistent bedtime and bedtime routine, limiting screen time at least 1 hour before bed.

For teenagers set curfews for going out, which balance the need for a social life, but doesn’t interfere with sleep needs and demands of homework. Limit sleepovers to school holidays.

Put some boundaries in around screen time by creating device free zones around meal times and family time i.e when watching a film together. Keep phones out of bedrooms at night by creating a charging station downstairs.

Increase time outside for all the family. We can all become deficient in Vitamin D which can contribute to irritability and low mood.

Increase 1:1 time: Consider ways you can spend time with your child that is not interrupted. Spending time with each child, separate to family time, sends huge messages of love, whether it’s doing lego or a puzzle, or going for a milkshake. Is there a form of exercise you could do together? Mothers are much better at doing this generally. Encourage Fathers to do the same, this is so important for boys in particular.

Eat more Greens, even if you have to disguise them. Greens are massive weapons to fight the anxiety gremlins.

Make your home somewhere your children want to be: A safe place where they feel nurtured and want to bring their friends to.

I hope that by implementing some of these it will make your home somewhere you want to be too.

 

 

 

 

Patience

How many times have we heard the expression “Patience is a virtue” when we were growing up? It particularly comes to mind for me when assembling flat pack furniture, opening CD wrappers and unscrewing safety caps on cleaning products. And I am often reminded of the virtues of Patience during my yoga classes.

The definition of Patience and it’s usage is often associated with negative feelings, and avoidance, to avoid crossness, to avoid stress, to avoid difficulties. In fact the puritans of the 17th century loved the name Patience, a derivative from the latin “pati” to suffer, but in it’s purest form, being a virtue of the mind, I find it a peaceful , rewarding and highly relevant word.

The inspiration for this blog sprung from my yoga practice this week and a feeling of elation, when after 3 years of trying, trying, trying, I finally did a Crow pose successfully. The feelings of joy and accomplishment were immense, so much so, that I had to tell the yoga teacher, Helen, who gave me a little clap. Afterwards, I reflected on, why, and how I enabled this to happen and after some thought, realised that I had spent so long making excuses, “my wrists aren’t strong enough”, “I’ll fall on my head”, “I just can’t do it”, I was so focusing on the negative voice in my head , that I forgot to trust in the process. It was only when Helen actually said those words….”just lean forward and more forward”, in her beautiful lilting voice that  guess what, my brain responded and my feet lifted off the ground. I trusted in her words, ,the process of the move , and in my body to  let that happen. It was a real awakening  moment! But so often we are so attuned to enduring, fighting, reacting, stressing, busyiness, over-thinking, over-processing, and multi-tasking, that we forget to actually be still, listen and follow the instructions, and trust the process in the environment where we are learning.

How wonderful would that be, if I could transfer the philosophy of yoga, into my day to day living and really trust in the process of building a successful business, that accomplishes my vision.  My yoga practice is instilling in me an acceptance of where I am and where my body is right in the moment, and the ability to accept that some days, I don’t feel as strong physically as other days. I used to get cross about this, but I’ve started listening to the wisdom of my yoga teachers. In equal measure, some days, I can be really productive in growing the business and achieve progress and other days, I am learning to accept that some things are not meant to be.  I was also beautifully reminded by a very wise soul this week  that I am setting sail on a journey , and to keep my eyes focused on the journey and not the destination, and to trust in the process, otherwise I will miss things along the way. I deep down know that I am fortunate to be equipped with the skills, background, qualifications and the right support to be in the right place to trust in the process and the growth of my business, but it’s challenging at the best of times!  Even when I wobble, I somehow am blessed to be in the right company of supportive women who fill me with their encouragement and wisdom….(you know who you are!!)

In contrast,  the vulnerable clients I coach at the hostel, have few experiences of the positive benefits of the joys that trust and patience bring.  Having to live at a homeless hostel, too often and understandably so, becomes one of endurance, rather than an embracing of the opportunities of support and learning that are offered.  Not surprising when Learning has been  associated with suffering, negative experiences, boredom and failure.  Trusting in the processes and structures of Family, and Services, together with circumstances has not brought security to their lives.  But neither has personal responsibility been promoted from an early age and so a victim personality emerges. So the biggest challenge from those of us who support them now is to build a connection of trust, through which we can weave hope, positivity, warmth, generosity, empathy, curiosity, and patience into their lives, gently breaking down the defences of survival mode.

We are all aware of the many dedicated educational professionals in the UK and US who are now openly critical of our current educational system for it’s methodology of teaching to pass exams.  Where is the education that promotes patience, critical thinking and deep and meaningful contemplation? But where is the society that promotes Patience? In our fast paced, instant gratification, take-away, credit card existence, how is Patience engineered? An American Professor who has published an article in Harvard Magazine , states that the

“the opportunities to engage in deceleration, patience and immersive attention are the kind of practices that now are most needed, because they are simply no longer available in nature. Every external pressure, social and technological, is pushing students in the other direction, toward immediacy, rapidity and spontaneity-and against this other kind of opportunity.”

For those of you who’ve read my Teenage brain blogpost, will be familiar with an adolescent’s limited abilities to forward plan, organise, and wait at the best of times, so with the added pressures of society’s pace and tendencies, together with technology’s promotion of instant gratification of “likes”, where does, and can Patience exist?

Patience is a name that has gone out of fashion but as a virtue I hope that it can be role modelled and instilled in those who we care for or support. Promoting subjects or encouraging hobbies such as Art, Music, Sewing, knitting, crafting, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, reading, gardening, puzzles, lego,  all help us in developing Patience. Art and Music should not be considered as “soft subjects” and put into the background by schools. Yoga and Mindfulness have a huge place in the school curriculum and have far-reaching positive benefits on behaviour.

Patience is a key component of emotional resilience because it gives us the ability to accept where we are and the resilience to continue on our path to achieve our dreams. For some of us, it takes years, but we keep plodding on, because we have tenacity, we were taught tenacity by a post war generation.  Patience is a key part of a Growth mindset, as oppose to a fixed mindset, a Growth mindset where we respond to challenges through effort and learn and develop through our mistakes. Patience helps us trust the learning process and allows us to respect ourselves enough to accept that.

We can also promote the values of Patience in our language patterns which lead to conflict within our relationships. Instead of saying to our children: “what’s the matter with you”, we can say ” I have noticed that you seem to be struggling with….. how can I help?”. Instead of saying, “I’ve had enough of you”, we can say, “I think we need to give each other some space”. Instead of saying when experiencing difficult moments, “I give up”, we can say, “I will use some of the strategies I’ve learnt”. Instead of saying “I can’t make this any better”, we can say “I can always improve, I will keep trying”.

If we don’t have patience: How can we achieve our dreams? How can we sustain our relationships? How can we process and manage our feelings, and those of others around us and how can we respond to other’s pain or struggles in a supportive way? But above all Patience is the antedote to anger and the precursor of Respect. Patience in the end leads to peace, enablement and growth.

Patience with others is love, patience with self is hope , patience with God is faith. (iliketoquote.com).

 

 

Life Lesson from a Sunflower

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As I was clearing my autumnal garden today, in readiness to plant my spring bulbs, it was with reflection that I removed the no longer proud and erect Sunflowers, whose heads had drooped and whose stalks were bent. Every year I grow Sunflowers from seed and love nurturing them from tiny seedlings that can be ravaged by pests, to full maturity when their joyful, splendorous golden heads turn to the sun and flower in full glory. But I was also grateful that I had enjoyed their glowing presence in my Garden for the past few months, together with a teeny sense of achievement that I had managed to grow and protect them from the ravages of Garden pests and the Summer storms.

Sunflowers originated in the Americas in 1,000 BC where they were cultivated for their nutritious seeds. They were used in late summer festivals as a symbol of bounty, harvest and provision. As European explorers introduced them to Europe , their popularity spread, and symbolism was attached to them, as with all flowers.  The English name for the sunflower is Helianthus, a combination of the Greek words for sun and flower.  In Greek mythology , Clytie a water nymph  becomes the flower after losing her love who was Apollo. Clytie, in the form of the sunflower is always facing the sun, looking for Apollo’s chariot to return so that she will be re-united with him. According to Ted Andrews, in his book: Nature Speak, water  is connected to the sunflower as water builds up in the cells of the shady side of the sunflower’s stem and pressure forces the blossoming head in a steady arc towards the direction of life.

From the ancients onwards, Sunflowers are associated with happiness, positivity, longevity, strength, adoration and loyalty and is a sign of Good luck in the Chinese culture.  In fact, one book I have on flowers translates the Sunflower’s symbolism as “Stand tall and follow your dreams. Focus on what’s positive in your life and don’t let anyone get you down”.  Victorians attributed gratitude to the dwarf Sunflower. The Victorians excelled in using the language of flowers as a secret communication tool, constructing posies of specific flowers with specific meanings to communicate messages that were thought too emotionally expressive to say out loud.

Sunflowers remind me of happy lazy holidays in France when my children were little, where landscapes are dominated by fields of rows and rows of stunning bright yellow happy flowers. But they also remind me of a particular time when I was heavily pregnant and my son’s nursery was running a Sunflower growing competition. My son aged 4 had planted his sunflower grown from seed out into the garden and was measuring it daily, when one morning , after heavy rain overnight, we discovered the stalk had snapped. He was inconsolable. Despite my overwhelming desire to make things better for him, no amount of sellotape or miracle working gaffer tape was going to fix it. I couldn’t fix it, he was going to have to accept that his precious plant would not be entered into the competition now and manage his disappointment. But I wrote him a poem, a poem that he could take into Nursery on the day everyone took their sunflowers, so that he wasn’t empty handed and in that poem I likened the Sunflower’s journey to our own. For me they symbolise emotional resilience, nourishment and and positivity.

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They are plants that survive strongly when in a field surrounded by others, but when planted singly need supporting canes, and often get very battered by wind and rain. They have heavy heads, and often droop when thirsty or overly hot. They are often attacked by pests, greenfly and caterpillars, that make holes in their leaves. The supporting canes often need changing as they grow taller and stronger. The Sunflower’s petals, perfectly arranged like the rays of the sun in the boldest of yellow’s represent all the warmth and vitality that the sun helps us feel. The vibrant yellow colour can be linked with the colour symbolism of the chakras too. The Solar Plexus chakra (Manipura) governs interllect, self-awareness and personal evolution, all qualities needed for the development of emotional resilience.

Helen Mirren is quoted as saying: “I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind it’s name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life”.

And so as I collect the seeds from the spent head to dry and store away until next spring for new growth, and reflect on why I love these flowers, which always follow the light, I remind myself to always remain positive, and overcome diversity with flexibility and have faith in my strength and belief system. That is the life lesson I take from this magnificent flower.

Do you Engage or Enrage with your teenager?

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I was privileged to take part in the recent Health & Wellbeing Live event, where I spoke about Parenting Teenagers. For those who were unable to make it, I promised to condense my talk into a blog. Sadly, I can’t promise to re-enact my “live” performance, including jokes and anecdotes, but I will do my best to summarise the key points! But you could always book a discovery session with me by skype, to experience a little bit of live me!!

Firstly, a little weeny bit of background.  I’m a Mother of 4 now grown up’s, (do they ever grow up!?) and I have been supporting and coaching vulnerable adults and teenagers in the Mental Health and Homelessness sector in my professional life. I decided to go solo at the beginning of this year to help parents navigate  the demands and complexities of  raising a family . I very much believe that all our struggles and troubles stem from the way we communicate with each other both consciously and unconsciously, and by helping families reframe communication, and understanding each other’s needs, relationships can be strengthened to withstand any challenges. My particularly bold  mission statement is that by coaching parents and mediating in families, this will help:

  1. Reduce the increasing homelessness and suicide figures amongst young people in this small part of Kent.
  2. Reduce the development of Mental Health problems in our young people by helping parents know how to instill confidence and self belief in their children
  3. Support parents with the tools to manage challenging behaviours.
  4. Support and mentor young people to overcome self doubt and fulfil their dreams.                                                                                                                                                                   

So now that the boring bit’s over, the talk went a little bit like this!

The Aims of the talk were:

  1. To enable you to feel more confident in dealing with teenage challenges by understanding the science behind the tremendous changes in the adolescent brain.
  2. To feel more connected with your teenager by seeing the whole person
  3. To shift our cultural perception that teenagers are a “nightmare” to a belief that adolescence is a stage of life not to “get over” or “endure”, but one to cultivate well.

How well do you remember your teenage years? It helps to take yourself back there sometimes to remember the the driving need to belong, to discover a sense of who you are, to feel comfortable in your own skin, and to find some form of approval and acceptance from others.  Yes, times have changed and the challenges are very different from when we were young, but the core search for identity and belonging is the same, because of the way our brains are wired. So when your teenager throws the inevitable comment “you wouldn’t understand, life is different now”, you can agree but also acknowledge that you have the experience to empathise that the core struggles haven’t changed.

The word Adolescent stems from the latin “alere”, meaning to nourish and grow. I love this! When I was researching anecdotes for my powerpoint, I couldn’t find any postitive quotes about teenagers, which not only saddens me but is also indicative of our cultural subliminal messages , which if we are not careful, can become the inner voice of our young people. Yes, the teenage years can bring challenges in terms of experimentation and pushing against the boundaries, but it’s also a time when our children become really really interesting people. It’s a time when we can walk alongside them, finding new ways to connect in alignment with their developing personas and “embrace” the tremendous changes that are going on in their brains. If we view this time as a stage to get over,  we miss the opportunity to cultivate it well.

So first of all to understand the science bit, there are a few myths that need busting.

  1. Hormones: hormones are responsible for changes in behaviour. Yes, to some extent they are, but not fully, it is also what is going on in the brain as a result of hormonal surges. The stimulation part of the brain is highly sensetised during hormonal surges, which increases the production of Dopamine, the neuro transmitter that is responsible for our increased drive for rewards, pleasure, and new experiences.
  2. It isn’t simply immaturity v maturity. It’s not just a case of needing to “grow up”
  3. Strive for total independence: They are chomping at the bit, but deep down they need you more than ever.

So what is actually happening: The Pathway to the future is what is happening! The changes that are happening in the neural pathways are necessary and fundamental in preparing teenagers to become resilient, happy and fully functioning adults. That’s want we all hope for as parents right? To put it into layman’s language, as I’m not an expert Neuro-Scientist, but Mr Dan Seigal is. So the following facts are taken from his books.

We used to think that the main brain development took place in the 1st 5 years, but neuro-scientists write a lot about the brain’s plasticity. During the teenage years, the brain sheds what it hasn’t used and circuitry concentrates on firing upto connect the pre-frontal cortex with the limbic system, the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for logic, language, planning, organising, time-keeping and the limbic system, responsible for our emotional regulation  is not fully connected until we are in our 20’s. Once we understand this, we can begin to understand why all those sports kits are left at the bus stop, why plans are not formulated until the last minute and why school bags can’t be packed the night before!

We can also begin to understand  because the self regulatory system is still developing why everything’s always a drama for girls! But also it’s as if a recording device has been tuned up to a new level of sensitivity, which results in the emotional intensity. The teenage brain is acutely absorbing so many new thoughts and feelings about what is going on around us. It’s a time when emotional storms are common, which result in a distorted map of reality, and often poor decision making as a result. I’m sure you have observed times when your teenager seems to be living their lives through a repeated cycle of dramas with friends. Social engagement with peers becomes a priority, which can accompany withdrawal from us. It’s important to not react to this as personal rejection. We can also interpret moodiness as personal rejection, but teenagers need time alone to process, evaluate and reflect upon what is going on around them, this helps them form their opinions and values. It’s also a time when they can creatively explore and question the world, thereby identifying their role in it, so quiet time (as long as it’s not long periods of isolation) is really crucial.

So the potential changes in behaviours being:

The desire to partake in new experiences (risky) , pushing boundaries, moodiness, emotional outbursts, lack of motivation, procrastination, argumentative or disrespectful communication, the upside is that these are actually stages that are necessary in order to enter adulthood. As I mentioned, the changes and new behaviours, experiments, questioning/arguing and strive for independence are necessary pre-lims for entry into healthy adulthood. So the end result is probably all the precursors for wellbeing that we would want for our children.

  • Novelty Seeking therefore promotes the ability to live passionately, having a sense of adventure,  being open to change and having Courage.
  • Social Engagement: Promotes the ability to create new friendships and supportive relationships. This is the greatest predictor of wellbeing.
  • Emotional Intensity: Promotes the ability to live life fully. To develop emotional regulation and resilience.
  • Creative exploration: Promotes the development of new skills, to produce new and innovative ideas . The ability to make change.

How can you manage negative and testing behaviours in a way that you Engage, not enrage?

The key fundamentals are Communication and your relationship. We are all hard-wired for connection, and although your teenager is sending you mixed messages, not wanting a hug anymore, or not wanting to go on holiday with you anymore, deep down, they need you still just as much, but they are just re-defining the terms, and the changes in the brain are preparing them for independence. One thing young people still need from us is security through boundaries, even though they are pushing against them. But you can manage this by adapting your parenting stance from authoritarian to authoritative , throwing in some coaching style too. By seeking and discussing  solutions together, battles can disappear as your teenager will feel listened to , heard and respected. This gives a strong message that your relationship is important to you.

Some tips for resolving conflict:

  1. Name it to tame it. (Dan Siegal) .All confrontation, disrespect and poor behaviour is fuelled by unmet needs, and are expressed through anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy and anxiety. So identify the need and acknowledge to your teenager that you are listening to how they feel and validate their feelings, but re-affirm that it’s not ok to take it out on you or their siblings.  If emotions are running high, the now maybe not the time to address it, but you can let them know that you are around when they would like to talk. Sometimes food or sleep is the answer!

2.      Don’t over-react or join in the drama.  Acknowledge how you are feeling. Do you                need peace and harmony at the end of a long day?

3.      Don’t attempt to rationalise or control when tempers flare. Allow space and time to            breathe….for yourself and them. Re-connect to correct if appropriate, or apologise if          appropriate (if you have lost it!). Be the role model.

4.     Make them aware of your non-negotiables and be clear and consistent with the                   boundaries around them. Discuss the reasons why they are non-negotiable. Are your         non-negotiables still age appropriate though? Always re-evaluate and explain why.

5.    For those situations which are causing stress for everyone in the family, have a joint          discussion to get everyone’s opinion on how things could be improved. This re-                    inforces that everyone’s opinion is respected and valid.

6.   In times of heated emotions, consider, is there a problem, or is it just BIG emotions. Is       there actually something to solve. Beware of attempting to fix (this smacks of                       helicopter parenting!

A good acromym to remember is STOP:

S  Stop to Breathe

T  Take a Breath

O  Observe the emotion. Label it

P  Proceed with logic.

So to conclude: What else can help? Apart from understanding what is going on in that wonderful, tumultuous teenage brain?

Through re-framing your interactions and communication mutual trust and respect is built .

By listening and validating their opinions, be excited that your teenager will  have ideas that this ever-changing world needs. The world needs, creative thinkers with a big voice.

Give them room to take risks, by loosening the rope slowly as to what you deem age approriate. This will result in steering them away from high risk activities.

Encourage activities that engage body and mind: Sport, yoga, Music, Art and Mindfulness.

Put boundaries in around sleep. Teenagers need a lot more sleep than adults – the recommendation is 12 hours. So no wonder they are tetchy getting up early for school! My children were only allowed out at the weekend once, even when they were sixth-formers, a friday night or Saturday night. This ensured that they didn’t miss out on valuable sleep time.

The adolescent years are a time to encourage, enjoy and nourish a flourishing individual.

  • “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”
    -Thich Nhat Hanh

 

This is a condensed version of the talk so if you would like any support, more information or have any  questions in relation to this post, please contact me through the contact page on my website: http://thewellerway.co.uk.

I also offer a free discovery skype session because I love teenagers!!

Thank you for reading this and showing interest in my talk.

 

 

Another Word of Encouragement

Last Sunday The Times ran a headline: “Schools fear chaos over tough A levels” and so it looks like despite the governments best efforts to reform the A level curriculum, they are now having to essentially “fiddle” the grades to avert a slump in grades and uni entry. Headlines like these are not helpful for the millions of children anxiously awaiting their results tomorrow and planning the realisation of their hopes and dreams of their next stage in life.

3 years ago I wrote a blog about my son , you can find it here

https://wordpress.com/post/wellerway.wordpress.com/30

I am so pleased to report that, having followed a new direction, a heart over head decision he has successfully graduated and has had the best time along the way. But the reason I wrote that blog was to encourage other parents to be creative on results day, if the results close one door, there are many doors open which are welcoming, beckoning and exciting . All it needs is a brainstorm and a leap of faith. Have  a discussion about connecting dreams to education. Often children can be carried along with a limited belief and acceptance of how their talents are pigeon holed at school or that they can’t study a subject at Uni, because all their A level’s are in the wrong subjects. I strongly encourage you to adopt a coaching stance style in this discussion as it also gives your child a chance to admit….actually, I never really wanted to study that, but I got swept along with the idea at school. Our children are backed into a position from the age of 14, of having to make choices about a future career before they’ve had an opportunity to venture into the realm of part time work at 16 or truly discovered their own authentic identity and therefore sometimes choices are grasped at rather than truly considered.

Some helpful pointers of how to direct a coaching style of conversation are:

  1. What have you always loved doing or reading about, what nourishes your soul and fires up your passion for learning or discovering more?
  2. What people do you admire and why? How have they achieved their ambitions?
  3. What bothers you in the world, and would you like to try and fix it?
  4. What skills do you possess v what gifts/talents do you possess and how do these match up

Tomorrow comes and it will go. For some it will be a straightforward pathway, but for others it will be tough. This is the marking point of 7 years hard slog study and dreams can be crushed by the opening of an envelope. Sue Atkins, a parenting coach suggests that we as parents can ease the impact of that envelope with the following advice:

Well, the first thing is not to look disappointed and look to blame someone – it’s a natural reaction but it’s not helpful because it will not move you all as a family into a more resourceful place.

Stay grounded, centred and positive for your teen – even if you feel upset or disappointed for them and don’t allow your partner’s reaction to cloud or influence yours ! Often in life we look back and say – gosh I’m really glad that happened as …. this wouldn’t have happened …. and I wouldn’t have …. travelled, met my wife , or spent time in Bristol instead.

Try to focus on what will be coming, what you learnt from the situation and how you can move forward either with retakes or where to go instead.

Start to immediately focus on what has gone well, and what you can do next and by keeping relaxed and open you can start to ponder more options – the secret is to remain calm, open minded and flexible and to go and talk to the right people who can help you plan the next small steps.

But while it may feel like the end of the world for a teenager whose dreams have just gone up in smoke,  they may have only taken a detour, and it might not be quite as bad as it seems. For help is at hand like never before to ensure that initial disappointment can be turned around.

My advice is that I don’t recommend retakes. It can be very isolating and demoralising hanging about waiting to do these the following summer when all your friends have gone off to pastures new, and what’s worse is seeing all their posts of having a great time on social media. We are experiencing an academically driven culture like never before, children are being brainwashed that academic excellence defines whether they will be successful or not in their future world, and as a result self esteem is suffering and anxiety is the fastest growing illness in the UK.  It is up to us as parents to re-inforce that exams are not a defining conclusion of our worth,  (in the heat of tomorrow, good luck with that one, you maybe ignored!!) But, as in all walks of life, negotiation is there for the taking for those who have the confidence. Universities are desperate to fill their quotas, as applications are declining, so give it a go, you have nothing to lose. Getting through the admissions secretary to speak to the department, is a bit like getting past a Doctor’s receptionist , so good luck, but it can be done!

Gap years are good, working and travelling gives time out to reassess and make leisurely rather than hurried choices, it also gives a newly acquired maturity to those decisions once the world of work is fully experienced. But most importantly for tomorrow, don’t cancel that lovely dinner you were going to cook, their favourite meal, or that restaurant reservation , or whatever else you were going to do. The celebration might not be what was expected, but a celebration of new beginnings, and new journeys, but above all a celebration of your family being together and instilling values of loving each other for each other, come what may.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. Calvin Coolidge