The Crisis!

A worldwide phenomenon towards introspection.

We cannot stop this virus because science does not have the weapons to fight it. It is novel – we are in completely uncharted waters.

The uncertainty of the unknown, the absolute helplessness, combined with the health risks and the added risk to life create the conditions for the perfect storm. We feel it swelling up inside of each one of us and around us.  Building momentum and gathering speed especially via well-meaning social media. Thankfully it is not as deadly a virus as we have seen in the past, but it is more contagious than we are accustomed to. If science cannot help us and if this is bigger and faster than we are, what do we do? What can we hold on to? What have we left to manage ourselves and our loved ones? 

According to all the “scientific” advice we are left with our own immediate spaces, our very own thoughts and beliefs. Cliché after cliché pops into my mind.

As above so below

Every little bit count

The mountain is conquered one step at the time

How to eat an elephant…

I have no power over others

One Day at a time

… And so on.

All of these are true yet when faced with this truly global threat like COVID-19 it seems all too simplistic. There is a possible permanent change ahead. We have no way of knowing if our norms will stay the same. And all we have left is to sit with ourselves in self-isolation, forced quarantine or in simple contemplation about these times we live in.

The changes we can make seem minute yet every institution in the world is asking us to do these very simple and basic, seemingly unimportant things.

Wash our hands!

Be conscious of what we touch and who we have been in contact with.

Be kind to others and think for the greater good.

Governments, The World Health Organisation, science, medicine, the pharma industry EVERYONE who we have put our trust in for so long is telling us the same thing.  “Manage this crisis on a MICRO- LEVEL.”

“What I do today in my home in my environment WILL make a difference.” That is what they are saying. They are in fact telling us to go back to basics and focus on the space we occupy right now.

So, what about my environment my thoughts and my beliefs?  We have been running in circles cutting our time short because we are obsessing about social media posts, work, finances and what the people on the other side of the planet feel is good, pretty and appropriate. 

This global crisis is indeed an opportunity. An opportunity to self-isolate on a completely new level. A chance to do some introspection about life here and now.  I challenge everyone to take this opportunity and for us to look at our own values, beliefs and environment. We no longer can travel and run away from our own environment. We can no longer flood our senses with distractions because everything is closed.  We are forced to use our waking hours to be truly present in the now.  This crisis is an opportunity to engage in a global prayer session. Turning our thoughts towards ourselves and that which we believe in.  Ultimately this is all that we ever had, we just thought that there was more, but when it comes down to the essence of a life worth living this is what we have.

The only way that we now can be pulled away from ourselves is by sending, reading, posting creating social media posts that promote anxiety and hysteria. No doubt, many of these posts are well-meaning. I too am guilty of exactly this overloading of information.

Know that fear-based posts are like COVID-19 infected door handles. A festering point of ill health. Make sure you clean your devices regularly, be aware of what you read and hear. Encourage the spread of positive interactions. Protect your thoughts and your beliefs from the infestation of the very contagious negativity. Consider the greater good and stop the spread of fear.

Crisis, a chance to change!

I have no doubt that this too shall pass, and we will find new norms. We will look back and remember a time before COVID-19 like we remember the world before 911. There will be many changes, we will get used to them and learn to live life with those changes. Eventually, we will go on and happily do life.

I ask you – what would YOU like to take from this crisis. What change would you like to make in your environment, in your beliefs and in your thoughts that can honour this crisis – this profound, novel and global crisis of biblical proportions?  

What can You do differently to change this world?

What is Your belief?

Do your thoughts haunt you or do they encourage you?

Behaviour is an expression of our deepest thoughts and beliefs. Behaviour changes when we allow our brain to consider new ways to be. The brain can only consider new ways of being if we change our minds about what we truly deeply believe.

More clichés bubble up:

Be the change you want to see| Are you part of the solution or part of the problem| Lead from the front| practice what you preach| Be the change…and so on

Stay safe, Stay healthy Stay positive as you turn inwardly to change the world one step at a time.

Lifting The Veil

Anxiety, Depression & Mental Health

Despite the stormy weather we had a good turnout for our “Let’s Get Talking” event on Tuesday 30th July 2019. Participants found the evening interesting and informative. The majority felt that the environment was relaxed, comfortable, compassionate and safe. We had a healthy discussion about a difficult topic, and everyone contributed. Thank you to all who made the effort to come out, it was truly wonderful and humbling.

During the introductions it became clear that everyone in the room has had their own experiences with anxiety and depression. The evening therefore focused mainly on anxiety and depression and we only touched briefly on other mental health issues.

What is anxiety and depression?

Andrea started the conversation with a simplified introduction to what anxiety is.

                “Anxiety (and depression) is a coping mechanism that has taken over control. Fear and sadness are essential to our biological and social survival. These emotions originate from deep within the “survival brain”.

The survival brain has only three responses – fight, flight or freeze. During times of crisis and trauma the survival brain takes over and we start operating with “limited capacity” i.e. the brain withdraws from accessing learnt information and reasoning. This is a healthy and temporary response to crisis and trauma. Some people call this “survival mode”. If the brain for some reason perceives the world to be a dangerous place, it operates more and more in survival mode and eventually this may become a permanent state of mind, which may lead to a diagnosis of anxiety or depression.” 

“Historically anxiety and depression were treated as separate diagnoses. Now we see them more as being on a continuum” says Deborah Rutenberg, co-facilitator and counsellor at The Family Counselling Centre. Andrea Nettel added that “anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin”. The causes are often similar and so is the treatment, some symptoms seem miles apart, however there are many symptoms that apply to both.

The group identified anxiety symptoms as feeling unsettled, “butterflies in the tummy”, heightened energy, hyper vigilance, unable to focus and memory loss. Depressive symptoms were characterised as feeling “lazy or bored”, unable to do things and sleeping too much. Andrea and Deborah added panic attacks, avoiding things and disassociation to symptoms of anxiety. Emotional outbursts and moodiness, they said, could be symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Aggression and anger in men can often be misunderstood symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Another symptom of anxiety or depression is known as self-medicating behaviour.  This essentially means if you regularly have a drink, smoke a joint, eat chocolate or if you regularly engage in excessive or prolonged gambling, pornography or gaming, to “deal with life”, you might be medicating yourself.

If you can’t wait for “wine-o’clock” or if you find yourself checking if the “Boeing has flown over” then you might be using a habit to deal with overwhelming feelings of dread or hopelessness.

What causes Anxiety?

The cause of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, can be situational, environmental, biological, medical or genetic. It can also have its origin in culture, society and upbringing. As counsellors we focus more on the now and “where to take it from here, rather than where it came from” stated local grief counsellor Karin Grobler who was part of the conversation.  Hormonal fluctuations when experiencing PMS, during Menopause and Andropause (male menopause) can make coping with latent or hidden issues more difficult rather than being the cause of anxiety and depression.

What to do?

Anxiety is a well-meaning but overactive coping mechanism, therefore re-training the brain to change its perception of the world is very helpful. Bringing the brain back into the NOW, as a first aid, is one way of managing anxiety levels says Andrea. Here some ideas on how to do this:

  • Gentle bilateral (left, right, left, right) tapping (drumming) on thighs assists the brain to focus on the current surroundings. It engages the sense of touch and hearing.
  • Find 5 things in the room that have your favourite colour and audibly name them. This engages sight, hearing and focuses the brain on the current SAFE surroundings.
  • Singing or humming a song you really like.

These little exercises are by no means a cure but can assist in managing “hamster wheel” thought patterns that may lead to anxious or depressive episodes.

It was suggested to start seeing a counsellor when noticing anxiety or depressive thoughts BEFORE they become overwhelming. This might assist in keeping the dread and hopelessness at bay. Most people only seek help once their life has become unmanageable. By that stage anxiety and depression might have escalated to actual mental health diagnoses and may need to be treated by a medical professional in addition to counselling. 

It was mentioned that there is a stigma associated with the diagnoses and even more so with taking medication. Most people seem ashamed to be taking medication to “cope”.  During the discussion it was mentioned that there is still the belief that taking medication means “I am weak” or “I am giving up” or “I am escaping”. We briefly discussed the myth that medication “makes you into a zombie” and that they are addictive. Some do and some are, however, great strides have been made in the development of psychiatric medication and we see them working very well as temporary assistance to recovery, regaining health and, if needed, as a chronic medication.

What to do for someone else?

If you know someone that seems to be slipping down the slippery slide of anxiety or depression and if you have serious concerns about their wellbeing, then “go over their head” and book an appointment with their doctor asap. No matter if they are asking you not to do so.  If they become very resistant you always have the possibility of calling medical emergency services like CMR, to check up on your dear one. Also, if you are fearing that they might hurt themselves you can report this to the police, and they have the duty to follow up on this. These might seem to be severe measures, however, is it worth taking the risk NOT to do anything. If they are really struggling, they are unable to decide on their own and they need loved ones to guide and help them to find the appropriate help.

They might be “looking for attention” or acting like a “drama queen” and you might feel their threats are not real. Remember they are calling out for help in the best way they can.

If you have any questions about this topic, or if you are looking for assistance, please Whats App or call us on 072 375 6089, and we will assist you with making an appointment to see one of our counsellors.

Self-Care & Stress Relief @ The Safe House

The Safe House and The Family Counselling Centre

“The Safe House” and its staff is one of the projects that we at The Family Counselling Centre (TFCC) support. The Safe House (TSH) is a place of safety for women and children who have been a victim of domestic abuse. It is situated in the middle of our “deep south” valley, in a secret location to ensure the safety of its residents. TFCC provides pro bono debriefing sessions when needed and individual counselling sessions for staff members. We also offer staff development for the housemothers, the social worker and the admin staff.
The recent staff development workshop was held on 28th June 2019. The topic was self-care and was held by Andrea Nettel. Zikho Mkosana from TFCC also joined in the session.

Self-Care Workshop

The 5 Aspects of Being Human

There are 5 main aspects to human life.
1. Physical – Eating Sleeping, Physical sense of well-being, health, Illness etc.
2. Productivity – work, school, housework, how productive do you feel?
3. Spirituality – How happy are you with your individual spiritual life? How well are you connected spiritually?
4. Social – Family and Friends, how good are my family interactions and my friendships?
5. Creativity – Anything from painting, art, knitting, baking, sinning dance, writing, etc. How much creativity is in your life?
These aspects need daily attention and need to be cared for. In order to find out how well you are doing, it is important to be able to rate yourself. This exercise is something you can do by yourself, or if you are a team leader you can encourage your team to spend a little bit of time at least once a week to assess themselves. The rating goes as follows: 10 means that this aspect is exactly where you would like it to be and 0 means it is nowhere to be found in your life right now. This rating will give you an idea where you feel uncomfortable and what does not need to be worked on right now.
The Safe House team seemed surprised at their ratings and found that they were generally high in their productivity, but other aspects of their lives were lacking desperately. This little exercise assisted them to identify areas of their lives they said they would like to improve or focus on.


What is stress?

The definition of stress according Google is pressure or tension exerted on something. Stress, in itself, is not a bad thing. The human body is created to deal with stress. In other words, you are created to deal with certain stressful situations in your life. There is “good” stress like excitement about going on a long-awaited holiday. There is also “bad” stress like lack of finances or relationship trouble. Ultimately stress can get us to finish things on time or organise last minute details before needing to get onto that plane that will take us to our holiday destination.
The problem really is when there is too much stress. Either stress that last for many months, or stress that is simply too great to handle.

Symptoms of too much stress

Cognitive Symptoms
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgement
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying

Emotional Symptoms
• Moodiness
• Irritability or short temper
• Agitation, inability to relax
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Sense of loneliness and isolation
• Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds
Behavioural Symptoms
• Eating more or less
• Sleeping to much or too little
• Isolating yourself from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibility
• Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, tapping fingers)

Stress relief techniques

Stress relief, or self-care, is not a once a week thing. Or something we do when we are on our annual leave. Stress relief, and self-care needs to be implemented daily as a routine AND immediately as in response to stressful experiences. The internet is full of suggestions of stress-relief exercises and techniques. I have chosen to share these few because they are simple to use and I have found them to be very effective.

1. Healthy Living:

• Water consumption
• Nutrition
• Sleep Hygiene
• Spirituality
• Sunshine
Take note of your water consumption and ensure you have a healthy balanced nutritional diet. Ensure your sleep hygiene is up to scratch. Everyone has different needs with regards to how many hours you might need. However, it is important to take care that the sleep you do get is quality sleep; That you have a bedtime routine to help your body to close off the day properly and that you sleep comfortably, waking up refreshed. Sunshine is a magnificent stress relief tool. It eases muscle tension, it builds up our vitamin D resources, it encourages healing, it is stimulating to get moving. And finally, having a spiritual connection a spiritual practice, will build resilience and decrease stress substantially.

2. Pockets:

Pockets are moments, 30 seconds to max 5 minutes, that are littered across your day. During a pocket take time to check in with your body, and yourself in general. You can take a moment while boiling the kettle and look out the window. Watch the tree swaying in the wind, enjoy the clouds dancing in the sky, rest your eyes upon a mountain or a sea view. While doing that drop your shoulders and slow down your breathing.

3. Finger Holding:

Eastern medicine and meridian work, western physios, massage therapists and chiropractors use meridian work to alleviate physical pain through dry needling, massage and pressure point release. Sports injuries have been proven to heal quicker with the use of meridian work.
A local study a few years back about schoolteachers and their stress levels made use of “Finger Holding” as one of the stress relief techniques. I cannot remember what the study aimed to achieve, however, there was an unexpected result that was NOT connected to the actual study and that was that ALL the teacher in the finger holding group felt that it was impressively helpful in reducing stress AND building resilience.
Each Finger is related to a certain emotion or stress feeling:
• Thumb = Emotional Pain (Sucking thumbs in children), Grief and tears
• Index Finger = Fear and terror (the naughty finger form authority)
• Middle Finger = Anger Rage and Resentment – (showing the middle finger)
• Ring Finger = Anxiety, worry, Preoccupation (Twirling the wedding ring nervously)
• Small Finger = lack of self-esteem, feeling like a victim (It is the smallest finger)
In short depending on how you feel you hold the corresponding finger with your other hand. Gently holding it you can do so without anyone knowing what you are doing or why you are doing it. Hold that finger until you feel a pulse, or until you feel better. You can do this regularly with each finger to balance and strengthen yourself. (e.g. every morning before you start you work) or you can do it as and when you feel stressed.
(Click here to go to the “Integrated Security” website for more information on finger holding technique)


The Safe House Team felt relieved that self-care could be as simple as that. All agreed that the kind of work they do at the safe house is high in stress, mainly because of the struggles their residents bring with them. We discussed extensively how the trauma of the residents effected the working environment and how each one of them can be personally affected by the clients they work with. Most of the team felt that the 5 aspects of being human were the most helpful and many committed themselves to make space for the aspects that they rated below six.

Tackling Tough Times – Communication made easy

We communicate all the time. Every minute of our waking day we are communicating something to someone somehow.  How do we do that? Most people answer by saying “we talk and use words”, they are correct to a point. Communication, however, is so much more than just using words.  At our September “Let’s get Talking” event at Sandi’s bistro  participants uncovered what supports communication and why communication breaks down. Here now some comments from some of our participants.

“My husband and I joined a welcoming and informal group to discuss how we communicate with each other,

especially when times are tough.  Andrea took some time in helping us understand how communication takes place and how we give and receive messages to and from each other. ”

“Andrea illustrated how … our interpretations” of things “were not neutral, but rather a projection of our own ‘stuff’. This was to be a pivotal concept for the rest of the evening.”

“This talk helped me appreciate the importance of taking time to think about what I want to say before I say it.  For me this means also being responsible for what I say and how I say it.  Andrea helped me realise that speaking from the ‘I’ point-of-view helps to let others understand how I am feeling rather than feeling they are being blamed for my experience.”

“For my husband and I, hearing that other couples also sometimes have strife and that our own troubles in communicating are not unique to us, is enormously liberating.  When one of us is triggered, we have been practicing discussing how we feel rather than reacting emotionally.  We are very grateful for being shown this tool.  It takes time and practice and we try implement this as best we can.”

“What I really took away from the evening was an emphasis on conscious reflection on our communication patterns and interactions. Andrea spoke about ‘less emotional reaction and more conscious response’ to communication in general- this point really resonated with me as I so strongly believe we are responsible for how we communicate with others. “

“Overall, the evening was really enjoyable. I think having these conversations about such important aspects of life are hugely contributory to larger societal change and we should be demonstrating how they can be had in informal spaces like last night.”

These are the 5 basic points to consider when communicating, especially when tackling tough 


  1. What is my intention? What am I trying to communicate?
    Check in with myself. How am I feeling right now?
  1. Check in with the person(s) if they can communicate right now.
  2. Is the environment conducive to successful communication?
  3. Take time to Respond rather than React quickly


Feel free contact us if you are looking for further assistance when communicating during crisis like divorce, trauma, loss.

Andrea is passionate about tackling difficult topics like

  • How do we tell our kids about the breakup of your marriage?
  • How do I help my child in the grieving process?
  • How do we communicate as parents in a blended family?
  • etc.

Leigh is specialised in dealing with issues like

  • How do I confront a difficult boss or colleague, successfully?
  • How do I find my voice and be heard?
  • How do I communicate boundaries?
  • etc.

Deborah is excellent in building trust through communication.

  • How to communicate with my spouse after infidelity?
  • How do we build our family after abuse and addiction?
  • How do we connect when relationships have broken down?
  • etc.

Call or WhatsApp us on 0723756089 for an appointment with either Andrea, Leigh or Deborah.

For more information on our therapists please see the “Meet the Team” tab on our website

Our next conversation will be on 30th October 2018 at Sandi’s Bistro. The topic will be “Boundaries”!  We hope to see you there.



Young and old talking about Social Media

The consensus seems to be that Social Media might be a wonderful tool however there is this underlying fear of what seemes to be vast unknown dangers. Participants between the ages of 16 and sixty joined us in our last, “Let’s Get Talking”, discussion. Despite the age range it became obvious that everyone had struggles with healthy integration of social media.

Questions like …
“What are the benefits of putting our life story online?”
“How to manage teenage users?”
“Social Media wastes a lot of time and at the same time can be a source of great support”

… came from the participants and were discussed in detail.

The varied Social Media platforms can be likened to the estination that The trick is to learn about the “destinations” but also to learn how to “drive” … technology. A car is very useful, and it can be a helpful tool, however if we do not learn how to use a car properly we become a danger to ourselves and others. Similarly, if we are not sure where we want to go in our car we might end up in places that are not good for us. Technology and Social Media is no different.the vehicles of technology can take us to. There are countless different platforms, all have a slightly different mandate and target market.


During our discussion we addressed some legal aspects of publishing in the public setting. Enforcement of laws are still a struggle for authorities however the laws themselves are very clear. Any public sharing and creating of content IS in fact publishing and falls under the film and publications act. There is much talk about holding the social media platform owners responsible for allowing offensive or illegal content. However, for now, it is the individual that is sending and holding such content that is also liable for it. In short saving, owning, creating, sending and sharing of illegal content is prohibited by law. And if you are found to have content like that or content that might be considerd offensive on your devices you can be held liable.

Feeling Connected

We spend most of our time together discussing ways to help families navigate and manage the time spent on devicesand on social media. First and foremost, we discussed the importance of connecting with each other in a “three dimensional”, “real-life” way and to use the two-dimensional social media as a supplement rather than a primary form of connection. If you or your members of your family start feeling isolated, try and implement a self-check and see how often you have connected in real life as opposed chatting with family and friends through social media. You might find that you are feeling isolated because you are missing real-life three-dimensional interaction with others.

Knowledge vs Wisdom

Some of the older participants disclosed their struggle with navigating through social media and found that “kids these days” have much more knowledge about technology, this often leads to adults “backing off”. We, adults, often forget that the youth might have the knowledge, however they lack life experience and wisdom on how to use things effectively. When we connect in real life with our kids over the topic of technology, we gain from their knowledge of technology and social media, while at the same time they receive guidance from us thorough our wisdom and life experience around how to integrate life.

Managing Social Media

One common denominator is “time management”. Both young and old feel that social media takes away too much time, in fact that it “steals time”. Referring to the metaphor of the car, we need to understand that WE are in control of the car, where we want to go and how much time we want to spend there – The same thing goes for technology and social media. “Remember that we are in control”, this is part of the wisdom mature adults can impart on the youth. Parents have the right and the obligation to set firm boundaries with regards to time spent on devices, which sites to frequent and content that is being spread. We discussed implementing things like having a device-free zones or times in the family home. Applying those boundaries to the whole family helps with real-life interactions. We also discussed substituting smartphones with simple call & sms only phones when kids are unable to monitor their own online behaviour adequately or when they find themselves in places without firm boundaries. This can help them with peer pressure too. Just to mention a few practical examples.

In the lovely setting of Sandi’s Bistro, we were served scrumptious tomato soup as we embarked on unpacking the web that surrounds Social Media.
Thank you to all who engaged and openly chatted about the “real-life” struggles that the ever-growing phenomenon of online living brings our way.

We hope to see you next month – 25th September 2018 – when we Get talking about “Tackling Tough Times”. Looking for ways to explaind difficult things like seperation, grief, Divoce and death to your kids and family members.

Who Are You Disciplining?

 -written by Leigh Johnson

The word ‘Discipline’ is an interesting one. We all think we know what it means but when it comes down to defining it, it is actually far more elusive. An internet search too can prove just as inconclusive, with quite a variety of meanings and interpretations filling the screen. So what exactly is discipline? I’m not going to answer that question as such – partly because I suspect a large number of you have got heart palpitations right now, or glazed eyes; and partly because the official definition is not important. The word ‘discipline’ is such a heavily loaded word that its meaning will always be as wide and varied as the number of people discussing it.

The meaning of this particular word is actually created individually through each of our own experiences of being disciplined – or not. The way our parents or caregivers disciplined us carries immense weight. The discipline practices of the schools we attended have seeped deeply into our psyche. Our culture too, brings with it all sorts of inherent beliefs around the whats and how-tos of disciplin

e. Then there is our workplace. Yes – believe it or not, we are experiencing discipline there to! The time frames in which we work, the way we conduct ourselves, when we can have a cup of tea, how many photocopies we can make at a time… These are all ways in which our organisations attempt to discipline us into well-functioning and effective employees. And more removed than that? Our governments too, are trying to enforce policies and practices aimed at getting us to operate in a manner that is in congruence with what they (or us as voters?) have deemed the ‘right’ way to be.

When we view discipline in this broader scope, it opens up a whole lot more enquiry and possibility into what we typically see as a

Discipline is…  intensely personal.

n act that we inflict on our children to get them to do stuff- or to stop doing it!

At our Let’s Get Talking conversation last night, participants wrestled with just this question. As we broadened our perspectives, so we refined our impressions of what the act of disciplining might mean to us. And, interestingly, as we thought about this, the conversation shone a light on an
important truth:

Discipline is intensely personal. It needs to start with ourselves in two ways:
Firstly, we need to play the role model and demonstrate what it looks like to discipline ourselves.
And secondly, our attitudes and methods of disciplining – whether our children or others – will also be intensely personal in as much as they are influenced deeply by our past experiences and upbringing

What is very important is that each of us becomes aware of what is unknowingly driving us. Countless clients have discovered a few sessions into a coaching programme that the ‘problem’ in their child, could be greatly reduced as soon as they – as parents – had developed an understanding
of themselves and how they are showing up in their act of discipline.

For me, in my role of parent, I was left reflecting last night about how we always lament that ‘children don’t come with a manual’. So we wing it and end up feeling our way in the dark. I wonder what would happen in our families, schools, communities and organisations if more of us parents took time to learn about ourselves, reflect on our role as parent; and make conscious choices in the words we say and the behaviours we enact?
Perhaps, after all, the parenting manual actually lies deep within ourselves, and we could access it if we took the time and were brave enough to explore there?

Leigh Johnson is a Parenting and Life Coach at The Family Counselling Centre; teacher; Learning &
Leadership Consultant; and mother.

Mother/Son Relationships

What is unique about mother/son relationships is the general expected high regard they hold for each other.  Typical issues like the “Mommy’s Boy” , the overprotective  mom or interfering mother and even the mom that replaces existing or potential spouses are well known publicly. We see sitcoms and comedy using these classic scenarios as materials for entertainment. What however is really behind them.

Mothering a child is a full time job and instinct takes on a path of protecting the offspring and equipping the young ones with necessary life skills. On a side note – research shows that it does not seem to matter if it is a biological mother or an adoptive mom. Once mother bonds with the child, boys and girls, these instincts grow stronger and ideally takes on new forms as the child goes through various developmental stages. For instance, a mother of a 1 month old a baby will primarily focus on feeding the child and keeping it clean, warm and protected. A mother of a four year old will spend an overwhelming time equipping her offspring in socially acceptable behaviour. And a mother of a 11 year old will be focused not only on social skills but also on  how to equip her offspring with ways to cope in a world of school demands and healthy relationships.

I always say that parenthood  is a never ending goodbye. Goodbye to pregnancy, goodbye to toothless smile, goodbye to dependency on me as mom. Goodbye, Goodbye goodbye. However what many parents seem to overlook is that with each goodbye comes an amazing “Hello,.. oh Wow.. look at that new development.” Hello to walking , hello to jumping, hello to running up to another adult, hello opinion, hello friends, hello pro-activeness. Hello Hello Hello! I challenge you as a mother to refocus on the hellos instead of mourning too much the goodbyes. Focus on expecting something new every day  and join your son in discovering and unveiling His true self. No matter what age he is.

Bearing all this in mind as mothers (and fathers) we are dealt a hard blow because the ultimately the goal of good parenting is to set your young one free and to allow them to effectively create their own world. Somehow my own  mother-heart feels unbelievable pain and sadness to think that all my efforts as a mom ideally will ultimately lead to  my boys going off into the big wide world, without me. As a family-therapist however I want to encourage you to rejoice at the idea that all your efforts will (hopefully) result in growing responsible individuals who create their own “kingdoms” and rule in their world as powerful, responsible and caring men. Take solace in the fact that the things you have focused on as their grew up in some way form a substructure for their individuality and success.

Here are some Common myths to watch out for. See if any of them apply to you:

My child is a reflection of my personality and my ability to parent well.

As modern moms we over-identify with our son’s behaviours, failures and  successes. We feel that if his shirt is not ironed it will reflect badly on us as moms. We are for some reason not a fit mother if he forgets his lunch. This is absolutely untrue, when your teenage son wears  unironed clothes it means one of two things, either he does not worry much about external things or he is making a statement on purpose. Either way your job as a mom is simply to explain the possible social implications and allow him to make an informed choice. It says nothing about you.  Similarly, what you wear and how you dress says things about you and nothing  about your children. If your sons forgets his lunch it simply means he forgot his lunch and he will somehow make a plan at school/college/work. It says nothing about your parenting.

It is up to me, his mom, to make sure he is OK.

This is an absolute truth in the early stages of your son’s life. However as his ability to make choices grows your responsibility for his decisions shrinks. If he made an age appropriate choice it is of utmost importance for mom to let him live out the consequences of his choice. So if he decided to wear his pajamas to preschool after you explained the possible consequences …he will survive the outcome of his action. Our Job as mothers is not to hinder or change  the choices they make but rather encourage the understanding of the possible outcome of these choices. Trust in His ability to survive, learn and grow.

I know him best.

You KNEW him best MAYBE until he stared interacting with others.  As soon as there are outside influences, He is the one who knows himself the best. We can of course point out blind-spots so he can grow in his self-awareness. But it is up to him to discover who he is and what kind of man he wants to become. There are too many influences in your child’s life to assume that you know him the best. Look at your son everyday and discover who he is today.  How is is navigating life TODAY and allow yourself to discover  as this young man emerges more and more.

He cannot do this on his own, he needs me.

As heart breaking as it is he does not NEED you. He needs respect and understanding and permission to be the best man possible. We as mothers simply provide a SUB-structure of  one possible way to engage with the world. As he grows up he will make up his mind what he will take form your teachings and what he will reject in order to build his “kingdom”, his world.

Being a good mom means I am in his inner circle.

I would like to rephrase that a good mom is there to help with the recovery when things have gone wrong and to be there to celebrate achievements when things go well. A good mom is one who is able to give opinions without guilt, shame or expectations. Being in the inner circle with his friends, girlfriends and ultimately his life partner does not sound like a good idea for both you and him. You have your kingdom and he needs to leave your kingdom to create his own inner circle. My wish for you as his mom is for you to cultivate your own inner circle (even while your boy is little) This inner circle may includes a spouse,  one or two really close female friends and loads of acquaintances and interests to make life interesting for you.

These are just some of the myths moms deal with on a daily basis. Often your friends and family members will point out to you that your relationship with your son/mom is not ideal. Listen to them and investigate if any of these myths might be what is causing you stress and struggle.

What are your myths that bind you to your son/mom? What do you struggle with when raising your boy? And how are you managing your relationship with your adult son/mom?

Feel Free to comment on what your  mother/son dynamics are and if you have any questions I am happy to discuss them with you.

For a bit mor insight click on the link to listen to me chatting to SJ King on Cape Talk about Mother/Son Dynamics

Care for the Caregivers

This time of the year my heart goes out to all people working in caring professions. Doctors, social workers, nurses, NSRI staff, teachers, fieldworkers, police, emergency services, etc. Their plight is hard throughout the year but for some reason during the festive season I become painfully aware that, as everyone is celebrating and taking a load off, many cargivers are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy.  Continue reading “Care for the Caregivers”

A Question of Trust

By Leigh Johnson – Affiliate Parenting Coach at The Family Counselling Centre

At a recent presentation I gave at The Friday Network to practitioners in the Learning and Development field, I was reminded of how fundamental self awareness and growth is in order for us to impact others. No matter what roles we perform in life, there is an essential need to start growth and change with ourselves first. We often look to the systems we are a part of – families, organisations, communities, nations – and bemoan the problems we see there, when the place we really need to start with is: me! The conversation emanating from my presentation on Trust highlighted this powerfully.

My presentation was called ‘The Business of Trust’ and focused on the importance of, and skills needed in, developing trust in the workplace. What struck me was that, although my audience were there in their professional capacity and came from the perspective of how best to support their clients in organisations to improve relationships, the key learning almost without exception was around two things:

  • Our own trustworthiness – can people trust us?
  • Our ability to trust ourselves – how often are we breaking promises to ourselves, thereby breaking our trust of ourselves?

I found it very interesting that, even in this professional context, the importance of self-development and mastery stood out.

The first of these learnings – trustworthiness – considers the fact that a core component of trust in a relationship is our own trustworthiness. By being trustworthy, reliable and operating with integrity, we automatically invite this behaviour in others. It is ultimately their choice to act in the same way or destroy the trust. What is often the most difficult part of behaving in a trustworthy manner is that it requires us to know ourselves deeply, and be true to ourselves with courage and authenticity – which often goes against the grain of what we want to do. How many times do we fail to speak up when we don’t agree with what is being said, or try to fit into a group just to be liked?

The second one, our trust of ourselves, is an interesting one. I often use the work of Vanessa Hall, an expert on the subject of trust, when working with this topic. Hall has created a model that depicts trust as being the interplay between Expectations, Needs and Promises*. When one of these is compromised, trust is destroyed. She challenges with the question: “How often do I break promises to myself?” Every time we do, we erode our trust in ourselves a little bit more, and this results in increasingly poor self-esteem, and increasingly untrustworthy behaviour.

“I don’t break promises to myself”, you say? Or “I’m the only person I can trust”? Well, I thought this too, until Hall illustrated just how often we break little promises to ourselves: “I’m going to lose weight”; “On this project, I am going to delegate more”, “I will spend more time reading to my son”, “When I’m next in an argument, I’m going to bite my tongue and listen before I speak”, ‘I’m going to go to the gym this weekend” or “I will visit him tonight”…. Each of these is a promise. And we break promises like these all the time.

An uncomfortable truth that came up in our discussions at the Network was that most of us are not aware of our own trustworthiness or our ability to trust ourselves, even though it is crucial in all our relationships. Personally, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that all of the challenges I am working through with my coaching clients, are linked in some way to this need for self awareness – and I suspect that in many there is a strong link to trust itself.

We can reflect on Mahatma Ghandi’s famous words: ‘Be the change you wish to see in this world’. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see a more trusting and trustworthy society than the one we’ve got at the moment. And the hard work starts with me…


*Read Vanessa Hall’s book: The Truth About Trust in Business; Emerald Book Co.; 2009.