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

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Help Your Teen Deal With a Break Up

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Romantic breaks ups are tough! They can be an emotional and psychological roller coaster. Moms know this because they have gone through them and now watch their daughters go through similar emotions and behaviours after a break up.

With changing bodies, adjusting hormones, a lack of identity, and competition for social popularity, break ups really do play a big role in a teenage girl’s life. But, moms also understand that time heals everything. And while the break up can seem like the end of the world for her daughter, with time her perspective will become clearer and she’ll realize the relationship wasn’t as great as she thoughts it was.

Getting hurt, however, is a part of dating. As teen girls develop a healthy identity and form a clear picture of what they want, they will date a number of partners. This is normal and healthy. The dating experience is important for personal development, growth, and developing a clear image of what girls are looking for from a lifelong partner.

While moms can’t prevent their daughters’ heartbreaks, they certainly can be a source of comfort. Moms’ presence and kind words go a long way to build her daughters’ self-esteem and confidence that everything will be OK. Moms’ wise words also teach daughters how to deal with disappointment and helps determine the image they form of themselves.

Moms, consider these tips if your daughter is going through a relationship break up:

1. Be supportive. Offer to listen without saying “I told you so.” Sometimes your daughter’s choice of romantic partner’s may not be ideal, but this is not the time to remind her. Be there to offer a hug, a kind word, and an encouraging outlook.

2. Discuss. Ask questions to get the full story. While it may be hard to hear some of the detail, remain non-judgmental and calm. The story may upset you and even break your own heart. Stay relaxed. Be sympathetic but positive.

3. Share a story. Go ahead and reveal some of your own heartbreaks. Tell her about a similar situation and how it made you feel. Tell her what you thought then and what you know now.

4. Distract. Go shopping with your daughter or do her favourite activity. A mother-daughter activity can be more comforting than the words you have to offer.

5. Let her experience grief. It sucks when someone says “oh another one will come along,” “cheer up, he isn’t worth it.” In this moment she is crying for reasons that make sense to her. Let her shed some tears. The emotional release is healthy. Telling her to be strong and not to cry may teach her to bottle up pain. Also, the more you advise her to stop feeling what she feels the less she will be open with you in the future. We like to share our feelings to people who can relate to us and allow us to go through the natural grieving process.

6. Reassure. Let her know she has a lot going for her. This break up is not a reflection of her unworthiness and it is not a reflection of failure. Letting her know she is valuable will keep her grounded and discourage her from running into a rebound relationship (which usually occurs to prove self-worth).

7. Encourage girl time. Encourage her to spend time with her friends. Keeping up with social activities will distract her, get her to realize life still has great things to offer, and give her a reason to smile again.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thanksgiving, Tradition & Family

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Thanksgiving is a powerful holiday and one of the few that reminds us of what is really important in life (without the expected exchange of gifts or other favours). It is a holiday for gratitude, a time to be thankful for everything we have been given and more.

Thanksgiving is an occasion for family members to remember and to show how much they value each other. It is a time to renew family relationships and a time to let go of grudges. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to slow down, a time to model family values, a time to build family connections, and a time to give one of our most scarce resources to others, time.

Whether you have a big family or a small one you’ll agree that without family, the holidays would not to be the same. It is the closeness you experience with those who share the day with you and the memories you have that make the day special.

Families and Traditions

Holidays like Thanksgiving are perfect for teaching kids about cultural traditions. Many parents hope their children will pick up on these historical practices and pass them along to their kids. As such, it is what makes holidays a good time to learn about traditional recipes, customs, and a bit of history and literature.

People who share tradition often have stronger bonds. Tradition provides us with a reason to get together, it gives us activities to perform, and it gets us into a festive mindset. Traditions are fulfilling because they provide us with feelings of belongingness, an increased feeling of connection to our loved ones, and they evoke feelings of happiness.

Most adults have happy memories of the traditions their parents upheld during youth. As such, they can now help the new generation build similar memories.

Maintain tradition

1. Consistency: Practice tradition every year so kids can remember them and look forward to them. Be consistent with traditional recipes, decorations, or whatever works for you.

2. It’s not an obligation: If kids don’t want to participate in the tradition, don’t push them. Sometimes teens think traditions are stiff and outdated and they can’t imagine why people still keep them up. You go ahead and stick to your traditions anyways. As they grow and mature they will be more willing to participate.

3. Fun: Traditions should be fun. Even if you’re just cooking or baking play happy traditional music in the background and sing along. When traditions are fun, kids will want to participate and it will not feel like it is an obligation.

4. Family: Involve the entire family. Traditions are more fun if more people are involved. This will give you the opportunity for the bonding time you are looking for. So turn off the TV, put the cell phones away, and leave the video games in another room. This is connection time.

5. Positive Attitude: Always keep a positive attitude. Accidents will happen, time will be tight, things may get messy, but a positive attitude will keep the kids coming back. Put on your patience cap, roll up your sleeves, and enjoy the time with your kids.
Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving Weekend!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving Day with Your Family

Without a doubt Thanksgiving is a day that ought to be filled with hope, gratitude, and happiness. It is a time of togetherness and for appreciation of our family and friends. It is a day to be celebrated in joy and liveliness.

Although this day is great on its own, it is possible to enhance the day for your family. There are many things that can make your Thanksgiving holiday exceptional. Your kids watch and notice much of what you do. How you talk about your family, the attitude you have about this special day and life in general is all being recorded by your kids.

As such this article is intended for parents to examine how they are currently celebrating the day and to find tips that can enhance this experience with their family.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Begin with a thankful mindset: Start the day off with a happy and thankful attitude. You can ask all family members to write down one positive thing about each of the other family members they are grateful for. Decide to read these notes out loud when you are together at the dinner.

Cook together & eat together: Cooking and eating are important for human bonding. Sharing a meal with others is what makes the food even more enjoyable. This is an opportunity to share your daily experiences (the good and the bad) with those you love and those who love you the most. Thanksgiving Day, however, is a good time to share your gratitude with each other. When we share positive ideas with people we grow closer to them. Remember that food is more than just nutrition for the body and brain. It is nutrition for the mind and soul.

Celebrate the gift of life: Thanksgiving is the time to celebrate life, not only by saying “Thank You” but also by stepping out of the home to experience something fun (e.g., family sport game, hike, photography, picking wild flowers, appreciation of nature). Joy and happiness are the best vehicles to gratitude and a zest for life.

Build family connections: As adults, people recall many memories from their childhood years formed during family events. Many adults have great memories of “crazy Uncle George” or “eccentric Aunt Martha” which they speak about with their siblings and cousins. This is a good time to put aside any family disputes. Model good family relations to your children so they can grow up and value the relationships they have with their siblings and extended family.

Be thankful for your family: Much information exists on “How to survive the holidays with your family.” Nobody’s family is perfect and most of us have a family member that is difficult to get along with. Use Thanksgiving Day to remember all the positives about everyone and to recall all the positives they have done for you. Find a subtle way to tell everyone what you appreciate about this family member and watch his or her attitude change that night. This is a great opportunity to show your kids how family can connect.

Volunteer: Give some of your family’s time to a shelter or food bank. This is good for the kids and it is good for you. You will come home with a feeling of contribution, a greater gratitude for what you have, and with feelings of humility. This helps keep us all grounded, but it helps kids form a positive attitude about the life they were given, and it can show kids how their actions can make a difference in their community.

New and old tradition: Sometimes it’s just easier not to cook the traditional favourites or put up the decorations. But believe it or not, these little, seemingly unimportant traditions are what we crave and what we remember from our youth. Celebrate your yearly traditions and think about developing a new tradition that incorporates the uniqueness of your family! As a family unit, what is your strength and what are your interests (e.g., using arts and crafts, visually represent what each of you is thankful for)? Use your family’s uniqueness to establish a new yearly ritual.

Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to your family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto