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Choosing Your Battlegrounds

By | November 6th, 2017|

by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

As a psychologist who has spent the last 30 years working with teenagers and their parents, I have often had a front row seat to a wide variety of battles parents have with their teens. Some of these altercations are over very serious issues that relate to drugs and drinking while others relate to untidy rooms, but both can leave parents exhausted and invariably raise the emotional temperature in the household.

Many parents express great relief when I tell them that a key parenting competency in 2017, is the ability to choose one’s battles. Of course many parents intuitively know this, but they simply don’t know which ones to pick. This is a common dilemma among the parents of teenagers today. At the Family Peace Foundation we strongly believe that there are certain issues on which parents should hold their ground, even though this may enrage their offspring, and there are other topics which can and should well and truly be left to go through to the proverbial wicket-keeper.

Here are two golden rules that might assist readers of this blog:

First, try and see the world through their eyes, and understand the intricacies of being an adolescent in 2017. This is arguably one of the most vulnerable generations in Australia’s history subjected to unprecedented challenges, social media, pressure to conform, anxiety about the future combined with a raft of personal insecurities all can produce significant levels of stress. The adolescent years are some of the most demanding years to handle, and the battles at home are often a reflection of their emotional state.

Second, prioritize the issues that relate to your child’s wellbeing and safety. Couples should draw up a list of which topics which fall in to the health and safety categories and agree that these are simply non-negotiable. Having reached a consensus around these issues, communicate these expectations should be clearly and calmly communicated to their offspring.

It is in the nature of adolescents to push the parental boundaries, however pre-emptive communication in early adolescence – before these issues actually arise and consistent and repeated reiteration of the family rules that are reflective of parental values, attitudes and beliefs will help defuse battles more quickly.

As a service to the Family Peace Foundation website redaers I have endeavoured to compiled a list of some battles to pick, some to avoid and some to defer. It is our hope at the Foundation that this list may form the basis of a discussion in your household as the year draws to an end.

Battles to pick

Issues contrary to the Law: including drinking and the consumption of alcohol underage, underage sex and failing to attend school under the age of 16

Rudeness and disrespect: It is normal for teenagers to develop a desire for independence and autonomy, but this does not mean they are entitled to treat you with disrespect or contempt. Such behaviour needs to be named early and met with consequences.

Health Concerns: Stand firm regarding legitimate threats to their wellbeing. Not sleeping, poor diet, tatoos, body piercings and not exercising all represent potential risks to their health and capacity to function at school. The brains of teenagers are a work in progress and many lack the maturity required to make good decisions about their wellbeing. Whether they like it or not, uner the age of 16 they are still legally minors and need you to monitor, supervise and advise them.

Technology: Technology is a new area of concern because it has the potential to open doors for dangerous behaviours including addiction which in turn may compromise the tackling of key developmental tasks. It’s important to set boundaries with online and digital activities such as social media interactions, online gaming, online gambling Internet browsing and text messaging.

Battles to avoid

Clothing, hairstyles and floordrobes: If a battle does not address an issue that would negatively affect your teen, consider letting it go. Your teen may have a room that looks like a bomb site, arrange or colour their hair in a way that displeases us or dress in an unusual style, but none of these issue are likely to hinder their personal development in the long term. The exception to this rule is if the hairstyle, clothing or jewelry is contrary to school rules.

Issues that reflect your own uncertainties or missteps: If you worry your offspring will make the same errors of judgement that you may have made, you may deny them the independence they actually warrant. It is often useful to think about your past experiences, and be conscious of battles you tend to choose that are based on emotions that arise from your own adolescence. It can be unhelpful to project your past mistakes onto your teen. When you recognize and process your own fears, the battles around those issues tend to resolve themselves.

Battles to defer

Issues that arise within a current conflict: When an argument arises with your teen, stay focused on one issue at a time. When multiple points of contention are brought into the same conversation, explain to your teen that you will discuss those other issues at a later time.

Decisions your teen wants immediately: Teenagers often struggle with delayed gratification and have been known to demand an immediate adjudication on a hot topic. It is often prudent to adjourn the discussion, as all parents should have time to talk to one another and arrive at a conclusion before handing down a decision to their teen.

Sticking to the Golden Rules makes choosing your battles much easier. It is all about ultimately creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.

Amplifying the Positives During Times of Conflict

By | November 20th, 2017|

by Sabina Read

Imagine you return home from work, tired and depleted, with your head still spinning over your never-ending to do list. Your children are fractious and niggling each other after the demands of a long day at school; and the dogs are chasing their tails after missing their much-needed park romp.

Your partner offers to pick up some groceries and cook dinner, and promises to help with the ever-dreaded Maths homework, before calling your mother-in-law to sort out whose bringing what to Aunty Edna’s 80th birthday bash. At night’s end, you hop in the car, to pick up that last-minute “emergency” item needed at school and notice the petrol tank is empty. As you drive home again, what is your most dominant reflection about your partner?

For most of us it will be the empty petrol tank. The reason? That pesky construct that psychologists call “negativity bias” which states that in most situations, negative events will be more salient, potent and dominant than positive events. In general, negative events require more processing and attention than positive ones, largely due to our evolution.

It would be crazy to bask in the warmth of the sunshine while you gaze gratefully at your loin cloth clad lover and risk being mauled by a sabre tooth tiger waiting to pounce. Rather it makes far more sense to scan the environment for threats and risks and increase your chances of living another day!

There’s no doubt we are hard-wired to attend to what’s not working rather than what is to survive, but at what cost to our interpersonal well-being? Sure, we may be alive, but our relationships are suffering! At the Family Peace Foundation, we know that conflict is inevitable in every marriage and every relationship. However, what we do in times of conflict matters…big-time!

One of my favourite psychologists and academics, Dr John Gottman, wanted to understand the difference between happy and unhappy couples. In his research, he observed couples attempting to resolve an important conflict in 15 minutes. When happy couples were arguing or expressing differing views on issues that mattered, they also expressed humour, affection and empathy. In fact, they exhibited 5 times as many positive interactions for every single negative interaction compared to a more meagre .8:1 ratio observed in unhappy couples.

This literally means that when we are living with conflict, sarcasm, defensiveness or anger, we must make a conscious effort to inject a joke, an apology, understanding, gratitude and validation into every disagreement with 5 times the frequency. For every eye roll we display, we need to offer 5 positives. For every single criticism or put down we utter, we need to offer 5 positives. For every time we stonewall and shut down our partner, we need to offer 5 positives.

And the same stands for parenting our children. When our teen brings home a report card with the following grades: A, C, D, B, A, B+ most of us will want to know what happened to result in a D. When our daughter doesn’t help her little brother, we innately express anger towards her, and when our son forgets his lunch, we reprimand his forgetfulness. But how many of us counter each of these complaints and criticisms with 5 positive statements?

Perhaps mum and dad got it wrong when they said “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! Instead, maybe we should espouse “if you don’t have anything nice to say, think of 5 ways to express interest, affection, validation, appreciation, and humour!” But of course, mum and dad got it right in so many other ways and I’m grateful for that!

 

Sparks or Island of Competence

By | November 11th, 2017|

by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

One of the most important developmental tasks for young people growing up in 2017 is for them to form an identity, to figure out the answer to the questions ‘Who am I, am I normal and where am I going?.”

At the Family Peace Foundation, we believe that parents can help young people answer these questions from an early age, by providing their offspring with an opportunity to take healthy risks – and – win, lose or draw gradually form an identity. Allow me to share a personal experience of the benefits of this.

When my son was in his first year of high school, he came home to tell me that his music teacher thought he had a great sense of rhythm and suggested that he should have drumming lessons and he needed me to buy him a drum kit. Putting aside my parental fantasy of having a son who played the piano or violin, I dutifully popped down to the local music store and purchased a mid-range drum kit which was installed in his bedroom.

For some years we also paid for drum lessons at school, and to his credit, he practiced assiduously at home (the neighbours were especially pleased) and it all culminated in a school concert performance where he drummed along to the song “Look What You’ve Done” the fourth single by the Australian rock band Jet, from their 2003 album Get Born.

Soon afterwards, he joined a band compromised of two school mates, both nice boys who wrote songs, practiced in our various homes and posted it’s finest work on the then-most popular website MySpace, attracting favourable comments from a solid fan base. My involvement was to pile the drum kit into the back of the Rav 4 and played the role of the world’s oldest roadie. The band eventually folded in Year 12, after what can only be described as a ‘Yoko’ incident, about which I will say nothing.

The point of this story is that the band ensured that none of its members were ever bored, they were always doing something that was band-related and together with my son’s love of leg spin bowling, a healthy obsession with cricket – the bottom line was throughout his adolescence – he was always doing something. A seriously important principle of parenting in 2017 is that while young people are doing one thing – they can’t be doing another.

Psychologist Steve Biddulph, argues that if parents can help their sons and daughters find their ‘spark’ – something that they love to do, that gives them a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging – it can help free them from the need for approval that haunts many young people and diminishes their confidence, especially in adolescence. A “spark” can be a natural skill or talent, such as playing a musical instrument or sport, a commitment, such as volunteering or being environmentally conscious.

So, how might we do this? He suggests parents should ask their children ‘what do you really love to do?’ and ‘how can I help you to do that?’ He lists skills or talents, such as drawing or dancing, that should be encouraged because children enjoy finding something they excel in.

Biddulph writes that as children reach early adolescence, parents should try and spend more time with them because it is a key period in helping them find what makes them truly happy. Within this activity, be it art, music, dance, drama or sport your children can have the opportunity to sus out who could be positive long-term friends, discover and form a strong and meaningful relationship with an adult mentor or charismatic adult in the form of a coach or teacher and have the opportunity to take healthy risks that helps with self definition. Parents also benefit because it affords you the chance to meet other parents who have similar parenting values and strategies to your own.

But it gets better. There is also research that suggest that your child having a spark is also associated with increasing their resilience – in essence the capacity of your child to face, overcome, be strengthened and transformed by adversity. Professor Emmy Werner is an American developmental psychologist, best known in the field of child development for her leadership of a forty-year longitudinal study of 698 infants on the Hawaiian island of Kauai — the island’s entire birth cohort for the year 1955.

The study supported the conventional wisdom that many children exposed to a variety of risk factors (for instance, premature birth coupled with an unstable household and a mentally ill mother) go on to experience more problems with delinquency, mental and physical health and family stability than children exposed to fewer such risk factors.

However, among Werner’s most significant findings was that one third of all high-risk children on the island displayed resilience and developed into caring, competent and confident adults despite their problematic development histories. She and her fellow researchers identified a number of protective factors in the lives of these resilient individuals which helped to balance out risk factors at critical periods in their development – one of which was having what she called ‘islands of competence’ also known as a spark.

If you are not sure what your kids spark is, a simple way of knowing is to watch what activities totally absorb them, or if they are older, ask them. Then encourage these activities at any opportunity. You’ll never regret it.

Yelling Blog

By | October 23rd, 2017|

by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

It was the well-known parenting expert, Taylor Swift who once said ‘If you’re yelling you’re the one who has lost control of the situation.’ The 27-year old Grammy award winning singer and song writer was only half right as yelling turns out to be bad for the kids as well.

A study[1] in the journal Child Development by Dr Rochelle Hentges and Colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh studied 1,482 students, over a nine-year period, beginning their first year in high school and ending three years after they left school. By the end of the study, 1,060 students remained. In this study, harsh parenting (yelling) was related to dreadful educational outcomes through a set of complex cascading psychological processes.  Harsh parenting was defined by the researchers as yelling, hitting, and engaging in coercive behaviours like verbal or physical threats as a means of punishment.

The researchers looked at youth who were part of the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study, which examined the influences of social contexts on adolescents’ academic and psychosocial development. This ongoing longitudinal study in a large county near Washington, D.C., included 1,482 students, who were followed over nine years, beginning in year 7 and ending three years after students’ left school. By the end of the study, 1,060 students remained. Researchers found that students who were parented harshly in year 7 were more likely in year 9 to say their peer group was more important than other responsibilities, including following parents’ rules. This in turn, led them to engage in more risk taking in Year 11, including more frequent early sexual behaviour in girls and greater delinquency (e.g. hitting, stealing) in boys.These behaviours, in turn, led to low educational achievement (as assessed by years of school completed) three years after high school, meaning that students who were parented harshly were more likely to drop out of high school. Parenting influenced educational outcomes even after accounting for socioeconomic status, standardized test scores, grade point average, and educational values.

It might be from the University of the Bleeding Obvious, but what this study showed was that yelling at your kids increases the likelihood that your kids will seek validation from their mates in unhealthy ways, which may lead to increased aggression and delinquency, as well as early sexual behaviour at the expense of long-term goals such as education. The researchers concluded that he impact of being yelled at regularly was as serious as if the children were being hit.

So, if you don’t want to turn your kids into vacuous, violent vandals, then it is time to eliminate yelling from your parenting repertoire. But what to do instead? The Family Peace Foundation offers the following techniques:

 1.  Realize you are the Adult
Unlike your child, your brain is fully developed. They have 100 billion brain cells and a 1000-trillion connections, but they are not all wired up yet and won’t be until their mid 20’s. They are still all neurological accelerator and no brake. You need to model how to manage your own emotions. Have a developmental perspective – while they are growing up – it is normal for them to lose it now and then.

2. When you get angry, take a breath
Don’t take any action or make any decisions. BREATHE deeply. If you’re already yelling, stop in mid-sentence. Turn away and shake out your hands. Don’t do anything until you’re calm.

3.  Disengage strategically
Look them in the eye and say calmly, “we are getting upset now, let’s leave this now and talk later” or ‘I need more time to think about this, why don’t you have the final say”. Let them speak – then walk away and re-engage later on when you have had some time to calm down, seek advice and decide on a strategy.

Remember, at the Family Peace Foundation, we are the first to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and it can be hard to break the yelling habit, especially if you grew up with it. It takes remarkable self-control, and you’ll find yourself relapsing occasionally – but do not stop trying. The more you use this technique, the easier It gets easier it gets, – you are in the process od re-wiring your brain. One day you’ll wake up and realize that it’s been weeks since you yelled at your kids. The good news? Your children will do better at school and are less likely to turn into juvenile delinquents. So next time your kids press your button, as Taylor Swift would say ‘Shake it Off.’ Good luck.

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[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12389/full

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Friends Blog

By | October 25th, 2017|

by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

It was the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde who once observed rather amusingly, that ‘true friends stab you in the front.’ The importance of having a bunch of fearless, frank and forthright friends was also reinforced by the father of the positive psychology movement, Professor Martin Seligman, who once said that one of the significant predictors of wellbeing in humans was not being good looking, not having more good things happen to you than bad, not even having lots of money, No, he said  it was all about having a rich repertoire of friends. The

 

This is absolutely born out by my clinical experience of over 30 years as a child and adolescent psychologist, which has shown me repeatedly that a child’s ability to obtain, maintain and retain good friendships is one of the key social and emotional competencies that help them cope with life. Positive peer relationships formed at this time can play powerful roles in providing support and connection, while simultaneously coping with school, emancipating from adult carers and in helping young people form an identity – in essence, to answer the important question of “who am I?”

 

Depending on the nature and quality of these relationships, peer relationships can be either risk or protective factors, which can contribute to the likelihood (or not) to risk behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse, unsafe sexual practices and attitudes to schools. As boys grow older, there is often a change in relationships based largely on shared interests (e.g. art, music or sport) to those based on sharing ideas and feelings, mutual trust, and understanding each other.

 

But the benefits of having a network of pro-social peers, go beyond just helping create social connections they have also been shown to increase our immunity to infection, lower our risk of heart disease and reduce mental decline as we get older. Not having close personal ties, (outside of having development disorders like autism) has been shown to pose significant risks for your child’s health.

 

At the Family Peace Foundation, we want to give parents useful strategies to help your child make friends by suggesting two key strategies. First, parents have a role in helping develop their child’s social skills by giving them 3 key pieces of advice:

 

  1. Don’t talk too much, listen carefully and ask questions. Using these social skills will help your child communicate that they care what the other person is saying and that they find them interesting. Parents of children about to start high school, can encourage their offspring to practice these skills by having mock conversations ensuring making eye contact while they’re speaking and following up with a couple of questions.

 

  1. Give them a compliment. Have you ever received a compliment? Doesn’t it feel great? Complimenting someone is a great icebreaker and naturally gives the other person an ego boost. Follow up with some questions, and hey presto – you’re having a conversation with a stranger!

 

  1. Detach yourself from technology. If your child constantly on the mobile, laptop or tablet and distracted by emails and text messages, they may not notice when someone is interested in them. Having your face buried in a screen can also makes people think that they are unavailable and not interested in chatting.

 

Second, parents can help their children make good friendships beyond the usual spots like school – and we urge parents to explore these 3 options.

 

  1. Special interest groups outside of school – be that sports, art, music, dance or drama. Chances are your kids will find people there who they will get on with. After all, they already have at least one thing in common!

 

  1. Charity work and volunteering. So many good things can come out of volunteering, including better mental health for the volunteer. Not only will your children be helping others, there’s a good chance they will make friends while doing it.

 

  1. Social events. Encourage your childrennot to turn down invitations to parties and social events. The more people they socialise with, the more people they will have an opportunity to talk with, and the more likely they are to make new friends!

 

Investing in your child’s ability to make friends is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their child. At the Family Peace Foundation, we hope parents will be proactive in helping develop their child’s social skills and will explore some of the options outlined in this article. The last word should go to Oscar Wilde, who said, “…I don’t want to go to heaven. None of my friends are there”.

8 Minutes – Better than Disneyland

By | September 27th, 2017|

I’ve talked to many people about the Family Peace Foundation’s initiative of spending at least 8 minutes a day with each child in a one-on-one capacity. Not surprisingly, a common response has been a sheepish and mumbled “I don’t think I actually do that.” That’s fine. Welcome to the world of parenting which comes with a healthy sprinkle of guilt and a good dose of second-guessing oneself from the day you leave the birthing suite of the hospital.

Yesterday has gone but today brings new opportunities to connect and share with our children. Let’s just assume that one of the barriers to practicing this behaviour is a lack of knowledge about the potential benefits this simple practice can bring to a child’s sense of security and wellbeing. Now that we know better, we can do better. So how can we convert our newfound knowledge into a sustainable habit to create a nation of parents who spend at least 8 minutes a day with each child, just like they brush and floss, use seatbelts, or drink adequate quantities of water daily.

Forming a desired habit is a choice, and spending at least 8 minutes a day with each child is just that. When creating a new habit, it’s important to focus on the long term benefits the newly created behaviour will bring to your life.  Before embarking on the change process, visualise how your life will be if you develop a stronger connection with your children. Once you have even the smallest runs on the board, write down the specific benefits of time spent listening, sharing, laughing and just being with your kids. If a day goes by, and you drop the ball, refer back to the list when you are struggling, feeling crazy-busy, or perhaps even a little rejected or unappreciated by the little people in your life.

It also helps to be realistic about the timing involved when creating new habits. There is no magic formula to create and maintain a new habit, and contrary to popular belief, habits do not miraculously develop after 21 days. Families are busy units of people with inevitable conflicting schedules, commitments, personalities and needs. It’s normal for any change-process to involve a few steps forwards and a few steps backwards so it’s key to find time to acknowledge and celebrate the successes made instead of focusing on the slip ups. A combination of self compassion and accountability are helpful ingredients to move towards meaningful behaviour change.

Forming new habits is also easier when the desired change is personally meaningful rather than because we feel pressured to change at the request of someone else. Consider what would be different for you and your child if you prioritised short periods of time to your child and the relationship you share. Questions to ponder pre-habit change may include – How would daily brief but potent interaction and attention with your children change the way he or she feels? How would setting aside purposeful time together, even for just 8 minutes, impact on the relationship? How would your sense of connection change? How do you feel when someone you care about gives you undivided and non-judgemental attention? What are some of the things you look for to feel truly seen and heard by others?

In a practical sense, you can set up some triggers to remind you to follow through on your new 8-minute habit. Place a number 8 sticker on your bedside light as a reminder to commit to time together or cut out a number 8 and stick it on your fridge. Be kind to yourself too. The Family Peace Foundation’s initiative is not prescriptive but an invitation to join the journey. Allow our initiative to serve as the catalyst to be more present and patient for short bursts of time with your children. This regular authentic contact is more powerful than any trip to Disneyland and costs nothing, not even a set of Mickey Mouse ears.

If you find the busyness of life creeping in, take a realistic audit of where your time goes. If you cannot find 8 minutes in your busy schedule to listen, share, play, touch, learn and be with each child, it may be worth re-visting the new habit rewards by asking a younger “authority” what they think of your time spent together. Your child’s delight at the way you light up in their presence will be reward enough to help garner long term change in the quest for increasing parental and family connection.

The Power of Family Rituals

By | September 11th, 2017|

The Power of Family Rituals by Sabina Read

Since our kids were infants, we have massaged and quietly tickled them at bed-time while listening to classical music CD “Music For Dreaming” playing softly in the background. This simple ritual had a multitude of benefits including creating a wind-down cue for our children that sleep time was approaching, strengthening the parent and child bond through touch, not to mention the calming of weary parents as we lay with our children and shared the soothing sounds of uninterrupted lullabies.

At The Family Peace Foundation, we are passionate about strengthening families and minimising family conflict using simple, evidence-based and accessible strategies and tools. One powerful practice known to strengthen families is the creation and practice of family rituals.  Family rituals help to create a sense of belonging and identity, and are positively associated with a child’s socioemotional, language, academic and social skill development.  When practiced regularly, rituals strengthen the connectedness between partners, and parents and their children which helps build stronger family bonds.

With so many known benefits, some readers may be wondering what rituals are recommended to incorporate into family life. Luckily the answer is almost limitless! While regular trips to Disneyland may rank high on your kids list as a ritual they would like to adopt, potent and meaningful rituals need only be enjoyable, accessible and able to be practiced regularly for them to become a sustainable thread in the fabric of any family household.

In fact, many families will probably already be involved in simple rituals such as meal sharing. Recent studies link regular family dinners with positive outcomes including lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grades and self-esteem. Regular family meals also lower rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.

There is no recipe for the perfect family ritual. Other rituals may include cooking special dishes to celebrate birthdays and other significant milestone events, going for a family walk after dinner, playing cards one night of the week, reading books in bed or on the couch quietly in each other’s company, singing silly songs to pets, a secret family hand-shake, playing I-Spy on long car trips, watching Modern Family together on a Sunday night, sharing a jam donut at the footy, or story-telling while looking at old family photos.

Strong connections are built on the small, loving things we do and say regularly, not the one- off bells and whistles outings that end up on Facebook!  Family rituals help build a sense of security and predictability, and say “this is who we are” as a family. When over the years, moments of uncertainty and insecurity inevitably visit us, a history of rituals provides a robust template of belonging and meaning to take into our adult years.

When a family practices and relishes a range of rituals, parents may also benefit from a big tick in the parental-efficacy box, and the knowledge that the family is connecting and delighting in it’s bite-sized, regular, ritualistic moments. Sometimes I joke that when our now-teenage daughters eventually get married, I’ll lie down next to my new son-in-laws to tickle them off to sleep while playing gentle lullabies! But in reality, I’d be thrilled if our girls and their partners tickle and massage their own kids to sleep knowing that our sleep-time ritual lives on.

Important Role of Parental Socialization

By | August 16th, 2017|

It’s well recognised that financial literacy is an important component of healthy adulthood. Young people who understand credit, debt, insurance, and other financial products, and those who ultimately achieve financial independence, tend to have higher levels of financial and overall well-being.  As such, there is an abundance of research which has sought to understand how employment, education, and socio-economic status may influence possible pathways to financial literacy. However less information exists around the process of financial socialization, particularly in the context of families.

Kim and Chatterjee (2013) define financial socialization as “how young adults develop their financial values, attitudes and behaviours.” The authors examined the predictors of financial attitudes and practices of 18-21-year-olds in the USA, including the extent to which family warmth; parental financial monitoring and communication; and youth and parent factors influence financial behaviours and attitudes in young adulthood.

Research from the literature suggests several factors can influence financial literacy in later years including the acquisition of maths and problem-solving abilities in childhood as well as part-time employment in adolescence. Students who undertake between 8-12 hours a week paid work may benefit from monetary competence, personal responsibility and exposure to adult financial roles, however excessive hours of employment can negatively impact academic and social development.

At the Family Peace Foundation, our focus is on cultivating healthy and peaceful family relationships and dynamics. While many factors including school, media and peers contribute to a child’s development and well-being, parents are considered the most salient socialization influencers, which in financial arenas, may encompass modelling, directing, discussing, and explaining a broad range of financial behaviours, standards, skills, norms, skills and attitudes, which collectively shape the financial literacy of young adults.

While pathways to financial literacy are complex, as busy and well-meaning parents, most of us are looking for simple, evidence-based strategies and tips to implement at home with our own children. The authors of the 2013 study provided the following 5 suggestions for parents and financial educators to help foster financial literacy in our children as they transition to young adults:

  1. Opening a childhood savings account is a useful financial educational tool for children
  2. Providing pocket money, no matter how small in value, is an effective learning tool only with parent-child interactions such as communication and monitoring to support the value of money given by parents
  3. Teaching children about credit is important (however the study found that parental factors had little influence on credit card debt in young adulthood)
  4. Cultivating trust and a warm relationship between parents and children can facilitate appropriate communication and rules about financial matters, and yet an overly protective parent-child relationship may stifle opportunities for developmentally appropriate financial independence
  5. Parental socialization is important in developing financial literary in young people, however for families who are ill-equipped to deliver financial socialization strategies to their children; primary and secondary schooling, workplaces, communities and the internet can also be useful supplements to fill in the desired learning gaps

As is the case with all parent-to-child socialization processes, a combination of talking and modelling influences child’s development and understanding.  Talking about financial matters with our children can feel forced, awkward or irrelevant; however discussing bank account options and pocket money, with even the smallest amounts of money, can serve as the catalyst for important learnings that can translate into healthy long-term financial behaviour, even when money is tight.

Reference:

Kim, J. & Chatterjee, S. (2013). Childhood Financial Socialization and Young Adults’ Financial Management. Journal of Financial Counselling and Planning Vol 24, (1) 61-79.

Alcohol

By | August 5th, 2017|

 

It is a fact that Australia ranks among the top dozen countries for alcohol abuse, with the average Australian drinking 12.2 litres of pure alcohol a year, according to the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014. The binge drinking culture that is prevalent in university is thought to be part of the problem. Young people at university are often peer pressured into drinking and tend to feel like they need to consume alcohol in order to make friends and socialise.

I spent my second year of university in one of Australia’s oldest university colleges. One of the many rites of passage was to play officially sanctioned drinking games and the one that stands out in my memory was the boat race (Beer On A Table Race). This was a drinking game that was usually played between two teams of equal numbers, usually the older students versus the newbies or ‘freshers’. The game features in the 2006 Broken Lizard movie, ‘Beerfest’.
My recollection was that the race begins with all competitors placing their drinks on a table. Someone blew a whistle, signalling that the first drinker on each team is allowed to pick up their drink and begin drinking. Once it was consumed, the drinker had to invert the empty cup on their head. This was done to ensure no cheating occurred.

The next teammate was not permitted to touch his drink until this has occurred. Empty cups had to be kept on the competitors’ heads until the race was over.There was a widespread belief amongst my fellow students that it was okay to drink excessively while at university because “it’s only a few years of your life” and once university ended, so would the harmful drinking habits.

However, with alcohol accounting for 65,000 hospital admissions and over 3,000 deaths each year in Australia, and the clear link between alcohol and domestic violence, the current rates of binge drinking at university should be a cause for concern within the community.While in my day, there were zero attempts to address this issue, today many universities do require students to watch educational videos or take online quizzes about appropriate alcohol use.

A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology a few years ago shows that these one-time interventions do work, but their effect tends to wear off as the year progresses. The study combined data collected from three previous alcohol intervention studies and analysed the drinking behaviours of over 1,000 university students who had been through some sort of alcohol education program. Some of the students took an online course either at home or in a lab, while others received in-person education.

A month later, 82 percent of the students reported drinking less, regardless of the type of alcohol education they had. But 12 months later, 84 percent had increased their drinking — often to dangerous levels.The alcohol education programs were more effective for some students than others. The courses worked especially well for women, and for younger, inexperienced drinkers. But for about 10 percent of the students — mostly men the courses had no effect.

But the study highlights something that the Family Peace Foundation believes is crucial if we are to reduce alcohol-related domestic violence, namely the need to find more ways to keep reminding our teenagers that if they do drink, they should be aware of their limits, pace themselves and stay hydrated, we need to remind all family members that people can still have fun and consume alcohol without hurting themselves others.

I don’t know how many of my old college acquaintances went on to develop problems with alcohol, I just know that there was no education on harm minimisation and am grateful that many colleges have now at last seen the light. For families, the message is clear talk often and early about alcohol. If you need some conversation starters, go to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s website: www.theothertalk.org.au

Social & Emotional Competencies

By | July 17th, 2017|

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist and philosopher. In 1862 he wrote an essay titled ‘Winter Notes on Summer Impressions’ which was an account of his travels in Western Europe. He wrote

Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

Professor Daniel Wegner,  a psychology professor at Harvard University found the Dostoyevsky quote more than 25 years ago and decided to see if the Russian’s theory was right – with a simple experiment, in which he asked participants to express their stream of consciousness for five minutes, while actively trying not to think of a white bear. If a white bear came to mind, he told them, they should ring a bell. Despite the categorical direction to avoid it, the participants thought of a white bear more than once per minute, on average. So Wegner’s study tells us that when we are instructed not to think about something, it makes it harder to get that topic out of their minds.

The good news is that the Family Peace Foundation can share a few techniques that can help you and other family members stop dwelling on negative thoughts – aka ban the bear – and refocus your mind on something positive.One distraction trick I teach my clients I call the ‘Costco’ technique, where I get them to visualise themselves at a Costco store and I ask them to imagine all of the items in one aisle in the store, and the order that you see them in.

Some clients aren’t big discount shoppers but they do love a good book, so I’ll get them to concentrate on the order of books on their bookshelf, or if they like music, the order of songs in their favourite album or phone playlist that they like to listen to. They don’t have to do it for long—maybe 30 seconds or a minute, but the trick is to be disciplined about it and do it each time the negative thought or bear – comes back -even if that means doing it 20 times an hour. I tell my clients that if they practice this regularly, they can reinforce these patterns and, it can improve their mood and their decision-making abilities – it is about training your brain to go in a different direction when unhelpful or upsetting thoughts come up.

Technique two is about deliberately hanging out with different people. If you can’t get bothersome thoughts out of your mind, it may have something to do with who you are associating with. In a 2013 study, Notre Dame researchers found that negative thoughts are contagious. They found that in a sample of university students it was not uncommon for the students to pick up rumination-like behaviours from their fellow students. It turns out that because rumination often involves worrying and thinking aloud, it’s a habit that can be easily be mirrored by other people. So, a good tip is to avoid unendingly negative people if you can or at least be aware of what parts of their mind-set might be rubbing off on you.

Finally, one of my favourite pieces of advice to give clients is that “if in life, they can’t change something, they can always change the way they think about it”. Before you try the Costco solution, or positive friends technique – it may be useful to reframe or re-evaluate the situation in your head. A few months back, I was flying to Singapore for a conference, and my flight was delayed 5 hours, and instead of thinking about the fact that I would miss the beginning of the conference and the fact that I would be knackered when I arrived at 1 am in the morning – instead, I decided see it as a chance to get work done. Once, I had successfully reframed the situation, I felt better.

So here are a few techniques that can help you ditch the rumination and refocus your mind on something positive. All Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky really needed to get rid of his polar bear was a bit of distraction and a healthy dose of willpower.


Dr Michael Carr-Gregg BA (Hons) MA, PhD MAPS Cert Child Internet Safety (UCLAN)
Child and Adolescent Psychologist
 FOLLOW Michael on Twitter @MCG58
www.Michaelcarrgregg.com

Respectful Relationships

By | July 4th, 2017|

Research released this week found that more Australian teenagers are viewing porn and doing so at a younger age than ever before. The study conducted by Burnet Institute researcher Dr Megan Lim found almost all young Australian men frequently watched porn and that this behaviour was starting at younger age, 13 for boys, 16 for girls and at quite high frequency

 

Dr Lim surveyed more than 940 young people found that around 80 per cent of young men said they watched weekly, and among the women who watched pornography, nearly two-thirds viewed at least monthly.

 

More worryingly she discovered a link between pornography use, mental health problems and becoming sexually active at a younger age. The problem is that what the researchers they have uncovered is an association between watching pornography more frequently and poor mental health, though Dr Lim can’t say from this study if one is causing the other.

 

The study found young people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer watched pornography more frequently and from a younger age.

 

It has been said for a while that online porn is Australia’s leading sex educator and this study has important implications for parents and schools as it is reasonable to assume that this must be having an influence on young people’s sexual development. The problem is that what our young people are watching has nothing to with respectful relationships.

 

At the Family Peace Foundation we believe that we need to challenge the facets of our culture that support the attitudes, behaviours and practices that are contained in this explicit online material. Pornography has nothing to do with the values that the Foundation cherishes such as love, intimacy and most importantly consent. It also doesn’t feature safe sexual practices, it puts zero emphases on emotional connection, and creates expectations about people’s bodies that are completely unrealistic.

The Family Peace Foundation believes that respectful relationships education builds the skills of young Australians to reject aggressive behaviour, sexualisation, discrimination and gender stereotyping, and develop equal and respectful relationships. It’s challenging to talk to young people about sex and relationships,  but this new research has demonstrated what has changed in recent years is young people’s access to a wider and wider range of messaging on sex and relationships, online and in popular culture, much of which is far from positive.

To learn what to say to your children about pornography go to www.itstimewetalked.com.au

Don’t Overlook the Child Within

By | June 28th, 2017|

(3rd Rituals Blog by Sabina Read 5/5/17)

 

It’s a simple fact that we were all children once, but how quickly we adults forget what the world looked like through the lens of a child or teen. Over time, our natural and innate curiosity and joy can wain as we become peppered with the influence of judgement, comparisons, yearnings and responsibilities.

As a reader of this blog, it’s likely you value and desire a peaceful and strong family unit. If this assumption is correct, I invite you to take a couple of minutes now to travel back in time to remember a positive memory from your own childhood. Shut your eyes and explore the potent senses that may help bring the happy recollection back to life.

For some readers, this may prove challenging as their default lens automatically searches for the regrets, hurts, injustices and disappointments that family life delivered. For others, the exploration may quickly uncover special times on holidays or memorable milestones. But for many readers, positive memories will be found in the simple, seemingly unremarkable, rituals that were shared and practiced with parents and siblings. The shared meals, outings, games, songs or activities that were repeatedly practiced, that brought a sense of belonging and meaning to family life.

While the child-within may not have formally identified these favourable memories as rituals, it’s likely we intuitively reaped the benefits that sharing rituals brought to our sense of belonging and developing identify, and their meaningful contribution to our much-needed stability and connectedness during inevitable periods of stress, transition or uncertainty.

There is an abundance of research supporting the importance of rituals in conveying “this is who we are” as a family (see previous two blogs and fact sheet on the FPF website).  However, cultivating, practicing and cherishing rituals is simple and possible for each of us; and can be easily accessed with a pair of empathetic child-like glasses and an open-mind. These alone can help us sift through our own memory banks, scanning for simple ritualistic practices that mattered most to the little person that resides within each of us.

By identifying and practicing some of the rituals that filled up our own cup as a child, we can assume that re-creating them with our own children may have the same positive impact on them, and the unborn children and grand-children to follow. But if you’re unsure which rituals served you well as a child, or you’re ready to turn over a new ritualistic leaf, why not ask the younger people in your home what they like to do again and again as a family. Just because you’re the adult now, doesn’t mean you are expected to have all the answers. What matters more is that you have the right questions, and the child-like curiosity to ask them to your children today.

Sabina and her mother enjoying one her favourite childhood rituals – bedtime stories!

Respectful Relationships

By | June 18th, 2017|

I’m not a proponent of so called know-it-all gurus and I’m even a little wary when experts, authors or speakers appear to have cult-like followings from their adoring legion of fans. Typically, I prefer to take a more eclectic approach to learning and growth by dipping in and out of evidence-based content that contributes to my personal and professional knowledge, believing that a range of perspectives provides a more balanced viewpoint.

However, as a psychologist, wife and mother, I’m a pretty big fan of psychologist and researcher, Dr John Gottman, who has conducted over 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples, authored over 200 published academic articles and authored or co-authored more than 40 books, including a New York Times bestseller.

At the Family Peace Foundation, we believe that respectful relationships form the cornerstone of peaceful families and healthy marriages. Naturally, seeking to create respectful relationships is a call to action for every family member regardless of gender or age, however, Gottman’s rigorous research has found that in particular, men have the potential to separate a great relationship from a failed one (The Man’s Guide to Women by John and Julie Gottman).

Some men may hear this as a threat, a pressure, or perhaps even a criticism, however for me it is an encouraging message of hope, intended as an invitation to empower men to better understand what women want and how they can quite simply provide it to create a more harmonious and loving relationship with their partner, which in turn, is a gift to the children who live in their care.

So, if you’re a man wondering how to create a more respectful and connected relationship with your wife, I give you the following four statements Gottman says men should never utter to their partners, together with some more useful alternatives:

1.“What is it now?”

This terse response suggests impatience and frustration, and shuts down any attempt your partner may be making to connect with you. Instead try replacing this toxic response with “tell me more, I’m listening.” Then listen without offering corrections, rebuttals or solutions!

2.“I miss the great body you used to have!”

Some men feel like this is a compliment but chances are your partner already has enough thoughts in her own head about how her body isn’t up to scratch so instead find something you genuinely love about her body to comment on. The options are endless so long as they are authentic. “I love you in that dress.” “Watching you dance makes me happy.” “You look sexy when you’re putting on your lipstick.” “I love your eyes/lips/hands/feet etc.”

3.“Fine. Have it your way. You always do anyway.”

This statement oozes score-keeping suggesting that when she gets what she wants you miss out. Respectful relationships aren’t a competition. Instead continue to go back to the simplest yet most effective questions on the respectful relationships menu – “what do you feel?” and “what do you need?”

4.“Why are you always so needy?

We are all needy and we all spend much of our time trying to figure out how to get our unmet needs met! Healthy and respectful relationships are about trying to help fulfil each other’s unmet needs. Try to hear her bid for needs as an opportunity to connect rather than a drain on your resources!

  • Sabina Read

 

Pledge Your Business Support

By | June 13th, 2017|

Donate to the Family Peace Foundation and help us work towards peaceful upbringings for every Australian child. Our aim is more peaceful homes, workplaces and communities, leading to a safer and more productive Australian society. The Family Peace Foundation’s vision is peaceful upbringings for every Australian child.

Business Sponsorship

One in three women in your business and mine are the potential victims of family violence[1] and tragically their children suffer innocently [2]and helplessly with their mothers.

The obvious human cost is far too great to comprehend or calculate, whilst the financial cost to the Australian community, according to PWC, is $21.7 billion per year[3]– and rising.

My business is a donor of the Family Peace Foundation and I invite yours to do the same.

From between just $1 and $5 per week for each one of your employees, you will in a real and tangible way, show your staff that you care about their welfare.

 

To succeed, the Family Peace is focusing on strengthening families through education giving parents the skills, knowledge and strategies to swim against the inevitable tide of relationship stress which if not managed, can lead to excessive conflict which in far too any instances leads to family violence.

The Foundation’s education will be delivered via brief communication, using radio, television, press, billboards and online.

 

Education via brief communication has been used very successfully around the world to effect positive social change for decades.

 

The T.A.C. has used brief communication across all media channels over the past 40 years in reducing the road toll to effectively one tenth of what it was in the 1970’s[4].

 

The Family Peace Foundation is run on strict commercial guidelines and as such, I personally guarantee you that not one cent of your vital financial support will be wasted.

 

There are plenty of good causes that I realise you are called on to support.  However, I believe nothing will do more to improve society than putting an end to family violence.

 

Over time, as homes become more peaceful – schools, workplaces and communities will follow suit leading to a more peaceful, safe, secure and prosperous society for all future generations of Australian children.

 

I trust you can support this most worthy cause.

 

 

[1] https://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures

[2] http://www.thelookout.org.au/fact-sheet-7-family-violence-statistics

[3] http://www.pwc.com.au/press-room/2015/violence-against-women-costing-Australia-nov15.html

[4] http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/statistics/lives-lost-annual

 

pledge your support

Donate to the Family Peace Foundation and help us work towards peaceful upbringings for every Australian child. Our aim is more peaceful homes, workplaces and communities, leading to a safer and more productive Australian society.

INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY DONORS

BUSINESS DONORS

PHILANTHROPIC BENEFACTORS

Pledge Your Individual & Family Sponsorship

By | June 5th, 2017|

Donate to the Family Peace Foundation and help us work towards peaceful upbringings for every Australian child. Our aim is more peaceful homes, workplaces and communities, leading to a safer and more productive Australian society. The Family Peace Foundation’s vision is peaceful upbringings for every Australian child.

Individual & Family Sponsorship

Falling in love, starting out, maybe getting married then expecting a first baby seem so far from the tragic reality of family violence.

So what happens to cause up to one third of all relationships to experience family violence ?

Evidence shows some of the key contributors to family violence include excessive alcohol, financial stress, social and emotional incompetence, lack of family rituals and lack of respectful relationships.

Family violence rarely occurs out of nowhere. Inevitably it starts with occasional stress becoming constant stress which leads to conflict which becomes excessive conflict and then in far too many instances, conflict becomes violent.

Over one million Australian children are the current victims of family violence .

How do we plan to achieve that lofty goal?

The Foundation’s work is all about strengthening families to give them the skills, knowledge and strategies to swim against the inevitable tide of constant stress which if not appropriately managed leads to excessive conflict which in many cases leads to family violence.
The way the Family Peace Foundation strengthens families is through education via brief communication. Education via brief communication has been used very successfully around the world to bring about positive social behaviour change.The Victorian T.A.C. campaigns on radio, television, press and billboard’s have been highly successful in helping to get the road toll down to effectively one tenth of what it was just forty or so years ago.

The Foundation wants to do the same with family violence statistics over the next twenty to thirty years.

However, to succeed, the Foundation needs the financial support of Australian families and businesses. Whilst we will work hard to get Government assistance, reality is whatever Governments give the Foundation will fall far short of what we need to succeed.

So how much should you give?

As a constant reminder of what family peace means to you, an amount of $1 to $5 per week for each one of your children, grandchildren or other young loved ones will help ensure the Family Peace Foundation can consistently – over the twenty to thirty years it will take – work towards peaceful upbringings for every Australian child.

Currently, one in four Australian children are exposed far too often to family violence.

If we can get one in four to one in four hundred, we will have succeeded.

Sadly, the families that need the most help in eliminating family violence from their homes are, not always but invariably, not emotionally or financially able to support the Foundation’s work.

Thus, we are relying on you, the parents and grandparents of Australia’s fortunate children to give us as much support as you can.

There are many worthy causes that you are called on to support on an almost constant basis, however, to our minds at the Family Peace Foundation, nothing will do more to improve Australian society than putting an end to family violence.

https://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures
http://www.thelookout.org.au/fact-sheet-7-family-violence-statistics

 

pledge your support

Donate to the Family Peace Foundation and help us work towards peaceful upbringings for every Australian child. Our aim is more peaceful homes, workplaces and communities, leading to a safer and more productive Australian society.

INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY DONORS

BUSINESS DONORS

PHILANTHROPIC BENEFACTORS

Pledge Your Support

By | June 5th, 2017|

Falling in love, starting out, maybe getting married then expecting a first baby seem so far from the tragic reality of family violence.

So what happens to cause up to one third of all relationships to experience family violence ?

Evidence shows some of the key contributors to family violence include excessive alcohol, financial stress, social and emotional incompetence, lack of family rituals and lack of respectful relationships.

Family violence rarely occurs out of nowhere. Inevitably it starts with occasional stress becoming constant stress which leads to conflict which becomes excessive conflict and then in far too many instances, conflict becomes violent.

Over one million Australian children are the current victims of family violence .

The Family Peace Foundation’s vision is peaceful upbringings for every Australian child.

Donate Now!

The Impact of Parental Conflict on Children Through a Developmental Lens

By | May 22nd, 2017|

All couples fight. That’s a given. However, the impact parental conflict has on children can range from mild to devastating depending on the frequency and intensity of the parental discord, as well as many other factors including the age and stage of the child involved.

As a psychologist who frequently works with couples and families, I am very much a proponent of family therapy. Family therapy has it’s roots in family systems theory, which suggests that each member of a family cannot be understood in isolation from others belonging to that family unit. Through this theoretical lens, we understand that if high conflict exists between two family members, other family members will likely also be impacted by that conflict. When we overlay this systemic approach with a developmental perspective, we can begin to understand how high levels of marital and family conflict, and in more extreme circumstances, family and domestic violence, can affect the development and well-being of children from infancy and toddlerhood through to adolescence and beyond.

In the toddler years, frequent exposure to high levels of conflict and violence can result in irritability, regression in language and toileting (Osofsky, 1999), sleep disturbances, fear of being alone (Lundy & Grossman, 2005), and difficulty separating from parents, possibly due to poor parent-child attachments. Research has shown that this can have dire consequences long-term, with intergenerational cycles of domestic violence sometimes being set in motion (Zeanah et al., 1999).

Pre-schoolers are inherently dependent on their parents and may therefore experience higher levels of exposure to conflict or violence which can result in behavioural issues, social problems, PTSD symptoms and even challenges in developing empathy (Rossman, 1998; Huth-Bocks, Levendosky, and Semel, 2001). Because pre-schoolers have yet to develop the verbal ability to express themselves, young children exposed to conflict or violence can instead display their pain through temper tantrums, aggression, resisting comfort, or despondency and anxiety (Cunningham & Baker, 2004). Many of these behavioural responses can also result in psychosomatic manifestations including headaches, stomach aches, asthma, insomnia, nightmares, sleepwalking and enuresis (Martin, 2002).

Primary age children are often aware of how abuse affects their mother (Daniel, Wassell & Gilligan, 1999). This age group can be quick to blame themselves and seek to justify the abusive parent’s behaviour based on alcohol or stress, or even as a result of the “bad” behaviour exhibited by themselves or their victim parent. Many children of this age attempt keep the conflict or violence a secret, which can further compound vulnerability. These children can experience higher risks of being bullied (Baurer & all, 2006), or can become aggressive, suffer from peer difficulties, and depression (Lundy & Grossman, 2005).

Parental conflict and violence can leave a negative legacy on older offspring as they may struggle to form healthy relationships with peers and partners due to the templates they have been exposed to during their teen years. These adolescents can develop low levels of trust, with some researchers speculating that male offspring may repeat violent behaviour patterns and female offspring may become victims in their own adult relationships (Levendosky and her colleagues, 2002).

Together the research is clear. Parental conflict and violence adversely impacts children with no age or stage immune to the effects that toxic words, loaded withdrawal, or physical blows have on the emotional and psychological well-being of our young people. Of course, all couples experience conflict, but conflict can be managed, and we can all learn to choose more adaptive responses. I can’t think of a better gift to choose for our children, their children, and the generations to come.

References
Bauer, N. S., Herrenkohl, T. I., Lozano, P., Rivara, F. P., Hill, K. G., & Hawkins, J. D. (2006). Childhood bullying involvement and exposure to intimate partner violence. American Academy of Paediatrics, 118, 235–242.
Cunningham, A., & Baker, L. (2004). What about me! Seeking to understand a child’s view of violence in the family. London, ON: Centre for Children & Families in the Justice System.
Daniel, B., Wassell, S., & Gilligan, R. (1999). Child development for child care and protection workers. London: Jessica Kingsley. Edleson, J.
Huth-Bocks, A. C., Levendosky, A. A., & Semel, M. A. (2001). The direct and indirect effects of domestic violence on young children’s intellectual functioning. Journal of Family Violence, 16(3), 269–290.
Levendosky, A. A., Huth-Bocks, A. C., & Semel, M. A. (2002). Adolescent peer relationships and mental health functioning in families with domestic violence. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 31(2), 206–218.
Lundy, M., & Grossman, S. F. (2005). The mental health and service needs of young children exposed to domestic violence: Supportive data. Families in Society, 86(1), 17–29.
Martin, S. G. (2002). Children exposed to domestic violence: Psychological considerations for health care practitioners. Holistic Nursing Practice, 16(3), 7–15.
Rossman, B. B. R. (1998). Descartes’s error and posttraumatic stress disorder: Cognition, and emotion in children who are exposed to parental violence. In G. W. Holden, R. A. Geffner, & E. N. Jouriles (Eds.), Children exposed to marital violence: Theory, research, and applied issues (pp. 223–256). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Zeanah, C., Danis, B., Hirshberg, L., Benoit, D., Miller, D., & Heller, S. (1999). Disorganized attachment associated with partner violence: A research note. Infant Mental Health Journal, 20(1), 77–86.

social and emotional competency

By | May 15th, 2017|

Talk to any group of parents today – as a psychologist and it doesn’t take long for them to bring up the thorny issue of technology and how it is impacting on families. At the Family Peace Foundation we believe that technology is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand there is evidence that there are a range of web-based programs, smart phone apps and biometric devices that can help families manage their lives better and that they are cheaper, more convenient and easier to access than many alternatives.

On the other hand we have people like Stuart Armstrong, a researcher from the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, who in 2014 gained worldwide media coverage when he warned that computers were becoming so clever that they could become our enemies, take all our jobs and eventually ‘exterminate’ us all. In 2016 physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that it was a ‘near certainty’ that technology would threaten humanity within the next 1000 to 10,000 years.

The young people I talk to dismiss these warnings as the latest in a long line of moral panics and continue to immerse themselves in (and enjoy) technology in all its forms. In contrast to their parents, who use technology at a comparatively very basic level, to text or Facebook message friends or hop online to book a holiday, many young people are extremely tech savvy. Their parents are in technological kindy compared to their offspring.

Today’s teenagers have never known a world without computers. They can code, program and are completely up to date with all the latest advances. They are fully conversant with Instagram, Snapchat and the dark web, are comfortable with AI (artificial intelligence) and many have an Amazon Echo that virtually organise their lives for them.

Much of the alarm/hysteria about young people, technology and the end of civilisation as we know it is somewhat misplaced. There have been moral panics about ‘young people’ and ‘the latest gadgets’ for hundreds of years, be it record players, radio, TV, CDs, mobile phones, social networking or video games. The truth is, that while many parents have a penchant for demonising technology, especially the parts that they don’t understand, young men love and use their technology. It’s not going anywhere – so as parents, we need to get better at understanding, using and supporting our children’s positive use of technology.

Unlike many parents, kids see no dividing line between the ‘real’ world and the ‘virtual’ world – for them being online is their entire world. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) reports that more than 80 percent of teenagers aged 12–17 years are regularly online. This is why young people don’t necessarily see a difference between online and offline bullying, and why those at risk online are likely to also be at risk offline. In other words – negative use of technology is just a new form of an old problem rather than a product of the technology itself. And the skills that serve your children well in the offline world are also likely (but not always) to be reflected in the online world – such as respect for others, empathy and kindness.

The Pew Research Center in the US found a difference in the ways that teenage boys and girls use technology to socialise. Boys tend to make friends via online gaming, whereas girls are more likely to make friends via social media. According to the study, video games play a ‘critical role’ in teenage boys social lives, with more than 80 per cent of boys saying they play video games on a daily or weekly basis – mostly with friends.

Unless you are living on the Antarctic shelf (and perhaps even then), conflict about your teenager’s use of technology is likely to be a permanent fixture in your home. Many parents can be overzealous in their attempts to control phone, game and computer use due to a lack of confidence or knowledge about the online world. A simple technique for working out if you need to loosen the reins (or tighten them) is to consider if your son’s technology use is interfering with his physical and mental wellbeing and his completion of the key tasks of adolescence: making good friends who support him, doing well at school, and slowly becoming more independent.

The Family Peace Foundation recommends some house rules that you may choose to use or modify for your own circumstances:
• With rights come responsibilities. If your teenager is given a mobile phone, then he must understand and agree to use it in a responsible way – or he doesn’t get one in the first place.
• Phones must not be used while homework is being completed.

• Teenagers can have privacy in their bedrooms or access to the Internet, but they can’t have both. The Internet is a public place – which means it is used in a ‘public’ room, such as the lounge room if it is for homework then appropriate filters should be applied such as Cold Turkey or Our pact.

• Older teenagers may be permitted to make phone calls in private – if the phone comes back out with them once the call is completed.

• For younger teenagers, their use of technology should be conditional on the premise that they will show you, whenever asked, what they are doing online.

• Set clear time limits on the use of technology. For example, primary school children can be allowed one hour per day of screen entertainment. This can increase to two hours in secondary school.

• Set a time at night when all devices are put on charge or locked away in a public room of the house, especially if you have a son who is inclined to not follow the rules

• Switch off the wi-fi overnight, which you can do automatically if use you Our Pact or similar apps.

For younger teenagers, you may wish to use one of the tools available which allow you to enforce the boundaries that you set. Free software programs such as Our Pact, Cold Turkey and Self Control are all easy to use and allow you to block, for a set time, websites that your son may be distracted by when he should be concentrating on other tasks, such as homework or chores. For older adolescents, don’t rely on filters – maintain a watchful eye on their technology use. Smart kids can work around filters in a flash. Encourage and initiate outdoor or other indoor activities, with offline friends and family. But be aware that the friends your son has online are important to him and may help him feel valued and supported.

Lastly, remember that some young people benefit greatly from the support offered to them by the online community, especially if they are experiencing issues that might mark them as ‘different’ in the real world, such as having a disability or chronic illness.

So while Stuart Armstrong may see technology as potentially the end of the world, the Family Peace Foundation is less worried, our message is be alert – but not alarmed.

Alcohol and Family Violence

By | May 1st, 2017|

The Family Peace Foundation is all about strengthening Australian Families. When I was first approached by the legendary Frank Walker from National Tiles, who together with his wife Rhonda fund the Foundation to be involved, I said to Frank that I would as long as the work we did was evidence based. I put Frank in touch with Professor John Toumbourou who is the Chair in Health Psychology and a prominent researcher and health advocate. He has been influential internationally and nationally in assisting the development of research and practice in the fields of prevention science and health psychology. He is, to use a Star Wars analogy, essentially the Yoda of the field.

John responded by sharing with the Foundation 4 key factors that he suggested we focus on – which are supported by over 50 years of peer reviewed research. These four factors were social and emotional competencies, rituals and traditions, financial literacy and of course alcohol. The last one of course is the most controversial. No one likes to be told that they are drinking too much and Governments around the world are hesitant to enact too much anti-alcohol legislation because the alcohol industry is very powerful and Governments are addicted to alcohol tax. So why alcohol? Well, it turns out there is a link between family violence and this week a new study revealed that we as a society are acutely aware of it and want action.

Each year the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s (FARE) national alcohol poll provides valuable trend data and insights into community perspectives on alcohol. 2017 was the first year in which Australians were asked if they perceived a link between alcohol and family and domestic violence. This year, a majority (92%) of Australians believe alcohol is linked to family and domestic violence.
That finding mirrors Australians’ attitudes to alcohol more broadly, with new polling revealing Aussies are concerned about and impacted by alcohol harm, and they are suspicious and deeply cynical about the alcohol industry. Now in its eighth year, the ‘Annual alcohol poll
2017: Attitudes and behaviours’ found almost eight in ten (78%) of respondents believe Australia has a problem with excess drinking, and a growing majority (81%) think more should be done to reduce alcohol harm.

FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn was not surprised by the poll’s findings, and argued that this research should act as a wake-up call to governments that in his view has been too slow to take action. “The evidence showing alcohol’s involvement in family and domestic violence is not in dispute, and for an even longer time we’ve had the anecdotal proof as well. The public, whether witnessing this first-hand or through the media, clearly understands and acknowledges the link, with a majority of those (80%) calling on governments to step up and address the problem,” Mr Thorn said.

Conducted by Galaxy Research, the 2017 poll once again confirms the alcohol industry’s poor reputation. A minority of Australians say they could trust information provided by the alcohol industry on responsible drinking (40%), drinking during pregnancy (27%), underage drinking (24%) and the health benefits of certain alcohol products (16%). Mr Thorn says the Australian community has a healthy level of scepticism about the alcohol industry. “It is no exaggeration to say Aussies are deeply suspicious and justifiably critical when it comes to the alcohol industry. They don’t trust what the industry says and they recognise its poor corporate behaviour.

Fifty seven per cent of Australians say the alcohol industry targets people under the age of 18 years, and the majority, 74 per cent of Australians, believe the alcohol industry should pay for reducing the alcohol harm it causes, and rightly so,” Mr Thorn said. In 2017, Australians reported getting drunk in larger numbers than ever before.
The proportion of Australians who drink to get drunk increased to 44 per cent (up from 37% in 2016 and 34% in 2015). Wine remains the country’s alcoholic drink of choice (29%), beating out regular strength beer (21%).

For the first time since 2010, the researchers also asked Australians why they had increased or decreased their consumption of alcohol over the past 12 months. Peer pressure, stress, and depression led many to drink more, with 30 per cent needing to drink to feel happy or overcome depression, 29 per cent feeling more stressed, and 29 per cent of respondents influenced by the increased alcohol consumption of friends and family. In contrast, people’s wallets, waistlines and wellness concerns caused many to drink less, with 49 per cent of this group wanting to improve their health, 24 per cent citing weight concerns and 23 per cent stating they could not afford to drink as much as the reason for a decrease in their alcohol consumption.

Mr Thorn says this is the serious and very troubling face of the national poll. “It’s a damning indictment of this country’s toxic relationship with alcohol when we have more than a third of Australians affected by alcohol-related violence. These troubling findings are really a reflection of the extent of alcohol harm in Australia; the 15 lives lost and 430 hospitalisations caused by alcohol every single day,”

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s has urged the Government to examine the impact of alcohol advertising on children, in light of the fact that the research shows 77 per cent of parents reporting their child under the age of 18 has been exposed to alcohol advertising (up from 71% in 2016). Almost half of parents indicated that their child has been exposed to alcohol advertising at a supermarket or shopping centre (49%), while outside on the street
(billboards/posters) (45%), through the radio, television or cinema (43%), or at a licensed venue (restaurant or club) (42%).

More than two thirds (68%) of Australians support placing a ban on alcohol advertising on television before 8.30pm, consistent with 2016
(70%) and a majority of Australians (55%) believe alcohol sponsorship should not be allowed at sporting events (down from 60% in 2016). The Foundation says Australia’s major sporting codes continue to find themselves out of step with community attitudes and expectations when it comes to alcohol advertising and sport. “It is very clear that on this issue Australians overwhelmingly support booze free sport.
Exposure to alcohol advertising is harmful to children, and we will continue to represent the Australian community and fight for an end to alcohol sponsorship in sport,” Mr Thorn said. To conclude with another Star Wars analogy, Professor John Toumbourou, FARE,  and other researchers clearly have the Force with them and the alcoholindustry who responded with typical arrogance and waffle – increasingly resemble the dark side of the force.


Dr Michael Carr-Gregg BA (Hons) MA, PhD MAPS Cert Child Internet Safety (UCLAN) Child and Adolescent Psychologist  FOLLOW Michael on Twitter @MCG58 www.Michaelcarrgregg.com

social connections: the tonic for well-being

By | March 20th, 2017|

Most of us are quite simply trying to carve out a life of well-being. Well-being includes thinking that life is good, experiencing positive emotions and low levels of negative moods (Deiner, 2009). The Social and Emotional Well-being Model describes risk, protective and promotive factors that contribute to a person’s well-being by minimising harmful factors and maximising positive ones. Risk factors are person, family, situation or community variables that may contribute to negative outcomes; protective factors include variables that reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes occurring; and promotive factors contribute to positive outcomes and enhance well-being.

The Well-Being Framework is a useful model to help guide interventions and best practice guidelines to strengthen families and support survivors of family violence because the framework recognises the importance of community, social and societal variables as influencers of well-being for survivors and their children.

It makes sense that victims of family violence often feel isolated, disconnected, confused and riddled with self-doubt and low levels of hope, all of which challenge one’s sense of well-being. Research reveals that during times of stress and fear associated with domestic violence, social support can offer both compassionate understanding and practical assistance (Brewin et al., 2000; Norris, Baker, Murphy, & Kaniasty, 2005). Social support is a particularly potent ingredient in developing well-being for survivors of family violence because many perpetrators systematically isolate their victims from loved ones, colleagues and friends to purposely minimise options for help (Stark, 2007). Research also concludes that social support increases options for escape and assistance, as well as access to community resources which can protect survivors from future harm (Hobfoll, 2001).

Children exposed to family violence are influenced in many similar ways as their survivor parent with regards to the role risk, protective and promotive factors play in the development of their well-being. However post-trauma, a child’s level of resilience is increased by the presence of a secure attachment to the non-abusive parent or other significant adult (Graham-Bermann et al., 2006; Kliewer et al, 2004). Therefore, while not always easy, finding ways for survivors to connect and bond with their children is also paramount in the development of child resilience and well-being. Well-developed social connections and support networks are also key to help children navigate the after-math of abuse as they develop a sense of acceptance, safety and belonging.

At the Family Peace Foundation, our aim is to share evidence-based messages via radio advertising and our web-site to help strengthen families and minimise family violence because every child has the basic right to be raised in a peaceful family home. Information is power and creating dialogue in our homes and work places around family conflict is important. For survivors who are reading this blog, we encourage you to reach out to trusted friends, colleagues, or professionals because the need for social support is steeped in large bodies of evidence. And if you suspect you know a victim of family violence, checking in with them may be a significant step in creating hope and connection, thereby ensuring another child is given the chance of a peaceful upbringing, and the kind of well-being we are all innately seeking.

Brewin, C. R., Andrews, B., &Valentine, J.D. (2000). Meta-analysis of risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder in trauma-exposed adults. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 748–766.

Diener, E. (2009). Subjective well-being. The Science of Well-Being, 11-58.

Graham-Bermann, S.A., DeVoe, E.R., Mattis, J.S., Lynch, S., & Thomas, S.A. (2006). Ecological predictors of traumatic stress symptoms in caucasian and ethnic minority children exposed to intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women, 12(7), 663–692

Hobfoll, S.E. (2001). The influence of culture, community, and the nested-self in the stress process: Advancing conservation of resources theory. Applied Psychology, 50, 337–370.

Kliewer, W., Cunningham, J. N., Diehl, R., Parrish, K. A., Walker, J. M., Atiyeh, C., et al. (2004).  Violence exposure and adjustment in inner-city youth: Child and caregiver emotion regulation skill, caregiver–child relationship quality, and neighborhood cohesion as protective factor.  Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33(3), 477–87.

Norris, F. H., Baker, C. K., Murphy, A. D., & Kaniasty, K. (2005). Social support mobilization and deterioration after Mexico’s 1999 flood: Effects of context, gender, and time. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 15–28.

Stark, E. (2007). Coercive control: How men entrap women in personal life. Oxford University Press.

young people and alcohol

By | March 13th, 2017|

The Family Peace Foundation wants to do everything it can to keep young people safe, including protecting them from harms that might result from drinking alcohol. This fact sheet provides information for parents, guardians and older siblings about alcohol and young people.

When is it ok for a young person to drink alcohol?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is Australia’s peak organisation for supporting health and medical research and for developing health advice for Australians. The NHMRC have produced guidelines on alcohol called the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (Alcohol Guidelines), which provide information on how to reduce the risks from drinking alcohol. The Alcohol Guidelines recommend:

For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

A. Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.

B. For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

Put simply, it is best for young people aged under 18 years to avoid drinking alcohol. It is also important to understand that young adults aged up to 25 years are also still at greater risk of alcohol-related harms. This is due to their lower tolerance of alcohol, greater risk of accidents and injuries, and increased risk of impairments to the still-developing brain.

What are the risks for young people who drink alcohol?

Young people have a significantly lower tolerance to alcohol, meaning that they are more physically sensitive to the effects of alcohol consumption. Combined with emotional immaturity and relative inexperience at performing certain tasks that require attention and coordination, young people are at particularly high risk of alcohol-related harm.

There are a number of short and long term risks associated with early alcohol use. These include:

  • Physical injury;
  • Increased risk taking and antisocial behaviour;
  • Risky sexual behaviour;
  • Poor academic performance;
  • Permanent damage to the structure and function of the developing brain;
  • Mental health issues such as depression;
  • Increased likelihood of illicit drug use, whether at the same time as the alcohol use or later in life; and
  • Increased likelihood of later alcohol addiction.

Alcohol consumption also contributes to the three leading causes of death among adolescents – unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide.

teenagers and Alcohol

By | March 13th, 2017|

Meet Amy (which is not her real name), she is just 15 years old and has been looking forward to attending her boyfriend, Adam’s party in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Adam’s parents thought they had covered all the main issues, printed invitations, security, a specific start and finish time. They even went so far as to cordon off parts of the house. They walked down to their local police station two weeks before the party to register with the Victoria Police Partysafe program which is about minimising the risks to safety at parties such as violence, intoxicated guests, or gatecrashers so that hosts and their guests can stay safe and have fun.

The police gave them the Partysafe information kit that contained information on strategies they hoped would assist in making their party safe and enjoyable. They carefully considered the number of people likely to attend the party, they had an interesting debate with their son over whether there should be alcohol. Adam argued that ‘everyone’s’ parents allowed drinking at parties these days and that he would be massively embarrassed if they went against this. After a heated and prolonged debate, Adam’s parents relent and a decision is reached that each invitees would be issued with 2 drink tokens that could be exchanged for beers.

Following the PartySafe information, Adam’s parent’s dutifully door-knocked their neighbours to let them know of the party and promised it would all be wrapped up by 1 am. They obtained consent from the parents or guardians of underage drinkers as the law requires and they made sure that Adam’s older brother had his responsible serving and provision of alcohol certificate. They drew up a medical emergency plan and registered the party a week before it was to be held They were being model millennium parents, doing their best to allow Adam and his mates to have a good time.

Fast forward to the night of the party. The young guests arrived, had their names ticked off at the door by one of the 3 security guards hired for the evening who searched the bags and ushered the invitees in. Amy turns up, with 4 other friends, all under age, all frocked up, but crucially slightly tipsy. This was entirely predictable as the last few hours, prior to turning up to the party, the five girls were having a drinking session at Amy’s house where the girls consumed a dozen mixed drinks and half a bottle of vodka.

At the door, the security guard asks for her bag, which contains a bottle of Mount Franklin water bottle tucked in her bag. She waves it in the face of the security guards, assuring them it is “just water”. They don’t check and she is admitted. Adam and Amy have a fight, she accuses him of kissing another girl and she is inconsolable. Within half an hour, Amy drinks the contents of the 300ml ‘water’ bottle, which contains pure vodka. She begins to feel unwell and goes unnoticed to the bathroom where she collapses. One of her friends notice she is missing and she gathers together her friends to look for her.

After a frantic search, Amy is discovered, unconscious at the bottom of the garden, hypothermic and with a weak pulse. She is not able to be roused. An ambulance is called and Amy is taken to hospital. The party is called off. Parents are summoned to collect their offspring.

Amy’s case is not an isolated incident. Talk to the police or ambos and you’ll find that such events are not at all unusual and her case could have ended in tragedy. A few years ago, Australian researchers revealed that one teenager on average dies each week from the risky use of a product they aren’t legally allowed to use.

So what might we do? The Family Peace Foundation recognises the research that shows that alcohol, when drunk in adolescence, can damage the parts of the brain responsible for learning. Adolescents who abused alcohol remembered 10 per cent less of what they were taught than those who didn’t drink.

Don’t fall for the line that Adam trotted out, namely the well worn and often repeated ‘everyone else’s parents allow alcohol at underage parties’ line. The Family Peace Foundation would ask that parents should stick to the ‘it’s my house – my rules’ argument along with a determination to debunk the myth that you can only have fun when alcohol is present.

The bottom line is that parents are strongly advised to follow the guidelines drawn up by the NHMRC which suggests parents adopt a zero tolerance alcohol policy until their sons and daughters are 18 years of age. None of this of course, would have stopped Amy from her pre-party drinking or her guzzling pure vodka, as we only have control over our own children, but it would have sent a message to the parents of the other party guests that no one ever died of embarrassment.

family rituals

By | February 27th, 2017|

Family routines and rituals are an important factor in strengthening families. Family rituals help family members feel good and create a sense of belonging by letting everyone know what’s important to the family and giving members’ a sense of identity. They offer stability during times of stress and transition and are associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships.

Psychologist Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., and colleagues at Syracuse University distinguish the difference between a family routine and a family ritual. “Routines involve instrumental communication conveying information that ‘this is what needs to be done’ and involve a momentary time commitment so that once the act is completed, there is little, if any, afterthought,” says Dr. Fiese. “Rituals, on the other hand, involve symbolic communication and convey ‘this is who we are’ as a group and provide continuity in meaning across generations. Also, there is often an emotional imprint where once the act is completed, the individual may replay it in memory to recapture some of the positive experience.” Any routine has the potential to become a ritual once it moves from an instrumental to a symbolic act.

During infancy and preschool, children are healthier and their behaviour is better regulated when there are predictable routines in the family. Children with regular bedtime routines get to sleep sooner and wake up less frequently during the night than those with less regular routines. Other studies have examined whether the effects of regular routines are restricted to two-parent families. “The presence of family routines under conditions of single parenting, divorce, and remarried households may actually protect children from the proposed risks associated with being raised in non-traditional families,” according to Fiese and colleagues.

There are numerous opportunities for families to cultivate routines and rituals, however much research has focused on the importance of family meal times. Other rituals may include sharing a silly breakfast song, cooking special foods on celebratory occasions, returning to a favourite holiday destination, sharing a bedtime head tickle, creating a games night or even exchanging a secret family handshake.

Catalano, R. F. & Hawkins, J. D. (1996). The Social Development Model: A theory of antisocial behavior. In: J. D. Hawkins (Ed.), Delinquency and Crime: Current Theories (pp. 149-197). New York: Cambridge.

Fiese, Barbara H.; Tomcho, Thomas J.; Douglas, Michael; Josephs, Kimberly; Poltrock, Scott; Baker, Tim Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 16(4), Dec 2002, 381-390. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.16.4.381

Special Section: Family Routines and Rituals.

Toumbourou, J.W., Douglas Gregg, E., Shortt, A.L., Hutchinson, D.M., Slaviero, T.M. (2013)
Reduction of adolescent alcohol use through family-school intervention: a randomized trial.
Journal of Adolescent Health. 53(6), 778-784. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.07.005

the power of family rituals

By | February 27th, 2017|

Since our kids were infants, we have massaged and quietly tickled them at bed-time while listening to classical music CD “Music For Dreaming” playing softly in the background. This simple ritual had a multitude of benefits including creating a wind-down cue for our children that sleep time was approaching, strengthening the parent and child bond through touch, not to mention the calming of weary parents as we lay with our children and shared the soothing sounds of uninterrupted lullabies.

At The Family Peace Foundation, we are passionate about strengthening families and minimising family conflict using simple, evidence-based and accessible strategies and tools. One powerful practice known to strengthen families is the creation and practice of family rituals.  Family rituals help to create a sense of belonging and identity, and are positively associated with a child’s socioemotional, language, academic and social skill development.  When practiced regularly, rituals strengthen the connectedness between partners, and parents and their children which helps build stronger family bonds.

With so many known benefits, some readers may be wondering what rituals are recommended to incorporate into family life. Luckily the answer is almost limitless! While regular trips to Disneyland may rank high on your kids list as a ritual they would like to adopt, potent and meaningful rituals need only be enjoyable, accessible and able to be practiced regularly for them to become a sustainable thread in the fabric of any family household.

In fact, many families will probably already be involved in simple rituals such as meal sharing. Recent studies link regular family dinners with positive outcomes including lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grades and self-esteem. Regular family meals also lower rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.

There is no recipe for the perfect family ritual. Other rituals may include cooking special dishes to celebrate birthdays and other significant milestone events, going for a family walk after dinner, playing cards one night of the week, reading books in bed or on the couch quietly in each other’s company, singing silly songs to pets, a secret family hand-shake, playing I-Spy on long car trips, watching Modern Family together on a Sunday night, sharing a jam donut at the footy, or story-telling while looking at old family photos.

Strong connections are built on the small, loving things we do and say regularly, not the one- off bells and whistles outings that end up on Facebook!

Family rituals help build a sense of security and predictability, and say “this is who we are” as a family. When over the years, moments of uncertainty and insecurity inevitably visit us, a history of rituals provides a robust template of belonging and meaning to take into our adult years.

When a family practices and relishes a range of rituals, parents may also benefit from a big tick in the parental-efficacy box, and the knowledge that the family is connecting and delighting in it’s bite-sized, regular, ritualistic moments. Sometimes I joke that when our now-teenage daughters eventually get married, I’ll lie down next to my new son-in-laws to tickle them off to sleep while playing gentle lullabies! But in reality, I’d be thrilled if our girls and their partners tickle and massage their own kids to sleep knowing that our sleep-time ritual lives on.

where do we learn about money?

By | February 20th, 2017|

Hands up if you secretly find that some of your adult behaviours seem to share an uncanny resemblance to those you have observed in your mum or dad? For many of us, helpful and unhelpful patterns relating to the way we work, eat, love, fight, parent or even cook are passed down from generation to generation.  It’s no surprise then that our relationship with money is also heavily influenced by the financial commentary we heard, or even unspoken practices we observed, in the home in which we were raised.

Whether we are painstakingly frugal, spend beyond our means, make frequent unnecessary purchases, hide what we spend, or create super detailed spreadsheets to control and account for every dollar, the way we think about money is largely learned, and can therefore be unlearned.

The key to changing our thoughts and behaviours is to firstly identify what our current beliefs and actions are around money.

Do you consider yourself a spender or a saver? What do you believe is worth going into debt for? Is it important to invest in shares or property?  How do you feel about renting versus owning?  How much money is needed in case of an emergency? Should you or your partner primarily manage the purse strings? Do you adhere to a budget? Do you exhaust all earnings pay-cheque to pay-cheque? Do you know where your money is spent? Do you hide purchases?

The next step to unlearn unhelpful financial patterns it to honestly assess how these beliefs and practices impede the way we live.  If they affect our sleep, create ongoing stress, shame, guilt or discomfort, lead us to keep secrets from loved ones, or prevent us moving towards our goals, it’s time to devise new money habits. In simple terms, the way to reduce any problem behaviour is to consciously and actively stop engaging in it. Although this is often easier said than done, in the financial domain, this may mean getting rid of credit cards, depositing earnings into a savings account you cannot easily access, or being fully transparent with a trusted loved one about how you will change your spending patterns. When we make our intentions clear, measurable and public, it becomes more difficult to continue to practice past behaviours that hold us back.

As is the case with any behavioural change, making the conscious and deliberate choice to do things differently is paramount. Although often well-intentioned, it’s rare for us humans to make long-lasting change to please someone else. Ultimately we need to own our decisions and be accountable for the associated changes.

Accept there may be blow-outs, splurges, and hiccups along that way, but that’s no reason to revert back to the unhelpful patterns you once practiced.

Most parents did the best they knew how with hopeful and well-meaning intentions, but as an adult, possibly with a family of your own, it is now your responsibility to drive your financial choices and outcomes. While this can create short-term struggle, and even vulnerability, the long-term benefits will usually outweigh the temporary pain.  But don’t be fooled, even with a renewed and healthier relationship with money in place, money remains a loaded issue for many of us. In years to come, no matter what financial template you pass down to your kids, chances are they too will need to do their own emotional and financial audits to work out which patterns work best for them. And that’s OK too.

financial literacy

By | February 20th, 2017|

Financial literacy is a combination of financial knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary to make sound financial decisions, based on personal circumstances, to improve financial well-being. Financial literacy is an essential everyday life skill for men and women, adults and children, and people across the socio-economic spectrum (Australian Securities and Investment Commission, ASIC, 2014-2017).

The National Financial Literacy Strategy 2014-2017 Five Step Action Plan focuses on building the financial capacity of individuals, families and communities, with a focus on educating the next generation with the basic knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to make good financial decisions as a skillset to build on across the lifespan.

Like most life skills, understanding the nuances and facts of financial management is a learned skill, which also suggests that with appropriate guidance, knowledge and expertise, even poor financial skills can be unlearned. Money habits and the meaning of money are often learned from families and social networks. If unhelpful financial behaviours have been adopted, and financial strain exists, seeking help from financial experts may be a useful first step to shifting one’s damaging relationship with money.

Basic financial literacy means every family needs a financial plan, with clear budgets. Transparent and honest discussions are required to address beliefs and behaviours about spending, saving, investing, debt, giving, investing, hidden or secret spending and how household financial responsibilities will be shared between family members.

Teaching young people how to manage pocket money or wages earned while working in a part-time job is an opportune teachable moment to create healthy, independent, long-term patterns with money. The Family Peace Foundation recommend the importance of teaching young people how to break down even small amounts earned into four parts – saving, giving, investing, and spending.

Saving a proportion of money teaches the importance of building funds for expected or unexpected needs in the short or long term. Teaching children to have some slack in the financial system potentially reduces the debt mentality that many people turn to when they are hit with unexpected costs.

Giving creates a sense of meaning, compassion and purpose, and not only benefits the recipient but also the donor. Often the people with the least give even small amounts to others, and fill up their own emotional cups in the process.

Investing may seem out of reach for many with no excess funds, however even small amounts of money can earn more money when wisely invested.

Understanding spending patterns and finding ways to be more aware of where money is being spent is an important skill to learn and requires transparent budgeting skills. When financial progress is made, celebrating successes such as paying off debts, spending less, or giving to others is imperative to cement new and constructive money management skills and techniques.

Further information can be found on www.financialliteracy.gov.au or www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/financial-information-service

how families can manage negative thoughts and why taylor swift’s song needed a bit more detail

By | February 13th, 2017|

When was the last time something really worried you, but you just couldn’t – as Taylor Swift would say, ‘shake it off’?  That ear worm of a song ‘Shake it Off’ was released in 2014 and debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Taylor’s 2nd number-one single in the United States and the 22nd song to debut at number one in the chart’s history. Taylor has cemented her reputation by singing about the angst-filled teenage years with a kind of wistful, sepia-toned nostalgia and the ‘Shake it Off’ message undoubtedly resonated with her audience. While the sentiment was great, with great respect to Taylor, what was missing was the: ‘how’ does one shake it off.

There are many teenagers and adults who are daily bombarded with negative thoughts.

Many sadly, do lie in bed ruminating – endlessly chewing over the ‘what if’ thoughts that cascade through their heads. Psychologists regard such type of thinking – negative, disagreeable and counterproductive—and in some cases, it can even lead to chronic depression and anxiety.

The famous psychologist Guy Winch[1], author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries – likens these thinking process to a needle in a groove and as the groove gets deeper and deeper, the needle becomes more and more embedded and the longer it goes around the harder it is to get out of the groove.

What is more is that, this type of rumination can actually end up increasing anger levels and the result very often, is that you are more distressed than you were at the start, because whatever it is that you were worrying about, becomes amplified in your mind. Luckily, the Family Peace Foundation can help, by providing 4 some evidence based strategies that can help you and anyone in your family to stop dwelling on negative thoughts and refocus your mind on something positive, it just takes a bit of distraction and a healthy dose of willpower.

1.    Go to a virtual 7/11 in Your Mind

Try imagining yourself in a 7/11 store. Visualise all the items on one shelf in the store, and the order that you see them in. You don’t have to do it for long—maybe 30 seconds or a minute, but the key is to be disciplined about it and do it each time that negative thought comes back—even if that means doing it 20 times an hour. You can actually train your brain to go in a different direction when these thoughts come up.

2.    Trash the thought

To get rid of a niggling thought can be as simple as jotting it down on a piece of paper—and then tearing it up, or putting it through the shredding machine. According to a 2012 Ohio State University study by psychology professor Richard Petty subjects who wrote down negative things about their bodies and then threw them away had a more positive self-image a few minutes later, compared to those who kept the papers with them. So whether you tag your thoughts—as trash or as worthy of hanging on to —seems to make a difference in how you use those thoughts.

3.    Warm up

Yale researchers Idit Shalev and John Bargh discovered in 2012 that when people were given the opportunity to hold a hot pack as they thought about their loneliness, they had less negative feelings about their exclusion experience than people who didn’t get to embrace something warm. Substituting physical warmth for emotional warmth can be a quick fix, the researchers say—just don’t let it take the place of real human interaction in the long run.

4.    Change your thinking

One of the things that Sabina and I say to our clients most often, is that in life, if you can’t change something you can always change the way you think about it. What psychologists have learnt over the years, is that the way family members think determines the way they feel, and the way they feel then in turn determines the way they act. If someone in your family wants to change the way they are behaving, they must start by changing the way they think.  Recently I was flying from Melbourne to Singapore and my plane got diverted to Sydney where I had to wait for 5 hours. This caused me great inconvenience but there was nothing I could do about it. There were two ways I could have responded. I could have been all angry and frustrated but that would have changed nothing. Instead I changed my thinking, opened my laptop and saw this as a great opportunity to get work done.

Conclusions

Taylor Swift is undoubtedly an amazing person, certainly a recording artist, having sold 40 more million albums than I have! She is by all reports also a generous philanthropist, an activist for good mental health -having taken a strong stance against bullying and frequently makes private visits to hospitals to meet with sick patients and to support them.  Essentially a talented young woman who has used her gifts for the betterment of humanity. I am saying her advice to ‘Shake it off” was great just needed some more strategies. So Taylor if you ever read this – knock yourself out…

managing negative thoughts

By | February 13th, 2017|

THE LINK BETWEEN THINKING AND FEELING

Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling distressed or anxious about something, only to find a few weeks later that it was a non-event? Or maybe you chatted about it with a mate and felt much better afterwards? While you may not be aware of it, your experience establishes an extremely significant principle: Changing the way you think will change the way you feel.

SO WHAT IS SELF-TALK?

Every day, every minute, every second of the day, we are all continuously thinking about and deciphering the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is as if we have a little voice in our head that influences how we see every life event. Psychologists refer to this inner voice as our ‘self-talk’, and it comprises both our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious expectations or attitudes.

Most of our self-talk is sensible (for example, ‘I had better go to bed as I have to get up early, or ‘I am really looking forward to that party). Nonetheless, some of our self-talk is negative, unhelpful or self-defeating (for example ‘I am never going to pass that test, or ‘I really stuffed up that speech— I’m useless).

NEGATIVE SELF-TALK

Negative self-talk often triggers bad feelings, and often leads us to feel to experience distressing emotions such as anger, hurt, fear, frustration, depression or anxiety. In addition, it can lead us to behave in a self-destructive ways. For example, thoughts such as ‘I am going to stuff up for sure’ may dissuade you from studying when you are preparing for a test..

THE ABC OF SELF-TALK

The manner in which we interpret incidents in our lives has a huge impression on the way we feel and behave. The association between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours can be best described by understanding what psychologists refer to as the ABC of self-talk. Here is an example

Activating situation — the circumstance itself, or the triggering event that occurred when you began to feel uncomfortable, like when you get told off by your boss.

Beliefs — our self-talk (thoughts, views, judgements) and assumptions that we make about what has transpired  – ‘I am going to get fired, I’ll never get a promotion now.’

Consequences (our feelings and behaviours) – feeling worried, frightened, you tense up and as a result you go to the pub and get drunk.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

When things are looking bleak, the Family Peace Foundation encourage you to evaluate your own ABC and confront your beliefs about the activating situation. Have a go! There are a number of smartphone apps like Mind Shift or Mood Kit to help you challenge these negative thoughts that use the ABC technique.

TAKE ACTION

You can cultivate this ability even more with the backing of a good psychologist.  Search for a psychologist in your area. Find over 8,000 psychologists Australia wide, who are in private practice and provide services for a fee, telephone 1800 333 497 outside Melbourne or  log on to:

https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

managing negative thoughts

nhmrc recommendations – a recipe for confusion?

By | February 6th, 2017|

Most people will never have heard of The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) but it is Australia’s peak expert body promoting the development and maintenance of public and individual health standards. It was established way back in 1926 when our Prime minister was Stanley Bruce and we had a population of just over 6 million.

Things obviously moved at a more leisurely pace back then, as it held its first meeting in February 1937 which was taken up mainly by discussion on medical research, including the $30,000 pounds allocated for grants in the first year.

Since then the Council which now has 21 members has consistently supported and stimulated health and medical research, keeping them closely linked to public-health issues and the community’s need for health advice

In 2009 they issued guidelines to families across Australia stating that for children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking is the safest option. But then added that ‘for young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible. So this leaves parents with a mixed message is it 15, 17 or 18 years of age. Why did they muddy the waters with this second line?

I have no problem with the logic the NHMRC used in coming up with the guideline that says no drinking until 18. They made the very reasonable point that the chances of dangerous behaviour is greatly increased among young people when they drink compared to older drinkers and that the research tends to show that young people tend to drink more and then take risks like driving and swimming while intoxicated.

They also pointed out that young person’s brain is actually still developing during the teenage years and that the consumption of alcohol during this time may damage the brain and lead to health complications later in life. They argued that the area of the brains compromised by alcohol included those parts responsible for decision-making, memory, and emotions.

They also cited Professor Ralph Hingson’s work in the USA that demonstrates that the earlier we introduce a young person to alcohol the more likely they are to develop problems with it later in life and the NHMRC came to the sensible conclusion that parents should do everything in their power therefore, to delay their first drink for as long as possible.

So what can parents do? While young people are influenced by many groups, such as the media, their friends and siblings, parents continue to be the greatest influence.

Parents can play an important role in their children’s attitudes towards, and use of, alcohol and other drugs.

The Family Peace Foundation believes that the following principles should guide your thinking on young people and alcohol:

Be the world’s expert on your child: How much your child is influenced by others is important when weighing up the risk of them consuming alcohol and drugs. Think about how susceptible your child is to the influence of peers and the attitudes and behaviours of their friends.

Get the facts: There are a lot of myths about alcohol and other drugs. Use evidence-based sources like The Other Talk  from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to give your child the most accurate information.

Be clear in your beliefs: Based on the evidence, clarify your view of alcohol and other drugs. For example, it’s up to you whether your child drinks or not, but when making your decision consider the NHMRC’s guidelines, which state that the safest option for children and people under 18 is not to drink. The guidelines show evidence that parental monitoring and family rules about alcohol do reduce the likelihood of young people drinking.

Look for opportunities to start a conversation with your child: Keep conversations about alcohol and other drugs relaxed. Use relevant topics on the TV or radio and events as an opportunity to talk. It’s best to start talking about these issues early. Try to have the conversation in a quiet place or in a comfortable environment, e.g. the family dinner table. It’s never too early to have the conversation and there is no limit to the number of conversations you can have.

Make sure they understand the harms: Using The Other Talk, make sure your child has the right information about alcohol and other drugs and correct any myths. Talk about the benefits as well as the harms of different drugs and why someone might use them. Don’t exaggerate the harms as it will make you sound less credible.

Set rules and consequences: Explain your views on alcohol and other drugs and use the facts to back them up. Let your child know your rules and the consequences for breaking them. Help them develop ways of getting out of situations where their friends are using alcohol or other drugs and they don’t want to be embarrassed by not taking part.

Set a good example: You influence your child’s attitudes and behaviours, so if you drink responsibly your child is more likely to do the same later in life. Role-modelling responsible drinking means:

  • Following the NHMRC’s guidelines for adults – no more than two standard drinks a day to reduce long-term harm and no more than four drinks on any one occasion to avoid immediate alcohol-related injury
  • Keeping track of how many standard drinks you’ve had, even when you aren’t driving
  • Showing you don’t always need a drink to have fun or wind down
  • Demonstrating that you can refuse a drink from a friend if you don’t feel like it or you’ve had enough

Alcohol harms in Australia are extensive and well acknowledged: resulting in 5,500 deaths every year and a further 157,000 hospitalisations. That is unacceptable in a civilised society and we must start somewhere, we think delaying consumption until 18 is a good start.

alcohol related violence

By | February 6th, 2017|

The Family Peace Foundation believes that there is strong evidence of an association between the consumption of alcohol and violence.[1]

Not only is this wrong, it is also expensive. Conservative estimates suggest that in Australia, the total costs attributable to alcohol-related crime was $1.7b; the social cost relating to alcohol-related violence (which excludes costs to the criminal justice system) was $187m; and the costs associated with the loss of life due to alcohol-related violent crime amounted to $124m.[2]

So what is the nature and extent of the impact of alcohol-related violence? According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey[3] approximately:

  • 1 in 4 Australians were a victim of alcohol-related verbal abuse
  • 13 % were made to feel fearful by someone under the influence of alcohol
  • 4.5 % of Australians aged 14 years or older had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol

While the contemporary media focus is often on drugs such as methamphetamines (Ice), the rates of physical and verbal abuse by a person affected by alcohol were actually more than twice the rate for other drug types[4]. In addition, more than one-third of victims (38%) had consumed alcohol themselves at the time of the incident. This is consistent with evidence that shows that a significant proportion of violent offences are committed by and committed against people who have been drinking or are intoxicated.[5]

Why do the figures regarding the extent of the involvement of alcohol in violent offences vary from study to study?

These differences are mainly the result of changes in the way in which the involvement of alcohol in crime is defined, whether the figure relates to incidents attended by police or total recorded crime, different data collection processes, problems relating to the accurate and reliable measurement of alcohol consumption and intoxication, and underreporting by victims.

When it comes to assaults involve alcohol, Australian research estimates that a significant proportion of assaults from 23% to as much as 73% of all assaults involve alcohol[6]. Alcohol is also a significant contributor to serious injury from assault. In a landmark NSW study, two-thirds of people presenting at an emergency department with injuries from interpersonal violence reported having consumed alcohol prior to the incident and three-quarters of these patients stated that they had been drinking at license premises.[7]

Self-reported alcohol use among offenders can help to provide more accurate and reliable evidence of the involvement of alcohol in violent offending. Findings from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Drug Use Monitoring Australia program indicate that, half of all offenders detained by police across Australia for disorder and violent offences had consumed alcohol in the 48 hours prior to their arrest[8].

Other statistics from the DUMA study found:

  • 52 % of offenders charged by police for an assault had consumed alcohol in the previous 24 hours
  • 26 % reported that the consumption of alcohol had contributed to their offending.
  • 4 % of offenders detained for an assault were too intoxicated to be interviewed, which means that in total, approximately one-third (30%) of assault charges are likely to be attributable to alcohol.
  • 33% of offenders detained for breaching an Apprehended Violence Order also reported that consuming alcohol had contributed to their offending.

The Family Peace Foundation believes that in order to create peaceful upbringings for all Australian children, we need an understanding of the association between alcohol and violence and most importantly what to do about it.

Research has demonstrated that there are risks that predict alcohol-related violence:

  • being young, single and male[9] with men (6%) were twice as likely as women (3%) to report being physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol
  • 33% of people aged 14–19 years and 60% of those aged 20–24 living in rural areas having reported being victims of alcohol-related physical abuse[10]
  • men are more likely to be involved in incidents of physical abuse in pubs and clubs or in the street, whereas for women, these incidents are more likely to be in their own home[11]
  • alcohol consumption among young people is typified by frequent episodes of binge drinking and heavy drinking has been shown to be associated with aggression and violence [12]
  • alcohol-related violence in which both the victim and offender have consumed alcohol are more likely to be spontaneous or opportunistic and more likely to involve strangers[13].
  • alcohol-related assaults most commonly occur between 9 pm and 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights[14]
  • a significant proportion of offenders and victims of sexual assault have consumed alcohol and alcohol consumption increases the risk of sexual assault, as victims become less able to detect dangerous situations[15]
  • there is a relationship between seasonal changes, calendar events and major sporting events and the rate of reported incidents of violence, which can in part be explained by the increased level of alcohol consumed on these days.[16]

So how can Australia reduce the harms associated with alcohol? It makes sense to target the key risk factors that have been found to contribute to alcohol-related violence.

The Australian Institute of Criminology make the following suggestions:

  • identify and target those venues associated with the greatest number of problems
  • create a positive physical and social drinking environment to attract patrons that are more likely to be well behaved by setting and maintaining high standards for both venue operators and clientele
  • target multiple contributing factors rather than any single cause of alcohol-related violence
  • encourage and facilitate the reporting of victimisation
  • address alcohol-related violence in a range of settings, not just in entertainment precincts
  • be developed at the community level, where practical and appropriate, and adapted to suit local circumstances
  • be based on effective partnerships between all levels of government, non-government, private business, academia and the community
  • be supported by effective enforcement of existing liquor licensing laws.

As is the case with any community, interventions aimed at reducing the negative effects of alcohol and alcohol-related violence in Indigenous communities must attempt to address the factors that contribute to alcohol abuse.

Is alcohol a problem in your family? If it’s harming you, or someone you know, it may be time to seek advice from a professional.

You can contact one of the many services available, speak to your GP, local health service or call a helpline. There are trained telephone counsellors available in every Australian state and territory.

Drug Info : 1300 858 584

Family Drug Helpline : 1300 660 068

Youth Substance Abuse Service : 1800 014 446

Counselling Online : 1800 888 236

Kids Helpline : 1800 551 800

Parent line : 1300 301 300

Lifeline : 131114

Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS)
The Alcohol and Drug Information Centres are state and territory-based services that offer information, advice, referral, intake, assessment and support 24 hours a day.  ADIS offers services for individuals, their family and friends, general practitioners, other health professionals and business and community groups.

ADIS counsellors understand the difficulties of finding appropriate drug and alcohol treatment and use their knowledge and experience to assist callers.

Australian Capital Territory Alcohol & Drug Program: 02 6205 4545

New South Wales: 02 9361 8000 (Sydney) or 1800 422 599 (NSW regional and rural)

Northern Territory Alcohol & Other Drug Services: 1800 629 683 (NT general) or 08 8922 8399 (Darwin) or 08 8951 7580 (Alice Springs)

Queensland ADIS: 07 3837 5989 or 1800 177 833

South Australia ADIS: 08 8363 8618 or 1300 131 340

Tasmania ADIS: 03 6233 6722 or 1800 811 994

Victoria Direct line: 1800 888 236

Western Australia ADIS: 08 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 or for parents: 08 9442 5050, 1800 653 203 (WA only)


[1] Graham K & Homel R 2008. Raising the bar: preventing aggression in and around bars, pubs and clubs. Devon, UK: Willan Publishing

[2] Collins DJ & Lapsley HM 2007. The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/mono64/$File/mono64.pdf
[3] http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129549848
[4] http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/rip/1-10/04.html

[5] Plant M, Plant M & Thornton C 2002. People and places: some factors in the alcohol-violence link. Journal of substance use 7(4): 207–213

 [6] Briscoe S & Donnelly N 2001a. Temporal and regional aspects of alcohol-related violence and disorder. Alcohol studies bulletin no. 1. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/AB01.pdf/$file/AB01.pdf#target=’_blank’

[7] Poynton S et al 2005. The role of alcohol in injuries presenting

to St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Department and the associated short-term costs. Alcohol studies bulletin no. 6. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/ab06.pdf/$file/ab06.pdf

[8] Adams K et al 2008. Drug use monitoring in Australia (DUMA): 2007 annual report on drug use among police detainees. Research and public policy series no. 93. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current series/rpp/81-99/rpp93.aspx

 [9] Teece M & Williams P 2000. Alcohol-related assault: time and place. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 169. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current series/tandi/161-180/tandi169.aspx

 [10] Williams P 2000. Alcohol-related social disorder and rural youth: part 2—perpetrators. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 149. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current series/tandi/141-160/tandi149.aspx
 [11] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2008. 2007 National drug strategy household survey: first results, Australia. Canberra: AIHW. http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10579
 [12] Wells S & Graham K 2003. Aggression involving alcohol: relationship to drinking patterns and social context. Addiction 98: 33–42
 [13] Plant M, Plant M & Thornton C 2002. People and places: some factors in the alcohol-violence link. Journal of substance use 7(4): 207–213
 [14] Briscoe S & Donnelly N 2001a. Temporal and regional aspects of alcohol-related violence and disorder. Alcohol studies bulletin no. 1. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/AB01.pdf/$file/AB01.pdf#target=’_blank’
 [15] Corbin W et al 2001. Role of alcohol expectancies and alcohol consumption among sexually victimised and non-victimised college women. Journal of interpersonal violence 16: 297–311
 [16] Marcus G & Braaf R 2007. Domestic and family violence Studies, surveys and statistics: pointers to policy and practice. Sydney: Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House. http://www.austdvclearinghouse.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/Stakeholderpaper_1.pdf

Is your family suffering because of excessive alcohol?

Is your family suffering because of excessive alcohol? For the sake of your children, pledge today to limit your drinking to between zero and two drinks per day – on average.

everything you wanted to know about getting 40 winks – but were afraid to ask!

By | January 25th, 2017|

“…The innocent sleep,

The death of each day’s life,

sore labour’s bath,

balm of hurt minds,

great nature’s second course.”

– William Shakespeare

Introduction

If you’re an average person, around 36 percent of your life will be spent asleep, which is the equivalent of 32 years in the life of a 90 year old. It must be pretty important to take up that much time, yet sleep deprivation is reaching epidemic proportions in today’s fast-paced society. In the 1950s, most of us reported around 8 hours of sleep a night. Nowadays we’re more likely to report 1½ to 2 hours less.

For a generation of screenagers that check their mobiles every 15 minutes, the lure of social media, snapchat, instagram and facebook – means they simply have more reasons than previous generations, for staying up late at night.

The problem is that many of today’s young people – simply do not catch enough zzz’s and are chronically sleep deprived.

What’s more, as the academic year progresses, many students build up serious sleep debt which can have a grave impact on their physical and mental health.

Although many parents across Australia have raised the white flag on this issue, insufficient sleep has been found to impact on memory, mood and academic performance as well as greatly increasing the risk of accidental injury. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the first space shuttle disaster (Challenger) and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role. One Australian insurance company, (the NRMA) estimates motorist fatigue is the third biggest killer on our roads, currently contributing to one in five motor vehicle crashes that result in death or serious injury.

Quality and quantity of sleep are important to both physical and mental health. For example, researchers found that the extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.

How much sleep should young people be getting?

Recent research from Dr Mary Carskadon from Bradley Hospital, Rhode Island suggests that teenagers actually need as much sleep as small children (about 8.5 to 9.2 hrs) but are getting nowhere near enough. Dr Carskadon’s research suggest that the average student is getting about 7.5 hours a night’s sleep on school nights and up to 25 % are getting 6.5 hours or less sleep on school nights.

The Rhode Island researchers have shown that many teenagers have a circadian length of 25-27 hours instead of the normal 24 hours found in adults. In these teenagers, the melatonin upsurge that helps sleep occur seems only to begin at 11pm or later, so they do not feel tired at 9.30pm. This creates problems in the morning because they are not ready to wake in time for school.

What about Parents?

Before the adults start feeling sanctimonious about this, it is worth noting that depending on which sleep expert you speak to, they say that between 50 to 70 percent of adults don’t get enough sleep, and about 40 percent of adults are chronically sleep deprived – but most don’t even know it. The Australasian Sleep Association reports that each year on our highways at least 10,000 accidents and 500 fatalities are due to falling asleep at the wheel and that three million Australians suffer from chronic sleep disorders.

The Australasian Sleep Association suggests that about 46 percent of people rate their sleep fair/poor. They say that just 1 hour less sleep at night can impact one’s alertness the next day by 25 %. If a person averages only six hours of sleep at night, their immunity to viral infection can be affected by50 %. During sleep loss, immune cells usually used to fight disease and infection are activated, leaving them more susceptible to outside infections. That’s why when adults are run down they have a tendency to get sick. Research suggest that chronic sleep loss may also impair the body’s ability to develop antibodies, the goal of all vaccinations. Dr. Eve Van Cauter, of the University of Chicago has shown that the response to the flu vaccine is affected by the amount of sleep that you had during the days prior to vaccination.

The bottom line is that worldwide, people of all ages are increasingly sleep-deprived – making them anxious, grumpy and in some cases – dead.

How would you know if you are sleep deprived?

According to the Australian Sleep Foundation, anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep-deprived. Some say that ten and fifteen minutes to fall asleep is okay, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy during the day.  If you are not sleep deprived, it should take you fifteen to twenty minutes to fall asleep – that is the clearest indication that you are getting the right amount of sleep each night.

However, if you arrive at school most days – really jaded, tired, grumpy, unable to concentrate and seized by an uncontrollable desire to curl up under your desk then you might find this advice useful – not just for your students but for yourself.

The secrets of a good night’s sleep

Dim lights 30 minutes before bedtime

The research is clear that light activates the brain, ensuring at least 30 minutes of dim light before going to sleep is crucial to a great nights sleep. So don’t go into a brightly lit bathroom to brush your teeth, make sure that it is dim.

Implement a routine

Most of the sleep experts agree that getting yourself into a regular pattern of sleeping is crucial. This means going to bed at about the same time each night and awaking at the same time. It also means getting enough sleep – that is, you should awaken feeling refreshed, not tired.

Limit the bed to sleeping

There is a phenomenon in psychology called a ‘time place cue’, which just means that the body can get used to doing the same thing at the same time and in the same place. This can be very helpful to the person who is trying to get a good night’s sleep. What it means for the sleep-deprived student, is that we want their body to associate going to bed – with going to sleep. This means that during this year we want them to keep their bed for sleeping, not to read, eat, study or watch TV in bed! Of course if you are happily doing these things in bed and you are sleeping fine, then disregard this advice.

Exercise

The benefits of exercise, in terms of sleep, are well documented. Doing something like going for a swim, a game of touch footy etc can induce tiredness and help create a significantly helpful level of weariness. A word of warning though, exercising just before bedtime is not recommended as it can raise levels of arousal.

Relax before bed

After a hard day at school slaving over a hot pentium, many students may get back to home feeling like a pretzel, all wound up, anxious and tense. This will make trying to go to sleep about as easy as nailing jelly to the wall. They need to relax and unwind before trying to get a satisfying night’s sleep. Taking a hot bubble bath, listening to relaxing music (Pachabel’s Canon), reading a magazine, or watching a favourite TV show – can have an amazing impact on preparing them for a night of good sleep.

Don’t sleep in too warm a bed

To catch some serious zzz’s they must cool off; body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That’s why a sizzling hot summer night can cause anyone to have a restless sleep. The experts say that blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why teachers and parents have more sleep disorders!

Wear earplugs

Research shows that exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.

Wake to a bright light

Sleep boffins advise that it is best to expose oneself to a bright light soon after waking, as this helps to signal the brain when it should wake up. Avoid bright lights before bed.

 

Stimulants

After midday, they should try and stay away from coffee, cola, caffeine and nicotine, which are all stimulants, which can interfere with, sleep. While one would hope that access to alcohol is not an issue, research suggests that alcohol can make students drowsy but can seriously disrupt their sleep.

Conclusion

If an adolescent or parent has persistently poor sleep, the good news is that most major hospitals now have sleep units and there are a growing number of privately run sleep units across Australia. For more information contact the Australian Psychological Society’s national referral services at Telephone 1800 333 497 outside Melbourne (03) 8662 3300 in Melbourne. Email referral@psychsociety.com.au

sleep prioritisation

By | January 25th, 2017|

Sleep more. Do more.

Dream more

Get more zzzzzs.
Less texts. More zzzzs.

Kids need 10

Sleep is our single most important behavioural experience. The average person spends over a third of their life sleeping, but don’t presume that means they’re inactive. In fact, parts of our brain are far more active when we’re asleep and yet the benefits of sleep are chronically undervalued. In Australia, we’re in the grip of a creeping epidemic of irritability, accident-proneness and chronic health conditions, as modern lifestyles mess with the primal wiring of our internal body clocks.

So how many hours do you need? Children need 10 hours, teenagers 9 and adults 8. Sleep is critical in helping us process memories and consolidate learning. The negative effects of not getting enough are many, ranging from moodiness and decreased thinking capacity to stunted growth. So for the sake of your family, turn off, tune out and get some much needed zzzzzzzs.

ACTIONS

• Dim the lights 30 minutes before you sleep. This gives melatonin (the sleep chemical) a chance to secrete.

• Keep all technology out of the room.

• Avoid caffeinated drinks after midday.

• Got to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

sleep prioritisation

Often underestimated for creating peace in our home is the importance of quality sleep. Sleep doesn’t interfere with our daily, it actually sets up how well our waking hours will be.

table talk – shutting down devices

There is a clear improvement in children’s sleep if devices are shut down at least an hour before bedtime.

table talk – stress discussions

Talk to your children about their stress. Listen to what’s happening in their life. However, choose the time to do it carefully. Applying more stress when they are already stressed may not be as helpful as choosing a more relaxed time.

table talk – irritability and sleep

Much of children’s irritability can be traced back to poor sleep. Ensuring children have good quality sleep helps them be more calm during the day.

validate all emotions, not all behaviours

By | January 12th, 2017|

The term “meta-emotion” refers to our feelings about feelings. While many of us will never have used this psychological definition in our daily vernacular, we all have feelings and beliefs about emotions, influenced largely from our family-of-origin upbringings. Take a moment to reflect on how emotions were managed in the family home in which you were raised? Perhaps you recall statements such as:

“Please don’t be angry, I don’t like people being angry with me”

“OK, no more tears now, I’m going to tickle you to laugh all that sadness away”

“Jealousy is an ugly emotion”

“Let’s just drown our heartache in ice-cream”

“Just get over your worry, other people have much bigger things to worry about than you”

“Stop talking about your frustration, it’s only going to make things worse”

“OK, let’s just let it go, I can’t stand conflict”

While these are commonplace sentiments for many of us, and most are intended as well-meaning statements, they all dismiss uncomfortable emotions, sending the message that anger, sadness, jealousy, grief, worry, frustration, and conflict are not healthy or acceptable ways to feel.

At The Family Peace Foundation, we invite parents and partners to accept all feelings as valid and normal and to appreciate that feelings and emotions are not loaded, personal, right, wrong, good or bad, but that they are simply just feelings. Nothing more, nothing less.

Once we learn to accept and validate feelings expressed by our child (or mate), we are ready for stage two in managing emotions, which is to help our children regulate their own emotions and find ways to help them problem-solve.

Regulating emotions means feeling them and then finding ways to ride the emotional wave of discomfort until it subsides. As parents, we can sit with our children, hug them calmly, take them out for a walk, sit and do quiet activities like colouring in, listen to music, pat the dog, or kick a ball. It’s also important to role model emotional validation and regulation to our children when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, hurt, or angry.

Of course, feeling angry isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card to punch my brother or sister. Therefore, a parent who accepts every child’s emotion needs to also follow up with teaching some emotional regulation and problem solving skills that the child can take with them in their tool kit when anger or other painful emotions return (which they will!)

Solving a child’s problem may be a tempting quick fix solution but can disempower the child to work things out themselves. Instead, once your child has calmed down, help foster empathy by asking how the other person may be feeling and what they think they can to do make the situation better and get the outcome he or she desires. Every expression of emotion is an opportunity to connect with your child and a window to teach appropriate behaviour, boundaries and limitations.

The adage that time heals everything has always had me stumped. It’s what we do with the passage of time that creates connection, insight, growth and healing, rather than the passage of time itself. And the best use of that time as emotional coaches to our children and teens is to accept and validate emotions while helping them to develop the coping and problem-solving skills needed to help them thrive across the developmental lifespan.

accept and validate emotions

By | January 12th, 2017|

Recognise every emotion

All feelings matter

Validate all feelings

All feelings are acceptable, but all behaviours are not. Learn to recognise your partner’s or your child’s emotions as an opportunity to connect and help them become empowered. Whenever your child says they feel jealous, envious or angry, for example, try to avoid judging, negating their emotions or offering up parental solutions.

Often, we try to alleviate our children’s discomfort or block their ‘negative’ emotions because we want them to feel better. Instead, try to validate their feelings by acknowledging them and asking questions, while helping the child find solutions themselves. This is an excellent way to build your child’s inner resilience in dealing with adversity.

ACTIONS

• Negative emotions are opportunities for your child’s personal growth. Don’t waste them.

• Accept every emotion as valid but not every behavior.

• Value the journey your child takes towards a solution – don’t do the work for them.

• Remember that finding the solution is less important than having the tools to approach the problem.

accept and validate emotions

Whenever someone close to you says they feel jealous, envious or angry, for example, try to avoid judging, negating their emotions or offering up parental solutions.

table talk – building children’s resilience

Building your child’s resilience can be counter intuitive. We want to protect them yet to grow we need to step back and let them grow themselves.

table talk – It’s about respect

Being open and listening to the emotions of others is showing them respect.

table talk – making them feel valid

It’s not just about validating the emotion but also take time to unpack the reason behind why it occurred so you understand where it came from.

table talk – is sadness a weakness?

Sometimes sadness can be masked because we think we should feel happy. Sadness is a valid emotion too.

table talk – fighting the need to please

Many times a mask is put forward in a group where a need to please is put forward and true feelings are masked.

table talk – winning all the time

Learning that failing and not winning all that time is part of life. Understanding this makes the times wins happen all the more satisfying.

table talk – is fifth a win?

Recognising personal ability and achievement is vitally important. Have you taken steps forward. That’s the real accomplishment.

table talk – mixing it up

It’s not uncommon to have a respond differently to different people experiencing the same thing.

table talk – not all sunsets and fairy floss

Life is not a straight line of happy emotions. How do you face into that? How do you recognise and validate those feelings in others?

table talk – not liked all the time

There are times when your loved ones just won’t like you. It can be tough to deal with and it’s part of life.

table talk – perfection illusion

It’s important to recognise life is not perfect. Show your vulnerabilities and let those around you know that it’s normal to have the ups and downs life brings.

validation – the superglue of relationships

By | January 9th, 2017|

Who are your heroes? I have a few heroes in my life and because I am a psychologist unsurprisingly some of them are from my profession. People like Steve Biddulph who changed the way the western world raised boys, Martin Seligman who initiated the study of positive psychology and Jean Piaget, who’s work had a profound influence on psychology, especially our understanding children’s intellectual development.

But right up there on my list of psychological super heroes is Marsha M. Linehan an American psychologist and author. She is the creator of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy that combines behavioural science with Zen concepts like acceptance and mindfulness.

She teaches that one of the four options couples have in any problem situation is acceptance. Validation is a useful way that we can communicate acceptance of ourselves and others. Validation doesn’t mean approving or liking. When my partner makes a decision that I really don’t think is prudent, validation is a good way of supporting her and strengthening our relationship while holding a different opinion. Validation is a way of communicating that our relationship is important to me even when we disagree on something.

By responding with validation I can recognize and accept her thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviours without putting her down, using sarcasm or dismissing what she has to say.  Knowing that she is understood and that her emotions and thoughts are accepted by me is powerful. Validation is like relationship super glue.

My psychological super hero Marsha Linehan defined six levels of validation

The first Level is Being Present. There are so many ways to be present. Holding my partner’s hand when she is having a painful medical treatment, listening with your whole mind and doing nothing but listening to a child (for at least 8 minutes) describe their first day at school or going to a mate’s house at midnight to sit with him while he cries because his Mum just died are all examples of being present. So turn off the TV, step away from the computer, or stop washing the dishes, and lean forward and show you are paying attention and carefully listening. Hear the facts, nod your head, ask questions – take it all in before starting to form an opinion or evaluate (judge).

The second level of validation is Accurate Reflection. Accurate reflection means shutting up and listening to my partner and then summarizing what I have heard from her. Communicate back that I’ve heard the other person accurately, and without bias. This can be done by repeating what she said, though it can be better to paraphrase so you don’t sound like a parrot. Proves that you are listening to what the other person is saying. When done in a genuine way, (“so what you are saying is you are feeling pretty angry and hurt…) with the intent of truly understanding the experience and not judging it, accurate reflection is validating. Sometimes this type of validation helps someone sort through their thoughts and separate thoughts from emotions.

Level Three is Mindreading. Mindreading is guessing what another person might be feeling or thinking. Create a hypothesis about what I believe she is trying to say but maybe “not” expressing well. I can narrow this down by asking a question – guessing and asking if what ever it is accurate.  When my partner is describing a situation, I try to notice her emotional state. Then either name the emotions I am hearing or guess at what she might be feeling.”I’m guessing you must have felt pretty hurt by that ” is Level Three validation. Remember that I may guess wrong and she can correct me. It’s her emotion and she is the only one who knows how she feels. Accepting her correction is validating.

Level Four is Understanding the Person’s Behaviour in Terms of their History and Biology. We are an blend of what has happened in our lives. On some level, based on our history, our actions make sense. If we lived in Darwin through a cyclone, for example, we would have a higher response to the warning sirens than others. Letting the other person know that their behaviour makes sense based on their past experiences shows understanding.  My partner’s experiences and biology influence her emotional reactions. If she was bitten by a dog a few years ago, she is not likely to enjoy playing with my neighbour’s Rottweiler. Validation at this level would be saying, “Given what happened to you, I completely understand your not wanting to be around that dog.”

Level Five is normalizing or recognizing emotional reactions that anyone would have. Imagine my partner has to give a speech to a large crowd of people and she is nervous. Understanding that her emotions are normal, is helpful for everyone. We avoid shaming or giving the message of being defective. This is powerful.  For the emotionally sensitive person, knowing that anyone would be upset in a specific situation is validating. So saying to her  “Of course you’re anxious. Speaking before an audience the first time is scary for anyone.” Is validating.

Level Six is Radical Genuineness. Radical genuineness is when you understand the emotion someone is feeling on a very deep level. To be radically genuine is to ensure that we are not remedial and we don’t marginalize, condescend, or talk down to the person you are trying to validate. And we don’t want to treat them as fragile or any differently than you would treat anyone else in a similar situation. Maybe you have had a similar experience. Radical genuineness is sharing that experience as equals.

Understanding the levels may be easy. Putting them into practice is often more difficult. The Family Peace Foundation believes that practice is the key to making validation a natural part of the way peaceful families communicate.

eight day christmas truce

By | December 21st, 2016|

During the Christmas and New Year holidays familiarity may not always breed contempt, but it sure can exacerbate existing family tensions often with relatives who we are spending a lot of time with over the holidays.

Leonard Felder, a Los Angeles psychologist, found that about three-quarters of us have at least one family member who annoys us, who gets on our nerves. Chances are, you don’t have to think too hard about who that is in your tribe.

But why is it that the same idiotic remark that is either ignored or laughed at when dispensed by a friend, elicits a volcanic eruption of emotion matches when delivered by a relative at Christmas?

Is there something about our relatives—or something about the holidays—that’s makes this all particularly irksome?

So, I reckon that there are at least four reasons as to why the emotional temperature at Christmas time can rapidly climb and culminate in an epic screaming match and hence why it is a great idea to call an 8 day Family truce this Christmas.

Freud’s Narcissism of Small Differences

The great Austrian psychiatrist and father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud noted that people who lived near each other and were ethnically similar, Spaniards and Portuguese, the North Germans and South Germans, the English and Scotch were often the ones who fought most bitterly. Freud blamed this on what he called ‘the narcissism of the small difference.’ He argued that it was the trifling differences in people who are otherwise very similar formed the basis of feelings of hostility between them. This might be because we tend to remember and value the differences between ourselves and others more than we do the similarities. To this day, Freud’s theory is used to explain the factors behind certain civil wars and potentially what happens around the dining room table at Christmas.

Stratospheric expectations

If your idea of a perfect Christmas is one in which everyone is chock-a-bloc full of love, joy and unbridled happiness where kindness courses through everyone’s veins, then you are setting yourself up for significant disappointment. Instead it is more prudent to establish more realistic goals where you hope for perhaps 10 good minutes of conversation. Have the intention to laugh a little more, breathe a little easier, or say a few kind words to even the most challenging relative. Set reasonable goals and you won’t feel let down.

It’s all about timing – Go late, leave early

If last year, things went well for the first few hours, then went belly up when people started to liquor up. It’s smart to bail or arrive later. If the father-in-law that you can’t stand, says they’ll come at noon, but dinner’s ready at 5, tell him you can’t get there closer to 3.30! You could even arrive in separate cars – so that even if your spouse wants to stay, you can offer your apologies and scarper with the kids before it gets too unendurable.

Be a lover not a fighter

There will almost always be at least one relative who goes out of their way to give you grief. It’s one thing to dream about putting them in their place once and for all. But trust me, part of the 8 day truce is to resist the temptation. There is a time and a place for such robust discussions, and to let forth with a rant can be a big mistake. This is not the time to have that interaction, it is more strategic to deflect their opening provocative line with a light hearted response resist taking the bait — and then change the subject.

So calling an 8 day Family Peace Foundation Truce this Christmas, will be much easier if you bear in mind that what is irritating you is often what binds you together, your own unrealistic expectations, staying too long and you taking the bait.

On behalf of all us at the Family Peace Foundation enjoy your Christmas Truce.

10 incredibly simple financial rules EVERYONE should follow to ensure you’re never short of cash

By | March 28th, 2017|

A while ago I was browsing the papers from the U.K. and I happened upon an article entitled “10 incredibly simple financial rules EVERYONE should follow”.

Being the curious type and thinking I was pretty swish when it came to financial literacy – mainly through years of listening to my financial guru, the one and only David Koch from channel 7 Sunrise – I thought I’d just check out how I was traveling.

1. Be ‘micro expense’ aware
The article explained that as consumers, many of us are unconsciously spending, without realising how much and on what. It pointed out that these day-to-day “micro expenses” can really mount up. Now my drug of choice is coffee which really helps me get through the day. But good coffee beans don’t come free in this life, and at $4.50 coffee is not cheap. Just one measly cup of Joe every weekday racks up a staggering $1170 a year on average, which is a lot of money – especially when you have 3 to 4 cups!

The old adage of take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves rings true today more than ever. The bottom line is that we do need to make sure we are aware of our daily expenses so that we are able to stabilise our spending. I probably need to work on this one!

2. Budget like you’re Peter Costello or Paul Keating
Not wishing to get political, or anything but as I recall both these guys knew what’s was coming in and what was going out when they were in charge of the nation’s finances. When it comes to your family, the million dollar question is do you? There is nothing more powerful than establishing and following a family budget. Truthfully, this one also needs work.

3. Use technology to your advantage
I love technology, (ask Sabina!) and there are a plethora of new apps and services that can help you manage your finances. From keeping track of your budget, investing smartly and tracking your money in real time, so make the most of the tech on offer. This I get right! Yay!

4. Save, save, save
My Mum used to divide our pocket money into three bits. A third to spend, a third to save and a third to give to charity! She taught me that stashing a portion of the cash away every month was a powerful way to gain control and I was always oddly surprised with the results of this extremely positive habit, which eventually resulted in me buying my first car – a vermillion fire Holden Kingswood! So I definitely get a tick here!

5. Take an interest in finance
For many years while at Uni, when I wasn’t chasing girls – I had my head in psychology books! Writing a Phd didn’t leave much time for reading much else. As a result, I tended to just leave what little money I had in the bank, instead of making it work for me. This taught me that I really should have kept myself more informed with the latest financial news – even if it was just the basics. Do you know the current interest rates? Are your investments making any money? Can you get a better deal for any loans you may have? Being educated about finance is just plain smart. I’m better now in this department than I was back then!

6. Make 2017 the year you get debt free
The article did contain bits of advice that seemed to come from the university of the bleeding obvious, like ‘stay out of debt’ or clear up any debts you have as quickly as possible. Fair enough – Apart from my mortgage which was pretty unavoidable – I have always tried to do this, so I reckon I get a pass here too.

7. Spend less than you earn
Well duh! This again is just common sense – although I remember growing up listening to the legendary broadcaster John Laws who used to say that common sense wasn’t all that common! But they are right, using technology (see point 3) the amount of real time information on my spending has never been better – we all should realize pretty quickly if we are spending more than we are earning. No excuses! Tick on that one!

8. Only use cash
This may be a heritage listed solution, but if you only take cash out the door and ditch the cards – you will better understand where and how you’re spending your money because it is actually disappearing physically before your eyes! Even if you do this just once a week it will remind you of the value of money in a way that pay wave cannot. I don’t do this at all – but might start a new tradition – having read the advice!

9. Check your transactions
The article did say that each day, I should spend a minute or two to check my transactions from the previous day to have a better understanding of how I am spending and what’s happening with my money. I actually do this – phew, another tick!!!

10. Use the 50/20/30 rule
I think Kochie mentioned this years ago! It involves dividing my monthly income into set chunks. For example, 50 per cent to go on living expenses, 20 per cent on savings, 30 per cent to spend on entertainment and going out.
As a general principle this is the best way to start your budgeting journey! Again I need to work more diligently on this one!

In conclusion, despite our best efforts, I think we all find ourselves struggling to make ends meet each month. For a whole lot of reasons, some within our control, others not –
overspending is an all too familiar scenario for many families – but the experts in this article and the great David Koch say there’s a few simple steps you can follow to ensure you’re never short of cash. The Family Peace Foundation wishes you the best in budgeting!

eight day family truce

By | December 21st, 2016|

I’m a firm believer that as humans, many of our feelings and needs are largely universal, and when we lose sight of this, the differences between us become magnified, resulting in conflict, resentment, tension and sometimes emotional or even physical warfare, typically with the people we supposedly care most about.

Of course, in a perfect world, we would have all the tools to help resolve our conflict and ease each other’s pain, but as imperfect and flawed humans, that’s not always the case. When we are hurt, frustrated and feeling misunderstood or judged, we can cycle between attack and withdrawal, even when the cause of the original conflict has long been forgotten. As we seek to defend our position, we practice mindless, habitual yet damaging behaviour, which leaves us wounded, and repeatedly inflames the wounds of our loved ones. Sadly, this dynamic is not a new one, which brings me to a well-known tale from yesteryear.

In 1914, World War 1 had begun, with Germany invading France, and France and Britain attempting to defend themselves. Troops from both sides fought from within their cold, deep trenches across the treacherous barbed-wire infested “no man’s land” that lay between. The flames of war were fanned by government propaganda fuelling hatred, a noble desire to fight for king and country, and a mounting resentment for comrades who had died.

However, 102 years ago, as Christmas Day drew near, reports suggest that the weary, homesick, and injured men contemplated a planned period of peace in honour of Christmas.

They chose to see the commonality in their enemies – men, who just like them, yearned for safety, far-away loved ones, comfort and reprieve from the uncertainty of war and pain of conflict. As Christmas Day approached, troops from both sides of the war made the conscious decision to call a truce, and to cease shooting and fighting. The Germans sang Christmas songs, and the British responded with their own Christmas tunes. Some soldiers played football, traded tobacco and shared laughter regardless of the language barrier between many of them, or the tragic history of bloodshed.

At the Family Peace Foundation, we recognise that families can be embroiled in long-term painful discord and conflict, leaving us feeling wounded, overwhelmed and hopeless. However, ours is a message of hope, with a take-away action that can be implemented today, based on a choice like that made by the courageous soldiers of World War 1. Even when we don’t have the tools, or know how to break the cycle of pain, violence, hurt, or estrangement, we can make a choice to stop the fighting, the demeaning slurs, the controlling and disrespectful patterns that erode marriages, and in turn, change and damage our children forever.

That’s why The Family Peace Foundation is inviting all Australian families to take the Family Peace Foundation’s 8 Day Truce, starting 8pm Christmas Eve. We are hopeful that a taste of peace, safety, harmony and connection will build momentum, and create awareness that there is another way to cope and live where conflict can be managed in more healthy and productive ways. We are hopeful that Australian families around the nation will find ways to see “the enemy” as a loved one who is feeling hurt, sad, rejected, judged, small, fearful, alone or wounded, but also in need of peace, security, joy and connection.

This Christmas eve, we invite you to put down your emotional, physical or psychological weapons and to sing songs, play football and trade statements and expressions of gratitude, love and respect rather than tobacco; and in the process, replace the treachery of “no-man’s land” to become every woman, man and child’s peaceful land.

christmas

By | December 21st, 2016|

For many Christmas is an exciting time of the year. However it also brings with it a high level of stress and anxiety. Learn how to navigate the holiday season peacefully.

And most of all, call an 8 day Family Peace Foundation truce this Christmas.  If there is any conflict, grievances, distress, long held grudges, upset, bad feelings, anger, resentment, on going tension or anything of the like  in your family whatsoever, call a Family Peace Foundation 8 Day Christmas truce.

And give your children a Christmas they’ll cherish forever.

peaceful family Christmas

call an 8 day Family Peace Foundation truce this Christmas. If there is any conflict, grievances, distress, long held grudges, upset, bad feelings, anger, resentment, on going tension or anything of the like in your family whatsoever, call a Family Peace Foundation 8 Day Christmas truce.

split family Christmas

There is a whole new level of stress for split families at Christmas. Both for parents and for children.

a sense of magic

Take a leaf out of children’s book this Christmas. Believe in Santa and miracles. Notice the happiness and joy. Choose to make your Christmas special.

downsizing and upsizing at Christmas

If the stress of buying lots of presents is getting too great why not get the whole family to come together and come back to the underlying meaning of Christmas. Downsize on the gift giving and upsize on the quality of the gifts.

table talk – after a loss, Christmas can be more about connecting

With the loss of a loved one Christmas can take a completely different meaning. Maybe finding that connection with others gives you Christmas joy in these situations.

is Christmas over rated

Getting hooked on the hype of what Christmas ‘must be’ can create unnecessary stress in your life. The Christmas frenzy doesn’t have to be. Stop and think about what’s really important for you and your family at this time and stick to that.

kids coming together

Learn from the young ones this Christmas. Catch up and talk about what is great and what’s fun.

over emphasis

Do we pack too much expectation into the Christmas season. School holidays, vacations and New Year are all crammed into one period.

make a difference in someone else’s life

Look to what you can do for someone else this Christmas. How can you help others less fortunate than you. It’s a great reminder of how fortunate you are.

remembering loved ones past

Christmas can be difficult when you’ve lost someone special. Take the time at Christmas to remember them and the impact they had on your life.

well thought out presents

Think through the quality and the benefit of the presents. How much are those presents going to be used. Lasting presents that continue to be used keep the memory of the specialness of giving alive.

kris kringle

You can have a lot of fun with silly small presents that make people laugh.

holidays and grief

By | December 20th, 2016|

At the Family Peace Foundation we are very conscious of the fact that be it Christmas or Chanukah, the holiday season is a time when people gather together with family and friends, and that if someone you love has passed away, this time of year can be a glaring reminder of that and create a kaleidoscope of mixed emotions. When you have lost someone special, your world loses its celebratory qualities. Holidays only magnify the loss. The sadness feels sadder and the loneliness goes deeper.

For the first few years after my Mum died, Christmas time came around as a potent package full of grief triggers: the Christmas tree decorations, carols, the turkey, presents under the tree, empty chairs, missing faces, and silent voices seem to all be cruel reminders of what was missing at what should have been a time of great joy. There can be no doubt that such holidays are challenging for the bereaved.

While everyone reacts differently, a lot of people find Christmas can be a pretty difficult time – it can prompt you to react more sensitively to things or become detached from those around you. Everyone will have a different way of coping, but however you react to Christmas, it’s important that you look after yourself and have your own way of getting through the times when you’re feeling really low.

As a community service, the Family Peace Foundation offers the following advice for those coping with Christmas after a loss:

Formally remember them. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. Grief is the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and mourning is our external expressions. So do something to remember the person you are missing such as lighting a candle, creating an online tribute, playing their favourite music, visiting a place they loved or doing something you used to do together, writing them a card, planting a tree or sharing memories and stories with others who loved them too. Some people find putting particular Christmas ornaments/ mementoes out to remind them of a lost loved one can feel healing.

Do less this Christmas. Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your psychology and your loss. Don’t be pushed into feeling you have to do anything – remember you only have to do as much as you want to do. Leave the words “ought” and “should” out of your vocabulary. Know that some bereaved people elect to skip it altogether. Doing something completely different can help to lessen the sense of loss. Don’t get trapped.  If you go to holiday events, drive yourself so you can leave if it gets to be too much.

Avoid the shops as much as possible – it can make Christmas seem more empty and shallow than it already feels. If you need to buy presents, try shopping on-line and getting gifts delivered.

Surround yourself with understanding people. Make plans to be around people who you trust and who understand that you might not be feeling very “jolly”. Let them know that you may actually prefer to be alone sometimes, and they should not be offended if this is the case.

Avoid sugar highs and lows because they naturally induce emotional lows. Also, steer clear of overeating and under-sleeping. Eat well-balanced diets with as many mood enhancing foods as possible, such as include yogurt, kefir, green tea, omega-3 rich foods (i.e. salmon, cod liver oil, etc.), and lower sugar dark chocolate

Don’t drink too much. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a Christmas drink, but avoid numbing your pain with alcohol. This will just make you feel worse in the long run. Have a glass or two, but know your limit.

Exercise. Try to exercise as this will lighten your mood and release stress. Have a walk around the block or get into the beach to breathe in sea air.

Admit grief.  Do allow time for feelings. Pretending you are not in emotional pain and or that holidays is not a harder time of the year is just not the truth for you. If you hide your feelings nobody will know what your needs are or how you prefer to be comforted Trying to move forward while denying the reality of grief causes is incompatible with good mental health.

Let the tears flow. Give yourself permission to cry. Don’t keep feelings bottled up. If you have 1000 tears to cry don’t stop at 200. Crying releases excessive tension.  The chemical make-up of tears verifies this.  Emotional tears actually have a distinctive chemical structure that differs from tears produced by eye irritation and that emotional tears appear to play a significant role in detoxification of the body and can produce endorphins to actually relieve the pain we’re suffering.

Reach out to the disadvantaged. Some bereaved people find great comfort in using this time of year in the service of others. Volunteering to help people less fortunate than ourselves can be very healing.

Accept help. Accepting practical help with shopping, cooking, childcare, housework etc over the holiday period. If you feel as though you are not coping well, reach out to people you trust and say yes to offers of support or company.

Avoid guilt. Finally, avoid guilt trips. I remember feeling guilty for having fun after Mum died. I worked hard to remember that Mum loved this time of year, so it is okay to have fun. If you are feeling happy, go with it – it does not mean that you are forgetting or forsaking the person who is not there.

Do one thing just for YOU. Be self indulgent. If you want to watch your favourite TV programme with a glass of wine, or go for a walk to a favourite spot, or pamper yourself with a favourite treat, make sure you are able to plan this into your day and visualise it and look forward to it.

At the Family Peace Foundation we feel it’s vital to acknowledge that holidays are clearly some of the roughest terrain we can navigate following the loss of a loved one. The ways we handle them are as individual as we are. What is vitally important is that we be present for the loss in whatever form the holidays do or don’t take. With Christmas and Chanukah comes New Year, another potentially painful milestone which prompts reflection upon the past and plans for the future. Be gentle with yourself at this time, too.

managing expectations during the holiday season

By | December 19th, 2016|

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s fairly typical to find yourself running from pillar to post in a frenzied state of shopping, planning, and tying up loose ends at home and work. Of course the holiday season means different things to each of us – spirituality, a time of personal reflection, relaxation, time with family, loneliness, grief, fun, managing extended family relations, gift giving, travel, and food.

The holidays can also bring increased levels of stress due to conflicting financial and emotional expectations, differing spending habits, varying beliefs about gift giving, managing children’s behaviour, and increased parenting demands. Then there’s the almost inevitable way few of us adults are immune from reverting back to child-hood roles and patterns again when we spend extended chunks of time with our families.

While there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas day or holiday season, adopting some of the following strategies can help us to manage the joys and challenges that are inherent in the festive and silly holiday season:

  • Let go of the “shoulds” and set more realistic expectations – disagreement, tension, conflict, hurt or loneliness may visit some of us during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for gratitude for the things that are working well in our lives
  • Adopt some flexibility and compromise – there is no one “right” way
  • Family time is typically punctuated by work, school, and social activities during the year, therefore when we are all thrown together for extended periods of time in small spaces, little annoyances or hurts can be magnified!  Try to plan breaks, timeout, down time, or buffer time between time spent with the extended family so you can make the most of family time without spitting the dummy or throwing the Christmas pudding!
  • Be aware of the desire to gain approval from others or keep family members happy (especially your children or in-laws!)
  • Balance past traditions with newly created traditions
  • Include four-legged friends who tend to enjoy the holidays without the expectations, mind chatter, or judgement more typical of us two-legged types
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff, and work with what you’ve got instead of panicking that you don’t have the “right” presents, food, table setting, glassware, or sheets on the spare bed! And remember what Santa knows for sure…It’s only one day and this too will pass!

family peace foundation xmas blog

By | December 16th, 2016|

Sabina and I are well aware that Christmas and the new year can often bring unwelcome guests and we are not talking about that Uncle that sings too loudly, always gets drunk and falls asleep under the Christmas tree – we are actually talking about — stress and depression. This is hardly surprising as holidays present a staggering number of demands on many families — office parties, last minute shopping, cooking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But the Family Peace Foundation has 10 practical tips, that can help minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays.

As practicing psychologists, Sabina and I believe that even if you only adopt a few of these, you could potentially end up actually relishing the holidays more than you thought you would.

  1. Recognize your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You don’t have to pretend to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendship horizons.
  3. Have realistic expectations. The holidays don’t have to be faultless or a carbon copy of last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
  4. Call the 8 day Family Peace Foundation Truce. Our suggestion is for the 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Years Day commit to an emotional truce, where you pledge to accept friends and family members, especially that Uncle I mentioned earlier, as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside any gripes you may have with them, until a more appropriate time for discussion. Most importantly be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Don’t thrash the plastic. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Our suggestion for gift buying is to buy your loved one – one thing that they want, one thing they need, one thing to read and one thing to give to a charity in their name.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, cooking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute struggling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party preparation and cleanup, being a parent is not an exercise in martyrdom.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Stay healthy. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.  Try these suggestions:
    1. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks
    2. Get plenty of sleep
    3. Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Meditate. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Downloading the free app Smiling Mind (https://smilingmind.com.au) and using it regularly can slow your breathing and restorie inner calm. Some other options may include, taking a walk, listening to soothing music, getting a massage or reading a book.
  10. Get professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a friendly APS psychologist, use the following link: https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

the want, need, wear and read principle

By | December 15th, 2016|

The Isle of Man is home to just under 85,000 people, and one of those residents, 27 year old Emma Tapping gained world wide notoriety last Christmas when she shared a picture of a mountain of presents under her Christmas tree on Instagram. Read more

For reasons that never really became clear, she elected to shower her two daughters aged 13 and nine and her son, aged 19 months with 85 presents each on Christmas Day and then went on to defend her right to overindulge them.

Her picture of the tree with the present pile, was subsequently taken and turned into an image that went viral with the caption: ‘Nearly time for all the materialistic parents to compete and broadcast how many presents their kids have on Facebook! Just remember there’s some children who don’t get much’. This started a social media furor with people leaving comments on the picture accusing Emma of spoiling her children and forgetting the true meaning of Christmas.

Emma who subsequently did the rounds of UK morning TV – argued that she is ‘not rich at all’  and claimed she managed to accumulate her festive haul by bargain hunting and shopping throughout the year – starting with the Boxing Day sales. She said: ‘I start shopping in January and use every bargain, every sale I can, that’s how I do it, I shop all year round to make the pile as big as it is.

At the Family Peace Foundation we choose not to pass judgment on Emma Tapping but we acknowledge that present buying is a major source of stress for Australian families and we believe it is an important part of our role to provide skills, knowledge and strategies to reduce this stress.

There is no denying that the holiday season is a great opportunity to strengthen family, create and celebrate traditions and be together and that many parents are really struggling with the whole business of gift giving. Some families seem to have waved the white flag altogether, as two years ago the Roy Morgan organization found that 9 out of 10 children will open up envelopes laden with cash for Christmas. Child and Adolescent psychologists have argued that handing over a wad of cash does not really reflect the spirit of Christmas and is somewhat impersonal. So what can families do this Christmas.

To offset the expense of gifts, the pressure of shopping and the expectations of the season, the Family Peace Foundation would like to introduce a new Christmas concept;

We call it the want, need, wear and read principle.

That is this holiday season resolve to buy your children no more than 4 presents each, one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear and one thing to read (can even be an e-book). Some people have added a 5th component which is to encourage your child to choose a present that they will give away to charity. Such an approach requires some thought and knowledge of the child’s individual needs. This will result in the presents having real meaning and unlike many gifts will be valued and used.

Given that many Australians are struggling financially and often go into debt during these holidays, much of the angst around gift buying can be reduced by adopting this principle.  Once you have settled on the number of gifts, and drawn up a budget, the Family Peace Foundation believes it is much harder to overspend. Good budgeting means adhering to the want, need, wear and read principle, putting money away each week throughout the year, and doing your Christmas shopping early, perhaps in November.

Some people like, Emma Tapping, to do their Christmas shopping gradually over the course of the year, starting with the post-Christmas sales, just remember it’s quality not quantity that counts.

gratitude

By | December 9th, 2016|

Perhaps it’s just because I’m a psychologist who’s passionate about making sense of the human condition, and hungry to understand how we can better cope with suffering; and maximise wellbeing, peace and harmony in our families and in society-at-large, but I reckon you’d have to be living under a rock to be completely oblivious to the benefits and power that gratitude brings to our lives.

You’d have to be living under a rock to be completely oblivious to the benefits and power that gratitude brings to our lives.

Volumes has been written about gratitude and its correlation with higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and even a stronger immune system, as well as the positive effect we have on others when we express our thanks to them.

Although you’d reckon when we know better, we do better, it’s often easier said than done to be grateful for what’s working well rather than attending to what is not. And there’s good reason for that. We are hard-wired to focus on negatives and danger to survive.

For centuries, we needed to know where problems and threats were lurking so we developed an active but often unconscious habit of scanning our surrounds for the things that may go wrong, the people who may do us harm, and the events that may challenge or thwart our survival. While viewing the world through this lens seems to have served us well as a species in some ways, it can also come at a cost to our wellbeing, especially when we overlook the positive moments, people, experiences and events in our lives, both big and small.

Now that science has helped us understand the benefits of gratitude, we are invited to make a choice whether we want to engage in giving thanks and reap the intrinsic rewards and outcomes that gratitude brings, or continue without this powerful, accessible, and free tool in our toolkit.

As is the case with any behaviour change, step one requires recognition about where we are at, followed by a conscious choice to do things differently.

Creating room for gratitude simply means setting time aside to ask yourself (and others in the family unit) what’s going well, what you are thankful about, and why.

Although the research behind gratitude is rigorous, it’s not rocket science. However, choosing to shine a light on what you’re thankful for is a significant adjustment to the looking glass of life for many of us. It’s not a matter of turn-that-frown-upside-down rhetoric, and it’s not about ignoring the struggles that arise.

When we buy a white car, suddenly we notice everyone else driving white cars; and when we are pregnant, it seems rounded bellies are all around. Therefore, the call to action here is to shift what you attend for at least part of each day so the little patchy garden path of thankful neurons in our brain becomes a much-travelled gratitude superhighway until our gratitude neurons are regular recipients of thankful speeding fines!

Practicing gratitude can occur in many ways including the super effective Three Blessings Journal Technique (described in Dr MCG’s FPF blog). You may also like to start a gratitude jar where every family member writes down something they are grateful for each night. At the end of the week, empty the jar around the family dinner table and invite conversation about why you’re grateful for these things. Or think of someone in your past who did something you are thankful for, write them a letter and attempt to deliver it in person. Checkout the Gratitude Garden App, or hop on the Positivity Ratio website by Dr Barbara Fredrickson.

Whatever your action, the take-away message is clear. Gratitude is a choice that we can all make today regardless of what’s happening in our life. It’s a choice loaded with scientific evidence that when practiced, not only helps role model the benefits of giving thanks to our children and loved ones, but helps each of us reap the rewards of noticing what is working well, no matter how small, every day. White cars and pregnant tummies may be all around, but so are kind people, opportunities to connect, joys to delight our senses, and small experiences that have the potential to impact us in meaningful ways.

the science behind three good things

By | December 2nd, 2016|

Did you know that you can increase your long-term happiness by almost 10% if you regularly practicing a simple, fun and free 5 minute exercise?

Here’s the exercise:  “Write down three things that went well each day and their causes every night for one week.”  This action involves consciously spending a few minutes each day focusing on some of the good things that happen to us.

By doing this we buy into one of the Family Peace Foundations fundamental evidence based principals: We want Australian families to see life like it is – but focus on the good bits.

It is all about starting to notice what goes right, as well as what goes amiss in our lives. Even on a shocking day,  there are inevitably some good things that happen, however tiny.

But to make this work… the exercise has 4 essential components:

REGULARITY – Yes, you need to do it every night – before you go to bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened – things that went well, that you enjoyed or were grateful for. These can be small (e.g. a delicious sandwich or a child smiling on the bus) or of bigger importance for you. You’ll probably find it varies. Try doing this for a week to start with.

RECORD THEM – note them down – this is important. You may want to get a small notebook just for this purpose – or you can record them online using an app or website.

QUESTION – Think about why – for each thing you’re grateful for, write down why it happened and why you feel good about it. This may feel a bit tricky at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

REFLECT – Look back – after a week, have a look back on what you’ve written. How does it feel when you look at all these good things? Do you notice any themes?

PERSEVERE – keep it up – keep going for another couple of weeks at least. Many people find it becomes a bedtime habit. After a while you may find that you don’t need to do it every night. Three times a week or even once a week might be enough.

That’s it. We spend tens of thousands of dollars on expensive electronics, homes, flash cars and vacations  hoping for a 10% boost. This is a free alternative, and it works. But how do we know it works? Could this be just more pseudo pop psychology snake oil?

Well, no actually. In a study of the technique’s effectiveness, Professor Martin Seligman, the acknowledged father of the positive psychology movement and arguably one of the world’s most famous psychologists, participants were asked to follow those exact instructions for just one week.

The results? After just one week they were 2% happier than before, but in follow-up tests, their happiness kept on increasing, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months. All this, even though they were only instructed to journal for one week. I turned out that the research subjects enjoyed the exercise so much, that they just kept on doing it on their own.

When I first heard of the technique – I decided to give it a go for one week but like the subjects in the experiment – I just kept doing it. I used a web-based program that sent me a reminder on my phone each night via email and it became a habit, rather like brushing my teeth and I became a convert  – mainly because I found it so effective.

So why does this work so well? There is this thing in psychology called ‘hedonic adaptation’ – which is just psychobabble for the idea, that as humans, we just get used to the good things in our life and end up taking them for granted.

Remember the last time you upgraded your TV or forked out for a new car, virtually anything that you bought because you thought it would make you happy. The odds are that it probably did made you happy, for a while. The first few times you sat in your car to drive it you actually thought about it’s features, be that the emergency assist braking, automatic window wipers, park assist, ventilated seats or dolby surround sound system.

Whatever it was that you focused on, there was some form of appreciation and it is actually that appreciation that creates happiness. The amazing thing is that this tends to occur automatically. But then, after a while, if you are really honest with yourself – you have to admit that one day – it just stops. There is no more recognition – no more conscious thoughts. Jumping in that car and driving it becomes part of your day to day reality, undeserving of your mental time and it is with that change, that you lose this initial rush of happiness, in all likelihood setting you out on yet another fruitless quest  for your next toy.

This neat thing about this exercise, that Professor Seligman calls the  ‘Three Blessings Technique”, is that done often enough, it battles that feeling of loss, the rampant affluenza that besets so many and counteracts adaption.

By taking the time to consciously express gratitude, we remember that we already have in our lives good things.

From ancient scriptures to the latest science, this type of systematic gratitude is known to be good for us and those around us. Yet it isn’t always our automatic response and far too many of us often take the good things in our lives for granted. So, at the Family Peace Foundation we urge all Australian families to consciously learn to get into the habit of being grateful.

three good things

By | December 2nd, 2016|

Be grateful, daily

Notice 3 good things

At the end of every day, take a moment to ask yourself and every family member ‘what 3 things went well today and why?” Helping children learn to notice the good things in their lives is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give them.

Building resistance against the negativity we’re exposed to in the world will benefit your children throughout their entire lives. Studies have shown that a ‘glass half full’ approach lessens health complaints, increases the ability to overcome setbacks, reduces the focus on material goods and increases contentment. Learning to notice 3 good things each day has the power to transform lives for the better.

ACTIONS

• Every night – think back over the day and remember 3 x good things that happened or that you’re grateful for.

• Write them in your phone or notebook.

• Think about why they’re good or why you’re grateful.

• Look back after 1 week. How does it feel?

• Keep it up

three good things

Too often we can get bogged down with what we don’t like and forget all the really good stuff. Make a habit of reminding yourself about the good things. Gratitude is one of the most potent protective factors for your family.

table talk – finding good in bad

Horrible things can happen in life and too often that has the potential to send us in a downward spiral. Learn how to stop this spiral even in the worst of times.

table talk – threat of meanness

There is so much in the media today where people are severely judged, where others are simply being mean to each other. It’s more important than ever to look for and encourage good things in our life.

table talk – getting to the why

Taking the time to ask about why things are good creates greater reinforcement and stronger positive impact. Also, remember to share what you find good as well.

table talk – sense of belonging

Even when parents move apart there are ways to create that sense of belonging for the children so they continue to feel safe, valued and listened to.

table talk – self protection

Sometimes when people are being mean and unkind it comes from an underlying fear and need to protect themselves.

table talk – a common underlying theme

When finding the good things that happened during the day, be it what happened to you or something you observed in others, there is common theme. Any ideas as to what you think it might be?

table talk – it’s hard work being mean

It doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can be kind. Plus being kind takes so much less energy. Try keeping a frown on you face then keeping a smile. Which is easier to maintain?

table talk – finding good can be tough

Children can put up big walls creating challenges to finding good things in their day. Overcoming these challenges is hugely rewarding so remember to ‘cheers’ the satisfaction when you draw out those three good things.

finding the “we” over “me”

By | November 25th, 2016|

We often use the word partner in a marital context when referring to our significant other but what does the construct of partnership truly mean? By simple definition, a partner participates in an undertaking with another, and in marriage, that undertaking is life. However, partnerships are complex unions usually comprising some degree of both the “me”, where two individuals are coping with their own individual vulnerabilities, dreams, fears, wounds and goals, and the “we” which represents the collective team approach two people can take to navigate, celebrate or manage the highs and lows that generally pepper all our lives.

However, partnerships are complex unions usually comprising some degree of both the “me” and the “we”

Research tells us that couples who talk, think and act in terms of “we” do better than those who behave through the “me” lens. A University of California study of middle-aged and older couples http://news.berkeley.edu/2010/01/27/couple_we_ness/ found that couples who think in terms of “we”, “our” and “us”, behave more positively towards each other and experience less stress. Furthermore, US relationship expert John Gottman purports the importance of the “The Story of Us Switch” which detects the accumulative distrust, betrayal and hurt quotient in a relationship based on how either partner thinks about their shared past in the present.

Humans tend to reorganise memories based on their meaning to us in the present, therefore later experiences influence and can even change what we remember from the past. A person who feels frustrated and agitated towards their partner today, will shift their memories from the past to more negative reflections to match their current viewpoint and beliefs. But the same is true in reverse. If our switch is on positive today, our memories and associations are positive and help buffer against irritability and emotional distance when times are tough.

Some couples flick their switch to negative but stay together living independent or “me” focused lives. They tend to overlook the negative impact on the couple and focus on the negative impact on the self only. If this sounds familiar, or we feel we are losing or have lost a sense of partnership, what then?

No two people think or act in the same way. I often joke that couples I have seen for relationship counselling sometimes express the sentiment that if only their partner was more like them, the marriage would work oh so much better! But while cloning your partner to mirror yourself ain’t the answer, focusing on the commonalities and similarities you share can go a long way in strengthening a couple’s sense of unity, support and strength as a team, which has the power to contribute to a more harmonious and peaceful family environment.

Start by changing your vocab and talk and think about yourselves as a “we” unit.

While the Smug Married couples drove Bridget Jones and her singleton mates to despair, thinking in terms of “we” creates a powerful shift that you’re in it together. Another simple strategy to help reset the switch is to reflect and share what it was you first fell in love with. Of all the people on the planet you chose this person to be your partner, and chances are it was not because they thought and behaved exactly like you.

Early in a relationship we tend to shine a light on all the things we think are fab in our partner. We finish each other’s sentences and often exclaim we have so much in common! During the honeymoon phase, they can do no wrong, however it’s actually our view of them that creates this aura of perfection, rather than the reality. Our task as the years and decades role on, is to practice wearing these honeymoon glasses every day that encourage us to focus on what we have in common and our shared vision rather than fixate over our differences. Our partner is not perfect, but today’s priority is to see this man or woman as your treasured team-mate who is by your side to help you work, love, parent, and create a life of meaning and purpose. Then make a choice to be a partner who does the same.

the importance of shared values

By | November 18th, 2016|

Think back to your first couple of meaningful relationships? When I think about mine, it is clear that I had a lot in common with the person I saw. For me, we liked doing the same sports which was squash and running (btw – not great for knees when you hit 50!) enjoyed Japanese food and loved Dire Straits (still do!).

However, my life experience has demonstrated that while these commonalities helped in our ability to connect and want to spend time together –

On their own ‘shared interests’ were not enough to ensure a lasting relationship.

I know at least a dozen couples who have enjoyed longstanding and fulfilling relationship but who share very few interests. The reason these relationships are so successful is because the bond between them is created by what they ‘believe’ rather than what they ‘do’. What they have in common is values.

This doesn’t mean that your values have to be exactly the same – but it is handy if they are at least attuned and not actively distasteful to your partner. While I have many different tastes and opinions about things to my partner – the compatibility of our values tend to facilitate the choices we make together as a couple and ultimately as a family.

Our values are the essential belief systems that impact almost every aspect of our lives.  These beliefs informed us on how we brought up our children, how we disciplined them, who we voted for and our vocational and lifestyle choices.

My clinical experience suggests that having tremendously different values can make a relationships very challenging. For example, if you are a firm believer in monogamy but you meet someone who believes in open relationships, you can’t continue together unless one of you is prepared to change your values.

When any couple get together a certain amount of negotiation on both sides is necessary to bring their lives into harmony. Deciding to change a habit that annoys your partner or taking up a new hobby because it is something everyone enjoys is all part of compromising and developing a healthy relationship. At the Family Peace Foundation we believe that there needs to be flexibility on both sides.

If you compromise on deeper issues – the old ‘go along to get along’ philosophy, which affect your core values you may end up finding that the relationship is untenable. Many people do this because there are so many positives in the relationship. For example, if your partner has a good job, you have a beautiful house in a nice suburb, they treat you well, you enjoy many of the same things as you but s/he doesn’t believe in a civil union or marriage –  you might decide that although it is important to you, you will let it go for the sake of the relationship and the lifestyle benefits that accrue from being in it.

But, if you relinquish a core value, that really matters – it can grumble away in the background, like a slow growing emotional tumour,  increasing your levels of misery over time.

It won’t feel ‘ok’ and it may prove unbearable and ultimately impossible to get rid of that feeling.

Being in a relationship with someone who has shared interests will give you common ground for conversation when you meet. It is a fantastic feeling when you meet someone who has read the same books or been to the same concerts for example. You have an immediate bond and affinity and the conversation will probably uncover more things you have in common.

This is how friendships are made but for it to develop into something more intimate there must also be commonality at a deeper level. This may only be revealed as you go deeper into the relationship.

strengthen commonalities

By | November 18th, 2016|

Strengthen what you share

Let your similarities connect you

Nurture your similarities

Similarities connect us

Every day, jot down a few things you have in common with your partner, and talk about them with each other. This process helps foster connection and empathy between you and highlights the universal experiences you share, rather than the differences between you, which can create resentment and disconnect. Of course, your differences will still exist, but a simple daily ritual like this is a powerful way to nurture your relationship and the bond you share. Also, if you want to include your children in this ritual, that’s fine. They’ll enjoy hearing about all the things you have in common and the positive, heart-feelings between you.

ACTIONS

  • Make this a daily ritual. Ideally you need to do it at a time of day that occurs repeatedly, such as over the dinner table.
  • Anything you have in common is worth mentioning – from ‘raising the same child’, to ‘liking gerberas’. There is room here for laughs and light-heartedness as well as heart-felt sincerity.
  • Doesn’t necessarily need to be a couple ritual. Kids will enjoy sitting in on the ‘parents session’.
  • Always keep it respectful. It’s about building bridges and taking a big-picture approach

strengthen commonalities

Find the things that brought you together in the first place. What did you like about your partner? What attracted you to them? Write those down. Remember and focus on them.

table talk – parents sticking together

With children it’s important that parents stick together and present a united front.

table talk – being intensionally vulnerable

Sometimes when the barriers go up, stopping and being intentionally vulnerable and looking hard for those commonalities can help draw you back together.

table talk – just one word

Changing just one word in a conversation can give people room to open up and connect with you.

table talk – pushing through

It can be very easy to push issues aside and not deal with them. Sometimes you need to push though with finding what’s important for your partner.

table talk – intense focus

Sometimes we are so focused in what we are doing, we need to stop and listen to where they are at to find that commonality.

table talk – celebrate the chemistry

Positive support for what’s important for the other person creates magic in a relationship.

table talk – bringing kids in to sharing our partner’s passion

As a family bring everyone together to support what each other likes. Enjoy and share in their pleasure for the activities.

table talk – simple commonalities

What you have in common can be as simple as the coffee you drink. It’s remembering the things you share that’s important.

do you know your partner’s love language?

By | November 11th, 2016|

At the Family Peace Foundation, we believe a key way to strengthen families is to invest energy in nurturing your partner (assuming there is one). Caring about their wellbeing is a fundamental ingredient in creating strong and resilient families.

Which is why being a ‘Needs Detective’ is so crucial.

One way of achieving this is to tune into how your partner most likes to express and experience your love for them.

When explaining this to clients, I often talk about one of my favourite books, titled ‘The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate’. The book has been on the New York Times Best Seller list since August 2009.

It was written back in 1995 book by Gary Chapman, a social anthropologist and relationship expert who resides in North Carolina. In the book, Gary outlines five ways to express and experience love that he calls “love languages”.

•       Receiving gifts

•       Quality time

•       Words of affirmation,

•       Acts of service (devotion)

•       Physical touch

According to his model, everyone has one primary and one secondary love language. The official website (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/) for the book provides an online test for users to try and identify their particular love language.

Gary maintains that while each of these languages is enjoyed to some degree by all people, he believes that a person will usually speak one primary language, but says that all are important and can be rated after taking the love language profile.

So, how do visitors to the Family Peace Foundation’s website determine their partner’s love language? Don’t just guess. Someone once said that assumptions are the termites of relationships, so you need to be a bit scientific. It does involve you being a bit of a Sherlock-Holmes and a relationships detective. First of all, (without being creepy) carefully watch over a period of weeks, how your partner expresses his or her love to others. Second, notice what they complain about most often, and what they request from you most often. Is it a cup of tea, back rub, time together, praise, or a bunch of flowers. Finally, run an experiment for a few weeks where you concentrate on communicating with him or her in their primary language and see your relationship and family bloom.

The bottom line, is that investing a bit of energy in thinking carefully about how your partner operates is going to benefit everyone. So log on to Gary’s website and take the test. At the Family Peace Foundation we believe that the more connections you and your partner make, the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship.

turn the magnifying glass on yourself

By | November 10th, 2016|

At the Family Peace Foundation, we aim to share bite-sized morsels of advice to strengthen family connections, build harmony and increase compassion between family members.

This month, much has been written on our website about the importance of being a needs detective for our partner or child. Our blogs have illustrated that behind every criticism, complaint and attack is a need that’s been left painfully unfulfilled.

However, while being a skilled needs detective means reading the needs behind the complaint or attack from our spouse or child, it is equally important to do some self-detective work to translate our own unmet needs into more user-friendly requests.

As we wade through the murky and hurtful haze of discourse and conflict, we tend to default to unhelpful patterns because we haven’t found a way to ask for what we need.

This may be because of fear, lack of skill, unhelpful role modelling, or a combination of all three.

Of course, we can all relate to losing our temper, becoming frustrated and sometimes letting rip at those we love most. But what are we really asking for when we lash out or lose our cool? Let’s explore some common examples of typical statements and questions often exchanged by partners, parents and children and the likely subtext   that underpins each unhelpful statement.

Mum: “Why didn’t you pick up the milk? You never do anything to help.”

I need to feel supported like I’m part of a team. I need to feel valued for the planning and consideration I give to family meals. I need your help.

Teenager: “You never let me do what I want. Everyone else’s parents don’t care what time they come home or what they wear.”

I need to feel like I belong at school and like I’m part of the pack. When I feel different, I feel uncomfortable, unsure and embarrassed. I need you to understand I’m feeling vulnerable at school.

Working Parent: “All I do is work and provide without any thanks. Do you reckon there’s a money tree in the yard?”

I need to feel valued for the contribution I make and I would appreciate some gratitude for what I’m doing for my family. I need you to understand I worry for our financial future because I care.

Husband: “You’re always so serious.”

I need to share some lightness and humour to help me feel connected to you.

Wife: “You never listen to me when I’m talking about my work.”

I need to share my experiences with you and to know I matter to you.

Even the family dog isn’t exempt!!

Rover: Barking and digging

I need to run freely to burn off exercise before I can settle quietly when you’re gone all day!

So next time you notice yourself attacking, defending, withdrawing, stonewalling, criticising or perhaps barking and digging…

Stop. Take three deep breathes. Ask yourself, “what do I need at this time?”.

Learn to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements which have a habit of sounding like blame with a capital B.

If you change just one behaviour on your own needs detective journey, practice asking for what you need rather than asking for what you don’t. Then notice how others find it easier to respond with compassion and patience rather than unproductive counter-attacks.

the myth of ‘happily ever after’

By | November 4th, 2016|

As children, many of us were exposed to bedtime stories of a princess who lived happily ever after with her gallant, strong and chivalrous prince. However, real life long-term relationships rarely resemble the stuff of fairy tales. The truth is that living with a spouse or partner year-in, year-out is not always easy, fun, or what we expected when we said “I do” or chose to commit.

The bottom line is, our partner grew up differently to us, whether they were the boy or girl next door, from a different culture or raised in a far-away land.

Each of us is influenced by our family-of-origin in helpful and unhelpful ways, both consciously and unconsciously.

It’s our family who provides us with our first templates that teach us about the dynamics of communication, love, respect, anger, conflict management, expressing feelings, and how our needs are met. These formative years influence future patterns of behavior, which we often adopt in our adult relationships. They can include unhelpful patterns such as withdrawing, criticising, pursuing, attacking, defending, stonewalling, or pleasing.

With these inevitable differences, how is it that any two people can live together for decades in satisfying relationships? Research conducted over four decades by US relationship researcher and academic Professor

John Gottman suggests there are key qualities found in people who thrive in relationships. He labels these ‘Masters’ compared to those that struggle in relationships, known as ‘Disasters.’

According to Gottman, Masters work together, show genuine interest in each other, have shared meaning and purpose. They enjoy friendship, have the ability to repair after arguments and hurt and focus on what’s working in the relationship rather than what’s not. The ability to have a recovery conversation actually matters more than the argument itself.

Meanwhile, Disasters use criticism and blame and tend to diagnose each other’s faults. They are defensive, use emotional withdrawal and turn away from their partner. Most importantly, these individuals often act with contempt towards each other, suggesting they are in some way superior to their mate by using phrases such as “you’re an idiot!”.

Research shows that this is the greatest predictor of divorce. These marriages are vulnerable to divorce and tend to end at one of two critical risk periods: between 5-7 years due to high conflict, or between 10-12 years after experiencing loss of intimacy and connection.

At The Family Peace Foundation, we believe that helping strengthen partner relationships forms the foundation for healthy family dynamics.

Yet many of us park our partner’s needs while we attend to children, work or other pursuits.

If you recognise any of these unhelpful patterns in your own relationship dynamic, put on your Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys hat while you seek to identify the unmet needs that your loved one is struggling with or unable to articulate.

Do they need affirmation, attention, appreciation, validation, support, assurance, or simply to know that they are good enough and loveable. Sometimes it can help foster compassion and patience towards your partner by imagining the little child within, who may be feeling wounded, fearful or hurt, and unable to ask for their needs to be met.

Couples who listen to each other with a view to problem solving or defending their view don’t feel as satisfied as those who listen with a view to simply understanding their partner’s experience. Perhaps Cinders and her royal fella would fare better if they subscribed to some of Gottman’s research findings. These include expressing an average ratio of at least five positive statements to every one negative comment they utter to, or about, each other.

When those tricky step sisters are in the way, our regal lovers would do well to remain curious and compassionate with each other. They need to remember and delight in fond memories of the past, and recalling what they found attractive when they first met at the ball.

Implementing these ingredients, as well as seeking to understand the unmet needs of each other, is no guarantee of ‘happily ever after.’ However, it will do wonders for increasing relationship and family connection and harmony, which surely matter more than ruling a kingdom, riding a white horse, or wearing pretty ball gowns.

the secret of a happy marriage – the 5 to 1 ratio

By | November 3rd, 2016|

At the Family Peace Foundation, we believe the key to healthy family functioning is to ensure adults in the family invest in each other. We do that by being a ‘Needs Detective’. This means we look beyond the immediate behavior we’re seeing, to the feelings beneath. These feelings need to be recognized and acknowledged.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen as often as it should. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, around 40% of marriages in Australia end in divorce.  Almost half of these involve children, suggesting that being a Needs Detective for some of us seems unattainable.

My father, who remained happily married to my Mum for 40 years, used to say to me that the secret of their successful marriage was that he made it a point of ‘never going to bed angry’. Having scanned the peer reviewed literature – I’ve been unable to find any study that backs up Dad’s theory, but it worked for them and my brother, sister and I were the happy beneficiaries. At the Family Peace Foundation though, it’s a key aim of ours to share the scientific research that shows what does make a great relationship.

Sadly Dad died before I got the chance to introduce him to the work of Professor John Gottman. Arguably the western world’s most renowned relationship expert, he has been researching relationships for 40 years and is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington. With his wife, Julie Schwartz, John heads a non-profit research institute (The Relationship Research Institute) and a for-profit therapist training entity (The Gottman Institute).

John Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. When I was training to be a psychologist, I remember being taught about Gottman’s research. What stuck in my mind was his finding that it wasn’t only how couples fought that mattered, but how they made up. John found that relationships became more secure over time if couples learned to reconcile effectively after a stouch. Interesting though that might be, that’s not the big news.

In a recent Gottman Institute blog, John explained that he now believes the secret to a great relationship is what he calls the 5 to 1 ratio.

According to Dr Gottman, if you want your relationship to blossom, have five positive interactions with your partner for every one negative interaction. He refers to this as relationship ‘balance theory’.

He argues that as long as there are five times as many positive interactions between partners as there are negative, the relationship is likely to be stable. So what exactly is a positive interaction? Well, the good news is that it doesn’t take a massive effort. It can be as little as smiling and laughing together, asking questions or saying I love you, whilst negative interactions are deemed as things like arguing or criticism.

So if you do stuff up and do something that upsets your partner, make up for it with five positive things to balance the equation. Gottman asserts that he can predict relationship breakdowns based on this theory, and that unhappy couples will have more negative interactions than the ‘magic’  five to one ratio

At the Family Peace Foundation, we acknowledge that some level of negativity in relationships is inevitable, even in a stable relationship. The key message is that positivity nourishes relationships. Gottman suggests that couples can increase the number of positive interactions they have by practicing gratitude.

Need an action plan? For the next month, try going out of your way to regularly demonstrate appreciation and respect for one another. This is something that can get lost and forgotten over time but its benefits should never be underestimated.

just doing it for attention

By | October 28th, 2016|

How often have you muttered this statement or overheard others exclaim it scornfully. It’s a common catchcry used when we see or experience behaviour in children that pushes our buttons, embarrasses us, or creates a sense of discomfort.

What kind of sentiment tends to underscore this exclamation? Compassion, understanding and empathy? Or frustration, contempt and judgement?

What is the child struggling to express by displaying this less-than-desired bid to be noticed?

You see, we’re probably right when we conclude a child is behaving for attention. We all need it.  Sometimes, though, when kids struggle to garner the attention they desire, they resort to inappropriate methods. During these times, rather than punishing the child, it may serve us better to take their behaviour as a timely reminder. Our child seeks our attention and as parents, we may need to consider tweaking our own behaviour and time management to ensure we proactively deliver it. Ensuring our child receives this attention is crucial in order to preventatively fill our child’s emotional well – before it runs dry.

At the Family Peace Foundation, we advocate the importance of spending one-on-one time with each child in a mindful way for at least 8 minutes each day. Practicing this behaviour requires an intentional choice to strengthen the muscle of being present.

Multitasking and juggling competing demands can leave our heads spinning and our children feeling dismissed and unimportant. Spending purposeful and enjoyable time together daily is a vital ingredient in giving our children the attention they need and deserve to help them feel safe, secure, and valued as individuals and members of the family unit.

Allocating time together and strengthening the ‘present-muscle’ means making the time to initiate shared moments. Such windows, albeit for even brief periods, are key building blocks. They help create a healthy, robust connection and sense of self when inevitable emotional, psychological, or relational hurdles fall across our child’s path during their lifespan.

Of course, as parents, many of us feel overwhelmed and time poor. Many of us perceive that opening the door to spending time with our kids will somehow absorb all of us into a permanent vortex with a one-way door. We feel we’ll never be let out or released to continue with other tasks that we either deeply desire ourselves, or that we simply have to do to keep the domestic and professional cogs turning.

We imagine that starting a game of Monopoly will mean dinner will never get cooked, or that going for a walk will result in us never getting out the door to work. Or perhaps we think that braiding our daughter’s hair will mean dirty washing will stay dirty, or that reading together at bedtime will significantly reduce the total number of hours of precious sleep we so desperately need.

However, when we spend mindful, purposeful, and meaningful time together, for even brief spurts, we learn to observe and understand that our kids will not extract us into a voracious whirlpool of neediness that we can’t cope with. Rather, that their need for attention will be appropriately drip fed and satisfied. It will allow them to bloom and grow, regardless of the unexpected challenges that present themselves, or during the times that we become distracted or temporarily unavailable.

So when your child is nagging to play a game, pulling at your jeans to pick them up for a cuddle, or asking you for help with their homework, rest assured that time spent responding to their request is a gift. It may well be an invitation to spend precious time together.

In the blink of an eye, some of us will be aging parents, asking for time and attention from our adult kids. We will be super grateful when they reciprocate by choosing to spend 8 minutes or more with us!

needs detective

By | October 28th, 2016|

Say what you need.

Act with kindness.

Start with: “I need”

Many of us are quick to complain and criticise our partners when things aren’t going well between us. Yet behind most blaming and complaining is an unmet need. Instead of trading criticisms or communicating in a hurtful or unproductive way, take a moment, step back and think: What is it I need? What is it you need? Commit to expressing what you need rather than what you don’t and encourage your partner to do the same.

Find ways to listen for the unmet need your partner is requesting and react with kindness. Or lead by example and ask for what you need from your partner, rather than highlighting what you don’t want. All of us need to feel our views are valued, accepted and heard and we need to ensure we’re doing the same for our partner.

ACTIONS

DON’T SAY: “You’re always late!”

SAY: “I really need you here at dinnertime with the teenagers”

DON’T SAY: ”You don’t understand the pressure I have at work”

SAY: “I need you to understand that I’m struggling at work.”

DON’T SAY: “Why can’t you ever be happy.”

SAY: There’s really something upsetting you. What is it?

be a needs detective

Behind most blaming and complaining is an unmet need. Instead of trading criticisms or communicating in a hurtful or unproductive way, take a moment, step back and think: What is it I need? What is it you need?

table talk – we all have conflict

It’s not about avoiding conflict. It’s your approach to dealing with conflict that counts.

table talk – language used makes all the difference

Sometimes when we share, we use different words and as a result miss that we want the same thing.

table talk – live for today vs security

How do we communicate our needs when we are wanting fundamentally different things?

table talk – need emotional support, not problems solved

Sometimes when someone say they want something specific, at a higher level they’re really asking support.

table talk – she needs to know it’s going to be ok

Underneath the worry and stress probably is someone just wanting to hear it’s going to be all ok.

dancing in the now

By | October 21st, 2016|

Imagine a continuum with the past towards one end and the future at the other.  We often move along this continuum of life, regretting, resenting or feeling sorrowful about events gone by. At the same time, we move relentlessly towards the future, filled with fear, uncertainty, and “what-ifs”.

Somewhere in the middle is the dance of now – the moment we find ourselves in, at this very minute.

This moment can be experienced through the act of mindfulness, defined by expert, scientist and writer Jon Kabat-Zinn, as: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment  and non-judgmentally.”

It’s a practice that has found its way from age-old Eastern beliefs into the evidence-based world of Western psychology. Still many of us resist this practice, believing we need to first cultivate the “perfect” environment or expertise to honour the mindfulness techniques practiced for thousands of years by Buddhists, Taoists and Yogis.

For most of us, parenting across the lifespan means living on a rollercoaster. Chaos, confusion, guilt, uncertainty, discomfort, pride, joy, love, laughter, and connection unexpectedly ebb and flow over and around each other. The faulty idea that we need to park this merry-go-round of emotions before living in the now can mean we miss the present moment completely!

Instead, the Family Peace Foundation invites us to think about mindful parenting in more simple, accessible terms. Where being in the moment is something we can all do, at any time, by observing the mental chatter without allowing it to hijack us from the here and now.

This month, we are focused on the habit of spending at least 8 minutes a day with each child. We want to emphasize the importance of purposefully and mindfully engaging with each child without judgement.

Interestingly, many parents equate praise with positive parenting. However, as a mindful parent, praise is also a kind of judgement, whereby we attach meaning to the child’s behaviour. Instead of spending your 8 or more minutes telling your child how good and smart they are, find ways to be truly present, curious and open and a student in their ‘classroom’.

You see, as parents, we are blessed to have the world’s greatest mindfulness teachers at our fingertips.

Our children send us more invitations to play, create, reflect, learn and observe in the present than any expert ever could.

Each exchange and interface with our child offers the possibility of a time peppered with curiosity, exploration and reflection. Thanks to the natural wisdom of our kids, when we truly accept their invitation to just be, we cannot ‘polka in the past’ or ‘foxtrot in the future’. Instead, we find ourselves the grateful recipients of learning to be in the moment. At the same time, we can be powerful givers of the potentially life-changing affirmation that we see and accept our children just as they are, in every moment.

As a psychologist, clients often explore, lament and replay with me their current struggles through the lens of their inner-child’s eyes, as a means to understanding their pain today. While there can be therapeutic value in this process, as parents ourselves, it’s a helpful and empowering lesson to learn that we can’t change our past or predict the future. What we can do is attend to the present, right now, for the sake of both ourselves and our children.

So next time your child reaches out to you with a request to play, talk, read, listen, walk, or just be, rest easy knowing that there is no perfect way to spend your 8 minutes or more together.

Accept that your real challenge is to park the script of yesterday, forget the noise of the future and instead, accept the invitation from your experts-in-residence. Be with them in the now, with curiosity and non-judgement.  Then relish the twinkle of the disco ball above as you share more mindful, memorable moments of connection, on the challenging but fulfilling dancefloor called life.

8 minutes a day of humour

By | October 14th, 2016|

It was Aristotle who said, “The gods too are fond of a joke.” At the Family Peace Foundation we strive to strengthen families and build an environment where children feel safe, valued and listened to. One very powerful communication tool is using humour.

When children are young they think that any lame joke is hilarious but using humour with teens is fraught with danger.

So it’s important that the Family Peace Foundation provide adult carers with some hints, so that the jokes don’t go down like a lead balloon.

All the psychologists that I have ever met, agree that humour is a great tool to use when communicating with teeenagers (or anyone for that matter.) It breaks down the emotional walls , diffuses tension, can smooth over differences, it can focus their attention and give them a brain bath of feel good chemicals.

So on behalf of the Family Peace Foundation, we have pit together the five golden rules for using humor when talking with children and teenagers:

1. Timing is everything.

Great jokes are all about sequencing and timing. Botch the timing or get the words in the wrong order or forget the punch line and your teenager will be laughing at you, rather than with you.

2. Be funny

Some people are just brilliantly gifted (think of the late Robyn Williams, Louis CK or Chris Rock) at telling funny jokes. If that’s you then go for it. If it’s not you then you might not like to leave the humour to someone who really is funny. A big no no, is the use of sarcasm or put downs, as this can trigger defensiveness and shut down the very communication that you are trying to keep open.

3. There is power in the narrative

Telling a funny story is much easier than telling a funny joke. Quite simply, they are harder to stuff up. If you can learn to tell them well, stories will engage your teens and the lines of communication will remain open. In the olden days we sat around the fireplace or dinner tables and the adults shared their stories, don’t let technology take over that role. There are so many voices in your children’s ears, make sure yours is the loudest.

4. Be self deprecating

At the Family Peace Foundation, we believe that there is no such thing as the perfect parent. One of the cleverest ways of engaging teens with humour is to make fun of yourself. There’s something appealing about adults making fun of something stupid adults have done or said. This empathy can build a bridge for communication…especially with teenagers. You don’t have to be the superhero of every story you tell.

5. Don’t overdo the humour don’t let it use you.

Use humour to reel them in. Once your audience laughs hard they are much more likely to listen closely.  But the need for humour diminishes with the length of the conversation. So don’t become a slave to humour. Use humour sparingly (and well) for maximum effect.

There’s no question that a sense of humour can brighten family life.

Start young by blowing raspberries on a baby’s belly, wearing a silly hat or pretending to fall into a pile of leaves to amuse your toddler. As your children grow into tweens and teens, share puns and jokes as their sense of what’s funny grows more sophisticated. The bottom line is that having a laugh together is a great way to connect. A good sense of humour can also make kids smarter, healthier, and better able to cope with challenges.

Laughter really is the best medicine.

8 minutes a day…

By | October 8th, 2016|

Time is precious…but not as precious as your children. That’s why it’s so important to set aside at least 8 minutes every day of distraction-free time to engage with each of your kids, one on one, without interruptions. Put down your phone, iPad or laptop and take the time to really BE with them – exchanging stories, asking and answering questions, sharing a laugh…whatever works best!

Your child will feel more listened to, valued, safer and happier. Studies show that kids who receive this kind of attention do better at school, with greater language skills and higher self-confidence. With benefits like these, there’s no better way to spend 8 minutes a day.

actions

  • Sit down with your child for at least 1 meal every day.
  • Read a book together before bed or tell a story of your own.
  • Ask questions about your child’s life that need more than a one-word answer.
  • For older kids, discuss a news item they might be interested in.

creating the eight minute a day habit

By | October 7th, 2016|

I’ve talked to many people about the Family Peace Foundation’s initiative of spending at least 8 minutes a day with each child in a one-on-one capacity. Not surprisingly, a common response has been a sheepish and mumbled “I don’t think I actually do that.” That’s fine. Welcome to the world of parenting which comes with a healthy sprinkle of guilt and a good dose of second-guessing oneself from the day you leave the birthing suite of the hospital.

Yesterday has gone but today brings new opportunities to connect and share with our children. Let’s just assume that one of the barriers to practicing this behaviour is a lack of knowledge about the potential benefits this simple practice can bring to a child’s sense of security and wellbeing. Now that we know better, we can do better. So how can we convert our newfound knowledge into a sustainable habit to create a nation of parents who spend at least 8 minutes a day with each child, just like they brush and floss, use seatbelts, or drink adequate quantities of water daily.

Forming a desired habit is a choice, and spending at least 8 minutes a day with each child is just that. When creating a new habit, it’s important to focus on the long term benefits the newly created behaviour will bring to your life. Before embarking on the change process, visualise how your life will be if you develop a stronger connection with your children. Once you have even the smallest runs on the board, write down the specific benefits of time spent listening, sharing, laughing and just being with your kids. If a day goes by, and you drop the ball, refer back to the list when you are struggling, feeling crazy-busy, or perhaps even a little rejected or unappreciated by the little people in your life.

It also helps to be realistic about the timing involved when creating new habits. There is no magic formula to create and maintain a new habit, and contrary to popular belief, habits do not miraculously develop after 21 days.

Families are busy units of people with inevitable conflicting schedules, commitments, personalities and needs. It’s normal for any change-process to involve a few steps forwards and a few steps backwards so it’s key to find time to acknowledge and celebrate the successes made instead of focusing on the slip ups. A combination of self compassion and accountability are helpful ingredients to move towards meaningful behaviour change.

Forming new habits is also easier when the desired change is personally meaningful rather than because we feel pressured to change at the request of someone else. Consider what would be different for you and your child if you prioritised short periods of time to your child and the relationship you share. Questions to ponder pre-habit change may include – How would daily brief but potent interaction and attention with your children change the way he or she feels? How would setting aside purposeful time together, even for just 8 minutes, impact on the relationship? How would your sense of connection change? How do you feel when someone you care about gives you undivided and non-judgemental attention? What are some of the things you look for to feel truly seen and heard by others?

In a practical sense, you can set up some triggers to remind you to follow through on your new 8-minute habit. Place a number 8 sticker on your bedside light as a reminder to commit to time together or cut out a number 8 and stick it on your fridge. Be kind to yourself too. The Family Peace Foundation’s initiative is not prescriptive but an invitation to join the journey. Allow our initiative to serve as the catalyst to be more present and patient for short bursts of time with your children. This regular authentic contact is more powerful than any trip to Disneyland and costs nothing, not even a set of Mickey Mouse ears.

If you find the busyness of life creeping in, take a realistic audit of where your time goes. If you cannot find 8 minutes in your busy schedule to listen, share, play, touch, learn and be with each child, it may be worth re- visting the new habit rewards by asking a younger “authority” what they think of your time spent together. Your child’s delight at the way you light up in their presence will be reward enough to help garner long term change in the quest for increasing parental and family connection.

940 saturdays

By | September 22nd, 2016|

The other day I was perusing the family photo album and something struck me. The years seem to be flashing by at warp speed. Five month olds become 5 year olds in the blink of an eye and then, 15-year-olds. This relentless march of time that turns infants into young adults is the “other” biological clock we all face.

Every month brings new advances cognitively and socially, new developmental markers and fresh surprises. At the same time, the challenges of managing our adult lives often preclude us from fully grasping the shifting sands of childhood.

We’ve all read about slow parenting, bubble-wrap, helicopter, buddy, hothouse and attachment parenting. However, over my past 31 years as a psychologist, I’ve discovered there is a common thread that pertains to any parenting idea:

All children need to spend significant quality time with their adult carers. Nothing lights up a child’s brain like caring, one-on-one attention and three dimensional play with a loving adult. More importantly, as they grow up, it’s in their interests to see who you are and understand your attitudes, values and beliefs.

If you calculate all the time your children spend at day care, in primary and secondary school, asleep, playing sport, engaged in art, music, drama, at friends’ homes, with relatives or babysitters, on school camps, and otherwise occupied with activities that don’t include you, the remaining minutes become particularly valuable.

Dr Harley A. Rotbart, author of ‘No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years Into Cherished Moments With Your Kids’ has estimated that there are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and she or he leaving for university, TAFE or the workforce. He points out that this may seem like a lot, but asks parents, how many have they already used up?

“…If your child is 5 years old, 260 Saturdays are gone. Poof! And the older your kids get, the busier their Saturdays are with friends and activities. Ditto Sundays. And what about weekdays? Depending on your children’s ages and whether you work outside the home, there may be as few as one or two hours a day during the week for you to spend with them.”

He suggests that parents need to focus on turning those minutes into memorable moments and suggests a mental trick to help you readjust your thinking:

“In the course of a crazy day, imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time when your children have grown and have left home. Picture their tousled bedrooms as clean and empty. See the backseat of the car vacuumed and without a car seat or crumbs. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then rewind the imaginary clock back to now, and see today’s minutes of mayhem for what they are: finite and fleeting.”

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, or a perfect day with a perfect child.

My wish and the wish of all of us at the Family Peace Foundation is that when the day finally comes for them to move out of home, you will greet their departure with an overpowering sense of gratification.

Why? Because you’ve given them the skills, knowledge and strategies to face, overcome and be strengthened by whatever life throws at them and also given yourself what you need to feel like a positive parent. All of this can be achieved by giving each child at least 8 minutes a day of your undivided attention.

eight minutes a day of quality time strengthens families

By | September 20th, 2016|

The Family Peace Foundation maintains one of the most effective ways for adults to strengthen families is to spend at least 8 minutes a day of warm, loving, focused attention with each child. Yet research from the UK suggests that this is becoming a real struggle for many families.

A UK poll of 2,000 children conducted in July 2013 for Virgin Holidays and Universal Orlando Resort found that the top 10 reasons parents gave for not spending time with their children were:

  1. Myself or my partner work long hours
  2. We spend our evenings/weekend keeping up with household chores
  3. The children are at school when I’m not working
  4. The children are often watching TV
  5. Myself or my partner work anti-social hours
  6. The children are often playing computer games
  7. The children are at an age where they don’t really want to spend time with us
  8. The children are often out with friends
  9. The children spend their evenings studying
  10. We spend a lot of time at various sports/after school clubs separately

The bottom line is that families are busier than ever. Parents are working, children are at school and evenings and weekends are taken up with a host of clubs, sports and play dates with friends.

All of this means that many families struggle with spending time together and enjoying each other’s company. Interestingly, grandparents fared even worse. They seem to be a long way down the list of priorities when it comes to squeezing in visits during busy weekends. Instead of enjoying their grandchildren growing up, many have to make do with quick visits on special occasions or snatched moments in between weekend activities.

Too often, the speed of modern life can mean, opportunities for multiple generations of families to spend quality time together is the exception, rather than the rule.

So, how can we make the most of the scarce time we have?

It’s all about quality time. Put down your devices, look your children in the eyes, ask them questions about their day at school, friends and any hobby they are engaged in.

Focus on their content and then paraphrase back to them what they have said to you, so that they know you have heard and understood. If there is good news, take an opportunity to reinforce your feelings of love and admiration.

Something like, “It sounds like you are really pleased with the results of your latest science experiment, I’m so proud of you.”

Doing this on a regular basis builds a strong sense of attachment and self-worth, which will come in very handy when the storm clouds of adolescence roll in.

parent’s technology use impacts negatively on kids

By | September 20th, 2016|

In the last few years, many column inches have been devoted to serious hand-wringing over the impact of technology over young people’s development.

Almost all children seem to be immensely attracted to anything with a back lit screen and can happily tap and swipe away for hours on apps, games and mobile entertainment.

While research has focused on wondering if too much screen time will slice-and-dice their attention spans, mutate their brains, hamper their social skills, disturb their sleep and impact on their learning, we rarely focus on how parents’ use of technology impacts kids. If parents spend much of their own time with their faces buried in touchscreens, why do we expect their kids to be any different?

On the 12th August 2015 a youtube based campaign (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzIKphe9ZVM) was launched by a British children’s shoe company, ‘Start-rite’. British children were asked who they thought used digital media the most in their home – to which all the kids responded with their parents.

‘Probably my mum,’ says one little boy, ‘because in the morning when she can’t be bothered to watch the TV or get out of bed she will log on her phone and basically just go onto Facebook.’

One little girl concurs that her father is constantly glued to his screen: ‘I think he’s just texting and googling…I’m not sure, he’s just on his phone constantly.’ The company then ask if the children think their mums and dads spend too much time looking at their phone or tablet and if so, how it makes them feel.

The overwhelming consensus was that their parents do overuse their devices and it made the children feel isolated or disregarded.  One young girl explains: ‘Well sometimes I’m like “mummy mummy” and she doesn’t answer and then I have to say it again.’

Another girl said that the phone made her father preoccupied: ‘It makes me feel a bit stressed, so say I ask him a question, he would still be on his phone and then he would answer me.’

Her peer explains that technology precludes her spending quality time with her mother: ‘My mum she spends all day on her computer and I’ll feel sad because I won’t get to play with her on a board game or something.’ ‘It kind of just makes me feel like they don’t care about us because they’re just on their phone and they never want to talk to us,’ a little boy adds. Another young boy says that he is fed up with his parents focus being on their gadgets over him.

‘They’re not giving me enough attention,’ he says ‘I’m sitting there bored because they’re on their thing doing what they’re doing and then what about me?’ The video comes as part of Start-rite’s latest campaign. #passiton, encouraging families to cut back on technology and get active outdoors over the summer holidays.

The take away message is that parents need to put their devices down and set aside at least 8 minutes each day, per child, to get down on your knees, look your child in the eye, ask them questions about their day at school and what’s going on with their friends.

Focus on their content and feed back to them what they have said, so they know that they have been heard and understood.