5 ways to bond with your partner

Think back about the time when you and your partner first started dating. You might have talked on the phone into the wee hours of the morning, getting to know each other deeply. Or went on those long walks just to spend more time with each other. In those experiences, the bonding that took place helped to further your relationship as you grow in mutual understanding and admiration.

As it is now, you may have long exited that “honeymoon” phase of your relationship. Or perhaps, a kid or two may have entered into your busy lives. Your couple bonding time may have decreased in both quantity and quality. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some things you can try out as a couple to reinvigorate bonding.

  • Shake up date nights

If you have been visiting the same diner or doing the same activity for your date nights, why not immerse yourselves in a new experience? For instance, a playful time in the fun fair or compete in a game of bowling (winner gets to be fed dessert!). Or perhaps, driving to the beach and have a picnic under the stars.

  • Pick up a hobby together

Or better still, teach each other something that you personally enjoy. It could be a language or a musical instrument. Learning from each other and pursuing common interests are great ways to improve fondness and understanding.

  • Scrapbook together

In this digital age, perhaps many of your couple photos are stored in your mobile devices. One good bonding activity is to print out these photos (even those from decades ago) and creatively display them in a scrapbook. Relive and preserve these memories, and tell your couple story through scrapbooking. You can also include other memorabilia from your dating times.

  • Talk about your day

As cliché as it sounds, the question “how’s your day, darling?” can be a powerful invitation to emotional connection. Listen intently to your partner’s sharing without judgment, and resist the urge to problem solve. Instead, demonstrate empathy and understanding.

  • Get to know each other’s inner world

Try this little activity. Answer the following questions on your own to see how much you truly know about your partner before checking in with each other:

  • What first attracted my partner to me?
  • What is my partner’s favourite childhood memory?
  • What is my partner’s favourite movie?
  • What is my partner’s favourite music?
  • What is my partner’s favourite holiday destination?
  • What is my partner’s proudest moment in life?
  • Who was my partner’s very first best friend?
  • What is my partner’s dream career?
  • What stresses are my partner facing lately?

How did you fare? Renowned relationship therapist, Dr. John Gottman (2007), finds that emotionally intelligent couples know and remember key events in each other’s history, and would continually keep up to date with each other’s inner world. Intimate knowledge of your partner serves to deepen your bond and prepares you to better manage stressful events and conflict.

Reference

Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2007) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. US: Orion Publishing.

 

Written by

Justin Peter (MCS, DCS, BASW, CTRTC)
Therapist

 

My child online: is technology damaging for my child?

image source metro.co.uk
image source metro.co.uk

There are many opinions but there is no simple answer to this question.  Like anything, there are pros and cons to technology which we must bear in mind before banning our children from mobile phones or the internet. There are four main types of online use: creative, connection, discovery and passive/consuming. The former three types are considered more positive whereas the latter can be more negative. We hear so much about the negatives, so what are the positives?

Creativity. There are many great educational apps and online resources that can support learning and creativity (see Azoomme, Cambugs, Writing Wizard, Hopscotch, LumiKids Park, Breathe Think Do with Sesame, also see web links below for more recommendations) particularly for those children who need multi-sensory approaches such as kids with learning needs (i.e. dyslexia, ADHD, autism, etc.).

Connection. Technology provides another level of safety as you can have immediate contact with your child or teen wherever they are (the Find my Friend app can track phones that are linked). It supports social skills, whether it is Skype, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber or Facetime contact with friends and family far away; it’s a shared topic of interest which children chat about in the playground (banning kids can isolate them from peers); and multiplayer online games supports making new friends, particularly for those who may find socialising face to face challenging (e.g. kids on the autism spectrum). The future is online and our children need to be able to engage with it and be part of it to make an impact (kids coding courses are a fantastic example).

Discovery. Most children are skilled in using Google to look up information whenever there is something they want to know. Statistics show that children who use online research for homework get better grades.  Research shows that playing online/computer games can develop problem solving and motor skills. This new generation has access to more information than any generation before, resulting in more creativity, curiosity, and knowledge. Yes, they are smarter!

However, there are cons such as online bullying, the risk of grooming, online addiction and decreased productivity due to distraction (this is in adults too! We are all prone to get lost on Facebook or Instagram when we have a deadline due). Too much use can also impact on sleep, concentration and motivation.  So how do you safeguard your child from the risks? These are my top tips:

  • Set boundaries. Prevent device use one hour before bed. Introduce a family contract about online use at home that everyone agrees on, and make sure the adults follow suit. If phones/tablets are not allowed at the dinner table then that includes mum and dad. Modelling is more powerful than instructing. Research shows that less than 2 hours is a ‘safe dose’, but individual children differ so observe your child and know what is best for them.
  • Get involved. Whether it’s asking your child what they play and getting them to show you or playing together for fun as a shared activity, use it to create more opportunities for communication and bonding with your child.
  • Use it to teach. Help children to manage emotions (anger, disappointment, frustration) and time management (teach time, use clocks, timers, etc.) through setting boundaries and rules around use.
  • Be informed. Ensure you know what your child is doing online. If your child is using a game or app you’re unfamiliar with, ask them to show you or try it out for yourself. Open communication about their activity will keep your child safe. If you make online use a topic of discontent at home they will keep their use secret and this is more dangerous. Use device safety blocks, such as: Circle, Unglue, Google family link, or just switch off the Wifi at home for certain periods.
  • Find a balance. Much technology can support social interaction, but if this is the only social interaction they are having then it can be a negative. Ensure online use is part of a range of activities, interests and hobbies and not the only one.

Some red flags that online use is impacting negatively are: issues with school, difficulty with sleep, explosive reactions when you ‘cut the cord’ and social or conduct problems. If you are worried about your child you can use seek further advice from our team.

 

 Written by

Dr Jennifer Greene
BSc (HONS), DEdChPsy, CPsychol
Consultant Educational & Child Psychologist

References and resources:

www.commonsensemedia.org

https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/

http://www.callscotland.org.uk/downloads/posters-and-leaflets/

 

“I have a bit of OCD!”

A“I have a bit of OCD”, “she is so OCD”. These are statements we hear banded around a lot.  There is a familiar notion that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a set of quirky characteristics claimed by or given to people who are controlling of things, perfectionists, excessively conscientious or fastidious about cleanliness.   There is even a bit of pride being expressed by some claiming with a smile to be ‘a bit OCD’ with an acknowledgment that there is some underlying anxiety.  We often use the word ‘obsessive’ when we talk about people who do things over and over e.g. she is obsessive about shoes, for someone who talks about them and buys a lot.

Many of the general population have intrusive thoughts, images and at times their content can seem similar to those with OCD e.g.  having an urge to push someone under a train, thinking about throwing something, thinking about shoplifting, thinking about a disgusting sex act (Purdon and Clark 1992) are all common. The difference between a normal intrusive thought and an obsessional thought lies both in the meaning that individuals with OCD attach to the occurrence or content and then their response to the intrusive thought or image.

So what is Clinical OCD?

An obsession is an intrusive usually unwanted thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters the mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.

A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.

David Veale 2007 has described the most common obsessions as;

  • The prevention of harm to self or others resulting from contamination (e.g. dirt, germs, bodily fluids, faeces or dangerous chemicals.)
  • The prevention of harm resulting from making a mistake (e.g. leaving a door unlocked, or the oven on)
  • Intrusive religious or blasphemous thoughts
  • Intrusive sexual thoughts (e.g. of being a sexual deviant or committing a sexual crime)
  • Intrusive thoughts of violence or aggression
  • The need for order or symmetry

Compulsions are actions that are repeated to avoid discomfort. Common compulsions are things like washing, checking, counting, hoarding, mentally repeating phrases, repeatedly seeking reassurance, rituals and avoidance. Compulsions are never pleasurable.  A diagnosis is given when the obsessions and compulsions consume excessive amounts of time (over an hour or more), when they cause significant distress and they interfere with social activities, work, or relationships.

A study in 2010 from the Institute of Mental Health and Ministry of Health into mental health found that OCD in Singapore was prevalent at a higher rate compared to the USA or Europe with around 3% of population having OCD.

When does it start?

It can start at anytime and is found in both men and women.  It can start in childhood but is often developed around puberty and young adulthood.

OCD symptoms can go unnoticed as children are unable to verbalise their ‘intrusive thoughts’ or understand that their actions don’t make sense.  Like adults, they may experience secrecy resulting from shame regarding their thoughts or behaviours.  Parents can also avoid seeking treatment as they think the behaviours are just a phase. OCD can be successfully treated and evidence suggests that the sooner it is treated the better the outcome is likely to be.

What causes OCD?

Biological explanations suggest some families have a genetic predisposition to anxiety which make them more likely to develop OCD.

Psychologists recognise that something called ‘thought action fusion’ occurs, whereby if a person thinks of harming someone, they think they will act on the thought or might have done in the past.  People with OCD also have an inflated sense of responsibility for harm and its prevention.

There are some conditions that can appear with OCD these include;

Trichotillomania (urge to pluck hair), Hypochondriasis (fear of suffering from a serious illness), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (a preoccupation with being ugly or having a defect in your appearance) and Tourette’s Syndrome (vocal adn motor tics).

Treatment

A combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Medication in the form of antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRI’S) has been found to be the most effective treatment.  It is also important to work with the whole family in the management of OCD as this is seen to aid recovery. OCD is treatable.

 

References:

Veale 2007, Cognitive- Behavioural therapy for obsessive- compulsive disorder, Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, vol 13, 438-446.

Purdon & D, Clark 1992. Obsessive intrusive thoughts in non clinical subjects. Part I Content and relation with depressive, anxious and obsessional symptoms. Behaviour, Research and Therapy 1992: 31: 713-20.

Prof Chong Siow (principle investigator) Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS) 2010- Institute of Mental Health and Ministry of Health, Nanyang University.

Photo of hand washing https://www.pexels.com/photo/cooking-hands-handwashing-health-545013/

Written by

Dr. Ronina (Nina) Stevens
DClinPsych, BSc(Hons)
Clinical Psychologist