Exam Stress

Image result for exam stress

If your child is about to enter the exam phase then here are a few points to be aware of.

  • Is pressure ever good for you? … YES!!When under control, it helps to motivate us and raise our game when we are faced with a challenge. Too much of it does the opposite. It’s how you respond that makes all the difference.


  • Structure….

Allocate the necessary time to study. Have a special study place where the student             will not be disturbed. Follow study time with a “treat”….favorite meal, watch TV.

  • Taking care….

Ensure that the child gets as much exercise as possible. Regular meals and healthy              diet. Relax before bedtime and have a good nights sleep

  • Support….

Do not pressure the child…remember exams are not forever. Study times with                     friends can be very helpful.

  • Stay in control….

If your child seems to be reacting unduly to the stress than it would be worth                      considering taking them to the GP or a local Counselor that specializes in working              with children and adolescents

Beginning or already in a long term Relationship?


What actually is a Relationship? We don’t learn about it at school. Our only first hand experience as children is observing our parents Relationship. Here is an except from my book, “Working with Relationships…cant live without them”

Let’s start by looking at an ideal way to enter into a long term relationship.

After successfully navigating your journey from birth to adulthood, you are ready to enter into a long-term relationship and the majority of people do not know what that is. Some common approaches are:

“Well it just seemed to be the right thing to do, it just happened”


“I wanted the beginning of this relationship to be the best day of my life”

The latter statement has been given the hard sell and couples about to be married are led to be inspired by celebrity, expensive weddings. Good for the wedding planners but not so for the couple. This beginning of a long term relationship is the one most likely to fail.

A couple I worked with had planned the most extravagant wedding at an exclusive venue and by the end of the day the extra guests were Police, Ambulance and, yes, the Fire Brigade.

The first statement is often reviewed as a negative. “We hadn’t really thought it through”

The second statement shows that all the focus is on the day itself. “I wanted the beginning of this relationship to be the best day of my life”

The ideal statement should be “We both know what we would like from our relationship and see it as an exciting journey to which we are committed.”

So let’s take a look at the ideal.

Although not consciously studying it, we begin learning about relationships through observing our parents interactions as a couple. Unknowingly accruing beliefs, feelings and assumptions through our observations and experiences of them, which starts to form our ideas of what makes a relationship. Absorbing these into our psyche as often an unquestioned norm or reality where we have attributed meaning.  Therefore, one of the questions commonly asked in Couples work is “What sort of relationship did your parents have?”

This is essential for both parties as it enables them to see what learned behavior they have brought to “this” relationship and to share the understanding that they gain from each other’s exploration of the way they have been parented.

One of the common replies to this question is “I thought their relationship was normal at the time but now I am not so sure”.  During early childhood, when your network is just the close family, then everything they do seems normal. So this family pattern becomes firmly embedded. When you venture further from home, you can see, intellectually, how your parents compare with others. Thus “I wish you were like Dave’s mum. She’s fantastic.”

Emotionally, however, that pattern is still there and can reappear unannounced.  “You sound just like your mother.”

These personal scripts and learnt patterns of behavior and how they are present in a couple’s relationship in the here and now are important elements within my framework of working with couples

  “We cannot solve a problem at the level at which it was created”

Albert Einstein (6)

 I look at my clients “felt experiences” and how their past experiences are affecting their present relationship.   Transactional Analysis theories and interventions are useful here in looking at personal scripts, cyclical behavior, Parent- Adult-Child and what emotions the different states are bringing up in the couple’s relationship and when they are aware of it.

In couples work we see many indications of how the parent’s relationship has affected the couples current one. For example:

 “When my mum lost her temper with dad he would storm out of the room and they would not speak for days. I suppose I shut down when you get angry.”

 “My parents would argue about the silliest things. One minute there were two adults complaining about whose turn it was to wash up and within seconds there were two toddlers throwing their toys out of the pram. Come to think of it we do that sometimes don’t we?”

 “When Dad came home drunk Mum would start shouting at him and we would watch from the top of the stairs. He would then start hitting her. I wondered why Mum would provoke him and now I know it was just to get it over with.”

 “Do you think I do that sometimes? Do I go over the top, which gets you angry, just cos my Mother did?”

 “No. Come to think of it my parents never showed any signs of affection to each other.”

 “My dad had so many affairs and my mum just became resigned to it. That’s probably why I never trust you and feel jealous at the slightest thing”

 As you can see from the above examples, looking at your parents’ relationship can open up a whole new area of exploration for you as a couple.  From the last quote it shows that there can be an early insight into how this can affect your own relationship and with this awareness you can both endeavor to start the process of making your own changes.

Relationships at Christmas

We are fast approaching the time when, for thousands of years, we celebrate the short, cold days of winter by staying indoors with family and friends. We feast, play, offer gifts and reconnect. A good time should be had by all. Whatever is going in our lives, it is never easy to switch into festive mode with everyone huddled around our table. With lives now being lived at a faster pace, and with the challenges we are all faced with it can sometimes be difficult to unwind and this can put quite a strain on Relationships. However, there are one or two things that you can do to avoid this.
1. Be aware of what the festive season means to you.
2. What do you want from it?
3. Be realistic about your limits.
4. Be realistic about your expectations
5. Plan your time. Pace it.
6. Share the chores – including cooking the feast!
7. Whatever the weather, take time for yourself, get some fresh air, go for a walk.
8. Take time to talk to your partner. Are you both ok?
9. Remember to get some early nights with restful sleep.
10. Stay within your financial limits.
Remember that in pre Industrial Revolution days you were kept in check by natural restraints such as how good the autumn harvest has been. Post-war you were rationed but still able to enjoy the few things that you could have.
Have a really good time, keep things in perspective and do things in moderation.

Teenage Courtship Dance

Soon be holiday time and many of you will be spending it with that much maligned and misunderstood person, the “Teenager” Here’s an extract from my book, “Working with Relationships….cant live without them.”
Hope it can help.

“Many therapists will recognize this common pattern in a relationship, a ballet of approach and avoidance, where one partner needs reassuring closeness and the other is more comfortable with distance. One draws close, seeking assurance, while the other, feeling invaded, draws back, raising the anxiety level of both. In the latter’s need for protective space is the desire to do what the child could not do, that is, keep the intrusive” other” at bay and preserve a fragile psychic integrity”
James Hollis, Ph.D. (4)

The day after sourcing the above quote I went to see a series of one act plays. One was written and performed by a group of teenagers from a local College. Amongst the explosive action and teenage angst peppered with screams and expletives came a silent, beautifully choreographed expression of a teenage view of relationships. One couple danced showing how much in love and in tune they were with each other, another coupled danced with the male trying to control the movements of his partner and restricting any attempt by her to express herself. The third were dancing a more extreme version of James Hollis’s couple. At times they were both turning their backs on each other and then trying to find acceptance.
… Let the dance begin.
So you’ve reached your teens, a comparatively new concept as it happens. Before the 1950’s the majority of teenagers would be at work or at war. Even as far as 1960 young men could be called for National Service from the age of 17. So up until then the default pattern was going from childhood to a steady job and marriage with no clear boundaries between. The word “Teenage” was first found in the Oxford Dictionary in 1941 but really came into popular use in the late 50’s with Teddy Boys and later Mods and Rockers. At this time a host of relationship situations came into being and set the style for what is happening today – a practice run before the long term relationship begins.
Throughout our lives we experience different types of relationships each one teaching us important qualities on how we develop relationships, these are basically made up of:
Family * Friends * Acquaintances * Intimacy/Sex
These relationships play a large role in forming our development and identities as an individual.

This is where we first learn how to interact with others ideally in a loving, caring relationship. Our family is made of our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and step parents. Families today can be made up all sorts of diverse groups … traditional, single parent, blended (more than one family together in the same house), gay, lesbian couples, mixed marriages, adopted, fostered children and so on. Whatever the makeup of your family, there are going to be good times and bad times but having a healthy relationship with your family is important and can also be difficult.
Your family is where, ideally, you should learn to communicate with each other, developing ways to value boundaries and build trust and respect.


What is a friend?

“A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, trust and respect, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.” Oxford Dictionary (5)

Every one of us needs friends. As you get older some of your friendships start to change, your feelings for some may grow deeper, the circle of peers you know may grow bigger (although not all will be close friends), peer pressure may be a major influence with certain groups.
“Feeling vulnerable in a group of peers usually means that this relationship is not in balance.”
Making and keeping friends in the teenage years can be tough with the changes in relationships, although natural, being very difficult to fathom at times. By understanding the basis of a good friendship and your expectations and needs, gives you the natural tools for a good romantic relationship when it comes along. One mark of a good, healthy friendship is that you can say “No” to each other and remain friends. Friendships play a major role in our lives.

What makes a good friend?
True friends …
* Listen to and respect each other.
* Offer mutual support
* Encouragement
* Co-operation
* Compromise
* Consideration
* Are able to talk openly, even if you disagree, but while
respecting your friends opinion.

* Can say “sorry” and truly mean it!
* Can make you laugh with all your heart
* Just get you

Relationships with caring adults, including teachers, mentors, coaches, GP’s and so on are important for adolescent development. These relationships set examples, teach interpersonal skills and develop trust and respect.


What does it mean?
How far do we go and when?
Do I have to have sex?
What will happen if I do?
Will he leave me if I don’t?
What will my friends say?
What will my parents say?

It is important to realize that there is a big difference between being intimate with someone and having sex. An intimate relationship is one whereby you can truly be yourself with someone and be confident with a person you respect and be respected in return. It is an emotional connection with someone that you are close to that does not need to be romantic or sexual. An intimate relationship allows both of you to grow as an individual.

Romantic relationships, sadly, are not always intimate. In a healthy, romantic relationship, both partners respect each other and have their own identity. Just as pressures among peers can impact the relationship in an unhealthy manner, so too can an imbalance with partners whereby one can overpower the other with their wants and needs … resulting in an imbalance in the relationship.

As preteens become teenagers and then adolescents, relationships start to change, friendships start to alter, attractions start to manifest and new relationships emerge. These changes are natural but sometimes the emotions involved are not always easy to deal with.

As with the other areas we have explored with teenagers, it is important to look at what is ideal in preparing them for sexual exploration. It is good if they are able to openly discuss sex with a parent or appropriate adult or acquaintance.

Teenagers need to know:

• That they can say “No” to sex, if they wish to do so.
• The importance of having respect for their own body and those of others and respect for their own feelings and those of others.
• How to protect themselves if they want to have a sexual relationship and for them to know the contraceptive options available to them. Ultimately the outcome of unprotected sex can result in pregnancy.
• The effects of drugs and alcohol on sexual inhibition and safe decision making around sexual practices.
• That sex is potentially dangerous if the spread of disease is not considered. The consequences of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) such as gonorrhoea, herpes and chlamydia.
• About potentially life threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

When exploring the teenage years of yourself or a client it is useful to see all the above as a benchmark, an ideal. However, when it can be seen that something has interfered with that process and impacts on the current and/or past relationships then you have highlighted an area that needs to be explored.

During the teenage years it is a time to learn the steps to the relationship dance. In an ideal world both partners will know when to step back before treading on toes. Sadly, this does not always happen and even if it is your partner and not you that “treads on the toes”, an unhealthy relationship can make it difficult for you when you enter a long term relationship.

Many things can interfere with your ability to form healthy relationships; abuse, bullying, diversity issues and even how your sexuality is perceived. The way that homosexuality and bisexuality are portrayed in the media makes it very difficult for some people to be comfortable with their sexuality.

On an optimistic note, a fourteen year old student of mine recently said “Why do gay people have to ‘Come Out’? It’s like me saying ‘I am heterosexual and am proud to tell the world’”.

Part of this teenage phenomenon is the study of both our physical and intellectual response to relationships. The emotional part of ourselves, which we have discussed earlier, has been running since our birth.

Men and emotions

This article was published in 2014 and is worth a read;
Looking back, however, I think that things have begun to change. I am seeing many more male clients than before and they come from a diversity of backgrounds; Brokers,Soldiers,Builders,Sportsmen. Areas not usually associated with men who are able to express their emotions. In fact it is not a weakness to address your emotions. I see it as a strength.
I encourage more men to embrace their feelings and feel a heck of a lot better for doing it.

Time to unwind.

A phrase I commonly hear is “I just cant find the time”
Don’t be ruled by time, learn to use it to your advantage.
Watch the clock count out 60 seconds, one minute, and see how long it takes!
Then spend another minute looking at the above picture or something similar.
See how quickly you you can become more relaxed in the time that you thought would just take a blink of the eye.