Environment, Guest Posts, Society

Why We All Need To Stop Worrying About Climate Change (And What To Do Instead)

I’m writing this from my little desk in my children’s ‘reading room’ (where we also keep the Xbox). I’m surrounded by their books, piled up on shelves, scattered on the floor. ‘Brave Bitsy and the Bear’ gawps at me as I tap at the keyboard and, if I glance out of the window, I can see a picture perfect view of spring in rural Cornwall.

And this morning I read about the collapse of the insect population, decimation of soil productivity and saw — for the fifth (or is it sixth?) time — someone share that post by academic Marc Doll about how woefully positive the narrative on climate change is that we’ve been given by the IPCC.

And in the room next door, my four-year-old (who wants to be a dog) and seven-year-old (who wants to be a marine biologist or live in Minecraft, I can’t be sure which) are fast asleep.


Personally speaking, it’s hard not to feel worried and stressed about climate change.

For most of the summer last year I carried round this edgy feeling, a sense I was already living in a dystopian nightmare.

Somewhere inside me I think I’d already given up. Resigned myself to the collapse of civil society and eradication of so much of life on earth.

Along with this, a sense that I’d been deeply irresponsible bringing my children into such a world.

Given that you’ve chosen to read this, I wouldn’t be surprised you have experienced or are going through something similar.

The reason I’m writing is that I feel that I’ve come to a different place with it all, and I want people to know that the narratives we’re sharing and behaviours we’re encouraging in each other are potentially working against us.

What I want to tell you might be difficult to read. It might be triggering. And if it is, that’s probably a good thing.

What I want to tell you is that the anxiety we’re producing for ourselves — while it feels very much justified — could be a symptom of everything we’ve been doing ‘wrong’ and is making things worse.

And the alternative isn’t inaction but instead wiser action.

Hear me out.

Stressing ourselves into consumption

Like me today, many of us are being constantly bombarded by facts, figures and narratives that tell us our days on earth are numbered, that it’s our fault and that it’s also largely out of our control.

This is impossible for any human being to process and still remain calm. Things that present a threat trigger us into a stressed state. When we feel helpless in the face of that threat, everything gets much worse for us.

In this stressed state we change physiologically — we become more problem-focused and look for other people or things to blame.

This is a function of our evolutionary development. In more precarious times it’s been critical in keeping us alive but in this instance it’s not helping.

When we enter this state we are incapable of thinking creatively or compassionately. We look for quick fixes, easy solutions and bad guys.

We also want to consume more. We crave salt, sugar, fat, simple carbs. We’re not hungry it’s just that our bodies are gearing up for the fight or the flight.

And as a result of these changes, in this state none of us are fit to act wisely. We haven’t got a hope of addressing complex problems or creating a future fit for everyone.

The difficulty is that in this state we feel utterly compelled to act. The function of the state is to deal with the perceived problem — to flood our bodies with stress hormones so that we can do whatever it takes to make it go away.

The sneaky thing is that we might not even realise that this is going on, because we’ve got so used to it.

It’s not just the obvious, adrenaline-infused headspins I’m talking about, triggered by a stranger shouting abuse or being chased by a dog.

What I’m seeing all around me is people operating at a low level of stress and anxiety, triggered by perpetual busyness and information overload.

It’s almost like our lives are being engineered this way. Cuts to benefits, dismantling of free healthcare, Government openly allowing the majority of wealth to be passed on to those who are already most wealthy.

And we seem to be ‘happily’ participating in making life more stressful — busying ourselves into the ground, glorying in our busyness and our achievements from it. Actively choosing to consume news that makes us angry and fearful.

This news now includes a constant feed of existential threats, taking many of us to an extreme level of baseline stress.

Given the challenge we’re facing — one that’s complex, systemic and long-term, if we carry on acting from this place we’re going to really screw it up.

Not because we’re stupid or bad, we’re just on the wrong setting.

How we got here in the first place

Climate change and the destruction of our ecosystems seem to be the result of persistent, rampant over-consumption.

This is because our modern society is a consumer society. It’s based on one simple idea: that consuming will meet your needs.

We’re educated to work, so we can earn money, so we can pay for things things so that we create jobs, so people can work… and so on.

To keep this going we’re told that if we don’t consume the products and services offered to us then life will be more uncertain and we’ll be less than we need to be — loveable, sexy, successful.

Once upon a time religion and spirituality would have played a more active role in our lives and, at its best it would have reassured us that ‘you are enough, you are loved, have faith’.

Conveniently religion has been made the enemy of rationality and the domain of nutjobs, so consumerism has helpfully stepped in to take its place and shore us all up against our insecurities.

Its message is instead: you are not enough, you are not loved, there is no reason to have faith but — lucky for you —here are some things you can buy to make you feel better.

Some of them we know are bad for us: smoking, alcohol, fatty, processed foods.

Others we think are harmless but still serve to numb us: Netflix boxsets, gym subscriptions, smartphones.

And some masquerade as the answer but are really just part of the same system — insurance policies, private healthcare and the multi-billion dollar ‘wellness’ industry.

None of these things can or will ever meet our unmet needs for love, connection or trust in the world so we continue consuming, throwing more things into the bottomless pit inside.

We try and do it consciously. New industries pop up to give us what we want without the guilt — sustainably sourced, vegan, fairtrade — but even aside from the minefield that is working out whether it’s really ‘sustainable’, it’s still built on the same system.

A system built on a disconnection from your needs, that can never leave you satisfied with who you are and the world around you.

The future is not a zero sum game

We’re being led to believe that the society we’ve built has to ‘collapse’ if we’re to save the world.

The message is that all the things you rely on to keep you safe: jobs, booze, Netflix, specialty coffee, vegan sausage rolls (etc) are no longer part of a viable future fit for everyone.

The sense is that when these things disappear, life will be unbearable. That we’re going to turn on each other.

We’re presented with a binary choice — save the planet and live a miserable existence, or accept that some populations (plant, animal, human) will have to act as collateral damage to ensure a quality of life that vaguely resembles our current one.

I believed this until a good friend of mine, Charles Davies, said:

And I thought: Dammit, he’s right.

We’re being fed — and feeding each other— a lie.

The lie is not that we won’t have to radically change the way we live, or that many people (some of the most vulnerable) will experience severe economic hardship and loss.

The lie is that the future *has* to be worse than the present from the perspective of human experience.

The lie is that letting go of our current way of living is a bad thing.

How about we dismantle that lie?

In my experience we seem to be more unhappy than ever before. More physically and mentally ill. More divided than ever. More stressed about our impact on the world.

And yet we are told that taking apart the trappings of the world that create these outcomes is a bad thing.

We tell each other almost gleefully: you need to be scared! This way of life we have can’t go on!

Be scared? Who on earth wants this way of life to go on??

Our current model of relating and cooperating is built on a model of disconnection.

Educated and co-erced into disconnecting from our needs in order to be good participants in a consumer society.

And (as I was reminded in a conversation Brendan Montague, Editor of the Ecologist website) that it’s this disconnection from ourselves that leads to the disconnection from each other that in turn leads to disconnection from our environment — which is the only thing that has enabled us to create the extractive, destructive system we have in place.

Disconnected from your needs. Seeing others as threats or problems to be dealt with. Walking around with a tightness in your chest because you feel the world our kids are growing up in is being trashed.

Numbing ourselves with dopamine hits from glass screens between consuming things we don’t need to make ourselves feel semi-satisfied for five minutes.

No. What meets our needs is connection.

Connection to ourselves, to others and the world around us.

Feeling at home in our own skin, having meaningful relationships and being friendly with our neighbours. Creating things that feel like they matter, with like-minded people. Being in natural environments, caring for living things.

These are what help us sleep at night, that make us feel whole.

They are also the enemy of consumer society, which is why it’s evolved to reduce their prevalence in our lives.

When we get these needs met we stop throwing endless consumer products, services and experiences into the void that can’t be filled.

And when we stop doing that, we start creating a different kind of world together.

I’m not saying that we don’t also need to make clear and difficult choices about the lives we live.

Personally I turned down two jobs last year because they were with companies that were involved in promoting consumerism in an active way.

I’m self-employed and so is my partner. I earn nearly half of what I did a few years ago working in take-every-job-that-comes-along-regardless-of-what-they-do-because-I-am-a-freelancer mode.

We don’t always meet our overheads. It can seem pretty precarious (financially speaking) at times.

But two things make this a choice that I can stand firm with.

Firstly, this way of life has put me firmly back in the role of active parent and community member. I’m more available for my kids, I’m more involved in their lives. I volunteer at the local school and I help to run wilderness sessions for Dads and kids some weekends.

Nothing money could buy will give me what this gives me.

Secondly, I have found that in order to do anything different requires me to disconnect from my needs again. It takes a kind of energy that I’m no longer willing to spend. My kids and my neighbours can have that instead.

I’m not for a second judging anyone else’s choices. We’re all doing the best we can to get our needs met. There are reasons I’m able to do this and others might not, and there are many (many) things about my life which I know are very unsound, ecologically speaking.

Away from stress, towards connection

Given all this, ‘conscious consumerism’ and ‘green new deals’ will never offer the solution we need if they are built on the fundamental idea of citizen is as consumer, working to earn, earning to spend, spending to consume etc.

I think the fundamental answer lies instead in rebuilding our lives around connection.

And this has to start with coming down from our persistent, stressed state.

If we are facing complex, systemic challenges we need to be able to bring our full capacity and creativity.

We need to be able to see and hold multiple perspectives, cross divides and have healthy conflict.

None of this is possible if we continue to stoke the fires of stress and anxiety in ourselves and each other.

My invitation is to recognise that any time you’re looking for quick solutions, or people to blame that you’ve lost your way.

To see that looking after your mental health, staying calm, being open-hearted is the most subversive act of our time.

Recognise that if you would love other people to live in a certain way or see the world from a different perspective, this is only going to happen if they sense you’re not judging them to be wrong.

Know that the thing that’s most firmly under your control is how you show up for your children, your neighbours and your wider community.

This rules nothing out — from this place we can still protest, dismantle, subvert.

You might still feel this is far too measured: “There’s a fight on our hands — a fight for our children’s future! How can you be so irresponsible?”

As a martial artist, ex-doorman and someone who’s been in a few violent confrontations I can tell you with certainty that if there is a fight, it’s not the angry, anxious person who wins.

It’s the person who is very, very calm. Who is totally present and has no sense of wanting to hurt you. They are very comfortable using whatever means necessary but without malice or pleasure, simply because it gets everyone to a better place.

It’s already happening

I can already see a growing recognition that connection, inclusion, creativity and celebration are the keys to a genuinely better future.

You can see it in the best of the climate protests — garden bridges, calm nonviolent protest , dancing police officers.

And in the growing popularity of secular spiritualism and spaces for new ways of relating (like circling and real relating).

People are slowly but steadily finding that their real needs are met more consistently in self-awareness and relationship than they are in quick fix consumption.

We can’t all join a five-day protest and we’re not all ready to sit in a circle and talk about our feelings but that’s not what’s being asked of us.

The invitation is to start building the new society from inside each of us.

Resisting the urge of distraction and consumption, rejecting the voices (inside and out) calling for us to divide ourselves, not taking in any more information that will stress us out.

Instead showing up to each conversation with family, neighbours and community with genuine willingness to engage in something different, knowing that it’s one of the most likely paths to a better future.

To be a calm, loving human, raising calm, loving kids (if you have them) and fostering a calm, loving society.

Even if that means dismantling a load of stuff in the process.


My name is 
Max. I show people how to listen to their needs, realise their ideas and deal with all the conflict that shows up in their lives with skill and ease. I do this from my smallholding in the rural Southwest of the UK.

About Max St John:

Showing people the way home by connecting to what’s there and working with what is. Get clear, fight well, move naturally. www.maxstjohn.com


This article was originally posted here

Guest Posts, Society

An Open Letter to My Daughter Gracelyn in the Era of Donald Trump

Dear Gracelyn,

Today I write this letter to you so that you might better understand the tumultuous transformation that’s currently underway in our nation. For while your mother Shonnie and I are doing our best during your childhood to shelter you from adult concerns, I’m guessing that you sense a disturbance in the Force.

As you know, we have elected Donald Trump as our president. I believe Trump is unworthy of the office. He behaves like a spoiled schoolyard bully; he puts himself and his needs before all others; he refuses responsibility for his actions; he says hurtful things about women, people of color, those with disabilities, people from other countries, and anyone who disagrees with him. He even said it’s OK for someone to objectify his own daughter and speak about her in a disrespectful and demeaning manner.

In response to the mean-spirited actions of our president and some of our other so-called leaders, millions of Americans, including your mom Shonnie and me, are taking action—calling and writing our elected representatives, attending mass marches, organizing to elect worthy candidates, and more—to help create a more loving, fair, and eco-friendly society. And we are doing our best to discern how to be with you and how best to prepare you for life in times such as these.

First of all, we will strive to demonstrate love, partnership, sharing, and being good community members by how your mother and I live our lives. We’ll also do our best to get out of your way so that Gracelyn can be Gracelyn, so that you can dive headlong into life and live it exactly as you see fit. We will make it clear that you have our blessing whatever passion you follow—art, ballet, Wild Kratts, rock hound, yoga, the Moana movie, or music—and whatever work you later choose—brain surgeon, teacher, artist, corporate CEO, dancer, parent, accountant, writer, surfer, or any other. Whatever your choices, we will support you and give you our steadfast love.

You are perfect exactly as you are. And, you possess all the inherent qualities you need to live a full and fulfilling life—authenticity, personal power, creativity, curiosity, courage, compassion, persistence, resilience, and a spirited sense of humor. Regardless of what’s going on around you, never doubt that you can create exactly the life you desire.

A new day is coming, sweet girl. As the author and activist Arundhati Roy once said, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” And you can help bring this day into being, by the way you are—with yourself, with others, with every living thing.

I deeply respect who you are and what you’re about in the world, Gracelyn. Your innate wisdom, kindness, and sense of justice help sustain my hope for the future. One final pledge: Please know deep in your heart that your mother and I will always love you, all ways, no matter what!

Your dad,

Bruce

The letter was originally published in the June 2017 issue of WNC Woman and here.

Bruce Mulkey is an essayist and author from Asheville, North Carolina. He has previously contributed to WNC Woman’s Y-chromosome issue and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, and The Good Men Project. He currently spends much of his time writing his memoir (A Tale of Two Fathers: The Memoir of One Man and His Two Daughters Born 42 Years Apart), playing handball, trail running with his wife Shonnie, and doing his best to keep up with a high-spirited six-year-old on the meandering footpaths of the Appalachians. Learn more at brucemulkey.com

 

 

Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

4 Things Dads Should Teach Their Daughters About Balancing Health & Beauty

4-things-dads-should-teach-their-daughters-about-balancing-health-beauty
A Guest Post by Tyler Jacobson

I was going through Pinterest one day, and I noticed something. The website, which is traditionally most popular with women, was full of photos depicting other women who fit the average supermodel physique. Glancing down at the titles of the pin boards they were placed in, I saw titles like ‘Thinspiration’, ‘Fitspo’, and ‘Goals <3<3’.

What first hit me hard was thinking of my wife. I wondered if on her Pinterest account, or perhaps any other, she might have similar boards. If she filled galleries with photomanipulated images of alleged perfection, pitting her own image against those of what we have been pushed to believe is the ideal. The very idea that she may have fallen victim to such thoughts, this beautiful, perfect woman I loved, broke my heart.

But then, a much darker thought occurred to me: little girls are seeing these same messages. Looking at a couple of the boards confirmed that at least some of them were no more than teenagers. And in the descriptions of each image were phrases like, “How I want to look by next summer”, or “I need to stop being so fat.”

What are we teaching our young girls? How many of our daughters are suffering under the same negative sense of self, and how many will grow up to be women facing the same self-hatred?

Being Proactive: Teaching Our Daughter’s Balance

The solution, I truly believe, begins at home. It is too easy as a father to take a backseat with daughters, leaving the majority of lessons to come from their mother. While not a conscious decision for many of us, it just feels more natural to split the parenting between genders. Who would know better what a young girl goes through than their mother?

But this is a view to be overcome. Fathers have just as much responsibility as mothers to help teach their children (all of their children) to love and respect themselves. On the topic of finding balance between health and beauty, that effort is all the more crucial.

Our girls are living in a time where everything from their phones to their computer screens are bombarding them with messages about what is normal, beautiful, and a goal to achieve. We have to be there to teach them the reality, and to foster a sense of acceptance and self-love based around who they are.

These are four lessons that I feel are our responsibility as fathers to help teach our daughters about health and beauty.

Lesson #1: The Media Lies

Looking through those images on Pinterest, it is plain to see that they are unrealistic. It isn’t a problem isolated to social media, either. Just typing ‘Photoshop in magazines’ into Google will show you the ridiculous ways the media will manipulate photos into fitting an ideal that no one is capable of reaching in real life.

That picture of Taylor Swift that your daughter is staring at, wishing she matched up? Everything from the clearness to her skin to the size of her thighs have been altered with software. And that is after all of the makeup, corsets, careful posing, and lights have been added to hide “imperfections” spotted by the photographer.

Lessons #2: There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Body Type

There is no “right size” for a human being. Some women are tall or short, heavy or slender, stocky or petite. The world is full of all types, and all types are beautiful in their own right. What it doesn’t show is what is inside that person, the things they are capable of doing, the strength or limits of their bodies.

We have to get away from this concept of an ideal. It is individuality that makes someone stand out, not conformity to a clothing size. If we teach our daughters that their worth isn’t related to their frame, and that they are worthy of respect no matter their type of build, we can steer the conversation to more productive avenues, such as their interests, talents, and achievements.

Lesson #3: Health Is a Holistic Process

Health isn’t all about weight. It isn’t even all about the body. Health is a holistic issue, which means it is the combination of all factors that make up a whole person.

You are truly healthy when your body is nourished and cared for, your mind is calm and strong, and your emotions and stable and happy. At least when they are those things most of the time…we all have bad days.

Lesson #4: Self Image Is The Most Important Image

It is impossible to ignore what people think of us all the time. But that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to show our girls that the real opinion that matters is their own. Sure, someone might say they are too fat, too skinny, not tall enough, not have clear enough skin. Who cares?

As long as they can look at themselves and see that they are healthy, happy people with their own skills, talents, personality and qualities (both good and bad), we have done well as parents. A measured and largely positive sense of self is one of the greatest gifts that they can carry with them throughout their lives.

Our Mission Is To Save Our Daughters

Girls face constant examination, ridicule, and an unfair standard that is hard to understand as men. We are rarely confronted with the same standards, and so it is easy to forget the stress being put on their self-esteem.

As fathers, it is our job to help put a buffer between our children and these false images of perfection. We have to teach them to be happy with themselves, and to see the beauty in their individuality. To show them that it is health that matters, not waist size, or how thick their eyelashes are.

If we can show our girls that they are smart, strong, fun, and healthy, we can change a culture that is designed to hurt them. That sees well worth the effort.

 

tyler-jacobson-large-squareTyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and freelancer, with experience in writing and outreach for organizations that help troubled teens and parents. Tyler has offered personal, humorous and research backed advice to readers on parenting tactics, problems in education, issues with social media, various disorders, addiction, and troublesome issues raising teenage boys.

Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin
(Images provided by Shutterstock and Tyler Jacobson)

Creative Stuff, Guest Posts, Relationships

Oh Art! Creative Self-Directed Learning For Families

I love it when my children get creative using various media and stuff. An empty container turns into a house or rocket or market stall. Stones, pebbles and sticks make beautiful mandala pictures. And with clay they basically can build anything: castles, bowls, trains, hedgehogs…

Often I join my children’s creative play (well, sometimes it’s not about my choice, it works like this: ‘Papa, you have to come over here and see this!’ – and suddenly I hold the paintbrush or gluestick or whatever in my hands 😉 )

From working with families I oberserved many times the positive, healing and nurturing aspect of doing art together as a family. Sometimes we adults can get shy or feel embarrassed when it comes to creating stuff. For some of us it might bring back childhood memories when we actually loved being creative but were told that we aren’t good at it. For some parents/adults making art is like making peace with their inner child.  It’s is also a great tool when it comes to reflecting on your own parenting and on how we communicate.

OhArt! is a place based in South-London (and soon in Madrid too) for children and families to (re)connect with art. Kiki Atias and her team offer a space where children can enjoy self-directed learning through the exploration of Art & Design. In this post Kiki will tell you more about her great project and how you can get involved. Enjoy:
OH ART - Collaborative stamping

Oh Art! is born from the idea and conviction that we need a change, we need to make a profound social change. The more I spend time with children, the more I am drawn to believe  that childhood is about developing social and emotional skills, the most important thing in our lives.

Play provides it all for the child. It is their way to learn, their way to heal, their way of making connections with others and their way of understanding the world around them.

Art is simply self-expression and it is also a medium to connect with one-self, with others, a chance to share ideas, a chance to innovate, a platform to address important issues in our communities and our world.

I believe we have more than enough evidence about why play matters and why creativity matters. There has been so many effective approaches to cultivating creativity in children, and it saddens me deeply, that none of these approaches are put into practise effectively in schools. The arts curriculum in the majority of mainstream schools is limited. On the other hand, I feel the majority of schooled children that come to Oh Art! develop a sense of belonging within the group and they feel amazed by the freedom they have to explore what they want to explore, in their terms and at their pace, giving them a sense of autonomy.

OH ART - A helping hand to finish the carThe way I provide this for the children is first working in smaller groups. This way I am able to model positive social behaviour, positive communication skills, nurture their own creativity, help them develop their own methodologies, help them understand their creative process and their needs, guide them how to work collaboratively in groups, meet all their emotional needs, encourage risk, facilitate critical thinking and problem-solving skills. All this side of the learning experience goes “under the radar” for them, as I focus on delivering all this through kindness, playfulness, empathy, compassion, active listening, asking them questions about their explorations and having fun with them.

Non-Violent Communication and my training as a Positive Discipline Parent Educator have given me the most effective practical tools to establish healthy relationships with all my children (I call them “my children”, even though they are not, but I believe that a horizontal relationship between teacher and student is very necessary for the learning to unfold both ways -I learn a great deal from them too). I am convinced, as Rita Pierson (bless her soul!), puts it:  “Kids won’t learn from people they don’t like”. They will learn when they feel loved, cared for, listened to and when they emotionally contained. The love I feel for these wonderful children, as well as my own child, fulfils my heart to many levels I can’t described. I feel like I’m part of their lives as well they are part of mine.

Another important point, apart from all I mentioned above,  is offering high quality materials to explore and access to useful resources such as books and the internet -we need to use all the tools we have! I want the children to learn how to pursue their dreams, feel proud of who they are and live a good and successful life (successful doesn’t mean earning tons money!, but being happy and content).

OH ART - Explornig Maths the Artsy WayIn the world we live in, I feel the responsibility for educating children for their future. We need more young people who can make a positive change in our society, contribute to their own lives as well as others, be satisfied with what they do, embrace their uniqueness, share that uniqueness with others, have the tools to make this world a better place. I feel very strongly that we need to invest in our children.

Parents are also part of this learning process. What I love most about this experience is the bridge we, both me and the parents, build together with a profound respect for each other’s role in their children’s lives and a profound trust that their children are in a safe, loving environment. We (parents and I) have an open communication channel. Parents feel free to talk to me about their concerns, specific issues, problems at home, problems at school, and I truly appreciate their honesty because it gives me a better sense on how to meet their emotional needs while in the sessions. If I sense something is “wrong” I also communicate with the parents, so we can find the best strategy to support the child. We are a team, working together to educate their children.

Parents also learn ways to nurture their children’s creativity, learn to support their interests, learn useful tools to communicate with them, learn how to encourage them and the most delightful thing I’ve witnessed is that they reconnect with their playful self. At the end, we are a bunch of “kids” having fun, learning from each other, laughing and celebrating each other’s achievements in the making. During the sessions, we are open to talk about feelings, about situations, about ideas, about problems. ALL OF US make the space a unique space for each other, a special place where we can play, express, share and love, without anyone judging and telling us what and how to do what we love to do.

This is for me the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.

kikiKiki trained as a Graphic Designer in Florence, Italy before coming to England to study BA (Hons) Fine Arts at Byam Shaw Art School at Central St. Martins, London. She was a founding member of small democratic primary school in SE London. She has been featured as a homepreneur in Sainsbury’s Magazine March 2015 edition. She has contributed to a number of events and workshops such as STEAM Co/Curious Minds, West Dulwich Spring Fair, and EscueLab (Madrid). Teaching Art, Visual Design and Emotional Intelligence to kids is her passion. She’s been running successful workshops for children of all ages focusing on facilitating and mentoring her students. She has done a introductory course on Positive Psychology and has a foundation level in NVC (Non-Violent Communication).

Connect with OhArt!:

www.ohartproject.com
OhArt! on facebook

Kiki’s site Embracing Parenting

OH ART - Exploring movement and painting

 

 

Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

How Staylistening Builds Family Connections

connected family

Today I would like to introduce to you Kate Orson. She is a Hand-in-Hand Parenting Instructor (love, love Hand-in-Hand and their philosophy) and will be publishing her book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children this year.
I very much love Kate’s writing and I feel inspired by her suggestions and ideas. Here she shares a great post about how Staylistening can support strong family connections. – More links at the end of this post. Enjoy!

One evening when my daughter was 9 months old, my husband came home, and went over to say hello to her where she’d been happily playing on the floor. She burst into tears, and when my husband picked her up she reached out her arms for me.

I was surprised that she’d cried so suddenly. She wasn’t a newborn anymore. It seemed as if she’d been in the world long enough to understand this was her dad, that she was in a completely safe situation. I was right next to her on the playmat too! We had just spent a lovely, connected day together. Why did she suddenly need me so desperately?

Before I learnt about Hand in Hand parenting I would have taken her back in my arms to stop the crying. I would have automatically assumed that was the kindest, most naturally thing to do.

But now my perspective about crying has changed. I discovered that there are two reasons babies and children cry. The first reason is when they have a need, perhaps they are hungry, too cold, or are in pain. The second reason, is to heal and recover from an upset that has already happened.

In our busy, modern, society, it is sadly inevitable that all babies and toddlers will experience some degree of stress or upset. It could be from a difficult birth, medical intervention, or just the daily stimulation from getting used to being in the world.

Crying is a healing process, and there are actually stress hormones contained in tears. The psychologist Aletha Solter calls this the ‘Broken Cookie Phenomenon’ that often babies and toddlers will use a safe, everyday situation as a trigger to heal from

a bigger upset from the past. In these moments all we need to do is to listen and allow this natural healing process to happen.

We can see this phenomenon at work in our own lives. For example the other day I washed my favourite woollen dress on a normal cycle, and ended up shrinking it! I started crying, and quickly realised that the dress was just the trigger for a deeper upset. It was about the build-up of stress before christmas, my exhaustion from parenting, and my work responsibilities. Now the holidays were coming, I sensed the space to let go and relax, and release some feelings.

In that moment when my daughter started crying I knew that everything was fine in the present. My daughter loves her dad, and they have a great bond. So I didn’t pick her up. Instead I moved close to her, and reassured her that she was safe with her dad, that I was there too. He held her as she cried, and we both gave her lots of warm, loving attention. This is what Hand in Hand parenting calls ‘Staylistening,’ which means simply staying in the moment and listening to feelings without distracting or trying to stop them.

After a few minutes my daughter stopped crying. She smiled, started ‘talking’ and pointing things out around the room. She was completely at ease being held by her dad. We had dinner, and my daughter tried two foods she had never tried before, potatoes and cheese! This is often the case, that when we listen to our children’s deeper upsets, they can gain confidence in many unexpected ways.

Babies, and toddlers often choose little everyday moments to ‘work’ on their separation anxiety. They may suddenly have a desperate need to be with one parent. When our baby or toddler has a good relationship with both parents, and there is trust and safety there, then often, these moments, are simply a ‘broken cookie,’ a trigger for deeper feelings. If we listen, then these feelings no longer need to get in the way of our child having a joyful, connected relationship with both parents.

Separation anxiety often appears around bedtime. When my daughter was around 15 months old, she would sometimes start crying in the evening. For example if we were all hanging out in our bedroom, and then I needed to use the bathroom. By this age, I sensed she understood almost everything I said to her. I was pretty sure she understood when I told her I was just going to the bathroom and would be back in five minutes.

I could of tried the quick-fix approach and just dashed off to the bathroom leaving her crying. Or I could of taken her with me to stop the tears. But I knew this wouldn’t help her with her underlying fear about me leaving.

For a few nights my husband and I decided to staylisten during these moments. I would gradually try to leave, and would hold my daughter in my arms, listening to her feelings, slowly waiting until she was happy to be left with her dad. Often after having a big cry about separation she would suddenly flip into laughter, crawling from one parent to the other, as I playfully tried to put her back with her dad.

Then when I told her I needed to use the bathroom she would happily let me go, as if she had forgotten that she’d ever been upset about it. Afterwards she would be in a really happy mood, playing and laughing and enjoying the company of both of us. She had got through all the separation fear, and come out of the other side.

Staylistening has helped my daughter to be happy to be put to bed by her dad or to spend time with him while I work during the evenings and weekends. I can leave guilt free, knowing there’s no feelings of upset hiding beneath the surface. Most times I need to leave her, she’ll give me a big hug, and a smile. We’ve given her the space to be heard.

katephotoKate Orson is a writer, and Hand in Hand parenting instructor. Originally from the UK she now lives in Basel, Switzerland with her husband the author Toni Davidson, and their 4 year old daughter. Her book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children, is now available to pre-order here  https://www.waterstones.com/book/tears-heal/kate-orson/9780349410104

You can follow her on facebook here https://www.facebook.com/ParentingByConnectionWithKateOrson/

 


 

 

Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

How To Create A Straightforward Approach To Losing Your Angry Dad Voice

voice

I very much enjoy reaching out ot other (dads’) blogs, parenting websites, and parenting coaches. Today I would like to introduce to you Ian Hawkins. Ian is a coach and teacher from Australia, and he supports “…Dads to rediscover their passion and to inspire their own children to be their best.” Here’s a post by Ian with an intersting take on how you can lose your ‘angry dad voice’. More links and info at the end of his guest post. Enjoy!

A few years ago I had reached a point in my life where I was not happy with where I was at. I was always feeling tired and frustrated, and I was bringing this frustration home to my wife and kids.  Not only was I impatient but when I snapped it was often with an aggressive tone which no matter how soft, felt like yelling to my kids. Even when I was trying very hard to talk quietly, they told me to stop yelling. My angry voice was more than just my voice. It was my body language, it was the look on my face and even though I was trying to talk quietly and calmly there was an edge to my voice that was not sounding kind or loving to my kids. I no longer wanted to see the sadness and pain in my child’s eyes and face after I had overreacted with my angry voice.

And I see the same thing from other Dad’s every day, in the street, on the train, at the shops and particularly at children’s sports. They have unrealistic expectations of their children and have lost focus of what’s really important in their relationship, having that loving connection that your child craves and that you crave. Your angry voice has a negative impact on the happiness and wellbeing of your child and can damage your relationship with them. Should you continue this way as your children grow older, you will end up fighting more and more and worse still, they may end up with a similar issue with anger as they grow up.

Here’s what I have learned. There is another way. By making some changes in your life and by changing the way you approach situations with your children, you do have the power to be able to stay calm and speak in a loving and kind way to your children every single time.

If you get this right you will develop a calm that allows you to speak to your children with a smile and a kind voice, even after the most challenging day of work or play. Your children will love your new approach and be more likely to respond to your requests. Your children will model your behaviour and develop the ability to stay calm and speak in a softer voice as well. As time goes on this calm response and kind voice will become a natural response that comes out with little to no effort and as your children get used to your new approach, you will be pleasantly surprised at the massive improvement in your relationship with your children and overall happiness in your household. 

As with anything that you want to achieve in your life, the best way to reach that goal is to have a plan. It can be very challenging to change a habit and I believe the best way is to have a process to follow so that you know exactly what to do every single time. This process will be specific to you personally so you will need to create one for yourself. The good news is, right now I am going to give you the framework to do just that. Create your own process using my steps below as a guide:

1. Deep breaths.

The first step in your process should always be to pause and take 3-5 deep breaths right into your belly. Step away from the situation for a minute if that helps too. You may need to intervene if there is the potential for something to get broken or someone to get hurt, but most of the time you will be able to take 10-60 seconds to calm yourself first. Also as I have mentioned in previous blogs, deep breathing helps you reduce stress and can immediately stop your natural “fight-or-flight” response. You will be less likely to react with frustration and more likely to stay calm.

2. Be the observer. 

Also in this 10-60 seconds and after you have taken some deep breaths and stepped away physically, mentally step away as well. Be the observer for a second and look at the situation from the outside, as if you were looking on at someone else in the same situation. That is, take the emotion out of it. If you had to suggest the best solution for this situation to yourself, would it involve you using an angry voice, or staying calm and connecting with your child? And further still, is what your child is doing really a problem at all? They are only kids – are they just testing the boundaries or have they made a small mistake or are they just looking for attention?

3. Positive emotion. 

Next look for a positive emotion in your child. You are far more likely to get the result that you want when your action triggers a positive emotion in the other person. This is your child so this will be something unique to you. For example, you could smile and say something that will bring out that positive emotion or even laughter from your child.

4. Aim for connection not aggression.

Think about the type of people you are most likely to do something for. The ones who talk rudely to you?  Yell at you? Or the people who are really nice and speak in a calm and non-threatening way? Instead of towering over your child with an aggressive or grumpy tone, crouch down to their level and speak how you would like to be spoken to by someone you love.

5. Empathise with your child. If they have made a mistake, done something they shouldn’t have or are just plain upset, it is not a time to punish or speak aggressively. Empathise with them so they feel understood. “I understand” is a great way do to that. Tell them that you understand whatever they are going through. For example – “I know you don’t want to stop playing now and you don’t want to go in the shower” OR “I realise you are feeling upset”. And do so with clear boundaries. “I see that you don’t want to go to bed yet. I can also see that you are looking tired, it is your bedtime and you need to get a good night sleep so you are full of energy tomorrow.”

As I mentioned, use these 5 steps as a framework to create your own process to follow. You know your child better than anyone else so create a plan that works for you and for them. Go into as much detail as you need, but not so complicated that you won’t be able to follow the steps in a real life situation. Write it down and don’t be afraid to refer to it as required until you change the habit or are at least until you are comfortable you have committed your process to memory. Good luck, be patient with yourself and remember…..

”Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”Robin Sharma

 

ian hawkinsRead, what Ian says about himself: “I have a passion for personal growth and inspiring others to reach their full potential. With a background as a trained teacher, years of leadership as a sportsperson and coach and over 10 years as a manager at Fox Sports Australia, I have a unique ability to bring out the best in others. After my own growth through the last 5 years of personal development, I decided I wanted to help other Dad’s to rediscover their passion and to inspire their own children to be their best. I pride myself in helping Dads through their transformation into high energy, calm, patient, loving and very happy individuals.”

Connect: http://www.inspireddads.com
http://www.facebook.com/InspiredDads
http://www.twitter.com/InspiredDads

Guest Posts, Society

Review: Working Dad’s Survival Guide

How can modern dads find a good and fulfilling balance in their work-and-family life? How do you negotiate with your boss working-from-home options or flexible hours? What are my priorities in life as a dad?

BOOK COVER! emailRecently I came across Scott Behson’s new book ‘The Working Dad’s Survival Guide’, and after chatting with him, we both exchanged and reviewed our books.

Behson has written a very practical guide for all (working) dads, who wish to be more in control of their job/work situation, but also at home. Each chapter is filled with inspirations and easy-to-do practices. The book can be of great help to find out what’s best for your personal work-and-family-life (and how to achieve it).

Here’s an interview with Scott Behson, PhD:

Torsten Klaus: For years men and fathers have been pressed and pushed into their classic roles: earning enough money to support the famil;, 24/7-workaholics who only see their children at weekends, if they’re lucky enough. From your experience and work, is there now a big shift in society?

FDU headshotScott Behson: Virtually every dad I know cares a lot about his career and earning enough for the family, WHILE ALSO being a hands-on, involved loving dad. Society, and especially the work world, still expects men to fulfil their breadwinner roles, and has not adequately supported men as involved fathers.

Despite these challenges, I see so many men stepping. But largely, we’ve been left to figure this out on our own. That’s why I wrote ‘The Working Dad’s Survival Guide’ – to provide advice and encouragement to my fellow working dads, showing them that they can have successful careers and still be the fathers they always wanted to be – and that our families need us to be. You are not alone. You can do it.

You’re a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a professional expert on family issues and a hands-on dad. You got at least three demanding jobs. Was this your personal motivation to write a book about successful dads at home and work? 

My career as a business school professor and consultant is focused on researching work-family balance and helping both dads and employers find solutions. But, more importantly, I’m a busy working dad who aspires to both career success and being a highly involved, loving dad and husband. I have some insight from my professional life, and also know what it is like for my readers who wish to live a more balanced life- I face the same challenges.

I think the unique value of my book is this dual perspective. I have never seen a book that looks at work-family challenges from these two perspectives at once. I think many readers will find it relatable and useful.

In your work you talk about the importance of supportive workplaces. What is, from your point, a well supportive workplace (for dads) and what deficits do you see in most current workplaces?

 Here in the US, it seems to me that work-family concerns are now firmly on the radar for many companies – as an important business issue, and not just as a “nice to have” women’s concern. Most organizational leaders can see the costs of employee turnover, and how they may lose the “war for talent” to competitors if they don’t adapt. As a result, we’ve seen a proliferation of pro-dad policies such as generous paternity leave and increased work flexibility.

However, enacting policy is just step one. Where companies need to make up ground is in changing supervisory attitudes and corporate cultures to take a more long-term view on employee management. More decision-makers need to see that accommodating employees in the short-term with their family challenges actually benefits them in the long-term by helping them hold onto valuable employees and increasing engagement and loyalty. The message is slowly starting to get through.

I’m an optimist. We’re not having this conversation 10 years ago. We’re grappling with it now. I imagine things will get better 10 years from now.

What were, so far, the three most inspirational moments when talking with fathers? 

dad1I interviewed dozens of dads for my book, and I was amazed that, even though the particulars were different, we all shared the same central challenge- succeeding at work and trying to be great dads. It seemed as if each dad had an inspirational story to share.  

The dad that sticks in my mind the most was the father of one of my students, whom I met at an Honors event at my university. He is an uneducated immigrant who worked and sacrificed his whole life, and poured that life into his son. I was with him as he watched his soon-to-be-college-graduate son receive his Honors diploma in a fancy hotel ballroom. I could just see the pride in his eyes as he felt all his years of sacrifice pay off. He’s my inspiration, both as a dad and as a college professor. 

What do you enjoy about fatherhood?

What don’t I enjoy!!! But the best thing, to me, is to be able to experience the world through the eyes of my son, with all the wonder of new discovery. Being a dad is the joy and privilege of my life.

In your book, you give a lot of practical advice and share exercises for dads to try out. Often you also speak from your own experience which is very encouraging for other dads. From all your advice for working dads, what’s the best and most important tip to help dads finding a better work-family-balance? And how have you implemented that into your own life?

I think it all starts with really thinking through your priorities. What do you really want out of life, your career, your family, your one shot at your kids’ childhoods? Once you figure out your priorities, there are hundreds of ways you can consciously make decisions to align your life with your priorities. This way, you can achieve your definition of success at work and at home instead of drifting through life without a clear plan. My book provides self-assessment exercises to get you started, and lots of ideas on how to implement your plan. 

On a personal level, thanks to writing the book, I’ve gotten much better at managing my time. Instead of multi-tasking and running from thing to thing, I am better at scheduling in “time chunks” to really focus on work and keep that time separate from the time chunks I spend fully immersed with family. I schedule time chunks for my priorities- playing with my son, a bi-weekly lunch date with my wife, a full hour for exercise, what have you. A solid two-hour chunk with my family, followed by a few hours of writing is far better for everyone than trying to write all night and stealing 15 minutes of family time here and there. 

What do you wish for all working fathers? 

I am incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to be fully present throughout my son’s childhood. I have a great job that gives me lots of control over my time, a supportive wife, and a great network of friends who can help. But even from my fortunate perch, I struggle with work and family pressures. We all have our challenges. We all could use some help. That’s why I wrote this book.  

It is my sincerest hope that all fathers can experience the joy of being fully present and involved through their kids’ childhoods. My wish for you and for all fathers is that you can succeed in your career, provide for your family, and spend vast quantities of high quality time with those you love.

Thank you so much, Scott, and good luck with your book!

book cover newScott Behson, PhD, is a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a national expert in work and family issues, and was a featured speaker at the recent White House Summit on Working Families. He’s the author of the book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home, the first book of its kind to provide advice and encouragement for working fathers, helping them to achieve success in their careers while also being the involved, loving dads they always wanted to be. Scott founded and runs the popular blog, “Fathers, Work, and Family,” dedicated to helping working fathers and encouraging more supportive workplaces. He writes regularly for the Harvard Business Review Online, Huffington Post and the Good Men Project, and has also been published in TIME and The Wall Street Journal.

Website: http://ScottBehson.com

Book: http://WorkingDadsSurvivalGuide.com, http://amzn.to/1PWQtky

Blog: http://FathersWorkandFamily.com

Professional Speaking: http://brightsightgroup.com/speakers/scott-behson/