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PHASE, Asia Pacific 2019

This November for the first time I will be presenting at the PHASE conference in Hong Kong. I will run a one-hour presentation on ‘The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens’ on 16th and 17th November and a 90-minute workshop on the 16th.

For more information on my presentations/workshops, head to PHASE website.

PHASE Asia Pacific is a conference for all educators focussed on physical education, health, athletics, sports, and experiential learning.  The conference allows participants to learn from leading authorities in their respective fields as well as from practitioner presenters, to network with fellow educators, and to access good practice and resources in multiple formats.

PHASE is an acronym based on the core areas that the community aims to bring together: Physical Education, Health & Wellness, Athletics, Sports, and Experiential Learning.

 

‘Teen Mental Health,’ Medium

There is a growing mental health crisis with our teenagers and young people across the world. In Australia alone 1 in 4 adolescents will experience mental health problems this year and suicide is the most common cause of death for 15–24 year olds. The stats are alarming. One person is one too many.

In my experience with counselling teenagers I have had clients as young as 12 years old suffering from anxiety, clients at 13 believing that their parents divorce was their fault, at 16 not being able to look past a pimple or scar to see who they are as a person and at 17 wondering why they should get out of bed when “today is just going to be as bad as yesterday.” I have worked with adults who at 30 were still stuck in negative thought patterns, at 40 were still traumatised from being bullied at school, at 50 not feeling worthy of love and even at 70 still haunted by teenage family abuse.

None of us are ‘immune to life’ — to traumas, to ‘bad things happening’, to feeling like we have failed, to holding on to past hurts and to the complexities of navigating teenage friendships.

But this is not all doom and gloom.

Life doesn’t have to be this way. The problem is that quite often we don’t know what it is we can try. In those moments we have lost perspective. We have lost faith in the world and we have lost trust in ourselves.

My past clients spurred me to write my latest book ‘The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens.’ The most common sentence I was hearing from adults after working together was, “I wish I had learnt those things when I was younger,” and from that I set out to write. The frustration I felt at working with adults who had been carrying their life’s anxieties and traumas around for 10, 20, even 40 years was deeply saddening to me. Five-minutes is too long.

I believe the answer is in education. Not education that says ‘go to school’ but emotional intelligence education, social-emotional education, life education, education of the self, the heart and the soul.

A friend of mine, Kosal Khiev once wrote a poem ‘Moments In Between the Nights’ and that title alone springs to mind when I think about educating teens. It’s not in the ‘going to class,’ but the moments in between — the moments when no one is looking, when your mind suddenly turns, when doubt, fear, embarrassment, a memory, sadness, anxiety or negative thoughts kick in. It’s in those moments that we need to learn the self-awareness, the skills, tools and coping strategies to find our own balance again.

We can teach young people how to gain perspective, how to process their thoughts, emotions, behaviours and understand how and why they react to situations the way they do. We can teach them to understand and redefine terms such as success and failure. We can teach them self enquiry and self awareness, teach them how to better understand themselves, better understand friendships and the roles they play, that there is always someone they haven’t thought of they can talk to, something else they can try. We can teach them how to breathe — to calm down and to steady the mind. And to remind them that they are in control, that they have choice — choice in their actions, reactions, thoughts and behaviours. That there is ALWAYS something they can do. Life doesn’t happen TO us, we need to learn how to get back in the driver’s seat.

Through self-awareness we can create behaviour change but we cannot change what we are not aware of.

Yes we can even break out of negative thought patterns or better understand and cope with anxiety. There are simple steps that can be followed and in my book and videos I guide teens step-by-step in a very simple, practical and no bullshit way. I don’t brush over topics or say “Oh you’ll be okay.” he book gently holds their hand and takes them on a journey of self discovery where they learn to better understand themselves, find their strengths and resilience and get back in control of themselves.

In psychology terms, adolescence is the developmental stage of identity. Who am I? It is a powerful thing to begin to answer that question as a teen. How many adults can truly answer it?

* The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens is not a substitute for a specialised mental health counsellor or diagnosed mental health conditions.

‘Teen Mental Health’ was posted in Medium in September 2019.

Asia Pacific Writers’ Conference, Macau.

Guest panelist – ‘When on the road and the superhighway is your writing life.’

Nov 5th at the Asia Pacific Writers conference in Macau.

Surfing tours, road trips, exotic and not so exotic postings, ex-pat bunkers, bribery for wi-fi, our panellists have done it all and will share with you their hilarious and often heartbreaking stories of a writing life lived on the road – in a globalised 21st century world where the digital nomad reigns supreme they will examine how the internet has changed the writing landscape – for better or worse.

Chair: Pia Mutsamaski

Panelists: Romi Grossberg, Tim Baker, Kiran Bhat

Asia Pacific Writers Conference, Macau.

Panel: Expats Unleashed @ The Asia Pacific Writers Conference, Macau in November.

Nov 6th, 1.30pm.

Writers often seek to venture far from their country of origin – whether that’s out of curiosity, on assignment or sometimes for good. What happens when they do? Three Western writers discuss the interweaving of their writing with their expatriate lives and experiences in Asia particularly in Korea, Shanghai, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia – tackling head-on perceptions of their white western privilege alongside their strong desires for cultural exchange and new experience.

Chair: Shelley Kenigsberg

Panelists: Kevin Maher, Adam Narnst, Romi Grossberg

Podcast Interview on ‘Social emotional tools for Teens’

In the six days I was in Melbourne this week launching my new book ‘THE KEY, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens’ at the Cultures of Thinking conference, I was approached by Lisa Entwisle from Wellthy Living; Guiding you to Live a Wealthy Life, through Connection to Self, Others and the World around you to do a podcast interview.

Here is the interview we held.

Cultures of Thinking Conference 2019 (& radio podcast interview)

This week I presented at The 7th Annual Cultures of Thinking Conference facilitating a 90-minute workshop. Each workshop was capped at 30 people and I was thrilled to have a full room of teachers and educators from various schools in my presence. I held an interactive workshop to allow the room of educators to feel what it is like on the receiving end as well as to show how teachable these topics are. We brainstormed together the themes of ‘Success and Failure’ and ‘Tone of Voice’ – two topics from my latest book THE KEY, A SOcial Emotional Toolkit for Teens.

The group was up and moving around the room writing and sharing their thoughts on how they define success, naming something they felt they had succeeded in, how they define failure and naming something they felt they failed at. This produced great discussion. Teenagers are always setting themselves up for failure rather than success. How many times have we heard a teen walk in to (or out of) an exam and say “I’m going to fail?” But what does failure to them actually mean? Below 90%? Below 50%? Who are they comparing themselves to and why? What role do teachers, friends and parents play? How does this affect their self esteem? Their levels of fear or anxiety? What can we as educators do about fear, anxiety, breathing, calming down, self esteem, comparisons, judgements, jealousy? It raises so many questions.

In my opinion we can do something about ALL of these things. We can educate our teens in these topics by giving them real, practical and tangible coping strategies to handle their emotions and feelings. In my latest book THE KEY, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens there are tips, tools and strategies for all of these things and together we went through a few.

The second half of the workshop was focused on our tone of voice. Recognising the tone of voice we use when we talk to other people – seeing our role in escalating or calming situations and the impact our tone has. Role playing was both fun (and possibly daunting for those involved) in seeing the different scenarios get played out across the room. Our tone of voice also impacts the way WE feel. Our tone, our body language and our choice of words (positive or negative) together effect the way we feel in our day to day and effect the way we feel about ourselves. Recognising that often these are choices we make and we can choose differently greatly helps our ability to help ourselves. I showed a video from THE KEY course on Tone of Voice – to show the practical application.

Each tricky topic from the book has a video to explain – what is it, how do we feel/sense it, what can we do for ourselves in real life and when do we need outside help.

The feedback from the group was positive and I hope that everyone enjoyed my workshop as much as I enjoyed teaching it.

The next day I was approached by Lisa Entwisle from Wellthy Living Radio Show Podcast for an interview on my work.

Here is the interview:

Workshopping with teens in Romania

I was invited by my Romanian friend and colleague Ema to run a workshop at ‘Homing’ pop-up festival (25th June – 2nd July) in Timisoara, Romania, a city I had never been to in a country I knew nothing about. I had never thought to run a workshop there – I guess out of the naive viewpoint that locals wouldn’t speak English.

I agreed to be a part of this collaborative project on the concept of ‘home’ – leaving home, coming back home – in a country where young people finished school and almost immediately went overseas to further their career and educational opportunities. They learn German and English at school and are almost groomed to leave and start a ‘better life’ causing both a gap in the number of young people in the city and also a lack of connection between the older more traditional Romanians and the younger generation.

I was to run a workshop for ten teenagers and decided to run two evening sessions with adults too, mostly because I was there so why not! But here I want to talk about the teens. Ten 14-17 year olds and one twenty year old from the Heavenly Hell theatre group came and met me in the morning at Casa Artelor in downtown Timisoara for what was to be a three-hour creative writing workshop on the idea of home.

I had organised three to four activities and was a little nervous. By the end of the introduction I was feeling quite comfortable that I was on the presence of a group of confident, intelligent and perfect English speaking young people.

We never got past the first exercise which was about understanding where you think from and trusting yourself (trusting your gut) and believing in that space. We spent the next three-hours brainstorming, throwing around ideas, sharing concepts and thoughts and asking questions. Lots of questions.

The conversation turned to politics, spirituality, religion and trying to understand their place in such an orthodox country where thinking for yourself and voicing any opposition was still considered taboo by the powers that be. For me it was a tricky navigation of guiding young teenagers through trusting their doubts, concerns and their voice whilst recognising the country and culture that I was sitting in.

Once they recognised that sitting with me – an Australian author and counsellor was a safe place to voice their difficulties the questions got deeper and we went an hour over time allowing them to try and get to the bottom of what worried them – How do I found my spiritual path? How do I know if I am on the right path? Is there a wrong path? Where is God? How do we know?

And my favourite question that genuinely stopped me in my tracks when I had to answer this: “My priest tells me that if I don’t pray and come to church every week I will go to hell … but if you murder someone you can repent and still go to heaven. How does that make sense?”

I will never forget these incredible, bright, enthusiastic and inquisitive young human beings who both supported and challenged me in this new environment.

Here are some of the comments the students said afterwards.

“Such a fresh air in this traditional city you are. I didn’t get the answers but more questions to help put me on my path. Good to see that there are people whose stories can have a really nice impact on you. I’d love it if I could stay in this state of mind at least for a few more hours. This workshop was such an interesting one. Nice to meet you Romi.”

17 year-old.

“This meeting was really unexpected (in the most positive way). People like you inspire me to try new things – from religions to cultures and lifestyles and to be a better person. After getting to know a bit about you and your purpose I know that maybe that’s something that make me happy and feel fulfilled. Thank you for teaching us about what instinct and gut feeling is and how to use it. Thank you for coming to Romania and especially Timisoara. I will never forget you.”

17 year-old.

“In a really traditional country it is nice to have free and open discussions about such profound themes. I liked the first exercise but what I liked the most about this workshop is that the conversation flowed freely and it ended up being an interesting session of learning and deeper understanding not only of ourselves but the world. Good job Romi.”

15 year-old.

“… I was surprised to see how easily I could write because I have always said things in a complicated way in which people can not understand.”

17 year-old.

“It was a really good and relaxing atmosphere. I felt like I could talk about anything and it felt really good to see that there are people who share the same thoughts as I do because sometimes I feel like an outsider. At this workshop my mind felt relaxed because it didn’t need to always be prepared to give the ‘right answer’ and I learned how to handle my emotions and embrace spontaneity because sometimes what comes from the heart or the gut can be better than what comes from the brain. I felt that I received a new little family here when I was accepted as I am.”

15 year-old.

“Today I felt like I discovered a lot about myself and that felt really good. The boundaries that I had before just went away and I feel so much more ready to experience the beauty of life. I am not much of a writer but it was a really nice and warm experience.”

14 year-old.

“It was quite interesting to meet a person of likeminded mindset (double usage of mind – you know where this comes from). I read a lot of history and philosophy and the most recurring themes appeared here today. The gut of writing and the aspects of the body discussed were a cool way of looking at writing itself. It is also interesting how the other people interpreted it and even more how the discussion came about to a wider scope.”

20 year-old.

“Today was a very fun experience. We learned a lot, we chatted a lot and most important we had fun. The activities were smartly chosen because they had a purpose: to teach us how to handle life. I wish for myself in the future to participate in more workshops, projects and activities like this because I think it will help me grow up with hope, be smart and in a happy way.”

14 year-old.