FAMILY MATTERS by Georgina Vintin

Running a family is a bit like running a business, there's a lot of admin and structure to put in place. We've put together a list of constructive things you can do to feel more organized and secure. We also look at security from an emotional point of view. Get all your family affairs in order and double check the connection and communication in your family ' see if it has a healthy basis.
PRACTICAL HOME TIPS '      Put emergency contact numbers on the fridge. This includes the security company, police, ambulance, hospital, local GP, the neighbour and a close family friend or relative. '      Teach children Mum's phone number, their address and make sure they know Mum's full name. '      See that everyone in the house knows how to use the alarm system, (if there is one) or knows the security checks in the house and has emergency numbers on their phones. '      Put ICE entries (in case of emergency) on each family members phone ' this means if your phone is lost or if you're in an accident someone will know who to call. '      Check that kids and nannies know how to use the phone. '      Run through basic safety with children and include things like not opening the door to strangers. '      Make a will and keep it in a sensible place. '      Check insurance details once a year and keep payments current on medical, car and household. '      Let everyone know what to do in case there is an accident or emergency ' which hospital to go to, which ambulance to call etc. '      Have a spare house key hidden somewhere on the premises ' make sure it's well hidden. '      Make duplicates of all the important papers like birth certificates, I.D documents, passports ' scan them and keep them on a memory stick somewhere safe. '      Allocate a file for each family member, this is where you can store things like medical records, exam certificates and other important information. '      Back up everything on your computer including documents and photographs ' put them on an external drive that's locked away or at least in a different place to where your computer is normally kept. '      Jot down bank codes and bank account numbers and let a trusted person know how to get access to these for extreme emergencies or alternatively give someone power of attorney in case you end up in a coma or have an accident. Emotional security As well as the practical aspects, children also need to feel emotionally secure.  Many parents ask me how they can connect more on an emotional basis with their children. I consulted with a father who admitted he had been fairly absent in his relationship with his two teenage children. Prioritising work and having to go overseas frequently, he didn't allocate a lot of family time. He is now in the process of a divorce and asked me to help him develop a closer relationship with his children. He has the kids every second week, and he's decided to work less and spend more time with them. I met with Dad and son (aged 15) and asked them to show me how they normally communicate.  They struck up a conversation and chatted away about a current concern while I sat and observed. During their interaction I saw something fairly typical in communication patterns between parent and child. With good intent, the father straight away started trying to fix or create a solution for the son around the problem.  Almost immediately I could see the son disengaging, losing interest and stopping eye contact.  After a few minutes, I interrupted and asked the son to explain how the conversation felt for him. He said he'd heard it all before, it was like a lecture and it never helps. With permission I started a conversation with the son around the same topic, with the father as the observer. I used very simple key skills like curiosity (from a 'not knowing' position) and I listened.  Lots of questions allowed the son to delve deeper and deeper into the problem.  Through our chat he came up with a solution.  It was a solution he found and so he was able to own it. The outcome was a surprise to the father; it was something the father hadn't imagined was at the core of the problem. Someone once said: 'The biggest communication problem is that we don't listen to understand, we listen to reply.' It sounds simple, but we often fail to do this. We need to be more curious and understanding.  Parents can learn skills to help them connect with and understand what's happening in the world of their children.  What's also important though, is that through our communication we send the message that we want to stay connected to them and understand their internal worlds.  This will contribute to their emotional security. To explore these ideas further, Georgina Vintin, Systemic Therapist, works with Couples, Individuals and Families across Cape Town.  Georgina offers the first session FREE to all Wellness Warehouse readers.  Her work is brief, up to 8 sessions, seeing sustainable change fast. www.systemic-therapist.co.za.    

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