Avoiding talking about Boris Johnson

I taped a radio interview on Love Sport Radio today, talking about sibling rivalries. They’d asked me on to tie in with yesterday’s news about Joe Johnson resigning from government.

I never comment in the media about specific people as I don’t know enough about their lives and it wouldn’t be respectful.

But I took the opportunity to talk about how we all find ways of managing in relation to our brothers and sisters as we grow.

There’s lots of research on this, and it makes perfect sense .. if you’ve ever watched those Springwatch programmes where chicks push each other out of the nest you’ll know what I mean. Resources are scarce, and children find any way they can to get as much power, love and attention they can.

Home is where most of us start learning about how to relate to others, and as we move out into the world we take these unconscious beliefs and tactics and test them out on others.

Are you the clever one, the sporty one, the cheeky one? Maybe you see yourself as the deputy for your parents in relation to your siblings?

Relating to sibling can become really challenging when we get older and we need to come together to decide on care for an elderly parent, or when a parent passes away. Often repeating sibling roles without thinking can really mess things up.

But we can all take the opportunity to have a look at how we’re currently relating to our siblings, and what we’d like to do differently.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’d be behaving like this if the people involved were colleagues rather than siblings.

Notice any strong emotions and get curious about where they’re coming from. What old stories are you telling yourself? Are they still relevant?

https://www.lovesportradio.com/

It’s the thingamyjob!!

When I was a kid my big brother was fascinated by how things worked. Through his open bedroom door I’d see the floor covered in bits of radio, and later on he’d fill the garage with bits of cars and motorbike. He needed to see the component parts and how they worked together in order to understand them properly.

I was the reader in the family, nose always in a book, to the point where my sister and mum would joke they had to remove all reading materials if they wanted my full attention.

Recently I’ve been wondering if we were really that different after all. The way I work is very visual, I use questions to work out how things are working and not working for a couple or in a family and I draw it out in a ‘geneogram’ to get a visual representation of what’s going on and what needs to change. It’s called systemic therapy.

One of my amazing teachers once described the idea of systems theory to me in a way that really helped .. she said:

‘Think of a central heating system. It works great, keeps everyone warm until the day it breaks. We don’t assume the whole thing is broken, we track and check to find which bit of the system isn’t working, and once that’s fixed the whole thing starts running properly again.’

So in a way I’m continuing the good work my brother started, staying curious about how things work, and how to make them work better.

How are you continuing family ways of doing things? How are you different and the same to your siblings?

Getting Ready for Summer?

Like many parents I have mixed feelings about the summer break. On one hand I look forward to family time, but on the other there’s an extra load of managing childcare, managing expectations and making sure everyone HAS LOTS OF FUN!!

Which of course is unrealistic, so when I notice this is happening instead of putting pressure on myself to rush around making everyone happy I’m making an effort to be more mindful about my own self talk, and reaching out to the others in my family to work out what’s possible.

The lovely people at Select Psychology asked me to write a blog post about preparing for the summer holidays, and you can find out what I suggest by having a look at what I wrote for them.

The Mother Dance

It’s nearly Mother’s Day here in the UK, and I’ve been thinking about Harriet Lerner’s wonderful book ‘The Mother Dance’ that I received years ago from a wonderful colleague, and dip into often. Part of my preparation for this Mother’s Day is going to be putting my feet up with a cup of tea and delving back into this wonderful source of wisdom.

‘From the celebrated author of The Dance of Anger comes an extraordinary book about mothering and how it transforms us — and all our relationships — inside and out. Written from her dual perspective as a psychologist and a mother, Lerner brings us deeply personal tales that run the gamut from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching. From birth or adoption to the empty nest, The Mother Dance teaches the basic lessons of motherhood: that we are not in control of what happens to our children, that most of what we worry about doesn’t happen, and that our children will love us with all our imperfections if we can do the same for them. Here is a gloriously witty and moving book about what it means to dance the mother dance.’

I’m a daughter, a granddaughter and a mother, and recently I’ve been mulling over what this means to me in the here and now, the Russian dolls fitting into each other. My maternal family come from northern France, with the history of upheaval and trauma that entails, through war and struggle. There are family stories of my grandmother having to abandon her beloved red bedcover as the family tried to escape the Occupied Zone because it was attracting attention from fighter planes above.

I’m going to be thinking about the things that happened in my family that continue to affect how I show up in the world and I invite you at this time that is focussed on mothers and mothering to do the same. You might ask yourself:

What are my beliefs about mothers?

Is this different to the mother I was given?

How do I mother the people in my life? (We can all do this, including those who don’t identify as female or feminine)

How could I mother them in a way that better aligns with my values?

What kind of mothering do I need right now?

How can I include more of that in my life?

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

We’re coming to the end of mental health awareness week and it’s been a great chance to raise awareness of mental wellbeing as well as ill-health, which is what people often think of.

I wrote a short piece for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy on how not being able to talk about feelings adversely affects men and boys.

Https://www.bacp.co.uk/news/2018/may-2018-mental-health-awareness-week/may-2018-men-and-stress/

Many men have expressed their surprise at how easy it is to talk in the counselling room, given a skilled listener. All too often we take on board cultural messages about men not needing to be listened to, that they should be able to work things out on their own.

Let’s not give our sons these damaging and isolating messages, listen to them, encourage them to open up, to share with trusted friends and family.

We’re Separating .. Help!

Separation and Divorce are tough, whatever the circumstances surrounding them. Sometimes a couple come to the decision to part ways together; more often one person makes the decision, and in some cases the other person has no idea their partner is unhappy in the relationship until the point at which they make the announcement they want to leave.

separation .. get support

Usually, adults are trying to make important practical decisions that will impact their future while also managing the strong emotions that are completely normal when we go through big changes in our lives.

You might be okay with your decision to leave the relationship but be confused because you’re finding the other changes around the separation a challenge. Things like the loss of your home, a dual income, your pets, seeing mutual friends, or the status of being ‘a couple’. And when other factors like affairs and looking after children are added into the mix sometimes it can feel like being on a rollercoaster.

When we go through any change there are stages we have to navigate. In the example above someone may have reached the end stage of Accepting that for them the relationship is over but still be right at the start of processing the other changes. Their ex partner on the other hand could be in Shock and Denial that the couple relationship is at an end, but be further ahead in coming to terms with the more practical aspects of the separation. People need different kinds of support as they go through the different stages, and if you feel you’re stuck in one of these stages it’s a good idea to ask for help.

losscycle

When ex partners are at different stages in this Cycle of Change practical negotiations can often get stuck, as one or both people bring their hearts to the table as well as their heads. This is why I hear often that mediation has been tried early on and failed because one or both partners just aren’t in the right place emotionally.

The challenge is to get to a place where although a couple relationship has ended, a productive relationship as exes has begun.

Making decisions around your children

In an ideal world parents will still be able to communicate together to make important decisions for their children. The Parenting Plan created by CafCass is a really useful tool that maps out most of the important choices parents have to make during childhood. Printing one out each and considering what choices you would like for your child can be a great way to prepare in advance for parenting discussions. Particularly consider WHERE those beliefs are coming from:
Is it because I had/didn’t have that?
Is that choice relevant/appropriate to MY child’s situation?
What can I compromise on and where can I give ground?

iStock_000026753240Medium

Mediation can be a good next option when both parents are willing to negotiate but talking together might still feel tricky. Agreements made in mediation can be court stamped if parents believe this is necessary.

Collaborative Law focusses on working together with specially trained solicitors for a mutually beneficial result, and acknowledges that often people need to work through their normal emotional responses to the separation in order to move forward. It avoids the expense, disruption and emotional distress of going to court.

And never forget that however difficult things may be, the best way to look after your children during any kind of stress and disruption is to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Talk to friends, family and / or a counsellor, get exercise, eat well and rest when you need to. Put limits around the emotional energy you give to the situation.

And never forget to hold HOPE for the future. One day the storm clouds will part and you will see the good work you’ve done paying dividends.

More Resources

Sorting out Separation is part of the Government’s help & support for separated families initiative  . https://www.sortingoutseparation.org.uk/

The Parent Connection . Information about parenting after parting . https://theparentconnection.org.uk/