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Setting Boundaries Protects Our Energy.

24 Aug

I think healthy boundaries are about reciprocal respect. They include setting up and communicating reasonable, clear expectations of acceptable ways for other people to behave towards us that contribute to feeling safe, supported and valued.

Leanne French – Therapist & Relationship Expert

Imagine crouching under one of those slightly dented, aluminium colanders with a lot of holes. That’s kind of what my boundaries looked like when I was a kid. 

When I first learnt about boundaries as a young therapist, I replaced that colander with a magnificent castle on a lush flower-filled island, surrounded by a moat, filled with snapping piranhas. I installed a drawbridge that only I could lift or lower because after all, the most important boundary a person can set, is limiting their availability. I also created a shield with light, bullet proof, glittery glass bricks, because the goal of boundaries is to be protected and stay connected at the same time.

My boundaries might seem like a fortress to some, but they serve to keep me clear, focused, more tolerant, and compassionately away from resentment. 

Boundaries are a self-caring way to keep our balance. They mark the edge or limits of something, so they’re important ways to create safety and trust. They not only strengthen valued and welcomed connections, they keep the light snuffers out, lower stress and reduce depletion.

I’m really clear about who I am and what I want and don’t want. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. I can pinpoint what fuels me and what depletes me. After many years of practise, I know what makes me comfortable and uncomfortable, what energises and enriches me, and what causes distress and dread. I speak up and I can definitely walk away without guilt.

I’m super grateful for my small bunch of uplifting friends, scattered across the country and planet, who have good self esteem and terrific boundaries. 

Unless we’re encouraged to have and respect boundaries as kids, they’re not always easy to set or maintain. Some of us just bumble along, allowing others to define or direct us while we work too hard at people pleasing or trying to fit in places we shouldn’t. Or, we behave in toxic ways, and lie, undermine, gossip or ridicule, collecting low quality connections and conflict in our wake. Most of us will trip over some guilt and obligation along the way until we recognise how important respect and boundaries are to everyone’s emotional wellbeing.

Children, who experienced trauma or had a parent that struggled with addiction, may have learned to put others needs before their own. Or perhaps they too, put their addiction first.

Maybe you grew up with a ‘personality disordered‘ family member who found it difficult to emotionally regulate? (This often goes undiagnosed.) Your personal boundaries were most likely routinely broken. The message you may have learnt, was that your own needs and feelings didn’t count. You were probably required to accept how others treated you, without question. While it may have felt impossible to do at the time, imagine if you were taught to say, “When you rage at me, I feel threatened. I’m going to leave the room/house until you can communicate calmly.” (Providing of course you were old enough to speak, and an exit was even an option!) I want you to know that you do matter.

Whether we grew up in a functional or dysfunctional environment, we all need the courage to maintain our personal values despite what others think or how they behave. To clearly identify our wants and needs and respectfully communicate them, while at the same time recognising that others have the right to decide how they respond or react. Otherwise it’s too easy to mix up our yes’s and no’s and not take the time to see if potential friendships, relationships or even things like jobs are suitable or not.

We’re all such interesting creatures, with different values and beliefs and triggers, shaped by an assortment of life experiences and histories, which is why it’s so beneficial to be mindfully aware of what makes for good and less good interactions.

It’s up to each of us to be clear on where we want to draw the line between ourselves and others. And for every parent out there, never ever ever use guilt to get your kids to visit or do something. Once obligation is on the table, joy flies out the window! Let love lead the way!

Boundaries will naturally differ between our professional and private selves, in our relationships and with each individual family member.

Types of boundaries include physical, emotional, financial, intellectual, material and financial, time, sexual, and digital boundaries. 

It’s good to approach boundary breaches as early as you can. Mistakes can be a learning ground to curiously observe what happened. Which people or situations crossed the line? How much stress or discomfort did it cause? Is it a one off or reoccuring? Is it possible to breathe and let it go? What could be done to prevent it in the future? Keep paying attention to how people and circumstances impact your energy, productivity, and wellbeing. 

  • Work out the feel goods and the not so goods.
  • Be clear about the responsibilities, activities, and values that you treasure.
  • Get a good sense of your tolerance limits.
  • Work out what you need.
  • Pick a good time (or way) to communicate.
  • Keep the focus on your feelings and needs while being mindful of their needs.
  • Use I statements and don’t justify, defend, over explain or blame.
  • Be kind, calm, direct and specific and use a neutral tone. 

Set boundaries in ways that create discussion and possible negotiation so everyone confidently knows where they stand and what to expect. You’re only responsible for communicating your boundary with respect, not for the other person’s response to it. Boundaries are not an attempt to control the actions of another. If you recognise you have toxic light snuffers in your life, move on and shine on. 

We can’t change or control other people, but we can take charge of our own life. We can choose to wear our own mask. We can choose whether we reply to emails at night, or answer calls after hours. We can decline invitations without explaining. We can protect our time, space and personal resources. We can say no. We can be selective. We can limit our engagement. We can choose to not participate, not react, not engage. We can block it or report it. We can also leave.

If you need help with boundaries, email me at hello@leannefrench.com to book a telehealth session.

World Smokefree Day. Let’s Stop Kids From Starting.

31 May

World Smokefree Day, that falls every year on May 31 is a chance to celebrate and work towards Smokefree/auahi kore lives for New Zealanders.

It happens to coincide with the release of a Government proposal in which the Ministry of Health have proposed a ‘grandfather’ policy, to progressively prohibit the sale of smoked tobacco products to a new age group each year. It would gradually increase the age of purchase restrictions by one year every year, so eventually it would be illegal to purchase if you’re under 25. Hooray.

The same proposal wants to limit the level of nicotine in cigarettes and put more investment into smoking cessation services. This is great for our future generation. Ask most smokers when they started, and they’ll say, ‘When I was a kid.’ And none of those kids realised they could get addicted to nicotine within days of first using it. Why? Because when they smoke, the nicotine goes to their brain. In 10 seconds. Straight to the part that controls feelings of pleasure and releases dopamine, a chemical that tricks them into thinking a cigarette equals pleasure. Then within a few minutes, the pleasure is gone, and the craving for a cigarette begins a new cycle.

There is no better time than now to really wake up to the fact that smoking around kids influences them to smoke, and is harmful for their health. Kids don’t always have the choice or ability to be able to get away from the toxic poisons of second and third hand smoke. You do. You can quit. You can do it. With a plan and behavioural support, it’s easier. If you’re over 18 and smoke could it be good to consider vaping? Vaping isn’t smoking. It’s a MOH recommended, humane and harm reduction pathway to help you quit cigarettes. It delivers a controlled dose of nicotine with 95% less toxins than burning tobacco. You get to stay social, spend less, smell better, and satisfy both the cravings and the hand to mouth habit. Don’t vape if you don’t already smoke.

Here’s the thing. Kids learn from what they see, more than from what you say. Kids who have friends and whanau that smoke are more likely to become smokers. That’s one of the reasons why the new proposal wants to restrict the sale of tobacco products. To get them out of the 5000 to 8000 places kids can see them, to 5% of that. To get them into R18 specialist stores. I’m all for it. Let’s get cigarettes out of sight, out of mind and out of reach.

Stopping kids from starting to smoke is the best form of protection. I would like to see proposed ad and social media campaigns include a harder hitting style of delivery about the harmful health realities of smoking, the risks, the dangers, the costs, to shock and influence kids to be non consumers. I loved that stuff when I was kid. It made me want to quote the facts and figures and write speeches and debate about it.

How many kids really know that there are 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and that 60 of those can cause cancer? Or that every cigarette smoked harms nearly every organ and system in our body? Or that in NZ about 13 unlucky people die every day from smoking related diseases? Or that cigarettes contain arsenic which is used for rat poison? Perhaps funding for documentaries and competitions that creatively involve our youth would help us raise Smokefree eco and wellbeing warriors?

(Photo credit. Laura Garcia.)

Calm is a Superpower.

9 Apr

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If someone is baiting you to argue, don’t take the hook. Swim around and find a calm, creative response rather than a reaction. – Leanne French. Secret 59 from Fairytale Love – How to Love Happily Ever After.

Someone’s got to do it, so why not you?

  • Don’t jump to the conclusion that what’s going on has to be about you.
  • Stay focused on content that makes sense, and try to ignore emotional outbursts.
  • Be willing to check whether they are stressed or tired, and ask how you could make things better.
  • Change the mood of the conversation and trick them into escaping.

We control how we respond.

When we take our time to go within we can respond to the same event with annoyance or anger, or we can search for a more thoughtful way to respond with peace and calmness. Continue reading

The Wild Calms A Child.

4 Apr

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Our backyards are a natural source of wonder, with no electrical sockets in sight.

Gather up your child/children. Make sure to ask their imaginary friends to join you in the backyard, otherwise known as the wild, where you can

  • run faster
  • jump higher
  • squeal louder
  • lay out a blanket to read fairytales
  • paint rocks
  • search for frog princes
  • draw with chalk
  • make a walnut bed for Thumbelina
  • bug hunt
  • chase butterflies
  • make play dough food for a pretend picnic
  • find shapes in the clouds
  • plant a magic beanstalk
  • go on a scavenger hunt
  • create a sellotape nature bracelet

…and my favourite of all, make a magic petal potion where you gather, mash, mix, stir and sniff and turn into any creature you wish.

Let the wild rumpus begin!(Thanks to my beloved Wolfie for creating my day by day images.)

Imagination Can Take You Anywhere.

2 Apr

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Join them in their world when they’re little, so you’ll be welcome in their world when they get big. – L. R. Knost.

Thanks to thebigharumph for the art.

50 Reflective End of Year Family Questions.

3 Dec

How about introducing a new self reflective ritual into your family? As the year winds down it’s the perfect time to choose an evening or afternoon to gather together and consider things like: How was the past year? What worked and what did not work so well? What do I want to create in the year to come? 

  1. What was the best day of your year?
  2. What was the worst or hardest day?
  3. What’s your fondest memory from the year?
  4. What filled you with wonder and delight?
  5. What if anything, may have consistently angered you this year?
  6. What do you wish had never happened?
  7. Name something that went really well.
  8. Name something that could’ve gone better.
  9. Who do you wish you could’ve spent more time with?
  10. Who do you wish you could’ve spent less time with?
  11. What is the best thing about being part of this family?
  12. What goals did you set at the beginning of the year that you achieved?
  13. Which goals didn’t you achieve that you still might like to?
  14. What was the nicest thing you remember anyone saying about you?
  15. Did you make any mistakes that in turn taught you something?
  16. Are there any areas where you feel stuck?
  17. What might you need help with?
  18. Which world culture is the most fascinating to you right now?
  19. What’s your best quality or super power?
  20. What has challenged you in the world of social media?
  21. How you feel about the boundaries you have set for yourself around screen time?
  22. What habits would you like to break?
  23. What might you need to do in order to take better care of yourself?
  24. What acts of kindness did you show towards others this year?
  25. Who was especially kind to you?
  26. What are you most proud of having done emotionally this year?
  27. What are you most proud of achieving physically this year?
  28. What have you longed for lately?
  29. What was your biggest achievement this year?
  30. What did you do creatively that you loved?
  31. What boundary did you set with yourself that you feel proud of?
  32. What boundary did you set with others that you’re proud of?
  33. What’s your biggest regret this year?
  34. What has caused you the most sadness?
  35. Is there anything you think you should/could let go of?
  36. Name someone you look up to.
  37. If you couldn’t fail, what might you attempt?
  38. What country would you most like to visit next?
  39. What skill or talent did you learn or master?
  40. What would you like to be better at?
  41. What might you need to do in order to be better at that?
  42. What would you like us to do to help you with that?
  43. What was the most delicious meal you ate all year?
  44. If you could pick something you would love to have made for you, what would you like?
  45. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be?
  46. Who would you especially like to thank this year?
  47. What is your favourite family tradition?
  48. What’s your best quality?
  49. What do you wish we understood better about you?
  50. If we could wave a magic wand and wish you the best year ever for yourself next year, what sorts of things might you wish for?

Why are Some Homes Predictably Unpredictable?

27 Nov

When a parent is addicted to a substance, home life is often tense and unpredictable, and family members may either try to deny the addicts behaviour, make excuses for it, or attempt to control or stop it. For the one choosing to drink or drug, it’s hard to maintain rewarding healthy connections and be emotionally available.

So much time and energy gets gobbled up trying to either recover, obtain, use, and/or try to keep it secret. Addiction messes with mood and sleep and has personal, social, financial, health, relationship and even legal consequences. 

If one or both parents are emotionally or physically unavailable long term, children can develop a fear of abandonment and learn that holding onto toxic relationships is better than being alone. Drinking and/or drugging is also so boring to grow up around. When the “substance” of choice is the priority, the child isn’t, and that reaffirms their sense of  not really being worthy enough to get to know, listen to, learn about or have an in-depth relationship with.

Growing up around addiction, kids have to guess at what normal is. They are more subjected to chaos and Continue reading

Gruesome Twosome.

1 Nov

Zombie nephews. Photo by Hayley French at feijoadesigns.

Zombie nephews. Photo by Hayley French at feijoadesigns.

These two little treasures look iron depleted and could perhaps do with a good feed of spinach from our lush garden, but it’s Halloween and what they are really after is zombie brains and sweets galore.

Luckily their mother doesn’t belong to the fun police and nor is she a religious fanatic, both of which seem to push harder in the media every year to sanitize the darkness of Halloween. Why people continue to say it’s an Continue reading

Raising A Prince.

27 Jul

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magical moments

This week Prince George of Cambridge was born to proud parents William and Kate.  Whilst you and I may not have a child third in line to the throne of England, those of us raising our own prince or princesses know that they, like any lucky parent, are in for an exciting journey of bravery, truth and Continue reading