I happened to write this article on mental health day, and I wondered how many of us…
We were honoured that Suzie Hayman came to Marlborough last weekend to offer her pearls of wisdom and inspiration to small groups of parents as well as professionals.
Suzie is a parenting expert, Relate-trained counsellor, journalist, broadcaster and author of over 30 educational books about families. As before, when we heard her speak in October 2016, Suzie was engaging and pragmatic, always offering us helpful comments to our questions without attempting to pretend that parenting is ever easy – and, of course, reminding us that there is no such thing as the perfect parent; only “good-enough”.
We discussed digital technology and step-families in detail in two separate seminars in small groups. Suzie was keen for us to remember that, when facing any conflict or difficulty within our families, we can ACT:
A = Adult: ask ourselves “what is going on for me right now? Am I tired, stressed, sad, angry, etc?”
C = Child: ask ourselves “what is going on for my child right now” and be like a detective looking at all the variables that may be affecting your child’s emotional life.
T = Toolkit: what is in my toolkit so that I can deal with the situation in a constructive way, rather than REACT. This may include for example “active listening” such as taking turns to talk and listen to one another. Or remembering to use “I” statements (avoiding “you” blaming statements). For example “When you….I feel….because…. What I would like it/What are we going to do about this?”
Following ACT gives us the opportunity to gain insight around the problem, why it’s happening and how to discuss it without reacting from an overly-emotional stance.
Suzie suggested we set family or house rules. Every household has rules but usually they are not clear or agreed. A key point here is to have a “Family Round Table” so that all members of the family – including the children even if they are young – can contribute to and “buy in to” the house rules. Appoint a note-taker, take it in turns to talk (perhaps using an object such as a wooden spoon, allowing each person holding the spoon to have their say without interruptions), have the note-taker write down everything. Then revise these to allow for compromise and simplicity where necessary.
This task felt somewhat daunting to some of us, but Suzie gave us confidence and courage to think about it. The earlier you start, the easier it will be get! And children feel good about being heard and respected.
We were delighted with the level of engagement in both seminars. I would like to thank everyone who attended and for sharing their experiences. Many of us benefited from knowing we are not the only ones with our particular difficulties! Thank you also to the White Horse Bookshop which gave a wonderful ambience to our day.
From 14 feedback forms we received the following scores which are fabulous:
Overall assessment of event: 5 out of 5
Speaker (Suzie Hayman): 4.93 out of 5
Helpfulness regarding learning new skills: 4.93 out of 5
Comments from participants:
- “I’ve learned a lot both from Suzie and other participants and I value the way the group was facilitated to include everyone’s experience.”
- “Really good to hear others’ views and experiences and having new techniques to try!”
- “Suzie is great. More please!”
- “Very informative and relaxed”
- “The group size was just right”
- Thank you. I really enjoyed this and am going away feeling much more confident!”
- “Good lively group with interesting discussion and feedback”
- “Excellent, good venue, good size group”
By Wendy Bramham