21 days to a happier family

Plenary: Dr Justin Coulson

The Conference opened with a plenary session on family relationships from Dr Justin Coulson, who is a leading Australian parenting expert, author, researcher and former radio personality. Feedback was immensely positive, with delegates describing the session as “fabulous” and “excellent”. Coulson used simple principles to explain how to reduce stress in family relationships and increase the sense of positive connection. While this was a session with general appeal, Coulson had prepared for the session by seeking advice on the types of issues that come up for families with bleeding disorders and used this knowledge adeptly to focus on the touch points for families: treatments, getting away from home on time, ways to find special time together when life can seem a bit rough. 

The first session, 21 days to a Happier Family by Dr Justin Coulson, was excellent (he has six children!). He made a tricky subject funny and very interesting. He spoke about having a family plan, how LOVE is spelled TIME, about limits for children and the importance of laughter in family relationships.
Stephen, community member

21 days to a happier family, a session looking at how to increase happiness within any family with some simple steps. Using 3 principles of love, limits and laughter to enhance relationships and increase positive encounters within the family. Investing time can lead to great gains.
Sue Webzell, Haematology Nurse, Hollywood Haemophilia Treatment Centre, Perth

Justin gave a very engaging and enlightening presentation, using a lot of his own life experiences (as a father of 6 daughters!) to humorously illustrate his points. Whilst not specific to haemophilia and other bleeding disorders, his talk made us all reflect on our families, our relationships, and how to make the best out of every moment, no matter what life has thrown at us. His three underlying principles of showing love and care, agreeing on limits, and finding fun and laughter in everyday events are widely applicable to all of life’s interactions – be that the morning negotiation to have factor before heading off to school, having discussions around physical activity and participation with your haemophilia team, dealing with a bleed or an injury, or any other of the myriad of situations we all find ourselves in. Justin gave us a very thought-provoking start to the conference which really set the tone of family and positive relationships with loved ones and important people in your life… including the members of your haemophilia team!
Johanna Newsom, Deputy Head of Physiotherapy, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney

Coulson provided practical strategy and backed it up with science and personal experience. “Love, Limits and Laughter” were the three elements that he felt were essential in successful parenting.  Coulson talked about finding ways to show the love, touch and doing things together, making family rituals and spending time together regularly were some of his idea.

There was no shying away from having rules, and limits are an essential part of parenting. Interestingly the idea of punishment was really explored. The reality is that although on some occasions it is necessary, most of the time discipline becomes unnecessarily punitive and punishing, and this doesn’t help kids learn how to do the right thing, they just become embarrassed, annoyed, and determined not to get caught the next time. Teaching them through listening, showing them, and helping them to do the right thing are more powerful and have much better results. Although in the moment it may feel that there is not time to explore a problem, give the child an opportunity or teach them, in actual fact, it will often be more effective and save time and distress. The simple example of a toddler wanting to turn off a light switch before leaving the house was given. The parent had shut the door and wanted to get into the car, so refused to go back into the house and allow the child to turn the switch. However, the child then had a tantrum, became very distressed and there was a fight to get into the car seat, there were more tears and distress, and the rest of the outing was negatively impacted by all of this. The alternate option was posed, what if the parent had unlocked the door, gone into the house and allowed the toddler to switch off the light. Of course there would have been none of the distress.

Laughter gets families through many hard times, and finding ways to laugh is vital, and powerful. It doesn’t have to be big stuff to get families laughing. Through laughter difficulties and conflict can be navigated, families can forgive, and be more willing to accommodate each other, and work harder to understand.

Coulson suggested that making a written family plan is a powerful way of ensuring that families attend to the important matters and address the difficulties. He challenged the audience to go home and put pen to paper.
Jane Portnoy, Social Worker – Haemophilia, The Alfred hospital, Melbourne


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