Who am I?

These 3 small words hold the key to unlocking your full potential.

As a keen Choice Theorist, most of my work is based on Choice Theory, the work of William Glasser, MD, and is the culmination of some 50 years of theory and practice in psychology and counselling. During the process of learning Choice Theory, one is introduced to the “Brain Chart” (see here).

To move beyond the intimidation and complexity of the chart, one needs to at least complete a Basic Intensive Training in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management.

In order to apply this knowledge in my everyday Family Therapy Practice, I have deconstructed and reconstructed it in a way that I perceive meaningful to me and have, from there, designed what I now use widely in all my Counselling and Coaching work: The Blueprint – An exploration of human behaviour & how to create change, because in essence, everything starts with yourself!

This model will assist you to get along better with the people who are important to you and enlighten you in why you do the things you do.

For more info you can CONTACT us with your query.

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Mediation: A must for separating parents.

The end of your relationship has ended, and truth is, no one can really prepare you for the emotional turbulence that is about to be experienced. Sure, every separation is different, and the intensity of emotions will vary from person to person, but the ending of a relationship remains one of the most traumatic experience some people will encounter in their lifetime.

As we were growing up, we were most likely raised with certain life principles such as respect, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness … the list goes on, yet when facing a painful separation, all these principles seem to fly out the window. Suddenly, two adults who were seemingly well educated and good people, transform into relentless warriors where peace seems to be only foreseeable in the destruction of the other.

So here goes. It’s all fine if two adults make this choice and want to ruin their lives, but what about when those two adults are also parents? Who is thinking about the children then?

I like to remind separating parents that there are 3 kinds of separation/divorce:

  • The emotional separation
  • The financial division and sharing of children
  • The legal divorce

And they ought to be addressed in that order.

What does this mean? It means that your emotional separation is the most important part of the separation and if not given the priority it deserves, then the financial division, sharing of children and the legal divorce will be considerably ill addressed!

Everything starts with an emotion, and when we make choices based on raw emotions, the results are likely to be inefficient and/or irresponsible and sometimes even devastating.

Such devastating outcomes are often experienced in litigation, because litigation is all about making a point, regardless of everyone’s needs and no litigation has ever ended in leaving people moving on feeling happy.

Separating parents need to be on the same page moving forward as co-parents. They need to be on the same page not only for the best interest of the children. They need to be on the same page to agree that this is the right way that they will find happiness. If one parent gets to turn the page without such consideration, then the children will be left behind!

If after reading this, you are still unsure about Mediation, ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve that cannot be done in Mediation?

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Divorce/separation & Co-parenting

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Most articles that I read on Co-Parenting refer to co-parents as 2 parents who have gone through a divorce/separation. They refer to co-parents as exes; ex husband/wife; ex lover; ex partner. Either way, the reference is focused on 2 people who are now apart after having been together and have had children together.

The focus is then on the many challenges these 2 people encounter when it comes to being separated/divorced parents. Some articles make mention of the ones who have natural friendships which continued after the divorce/separation, others mention the moments which got them to realise how much they were hurting the children and made a choice to change for the good of the kids, but most articles refer to co-parents as people who are now living apart, some easily, others less easily and subsequently the breakdown of the children’s home and family.

When one talks about broken families and broken children, it is important to understand that a divorce/separation does not break children. Parents who lose the notion of their role and responsibilities toward their family break their children’s family and home. Parents who separate make a personal decision and then, as co-parents, ought to now figure out living apart with the same roles and responsibilities towards their family – Their family being their children. To your children you will always be “their family”. You will always be mom and dad. It’s only fair to refer to it both ways.

A life changing decision was made at one point which was to have children. Whether the parents decide sooner or later that they do not wish to stay, or can remain together, they can never go back to how they were before they met, because now they are parents. Co-parents. They have become a person with roles and responsibilities to another person. A separation/divorce will not change that. A divorce/separation does not change that. There should be no law to state it!

Divorces/separations have become a norm. It is time to understand that when, as part of that union, we have become parents, the 2 individuals who are now separating cannot separate from being parents and the norm ought to become primarily that the co-parents value the Role and Relevance of the other parent in their children’s life.

We do not need better laws, we need better emotional support. We need better emotional preparation in schools and we need a legal system which understands that a divorce/separation is emotional in essence and cannot find lasting resolution in litigation.

When some people go on to talk about a broken legal system, a system which does not do justice to families who are in distress or correct the ill doings of a parent over the other parent, surely it is easy enough to understand that it is illegal to not provide for your children and to not interfere with contact agreements, and that, ultimately, the Law doesn’t raise children. Parents do!

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Right or Wrong?

Related imageI see many parents that are in conflict, and some that can’t even be in the same room as each other.

People ask me how I remain neutral in those instances, that there must be one that is right and one that is wrong. Truth is, when in conflict, both are right and both are wrong.

I had a parent in tears once, begging me to believe their side of the story.

Reality is that it doesn’t matter to me who is right and who is wrong. We all have our own perception and that perception will drive our behaviour. Since I am here to assist resolve a conflict, I come from the position that to any problem  there is a solution. If a conflict sees no resolution, the problem is not the problem, the problem is the person’s attitude towards the problem.

You see, we always play a role in situation where we find ourselves involved in. As long as we play a role in the conflict, we are neither right nor wrong, we are contributing to the problem.

There are 3 distinct roles we play when we are part of a conflict. We are either the “blameless one”, the “good one” or the “right one”.

As long as we remain in either of these roles, we remain part of the problem and somehow are thriving to make a point.

So, yes, some people do behave wrongly, but the behaviour usually indicates how capable or incapable an individual is equipped to deal with a situation and it is here that the support is necessary to 1) reassure the fear which motivates our defensive behaviour and 2) redirect the need to be right which is translated with an inefficient or irresponsible behaviour. It is here that lies the opportunity to grow and do something different.

The end of the conflict will take place when we own our part in that conflict and move forward with the intention to make a difference. No law can achieve this. You, and you alone, hold the key to make that choice.

Are you trying to make a point or are you trying to make a difference?

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Is Mediation right for us?

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I often hear people tell me that Mediation is not right for them, to what I always answer: “What are you trying to accomplish that cannot be done in Mediation?

It is true that there are some exceptions to this rule where mediation may not be appropriate like in cases of domestic violence, for example.

The aim of mediation is to assist parties in resolving their disputes amicably through a negotiated settlement, without going to court. One of the motivations behind this is that the courts are over-flowing with cases as numerous disputes are brought before the courts daily and it can be months before your matter can be heard. Secondly, proceedings through the courts involve asking a judge to deliver a judgment on the dispute. Mediation removes this risk as the parties try to find a solution.

In facilitating discussion between the parties, the main objective of mediation is to assists the parties in identifying issues, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise and generating options in an effort to resolve the dispute and ultimately preserve the relationship between the parties and promote healing, something which is not possible through the adversarial nature of our court system.

That being said, it is true that not all mediation are successful and can sometimes bring out emotions that are not always manageable at the time. When mediation is unsuccessful because of emotional turmoil it is not a logic outcome to move to litigation. Instead, parties ought to be encouraged to seek emotional support and coaching in moving forward and then return to mediation when emotions have been made sense of. You’ll be surprised what can be achieved with a clear head.

So if you are facing doubts about your mediation ask yourself first:

Why has mediation failed? Then,

  1. Write down each person’s argument.
  2. Find out what each person wants.
  3. Negotiate or reason with the other side until you reach an agreement.

Are you trying to make a point or are you trying to make a difference?

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Discipline

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I so often hear parents complain of their relationship with their children and the reason being because they are the “disciplinarian” in the family.

My first question to them is: What does discipline mean to you?

The answers range from being strict, setting up rules, punishing, keeping them on a straight path through rigid means … but reality is, in order to better our relationships with our children and teach them what we believe are good values to hold growing up, we need to re-frame what discipline actually means.

The word “discipline” originates from the Latin word disciplina which means “instruction” and derives from the root discere which means “to learn.” The word discipulus which means “disciple or pupil“ also stems from this word.

Re-framing our understanding of discipline is key to better disciplining our children and is best described, and ought to be understood, as an external practice designed to bring about an internal change. 

As per the definition above, learning and giving or receiving instructions are best achieved when we are able to connect and motivate the person we are seeking to “inform”.

What is true of the feedback of the many parents I meet is that wrongfully understood discipline as being controlling, does not work, in the long run anyway.

While it may work for a short while, parents who use controlling discipline will eventually be at the receiving end of the sad outcome of being disconnected from their children and loosing much hope of teaching them valuable information.

The best way to achieve positive results with your children, regardless of their age, is to understand that:

  • You cannot control your children, but you have the ability to influence them in making better choices.
  • You cannot accomplish to teach them well if you resort to making them feel bad in the process.
  • Behaviour = Communication. Instead of punishing, blaming, criticising, complaining, nagging, threatening or bribing to control, connect with your child to address the behaviour and teach them better behaviours by supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting and negotiating differences.

The solution when facing having to “correct” your children is to ask yourself: Is what I’m about to do or say going to bring me closer or push me further apart from my child.

Happy Disciplining and remember to have Fun doing it.

If you would like to learn more about managing your children and the challenges of parenthood, contact us to enquire about our REALity Parenting programme which we can bring to your school.

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Co-Parenting Etiquette

Related imageAs per the children’s ACT, BOTH parents have equal rights and responsibilities unless otherwise stated by a Court of Law.

When separating/divorcing from your children’s other parent, a lot has to be reconsidered. While living under one roof does not make a family perfect. Living under two roofs certainly will bring its shares of challenges.

Many things will have to be re-thought and although the best interest of the children must always come first, parents have to agree on a suitable arrangement which will fit with their new schedule.

Co-Parenting as such is a wonderful concept but not everyone is able to dive right into it.

Many emotions are at stake and co-parenting with someone who is no longer a person you trust or love or even like, can bring in a whole other level of emotions. So how can co-parenting work and be in the best interest of the children, when you really don’t see eye to eye.

Moving on requires time to emotionally come to terms with the meaning of this life transition. This can take time and should not interfere with your role and responsibilities of being a parent. Moving forward, on the other hand, is about consciously applying behaviours which are going to benefit the adjustments necessary for transitioning from one household to two household and to allow the children to feel safe adjusting to the same while being able to love and be loved by both parents.
  1. Co-parenting, at its best, is 2 parents parenting in harmony for the best interest of their children.
  2. Co-parenting, at its most challenging, is 2 parents demonstrating that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.

Here are a few #TIPS to manage this transition and access some Co-Parenting Etiquette.

  • It’s not about you, it’s about the children
    • Remind yourselves that this is not the time to bring back the past, your issues, your grown up problems or your hurt and anger. It is about the children and giving them permission to feel safe loving and being loved by both of you.
  • Keep communication business like and refrain from making things personal
    • In a business relationship, we seldom share personal information. It is no longer your business what is happening in your co-parent personal life as long as each parent is confident that they conduct their personal lives with the best interest of the children in mind. Your only business is your children.
  •  Don’t inform. Discuss
    • Co-Parents who just inform after the facts lay a ground for potential conflict. It translates little respect towards the other parent’s opinion and forces a “My way or the highway” attitude. When you choose to discuss issues or decision-making with your co-parent, you open the door for valuing the other parent’s opinion and properly consider what is in the best of the children.
  • Share information, not feelings
    • When you allow your emotions to do the talking it’s likely going to be messy. Emotions, even though normal, and necessary, are seldom ground for good communication. Whether face to face, by email or messages, stick to sharing information. Emotions will trick you into bringing up the past, blaming, criticising, threatening and even punishing your co-parent, and will drive you to make a point rather than make a difference.
  • Every problem has its solution
    • Sometimes things may seem far from being solvable, yet every problem has its solution. Instead, ask yourself: “Is focusing on the problem helping me get what I want?.” Be a problem solver.
  • Be nice to each other
    • As parents we are affected when our children are mean to one another. Just imagine what watching their parents being ugly to each other does to them. It is not what we want for them and we most likely put efforts in teaching them to be nice to one another. We are their role models, first and foremost, so let’s be a good example to them and be nice to your co-parent.

In applying these principles, you will improve the quality of your co-parenting and uplift the environment for your children.

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I’m Stuck

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While a divorce/separation is painful, now and again, I meet someone who is really struggling to move on with their life.

The first thing to understand is that healing isn’t a linear process. To experience ups and downs are normal. You have been married/together for a certain period of time and a divorce/separation shakes what you know your life to be. It is new and like many changes, it is scary.

But while it is natural for this life changing event to take time to sink in, to accept it, even to regret it, it should not consume you and keep you from moving on.

If you are finding yourself stuck. That months and sometimes even years later you are still affected by this life transition, it is time to take back control over your life and self.

When the end of a relationship has such a devastating impact on your life, it really explains that you are nurturing being a victim of your circumstances. We are all victims, at times, to life’s challenges and difficulties. Feeling like a victim of life, is not easy and it is painful. We believe we are the victims of a feeling which we have no control over, but it is also a choice.

Being a victim means something happened to us. We are its victim, and we have no control over it. We truly believe that we can do nothing for ourselves…but you can choose something different, something better.

If you have a choice, it follows that you are responsible for making those choices. You are either the recipient of your good choices or the victim of your bad choices.

Owning your choices can be daunting, but you cannot escape responsibility for what you are doing.

Here are 4 tips to break free from the victim mentality:

  1. Take ownership and responsibility for your own needs and behaviour.
  2. Understand that you are the only person you can control. You cannot control someone else or a circumstance.
  3. Clarify what you want and what you should do to get it.
  4. The solution is in the present and the future. We are products of the past but we do not have to go on being its victims. It is our present perceptions that influence our present behaviour and so it is these perceptions that we need to work through.

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Pointing Finger

Many people that I meet for counselling or mediation have a finger to point at the other party.

I like to begin with establishing that no one is ever blameless. Sure, some people are downright wrong and even bad, but that doesn’t mean that the other person is blameless.

Finger Pointing is defined as casting blame or assigning the blame for something to someone else. If a person feels they are the victim of someone else’s behaviour, pointing the finger at that person will not provide a sustainable solution.

If you look at the other person, or situation, with a sense of right and wrong according to your value system and perception, then it is easy to find blame. If you hold the belief that you are blameless then naturally it is easy to find fault in the other person.

While there are many different situations to refer to and at times situations which need to be reported for one’s or someone else’s safety, pointing fingers usually is not about safety but about getting someone to take all the blame.

In co-parenting issues, there are unfortunately many scenarios and yes, some parents are totally wrong when it comes to evading financial responsibility towards their child or is withholding access of the child to their other parent, but unfortunately, pointing fingers at the other parent is often less about the children than it is about your own responsibility in the matter. Instead, focus on the things you have control over and how you choose to respond to the situation. This will provide better solutions, in the long run, than just pointing fingers.

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Moving On

Related imageAll I hear from people going through a divorce is how they want to move on, yet, so many have been battling their divorce for an ongoing 2, 3, 4, and even 5 years.

The conflict they are experiencing is sinking them further in a position that feels more like being a hostage to their divorce than a battle to just get a better agreement.

The anger that has settled between two people who once shared a life together is so intense, that the wish to move on has been replaced by a wish to destroy the other person.

By the time people have been back and forth in court and have most likely spent a large amount of money, if not all and even got into debt for it, the Judge will summon them to mandatory mediation to now be adult about their conflict and start taking responsibility to finalise their agreement to divorce.

If anything, a divorce ought to be viewed as a solution.

While not all divorces are clear cut, no divorce should become a reason for ongoing conflicts, destruction, and a battle for the rest of your life.

People need to approach divorce with the understanding that there are in fact three divorces:

  1. The Emotional Divorce
  2. The Financial Divorce &
  3. The Legal Divorce

And they should be approached in this order, because if your emotional divorce is not given the priority and importance it deserves, the financial and legal divorce will be dragged by unresolved emotions.

Then there is the matter of Litigation vs Mediation.

Yes, you may have reached the end of your relationship due to some wrong doings by either or both partners, but truth is, litigating a divorce is no better than deciding to not find a solution.

Whatever you do, you have a choice, and if you lack having a choice in some matters, you still have a choice in how you react to it.

High conflict divorces can still be mediated with the approach of individual caucus sessions. Parties do not have to be in the same room, but as long as the motivation is to not waste money, not waste time and reach a responsible and mindful agreement, then you will soon be on your way to move on.

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