How long does it take to break a habit?
As a regular wine imbiber I quit my routine glugging when advised to prior to a recent operation. Then, in recovery (from the op, not the booze) I stayed mostly dry, just enjoying the occasional G & T.
Was it a challenge? No, not really. I loved my FeverTree tonics with my Seedlip non-gin gin. My reflux reduced, as did my belly. I’d broken the habit of quaffing on pinot once the clock had struck seven... or so I thought.
The surgeon’s ‘good to go’ signalled a return to driving and spontaneous shopping. My first early evening purchase was milk, but my second was Merlot, corn chips and salsa. Was it a one-off treat? Sadly, not.
So how long does it take to stop drinking?
There’s no simple answer to this. With any habit change there needs to be a commitment to it and a desire to change. In my case I was aware I drank over the recommended units and cutting down would benefit me. But was I committed to stop drinking altogether? No.
Even though I’m back to buying a bottle or two of my favourite vino per week, I’ve definitely reduced my intake. My digestion is better and I know that an evening without alcohol is much the same for me as an evening with it.
There are different opinions on how long it takes to break a habit and of course everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different. If you’d like to review your drinking visit https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/advice/how-to-reduce-your-drinking/how-to-take-a-break-and-reset-your-tolerance and if you want to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support and go sober in October visit https://www.gosober.org.uk/fundraising/top-tips
There are few things more stressful than an angry or anxious child.
So, if you’re experiencing meltdowns, explosiveness, throwing things, clinginess, fear of leaving the house, refusal to go to school or obsessive negative thinking, I understand how concerned you are.
I understand how much you want to make things better for your child and the whole family, and as fast as possible, too.
You’ve probably found yourself wondering if you should take your child to a therapist, or if there’s something you can do yourself to help your child, bearing in mind that what you’ve tried so far hasn’t worked.
Here is the distinction you need to make:
Why I naturally can’t comment here and now on the particular child you have in mind, this is my view:
As a very first step, ensure you’re doing everything to meet your child’s needs in the day to day, because this, in my experience, always brings an improvement in behaviour.
Then, if necessary, once their needs are being met and your relationship is really solid, you can seek therapeutic help to support your child with any remaining difficulties - and do it in a collaborative way.
This collaborative bit is important, because it’s vital on the therapeutic journey that a child doesn’t get the message that they are a problem or that there’s something wrong with them.
Aren't I meeting my child’s needs already?
Of course you are, you meet a million of your child’s needs every day!
But unfortunately there’s little information available to parents about how to meet your child’s needs at a deeper level, so that your child is able to relax and cooperate with you.
Why isn’t this information available?
To quote psychologist Ross Greene: “a lot of the resources that are available still for parents of kids with behaviour challenges… still emphasise the old rewards and punishments, and incentive and motivational models.”
I think it’s vital that we move way from from the paradigm that children need to be incentivised and threatened to behave well.
Because children are just like us: when they feel well, they behave well.
So how do we achieve this?
In my work with parents, we address the following three areas of need:
When a child’s needs in these areas are met, you get a happy child, who behaves well, naturally.
This radically loving approach is what I call the “therapy of the everyday”, to quote one of my wisest and greatest teachers, the Hungarian paediatrician, Dr Emmi Pikler.
It brings astonishing results, to the great surprise and relief of parents.
Meeting your child’s need for connection
You’re probably wondering, “How do I do it?” and so l’d like to help you with number 1, connection.
All three areas are important, but feeling deeply and securely connected to you is likely to have the greatest positive impact on your child’s anxious or angry behaviour.
Now, I’m sure you’re already doing many connecting activities with your child: reading books at bedtime, cosy cuddles on the sofa or lovely days out.
These are vital aspects of a happy childhood.
But if your child is angry or anxious, there is most likely a deeper layer of connectedness that they are asking for.
In fact, I recommend you view anxious or angry behaviours as a means of drawing your attention to this need for greater connection - this need to be seen, heard, loved and understood, at a deeper level.
Challenging behaviour is actually communication.
And so here’s one way that I recommend to help you connect more deeply with your child:
This is the deeper layer of connection that your child is waiting for.
If you’re not quite sure how to validate or empathise, here’s a quick tip.
If your child says “I don’t want to go back to school”, you can repeat their words back to them, “You don’t want to go back to school.”
When you genuinely make space space for that feeling and show you’ve heard and understood, this helps your child connect with you and feel better.
The effect is huge: children are calmer almost instantly.
They’re able to let go of their anxiety or rage - and when this approach becomes a habit, family life starts to settles down.
So my answer to the title question Does my Child need Therapy? is this: “Maybe, but try the above first!”
To test the effectiveness of this approach, think of the next time your child is likely to resist something.
What are they likely to say?
Then using the steps above, think of what you will say to show you’ve heard and understood.
And then, when the time comes, empathise with your child, as authentically as you can - and notice how your child responds!
Guest blog by Oona Alexander, Radically Loving Parenting Specialist.
Oona works with conscious parents for whom a happy home is a top priority, helping them radically love their children to naturally great behaviour, so that adults and children can enjoy a relaxed and happy family life.
I grew up watching my older sister with her head in a book. Lying with
her legs over the arm of the sofa or stretched out on her bed, she spent
hour after hour absorbed in the classics. Inspired by Louisa M Alcott
(Little Women is still her favourite book) and other female authors she
transported herself from Middlesex suburbia to worlds and lives very
different from our own. Living in books was her escape; a joy and
liberation that I had yet to experience in any meaningful way.
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The stress of lockdown has for many, led to comfort-seeking and indulgence. Most people know that these strategies are unhelpful, and often have negative consequences emotionally and physically. There’s no getting away from the fact that there’s a limit to the things we can do to occupy or console ourselves when we can’t mix with friends or family. For some people it’s an exceptionally stressful time, while for others it’s a time to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy quality time. If you fall into the former category getting through this difficult period could be a real struggle.Read more
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