Monday, August 26, 2013


                                    Photo : Getty.
"After the movers leave, but before the boxes are unpacked, her four kids will bounce balls and laughter off the barren walls in games of keep-away or "wall ball". Soon enough, balls will be banished from the house, but in the meantime, this fun tradition gives the children something to look forward to and reinforces the fact that home is wherever the family is." says Jennifer McDonald, in JOCELYN GREEN'S article MOVING....AGAIN" in Focus on the Family's magazine "THRIVING FAMILY". Summer 2013.
Nowadays, more families move house more often than families did in our grandparents' generation. There are many reasons for this, including job transfers, downsizing for financial reasons, and the consequences of marriage and partner split ups.
The effect of moving house, particularly regularly moving house can be devastating. Children more than adults can suffer with loss of friends and family, familiar surroundings and lifestyle habits. Adults of course can be hurt by these changes, but adults are part of the decision to move. Children are not.
I know of some families who regardless of their many moves, have kids who seem little affected negatively.
Why is it then that some families that move a lot end up with troubled children, while others take it in their stride?
The difference comes from your attitude.
Jocelyn Green gives FIVE excellent practical ideas ~
1. "Brief the kids early"
Bring them in on your plans to move as early as possible so they too can prepare and say 'goodbye' to friends. Parents often give little thought to the fact that children can and need to do this in their own way, so they need time.
2. "Provide individual reassurance"
Love your kids more via their own Love Language over this period of time - Words of Affirmation/Gifts/Serving/Physical Touch/Quality Time. Here's where parents often are overwhelmed by the move and forget the kids need more love at this time of change. Children don't have the maturity or life experience that adults have, so they need help. Jocelyn rightly emphasises that it is vital to give this type of love to introverted children especially.
3. "Strengthen family ties and long-distance friendships"
With all the changes moving house brings, this is the time to deepen connections with family and friends whose relationships are important to our kids. Parents can do this by simply chatting about these people while working together with the kids. Children can also be parked at the computer on Skype or on the phone with grandparents, aunties and uncles and friends who are meaningful in their life and leave parents to do some uninterrupted packing. Continuing involvement with these important people and giving them access into our children's lives gives wonderful stability.
4. "Strategise at school" 
On arrival at the new location, the best plan is to establish links into the community and school. For example, if your child played tennis at the local club, join the new club straight away. The same should be done with school involvements, get them participating from the start. Preschoolers need connections set up immediately so there is the feeling of continuity. Some moves however, take people into a totally different culture or lifestyle to the one they left. In these cases it is important to discuss as much as possible with the children from the start, finding out information which assists them in looking at new options, so they are able to connect up smoothly. This is not always viable, but information gathering and discussions certainly prepare and help children adjust into new situations.
5. "Cultivate the constants"
Once in the new neighbourhood, maintain the normal patterns and routines of your family. This doesn't mean you can't do things differently because this is one of the exciting things about moving somewhere new. Choose to improve your time together, such as after eating a family meal, extend the together time by playing a quick game, sharing chocolate or toasting marshmallows around the fire, or soaking up the last of the sunshine together. As parents we can choose to make simple things into family times.
I would add two last points to the above list ~
6. Involve the children in as much as possible ~
If you are packing your own possessions in the move, bring the kids in on it. 
Older teenagers who drive can pickup packing boxes, dispose of the loads that need to be thrown away, vacuum and clean areas once they are cleared and organise and plan many aspects of the move. 
Younger teenagers can physically lift things, step into doing some of the routine washing and cooking while packing goes on, handle interruptions such as the phone.
After thoroughly looking through all a child's possessions with a parent,  a child from 5 years up can be given some responsibility to pack their own things. 
By making it a family team effort, the work load is shared.
Moving is one of those occasions where parents do well to take on the growing fashion of listening to everyone for any innovative ideas - then implementing the winning ones. You never know one of your own kids may have entrepreneurial skills.
7. Start early ~
It always takes longer than you expect. This way life doesn't have to 'shut down' the last week before you leave, you will prevent having a heart attack and will have space mentally and emotionally to farewell people properly.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ have a profitable time packing - I'm thinking of YOU Val!!

Friday, August 16, 2013


"But one habit drives out another." Charlotte Mason
This is the third part of the series "When the Kids are Out of Control".
Part 1 was posted June 25 2013, and Part 2, "The Emotional Tank", was posted July 2 2013.
The third piece or part of a solution that brought change to my children who were out of control, was a concept that Charlotte Mason wrote about - ESTABLISHING A RIGHT ACTION IS BETTER THAN PUNISHING OR WORKING TO CHANGE A WRONG ACTION. 
In her writings she explained why my 'telling' a child to stop doing a wrong action, wasn't working ~
  *  I wasn't showing them how to stop the wrong action.
  *  after I had requested they stop, I wasn't following up to ensure they did stop.
  *  so my kids began to ignore me asking them to stop bad behaviour.
  *  soon they were hardly aware that I had asked them to stop misbehaving - they had zoned out to my talking.
Charlotte explained a method to change a bad habit into a new good habit. (I am going to use as an example the habit of the inability to stop talking and interrupting.)
1.) The bad habit has made a record on their brain. 
2.) The only way to remove it is to work towards completely stopping the habit for a period of time - at least a month, during which new brain cells are developing as a new habit is formed. This step is successfully used by drug and alcohol rehabilitation groups.
3.) To have any hope of doing this, you need complete agreement from your child that they want to change this bad habit. To do this you need to make them aware of ~
   * what they will become if they don't stop the bad habit
   * how it will hurt them personally as a teenager and an adult
   * the damage it will bring to relationships in the future.
They must want to change, so you need to think how to present this successfully to your child. I have found it is best to find a happy moment between you and your child to talk through the 3 points above. (some HINTS - for children 11years and up - talk while you drive in the car or walk together, this way they don't feel you are dictating to them but rather you are having a chat. With younger children you need to get their attention so it is best to be able to have regular eye contact with them through the conversation.)
The conversation must be age relevant and appropriate to them personally. Here is an example of such a conversation :
"Vanessa, do you realise that you are always interrupting me and talking over me when I talk with Dad? It happened yesterday too, when I was talking with some of the women at coffee group. I don't like you interrupting me like this. If you keep non-stop talking, when you are 13 and go to high school, like Simon next door, you will be sent out of class by teachers, have caution letters sent home as you're disturbing the class with your talking. Your teenage friends will get sick of you with all that  talking and no listening.
Once you are an adult with a job, your boss will not be happy if you're talking all the time and your work doesn't get done.
Life for you could be pretty unhappy. Is this what you want?
Would you like to learn how to stop talking and interrupting people? I can help you, if you want."
Remember you know your child and how blunt or sensitive you need to be. Whatever you say and however you say it, you must convince them they need to change. So use your imagination and skills in communication.
4.) As the parent, you know exactly when the bad habit regularly pops up. Think about what triggers it. Can you change something to help remove the bad habit? With the habit of non-stop talking and interrupting, it possibly pops up every time you start to talk with your partner, because this is when you give your attention to someone else. It is common for children to want continual free access to their mum or dad - 'parent on tap'. For this reason it would help to spend more time on Ross Campbell's three Emotional Tank fillers - Eye Contact, Physical Contact and Focused Attention (click on "The Emotional Tank" post July 2 2013, link at the top)
5.) Next, think out a plan to establish a new habit. Often the best new plan is the exact opposite of the old bad habit. It must be simple and workable because it must work every time. Go about it quietly and cheerfully, (don't make a big deal about it) just make sure they follow the new plan. 
You may need to arrange a signal with your child to remind them they need to remember what you have talked about, which will bring them back on track rather than going back to the old habit. A signal between you is more powerful than you verbally reminding them what they must do. A signal keeps the choice or responsibility to adopt the new plan, firmly with the child, which is where it needs to be.
Respond regularly with a "well done", a kiss... after they successfully follow through with the new plan. Once again you should increase your Eye Contact, Physical Contact and Focused Attention during the month while the new habit is established.
A plan to stop the habit, non-stop talking and interrupting in a child, is to adopt the habit of listening to other people as they speak. A signal to help a child to remember to not talk and instead to listen, could be, to pass your hand across your mouth and then gently pull out both ears. The hint is simply communicated, and then the child remembers.
Another support for your child while they learn to listen and not talk, is to cuddle them or sit them on your knee as you chat with your partner. If they begin to talk give your arranged signal and increase loving them. Do this as often as possible - make it a priority.
Follow the same plan as much as possible when out. The more practice the quicker and firmer the new habit is established.
6.) It is always best to do a simple, brief reminder on the way as you drive to Grandma's, the coffee group, supermarket.... talk with them about where they are going, what will happen there and what is expected from them there - prepare them. Don't discuss old past failures, keep it positive so they believe they can successfully work with the new plan while they are out. Encourage them, and be available while out for them to come for a cuddle or support if things get hard for them.
7.) The more practice at home you do the quicker the new habit will be in place, simultaneously this is putting an end to the old bad habit. The younger you start this sort of training, the easier it is. 
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ choose one of your children and one of their bad habits and think of its opposite. Decide how to have that conversation to get them onboard and see that they must change. Make your plan and you are off and away - out with the old habit and a new one will soon be established in their life. Enjoy it all and keep positive with the irresistible habit of patience as an example to help them to persevere.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


"Pride slays thanksgiving .... A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."  Henri Ward Beecher : Life Thoughts, Gathered from the Extemporary Discourses of Henri Ward Beecher.
In a busy, go-get-it orientated age, to introduce the topic of death into a conversation or as a blog post, is hardly considered appropriate. Death, however, is the one true fact that all humans of every ethnicity, religion, social class, mental and physical ability, career path and financial attainment, will experience.
Three weeks ago my Mum died in Australia, just three days before her 90th birthday. All her children were with her attempting to provide an atmosphere of what she loved and held dear, in the midst of swearing and awkward visitor conversations with the other patients in Mum's room. 
I thought it was like a circus, my sisters who had lived in Africa said it was all very 'African'.
Apart from the beeping drip monitors, Mum seemed oblivious to the inappropriate happenings, even the publicness of the man on his bed-pan, just through the curtain.
My Mum, always quietly elegant, wore gloves to drive the car as a young mum, wore clip-on earrings and foundation makeup everyday, till the week before she died.
But as the poets have said, in these hours leading up to death, the practices and preferences of a lifetime are left and only what is truly precious is held on to.
As all participants in her funeral said, as things became tougher in her latter years, my Mum increasingly grew and received energy from giving thanks. What a seemingly insignificant and child-like practice! But in the face of death it shows a different side. The inconveniences of the room and her physical struggle did not change.
In the three years since Ann Voskamp's book "one thousand gifts" had been published, my Mum had read it seven times that we know of. The book's subtitle "A DARE to LIVE FULLY right where you are", had been practiced so that in the hours of pneumonia death, she was ready, she knew radical gratitude and so trusted her now as well as her future, to God.
This was not some mind exercise in positive thinking. It was real. A person had been changed - we, her four daughters who knew her so closely, saw it. Her practiced thankfulness had made her grateful, confident and incredibly beautifully attractive - if you can understand that to be possible in a frail, body-wrinkled woman.
I miss my daily phone conversations with her, where my purpose was to encourage, but the reality was the reverse. But I am so thankful that I saw this real side to my Mum and that she left us with these clear memories of hope.