Give Them Loving Eye Contact

10 May 2016

As parents living in a fast paced society, it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, concern ourselves with all the chores that need to be done and give what little time we have left to our children.

“Quality time” means different things to different people. Giving just five minutes ‘quality time’ to children isn’t the answer and doesn’t go very far in meeting children’s needs. All children need real time from their parents, not just to make them feel special, however, also a natural part of the nurturing, development, secure relationship building, guidance and supportive processes that parents need to provide.

Recently, I took some downtime, which also allowed me to immerse myself in to some chores around the house. Taking this downtime made me wonder how on earth I manage my busy schedule, a home and make time for the children. It’s a case of prioritising. And no I don’t always get it right! However, it’s about having the focus to make your children a priority in your life because no one else will do this for you, unless of course you have a nanny that takes care of their practical needs, but this in no way replaces the love and attention that children need and deserve from their own parents. Time flies by so quickly these days that before you know it, your children have reached the age of 16 and able to make some of their own decisions which includes leaving the family home.

Children and young people need to know that you love them and they need to see and experience this behaviourally rather than just auditory, i.e. what you say. That is, you need to show your children that you love them, and not just tell them!

So how do you give your children focused attention?



Big and small, old and young, they all still need to be hugged. And they are still your children irrespective of how old they are. Hugging your children is so much easier when they are young children. Hugging your teenagers, on the other hand, is an art in itself. This is one of those occasions where you need to tread carefully as your teens go through an interesting, challenging, frustrating and confusing phase in their lives. Make it easier for both of you by following your teens lead. For instance, not hugging them in front of their friends unless they instigate it, nor outside of school.

Don’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that your children do not need a hug. We all do! Don’t you just feel so much better, connected and loved when someone gives you a hug? Just because your teenager is not approaching you for a hug, does not mean that they do not need one. They will be following your lead and it takes courage to take the first step, especially if there is an element of hostility between you.

Also, be willing to say sorry and apologise to your teen if you need to. It’s amazing how many barriers that the word ‘sorry’ can break down, don’t you think?

An alternative to hugging your teen, depending on how receptive they are to your hugs, is a simple touch or pat on the head, shoulders, knees, or back will suffice to show your teen that you love them. This can even be done as you walk past them, which might get a few grunts a long the way from you teen, but don’t let up on physical contact.

One parent that I have recently worked with as part of my Easy Tiger Parent System™, said that she had no problems hugging and being playful with her 3 year old. However, she only hugs her 10 year old at bedtime.

Whilst her 10 year old might not be moaning or saying anything about not being hugged at other times, she will be very aware that her sibling is getting a lot more hugs and her parents attention that she is and, at a psychological level and to make sense of it, may blame herself for her parents not hugging her as much.

I appreciate some parents may find hugging difficult especially if they were not shown affection by their parents as a child. I fell into that category too, however, I made the decision that it would be different for my children.



Give your children eye contact when you are communicating with them. It sounds such a simple thing to do, yet it is so easy to be so busy whilst talking to your children that you focus on what you are busy doing that you don’t realise that you are not making eye contact. I’ve done it too. What do we say to our children when we are talking to them and they are looking every where else but at us? That’s right! ‘Look at me when I am talking to you’. And where do they get that behaviour from? That’s right, probably you.

Additionally, give your children loving eye contact generally and not just give
them eye contact when you are telling them off.


All children need boundaries and discipline which, as responsible parents, we provide them with for a healthy, balanced and positive childhood.

Boundaries are necessary guidelines to help your children to manage and self regulate themselves and their environment. Children and young people who are not given boundaries lose self control and look to their peers to plug the gap and fill that need. Even young people who argue vehemently about boundaries and restrictions, need boundaries and in the long run, will be grateful for them being in place and enforced.

I recently heard of a young person who was in tears because her parents didn’t give her any boundaries to guide her growth and development. She is wishing they had. And yes, it is a fine line between giving children and young people too much latitude and being too restrictive.

Having sound values that you are clear about as a parent and shared with the family, in line with your goals for your family, will help you to identify where you stand regarding boundaries. I appreciate that for some people whose own childhood experiences may prove to be challenging and perhaps cast doubts on their ability to identify clear values and therefore healthy boundaries. To them I would say simply make them up! Having some boundaries is better than having none at all. As time goes on, monitor, review and adjust them to what feels or looks just right for you.

Sometimes our parents’ values don’t always serve our purpose as adults and parents in our own right. So take control of your life and do your own thing. Do what feels right for your family.

Loving discipline helps children and young people to learn about what is right or wrong and to develop responsibility and accountability for their actions. This is in the form of natural consequences of their behaviour and not necessarily punishment for their behaviour. I have to say that it took me a while to get clear about the difference between consequences and punishment, I guess because I only ever had punishment as a child. So an example of a natural consequence is when one of my sons left his blazer at school because it had a rip in it and expecting that it would just be replaced. He had a shock when I told him that he had to replace the blazer using his own money. As apposed to punishing him by maybe grounding him say for a week. There is no direct correlation here with what he has done, and potentially the punishment could cause confusion.

Other healthy options of consequences can take many forms e.g. applying restrictions to teenager’s movements, whether this means being sent to their room or prevented from going out for days or a week. Clearly the discipline needs to be age related.

Whilst being a parent can be a thankless ‘job’ at the best of times, we owe it to our children to do everything possible to create secure relationships with them. That could well involve doing what we need to do to develop ourselves to make it happen.

Go and enjoy hugging your children, giving them loving eye contact and loving discipline.


It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way…

6 November 2015

Mental health challenges in children and young people are on the increase and are posing huge problems for them, adults and the society as a whole. Families and schools alike, are now feeling the impact of this surge of mental health crisis. Something needs to give and changes must be made in order to safeguard children and young people’s future and as the next generation. And the change must start with us, adults!

Children want adults to take the lead and guide them even if they act totally contrary to this statement. They need guidance, including clear, consistent boundaries.

The child or pupil needs to know what they are supposed to do and wants guidance in order to be able to do it. Yes they are likely to react adversely at first when attempts to change their behaviour, routine, habits and patterns but that is partly due to the uncertainty of being thrown into unfamiliar territories of calmness, boundaries, assertion and discipline. It could also be due to a sense of confusion during the transition stages and lack of guidance. However, with consistent, firm, calm, gentle, loving, caring and reassuring action and guidance from the parent or teacher. The child or pupil may begin to see the benefits that the changes may bring. Trust is also a key issue for many children and young people.

In order to achieve any of the above, the teacher or parent must first know and understand what the problem is or underlying issues that needs to be fixed to bring about a change. The other key thing is that a more positive outcome is more likely if the parent or teacher first make changes within themselves in order to gain the results that they desire with and for the child or pupil. For instance, if you are someone who panics and/or show disgust at the sight of a self injury, it is really important that how you manage yourself and your emotions is changed, in order to gain any buy-in from the child or pupil.

When the man is right, the world will be right too.” Dennis Kimbro & Napoleon Hill

Children and young people respond to their environment. Fix the environment, and that will go along way to helping them to be in a more balanced emotional state, unless there are medical reasons which provide contra-indications.

Their behaviour is generally indicative of the underlying issues that they are attempting to grapple with or solve in some way.


Be The Change That You Want To See

Positive or new examples within the school environment might look like this:

  • No labelling of any pupil
  • Positive messages and focus reinforced at the start of each day for EVERY pupil
  • Congruent verbal and non-verbal messages from staff/teachers and the school environment
  • Lead by example


Positive or new examples within the home environment might look like this:

  • Shared and reinforced boundaries, irrespective of the children and young people’s age
  • Consistent habits/routines e.g. morning, home time, bedtime
  • Consistent discipline
  • Family fun


Positive or new examples within society might look like this:

Media see and treat people as OK (and a human being) irrespective of race, colour, creed, gender, sexuality, weight, size, etc.

“Be the change that you want to see”. Ghandi


So How Do You Do That?

As a parent or teacher, take control of the situation by taking control of you first and your emotions. If you want the children to be calm, you must first show and demonstrate calmness within. Shouting at them and telling them to calm down brings about the opposite affect!  Be calm and they naturally become calm. React and they will react. Respond consistently and they will begin to respond. Take the lead, or lead by example with consistent, firm, calm, gentle, loving, caring and reassuring action and guidance.

In Summary:

  • Anger and aggression begets anger and aggression!
  • Negative projections on children and young people results in negative reactions and behaviour on their part, towards you and others!
  • Model the response that you want to see
  • If you want calmness, be calm
  • If you want trust, demonstrate trust
  • If you want respect, demonstrate respect.

How teachers and parents manage their interaction with children and young people can go a long way in assisting children and young people to manage and regulate their own emotions. Given the gamut of challenges that young people face today, adults leading by example is only one aspect of helping children and young people to reduce their mental health challenges, but nevertheless a very important and significant aspect.

Sometimes as adults, we all need a little helping hand of support and/or guidance to uncover or discover the stumbling blocks that are getting in the way of being the person/teacher/parent that we want to be.



How Teachers Can Help To Raise Students’ Self Esteem

18 June 2015

Teachers and schools can play a major role in helping to raise a student’s self esteem as this helps to bolster the self worth and resilience of students. Self esteem is an aspect of how we value ourselves; and can affect our trust in other people, in our abilities, and affects relationships. Teachers are in a unique position to identify and forestall early symptoms as well as possibilities of self harm. One strategy is for the teacher to devise a means of helping such a student stop or gradually lessen the use of ineffective or damaging coping behaviours which, according to mental health professionals, often mask possible feelings of vulnerability, emotional distress, low self esteem, childhood neglect as well as hopelessness.

A teacher could also rely upon the attribution theory for offering guideposts for effectively bolstering self esteem and confidence in a student who possibly has challenges with self defeating characteristics. The issue of mental health problems isn’t just limited to particular groups; they also span all classes; race and cultures and self harm is no different.

Self-harm is not just expressed in terms of the individual cutting, inflicting self-harm, or self-injury, but it includes a wide range of things people deliberately do to themselves that are harmful but usually not fatal. This can be a very traumatic time for young people and those who care for them, however. Problems with self esteem could also be as a result of childhood neglect or of emotional distress resulting from negligence or intentional acts of another person.

According to available statistics, one in twelve young people are said to subscribe to or adopt self harming behaviour whilst the last ten years in-patient admissions resulting form self injury have increased by 68%. It is very worrisome that a vast number of very young people are subscribing to self-harm as a solution to coping with life’s difficult pressures. It is otherwise erroneous that self harm is often dismissed as just an attention seeking behavioural pattern; rather it is a sign that young people are feeling terrible internal pain and are not coping well with life’s challenges.


Research also suggests that peer support can be helpful but then seems to work best when it is used alongside a whole school approach to mental health and reducing social isolation. Teachers can make good and proper use of self harm training resources for teachers available to them in solving these anomalies and to help to gradually reduce the rate at which students self harm.


The reasons for self-harm seem to vary greatly, and are specific to the individual, however a young person may subscribe to self-harm to help them cope with negative feelings, emotional distress, pains resulting from childhood neglect, , to feel more in control or to punish themselves.


The World Health Organization also suggests that the following strategies are important in helping to greatly reduce the possibilities of future self harming occurrences:


  • Helping students to have a strong sense of identity.
  • Promoting both the stability and continuity of students’ education.
  • Promoting healthy diet and good eating habits.
  • Promoting emotional expression.
  • Curbing both violence and bullying tendencies at school and in the community, where possible.
  • Providing information about services and accessing specialist support early on.
  • Self harm training and raising of staff self harm awareness and in the context of a school policy.


In identifying preventive measures, work in schools can help to reduce and help prevent self-harm as well as attempts at suicide.  However, quite a number of young people would prefer to turn to their peers for support whilst many have said that all they want is to be able to talk to someone who will listen attentively to and respect them. Schools can also provide support for their friends and peers who have been confided in about the self harming behaviour.







The Invalidated Child: Part 2

11 May 2015

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how adults can and do invalidate children’s feelings, thoughts and emotions.


Whilst our focus and emphasis is on the parent/child relationship, validation is an important component in other relationships and environments.


In this article in Part 2, we are looking more closely at how to validate a child (or oneself or adults, family and friends).

Validation is a crucial skill for anyone to have, especially parents as it is a valuable foundation for any child to have and it helps to build and cement relationships and stronger bonds within the family setting. It can be a difficult skill to learn and especially if the parent has themselves had an invalidating experience. It also requires acute listening; a deeper connection with the person that you are engaging with and consistent practice, practice, practice.

Whenever someone denies what a person is feeling, that person is not being validated. Essentially, denying a person’s feelings invalidates them. Invalidation affects children’s self esteem, sense of self and self worth, thus creating confusion with the likely consequence of them finding it difficult to regulate their emotions. This impacts on their emotional vulnerability resulting in maladaptive and/or inadequate responses to and from their environment.

Some parents may feel that validating their child’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions is agreeing with them in any circumstance or situation or that they may appear to be weak parents if they were to do so. However, validation is about:

  • Listening
  •  Giving and paying undivided attention to children when they are speaking and especially teenagers
  • Describing what you see, hear or sense about the communication from the child (or other person you are engaging with).

Descriptions help to put aside your own thoughts and feelings about the particular situation being discussed, and focuses on the other person’s feelings and how they interpret, internalise or represent the situation from their world. How they feel about the situation is neither right nor wrong. It just is!

Descriptions also help you to state the facts from their dialogue (verbal or non-verbal dialogue) without you putting your own interpretation on it. This helps to offer them a more accurate reflection of their thoughts and feelings; which in turn help them to feel heard, listened to and that their feelings are valid and legitimate.


Examples of reflections or descriptions could be:

♦       I sense that you are still very frustrated about the situation

♦       Sounds like you’re angry that he keeps shouting at you

♦       I am hearing you are feeling like walking out due to his ongoing denial

♦       I can see that you are very upset.


The above examples are often termed as Reflective Listening and can be powerful in validating a child or another adult.


Validation on the other hand, helps you to connect with the person/child at a deeper level. For instance:

–         I can understand your frustration about that

–         Anyone would feel that way

–         If she keeps stabbing you in the back, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to continue to be her friend

–         With your grandmother just passing away, I can understand you wanting to scream, shout or run wild.

In terms of a child wishing not to go to school, in this scenario, the parent or main care giver would validate the child’s feelings and thoughts at that moment of not wanting to go to school, however, the parent would then highlight that the action or behaviour of missing school is not an option.

Validation conveys the message to the person that their feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviours are understandable in the context of the person’s situation and current or past experiences.

In all the above examples of validation, it can be seen that the sentences are not about denying nor agreeing with the person, but accepting and/or acknowledging that in the current context of their situation, their feelings, thoughts and emotions are valid and understandable.


The number one complaint from young people about parents is that their parents do not or did not listen to them. We are taught to read and write at school and in some cases, in the home environment, however, we are not taught HOW to listen!

As discussed earlier, listening is a crucial aspect of validating a child or another adult. In Part 3 of this series, we will look at the essential ingredients of listening effectively so that your child/children feel heard and listened to.

By Jennifer McLeod © 2015

The Invalidated Child – Part 1

4 February 2015



This article is a series of articles on invalidation, including the experiences of a child or parent that has been invalidated and how parents, professionals and practitioners can validate children to make a difference to their outcomes.

The invalidated child can seem like an enigma and is easily misunderstood. They come from all backgrounds, walks of life, race, culture and class in society.

An invalidated child can look like a child that is:


  • Misbehaving
  • Difficult
  • Seeking attention
  • Sabotaging their own success
  • Withdrawn
  • Attempting suicide
  • Self harming
  • Experiencing BPD (borderline personality disorder)
  • or exhibiting other maladaptive emotions to compensate for the “lack”.


The “lack” could include lack of:


  • Being heard
  • Having their experiences validated as real for THEM!
  • Having their opinions accepted
  • Having their feelings heard or accepted as valid and real for them
  • Privacy
  • Being cared for resulting in neglect
  • A sense of self
  • Other


An “invalidating environment” (Marsha Linehan; 1993) encompasses some or all of the above for the invalidated child.


How does a parent, caregiver or other significant adults invalidate a child?

(This also includes professionals and practitioners)

Examples of how adults invalidate children include:

All of the above examples highlighted in the “lack of” section; for instance, not listening to them; etc.

  • Abuse: – verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, psychological
  • Neglect
  • Denying their feelings “no (yes) you don’t (do) feel that way (e.g. angry)
  • Teaching children to lie “tell them I’m not here” or “this (sexual abuse) didn’t happen and if you tell anyone I will kill you!”
  • Responding erratically, inappropriately or in extreme fashions to the child’s communication or feelings
  • Ridicule them
  • Disregard their painful or distressing emotions
  • Non- responsive to needs of the child


Marsha Linehan suggests that sexual abuse is the most extreme form of invalidation for a child. These children are generally lied to about the nature of the abuse and threatened by the abuser if they “tell”. Additionally, the child is further burdened by the guilt and shame of the abuse, coupled with the abuse not being acknowledged by other family members and face being blamed or disbelieved if they pluck up the courage to “tell”. clinicians and researchers suggest that it is the secrecy surrounding childhood sexual abuse that may be a key factor for people experiencing BPD (Bipolar or Borderline Personality Disorder).

The invalidated child is one that is also very susceptible to being scapegoated within the family setting, especially if they appear as an enigma to family members and others around them. The likely result is that they consciously or unconsciously embark on a journey of seeking approval and reassurance, especially from their parents, with the likely effect of a cyclical process of denial and punishment, followed by more scapegoating.

That said, all children need approval, reassurance, need to be loved, to be validated and to feel safe and secure in their environment as their secure base.



Part 2 of this article will include:

  • Looking at further effects of invalidation for the child.
  • How to validate a child



Linehan, M.M., (1993 ). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: London: Guildford Press



Scapegoating Challenges Within The Family Setting

27 October 2014



The family setting is an interesting arena that is rife with a gamut of emotions, trials and tribulations

Sometimes relationships can get strained and individual family members can be singled out to bear the brunt of the family strain.

Scapegoating is something that happens in any setting, group, gender, age, or race however, for the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on the nature of scapegoating in the family setting and family system.

In some respects one child in the family may be picking up on the stresses and challenges within the family system, and perhaps more than their siblings. As such, that child may act up or act out in response to their perception of the stressor or in reaction to feelings, and in different ways, depending on their age.

Often times children are not able to explain or understand what they are experiencing, nor able to manage these feelings, hence their behavior of acting up or acting out in an attempt to do so or to “shake off” the feelings.

Acting out may consequently make them the target of scapegoating. The other children in the family may become aware of certain challenges or tensions in the family but may be in denial of their existence and inadvertently displace this awareness or problem onto the sibling that is acting out on what they perceive or feel. The other children in essence behave as “model” well-behaved children and generally appear to be happy and content with life. The flipside of this experience is that these siblings might be encouraged by the parents to taunt or bully the sibling who is scapegoated.

Another key aspect for scapegoating to become effective is the parents own denial of the family situation or their blame mentality of the true situation within the family system as a whole. Additionally, this could include the parents own insecurities about managing the situation effectively, or insecurities about qualities and characteristics that they themselves lack but which they perceive in the child that is acting out.

The child who is aware that the family setting is not right consequently is blamed and made the scapegoat for generally anything that goes wrong in the family, including the parents relationship. Children invariably internalise these problems as their fault.


Other reasons that a particular child could be selected by a parent(s) for scapegoating could be that the child reminds the parent in some way of a person he or she doesn’t like, such as their own parents, ex partner or an abuser. It could also be that the child has similar characteristics and traits to the parent, which the parent has not yet accepted within themselves, or the child is just simply different in many aspects from the other siblings.

However, the motivating factor that drives the parent to mistreat and scapegoat their child, further displacing and transferring their responsibility from themselves onto the child, is likely to be at an unconscious level, but this is not always the case. Some parents may be well aware of their reasons for mistreating or enabling one of their children to become a scapegoat for all the familly’s ‘ills’ but may not be able to effectively control or manage their actions due to the underlying drivers and motivators. The parents’ denial additionally aids in maintaining that status quo.

That said, the whole family is affected in some way by the scapegoating process, including the ‘model’ children in the family, signs of which may become more apparent in their adult years.

Different ways that children can be made scapegoats:

  • abuse in a variety of ways including neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse
  • alienated
  • ostracized
  • bullying
  • taunting/goading
  • or even death itself

If that child leaves the home environment as a young adult or is removed from the home at an early age, the family challenge still remains, and another sibling is then likely to be the target of the parent’s scapegoating, in order to fill the gap or void that has been created. Unless the parent(s) deal with their need to abdicate responsibility for their actions, the transference will continue to be a cycle of oppression within the family setting in particular.

What is Havening Technique™?

23 September 2014



Havening Technique™ was created by Dr Ronald Ruden and further developed in conjunction with his brother Dr Steven Ruden. It is a psycho-sensory model and uses sensory input of touch (Havening Touch®) to alter thought, mood and behaviour.


Traumatic or very stressful events or experiences create a pathway in the brain which remains there indefinitely (becomes immutably encoded), until or unless people embark on a process to change, obstruct or disrupt that pathway to bring about new enriching experiences.


Havening Technique™ works by reducing or eliminating altogether the negative maladaptive emotional response linked to that event or experience. In doing so, Havening works with the Amygdala, the emotional response system in the brain, which is based in the Limbic System. As such Havening is also referred to as Amygdala Depotentiation Therapy (ADT). Havening disrupts the pathway that was created and consequently removes the emotional PAIN linked to and/or associated with the stress, distress and experiences (current and past), resulting in neutral or no negative emotional response to the situation.


Havening Technique is a very effective approach for a range of emotionally distressful situations and symptoms with profound and long lasting results.


This includes situations and symptoms relating to:

  • Relationship challenges
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Fear of heights
  • Emotional eating
  • Depression
  • Agoraphobia and other Phobias
  • Fear of Abandonment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Lack of confidence
  • Feelings of low self worth
  • Anxiety
  • Self harm
  • Loneliness
  • PTSD
  • Physical pain
  • Post Natal Depression


In order for Havening to be most effective for the client, the emotional core symptom that activates their emotional response system; and, which poses the biggest  challenge and disturbance to the client, must be identified, Havened and consequently removed. This is the fundamental difference between Talk Therapy and Havening Technique™.


During the Havening Therapy, clients generally experience an increase in certain neurochemicals such as Serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), and a low frequency brain signal, a delta wave, which is generally associated with stage three sleep. Stage three sleep is the deepest and most restorative part of our sleep. A successful Havening experience can leave clients feeling a sense of calmness, relaxation, peacefulness or sleepy.


The effect and result of experiencing the Havening model includes results such as, once a particular negative emotional response has been eliminated (e.g. guilt, shame), it can have the effect of directly or indirectly and simultaneously removing other related negative maladaptive emotions linked to the same or different negative experiences or trauma. Another effect could be that the removal of one traumatic event reveals another one, which is also subsequently Havened with the client’s permission.


In relation to recall and emotional attachment to the distressing or traumatic event or experience, clients often experience and report a sense of disbelief in the results, which could include one or several of the following:


  • Inability to recall the previous distressing or traumatic event
  • Their recollection of the distressing experience is fuzzy
  • They can recall the experience and event however they now have a neutral emotional attachment to it
  • Thinking or talking about the distressing experience no longer triggers their emotional response system or their usual negative emotional responses to the experience.
  • A range of emotional, physical or physiological changes can occur. For instance, clients can appear to grow in height instantly; or have the ability to move parts of their body which were emotionally, psychologically or physically affected by the traumatic experience; or have restful sleep throughout the night, which hitherto had been affected resulting from their previous experience(s).


The Havening model engenders a healthier outlook on life, healthier choices and most importantly, mental and emotional resilience (a resilient landscape).


Havening approach can also be used for peak performance, goals achievement, or Self Havening of every day routine emotions such as sadness, anger or mild anxiety. Self Havening is not recommended for serious trauma or psychological disorders. It is highly recommended that you seek assistance from a Certified Havening Technique™ Practitioner.

Stress Busting Tips For Returning To School

4 September 2014

Anxiety and nerves seem to have kicked in for both parents and their children alike as schools (colleges and universities) begin to open their

doors for the start of another academic year. Research shows that reasons for children and young people’s anxieties and stress about returning to school include anxiety about:

  • Homework
  • Coping with school work and their general performance
  • Starting a new school
  • Friendships and fitting in
  • Bullying
  • Asking for help and how to ask for help
  • Having new teachers
Photo: ALAMY -

Photo: ALAMY –


Parents too have their own anxieties about their son or daughter returning to or starting a new school. Childline’s research and recent experiences has shown an increase in counselling children over the last year with serious concerns about going back to school or starting a new school.


TOP TIPS For Children & Young People going Back To School: 

  • See this as another milestone that you are capable of, even if it is with help from someone else. Remember that the fear of something is usually much worse than the thing itself! Step up! to your fear and stare it in it’s face
  • ŸIf you are moving to a new school, see it as an opportunity to make new friends and have new experiences rather than something bad or negative
  • ŸAsk for an opportunity to view the new school, if it is not too late, or go to visit it again if you have already viewed it. Take a tour around the area and familiarize yourself with its surroundings. This may help you to feel more comfortable on the first day.
  • Be as prepared and as organised as you can for your first day back at school, or starting your new school. Or ask for help from parents or school mates
  • ŸHave a plan to complete school work on time and follow through with it.  Sticking to your plan will help you to have more time for socializing and enjoying fun stuff
  • ŸGet enough sleep to recharge your batteries so that you have enough energy during the school day.

TOP TIPS For Parents

  • Share your concerns about your son/daughter returning to school with someone else so that you are not carrying it alone
  • Whatever the situation with your child’s school (college, university), be strong and stay strong for them as well as for yourself. Manage your own emotions so that your son or daughter is not placed in a position of having to help you to manage your emotions
  • See my article on School Refusal
  • Check you with your son or daughter what their thoughts are about going back to school and most importantly listen. This might seem like stating the obvious, however, the number one tension between young people and their parents is that they feel their parents do not listen to them. Listen also to their feelings and to what they are not saying and reflect that back to them.
  • Stay calm in the sight of your child’s anxiety and panic about returning to school or starting a new school. Your calmness and composure will help them to compose themselves to some extent.
  • Depending on your child’s age, help them tot be as organised as possible for their first day, and on an on-going basis. Being organised and prepared on the first day can help to take a lot of pressure off them and gives them one less thing to worry about.
  • Become aware of warning signs or stress leading up to the return to school.
  • Sometimes stress and anxiety can manifest itself into physical symptoms. For instance, stomach aches, headaches, vomiting, sudden outbursts of aggression, self harm or crying. Check out with your son/daughter what else is going on for them at the time of having these symptoms. If it is a case of self harm, do get self harm help from your doctor where necessary.
  • Take responsibility for ensuring your children get to bed at a reasonable time dependent on their age, to give them a better chance of coping with the school day. One of my nieces used to insist that her 3 year old son would not and could not sleep before 11.00pm. The nursery school constantly reported that he was tired, hyperactive and aggressive. He was clearly deprived of sleep. After working with her and guiding her for just one evening on how to get him to bed at a reasonable time for his age, she feedback a week later to say that he had been going to bed at 7.30pm for the whole week and had slept through the night. The nursery school feedback to her the same week about the difference in his behaviour and energy levels.

How Resilient Are Children Really?

19 March 2013

When a crisis or traumatic situation occurs we often hear people say something like “he/she will be fine. Children are very resilient. They will pull through it.”

Yes children and young people will “pull through” it but at what cost? At what cost to themselves? At what cost to society?

Let’s consider for a moment an adult experiencing a similar or the same traumatic experience, e.g. bereavement or marriage break up. How would the adult react to the situation?

They may have experiences such as:

  • Numbness
  • Being or feeling dumbfounded
  • Feeling isolated
  • Become angry
  • Become aggressive
  • Sullen
  • Lash out at others
  • Become excessively busy in an attempt to block the memories of the trauma/crisis
  • Talk excessively
  • Blame themselves for what happened
  • Blame others for what happened
  • Take on self destructive behaviours to cope with the situation (e.g. drugs, alcohol, self harm, abusing others etc)
  • Being Fearful
  • Begin to experience panic attacks
  • Become tearful
  • Take time off work
  • Ask for compassionate leave
  • Get depressed

Children are Humans too!

This list is only a minor sample of some possible ways that ADULTS react and
cope with a crisis or traumatic situation. Given that children and young people are Humans too, aren’t they? Why then do so many adults think that children will be ok by simply leaving them to get over it by themselves? That their resilience will make it all ok?

Children and young people experience the same emotions that adults do when faced with trauma, except in some cases their emotions are camouflaged by “childish” behaviour because ……….they are children!

This does not mean that the underlying emotions that have driven them to behave in these “childish” ways have disappeared. This is their way of dealing with the trauma; they simply act out.


Did You Know It Was An Inside Job?

13 March 2013

People come into your life for a reason and being in a relationship provides us with undoubtedly the hardest challenges we face as adults as we are seldom taught to truly love ourselves as children, yet we are expected to know how to love other people as adults in very deep, meaningful, life changing situations such as that posed by marriages and other long term relationships. Relationships teach us, help us to learn life’s lessons and certainly help us to grow as more tolerant human beings if we choose to take up that opportunity. In order to truly love someone else, we must first learn and re-learn to love ourselves. It is impossible to love anyone else more than we love ourselves. The extent of the love we give out is a direct reflection of the love we have for ourselves.

“Be the change you want to see” -Mahatma Ghandi


We get fooled into thinking that the other person only needs to be ‘half ok’ and that we will make up the other half of the relationship, hence the all too common phrase ‘’my other half’’. A healthy relationship needs both parties to be whole, complete individuals in and of themselves, bringing their own happiness, uniqueness, love and abilities into the relationship.

My Partner Is Not Meeting My Needs

A lot of times if we are feeling unfulfilled in our relationship, we tend to aim the
focus of our discontent at our partners without taking sufficient time to focus on
what we might be doing to exacerbate the situation. I know it is easily done and
I have fallen prey to this situation myself in my previous marriage. One of the
things I was guilty of was focusing on what my ex-husband was or was not doing
within the relationship. When I had LEARNT to shift the focus from him to myself,
it was only then that I was able to focus on what I was doing and or not doing
in the relationship. I had to LEARN to take control of my own happiness and
decided that it would not depend on whether my ex-husband or anyone else was
making me happy.


Sometimes we think we know what our needs are, however, when it comes to naming them, we get stuck. If you were to ask your partner today to meet your needs better, what would you say? Do you know what your REAL needs are? Which needs are not being met?
When was the last time you did something spontaneous or special for your partner without expecting something in return? How are you meeting your partner’s needs? Do you know what your partner’s needs are? If you don’t know, then ASK them. Find out what they need in order to feel loved and connected. Sometimes just BEING THERE, being PRESENT is enough. If your partner is not meeting your needs, chances are you may not be meeting theirs either.


You’ve got to give to others first before you can get what you want. If you want a better relationship, go to work on YOU. The problem is not necessarily out there and is usually an ‘inside job’. That is, rather than looking externally and pointing the finger at your partner, look within first. Rather than trying to ‘fix’ them, ‘fix’ you instead. Identify what you want in an ideal relationship and Start to act the way you would like your ideal relationship to be.
Identify where the ‘problem’ really lies: is it you, your partner or the relationship itself. Be honest with yourself and your partner. When you have identified the ‘problem’ then go to work on finding solutions and changing it.

“Be the change you want to see” -Mahatma Ghandi

True, Authentic Self

So, if you want your relationship to be better and grow, GO TO WORK ON YOU TODAY. As you love you more and more, and find your true, authentic self, you will be in a better position to give and share more of your love with your partner.

Loving Inspirations From Children

If you are still feeling unsure about what love is, here’s some inspirations from some children. Enjoy!

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean?”

The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands gotarthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca- age 8

”When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,” Nikka – age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)

”Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” Noelle – age 7

“Love is when Mummy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.” Mark – age 6

”I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren – age 4

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” (What an imagination) Karen – age 7