Category Archives: Parenting

Learning to be a better parent

We were honoured that Suzie Hayman came to Marlborough last weekend to offer her pearls of wisdom and inspiration to small groups of parents as well as professionals.

Suzie is a parenting expert, Relate-trained counsellor, journalist, broadcaster and author of over 30 educational books about families.  As before, when we heard her speak in October 2016, Suzie was engaging and pragmatic, always offering us helpful comments to our questions without attempting to pretend that parenting is ever easy – and, of course, reminding us that there is no such thing as the perfect parent; only “good-enough”.

We discussed digital technology and step-families in detail in two separate seminars in small groups.  Suzie was keen for us to remember that, when facing any conflict or difficulty within our families, we can ACT:

A = Adult: ask ourselves “what is going on for me right now? Am I tired, stressed, sad, angry, etc?”

C = Child: ask ourselves “what is going on for my child right now” and be like a detective looking at all the variables that may be affecting your child’s emotional life.

T = Toolkit: what is in my toolkit so that I can deal with the situation in a constructive way, rather than REACT.  This may include for example “active listening” such as taking turns to talk and listen to one another.  Or remembering to use “I” statements (avoiding “you” blaming statements).  For example “When you….I feel….because…. What I would like it/What are we going to do about this?”

Following ACT gives us the opportunity to gain insight around the problem, why it’s happening and how to discuss it without reacting from an overly-emotional stance.

Suzie suggested we set family or house rules.  Every household has rules but usually they are not clear or agreed.  A key point here is to have a “Family Round Table” so that all members of the family – including the children even if they are young – can contribute to and “buy in to” the house rules. Appoint a note-taker, take it in turns to talk (perhaps using an object such as a wooden spoon, allowing each person holding the spoon to have their say without interruptions), have the note-taker write down everything.  Then revise these to allow for compromise and simplicity where necessary.

This task felt somewhat daunting to some of us, but Suzie gave us confidence and courage to think about it.  The earlier you start, the easier it will be get!  And children feel good about being heard and respected.

We were delighted with the level of engagement in both seminars.  I would like to thank everyone who attended and for sharing their experiences.  Many of us benefited from knowing we are not the only ones with our particular difficulties!    Thank you also to the White Horse Bookshop which gave a wonderful ambience to our day.

From 14 feedback forms we received the following scores which are fabulous:

Overall assessment of event: 5 out of 5
Speaker (Suzie Hayman):  4.93 out of 5
Helpfulness regarding learning new skills: 4.93 out of 5

Comments from participants:

  • “I’ve learned a lot both from Suzie and other participants and I value the way the group was facilitated to include everyone’s experience.”
  • “Really good to hear others’ views and experiences and having new techniques to try!”
  • “Suzie is great.  More please!”
  • “Very informative and relaxed”
  • “The group size was just right”
  • Thank you. I really enjoyed this and am going away feeling much more confident!”
  • “Good lively group with interesting discussion and feedback”
  • “Excellent, good venue, good size group”

By Wendy Bramham
February 2017

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“A Must for any Parent”

The “Parents and Teens” talk, by parenting expert and agony aunt Suzie Hayman, followed by Q and A, at St John’s School, Marlborough on 22nd October 2016, was a must for any parent with children about to embark on their teenage years, or indeed any parent already in the midst of this often challenging and turbulent time. I only wish I had heard these words of wisdom long ago, both from Suzie herself, and also the teenagers contributing to the discussion.

Suzie has many years of experience counselling families and couples, and is also an agony aunt, broadcaster and author of 30 books on families, but most noticeably Parenting Teens 22 Oct 2016her own experience as a stepmother. She is a warm and wise soul, who brought clarity and calm to this topic without denying the challenges involved.

Suzie starts from the core view that the teenager’s main task is to separate from his/her birth family, while our job as parents is to manage these shifting boundaries while passing control over to the teen. And no, she does not say this is easy. Her approach is practical and pragmatic, and she makes you feel you too could manage this. She gives helpful hints for how to relate to your child in a way that enhances communication,  and on how you might approach such thorny subjects as alcohol use and pornography. She entreats us to remember that a problem might actually be our own, rather than theirs, such as our own expectations or dreams being acted out. She never pretends to have all the answers but offers a framework to work from.

The ensuing discussion brought enlightening tips from the teens present, whose overriding message was “please, just listen to us”, since we might not have any idea what our child is experiencing, as well as “be available”, in other words sometimes we need to wait until they are ready to talk rather than rushing in with our own agenda.  The wide-ranging questions and discussions from the audience could easily have gone on past the allotted time.

This well-organised seminar in congenial surroundings will, I hope, be the first of many such events. Highly recommended!

By: Anne Hutson (parent)
7th November 2016

 

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Help with the minefield of digital technology and teenagers

Having attended the talk ‘Parenting Teens’ given by Suzie Hayman at St John’s, Marlborough and organised by Wendy Bramham Therapy, I cannot recommend it more highly to parents/carers of teenagers and those soon to be parents/carers of teenagers.

Suzie Hayman presented the talk in an engaging and relaxed manner, explaining some of the ‘science’ behind teenagers, helping perplexed parents to understand what may be going on in the teenage brain, how their teenager may view the world and looking at how teenagers deal with change in their lives.  Suzie gave lots of practical advice and suggestions as how parents/carers can help their children (and their families) through this often turbulent period in their lives and the discussion session that followed the talk covered wide ranging topics including parenting in step-families, pornography, alcohol, technology, laying down house rules, dealing with conflicting house rules, and risky behaviour.

The talk was clear and easy to follow, supported by a power point presentation.  Suzie was very generous with both her time and resources, offering to provide all those who attended with copies of the presentation, free leaflets and answering questions fully not only during the formal session but also afterwards.  I will be keeping the presentation notes close at hand to refer to when faced with teenage challenges in the future!

Suzie has written various books on parenting and some of the titles were available for sale on the morning – I bought one and fully expect to buy more.  One of her most recent books is on the minefield of digital technology, a subject which worries me and many other parents of technology-savy teenagers

St John’s was, as always, a pleasant choice of venue.  The session took place in the Enterprise Suite, rather than the main theatre, and its more intimate size encouraged the open and wide-ranging discussion that followed on some sensitive issues.

Wendy added both a professional and personal touch to the morning from her perspective as a mother of teenage children and as a psychotherapist of over 20 years experience.  We were also joined by four, real live teenagers who generously gave up their Saturday mornings to offer some insight into their teenage world!  They participated in the discussion that followed Suzie’s talk and it was interesting to hear from them what they would like from us.  The message was loud and clear – space, support and no shouting.  There’s food for thought.

Thank you to Wendy for organising this highly relevant and useful talk – I would be very interested in attending similar talks in the future.  It was excellent value for money and if there is one thing that will remain with me from the morning it is that young children are loving, biddable puppies but teenagers are fiercely independent cats!

By: Sarah Giles (Parent), 27 October 2016

 

Parenting Teens – 22 October 2016 in Marlborough

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Wendy Bramham with Suzie Hayman

I was delighted with our extremely positive feedback following this event, which was attended by 75 people, mostly parents.  The average score for our speaker, Suzie Hayman, was an overwhelming 4.97 out of 5 from 68 forms! Congratulations and a big thank you to Suzie for her informal, practical style and huge knowledge and experience.

I was struck by how engaged people were, listening to Suzie’s pearls of wisdom and experience during her presentation which covered a range of topics including:

  • understanding this transitional stage of change and loss both for your child and for you;
  • how to listen and talk with your teenager using “I” statements and open questions;
  • brain changes which helps us to understand teens’ behaviour
  • top tips such as:

* understand this is a transition from child to apprentice adult; your teen needs to separate.  You are no longer their boss!

* Your task is to help them live their lives, not yours

* Show you care, are prepared to set some limits but trust them and don’t try to control them

* Don’t take it personally, but look at what is going on for you.  Look after yourself

The second half of the seminar was dedicated to questions, answers and discussion, and we were lucky enough to have four St John’s 6th formers present who were willing and brave enough to offer their own perspectives.  It was evident from the feedback forms how much the audience appreciated and valued their comments; and how confident and eloquent they were.  When asked what they wanted from their parents, their comments included:

  • support but also “space” to discover their own identity (not a version of their parents)
  • help to think things through for themselves, rather than being told what to do/think
  • less pressure, as there is already a lot of pressure within school
  • to continue to be told “I’m here if you want to talk” which they will remember and be comforted by (even if they don’t want to talk right now!)
  • less shouting; can we talk calmly and more objectively (less emotionally)?

Parents also wanted to know how to manage their teenagers’ use of digital devices; how to talk to their teens about sex and pornography;  step-families; and how to manage when other families have different rules from their own.

Suzie encouraged us to try to feel more comfortable discussing sex with our children.  Additionally, she suggested, we may consider lobbying our schools to put on educational sessions about “relationships, love and sex”, which focusses on the emotional side of sex within the context of relationship, rather than the biology of sex, as well as the dangers of learning about sex through pornography.

The general atmosphere was supportive and collaborative.  I think many of us were reassured that we are not alone; that parenting is challenging but that there is hope, and there are tools and tips!  There was a general consensus that people wanted more!  A number of people expressed interest in further seminars in smaller groups, which we will be happy to consider.

L-R: Briony Martin, Suzie Hayman, Wendy Bramham

L-R: Briony Martin, Suzie Hayman, Wendy Bramham

Thank you to all attendees for making it a constructive event, and for your generous feedback.  A summary of the feedback is below.  Additionally I wish to thank:

  • Sally Bere from St Johns
  • the four 6th formers (Abi, Dulcie, Steffie and Sabrina), and their teacher Tom Nicholls
  • my colleagues and helpers:  Michael Garreffa, Briony Martin, Jo Turner and Debbie Chapman,

Wendy Bramham
26 October 2016

 

Written Feedback following our event

From 67 feedback forms, the average scores are as follows:

  • “Speaker of the seminar”: 4.97 out of 5
  • “Helpfulness with parenting skills and tips”: 4.82 out of 5
  • “Overall assessment of event”:  4.69 out of 5

A selection of written comments:

“Everyone should hear this talk!”
“Very informative, helpful, producing good open discussions”
“It has been fantastic to involve 6 formers – thank you”
“I wish the session could have lasted longer!
“Teens were great, more of this!”
“Incredibly helpful with understanding problems and having a toolbox for constructive coping”
“Thought-provoking event, challenged my comfort zone of parenting! Excellent.”
“Very useful perspective on key issues”
“Extremely worthwhile.  Thank you”
“Really insightful – could have been twice as long”
“Suzie was brilliant.  Huge thanks”
“Excellent – so useful”
“Fabulous, very helpful, thank you”
“Excellent presentation and discussion session, found it extremely informative, thank you”
“1 minute timer for talking and listening – great tip, I will use”