Teens, Troubles & Treasures

A friend, Wealth Coach Nicola Cairncross, posted on Twitter yesterday that she wanted to talk to someone about the experience of living with and bringing up young teens, which prompted me to revisit this short article I wrote almost five years ago.  It seems to be a time when this aspect of my work with children and young people  is in the spotlight, I was interviewed as an expert for a book on coaching the other week – is somebody trying to tell me something?

Resourceful Little Treasures

Little Treasures?

Little Treasures?

In my role as a coach, mentor and counsellor I work mainly with young people, many of whom come to me labelled with behavioural, learning and/or emotional difficulties. That means I’m quite accustomed to witnessing sulky, aggressive and unhappy children, and it can take a fair amount of time, compassion and humour to unwind and relax and begin to make progress together.

So when my own 16 year old son informed me with some passion the other week that I “have no idea how hard it is to be a child growing up these days” it took me by surprise and prompted me to reflect carefully on my family, my work and my self.

Looking Inside

Looking Inside

He’s usually thought of as the wise one in his group, he appears to cope with whatever life presents to him, and he does fine at school. Yet even he is saying that coping is hard.

And it’s in such moments that we can, as parents, gain great insights into just what the challenges of adolescence are these days that might make it harder than it was for us. However, it’s tricky, because any questioning or request for explanation can lead to stonewalling silence – and so how can we mine for those precious nuggets that help us respond appropriately to our little treasures and not dam up the flow before it’s even started? (Apologies for the mixed metaphor…)

Because if it’s hard work being a child these days, it’s probably even harder being a parent who cares, who wants to be supportive yet finds that they are sidelined and that attempts at dialogue are blocked.


You’d think with my experience and skills with other people’s little treasures, it would be a breeze, but dealing with your own kids isn’t the same as being the outside help. After all, you can’t send them home after an hour or so – they are at home. You don’t have the benefit of an outside perspective. Well, that was what I thought until I began to reflect on the limitations I was imposing by holding those beliefs.

I wondered: if I could change my beliefs about it being hard to work with my son, could he shift his beliefs that it’s hard to be an adolescent growing up today?

And this is what happened.

I worked out a way of inviting my son to use a simple strategy of stepping back and stepping out.

I explained to him that I had been experiencing a paradox of finding it hard to be a parent. Feeling uncomfortable offering to help him because he’s my son, and even more uncomfortable not helping him – also because he’s my son, and especially as I have such a wide range of skills that could benefit him. So I went back in time to occasions when it would have seemed impossible and neglectful not to pass on skills and knowledge to him.

Like, what if I’d never talked to him so he could learn from me?
Or taught him to feed and dress himself?
Or helped him to read?
Or helped him to learn to ride his bike?

How weird would that have been?

And in the future, when he learns to drive (Oh, Yes! This Year! as he gleefully reminded me) he’ll accept that know-how from his dad and me.

We ended up laughing at the craziest imaginary scenarios of me being reluctant to be a parent to him, because I knew more than he did.

This opened up a really useful dialogue for us about eking out degrees of responsibility as children approach adulthood, but still being there. And on we went to his scenarios…

He stepped back and found times when it had been enormous fun to be growing up and developing, learning and exploring his expanding world, and rediscovered a sense of joy. He noticed that there was usually someone else involved with passing on skills and knowledge, but that when he was competent he went off and did his own thing. He discovered that he had lots of resources from the past which he could bring forward into the present, and would transfer to the future.

And he recognised that accepting help and support were a way of getting stronger and growing more resourceful – real, lasting treasures to carry forward to a life where it may just be a little easier to be growing up, in that limbo where you’re neither child nor adult. And as for me, I’ve found a more comfortable and fulfilling place in his world where I can support him by balancing the roles of adult and parent – still keeping mum, but now able to speak up as well!!

© Christine Miller 2004

For more articles and features on personal growth and development, check out www.resourcemagazine.co.uk, the magazine dedicated to human potential.

Enjoying Rapture

With  Scottish poet  Carol Ann Duffy appointed the first female Poet Laureate, it’s a step forward for beautiful, accessible, understandable poetry that appeals to a wide audience.  That doesn’t mean Duffy’s poems are not exquisite, well constructed, masterly – simply that they are identifiable as expressions of universal experiences.


Duffy wrote poems from a very early age, and attributes some of her success to the support she had from her mother who was herself a compelling storyteller, and teachers who encouraged her work to the point of typing up her early poems and posting them on the classroom wall.

One test of whether a poem ‘worked’ was if her mother could understand it – if she had to ask for explanations, Duffy knew more clarity was required; she also puts the obscurity of so much poetry down to the fact that in many cases it was important that the poet’s wife couldn’t understand what was being said!


Duffy has won many prizes for her poetry, and her most recent collection, ‘Rapture’, which charts a love affair in the life she describes as ‘complicated’ , carried off the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2005 .

I believe that her prize to our world will be to make poetry more accessible in schools, (her work is already on the GCSE syllabus) and in general. In many ways, like art and music, poetic writing is the closest we can get to expressing the essence of the soul, and it’s a therapeutic way of bringing our deepest thoughts and feelings forward into consciousness.

The power of poetic expression is undeniable, and universal, witnessed by the longevity and pervasive influence of such writing, ranging through many styles from for example Rumi, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Eliot to Betjeman, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Adrian Henri… (I could go on…and on)  and the disciplined minimalism of Haiku.

Here’s a snippet from Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture, a poem called ‘You’.

“Falling in love

is glamorous hell; the crouched, parched heart

like a tiger ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin.

Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.”

Rapture, Carol Ann Duffy, 2005, Picador

You can buy the book here

Everybody must blog…….

…..Blogging is learning  –
it refines your analytic skills,  your writing skills…
and keeps you abreast of what’s happening in the world.


What’s more,  it’s de rigueur in one corporation, NGenera,  headed by Wikinomics author, Don Tapscott……..

Christine Miller interviews Don Tapscott

Christine Miller interviews Don Tapscott

In my early morning London interview with Don,  his most recent publication, Grown Up Digital, was up for discussion and we talked about the need for a different method of talent management, what’s happening in business education and how to engage the variously named ‘generation Y’ – the net generation, the Millenials, or the young people aged between 16 and 31, now entering the workforce and with very different ideas and values.

Here’s an under 3 minute audio clip (excuse my first slightly clunky efforts at editing!)  which gives a tiny taste of our conversation…..full, fascinating interview is in the upcoming edition of ReSource Magazine.

don-tapscott-blog-post

I have two children born into this generation, and from my experience of them and their friends, they are different in terms of looking for and insisting on certain values being present in the organisations with whom they choose to work or align.

Gib Bulloch, head of Accenture’s Development Partnerships, which provides consultancy services to the Development sector on a non-profit basis,  recently told me that there were more volunteers than placements for consultants willing to take large salary cuts in order to make a contribution, and says  “Today’s consultants are increasingly interested in making a difference, and it’s a win for everyone when our clients benefit from getting our expertise and services at a fraction of the market rates”.

More clips to come….

Peace Amidst Turmoil – an Inner Innisfree

A new friend, Steven Earle, sent me a couple of his poems the other day, he's a really interesting guy who I'm learning about and I appreciate his writing.

One of the poems, called 'The Sea' reminded me a little of a W.B. Yeats favourite 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree'.  Steven's poem is about a soulful returning to what he knows, to peace and a kind of innocence, a theme shared with 'Innisfree'.

It's one of Yeats' earlier poems and as such, the critics don't rate it as a work of real literary merit, yet it is beloved of the public and it is widely known and read, memorable, and taught in school. Yeats himself acknowledged that his style changed significantly as he matured and developed as a poet, as you will see in the quote from his autobiography below.

I've cherished this poem since childhood and it often springs to mind – even sometimes the parodied versions we chanted  – things like:

"I must arise and go now, and go to Innisfree

I left my shoes and socks there, underneath a tree…"

I can feel Yeats' turning in his grave right now…!!

What is represents is a retreat into peace and calm, from the hustle and bustle of city life – a return to simplicity and the opportunity for reflection. Finding an inner sanctum in which we can take refuge and rebuild our strength is something of great importance in these times of global chaos and concern, and I invite you to enjoy the poem and the pictures here, and find your own Inner Innisfree.

Then visit my events page here and decide to come along and find out how to Flourish in Challenging Times, so you'll always have your place of peace to keep you calm and confident of your ability to thrive  – no matter what.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

 

buzzing bee

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

Glimmering midnight water

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

The lake aglow
William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

 

Nobel Prize winning Irish dramatist, author and poet

First published in 'The National Observer' 13th December 1890

Innisfree is in County Sligo in Ireland, and was a place where Yeats spent holidays with his family in his youth.

Yeats commented on "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" in a passage in his autobiography about his London days:

"I had still the ambition, formed in Sligo in my teens, of living in imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree, a little island in Lough Gill, and when walking through Fleet Street very homesick I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-window which balanced a little ball upon its jet, and began to remember lake water.

From the sudden remembrance came my poem "Innisfree," my first lyric with anything in its rhythm of my own music. I had begun to loosen rhythm as an escape from rhetoric and from that emotion of the crowd that rhetoric brings, but I only understood vaguely and occasionally that I must for my special purpose use nothing but the common syntax. A couple of years later I could not have written that first line with its conventional archaism — "Arise and go" — nor the inversion of the last stanza."

Joys of Spring….

Words & pictures from the garden

In conversation with my friend Tony Buzan who is currently in Singapore, it emerges that he is missing the English Spring with its flowers and freshness, and the variety that our climate here in the UK offers.

Much as the tropical weather of Singapore is enticing, and the delights of the Far East are unquestioned,  we recalled times together when we had made a point of detouring for the sole purpose of  seeing the daffodils in London’s St James’ Park,  a somewhat ‘Wordsworthian’ experience… and he asked me if the bluebells were out now…..

Bluebells in April

Bluebells in April

That prompted me to take some photos of my garden whilst the said bluebells are indeed in bloom, along with Forget-me-Nots,  and various other delights which are looking very fresh and delicious at present.

It’s so easy to get immersed in the less beautiful aspects of life, especially when you live in the city,  to be overtaken by our daily activities and concerns, and forget to value and be grateful for the  simple pleasure that comes from appreciating our environment and the inspiring moments that nature can offer.

For my travelling absent friend – some refreshing moments in an English garden…..and thank you for re-minding me to acknowledge Nature’s blessings …

yellow-rose

'Potentilla' in full bloom

Above is one of my favourite corners of the garden….it used to be a ‘hide and seek’ game  hot spot when the kids were little…..now it’s providing the same function for squirrels and this year a family of blackbirds, plus the usual robins and great tits, and even a thrush.

Bluebells in spring 2009

Bluebells, forget-me-nots, bergenia, euphorbia - Spring 2009

This sheltered patch amongst the flowers is my cat’s favourite hideout for bird spotting – she’s given up on trying to catch them…

Tree peony 2009

Tree peony 2009

The tree peony gives a brief but stunning splash of colour, and produces an abundance of  massive seed pods which not only feed the wildlife and but also offers a way for me to please friends who admire the plant with a gift of seedlings for their own gardens.