Couples

/Tag: Couples

Parent Self-Care: The Important Flow On Effect

by Dr Alison Bocquee

There is a lot written in social media and print about being a good parent, good enough parent, ‘the best you can be parent’.  We hear of the importance of looking after ourselves as parents before or so we can best look after our little people. Anyone who has travelled by aeroplane will have heard the air hostesses instructing parents to put on their own oxygen masks first before attending to their child.  It seems counterintuitive, but let’s look at the detail as to why this matters.

Self-care – who takes care of the parent? When the parent is constantly giving to others, do they ever think about how much they are giving of themselves? It’s probably not something that parents ask themselves or even consider often, until they are overwhelmed, feeling exhausted and irritable with their children.  Then comes the guilt because they are not being the parent that they ideally want to be.

Let’s put it simply.  We cannot give what we haven’t got. So if you, as a parent, are not looking after yourself, not showing yourself the love you show your loved ones, not treat yourself the way you want others to treat you (i.e., with respect), this not only affects you but potentially every member of your family.

Children can be viewed as the barometers of the parent’s functioning.  Their behavioural outbursts or emotionality or sensitivity may reflect their parents’ imbalance of ‘all work and looking after the family’ but not themselves.  When the parents are balanced (i.e., calm, consistent, non-reactive) there is a much better chance the children will be too. Hence the very important flow on effect of parent self-care.

Self-care includes aspects such as sufficient sleep, regular physical movement, nutrition, rest and relaxation, social connection, and engagement in pleasurable activities.  Self-care is giving yourself a break, to recharge, taking time off. Self-care shows you matter. It models to your family the importance of your needs, that each member of the family is important.  It reduces stress. Self-care is good for your well-being and that of your family.

Further engagement in each of these aspects of self-care demonstrates and models to your little people important life, coping and self-regulation skills.  This is much more powerful than anything you could say or ‘lecture’ your child about. Demonstrating to your child that when you’re frustrated you engage in deep breathing, or when you’re anxious you run a bath, or at the end of the day if you’re tired you go to bed a bit earlier, and so on, are invaluable life lessons.

Self-care doesn’t have to be time intensive.  Even engaging in breathing exercises for 2 minutes or watching the clouds, or listening to your preferred music is likely to shift your energy and provide you with a little joy.  Getting up a little earlier than your little people to plan or consider your intentions for the day, perhaps whilst you sip a cup of tea, is also important self-care. You’ll likely be more calm, and therefore more intentional in your interactions with your loved ones and less reactive overall.  

Our team of highly skilled and professional clinical psychologists are able to compassionately support your journey to being the parent you want to be, that makes your heart sing, a parent who prioritises their own self-care because they acknowledge their own importance and their own needs; and that ultimately flows on to a more contented family.  Opening yourself to growth by learning and incorporating skills such as relaxation and mindfulness of thoughts and emotions techniques, means you are prioritising your own wellbeing and that of each member of your family.

Parent Self-Care: The Important Flow On Effect2019-06-11T12:48:43+10:00

When Baby Makes 3 – tips for making the adjustment to Parenthood

By Dr Kylee Forrest

It is no secret that bringing home a baby is time if immense love and joy. Yet it also signifies a time of enormous change for each new parent as an individual, as well as for the couple relationship. Thanks to excellent initiatives from Beyond Blue and public health groups, there is now much greater understanding and acknowledgement of postnatal depression and the benefit of seeking help. While this is fantastic, there are other dimensions to becoming a parent that also deserve to be spoken about.

 

1. I’m just not “me”

Not every new mum experiences PND, in fact most don’t. But what every new mum does undergo a significant transformation of herself.  All of a sudden she is not doing the things that she often took for granted, the sorts of things that allowed her to be her. Formal work may suddenly stop, leisure activities and sports cannot be engaged in, the ways she socializes need to be adjusted, even going to the loo in privacy needs to be reconsidered! Beyond that, the woman’s post-birth body continues to experience vast physical and hormonal changes. Some of these changes are temporary, while others may not be regained for months, or years, if ever at all. In his book The Birth of a Mother, psychiatrist Dr Daniel Stern calls attention to the fact that all of these changes often mean that new mums must create a new identity. While some of this is easy to do, other parts tend to take new mums completely by surprise. The more I come across this phenomenon in new mums, the more I wonder why there isn’t more discussion or preparation for what seems to be a very normal event.

What you can do: The more we can raise awareness that the transition to motherhood includes changes to a mum’s identity (in positive and challenging ways), the better-placed new mums will be. If you, or someone you know are on the path to motherhood, try talking with them about how they think they will manage the good and not-so-easy parts of this change

 

2. Don’t forget Dad!

Even though the hormones and physiological changes aren’t an issue for new dads, the adjustment that men go through on a practical and psychological level is still worthy of some attention. Unfortunately, there is often so much focus on babies, and to a lesser degree on mums at this time that dads are often forgotten about. Up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression and many others report heightened anxiety about their new role as protector/provider. There are fewer social supports in place to support new dads and, knowing what their partner has going through during pregnancy and labour, many men feel uncomfortable talking about their own struggles.

What you can do: Partners, friends and family can help to change this by remember to ask a new dad “how are you going amongst all of this change?”

Take the time to listen, to acknowledge the struggles of fatherhood as well as the good times. This will go a long way to changing the pressures felt by new dads.

If you are concerned about a new dad, encourage him to speak with his GP about a referral to a psychologist. More information about postnatal distress in Dads can be found here: https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/how-is-dad-going And don’t forget that June 18 is International Father’s Mental Health Day

 

3. Three is a crowd

When a new baby steals its parents’ hearts and relies on them for basically everything, it is easy to slip into a pattern where the needs of the couple relationship are entirely neglected. Approximately 70% of couples experience a sharp decline in relationship closeness and happiness when a baby comes along.

What you can do: While some of this is a normal adjustment of sharing attention between 2 to 3, there are simple things that new parents can do to nurture their couple relationship alongside nurturing their baby.

  • Don’t forget that you are not just parents! Ensure that you talk about parts of the day that didn’t involve baby.
  • Get out of the house. Going for a walk as a family gives benefits to everyone. While the sensory stimulation will be good for your bub, some fresh air and exercise in great for parents too, releasing endorphins that promote positive feelings.
  • Simple touch. Don’t forget that hugs, holding hands, or snuggling up on the couch are an effortless way to maintain intimacy even when you are exhausted. Like exercise, physical contact with a loved one releases chemicals in our brains that also promote positive feelings.
  • Connect, on and off devices. While mobile phones can be great for new parents to keep in touch during the day, try to make sure that you have some device-free time when you at home together too.

Bringing baby home means big changes for every part of a family, in good and challenging ways. Being aware of these changes in advance will help to make adjusting to these changes as smooth as possible.

When Baby Makes 3 – tips for making the adjustment to Parenthood2019-03-27T14:26:32+10:00

When Cracks Appear – Referring Couples for Relationship Therapy

By Dr Jennifer Wilson

Positive, supportive relationships can help us withstand many of the expected or unexpected challenges life might throw at us. At times of stress, knowing there is at least one special other to turn to, who we can trust to hear and respond to us, strengthens our capacity to cope. Conversely, when that need for support at a critical time is not met, we can feel profoundly hurt by those we rely on for care
and comfort. At these times, instead of pulling together to face life’s difficulties, partners can become disconnected and even hostile with each other.

 

This is where a trained couples therapist can help. As health professionals, you are likely to be caring for patients who are going through just the kinds of difficult life events that can place strain on relationships. Here are a few tips on how you can encourage your patients to seek help for their relationship.

 

At Benchmark Psychology, we have psychologists trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples. According to recent studies, 90% of couples who see a well-trained Emotionally Focused Therapist experience improvement, and 70% report full repair of their relationship. Unfortunately, many couples are reluctant to seek therapy because of a range of fears and misconceptions, and
couples therapy is often seen as a last resort before breaking up.

Here are some common concerns couples have about therapy -

 

1. The therapist will take sides.
We are trained to recognise and understand how both partners contribute to their pattern of disconnection and distress, and to assist partners to understand the painful emotions that underlie their partners’
attempts to reach them.

 

2. The therapist will tell us we should break up.
The decision about whether to continue in a relationship always belongs to the couple. The role of an EFT therapist is to help couples understand how their relationship has gone wrong, and to guide them, for as long as they are willing to try, in how to repair it.

 

3. We are too far gone; the situation is hopeless.
Even longstanding problems can be resolved or improved with EFT. The intensity of distress does not indicate the relationship cannot be improved.

 

4. Talking about our problems will make things worse.
Many couples have experienced that their own attempts to talk about their problems have made things worse, so this concern is understandable! However, an EFT Therapist is trained to create a safe space where problems can be discussed productively. In many cases, the therapist will be able to help partners see each other’s struggles in new ways that open the door to healing and reconciliation.

 

5. Couples therapy is a waste of time and does not work.
EFT has years of research demonstrating its effectiveness in helping couples improve their relationships, and follow-up studies show these improvements are long lasting. EFT is one of a handful of couple therapies designated as empirically supported by the American Psychological Association (APA).

 

6. We (or he or she) need individual therapy first.
A growing body of evidence suggests that successful couple therapy can reduce an individual’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress and other psychological disorders. At the very least, a stronger, more supportive relationship will reduce the suffering both partners experience when one is struggling with a psychological disorder. Couple therapy may not be the only treatment needed when a partner has significant psychological symptoms can help partners to join hands in working together on the challenges they are facing individually.

 

Adapted from Ruth Jampol, PhD, Licensed Psychologist Certified EFT Therapist, 
Supervisor-in-Training Board of Directors, Philadelphia Center for EFT

When Cracks Appear – Referring Couples for Relationship Therapy2019-03-27T16:02:00+10:00

Evidence Based Dating Strategies

Dating advice is everywhere, but most of it is based on opinion and folklore (or even creepy pick-up artists). New research from the University of Queensland uncovers the truth about how to attract a date.

 

When you’re trying to attract the attention of a potential partner you have a choice: make yourself stand out from the crowd, or show how well you fit in with others. Standing out suggests that you’ve got individuality and flair, while fitting in with others shows you’re friendly and agreeable. Both are attractive to potential partners, but which strategy is more successful?

 

If you asked your grandparents what to do they’d say that women are attracted to men who stand out from the crowd, whereas men are attracted to women who know how to fit in with others.

 

These ideas might sound old-fashioned, but a study from 2006 showed that when university students were thinking about dating, the female students tended to change their opinions to fit in with others, while men were more likely to change their opinions to stand out from the crowd. But are these strategies effective?

 

New research from the University of Queensland (co-authored by Dr Richard Wellauer of Benchmark Psychology) shows that men are actually more attracted to women who don’t conform to the group - those who stand out from the crowd.

 

Dating advice for women

 

Whether it’s evaluating dating profiles, rating the attractiveness of other people in small group interactions, or thinking about how much they’ve enjoyed recent dating experiences, men consistently reported that women who stood out from the crowd were more attractive, even though most women think that men prefer conformist women.

 

Dating advice for men

 

Women also reported that they preferred men who stood out from the crowd, but only up to a point - being too independent can be unattractive. If anything, men who are good at both standing out and fitting in with others are more successful in relationships.

 

So when you’re updating your online dating profile or going out with a bunch of new people, don’t let other people’s ideas about what’s attractive change how you act. Women don’t need to be afraid of standing out and showing off their individuality. Men don’t need to worry about acting the tough guy. Express your own opinions and flair, but make sure you also show that you’re able to be flexible and go along with the group.

 

This research is about dating, but it may as well be about job interviews, meeting new friends, or chatting to people while waiting for your morning coffee. We often spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to present ourselves in a way that stands out the least - instead, we should be making sure that we’re not living by other people’s standards. It’s okay to stand out from the crowd and it’s okay to fit in with others, but a mix of both is best of all.

Evidence Based Dating Strategies2019-03-15T14:17:53+10:00