Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.

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Public Tantrums: How to remain the parent

Angry Girl

We have all been there, in fact you can read about one of my experiences here. As our children get older, theoretically the tantrums get easier to deal with, we can explain things more, empathise with how upset they are about not getting every single toy that catches their eye, they become a little more conscience on how to behave in public.

Though there are always going to be times when they are tired and no amount of reasoning can console the heart-wrenching screams of agony wailing through the aisles.

What can we do then?

The most obvious option is our initial reaction: through gritted teeth inform the child that “no means no”, pick up said child, walk out of the shops to the car and go home.

The next option we have is to give into the child, though this may only work the first 10 times before we run out of money and resort to option 1.

Sure, these are options, though not as effective as we would like them to be.

There are 5 stages we can employ as tactical operations:

  1. Anticipation:
    We need to anticipate that when we go to the shops, these tantrums will be a likely hazard. In this anticipation, we need to make sure that we are not building up our defences to brace ourselves, instead we need to accept that this is likely to happen, though in our preparation we can remain in control.What this does is prevents a self-fulfilling prophecy of our emotions transferring to our children, they smell stress and it causes anxiety for them.
  2. Preparation:
    In this stage, we can assertively (not aggressively), explain to the children while in the car, “I just need to let you know that we are going to the shops now to buy a birthday present for Sally for next week. Now when we get there, I only have enough money to buy this present and get a few groceries for dinner, so I won’t be able to buy anything else today, okay?”
    This conversation isn’t going to stop them from asking, if it does – cheering! Though this conversation is vital for the next stage.
  3. Diffusion:
    So you walk into aisle four with all the Shopkins toys proudly on display, you have already checked with Sally’s mum and she confirmed that yes it is a highly desired product, so it is an unfortunate aisle to walk into with your child who also desires to collect this line of plastic.

    It starts off well, your child is excited to pick out things that they like under the guise of “Sally would really like this!”, so a gift is chosen and it is time to leave, when the whine begins.
    This stage is crucial, it is a tightrope and sometimes it fails depending on the circumstances.
    At this point we need to remember that we cannot 100% control anyone else but ourselves. Look at your breathing, take note of your body language, what message are you sending?

    Crouch down to your child’e eye level, firmly explain that you “can see that you really want this toy and to not have it makes you feel really sad. I do love you and sometimes I need to say no because I love you. Remember in the car when I said I only had money for this present and food for dinner? This means that I really can’t buy anything else, does that make sense?” and allow your child to respond without being interrupted.

    This can feel like it takes a huge amount of time, though consider how much more time and stress would be involved if those first two options might take stage.

  4. Advance onto the next destination:
    To help your child to forget about those toys, moving onto the next task as quickly as possible will really help to prevent a major meltdown.
    Children love choices and being given decisions. As the next task on the list is to get some groceries for dinner, here you can engage in conversation of what to actually have for dinner, this should also help for a quick exit without getting distracted by other strategically placed desirable objects.Now here is another hidden difficulty, we need to make sure we don’t get distracted by anything else on the way, otherwise this communicates to the child that we have double standards – we need to remain self-controlled for our child’s sake.
  5. Debrief:
    Well you have hopefully made it back to the car with your shopping list ticked off and with minimal tears. This stage is important to continue this new cycle the next time you go to the shops and any other time you go out in public.Take the time to debrief with your child how things went and express your appreciation for how well your child did, ask them how it felt and point out that it feels a lot nicer than when they lose control. This is another moment you can come back to in the future when they start to get angry for not getting their way, to remind them they can do it and how nice it feels.

    Then repeat stages 1-5 whenever going into public, it will start to become more natural and effective the longer you apply this approach.

Now I feel it is important to mention here that this is not a foolproof procedure, many different circumstances can challenge it’s effectiveness – stress and fatigue factors, time constraints, physical health, etc.
If you are reading this, chances are this is an area that is really causing some difficulties for you; and chances are you have applied absolutely every tip, technique, and strategy under the sun and it just isn’t working. You may need a more individualised plan tailored to your needs, so who can you turn to from here?

  • A parenting course (you will also get support from other parents in similar circumstances);
  • A parenting expert – there are people who specialise in this area;
  • A counsellor – there may be some approaches that have been handed down through the generations and looking at the family dynamics on a whole may shed some light on the issues at hand;
  • A GP – there are many health issues that may cause mood swings and uncontrolled emotions, it would be helpful to rule out any potential causes.

A reminder you are the parent, you have the control and you can do this!

What do pre-schoolers need to learn before their ABC’s?

Teach to feel

2017 is the big year for us! We put 2016 off, with the excuse of “she’s too close to the cut-off”, though really we felt a lot of relief that there is still one more year before our little girl starts Big School!

In all honesty, I think she could have handled the workload; maybe not sitting still for so long, though the workload yes. Children truly are sponges – it is amazing the things they learn and remember. We have had to change our approach of “No, we can’t do that right now because…” to just “No” as she could always think of logical ways to overcome the very barriers “preventing” us from meeting her requests.

Though, at age 4 years and 6 months, is she really ready to attend school at this point in time? Ignoring the Mum in me desiring to slow down time, the counsellor part of me feels that we have made the best choice. Our daughter is determined, witty, creative and great at problem-solving – though she is still getting a grip on her emotions.

What does this have to do with pre-schoolers not needing to read?

Well, by this I don’t mean they don’t need to be read to – certainly there are a tonne of benefits children can experience by having Mum or Dad spend quiet time in imagination land, as well as supporting the key purpose of this blog.

No, what the title is saying is that children of this age do not have to start learning how to read books by themselves right now to get a head start in life. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, it is more so that there is something incredibly more important that they need to intentionally learn – and that is about emotions.

Ok, who here has watched “Inside out”? Don’t worry, I won’t ask how many times you willingly watched it or coerced your child to watch it!

There was an absolute critical part that really struck a chord with me. At the end, just before their big family embrace, Riley (the little girl in case you haven’t watched it), said:

“I know you don’t want me to, but I miss my old home. You need me to be happy, but I want my old friends…..please don’t be mad”


This little girl has just gone through a major trauma of packing up the only home she has ever known, moved to the other side of the country, left her friends and hobbies behind – and on top of that she feels the responsibility to be happy for her parent’s sake. Heartbreaking for any parent to hear!

We can so often get consumed with helping our children succeed in life, that we bypass the foundational work, and start them straight on the adult work.

Showing my age or youth here, you choose! I am reminded of Curly Sue. The 1991 film starring Jim Belushi and Alisan Porter, a homeless duo that create cons and scams to scrape by with enough to eat. In order to show off to a well-to-do lawyer they met during one of their cons, Bill (Jim) instructs Sue (Alisan) to spell asphyxiate (which she does perfectly!). Later, the lawyer asks Sue to spell a smaller word, like cat, to which Sue confesses she doesn’t know how.


As with Riley and Sue, they were both indirectly and directly put in positions where they had to act as adults without the foundations they needed.

If you are reading this, chances are you are like me and want to set your child up for success. To do this, we need to have the patience to lay the foundations and wait for them to set properly.

We are a society of empowerment – yet too much too early can be detrimental. Children are growing up with the belief that they need to conquer the world, but are too anxious to know where to start. This is a key factor in addictions. Addictions start off by trying to find something that takes away the bad feelings – though the best they can do is mask them, creating a destructive cycle as the feelings get stronger to get the correct solution.

So why is emotional intelligence so important?

Feelings help us to work out if things are ok, or, most importantly, if something is wrong. We can usually very easily work out if things are ok, though if things aren’t, and we don’t know why, it can get very scary – and that is what we experience! Imagine being a child again, knowing something is wrong but not sure what – it is impossible to ask and receive the help we need if we can’t even explain the problem!

How can we start developing our child’s emotional vocabulary?

A really helpful first step you can start right away with, is building up your child’s emotional vocabulary. This isn’t just giving them words, but helping them to link the word to the feeling. This will involve taking opportunities as they come, and expressing your feelings as they come up. The more words you use, the more you add to what your child can use.

Another way to add feeling words to their vocabulary is by reading books! Along with the previously mentioned benefits, children can learn new words by hearing you read to them with emphasis – sad, happy, scared, etc. Stopping every now and then to explain words can help encourage interaction to process the new words.

What are the benefits?

You will actually find yourself feeling more in control as you give so much more intentional focus to your own emotions – allowing you to communicate your needs more effectively. You will also find your child will be feeling empowered in a healthy way – not in the way that they take on adult responsibility, but in a childlike way so they can really enjoy this time in their life – slowing it down for both them and us, which I personally, am very thankful for.

Home: A place to belong

Home-Belonging
Belonging is an innate need. It is how we know where we fit, what is expected of us, what areas we can safely push the boundaries, and somewhere to retreat to.
Home should be a place where we feel all these things – unfortunately that is not always the case.

So many families have been affected by the choices and actions of those around them. Being a system, like a mobile, one aspect cannot avoid being affected. This is incredibly dangerous for children growing up within families. Sometimes when parents and those around them make mistakes, it can be used as helpful for the children – in ways of demonstrating that even adults make mistakes and have the courage to apologise. For others, it can have harsh consequences.

Children can grow up in life searching for that safe area to retreat to, using only their internal resources that have often been neglected and malnourished. Adults who have had childhoods like this can certainly turn things around and make different choices – though this becomes very difficult when the healthy values have not been instilled in the first place.

So how can one fulfill that need of belonging and safety?
The key tool is self-awareness.

We cannot challenge our thoughts and ideas to see if they are healthy or know where they came from, if we do not have self-awareness.

How does one develop self-awareness?

This is a lengthy, ongoing, empowering journey that we all need to embark on throughout our life.

This involves taking on different tasks such as:

  • Taking a step back

Sometimes we need to just stop of a moment and analyse the situation. What is happening? What am I feeling? Who is involved?

  • Playing the devil’s advocate

The best way to challenge whether your thoughts and actions are healthy and true is to argue against them. If you argue different angles, you get a better picture of what is actually happening without well-intended emotions clouding the image.

  • Explore

Taking time to explore and investigate the “whys”. Why is this happening? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I involved? Identifying these “whys” can help us to put context around what is happening.

Through these activities, we can develop our self-awareness which allows us to tend to our true needs. Those needs which may have been neglected throughout our lives – whether intentional or unintentional.

The first step is a question – let’s see where the journey takes us!

Mental Illness: What does it mean?

 Freedom Mental Health
With all the promotion and education going around, a lot of us have a basic understanding of what mental illness is, though unless we have experienced it, it is generally on a factual basis. This is good, we need to know facts, facts are powerful. Though what does it mean if I am diagnosed with a mental illness?
There are 2 points we need to look at here:

  • What does it mean for me?; and,
  • What does it not mean for me?

What does it mean for me?

It means I have been diagnosed with an unseen illness. Mental illness is serious and does affect life as we know it. Our bodies are designed amazingly well, when one of our five senses are no longer functioning well, our bodies and mind included, compensate. If it wasn’t for the four year old eye sight check, my daughter would be going another year without apparently much needed glasses. Since receiving her glasses last week, her behaviour has been much more co-operative; not that she always misbehaved, rather she would become tired and moody quite quickly. This is because her mind and body was working overtime to compensate for the difficulties she had seeing – though she didn’t know what she was missing out on and she compensated so well that I didn’t even consider eye problems.

Very similar to mental illness, the mind and body compensates in different areas depending on what is needed, this takes extra resources and can mean that some things are not as easy as they used to be or what we see others do.

Relationships are usually the most difficult of all challenges, these are incredibly taxing on emotions that, and in situations of mental illness, are often running in overdrive as it is. In recognising this, it would be really helpful to consider employing a third person to help mediate between relationship difficulties. We all need relationships, though we don’t always have them running in the way they need to.

Like myself and my daughter, I couldn’t see what was wrong with her, I put it down to typical four-year old behaviour with a stubborn streak that would pay off when she became an adult. Instead we actually needed a third person to help bridge the gap with facts, which changed our understanding which meant we can approach any issues with resources that would actually help our relationship.

What does it not mean for me?

It does not mean life has ended. As demonstrated above, we seek knowledge and understanding; we use this knowledge and understanding to explain issues. I was quick to put an explanation to my daughter’s behaviour down to information I received from all over the place that her behaviour was normal. Though this did little to help either of us.

As with mental illness, we often try to reason away any difficulties observed and experienced based on the knowledge and facts that we have acquired along the way. Thanks to previous messages, these often include:

  • “I should be locked up”
  • “I am not good enough”
  • “I can’t do anything right”
  • “I am fake”
  • “I am weak”

These are all false.

You may not be able to do things in the same way others do or the way you used to, though in all honesty we rarely do things exactly the same anyway. Sometimes we need to ask for help and sometimes we need medication to give us a boost so we have the resources to complete the required activities. I don’t know about you, but for me to ask for help takes a lot of strength and willpower but the benefits outweigh the initial cost.

Being diagnosed with mental illness doesn’t have to be a life sentence – if anything it can be life-giving. The diagnosis isn’t what causes the illness, it is recognition that it isn’t because you are weak or a failure, it simply means you need a different approach to overcome obstacles. This can give you direction to explore different options that will work so you can actually live life to the full.

Does your HSC result determine your future success in life?

Life after the HSC
Sweaty palms, deafening heart beats, shallow breathing, panic setting in staring at the blank piece of paper.

They are my memories of the HSC. I remember them vividly, and, I am still alive. I have a roof over my head, I have a loving family, and a career that brings me a great sense of purpose. Though if you went off my HSC results, I shouldn’t have the life I have now.

They were low, quite frankly I had burnt myself out in year 11 and was just over study – I didn’t really care anymore. Until the actual exam time came around. Then there was panic, sleepless nights, what would happen to me? Why had I not studied harder earlier?
Yet, here I am. Relieved that all those bad dreams did not become a reality.

The HSC results don’t have to dictate the rest of your life, they may have an effect on your short term plans, though there are always other options – sometimes they are better than your first choices.

In my year 11 exam for Senior Science, I achieved almost 100%. This was a real surprise because I was sick, I had very little sleep, and I was just over it – I didn’t care anymore. I finished that exam 1 hour early. Apparently, because I let myself off the hook, because I just tried my best and accepted it was the best I could do, my mind could recall things a lot easier than if I had fogged up my mind with stress and worry.

So, as you head into that exam room, remember:

1. You are more than a number;
2. Life will carry on;
3. Do your best and know that it is the best you can do;
4. The less unnecessary stress you put on yourself, the clearer your mind will be.

You are important and valuable, regardless of what your marks suggest. Walk into those exam rooms strong, focused, and confident that you will walk out as the same important and valuable person who walked in there in the first place. Ready to take on life after school.

Empathy

Empathy
Sheldon Cooper, while searching for a birthday present with Penny for Leonard’s first birthday party, divulged that he had to find the perfect present for Leonard in order to ensure that he is not severely disappointed as Sheldon was when at his 12th birthday, instead of receiving the desired titanium centrifuge to separate radioactive isotopes, his parents gave him a motorised dirt bike! While most of us would assume that a motorised dirt bike for a 12 year old boy would be a great present to receive, it was not for Sheldon.

My point? it is important to find out how a person feels about their situation instead of assuming whether something is good or bad based on our own feelings. This is called empathy, appreciating the feelings of another – especially when it just does not seem logical to you.

The impact of our family of origin

Fammily of Origin

The impact of our family of origin: Beauty addict Corinne meets Simon who was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome – signs of this syndrome involve facial disfigurement.

 
Simon goes on a journey to learn about Corinne and her addiction. Through learning about Corinne’s life, Simon uncovers that she is running away from her Jamaican heritage which she inherited from her biological father who abandoned her and her mum during pregnancy. Simon learns more about her mask and personal insecurities.
 
A commendable decision he makes to help Corinne, was to take her to Jamaica. Corinne is interested in this. She said that she thinks Simon wants her to love who she is – Corinne wisely stated that she doesn’t know who she is to be able to love and accept herself.
 
During her trip, a man said to her that she looks Jamaican. Corinne said that she felt proud when he said that. It is when we face our pasts that we can love and accept ourselves, and enjoy our future.

Read more here