Author Archive for Christina Fraser

Fathers and Daughters

Mothers are historically seen as primary role models for daughters, and sometimes the impact of the father’s influence can initially appear to be more shadowy.

Where there is not a ‘present dad’ – then a secondary male can step in. Never underestimate the significance of grandfathers, uncles or good family friends.

The first important man in a small girl’s world will be this male figure. Children will regard themselves as they imagine others regard them. Women begin to find their sense of acceptance and value as a result of these early messages from their fathers.

The first family unit is where we all learn our powers of negotiation. Those who come from conflict averse or overly critical parenting will not easily be able to learn the value of safely expressing their own opinions. The father who is too powerful, or too passive, will not allow a woman a sense of safety when finding her voice with later male relationships.

Learning that her thoughts are valid and worth attention (even if not agreed with) is a good life lesson for any girl and being listened to will mean that she, in turn, will find it easier to listen.

Believing that her opinions count will help a girl to learn how to be assertive. This differs from sounding aggressive, which is more likely to stem from combative behaviour arising from feelings of powerlessness.

Offering safe male attention is one of a fathers best legacies to a daughter. Understanding boundaries and privacy, and avoiding any negative or trite comments about her physical characteristics are essential.

Remember, the parents are the first couple that any child observes. How the father treats the mother is a powerful message. Parents who treat each other well, are companionable and can disagree (even heatedly) but resolve and safely make up will show daughters that this can be their expectation of a fair and respectful relationship in adult life.

Christina Fraser

Staying in touch with son/daughters ex-partner?

  • Do you think it is ok to stay in touch with a son/daughters ex-partner?

Sadly, this is not a black and White issue and will need careful handling depending on the circumstances.

There will be raw feelings and it is important to acknowledge that it is a loss – depending on the depth and length of the couple relationship it may even feel like a bereavement.

It is important to discuss and respect the boundaries of the son/daughter and be sensitive to their situation.

For the parent it may bring other, complicated issues. Was the partner a surrogate child or a good friend? Try to examine what is your (the parental) loss and separate these feelings.

  • Is it only ok if there are grandchildren involved?

In a mature separation, conflict between parents has to be put aside for the sake of the children who need the parents to communicate respectfully, however angry or upset they may feel.

Continuity is vital, and the loss of supportive grandparents will only heighten children’s sense of insecurity.

Talk about how this may work for the parents, both of whom may need to be involved and be sensitive to their feelings. Impartiality may be very difficult, but this is where the grandchildren’s stability is paramount.

  • What if the son/daughter does not want them to stay in touch?

There are likely to be raw and damaged feelings. Try not to take sides; there is usually one truth, but two perspectives to every situation. There will be the loss of hope that this relationship brought. Parents may need to face their own losses around any cosy fantasies of a future family.

Allow your child to talk about their feelings. Often anger and stubbornness hides fear and sadness.

Only by keeping careful communication open is there any hope of a future, and different link to the ‘lost’ partner

Christina Fraser

Five Tips for Improving your Relationship in 2014

We can offer praise in so many situations, but this can so easily disappear in relationships. remember to thank each other for the small things. Make a point of showing appreciation for at least one thing a day.

Find time for each other. The couple relationship will not flourish without attention. Take the time to do things together. If finances are tight and going out is tricky, try and make an evening at home special even if it is just eating at a table and switching off tv, phones and computers for a few hours.

Listen to your partner if they are trying to get a point across. You think you have heard it all a thousand times already, but try and think why this situation always becomes so loaded, and why they feel so strongly. Remember that behind nearly every power struggle is fear. Look out for the deeper issues and find out how these things were sorted in their original family.

Walk and talk. being in a confined space during a difficult discussion can make things feel worse. if there are subjects that need serious thought, try going for a walk. Being outside and together but not looking at each other can help. We are less likely to misread facial expressions and body language.

Finally remember that we can never change another person, and it is tiring and frustrating to try. The only person we can change is ourselves. Try dealing with problems in a different way, and it is almost inevitable that your partner will therefore respond differently.

Christina Fraser

Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Addictive behaviours draw in other family members. There will be instinctive reactions in concerned onlookers of anyone with an eating disorder. The Maudsley Hospital in South London have developed a range of descriptive animal metaphors to clearly illustrate the likely responses of carers, and better help them to recognize their natural and typical reactions.

How do you react? There are three basic BEHAVIOURAL types that carers may adopt as a result of the confusion and anxiety they feel.

KANGAROO CARE is the response to a loved one’s seemingly fragile, physical state. It may feel tempting to try to draw them in, to protect them as if in a safe pouch. Kangaroo carers do everything they can to support. They will do anything to try and coax or tempt their loved one, with tenderness and special treats. Sadly, the downside is that it infantalises and can remove the challenge of the difficult return to reality.

RHINOCEROS RESPONSE is the understandable frustration that leads to analyzing, persuading and convincing. This so easily ends in a loss of tolerance and patience and then to arguments – as if trying to charge at, and smash, the disordered behavior.  The negative side is that force brings up all the distorted, eating disordered thinking of counter-agreements as a defense – or it allows the person to feel they could never overcome their situation without assistance

THE DOLPHIN illustrates the most helpful approach. Eating disordered people can feel all at sea, and the condition is their life belt because they feel the world is a stressful and dangerous place. The dolphin sometimes swims ahead leading and guiding the way, sometimes just being encouragingly alongside, nudging from time to time.

The other dimension of the relationship is the EMOTIONAL response, and again animal metaphors can illustrate these.

THE OSTRICH covers the family members who find any kind of challenge or confrontation too tricky. The temptation is to ignore the behaviour or absent themselves completely from the situation. This way they don’t have to admit the seriousness of what is happening.

THE JELLYFISH is engulfed in an intense and transparent emotional response. Sometimes it is just through fear that accompanies misunderstandings or false interpretations. It is only too easy to still hold the historic belief that somehow they have failed as parents or siblings, leading to sensitive or tearful reactions.

ST BERNARD DOG is the emotional ideal. Consistent, reliable and dependable in all circumstances. The St Bernard stays calm even when feeling threatened by the situation. He is warm and nurturing.

Most people will weave in and out of these behaviours – sometimes understandably succumbing to extremes, but it can be helpful to remember that intense emotional reactions are normal when dealing with situations that touch us deeply. Keeping in mind these goals can help when options feel limited.

Christina Fraser

 

Living with alcoholism in a family

It is impossible not to be affected in some way if you are living in a family with an alcohol dependent member. The negative effects will touch everyone around a problem drinker.

  •  Living with chaos and unpredictability are the main effects on families, but alcoholism can go unrecognised as relatives and friends make excuses to themselves and others, and bury their fears rather than facing them.
  •  Denial is usually the first defence of an alcoholic, and the distorted thinking around the problem makes it virtually impossible for family members to apply logical strategies to try and help the person concerned. Dependency becomes a shameful and secretive business, and the family may collude with this – hoping the problem will disappear until often only a crisis will force change.
  •  Research shows that for every alcoholic, there are between four and nine people directly impacted by their disease. Those ‘supporting’ a drinker can only look at their own part in all this, which can be enormously painful.  Beginning to look at their own behaviour may be tough, but until other family members start to draw back from their involvement, they can only become embroiled in the situation.
  •  The decision to stop drinking can only ever be made by the person concerned. But by withdrawing and starting to take care of themselves, those around the alcoholic can put the problem squarely back where it belongs. The option to look directly at the core of the situation, however, can only be taken by the one with the dependency.  It’s their decision only and must be driven by their motivation for change.
  •  We cannot change another, but we can change ourselves and how we respond to them. This, in turn, may affect the way they deal with themselves and their drinking.

Christina Fraser