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Annie O'Brien

Bullying is not OK!

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Bullying is not OK!

Bullying is not OK! The tragedy of Northern Territory teenager Dolly Everett’s suicide, as a result of cyber bullying, sends out a strong message. Parents need to speak to their children about bullying, and depression. Dolly took her own life, rather than return to school, after persistent bullying online.

Just days after Dolly’s suicide a friend of hers was targeted by a Snapchat troll, who baited her to kill herself. Katelyn had not spoken to her parents about the bullying, which had gone on for years. They were notified by another concerned parent.

This has to stop! And the onus is not only with the parents – schools, and people at all levels, including politicians, need to start talking about bullying and suicide. Bullying is not OK!

I am focusing more on cyber bullying here, but there are different types of bullying, some you might find difficult to recognise, and pass off as teasing. Bullying is more than just a fight or disliking somebody. Bullying can happen in groups, when they have the power and repeatedly use words, or actions to hurt you. It is being mean to another person repeatedly, over and over again. Bullying can happen in the home, with friends, online, at school, or on the bus. It can be verbal, physical, social, or online. A recent study reported 1 in 4 Australian students experience bullying. A high statistic, don’t you think?

What makes a bully? The bully might feel jealous, need to feel better about themselves, peer pressure to fit in with a group, feel angry, or enjoy the power they have over others. Often, the big one is they have been bullied themselves. Whatever the reason, bullying is not ok!

Signs to look out for, if your child is being bullied:

*Not sleeping

*Not eating

*Loss of concentration

*Self harming

*Physically sick

*Feeling sad, alone

*Down on themselves/depressed

*Suicidal thoughts

*Falling behind in schoolwork

*Feeling unsafe and afraid


Once you have a conversation with your child, they know you have their back. Ideally, speak to the Principal of their school, with their teacher present, and let them know what’s going on. Most schools have a “no tolerance policy” for bullying, and hopefully, the bully and the parents will be called in for an interview and it will be nipped in the bud. If you don’t have this kind of support, then you might consider changing schools.

Cyberbullying is different from other kinds of bullying, for the bully and the victim. The cyberbullies are faceless, and therefore, more bold than they would be if they were facing their victim in person. The taunts are anonymous and the bully feels safer and more powerful, and thinks they are able to get away with it. They are also not aware of the impact their behaviour is having on their victim.

Because teenagers spend a lot of time on the internet and their mobiles, the bullying can happen 24 hours a day. Victims do not know who is doing the bullying, or when then next attack will come. The bullying messages can be seen instantly by many people, not just the few people in a face-to-face situation. This type of persecution makes them feel unsafe, even in their own home.

Many parents have no idea that their child is a bully, and some, who are informed, take no action to work out these behaviours with their child. It could be a pack mentality, or they could be working alone. The bully needs to understand what the consequences of their actions are.

Again, talking with your child about staying safe online is central. Here are some tips to help your child avoid cyberbullying:

*Agree on some clear rules about mobile phone, and computer use – eg switch off all devices at night and leave them in parents room. Most cyberbullying happens at night.

*Talk about cyberbullying with your child – do this as soon as your child starts using social media, or has a mobile phone.

*Talk about what cyberbullying is: nasty messages, rumours on social media, ganging up on one player in online games, sharing private information of another person online. Cyberbullying can make you feel very sad and lonely. You might feel everyone is against you. Or you might feel depressed.

*Be careful of your online friends list – if there is someone your child doesn’t know as a friend, it gives that person access to information that can be used for bullying.

*Don’t give passwords out to friends – this gives power over to them to pose as you.

*Talk to you, the parent, teacher or other trusted adult about if concerned about anything happening online.


Bullying is not simply a normal part of growing up, and bullying is not OK!

Depression is an illness

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Depression is an Illness

Depression is an illness. And, there is not one of us who hasn’t experienced it at some time or other. Your kids can suffer from depression as well, and this is something you need to be aware of.

What is depression? Depression is when a person is no longer motivated to be part of life. There is a feeling of helplessness, and a withdrawal from any social activity. Before depression though, there is a certain belief or way of thinking leading up to it. It’s a specific belief pattern that links to the depression. Not necessarily a particular event in your life, but how that event is interpreted.

The core belief behind depression is a “why bother” thinking. “Why bother” about having goals that aren’t achievable. We all have goals, but let’s make them achievable. The reality is, not everybody can be a brain surgeon, or a world famous actor, or a super-hero. Setting goals that aren’t achievable is setting you up for failure. For some, failure can lead to feeling unworthy, that your path is going the wrong way. Then you will should yourself to death. -“I should have done this…I should have done that…”

Here’s the bottom line – there is no right or wrong path. It’s just part of the journey. Even when you do feel depressed it can be a growing/learning process. This is where the biggest lessons are learned, in the valleys of your life. Everyone is always striving for the top of the hill, and the more you learn, the more time you can spend on the hilltop. To be honest, you will find that personal development takes place through your life events and experiences.

By changing the belief choices so that new information can come in, you grow. And you must know, everybody is doing the best they can, with the information they have. Life is not about Winning or Failing. It is about Winning and Learning.

Stress is created when life is not going according to plan. Well, there again, life does not always go according to plan. This also doesn’t mean you are a failure.

And let’s not forget, a child can experience depression too. They might show signs of irritability or anger, sadness and withdrawal, a change in sleeping or eating pattern, difficulty concentrating, outbursts, crying, disinterest in clothes, and keeping themselves clean. It does vary from child to child, although there are similarities between adult depression and depression in a child.

Depression is an illness, and if left to go for too long, that Black Dog can really grab hold, and not let go. If you suspect yourself, or your child might be suffering depression, please seek counselling or medical help.

Talking to Your Child About Drugs

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talking to your child about drugs


It’s never too early to start talking to your child about drugs. You can start as early as Primary School.  At some point in their lives, every child is going to be exposed to drugs, either prescription, alcohol or illegal drugs.

The first thing you will need to do, is to have all the information yourself. The information you will share with your child, will lay the groundwork and, equip them with the skills they will need when confronted with the drug scene. A sharing environment will show your child that you are approachable and happy to talk about drugs, and any peer pressure they might be experiencing. This also shows your child that you have taken the time to find the information that might be helpful to them.

Be ready for the talk. Pre-empt any questions they might have, and have your answers ready. They are bound to ask whether you have used drugs. They don’t need to know the details of your experiences with alcohol and drugs. Put your point of view across about responsible use of the legal drugs like alcohol, and cigarettes. The law states that the safest guideline is to avoid alcohol until a person is 18 years old. Stick with that.

Once again, it’s the old adage – your child will model themselves from your own example. ie responsible drinking, no drink driving, knowing when you’ve had enough to drink, no illegal drugs.

For me, this blog is a no brainer, and one close to my heart. I live in Rockhampton, and the drug problem (particularly ICE) here, and in Yeppoon is huge. Most of you who live here in Australia, would have heard about the mass overdose involving 11 young teenagers in Yeppoon recently. I run a program called The Extend Program which was designed by The Addictive World, to help anybody who has been touched by addiction, PTSD, depression or anxiety. I am also interested in helping our younger generation pull themselves out of this spiraling epidemic that is ruining families and relationships.

There are children being exposed to the ICE epidemic, with 95 children in Central Queensland reported to need protection in the last year, due to a parent’s addiction. The statistics show that 60% of these children were under the age of five, which is devastating for the children and the families.

Drugs takes hostages, and infiltrate whole families, with many families falling through the cracks, fighting their own personal battles, with no means of getting themselves back on track.

I’m particularly targeting the 8-12 year age group here, as this is their most impressionable age. So…. how do you start a conversation with your child about drugs?

  • Set aside a quiet time with your child, where you won’t be interrupted
  • Ask them what they think about drugs. Be casual about it, in a non judgemental way, and your child is more likely to be honest with you.
  • Pay attention to what they have to say. Ask open ended questions.
  • Give them some information about the natural drugs such as cannabis and tobacco, and the manufactured products such as ICE. Talk about the psychological and physical changes these drugs can cause.
  • It might be your child is uncomfortable about this talk. Let it go, and tell them you are there for them if they ever need to talk about anything
  • Television highlights all the bad news – be aware of what they’re watching and what information they’re getting from the media. Make sure they understand the consequences of drug use.

If you find you don’t have the answers to their questions, make it an opportunity for you to research it together. Do the research yourself, if they’re not interested in helping you. Look for the information online. Below are some resources you might find helpful:

  • ReachOut clearly describes the different types of drugs (stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens).
  • The Other Talk provides facts and evidence for you to explain drugs to your child.
  • The Australian Government’s National Drug Campaign has useful responses to teenager’s reasons for using drugs.

I found out a long time ago – there is no script, no rule book for being a parent. Each child is individual, and you know your child better than anybody else. Keep them close, and keep the communication lines open, and you should feel comfortable talking to your child about drugs, when you feel the time is right.

What Happens When You Yell at Your Kids

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what happens when you yell at your kids

Have you ever stopped and thought about what happens when you yell at your kids? All parents yell at some point in time, but there are better choices. As a parent, you might feel your child doesn’t listen until you yell. Once you’ve become a yeller, your child will ignore you the first time you ask them to do something.  And they will ignore you the second time, until you find yourself yelling, “How many times do I have to tell you!”

With just a bit of time, and patience you can handle the situation differently. Dr Laura Markham suggests, if you’re wanting your child’s attention, it is more helpful to walk over, touch them gently on the arm, and say, “Wow! Great job. Look what you’re doing.” You are now showing an interest, and have connected – you have that bond with your child. It only takes a couple of minutes to notice whatever they are doing. Keeping your tone calm, you could then say, “I know it’s hard to stop what you’re doing. (you’ve shown empathy). I can see you’re really enjoying it. I really need you to listen to me right now – It’s time for you to come and take your bath”. If this is met with resistance, you can negotiate another 5 minutes, making a deal that they will take their bath at the end of 5 minutes, without argument.

Consistency is the key.  Your child will know what your expectations are, and they will learn to become more self-disciplined in their response.  On the other hand, should you keep on with the yelling, your child is likely to give up. That trusted bond will be broken, and there will be a loss of respect.  What happens when you yell at your kids all the time? You are laying the groundwork for a problem teenager.  Your child will become a yeller too! Is this what you want?

If you would like to learn more about bringing up your child, Laura Markham has written an excellent book called Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids.

The Joys of Raising a Boy

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the joys of raising a boy


Here are a few scary facts about the joys of raising a boy. I don’t have a son myself – I live these experiences through my grandsons, beautiful boys, despite this tongue in cheek blog.

First of all, let’s talk about farting. Farting is very funny apparently. The louder the better…and when your son lets the first rip, he laughs so hard, he farts again, and goes into hysterics! Nowhere is sacred – at the dinner table, out at a restaurant, in front of friends. Mortification for you – very funny for him. And what a hoot when you sneak one out and he proclaims to one and all, “Mum just farted.” Don’t even get me started on under arm farts!

That takes me to burping. Your son will try for the biggest burp ever, by guzzling a glass of soft drink. He will then attempt to sing while burping, or try for progressive burps. Boys will have competitions with the longest burp being the winner. This too, he will practice at family dinners, and restaurants, thinking he is providing his own special brand of entertainment for the night.

Your son will always have an obsession of some kind, that he will talk incessantly about. eg Minecraft, Lego, Dragon. My grandsons progressed to surfing, which I was very excited about. What better than the great outdoors, sun shining, burning up some energy? Not so excited now after a couple of shark encounters! OMG! Now, I don’t want them even having a bath with the plug in! Are they deterred from surfing? Not on your life! All I can do is white light them, and hope for the best.

Smelly rooms, smelly feet. You need to enter your son’s room armed with a can of Glen 20 at the very least,  to combat the combination of smelly feet, smelly socks, smelly bedclothes, smelly leftovers – smelly everything really. Get used to that. It will continue until he leaves home! Tip: you might like to insist he open a window at night to make sure he isn’t breathing rebreathed air!

Oh, and my favourite – teeth brushing. This is usually a non event unless you stand over him while he does it. He’s outsmarted you with checking for a wet toothbrush. He now has the smarts to wet the tooth brush and scrub it up against the sink so it looks used! He won’t believe you when you tell him his breath will knock a person out at 10 metres. Other boys seem not to notice of course, because they have the same smelly breaths!

It’s not all bad. Your son will be kind and protective of their Mums. They will make you laugh until your stomach hurts with their quick come backs, and smart jokes, melting your heart at times, with the things they say and do. And, they will grow into good, strong men, role models for their own sons, finding the joys in raising a boy of their own! You hope!

Strategies For getting From Anxious to Calm

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from anxious to calm


Let’s look at some strategies for getting from anxious to calm this post.  This is really one for the parents, as I hear of many parents struggling with anxiety and stress recently. This makes it difficult to deal with, and care for children – with thinking becoming distorted, and triggers firing off negative reactions to often, minor events. Everyone suffers. As those of you who suffer from anxiety probably know – it can lead to depression. Today, let’s look at some of the strategies you can use to shift that anxiety to a more positive emotion.

Go outside – get some fresh air, look at the sky. There might be a favourite quiet place you can go to – a beach, a church, a park, somewhere you can go and reflect . Sunshine is always a good recipe for feeling better. Quite often, you may not want to leave your bed, or the inside of your house. This is when you should do the opposite, and move.

Do something – Be busy, clean the house, tidy up. There’s the old saying messy house, messy mind.   It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but if you’re surrounded by mess, you are going to be reminded of all the things you should be doing. Having a clean up gives you back some control, and besides – you will spend less time looking for things.

Have a throw out – old clothes, rubbish, half started projects you know you’re never going to finish. Everything that stops you from moving on with your life. (I did this today and took out 3 garbage bags! Found some stuff I had been missing too!)

Change your environment – Are you unhappy where you’re living? It might be that you are unable to move house. What else can you do? If it’s your own house, you can redecorate/paint it – if that’s not financially viable, buy some scatter cushions, or a new rug. If you’re unhappy at work, start looking around for something different. Put it out there. You do have choices.

Listen to music – Music has a profound effect on how we feel. I have heard that marching music is good for the soul, and is excellent for addressing anxiety. The upbeat rhythm has a positive effect on your mood, even if march music isn’t your cup of tea. for myself, I prefer relaxation music.

You will find other strategies for yourself. Keep a list of the ones that work for you – this is a great resource for you to look at when you hit crisis point.   If you keep this list handy, you can remind yourself of what has worked for you in the past.

For there to be some long term mood management there needs to be an element of order involved. If you are running your household efficiently, then you have a better chance of keeping your anxiety at bay, and you already have strategies for getting from anxious to calm.

Teaching Kids How to Build Resilience

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Teaching Kids How to Build Resilience


While working in a school recently, the big thing was teaching kids how to build resilience in kids. Most of you would have noticed, even in your own family, how some kids bounce back easier than others. Their resilience is built in, it’s part of their temperament and nature, and they can get straight back up after a setback. Nothing seems to faze them.

Not all children are like this. They have to learn resilience. And resilience is something that can be nurtured, and developed, particularly if the parent is on board, and are resilient themselves. Children learn a lot from watching you, and when they feel loved and accepted.

Kids who are resilient are independent, great at problem solving and have an optimistic nature. They are also more successful in school and work. As a parent, you can coach your child through some of the challenging times, without solving the problem for them. How, then can you help your child be more resilient?

Be positive yourself. If you have a “can do” attitude, and encourage a “you can do it” model in your child, you are helping them build confidence and resilience they can tap into in their future life.

Show affection and pay attention – children thrive on hugs and kisses. And play with them – it’s a great way to connect, and you can actually learn a lot about your child through play.

Try to see things from your child’s point of view, even though you might not always agree with their choices.

Teach your child that challenges can be disguised as an opportunity for growth. Take the “problem” mentality out of it, and turn it into an opportunity for them.

As children get older, they may not want to go on family outings. They don’t have to go to all of them, but keep that connection, and make sure they go to some outings, or activities with the family. This will help them develop problem solving and independence skills that are necessary for resilience.

Last, but not least – help your child to identify and express their feelings in a healthy way. Teach them how to respond, rather than react. I always say “DEEP BREATHS” until the emotion settles, and then you can express yourself in a calmer manner. E-motion Cards are an excellent tool for this.

Teaching kids how to build resilience  is not just a “one off” thing – it’s an ongoing process that requires you to be supportive and empathic when things don’t go your child’s way. If you have a good understanding of resilience, you have confidence in yourself, and your child’s ability to cope. If you feel you are lacking in resilience, maybe look at some self-help courses.


Providing the Discipline and Guidance Your Child Needs

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Providing the Discipline and Guidance Your Child NeedsProviding the discipline and guidance your child needs , takes skill and a focused effort…a lot to ask when both parents work. It’s even more difficult when there is more than one child in the family. Each child needs to be handled differently.

Here are some great foundational tips:

  1. Stay calm – no yelling, even when thing might get personal. You must remember that yelling, screaming, name calling are all just behaviours.  Underneath that, is that loving soul that will grow into a perfectly normal adult. Respond to your child in a calm, loving way, with consistency. Consistency being the key word.
  2. Don’t take what your child says personally. They are not purposely trying to be difficult – don’t blame yourself or him.
  3. Yes, the struggles are about power. And your child is realising they do have some power and the best testing ground starts with you. Important to let go of the apron strings and let them start making some of their own decisions – choosing what clothes they want to wear, who they want to play with etc. (My granddaughter, Phoebe has been known to go out in gardening gloves!)
  4. Prioritise whatever the issue is, and talk to them about it. Some issues are more important than others, and can be put further down the list for later.
  5. Be empathic, while remaining calm but firm – listen without worrying about the future, or harking back to the past.
  6. Children do hear you the first time. There is no need to keep repeating yourself. Give instructions twice, and be swift with the consequences. eg. no TV, no play dates, or a relevant punishment.
  7. Any changes in strategies you make with your child will most likely result in worse behaviour before it gets better. Be prepared for that, and stick with it. Your child will test the boundaries.

Once the changes are established, and you are providing the discipline and guidance your child needs , you will be able to enjoy that relationship once again. You can rest assured, you are both being the best that you can be!

A Few Minutes of Your Time

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A few minutes of your time


Children just need a few minutes of your time.  Are you the type of parent who jumps in and tries to fix things for your child? How often do you hear “you’re not listening to me!?” Children, (and adults, I suspect!) respond in a much more positive way if you sit and listen to them with your full attention.

The “full attention” part is difficult with both parents usually working these days. Most parents are time and energy poor by the end of the day, and any opportunity for actual conversation is, at best, around the dinner table at night. It is, however, still important to have that one on one time with your child to touch base, and find out how they are doing at school, what’s happening with their friends etc. They need that full attention listening time with you.

Let’s talk about listening. There is listening…then there is listening with empathy. Acknowledging a child’s feelings will make them feel understood. It doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with what they’re doing or saying, it’s just a different perspective. You’re taking a walk in their shoes.

When you are listening with empathy to your child, it’s helpful to build rapport. Rapport is about establishing an environment of trust and understanding. You do this in a number of ways, but it means assuming a similar state of mind. You can physically mirror their posture, facial expressions and tone of voice. Or you can match their key words. eg. If they say something was ‘’disgusting” you might repeat that word back to them. You can even match their breathing. They need to know you are taking their feelings seriously.

If you don’t have much idea about what listening with empathy involves, the example conversations below might help:

  1. Child: I am so angry at Simon for breaking my new ipod. I don’t even know why he had it in the first place!

Parent: Yes, I understand. And I can see you are very angry… but… hitting is not the answer. How about you come with me and I’ll

help you tell Simon how you’re feeling. Maybe you can talk to him about why he had your Ipod in the first place?


  1. Child: I had the WORST day at school today! Absolutely the WORST!

Parent:   WOW, honey, that sounds like a tough day. You want to sit down and talk to me about it?

Child:  Well, Susan wouldn’t play with me today and she was really mean to me.

Parent: That’s never a nice feeling when that happens. I can see you’re really upset about this. I don’t like it when I have problems

with  my friends either.

By keeping the communication lines open, you are giving your child the opportunity to talk about their feelings, and find their own solutions. The added bonus of all this attention is that they will know they are valued and loved. You will find, they will recover from their emotions faster, because the need to have them in the first place is no longer there.

Look for opportunities to really listen and empathise with your child any time they’ve had a bad day, or want to talk about their emotions. It could be life changing for yourself and your family, if you give them a few minutes of your time. . It may only take 5-10 minutes to be with them,  but, it’s pure gold to your child.


What would love do now?

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what would love do now?What would love do now?

Quite often we ask the wrong question when we find ourselves in a tight spot, challenged, or at a crossroads. Our go-to question is more likely to be, “what should I do now?” How about asking the more powerful question, “what would love do now?”

Asking ourselves, “what would love do now?” brings about change in all the important, and challenging areas of our lives, dramatically altering our perspective on the circumstances, and people concerned. I have been feeling a little angst, maybe even anger, over something that happened to me recently – not like me, as I can usually go with the flow. And I have found this a great question to meditate on. For me, at this particular time, my answer was, “love would allow.” My translation – get out of my own way, live in love, and allow.

So, what if we allowed love to lead the way, shine the light for us on those dark recesses of the heart and mind? We then draw on a deeper, higher aspect of ourselves, and this ultimately alters what we do, say, and feel. Maybe you’re too shy, or careful to use the “L” word. If we’re being authentic, and are appreciative of what we have, then just about anything we aspire to in life, is about love – love of ourselves, love of others, and life itself.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and should play a lead role in our lives. With Christmas coming up, it’s a good time to reflect on relationships that could be mended, families that could come together, judgements that could be ditched. Life is too short for pettiness. As we interact, even with strangers on the street, let’s ask ourselves, “what would love do now?” And, as we sit back and reflect on this last year, and plan, and prepare for the next, what would love do now? If we look at ourselves in the middle of this vast universe, what would love do now? Kinda simplifies things doesn’t it?