Conference Details 2023

Friday June 9th

Day One

Session 1: KEYNOTE
The Wisdom of Dependence
Gordon Neufeld

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 50 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author (Hold On to Your Kids), and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training parents, educators, and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a world-wide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld appears regularly on radio and television. He is a father of five and a grandfather to six.

It is in our nature to depend, not only as children but as adults as well. Yet, the fear of dependence continues to dominate, both in regards to ourselves and our children. Received wisdom for generations has called upon us to strive for independence for ourselves, while pushing for independence in our children and students. In so doing, we not only have become stuck and dysfunctional, but we have thwarted Nature in its attempts to take care of us.

It seems rather ironic that we cannot invite or embrace dependence until we ourselves can depend upon the trustworthiness of Nature to do its work. A belief in the wisdom of Nature starts with an appreciation of the wisdom of dependence. This appreciation in turn has the power to transform our interactions with our loved ones. Click here for more on Dr Neufeld's ideas on Dependence.

Session 2A
A Caring Lead with Teens
Adrienne Wood

Adrienne Wood is the Neufeld Institute's Regional Director in New Zealand. She is a former High School teacher and lecturer in Human Development. She currently runs her own practice, Heartsync NZ. Heartsync supports New Zealand parents and professionals to understand complex and challenging adolescent behaviour from a Neufeld-informed relational developmental approach. Adrienne continues to learn more about adolescent development daily through parenting her own teens, and in her role as a Neufeld Institute faculty member.

Part of the developmental role of adolescents is for them to find their own voice. However, what if their own "voice" turns out to be one that is diametrically opposed to our own hopes, ideas and dreams for them? And what happens when a strong dose of alpha energy is added to the mix?

Adrienne will discuss ideas born of her own experience, of when we should let go, and when we should hold on to preserve a caring lead with our near grown-up kids. She will also discuss how a healthy dose of play can lend a hand to right relationship complete with playful ideas you can try at home.

Session 2B
A Playful Lead with ASD
Jule Epp

Jule Epp is a psychologist, therapist, parent consultant, and presenter living in Berlin, Germany for the last 27 years. Jule directs the Neufeld Institute’s German language program. Originally from Vancouver, she was a student of Gordon Neufeld’s at the University of British Columbia, which is how she was exposed to the developmental, attachment approach that became the foundation of her academic and professional work. Her experiences with her own hypersensitive son paved the way for her passion for the field of autism and play. For over ten years she worked directly with children and adolescents diagnosed with autism – in their homes, in schools and kindergartens, and in a regional autism centre. Jule is now in private practice, offering workshops and online consultations to parents and professionals who have children diagnosed with autism in their care.

Play is often not something kids on the autistic spectrum can do easily. Neither is falling into dependence and letting someone else take the lead. Indeed, the defensive alpha posture and the difficulty in creative play are diagnostic hallmarks for ASD. How ironic then that play could actually be the way to help our kids on the spectrum be released from their need to control and be in charge. Ironic is also how we must ease them into play by first generously giving them precisely that alpha control they so desperately need. Eventually, when the attachment instincts are flowing in play, we can slowly help our children on the spectrum spontaneously and joyfully experience letting someone else take hold of the reins. At least for a while. At least in play. Why we need to do this and how we can go about doing it – regardless of the age of the child or the level of support needs - is the subject of this session.

Session 3A
Creating Emotional Playgrounds
Tamara Strijack

Tamara Strijack is a Registered Clinical Counsellor working on Vancouver Island, academic dean of the Neufeld Institute and co-author of Reclaiming Our Students: Why Children Are More Anxious, Aggressive, and Shut-Down than Ever—and What We Can Do About It. She has worked with children and adolescents in various roles over the last twenty years – as mentor, counsellor, youth leader, program director, group facilitator – and is herself a mother of two wonderful young women. She also works as a parent and teacher consultant, helping adults make sense of the children in their care. Connection, relationship, and attachment continue to be central themes in all of her roles, both personally and professionally.

Hannah Beach

Hannah Beach is an award-winning educator, author, and keynote speaker. She is the co-author of Reclaiming Our Students: Why Children Are More Anxious, Aggressive, and Shut-Down than Ever—and What We Can Do About It. She has written seven books on movement, drama, and expression which have been adopted by school boards across Canada and are used to support the emotional health of children in classrooms. In 2017, Hannah was formally recognized by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for her work in developing innovative programming that builds social and emotional health for children through experiential education and play. She is a Neufeld course facilitator, delivers professional development services across the country, provides emotional health consulting to schools, and speaks at national and international conferences. Hannah is married and has three children..

When emotions stop moving, we start to see the signs of problem behaviour. Expression of emotion is the first step in emotional development, and yet many children, adolescents and adults can get stuck here. We all need safe places to express the emotions that are stirred up within us, as well as release pent up emotional energy. The challenge is finding those safe places. In this session, we will explore natural playgrounds for emotion to come out and play, and how we might facilitate this process - for our children, our adolescents and ourselves.

Session 3B
A Playful Lead in the Classroom
Marriene Langton

I am currently principal at Te Ara Koropiko West Spreydon School Christchurch which was rebuilt in 2020 after several years of negotiation and waiting following the devastating earthquakes of 2010-2012, and later the Christchurch terrorist attacks. I have been Principal here for 18 years and having to take charge through uncharted, terrifying territory was a challenge even for an alpha personality like me.

In 2013 I attended a Neufeld Institute Attachment Theory Course in Montreal with my then board chairperson. For both of us there was an instant recognition of the values and beliefs we held about children, and how we were being given a language to express them. I want to acknowledge the value of their work and how it has influenced my direction as a teacher and principal. I am in the position of being able to influence the professional practice of my team and thus change the outcomes for the tamariki in our care.

Marriene runs an unconventional ship at Te Ara Koropiko, West Spreydon School, tossing aside the usual ideas about behaviour in favour of a relational and playful approach grounded on the principles of the Neufeld Institute. She knows from personal experience in her low-decile school how alpha children struggle and how they can both challenging and exhausting to teach. She has come to believe in the power of play and has designed it into the very fabric of her school grounds after a post-earthquake re-build.

Kids now have access to art areas, cooking facilities, outdoor stage areas and dance floors for performance alongside edible gardens, chooks and orchards and more. Teachers run creativity groups and rough, high energy play sessions in lunch hours and after school. She believes that the presence and participation of caring teachers in the learning and play of Te Ara Koropiko tamariki is “essential, critical, non-negotiable and life changing”.

Come and hear Marriene discuss how teachers maintain a playful lead in her school in this high energy conversation with Adrienne Wood.

Session 4:
Q&A with Neufeld Aotearoa Panel
Adrienne Wood

Adrienne Wood is the Neufeld Institute's Regional Director in New Zealand. She is a former High School teacher and lecturer in Human Development. She currently runs her own practice, Heartsync NZ. Heartsync supports New Zealand parents and professionals to understand complex and challenging adolescent behaviour from a Neufeld-informed relational developmental approach. Adrienne continues to learn more about adolescent development daily through parenting her own teens, and in her role as a Neufeld Institute faculty member.

Sandy Hitchens

Sandy lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is married with four adult children. Sandy is a counsellor who specializes in working with children and their families in both school settings and through private practice. She has over 20 years of experience working with children and youth through church-based programs and groups.

Rosie Griffiths

Rosie Griffiths has a background in Education including Primary teaching, adult English language teaching (Unitec) and running a Home Tutor programme for refugees. In addition she has homeschooled her own five children through the primary and intermediate years. More recently she has become involved in parent education through the Neufeld Institute

Ruth Lawson-McConnell

Ruth is a counsellor, supervisor, educator, writer, and speaker. In her private practice she offers counselling and specialist supervision on attachment issues, anxiety, depression and trauma with adults and parent consulting on children’s emotional and behavioural issues. Her training includes a PhD in Counselling Psychology as well as specialist training as a neuropsychotherapy practitioner and a trauma specialist working with partners of sex addicts. She has been a Professional Associate of the Neufeld Institute for 16 years since training with Gordon Neufeld in Vancouver, Canada.

Join the Neufeld Aotearoa panel to wrap up the conference. This will be a unique opportunity to bring along your questions and thoughts and to interact directly with our New Zealand team experienced in the Neufeld approach.

Saturday June 10th

Day Two

Session 1: KEYNOTE
Addressing Bullying
Deborah MacNamara

Deborah MacMamara is a clinical counsellor and educator with more than 25 years’ experience working with children, youth, and adults. She is on faculty at the Neufeld Institute, operates a counselling practice, and speaks regularly about child and adolescent development to parents, child care providers, educators, and mental health professionals. She is also the author of the best-selling book Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One), which provides a 360-degree developmental walk around the young child, and The Sorry Plane, a children’s picture book. Her new book, Nourished: Connection, Food, and Caring for our Kids (and everyone else we love), will be published September 19, 2023. Deborah resides in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two children. www.macnamara.ca

Bullying is an age-old problem with a new face in today’s increasingly digital world. Cyber bullies are now replacing playground bullies at an alarming rate and the need to protect our kids is great. Efforts to curb bullying are failing and children are being wounded at the hands of their peers like never before. Protecting our children from bullies is possible when we understand the modus operandi driving bullies, how to thwart attacks, and guide our children through situations where bullies are involved. Parents and educators often feel helpless to protect children from bullies but there is much we can do to address this age-old problem.

Session 2A
You're Not the Boss of Me
Colleen Drobot

Colleen Drobot is a registered professional counsellor with a private practice in North Vancouver. She provides therapy for adults and also offers parent consulting using a developmental, attachment-based approach. She also works with school districts and other professionals to help make sense of children and adolescents. She is an educator with over 20 years’ experience working with children in the regular classroom or in special needs settings. She is an adjunct faculty member of the Neufeld Institute and has worked with Dr. Gordon Neufeld for many years. Colleen is a mother of two and draws from her personal as well as professional experience to support parents and professionals in gaining insight, opening their hearts, and leading by their intuition.

You’re Not the Boss of Me: Understanding Defiance and Cultivating Cooperation in Children.
A common dynamic that is often frustrating to adults and can potentially erode the adult/child relationship is when a child balks and defies us. It can be as subtle as ignoring our requests or as blatant as telling us "You're not the boss of me!" When parents, teachers or other caregivers ask the child to clean up, get ready to transition, be kind, or do a task, they may be met with the child ignoring them, saying "No!" or the child may in fact do the opposite. Although the reaction is quite normal and even healthy in certain circumstances, its manifestations and impact can be highly disruptive, making life difficult to guide a child.

In this presentation, Colleen will discuss the meaning of this deep-rooted instinct and the dynamics that control its existence and expression. Colleen will provide strategies to help adults reduce the effects of oppositional behaviour and gain cooperation with children. She will also focus on how to deepen the attachment between adult and child to diffuse oppositionality. She will draw from her years of being a teacher, family therapist, parent, and working with Dr. Neufeld.

Session 2B
A Playful Lead with Troubled Kids
Sandy Hitchens

Sandy lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is married with four adult children. Sandy is a counsellor who specializes in working with children and their families in both school settings and through private practice. She has over 20 years of experience working with children and youth through church-based programs and groups.

Whether we are working in a therapeutic role or in a school, we often find ourselves working with children who present with a range of challenging behaviours and symptoms. This might include the child who is withdrawn and struggles to engage, a child who is troubled with many worries and fears, or maybe a child who has trouble with issues of aggression or self-attack. At times, we can struggle to even find a way in to connect with them, let alone being able to offer any support or direction to them. Yet, these kids desperately need to be reached and connected with, somehow.

This seminar will turn our eyes to see what is happening for these kids underneath the behaviours and symptoms they present with. This will lead us into discussing what is most needed, in our work with them, and the powerful role that play can have in taking care of them.

Session 3A
A Playful Lead with Pre-Schoolers
Rosie Griffiths

Rosie has cared for five pre-schoolers of her own though fortunately not all at the same time! She first encountered the work of Dr Neufeld in 2011 and after attending many courses from the Neufeld Institute, began training to facilitate courses so that others could benefit from this wonderful material. She has since been involved with many younger parents as they navigate their way through the preschool years and beyond. She is particularly passionate about helping parents understand the hierarchical nature of attachment and finding their 'alpha' instincts in a society where these intuitions are often not supported.

The pre-school years are a delightful but often exhausting phase of the parenting journey. The immaturity of pre-schoolers means that they come with their unique set of challenges. However, while some pre-schoolers seem mostly settled and happy, others are restless, demanding and oppositional. We can have enormous love for the pre-schoolers in our care but unless we understand how much they need us to be in the lead in the relationship they can become very difficult to manage. In this session Rosie explores the idea that love in itself is not enough, and that the secret is in the relational dance between the parent and pre-schooler. She unpacks Dr Neufeld’s construct of alpha and dependent and shows parents how to reclaim their rightful place in this vital attachment dance with a particular emphasis on how we can use play and playfulness to achieve this.

Session 3B
A Caring Lead with School Systems
Eva de Gosztonyi

Eva de Gosztonyi is a psychologist who has worked for over 40 years in schools across Canada. She has been a member of the Faculty of the Neufeld Institute since 2007. Eva also works with the ten English School Boards of Quebec, helping them to understand how best to interact with children with significant behavioural challenges. Eva believes that educators can foster the natural processes of development in their interactions and attachments with students in the classroom and in the school. In her presentations, Eva weaves together theory and practice, learning and behaviour, to help those who work with children apply Dr. Neufeld’s paradigm so that they can effectively help children and youth become the “best that they can be.&rdquo

Some students require more support than what the classroom teacher alone can provide. This is when the school team steps in to respond to the situation, especially for a student experiencing emotional or behavioural challenges. With limited time and resources, school teams are often hard-pressed to respond to all the needs. Over the years, as I accompanied schools with these challenges, it became clear that it would be better to anticipate and prevent situations rather than just “put out fires.” Together with school teams at both the primary and secondary levels, my colleagues and I developed in-school alternatives to help these students. These initiatives were implemented and fine-tuned over a number of years.

Nurturing Support Centres are locales within a school that allow those students who are unable to function in the regular classroom at certain times of the day to remain in school and continuing their academic learning under the supervision of a caring adult. Emotions Rooms were created to allow students who have frequent emotional explosions to do so in a safe space accompanied by an adult who can welcome their frustration and help them to find their tears. Nurturing Support Centres and Emotions Rooms were inspired by the Neufeld attachment-based developmental paradigm and are trauma responsive. Over the years they have been shown to make a big difference in the lives of students and adults alike.

Session 4:
Q&A with Neufeld Aotearoa Panel
Adrienne Wood

Adrienne Wood is the Neufeld Institute's Regional Director in New Zealand. She is a former High School teacher and lecturer in Human Development. She currently runs her own practice, Heartsync NZ. Heartsync supports New Zealand parents and professionals to understand complex and challenging adolescent behaviour from a Neufeld-informed relational developmental approach. Adrienne continues to learn more about adolescent development daily through parenting her own teens, and in her role as a Neufeld Institute faculty member.

Sandy Hitchens

Sandy lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is married with four adult children. Sandy is a counsellor who specializes in working with children and their families in both school settings and through private practice. She has over 20 years of experience working with children and youth through church-based programs and groups.

Rosie Griffiths

Rosie Griffiths has a background in Education including Primary teaching, adult English language teaching (Unitec) and running a Home Tutor programme for refugees. In addition she has homeschooled her own five children through the primary and intermediate years. More recently she has become involved in parent education through the Neufeld Institute

Ruth Lawson-McConnell

Ruth is a counsellor, supervisor, educator, writer, and speaker. In her private practice she offers counselling and specialist supervision on attachment issues, anxiety, depression and trauma with adults and parent consulting on children’s emotional and behavioural issues. Her training includes a PhD in Counselling Psychology as well as specialist training as a neuropsychotherapy practitioner and a trauma specialist working with partners of sex addicts. She has been a Professional Associate of the Neufeld Institute for 16 years since training with Gordon Neufeld in Vancouver, Canada.

Join the Neufeld Aotearoa panel to wrap up the day. This will be a unique opportunity to bring along your questions and thoughts and to interact directly with our New Zealand based team experienced in the Neufeld approach.

Bonus Sessions

Mathieu Lyons
Alpha Children: Dancing your way into the Lead
Mathieu Lyons

Mathieu Lyons is a Clinical Social Worker registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Mr. Lyons worked within the child and family mental health field for ten years before becoming a College Teacher in the field of child and youth services. Since 2010 he has also provided part-time services through his private practice (www.cflerepere.ca), where he strives to provide direct and accessible quality clinical services.

We have so many children who are taking the lead, often bossing even their parents around and unable to allow anyone else to have the last say. This certainly can add to the challenges of parenting and can cause many parents to become unsure of how to find their way though. In this presentation, Mathieu will provide some insight into this alpha dynamic and offer some hope for parents in how to get back into the lead.

Gordon Neufeld
Bouncing Back From Stress to Strength
Gordon Neufeld

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 50 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author (Hold On to Your Kids), and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training parents, educators, and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a world-wide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld appears regularly on radio and television. He is a father of five and a grandfather to six.

In his anchor keynote address from last year’s Neufeld Institute Conference 2022, Gordon Neufeld described the brain's role in helping us to recover from stress and trauma. When it comes to children, it is the adult's job to provide the recovery "womb" for our children, so that essential feelings, such as sadness, can return.

Dr Gordon Neufeld will help us understand how the stress we experience today can be converted into the strength we need to face our tomorrows. The focus will be on the children in our care, but the principles apply to all ages. The good news is that everyone possesses the human capacity to bounce back from stress and trauma.

Deborah MacNamara
Emotional Defence
Deborah MacNamara

Deborah MacMamara is a clinical counsellor and educator with more than 25 years’ experience working with children, youth, and adults. She is on faculty at the Neufeld Institute, operates a counselling practice, and speaks regularly about child and adolescent development to parents, child care providers, educators, and mental health professionals. She is also the author of the best-selling book Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One), which provides a 360-degree developmental walk around the young child, and The Sorry Plane, a children’s picture book. Her new book, Nourished: Connection, Food, and Caring for our Kids (and everyone else we love), will be published September 19, 2023. Deborah resides in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two children. www.macnamara.ca

The greatest threat to emotional health and well-being is being stuck in emotional defence. While the construct of emotional defense has been around for more than a century, it was largely dismissed by experts as an inventive inference. Now that the mechanism of defense has been discovered and described by brain science, the construct is being restored as the most significant issue in emotional health and well-being. While most of us become emotionally defended from time to time, especially when distressed, our challenge is to recognize the signs and not get stuck in this place. This is true for ourselves but especially for the children in our care.

Tamara Strijack
Play and Emotional Health
Tamara Strijack

Tamara Strijack is a Registered Clinical Counsellor working on Vancouver Island, academic dean of the Neufeld Institute and co-author of Reclaiming Our Students: Why Children Are More Anxious, Aggressive, and Shut-Down than Ever—and What We Can Do About It. She has worked with children and adolescents in various roles over the last twenty years – as mentor, counsellor, youth leader, program director, group facilitator – and is herself a mother of two wonderful young women. She also works as a parent and teacher consultant, helping adults make sense of the children in their care. Connection, relationship, and attachment continue to be central themes in all of her roles, both personally and professionally.

Emotions are stirred up in us on a daily basis. Frustration. Alarm. Disappointment. What do we do with it all and how do we keep it from spilling out in unsuspected places? It turns out that our usual go-to’s, working harder or pretending the emotions don’t exist, aren’t the answer to our emotional health. Rather, our greatest ally comes in the unexpected (and undemanding) form of PLAY. In this keynote session we will look at the conditions needed for play to do its ‘work’, the natural places that emotions come out to play, and what get’s in the way.

Catherine Korah
The Child Who Acts Bossy at School
Catherine Korah

Catherine Korah,Coordinator of CEBM and Behaviour Consultant

For over 15 years Catherine has worked in a number of educational settings with both elementary and secondary students with challenging behaviour problems. She has been actively involved in providing professional development, consultation, and liaising with various health and social service agencies. Catherine is very adept at finding developmentally friendly and trauma-informed solutions for students at all levels. Catherine is trained to provide professional development in the Neufeld developmental paradigm. The Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Management (CEBM) is a provincial service, funded and mandated by the Quebec Ministry of Education, designed to offer support and expertise to the English School Boards across the province in order to help them increase their capacity to implement best practice approaches with students who have challenging behaviours.

Bossy, commanding, demanding, insatiable, frustrated, restless, and resistant are just a few of the words used to describe the behaviour of children who act like they are in charge of their teachers. These characteristics are not genetic, learned, nor can they be punished out of a child. They are the result of emotions and instincts that are fueling a child’s behaviour, making taking care of them difficult and exhausting. Without understanding the roots of how the relationship has become upended, adults are left to chase down rabbit holes and ineffectually focus on the myriad behavioural symptoms. This presentation will explore what CEBM (the Center of Excellence in Behavioural Management) has to offer teachers in terms of resources and practical materials to help support the Child Who Acts Bossy in a school setting. CEBM has strong ties to the Neufeld Institute and its programmes.

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