The My Story Blog
The latest My Story news from the team
Featured: 31 August 2023
When Moms Move - 5 Questions for Meryl Szolkiewicz, founder of JIKA Sitting Ball
How many fabulous, impactful businesses are created when moms across the world put their foot down and address something that irks them, right? Hundreds. They see a problem, find (or create!) a solution, and turn that into a thriving business. One of those women is Meryl Szcolkiewicz and we are beyond excited to partner with her in an upcoming project for 2024.
15 June 2023
I am your (god)father
(If you read this title in a Darth Vader voice, extra brownie points for you!) Sunday is Father’s Day! This year, however, we also want to acknowledge the unique and valuable contribution godfathers can make in the lives of Tweens and Teens. An additional safe space to be & belong can support their mental health.
31 May 2023
4 Thoughts on Art as Therapy for Kids
Art is a powerful tool to help children express their feelings and ground themselves in their identity. Here are 4 thoughts on Art as Therapy by our friend and collaborator Zaitoon Ebrahim.
11 April 2023
From Bystander to Upstander - A parent’s guide to bullying
Bullying has become a major concern for parents and is showing up in so many shapes and forms that it is hard to keep up. Knowledge is power, and therefore adults and children must learn the facts. Bullying is viewed as a situational stressor that may result in mental health challenges for all parties involved.
03 March 2023
Square pegs in round holes - Five ways to encourage individuality
“Who am I?” What a simple , but loaded question. How we answer this question reflects a lot about how we see ourselves, what we value and how much we understand about our own role in our life story. So say Educational Psychologist and friend of the My Story Tribe, Mariaan Prins. We probed her about the concept of identity as we explored this theme this week. So many of our Tween Tribe members struggle with the confidence to be and like themselves. It led us to ask why understanding and knowing our identity is so important at this age. Mariaan Prins explains: “ We all function within a number of systems. You are a part of these systems and interact with them. We get feedback (directly or indirectly) from friends, family, our neighborhood and school and we are influenced by it. Our self-talk is influenced by it. It is important that young people develop a strong voice. But if this voice is not well developed, self-talk is dependent on other people’s opinion - people who do not know us as well as we know ourselves. If we don’t know ourselves, we start believing lies about ourselves. In a way, we become our own bully! But when we reflect on our lives and connect to our own voice and who we are, we develop self knowledge that leads to self love. Knowing ourselves also means knowing our “triggers”. Avoiding triggers or knowing what to do when we experience them is so empowering to young people. Identity development can be encouraged in a few ways: Playful investigation. Become detectives that explore! Find out what makes your child happy, excited, upset and reflect that back to them. “I can see you love to be creative.” Make a timeline of ups and downs. Sit together and talk about best and worst days or favourite and least favourite experiences. This reveals a lot about their identity. Maybe not being invited to a party was a low point. This gives parents the opportunity to debunk the idea a child might have that they are not a fun-enough person. That is not a part of their identity. It is a lie. Create a vision board. Visualizing and then representing our dreams in a tangible way, affirms identity. Encourage making an identity collage. Talking about who they are and affirming their personality traits and likes, boost self esteem. Make a collage together and celebrate their unique story!” Let’s encourage exploring our children’s identities in our homes! “The beautiful challenge is to make room for all the unique identities in a household!” adds our Founder and mom of two teenagers, Milan Murray. “I remind myself that I am also a part of the “system” that gives constant direct and indirect feedback to my kids. I need to be so mindful to make room for their individual personalities and not raise just clones of myself! We are four very different people in our household. Making room for the introvert ánd the extrovert, celebrating the athlete ánd the artist and welcoming the traditionalist ánd the free-spirit can be a challenge. Not judging, but carefully directing a young, developing human is a gift and a responsibility. Five things we do in our house to encourage individuality We make space for differences. Something simple like how we like to wake up and start our day can have a huge impact on how accepted we feel in a home. I have one child who literally jumps up when he opens his eyes in the morning. The music must be pumping and the energy should be high. My other child wakes up in stages. Slowly, gradually and preferably without any intruding sound. Since they were little, I woke them up differently. I allowed them to fill their morning in the way that resonates with them. We notice what passions they spend time on. Our children like different things. It is sometimes easier to notice and celebrate certain achievements than others. Like sport: There is a game. There is a winner. There is a medal to hang on the wall. It took us a while to realize that when a child spends 3 hours locked in a room creating an artwork, that that passion and achievement deserves an equal fuss and proud place on the wall. We model mutual respect. Our children are well aware of their parents’ differences. My husband is a socialite. I am a homebody. We try our best to lead by example when it comes to showing our appreciation for diversity and our love for the other’s strong, individual personality. If our kids can see that harmony is possible in relationships where people are different, strong individuals, then they have a good foundation for the future. We allow personal expression. Look, I am the first one to create a Pinterst board when we decorate a new room or plan Christmas dinner. I like symmetry and minimalism. I have however learned to hold back and allow space for my children to express their personalities in their rooms and at family celebrations. Seeing them blossom when they can bring their own ideas to life, reminds me of how poorly a monochrome colour scheme compares to a beaming face. We encourage debate. Knowing who you are is one thing, but defending it and standing up for it is on a whole other level. We love to ask our children “why" and encourage them to explain their belief or opinion or way of doing. You can purchase the My Story Identity Printable Bundle online now!
16 February 2023
Connecting with my Tween - Five things I have learned.
It is no secret that my parenting journey thus far has been more of a cobblestone pathway than a smoothly paved highway. Navigating through the challenges of dyslexic thinking and accommodating ADD is a vague summary of our journey, but it is the careful support of my child’s emotional nuances and setbacks in self confidence that made motherhood especially challenging for me, specifically in the Primary School years when diagnoses are made and reality sets in. I made a choice to be a conscious parent. I listen. I notice. I offer a safe space. And yet, so often, there was not much I could do. I felt like an observer and I desperately wanted to take up her burden. I wanted to clear her path. I often wondered if there was a strong enough connection between us. Does she know I have her back? Can she see my warrior spirit holding space? Chantel Griesel, Occupational Therapist at The My Story Tribe describes it so beautifully in a newsletter this week: “Parenting is not a role. It’s not a responsibility. It’s primarily a relationship. Our children don’t need us to be the best organizers, the best cheerleaders who are everywhere, know everything and push them to be their best. They don’t need the best lunchbox. They just need us. Not what we DO for them, just that we ARE for them. They don’t need an action; they need a person. They don’t need us to walk in front of them clearing the way. They don’t need us to walk behind them, pushing. Our children need us to walk next to them, exploring the possibilities of life, no matter how different it might be from what we initially dreamed for them. “ I am still learning daily. But through trial and error, this is what I have come to know about connecting with my Tween: The question: “What’s wrong?” hardly ever leads to an answer. It's like shutting a door. I always get more information out of her when I suggest doing something together. Even if it is just a short car ride to the filling station cafe to get some ice cream. Relaxed time spent together beats verbal probing any day. I bite my tongue. Let’s face it, we do sometimes have phenomenal answers to their tricky life questions, but no Tween likes a know-it-all, preachy parent. So before I give advice, I listen a little bit more. And before sharing my nuggets of wisdom I ask: “What do you think?” That usually gives more insight into her state of mind and train of thought than any interrogation. F - U - N is how connection is spelt. I’m not an extremely fun person. I’ll choose to read a book ten times before I go bodyboarding. But years from now, my child will remember the bodyboarding, not the boring afternoon on the couch. Rituals and habits create automatic opportunities for connection. Sometimes suggesting an activity is met with eyerolls and protest. But if we have a standing date or ritual, children go along with it easier, and beautiful memories are made. In a particularly difficult time, my daughter and I watched a certain TV show every evening at the same time indulging in the same comfort food. It became our ‘thing’. Now she refers to that show as ‘our show’ and that snack as ‘our snack’. No big problems were solved that week. But we had each other. Showing vulnerability opens up a huge space for connection. I remember the first time I admitted to her : ”I’m not having a great day.” It was as if I gave her a gift. What I thought would cause her to feel less safe and grounded, instead gave her an opportunity to show kindness to me. I still learn every day. More so now that she is moving into her Teens. Send some grace and patience this way please! To my fellow parents who are advocating, longing and fighting for connection, I see you. Every day is a new day to connect. Let's be the guardians of that connection - Milan Murray: Founder of The My Story Tribe
29 November 2022
7 Wenke vir 'n stresvrye gesinsvakansie!
'n Storie van "Klein" Jakkalsies... Geskryf deur: Chantel Griesel is Arbeidsterapeut en program-samesteller by The My Story Tribe Die tasse is gepak, die fietse is op die dak en die oorvol motor luier ongeduldig in die oprit vir die laaste familie-lid om vir oulaas te piepie. Dis vakansie! Die Pinterest-bord in my kop is vol fotos van hangmatte en draai-roomys en breë glimlagte van my gelukkige familie om die Kerstafel. Maar ons is skaars teen Sir Lowry's pas uit en die drama begin. Die vakansie-jakkalsies, noem ek dit. Daardie skelm argumente en krapperigheid en onderliggende stres wat maar altyd kop uitsteek. Hoe beplan 'n mens vir die klein jakkalsies wat jou familie vakansie probeer belemmer? Vakansie-mite nr 1: Beplanning is die resep vir ‘n gelukkige vakansie. Gooi maar beplanning by die ruit uit wanneer die motor se wiele begin rol. Die ding van klein jakkalsies is dat hulle onvoorspelbaar is. Die grootste les van ouerskap is dat ons net eenvoudig nie altyd in beheer is nie. Ons kinders stel nie regtig belang in ons perfekte prentjie van Kersfees nie. Hulle stel belang in pret en speel, in gesels en verken en in avontuur. Hulle kies vuil-wees, deurmekaar-wees, trommel-dik-geëet-wees en verbrand wees! Ons kinders se lewens word elke uur van elke dag beplan en bestuur. Hulle het dikwels baie min insae in die verloop van hulle skoolkwartaal en naweke is gelaai met sport. Wat almal sal goed doen is die vryheid van tyd en om self te kan besluit hoe om ‘n dag te vul. WENK: Moenie oorbeplan nie. Laat die vakansie spontaan oopvou en leef in die oomblik, sodat die tyd ‘n bietjie kan stilstaan. Vakansie mite nr 2: Jy moet jou kinders heeltyd besig hou. Daar is niks so goed vir kinders as om verveeld wees nie. Dit skep geleentheid vir kreatiwiteit en stimuleer probleemoplossing. Ons kinders raak moeg vir ons net soos ons ook maar uitgeput raak van hulle. Almal het alleen-tyd nodig. Vakansies bied ‘n geleentheid vir groter konneksie, maar ons vakansie kan nie die enigste plek wees waar konneksie plaasvind nie. Ons vul ons vakansie dikwels met aktiwiteite in ‘n poging om isolasie en afwending te vermy. Maar vakansie mag oomblikke van isolasie bevat. Almal in die gesin het ‘n breek nodig. Soms is daardie breek, ‘n breek van mekaar. WENK: Laat jou kinders toe om op hulle eie te wees of soms verveeld te wees. Wees ook voorbereid op kreatiewe gemors. As ons nie vakansietyd kan mors nie , wanneer kan ons? Vakansie mite nr 3: Almal moet heeltyd gelukkig wees. As ouers sit ons so baie druk op onsself om die gesin se emosies te beheer. Vakansie is vir baie van ons ‘n tyd van refleksie en evaluasie. Dit neem almal van ons - self die kinders - op ‘n pad van oordink en dit sluit soms skommelende emosies in. Ook vir ons kinders. Ons probeer dikwels hierdie emosies beheer deur ons dae vol te maak met aktiwiteite. Ons leef so hard vir vakansie, letterlik, en ons is dikwels teleurgesteld omdat ons meer konneksie en oomblikke van intimiteit verwag het. Ons het nie beplande, groot oomblikke nodig vir konneksie nie. Lepellê in die oggend, die trifle-bak saam uitlek, kaart-speletjies speel, saam boek lees, saam roomys eet, saam vol sand wees, die Nuwejaar inwag… Die grootste geleenthede vir verbintenis kruip dikwels in die klein onverwagse oomblikke weg. WENK: Die grootste geskenk wat jy jou gesin kan gee hierdie vakansie, is jou eie geluk. Wees laf en laat jou onderrok uithang. Die res sal volg. Vakansie mite nr 4: Geen tegnologie is die sleutel tot ‘n suksesvolle vakansie. “Geen tegnologie” is moontlik ‘n jakkals wat baie vinnig in ‘n baie honger wolf kan ontaard. Om summier alle skerm-tyd te verbied is soms ‘n resep vir feesgety-mislikheid! (Nie net vir die kinders nie.) Balans is die sleutel. Bestuur dit. Gee dalk ‘n spesifieke tydgleuf in die dag vir almal wat wil onttrek of rustig wil ontsnap. Besluit dalk as gesin saam oor die reëls rondom tegnologie en kies ‘n prettige straf indien iemand dit nie nakom nie. Betrek die hele gesin by die reëls sodat almal daarby inkoop. Geen ouer wil die hele vakansie rondloop en soos ‘n plaat wat vashaak aanhoudend ‘nee’ sê nie. En ons weet mos, dis daardie herhalende ‘nee’ wat maak dat klein wolf-welpies hulle tande wys. En wolwe beweeg in ‘n trop….. Jy gaan heel moontlik in elk geval die geveg verloor. WENK: Tem die wolf en betrek die hele gesin by die besluite rondom tegnologie. Vakansie mite nr 5: Kerfeestyd moet lewenslesse inhou. Ons kinders se lewens is besaai met lesse . Ek dink dat hulle soms so versigtig trap om nie ‘n “les - landmyn” te aktiveer nie! Hulle leer die hele jaar lank. Hulle hoor so baie: “Mamma wil net gou vir jou iets leer” , “Luister mooi, ek wil jou net help” , “Luister mooi, sodat jy hierdie kan onthou.” Daarop volg akademie en ekstra klasse en buitemuurse aktiwiteite. Leer. Leer. Leer. Maak vakansie-tyd liewer ‘n tyd van luister en van rekonsilieer. Moenie al jou lewenslessies nou inpas nie. Leef eerder die les en wees beskikbaar. Luister na jou kind se stem en sy behoeftes. Maak tyd vir sy/haar stories en maak jou eie stem minder. Ons kinders wil gehoor en gesien en waardeer word. WENK: Vakansie is ‘n tyd vir stil word en inneem. Neem jou kinders in. Vakansie mite nr 6: Almal moet dankbaar wees. Dankbaarheid is ‘n bitter-soet pil, veral as die jaar moeilik was. Dankbaarheid word soms ‘n lat waarmee ons ons kinders tydens vakansietyd bykom. Ons raak gefrustreerd omdat hulle dikwels juis tydens vakansies optree soos ‘n wurm wat nie vol kom nie. En ‘n dertiende tjek strek net só ver! Om een of ander rede maak Kersfees dikwels die gulsige monster in ons kinders wakker en ons maak onsself ook skuldig daaraan om d.m.v materiële goed op te maak vir waar ons dalk gedurende die jaar afwesig was. Dit maak egter ons kinders se tenkies net leër, nie voller nie. Neem jou kind op ‘n ontdekkingsreis en vul hom met oomblikke van opregte weerloosheid. Deel jou eie struwelinge en ook jou drome. WENK: Bly liewer weg van die winkels en vul jou vakansie met opregte oomblikke. Dankbaarheid sal daaruit vloei. Dit vloei nooit uit sinnelose geskenke nie. Dit is immers gemaak van plastiek. Vakansie mite nr 7: Elke oomblik moet op rekord wees. Ons idee van vakansie word deesdae sterk beïnvloed deur sosiale media en die behoefte om gesien te word. Ons sal die ongelukkigste oomblik forseer in ‘n Instagram-oomblik net vir daardie kiekie. Ons kinders kan deur dit sien. As hulle nie wil glimlag op die foto nie wys hulle vir jou dat die oomblik nie opreg is nie. Ek is mal oor fotos. Maar my 3 seuns maak ‘n perfekte foto nooit moontlik nie. Nou neem ek maar on-perfekte fotos, want dit is tog wat ons is: 5 weird siele, saamgegooi om sin te maak van die lewe. Neem fotos! Maar moenie dit die einddoel maak nie. WENK: Waak daarteen om jou hele vakansie soos ‘n produksie-skedule te beplan. Wees spontaan. Probeer ook om nie jouself (en jou uitrusting!) in elke foto te beplan nie. Jy sal aangenaam verras wees met die mooiste, natuurlikste fotos van jou en jou geliefdes. Aan almal in ons Trop, mag julle ‘n ontspanne, lui-lekker vakansie hê. Sit terug en observeer. Laat daardie klein jakkalsies lekker baljaar. Hulle het tog ook nodig om vakansie te hou. En as jy hou van skryf , pen die mooi oomblikke neer. Jy sal vir altyd die detail van hierdie kosbare gesinstyd wil onthou.
02 November 2022
An Occupational Therapist’s view on a community approach to Conscious Parenting Chantel Griesel is an Occupational Therapist and Content Developer at The My Story Tribe. We asked her about her take on the latest Mental-Health-in-Children data that was recently released : "My son's school backpack looks like it is holding a curse. The weight hanging from his 11year old shoulders looks unbearable. As he drags his feet through the school gate I tighten my grip around the steering wheel, fighting against the urge to call him back. I want to unpack that damn bag. I want to throw away the expectations, the bullying, the doubt, and the loneliness. I want to rub his tired shoulders, put a band-aid where the straps left a mark and show him how beautiful life can be. But that is not how it works, is it? (Even therapists have Mom-Guilt.) For the past few days, I have been studying (maybe a little obsessively) a valuable document on our Children's Mental Health compiled by the Children’s Institute called “The South African Child Gauge 2021/2022”. This document is released regularly and presents the latest research on the Story of our children in South Africa. This specific volume focuses on Child and Adolescent Mental Health. And boy, it has been both an eye-opener and a comfort. As a tribe (The My Story Tribe), we have focused on the issues about our children based on what we perceive, experience, and observe as professionals and parents. We advocate for a wholehearted approach focusing on: The mental health of our children aged 6 to 13 years School visits and teacher involvement Parent talks and community involvement # Campaigns that focused on inclusivity (#youcansitwithus) and self-identity (#ownyourstory) Everything we stand for, fight for, develop, and celebrate is research-based. But this document just really brought it home for me. I realized that we are not only breaking ground for the right reasons but also creating urgency around what needs to be our focus as a society. What our children need more than ever is a collective focus on their mental health needs. We cannot just focus on one intervention area, mainly because our children do not develop in isolation or are developmentally compartmentalized. We tend to focus on patches of needs: Your child struggles to read so you focus on extra reading classes. They struggle with maths, so we bombard them with extra math sessions They seem physically weak or perhaps not competitive enough, so we overload their schedules with extra hockey, rugby clubs, private tennis lessons and a whole lot of “extra extra extra (read all about it, haha)” – isn’t that what we do – we read all these adds about what our children NEED, but it’s all consumer and profit-driven. They struggle emotionally, act out and get angry or depressed and we send them for all kinds of therapies. At the end of the day, our bank accounts are depleted, our parental capacity is non-existent (especially after driving our kids around all day long), our children are stressed and unhappy and the tensions in the household are spiking the rev count. We go to bed feeling perpetually guilty and heavy. What our children require from us is a wholehearted community involvement approach. All agencies need to work together to start talking and really investing in the well-being of our children. We, therefore, need to be accountable as communities and as a society. WE need to lighten the burden, WE need to lift the load, WE need to work together to ensure that our children are thriving. Tamsen Rochat and Stephanie Redinger write about the involvement of cognitive development (executive functioning) in association with emotional regulation in the establishment of healthy social-emotional development. These two capacities drive our behavior. But it’s heavily influenced by and embedded in the quality of parenting, familial, and social exposure. (A life-course perspective on the biological, psychological, and social development of child mental health, Child Gauge 2021/2022) In essence, we tend to focus solely on changing, developing, teaching, and modifying the child, but within an environment that has become less and less attached to and supportive of our children today. This tips the see-saw and along with it, our children’s mental health. So what do our children really NEED: Relationship and attachment to a tribe of adults in their lives. They need a group of adults that truly knows them, loves them, inspires them, supports them, catches them and motivates them. As parents, we need to create a tribe of ADULTS for our children. We need to get involved and fight for our children. This means questioning the decisions that are often made within our systems. We are allowed to question the systems that our children are forced to develop in. We need to get our hands dirty. If we want to change, we need to make sure the voices of our children are heard. We need to chant for change alongside our children. We need to focus on our own mental health and especially our reactions. As adults, we must take responsibility for our own stories and how this impacts our children. That is the essence of conscious parenting. When I am conscious of my own behavior, I can be a better parent. Ask: “How do I contribute to the heaviness of my child’s life? How can I lighten the load?” WE create the environment that allows our children to grow. Close your eyes and honestly envision your child within this environment. What does it look like? Is it colorful, full of fun, beautifully chaotic, filled with imperfection, laughter and lots of room for growth? Or is it tightly wound, perfectly square space filled with high expectations, anxiety and fear? Know this, you are not the writer of your child’s story, but you are the guardian of what they choose to write. You cannot choose and determine the outcome of your child’s story, but you can choose the background to which that story could blossom and grow. Close your eyes and choose what you want that picture to look like. Forget about the system and fight for that picture, that background, that supporting act that will ensure that your child’s story becomes a legendary tale. " From our story to yours: Buy a Journal and strengthen your child’s story today. Follow us and become part of our tribe that will support you and your child on your journey. You’ve got this. (And we’ve got you!)
22 September 2022
A Psychologist's perspective on #ownyourstory
Mariaan Prins is an Educational Psychologist who did her masters degree exploring resilience in students. Seeing that the My Story Tribe aims to build and encourage resilience in Tweens, we thought her perspective on our recent campaign #ownyourstory, will be insightful. Milan interviewed her for our podcast In BeTween Things and this is (more or less) what they spoke about: Milan: “Mariaan, talking about Tween mental health can get very dark very quickly - so let’s start off light! You recently made your television debut!” Mariaan: “Yho Milan, I was nervous. I remember driving there on my first day. You do your deep breathing exercises, but you are still stressed! But I loved it. Enabling yourself to have new experiences and stretching your comfort zone adds so much to our stories.” Milan: “You are used to the clinical space of a private practice and here you are giving advice in front of a camera. Did you ever second guess yourself?” Mariaan: “I was very aware that I would be on National Television! Even though mental health is my topic and niche, I would get home in the evenings and wonder ‘How did that come across?’ or ‘How will that segment be interpreted?’” Milan: “You were an expert on a show about depression. What did you learn about the human spirit during those interviews?” Mariaan: “I noticed how important a tribe is. The ‘tribe’ in a child’s life has a great impact on their resilience. But you also have to include yourself in that tribe. Find out how YOU can support YOU. So it was twofold: I was in awe of how people drew on the strength of someone in their tribe - a parent, a teacher or just someone along the way - and also those who drew on their own strength. It highlighted how we can play a part in someone else’s story.” Milan: “So how do you interpret the hashtag #OWNYOURSTOY?” Mariaan: ”Owning your story is about knowing your story. Who are you? What triggers you? What do you need in order to relax? Only then the shaming stops and you can have empathy for yourself. In my practice I focus on teaching individuals about themselves, because then there is confidence to understand yourself. “ Milan: “I want to touch on Neurodiversity, because it affects a lot of our Tween Tribe members (and their parents). What is Neurodiversity?” Mariaan: “ ‘Neuro’ means ‘brain’ and ‘diversity’ means ‘different. So it merely refers to someone who has a different way of viewing the world and interpreting information. It is important to note that there is no wrong way in - it is merely different. When we teach our kids about neurodiversity, it fosters empathy. All the family members in a car can have a different view and interpretation and reaction to for example a beggar on the street. We call it ‘perspective taking’. I can take your perspective - I don’t have to agree with it, because our brains work differently - but I can appreciate it. That counts for how we learn as well. Milan :” Children who see the world differently and who process information differently, like a child with dyslexia, don't always get the message from society that their way is acceptable. Often, that Neurodiverse-label is a negative one. How can they own their story? Mariaan: “ It goes back to knowing yourself again. If you know how your brain works, that does not define you.You ARE not dyslexia. You HAVE dyslexia. It is not WHO you are, it is just a part of your story. It is however important to acknowledge the hardship in that. It’s not just a silver lining around a dark cloud. It’s tough for children to process and we need to know that. “ Milan : “ You have been using and recommending our journals for quite some time now. What role do you think journaling and reflecting play in knowing and owning your story?” Mariaan: “ I love your journals! It's the perfect tool to get to know your own story. I’d like to answer your question by going back to the stories we tell ourselves. Those stories are usually based on the feedback we get from others and eventually we start believing that feedback. The narrative I develop about myself is skewed and it is important to challenge that narrative - especially children - and ask yourself :’ Is this true about me?’ In my practice I often tell children : ‘Let’s be detectives. Let’s find the evidence for that thought you believe about yourself.’ “ We thank Mariaan and the millions of professionals out there who take Tween mental health seriously. Thank you for also owning YOUR story. You can listen to the full podcast here.
07 September 2022
From Gangster to Good Guy
Finding ambassadors for our September campaign #ownyourstory was a sensitive search. Not everybody is comfortable with the darker side of their story, but Ivor Swartz is owning his… big time!Our founder, Milan Murray interviewed him on our podcast Inbetween Things. Here are some of what they spoke about:Milan:“Ivor, before we get to your life story and the reason why we chose you as an ambassador for our hashtag campaign this year, tell us about Fatherhood! You have the cutest little boy! What surprised you the most about becoming a Dad?”Ivor:What surprised me the most was the intense emotions I was able to feel! From the time Nadine told me she was pregnant, his birth, even now…The beauty, the fear, the joy, the intense emotion I feel as a man and being able to express it… wanting to express it!And then of course, another big surprise was just how much those diapers can stink!It seems impossible. But that poo stinks!Milan:“Yup! Parenthood brings good surprises and bad surprises! What you said about your intense emotions reminds me of that Elizabeth Stone quote: ”Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walk outside your body.” But let’s get to a darker side of your story. You turned your life around. Tell us about that?”Ivor:“For a lot of kids in South Africa growing up without a father is giving you a narrative that you didn’t ask for. My father died when I was 3 and I was given this subconscious narrative that I am rejected, not wanted and that I will forever struggle to belong.I had an older brother who tried to provide a space of belonging for me and my mother and my younger brother, but he knew only one emotion. Anger. He was a gangster from an early age and would come home and hit out all the windows, or get onto the roof and make the biggest holes in it. So that was what I learned: The only way to get things done was through violence. The hopelessness, the poverty in the streets I grew up in didn’t match up with the hopes I had for the future.I was 13 when I left my mom’s house in search of who I wanted to be. The best possible place to find that in my area was amongst gangs. You feel a sense of belonging, a sense of safety. You are given a new story. One that says: ‘You are a part of us. We will take care of you. We will protect you. We will give you food.‘So we broke into people's homes and robbed people on the street. We hurt people. I was on drugs, fuelling this seething anger that I was growing up without a father. What angered me the most was that I was given this story and I had no say in it. So I chose my own story… In the worst possible way. One night my friend and I shot and killed my brother. I was sentenced to prison for 6 years. All the time searching for this story that I can be proud of. It was there in prison that a teacher gave me a different view. She used words of affirmation. She quoted a song by Robbie Williams: “I have so much life running through my veins, going to waste.” She used those words to say that there is more to me. There is more to my story.I ended up completing my Matric in prison, came out and studied Theology.Today I am owning my story by using the scars as a vehicle to heal others. Where you start is not necessarily where you will end.”The My Story Tribe feels honoured to have this inspirational man supporting our #ownyourstory campaign. Follow the hashtag and share your story too!For more inspirational stories and conversations about mental health and our tweens, subscribe to our podcast Inbetween Things.