Rakhi Beekrum

COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST | DURBAN

instagram facebook

Blog Post

Adult Peer Pressure

~ an inconvenient truth

 

If you thought that peer pressure ended in high school, think again. While we can understand peer pressure in adolescents as they are still forming their identities, a sadder reality is adults falling prey to peer pressures. While one would expect adults in their thirties and forties to be more confident about themselves, many still give in to peer pressure to fit in.

As a therapist who deals with adults and teenagers, I surprisingly see more adults who have succumbed to peer pressure. Some examples of peer pressure in adults is:

  • Being coerced by friends to drink alcohol or experiment with other substances.
  • Buying material possessions such as cars, designer clothing & accessories either just because you want to fit in.
  • Feel that you need to be seen at certain trendy places to be accepted by friends.
  • Sending your children to a certain school or insisting they participate in particular activities so you have more in common with those you want to socialise with.
  • Doing exercise you don’t even enjoy or eat food you’re not crazy about because that’s what is popular in your group.
  • Taking holidays you can barely afford because everyone in your group seems to be doing it.
  • Trying to like whatever others think is cool (e.g. reality shows, music, etc.)
  • Agreeing to do things you dislike just to be accepted by friends.
  • Not stating your opinion if it differs from those in your group.

The dangers of adult peer pressure that I see in practice are:

  • Financial stress due to trying to keep up.
  • Unhappiness & discontentment because the pressure to keep up continues to grow.
  • Jealousy if others in one’s group seems to have outdone them.
  • Marital problems when one partner does not support the other’s attempts at keeping up.

So, how do you ensure you don’t fall victim to peer pressure…or if you already have, to save yourself from the detrimental effects?

  1. Authenticity: I often speak about authenticity because I truly believe that it is the key to living a meaningful, content life. However, it’s not as easy. Basically what authenticity means is to be yourself, to be real, to do what makes you happy, to speak freely, to not go along with what’s trendy if its not what makes you happy! The reason that most people struggle with authenticity is because they fear rejection. The truth is that rejection is a strong possibility. However, if you are free to be who are you, you will attract the right people into your life. And your biggest reward will be peace – because you feel free to express yourself outwardly as you feel inside.
  2. Practice mindfulness: this will help you identify when your thoughts and actions are being incongruent. If you are able to identify that certain actions disrupt your peace, you are more likely to make choices that are better for your physical and mental health.
  3. Set healthy boundaries: this means saying no to things that disrupt your peace or that you just don’t want to or enjoy doing. This may mean turning down invites or not feeling pressured to follow advice from others that don’t resonate with you.
  4. Be clear about your values: if you are clear about those values that are important to you, it becomes easier to reject anything inconsistent with those values. E.g. if family time is important to you, but friends constantly invite you to spend time with them during your family time, it’s easier to refuse because it means going against a value you hold strongly.
  5. Choose your tribe carefully: While we may have many acquaintances, our closest friends should be those who share similar values to us and who respect our different opinions, beliefs and preferences. Distance yourself from those who pressurise you to do things you prefer not to do. E.g. I have many patients who are trying to change behaviours such as drinking alcohol or adhering to a diabetic diet – it’s important for your own health and self-respect to distance yourself from those who pressurise you to ‘have just one drink’ or ‘just have one slice of cake.’
  6. Have a plan: While you may choose your ‘tribe’ there will always be times that you will have to be around those that pressurise you. Its helps to have a plan in mind already. Think of ways to refuse and to not judge them for their choices, but to remind yourself that as you have your values that are dear to you, they also have values that are important to them.

As adults, know that there are children watching and learning from your behaviour. We want to raise children who are confident to be themselves and not succumb to the pressure to fit in with the ‘popular crowd’.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~ Dr Seuss

Rakhi Beekrum

Me, Myself & Anxiety

I’ve had several requests to write about coping with anxiety, and as the title of thus post may suggest, these tips are not just based on my clinical training and professional experience, but also from personal experience. Although my calm exterior makes it difficult for most to believe, I’ve suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since my school days. Thankfully, I’ve come a long way from breathing into brown paper bags. The tips below are based on what has worked for me, combined with my clinical knowledge and experience. It does not mean that I don’t feel anxious anymore…I do! I just know how to identify it quicker and intervene before it impacts negatively on my life.

 

Being a perfectionist and somewhat of a control-freak, my anxiety was heightened in situations in which I felt out of control. The overwhelming anxiety often led to panic attacks. When I was younger, they terrified me, but I now know that panic attacks cannot kill me – and I know how to prevent them from escalating.

 

The most important tool in defeating your anxiety is understanding where it comes from. For me (as it is for most), my anxiety was often the consequence of irrational thoughts (mind you, they do not seem irrational at the time) and situations I had no control of.

 

Here’s what helped me:

1.    Mindfulness: Anxiety is often the result of worrying about some aspect of the future. By practising mindfulness (remaining in the present moment) in as many areas of my life as possible, not only am I able to enjoy the present moment but I’m also aware of the thoughts in my mind and how each thought makes me feel. Becoming aware of thoughts that make me feel anxious means I can debate them (discussed in the next point).

2.    Debate your thoughts: This refers to dissecting and debating the thoughts that promote anxiety. E.g. I am anxious because I think I may fail an exam. In my mind, I will debate the possibility of this happening by examining the evidence for and against this thought. What are the logical reasons for believing this may happen? Have I failed this exam? Have I not prepared sufficiently? Facts help us think more rationally. Even if I am still worried, I have the chance to ask myself – what steps can I now take to ensure that this fear does not come to pass? E.g. study more, get help, etc.

3.    What’s the worst that could happen? I often ask myself this question in situations that  stress me out, only to reaslise that the worst case scenario isn’t that bad. It’s also important to realistically consider what the chances are that the worst case may prevail. I then consider, even if it does happen, what options do I have to address the situation.

4.    Don’t block things out: When you feel anxious about something, you need to process it. Blocking it out makes you feel more overwhelmed, anxious and panicky. It makes more sense to have a plan – you are likely to sleep better.

5.    Ground yourself: When I feel overwhelmed, I realise it’s about things that are not in my control (such as the actions of other people). I refocus by bringing my mind to focus on what IS in my control. One of the best ways to bring your mind to the present is the well-known grounding exercise where you look around to notice: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. It’s an easy way to bring your mind to the present. If you notice the first signs of a panic attack coming on (e.g. increased heart rate), this is a useful exercise.

6.    Breathe: Breathing is a simple, but powerful mechanism of helping us remain in the present and calm our minds. In order to feel calmer, its important to slow down your breathing. A simple way is to breathe in to a count of five, hold your breath for a count of five and breathe out to a count of five. If you can, a better way is to breathe in to a count of 7, hold for a count of 4 and breathe out to a count of 8. Because our breath is always present, it’s an easy way to help you focus on the here and now.

7.    Focus on what you CAN control: Because a lot of my anxiety was about situations beyond my control, it really helped to refocus on what I could control – this helped me feel in control again. Simple things like deciding what time to wake up, to eat breakfast every morning, to plan my  day (as far as I could), to switch of the data on my phone to prevent constant notifications, to allow my phone to go to voicemail, etc. helped me regain control.

8.    Remind yourself of what’s most important: Without even realising it, we allow ourselves to become anxious about things that may not be that important in the greater scheme of things. So reminding yourself of what’s important and expressing gratitude for what is going well in your life, can help your mood. Perhaps you’re anxious about what others thought of your presentation or you are anxious about why a certain colleague seems to have ignored you – ask yourself these questions: Am I safe? Am I relatively healthy? Do I have family/friends that I know care? Do I have a home? Do I have a job? This helps you realise that things are not as bad as you may have initially thought.

9.    Do one thing at a time: I noticed that because I have so much to do, I try to multitask, which heightens my anxiety. Because I have to share my attention, I am then not focused enough on any one thing, which means there’s a lot that can go wrong. So single-tasking has helped me do one thing at a time, and as soon as my mind wanders to the next thing, I bring it back to the task at hand, reminding myself that I’ll deal with the next task when I get there.

10. Surround yourself with those who can help you refocus: The best people to have around are those who understand your anxiety and are able to compassionately help you think more rationally about the things that worry you.

Do I still feel anxious sometimes? Of course I do! But these strategies have ensured that I refocus very quickly so that the anxiety does not affect me physically or impact negatively on any area of my life. And…I haven’t had a panic attack in several years Smile

Rakhi Beekrum

ARE YOU BEING BULLIED AT WORK?

 

 

The word ‘bullying’ often conjures up images of schoolchildren being bullied by teasing, isolation and physical fights. While bullying in schools is spoken about frequently, bullying by adults (often in the workplace) isn’t spoken about as frequently as it occurs.

After a recent radio show on bullying in the workplace, I’ve been inundated with calls and messages to spread more awareness. My main aim in this post is to help victims cope with the trauma they have experienced and at the end of the article, I offer practical tips and advice on what to do if you are being bullied at work.

 

What is Bullying?

The obvious type of bullying that we are aware of is physical intimidation and verbal aggression. However, there are other forms of bullying that are not often regarded as such. These include:

  • Having one’s work sabotaged
  • Someone else constantly taking credit for your work
  • Setting one up for failure (by setting unrealistic deadlines, etc.)
  • Unfair and unwarranted criticism
  • Having one’s abilities undermined
  • Being excluded from events, important meetings, emails, etc.
  • Having malicious rumours spread about one
  • Casting aspersions on the character and work ethics on an employee

Bullying is not a once-off event but rather a pattern of behaviour that is intended to cause harm to another.

 

Why does an Adult Bully another Adult?

It’s often a quest for power. Typically, the bully feels inferior in some way – however, this is not obvious. They may present as extremely confident, sociable and charming, which makes it harder for some to believe when you eventually speak up. They warm up to those in positions of power so the chances of them being exposed are decreased, and even if they are exposed, they rarely suffer consequences. Perpetrators generally cannot compete fairly and therefore resort to malicious tactics so the stronger person (the victim) appears weaker to others. Another key aspect of bullies is that they easily assume the victim role at strategic times to prevent being 'found out'. In order to divert attention from the harm they have caused to others, they make make up stories of how they have been harmed to gain sympathy and attention from others in significant positions.

Who is a Typical Victim of Workplace Bullying?

 Victims of workplace bullying are targeted because they are perceived to be a threat in some way. They are often skilled, talented employees who are gaining recognition and popularity. As previously mentioned, if the perpetrator cannot compete fairly, they resort to underhanded methods to destabilise the victim. If you are being bullied, do not think of yourself as being weak. The only perceived weakness is that you may not assert yourself (however, standing up to the perpetrator is not always the solution- this is discussed further later on). My advice to victims is to continue to work to the best of your ability as your work will speak for itself.

What at the Consequences of Bullying?

Victims experience severe stress which impacts on their ability to focus on work. Depression is not uncommon – I’ve even seen cases where employees felt suicidal due to the depth of bullying. The reason for this is because we spend most of our waking lives at work, so we identify too much with our careers. We therefore take any unhappiness or perceived failure in our jobs as a personal failure, which is not the case. Many employers do nothing to prevent or end bullying, not realising the impact on their companies. The consequences on the company are decreased productivity, absenteeism and decreased turnover.

So, what do I do if I’m being bullied?

My first piece of advice is to document everything! Keep a record of all incidents because it may become useful later on. If the bullying is obvious to others and only if you feel safe to do so, ask the perpetrator to stop their behaviour – but only do this in the presence of a witness. If you have superiors in the workplace who are supportive, report all incidents to them and proceed your reporting higher up the hierarchy. Always keep proof of all correspondence. Consider whether legal steps may be required.

 

MOST IMPORTANTLY…

  • Because many incidents of bullying are covert, you often will not have proof. Speak to someone to trust about each incident (while still documenting).
  • People with malicious intents cannot be reasoned with, so confronting them may worsen the situation.
  • Do not attempt to get back at the bully for the harm they have caused you - it means getting caugt up in their game. You need to exit the game, because you will never win.
  • When the bullying has involved spreading malicious gossip about you, it's natural to want to defend yourself. What's most important is that YOU know who you are and so do your loved ones. The truth is that some people are going to believe the bully and there's nothing you can do about it. What you can do is continue to live your life according to your morals and values and those that are important will see you for what you are.
  • Remember, the bully’s aim is to weaken you, so as hard as it is, focus on your work so that no one believes what the bully may try to prove about you anyway.
  • As much as their actions and intents may upset you, DO NOT spend your time talking about and thinking about them because it makes them more powerful and important. Spend your time on the things most important to you – e.g. your health, family, etc.
  • When we cannot change the environment, we have to consider whether a different environment will be healthier for us. Do not think that this means allowing the bully to win because it’s not a competition. You have to make the decision that’s best for your health and peace of mind.
  • Try to distance yourself from the bully and if you can’t physically distance yourself, it's certainly possible to emotionally distance yourself. Here's how: if you have to be around the bully, imagine that you are writing a book on bullies and whenever you are in the bully's presence, continuously run a commentary in your head about the behaviour of bullies, what their life must be like if they spend so much of time trying to make others lives miserable, what insecurities they have, their mannerisms, techniques, etc. It might amuse you and also lead you to pity them
  • You cannot change other people, but you can choose what’s important in your life and put more energy into that. So choose to focus on what's truly important in your life and that's where your rewards will come from.

When a Loved One has a Mental Illness

A strong support system is one of the most important protective factors for those with mental illnesses such as depression. Knowing that someone genuinely cares can make the dark, gloomy place at least a little brighter. However, most people don’t know what to say to someone with a mental illness.

For starters, here’s what NOT to say:

“Cheer up”

“Think positive.”

“You have so much to be grateful for.”

“What do you have to be depressed for?”

Even though you may have the best intentions, such statements may increase feelings of guilt and send the message that you don’t understand.

Often someone with a mental illness wants to know that they are not alone. Saying that you are there is one thing – but truly being there for them is what counts. It’s the small actions that make the biggest difference. E.g. asking how they are and truly taking the time to listen to how they honestly are. Don’t say ‘I understand’ if you don’t. Sometimes we feel that we need to offer solutions – but often this is our need, and the rush to offer suggestions may make the person feel like you are not truly listening to them or understanding the situation. Take into account that they may have already thought of all the solutions are you suggesting, and may become frustrated.

Let your loved one know how you feel about what they’re going through. Let them know that you are available if they want to talk or offer to assist in any practical way – could you make them a meal tomorrow evening? Perhaps drive them to an appointment? Or offer to fetch their kids from school to lighten their load? There are some people who will never respond to ‘Is there anything I can do?’ so offering to do something more specific is more likely to work.

Reassure them that although what they’re going through may be really difficult, it is also temporary, because you have also seen them at their best. Sometimes they may push you away, but it’s not because they don’t want or need you – it’s just a reflection of the inner struggles they are battling. The truest friend is one who stands by you even when you try to push them away, because they understand that you are suffering.

Educate yourself on their mental illness – by doing your own research and by asking questions that can help you to support them better. Understanding a loved one’s mental illness means that their symptoms makes sense to you, you will understand what the treatment entails and you know that they’re not just making excuses all the time. Knowing what the most effective treatment is, also helps you encourage your loved one to get the most appropriate professional help.

Perhaps most importantly…be a good listener. A good listener cares and is curious, instead of being eager to reply. One of the biggest conversation tragedies I’ve noticed is that when someone shares something about, a common response is “me too”. This is disrespectful because it refocuses the conversation on yourself and does not allow the initial speaker to convey what they were wanting to say. People therefore do not feel heard. And if this isn’t corrected, we will never be able to pick up when loved ones are distressed, because we are not listening respectfully. This is not always a conscious thing, so try to be more aware of how you respond when someone shares something. Instead of sharing your own experience, allow them to complete whatever they’ve wanted to say and you can still have your turn afterwards

Mental health is real! It is more common than we realise. We need to open our arms, ears and hearts to loved ones so they feel comfortable enough to reach out. Spread HOPE!

Rakhi Beekrum

Till Facebook Do Us Part

Is technology creating a rift in your marriage?

While technology and social media have been great at helping us connect with those far away from us, sadly, they often distance us from those that are closest. There’s no denying that technology is an integral part of our lives, but sometimes not setting appropriate boundaries and priorities can damage relationships.

It’s very rare that I see a couple for therapy without social media or the use of smartphones being brought up as a vital issue. In fact, one of the most common ways that a spouse’s infidelity is discovered these days, is via instant messaging. While many couples blame social media for the breakdown in their marriages, it is important to understand that platforms such a Facebook cannot be blamed - but it’s rather one's misuse of such platforms that can create a problem.

I often hear defensive responses such as ‘I’ll just delete my Facebook account then’. Remember, infidelity existed even before the advent of social media, and may well continue beyond its existence (should such a time ever come). If anything, it's provided another avenue or made it easier to meet people or look up old flames. An increasing number of couples present to therapy, blaming social media for their marital distress. It rarely ever is the sole reason for marital breakdown. Often, there are existing problems in the marriage and such media may have made it easier to stray from the marriage. Whether couples choose to use social media or not, is a personal choice which should ideally be made taking into account the advantages and disadvantages.

The problem arises when one partner does it secretly from the other.

So, how can you ensure that social media doesn't get in the way of your marriage? The key is responsible use and openness. There can be no trust in a relationship without transparency. Many who have fallen prey to infidelity in the past, tend to believe that to be classified as 'cheating', an extramarital relationship must have involved physical contact. Many people have emotional affairs and these can be as damaging, if not more, than physical relationships. If there's something you hide from your partner, such as deleting text messages or having friendships they do not know about, then it’s important to question your reasons for hiding this from your partner. It’s important to keep the best interest of your marriage at heart at all times.

One of the paradoxes of the electronic age is that even though it’s made it easier to keep in touch with others, it may actually draw us further away from those most important. How often have you seen a couple at a restaurant, and, instead of spending quality time with each other, are both occupied on their respective smartphones? Many now spend more time communicating with others they rarely see, instead of focusing on, and enhancing their existing relationships. Increased time on social networking sites means we know more about the lives of our online contacts that what's going on in our own homes.

Tips for responsible social media use:

  • Spend more time interacting with your spouse and children than on social media.
  • Switch of wifi/data at certain times. This will ensure greater peace of mind as there’s no urgency to respond to every message.
  • Set family rules regarding technology; e.g. no phones at the dinner table, no technology for one hour before bedtime, etc.
  • Try a technology ban that’s suitable for your home/relationship – e.g. no phones to be used in the bedroom.
  • If you have a password, let your partner have it as well, so there’s no room for doubt and mistrust.
  • Keep WhatsApp Groups to a minimum and base them on necessity.
  • Decide on specific times for checking and responding to messages, instead of every time your phone beeps.
  • Spend more time doing non-technology-related activities.
  • Do not check your phone as soon as you wake up.
  • Your behaviour should not send the message to your partner that your phone is more important than them.
  • Do not take your phone into the bathroom.
  • Do not communicate with people on socilal media that your spouse does not approve of.
  • Intimate details of your relationship do not belong on social media.

While many claim that social media helps them escape their everyday routines, the more responsible solution would be to work on the issues that bring you unhappiness in the first place.

What’s most important is to make your marriage your number one priority and remember that trust is the most important ingredient in a happy marriage!

Rakhi Beekrum

The Side-Effects of BUSY

Redefining your life goals in a chaotic world.

 

The current year has been my busiest yet. I’ve functioned like a hamster on a wheel…there was no time to stop to think…I just kept going. Until one day, not too long ago, an acquaintance asked me a question – a question we’re all asked every day; only this time it was different. The question was ‘HOW ARE YOU?’. The difference was that this person asked in a tone of compassion (realising my elevated stress levels – mainly stress about other people). This person listened for an answer. I answered honestly because I knew I was being listened to, but I continued to think about this question long after this brief conversation was over.

I hadn’t had time to think about how I was. Work was busy and everyone around me convinced me that it was good to be busy. That this was a hallmark of success. Really? Because what busy cost me too expensive. It cost me my health because there was no time to eat proper meals, and when I did, it was something convenient and non-nutritious. I kept putting off my annual physical and there was no time to get medication I needed (even though I work daily in a hospital that has an in-house pharmacy). I gave up the one thing I did for ME – Pilates – because a 6am class wouldn’t allow me to start my workday early enough. I was drained, rushed between home-office-hospitals, with no time for even a glass of water between patients. But everyone seemed to need me. Everyone that I couldn’t pause to help made me feel like I was selfish.  And when I reached out, I was told that I was being ungrateful - ungrateful for how lucky I was to be busy.  I was never ungrateful – I just didn’t want to wear myself out so much that I was not even good at my job.

I eventually stopped to ask myself ‘What are you rushing for? Will the world really fall apart if you said NO?’ My answer scared me. I felt like I was rushing towards death; leading a meaningless life, ticking items of to-do lists. This is not what I want out of life. I thought about what I want. I want to be brilliant at my job and for those who come to me, to feel hopeful. Therefore I needed to present. I want to feel well-rested and do meaningful work. But I also realised that this was not possible if I didn’t take care of myself. I lost friends because I had no time to socialise.

Busy does not mean successful. In my eyes money is not a measure of success. My idea of success is equanimity of mind; it is being calm in everything I do and being present. Success to me is not measured by possessions, but by moments – enjoying a cup of coffee (undistracted by phone calls and messages), listening to my favourite music while driving, knowing that my body is strong and healthy because I’ve had enough sleep, nutritious food and replenishing  any deficiencies.

So, if you too are running around, juggling all your roles and responsibilities, take time to ask yourself – what am I hoping to achieve? Am I content with life? Would everything fall apart if I slowed down and just said ‘No’ sometimes? I’m fortunate to have a husband whose a man of few words, but whose few words are true gems. He said, ‘if anything disturbs your peace, just say no.’ So if the thought of accepting an invite drove me into a frenzy of how everything else would get done, I started to say ‘no’. Your true friends will always understand.

Setting boundaries is really difficult, especially if you’ve always put others first and tried to please them at all costs. But do not wait until your health starts to fail, until your marriage starts to fall apart and you are ineffective as a parent or at your job. Multitasking can be dangerous. It's almost become a way of life - perhaps the only means of getting everything done; however, trying to do too many things at once means that we don't pay enough attention to any single thing. It's thus easier to make mistakes, to forget things or become overwhelmed. I received a simple but brilliant piece of advise from a colleague who once noticed me rushing around. She said 'just do one thing at a time.' So every time I feel like I'm racing against the clock, I slow down and do just one thing at a time - I'm more focused and end up doing a better job.

YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE.

Resolve to embrace the little moments in life. Try to be mindful in everything you do. Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature, to treasure moments with your children, to be more productive at work and to love and respect your body.

Important questions to reflect on?

  • What is my life's purpose?
  • Is what I do every day true to my purpose?
  • How many of the things that I do regularly do I find truly fulfilling?
  • What can I say no to that I will make me more content?
  • What are some of the things that I need to do for ME?
Rakhi Beekrum

The 7 Ps of Parenting

Raising Emotionally Healthy Children

 

 

 

I always try to make things easy to remember, hence packaging my parenting tips as the ‘Seven Ps of Parenting’.

 

The first P is one that you’re unlikely to find in any parenting handbook, yet one that I find crucial to effective parenting; and that is PUT YOURSELF FIRST. It sounds counter-intuitive because as parents we are meant to be selfless and self-sacrificing. The truth is, if you are not physically and emotionally healthy, then you are not able to be as effective in your parenting. Putting everyone else before you and trying to juggle several responsibilities can lead to lifestyle diseases and burnout. And think about it for a moment – if you had to be lying in a hospital bed, how would those who depend on you cope? The most effective parent is a calm parent, so you need to care for yourself enough to ensure that you can be calm.

 

The second P is PARTNERSHIP. We’ve all heard the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, and ideally it does. However, we’re all not lucky enough to have an entire village backing us up. In many cases most parents are not even together which complicates the partnership. The best interests of the child should always take precedence over everything else. Parents need to partner on and agree on rules, discipline and boundaries. If, for example, a child asks for the latest iPhone which is releasing soon and mum says that the child needs to get good results at the end of the year first, dad should not go against this and buy it as soon as it releases to be the good parent. Children can become manipulative over time when they know that parents are not consistent. They need to know that regardless of which parent they ask for something, the answer will always be the same. Parents need to set appropriate boundaries and maintain them by not breaking rules, for example, except in exceptional circumstances. It’s also important to partner with other roleplayers in your children’s lives – such as the school, psychologists, etc. If there are complaints from school, before seeing them as the enemy, think about how you can work together in the best interests of the child. Many parents bring their children to therapy expecting us to fix the problem, though many are not prepared to play their own part. E.g. a parent pay bring a child to therapy for substance abuse, but still give the child unreasonable amounts of pocket money that is fuelling the problem – just because they want to be the ‘good parent’.  But if you form partnerships with all roleplayers, then you have a whole team working for the best interests of your child and there are no perceived enemies to expend your energy on fighting.

 

The third P is PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. Children do as you do, not as you say. Parents need to be very mindful of their words and behaviour as children learn from this. Something as innocent as a mum commenting on her weight or another aspect of her appearance can unintentionally instil in a child that physical appearance in important and to be valued. Sometimes parents return from work, and may comment what a rough day it’s been while pouring themselves a drink. If children then learn to associate alcohol with managing stress, they learn unhealthy coping mechanisms. By all means, have a drink socially at times, but don’t associate it with managing stress. You need to be the adult that you want your child to grow up to be. Model the qualities that you want to see in children. Don’t complain to your partner about a friend and continue being friends with them, as you will then not be effective in helping your child choose good friends.

 

The fourth P is PROTECT, BUT DON’T OVERPROTECT. It’s a parent’s most important duty to protect their children and ensure the physical and emotionally safety of children. What we shouldn’t do is overprotect them in ways that will disadvantage them in the long run. E.g. always give constructive criticism. Do not tell your child they’re the best at something if it’s not true. But what you can do is praise them on their passion and dedication in wanting to excel in that field and them find ways to help them excel. I knew a parent who didn’t want her children to experience sadness, so every time their hamster died, she quickly replaced it with a new one so they didn’t have to grieve. No parent wants to see his or her child sad, but sadness is part of life, it’s a natural emotion that we need to process. Allow them to feel negative emotions, while providing comfort and being there for them. Children should not e shielded from everyday realities, as long as sufficient guidance is provided. Children should do chores at home because they need to learn that every member of a household needs to contribute somehow. And no, they do not need to be rewarded for chores, because every time you ask for something extra, they will attach a price tag to it.

 

The fifth P is PREDICTABILITY. Sure, life shouldn’t be boring and repetitive, but predictability and routine in the major part of the week can contribute to calmness and stability at home. Family members will know what’s expected when routine is set. E.g. times for waking up, breakfast, leaving for school, who does what chores, etc. There is less chaos, as everyone knows what’s expected. Predictability is also important because if something is wrong, it’s easier to pick up. E.g. if your child always has breakfast but suddenly stops, then it gives you a chance to explore what’s wrong. Or if mum is usually up first and has breakfast ready, children will know that something is wrong if this doesn’t happen one morning.

 

The sixth P is a crucial one for parents and children – PATIENCE. As parents, we need to be patient with our children. Each child is unique and we need to understand them. Patience is difficult for parents at times. Sometimes a child may take longer with homework and a parent may become impatient because they still have a lot to take care of, so they just complete the homework for the child. The child then learns nothing and may struggle in the exam. When a project seems too huge, parents often do it themselves or hire professionals to. The reality is that when a child writes exams or when they are in the workplace, no one else can do their work! We also should refrain from using technology as babysitters because we start to feed a bad habit.

 

Patience is also an essential quality to imbibe in children. We cannot really blame children who grew up in a world where technology dominates, but we have to teach the virtue of patience in a world of instant gratification. Today everything is on demand – television, movies, live streams of concerts in other countries, instant messaging, etc. You can even meet potential life partner just by swiping right (or is it left?). However the meaningful things in life take time. We need to teach children to work for what they really value. This way, they will treasure the reward as they had to work for it. Children will not be appreciative if everything is given to them on demand. There’s only a certain limit to fulfilling all your children’s dreams, but what happens when they cannot get the job they want or the person they fall in love with doesn’t love them back? So allow children to experience disappointment while being there for them and teach them the value of working towards their goals.

 

The last P is PRIORITISE. In a life with so many responsibilities to juggle, it’s important to prioritise .What are your priorities as a parent? Quality time should hopefully top that list. And I mean UNDISTRACTED quality time with no technology. Prioritise the values you want to teach your child and place emphasis on values and qualities as opposed to physical appearance and achievement. E.g. being kind is more important than being pretty.

 

Parenting is a tough job – perhaps the toughest in the world, and because no one is ever going to pay you for this job, the truest reward comes from raising happy, healthy children.

Rakhi Beekrum

 

What's in Your Bag?

During a recent trip to Europe I experienced the most excruciating pain that I've ever known. My face may not have shown it - but it was the type of pain that keeps one up at night, pacing about because no medication or treatment helped. But I've gotten to a stage in my life where instead of moping about difficulties, I try to find meaning. Whether I found it, or created it, it inspired this article - because one of the major contributing factors to my pain was my HANDBAG - my constant companion, which has over time become an extension of myself.  I'm like a modern day Mary Poppins...my bag has everything i might need on any given day. Most women carry handbags constantly. They don't appear to cause an obvious problem, but carry them for long periods of time (like I did while travelling) and they become a burden or in my case, a contributor to really excrucuating pain.
So this got me thinking about another type of handbag we carry; i.e. emotional handbags. Perhaps even a much bigger burden than the physical ones, they weigh us down & can cause significant stress.
So what are these things that we need to offload from our emotional handbags? 

1. The first is toxic people. We all have them around us, sometimes family and sometimes disguised as friends. Notice how you feel after a conversation with someone - if you are constantly more drained than energized, it may be time to keep a distance. We can't always avoid them completely, but we can set our own boundaries so they are not able to affect us. We often give a lot more attention to such people than they deserve. If you think about it, you may realise that we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about people who upset us the most. Sometimes instead of having a relaxing dinner, we spend the evening talking about how this person has upset us. Giving toxic people so much of our time and energy is akin to putting them on a throne and worshipping them.
We also often have 'gaslighters' in our lives. These are people who strategically make us unhappy by getting us to doubt ourselves. Notice those that are not happy for your success & achievements. I lost weight a few months ago, with a lot of effort. The real friends are the ones who said 'wow Rakhi, you are looking amazing'. The gaslighters are ones who commented, 'you've lost weight - 'have you been stressed? Are you ok?' They are the ones who, when you achieve something amazing say 'well I chose to put my kids first'. Instead of sharing your joy, the they make it about themselves. Those that are not truly happy about themselves, find it difficult to share in others successes & intentionally or not, make it about themselves. Notice who they are and create healthy boundaries.
2. Then we have the notorious FOMO. Working with both adults and teenagers, I can confidently say that FOMO seems to affect more adults than teenagers. We don't always have to do what everyone is doing or have what everyone has. The more confident we are in ourselves and in our own likes and dislikes, the smaller the need we will be to keep up. The pressure to keep up with every event, every place to be, every new beauty product, every new fashion trend, etc. can be exhausting. I discovered a new concept recently...I wish I could take credit for it, but it's it's not actually mine. The concept is JOMO - the joy of missing out. And I love it! You should be able to find joy in looking at Facebook and being happy for what a fabulous time your friends had at a party on Saturday night, without feeling that you missed out...but rather being glad that they had fun, while you were home in your pjs, eating pizza and playing board games. Because we're individuals it makes no sense to find joy in the same place as everyone else. Joy is something unique. I love using the fable of the musk deer to illustrate our search for joy. Musk forms in the navel of the deer, and, being fascinated with the scent, the deer run around like crazy searching for the source of the scent, not knowing where it comes from. And human beings are the same when it comes to joy and happiness - seeking it in relationships, material possessions, fame, etc., when it really is something that comes from within.
If anything upsets your peace, you don't have to do it to just to please others. Be proud of your uniqueness and be comfortable to be yourself...even if it's not trendy.
3. The third thing we need to offload is the need to be liked and please others. You can say NO and be a good person - it's necessary for your sanity. Women are often raised to put everyone first - children, spouses, parents, friends, etc - eventually this can burn you out, you can become resentful and an unhappy person. Your happiness lies in putting yourself first - it's not selfish, but necessary. Make the time to do the things you love - no matter how little. Once you feel fulfilled as an individual, the benefits include being a happier wife & mother and more productive in your work. Mind you, toxic people will still convince you that you're selfish. Those are the ones you keep at arms length.
So what should we carry in our emotional handbags?
Certainly nothing too heavy. 
1. The key to your own happiness. Your joy is such a precious thing...why entrust it to someone who won't value it as you do?
2. Your ID card - knowing who you are and what sets you apart from others - and owning that! What you do, how you dress, what you spend your money on is for your happiness -not others.
3. The intention to spread kindness. Women have it hard in life...so let's pledge to support other women, celebrate their successes and be there for them in times of need.

 

Rakhi Beekrum