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Strong Connections Lay the Foundation for Mental and Emotional Health

Mental emotional healthThe bond between parent and child is the child’s primary source for emotional health.  Therefore building strong connections lay the foundation for mental and emotional health.

By having a strong connection, it gives your child the capacity to have satisfying relationships the rest of their life. A weak or anxious bond could reverberate through your child’s entire life in the form of low self-esteem, impaired relationships, and the inability to seek help or ask for it in effective ways.

Research indicates that over one-third of the children in middle-class families suffer from anxious attachments to their parents. This insecure attachment tends to be transmitted from one generation to another. Every parent wants to know what early experiences enable a child to feel that the world is a positive place. We ask ourselves how a child becomes equipped with enough confidence to explore, to develop healthy peer relationships, and to rebound from adversity. We seek to know what builds a child who sees himself or herself as being loved, loving, and valuable. We wonder, “Do I have what it takes to raise a secure child? What can I do to support my child or change myself?”

Secure attachment is created by the subtle quality of adult-child interactions. It does not happen because a parent holds, feeds, bathes, or responds to an infant’s cries. It is based on how the adult responds. We have all had the experience of talking with a spouse or friend who looks as though he or she is listening, but something is missing. We have gone to the movies and out to dinner with a friend, having a reasonably good time, but sensing that something is missing. Conversely, we have had experiences with spouses and friends when we felt that a wholeness was present—that they were truly “there” and that we were attuned to the moment and each other. This connection is at the heart of our bonding with children and with each other.
Young children up to age four or five rely on the parent’s affect, or demeanor, to determine whether a situation is safe. Later in life, they can discern this information themselves by environmental clues.

In our hurried society, many are finding the mechanics of parenting all they can handle.  The joy of parenting is lost. Parents are overwhelmed with the pressures of modern life. These demands create times when parents are sometimes physically absent and other times when our bodies are present but our minds are elsewhere.
The ramifications of our well-intentioned absences may manifest themselves in certain behavioural characteristics in our children. We may see our children acting like bullies, taking advantage of more vulnerable children. Or we may see them victimized and excluded by others or excluding themselves to manage their anxiety about failing. We may see our children being impulsive or shy, showing poor concentration skills, getting easily upset, and lacking initiative. Or we may see rampant independence that hardens into stubbornness and bossiness. We may see our children struggle with friendships, jealous and afraid that they may lose the security of a best friend. We might see them shy away from risk and group activities or leap in and take unsafe risks. We might believe these behaviours are part of the child’s genetic temperament. Temperament is a factor; however, brain research indicates that although nature provides the raw materials for brain development, nurture is the architect.
How we interact with our children profoundly shapes their brains. We literally custom design our children’s brains. Many of the behaviours we see can be traced to the original bonding experience between children and their caregivers. As daunting as it may seem, there is hope. Just as children are forgiving, so, too, is the brain—especially in the early years. The brain can be shaped and reshaped by each new experience; like a house that gets dirty, a good cleaning is all it needs.
I Love You Rituals are designed to strengthen the bond between an adult and a child and, in turn, re-establish the child’s sense of security. This secure base then frees the child to explore the world with greater willingness and success. It also builds healthy ties between the adult and child, increasing the child’s willingness to be cooperative. Imagine that you are sitting on your couch at home with your spouse. Lately your relationship has been going very well—communication and connection are at an all-time high. If one of you were to get up and the other asked, “Honey, while you are up, would you get me a sandwich?” more than likely the answer would be, “Sure, what would you like?” Now pretend you are on the couch and the relationship is going poorly—so poorly that you wonder why this person is sitting on your couch. Suppose one person gets up and the other asks for something. The likely response would be, “Get it yourself; you have legs.” Cooperation is directly related to the connection we feel with each other. The same is true with children: Strengthen the bond and increase the cooperative spirit.

When Will She Ever Play With Me?


When will she ever play with me?

One question we ask ourselves a lot with Grace is “When will she play with me?”  It is challenging to get Grace to play with sports equipment for even 5 minutes.  Emma enjoys playing with sport equipment and is happy to go outside to play.

Before and after children are born, we naturally have dreams about the future.  However when these dreams do not meet reality this can be challenging for all parents.  Steve is very active and has always enjoyed doing triathlons and multisport races.  He has always wished that he could go bike riding with the girls.  However, this is challenging because Grace has very little interest in riding a bike and she finds scooters challenging.  Grace is more like me in her interests as they revolve around reading books, music and imaginary play.

However, on the weekend we went down to Torquay to play for a while.  We took the dog and a ball in any hope of getting the girls to kick the ball around.  We were expecting Grace to go into her own world and Emma to play with Steve and the ball.  But unknown to us it was the other way around.  Grace and Steve played soccer for ages whilst Emma and I went for walks with the dog.

This was a massive connection building time for Grace and Steve.  I loved watching them both kick the ball around as it was something to we thought Grace would never really do.  It was such a precious moment that we will never forget.

Your child may not be interested in what you like to do and that is normal for all children.  However do not think they will never do something that you would like them to do because you never know they may just surprise you.

I Love You Rituals Help You Through Tough Times

I Love you rituals helps you through tough times








I love you rituals help you through tough times.

What rituals do you and your family already share?  These could include:

  • Sharing dinner
  • Birthdays
  • Religious celebrations
  • Specific times in a day for one on one time
  • Reading bed time stories together
  • Bedtime routines.
  • Making sure that you kiss your partner when you leave and when you get home.

Routines are central parts of our lives and they range from small to large rituals.  Rituals create time to be playful, to explore the meaning of our lives and to rework and rebuild our relationships.

Think of the pleasant rituals from your childhood.
What feelings are evoked as you allow yourself to reminisce?
It is striking how different families are today from twenty-five or fifty years ago. As our society restructures itself with shifting gender roles, blended families, cultural diversity, and economic and political uncertainty, fear is a prevalent emotion. New rituals are needed for families and for children. I Love You Rituals put life in focus, shifting our attention from getting ahead to getting together; from valuing material wealth to valuing one another. They are called “rituals” because they are designed to be part of the day-to-day activities between adults and children.

Rituals are moments taken solely for the purpose of connecting. Rough transitions during the day or week signal times when a ritual is needed. A child who is being picked up from school may whine, complain, or bicker with you or siblings in the car. A calming ritual or a change in rituals is needed. Picking up children at school with the words, “Hi, how did it go? Where’s your coat? Do you have your homework? Hop in the car, we need to stop at the store.” are not a ritual.  Each time the girls come out of school, I give them a welcome and say to them how excited I was to come pick them up.
I love you rituals help you through tough times as it helps to remind you of what is important. Even after a rough day we always end the night by spending time in the girls room to watch them sleep.
You can develop rituals with your child with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder with following your child’s lead.  Have you ever flapped your arms like your child when they have excited?  Have you spun around in circles if your child likes that?  Have you ever simply participated in what your child’s likes to do to unwind?  So often we try and stop the flapping, spinning as they are seen as unwanted behaviours.  But we also miss the perfect opportunity to connect with our children.
I love you rituals help you through tough times.  What rituals can you share in your daily routines?



I Love You Rituals Improve Your Child’s Brain for Success

love you ritualsI love you rituals improve your child’s brain for success in all areas of their lives.

You may be wondering how is this possible.

In all our brains, brain cells communicate with each other via chemical molecules called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters act, to some degree, like on-off switches creating communication pathways between cells, similar

to wires linking telephone poles. If these neurotransmitters
do not function optimally, communication within the brain is disrupted. This disruption is reflected in your child’s behaviour.
A key neurotransmitter called Dopamine supports our brain in a number of ways. First, symbolically dopamine says, “Focus on this; pay attention.” It helps us stay focused. How often do you feel that your child is inattentive? How “spacey” do you feel at times?  Second, dopamine motivates us to achieve our goals. It says, “Go for it; get what you desire.” Dopamine helps us take action toward achieving our goals, rather than passively wish things were different. Dopamine also is instrumental in creating the positive emotions we feel when we experience successful social interactions. After a delightful lunch with friends, for example, we feel satisfied and content. This, to some degree, is the afterglow caused by dopamine.
The secret ingredients appear to be eye contact, touch, and the bonding these interactions provide. Watch a caring adult interact with a six-month-old infant: their eyes meet, and a connection is made between them. It is similar to later experiences we call love at first sight. Adults and infants take turns imitating each other’s facial expressions, one leading and the other following as in a graceful ballroom dance. The allure of this mutual intimacy overrides the self-consciousness of even grumpy adults. “Gitsy-goooo,” creeps out of the mouths of even the most reserved adult in the presence of an adorable, responsive baby.
I Love You Rituals are designed to foster eye contact and bonding. In the process, the dopamine system of children is strengthened, as are attention span and social development. All are integral to your child’s social, emotional, and school success. Children who are surrounded by chronic bickering or tension at home may learn to tune out the unpleasantness to survive.  Thus process of tuning out can be a reflection

lowered dopamine levels in the brain. Such problems may include a short attention, the inability to concentrate, follow through on tasks, hyperactivity and to a lesser ability to read the social cues of others.
I Love You Rituals provide daily tune-ups for your children, through which attention spans are likely to increase and cooperation improve.
Try the following experiment. Notice what your child does when your relationship with him or her is disrupted by a series of conflicts. You will notice that your child’s eye contact with you becomes minimal and when you reach out to touch your child, your overture is rebuked. The child pulls away from you, resisting reconnection. When relationships are in need of repair, eye contact is one of the first social actions to go, followed by touch. The journey to reconnection comes through communication. Communication occurs through the simultaneous engagement of eyes, touch, and loving words—all of which are provided in I Love You Rituals.
I know when my relationship is disconnected with the girls.  During those times when I make my “mummy mistakes” especially if I have raised my voice, when I talk to them again their eyes are wide, their fingers go into their mouth and the back away.  However, after apologising and sitting down and having a cuddle, the next time that I talk to them, fingers do not go into their and they do not look like rabbits in car head lights.
If you would love to improve your connection with your child, have a look at our Connect With Your Child program or simply email me at

Is Your Yelling Falling on Deaf Ears?

Is your yelling falling on deaf ears?  I have to admit that I had to realise that all my yelling was simply falling on deaf ears.  I have to share with you that for ages all I felt I was doing was yelling at my children and still nothing changed.

Have you ever been in your child’s school and you hear teachers yelling?  Teachers have a challenging job but when are they also going to realise that children pretty much tune out.

I felt horrible at who I was becoming as this was far from how I dreamed how I would be as a mother.  This was also was not how I wanted my family home to feel emotionally and spiritually and the girls were always on edge wondering if I was going to yell at them.  How could I possibly build a relationship with them if they were scared about how I would react?  I have always said I want the girls to be able to come to me and tell me anything. But how could I do this if they are always worried about my reaction.

I became mindful of my own emotions when I felt the urge to yell at them.  Once I became in touch with my own emotions, I take a deep and remind myself that yelling helps no one and I approach it with a “what’s up?”.  Then I can hear from my girls perspective what is happening and the more that I did that, I saw situations from my girls shoes.  It is amazing what you can learn from stepping into your child’s shoes as problems are easily solved.  If problems are constantly solved, their unwanted behaviours also diminish.

People convince themselves that yelling does not hurt their child because that is what we are lead to believe in conventional wisdom.  Conventional wisdom in behaviour management is passed down from generation to generation and we really do not question it.  But let me be very clear is that constantly yelling at your child does hurt them emotionally and you are destroying your relationship with them.  It also affects your own well being.


I love you Mum/Dad!

I love you

Emma and I had a tough start to our mother/daughter relationship as I suffered sever Postnatal Depression.  Up to the age of 2, I did not feel we had a lot of connection and I was extremely worried that we would not have much of a relationship.

The first sign that our bond was starting to grow was when she used to press her forehead really hard against my head.  She did not do this to anyone but me.  But I saw this as a sign of a building relationship.

I am very big on telling the girls that I love them.  It was not something that was said regularly as a child but if I felt the need to tell them I would.

For individuals with Autism is can be a challenge to get them to say I love you.  But I didn’t mind as no matter what I wanted them to know how much I love them.  Emma now comes up to me all the time and says Mum/Dad, I love you.  She can tell me 50 times and I still would feel the warmth and glow that I feel within my heart when I hear those words.  She is also giving me kisses which is an extra bonus.

Telling your child that you love them can be challenging if you grew up in a family who did not express their love for ach other.  Nevertheless, this is something you can change in your own family.  Your child may not express to you often that they love you but if you make the effort to keep telling them that you love them you may never know, one day they will come to you out of the blue and say Mum/Dad I love you.

For those children who are non verbal, you will need to look at other ways your child is telling you that they love you.  It could be through cuddles, a smile, a look or even getting you to be interested in what they are doing.


How Do YOU Connect With Your Children?

Mother Holding Child's Hand How do you connect with your children?


Remember the last time you had your child’s hand in your hand like this.  Was it today…………….a month………a year?

I know when I hold Grace’s and Emma’s hands I feel a buzz run through me, even what I am feeling overwhelmed with the challenges of life.  It is also a reminder that they need me.  I am sure when they are teenagers, they probably won’t want me to hold their hands.  I can hear it already “it isn’t cool mum to hold your hand.”

As children grow and develop it is important for parents to find new ways of connecting with their children.  Children at every age need love, affection, comfort and guidance.  They need safety and protection which in the early years may mean that we need to block them from blindly running across the streets. But later we may need techniques for handling a bully at school, or knowing how to say no to friends and what to do when they feel anxiety.  They need understanding when they make mistakes and sympathy when they come hurting.  They need tolerance when their hormones make them crazy and our limit setting when they make poor decisions.

The goal is to find time to engage and connect at your child’s current level.  What will you do to connect with your child?

No matter if your child is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder there are always ways to connect.


Creating Rituals Improves Relationship With Your Child

Do you have a set routine that your family?  Do you have rituals? Creating rituals improves relationship with your child.  In Becky Bailey’s book I Love You Rituals she explains the difference between routines and rituals and why we need to create rituals to improve relationship with your child.

Rituals are not routines. There is a difference between the two. The goal of routines is continuity. The goal of rituals is connection. Rituals create sacred space designated for togetherness and unity. Holiday rituals typify this point. Many families gather on Thanksgiving to bond in gratitude, and birthday rituals, such as having one’s favourite meal prepared, are a form of honouring a family member. Rituals are the glue that holds the mosaic of love together. Street gangs create rituals to fill the emptiness their members feel as a result of the lack of connection in their lives. We can create healthy rituals with our children, or they will form them with others as best they can. Just as in the earlier example of greeting your spouse, we can greet our children with an I Love You Ritual, or we can arrive at the day care center and say, “Where are your things? Hurry; we have to stop at the store on the way home.” The choice is ours. Loving, healthy rituals foster the development of loving, emotionally healthy children.

Bailey, Becky A. (2009-10-13). I Love You Rituals (Kindle Locations 215-223). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The four goals to I love you Rituals are:

  1. Optimise your child’s brain for success and in life – Ritual activities aims to increase your child’s attention span and cooperation. It provides daily tune ups through which attention span improves and cooperation increases.
  2. Increases your learning potential and effectiveness through touch – Brain research confirms the critical role of touch in our mental and emotional health. When we touch one another, a hormone is released called the nerve growth factor. This hormone is essential to neural function and learning. The brain and the skin develop from the same embryonic tissue. The skin, in essence, is the outside layer of the brain. If we want smart, happy children, we must consciously touch them. It is time to relearn appropriate, caring touch and move past our fear of inappropriate touch. We must embrace touch for its value and function in development and learning. By understanding caring touch, children develop compassion for themselves and others. Hitting becomes hugging, snatching becomes asking, and the difference between caring touch and unwanted, uncomfortable touch is learned. Touch is the keystone of each of the I Love You Rituals.
  3. Create loving rituals that hold families together even through the roughest time – All cultures across time have created rituals. Rituals are a central part of life, whether they involve how meals are shared or how major events and holidays are marked. Rituals surround us, from the common birthday ritual of making a wish before you blow out the candles to bedtime routines that may include, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Rituals create time to be playful, to explore the meaning of our lives, and to rework and rebuild relationships. Think of the pleasant rituals from your childhood. What feelings are evoked as you allow yourself to reminisce? Generally, they are feelings of love, warmth, and safety. For these moments, “all is well” with yourself, your family, and the world.
  4. Strengthen the bond between children and adults that insulates children from drugs, violence, and peer pressure, laying the foundation for mental and emotional health – The bond between parent and child is the child’s primary source of emotional health. It gives your child the capacity to have satisfying relationships the rest of his or her life. A weak or anxious bond could reverberate through your child’s entire life in the form of low self-esteem, impaired relationships, and the inability to seek help or ask for it in effective ways. Research indicates that over one-third of the children in middle-class families suffer from anxious attachments to their parents. This insecure attachment tends to be transmitted from one generation to another. Every parent wants to know what early experiences enable a child to feel that the world is a positive place.

If you want to strengthen and improve your relationship, you must take action and participate in one of my favourite programs Connect with Your Child.