Will the Kids be Alright? - Discussion panel

Earlier today I had the pleasure of sitting alongside Dr. Arne Rubinstein and Joanne Fedler for the SJWF, moderated by Kim Slender.

We shared our insights to the general question 'Will the Kids be Alright?'. In the hour we managed to cover teenagers, technology, well-being, parenting, relationships, and communication. As it was a writers festival we all related back to our respective books. Arne's new book The Making of Men, Joanne's Love in the Time of Contempt, and my mum, i wish i was dead.

As different as our books may be, we shared our stories, our perspectives and there were certainly more similarities to our messages than differences. One of the messages we all shared was the importance of having honest, effective communication with ourselves and our loved ones.

Arne spoke about the power honest, loving communication can have between a parent and child. Having developed multiple Rite of Passage camps, one of the greatest moments he sees at each camp is the change that happens when a parent tells their child what they love about them, and what makes them proud. His take home message was to think about a loved one, go home and tell them what you love about them. It's not only affirming for them, but seeing the impact your words can have will be affirming for you as well.

Joanne spoke to the importance of "sorting your own shit out first". Sometimes parents can project their fears, anxieties, and expectations onto their children. Not only are children sensitive to these projections, but it can drive a wedge between a parent and child rather then bring them together. Sometimes a child's struggles and behaviour can trigger something unresolved within the parent. Being open and honest with yourself might need to be a first step before it allows you to do the same with your loved ones.

Signing books and sharing words of wisdom

For me, communication saved my life on many occasions, especially with my doctors, and my mum. Conversely, the lack of communication lead to repeated bouts of physical illness. As vital as communicating is for me, it wasn't innate. I  not only had to learn and understand what I was feeling, but I then had to understand the correct phrasing of words to best communicate those feelings.

Frustration, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness, hopelessness, jealousy; being aware of these and many more emotions, as well as why they might be there, let alone how to describe all of this, took a long time to figure out. Communication isn't just about what is being said, but how it is said. In my darkest moments, the most effective way to communicate was via emails; it took away the emotional intensity face to face conversations had.

It's important to remember that communication isn't a one way street. When someone shares, there needs to be another to recieve it. Although I had to learn how to express myself, mum had to develop tools and ways to better receive what I was sharing. The main change was to not try to 'fix' things or to give advice, for the most part I just wanted to be heard.

Everyone is unique in their own right, and so how you communicate with one person may be completely different to that of another. Finding effective ways to develop and maintain good communication channels is vital for any relationship.

It really was a pleasure to sit alongside such esteemed, kind, and admirable individuals. My words won't be able to do them justice. I highly recommend going to their websites and check out the amazing books Joanne has written, and the programs Arne has implemented.