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Kirsty writes regularly here

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 🙂

Posted in: Parenting

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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 🙂

Posted in: Parenting

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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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Parenting – A team effort

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I am an advocate for building helping teams, villages around people, especially children. The traditional African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ has been widely quoted when examining the support needed for our children as they grow.
Parenting requires we create that village for our children and ourselves — a supportive network of people who are committed to fostering the children’s happiness and growth. Navigating the challenges and opportunities of parenting can be daunting — a team effort is necessary to ensure the children, and the parents, have feelings of worth, connection, and safety.

The street I live in is great. Generally there are children out playing most afternoons and weekends. On this street, you know that someone is keeping an eye out when the children are playing outside. I have built friendships and relationships with my neighbours, even if it is just a wave from the front yard friendship. I want to teach my children that neighbours, overall, are there to help. I also encourage my children to be aware and compassionate to the needs of those that live around us. At Christmas time I give small presents to neighbours I see regularly, like a Lions Club Christmas Cake, as I am part of the local Lions Club. This serves my club, my community, as well as my neighbourhood. If you don’t know anyone in your street or apartment building, take the initiative. Bake a cake, take it to your neighbours, and introduce yourself. Invite them over for a cuppa or just have a chat in the front yard.

To raise a child and weather the storms of life, parents must embrace supportive alliances. A supportive team for a child can include:

Neighbours
Parent groups
Volunteer groups
Sporting clubs
Friends and family
Health care professionals
Teachers
Day care workers
Church groups
Local social groups — like walking, exercising, bird watching
School parent groups
Special interest groups
Local council and library events

What has been my saving grace many times is the collaborative relationship I have with my children’s school or day care centre — namely their teachers and carers. For over 15 years, I have seen the benefit of fostering and nurturing relationships with teachers and schooling professionals. I legally hand over the care of my children and the responsibilities of social and academic development to these very special individuals for approximately 1,500 hours per year. I believe that my participation and support is vital.

The top 11 benefits I have found by getting to know, support and be in regular contact with teachers are:

  1. The teachers/carers have more understanding of my child, as they know what is going on in their whole life.
  2. I don’t jump to any conclusions based on my child’s opinion of the teacher as I have gotten to know them and their style of teaching.
  3. I have a greater understanding and empathy, individually and as an industry, of teachers and the massive job they do.
  4. I can follow through with routines and consequences at home that are working at school, which creates more consistency for my child and less stress for me.
  5. My children are able to own their positive and undesirable behaviour and there is follow up at both ends.
  6. The teachers and I support each other in a common cause—the best outcomes for my children.
  7. I can easily ask for help and understanding when parenting overwhelm hits.
  8. I know when my child is struggling in time to redirect, before it is too late or habitual.
  9. I get to meet and know some amazing people whose passion is to see my child succeed.
  10. My children see that I am proactive in their lives and when I need to, I will rally their team together to overcome perceived obstacles.
  11. I always find out what is going on and can share all this with my husband, who works away, so he feels connected too.

Whether you work, or are a stay at home parent, you can build your child’s team. Creating these relationships and building rapport with others comes in many forms — phone, email, and in person. In my most trying times, I have found the support of most teachers a blessing and having a supportive team around me lifts me up when I would rather run away and hide.

Here is an activity for you: ?Take a moment to consider who you could enlist to help you and be on your child’s team? How could you create a network of supportive people in your families life?

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Parenting

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Transform your workplace stress into success

Transform your workplace stress into success-2

Workplace stress complaints are becoming more common. Whether an employee of a large organisation or a sole-preneur, the effects of workplace stress can result in more than a reduction in your productivity.

When the effects of workplace stress begin to take hold you generally feel irritable and anxious, fatigued and lacking the energy needed to get through the day-to-day responsibilities. Next stress will attack your ability to concentrate and remember things, which can lead to a loss of interest in work and boredom. This moves on to frequent muscle tension, headaches, illness and problems sleeping. After a while social withdrawal will be evident and some use alcohol or drugs to cope. I am getting stressed just reading that – and I can associate it with some of my past workplace experiences and those of my colleagues. Can you?

In workplaces where stress is an issue there are higher rates of absenteeism and staff turnover, reduced productivity, increased customer dissatisfaction and increased health compensation claims.

Common workplace stressors are: –

  • How secure you feel in your job or business.
  • Your workload is too much or there are constant distractions.
  • You have no say in your workload and the work you are asked to do – or there is confusion over priorities and deadlines.
  • Your job does not offer you flexibility and you cannot balance work and home life.
  • Your work is boring or not stimulating you – you have lost your passion or purpose.
  • You have too little or too much contact with people.
  • You don’t have supportive relationships with co-workers, supervisors and/or clients. You may feel the victim of bullying, intimidation or inappropriate ‘humour’.
  • You don’t have a clear understanding of what is expected of you. There is minimum praise, feedback and positive conversations about areas of improvement.
  • Any changes are not communicated clearly, effectively and encouragingly.
  • There are no or little opportunities and support for training, learning and professional development.

The causes of stress can be many and varied and each person will experience and deal with situations differently. The key is to acknowledge that unless you take action any stress over a extended period of time will adversely impact your productivity, relationships, health and wellbeing.

My top five tips for dealing with, managing and reducing stress:-

  1. Take care of yourself so that you are more resilient and stress resistant.
    • Be mindful of eating to promote your health, strength and energy.
    • Drink enough water each day to keep hydrated.
    • Exercise regularly; even a short walk in a park at lunchtime will be of benefit.
    • Get enough quality sleep, so that you can recover from the pressures of the day and feel more energised each morning.
    • Have a relaxation practise where you can relax your whole body and release any tension in your muscles.
    • Take time during your day to take some deep breaths. Shallow breathing tells your body it is stressed where as deep breathing sends the message that you are calm.
  2. Be organised and focused to minimise overwhelm.
    • Have a diary and lists of priorities.
    • Don’t over commit yourself or attempt to multi task.
    • Include regular breaks/downtime. This time is important; it does not take away from your productivity, you will find this time increases your output at work and in your personal life.
    • If you are unable to complete a task, ask for help, delegate or approach your supervisor or client and suggest another way to get task completed. Don’t leave it till it is too late.
    • Take the ‘elephant beetle’ approach – if you are feeling a task is unpleasant or concerning you, get it out of the way first thing – minimise procrastination.
  3. Cultivate and encourage a good relationship with yourself and others.
    • Recognise your stressors and your emotions. The trick to managing stress is identifying triggers before they have a chance to affect your results.
    • Have a positive attitude and laugh regularly, a sure fire way to reduce the pressure build up.
    • Share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. Keep specific rather than generalise about the issues and situations you find challenging.
    • If you are unsure, ask. If you think you have missed something, clarify. If you need help…. Ask.
    • Notice and give praise for good work performance, to yourself and others in your workplace. There are always opportunities to recognise a job well done.
    • If you would like opportunities for professional development, actively seek workplace policy on this. If there is none, find out if one could be developed, and point out the benefit to the business and yourself. If you are self employed regular professional development is a must –not a maybe.
    • Be a part of social interaction in the workplace and business circles. Keep it appropriate, positive and frequent.
  4. Be clear on the values and direction of your workplace or business, and how working in it and on it benefits you. There is a reason you are there, focus on that rather than the things that drain you.
  5. Always take a balanced approach to your work and your life – time for your health, your family, your home, your friends, your work, your interests, your community and yourself!

What could you be doing differently this week to reduce your workplace stress – or the stress of a colleague, friend or family member?

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Business, Resilience

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Fathers Day when you are Separated By Work

Fathers Day

All families that are separated by work have to be organised and prepare for special occasions in advance. Fathers Day 2016, in Australia, is Sunday 4th of September. It can be a minefield of loneliness, isolation and frustration – a time when the distance from family feels massive for those dads who are separated by work on the day that is chosen to recognise Dads.

We are a FIFO family and this year my husband will be home for Fathers Day – the first time in five years. We will treasure this time together, especially as he has missed all family birthdays this year and flew out at 6am on Easter morning.

Our family, I am proud to say, is mostly happy, functional and very connected. We are well practiced in being able to make events special, even when one of us is not be physically present. Here are our top five tips for Fathers Day when you are apart.

  1. Eliminate the pressure – there is no perfect way to celebrate Fathers Day. Did you know it isn’t even the same day around the world? So, instead of feeling down and miserable all day why not make the most of it in other ways. If a family member is feeling the pressure, listen to their concerns and help them see it in another way.
  2. Make a time to connect in ways you can – phone, Skype, text, send a video and send pictures. Be funny, be serious, and be thoughtful.
  3. Loud and Proud Gratitude – Whether you are the kids, dads or mums, each of you can take turns to share what you are grateful for. What makes Dad special, what makes your kids special to you, what is it that Mum does that makes Dad’s life easier?
  4. Praise and presents – Plan ahead and have notes hidden in luggage and around the house. Have packages of special things ready to be posted so they arrive for the day. Get everyone involved.
  5. Move Father’s Day – Which is the Sunday closest that you are all together? Why not make that a day filled with celebrating Dad?

Most parents I speak to aren’t so much affected by how they feel missing out on special occasions or days – they are more concerned, and plagued with elements of guilt, as they worry about how their children may feel. The school had a fathers day stall, other parents are planning a big day out and the media hype around Fathers Day is relentless. Here is a secret many parents eventually discover – kids can survive anything, and heal, if they have parents who listen and support them processing their emotions.

Children look to their parents to understand the world around them. Instead of making the separation on a specific date a negative one, make it mean something different – the surprise package preparation, making funny videos, planning your own personal Fathers Day when you are all together again. You will be teaching your child how to be resourceful in their thinking and actions when there are life obstacles in the way.

How can your family be different and create special celebrations and moments this year for your Fathers Day – or could it be Fathers Month?

Keep smiling and thriving, Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Parenting, Separated by Work

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“Who would like this $100 bill?”

www.unitywords.com.au

Sometimes you read a story at the right time and it can give life the perspective it needs.  I wanted to share one of my favourites with you today to inspire you to feel your worth no matter how dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt you may feel.

A $100 Dollar Bill – Author Unknown

“A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $100 bill.  In the room of 200, he asked.  “Who would like this $100 bill?” Hands started going up. He said,  “I am going to give this $100 to one of you – but first, let me do this.”

He proceeded to crumple the 100-dollar note up. He then asked.  “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air.

“Well,” he replied,  “what if I do this?” He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.  He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty.  “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson.  No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $100. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.

We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to God and to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do, what we have or whom we know, but by…WHO WE ARE.

You are so special in the entire world, there is only one you — don’t ever forget it. Remember, you may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.”

Keep smiling and remind yourself each day that you are important and today is not going to be the day you give up!

Kirsty 🙂

Posted in: Business, Parenting, Resilience

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