My Blog

Kirsty writes regularly here

The Connected Business Woman

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I am not an online marketing professional, nor am I a social media expert. Yet I have realised how important it is to be connected on many different platforms. In this blog I share my thoughts on keeping your sanity and credibility whilst building and maintaining your online presence.

There are numerous social media sites – all with different audiences and purposes. There are quite a few conferencing and webinar tools at your fingertips to choose from. Someone suggests that short videos are the next best was to connect. Then you must blog and make sure your website is representing your brand in a way that excites and invites people to do business with you. Not to mention at some point you also have to do the work that actually makes you money.

You could spend most of your working hours updating profiles, writing posts, hash tagging, commenting, liking and uploading. You could employ or contract someone to do it. But you need to ask yourself what will bring you the most money, build your online and business profile/credibility, and what tools are most effective for your business. Then add the question, “How do I balance it all so that I am not sitting on the couch at night with my family still doing ‘work’ tasks?”

I got stuck in this cycle of trying to cover all platforms – posting and blogging everywhere and all hours of the day. I spent hours attempting to make and upload that natural off the cuff three-minute video of me just saying hi to the watchers and sharing a thought that would change someone’s life! A blog would take at least two hours by the time I wrote it, edited it, uploaded it, found the right picture and then shared link. I would wake up in the morning, go for my run then spend 20 minutes checking social media before breakfast! By the end of each working day at least half of it was spent online jumping from one site to another. And if I went to a seminar that was teaching me something about an online platform you were lucky if you saw me for the next couple of days as I applied everything I had learnt with the promise of super exposure and business opportunities.

What changed? I took some time off and saw that my business and profile didn’t disappear just because I wasn’t all over it every day. I saw that there is true value in being connected, yet the value comes from a balanced, healthy and strategic approach. I thought about who was my online audience – and what they wanted to see so they could connect with my products, my professional services and me. I also looked, very closely, at which platforms were more likely to convert into sales, create brand awareness, and which were just ‘social’.

So I came up with my plan. I investigated what are the most engaging posts for different social media platforms and action that. The platforms that serve my business and book best are newsletters, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. I give no more than one hour per day up keeping my online presence. I make face to face contact and phone calls my priority. I have learnt to use Zoom to conference and webinar. I reuse and recycle a lot of my writing so that I can cover many options and platforms with little effort. I write for businesses that have huge followings online so that I increase my profile organically through that. I chat (face to face or on the phone) a lot to my friends who are online savvy or doing something that I find impressive, and discover what I could be doing differently, and how to do it without paying someone.

To be successful in the business world you have to be connecting with your audience on a regular basis. This has always been the case; it is just now we have many more ways online to increase our exposure for little or no cost. The trick is to manage your virtual world so that it is still making you money, building your profile and giving you real leads. You also have to manage your time and the energy your give to it so that it does not create a black hole of lost productivity.

In business know you and a bit of like you can come by online connecting – but trust you may need a bit more work and contact to make that sale.

I like to check in and ask myself often, “Is my online messages and profiles congruent to how I introduce myself to a room of people, have a trade table at an event, meet a prospective client for lunch or attend a business meeting?” I will always look for better ways of doing things – I think as the world gets more connected through a screen being better than your competition means keeping your message clear, your integrity in tact and balance it all out with time away from the devices and connecting face to face.

How can you make your online presence and activities more clear, meaningful and profitable, and less time wasting?

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Business, Resilience

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Life can be hard sometimes…

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Life can be so hard sometimes, can’t it? The day in day out ‘stuff’, like –

  • Meeting all the expectations and demands of others.
  • Trying to look like you are successfully juggling it all.
  • Putting on a happy face when you really just want to say, “no, I’m not okay!”
  • Friends and family letting you down – yet you can’t mention it in case you look insensitive.
  • Pretending your whole family is so happy – like the Brady Bunch.
  • Moments when you think that you need some new goals because life isn’t exciting or purposeful anymore.
  • Life is dishing you up lemons instead of Lamborghini’s.
  • Then to top it all off – you are getting closer to 50 and there are bits that just aren’t doing what they are supposed to!

I am certain this is just not me, actually I know this isn’t just me as most of my friends and clients, at some point, go through all this too.

Is there a special trick to overcoming these moments? Is there a quick fix that works for everyone else? Some would like you to think so, but…

I don’t know about any tricks or quick fixes that actually have a substantial long-term impact – yet I do know that not giving up and being open to other possibilities is a start.

We are now in spring in Australia. It is a time of warming up and getting outside more to enjoy the sunshine, and a time of growth for plants (and people too).

It is the best time to think about and begin to plan new possibilities and watch them grow. It is a time to reflect and put to rest what isn’t working and the things you no longer want to move forward with. It is a time, which I use, to welcome in the energy of nurturing newly planted ideas and doing what it takes for them to grow strong and balanced.

My big announcement this month, after a couple of months of feeling like I had no clear direction, I decided to hit the books again and am going to University – beginning 1st semester next year. I have been offered a place in Bach of Communication. I fell in love with writing last year whilst writing my first book, and I want to get even better at this art. I will be doing this part time so I can work around my business and my family. I am so excited, and feel that inner drive deep in my belly again. I know this is the right thing for me to be doing right now – as yet though I have no idea how I will pull it all off! My nervousness was overcome when my offer came through on the 1st September – 1st day of spring – can’t get a better ‘sign’ than that of being on the right path!

When life is being hard and heavy, I acknowledge it, then get out a piece of paper and begin to write what it is, what I want to be different and what I can do now – even the smallest thing – to begin change. It is amazing what gets written on that paper, just like my decision to study again.

Enjoy the energy and possibilities that spring can bring for you – allow spring to soften the tough bits so that new things can grow.

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Business, Resilience, Separated by Work

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S.T.O.P – Begin to disentangle yourself from negative thoughts, reactions and judgments.

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On of my favourite mindful practices is S.T.O.P.  It is easy, quick and effective. I have shown many of my clients and students this skill over the years and it is an essential to keep your calm – or return to your calm space – when moments of overwhelm, frustration, chaos, madness and confusion take over.

S.T.O.P stands for –

S = Stop right now

T = Take a breath

O = Observe

P = Proceed

To be able to consciously pause and stop is a very powerful state. When you pause you give yourself permission to not have to be anything or do anything in that moment – you give yourself a mini break to reflect and become aware of the present where there are only choices.

Following this with a couple of deep breathes in and out to release tension will clear uneasy feelings in your body and reduce anxiety levels. You may then begin to notice that you have more clarity and insight into the situation that got you so wound up.

From this vantage point of calm and possible clarity you can just observe what is actually going on around you and within you, and a new awareness will be gained. You can begin to ask questions at this time. What is this really about? What would be a way to deal with this that would be okay to all involved? Do I need more information? What could I be doing differently? How do I really want to handle this?

Then you are much better able to proceed with your next action or non-action – whatever you feel most appropriate, beneficial, and right for you. You will be more in control and accepting, and better equipped to deal with the situation in a way you feel comfortable with and that will get better results for all involved.

Today take time to S.T.O.P and then move forward more confidently, clearly and calmly.

Kirsty 🙂

 

 

Posted in: Mindfulness, Resilience

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What is it you decide to create?

IMG_0111A verse by Kirsty to inspire you to overcome setbacks, leap over overwhelm and feel encouraged to turn the unfortunate situations into fortunes.

Resilience, to some, what a big, big word,
Some even shiver each time it is heard.
It may remind them of those who win,
And how they don’t have what it takes and are failing.

They say, “those people are just luckier than me,”
Or, “they have no idea what hardship I endure and see.”
Their motto is “I can’t do that” or “that is impossible”
Or “you just don’t understand, I’m not like you – unstoppable.”

Well let me tell you right here and right now,
Resilient people don’t run with the crowd.
They don’t buy into what is possible and not,
They don’t even accept that this is their lot.

Resilient people endure failure, setbacks and traumatic events,
Then they get up and just take the next steps.
They hurt just like you, and even have thoughts of unfairness,
They just don’t let it stop them; they lift their pain tolerance.

Resilient people don’t say “this is because of you,”
They say instead, “it is up to me to see this through.”
They keep a smile on their face,
Even though, to others, it may seem out of place.

Resilience is to be well, to be happy, and to be better,
So how can this happen without a bit of pressure?
So next time you think you can’t or you won’t,
How about deciding that you can definitely cope.

Maybe, just maybe, this terrible thing is teaching you,
How amazing and capable you are too.
That if you could, for a moment, be positive and regulate that emotion,
You will find a way to grow, learn, create change and forward motion.

So now it is up to you,
You can stand on the sidelines, or you can participate too.
You can play the game, the game that is life,
Love it or hate, it is the only choice that causes winning or strife.

Give yourself meaning, purpose and permission,
That never again will you live in submission.
You will never give up, be resigned to a fate,
It is all up to you, what is it you decide to create?

– by Kirsty O’Callaghan

Posted in: Resilience

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The Physical Stuff – Creating the Foundations for Reducing Stress and Increasing Calm

The Physical Stuff - Creating the Foundations for Reducing Stress and Increasing Calm

Creating a strong foundation to resist stress will put you in a better position to have a great relationship with yourself and others, to be calmer and more relaxed and increase your ability to deal with the any experience life throws at you.

Good habits for eating, exercising and keeping a comfortable and clutter free environment (home/office) are crucial in supporting and sustaining great results. I research a lot in this area and talk to many people to get their views. I have learned it is never a one size fits all approach. I encourage you to do your own research to create a plan that works best for you and your family.

My top tips are:

Engage in physical exercise daily. As you work up a sweat endorphins are released, which create feelings of happiness. Working out can help manage physical and mental stress increasing concentrations of chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed.

Maintain a healthy diet. You will have fewer mental and physical health-related problems and more energy if you eat well. Lacking proper nutrition can put strain on the body, which becomes mental stress and can contribute to illness.

Two things you can do now to eat to encourage excellent results are:

  • Get off junk food—it has no nutritional value. It may satisfy an energy slump or cover up a lonely moment, but it also decays teeth, lowers self image, and heart health declines. The sugar in junk food is doing a heap of bad things to the brain—impairing memory and learning skills, and contributing to anxiety and depression. Moderation is key.
  • Drink more water. This is the most effective habit anyone can choose to improve his or her inner health, energy, life balance, and skin health.

A nutritionist once explained it like this—“When dehydrated, your cells become more like sultanas than plump healthy grapes and consequently that’s how you think and feel. Blood flow to your brain is reduced, which limits the amount of oxygen reaching your brain cells and slows it down. Therefore, you feel tired and lack energy. When our cells are like shrivelled- up sultanas the process of nutrients flowing in and out of the cells is hugely decreased and this has ramifications throughout our entire body—our health, our moods, our thoughts, our appearance, our vitality are all below par.”

The vision of the shrivelled sultana was a definite motivator for me. A must-have is a refillable environmentally friendly water bottle. Drinking enough water each day is easier when it’s readily on hand.

De-clutter to minimize overwhelm. Studies into this topic report that clutter increases cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Disorganised people with cluttered lives often feel frustrated, anxious and out of control. They find it difficult to unwind and relax. In my experience de-cluttering has the ability to create energy, mental and physical space, and release negative emotions.

To begin to de-clutter and make life easier for you, consider that clutter can fall into two categories –

  1. Anything that you do not love, need or use.
  2. A disorganisation of things that you love, need, and use.

Pause for a moment to gaze around the area you’re sitting in. Note things that catch your eye that may bring to mind phrases like—

  • I need to pick that up and go through that pile.
  • I’ve never liked that ……
  • X could use that item; it is just taking up space for me.
  • That reminds me of x (person or situation), and
  • That’s a mess!

Statements like these alert you to clutter-spots.

Ask yourself three questions to keep you focused and making good decisions as you de-clutter –

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Is it useful?
  3. Is it in full working order?

If the answer is no to any of the above questions, consider getting rid of the object, either by giving it away or throwing it away. If you cannot bring yourself to do this, then pack it away neatly in the back of a cupboard. If you do not give it a second thought for six months then it is time for it to go.

And lastly – Get enough restorative sleep to enhance performance, as poor sleep patterns and stress go hand-in-hand.

Without taking time out to rest, recover and have adequate sleep judgment, mood, and the ability to learn and retain information are weakened. Your health, mentally and physically is impacted. People who have poor sleeping habits are less productive, anxious, less safe when driving and suffer more mood swings – compared to those that have good sleeping habits live longer and have stronger immune systems; and possibly those that live with them live longer and are less stressed too!

What can you change to create a strong foundation to resist stress, feel better, have more energy and enjoy a good nights sleep?

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Parenting, Resilience

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Separated by Work – Book Reviews

Separated by Work

I am blown away by the support my book, Separated by Work, is getting and I am so delighted when I get book reviews coming through.

I recently received the following reviews from Pamela Crane from FIFO Love, and Megan Sweetlove from Sweetlove Family Law, and wanted to share with you all.

Megan said after reading the book, “As a former FIFO wife with intimate experience of how challenging the FIFO life can be – particularly for those families who are on uneven-time rosters, I understand how brutal and challenging the FIFO life can be on your personal and family relationships.

Difficulties with communicating within your relationship can be exacerbated by the geographical distance combined with the shift work rosters common to so many FIFO workers. When I read Separated by Work, I found it to be a very practical and logical reference guide for use by families who are separated by work – whether as FIFO workers or in other industries such as transport or defence force personnel.

Kirsty provides very realistic and sensible advice on improving communication and setting and achieving personal and financial goals. Her advice is broken down into easy to read chunks and she provides useful exercises to help you reflect on what you have read and apply it to your own life. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve communication in their relationships and help set and achieve goals!”

Then I received an email from Pamela, “I first picked up my copy of Separated By Work at Kirsty’s book launch in March of this year (2016). As a long time FIFO partner and FIFO coach I enjoyed listening to Kirsty speak about her experience as a FIFO wife. She shared her relationship and family struggles and the mistakes she made in the beginning and she really hit home.

I connected absolutely with what she was talking about and I knew that I had to grab a copy of her book.

Kirsty’s book Separated By Work is a great exploration of many of the problems we experience in a FIFO lifestyle. Topics she covers include money and goals, parenting challenges, life after FIFO, the all important “why are we doing this” and much more. I personally connected with some of the issues she discusses and found her tips and hands-on solutions useful.

While she shares her personal journey as a FIFO wife, Kirsty has also included stories from others who have someone who works away so you get a real sense that these issues are not exclusive to just you and your family.

What I loved about Separated By Work is that it is not just a personal journey but offers real solutions on how to move through the issues a FIFO lifestyle can cause. Not only has she included her solutions, Kirsty also has had professionals offering helpful advice and includes “how to” templates to help you and your family survive and thrive through your FIFO lifestyle.

As a professional supporting FIFO couples to keep their loving connection alive in their FIFO journey I highly recommend Separated By Work to anyone who is just starting out in a FIFO lifestyle or is struggling with being separated by work. I also feel this book would be a great tool for non FIFO family members to understand the world of FIFO and how to best support their FIFO family members.

If you are looking for a workbook that is easy to read, self paced, full of practical tips, exercises and resources, then Separated By Work is definitely for you.”

I am so grateful to these ladies, and for all the reviews that are coming in.  They not only say really nice ‘stuff’ about my book – they let you know that my book is real, it is readable, and most importantly it will benefit you and your family.

If you have something to say about my book please let me know either by email or in the comments below.

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Separated by Work

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Reducing childhood anxiety through mindfulness and meditation

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A child that experiences anxiety can be one of the most difficult things you have to face as a parent. You may worry that your parenting skills are lacking if your child experiences outbursts of anger, reactive behaviour choices, nervousness or panic attacks.

Anxiety has become increasingly common among children as young as four. Statistics show that one in every ten will experience intense anxiety at some point during their childhood. Stress, fear and anxiety is a fact of life for both children and adults – and the way your child’s brain processes the fight or flight response has a great deal to do with how he or she reacts to a perceived threat.

That’s why teaching your child to manage anxiety and stressful situations effectively are some of the most important life skills you can give them. By teaching your child how to breathe, meditate and perform other stress reduction techniques, they are able to deal effectively with the stressors that are a natural part of modern life.

Mindfulness and meditation are particularly effective stress management tools and are widely known to increase calmness and a sense of wellbeing, promote better health and clear cluttered and cloudy thinking – even for very young children. By guiding your child through meditation or bringing your child back into the present moment where they can take back control and calm down, you are giving them a very special and long-lasting gift.

When children are taught regular meditation and mindfulness techniques amazing results have been documented, including –

  • An increase in attention span
  • Having better concentration
  • Are less likely to experience regular illness – have a stronger immune system
  • A marked improvement in studies/academic results
  • More imaginative and creative – which leads to a resourceful and more resilient adult
  • Have a sense of peace, calm and safety
  • Show more problem solving abilities
  • Less disruptive behaviour and angry outbursts

After a period of time, and with your guidance, they will learn how to still their busy minds and be more present and calm. From there, they will develop a more confident outlook and disposition. Over time your child will be able to create a solitary space within themselves that is safe – a space to think, breathe, calm down, and remember or imagine.

I have taught all three of my children to meditate, relax their muscles one by one, and take a couple of deep breaths when needed. From a very early age I encouraged them all to just check in to ‘right now’. To take a long slow deep breathe and feel the breath go in through their nose, travel down their throat, fill their lungs, and expand in their belly like filling a balloon. Then, let it sit there for just a couple of moments, and then exhale, blowing all the air out. As they did this, they could imagine feeling a sense of release and calm. I would get them to do it a few times – slow and controlled, and with an awareness of how they were becoming more relaxed.

My youngest son, who is now nine, has me smiling in many stressful situations. As he notices my posture changing, my body becoming tense, and he can possibly see steam coming out of my ears. He calmly walks over, puts his hand on my arm and says, “Mummy, just take a deep breath in – and hold – and let it go. And again, breathe in, and out.” Can’t get more stress relief than that!

The next thing I made a priority to teach my kids was to S.T.O.P – an acronym for mindfulness. I have shown many of my clients and students this skill over the years, but I found children took to it easily and quickly.

S.T.O.P stands for –

S = Stop right now

T = Take a breath

O = Observe what is going on around you and within you – just observe it, then

P = Proceed with your next action or non-action – whatever you feel most appropriate, beneficial, and right for you.

Most parents find it a challenge to get their child interested in meditation and seeing the benefits of pausing to be mindful. Our little people are full of energy and easily distracted, and the thought of having to be still and quiet can seem very boring, even impossible to them. You can grow their interest and love of meditating and being mindful when you begin by making it fun. You can make time regularly to guide them through the process until it becomes a habit they can easily follow through with on their own. Most kids will hold still for meditation if it’s something that Mum or Dad takes time out to do especially with them.

Keep your meditation periods short as you begin.

A child that is under five years old, for example, may only stay still for two minutes – and that’s okay. Slowly increase the length of time you spend on sessions as your child begins to take an interest. At first, you may have them start by laying down, but in time they can meditate while sitting cross-legged on the floor, by standing, or even during a walk. The most important thing to do is to make these times fun and relaxed.

You can encourage your child to practice deep breathing techniques by blowing up a balloon or blowing feathers as far as they can, then transition to imagining blowing up a balloon and blowing a feather.

Take a deep breath in ‘filling the belly’ for three seconds, hold, and then exhale for three seconds.

Do this three times to begin and once done for a while they will automatically know that when something is causing them anxiety they can take 3 deep breathes to calm down.

Here’s a simple guided meditation that I have used many times to get you started.

  • Remember to make this fun and relaxing for both you and your child. You can play soft music and lay on the floor or on the bed with pillows if that helps.
  • Begin by telling your child you are going on an adventure, using their imagination. Have them stretch out their arms and legs and allow them to go limp. They can close their eyes (usually the will peak occasionally!) Then count down from ten – as you do tell them that they are getting more comfortable, having a wriggle if they have to, and feeling more relaxed.
  • Then talk them through relaxing each part of their body, taking their awareness to each part as you say it, from the tips of their toes to top of the head. Name each part and ask them to imagine the muscles in that part relaxing and going soft as marshmallows.
  • When your child is relaxed, ask them to visualise a beach on a warm, sunny day. They can imagine standing on that beach in their mind, seeing the waves as they crash against the shore, hearing the wind blow and birds fly overhead.
  • Have them visualise the patterns of the waves as they wash over the shore, over and over again. (You can use any scene – a forest, a castle, a river, the backyard – anywhere you know they will feel happy to be there.)
  • Have them breathe in and breathe out softly, gently and regularly. Allow them to rest, feeling comfortable and safe. You can then use your imagination and trust your own intuition to guide them, with plenty of pauses, to where you want to go. You could walk along the beach feeling the sand in your toes, see a rock pool with lots of sea creatures in it, have people on the beach, sit under a tree, or even have a magic carpet ride! My children loved having a worry tree at the beginning of the meditation appear so they could hang all their worries, one by one, on it. When it was time to finish the meditation I would bring them back past the worry tree and they would find all their worries had disappeared.
  • When they are ready to come back out of the meditative process, ask them to take a deep breath, feel the floor beneath them, notice how calm they are and stretch their arms and legs – and smile.

You can also try a recorded guided meditation with your child. There are many options out there from beautiful music to someone talking and guiding your thoughts and imagination. I have found that children respond very well to background music and their parent’s voice – whether they are present or it is pre-recorded. In my personal experience, children are highly responsive to inner smile meditation, which promotes a healthy immune system. I believe this is because kids naturally and instinctively know the benefits of a big smile and happy thoughts. You only need 10 – 20 minutes ‘time out’ with a child a couple of times a week to see great results.

How could you introduce more meditative and mindful moments into your family’s life? What would be the benefits if everyone could S.T.O.P more often and be calmer?

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Parenting

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Developing self confidence and an I can do attitude in your child

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A lot of parents have concerns about their children’s self confidence and their children’s ability to not give up if something is proving a little difficult.

I often have parents come to me asking questions like:

  • “How can I get my child to stop saying they can’t do it without even trying?”
  • “My child has such a low opinion of themselves, what can I do?”
  • “How can I help my child be more outgoing and happier?”

All these questions lead to the parent’s concern that the child is showing a lack of self-confidence. The parent usually feels this isn’t right and isn’t going to be beneficial for their child in the future.

We have a saying in our house, “O’Callaghans never give up”. It arose from Joseph, our youngest child, going through a stage of saying, “I give up.” He was about four and must have picked it up from day care or his older siblings as I’m sure I never said it—well, fairly certain anyway.

Joseph would be building blocks, carefully placing one on top of the other, and then a large crash would be heard. I would enter the room to see him standing defiantly looking at the pile of blocks, angry face on, and he would be repeating, “I give up, I just give up, I give up.”

The possible enormity of the situation hit me—that if I don’t come up with something soon to change his attitude, it would turn into a life limiting habit. I wanted my son to be mentally and emotionally strong. I wanted my son’s cup to be full, not half-full, not half empty, FULL.

We started saying, over and over again, “Try again because O’Callaghans never give up.” This mantra has grown to include all of us now, and we have developed a very strong culture in our home of never giving up, thanks to those damn blocks.

I believe that self-esteem is the value one puts on them, and confidence is a self-belief that they can do it.
So one is how you feel about you, and the other is that you have practised and know you can do it. Therefore confidence is gained by doing and self-esteem is gained by knowing (or being encouraged) that you are valuable and capable. One cannot go without the other.

Children come into this world full of worth and asking for what they want. As parents it is our role to keep this sense of self worth healthy. Below I have outlined some suggestions of how we, as parents, can direct this in-built determination and persistence in tact, guiding it around appropriate boundaries and safety rules as our children grow. This then will allow your child to believe that they are capable of achieving many things as long as they show determination, practise and commitment – because they are worth it and super clever in their own way.

Modelling is the primary way to teach children good habits. They watch their parents and listen to them constantly, often when the parents are unaware. They watch and listen for verbal and non-verbal reactions to everything everyday. Children feel when situations are happy, sad, threatening, stressful and joyous. The child picks up on all the actions and reactions, even non-actions, to all situations by their parents and learns how it should be done and begins to develop certain belief systems.

Begin now and for the next week observing and listening to how you and your family:

  • Show your confidence,
  • Show your self-worth, and
  • The behaviours and reactions day to day you are showing (teaching) your children.

It is important to remember this is not for you, or anyone else, to negatively judge these behaviours or put another layer of parenting guilt on yourself.

It is for you to become the best parent possible, which is the parent your child needs – which is what most parents ultimately want. You get so many things right by practising what doesn’t work first.

I really resonate with the saying, “making mistakes is proof you are trying.”
You can then move on to supporting an affirmative belief system for your child. This is telling them often:

  • You love them
  • How important they are just the way they are
  • They matter and that their presence in your world and the world of others makes a difference
  • You have caught them out more times being great, and not less than expected, and
  • Each day how grateful you are for them and congratulating your child for big and little milestones reached or achievements.

I like to also make sure that there is a habit of paying it forward to others. My children hear me, and are encouraged to, praise others or speak of them in a positive and supportive way. It really does come back to the saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”

Next is putting it all into practise with an I Can Do It attitude.

I Cant’s just need proof that this is not true. How do you get this proof? Just do it – with guidance, encouragement, a bit of patience and support, then repeat, and repeat again. Let your child do as much as age appropriately possible:

  • Packing up toys
  • Helping in the kitchen
  • Packing bags
  • Making beds
  • Getting dressed
  • Creating, making, playing, building blocks, dressing dolls, writing
  • Cleaning teeth, brushing hair, tying shoelaces

There are many things they can do things even though it may be quicker for you to do it. However, if you can be patient and encouraging, the smiles, celebrations and hugs are so worth it when they get it. Praise each time they get it right, redirect and start again with enthusiasm each time they make a mistake. Mistakes don’t call for punishment; they are the opportunities for improvement and building a determined attitude – the attitude of winners.

On a final note – It is not being able to do everything right or perfect; it is doing our best and doing what brings joy and laughter to our hearts that insights greatness. Listen to your child with your ears, eyes and heart, just as they do to you. Find what brings light to their eyes and excitement to their voices – then practise, practise and praise, and repeat.

Kirsty 🙂

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Teaching manners and respect – what to teach and when to start

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Manners are constantly changing from one generation to the next. For example, a handshake in medieval times showed that men were not carrying a sword or dagger in their hands.
Each family, each culture, and each country will have differing expectations of what is appropriate and what is not. This is often a confusing area for parents.

The types of etiquettes and protocols we use today and the reasons we may encourage manners and respect in our children are:

  • Tradition or custom
  • Thoughtfulness or kindness
  • Common sense and safety
  • Trust
  • A show of openness and friendliness.

When demonstrating and encouraging good manners from children most parents usually begin with please, thank you, hello and goodbye. Often taught at an early age, these are the beginning of a child understanding respectful and grateful behaviours.

Manners at home

Home for children is their first learning ground. Each family member, either by example or guidance, can be encouraged to show respect to the rights and feelings of others. Parents model how to listen when other family members have something to say. The effect of this is that children generally will copy this behaviour and then develop more meaningful relationships and good listening skills themselves.

It is important for members of a family to consider each other’s privacy. Everyone in it has a right to some place that is his or her own. Common examples are:

  • Knock on a closed door and wait for permission to enter.
  • Get permission to go to someone’s cupboard, desk, bag or other personal space.
  • Don’t open anyone else’s mail without permission.
  • Gently teach and model to your children what topics get discussed in public and what is discussed within the family unit.

Another important part of good manners is sharing. Most families share the TV set, the telephone, the bathroom and maybe a bedroom or a cupboard or a desk. Children share games, toys and even the attention of parents. Families can also share housework, this means creating habits of age appropriately cleaning up after self and sharing the responsibility for the safety of everyone in the house. Sharing and co-operating within a family unit and taking care of daily chores comes down to personal choice and lifestyle.

Parents need to set the rules or boundaries that they want in place early, clearly explaining them, getting agreement and then following through. This teaches consideration of others and makes it a lot easier in the long term for everyone.

Table manners

Most families have their own table manners that are important to them, which they want to see their children also developing. Here are some general suggestions for your family when at home and eating out:

  • Never reach for any food that is not right in front of you. Ask someone to pass it. If you are passing something, don’t help yourself along the way.
  • If you put something in your mouth that’s too hot, don’t spit it out onto the plate, discreetly transfer it to a napkin or serviette.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Avoid elbows on the table.
  • Don’t be upset if you spill something. Wipe up with your napkin or serviette.
  • When out in a restaurant remember to place napkin in your lap.
  • Don’t put bags or handbags on the table.
  • Don’t brush your hair at the table.
  • A dinner table is a mobile phone or device free zone.
  • Use knives and forks and spoons appropriately.
  • When finished eating put knives and forks neatly on plate.
  • Start eating when everyone is seated and stay seated till everyone has finished eating.
  • Thank the cook and excuse yourself from the table when meal is finished.
  • Help clear the table.

Being a guest

There are certain things you can consider and teach your children when you are visiting or are a guest. They are:

  • Don’t go visiting unless you’re expected, or at least call and check it is okay to pop in.
  • Offer to help with tidy up/clean up before you leave.
  • Be considerate to the families or other household’s routine.
  • Be sure to say thank you for having you.

Manners in public

Unless you are at home or at a friend’s house, you are on public property. These are the times common sense and good manners must prevail. Here are some suggestions for you to consider teaching and modelling to your children:

  • Don’t walk in a way that you block others path. I have taught all my children the keep to the left rule – whether on a path or escalator keep to the left.
  • If you stop to chat in a walkway or isle step to the side so that people can easily get around.
  • Don’t stare at or make fun of others.
  • If you have to walk and speak on a phone be aware of your surroundings and mindful of the people around you.
  • Keep volume of talking to an appropriate level, and never swear.
  • Put your rubbish in a bin.
  • If you bump into someone, apologise.

Children learn how to act by the way the adults in their life treat others and talk about other people and things. If a child sees respect, courtesy and consideration practised by their parents regularly, the child will follow suit. If a child sees contribution, acceptance and empathy, they too will show these qualities.

Actions and feelings dominate the way a young child learns about their world – so generally a parent cannot just demand respect and manners from children and expect good results. What works best is a combination:

  • Parents can, age appropriately, explain and reinforce the reason and meaning behind their requests so that the child can understand why they are being asked to behave in that way.
  • They must model habits of acceptable behaviour and then reinforce outcomes of earned respect or good manners, then children will naturally adopting similar actions without added pressure.
  • Appropriately reward the child as they begin to demonstrate good manners, which will encourage more of the same behaviour.

These are simple things that make a huge difference in your child’s interactions and relationships with others as they grow – and with the ability to show manners and respect their sense of worth and well-being will always be strong.

I will leave you with this quote:

“Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners.” Author Unknown

Do you have any other suggestions to add that work for you?

Kirsty 🙂

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Recognising and overcoming children’s stress and anxiety

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It is important to acknowledge when your children are not coping and to offer tools to support them. There are tools to help with children’s stress and anxiety.
Approaches to keep your children as stress free as possible are outlined below to support you.

Firstly be aware of and recognise these six signs of stress and anxiety in children:

  • Tears for seemingly minor reasons.
  • Nervous behaviours such as nail biting and hair twirling.
  • Physical complaints, such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Regression to younger behaviours; bed wetting, eating with hands.
  • Withdrawal from school friends or siblings.
  • Any behaviour that your child doesn’t normally do could be a sign of anxiety.

My top eight suggested stress management tips for children are:

  1. Take the pressure and expectations off children if they are feeling uncomfortable. Helping children cope with stress involves knowing their personalities and limits. Listen to and acknowledge how they are feeling and give them time and space with it.
  2. Stick with the routine as much as possible.
  3. Ask your children what makes them feel better. Do they wind down with music, reading, spending time with you, or playing with their friends, brothers, or sisters? Encourage them to do what helps them calm down and relax.
  4. Make sure your children eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water, and get exercise. Reducing children’s physical stress looks similar to minimising your own anxiety.
  5. Have tokens of support for your child. For example something little that Dad or Mum gives the child to have while they are away that is filled with magical happy energy that passes to them when they hold it. It could be anything, a rock, a photo, a small toy. My youngest son slept with an old ID card under his pillow that my husband had given him, for about six months. He said it made him feel close to Daddy. One dad I spoke to set fun challenges for his boys to focus on and achieve while he was working away. He followed up on them during phone and Skype calls.
  6. Have strategies in place to cope with your own stress. The less stress you feel, the more relaxed your children will be.
  7. Find ways to be involved in your community. Volunteering and contributing relieves feelings of stress and isolation. It is something that the whole family can be involved in and you will meet some lovely people. Your children will feel a sense of belonging and purpose, and so will you.
  8. Lighten the mood with fun activities; comedy movies, park afternoons, and cosy chats with hot chocolate or ice cream treats, going out, staying in, and laughing.

I have found that one of the most effective ways to reduce stress in the home is to foster a team environment and share how you are feeling in a positive way and how you cope in age-appropriate language. This will encourage everyone to talk about his or her feelings more, no judgment, no direction, just sharing and off loading the emotional burden that can build up.

When children have the opportunity to discuss the realities of life as they see it, they are developing understandings about choices and consequences and can begin to develop habits, resilience and skills that will enable them to make informed decisions about their own resources in the future.

While adults don’t need to share information about all our decisions with children, when we limit what they are allowed to talk about we deny them the opportunity to understand some of the choices we have made that directly impact upon their daily lives.

Everyone is doing the best they can with the choices they have made and children need to know this applies to the adults in their lives as well. How could we provide more opportunities to discuss our life choices with children?

Listening to children, and responding age appropriately, is sometimes hard. It requires time and patience but the insights gained are usually worth the effort. Considering what they have to say means that we can also consider what else they need and have a better chance to reduce the stressors in their lives.

If you were to pick 3 de-stressing techniques from the information above that you could start using now to support your stress-free household, what would they be?

Kirsty 🙂

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