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Kirsty writes regularly here

Posts Tagged parenting support

FIFO Families – Parenting Tips and Tricks

I recently did a short talk at a FIFO family event in Perth.  The energy in the room was high and children were very excited with all the activities that were happening.  A perfect place to share tips and tricks to support parents.

Being Separated by Work, is a minefield of stress triggers for parents and children. Approaches to keep you and your children as stress-free as possible are outlined in video and handout below.

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FIFO Families – Get Organised In The Overwhelm

I recently did a short talk at a FIFO family event in Perth, (hence why there are so many children running across the stage!)

In the video below I will share with you the systems and processes that have worked for my clients and our family over the years.

Keeping to a set routine when Separated by Work is challenging. Every family has different needs and every working away roster has unique demands. Yet having a plan and being organised will decrease the overwhelm, and you will be better able to cope with the day to day tasks and responsibilities.

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How heavy is this glass of water?

I have been on an upward trajectory of achievements and success in the last couple of years.  All my dreams coming true –  going back to study at University, a published book, online membership site, successful business, financial ease, awesome friends and a close family. One would imagine that with all this success all my burdens, stress and worries would get less, or even be non-existant. A huge misperception!

People even often say to me I don’t know how you do it all with Uni, business, family and a husband that works away. They say, you are so strong, and so lucky to have it all! Then they ask me to share with them my secret, or want to know how can I do it all and find peace with some of the horrible things that have happened in my past. They want the magic solution that will change their life in an instant.  I can tell you, that there isn’t a magic solution; unless you call hard work, determination and never giving up in the face of numerous challenges a magic solution.

I usually explain by first assuring them I am neither lucky or completely calm all the time.  I let them know that it is a constant conscious choice to get up, step up, choose the emotional state I want to be in and smile.  And I then share with them one of my favourite parables to illustrate how to honour, recognise, acknowledge, let go of the ‘stuff’ and keep achieving; even in the face of adversity.

Imagine I am holding a glass of water and I ask you – “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter.  It all depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light.  If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little.  If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor.  In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.

Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water.  Think about them for a while and nothing happens.  Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little.  Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralysed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.

My message to you today:  It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries.  No matter what happens during the day. As early in the evening as you can put all your burdens down.  Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you.  If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down.

And that is exactly the way I live my live and teach others to do the same. Work hard, be clear and focused on what you want, don’t get caught up in others dramas, don’t get caught up in your own regrets or what if’s, and always remember that the longer you hold on to the glass the heavier it gets until you are paralysed. Just for today – put it down and let it go – or ask someone to help you ease the burden.

Kirsty 🙂

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Not Home for Birthdays

We have two big birthday months in our home, June and September. My husband has been a FIFO (fly in fly out) worker for the last eight years and he is rarely home for any of the actual days. The first couple of years were the hardest for us all, but as the years went by our family became accustomed to his absence, and we developed ways that everyone’s presence is still felt, and the birthday boy or girl feels special and celebrated.

After talking to many families in similar situations, who ask me for ideas to keep connected when apart on a family member’s special day, I felt moved to share how we celebrate and create birthday memories.

My top six tips for families separated by work on birthdays are:

  1. Overthinking it is the number one enemy! I strongly advise you to not become completely immersed in the fact that you are away or your loved one isn’t there for the special day. This will fuel negative and destructive feelings of missing out, loneliness, isolation and seclusion. This type of thinking will put a dark cloud over all celebrations, which you will regret later.  Instead, attempt to keep as upbeat and prepared as possible, stay focused on a day of festivities and activities, and have a good time.
  2. Just because you are apart, no one is forgotten! Even though one family member is away from home, the day is not less important or forgotten by anyone. It certainly doesn’t even have to be downplayed.  We have instantaneous ways to communicate at our fingertips, we can pop up on screens to join in on the party and we can pre-plan activities to be involved in on the day.  At times, being separated by work on a birthday can make the day seem much more special because of the effort involved.
  3. Let your friends step up and help you celebrate! Instead of downplaying the day, hiding it, or telling people it is no big deal – let others make it a big deal. Even if you must arrange it, (I have found though that friends usually love being a part of the planning) have a group of people around you to make a fuss and celebrate the special occasion.
  4. Always celebrate when together as well! It may not be on the actual date, but pre or post parties and gatherings are always fun. In the future, no one will remember what date it was you celebrated, but everyone will remember how they felt every year being the centre of attention and spoiled for their day. So, look at the roster and plan ahead so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and too hard as the date rapidly arrives.
  5. Be a positive force of festivities for your children! Your children may feel it the most – Mum or Dad isn’t here for their birthday. This is a time when we as parents need to excel in role modelling that their day is still a super special one; that everyone is involved in some way, they may even get two celebrations out of this, and that even though this isn’t everyone’s normal it is our families normal.
  6. Pre-plan, prepare and pre-book! As mentioned above, planning is key whether it is your child’s birthday or yours. Sitting down together and planning the surprises and activities for the day keeps everyone involved and excited. Planting hidden presents and notes around the house or in luggage to be found on the day certainly warms the soul for the receiver, and booking venues and events in advance avoids disappointment.

To finish off, I would like to leave you with some of my favourite activities for celebrating and to inspire you to plan yours and your family’s special moments, whether you are together or apart:

  • Finding hidden notes and presents/scavenger hunt.
  • Spending time with friends.
  • Eating out.
  • Going to the movies.
  • Having a picnic at the beach.
  • Ordering pizza and having movie night at home.
  • Cooking (and cleaning up afterwards) done for me.
  • Treat myself pamper day.
  • Doing something I love doing.
  • Checking something off my ‘bucket’ list.
  • Getting flowers and eating cake.
  • Having lots of good food, laughter and fun.
  • Outdoor activities and hiking.
  • Going to a concert.
  • A weekend getaway.
  • Taking a cooking class.
  • Winery tour.
  • Having a tea party.
  • Painting party.
  • Themed party or get together.
  • Feeling loved, spoilt and special!

I would love to hear your ideas on how you do birthdays when separated by work or when you are apart from your family – and what are your favourite ways to celebrate?

Kirsty 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Reach out if you are struggling

Some people still think that it’s shameful if they have a mental illness, are experiencing a loss of control emotionally or irrational and dark thinking. There are those that assume it shows personal weakness or a failing. If it’s children who have a mental illness, some conclude it reflects the failings of the parents. Stigma and discrimination are the two biggest obstacles to a productive solution-based conversation about mental health.

I have had more people thank me than judge me because I have been so open about my stuff. I have had more people begin to cope again and even love life again, because I, and others like me, have shared our stuff and not hidden it behind the idea of right and wrong.

Mental health is becoming more recognised and discussed however, there is still some intolerance and small mindedness.  There always will be those people who cannot get out of their own way, but acceptance is growing.

A supportive program I have come across, delivered by Mates in Construction, is called the 4C’s. The third C was Caring and the fourth C was Courageous.

It stated in the part for caring— “I am accountable for my actions and actively care for the safety of myself and others—Care about the welfare of my neighbours …. Please keep an eye on your workmates and if someone is acting out of character, or saying things like I don’t see the point anymore, or there is no hope, please reach out to them and discreetly ask them if they’re okay, and if they’re not, help them get in contact with professional resources.”

Courage included the actions of— “I will speak up, provide positive feedback to my peers, and prevent incidents by utilising stop work authority and coaching. This also includes the courage to reach out to a work mate and ask them if they’re okay.”

If you find yourself in the gut wrenching or numb place of despair and your cup is empty, approach your mates, your family and even have a chat to a professional. Everyone at some time is running on empty and it takes courage to ask for help, to make the changes you need to make it to the next day.

From my years of experience personally and professionally, I have found that if you are not okay, nothing else will be, no matter what skill you adopt or distraction you create. The relationship you have with yourself will determine how you think and feel, how you deal with challenges, as well as the relationship you have with everyone else in your life. Your level of self-esteem and the value you put on yourself will determine your performance and productivity.

Activity

Just check in right now. Firstly, take a long slow deep breath. Feel the breath go in through your nose, travel down your throat, fill your lungs, and expand in your belly. Let it sit there for just a moment then exhale, blowing all the air out and as you do feeling a sense of release and calm. Do this a couple more times. Slow and controlled, and with an awareness of how you are already much more relaxed.

Now that you are more calm and centred, ask a few self-check-in questions—

  • How are you feeling?
  • How much do you like yourself?
  • How much do you understand yourself?
  • What are you good at? What do you love doing?
  • What are your favourite things?
  • Do you reward yourself?
  • What do you dislike?
  • Are you a friend to you, or are you your own enemy?
  • Close your eyes and imagine you can see your cup, is it full, empty or half way?
  • Are you aware of your thoughts and the way you think most of the time? What about now?

Take a few minutes to make some notes on your thoughts and findings.

If you discover that you are struggling with something, reach out to another who will listen and support you get back on track. I am here to support you, so please, reach out.

Kirsty 🙂

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Be Conscious of Your Spending – Is This Bringing Value to Your Life?

The more we have, the more we spend. It is human nature. I know that in this household we stopped being so aware of the cost of groceries, and whether we had gone over budget or not when our income increased a few years ago. I didn’t hesitate as much as I previously would have when the children wanted money for outings, takeaway or other consumables.

What ended up happening was all potential saving capacity, all that potential to create meaningful wealth, decreased because we got used to spending the higher income and create debts to match. We weren’t any happier surrounded by all the stuff.

Once I realised this, I re-evaluated how we were spending and now practise a certain mindset around money. I ask myself, is what I am spending money on an investment or adding value to my life? If the answer is yes, I do it; if no, I ask myself, do I really want it? Is what I am going to spend money on going to make me money or add value to my life? This is called conscious, or intentional spending.

Conscious spending means we think about and choose what we are going to spend our money on. We analyse where we are currently spending our money and make goal-orientated changes and budget-based decisions.

Whether it is for going out, saving, investing, bills, looking after our health and fitness, holidays, schooling, rent, or mortgage—it is about having a plan that takes us towards our goals instead of feeling limited, restricted, and wasteful.

My husband and I both have various academic achievements, are members of industry-regulated bodies, and I am a keen business networker. We have supported each other in making these types of educational choices as it has proven to be an investment that pays good dividends back into our income increasing capacities.

Some like to invest in education, or antique furniture, or designer clothes, or travel, or property, or into their family and community, and some in wellbeing. As long as it is meaningful enough that when money is paid out there is a feeling of satisfaction and possible future growth and value—then it is conscious spending.

Seven helpful questions to ask when the household income increases –

  1. Have we shopped around for the best price? (Just because we have money, we can still buy the bargains).
  2. Are the needs of the household and each family member taken care of before the wants?
  3. Are we creating memories or debts?
  4. Are we consciously spending in line with our budget?
  5. Have we got the right advice, the right insurances, and the right bank accounts?
  6. Are we investing in ourselves through education or health?
  7. How can we support our community or a meaningful charity organisation? People who do this often say that doing something for others seems to bring good stuff back to them and a sense of fulfilment.

I am very mindful and intentional of what I spend, make room in our budget to support our community, and love a good bargain. Recently I bought a small coffee machine that was on special. I worked out that I gained back the cost of the machine within a month because I was not buying a takeaway coffee every morning.

I am not saying to steer clear of indulging in and enjoying occasional treats, that big holiday or buying those gorgeous shoes. I am suggesting being mindful and goal-orientated of how money is being spent. Enjoy the longer-term reward for your hard work and effort; and be thankful, purposeful, and masterful around your finances.

Top Tip – Ask the question before each purchase, “Is this bringing value into my life?”

How can you be more conscious and intentional with your spending this year?

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A Time To Relax – Program Launch

This month I am launching my first online Mindful Madhouse 4 week program.  It has been a big learning experience (helped by a team of very supportive people) to get my knowledge, expertise and experience into this format.  I am so proud of the result and grateful for the feedback coming in.  So, watch as I tell you a bit more about A Time To Relax 🙂

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Over being overwhelmed in January?

As you enter the shops and see the isles filled with exercise books, pens and pencils; pass the shoe stores and notice that black and white shoes have taken over much of the floor space – you realise that back to school is fast approaching.

Apart from the cost of purchasing school supplies, there is a sudden realisation that madness is fast approaching – before, during and after school activities, homework expectations, uniforms to be constantly cleaned and pressed, and making sure there is enough food to prepare and pack!

My eldest is 21 years old and my youngest is 9.  I have had many years of getting it wrong, getting it right, and most years it is a bit of both!  Here I share my top 18 tips to support you being better prepared and be more productive this upcoming year.

  1. Plan and prepare to avoid chaos. This includes weekly schedules, lists and weekly meal and shopping plan. Create a flexible routine that works for your family – from waking to bedtime.
  2. Have a central calendar in the house that all family members have access to with events written on it that are coming up.
  3. At least a couple of times a week make double the evening meal and freeze half for those nights when you run out of the time or enthusiasm to cook.
  4. Make time to bake each week.
  5. Make lunches and get uniforms ready the night before. We all think we will get it done in the morning, but sometimes it is just such a rush and adds so much pressure when trying to get you and your children ready and out the door!
  6. Have bags packed and checked ready to go the night before (including the hat).
  7. I think it’s never too early to give children some responsibility –tasks that you know they can complete for their age and abilities.
  8. Give children checklists – good for parents too!
  9. It is the perfect time to have conversations with your children when driving around with your kids in the car. They can’t get out or walk away!
  10. Take weekly time out for you to de-stress and reward yourself.
  11. Get proper sleep so you have the energy each day needs and avoid getting run down and common illnesses.
  12. Eat well to feel good and keep up. Feed your kids well to keep them healthy and calm.
  13. Remember to breathe – sometimes we just need to stop, take a couple of deep breathes and then proceed.
  14. Keep at least one day free on a weekend to relax and have fun with your family.
  15. Be kind to yourself.
  16. Ask for help when you need it!
  17. 30, 30, 30 and 30 every day! 30 minutes for quiet time for you, 30 minutes listening to your children with enthusiastic interest, 30 minutes for your partner and 30 minutes making sure you have cleared your day and are prepared for tomorrow.
  18. Get up each morning with a grateful affirmative attitude and a desire to meet all challenges with a smile.

As parents, we are constantly creating, re-inventing and re-shaping whilst keeping up with all the demands and challenges of each day. Creating routines and being organised will keep everyone on the same page and help you make sure you go to bed each night feeling a sense of peace and achievement – well most days!

What can you do differently this year to make your school and work weeks run smoothly?

Kirsty 🙂

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Here Be Dragons – Book Review

I was asked recently by Exisle Publishing to review Here Be Dragons.  It says on the cover, “A parent’s guide to discovering purpose, adventure, and the unfathomable joy of the journey.” I did think to myself, “not another parenting book!”

I got to about page three and, to my delight, couldn’t put it down.

It wasn’t like any other parenting book I had read or reviewed.  I loved what was different. It is written by Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh and Ken Harbaugh – from how they met, how they developed as people together and apart, and how they met each challenge once they became parents.  I found it to be an honest and personal insight into both parent’s experience and how they felt about it and dealt with it – and is full of humour only parent’s would appreciate!

I felt a part of Annmarie’s and Ken’s lives as I turned the pages and could relate to their many experiences; as well as how they had overcome the tough times.

What stood out for me though was how they described real issues faced by all of us once we become parents –

  • How mothers are judged differently to fathers.
  • Working through career goals and meeting the needs of your children.
  • Who does what, when.
  • How imbalanced it can be – and that is perfect.
  • Getting the right people around you.
  • Weathering each storm, knowing it will pass.

Then it is all tied nicely together at the end with a section of topics and questions for discussion as you examine your own ‘story’.

I highly recommend Here be Dragons for parents of any age children.  Whether it is for reflection, guidance or amusement – this book has it all.

Kirsty 🙂

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Less Stress at Christmas

less-stress-at-christmas-blog

Christmas is a special time of the year filled with joy and reunions – with parties to host and attend, guests and visitors to catch up with and gifts to exchange. Not to mention the shopping trips, planning and preparing, holidays, getaways and day trips to enjoy.

Christmas can also be extremely stressful, exhausting and challenging – for kids and parents alike. Sometimes getting everything done so that the big day is ‘perfect’ can end up leaving you drained and your children filled with agitation.

To beat the blues and have everyone enjoying the season to its fullest, here are some approaches to keep Christmas as stress-free as possible for you and your family.

Firstly be aware of the signs of holiday stress in your children. Signs of holiday anxiety can include –

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

Helping family members, especially children, cope with holiday stress involves knowing their personalities and limits. As their parent you are the expert in this. So when the anxiety hits, take a breath and a step back, and consider how you could best manage the situation.

Here are some of my suggested stress management tips for your family –

  • Take children out of the spotlight during Christmas events at relatives’ or friends’ homes if they are feeling uncomfortable.
  • Combine parties and get-togethers to reduce the time you spend partying.
  • Stick with the routine as much as possible. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum.
  • Start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
  • Ask your children what makes them feel better. Do they wind down with music, reading, spending time with you or playing with their friends, brothers or sisters? To help children calm down at Christmas, encourage them to do what they love often.
  • Make sure your children and you are eating nutritious foods, drinking lots of water, and getting exercise and time outside – a antidote to holiday anxiety.
  • Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family. That sense of knowing why things are done this way will bring a sense of calm.
  • Bring a favourite blanket, pillow or stuffed animal (or other age appropriate familiar thing) if you’re staying with family or going away over the holidays. A bit of home always helps to be more relaxed.
  • Cope with your own holiday anxiety. The less holiday stress you feel, the more relaxed your children will be.
  • Volunteer at a charity, kids’ hospital, community centre or a cause (big or small) that is meaningful for you. Volunteering at this time of year brings a sense of contribution, satisfaction and involvement – and as the whole family gets involved there will be a moment where you all feel a connection to the true spirit of Christmas.
  • Lighten the mood with funny movie marathon days, park afternoons and cozy chats with hot chocolate treats – just getting out or staying in having fun together and laughing to let go of any built up stress.

Remember that with all its sparkle, expense and lists – the point of Christmas is togetherness, laughter, sharing, connecting and love. I often like to think of a word to represent my Christmas time. This theme keeps me on a calm purposeful course without getting caught up in the hype of shoulds, coulds, must haves and must dos. This year my word is appreciation.

What is your word this year?

Kirsty 🙂

 

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