R U OK Day – Having the conversation and what to do if the answer is ‘no’.

Alex* was a popular kid. He seemed OK. He was good at sports, doing fine at school, and came from an affluent, strong family.

But in early September, 2019, the Year 11 boy took his life.

In the days following Alex’s suicide, several of his friends spoke to school counsellors and disclosed, “I had a feeling he wasn’t OK. But I didn’t know what to do or who to tell.”

Each September our social media feeds are flooded with people asking each other, ‘R U OK?’ These are wonderful sentiments. I’m all for it. The outpouring of concern is powerful. It’s helpful. It’s positive. And yet… there’s something missing. It’s a great start. But it’s not enough. While R U OK day has led to important breakthroughs for many people (and has likely saved lives) too many people nod and say, “yep I’m ok”, when they’re not.

And what do we do when someone responds with “Actually, no. I’m not ok at all”?

The official R U OK Day site says, ‘R U OK? Day is our national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone to ask, “Are you OK?”’ But what matters most in that sentence is not the question. It’s the word ”action”.

Having the conversation

survey of 2000 adults showed that the average adult is fudging the truth when they tell us “I’m fine”. My own recent research with 400 Aussie teen girls affirms that they lie to us all the time about being “OK”. After all, it’s just what we say isn’t it? And we don’t really want to tell everyone our problems.

Does that mean we should stop asking R U OK? Of course not. What it does mean is that we might be able to learn to ask better. And listen better.

This is equally important for our children as it is for other adults. In 2017, 180 children and adolescents completed suicides, accounting for approximately 35% of deaths in those aged 19 and under. Through their unspeakable pain and grief, too many grieving parents will cry, “We had no idea things were that bad.”

I was invited to speak at Alex’s school about a week after his suicide. I spoke with students. I talked with staff. I spent time working with the school’s counsellors. And then I spoke to parents.

They all wanted to know: “How do I deal with a child who is depressed, anxious, self-harming, or having suicidal thoughts?”

This is what I told them:

Tip 1: Just like dollars are the currency of our economy, attention is the currency of our relationships. Spending time in the relationship is critical for our children to be willing to talk with us, trust us, and disclose their struggles to us. We must prioritise our relationships over TV, email, cleaning the house, exercise, socialising, and in serious situations, even work. To a child LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E.

Tip 2: If you sense they’re not ok, tell them that. Be up front. Here’s how:

“I’ve seen how hard things have been at school lately. You’ve come home sad. You’ve preferred to stay in your bedroom. Things seem rough.”

“You seem to be really struggling lately. I’ve been trying to reach you but you seem to really feel like you want to be alone.”

“It feels like the whole world is crashing down for you at the moment doesn’t it. Sometimes it all feels like it’s too much.”

There’s an old saying that “if you can name it, you can tame it.” What we’re trying to do with those we love is to put a name to the emotion that might be dragging them down. When we do that, they feel understood.

Tip 3: Don’t try to fix things. You usually can’t. Instead, name the emotion and then sit with them in their struggle. Let them open up. Listen. That’s it.

While writing my soon-to-be-published book about teen girls, “Miss-Connection” I was writing about compassion. I discovered that the word literally means “to suffer with”.

If someone is not ok, we can’t fix them. But we can suffer with them. We can see they’re struggling and step into that struggle with them. That’s true compassion. And that’s how we truly help.

Tip 4: Tell them you love them. No. Matter. What.

Relationships are at the heart of wellbeing. When someone doesn’t feel “ok”, they often feel unworthy.

Reassurance that they are valued – loved – is key. The added confirmation that they matter to you – no matter what – can be pricelessly affirming. It assures them of their worth. They hear you promise that they mean something to you. They make a difference.

If your child, or someone you love, is not ok:

Take it seriously.

Ask questions.

Find out if they need urgent help.

If you are concerned, ask the question: “Have you been thinking about self-harming or suicide?”

Many of us will shy away from conversations like this. But asking those kinds of questions doesn’t increase the risk of suicide – in fact, they can actually help someone feel less distressed. It’s ok to ask.

If they say yes, drive them to your nearest Emergency Department and tell them you have a child who is talking about suicide. Don’t wait. Just go.

And don’t wait until R U OK day to ask.

Important Numbers

Contact beyondblue at 1300 22 46 36 for information about mental health

Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 for suicide and crisis support.

Contact 000 for emergencies.

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DIY Essential Oils Joint Pain Relief Roller Recipe

If you have joint pain, this easy DIY joint pain relief roller is a great thing to keep in your purse. It is made with a blend of essential oils. You probably already have some of them at home! Make sure to check out my other essential oil recipes too!

Joint Pain Relief Roller Supplies:

• 1/2 tablespoon of witch hazel
• 1/2 tablespoon of a fractionated coconut oil as a carrier oil
• 10 drops of copaiba essential oil
• 10 drops of wintergreen essential oil
• 10 drops of myrrh essential oil
• 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil
• 10 drops of ginger essential oil
• Roller ball container (I get mine on Amazon)

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Joint Pain Relief Roller Directions:

First, in a small mixing bowl, add the witch hazel and carrier oil.

Next, add your five essential oils to the bowl.

Then, mix all of the ingredients together in the bowl.

For the last step, use the dropper to add mixture to roller bottle. Top the bottle with ball and lid. This recipe will make one roller bottle. Roll topically on joints as needed to relieve soreness or pain.

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What to do when your teen is caught ‘sexting’

Dear Dr Justin,

I have a teenage daughter who has been sending inappropriate photos to boys, and one has been shared around amongst her peer group. We’ve raised her to know that’s wrong, but she still doesn’t seem to get it. What should we do?

Sexting (or ‘sex texting’) has become increasingly common in the past five years. Kids don’t call it sexting though. They just call it “sending nudes”.

recent study, which analysed the sexting behaviours of over 10,300 teens, found that approximately one in six teens are sending nudes, and over one in four are receiving them. In fact, it’s becoming so prevalent that some experts are starting to accept it as just a normal part of adolescent sexuality.

But there is no such thing as ‘safe sexting’. Sexting poses substantial risks to our teens’ safety, health and wellbeing, as well as the possibility of humiliation, legal ramifications and even extortion. The risks are real, and the impact can be devastating.

First, stay calm

OK, so you know your teen has been sexting, and images are out there. It’s important to stay calm and be reassuring. This is not the time to criticise or punish. Threatening to remove the child’s device is only going to make things worse at this point. Instead, we need to be calm enough to enter into dialogue with our child so we can work out the best action to take.

Second, explore the issue with your teen

What’s going on that is making your teen want to sext? Is someone pressuring her? Does she think it will make her popular? Or is there an emotional reason behind it?

If it’s a boy, why is he sending images and who to? Or who is he receiving them from? Are the sexts consensual?

If another teen has been pressuring your teen, you’ll need to gently let the parents know what has happened. In most situations, the parents will be mortified and the behaviour will end there. However, if the behaviour is predatory, your child is being sexually harassed or the parents are unhelpful, speak to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner or even the police immediately.

Third, discuss the ramifications.

Once you understand why your teen has been sexting, talk to her (or him) gently about the possible consequences of those actions. In responding to the question asked above, your daughter has already experienced the first consequence. The image has been shared. Some data suggests that 12% of teens who receive a sext will forward it without consent.

But this is just one of many possible ramifications. Digital media lasts forever. It can affect her reputation into adulthood. It also leads to negative feelings, such as humiliation, insecurity, stress and anxiety.

And there are legal ramifications. Teens need to understand that taking, sending or forwarding nude photos of anyone under the age of 18, including the teen herself, is illegal and could lead to serious legal consequences. In most Australian states it can lead to being labelled a sex offender.

Fourth, establish some ground rules.

With your teen’s input, brainstorm simple black-and-white rules about sexting and digital safety in general. While rules can be broken, knowing exactly where the line is makes it much easier for our teens to comply.

Whether your teens are boys or girls, make rules around both sending and requesting sexts. Laying out equal expectations for our teens sets the groundwork for the development of healthy, equitable relationships.

Fifth, keep talking.

Our teens need us, whether they admit it or not. Keep a dialogue open. Talk to them about resisting peer pressure and about healthy relationships (both sexual and otherwise). Be empathetic and understanding. But most of all, be available.

Should you talk to the other parents?

Some experts advise taking immediate action by involving the parents of other kids involved. This is so that you can ask them to delete any images from all devices and social media platforms their child may have posted them on.

This may work in some instances, but it requires parents to be confident, calm, and kind. Barging through a conversation and making accusations about a person’s teenager followed by demands can sometimes take a turn for the worst. While most parents will want to help you, the way you approach them is important.

Involving the school and police

This material is illegal. It can lead to lifelong challenges, or tragic endings. I suggest that you nip these problems in the bud by alerting your child’s school and the schools of any students involved. Finally, if the images have been shared on social media, contact the platform and ask for them to be removed. If coercion or other illegal activity occurred around the production or dissemination of the pictures or video, you might also contact the police and the eSafety commissioner.

Last word

The key issue, however, is the conversation that happens with your child. Teens hate talking about these things. Tread sensitively. Explore. Take your time. Build your relationship. Encourage and love her. And invite wise decision making.

If you’re struggling with the hard conversations, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has some great resources available.


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Body & Cyber Safety: How to Pre-arm and Protect Your Children

In the past week I’ve been contacted by several parents. They’ve asked a number of questions, all along the same lines*:

I discovered yesterday that my 5 year-old daughter has been sexually touched (quite horribly) by an older boy at her school. We have talked about being safe so many times. I thought we had it covered. And yet this has occurred. Turns out the older boys have been exposed to porn and said they wanted to do what they saw in the video. I’m devastated.

And this one:

I need to know how to handle this. You have visited our school and talked with students and parents about technology, sexting, and pornography. My 13 year-old daughter has had all the talks. She knows that NO MATTER WHAT, she should NOT get involved. Well guess what? It’s happened. She did it. A boy has been pressuring her for weeks, in person and on Instagram and Snapchat, and she finally succumbed. We know the boy and his family and I contacted them. My daughter is not the first girl he has done he has done this to. What do I do?

The past week is not particularly different to other weeks when these kinds of emails land on my Facebook page or in my inbox. Other emails included one from a mother whose 8 year-old son was shown pornographic content in the school playground, and another from a parent whose 9 year-old child was approached via Instagram for explicit images.

While very different, each situation contains a number of important similarities:

First, these children are young. It is common for primary school-aged children to be involved in these circumstances.

Second, in almost all cases, it is a girl who is being harassed or harmed in a sexual way by a boy.

Third, social media is implicated consistently.

Fourth, young people are being harmed by what they are seeing or what they are doing, with pornography acting as a potential influence in too many cases.

There are three things I want to highlight for every parent to teach their children about: social media, body safety, and pornography.

Social Media

(It’s worth noting that the central – perhaps the only – reason that children have to be 13 is because of US laws that prohibit the collection of personal information on children under that age. It has nothing to do with the emotional and psychological readiness of the children to maturely navigate the online/social world.)

Parents must understand that Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are hotbeds of danger.

While it is true that many children use these sites every day without harm, there are significant risks associated with these platforms. Adult grooming is one, but so too is the exposure to explicit content, and the harassment from peers that occurs all-too-often.

Wellbeing vs Screentime graphAdditionally, recent research from the UK indicates that using these platforms is associated with reduced wellbeing and increased risk of depression, stress, and anxiety. And Australian studies with adolescents show that as time on screens (gaming and social media) increase, so too does psychological ill-health.

If your children want to be on screens, ensure they are old enough for the accounts that they want – and note that being 13 doesn’t mean they’re old enough. They should be able to maturely utilise the platforms and not become a servant to them (and we all know some adults who still can’t do that). Talk with them about the risks. Invite them to share how they’ll respond to dangerous situations. Keep screens in public spaces. And know what they’re doing, who they’re “friending” and connecting with, and what they’re viewing.

Many parents tell me that they’ve installed software to keep their kids safe online and to monitor what they’re doing. This may offer some modest protection while your child is using devices protected by the software. However, this seems to be the equivalent of fencing our swimming pool. It provides a level of safety that is important.

But we can’t fence the ocean.

Once our children are out of our home or using another person’s device, our protections are unhelpful. We need more than software to protect our kids. We need to talk with them and teach them how to use social media safely, how to respond to inappropriate requests, and what to say to someone who is pressuring them to do something they know is wrong.

Body Safety

Our children, no matter how well protected we keep them, will come into contact with others who have not necessarily received the same level of protection we have provided. Some of those children may have been exposed to pornographic content online, or have experienced inappropriate sexual touching. It is vital that our children know how to be body safe, and know how to resist the pressure that others may place upon them.

Teach young children (from the age of 2) that no one should ever look at or touch – or ask to look at or touch – any part of their body that is covered by their swimwear or underpants. A parent might wash these private parts for a child in the bath, or a doctor might need to view these parts with permission, but that is the only time these body parts should be looked at or touched. Our children need to know the difference between “good” touching and “bad” touching. And it is up to us to have the conversations with them about it. (Some useful resources are here.)

Teach older children that it is not ok to use digital media for looking at, or showing, those private parts. And then invite them to discuss why that might be the case. Help them to understand that sharing images might lead to long-term consequences, and that others might also see what has been shared.

Body safety means we teach our children how to keep their body safe. It is up to parents to ensure these conversations happen consistently.


Liz Walker, founder of “Porn Harms Kids” explains that exposure of children to pornography has reached critical levels. A major study from Sydney Uni indicated that 45% of adult males were first exposed to pornographic content between ages 11 and 13. In a 2010 survey of English 14-16 year-olds, nearly one-third claimed that their first exposure to pornography was at 10 years or younger. A 2015 survey in the UK showed that 1 in 5 twelve to thirteen year-olds believed that watching porn is “normal behaviour”.

Unwanted exposure to pornography among minors is increasing, with the number of 10-12 year-olds accidentally seeing porn rising from 9% to 19% between 2000 and 2005, and from 28% to 35% for 13-15 year-olds. In another study of 16-17 year-olds, a large number of both males (84%) and females (60%) had experienced unwanted exposure to pornography while online.

Now… take a look at the dates. The data are old. We’re back at 2005 before iPhones and 3G wireless Internet. Or we’re back at 2010 Why? We can’t ethically ask young children about their pornography exposure. We have to wait until they’re older and ask them to retrospectively recall when they saw what they saw.

Our best guess is that kids are, on average, seeing pornography at around age 9 or 10 today because of wireless, portable tech. And there is consensus that about 99% of boys and around 70% of girls have been exposed to pornography by the age of 15. Parents are consistently describing incidents like those above where pornography has impacted their children’s lives – always with negative consequences.

Research is highlighting that children’s exposure to pornography increases the risk that they may act on what they’ve seen. Too often, this occurs with another vulnerable young person. NSW Police report that child-on-child sexual assault is at an all-time high, with the proliferation of pornography via screens being the most often-blamed reason.

What do we do?
As the first generation of parents to deal with these challenges, we are facing some tricky times. No matter how well we parent our children, they will be affected and influenced by others who may not have had the same level of parental involvement. Sometimes they will be harmed by those children.

Parents can best protect their children by:


Don’t let young children near social media. Minimise screen time. Ensure they are taught about body safety.


At some point, cocooning children will not be enough. This is when we must pre-arm them. The most effective pre-arming occurs when our children trust us and our relationships with them are close and loving.

We want to be having daily involvement and connection with them about the little things so that when the big things arise we have the relationship foundation in place to guide them.

The best pre-arming conversations are not lectures. We ask questions and listen to how our children feel about the issues we are discussing, and invite their ideas for how they would respond in tricky situations.

Setting Limits

Our children need us to be parents. They need us to lead. This might mean things can be uncomfortable from time to time. But they need to know what our limits are and why. We should only allow social media with appropriate protections and at the right age.

Parenting may never have been more challenging. It may also never have been more important.

* Details changed to preserve anonymity

For help talking to your children about body safety, respect and consent, check out these great resources…

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept - body safety book by Jayneen SandersNo Means No - by Jayneen SandersBody Safety Education by Jayneen Sanders



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Navigating Your Teen’s Quest For Independence

Dear Dr Justin,

My daughter started high school and already there are parties and outings organised where no parents are allowed. She’s only 12 and I think too young to go unsupervised. Am I being unfair?

The teen years are a glorious time for our kids. It is a time of freedom; our kids are doing things for themselves and by themselves, figuring themselves out, and experiencing life like never before. And, of course, it’s a time when parties, outings and other social events are on the rise.

For many parents, our teen’s time of excitement is our time of fear! We want to know our children are safe, and making healthy, wise decisions.

So, how much independence is the right amount?

Unfortunately, the answer is… it depends. At 12 perhaps going to the local pool in the afternoon with a group of friends might feel okay, but going to a party on a Saturday night may not. Perhaps meeting up in the city for a movie with some girlfriends might also be okay, but going with just one boy might not be something you feel so good about.

It is up to each family to find the ‘right’ amount of independence for their child. However, it’s vital that our teens participate in determining where that line is, with us.

Having control in their lives is important for our teens. Research shows that autonomy is one of the most important contributors to success and happiness. It is a predictor for almost all the positive outcomes that we want for our kids – better wellbeing, lower stress, better health, increased longevity, greater career success and even lower use of drugs and alcohol. Kids with parents who encourage autonomy do better at school, have better friends, and are generally happier.

Handing over the decision-making power (within limits!)

So, the best thing we can do for our teens is to give them some decision making power in their own lives. This doesn’t mean becoming permissive or disengaged. Instead, we should involve our teens in establishing the family rules, and negotiate individual circumstances with them as necessary.

If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right, it is! But it is also do-able by utilising the three Es of Effective Discipline – explain, explore and empower.

First, explore the issue with your child. If she feels strongly that she is ready for something, listen as she explains her reasons. Try to understand her feelings. This is the time for empathy and perspective.

Second, explain the risks and consequences of the choices, such as unsupervised parties, to your teen. Discuss some of the things you feel she is ready for, such as going alone to a café with a friend, and some of the things she is not. Let her tell you how she feels as well. The more clearly you explain, and the more input you receive, the more chance that you will get understanding and cooperation from your teen.

Third, empower her by working together to find solutions. What should the family rules be when it comes to parties? What about outings? If there is a party she can’t attend, can she organise another outing that is acceptable? Brainstorm solutions that don’t put her at risk, feel age-appropriate and work within the rules your family has set.

A note about parties

When it comes to teens’ parties, there are some very important considerations you might discuss. For example, parties where no parent is present are, in my mind, a no-go. If, during a party, there is underage drinking, or illegal drug use, or sexual activities, or if one of the kids is hurt, the parent could be at risk for legal action. And if a minor teen gives another minor alcohol, they are breaking the law. Remember, too, that sex is more likely when there’s alcohol.

These risks are serious. Various states even have laws about parties.

For Victoria, see here
For NSW, see here
For QLD, see here
For SA, see here
For WA, see here
For Tassie, see here
For the ACT, see here
And for the NT, take a peek here

If there’s a law, it becomes a non-negotiable rule. Otherwise, it is up to us to use our most powerful parenting tool – communication – to navigate our teen’s growing need for social independence. But by explaining, exploring and empowering we can work together to establish appropriate guidelines for social outings and help our teens make well-informed, age-appropriate choices, to ensure they have a great future.

Check out Dr Justin Coulson’s popular webinar: What Your Teenage Daughter Wants To Tell You But Can’t. Available in the Happy Families Online Shop

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14 Pumpkin Crafts and Activities for Kids

Fall is officially here! We went to the pumpkin patch last weekend and now it’s time for some fall crafting. These pumpkin crafts and activities are great for kids of all ages. Don’t forget to have some healthy pumpkin snacks while you’re enjoying these fall crafts!

Pumpkin Crafts

#1 – Shiny Happy Pumpkins by Sweet Silly Sara
These are an easy fun pumpkin craft idea for younger kids.

#2 – Tin Can Pumpkins by Kennary
These are adorable and are the perfect way to hand out Halloween treats at class parties or for trick-or-treat!

#3 – Book Page Pumpkins by Creations by Kara

Pumpkin Crafts

#4 – Painted Rock Pumpkins by Make Life Lovely
We love rock painting and can’t wait to make some pumpkin rocks!

#5 – Styrofoam Cup Pumpkins by Mom Endeavors
This is another great idea for younger kids!

#6 – Color Mixing Pumpkins by Messy Little Monster

Pumpkin Crafts

#7 – Hand Print Keepsake Pumpkins by Kori at Home
I am a huge fan of hand print crafts, and these would be perfect to remember your little one’s first Halloween!

#8 – Button Pumpkins by Sugar Bee Crafts

#9 – Pony Bead Pumpkins by Cutesy Crafts

Pumpkin Crafts

#10 – Paper Plate Pumpkins by The Best Ideas for Kids
These are a simple, quick idea. You won’t need any special supplies.

#11 – Folded Paper Pumpkins by Pint Sized Treasures

#12 – Craft Stick Pumpkins by You Brew Tea

Pumpkin Face Printable

#13 – Pumpkin Face Printable Activity
We created this activity a few years ago, and it is requested every Halloween!

#14 – Mason Jar Lid Pumpkins by Crafts by Amanda
These are fun for older kids or adults!

Pumpkin Crafts and Activities for Kids

Pumpkin Crafts and Activities for Kids

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Our Family Holiday in Bali

When it comes to holidays, I’m normally a do it yourself kind of guy.

I’m big on exploration, activity, and getting off the beaten track. I want to go my own way. For me it’s all about discovery; trying new things. I want transformative.

At my wife’s insistence we decided to try something new for our most recent family holiday.

“We really just need a break”, Kylie had insisted. “A real break. Where we do nothing.”

Me: “Boring.”

Nevertheless, after some more back-and-forth, our negotiation ended with a compromise. We were going to a resort where there was nothing to do but lay by the pool.


To be clear, that’s not how I roll. But I had to concede that Kylie was right. There are times when you really need a break. Family life can leave you feeling flogged, and we were exhausted by it. Frantic paced deadlines and commitments, kids creating chaos… there’s something special about taking some time away from it all to replenish, rejuvenate, and to literally re-create our lives.

Plus, the idea of not having to plan or cook a meal for a week while spending quality time on amazing family activities sounded like it was worth trying. Logistics-free meant I wouldn’t have to look at google maps. I figured it was worth a try.

The break hardly began in a rejuvenating way.

Our best efforts to pack and prep the night before we left meant we were up late. Rousing six daughters from slumber and herding them to the car at 4:00am was challenging. The youngest were compliant. Our eldest ones truly believed that the plane would wait because they needed another 30 minutes of sleep. My lost wallet didn’t help in reducing the stress.

By the time we arrived at Brisbane International Airport, it felt as though the holiday might be about to begin. Meals were eaten, apps were downloaded, devices were charged, and all was well – until our names were called over the airport speakers. The flight was closing. We’d missed our cue. A short sprint with six kids chasing me, and my wife nowhere to be seen (she subsequently caught up), and we were welcomed aboard our flight – just in the nick of time. All was well with the world.


Landing in Bali in May is a treat.

Rather than the suffocating summer humidity, a pleasant tropical warmth enveloped us as we cast aside the extra layers that had been necessary for warmth on a cold Brisbane morning. ClubMed transferred us to the Nusa Dua resort and our week as #ClubMedinsiders began.

Straight away I knew this was not going to be my usual kind of break. And straight away I was excited.

At the resort, five of our six kids were ushered off to kids club by staff (known as G.O.’s) who had become their instant best friends. (Our 6th is nearly 20, and her best efforts to sneak in for all the fun with the kids were unsuccessful.) For the next 5 days our daughters met new friends from all over the world, played sports, swung on the insanely high trapeze – even the 5 year-old! – and swam, snorkelled, crafted, and more. They literally begged to leave before us each morning so they could get to Kids Club, and they wanted to stay longer each night. They wanted to stay at Club Med forever.

Club Med’s G.O.’s were incredible with the kids.

We watched our children and others stimulated to try new things. It was transformative for them. Swinging on the trapeze, improving social skills interacting with kids from other cultures; the kids club brought them alive, and taught them new skills. They tried things they’ve never done before and played with kids from different nationalities and cultures.

We love our kids and enjoy being with them.

We love adventures together. But they loved the independence, so we embraced the downtime. The adults only “zen pool” became a retreat each day, away from the noise and activity of the resort’s main pool.

Club Med has just launched a range of family activities which meant that we weren’t separated from the children all day. Games on the grass, a family cooking class, slip ‘n slide, and a colour party meant we got to play together each day. We had the chance to genuinely enjoy a holiday together, with some downtime for us as well.

The other thing that made this holiday great was the food.

I never knew Club Med was all-inclusive! Activities and meals are included, and while Kylie and I don’t drink, those who like a drop now and then might be pleased to know that most drinks are also part of your package. This was something I appreciated. A break where family can be together or the kids can have fun while the parents get some down time; a getaway where you don’t have to keep dipping your hand into your pocket to pay exorbitant prices for food or activities because it’s all included*; a chance to really recover (or get off the resort and speed things up if you feel the need)… and all in one of the most picturesque places you can imagine. Morning sunrise over the ocean at Nusa Dua is something special.

This was not the holiday I would have chosen before…

But after a week here, I’m sold. By providing quality time away from the stresses of daily life, in a kind, multicultural, relaxed environment, offering a wide range of activities, Club Med gave our family an inspiring break. My kids are calling it our best ever holiday. One thing is certain: we’re heading home with amazing memories, a refreshed mindset, and plans to book in for another break with Club Med soon!

*SPONSORED POST: Dr Justin Coulson and his family travelled to Club Med Bali as #ClubMedInsiders

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How To Stop Yelling

Dear Dr Justin

I have been reading a lot about how yelling isn’t good for my kids, but I can’t seem to get them to listen if I don’t raise my voice! Any suggestions on how I can stop yelling?

Almost everybody yells sometimes. Some of us are better at keeping our voices down than others, but we are all yellers or reformed yellers… or both.

Social media memes celebrate and mock yelling:

‘My kids call it “yelling” when I raise my voice. I call it motivational speaking for the selective listener.’

‘Don’t yell at your kids! Lean in real close and whisper, it’s much scarier.’

Let’s face it though; yelling feels terrible. Most parents also admit it rarely works. And research shows it’s bad for our kids.

How can that be?

When parents use yelling as a way to discipline, studies show increased behavioural problems, anxiety, stress and depression. Yelled-at kids also have lower self-esteem, and a higher risk of developing psychological problems in the future.

Without getting too technical, it’s important to mention that these studies are correlational. So it could be that yelling leads to these issues. Or it may be that kids with behavioural problems, anxiety, stress, and so on make their parents yell! (Or perhaps there’s something else that causes both yelling and behavioural problems… such as alcohol and drugs, low education levels, or poverty.)

But what research shows quite clearly is that yelling doesn’t work. Researchers have found that yelling seldom alleviates a problem. In fact, as soon as you begin to raise your voice your child’s brain is catapulted into the fight-or-flight response. They freeze up, fight back or run away. It’s almost impossible for them to actually listen to us.

So, how can we stop yelling? How can we become reformed yellers?

First, remember it’s not about your child, it’s about YOU.

As parents, we sometimes yell because we’re getting pulled in a million different directions and then something happens and it’s just the final straw. Or we’ve already asked our child to stop pinching his sister 14 times! Or we just lose our cool.

This is when we need to remember that this is about US. Yelling doesn’t happen out of the blue – it is usually triggered by something (asking multiple times, prepping dinner or rushing out in the morning). If we can learn to recognise our triggers, we can stop them from launching us into anger and yelling.

Second, be calm and kind.

When I’m starting to get upset there’s a mantra that I use: ‘I’m going to be calm and kind.’ When I repeat this to myself, it reminds me of the kind of parent I want to be and helps me to better regulate my own emotions. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it when you find your emotions rocketing from 0 to 100.

Third, focus on helping, not hurting.

When your child is pushing all your buttons, take a deep breath and look them in the eyes. Ask yourself, what are they going through? Why aren’t they listening? What is happening inside this little human (that you love!) and how can you help them?

Just turning your focus onto helping your child can help you to calm down and stop yelling.

And here’s a bonus tip: unless there is a genuine physical impairment, your kids are not deaf. Speak softly. They’ll listen harder. A gentle tone and a soft voice are nicer to listen to.

Life can get difficult. If you find that you’ve slipped up and yelled, forgive yourself, hug your little one and start again. And remember that that good parents aren’t perfect – good parents are just trying their best.


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