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Keeping strong at the coal face

SOLID ROCK: Authors Alicia Ranford, Lainie Anderson and Angie Willcocks are helping families survive the mining boom and the perils of fly-in, fly-out lifestyle.
SOLID ROCK: Authors Alicia Ranford, Lainie Anderson and Angie Willcocks are helping families survive the mining boom and the perils of fly-in, fly-out lifestyle. Contributed

ONE of the things that people often fail to mention when it comes to the effect of the mining boom is the way it's reshaping the modern Australian family.

But in a world first, mining mum Alicia Ranford, psychologist Angie Willcocks and journalist Lainie Anderson have released a self-help book for mining families to navigate the pressures of a remote or fly-in, fly-out/drive-in, drive-out lifestyle.

Mining Families Rock, released on Tuesday, contains professional advice, practical strategies and simple tips for keeping relationships healthy and kids happy. The book also caters for Australians wanting to tap into the mining boom, with advice on where to start when you are tyring to find a mining job and what to expect of the lifestyle.

Ms Ranford said Mining Families Rock was compiled to help people through any challenges they face as a result of their work choices, and also to help people feel good about those choices. "The mining boom offers great opportunities for families, but after six moves in a decade and eight years of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) I know it can also put intense pressure on couples trying to maintain a strong relationship and raise happy, healthy kids," she said.

"Great communication is the absolute key, and hopefully this book will start a lot of conversations on many personal levels."

Ms Willcocks hopes the book by the Adelaide authors will turn the focus on how to make couples more resistant under the pressure of a mining lifestyle.

"Working away from home is a fact of life for a growing number of Australian families and it can be a positive experience so long as couples are very clear about goals and potential problems up front," she said.

"They need to tackle any issues as a united team and regularly reassess how the family is coping."

The book is available from the Mining Family Matters website www.miningfm.com.au.

Tips from 'Mining Families Rock'

  • Coping in the early days of FIFO/DIDO: Some people need more contact, while others withdraw to deal with being away from their families. If your partner seems eager to get off the phone try not to take it personally.
  • Children will only worry and panic about dad being away for big occasions if the adults seem panicked or worried, try to use this time as an opportunity to teach resilience and problem-solving.
  • Beating the black day blues: Black days are a bit like Mondayitis, only on a bigger scale. For some miners, it's the final day of their time off. For others it's the actual day of travel back to the mine site. Next time you are having a black day, take the time to think about how you feel (sad, anxious or stressed) and how you are acting. Sometimes, even just noticing your black day thoughts can help.
  • For mums who work away, make sure guilt doesn't affect your parenting style. If you do feel guilty, offload to supportive friends or family rather than changing you interaction with your kids.
  • Don't alter your commitments (i.e. new house or bigger loan repayments) until you are sure that mining works for you. FIFO/DIDO families don't do too well when they feel stuck with the lifestyle.
  • Allow your children to talk about their feelings. Avoid saying things like "be brave" or don't be silly" because they might start hiding feelings from you thinking they are unacceptable to talk about.
  • Some FIFO/DIDO parents feel a little guilty or sorry for their kids, and so expect less of them which can be bad for their self esteem. Encouraging and even expecting your teenager to take part in family activities and help around the house is not only good for their confidence; it's great for setting up opportunities for communication.
  • If you have differing libidos, don't fall into the trap of thinking the 'problem' rests with the person who wants less or more sex. Setting the issue up as one person's problem just makes it harder to tackle and increases the tension, frustration, guilt and blame. Try approaching your differing sex drives as a team, working together to break your 'sex cycles'.
  • If you have a strong relationship based on mutual respect, interests and love for each other (and you can openly discuss any worries or issues as they arise) there is no reason the FIFO/DIDO lifestyle should negatively impact your marriage or partnership.
  • Mine camp etiquette: Get yourself clean and tidy before breakfast and dinner in the mess hall. No-one wants to sit beside someone with half the day's work still on their overalls.

Topics:  coal mining, families, mining boom


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