Stuck For Something To Do?

So, in honour of our (not so) wonderful British summer, I thought that this week’s blog post should be aimed at all those parents out there- Just how do you survive the holidays with you children at home?

I happen to be one of those strange parents- the holidays for me are a joyous time! Yes, they are filled with shouting, crying, laughing and lots of rain, but it also means no school run, lie-ins and some real quality time with the family! Summer holidays are different for everyone- some people love them and some people loathe them, but, whichever one you are (a lover or a loather), we still have to get through them!

 

1 RELAX!!!

Unless you have an appointment or somewhere to be, why rush? Enjoy the fact that there is no school to rush about for and no clubs to ferry the kids to! Your kids have been working really hard for the last academic year- they deserve to have some time off!

One thing you could do is to get the kids involved in some meditation! No, not the kind of meditation you are thinking of, but a guided meditation. Using a progressive muscle relaxation can be a really useful life skill, believe it or not! By teaching your kids to relax and take a minute for themselves, you are arming them with weapons of defence for future stressful times, and lets face it, school, with all its testing and social pressures, can be a really stressful time!

There are plenty of free apps or websites available to get progressive muscle relaxation scripts- I quite like this one, which is available free (always a bonus!) https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Progressive_Muscle_Relaxation.pdf

You could also teach your kids to find a special place that is calming and relaxing- these techniques are great for pre-exam butterflies! Why not give it a try?

 

2 SLEEP!!!!

Remember when your little one’s were babies, and you thought you would never get a good nights sleep or a lie-in again? Well, now you can- legitimately!!! Again, your kids have had a hectic busy year- so have you! What else are the holidays for, but to kick back, relax and have a sneaky lie-in? So what if you didn’t get the washing done- there’s always tomorrow! Sometimes it is good to take things at a slower pace, recharge your batteries and get your head back in to a good space!

 

3 Switch off the electrics!!!

I don’t mean X-boxes or PlayStations- after all, research has found that (limited!) access to gaming teaches kids a lot about coordination, socialising, sharing, story telling and creativity! Have you ever played Minecraft with your kids? The stories and characters they create can be totally fascinating! But what I mean, is Social Media- we can spend all too long flicking through Facebook, Tweeting on Twitter or posting photo’s to Instagram. When we are doing this, and our kids see it, it becomes normalised. That’s what you do when you go out with people; you play on your phone.

Tear yourself away from it for a few hours- instead of taking a million photos in the play park, go ON the play park with your kids. Release your inner child!!! Now, wasn’t that fun?

 

4 Divide and Conquer!

What? Well, this one is for the parents who have multiple siblings to look after. I am sure that you will have the experience of having a 10 year old not want to do what your 3 year old wants to do; so, what do you do with that?

Well, contrary to popular opinion, children thrive on boundaries and timetables- they like to know what is happening and when it is happening and for how long it is going to happen! Why not spend Sunday night planning the week ahead? So that when your three year old wants to go to Peppa Pig world, and your ten year old complains, you can show them that you have space for them to choose something later in the week. This way, they can learn responsibilities and that dreaded word, sharing!

 

5 Dont Compare!

This one ties in with number 3- don’t compare your activities to those of your online friends! There life is different to yours, and yes, they may have gone to Euro Disney for a ‘quick’ weekend with the kids, but that doesn’t mean a camping holiday is inferior! Your time is what you make of it, so be CHILL! Engage with your kids and stop worrying about the Jones’s, because I can promise you, they’re trying to keep up with you, as much as you’re trying to keep up with them!

 

6 Let your kids get BORED!

You do not have to produce activities for them every single day! It’s part of childhood to get bored and then to experiment with trying to entertain yourself! Get them to create games, art projects, have a story telling competition- there is nothing wrong with suggesting activities to them, but they will never learn to entertain themselves if we don’t leave them to it!

 

7 SPORT!

Sport can be a fantastic activity- cycling, playing in the park, football or even just a yomp through the local forest or park! Whatever you do gets them out of the house, expending energy and, guess what? When you expend energy, you get tired! So, a nice early night for the kids can give you just that little bit longer to relax by yourself, or with your partner, in the evenings. Now, what is so bad about that?

 

8 RELATIVES!

Do you have relatives that the kids could go and visit? Maybe for a morning or an afternoon, or, if you are really lucky, an overnight sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa! The kids will love it, you will love it and it gives your relatives time with the kids, unpressured, which might not happen the rest of the year!

 

9 Got a tent?

Have a sleepover in the garden! Did you ever do that as a child? Remember how exciting it was to sleep in your back garden in a tent?? You could have a little midnight feast, burin some marshmallows on the bbq or the kids might just be old enough to sleep in the tent alone. Whatever happens, there will be a buzz of activity in your house, and we know what releasing adrenaline produces, don’t we? Sleepy times!

 

♯10 Plan as a family

Finally, you are a family- so; if the kids are old enough, plan the holidays with them. Give them options- it doesn’t have to cost a fortune! Get them involved with running the house- baking kids (the cakes are their own rewards here!) doing the dishes or hanging out the washing. You can choose to give them pocket money for tasks, with a special visit to the sweet shop at the end of the week, or just teaching them that running a household means everyone needs to pitch in. The choice is yours- it is your family, after all!

Anyway, there are some ideas for dealing with the holidays. Yes, they’re not perfect and yes, they may not all suit you, but anything is worth a try, isn’t it? As you all know, your children are only young and wanting to hang out with you for a very small amount of time, and that time flies by even quicker. Making the most of the holidays can actually be really fun, it depends on which perspective you take!

Remember, you can always try some relaxation techniques, if the excitement gets too much!

A Blog so Taboo, you probably won’t think it’s about you!

Menopause. We don’t want to say the word, never mind discuss the connotations we have with it- but why? What is so taboo about such a natural process and why do we find it so difficult to talk about?

When I attended my training day, I realised that even at the age of 38 (I know, I know, I don’t look it!), I hadn’t discussed the menopause with any of my peers- there is a perception that it is something that is going to happen to us, in the distant future!

But, what if it doesn’t? What if it happens when I am 39, and I haven’t had time to talk about it with anyone? Early onset menopause can happen at any age- yes, it is unusual, but it is defined as happening before the age of 45. 45. That seems really young to me right now, but I am sure that to my peers in their late 20’s/early 30’s, it seems a long way off!

So, why do we need to talk about the menopause? As men, why do you need to talk about the menopause, or even know anything about it? Well, if you’re in a committed relationship when your female partner (generally) reaches the age of 48-55, you will generally be facing the menopause together. Generally speaking!

I wonder what your experience of menopause is? Was it talked about as a child/teenager growing up? Did you/do you recognise your mums menopause? Was it a positive experience or a negative one? For me, it was an interesting time, to say the least! What about you?

Menopause can be life changing, for both of you. For the women, there can be a whole range of symptoms- hot flushes, being the one we hear most about. But, what about the others? Well, firstly there is the peri-menopause. Who has heard of that? Come on, hands up! Just as I thought, not many of you. The peri-menopause can last for up to 10 years before you have your final period. That’s a long, long time. In this time, your hormone levels begin to change and drop. Remember your teenage years, when your hormones were gearing up? Remember the emotions and the feelings you went through. Yeah, so it could be like that. It might not be, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Then, there comes the menopause itself. Again, the symptoms can last for years- it is a unique experience for each of us! Menstruation ceases, hot flushes, headaches, hair thinning, mood swings, weight gain, memory loss, depression, anxiety attacks, loss of sexual desire (libido) and a general dissatisfaction in life itself. That is a hell of a lot to be dealing with, particularly if you are bringing up teens, working and trying to maintain your relationship with your significant other.

But what if you are in your 20’s or 30’s and you have early onset menopause? What then? Where is the support? How do you deal with it? Like I’ve already said, it is a taboo in our society, so who are you going to talk to? It’s not Ghostbusters, that’s for sure.

Women who go through an early menopause can go through an even greater range of mixed emotions; after all, what was the cause of their menopause? Was it surgical, natural or chemical? Perhaps they didn’t have a choice, and are left with feelings of loss- their child-bearing years have been stolen away from them; feelings of being ‘old’ before your time; feeling that it is unfair- why did it have to happen to me? And of course, the emotions that come along when you are actually in the menopause- was it because you had to have a hysterectomy for a medical reason? Was it natural- before you even expected it to happen? Or was it due to chemical experience- chemotherapy for cancer, for example.

In the UK, 8 out of 10 women experience symptoms leading up to the menopausal phase- 45% of these women find the symptoms difficult to manage (Brayne, 2011). 1/3 of women lose interest in sex during the peri-menopause and 40% lose interest in sex during the menopause.

Now I’ve got your attention. Sex. Lack of. That’s going to affect everyone in the relationship.

No matter what age you start your menopause, as you can see from the list of symptoms; there is a lot going on. It doesn’t mean that you will experience these symptoms- all of them or any of them- but there is a fair chance you might.

And in amongst this, life goes on. You have to sit in the meeting at work, suffering from your hot flushes. You have to pick up your teenagers, even though you are feeling so tired from a lack of sleep. Your partner, be they male or female, doesn’t understand what has happened. You have changed over night- what did they do wrong?

Alexandra Pope, an author and workshop facilitator has found that if you have had traumatic life issues, prior to going through the menopause, if these have not been resolved, then it can lead to a harder time during the menopause. Perhaps the message here is self-care; we need to make sure that we are emotionally coherent, even if we are not about to go through the menopause!

What is important, despite the taboos, despite how uncomfortable it is, is that you talk about what is going on for you. Why have you suddenly started sleeping far away from your partner- explain that it is because you get hot at night and laying next to your partner makes you hotter. Why are your moods fluctuating, when they didn’t before? How is this affecting your relationship?

Many women describe a feeling of ‘powerlessness’ over their bodies- this is happening TO them, and they have no control over what is going on. How frustrating- to be in the middle of a mood swing and totally aware that you don’t want to be! Perhaps this is putting pressure on your relationship- your family doesn’t understand what is going on for you, and why should they? We don’t talk about menopause- it is something we dread and avoid from a young age. It isn’t something that we can control, and most people do not like feeling out of control.

So, what can we do about it? Well, some women choose HRT therapy, but that can have consequences of it’s own. If HRT is the way forward for you- talk to your doctor, talk to your friends. What is their experience of it? Ok, it might not be your experience, but it will give you a good idea of what may happen. Perhaps you want to follow a natural path- if so, what support can you get? Are there relaxation techniques you can learn? A book you can read, a support group you can join?

It’s time we didn’t look at the menopause as a taboo subject- it’s going to happen to every woman, at some time, but it’s how we choose to deal with it that makes the difference.

For me, I am feeling more prepared about my ‘change’ when it happens to me. At least I know what is going to happen and why, and I can understand that I may need some support to get through this, and that’s ok. Things are going to change, but they don’t have to change for the worse! How about you? Are you prepared for the change in your life? Do you want to be?


Brayne, S. (2011) Sex, Meaning and the Menopause, 1st edition, London: Continuum.

www.relate.org.uk (relationship therapy)

www.simplyhormones.com

www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ (Put HRT into the search box)

www.theonlineclinic.co.uk (Female Viagra information; flibanserin)

www.wildgenie.com (Alexandra Pope’s website)

www.daisynetwork.org.uk (network for early menopause)

www.earlymenopause.co.uk

www.thebms.org.uk/ (early onset menopause support)

www.fabafterfifty.co.uk (for older women)

So, Tell Me About Your Mother?

Good old Freud- he paints an interesting picture for us modern day Psychologists. Classic Freud, the whole psychodynamic perspective gave us a really good grounding in Psychology and how we worked as people. Rene Descartes, the French Philosopher was one of the great minds who started all this off, back in the 1600’s, when he postulated, “I think, therefore, I am”. Yes, the Greek Philosophers Socrates, Aristotle and Plato were the fore fathers of Psychology, but Descartes statement really hit home. The idea that the brain and the body were connected (Hothersall, 2003).

Psychology has come a long way since then. Freud really brought Psychology in to the main stream; but his work has left a bitter taste in many a Psychologists mouth. There is no doubt that Freud was hugely influential in the grounding of modern Psychology; if you ask the lay person about Psychology, I guarantee Freud is the first name that comes up, along with sniggers of Oedipal Complexes and ‘Tell me about your father/mother’ statements.


 

So, where have we come since then? Does Therapy still ask about your mother and father? And if so, why is it still important?

There are many different models of Psychological theory. One of these, that I ascribe too and, after working with client for so long, see in working practice every day, is Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1969). So, what is it and why is it important to me?

Attachment theory is the work of two Psychologists- John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, the work of who was published in 1991. Quite a modern theory, you may notice, but Bowlby had been working on his theory for decades before this. Bowlby theorised that the relationships and bonds between people, in particular our early caregiver (traditionally the Mother, but this could also be an Father, Aunt, Step-Mother/Father, Foster Parent etc.) are intrinsically important in our ability to form relationships, romantic or otherwise. Bowlby described his theory as the ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (Bowlby, 1969). This was the result of decades of work, and has proven to be a very effective model.


 

So, what is it and why does it affect us?

Bowlby hypothesized that the main caregiver, who nourished, loved and cared for the child, created a bond with them, where the child learns that in times of fear or distress, the main caregiver provides comfort and reassurance. This is essential to the survival and wellbeing of human beings. By developing this bond and understanding, the child grows into a confident toddler, and therefore, a confident child, teenager and adult. The important aspect here is the bond between caregiver and child. It’s what gives the child confidence to explore the world- have you ever watched a toddler exploring a new place? They will go and look at toys, or crawl or wander over to another area, but a securely attached child will be able to do this, occasionally looking back to ensure that the caregiver is there, watching and waiting, should anything go wrong.

This is all part of normal, human development. By being responsive and available to the child’s needs, we are allowing them the space and security to be curious and investigate their surroundings. But what happens if this isn’t the case? And how might it affect me?


 

But why is my primary caregivers role so important?

In the 1950’s and 60’s an American Psychologist performed research on maternal deprivation, his name was Harry Harlow (Harlow, 1958). What Harlow did, was actually quite cruel, but gave a very good insight into the importance of the caregiver to an infant.

Harlow took newborn baby rhesus monkeys away from their mothers, and put them in a cage to live. In the cages were two wire monkey mothers. One of the wire monkeys held a bottle from which the infant monkey could obtain nourishment, while the other wire monkey was covered in a soft terry cloth. What Harlow found was that the monkeys would feed from the wire monkey with the bottle, but they would spend the majority of their days with the soft terry cloth ‘mother’. In times of fear and discomfort, the baby monkeys would instinctively head to the soft cloth ‘mothers’ for comfort and support.

From this, Harlow ascertained that the role of the caregiver is not just to do with nourishment, but a large proportion of the importance stems from the love and affection we get from a soft, loving, comforting parent.

A child whose primary caregiver was absent, or perhaps not as attentive as a caregiver should be, will develop in a different way. Perhaps your caregiver had PND (Post-natal depression) and found it difficult to develop a bond with you. Maybe your primary caregiver died, or was busy at work to keep the home above your heads. Perhaps the primary caregiver was cruel and did not show the amount of love we would hope a caregiver would give a child. We can then see how it might be difficult for that child to form the bond needed to allow them the space to be curious and to explore the world. A child, whose caregiver responds in this way, may become avoidant or ambivalently attached- this means that as you grow, you may find it difficult to develop and maintain a relationship- after all, your experience of relationships has not been a positive one.


 

So why does attachment matter? And why is it so important?

Well, a secure attachment base with out caregiver helps to increase our self-esteem, which is a rather large part of us and how we function. People, who have a secure attachment, as babies tend to be more independent, higher confidence levels, perform better in school, are less likely to suffer from depression and have more successful social relationships.

Low self-esteem issues can make the smallest things in life seem incredibly difficult. Perhaps you don’t have the confidence to ask for a pay rise, or the confidence to apply for a job or ask a girl/boy out? Low self-esteem can affect us in many ways, and it can be really difficult to build up, especially if you have no template of what self-esteem and confidence is!

Attachment issues can really affect some people, and for others, they manage to form secure and healthy attachments with no problem- like anything to do with the human Psyche, it is a very personal and unique experience for each person! How we deal with it can change from situation to situation; perhaps your new boss at work reminds you of your mother and how your relationship wasn’t easy, which in turn makes you unable to stand up to your boss, which means more work is heaped upon you. Attachment issues can affect us in many ways, and perhaps it isn’t until we have spoken to someone about this, that we know that it is affecting us.

I am not espousing that Attachment is the root of all evil, but if you are on the receiving end of a negative attachment experience, it really isn’t a pleasant feeling and you can carry it with you, and the effects it has, throughout your life. The thing is, you may not even be aware of your attachment difficulties- after all, didn’t we all have a ‘normal’ upbringing? What I think is ‘normal’ is different to what everyone else things is normal, so how do we know that our primary attachments weren’t nourishing? Sometimes, it is only through therapy that we can make sense of our experiences, and, as I said, all of our experiences are different, and unique to us!


 

Bowlby, J. (1969) Attachment. : Vol. 1. , New York: Basic Books.

Harlow, H. (1958) ‘The Nature of Love’, American Psychologist, vol. 13, pp. 673-685.

Hothersall, D. (2003) History of Psychology, 4th edition, New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.