Author Archives: Mario Fitirikkos

Developing a Parenting Plan for the care of your children

Having children links you together as parents forever, even after separation. The challenge following a separation is to make your relationship and communication as positive as possible for the benefit of the children, that’s where parenting plans can help. Family dispute resolution (mediation) may be valuable in assisting you with developing a parenting plan of your own.



What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents covering practical issues of parental responsibility. Parenting plans can detail practical decisions about children’s care in areas such as:

  • parenting styles
  • living arrangements
  • finances
  • schooling

Discussing how you communicate with each other, and with your children, are a good foundation for a parenting plan. We’ve developed 5 useful communication tips to consider when developing a parenting plan.

1. Choose (and agree) on the best methods of communication

Positive parental communication us vital for your children – use the parenting plan to outline how you both want to maintain positive communication.  This may mean agreeing to communicate by telephone, text messaging, email or by having regular meetings. It can mean using what has worked best in the past or trying something new.


2. Respect each other

Agree on ground rules for respectful communication. For example, when is it ok to call each other and when is it not? What notice is reasonable if one of you has to change contact arrangements due to sickness or work commitments?

3. Discuss religion, values and principles

It is useful to discuss some of the values and principles that you agree are important in bringing up your children. You can then document these as part of a parenting plan.   This can include such things as schooling, religion or other important cultural considerations. Children’s link to the extended family can also be considered in your parenting plan.


4. Talk about major changes

Major decisions, such as shifting house or moving schools affect your children greatly. The arrival of a new partner can also be another important adjustment for your children. You may agree, as parents, to discuss these major decisions together, where appropriate,  before involving the children. Other important things you may wish to consider can include making or changing wills and ongoing care in case of illness.

5. Communicate with the kids while you are apart

Being separated means that your children are nearly always away from one of you. This can present challenges in how children can communicate with parents, especially the parent who is not present at any given time.  It is important for your children that both parents are on the ‘same page’ regarding communication with each of you and that they have appropriate flexibility to communicate freely.  It’s also very important that children are forced to take on the role of messengers between the parents.


Interested in making your own parenting plan? Contact your nearest Relationships Australia office to get started.

Could we as men commit to taking a stand against Violence?

Thursday 28 – Sun 31 March 2019 marks the annual national fundraising period for White Ribbon Australia. The stated aim of White Ribbon Australia is the ending of men’s violence towards women and children. Relationships Australia NT Counsellor, Barry, shares some reflections about the issue of men’s violence towards women and children


For many men, this is not an easy issue to reflect upon and to face up to, but it is vital to do this. Statistics in Australia to do with family and domestic violence, murder and sexual assault make for appalling reading when it comes to the involvement of men as offenders and women and children (and sometimes other men) as victims. It’s also important that we as men resist the invitation to dismiss violence as “Something that some few bad men do. Most of us are good men and would never behave violently”

The unfortunate reality is that we live in a culture which still promotes dominant or violent ways of being and behaving for men.

As long as the influence of this culture remains, there is unspoken ‘permission’ for men to speak and act in violent or abusive ways.  We as men need to take collective responsibility for noticing attitudes and beliefs that promote dominant or violent ways of being and work to replace these with attitudes that promote respectful ways of being.

In my work as a relationships counsellor, I’ve heard reasonably frequently over the years men saying that their female partner ‘nags’ them. It would probably be useful for all men to reflect on questions such as:

  • Where does this idea of ‘nagging’ come from?
  • Is it a hangover from an outdated understanding that ‘the man is the boss’ and his female partner should not be questioning his words and actions?
  • Does using or even thinking the term ‘nagging’ get in the way of equality, and also get in the way of a man being able to listen to a legitimate complaint from his partner?
  • Could a more respectful idea be a willingness from all men to reflect upon the impacts of their words and actions on their female partners?

“Words matter”, as stated by a commentator on the recent terrible events in Christchurch

As indicated above, collective action by men is required if a stand is to be taken against dominant or violent beliefs and behaviours, and for respectful beliefs and behaviours. The ‘No More’ program in the Northern Territory is a good example of such collective action. Arising from consultation with male Aboriginal elders, ‘No More’ uses the popularity of ‘footy’ in the NT to invite the members of men’s teams to link arms to symbolise a commitment to No More Violence towards women and children. White Ribbon is another example of such collective action

Ramingining NO MORE_0

Could we as men commit to the sort of individual and collective efforts outlined above to take a stand against Violence and for Respect?



Harmony Day – let’s celebrate Australia’s diversity

On March 21, Australians celebrate Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“These celebrations are an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the richness of Australia’s diversity,” said the National Executive Officer for Relationships Australia, Mr Nick Tebbey.
“Relationships Australia believes our social fabric is strengthened by embracing and celebrating our diversity, including the ancient ongoing culture of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through to the most recently arrived families.

“Relationships Australia, like others wishes to convey our sadness and condolences to the families and communities impacted by the tragic events in Christchurch last week, and stand united with our diverse workforce and the many Australians from different backgrounds that we work with each year.

“We acknowledge the grief and shock that these events have triggered and we call on all Australians to join forces to overcome racism and discrimination.

“On Harmony Day 2019, Relationships Australia notes the importance of healthy relationships between and among all Australians.

“We believe Harmony Day is an opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships and build new connections as well as a chance to celebrate and promote inclusion and diversity in all that we do,” Mr Tebbey said.

5 easy ways to celebrate Neighbour Day on 31st March

Neighbour Day is Australia’s annual celebration of community, encouraging people to connect with those who live in their neighbourhood.

We’ve come up with 5 easy ways for you to celebrate with your neighbours.

1. Host a bbq

The great Australian tradition, there is nothing like bonding over good food. Encourage everyone to bring a dish and you’ll have a full feast in no time!


2. Invite them over for a cuppa

Great conversations can happen over a cup of tea or coffee. A debrief with your neighbour over a cuppa can benefit you both.


3. Write them a note or letter

Has your neighbour helped you out with something in the past? Write them a short letter or note letting them know how you appreciated it.


4. Use your local park

The territory is lucky enough to have some great parks around. Invite some neighbours down to the park for a picnic or ask them to bring the kids for a playdate at the playground.


5. Have a chat at the fence

A quick catch up can go a long way when someone is feeling lonely. Chat in the front yard, this way other neighbours are encouraged to join in.


For more information about neighbour day, visit the neighbour day website.


Apology to the Stolen Generations, 11 years on.


Kahlin Compound, Darwin (1913 – 1939)

February 13th marks the 11th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. A date when the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd used the first order of business of the new parliament to formally apologise to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian Government.

The National Apology to the Stolen Generations was a significant event in Australia’s history; many seeing this as an important step in the process of reconciliation and for many members of the Stolen Generation an acknowledgment of the pain and suffering they had experienced.


The Bungalow, Alice Springs (1914 – 1942)

Eleven years on, many highlight the continued disparity between the experiences of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country. CEO of the Healing Foundations Richard Weston (2018) and CEO for Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine (2018) note that the Apology was only a starting point with serious continued commitment needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to be able to tackle the intergenerational trauma caused by past policies and to begin to heal.


It is widely acknowledged that the policies of the Stolen Generations have had long-lasting and continued effects on Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities. If you or someone you know is a member of the Stolen Generations there are support services available.

Here at Relationships Australia NT we offer a range of services relevant to members of the Stolen Generations.

  • Find & Connect Program provides free face to face & telephone counselling, social events and record searching for people who grew up in institutional care such as orphanages, foster care, children’s homes and missions from the 1920s to the 1980s.
  • Redress Scheme Support Service offers people wishing to apply for the National Redress Scheme assistance in completing the Redress application process. Survivors of Institutionalised sexual abuse.
  • Healing Our Children (HOC) Program uses the knowledge and wisdom of Elders and the latest research in neuroscience and attachment theory to create a culturally safe conversation around the effects of violence and trauma on children with the aim of strengthening families through early intervention.


There are also Aboriginal Organisations offering similar services:

  • NT Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation Tel: (08) 89479171 and,
  • Danila Dilba (08) 8942 5400

We have included some helpful links for anyone interested in learning more about the National Apology to the Stolen Generations:

Our sources for this article:

Mundine, K 09/02/2018 ‘Apology anniversary time to reflect on historical acceptance’, Reconciliation Australia [media release]

Weston, R 12/02/2018 ‘National Apology was starting point, not solution: Stolen Generations trauma continues’, Croakey

How do I know if my child is being bullied? 5 key indicators

There are many signs and symptoms of bullying, but we’ve chosen 5 key signs for you to recognise when your child is being bullied, plus some steps to take in the presence of bullying.

We recognise that the impact that bullying can have not only on the child themselves but also the parents and family. It can be helpful for parents to recognise some signs and not underestimate the lasting effects of schoolyard taunting.

1. Avoiding school


When a child is verbalising a desire to not go to school or has a noticeable decline in school performance, these are obvious warning signals

2. Injuries or lost property


If a child is coming home from school with lost or destroyed property and/or unexplained injuries, this could be an immediate

3. Mood and behaviour changes


Parents should be alert to changes in mood, behaviour and physical appearance of their children. Moodiness, irritability and withdrawal, along with difficulties getting out of bed could be something other than just teen angst.

4. Health changes


Being aware of changes in eating habits, frequent stomach or headaches and faking illnesses is important as these may indicate anxiety.

5. Social life


It is also important to take note of how your child is socialising. While kids are known to chop and change groups as they mature, sudden social withdrawal and loss of friends may indicate more than the natural transience of childhood friendships.

So, what can be done?

Acknowledging bullying can seem daunting for both children and parents. Naming the issue might make it seem bigger than you want it to be, or a real problem for which you don’t have a tangible solution or parental wisdom.

    • Stay calm and positive and listen to your child. Do not dismiss their concerns or encourage them to sort it out themselves.
    • You are not alone in this issue; the school doesn’t want your child to feel ostracised or uncomfortable. Find out what supports are in place and how they can assist your child in the school domain.
    • Ensuring that your child has a confidant at school and encouraging them to report incidents and understand that it is OK to do so, can also help inspire security.
    • Parents must explain to their children that bullying is not their fault.
    • Don’t let bullying dominate your child’s life, focus on developing new skills and encourage healthy outlets outside of school where they can form meaningful bonds and develop new skills.
    • Confidence is key, as body language can speak volumes. Work strategies with your children, such as appearing confident even if they feel insecure on the inside. Just practising saying NO firmly can create confidence as well as acting unimpressed or unaffected.


Relationships Australia NT offers individual, couple and family counselling, relationship education and skill-building courses including Parenting courses. For more information please call us on (08) 8923 4999.

MAFS is back, but what does it really take to make a relationship work?

It’s a New Year, which many people see as a great time for a fresh start. Resolutions are made and plans put in place for revised habits; go to the gym more often, eat better, read 10 books, have some ‘me’ time or really connect with the kids. It’s also the time of year for new TV series; countdown to Game of Thrones, sitting back watching the tennis and a new season of Married at First Sight (MAFS).


The participants of the Married at First Sight 2019 experiment have just been announced. There’s a variety of different characters, including a 29-year-old virgin and a self-proclaimed ‘dater’ of married men. There are also plenty of specific requirements that contestants have listed for their potential wife or husband to possess:
• Jennifer Hawkins’ looks,
• ability to get on with large extended family,
• confidence,
• matching a fashion,
• or skincare regime.

Regardless of what you think of the MAFS experiment, it does raise questions about how relationships should work. So, what does it really take to make a marriage, or committed couple relationship work?

Well, it is less about what each person ‘possess’ and much more about how each person relates and responds to the other. It is less about them having to accept specific aspects of our lives and much more about each person’s overall views and general approach to being in a relationship with someone.

Here are three key approaches to relationships to consider for making your marriage or committed couple relationship work:

1. Fun in the everyday and mundane
A vast amount of our lives and therefore relationships are taken up with needing to carry out repetitive, daily, weekly or monthly tasks, jobs, chores, cleaning, cooking, shopping, fixing, sorting, organising and arranging. There’s little point feeling resentful about these things and a lot more point in relishing getting tasks done either together or for the benefit of your lives together.


2. Balance in everything we do
We have all heard of needing to spend more time with our partner as important, but we must also value own interests. This balance is key in relationships, for example:
• Needing to connect with the other person but not being connected all day,
• Doing things as a family but not ‘helicopter parenting’ our kids,
• Having a good work ethic but not being a workaholic.
We need a general view of having balance in all we do (even not overeating kale!) Have a read of On Marriage by world-renowned Lebanese-American poet Karl Gibran below.



3. Foundational Friendship
Through everyday mundane tasks and balance getting out of whack, the friendship in a couple relationships can slip. Sometimes we don’t consider that our partner can also be someone we share a deep, connected and fun friendship with. Leading relationship specialists Julie and John Gottman, show in their research that the foundation of a sturdy ‘marital house’ ultimately needs to be a friendship; liking and genuinely being interested in the other person, for who they are and what they are about. Find, increase or keep up, ways to make the friendship with your partner a deep, fun and connected one. You can also download the Gottman couple app – a fun way to improve your friendship with helpful questions, statements, and ideas.



Get off to the best start ever in 2019 by attending one of our three upcoming couple relationship courses. Couple connect and Building Better Relationships offer up to date tips, provide opportunities to practice new skills and a dedicated time and place to get it back on track or fine-tuning your relationship.

Couple Connect – 4-hour workshop, $ 80 per couple

Wednesdays February 6th & 13 6.00-8.00pm

Fridays BYO lunch 1-hour sessions 12-1pm March 8th, 15th, 22nd & 29th

Building Better Relationships – 12-hour workshop, over 6 weeks, $220 per couple

Mondays February 18th – March 25th 6.00-8.00pm

Booking essential – call 8923 4999

Contact us

10 tips for having a stress-free Christmas

17th December 2018

Christmas is fast approaching. For many Christmas is a day filled with family, friends, gifts, good food and good times. But for some people, it can be a challenge. Services close during the holiday break, health professionals go on vacation and there’s a perceived social pressure that demands happiness and participation.

To help you through the coming holiday period, below are 10 tips to reduce stress over Christmas.

1. Plan, walk and talk


Make sure all your medications are up to date. Use exercise, like walking, to help alleviate stress when you sense a trigger. Talk to someone prior to Christmas Day, ask them to help you rehearse and revise your coping mechanisms.

2. Keep it simple


If you are feeling overwhelmed with things to do, write a list and slowly work through it. Write the most important things at the top, and then work your way down, one task at a time.

3. Use the past to your advantage


Look back and learn from past Christmas. What worked and what didn’t? Were there situations, people, or events that adversely affected you? How did you respond and can you see a pattern in these past experiences? Use the positive coping skills you have used in the past to help you this year.

4. Find time for yourself

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Make space for solitude and do what recharges you. This will stop you from burning the candle at both ends and trying to meet the heightened expectations of Christmas.

5. Be honest with yourself, friends and family

If you can’t do something or be somewhere, apologise and tell them early. Explain that you’re struggling mentally, burnt out, or that crowds, questions or people are too overwhelming at the moment. Say you’re not in a good place right now and it’s nothing personal and you wish them the best and appreciate their understanding.
Ask for their understanding and support. You’ll be surprised how many people understand. If they don’t that’s ok too. This honesty gives you space to choose when to contact people and not feel pressured.

6. Choose who you celebrate with

Spend time with the people who really love and cherish you and limit or avoid spending time with those who don’t. Remember that you are allowed to have a happy Christmas too.

7. Look ahead

Limit your exposure to people who are draining and plan something you really want to do after Christmas. This way you have something to look forward to. It could be as simple as going for a walk or reading a book.

8. Manage your energy

christmas-couch-feet-85842 (1)
Give only as much as you have to. Keep your interactions short and be open and honest about how you’re feeling with at least one support person. It can be hard to set boundaries. But sometimes you just have to say no. It can be very scary putting yourself first but those who really care will understand.
Try to spend time with people who energise you rather than those who drain you. In the lead-up to this Christmas surround yourself with supportive people, minimise stressors, keep to your routines and think about how involved you would like to be in Christmas, knowing that it’s okay to not go beyond your capabilities or preference.

9. Find a safe space

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If you have to go to a Christmas lunch or dinner, but don’t feel comfortable, find a quiet spot to have a break when you get overwhelmed.

10. Debrief with a trusted support

Talk to someone before and after you attend a stressful event. This can be a mental health professional, a helpline, or somebody close to you.

If you need support during the December and January period please call Relationships Australia NT on (08) 8923 4999. Our counsellors can help people through stressful periods like Christmas. Please be aware of our holiday closure period

Information Source: SANE Australia & Relationships Australia NT