Reconnecting with loved ones

In this very practical presentation, Michelle Wotton will cover military culture and emotions, connecting with civil culture, the basics of connecting even if it feels weird, how to connect physically and verbally, empathy and addressing “when loving your family takes time”

This webinar took place, 2 PM AEST,  3 September 2019



Q and A from the webinar

Michelle has kindly answered the questions from the webinar offline.

Question – My wife is great. She includes me in decision making. Whether it’s about big decisions like buying a new car, which school should the kids go to, or where shall we go on holidays. But I don’t know what my thoughts and feelings are about these things and my wife gets angry. How can I be more involved in decision making when I don’t have preferences?

Answer – Great question! It’s great you can notice your wife feels angry. Emotions give us information and prepare us to take action and make decisions. Her emotion is letting her know she wants you to be more involved.

So learning to tune in to our thoughts and feelings is just a skill. Just as we have learned to tune out of them over the years.

One idea to rebuild these skills is to ask for some time to think about your wife’s request at knowing what you think and feel – your opinion – which is guided by both feelings and thoughts.

From there, ask for some time to think about the topic. For example, where would you like to go on holidays?

Simply write the question down. Take time to ponder over the question.

  • If you close your eyes and wonder where you would like to go on holidays, what picture comes to mind, where have you always wanted to go, Where have you been in the past that you liked. What would benefit both you and the family or your partner?

Write down the answers to these questions and try having that discussion again. Each idea will help kickstart a new conversation and the ideas will start flowing. Small and slow at first – but just like all new skills, over time your proficiency will increase and you’ll get better at it.


Question – I am finding it difficult to find my place or role (within family, community and work). Any tips on how I can find my place again?

Answer – It’s so horrible to feel unsettled when we are unsure of our place. Leaves us wondering about our purpose etc. Can get us down.

I would start firstly by remembering we have loads of transferrable skills and start writing them down! It’s so easy to become caught up in the problem and only seeing what’s not working. We all do that to a certain extent.

  • Perhaps write down your transferrable skills and see how they can be used or build on
  • From there wonder about what vocation matches those skills well.
  • What civilian jobs are similar to the military? Often large organisations have more rigid structures and procedures which can help you to feel secure.
  • Outside of the working environment, think about what are your hobbies or interests, clubs or religious organisations for example which can offer comfort based on their familiarity. Then network out from there?

There is a great website called ( which has some great tips and resources around common transitioning problems to civilian life, and most importantly – solutions!

Take your time though. Transition is a process, as I’m sure others ahead of you will agree. Trust in the process. Notice the gains you are making month to month, as opposed from days to weeks.

Great question.


Question – Do I keep trying to use these GIVE skills even when my partner is yelling at me or becoming agitated and annoyed. I really don’t like conflict.

Answer – Great question! When is enough enough.

If you have tried to remain calm and use the GIVE skills, but it’s difficult to maintain your easy manner, resulting in yourself becoming agitated, then acknowledge the discussion is important, but it’s time to for a break to ‘cool down’.

Maybe suggest 10 minutes or half an hour to go for a walk, make a cup of tea and come back together and try again?

Taking the time to cool down will teach one another that yelling or becoming highly emotional isn’t going to help solve any problems.

Plus practicing cooling down and returning to a less heated discussion, prevents nasty words from being said and regretted, reducing, you know, fracturing the relationship. 


Question – My child is only 5 years old. Is she old enough to be involved in problem solving?

Answer – I would generally say yes. Being exposed to the problem solving process helps her to understand how to prioritise what is important, and how the basics of problem solving works!

Including her also models that you’re interested in her needs and wants.

She may actually add value! Come up with something you wouldn’t have thought of. Yes, maybe painting the house pink won’t work, but hey, the colour would look great in her room 😉


Question – My 14 year old teenager rarely talks – then all of a sudden he wants to discuss his problems with me as I’m about to go to bed. It is like he can sense that I’m tired. I feel he is being disrespectful and selfish.  How should I address this issue with him?

Answer – Argh….. classic example! Thank you for bringing this concern up. It’s, unfortunately, more common than you would think.

So adolescents often become aware of their problems when the day is over and there’s nothing left to occupy their mind. Often they become vulnerable and desperate to find a solution – even talking with mum or dad! Hence the night time request to talk… not ideal when you’ve also had a stressful day and need your rest.

For me I would see it as a sign he is wanting to connect and has a need he wants you to help him with. It shows he trust you and values your opinion.

Perhaps allow a few of these late night conversations to happen to encourage open communication. From there, suggest a regular and predictable time in the day when you catch up. That way he will begin to rely on these times as when he asks for help.

Another option is – during short drives to and from school and sport, or earlier on in the evenings.

More about Michelle Wotton

Michelle is a registered psychologist who has extensive experience working with acutely unwell individuals across a number of public hospitals in Sydney. For the past 10 years she has focused her work on building and maintaining relationships across family members when all hope seems lost. She focuses on building emotional intimacy between the adult child, or couple relationship, using evidence-based skill building at its core. As a young adult, Michelle served in the Transport core of the Australian Army at both the Richmond RAAF base and Enoggera base in Brisbane. She has lived and understands the Military culture and the challenges of reintegrating to civilian life; specifically connecting with family who’s world has been very different to our own.