I had an alarming conversation with a group of 17-19 year olds during an Easter workshop. The topic of relationships came up – I found it very upsetting to learn of the behaviour of girls and boys as young as 12 years of age. This behaviour is accepted among many as ‘normal’ – there lies my concern. I am obviously not talking about all kids but I am talking about many. I worry that the lack of self-respect (both online and face to face) is a growing concern.
    A few issues that really worried me;
    1. Girls putting up pictures of themselves in underwear online – as young as 12 years of age.
    2. Boys expecting girls to want to ‘please’ them regardless of the fact that they are not in a relationship.
    3. Boys discussing girls performance online.
    4. Boys choosing who they want to kiss in discos/parties – girls standing around waiting to be picked out only for the boy to move onto the next girl.
    I am afraid we have gone back 100 years here – please speak to your kids about self-respect, about what relationships should be like, about behaving in a way they are happy and comfortable with, not just to be in with the crowd. Listen to your kids if they do not want to go to discos/parties- maybe they are trying to protect themselves.
    I am going to talk to a few schools that I work with to suggest the possibility of 5th years talking to 2nd years to give them a bit of advice. To help them to make the right decisions for themselves. The group I spoke to said this would have been a great support for them at their age. They agreed that things are definitely getting worse. Social Media and American tv obviously have a huge impact on this. This is the world our kids are growing up in – they need education in this area, they need support, they need to understand the meaning of self-respect. I think it is a very hard time to be a teenager, we need to help them to deal with this ever changing world.
    If you have any queries relating to this please do not hesitate to contact me.’s photo.

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    Why Parents Need to Show Their True Feelings

    What is one of the most important qualities of a healthy relationship? Authenticity – being who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly. Being authentic creates openness, connection and trust.

    Where does that leave us as parents – how much of our emotional selves should we put away and how much should we share with our kids.

    There is not a person on the planet who does not get sad, cranky, scared, or lonely, from time to time. Sometimes these feelings can stay around for a while. When our kids see or sense that there is something ‘not quite right’, they will watch us even closer than normal. If we do not explain why we are feeling a certain way, they will worry and come up with their own answers.

    Mom and daughter hands, outdoors

    We have a tendency to put on a brave face, to try to hide our upsetting emotions but is this the right thing to do?

    In my experience, both personally as a parent, and in working with other kids, this can be very confusing and upsetting for kids. We need to be as honest as possible and explain why we are upset, angry, lonely or sad as this will help our kids to understand it is ‘ok’ to feel like this. I do not mean to share our innermost feelings but possibly to explain, in an age appropriate way, why we are upset, sad etc. Difficult emotions can become threatening when they come with a bag load of unknowns. All feelings are part of living a healthy, happy, fulfilled life, once we know how to handle them, and this is what we need to pass on to our kids.
    Coping skills for kids is such an important part of their development and they need us to equip them with the necessary tools to enable them to deal with whatever may come their way.

    When our kids see us being ok with our troubled feelings it gives them permission to do the same. They won’t have the skills to manage them all for a while, and that’s ok. What’s important is that they see that everyone feels bad sometimes, and that they have opportunities to learn how to deal with these emotions in a healthy manner.

    Nobody is perfect, we can only do our best, and our best is good enough.

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    Anxiety – What is it? How can we help our anxious kids to be less anxious?

    People with anxiety have something in common – their brains have a unique wiring that is different to people who don’t have anxiety. This causes them to interpret things as harmful, even if they aren’t.

    We are all wired to notice and respond to threats in the environment. This is something that happens in all of us, and it is a healthy normal thing to do. It is something that has kept us humans alive, so when it’s happening in the right doses, its a great thing.
    For people with anxiety, this happens a little too much. An anxious brain is an overprotective brain. It does exactly what healthy, normal brains are meant to do, but more often. What this means is that people with anxiety tend to overgeneralise – their brains and their bodies respond to things as though they are dangerous or threatening, even when they aren’t. Explaining this difference to an anxious child/teen can help them to understand why they can feel like they do and more importantly that they can train their brain to feel less anxious with practice.

    For anyone with anxiety, or for anyone who loves someone with anxiety, it is important to remember that brains can change. Anxious brains are strong brains – wilful, determined, cautious – and as much as brains can change in ways that aren’t helpful, they are also open to changing in ways that are. Mindfulness and exercise are two things that have consistently been shown to strengthen the brain against anxiety. This doesn’t mean that anxiety will completely go away. We all need a little bit of anxiety to predict danger and to keep us safe.
    The more we can understand about the workings of the brain, the closer we get to understanding how to influence it in ways that will lead to a healthier, more enriched way of living.
    Take the time to show your child/teen a clear picture of the brain and how it works, pointing out the amygdala (controls strong emotion, fear and panic) and explain how they can help themselves to be less fearful about situations. The brain is a muscle and can be trained to work in the way we want it to work by practice. Mindfulness and exercise are great ways of helping the brain work in a healthier way. Helping your child to reach outside his or her comfort zone is also a great way to help with anxiety as it builds her confidence in trying new things. Start very small and build up when you feel he/she is ready.
    There is a lot of help out there to help those suffering with anxiety. Get the support you need to help alleviate this issue.
    If you have any questions regarding this post, please give me a call or email me and I will get back to you.

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    5 Things that have made me a better mum.


    5 Things That Have Made Me A Better Mum

    Being a mum is one of the hardest jobs you will ever have. There are times when you might feel everything is out of control, your head is ready to explode, nobody is listening to you, you have cried from the frustration of it all, you may have yelled more than you would have liked, you may have felt you just cannot go on – welcome to the reality of motherhood.
    And then there are the days when your heart feels like it could burst you feel such pure love, you look at your sleeping child and see a perfection that you never thought possible, you get a hug that melts your heart, you see the love in your child’s eyes as you walk into the room, you feel a deep protective feeling towards them, you feel there is nothing in your world matters to you more than your child. You will always be your child’s number 1 role model – don’t underestimate the importance of the time you spend with them.
    This is list of things that made me a better mum over the past number of years.

    Understanding nobody is perfect and I can only do my best as a mum.

    I believe if we were all a little bit more honest about the ups and downs of parenting, we would be a lot happier. Understanding it is normal to reach emotional overload daily, normal to shout too loud, normal to shed a few tears, normal to feel lonely, normal to feel anger, normal to make mistakes. Parenting is a learning experience, there isn’t a day goes by that I haven’t learnt something new about being a parent.

    Learning how to listen.

    Listening is something you really need to learn. We all think we listen but do we really? When was the last time you listened without butting in? When was the last time you listened 100% without any distractions (phone, other siblings, tv, housework, work)?
    Active listening can be learnt and in my opinion is one of the most important things in parenting. Communication is key to positive parenting, communication is a two way street. If we want good open communication with our kids, we need to communicate with them too.

    Ignoring the small stuff.

    If the kitchen is messy because they are baking or maybe you haven’t had time to get around to cleaning it because you are involved in some way with the kids, so what! The kitchen will always be there, the kids will not always be kids. A clean home is helpful, a ‘perfect’ home comes at a high price. Why do any of us feel the need to have a perfect home – a home is where someone feels comfortable, relaxed, cosy, safe, happy – what does a ‘perfect home’ even mean? Don’t waste precious time trying to keep you home perfect – spend that time with your family or looking after yourself.

    Allowing them to make mistakes and helping them to learn from them.

    We cannot learn if we do not make mistakes. Sharing your own experiences with your kids helps them to understand it is ok to make mistakes. What is important is taking responsibility for your mistakes, learning from them and letting them go. Life is not perfect.

    Slowing down.
    I think this is one of the most important lessons for me. We are all on a treadmill every minute, every day – sometimes not getting off for days on end. Look at what we miss out on, as a mum, if you do not STOP. For me slowing down and looking at what is going on around me has been a huge lesson. When I slow down I listen better, I communicate better, I am less stressed, I am happier and most importantly I am teaching my kids how important it is to stop, get off the treadmill of life and appreciate what you have. Our kids are growing up in a technological run world where everything happens immediately. There are huge negative reactions because of this, they have less patience, less processing of information, less face to face communication, less time to just be, less time to spend on their passions or finding their passions, less time to get to know who they really are. Help your kids to slow down, help them to spend more time doing things they love to do (art, reading, dancing, listening to music, sewing, baking, playing sport). iPhones, iPads, tablets are taking up so much of our children’s lives now, as parents we have to help them to hold on to their ‘real’ world and understand the limitations of their ‘virtual world’. This will be one of the most important lessons you will teach them. Bribe them if necessary, to turn off their phones for family movies, family walks, when visiting grandparents, when chatting at home – implement necessary boundaries with their phones. We need to help them to find a balance – when they are on their phones, let them enjoy that time – when they are off their phones, they need to be able to enjoy that time too.

    Look after yourself.

    A stressed, overworked mum is no good to anyone. Find the time every day (even 10 minutes) that you do something for yourself. We can all find the time to look after ourselves – that is a choice. When you take the time to relax, take up an interest you enjoy, spend time with friends, not only are you a better ‘mum’ but you are also a better role model for your kids – teaching them the importance of looking after yourself. Why do mums feel guilty when they do something nice for themselves – loose the guilt. If you do not look after yourself, who will?

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    What is happiness? How can we pass this on to our kids?

    Recent research suggests that happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.
    Think of it like you think about weight: if you eat how you want to and are as active as you want to be, your body will settle at a certain weight. But if you eat less than you’d like or exercise more, your weight will adjust accordingly. If that new diet or exercise regimen becomes part of your everyday life, then you’ll stay at this new weight. If you go back to eating and exercising the way you used to, your weight will return to where it started. So it goes, too, with happiness. You have to train your thoughts and feelings. Try to remember physical and mental health are both important, you cannot have one without the other.  Both need effort to make lasting changes.
    You have the ability to control how you feel—and with consistent practice, you can form life-long habits for a more satisfying and fulfilling life. Try to notice when you feel happy –
    Where are you?
    Who are you with?
    What are you doing?
    Remember when you feel happiest and try to do more of it – whether it is spending time with friends or family, spending time at work or playing sport, painting or reading, get to know what makes YOU happy.

    There are too many people (adults and kids) looking for happiness in the wrong places – looking to make money, trying to hang out with the ‘right’ people, getting the ‘good’ jobs, trying to look ‘perfect’(whatever that is), sound ‘perfect’, dress ‘perfect’ – STOP. Social media has a huge impact on what we and our kids perceive as ‘perfect’, perceive as success, perceive as happiness.

    It is when we stop ‘trying’ so hard to fit into a very insecure idea of what can bring us happiness, that we may finally find true happiness. Personally, I know I have distanced myself from people I find negative and people who tend to spend a lot of time bitching and talking about others, because I know I do not feel good when I am with them. I try to spend as much time as I can with people who raise my energy levels, who make me feel warm inside, make me laugh out loud, make me feel safe and secure. Family for me is huge, for me there is no better time than sitting with my family, watching a movie, all cuddled up together on the couch (don’t get me wrong, this is not a daily occurrence) but I know it makes me happy. Spending time with my girlfriends is high up on my list, as I am lucky to have such great people in my life who understand me (most of the time) and who make me laugh out loud. I am extra lucky that I found a job that I am so passionate about. But, of course there will be days when I may feel sad, upset, alone (although I may be surrounded by people), and on these days I try to acknowledge these feelings and try to do something that will help me to lift my energy again to balance myself.
    We will all feel off balance from time to time – (parenting can push our buttons until we feel we could explode), but we need to understand these feelings are very normal. Whether it is family, jobs, friends or society that can bring us down, we have to acknowledge our feelings, so we can learn to deal with them in a positive way and move on.
    Why are so many people unhappy?

    Maybe it is the long grey Winter we have had.
    Maybe it is the far too busy lives we lead.
    Maybe it is the constant trying to be too much to too many.
    Whatever it is, please find someone to talk to – share your feelings out loud – be truly honest with yourself – get professional help if you need to but do NOT let another day go by without talking to someone and acknowledging your feelings. Remember it is ‘normal’ to feel down, to feel lonely, to feel alone, to feel frustrated, to feel confused – the important part is to talk to someone, get the support you need. You have to look after yourself first if you want to be able to support anyone else in your life.
    There are numerous people out there who can help you. You just need to take that first step – no-one can do that for you.
    Try to pass this message onto your kids as they need to understand what ‘real’ happiness means. What ‘normal’ feelings are and how important it is to learn to acknowledge them and to deal with them in a positive way. Talk to them about your feelings as this shows them it is ok to have negative feelings. If everyone was a bit more honest about their true feelings, it just might normalise so much for so many.
    Sometimes we are constantly running around trying to get fit, work hard, look great, be everything to everyone, and this can be a problem if it means we have no down time, no time to sit and talk to our kids, no time to listen to what is going on in their lives, no time to show them and to tell them how much we love them. Take a few minutes and really think about your life; it is never too late to make changes.
    Are you leading the life you want to lead?
    Are you spending enough time with the people who mean most to you?

    Are you making sure you have balance in your life?
    Do you know what is going on in your child’s life?
    Do you spend a few minutes every day talking to them?

    In my job I see a lot of lonely kids, kids who may have it all materialistically but who crave ‘time’ and ‘understanding’ from those they love the most in the world, those they look up to most in the world, those they mimic most in the world – their parent(s). Don’t underestimate how much they need you, whatever age they are, you are their parent and you will always be the most important person in their lives. Even 5 minutes a day is going to make a huge difference to them, if that 5 minutes is 100% for them and them alone. If your kids see you leading a balanced life, understanding what real happiness is, you are setting them up for a balanced happy life themselves. If they see you making changes to get a more balanced life, you are teaching them the life skill that we can all control our lives and we can all make changes to be in a better place.
    You are their number 1 Role Model.

    “What a child does not see, he can seldom later give.”

    – P D James

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    One of the toughest things about parenting is that the results are not always obvious. If we rely on the immediate behaviour of our kids to measure how we are doing as parents, there will be days we feel we have done the best job as a parent and days we do not understand what is happening in our chaotic world – this is the norm.

    The messages we learn as children are powerful and can determine the way we look at things and deal with many different issues throughout our lives. But we must remember, if we did not receive positive and healthy message as a child, this does NOT mean we cannot give positive and healthy messages to our kids. Too many parents believe they cannot be good parents because of their own childhood and the parenting they received – this is not the case.

    There are two ways our own history can influence us as parents;
    1. We can repeat what we have experienced.
    2. We can push against what we have been exposed to and do things in a completely different way.

    Here are some of the negative messages that can become embedded during childhood and new ways to think about them.

    Old Message
    “I don’t know what a good parent looks like. I’m ruining my kids.”
    New Message
    Knowing what a good parent ‘is not’ is as powerful as knowing what a good parent is. If you take the negative from your own parenting and make sure you do not repeat this, you are one step ahead.

    Old Message
    “You have to be good to be loved.”
    New Message
    Nobody is always good. But you are always good enough. Try not to compare your kids to other siblings, cousins etc, let them know they are great just the way they are. We all make mistakes, loose our temper, make rash decisions – this does not make us unlovable, it makes us human.

    Old Message
    “Arguing leads to trouble. It’s easier to agree.
    New Message
    Disagreements are normal and healthy in every family. Setting boundaries is essential in parenting, this will usually lead to arguments, but you have to stand strong. It is always easier to say ‘yes’, that does not mean it is always right.

    Old Message
    “Kids should be seen and not heard.”
    We all have a voice and its an important one, everyone deserves to be heard. We need to teach our kids how to be able to interact with other adults and peers, they need to be seen and heard to achieve this. This does not mean we have no privacy, there is a time and a place for everything. They need to know we will ‘listen’ to them when they have something to tell us – try to remember what was important to you when you were their age. If they come to you and you do not listen or show any interest in what they are saying, it may be the last time they come to you. Communication is vital in all stages of parenting.

    Old Message
    “Kids should do as they are told.”
    New Message
    Kids need to be able to say ‘no’ – this is one of the most important words on the planet. It is not the most pleasant when fired at us directly, but it is a word that we want them to know and to feel confident and strong about. Whenever you hear them say ‘no’, which very often will be at the most inconvenient times, know that your little being is experimenting with setting and protecting his or her own boundaries. It will be an experiment that will take time to master – and that’s ok.

    Old Message
    ‘What I want doesn’t matter.’
    The Truth
    ‘You matter, your needs matter.’
    One of the most damaging lessons that unhealthy families teach is that the needs of the child aren’t important. They will have various ways of doing this, including criticism, judgement, put-downs and neglect. The depression of needs will, literally, lead to depression and a malnourished self. We all have needs and we all need to be in an environment that is supportive of those needs. You matter and what is important to you matters. It is difficult to thrive when the things that are important to you are being crushed.

    Old Message
    Kids need to control themselves.
    The Truth
    Children have to learn how to understand their emotions and learn how to deal with them in a healthy manner. Anger, sadness, jealousy, spite – they are all important. If kids learn from an early age the importance of being able to express their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way – they will then be able to deal with the more serious emotions they may feel as they get older. In the society they are growing up in, this is of the upmost importance.

    This article could go on and on and on. It is such an important message to parents to realise they can parent any way they want to, regardless of the way they were parented themselves. Parenting is the single most important job you will ever have, yet the only job that comes without training. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice – you are not supposed to know all of the answers.
    Feel free to email me with any queries relating to the above or any other parenting issues.

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    Friendships are an important part of childhood. For many this happens naturally and many kids enjoy positive friendships throughout their childhood and adolescence.
    Unfortunately, for many this does not happen quite so easily. I come across so many kids/adolescents who are confused and upset regarding friendships. Maybe it is the effects of social media, American TV and/or peers but there are so many friendships based on the wrong things.

    What is a friend?
    A friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am, someone I can trust and rely on.”

    The word friend is misused if it is identified with a person who contributes to our delinquency, misery, and heartaches. The word friend is misused if it is a person we do not know but attach ourselves to online.
    And this is where the problem can lie.
    The true meaning of friendship has become confusing for many. This is something we really need to discuss more with our children. Help them to be very clear about what a friend really means. Explain to them it takes time to build friendships, they may make friends with many people over their schooling years but they will probably end up with 3/4 very good ‘real’ friends if they are lucky.
    Show them the meaning of ‘friend’ by letting them see how you treat your own friends, what you expect from your own friends and what you are willing to do for them.

    Online chats pose a huge problem for kids today, pictures being posted without permission, comments being posted on videos and chat rooms, people talking about each other online in a negative and hurtful way. They need to understand this is not acceptable.
    I see far too many kids and teens who are seriously hurting because of many of these issues.
    Watch out for tell tale signs;
    *they may stay in their room for longer periods of time
    *they may become very distracted and angry
    *they may stop going out socially
    *they may stop attending sporting events/training
    I realise many of these actions can be put down to growing up but YOU know YOUR child – if you notice a change in behaviour, follow up on it.
    Where problems may arise
    Kids on the outskirts of ‘the popular group’ – try to explain to them just because they are the popular group does not automatically mean they would make good friends. A lot of people following the ‘popular group’ do not end up with any ‘real friends’.
    Kids who are not sporty but may be in a sporty school – this can be very hard, especially for the boys as the peer group tends to be tiered depending on sporting ability. There is a ridiculously large amount of slagging given to many kids because they are not good at sport. Prepare your kids if they are attending a sporty school and are not naturally sporty. Make sure they realise there are so many other things they could be doing, debating, drama, music – whatever they have a passion for. This may not be the popular choice but it is a lot better than sending a kid to a rugby pitch who will never be a rugby player – the impact of this can be very damaging to his self-esteem. In the last 2/3 years I see a lot more boys than ever before and in my opinion some of the boys are becoming a lot more bitchy, nasty and mean.
    Kids who are spoilt and used to getting their own way can find it hard to make friends. Help your kids to understand the meaning of playing, taking turns, sharing, kindness. They need the tools to feel confident around other kids and communicate in a positive way with them. Spoilt kids will very often have a much harder time making ‘real friends’. They may have friends who follow them around because they have money, big house, freedom etc but these friendships will not usually last.
    Kids need playdates to bond with peers. If you are a parent working full-time try to plan playdates for the weekend. During schools hours kids are busy in the classroom, there is not a lot of time for bonding. Don’t underestimate the importance of playdates – this also gives you a chance to see who they are mixing with, how they behave around other peers, and how they are treated by their peers.

    “The only way to have a friend, is to be one”. – Ralph Emmerson

    If your child is having a hard time making friends;
    LISTEN – give them a chance to talk so you can understand better what may be at the heart of his/her struggle making and/or keeping friends. Some kids worry about getting teased and making mistakes others feel left out and rejected by peers.
    OBSERVE – Look for behaviours in your child that may be a turn off to other children. For example, does your child avoid eye contact with others? Does your child speak so quietly others can’t hear? Has your child problems sharing or taking turns?
    These are examples of missing social skills – all kids need social skills to make to make friends.
    SET FRIENDSHIP GOALS – Depending on how socially anxious your child may be, you may need to start with a very small goal.
    *Asking a friend over for a playdate
    *Asking to borrow something
    *Asking to join in
    *Sharing a toy with another classmate
    *Saying ‘Hi’ to a classmate

    *Set up regular playdates
    *Encourage extra-curricular activities
    *Have regular family games nights (teach them to win and loose gracefully)
    *Give your child ‘icebreakers’ – pack some snacks or fun toys that they can share with other classmates.
    *Speak to the teacher – do not let your child know you are speaking to the teacher this will further compound his belief that there is something wrong with him. But if you do speak to the teacher ask her to be discreet and try to sit your child with someone she feels they may bond with.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries regarding the above.

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