With the new school year under way, many South African adolescents are living with the reality of important decisions that they made towards the end of 2016. Specifically, Grade 10’s will be discovering whether or not they are satisfied with the subject choices that they committed to, and new school leavers will be wrangling with the choices they have made about their future. Grade 9’s will probably be imagining what subjects they will choose towards the end of this year and Grade 11’s and 12’s will no doubt be thinking about such things as university applications and career choices.
Choosing a career is one of the most significant choices that an individual will make in his or her life time. This choice starts at the tender age of only about 14, when subject choices either open or close doors on a wide variety of potential career choices. The biggest moment however, is when adolescents reach Grade 11 and 12 when they have to decide whether or not to apply for University and which course or direction to pursue. Essentially, adolescents of 16, 17, 18 are expected to make a life defining choice that will influence the rest of their lives. So, how do we know whether or not an adolescent is actually ready to make a career choice?
Research has been done into the concept of career maturity. This is actually quite a complex concept but it essentially boils down to whether or not the individual knows enough about themselves and their interests, as well as the realities of the world of work, to make an informed decision about their career. Fortunately, this research has shed some light onto what characteristics make an adolescent more likely to display career maturity. A career mature individual:
- Displays emotional stability
- Has a well adjusted home life
- Has good relationships with others
- Has higher levels of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-control
- Are more outgoing and “spontaneously participate in events, discussions and tasks…(are) focussed on getting tasks done, are generally assertive and astute in nature, are adventurous in their outlook on life and have a practical rather than an imaginative approach
- Does not delay completing important tasks and has good time management skills which enable them to meet their academic demands
- Has good study habits and a positive attitude towards education and work
- Possesses an internal locus of control – in other words, they take ownership of themselves and take more responsibility in securing their future
No link was made with cognitive ability. In other words, the intelligence of the child does not matter so much as how the child applies him/herself. Age was found to be a factor, with individual’s between the ages of 19 and 24 displaying greater levels of career maturity than younger people.
This research is useful in that it can broaden our perspective on how to help children who are facing a lot of indecision about their careers. Perhaps they would be better able to make a decision regarding their career if their home life was more stable, they had better relationships with others and their self-esteem was improved? Perhaps they require assistance with study skills or time management? Perhaps they are too quick to blame others and do not take sufficient accountability for their own actions? This research helps us to understand that interest and passion in a certain field of study are not sufficient when it comes to making the important decision of which career to pursue. It is a much broader issue and any problems with it, may require a broader solution.
The Balancing Act: Achieving a balance between your personal and professional life Work/ Life Balance
Most people would agree that life is far more frantic today than it was fifty years ago. People work longer and harder, technology is more advanced, international travel is easier and gender roles are substantially more equal. Fifty years ago men went out to work and women took care of the home. Today, many women not only have ‘jobs’ but ‘careers’ of their own. Frequently, child care and domestic responsibilities are now shared between men and women and often have to be desperately ‘squeezed in’ between work hours. Fifty years ago reduced technology meant that when you left work at the end of the day, you were able to literally leave work behind you. With the advent of such things as personal computers, cell phones and internet technology, work is increasingly creeping out the office door and into people’s homes. Add to this the growth of the ‘global village’ caused by the ease of international travel and communication, and you get men and women communicating and travelling across time zones. Exciting stuff, but again, the boundaries between work time and home time become blurry as people try to accommodate the realities of conducting business in this modern area.
All things considered, men and women today have to pay increasingly particular attention to proactive ways in which they can balance their home life with their work life. Fortunately, this is not only an individual problem. Many companies have become more and more aware that they need to develop policies and strategies in order to help their employees maintain what is now termed a ‘work/life balance’. Ask your company of they have any policies in place that you might be able to make use of.
This article will provide a definition of what is meant by work/ life balance; will outline some of the strategies companies can employ to increase their employees work/life balance; will discuss some of the factors that prevent individual employees from taking advantage of these strategies, and will examine additional changes individual employees can make to increase their general life satisfaction.
What is Work/Life Balance?
Most people have to juggle a work life with a personal life. When the combined demands of work life and home life become too great, conflict between these two domains of one’s life may result. Thus, work can start interfering negatively on your home life and conversely, your personal life may impact negatively on your productivity at work. This conflict between work and home is what defines a lack of balance between work and life. Thus, balance does not necessarily mean a literal balance between the time and energy you put into work and home. For most people this is unrealistic and need not be the goal. Rather, balance refers to one’s capacity to meet the needs and demands of both work and home without stress or tension. Having said this, the concept of balance ideally goes beyond simply the avoidance of conflict, to include a state in which an individual is able to find pleasure and fulfilment in both aspects of his or her life. Recent research has even suggested that it should be possible to take this concept one step further. That is, rather than simply aiming to reduce conflict between work and home life, it is possible that on the other end of the scale there could even be a positive relationship between the two domains. That is, skills learnt at work (such as conflict resolution) could enhance relationships at home. Similarly, benefits acquired at home (such as positive mood and emotional support), could increase productivity at work. This positive relationship between work and home has been termed ‘facilitation’. Importantly, the benefits of facilitation can include “improved physical health and well-being, better marriages and parent-child interactions and better organisational outcomes such as job satisfaction, commitment and productivity”.
Unfortunately, there is no simple solution or formula for creating balance in any one individual’s life. Not only can one’s needs change from day to day, but an individuals needs will change dramatically over the course of a lifetime. Thus, young people who are unmarried and do not have children may desire to put more energy into their career. These needs will no doubt change once that same person gets married or has children. Older employees might feel a need to cut down on work time and devote more time to leisure pursuits or they might need to spend increased amounts of time taking care of elderly parents. Thus, although work/life balance is something that everyone needs to consider, the solutions for creating this balance will differ from individual to individual.
Why is it important to establish a balance between work and home?
Research has shown that conflict between work and home can lead to negative consequences such as increased job dissatisfaction, decreased organisational commitment, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and higher rates of staff turnover. In addition, conflict between these two domains has also been linked to depression, anxiety and higher levels of family conflict. It is therefore clear that work life conflict is not only bad for individuals and their families, but that it is bad for companies too.
What can YOU do to improve your quality of life and reduce stress?
Apart from taking advantage of work/life balance policies, there are other steps that employees can take to ensure that they lead happier, healthier, more balanced lives. These include some of the following:
- Attend to your physical health. If you suspect that your health is not at an optimum level for your age, ensure that you obtain a medical check up and address any medical concerns that you might have. In order to improve your physical health you may also have to make lifestyle changes such as increasing the amount of physical exercise you engage in, increasing your sleep and decreasing your alcohol or nicotine intake.
- Attend to your psychological health. If you have been experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety (such as difficulty falling asleep, irritability, depressed mood, and changes in appetite) or any other symptoms that you might be concerned about, ensure that you seek the appropriate help for them. This might involve consulting your General Practitioner who can refer you to the appropriate mental health practitioner, or it might involve using the many resources that are provided to you through ICAS.
- Reflect on your priorities and values. Are you are spending time and energy on the things that are important to you? If you have few family responsibilities and are more than happy to work 24/7, then that might be appropriate for you and no changes may be necessary. However, if you would prefer to be spending more time with friends or family or engaged in leisure pursuits, identify the areas you would like to put more energy into and find a way to accomplish this. This can be easier said than done and may involve a complete change in lifestyle (such as accepting a drop in income in order to spend more time at home), or it may involve some simple steps (such as waking up half an hour earlier to go for a run or to meditate before the children awake).
- Examine practical ways of getting more out of your time: if you have a million and one tasks to complete, make a list and order them in terms of priorities. Start working through the list and focus on getting things done, rather than panicking about the things that you are not doing. Delegate responsibility to others where possible. This refers to your work life, where you may need to accept that you cannot complete all tasks independently, but it also might refer to your home life as well. Is it possible that your children/ wife/ husband/ domestic worker could be doing some of the tasks that you have been taking on unnecessarily?
The bottom line is that achieving a balance between work and life is an extremely personal affair. An organisation may have a host of work/life balance options available to employees but it is ultimately up to individual employees to take advantage of them. In a similar vein, employees cannot rely solely on organisational policies to improve their work/life balance. Rather, they may need to more critically examine their values and priorities and make proactive changes in order to balance their daily activities with these priorities and values. However, doing so is difficult in the absence of organisational support and it is also important for companies to support and promote the work/life balance initiatives and policies that they devise.
September is Suicide Awareness Month and 10 September is International Suicide Awareness Day. This year’s campaign slogan is ‘connect, communicate, care’. In this spirit, I would like to share some of my experiences of working with suicidal individuals, in order to educate you on the risk factors and warning signs so that you can connect, communicate and care if needed.
In my practice I work with people experiencing suicidal thoughts almost every day. These individuals range on a continuum from low risk for suicide, to very high risk for suicide and the way I approach them differs greatly depending on their degree of risk. Some individuals are at low risk. They have thoughts of dying, but they have never considered how they would go about doing this and have no intention of following through with their suicidal thoughts. These individuals are not overwhelmed by hopelessness and despair and are able to find other means of solving their problems or dealing with their difficult emotions. Significantly, they are able to appreciate that life can get better and that whatever is causing the suicidal thoughts will pass. Importantly, these individuals are not abusing any substances and are not impulsive in their behaviour. They have stable and supportive relationships with significant others. A person in this situation does not require emergency intervention but it would be useful to help them gain professional help to assist them with the underlying feelings that are causing the suicidal thoughts.
On the other side of the spectrum are individuals who are at high risk for suicide. These individuals have a very high degree of hopelessness and significant despair about their current circumstances and their future. They feel that life will always be emotionally painful and they long for the peace that death can offer. These individuals have thought in detail about how they will kill themselves and may even have researched various options. They might have started making preparations for their death such as writing letters to loved one’s and sorting out their affairs or giving away special belongings. These individuals may or may not have attempted suicide in the past. Also at high risk, are individuals who may not be as determined and organised as the above individual, but who are abusing substances and/or are impulsive in their behaviour. These individuals may attempt suicide ‘in the heat of the moment’. Especially concerning are individuals who feel socially isolated or whose relationships are characterised by a high degree of conflict.
Unfortunately, people who are at high risk do not always tell anyone how they are feeling and they take action in private. Still, you might notice certain behaviour changes that could alert you to the fact that someone is suicidal. These include:
Social withdrawal. An individual starts spending much time alone or isolated. In the case of teenagers, parents might notice that where their child was once spending time engaged in family life, their child is now isolating himself permanently in his room. To be clear, this alone does not suggest suicide, but can can be an indicator that there is a problem and it might be worth connecting and communicating with the individual in order to understand how they are feeling and why they are withdrawing.
Giving away special belongings. Taken out of context, this might appear that the individual is being generous or sentimental and this very well might be the case. However, it is worth probing and finding out what is motivating this behaviour.
Change in mood. A person who is suicidal is more often than not depressed. You may notice that an individual who used to be well put together and functional suddenly appears lethargic, sad, irritable or angry. They may loose interest in previously enjoyed activities and their performance in work or school might decline. They may appear slightly dishevelled and you may notice a change in their sleeping patterns….sleeping a lot more than usual or being unable to sleep. They may lose weight or alternatively gain weight.
Expressions of hopelessness. Hopelessness is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide. Some people may be direct in their expression of hopelessness saying things such as ‘what is the point’. They may talk about death and dying. Or they may be more subtle. You might start noticing that they have stopped making plans for the future or that their attitude towards themselves has become very negative ‘I’m worthless’.
Substance abuse. Substance abuse alone does not make an individual at risk for suicide. But, if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide or have an unstable mood, substance abuse can often lower an individuals inhibitions enough that they act on their emotions whilst in an inebriated state. If an individual is experiencing suicidal thoughts and using substances, they are at greater risk for suicide.
Planning their suicide. Obviously if you find direct expressions of suicide you should take these very seriously. Letters, notes, evidence of research into suicide methods, stockpiling medication, accessing knives, rope, guns, or poison, should be taken very seriously and professional help should be sought immediately.
What should you do if you have noticed these warning signs and are concerned that a loved one might be suicidal? As this year’s slogan suggests, connect, communicate and care. Do not be afraid to talk about your concerns directly to the person involved. I often hear loved one’s saying that they are scared to talk about it, in case they put idea’s into the individuals head or in case they are wrong and they cause offence. This is not the case at all. Talking about it can help the individual feel less isolated and more understood. This alone can make a significant difference but it can also enable you to assess the level of risk so that you can get the individual the help that they need.
Questions to ask include: Do you have suicidal thoughts? Have you thought about how you would do it? Do you have access to the things required to carry out your plan? Have you decided on when and where you would do it? How hopeless do you feel about the future? If there are positive answers to these questions, the person is at high risk. Practically, it is important to remove any means of suicide – weapons, poison, medication, knives, rope to name a few. Most importantly, do not leave a highly suicidal person on their own and seek professional help.
Many people do not know that a highly suicidal person can simply arrive in the emergency room of any hospital. Arrive at casualty and explain the problem. The doctors will then be able to take over to ensure the safety of the individual and to start accessing the treatment that they require. There are also professional organisations such as Lifeline and SADAG who have helplines that you can phone. SADAG can be accessed on 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393. Lifeline numbers vary depending on your area but Johannesburg is 011 728 1331.
If you are feeling suicidal yourself and you identify with the risk factors that I have mentioned, consider taking the steps mentioned above, or opening up to a loved one. Very few problems are untreatable, most problems have many different solutions and you are almost certainly more loved than you are currently able to realise.
Lastly, do not dismiss suicidal behaviour as attention seeking or selfish. Individuals who are highly suicidal do not believe that they are of any value to their loved one’s and more often than not, believe that their loved one’s would be better off without them. Do not judge… connect, communicate, care.
This is the final instalment in this Positive Parenting Series. I hope you have found some of the advice beneficial. I would love to hear from you about what has been useful or what has not helped, so please be in touch. Next week I will be turning my head to some adult matters, so stay tuned.
I have already suggested that praise and encouragement is more useful than punishment. However, there are some situations when punishment will need to be used. When using punishment to change your child’s behaviour, it is important that the punishment is reasonable, and that it is suitable for the age of your child. For example, putting a two year old in time-out for half an hour will be too long, whilst putting a 12 year old in time-out for half an hour might be appropriate. Here are a few examples of ways in which you can punish a child for undesirable behaviour:
Time-out can be an effective way to punish your child. Putting a child in time-out involves taking them away from a stimulating environment, and placing them in an environment that is lacking in interesting activities. For very young children, this can simply be a corner of a room, or a mat that is slightly removed from other activities. For older children, this can be a room in the house such as a bedroom or bathroom.
Taking away privileges or treats can be a useful punishment, but again, only if it is done in a reasonable manner. Taking away a big treat or privilege for a relatively minor offence will only build resentment in your child, and may lose its impact as an effective means of changing behaviour.
Ignoring undesirable behaviour can also be a valuable punishment. Some children engage in undesirable behaviour simply to attract attention from a significant person. By ignoring the behaviour, this kind of attention-seeking is discouraged. If this is done in conjunction with paying attention to positive behaviour, then children will learn how to get attention from others in a positive, rather than a negative manner.
Just remember, if you have been using other means of disciplining your child, you can expect a worsening in behaviour when you start using some of the techniques that have been suggested. For this reason, you need to hang in there and persevere for some time before you will notice improvements in your child’s behaviour. Most importantly however, children require warmth and affection more than they require fancy methods of discipline. With a solid foundation of love from you, your child will be absolutely fine, regardless of the specific methods of discipline that have been used in the past or in the future.
This is a great resource for parents and teachers with pre-prepared star charts that you can download:
This website contains information and advice from an educational psychologist on topics such as behavior modification and ADHD. It includes tips for teachers.
The following are links for two different pages of the same website. They include some useful information and practical tips on behavior modification and parenting skills. The website also provides links to other useful resources and information on parenting skills.
My last blog explored the importance of ‘natural consequences’. Following on from this I would like to share with you a blog post from Carolynes Corner that I recently came across. Our ideas overlap but she includes the added dimension of the concept of failure… And how important it is for children to learn to fail. Being comfortable with failing every once in a while encourages children to take risks and try new activities….even if they don’t know for sure that they can do it. It also helps them to bounce back and to be resilient during times of failure, as opposed to becoming stuck and inhibited by their failures. Most importantly it helps them trust that you love them regardless of whether they got an A on a test or came last in the long jump… Your unconditional love for them is reinforced through their failures… And that is a total winner in my book.
Although it can be hard to watch your child fail, it can be a very effective option to allow your child to experience the natural consequences of his or her behaviour. Rather than argue with your child over every matter, make your child aware of the consequences of his or her behaviour and then let him or her experience it. This obviously does not apply to situations where your child might come to some harm if you were to let his or her behaviour go unchecked. Not only will this teach your child to be internally responsible for monitoring his or her behaviour (as opposed to relying solely on external messages from other people), but it means that you do not need to spend the energy trying to control every aspect of your child’s day. In this way, you will have more energy to engage in positive activities with your child. Examples of letting your child experience natural consequences include the following:
If your child routinely relies on you to pack his sports clothes, and you are tired of nagging and harassing, point out to your child that if he does not pack his sports clothes, then he will… (Get into trouble, feel silly, be unable to play sport – whatever the consequence may be). Once you have done this, leave your child alone. If he does not take his sports clothes, he will experience these uncomfortable consequences and will no doubt make more of an effort to remember his clothes in the future.
Rather than hounding your child to complete homework, allow them to make their own decisions but then live with the consequences… getting into trouble at school, getting a demerit or not doing so well on a test.
These natural consequences need to be age appropriate, as it would not be fair to apply the above example to a very young child. However, even young children can learn through experiencing natural consequences. For example, a 2 year old who wants to bite into a lemon can be left to do so. The experience will be unpleasant, but no harm will come of it and they will learn that lemons are bitter. In this situation, leaving the child to explore her world and learn through experience is a better option than trying to pry a lemon out of her hand, possibly getting into a situation of conflict.
It is possible that the hardest part of allowing your child to experience natural consequences is to tolerate your own anxiety or frustration whilst watching your child step into a difficult or uncomfortable situation. If you find it very difficult to manage your own emotions, or if you find your desire to overly control your child’s world to be overwhelming, you might consider seeking professional assistance.
We are now four weeks into the Positive Parenting Series and I hope that by now not only is your routine set in stone but that your children have realised you will not waver from being consistent and have reached a point of acceptance to the new regime. You may be feeling somewhat shell shocked on the back of the resistance phase but by now you are hopefully experiencing the fruits of your labour in a more peaceful home. If you are not, please feel free to reach out so that I can try and understand what may be proving a stumbling block to change.
Today I would like to talk about using positive reinforcement to shape your children’s behaviour. Sometimes it can be easy to get into a negative cycle of using frequent punishment for unwelcome behaviour. This is especially true when you are stressed and tired. Whilst there is a time and a place for appropriate punishment, children generally respond a lot better to encouragement than they do to moaning. We often notice bad behaviour more than we notice good behaviour and it is a great idea to pay close attention to the times when your child is behaving in a positive way. By doing this, you will be able to acknowledge good behaviour in your child when it occurs. For instance, rather than moaning at your child for making a noise, praise them the next time that they are quietly sitting drawing a picture. A subtle but important difference.
It is important that you are not vague when telling your child what you expect of them. For example, rather than telling your child to be ‘good’, tell them what you actually want of them, such as ‘say please’ or ‘do not hit me’. If there are specific (target) behaviours that you would like to see more of in your child (for example, brushing teeth without being told to; using the toilet independently; getting into bed without making a fuss), then a good way to encourage these behaviours is by rewarding your child when these behaviours occur. A common way of making this fun and exciting for your child is by creating a star chart (see list of resources at the end of this article for some useful links that will provide you with pre-prepared examples). A star chart is simply a list of targeted behaviours, with provision on the page for some sort of symbol that indicates whether or not the behaviour has been completed. This symbol can range from a star, to a tick, to a sticker – whatever will engage your child and get them enthusiastic about the reward system. Once a certain number of stars/ ticks/ stickers have been collected, then a reward can be given. This should be decided in negotiation with your child. Whilst you might believe that you have chosen a nice reward that will act as a motivational force for your child, you may have chosen something that your child has little interest in. In this case, the leverage will be lost and the star chart will fail. Rewards do not have to be big and they do not have to be material. Children love to have special time with a parent or caregiver and the reward could be as simple as taking your child for a ride on their bike or spending half an hour pushing them on a swing. Not only will this encourage desirable behaviour in your child but it will also give you and your child some necessary one-on-one time together.
We are now into the third week of the Positive Parenting Series. By now, I hope that you have a great routine established and that you (and your partner) are finding it easier to be consistent with discipline. At this point it is probably important to warn you that you may have noticed a worsening in your children’s behaviour, rather than the improvement you were expecting. What??? Why????? you ask, with tears in your eyes? You may be encountering a very common phenomenon, which is resistance to change. Let me use an example to try and illustrate what you and your child may be experiencing.
Imagine that you absolutely love drinking tea and drink about 4 or 5 cups a day. Fortunately, you live with a wonderful, kind, tea-maker, who makes you tea on demand every single time you ask, with no complaint. ‘Please may I have some tea?’ you ask, and the tea-maker says ‘Yes! Sure my darling, no problem’. Happiness.
Then one day out of the blue, you ask for tea and instead of an enthusiastic ‘yes’, the tea-maker lays down a boundary… ‘no my darling, I am tired of being the tea-maker and I think it’s time you made your own tea’. ‘What???!!!’, you say. ‘But, I’m confused, you’re the tea-maker!’. So you get a bit more insistent. ‘Please, please make me tea’, you beg. You may even try to bargain or negotiate with the tea-maker ‘If you make me a cup now, I promise I will make the next cup’. But unbelievably, there is still a resounding ‘NO!’. If the tea-maker is very lucky you might at this point give up and accept the new status quo, but chances are you might start getting frustrated. You might say something like, ‘come on, but you’ve been making me tea all my life – why have you now decided to stop?’. You might be defensive and accuse the tea-maker of being selfish and mean and nasty. You might walk away in a huff. You are not used to hearing NO! from the tea-maker and are feeling very disgruntled. Unhappiness.
At this point, the tea-maker is battling with a terrible internal struggle. The tea-maker doesn’t want to make the tea any more but is finding the conflict very difficult to tolerate. A big part of the tea-maker just wants to go back to the way things were – so what if the tea-maker has to make 5 cups of tea a day? maybe it’s worth it? But no, the tea-maker realises resignedly. The tea-maker really does not want to make so many cups of tea any longer. The tea-maker has dreams to become an acrobat and so the tea-maker remains firm.
The next day you might try to ask the tea-maker again, hoping that the tea-maker might have softened or changed their mind. Again, they say NO! and again you get upset – even more upset than on the first day. You cannot imagine why your tea-maker has suddenly started saying NO! You are absolutely outraged. Much unhappiness.
The third day dawns and you still think about asking but you’re also realising that they are likely to say NO!. Just in case, you ask anyway. Again, the answer is NO!. By this time you are tired of raging and fighting and more importantly, it doesn’t matter how angry you get, the tea-maker still says NO! On the fourth day you wake up and make your own tea (and the tea-maker goes on to pursue a lifelong dream as an acrobat in a circus). Peace.
Now, this is a silly little illustration but it displays the stages that children may go through when you first start being consistent with boundaries. None of us like change, even when it can be good for us, and your children are no different. They might initially be confused and shocked, angry and frustrated, they may think that if they just up their behaviour or try to negotiate, that you may change your mind. It may take them some time until they finally reach a sense of acceptance, which then translates into behaviour change. So the challenge for parents at this stage is to hang on tight and ride the wave of your children’s difficult feelings. Wait patiently and kindly (but firmly) for your children to realise that you mean what you say and will not budge.
I know this stage can be very tiring and tough and so I wish you peace and strength as you negotiate it. If you would like extra support or guidance at this stage, please do not hesitate to reach out.
I came across this blog post from Nicole Schwarz at Positive Parenting Connection. Since I’ve just written about the importance of consistency I feel she raises some very valid points and her suggestions highlight the importance of flexibility rather than rigidity when it comes to parenting. Isn’t parenting a challenge in finding a balance!?
Have a read and let me know what you think.
Every morning you wake up early and leap straight into the usual routine – fighting with children to get them out of bed, dressed in school uniform, hair brushed, lunches made, homework in school bags, vitamins taken (and so on and so on). Of course this is all done at break neck speed or else you’ll all be late for school and work. After a hard day at the office, you’re greeted by your energetic bundle of joy who has more energy than you can even remember having. Although you’d love to spend some quality time with your child, you’re tired and would also like to put your feet up with a nice hot cup of tea or cold glass of wine. Within half an hour of walking through the door, youthful exuberance has turned into exhausting hyperactivity, and you’re in a power struggle with your child to get homework done, baths completed, teeth brushed, stories read and everyone into bed at a reasonable hour. You finally win the battle and manage to put your feet up for a short while before collapsing into bed yourself – only to start the cycle all over again the following morning with a brief respite over the weekend.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, then read on to find out some top tips for creating peace and order in your home – enabling you to play with your child AND have some time out for yourself. Each week for the next 6 weeks I will be offering a series of blogs on Positive Parenting, providing valuable and practical advise on how you can create a more peaceful home for you and your children.
The importance of routine: No surprises
You may feel as though your life is mundane and boring and that you do the same activities day in and day out. However, it is possible that your life and that of your children may lack routine. When people get very busy they tend to confront tasks as they arise, rather than planning ahead and sticking to a schedule. One very easy way of adding some peace and order to your family’s life is to start structuring your family’s days in a more regular way. In this manner, both you and your child will know ahead of time what is expected of you, and there will be less room for surprises – and therefore less room for crises. Importantly, children benefit from routine as it gives them a sense that life is ordered and therefore safe. In fact, children with ADHD are particularly responsive to the benefits that a routined daily schedule can offer them. Practically, this means several simple changes to your life:
1. Ensure that your child goes to bed at the same time every night and wakes up at the same time every morning. If young children are getting enough sleep at night, they should wake up on their own in the mornings without having to be woken up by you. Older children may need to be woken, but a great way of teaching them responsibility is to give them the job of getting themselves up independently by using an alarm clock. This has the added benefit of giving you one less task to do in the mornings.
2. Make sure that your child’s bedtime is not too late. Children need at least 9 hours sleep a night and adolescents actually need more sleep than younger children. A reasonable bed time will also enable you to have some quiet time in the evenings. This is an important way for you to rejuvenate yourself in a small way on a daily basis. If you are in a relationship, this will also give you and your partner a chance to have some much needed adult-time.
3. Decide what time is best for homework, and keep to this time every day. Children who really find it difficult to sit down and do their homework can be encouraged to complete it early in the afternoon. Reserving play or pleasurable activities for once homework has been finished is a good way of rewarding your child for a job well done. Conversely, withholding these same activities if homework is neglected is an effective punishment that will not require you to spend hours locked in a verbal argument with your child. An additional benefit is that delaying pleasurable activities until necessary activities are completed is an excellent way of teaching your child impulse control and delayed gratification – qualities that are a prerequisite for mature and responsible behaviour later on in life.
4. Decide on a time that suits your family for other daily tasks such as taking vitamins, brushing teeth and story time. Stick as far as you can to these times in a way that feels comfortable to you.
5. Children also need some free time. Younger children need time to play and older children need the space for activities that they enjoy, such as listening to music or simply lying on their bed day-dreaming. Try to make sure that there is some time during each day for your child to enjoy such age-appropriate fun activities.
Good luck with implementing some of these tips and incorporating them into your daily life. I would love to hear feedback from you on how they have helped to bring about peace in your home. If these steps have not helped, I would love to hear about your experiences so that we can try and understand what could be done differently.