Dry but not high this January

This isn’t a time of year many of us look forward to. Post party/couch/festive-food blues can be tough. The long, dark, cold nights and short, cold days don’t help either.

Empty pint glass held in the sunlightDespite all our good intentions, kick-starting healthier lifestyles in the new year is sometimes a challenge. To help get them off on the right foot and balance out December’s indulgence, many people give up drink for the month.

It’s about balance, not guilt

A glass or two of something can be a way of relaxing after a long day. There’s nothing wrong with that – every so often. But, the association between automatically reaching for a drink when tired or stressed is one to watch.

Avoiding alcohol during January can help to break any habits built up over Christmas. It gives your liver a rest and trains us to find other ways to break the monotony of winter.

It also sets us up with more balanced behaviour for the rest of the year.

A model drinker

You having healthier drinking habits is also good for your sons or daughters. Most of our behaviours and attitudes are first developed at home. This means it’s your actions, not words that count around younger people.

This is true for all behaviour, including things like exercise and eating well. But, because having a drink is often associated with winding-down it can be a harder behaviour to change.

What January blues?

Despite the cultural and societal association of alcohol being a social activity and a stress reliever, it is nevertheless a depressant.

Now, no-one’s saying you should never drink again. But, if January is already tough, abstaining from drink for the month might actually make everything easier.

Hello Sunday mornings

Waking up feeling fresh, being able to remember chats with friends and not worrying about any alcohol related mishaps can be a pleasant alternative to Sunday morning hangovers.

Changing (not necessarily ending) one’s relationship with alcohol is the motive behind the Hello Sunday Mornings campaign. It aims to get people to see if changing their drinking patterns could have a positive effect on their mood and well-being.

If you feel you need a little encouragement towards changing your Sunday mornings (and Saturday nights), why not check them out?

Feel-good factor

The focus is on you, as an individual, feeling better overall. This doesn’t mean you have to change personality. It’s just about giving oneself the space to appreciate life a little more. Cheers to that!

 

 

 

Have they filled out the CAO yet?

We don’t want to keep harping on about it, but the deadline for CAO applications (Sunday, 1 February) is fast approaching.

The face of a clockIf your son or daughter knows what they’re applying for and have submitted the form, well done! But, if they haven’t, now is really the time to focus on it.

Help them with the research

If they don’t know where to start, give them a hand and try to work together. Research is a skill that has to be developed. This is true even for exciting life-choices like what to study.

A few points to help:

  • Set time aside to do the research, don’t try to multi-task with things like watching TV or cooking dinner.
  • Little and often is better than all in one go. To avoid frustration or burn-out, try to spend no more than about 50 minutes researching, but have these periods more frequently.
  • Brain-storm or mind-map ideas and concerns together before you start reading anything. Try to be thorough, cover interests, ability, costs, locations – anything you can think of to do with choosing a course.
  • Use a list from your brain-storming create lists or goals of exactly what you’re trying to find/understand from each session of research.
  • Get help if you’re stuck don’t be afraid to contact guidance counsellors, admissions departments or course faculty. It’s their job to help. If they don’t have an answer they might know where you can find it.
  • Stay calm, as much as possible try to stay level-headed. Focus on communicating well, no matter how frustrating something seems.

Trial and error

Even if someone is absolutely certain of their choices, the reality (as you’re probably fully aware) is that most decisions in life are really trial and error. Nobody ever knows how they’ll feel in a situation until they’re actually in it.

But, that’s an important lessons isn’t it? To be brave enough to try something, even if we’re not 100% sure. It’s better than the alternative; being frozen with indecision and risking getting stuck.

There’s still time

Even if your son or daughter isn’t entirely sure of the choices they’re putting down now, all is not lost. Once they’ve actually applied to the CAO for courses, they still have time to change their mind.

The most important thing for now, if they do want to go straight into third-level this September, is to make an initial application. Besides, most people could think forever and still not be entirely sure of what they want to do.

Talking about porn

Each one of us can remember when we had “The Talk” with our parents. You know the one.  There was probably talk of  “birds and bees”. There might have been a book about “the facts of life” tossed your way for good measure.

Those residual feelings of awkwardness coupled with a world that’s become more sexualised in just a generation might have you feeling anxious when it comes to discussing sex with your son or daughter.  Nevermind getting onto the topic of pornography.

x-rated stampRTE documentary

However, for those that didn’t see the RTE documentary We Need To Talk About Porn, it is a conversation we need to be having with our young people.

The reality is young people are coming into contact with porn – accidentally or otherwise – at increasingly earlier ages. It’s exceptionally easy to access free porn with just a few clicks and often pop-up ads feature images of sexual content, even on websites that aren’t of a sexual nature.

Limiting access

At this point, it may be tempting to imagine removing all the smart devices in your house in order to protect your child, but it’s simply not feasible, nor is it the answer. Technology is not the enemy and when it comes to porn, the genie is out of the bottle. Just look at the content of music videos and advertising in the world around us.

So, how do we talk about porn?

First off, don’t be alarmist. Instructing your son or daughter, to never look at porn isn’t helpful for two reasons:

  1. natural curiosity
  2. it’s nearly impossible to avoid it on the internet, or a friend will have it on their phone. Fostering feelings of shame for looking at it, will isolate them from talking to you about it.

Age appropriate conversation

If your child is pre-pubescent, accidentally being presented with these images can be a scary experience. It’s important for them to know they didn’t do anything wrong.

They should come and tell you when confronted with an image/video that makes them feel uncomfortable, so that you can protect them and other children by reporting the item.

When they’re older

When your son or daughter is a little older and developing sexually, there are a number of key points to convey.

Firstly, pornography is fantasy. It is not an accurate representation of real-life sex; from how the actors look to the things they do and they way they do it. Young people these days are coming in contact with porn, years before they have a relationship so this needs to be stressed.

Explain that porn was designed as an entertainment for adults who are aware that it isn’t real. While it’s understandable that they might be curious about porn, it’s not an educational tool.

If they have questions about sex, they should talk to you or another appropriate adult they feel comfortable with. Let them know being curious about their developing sexuality is not something to be ashamed of. The purpose of the conversation is not to make them feel ashamed or embarrassed, but to guard their wellbeing.

Degrading content

A lot of porn that’s widely available is hardcore and depicts degradation of women. Again, the best way to approach discussion of this is with a level-head. There is extreme porn available and it can be disturbing and can be potentially damaging.

Once again, emphasise that this is not standard, “normal” sex. There is no expectation that they have to enjoy this. Many people don’t find it attractive and again, this is somebody’s version of a fantasy – not depiction of reality. Just because they see something online doesn’t mean they have to try emulate that in real life.

Healthy relationships

They should know that a good, healthy sexual relationship involves an honest conversation with their partner about what they’re comfortable with and what they enjoy.

Realistically, they are going to be confronted about and with porn. It’s not something you can prevent. But, you can help make sure they are adequately equipped to deal with what they see and how to separate what’s realistic and what isn’t.

The more honest and open you can be, the more your son or daughter will  feel comfortable discussing the topic and issues with you. By providing context on the content and messages they might encounter and can help minimize potential negative effects.

Keep calm and fill out the CAO with them

As you’re probably aware, the deadline for the CAO (central applications office) is Sunday, 1 February.

Close up of a chewed pencil in a handFor some people, choosing a college course is easy. For many more, it’s an extremely tough choice. Supporting your son or daughter during the process isn’t always a picnic either.

Not so easy

Deciding what to study can be one of the biggest decisions in somebody’s life. Then there’s maybe worries about where to live and often financial stress as well.

It’s your job as parent to support and guide them. Though it is normal to sometimes wonder, how the hell do I do that?

Listen here

Listening and communicating properly are skills many of us find difficult to fine-tune. But, decisions like the CAO application warrant an attempt at making the effort. Especially if you and your son/daughter have different ideas about what they should do after school.

It’s definitely a two-way thing. But, you’re likely to have to take the lead. Most people learn how to communicate at home.

What do they want?

This is the most important point of the whole process. Of course you only want the best, what parent doesn’t? However, this is their life you’re talking about, so listening to what they want should be central to discussions.

That’s not to dismiss your wisdom, just to acknowledge this is their journey. It’s your job to assist, not navigate.

What do you expect?

Managing expectations is an important part of processes like college applications. Both yours and theirs.

Watch what you’re hoping for and be careful how you express it. It’ll make things easier if you’re careful not to add extra pressure to an already tough decision.

For their part, you want to encourage them to aim for their dream course, but also have their eyes open.

Work together

Try to work together on plans for their future. Your life-skills and knowledge, combined with their hopes and ambitions can be compatible. See discussions as something to be enjoyed, not endured.

This is an exciting time in anyone’s life. Look at the possibilities together, and try to worry about pitfalls when, and if, you come across them.

There’s help out there

If you’re totally lost as to how to assist in this, or, if you’re very worried about the choices they’re making, or how financing their education will work out, do seek support. After all, you’re going to be supporting them in one form or another for quite a while.

Most schools have guidance counsellors, and while this is undoubtedly a very busy time of year for them, you should be able to book an appointment.

It’ll all be OK in the end

Take in the bigger picture. Of course, this time is important, but would it really be the end of the world if they didn’t get their first choice? Or end up taking a different route?

Part of maturing and becoming independent is learning to trust the process of life and growing when things don’t go as planned.

It can be hard to let go and have faith that young people will be OK making their own way. But, even if they’re not alright sometimes, that’s why they have you isn’t it?

 

 

Repairing relationships after Christmas

Well, we’re here. Another Christmas over with in the blink of an eye. It has the potential to stress even the most relaxed of us out.

Ceramic frog kissing a ceramic owl on the cheekFamilies can be complicated, we are humans after all. The pressures and expectations of the season, along with family dynamics often causes friction.

New year, fresh start

Maybe something happened this christmas, bickering that went too far, bruised egos or all-out feuds. Now is the perfect time to try and address the issue.

Letting the dust to settle

Often people have a tendency to sweep things under the rug. Especially if someone doesn’t live under the same roof, it can be easier to ignore something than to try and fix it.

Understanding

We’re all human. Very few of us set out to intentionally hurt others, especially our family. But with arguments of any kind, there’s usually more going on than meets the eye.

Whether it’s regressing into old family roles, holding on to past grudges or current life stresses – it can all impact our interaction with others. This is true for everyone, and being aware of things affecting oneself can help to navigate life more effectively.

Acceptance

Trying to accept other people as they are, no matter what they’ve said or done, can go a long way to helping us deal with them. Knowing they’re probably just trying to manage their own emotions or issues can make it easier to understand them.

Teaching your sons and daughters how to to this as soon as possible will mean they don’t learn to hold onto things.

Acceptance isn’t necessarily easy and it doesn’t mean we have to put up with bad behaviour. But, it can help to protect ourselves and our reactions to others. Your children will pick this up at home, so it’s important to make working things out a part of everyday life.

Communicate

It’s easier said than done, but communication really is the key to trying to heal strained relationships.

Learning to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive can be a lifelong challenge, but is ultimately what will help us in our dealings with others.

Cut yourself some slack

Maybe you’ve done your best to work things out. Even if it’s not really happening, try not to beat yourself up about it.

Whatever’s happened, life will go on. This may sound a bit glib, but it’s true. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture and not letting arguments or dynamics take over all our thoughts and energy will make everything easier.

Mind yourself

Make sure you look after yourself. Take the time to relax, eat well and exercise, it can make a huge difference.

Get support

Depending on what’s going on it might be worth seeking support.

This can informal, such as taking with friends and family (always a good idea), though be careful to confide in someone who’ll be constructive and not simply take sides. But, professional support might also be something to consider, especially if something is ongoing or is particularly affecting you.