Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tips on Setting and Obtaining Goals for Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Does your teen have goals? What are these goals? Would you know how to help set her up for success?

Just like anything in life, teens must learn how to set goals in order to obtain them. This isn’t a process we naturally know (and that is one reason why we hear about people who don’t achieve their objective...they never learned how to). Teens must actively learn and practice how to set ourselves up for success.

When teens (and adults) decide they want to achieve something, they tend to jump right into it without thinking about the logical steps to complete it, exploring the many opportunities available, and what to do when obstacles come up.

Most teens don’t understand that the planning process is as important as taking physical action toward completing the goal. When they have a plan of action in mind along with a plan to overcome obstacles, they gain confidence, motivation, and the will to complete it so they can benefit from the results.

When teens don’t create a plan (especially for the larger goals), they’re more likely to feel confused, without a direction, and the end result becomes hopeless. They have an overall idea of what to do, but are not sure of the immediate steps to take (sometimes the steps that appear logical will take them to a dead end). This is when it’s easy for them to start losing the excitement to get the goal done.

If your teen is setting New Year resolutions, help her through the process. Do the research together and offer a goal of your own so you have something you can work on together.

Here are steps to help you out with the plan to obtain the goal. As an illustration, I will use the goal “To make some money” as an example. We will use my modified SMARTER approach to goals to guide us.

SMARTER Goals

Specific. The first thing you may have noticed is the goal to ‘make some money’ isn’t specific. According to this goal, even if your teen makes $10 she has succeeded because she has made some money. The question is, is she happy with that? My guess isn’t as this isn’t what she had in mind. Guide her to pick an amount that is feasible but will make her happy. Ask her, how much money she would like to earn during a certain period. Set the bar high enough so she’s challenged but not overwhelmed. This way she’ll feel satisfied once her goal is achieved.

Measurable: How will your teen measure her progress to ensure she’s staying on track? It can be overwhelming to think about the big picture all the time, so it’s important your teen has little targets to work through. These little milestones need to add up to the full amount at the end of the defined period. If they don’t add up, she’ll not reach her expected amount. Guide her to break up the segments into appropriate amounts. For seasonal jobs she may expect to earn better during some months, and not so much during other months.

Attainable: The goal must be attainable. How will you and your teen know if it’s attainable or not? One way is to look at the amount of hours she can work given school and other commitments. It’s important to get the desired amount right. If it’s too low, it won’t be satisfying, if it’s too high it’ll be overwhelming and she may give up without giving herself a fair chance to earn a feasible amount. More important, she may consider it a failure. [Note. Successful goal setting and obtaining should not cut into other responsibilities.]

Realistic: This is the section where she defines HOW she’ll earn this money. She needs to create the steps that will get her to the endpoint and provide the chronological order of steps to be taken. For example, will she be working one job or several? If it’s several, ask her to write down how much she expects to earn from each position. What does she need to do to attain this goal? Get her to list the steps. Is she willing to do these steps no matter what or are there conditions attached? This all needs to be figured out at this stage so she doesn’t have to deal with it last minute. Make the plan doable and realistic.

Timely: Ask her to set a deadline. By when does she hope to earn this money? It’s best to set a specific month, day, and year when possible. Keep the deadline proportionate to the amount of money she hopes to earn. [Note. For some goals the due date will be chosen for her and she won’t have much say as to when she wants to finish e.g., submitting university/ college applications.]

Empowerment: Working towards goals can be challenging. When it gets really tough or your teen feels unmotivated and is tempted to quit, what will she use to get herself back in goal achieving mood? What will she do to regain control? What thoughts will she need to think? What will she need to focus on (e.g., results, outcomes)? Challenges and setbacks can be expected, so guide her not only to be prepared for them but to learn to empower herself. This can be her motivator when she’s feeling overwhelmed or is debating whether she should pick up an extra shift when she has the time.

Relevant: Why is this goal important to her at this stage in her life? What are the benefits of completing this goal? Ask her to create a list of what she’ll gain by completing this goal (think of the psychological benefits too, e.g., self-pride, self-confidence, feeling successful). This will help her weed out goals that are not of benefit to her and to choose wisely.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Vision Board: Helping Teens Stay Committed to Their Goals

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Perhaps the two most challenging things about goals is 1) staying motivated to complete them 2) remembering that we set them after a period of time passes. This holds true for adults as well as teens.

Without thinking about your goals from day to day it’s easy to forget you set them. You’ll think about them less and less until eventually a couple weeks go by before you remember you ever set them. Eventually it’ll be a month or more.

For those teens who take time to think regularly (daily) about their goals and who take regular action to complete them, it can get challenging to stay motivated. This is a normal part of life and goal setting. To overcome this, however, teens can create reminders for themselves.

The best method is to have visual reminders of the end product they hope to achieve and reminders of what it’ll feel like when they achieve the end product. My suggestion is a vision book (the same as a vision board except in book format).

A vision book is a book in which your teen can glue images that represent his desires and goals. Vision books are effective because when your teen surrounds himself with pictures of what he would like to have, what he would like to be, or of things he would like to do, his life is more likely to become what he wants it to be. It’s about having clarity of what he wants, focusing on it, and emotionally aligning himself with the things he hopes to achieve. These are all key components of staying motivated, committed, and achieving his goals.

Vision books have repeatedly been shown to be an integral part of many successful people’s lives.

Work with your teen to create a Vision Book (or vision board). It’ll strengthen his level of commitment.

1. Purchase or create (bind) a scrapbook. Purchased scrapbooks are convenient because they have the option of being easily refilled. Creating your own however, allows you to be as creative as you like and it allows you to customize it to your taste.

2. Grab a bunch of magazines with photographs. Consider magazines that are topic specific (e.g. travel magazines) and magazines that cover many different areas. You can also go online to search for specific pictures.

3. Collect inspiring words and phrases. Any words that make your teen feel great or that describe how he will feel when the goal is accomplished are essential for the vision book. Likewise, he can always print out the words he can’t find.

4. Get glue or tape to make the pictures stick to each page. It’s a good idea to organize the order of the images before they are firmly set.

5. Label each page with a positive and action oriented phrase. For example, “I am happily exercising 3 to 5 times on week.” (With the images he ought to include the days of the week he plans on working out. It’ll be a great reminder for him to go to the gym on those days.)

6. Review the vision board daily or every other day. Reviewing the book regularly will keep the goals fresh in your teen’s mind. The positive words and pictures will keep him motivated to keep going. It’ll also develop a level of commitment. If your teen does not think regularly about his goals, there will be little to stay committed to.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ringing in the New Year with Your teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Did you know New Year’s Day is a Global Family Day?

It is common now a days for parents to celebrate New Year’s separately from their teens. Even teens as young as 14, 15 or 16 years old make plans of their own as parents book their own festivities. After all, teens are clearly not interested in spending the time with mom and dad but prefer to spend it with peer’s their age or slightly older and cooler acquaintances.

Traditionally, families celebrated such holidays together. While youth and adults would separate into their respective groups, the entire family attended the same party. They arrived together, they celebrated together, and they left together. Such actions promoted family unity and family cohesiveness.

The benefits of spending New Years with your teens include:

1. You strengthen your bond with your kids
2. You let your teens know their company is important to you
3. You promote family togetherness as a value to be adopted by your teens
4. You spend happy and festive times with your kids (not just the regular days)
5. You create tradition
6. You create good memories you and your teens can recall
7. You can model a responsible way to ring in the New Year
8. You are able to supervise your child to ensure his safety (teens behave differently when parents are around)

Little by little families have adopted the belief that it is normal for teens who are seeking independence to spend celebrations with their peers as opposed to their ‘uncool’ parents. [This is often witnessed when teens go clubbing or to bars on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving night, during Hanukkah celebrations, Passover, Kwaanza, Good Friday and Easter holiday, and other valued cultural festivities.]

For many families (who unconsciously use families in the community or TV families as a guide), divided celebrations have become an acceptable way of ringing in the New Year. Do not worry about how other families are celebrating New Year’s, follow your own values and instincts about family togetherness. Following your intuition is a sign of a confident and in-control parent.

If your teens are used to spending time with their peers, you may be faced with a few challenges when you introduce the idea of family togetherness. After all, young teens have developed traditions of their own and you are not a part of them.

The toughest challenge you may face is your teens desire to be with friends. Teens see other teens ringing in the New Year with friends and as such want to be part of the group. In their minds, their lack of presence signifies separation from peers and losing their spot in the peer group. Let them know through action, they fit into the FAMILY group. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘all teens and families do it like this.’ Set your own standards and traditions and let your teen know you want his presence to enrich this occasion.

When planning the night, plan to bring your teens to a party where they recognize a few of their peers (it’s no fun if they are the only kids or if no one knows anyone). If there are no such options, why not stay in and create your own party? No one is ever too old for fun family games. Stay firm in your decision, however, your teens will thank you for it in years to come.

If the parents are divorced, alternate the years of where your teen will spend New Year’s (if spending it together is not possible). The idea is for teens to feel loved and wanted by their parents. Sometimes teens from divorced families may choose to spend the celebration with their friends because they have a hard time picking one parent over another. Help your teen with this decision by organizing the event with the other parent and presenting the idea to your child.


Many blessings to you and your family in the New Year!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

How to Guide Your Teens to Pick New Years Goals and Resolutions

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Setting the right New Year’s resolutions can change our lives for the better. Unfortunately, the word ‘failure’ has become synonymous with the word ‘resolution’. Many times we set random goals, or goals we think will bring us certain benefits only to find ourselves giving up soon after we begin.

The problem is not that we can’t complete goals; the problem is that we choose the wrong ones and we choose them for the wrong reasons. In the meantime, as parents and other adults mischoose and struggle to complete goals, the kids and teens are watching (and copying).

If teens learn to set proper goals at an early age, they won’t grow up only to repeat the typical mistakes they learned from adults. Their decisions will be based on who they are and on ideas that are important to them.

Here are some tips to guide you and your teen on how to pick personalized goals; goals that are based on her (and your) preferences, on what is important to her/you, and goals that will bring her/you fulfilment and joy.

1. Strengths: Parents often encourage teens to work on their weaknesses in an attempt to make them well balanced individuals. Although this sounds logical, I encourage you to allow your teen to focus on her strengths. This focus will allow her to build her strengths to full potential. No one is excellent at everything but everyone has the potential to be excellent at their unique strengths. Guide your teen to incorporate her strengths when picking a New Year’s resolution. [Note: being well-balanced is about setting goals is various life domains, not about being good at everything.]

2. Natural interest: Natural interest is a guide to what your teen is meant to do in life. It is a guide to her life passion. It ought to be nurtured and enjoyed and you and your teen ought to be proud of her innate interest. I encourage parents to praise this natural interest and provide activities where teens can enjoy it and explore it. New Year’s resolutions that contain a part of their natural interest are more likely to be continued when the going gets tough.

3. Values: What family values and personal values are important to your teen? Goals that ignore your teen’s value system will leave her feeling unfulfilled and without much success (even if the goal is achieved). Remember, that your teen’s unique values bring meaning her life. When values are not incorporated into her everyday living, it leaves your teen vulnerable to a less fulfilling life.

4. Psychological needs: Emotional and psychological needs are unique to every person and unmet needs lead to frustration and ‘acting out.’ As such, do not get trapped by the idea that all your children require same type of feedback. Allow your children to pick goals that are unique them. What type of feedback does your teen enjoy? What is she hoping to achieve by setting certain goal? If she hopes to capture people’s approval she may be setting herself up for a disappointment. Guide her to set goals that will fulfill her needs, not another’s. Example of psychological needs include to feel accepted, to feel free, to be admired, to be appreciated, to be forgiving, to be productive, etc.

Many blessings to you and your family in the New Year!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, December 18, 2011

6 Fun Ways to Celebrate Christmas with Your Teens

As with all holidays, Christmas is what YOU make of it. Your attitude, behaviour, and thoughts will determine the kind of time you will have.
To have the best time possible ask yourself “What do I want to experience with my family this year?” Make a detailed list if necessary.

Most people will agree that Christmas and other holidays are best when spent with the immediate (and extended) family. Add in amusing activities, a good attitude, and you will notice an improvement in the quality of the holidays.

The only way to teach your teens to value family is by showing them you value it too. This is done through the time you spend with each other and by the amount of effort you put in during important (and not so important) times of the year.

Consider including the following ideas to help make your Christmas more festive this season. The 2 common themes you will notice in each of the activities are: 1) Family togetherness and 2) Fun. Fun is the glue that keeps families coming back to celebrate traditions. Boring traditions get quickly dropped or become dreaded. Customize them in whatever way it will enhance your family experience.

1. Favourite recipes: We all have ‘em so why not make ‘em together? This is a perfect opportunity for parents to bond with kids through communication. Communication is always easier when enjoying a fun activity. This really is an activity that ought to include mom, dad, and the kids. Put aside traditional gender roles, put aside the need to be doing work, and instead make it a priority to spend time with your kids.

2. Secret Santa: Play secret Santa with a twist: No purchased gifts! Instead the gifts can be favours bestowed upon the selected recipient. They can consist of polite compliments, help with chores, a homemade gift, breakfast in bed, scheduled time to hang out, or whatever creative ideas your family can come up with.

3. Decorate with your family: Decorating ought to always be done together. If it’s hard to get everyone together at random times, then be sure to schedule in advance a time where everyone can be present. No options. When you are unwilling to exclude anyone it sends the message they are important and their company is essential. It gives your teens a place to belong, a place where their opinion counts, and a place where they are wanted.

4. Family Christmas party: This is not about hosting a formal sit down dinner. This is about inviting over the aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and just having fun. Turn on the Christmas music, wear fun clothes, take out the baked favourites, and create a fun and loving time. This is more about promoting the importance of family, having the adults and kids mingle, and creating fun tradition for your child, than it is about being the perfect host.

5. Create your own Christmas cards: Computer programs and application can do wonders today. It is possible for people to make their own Christmas cards. Why not create a card together with your family (e.g., decide on the theme, the written content, design on the outside and a design on the inside and ask each person to be responsible for one aspect of the card). Remember, handing out cards is more about the thought and effort than it is about the sophistication and price. A card that comes from the heart sends out more positive energy than a card bought in a rush and without feeling.

6. Attend a religious ceremony: Many religious ceremonies are festive, warm, and bring families together. Religious ceremonies speak of and remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. It gives everyone a chance to sing their favourite carols and it gives the entire family a feeling of belonging to a community. Make the feeling a part of your tradition each year.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas and the Holiday Season for Teens

Birthdays, Valentine’s, Christmas, and most gift-giving holidays have become commercialized. For many families Christmas has become about gifts (very expensive gifts!) and less about the meaning behind the day. It is about rushing here and there, feeling guilty for eating sweets, stressing about the holiday menu, and waiting for the busy period to pass so one can relax.

This is not what Christmas is about. This is only what we have made it into and it is a mentality we are passing onto children and teens.

What is the meaning of Christmas? Have you ever asked your child what in his (or her) mind is the meaning of Christmas? Why not ask him to share ideas of what he thinks. If you get an answer such as ‘for families to spend time together’ dig deeper and ask how families can do this. After he gives you his answer, ask if your family is meeting all these important points and where the family could improve.

If you find both you and your teen are running short on ideas, here are 4 suggestions to help you convert Christmas into a more meaningful holiday:

1.Giving back: Worried about what your child is asking for this Christmas season? Make this season less about money and more about giving back. It’s not about forcing the idea of giving onto your kids; it’s more about exposing them to different people with different life circumstances. It is about helping them develop an open mind and a kind heart by watching and modeling you.

2. Family time and togetherness: Yes, it is difficult to explain what Christmas is all about without using the word ‘togetherness.’ Remember, however, that it is not just about being together, it is about showing love and generosity to each other. There is no point to being together if the time is used to debate and argue about things that happened earlier in the year or years ago. Christmas is an excellent time to show your teens how families can respect each other.

3. Relaxation and fun: Believe it or not, the holiday season can be about relaxation and fun if you want it to be. Split up the chores (this will create a feeling a team) and watch how much more time you have to relax with your family. Christmas is not extremely busy because it is extremely busy; it is busy because we often chose to do more than we have time for. Let’s not pass on this bad habit to our teens. Pass on the habit of family fun and relaxation time.

4. Homemade gifts: Presents are great but they are not necessarily great because of the monetary value. It is the effort and the thought that counts. That is why homemade gifts are always more meaningful than any store bought gift (e.g., scrapbook of past Christmases, homemade calendar, a storybook with family members starring as the characters). They are also more likely to be treasured because they are irreplaceable. Technology is soon outdated and easy to get tired of. A homemade gift often gets saved for years to come. Teach your teens about sentimentality.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas: Teach Your Teen to Give Back During the Holiday Season

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Giving to others doesn’t have to be about giving money. It is about giving time, giving complements, giving a smile, giving attention, giving a helping hand, giving emotional support, or giving a kind word or gesture. While monetary donations have their place and time, Christmas spirit is about enriching another’s life through kind action and intention.

Giving and receiving are both habits. The more we receive the more we expect to receive and the more we demand to receive. The more we give, the more excited we are to recreate the experience, and the more enthusiastic we are to give again.

Sometimes parents wonder about their children’s expensive expectations at Christmas and other gift giving occasions. This usually happens when receiving is not balanced with giving. For many teens, giving is not as expected of them as receiving because they have little or no income. But giving is not about money; the spirit of the season is what you make of it. The traditions you create with your kids are the ones they often carry into adulthood and recreate when they start their families.

As you read about the ways your teen can give, you’ll notice, your child will receive 2 specific gifts each time he makes an offering. He will receive the gifts of gratitude and wisdom that can only be gained by being in service to others! These gifts build social responsibility, humility, a positive character, and a motivation to make a difference in the world.

Promote your family values during the Christmas season. Giving is better than receiving.

1. Volunteer: Donate time at food shelter (soup kitchen). This is one of the most common volunteer opportunities cited and also one of the most overlooked. The reason being is that volunteering takes a little more effort, time, and attention than giving money, or donating food and clothes. Expose your child to various forms of living (including the luxurious life) so he gains a sophisticated understanding of the world.

2. Donations: Food, money, clothing, toys, hygiene products. These are things we have and use daily, but often take for granted because we just expect them to be a part of our life each day. For many people these are precious items that may not be there from day-to-day. Being involved in community organizations is an excellent way for teens to be exposed to people who experience a lack in the areas they have plenty.

3. Acts of Kindness: Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than random acts of kindness (e.g., giving up your seat for someone, sending a handwritten notes saying thanks, picking up garbage, offering to help). Even the angriest people cannot resist receiving a gesture of kindness. Make this your family’s and teens’ habit.

4. Invitations: Is there anyone in the neighbourhood who doesn’t have a family or anyone to celebrate Christmas with? Why not teach your child to open his home and heart to individuals who have no one else to share the holidays with?

5. Community events: As a family, be a part of community events. There is usually a lot going on in most cities and towns. Call your city hall or visit their website for more information. Public libraries also seem to know about ongoing events. Being regularly involved with community events will train your teen to be open, generous, and active.

6. Say thanks: People often forget to express their appreciation for services rendered (think how often you feel underappreciated in a romantic relationship)--because we are usually not even aware we received. Many parents claim their children are often ungrateful. Teach your teen to stay in the moment and be conscious of gifts and services they receive and to show their appreciation.

7. Smile: One of the most generous gifts is the gift of a smile. It costs nothing and requires little effort, yet we are usually not in the habit of giving it. It is not just about giving it to family, friends, and neighbours. Many strangers and acquaintances cross our path during the day that could benefit from our smile. Model to your kids what happens when they share a smile. Help them build this wonderful habit.

Show your teen he CAN make a positive difference in the world. It all starts with simple actions.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Christmas and Holidays: Teaching Your Teen to Handle Her Money Well

Teaching teens how to handle money is one of the most valuable lessons you can give them in life.

You cannot teach your kids how to handle money by sitting them down at the kitchen table and handing them PowerPoint slides with the option of writing notes down by each slide. While the theoretical work in money management is important, you really teach with the example you set and letting them have personal experience handling money (with your guidance of course).

If your kids learn how to handle $100, $500, $1000, they will be more comfortable with handling even bigger amounts of money. The trick is to teach them how to work wisely with what they got. Handling money is all about organization, knowing the budget and knowing how much savings are wanted by the end of the period.

Christmas and the Holidays are an excellent time to practice. It is a time of the year where most of us end up spending more than we do on a regular basis while having to keep our regular financial commitments. It really puts us to the test!

With your guidance, let your teen practice how to handle money. The more she practices working with money, the more confident she will be with it later in life. As with other things in life, managing money well is a habit. Encourage her to develop this habit early in life.

Here are some tips to address with your child about handing money this Christmas:

1. Open a Bank Account: If your teen doesn’t have a bank account yet, consider getting her one. Having a formal place to keep her money, a place where she can see her money grow can motivate her to keep more in there. Open the bank account before Christmas and watch her hesitate to spend what she has deposited!

2. Firm budget: Guide her to start Christmas shopping with a firm budget in mind, not a flexible one. She can write down a range of what she wants to spend (e.g., lowest she thinks she can spend based on her commitments and the most she is willing to spend). Getting into the habit of keeping a budget will give her experience in learning to plan her spending, it will help her not to spend money on things not needed, and it will teach her to save money for bigger purchases (e.g., first car, first home).

3. Write a list: Asking her to keeping her budget in mind, het her to write down who to buy for and how much she would like to spend on each person. She must stay within her budget so she doesn’t go into her savings. The list will help her stay organized and within budget.

4. Look around: Teach your teen to look around a few stores before buying. With a little more effort it is possible to find an item for a bit cheaper elsewhere. Flyers and online research can help with this. No need to drive around to do the research. It can be done from home by phone or going online.

5. Coupons, coupons, price match?: Teach your teen it is cool to use coupons and it doesn’t represent cheapness. It represents cleverness! Look for coupons together and show her how much money she can save (there is a coupon for almost everything online). Also, many stores now offer price matching. Teach her how to take advantage of this opportunity without being shy about it.

6. Keep records: If your teen needs to buy for a few people, get her in the habit of keeping a record of how much she is spending (this is also good when keeping a monthly budget). Managing money successfully involves keeping a record of how much money goes where. This allows her to know where she is overspending. Help her create a spreadsheet that will automatically calculate her spending during the Christmas season.

7. Bank the rest: Let your teen know it is OK if she doesn’t end up spending as much as she thought she would need to. Awesome! To treat herself, teach her to put the rest in the bank so she can see her bank account grow. That’s more satisfying than any material reward she could buy herself and place in the corner 2 weeks later.

Happy and Safe Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How to Get Your Teen to Believe in Herself

Believing in oneself is the first step to success, happiness, and a feeling of control in life. It is also a learned behaviour that becomes a habit when practiced over time. Likewise, self-doubt and feelings of inferiority can also become a habit if practiced frequently.

If you find your teen has a low opinion of herself, telling her to be more positive isn’t going to change much. She has settled into a habitual way of thinking about herself and will need a little more work before she can change how she think of herself. You can help her change a step at a time. To get her to change, you’ll have to address her thoughts, emotions, and behaviour one at a time while understanding that all 3 work together in synchrony.

Here are steps to help you boost your teen’s belief in herself. Follow these steps in the order listed. Remember, this is a journey. These types of changes usually don’t happen instantly. Give yourself a month to 2 months before you start seeing behavioural changes.

1. Investigate what behaviour you are modeling: Change your behaviour before you attempt to help your child, lest you be called a hypocrite. Would you take a coach seriously if she asked you to stop smoking, start eating healthier, and exercise more when you know she did the exact opposite? Would this coach motivate you to change your life? Would you take her seriously? It works the same way in the parent-child relationship. So, stand back for a week to observe your life and get an idea of the behaviour and language you model to your kids. Ask yourself if you model confident and assertive behaviour. Do you often speak about how you are unsure of your skills and what you have to offer to the world?

2. Find out her thoughts: If you are worried about her low self-esteem, her lack of belief in herself, and suspect something is amiss, speak to her! Chose neutral words and a nonjudgmental attitude when speaking to her. Bring up examples you have witnessed to get to the root cause of why she doubts herself and her abilities. To find out where this feeling originated, ask her which events led her to start questioning her capability. Get her to list as many events as she can remember and line them up in chronological order. This way you can get an idea of how this thought originated and how it solidified her belief.

3. Share positivity: Show your teen you believe in her. Remind her of the many successes she has had and the hard work she put in to accomplish them. Ask her if she were to put in the same amount of effort in another activity, if that would lead to success? Ask her to list the lessons learned and how her newfound knowledge would influence her future decisions and behaviour. Ask her to provide a different interpretation of the same events when she concluded she wasn’t good enough (what are other reasons the event did not turn out?). Share some of your own stories where you wished you believed in yourself or where in hindsight you learned you are a lot smarter and courageous then you ever thought.

4. Challenge her: Challenge her to try new things and retry some old things. The reason this step comes last is because you need to do some cognitive work before her behaviour will change. By now you have started to demonstrate more uplifting behaviour (so you are not a hypocrite), you have addressed the root cause of why she stopped believing in herself, you have illustrated many of her successes, and let her know you believe in her even if things don’t work out the first time around. These changes add to her confidence and believing in herself becomes a tad easier.

Best Wishes to Your family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy With Your Child at Home

Ivana PejakovicB.Sc., MA

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of counselling that helps clients understand how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour. CBT has helped teens with various issues, including, anger, low opinion of oneself, stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence, and many other problems. For example, a teen who constantly thinks about being made fun of, his weaknesses, his failures and mistakes, his lack of fit in social groups, will very likely avoid social situations (because thoughts affect behaviour).

CBT works by helping teens change their thoughts regarding certain events. The negative thoughts are usually false interpretations of what happened. Once they change how they view the event, they change their feelings from negative to positive. Positive thinking (e.g., optimism, hope) and good feelings regarding encourage teens to try new experiences. Therefore a change in thoughts will provide a change in behaviour. These changes always help teens feel better and try again.

No matter what your situation at home is and what you are trying to help your teen with, address the following steps:

1. Thoughts: By speaking to your child you can get an idea of your child’s thinking pattern. Ask questions to get an idea of his logic, of his experiences, of his conclusions and lessons learned. You may feel you already know answers to the questions you ask, but you only know what he told you previously or what you observed. You don’t know his perspective of the situation and his feelings about it (if he never shared). And that is what matters more than reality. Ask questions to find out the perceived consequences of his mistakes and failures (e.g., public embarrassment, feelings of inferiority compared to peers, anger, and anxiety). Ask him to retell the story so you can see where his logic is biased. This is how to access the root cause of his thoughts. It is an essential first step to help your child.

2. Emotions: Thoughts always affect emotions. If your teen is thinking uplifting thoughts, he will demonstrate an uplifting mood and happy feelings. If he is thinking gloomy thoughts his mood and feelings will match. It is impossible to be inconsistent (positive thoughts, but negative mood). Emotions and mood are 1 indicator of what is going on inside your child’s head. By helping your teen clear up his thoughts you will help him change his mood. If you notice your child is down or angry, telling him to ‘brighten up’ or ‘get over it’ can lead him to think you just don’t get him (if this keeps up it can lead child to distance himself from parent). Ask him to help you understand by sharing feelings and emotions a given situation evoked. Communicating with your child in a clam manner regarding what is going on is the best approach. Sometimes it is better to back off for the time being, however, revisit the issue within 24 hours once his mood lightens. This way you show respect for his feelings and demonstrate caring by following up.

3. Behaviour: Thoughts influence emotions and thoughts and emotions together influence behaviour. Behaviour is the second indicator of what thoughts are being played in your teen’s head. If your child feels he is not good enough, it means he has negative thoughts running through his mind (remember it is impossible to think and feel positively and show the opposite behaviour). The thoughts can be translated into feelings of anger, frustration, or sadness. The thoughts and behaviour will usually translate into behaviours such as shyness, avoiding social activities, not signing up for teams, or avoiding challenges. If you want to address your child’s lack of initiative, ask why he passes on fun activities (and try not to jump to obvious conclusions such as laziness, irresponsible, or too coddled. Don’t accept the first answer such as “it’s dumb,” or “it’s boring.” While your child may feel like this for some activities, it is not true for all of them. Get your child to expand by sharing your opinion on it too. If you find you’re doing most of the talking, that’s OK. He’ll open up eventually.

Best Wishes to Your family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Teen Identity: How to Nurture a Healthy Identity in Your Kids and Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Developing an identity is one of the most important things any person will do in life. Our identity or self-concept answers the question of ‘Who am I?”. It determines how we see ourselves, how we behave, and how we feel about ourselves. If we see ourselves in a negative light or feel badly about the person we are, it affects our ability to have a good relationship with others and our levels of success across various domains.

Developing an identity happens gradually throughout the childhood years. In early childhood, kids describe themselves in concrete ways (e.g., I have brown hair, I am Jimmy’s friend) and in adolescence their description becomes more abstract (e.g., using personality traits, morality, and ideals to describe who they are).

The role of parents is to excite teens into thinking about themselves in a more mature (and of course positive) way while providing a loving and supportive environment. Encouraging and compassionate surroundings allow teens to feel safe and proud of their attempts at an adult-like life. This support has a positive influence on their identity.

Here are some ideas on how to guide your child to develop a healthy identity:

1. Self-awareness: Guide your teen to think about who they are, what they are good at, what they like or don’t like, preferences, skills, and talents. Talking about bodily changes, what to emotions to expect, and the normalcy of it all is also important. Share stories from your childhood with your teen to demonstrate s/he isn’t the only one experiencing this ‘awkward’ stage.

2. Self-acceptance: With all the changes occurring in your teen’s life, mental and physical health depends on how much your teen is able to accept him or herself (e.g., new physical appearance and new way of thinking). Teaching self-acceptance is best done through modeling. Teens tend to criticize themselves similar to the way the same-gender parent does, likewise, they tend to praise themselves similar to the same-gender parent.

3. Family values: Every family has values. It becomes a problem however, if they are never discussed. The earlier a family discusses values (and adheres to them!!) the better. Sometimes there is a mistaken impression that teens will figure it out on their own. After all, it’s part of building independence and too much guidance might spoil them. Teens are still very much children and vulnerable children at that. It is at this age that they need parents to guide them on what is important in life. Clearly laid out values (not in lecture format though) outlines what type of behaviour is acceptable.

4. Goals: Goals help strengthen identity by adding a feeling of purpose in life. Completed goals give teens direction and a feeling of accomplishment. All 3 of these components are necessary for good self-esteem. Goals don’t have to be big to count; even simple objectives such as keeping room clean from week to week arouse feelings of pride. Encourage your teen to have goals, point out goals that have not been recognized as ‘goals,’ and remember to celebrate all successes. If there are any outstanding goals, teach your teen to view them as lessons learned before they write them off as a failures.

5. Future occupation: In addition to the other challenges teens face, thinking about future career choices adds stress and anxiety. 100 years ago, children’s future would be decided early. Sons would inherit the father’s farm or business and daughters would marry and raise kids. Today’s career choices are much more extensive and many times children are left on their own to figure it out...assuming that as they reach a certain age they will just know! Guidance, inspiration, and experimentation are important throughout the teen years as they help identify and pinpoint skills, strengths, and likes. Research, discuss, and experiment with (hands-on experience) a wide range of occupations.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Erikson’s Developmental Stages: Helping Your Child Develop Successfully

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

If there is anything parents want it’s the successful development of their children. As such, it’s helpful for parents to be aware of how their children develop and what psychological changes occur at each stage of development. Knowing where children are at helps parents attribute meaning to much of what children say or do. This knowledge increases confidence in parents and gives them patience while children are growing up.

Erikson, a German psychologist, proposed 8 (though I will only cover first 6) psycho-social developmental stages humans go through from the time of birth to the end of life. During each stage the human is faced by new and more complex challenges. Each stage is a building block for the next stage and unresolved issues from previous stages are taken into subsequent stages until the problem is resolved. Old issues tend to impede successful development in subsequent stages.

The summary of the 6 stages are as follows:

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust (Birth to around 15 months old)

During this stage infants face the challenge to develop a sense that the world is a safe and good place. Throughout these early years, children learn to trust or mistrust depending on how well their needs are met. Both mom’s and dad’s nurturing behaviour (touch, visual contact, and availability to meet child’s various needs) plays an important role for children to develop a good level of trust, safety, security and worth. The more the parents are available, the greater the likelihood this stage will be met with success.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame/ Doubt (1 to 3 years old)

Between the ages of 1 and 3 children learn many new skills and they learn right from wrong. The challenge faced is to realize that one is an independent person who can make one’s own decisions (the terrible twos!). When learning new skills and making choices, mom’s and dad’s behavioural and verbal feedback greatly influence how children perceive themselves. Encouragement will lead to high self-esteem and pride (whether the child failed or not) and autonomy whereas negative feedback will lead to feelings of shame and low self-esteem (whether the child succeeded or not).

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt (3 to 6 years old)

The challenge here is to develop a willingness to try new things and to handle failure. Primary family members continue to be the most important influence as children develop the desire to copy the adults around them. Some behaviour is directly tried out by the child (e.g. tying shoe laces, eating with cutlery) and other situations are played out in the imagination (e.g. tea parties, playing house). In their attempt to understand how the world works parents often hear the word ‘Why?’. Success at this stage leads the child to a sense of purpose. Children who frequently experience parental disapproval tend to develop a sense of guilt that carries into the next stages.

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority (6 years to adolescence)

The challenging during this stage is to continue learning basic skills and to work with others. If the stage is completed successfully, children develop a sense of competence, if not they develop a feeling of inadequacy.
Children now start going to school and their world becomes larger—they see, hear, and experience many things they have not up to this point. In school children develop relationships outside the home and start learning how to deal with peers. Children who have a difficult time getting along with peers due to lack of social skills or lack of success in previous stages develop low self-esteem and feel inferior to their peers.

Parental modeling of healthy social skills, positive feedback, and tips come in handy for children to apply to their own life.

Stage 5: Identity vs. Identity Confusion (Adolescence: 12 to 18 years old)

The challenge during the teen years is to develop a lasting, integrated sense of self. If this stage is not completed successfully, children end up moving onto the next stage without an idea of who they are. Children with a clear identity are able to stay true to who they are and their value system, whereas, children who are unsure of their identity tend to be more easily persuaded by others.

Teens will use their world experiences with friends and social groups, social ideals, family values, and own judgement and conclusions to understand themselves. Positive family modeling and continual healthy parent-child bonds are important for the success of this stage. Although teens tend to pull away from parents, it is important parents don’t pull away from their children. They are still children!

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young adulthood: 18 to 35 years old)

During this stage the challenge is to commit to another in a loving relationship. The success of this stage is usually determined by how well children fared in the previous stages. If previous stages lead child to experience overall feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, shame, and low self-esteem it is more difficult to sustain a healthy and loving relationship. If young adults believe themselves to be unsuccessful during this stage they will experience isolated and like they do not fit in with peers who have married and started a family.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life Coaching for Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

According to research, youth who have 3 or more adult role models (in addition to their parents) are less likely to engage in unsafe behaviours including, sex, drugs, and alcohol. The adult role models can be athletic coaches, teachers, extended family members, or a member from the church/ temple/ synagogue. Unfortunately, today’s communities are larger and as a result are less intimate leaving teens without the support previous generations were able to give to youth.

Life coaching for teens has been increasing in popularity. Similar to other role models, life coaches are trained individuals (be sure to always check credentials!!) who can guide your teen to think and behave in a self-serving manner. Coaching is about teaching youth to CREATE their life as opposed to be swept away by it. The benefits of coaching are widely recognized.

The benefits include:

1. Guiding and teaching teens how to think for themselves
2. Helping youth develop a self-identity, including how to think about their place in the family, school, and community
3. Promoting positive relationships with family members
4. Understanding the meaning of responsibility and accountability (responsibility is more than just chores and homework)

In addition to the many benefits, life coaching for teens often focuses on the following area (depending on individual programs). The 4 components serve to provide guidance to teens as they transition from childhood to adolescence and over into adulthood.

1. Self-awareness: Sometimes it is difficult to connect how our actions lead to outcomes. Many individuals see life as unfair fate or just plain luck. Life coaches show teens how to make choices that are in line with who they are in order to create the life they want. This way they do not need to count on luck for things to go their way.

2. Self-esteem and confidence: Self-confidence is based on self-esteem and self-esteem is based on how we interpret events in the world, including how we interpret others’ comments, our setbacks, and what we think about our place in the world. It is determined based on whether we focus on our strengths or weaknesses on our success or our failures. Showing youth to put things into perspective will raise self-esteem and confidence levels.

3. Choose and plan goals: Everyone has values, strengths, and needs. It is important we choose goals based on strengths and values to ensure goals are fulfilling. Picking goals because others expect us to pick them almost always leads to disappointment. Life coaches show teens how to recognize the goals important to them from the goals important to others.

4. Empowerment: Increased self-awareness, raised self-esteem and confidence levels, and choosing and planning goals all give teens a new perspective on life. This new knowledge empowers and motivates them. They learn that life does not happen randomly and they learn that when something does not go as planned they still have a choice on how to react.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Life Coaching for Parents

Life coaching is not just for individuals looking for personal improvement in career, social, or financial areas of life. Life coaching is also extremely effective in putting families back on track. Many life coaches are finding themselves working with parents (or the family as a unit) to help parents create the relationship they want with their kids. And they are doing a fantastic job!

Life coaching is not only for parents in crisis who are in dire need of outside intervention. Many parents would agree their family is functioning well, however, they recognize there are a few areas that could use some buffering. Most parent clients usually come for one of the reasons below:

1. Parents know the type of relationship they want to have with their children but have a hard time reaching that point. It is not uncommon for parents to feel inadequate and hopeless. Coaching for these parents is about inspiration and reassurance to follow their natural instinct.

2. Parents feel lost and stuck. They are not sure what else they can do to improve their relationship with their child, to get their teen to listen, and have a happy well-adjusted household. They’ve tried many methods and they know which of the parenting techniques are not working for them but are not sure what to do next. Coaching for these parents is about recognizing negative patterns, re-establishing the bond they have with their children and setting up some new rules.

Parenting was not meant to be hard and it certainly wasn’t meant to leave parents feeling lost, confused, feeling like a failure and unfulfilled. Parenting today is not what it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago. The challenges parents face today are different than the challenges their parents faced. For economic reasons, many households have both parents working outside the home, some operate their own business from their home, however, feel tight with time and are unable to give their kids the time and attention they require.

Parents soon learn that parenting is much more than just modeling the right behaviour, providing their children with food, shelter, and sport and educational opportunities. Although all of these are VERY important, there is more to it than that.

When parenting consider these 3 areas:

1. Attachment: The strength of the bond you have with your child is extremely important and will determine how well your child is willing to listen to you and cooperate. If your child does not feel bonded to you and is more attached to his peers, he will be more likely to follow their example than yours.

2. Personal insecurities: Many of our personal insecurities stem back from our own childhood and they affect how we parent our kids. Whether we push them into activities they are not interested in, or push them to keep performing better and better each time, or try to relive our life through our kids it all provides incredible pressure on kids that can lead them to rebellion.

3. Observation and communication: Be present (physically and mentally) so you can observe your child, be alert to self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour, and be alert to anything that may be going on outside the home. Have an open line of communication so your child feels free to speak to you without feeling judged or belittled. Approach topics with an open mind.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Parents: Common False Beliefs in Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Many people have false beliefs about themselves that keep them from getting what they want. If you think back to your teenage years you’ll probably remember you had some of the same limiting beliefs then as you do now (e.g., being afraid to try new activities or try out for teams, feeling you never were able to keep up with others, etc.).

Similarly, if you notice false beliefs in your teen and think she will simply outgrow them with experience and age, think again. With age and experience also come tougher challenges which can help perpetuate the same old false beliefs. As such, it is wiser to nip these limiting beliefs now then allow them to spread and dominate.

How will you be able to identify any of the false beliefs your child has? Pay attention to your teen’s speech (negativity) and behaviour (avoidant or self-sabotaging). Your child’s habitual patterns are visible through her words and behaviour. You cannot separate her thoughts from who she presents herself to be in the world.

Watch out for these common false beliefs:

1. Self-judgement: A common false belief adults hold is “I am not good enough.” This belief tends to be picked up in childhood while kids are learning new skills and frequently making mistakes and are solidified in teen years as they try to figure out their identity. This is where the quality of parental feedback is extremely important. Encourage your teen to avoid basing her worth on the outcome of her actions.

2. Social fears: If you’ve noticed your teen is avoiding social situations there is a good chance she holds the belief “Others tend not to like me” or something similar. Thoughts like these are usually based on 1 or 2 bad experiences and are then generalized to all future experiences. Pay attention to your teen’s social habits and inquire about her reasoning.

3. Capability: One of the most used words by adults as well as teens are “I can’t. Others can but I can’t.” Usually there is an underlying fear of failure and what that failure really means. For many teens it feels safer not to try than to try and prove to self that “I knew I wasn’t good enough.” Clarify to your child that success often comes after many trial and errors. The learning lessons along the way are normal and important for growth.

4. Powerless: Another prevalent thought which circulates in society and which teens adopt as their own is “I can’t change it.” This type of thinking leads to giving up, feelings of hopelessness, dissatisfaction with life, anxiety, and depression. To challenge this thought, it’s important for parents to minimize modeling the victim mentality and take action more often. The more parents model to their kids that they can take action to change or repair a situation; the more likely teens will adopt this type of mentality.

5. Guilt: Guilt tends to be used if child has not done what was asked of her or if she made a major mistake. Repeated guilt-inducing parenting can lead child to feel she is bad and at fault for her inferiority. It can lead her to conclude “I deserve to feel bad for my inadequacy.” When a teen develops this guilt belief it can lead her to believe she deserves to feel bad about herself and deserves punishment. This affects her perceived self-worth and what she believes she deserves in life.

Now is the best time to empower yourself and your teens through positive parenting!

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Parents: Correct Your Teen’s Negative Thinking

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

A habit of negative thinking is easy to come by. Let’s just consider the people around us, the television, the radio, and our community as a whole. Considering the new trend is to think and speak positively, it is clear that changing a negative mindset to a positive one is a lot trickier than most of us expected.

As adults we know how difficult it can be to change our habits. As such, it is important we encourage our kids and teens to develop the habit of positive thinking before they solidify a pessimistic view of life. Being negative has nothing to do with being realistic (“I just call it as I see it!”) it’s just one interpretation of the many possible ones. Being positive on the other hand injects a note of hope and expectancy. It’s a much healthier mindset.

In my practice, I love to work with and empower parents. While my one-on-one work with youth is creates immediate changes, it is my work with parents that helps the changes stick around long after I exit the scene. As such I direct much of my writing to parents, hoping to challenge them, inspire them, and guide them to think in different ways.

Here are common ways I suggest to parents to correct their teens’ negative thinking:

1. Challenge your teen’s negative thinking: Often times, you can challenge your teens negative thinking through logic alone. For example, if your teen holds the belief that new people tend not to like him ask him what he basis this conclusion on. Is it a preconceived expectation that tends to colour his view of reality? Is it based on some past experiences that lead him to believe every future experience will be the same? Future predictions, believing to be able to read others’ minds, all or nothing thinking, and catastrophizing are some of the major areas of faulty thinking.

2. Challenge your teen to step out of the comfort zone: Teens are willing to try new things if they are not worried about failing and of what that failure means. If the temporary failure is considered a part of the process and if it can be separated from what that means about him, perceived failure is no longer so threatening. Clarify this for your teen and challenge him to try something he otherwise wouldn’t.

3. A failure is not a failure: As a society we have conditioned ourselves to believe that anytime something does not work out as planned it is a failure instead of a ‘learning lesson.’ The word failure is defeating and has a note of finality in it where as a learning lessons sounds more positive and allows room for improvement. In my eyes failures only happen when people give up. Anytime your teen refers to ‘failures’ ask him to look deeper into the situation and ask him what he has learned and what he would do differently if he could do it again. Challenge him to try again if that is an option.

4. Watch yourself: Just as a kitten learns how to be a cat from his mom, kids learn how to be human, how to think, and how to behave from their parents. Yes, you must watch your thinking and speaking patterns (keep a journal to help you get a sense of your positivity/negativity patterns). Practice steps 1 to 3 in front of your teen. Just as a kitten follows mother cat’s example, your teen will follow yours.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teen’s Low Self-esteem: How to Raise a Child with High Self-esteem

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Parents’ words and behaviour have an enormous impact on child’s self-esteem (SE) and self-confidence (SC). Carefully chose your words and watch what your behaviour communicates to your child. Kids require a healthy SE in order to have high SC. Only when kids think positively of themselves can they accept their achievements for what they are.

So what can you do to start raising your child’s SE right away? It’s simple!

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Grab a pen and paper and think about how you typically relate to your child as you read each point. Draw a line down the middle of the paper. On one side write down the typical wording you use (call it typical column) and on the other write down better, more encouraging words you can use instead (call it positive column) when communicating with your child. Write them down and study them!!! This way you will be able to recall the right words when you need them (even when you are tired, running on a short fuse, or caught off guard).

1. Encouraging comments: Even if your child didn’t succeed, always provide encouraging comments first (e.g., “That was a really good try, I liked your initiative and novel approach.”). It can be difficult to provide positive feedback, however when she obviously didn’t put in the effort required but regular comments like “You could have done better,” “That wasn’t done that well” can and will lead to feelings of ‘nothing I do is ever good enough.’ This belief (and others like it) is conditioned once she continues to receive these types of feedback. Start off on a positive note and relate the good stuff first.

2. Connect the dots: Discuss the reasons for failure. If your child didn’t put enough effort into the activity in question, it is important she understands failure was due to lack of preparation or not enough practice. This is different from believing it is her personal inability to be awesome. As such, your child is more likely to conclude “If I practice hard enough, I will be able to succeed,” instead of “Doesn’t matter how hard I try, I don’t have the ability to learn.” Let her know that not doing well was due to a poor choice and choices can always be changed. Comments like “You’ve got some natural talent. With extra practice you’ll ‘ace it’ or “Some things really do require more effort to be done well, what can you do differently next time?” connect the dots for your kids. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to them.

3. Encourage independence: Independence produces feelings of mastery which increases SE. It is important, however to recognize when a task is too hard for your child. Not all activities are age appropriate. By providing a mix of independence and a helping hand you teach her to stretch her abilities but to also know when to get help. It also sends a message that it is OK to get help. Comments such as “Look how far you have gotten on your own. What did you learn? How did you ever think of that!?!? That is awesome! You know I have some ideas too. Can I share?” If your child asks to be left to it alone, let her continue on her own. Pushing unwanted help onto your child can lead her to conclude that you don’t have faith in her abilities. Over time this can translate into feelings of inferiority. Leaving your kids to complete a task means you trust them enough to work it out on their own. Let them know you have fresh ideas when they are ready for them.

4. False beliefs: False beliefs are highly responsible for low SE and SC. Watch your kid’s verbal and behavioural patterns (they are a clue to what is going on in the mind) and ask questions. Get to the bottom of things so you can understand your child’s insecurity. Let’s say you notice your child speak badly about herself when she receives a low grade, your conversation with her can go something like this: “Why do you speak so meanly to yourself when you get a low grade? What does this grade mean about you? Are grades the only way of measuring how smart you are (or good enough)? Is it fair that you are mean to yourself based on your performance on this test? Why is it so important that I am happy with your grade? Would I love you more if you got a better grade? What makes you think that? Did I ever imply by accident that I would love you less if your grades were lower? Tell me so I don’t make the mistake again.). The more you understand the root cause of the belief, the more you can help her.

5. Famous people and role models: Role models are always great inspiration. Having a role model (AKA hero) works even better when the person is from the same field as the child’s interests (e.g., musician, visual artist, scientist, etc.,). If your child gives up before giving things a fair chance or tends to avoid things she thinks she can’t do, provide examples of the struggles her hero went through and how she had to try many times before the hero achieved her goal (e.g., Thomas Edison tried 10 000 times before he got the electric lamp to work; Einstein was considered to have a learning disability (some even speculate autism) and was told he would never amount to much). The great thing about all these wonderful people is they all faced adversity but believed in themselves the entire way. This belief lead them to success.

Best Wishes to your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Causes of Low Self-esteem in Teens: Unintentional but Common Mistakes Parents Make

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Parents have an incredible influence over their kids’ self-esteem (SE). While the best time to start building your kids SE is from day 1, it is never too late to start. Every day brings opportunities to nourish a child’s SE. Unfortunately, when parents don’t take these opportunities to show their child their worth (either because they do not recognize them or are not sure how to take advantage of such opportunities), kids will show signs of slow SE.

To be able to take opportunities each day requires conscious parenting. Conscious parenting means being in the moment and paying close attention to how your words and behaviour make your child feel. If you do not like his/her response consider how your words and behaviour may have affected your child. Every child has different sensitivity levels so it is difficult for any expert to give you an exact formula on how to treat your child. Experts can only provide suggestions and guidelines and it is up to you to adjust it so it fits into your family.

Here are some of the most common mistakes parents make that lowers SE in teens. Do feel free to adjust so it best suits your family!

1. Runs in the family: Typically (but not always), when parents have a healthy self-esteem, the kids do too. Likewise, when parents have low self-esteem, so do the kids. Why is this? Because SE influences language and behaviour (level of assertiveness, confidence, and sociability). Language and behaviour are visible evidence of the SE level and parents model that type of behaviour to their kids. Shy parents who avoid meeting new people and who have little to say in unfamiliar situations have children who observe their avoidant behaviour and will usually grow to imitate the parents.

2. Bad experience: Every once in a while a child will have a bad experience. Tripping and falling in a school performance, mind going completely blank during a test, making a serious social gaffe; any one of these situations can leave the child feeling bad about himself. During this time it is essential he receives unconditional support from parents. Bad experiences are a part of life; however, if parents are not up to date on what is going on in their child’s life they cannot provide the encouragement required so their child can gain a healthy perspective of the situation and maintain a good SE level.

3. SE isn’t nurtured: Although parents have the best intentions, they don’t always translate them into most effective words and behaviour. Reason being? Lack of knowledge. Part of building SE involves daily hugs and “I love you’s.” The frequency of either of these should not be based on performance or achievement. Rather they should be based on the child’s inherent worth as a human being. Regular hugs and “I love you’s” ought to continue into the late teen years. Your child may try to discourage hugs as he gets older (hugs tend to lose their ‘coolness’), but it is your parental right and duty to nurture your child with loving touches and words. Additionally, parents don’t always allow children to make age appropriate decisions. While it is true that you can do most things better, faster, and more accurately, doing things for your child ends up sending the message “you just can’t do it right.” Lastly, when problems arise, parents like to take over and have control of the outcome. Instead, encourage your child to solve the problem on his own as opposed to you taking charge. Remember, it is PRACTICE that gets things right, NOT age! And it is practice that builds SE and self-confidence.

4. Not involved in extracurricular activities: Being a part of teams and clubs builds SE. It shows your child he fits in socially, has great ideas to contribute, it gives him a feeling of achievement, a feeling of fulfillment, and allows him to make various friends. The trick of course is to sign your child up for activities he wants to participate in, not the ones you wish you participated in when you were his age.

5. Negative feedback: Parents often say ‘you could have tried harder and you could have done better.’ The intention of course is to let the child know that with more practice the result would have been better. And many times that statement is correct, had the child put in more effort he could have done better. What parents may not understand is that kids rarely hear what parents think they are saying. Over time the child will infer your words to mean “I am not good enough*.” Likewise, refusing to attend or threatening not to attend sports games until child improves skill leaves child feeling undeserving and stressed.

*Note: This is why parents with high SE don’t always raise kids with high SE. They unknowingly use the wording that leads kids to misinterpret parents’ meaning.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Changes and New Habits Aren’t Working in Your Home: From A Parent’s Perspective

Ivana PejakovicB.Sc., MA

This school year you said and you thought would be different. You set out proposed changes and had high hopes that homework would be done on time, there would be little arguments, grades would be up, and life would be great. A short time later, you’ve realized things have not gone according to plan.

Perhaps you thought about and implemented a plan of how the kids would start pulling their own weight around the home? You imagined the dishwasher would always be empty, the trash would disappear from the can, and the bathrooms would be sparkling clean (not to mention the dust-less furniture). Now you look back and think...things didn’t go according to plan.

What went wrong, you wonder? Is it just your household that is highly resistant to change or do other families go through a similar process? Is this normal?

Normal? That is debatable (depending on the expert you speak to)...but it is certainly common! During this process, try not to get discouraged because things aren’t getting better right away. Sometimes it can take up to a full year before there is a noticeable difference in behaviour. The kids (and you) need to adjust to a new schedule, change habitual behaviour, deal with stressful situations, and successfully overcome a bunch of disputes.

In fact, things often get worse before they get better as your teen may try to rebel against the new rules. And although things may never reach your ideal picture, change and improvement is possible! To make your journey easier, keep these tips in mind:

1. Bond/Attachment: Kids listen and respect those who they are emotionally attached to. The weaker your attachment is with your child, the less interest s/he will have in your attempt to improve the household situation. You need to strengthen your bond with your child before any effective changes will be made in the home.

2. Consistency: Although most parents know about the important of consistency, many have a hard time following up with this concept. The reason being? It requires a lot of attention and focus on the child to ensure regularity. With life being hectic, parents assume and feel they can hand over the responsibility to their children who ought to be reliable and sincere. If the rules are not their rules...think again! Also, try to be consistent in your behaviour (saying one thing and doing another will not work).

3. Giving up: When the going gets tough and kids challenge you, it’s easy to give up a little every day until you settle into old habits. Kids are smart and they have learned that if they challenge you long enough you will back off (they don’t know how or why it works, they just know it does). It is necessary for you to stay persistent (and consistent in your own words and behaviour) until the new behaviour becomes a habit for them. Eventually, they will repeat the new behaviour long enough for it to rub off in their daily life.

4. Lack of patience: Whenever making any major changes in the household (or in life), things will not transition perfectly. Some individuals will protest, some will not get it right, some will not seem interested in your new ‘self-improvement’ kick, others will just think it’s dumb to fix something that ain’t broke! During these times it is extremely important for you to hold on to your temper. Emotional explosions are not fun for anyone. Remember that it takes a while before habits are changed (21 day rule doesn’t always work). Sometimes it can take a full year, before you can look back and say...wow...things have sure improved. Stay patient.

5. I’m the parent! You listen to me: Right! When parenting, it is easy to assume the role of “I am the boss.” And while this is true, it is not a good approach to rub it into your child’s face (imagine if your boss said this to you...and if s/he has, how did you feel?). As most parents will agree, this approach tends to work more with little kids but less with teens. Teens demand more respect than little kids and are not afraid to say no and walk away.

6. Your plan: The problem is that it is YOUR plan...not your kids’ plan! Sit down to discuss the changes that need to be made in the home. Ask them for their opinion, ask them what new routine would make them happier, less stressed. Show them how these changes will benefit them....not just you! It could be that they do not see a problem. If there is no problem, then what is there to fix? Create a plan TOGETHER! Write down who volunteers for what. Let everyone know the chore difficulty must be age appropriate and distributed fairly. Make it the team’s plan not yours!

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Teens: How to Get Your Child to Listen

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Many parents today are bewildered and left scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get their teen to listen to them. With so much information and advice available, they are left confused as much of the stuff fails to work or works inconsistently.

One of the most difficult things to change is personal behaviour. It makes it even more difficult, if you are trying to change the behaviour of your uncooperative kids, more specifically, your children’s listening habits. As you may have already figured out, however, is that you can’t make your kids change if they don’t want to. No amount of pleading, forcing, or punishing will work. In fact the more you insist, the more they will revolt (if not right away...then eventually).

The question is, how can you make your child WANT to change his/her attitude towards listening to you? The answer is to examine the quality of the attachment between you and your child.

Healthy attachment is essential to a good relationship so they will WANT to listen to you (remember, you can’t make them!). Attachment means bond. What kind of bond do you have with your teen? One clue to the strength of your teen is attached to you, is by how willing s/he is to cooperate. When your child forms a healthy attachment to you, everything else will flow smoother.

Note that the attachment I am referring to is the emotional connection between the parent and child. This is different from your child being financially dependent on you (or depending on you for car rides)...it is an emotional attachment you want to create. If you create a strong emotional attachment with your child, you will see an increase in respect, listening, cooperation, and an overall positive change in his/her attitude.

How can you build your attachment with your child? Here are 5 tips you can incorporate into your daily parenting life.

1. Consistency: Most people think consistency means enforcing what you say each time child breaks rules. That is not what I mean in this case. Consistency means, to make sure YOUR daily actions match the worth ethic you preach to your kids. Your kids will be less inclined to build a loving relationship with you if you are exempted from the very rules they have to follow. If your behaviour is inconsistent with your words, you will be perceived as a hypocrite and your teen will go find friends who keep the same rules as them.

2. Communicate: Sit down with your teen and discuss what is on your mind. This includes making plans together, sharing successes, sharing good memories, fun past experiences, and jokes. Recently experts have been focusing on the importance of communication when things go wrong. Let’s not forget, however, how important communication is when things are going RIGHT. By communicating the good things, we are strengthening our relationship with our kids and keeping their focus on us.

3. Involvement: Decide to be at the table for a few minutes (15 minimum!) while your teen is discussing the day or doing work. Stop what you are doing and dedicate your entire focus on him/her. It’s more fun to talk when we know we are listened to. Eye contact, smiles, and open body language offer more than talking to your teen while you are rushing around the kitchen to finish a chore. Actively listen to what you are being told. Likewise, share what is on your agenda and discuss some of your thoughts and feelings. These simple gestures will show your teen s/he matters to you. When you share...s/he will share. This type of involvement in your child’s life will nudge them to listen to you and cooperate.

4. Quality time: Quality time is important and it is different from filling each other in on what happened during the day. This is the time you spend together and make the rest of the world disappear. If you decide to go to the movies, follow it up with hot chocolate so you still have that time to communicate and bond. Communication is the key to building attachment because it gives your child an opportunity to share information about him or herself. Opening up and sharing personal information strengthens your child’s emotional bond with you.

5. Loyalty: Your teen may often tell you you are never on his/her side. And although I am not encouraging you to side with them if they are in the wrong, at least let them have their say. Do not form an opinion until you have heard evidence from all sides and you can explain to your teen how you formed your belief. If s/he is really in the wrong, it is not the issue. Stay supportive and ask how you can help next time so s/he can make better formed decisions. By offering loyalty, s/he has a reason to stick by you next time.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teens and Anxiety: Coping Skills

Anxiety is on the rise, including in the teen population. While a very small number of people need to manage anxiety with medication, adjustments in a teen’s lifestyle and extra support at home can lead to great changes.

If your teen is currently using anxiety medication, it is important s/he also learns coping techniques that can minimize or eliminate the need for or dependence on prescription drugs. A healthier lifestyle will improve the overall quality of your teen’s life. Encourage your teen to make necessary adjustments.

Here are 9 tips to help your teen cope with or eliminate anxiety.

1. Relaxation methods: Yoga, nature walks (e.g. hiking), quiet time (without music, TV, or other electronic devices), and laughter are all example of methods that produce feelings of relaxation and reduce anxious feelings in the body. With a hectic life and access to many electronic gadgets, most kids have little quiet time and have minds that are constantly running. Try to schedule quiet time in the house for everyone. It can be at different times or at the same time for everyone.

2. The present moment: If you find your teen is constantly talking about the past or about the future, guide him/her to the present moment. The past cannot be changed and the future holds endless positive opportunities. Ask your teen about what is happening in life now and what can be done now to shape the future s/he wants. Teach your teen to let go of past events and to be an optimist regarding the future. Set a good example.

3. Find root cause of your child’s thoughts: If your child is expressing nervousness and fear, don’t sugar coat the feelings by saying everything will be fine. The feelings are based on thoughts and past experiences. Ask questions that will lead you to the root cause of his/ her fear. When you find it, eliminate it through logic, past examples, and optimism.

4. Practice positivity: Encourage your child to think positively. At the beginning of each week ask your teen to write one positive story. The story should include details of how things will turn out positively. When the story is completed, ask him/her to re-read it daily.

5. Journaling: Ask your teen to write down what makes him/her feel anxious and what makes him/her feel good (what thoughts associate with each situation). This will allow the two of you to pick up on patterns and get an idea of what the trigger points are. This can be done daily or 2-3 times per week.

6. Healthy lifestyle: Living a healthy lifestyle has the power to influence thoughts in a positive direction. Taking positive actions also provides evidence that life is changing for the better. Incorporate the following into daily life: regular exercise, nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, enough sleep. Also, see if your teen can avoid the following items: caffeinated beverages, alcohol, cigarettes, & drugs. These items are stimulants and can enhance anxiety.

7. Social group: Who is your teen hanging out with? How is this group contributing to his/her anxiety? If you think changes are necessary, approach your teen from a neutral perspective and point out any issues. The key is to avoid lecturing but allowing your teen to feel s/he has some choice in the matter. S/he may not see your point immediately but you will be planting positive seeds in his/her mind.

8. Life purpose: Having a purpose in life often gives feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, and takes away feelings of stress and worry. Inspire your teen and teach him/her to set goals. When teen is focused on goals s/he is less likely to be bothered by inconsequential matters that can lead to anxiety.

9. Support network: Who can your teen speak to when stressed and anxious? Sometimes teens prefer parents and other times they prefer a neutral person. Don’t let it hurt you if they choose someone else. Sometimes it can be difficult to speak about embarrassing things to parents. The important thing to keep in mind is that s/he has the support necessary to deal with anxiety.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teens: Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, unease, apprehension and worry. It is a physical and psychological state affecting how we think, feel, and behave. Feelings of anxiety are similar to feelings of fear. When we are afraid, however, we usually know what is making us feel the fear. With anxiety, we have a difficult time pointing out what is causing the anxious feelings; this often increases the level of anxiety.

In some circumstances, anxiety is a learned form of behaviour and in others it is a result of external influences. The list below is a directory of some reasons teens experience anxiety. In life, these reasons often overlap and parents, coaches, and therapists must consider more than one as a possibility.

1. Negative thoughts: Negative thoughts and negative self-talk is common. The severity of it varies. Teens who engage in higher volume of these destructive thought patterns are more likely to experience anxiety. Their thoughts about the past, present, and future are usually gloomy and carry little hope.

2. Lack of confidence: A lack of confidence in one’s ability to handle social situations, tests, and other challenges increases feelings of nervousness. As such, confidence is not only important for achieving goals and other objectives, but it is also important for mental health.

3. Situation interpretation: It is well known that two people can interpret the same situation differently. One child can find the same situation threatening and another full of opportunity (e.g., signing up for sleepover camp). The difference of course is due to the meaning the child adds to the situation: a meaning of friendship and skill building or meaning of judgement and inadequacy.

4. Blowing it up: Often time kids make a problem appear bigger and more complex than it is to an adult. As such, they make up stories in their minds of how things will turn out horribly. When kids/teens don’t have the necessary skills to deal with certain situations, those situations do appear highly threatening. Parents can teach kids the necessary skills to help them handle fearful situations.

5. Feeling of no control: Believing to be stuck in a situation in which a child has no control over what can or what will happen tends to increase feelings of anxiety. These types of situations include bullying, divorce, or being pushed into situations child does not want to be in (e.g., joining certain teams).

6. Home life: What is going on at home? When there is extra stress at home the most sensitive kids (the ones more vulnerable to anxiety) will feel it, while the less sensitive kids will experience only mild discomfort. As such, it can be difficult for parents to connect the dots on the cause of the child’s anxiety. When the home life is stable with minimal stress, kids will also find outside stressors easier to handle.

7. Lifestyle: Diet, exercise, water, and enough sleep are all important. They are not only important for our physical health but also for our mental health. Make a habit in your house to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and discuss the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Kids’ lifestyle is often a reflection of a parent’s lifestyle.

8. Trauma: Some kids experience trauma in life and never receive any attention or help regarding this experience. Although it may appear like the child forgot the event, it could be that the brain buried it deep in the subconscious mind. Anything buried in the subconscious mind has a way of coming back up when triggered by right circumstances. This almost always leads to anxiety.

9. Poor coping skills: Inability to deal with stress and other life situations will lead to anxiety. Kids face challenges as often as adults. Unfortunately, adults will sometimes downplay the importance of kids’ stress and challenges; remember that kids have age appropriate challenges and these are as tough on them as your bills and responsibilities are on you. As such it is important they have the right tools to deal with stress and to face life difficulties.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Friday, October 14, 2011

Parenting Teens 101: Tips for Successful Parenting

Is there a formula for perfect parenting? Not really. Is there one right way parents ought to raise their kids? Nope again!

Although there isn’t a widely approved method of parenting, there are steps parents can incorporate into everyday parenting practice to help their child grow with healthy self-esteem and confidence levels. These steps will also help teens develop good habits and a positive mindset. And the goal of course is to raise happy and successful kids.

Below are a few Do’s and Don’ts to help you create positive changes in your home. These tips may require a bit of extra effort (and patience) on your part until they become a habit for you. Once they become second nature, you’ll notice a happier household and a tighter-knit family that shows more respect for one another.

Don’t

1. Push: Don’t push your kids into being something they’re not. Pushing leads to disputes and rebellion. The more you push in one direction the more they pull in the other direction. End result? No one is happy.

2. Relive your childhood through your child: Parents have best intentions for their kids and want to see their kids be happy and successful. With this intention it is easy to nudge kids into pursuing the activities that would have made parents happy when they were that age. Guide your kids into activities that appeal to them.

3. Criticize: It’s so easy to criticize what could have been improved. It’s easy to overlook the scored goal and rehash why the second one was missed. It’s easy to neglect the things they did right and badger them about the things they did wrong. Although the aim is to guide kids to excellence, these types of criticisms often lead to low self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of inadequacy that can stay around for a life time.

4. Threaten: Parenting is not about threatening kids into obedience. Threats only lead to obedience when a parent is watching. Rationalizing, setting the rules together, and open communication are far more effective.

5. Be a doormat: To gain respect from teens, parents must be fair but authoritative. Don’t go back on your word when it comes to consequences. Neither empty threats nor strict control lead to respect.

6. Make excuses: Don’t make excuses of why it is acceptable for you to do the very things you tell teens not to do. Hypocrisy is not respected and is despised. Be the person you want your teen to be.

7. Be Judgemental: With an adult mind, it is difficult for parents to understand the reasoning of their child and why they made the choices at hand. Don’t consider these choices to be life mistakes. Consider them to be lessons learned and lessons needed for the next stage in life.

Do

1. Encourage: Frequently encourage your kids to be the best they can be. Speak to them with faith and teach them they’ll achieve everything with commitment and persistence. Your confidence will nourish theirs.

2. Inspire: Inspire kids with different activities so they can have many options to choose from when picking a direction in life. The more activities they are exposed to the more their imagination will be stimulated. The possibilities will be endless.

3. Praise first and suggest improvements later: Starting off on a positive note increases feelings of pride and adequacy. Show your pleasure first. After a few days follow up with suggested improvements on the weak spots. Let them bask in their glory first.

4. Listen and communicate: First listen and then communicate your ideas. Likewise, ask your teens to hear you out before they jump in. Communicate daily on the simple stuff to avoid confusion. An open door policy for all topics makes teen’s likely to ask for your opinion before they make their decisions.

5. Have patience: This is a tough one. With all other things that need to get done, teens have a way of testing parents’ patience. In any given day, if you choose to be patient with one thing only, choose to be patient with your kids. Your attitude will not be unappreciated or go unnoticed.

6. Offer choices: When parents offer choices, teens feel like they are less instructed on what to do and feel more freedom to make decisions on what will happen in their life. This step is a win-win. It allows parents to offer appropriate choices while giving teens control.

7. Express your love: Express it and show it every day. No one is ever too old to hear they are loved and cared for. All things grow in love and light. Make love and light your home atmosphere and watch everything grow in happiness and health.

Happy Parenting!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto