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Foster care when you have a really tough job and not enough time…

I’ve been quiet… for a long time!  I took on a role… a very tough role in an NGO agency that provides out of home care (Foster care) for children referred by the state government.  I saw it as an opportunity to support foster parents for these young people in need.  I went into foster care recruitment, training and support as an area coordinator with a team to support and with energy and excitement.  I was coming with all my skills and experience and knowledge and at the time. I was also completing another great training in trauma and attachment with Matthew Dilges that seem to bring together all my knowledge and gave me more tools to help people (of all ages) to integrate their trauma and move on with their lives.

The job kind of fell into my lap!  I have been talking about being a foster carer for over 20 years!  But at each point of the idea coming back into my thoughts I had to check in to make sure it was the right time for me and my family.  Could we take on another child/ren with all that was happening in our lives?  Finally, after 20 years, my husband and I were ready and I then picked up the phone.  We were eager to open our home to a young person (or two) and were open to long term foster care. The agency carer assessor, on my second phone interview, had obviously done some Facebook stalking and had found this website and she told me of the position and jokingly laughed… “you could end up being my boss!”.  The role was going to be a challenge… but I love a challenge and I loved the idea of helping foster parents understand how to use healing, therapeutic parenting skills to help young people recover from broken relationships.  I knew at the interview that I had made the right decision… the interview was a breeze and I landed the role… and I ended up being her boss!

Unfortunately, this meant that we couldn’t go through this NGO agency to foster because you can’t foster a child in the same agency you work in… it just creates a nightmare around management, teamwork, conflict of interest and resolving issues.  So we had to change agency and go through the process again.

The foster care recruitment process takes a long time and now I know, having taken other people through it, it’s for very good reasons why it does!   If children cannot stay with their parents, and there’s no extended family to take them in and they must go into a complete stranger’s home… then you want to make sure those carers are good… understand trauma… have empathy… have patience… have the strength to provide those child/ren with a home that is secure, safe, loving and supportive of not only them… but to include their family (through supporting healthy contact with their parents, grandparents, siblings and extended family)… and they must have the right motivation… based on the needs of the child/ren and not their own.

The normal process of becoming a foster carer wasn’t quite applied to us because I was now working in Foster care and recruiting, training and supporting foster carers!  The time from picking up and making the initial phone call to having someone come into our home and talk to us was well over 6 months!  But once that happened and they recruitment officer heard we were open to teenagers… she began to talk to us about a  14yr old young person who needed a place and was heading into residential care if they couldn’t locate one.  The young person was looking for a fresh start in a new location as she’d been quite severely bullied at her regional high school and wanted out of the town she was living in.  Within a month, she was living with us, we were assessed over two days and she began our journey together.  This is NOT the normal speed or sequence of events that normally happens when it comes to assessing people as foster carers!  It was my skills, knowledge and willingness to take in a teenager that made the run in the end quite quick.

So not only was I now in a very challenging job… I had taken on a  now 14 year old teenager with understandable trauma and everything that comes with that.   I am not going to go into details about her journey with us as it’s her journey and her story to tell.  I will say that I think everyone of us, in the home, gave it our very best… in the end the fit wasn’t right.

Yes, I am sad and disappointed…  I am also exceptionally grateful for having her live with us for 13 months… she taught me so much… and gave me such a valuable insight into the life of a young person in care, who’s experienced trauma and has been misdiagnosed for most of her life.  She is an amazing young woman with a lot going for her and I am hopeful for her future.  We remain in contact and I hope to be a part of her life going forward.  I apply all my learning to my role now and I am much more understanding of why placements sometimes have to end…Here’s some of what I learned from this experience…

1) It takes more than love

One of the myths I tell prospective foster carers is that it takes more than love for these children, no matter what the age you have them come into your home.  Even babies in the womb are affected by trauma and can have “attachment” (trust/security) issues.  When children experience trauma at a young age (up to 6 years old) it affects them deeply… emotionally… physically… mentally.  It takes a skilled carer to work with their team (Case managers, GP, Pediatrician, Psychologist/attachment therapist and trauma informed developmental specialists) to unravel the complex survival response that can be individual to each child…. AND it takes TIME and requires attention.  With my work schedule… it wasn’t fair on her that I couldn’t be available to her as she needed me and I didn’t always have the energy either!

Children in Out of Home Care are often diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, ODD, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression and any other type of behavioural label there is and then there are attachment disorders.  In the end, what they should be diagnosed with is suffering the effects of trauma.  Add to that… because of the trauma, there is the delay in brain development (in trauma, the brain prioritizes survival and not learning) and poor digestion/gut issues (again… survival over thriving creates havoc in the digestion)… you have one complex human system to unravel.  Left untreated… and by that I mean with good intervention, on going therapy, therapeutic parenting and healthy/restorative diets… these children develop survival strategies to help them feel in control, safe and in a predictable environment and have the capacity to go from calm to utter meltdown in seconds with a trigger happy survival – fight, flight and freeze response.  These survival strategies can baffle carers who do not understand that they meet a need that is intrinsic to survival… who don’t get that  young people in care find it hard to regulate their emotions (and even their body temperature!)… who don’t approach those challenging times with PACE principles (playfulness, acceptance, curiousity and empathy) and oodles of patience, love and nurturing.

It takes love.. and a willingness to parent differently (from standard parenting techniques which you all know I loath anyway!), continual curiousity instead of judgement, playfulness… humour… team work (with your partner, extended family & friends, healthcare professionals, educational and learning specialists and agency staff).  You need to be loving, open minded, adaptable, patient, practical and willing to learn from each experience.

Doing all of that… and full time work proved to be too challenging… even with team work with my husband and the agency staff.  It’s a delicate balance with a delicate life!

2) All your foster care skills in the world don’t matter if the match isn’t right

The experienced foster carers I know and admire know that not all children fit into your family in a way that you know will benefit not only them but your whole family.  It is an arranged relationship that needs to be developed and compatibility should be based on both the carers capacity (assessed through the long assessment and training process) and the child’s needs.  It doesn’t work to place a tech focused child who is into gaming and computers with carers who believe that sports is where a child should spend their downtime.  It doesn’t work to put a child who is athletic with a family who’s not.

A good, thorough assessment will help identify what would make a good match in placing children with carers.  Ours was too rushed and we were too eager to take into consideration how the fit would be with our broader family.

In addition to this, the assessment process will also (hopefully) identify any “buttons” that the carer(s) may have that make them incompatible with a child.  An adult with unresolved trauma (whether big or little) will have buttons and children in care will undoubtedly push those buttons inadvertently.    Good placement matching will avoid (in as much as possible) placing children with foster carers that cannot cope with their behaviour or have unresolved trauma similar to the child’s.  Admittedly, the second can be hard… because how do you assess what will push someone’s buttons?  Good foster carer assessors know by experience… but there are many assessors out there that don’t have that experience because the average person lasts 2.5years in a Child Protection role before moving out of it due to the tough nature of the work and lack of resources.   Case managers also need to be able to identify when unresolved /vicarious trauma has occurred for the carer and get them into supported therapy and this can be hard to pick if they don’t have the experience to look for it.

If the match isn’t good for the child/ren or the carer and the carer’s own children (both in and out of the home), then this often where placements end.  This is what happened for us.  We took on a young person and we hadn’t even completed the assessment process or introduced her to the kids!  We’ve want to help so much, that we thought we can overcome this obvious barrier.

While I know that sometimes placements just end and that this can’t be avoided due to many circumstances, it was hard on all of us to know we couldn’t make it work.  Even she could see that.

3) Don’t take on more than you can manage… it ends in heart break

Taking on a role in the middle of a massive change within the agency and within the Out of Home Care system in NSW has taken a lot of my focus and energy in the last 18 months.  The changes are exciting and much needed but there has been and still is a lot to deal with in my working life and then to come home and deal with what was happening in the home meant I could not always be a therapeutic parent… or a loving and supportive wife… or even have time to breath for myself.  My husband was drowning in the many appointments and interventions we needed to put in place and he  was suffering with grief and loss, (having just lost is father) and therefore didn’t have the same patience and persistence with behaviours… their relationship was damaged… trust was lost between them both… and it wasn’t not healthy for either of them… everyone was drowning… and it just wasn’t working.

The decision was right for all of us in the end.  Even with the right skills… if the support requires more than the time you have to give… if the match is not good with the family… then the match is not good for all involved.

She’s did come a long way in 13 months… she could see that… we all could see that.

We’ve come a long way in 13 months as foster carers… we learned what we could do and what we couldn’t do.

In the 19 months of being in this role, the foster care service has changed significantly for which I am totally grateful for.  The first 12 months of my job I barely made it through simply because the system is so flawed even though every single person I met had passion and dedication to young people, it was disheartening to see placements breakdown… carers loose hope… carers and staff not understanding trauma and therapeutic parenting.

The removal of a child from their family has lasting effects on the family and the child.  The outcomes for children in Out of Home Care are exceptionally poor with a high majority having relationship issues (attachment), learning difficulties (delayed developmental trauma) and a host of diagnosis’ that label the child and create fear instead of helping them with good intervention and therapeutic parenting approaches (which are available).  The judicial system is filled with adults who have been in foster care as children, labeled as bad and never have received good intervention.  Remember, love is not enough.

In addition to this, and a high percentage of young people aging out of foster care… end up homeless… they don’t have the support network around them.  They have been cut off from their family and culture and community… they have no one at the end of the journey.  From a system that was supposed to protect them… it effectively has destroyed many lives.  We, as a society, have to do it better…

When I first began, I could see that foster carers either A) were under skilled in therapeutic parenting (which really help kids heal and thrive), B) didn’t have the capacity to understand trauma and look beyond the behaviours to the needs of the child or C) were in it for the wrong reasons (and there are many of these) that relate to their own needs and not the needs of these children.

The new changes in the NSW Out of Home Care system, (now called Permanency Support Program), align with better aims and outcomes for children that have to come into care.  We have a government who is determined to measure the outcome in terms of positive long term outcomes for children.  The first principle being… not to take child/ren from their family without first putting all sorts of good/proven intervention to help mum and dad get their life on track and provide a safe, secure  and loving home for their children.  Much more funding and programs are now available for families and this is the best outcome for children when it works.  Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect… the kids to be safe and secure and parents healthy and connected to community.  When that approach doesn’t work, when it’s not safe for children to remain at home… then it’s extended family finding… not just the immediate family, but looking further to find Kith/Kinship carers so the kids can remain connected to their family, community and culture.  When there is no one in the family, then we look for carers who are willing to work as part of a team to A) support the family getting back on track or B) provide a permanent outcome for child/ren such as guardianship or open adoption and still keep them connected to their family and community.

Permanent outcomes for children… early in their life… has shown to be better for them.  Belonging to a family, whether it’s their own or their adoptive family has shown to help children feel a sense of belonging.  I’ve seen too many children in the system who have been essentially cut off from their family… struggle with a sense of identity and have been bounced around from home to home because their survival adaptive strategies result in challenging behaviours.  They learn to trust no one.

We have to change the system… be part of that change…

I know from my Family Constellation work the damage that results when you exclude or remove people from their family… even when it’s a dysfunctional family.  What we forget is that it’s not just a mum and a dad… it’s siblings… grandparents… aunt’s, uncles, cousins and … their ancestors.  It is catastrophic when removal of a child is done badly for an child.  It creates so many more life long (mental and physical) problems than if we can keep them safe for a short period, repair families, or find safe people within the family and as a last resort… find carers that are willing to open their hearts to not only the children but their family too.

In my home, our hearts remain open to kids in care … as Foster Carers, we both want to support young people to find their feet, connect with their family… their culture and know they are part of a community that believes in them and  wants the best for them.  Foster Care remains important to us, we just need to be realistic and ensure the match is right so that we can be of long term benefit to children who come into our home and hearts.

How to set boundaries with children

I start a new job today 🙂

One where I feel I can offer the most of my knowledge and skills…

I’ll be helping parents who have kids that struggle with feeling safe so they have learned strategies to deal with the adults in their lives… Like demanding closeness and punishing you if you don’t give it… Or just remain distant despite all of your efforts to show they are loved… Acting out, refusing to listen, ignoring your requests or directions and exploding unexpectedly (such as at bedtime or bath time).

These kids have learned these strategies even before these parents have come along… They are in the out of home foster care system.

For most of us, we are able to set boundaries and children listen and respect them, but when the child’s boundaries are ignored or there is no boundaries for them to understand so the world seems constantly unsafe and crazy, then we, as a society need to help them learn how to be in this world and co-exist with everyone else. Otherwise they grow up and struggle, have PTSD, anxiety, depression and loads of physical health problems. Childhood trauma is not only linked to mental and physical health problems but also crime. There would not be many instances of a person incarcerated who was not treated appallingly as a child. So foster carers do an important preventative role not only for the child but for society. [click to continue…]

What Attachment Parenting is and isn’t really about

I read yet another article that lamented about the perils of breast feeding on demand and co-sleeping with your toddler and was titled, when attachment parenting goes wrong (or something like that).  When I read these articles I get really sad and frustrated that yet again we seem to be promoting what is and isn’t attachment parenting and on top of that, it has a funny sensation of judgement and parent shaming… Depending on the slant of the article, you’re either an idiot for doing this or not… And yet attachment really doesn’t have anything to do with breast feeding on demand, baby carrying or co-sleeping OR even dropping everything upon the demand of the child.  In fact, you can do all of this and still create a child that has an insecure attachment to the parent! [click to continue…]

A conversation about death


WARNING – This post involves death and talks about my personal experience in detail, so if the subject makes you nervous, perhaps read something else on my blog.

Andrew Denton is someone I have admired for a long time because of his interview style (if you want to watch empathy in action just watch his interviews) but my admiration has gone up tenfold for taking this subject on.  Andrew has gone on a journey to find if there is an answer to how we can have a better death for people who are suffering incurable diseases and conditions where quality of life is no longer an option.   He’s looking for a better way to help those suffering from terminal illness to end their life.  Listen to him through this conversation with Richard Fidler.

My sister was diagnosed in 2009 with breast cancer and by that time, it had spread to her liver and in her hip bone.  Christina was the brainy one of the family… The eldest of 4 daughters… She had 6 languages conquered and could do mathematics to the level of an actuary, so she knew very quickly what the probability of her survival was.  She used that brain to research and scour every science journal and research paper and refused treatments she knew were not of benefit to her, based on probability and the science, knowing she had a death sentence and aimed for quality of life instead.  So she got 5 years more out of life instead of the 6 months they gave her to live when first diagnosed… And they were mostly good years too!  Not full of pain or discomfort or endless chemo or radiation treatments.  She cleaned up her diet, moved to the Gold Coast to bask in the sun and exercised and got happy.  She lived her life by her terms and not her doctors (or her families).  But she always knew the clock was ticking.  She also knew that death could be painful and distressing…  She fixated on that a lot and who could blame her.  She had very robust conversations with her doctors and everyone who would listen about it.

I can remember the phone conversation clearly…  The first time she told me she was going to take her own life.  I think we spoke for about and hour and it was confronting.  I had once attended a suicide prevention workshop that helped prepare me for clients who may express suicidal thoughts, but this was different.  Christina was not depressed, she was not irrational… She was being very rational.  She didn’t want someone else to decide how she should die.  She didn’t want the indignity of having her partner or family wipe her bum or clean up her vomit or watch her fade into a painful puddle on the bed.  She wanted out before it got to that stage. She made me swear to secrecy and I honoured that.

Christina was a complex woman.  Highly intelligent, also on the ASD spectrum and had a tough time filtering her words so in the end it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that she’d talk her plan of euthanasia through with everyone and I mean EVERYONE she came in contact with.  So much of her life choices and situation was broadcast so why would this have been any different?!

In the last year of her life when things started to get hairy, I spent time with her and sat with her during doctors visits and treatments (that she finally agreed to) and I could see that every medical person that came in contact with her could totally admire her for her obvious intelligence and ability to speak technical medical lingo (most thought she was a doctor) and then she would blurt out her plans to end it and I’d see their discomfort and need to shut her down.  Most didn’t want to entertain her conversation around euthanasia.  Some encouraged and understood her decision but didn’t or couldn’t be seen to encourage it in public.  They told her to keep it quiet, but she couldn’t, she processed her thoughts, tested her theories with everyone around her.  She had oncologists in two cities and GP’s sending her to psychologists to treat her for depression only to be given a clean mental bill of health.  She was not depressed.  She was very logical and rational.  Even the psychologists could see that.

Most people, even in the business of terminal illness, couldn’t entertain the conversation so they just wanted her to go away or be quiet about it.  Just not have the conversation at all.

But Christina was not like that.

She made you think about it.

Her lack of filter and rational thought made you realise… Hey this situation is not right.

Why should she NOT have control over when and how she died?

Why should she suffer pain and lack of dignity when there were options to help her avoid that?

She was also so enraged with the association of religion to her inevitable death… Many of the hospice and hospitals that specialize in cancer treatments are run by religious organisations that advocate against euthanasia.  She was frustrated that a religion, she didn’t even believe in, had control over the way she died.  That she would have to suffer because of their beliefs really pushed her to find an alternative solution.

So she did.

She scammed a couple of her doctors and got a lethal cocktail of drugs she knew would cause an easy death but she was concerned that she may get these doctors into trouble.  She had a huge amount of compassion for others… Even when I encouraged her to think about her own needs (yes at this point I was totally supporting her rational decision) she couldn’t bring herself to potentially affect their careers.

So she had an alternative plan… She went to a Euthanasia meeting put on by Dr Philip Nitschke and purchased a gas cylinder and instructions on how to use it.

Now, let me make this clear to all who do not know how this is done…  AND THIS IS  DISTRESSING TO KNOW…

This kit requires the owner to, by themselves, construct a sealed plastic bag that encloses the entire head, doesn’t allow any air flow and just allows for a tube to go into the bag in which you release this gas that makes you got to sleep quickly and then stops you breathing.  Can you imagine that for a moment?

You have to do this alone.

You have to construct it yourself, because you don’t want to implicate your partner, family or friends in your death because it’s illegal to help someone die.  So it has to be done by your hand.

You have to insist your love ones not be there when you put that bag on.

You have to stick a bag on your head…

You have to connect the gas and turn on the tap.

You have to die alone… Unassisted and looking through plastic.

When I asked Christina, because I knew she would know the answer, how many people actually go through with this?  She said, compared to how many people buy the kit?… Not many.

I could understand why.  If you’re not depressed, then everything in your mind is trying to keep you from doing what was being asked of you.

I asked her if she thought she could go through with it… She said she didn’t know.

Fast forward to her going down hill quickly…. She was in the hospital for liver problems… Her abdomen was swelling up… She looked 9 months pregnant and had to have her stomach cavity drained regularly to relieve the pressure. Her liver was failing. She was uncomfortable, in pain and over hospital visits.  She was now spending more time in hospitals and with doctors and less time actually living.

She wanted it over.  Quality of life was now almost non existent.

I could see her fight was gone.

It was a roller coaster ride for her and those supporting her.

She was ready and determined to end it now.

She had a plan and we were all to go along with it.

I wanted to be there for her but she said no, she didn’t want either me or her husband implicated with her death.  I said it was OK if she couldn’t do it, that we’d go to plan C if that was the case.

I spent a horrible morning with my other sister waiting… Just waiting for her husband to show up (part of the plan was to have him with us on some pretense of returning a book and having a cup of tea)… I mowed my healthy sisters lawn.  We kept our other sister and mother in the dark, not wanting to stress them out anymore than they already were.

We waited, we cleaned the house and finally I got a phone call from Christina.  I didn’t even ask, I just said, “It’s OK, we’ll just go to the next plan”.  I couldn’t blame her for not doing it… I couldn’t have done that by myself either.  It seemed so cruel to me that she had to do it alone.

For every scary distressing, challenging moment in my life I had the option of having supportive family around.  I could see how inhumane this whole experience was for her and all of us.  It just wasn’t fair.

I had no choice but to engage with the hospice and we had her examined and admitted.  The nurse who came to assess her at home believed she had weeks to live and not days as Christina thought.  She was wrong.  Christina died 7 days later pumped to her eyeballs of drugs and alone in a room early in the morning.  While we all had been with her as much as possible, we were not able to stay over night and she was consequently alone when she passed away.

I was in bed at my sisters place when I felt her presence.  It was actually the smell of her breath that came into the room and then left.  I thought it was odd, because it was so distinctly her smell.  Then my sister walked in not 10 minutes later having received the call from Christina’s husband that she was gone.  I was relieved for her and incredibly sad too.

Anyone who has witnessed a love one deteriorate from illness or an incurable disease will know the pain of watching that person go through pain and disappear before their eyes.   The pain and helplessness of not being able to truly help them other than walk along side until you cannot anymore… Those last steps in death they must take alone.

I had a beautiful dog who developed cancer and we gave him all our love and attention and when the time came, when he couldn’t get up and play anymore, we called the vet and he came and put him into a deep sleep in our lounge room and then administered the heart stopping drug.  We were all there telling him it was OK, that we loved him and he died looking into our loving eyes being stroked.

I could do that for my dog but not my sister.

That’s why we need this conversation.  That’s why we need to change the way we legislate how we deal with incurable conditions that rob all quality of life.

It needs to be a personal decision not tied to any form of religion.  Not everyone believes in it and they shouldn’t be forced to die by rules they don’t agreed to or believe in.

It can be regulated.  It can be humane.  It should be a personal decision.

She had a right to a better death


The pain of growing up

No one can accurately prepare you for children… For the birthing experience or the change in your relationship with yourself and your partner after that baby has entered your life.  However, you do grow with it… It is a change that is suddenly there and cannot be avoided once it’s happened and most of us just go with the flow and try and work it out as we go along.  We get into a rhythm that is comforting if not always full of sleep or very many peaceful moments.  Life with children is both rewarding and challenging!

At each stage of our children’s growth we think to ourselves, if only this stage wasn’t so hard …

If only this baby would let me sleep a bit longer…

If only I had more hands, time, help and space to myself…

If only I could have a night off to go out and party like I use to or not want to go to sleep the moment I do get a night off…

If only they would just eat what I gave them!

If only they would stop growing so fast out of their clothes/shoes…

If only they didn’t tell the teacher off or hit that little girl in the play ground…

If only they didn’t grow up so fast!… How can it be time for high school?!

If only they’d listen to me and avoided that friend… disappointing score…bad school report…

If only they would try instead of giving up…

If only they didn’t want to give up on their music lessons… drama class… soccer team… that I put them in to help develop them..

If only they didn’t hang around that mean kid…

If only they thought better of themselves that they didn’t do xyz ….

If only I didn’t have to drive them around everywhere…

If only they would slow down in our driving lessons!

If only they didn’t stress too much/too little about that exam…

If only they didn’t work so little/so hard!

There are so many “if only” moments even for children that seem to relatively breeze through life.  However, all of these pale in comparison to the single most painful and unprepared moment in your child’s life… [click to continue…]

I’ve got your back… Creating strong relationships

The concept of “I’ve got your back” has come up regularly in client sessions, especially couples work, because we want to know our partner supports us, is loyal to us and will stand by us when we are vulnerable and facing a challenge with a friend, collegues or family dispute.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you take their side but that you take the time to listen to their views, empathise with them and support them to see the bigger picture and find leverage and solutions.

This also needs to be applied to your growing children.  When a child begins to branch out and find their tribe, discover their own values and become a thoughtful individual, then we also need to change tact and support that growth by not enforcing our views on them but encouraging creative and thoughtful thinking.  We need creative thinkers in this world and not blind followers that can’t see the bigger picture.

We can model values, we can discuss views, consequences of views,  but it’s important to allow our partners and children to come to their own conclusions.  To encourage individuality we do need to act as consultants because Tweens and teenagers often fall into the trap of following the crowd (who ever they are hanging around with).  So if you are disturbed by some of their views, you need to have the kind of relationship that supports challenging their thinking without making them turn their backs on you… You need to be open to listening to both sides, to have their back no matter what. [click to continue…]

Food for toddlers and what to avoid

Last year I did this great podcast with Monique (the Nourished Psychologist) where we covered what to avoid for when choosing food for toddlers or even older.

The toddler years are crucial when it comes to food because not only are you formulating their palate but their brain is rapidly growing and requires all the right nutrients to help it along.  In the podcast we cover 5 foods (some of them are groups) and why it’s good to avoid them.  Many of these foods cause problems in the digestion system and it’s because of that and the fact that we take 25% of our daily food intake to power our brain, that we need to be careful.

Did you know that food can:

  • Affect your emotions?  Many people don’t have physical reactions but emotional reactions.  So some foods can create anxiety, depression and contribute to children melting down.
  • Create inflammation in your body?  Sore joints are one thing, but include inflammation in your organs and even your skin (i.e eczema, allergies) not to mention your brain (fuzzy thoughts, inability to listen or comprehend).
  • Disrupt sleep or create problems going to sleep?  The thing that keeps your child awake at night, gives them nightmares or has them crawling into your bed night after night may actually be food.

If you’re wondering what to buy, (when planning food for toddlers / older children) and have any of the above problems, you may want to listen to this podcast for yourself.  This one is free!

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Taming your Toddler or the Terrible Twos…

It’s a hideous headline, I know!  But unfortunately both the “Taming your Toddler” and “Terrible Twos” terms were coined by previous parenting authors as a way of connecting to frustrated parents and this was prior to understanding how a toddler’s brain works.

So we need to think differently, because we have new information AND we need to change the way we look at our children because of that.  We also need to avoid labels for our children, they do more harm that good.  Instead I’ll help you understand what stage of development they are going through and for that you need to dive into the world of neuroscientist Daniel Siegal.

This is why I did a whole webinar on this subject… It’s easier to listen to, (I’ve also given you the written theory too).  It’s called Ready to decode your toddler?  In it, I cover how the brain works and how to tell if your toddler is doing what they should be doing at their age.  We rename it from “Terrible Two’s” to something much more indicative of what is going on.

I also give you some specific ways to manage challenging toddler moments (which are normal by the way!!!).  It’s really our response that causes problems.  So I give you some strategies to help you through them too, so you get more good times and less struggle.

I also help you with a step by step process to follow to set healthy boundaries that leaves both of you still connected, feeling loved and without the struggles.

Sound good?

It’s worth the $20 AUD investment (which covers my webinar software).

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I have to stop watching ‘Making a Murderer’ – which shows clearly why children lie!

I took a break from work over the Christmas period and switched onto a documentary called Making of a Murder on Netflix.  Here’s the over view of this series…

Netflix’s Making a Murderer — a bleak, somber true crime documentary that consists mainly of courtroom footage — has become an unexpected sensation. The series, which traces the story of Wisconsinite Steven Avery, uses Avery’s case as a lens to examine the American legal system as a whole. Avery was convicted of a vicious sexual assault in 1985 but exonerated after nearly two decades in prison, when DNA evidence cleared him of the crime and led to the conviction of someone else. However, in 2005, just a couple of years after Avery’s 2003 release, he was the last person to see photographer Teresa Halbach alive — and evidence seemed to suggest he killed her. Avery went to trial in 2007, was convicted of Halbach’s murder, and has been in prison ever since.

Source and interesting article: Netflix’s Making a Murderer: the directors explain what many have missed about the series – Vox

It’s not that it’s seems so fantastical as to how the case unfolded but the treatment of the individuals accused that shocked me, especially the 16 year old nephew who is co-accused of doing murder.

I couldn’t watch what happened to him… right on camera… with even experts in collecting confessions expressing concerns over how he was questioned and the form of his so called confession.

This is a young man… with an IQ of 69 (that’s really low) who clearly did not know what the impact of his words were… He just didn’t have the intellectual capacity to comprehend and did what he was told.  He was lying to stop the adults from interrogating him.

He’s been programmed since birth to do what he was told…

His survival mechanism kicked in and he did what he thought he needed to do to get out of the situation… he complied.

He lied.

He guessed many times until he got out what they wanted him to say and in the end… he even wrote and drew pictures with the interrogators/investigators telling him what to do.

So after hours of relentless coercion and pressure and obvious confusion, he repeated back what the interrogators wanted him to and not what he knew was his truth.  He tried to speak and write his truth but was shut down…

Called a liar and threatened with his mom being really angry with him for telling a lie (which of course was a lie, his mom didn’t have anything to do with the law enforcement and this child had no protection from these determined adults).

And it made me wonder…

Just how blind can we as adults be? [click to continue…]

Fear based parenting… it’s damaging to you both

Fear based parenting drives you to be controlling, to pull the reins in, to be that “proactive” parent who’s making sure their toddler/child/teen isn’t going to grow into a drug addict or drunk like your mother/father/grandarent/brother/sister did.  It’s attaching another person’s story to your child that looks at what’s happened in the past or a worry about the future.  It completely ignores the present moment, the child and their needs.  It pushes you to take control in a way that disconnects you from your child.  It leaves you doubting yourself and worrying about what’s going to happen next.  

Will it get worse?  Will they be more angry at you?   Manipulative or defiant?  Yes, they will.  Your controlling is creating that.  Your anger pushes them away.

 You’re missing the cause of the behaviour and instead treating the symptom.  So your child’s need is still unmet, still ignored, because you haven’t liked how they’ve gone about getting it.  As you continue to treat their behaviour as sign of future problems or worse, a personal attack on you and everything you’re trying to do for them, you continue to miss out on finding the real reason why they are behaving this way.  As you continue to use power to control or defeatism /victimisation as a way to manipulate them into your idea of what they should be, you shut them down and create a place of distrust between the two of you.  You resent them, they resent you. 

This esculates for a number of years as you try to mold them and then, come teen or tween years, they begin to lie more elaborately and hide their behaviour from you… 

until one day… 

you get the biggest shock of your life…..  

Your child either lashes out at you or someone else or themselves (self harm) or worse, they get themselves into a situation that you have no control over, no strategy to avoid it, and they are hurt badly.

If you’re on this bandwagon, I hope that you read this and stop.  If you’re that controlling and fearful parent, who maybe sees the worst in their child, or imagines because your child acts or has mannerisms of another family member (who has anger, drug, alcohol or other issues) that your child will too… then stop.  

Stop controling behaviour and start connecting to your child.

Parenting programs that focus on behaviour modification are based in fear.  Fear that they child is out of control and needs to be reined in.  They focus on the behaviour and not the child and don’t strengthen the connection..  Unfortunately this form of parenting/behaviour management has been encouraged for years and it’s wrong.  

Even the child protection services know that now.  Recently I met about 50 of them at a training intensive and they told me that there is a swing away from behaviour management because it damages the relationship even further and creates a manipulative, angry and avoidant child.

We need to focus on the child, the present moment and build connection.  It’s only through connection, seeking to understand their needs, that we can help the child learn natural consequences and ways to meet their needs that work for the whole family.  It’s also a way for you to truly see and appreciate your child as an individual and not a mini you/other parent/other relative.  It’s a way for you to appreciate their strengths and not focus on your fears around their potential flaws.

When you’re in connection with your child you don’t take their behaviour as a personal attack, you see it as a way to seek what they want and an opportunity to teach them about relationships, empathy and problem solving.  When your child is in overwhelm, you can remain connected and help them to calm down instead of isolating them in time out.  You can help them regulate their emotions because you are right there with them and being calm, kind and yet stronger and wiser.  You’re being the adult, the parent and the teacher.

Initially it may take some time and loads of unlearning and some learning more effective strategies to help you.  It will also take self awareness to notice when you fall back into fear based parenting.  The more awareness, the more conscious efforts to understand their needs, your needs and how to meet them, the easier this job of parenting becomes.  You will find your family dynamic will change, flow naturally and support and connection will be used daily, minimising the out bursts, meltdowns and push backs.  Your children will want to naturally help you, without coercion.  They will come to understand you more and even empathise with you when you need it.

You just need to get past your fear.  

Fear of change…

Fear of the lack of control (which was always an illusion)…

When you’re ready, you can learn how to do this…

Become a conscious parent

Understand a child’s need

Understand how to lead, model and teach them how to be in this world.

It’s so satisfying, loving and amazing when you’re in that space.  Trust me, I’ve tried both…. I’m not going back to controlling… ever!