Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Journaling For Teens

What is journaling? Journaling is a way of expressing oneself, getting to know oneself, and becoming aware of one’s thoughts, moods, emotions, and desires.
You can have 1 or 2 journals. One journal can be used for personal matters, expressing thoughts or other everyday stuff. The second journal can be related to goals and things you want to achieve. Or you can use one journal for everything.

Journaling is a great way to express positive and negative emotions. It’s particularly helpful to journal your thoughts and emotions if there is a something important going on at school, with your friends, at home with the family, etc. And it’s a great tool for individuals who don’t have anyone to share feelings with.

Many health professionals recommend journaling to clients who are going through a difficult time. Journaling, however, is a good way to help you figure out next steps to everything in life. Everyone is faced with challenges; people who do well are usually those who have someone or something to speak to.

Guy-girl difference?

Guys and girls journal in the exact same way. It’s whatever you feel most comfortable with and it's all about expressing your thoughts and emotions. If you're having a tough time with it, it's because you're not used to sharing feelings out loud. Guys may have a tougher time with this if they aren’t used to speaking about what’s going on inside their head. If this describes you, the trick is to get used to it. This comfort level comes with practice.

Tips for Journaling:

1. Just start: Journaling is all about just starting. There aren’t right things to include and wrong things to exclude. It can be a little intimidating to put your most intimate thoughts on paper in the beginning but it gets easier the more you do it. Since it's a private thing no one will ever read it (and it's highly recommended you don't share your journal with anyone because you're more likely to filter what you say).

2. No judging: Don't judge yourself in any way! Don't call yourself names for thinking and feeling certain things. All emotions need to be exercised and emotions come up based on your interpretation (thoughts) of events.

3. Where to start: Start with 1 sentence (or a picture)...of whatever subject you have in mind. What's the problem or what's good about it? How does it make you feel? Why? Dig deep to get your concerns out. Don't edit your thoughts and keep writing as long as the thoughts keep coming. You’ll find that one thought leads to the next and the next.

4. No distractions: As your thoughts start to flow, don't cut them off prematurely (e.g., to answer the phone, get a drink, watch interesting segment on TV) or this process will feel unsatisfying. When you get the desire to journal, put all distractions away so you don’t lose your train of thought. The more quality you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

5. Freestyle: There is no recommended way for journaling. You can write, draw, sketch, scratch out, write down lyrics of songs, draw connecting lines, glue in pictures, staple important items into it, etc. Whatever technique you are most comfortable with to express your emotions is what you ought to use.

6. When: Start now! There is no better time.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Journaling For The Everyday Parent

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the therapeutic powers of journaling. Professionals are encouraging people to journal their goals, thoughts, problems, and everything! It appears that sharing thoughts and emotions on paper has the similar remedial effect to speaking about them out loud.

Given how effective journaling is in other areas of life, I frequently encourage the parents I work with to keep a journal regarding daily parenting. There are a lot of bumps and bruises parents experience along the way to raising their kids. While your family may not need professional assistance, it is healthier for you to have an outlet for your thoughts regarding your family concerns and questions.

Parents who journal have told me they’ve had insight on how to deal with certain situations.

If you’d like to start but are having problems getting started, let me guide you in your first 10 entries or so. Here is a structure you can use but it doesn't have to go this way (there are many things for you to think about...not all of my steps may apply to the topic you choose).

Journaling is about writing it down:

If you're having problems getting started, it may be because you’re afraid/worried/concerned/ about actually putting your most intimate thoughts on paper...all of a sudden it just makes it all too real and maybe a little scary. Expressing your thoughts, however, is also liberating after you get over the initial discomfort. The trick is not to hold back any of your thoughts.

Journaling is about expressing your emotions:

Express anger, joy, love, stress, and other feelings and use any words you like. Journaling is all about expression. Don’t feel guilty for feeling certain emotions or using certain words. Acknowledging the emotions must come before the solution.

Consider these questions when writing in your journal:

1. What do you want to write about (what's on your mind? What do you need to work through?)

2. What are your thoughts/ concerns regarding this?

3. What emotions come up?

4. What would different outcomes of this issue mean about you (e.g., feeling undeserving as a parent, feeling inadequate, feeling powerful, feeling on top of everything, feeling lost, feeling like a child, feeling lonely, feeling defeated, feeling happy and satisfied). Are these fair conclusions?

5. How does your childhood experience with your parents affect how you think today about this issue?

6. Why do these specific feelings come up? What interpretation are you giving to the situation that brings out this feeling?

7. What interpretation would be necessary so you can experience positive feelings?

Once you're done writing, re-read it. You'll usually have some insights on your thinking and about the validity of your thoughts. You may even feel satisfaction after the process based on the different perspective you gained.

Journaling tip:

Don't always follow the structure I’ve given. Unstructured journaling is valuable too. If you often follow the structure I gave you, you’ll have to stop and think about the answers. When you don't follow a structure your thoughts are free to flow.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Five Great Family Habits to Embrace

Keeping your family together and keeping the relationships healthy does take work. It doesn’t, however, take any more work than having no structure at home and having your family all over the place. The trick is to create the right habits; once the good habits are formed they are as easy to upkeep as the bad habits.

Many of the habits developed by families have been formed unconsciously (habits developed unconsciously tend to be negative). Habits are developed unconsciously when families don’t give thought to the structure or format they would like to follow. This happens more often than not because life just gets too busy.

Sitting down to think about your habits may sound like an extra thing on your plate. After all, you can make up the positive habits as you go along, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works. When you are spread thin, you don’t have enough mental resources to think of better habits to follow. This is why they need to be prepared beforehand (thought of, written down, and planned out).

Too many bad habits in the home tend to lead to chaos and argument. Teens are frustrated with parents and parents are frustrated with teens. In the end, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you feel your family situation could use some work, I suggest you look at the family habits first.

If you haven’t thought about what new habits you would like for your family to develop, I can get you started with my suggestions. Incorporate them into your family life one at a time. As time goes on, pay attention to what other positive habits your family would benefit from.

1. Gratitude: We all have so much to be thankful for, yet we often forget how fortunate we are. Make gratitude a regular practice in your home. When a great opportunity comes your way or when you avoid a near accident share with your child how thankful you are for what you have been given. It will change your perspective on your life, and it will change your teen’s view of what life is all about.

2. Positive thinking: We all know positive thinking is important, yet many don’t practice this habit. Why? It’s really hard to keep the habit going because most of us are used to thinking pessimistically. And at times it feels like you just can’t control how your child is thinking. That’s true. So, I encourage you not to try controlling how she’s thinking. Instead, control your thoughts, speech, and behaviour. You don’t even have to try correcting her speech. Just focus on you staying positive. Once you are able to consistently model positivity, she’ll adapt that. The best part? It’s difficult to continuously fight in a positive home.

3. Take turns speaking: When having family conversations, take turns speaking. The people with authority (parents) and oldest sibling can take over conversations and they tend to be the loudest. Allow all family members to have an equal amount of speaking time. All kids have ideas and nothing shows more love than backing off so your quietest child can speak up too. Create rules in the house for how this will work.

4. Listen: When your teen wants to talk, just listen. Don’t give your advice. Ask questions to keep conversation going and so you can really understand your teen’s perspective. Allow your teen the time to speak to you. If you cut her off to share your wonderful wisdom, she’s more likely to cut off her conversation with you. She just wants you to listen. If she’s not sure of what to do and is asking for your opinion, guide her to make a decision through a series of questions. Let her develop her decision-making skills.

5. Slow down: Have the family slow down so you can appreciate each other. Both your relationship with your children and with your partner will improve when you have time for each other. By making regular time for your teen, you reduce the likelihood she’ll distance herself from you and if she does, you give her reason to rebuild a relationship with you again.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Friday, February 24, 2012

Five Bad Family Habits To Get Rid Of

You may or may not have noticed but your family as a unit has its habits. And your family’s habits are a mix of your individual habits. This is why your family’s habits are different from another family’s habits.

Family habits are one reason some families are more successful and get along better than other families.

While habits are extremely important and help you function from day to day, they are only good, if they enhance your life. Likewise, your family habits are only good if they promote family health.

To keep the family functioning well, you need to recognize which habits are holding you back from functioning successfully and in a pleasant way. Once you identify them it becomes easier to change them. The best part is that all it requires is for one person to change his/her behaviour and the rest will be affected by that person.

Here are 5 family habits you may want to consider eliminating.

1. Complaining: Many people complain, for no other reason than to complain. They never actually take any steps to change what is bothering them, but they do complain. Complaining is a contagious habit that wastes time. It can also ruin relationships when directed at other people. Instead of complaining, be proactive and change what isn’t working in the family. Don’t complain to your partner and to your kids about their actions. Be aware of how your own actions affect their behaviour and change your actions so you bring out the best in your family.

2. Over-scheduling: Both parents and kids tend to have too much on their plates. The workload leaves everyone running around and having little time for each other. If this sounds like your family, I encourage you to have each family member drop an activity per week. Prioritize and decide where your family falls on the scale of importance. In the years to come, your kids will remember and appreciate your family time more than any other activity.

3. Chaos in the home: Because people are constantly on the go, it leaves very little time for cleaning. Since housekeeping services can be expensive it leaves many homes in somewhat of a mess. The more disorder there is in the home the less safe and comforting it’ll feel for you and the kids. Reduce unnecessary clutter and make a conscious choice to clean the house once a week. The trick is to get everyone to participate (the boys too!). The more they do for their home the more they’ll appreciate what they have. The first cleaning will be the hardest and longest. After that, it’ll only be upkeep....easy breezy!

4. Yelling: Saying it louder doesn’t make it more right or clearer, it doesn’t get it to sound better, and it’ll not improve your kids’ listening skills. Yelling is a sign of disrespect, powerlessness, and poor communication. Unfortunately, it’s also contagious; as soon as one voice escalates so does another. Instead of yelling, practice sharing your feelings, and speaking in a respectful way. If the kids are still not listening to you, try listening to them. This way you can get an idea of what they are telling you and it’ll allow you to meet their needs. When they feel listened to, they’ll be more likely to listen.

5. Going off to do your own thing: Some families are not as busy, but unfortunately, they don’t use some of their free time to spend together. Instead, each family member goes into a different room to do his or her own thing. Although having personal time is healthy, it’s also important to have family time. Spending about 1.5 hours (length of a movie) on 1 to 3 different occasions per week with your family will benefit everyone. Go for dessert, play family games and sports, go on a picnic, walk the dog together, just sit together and talk without electronics around, etc. The physical proximity will build an emotional closeness.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Five Great Family Habits to Develop

Keeping your family together and keeping the relationships healthy does take work. It doesn’t, however, take any more work than having no structure at home and having your family all over the place. The trick is to create the right habits; once the good habits are formed they are as easy to upkeep as the bad habits.

Many of the habits developed by families have been formed unconsciously (habits developed unconsciously tend to be negative). Habits are developed unconsciously when families don’t give thought to the structure or format they would like to follow. This happens more often than not because life just gets too busy.

Sitting down to think about your habits may sound like an extra thing on your plate. After all, you can make up the positive habits as you go along, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works. When you are spread thin, you don’t have enough mental resources to think of better habits to follow. This is why they need to be prepared beforehand (thought of, written down, and planned out).

Too many bad habits in the home tend to lead to chaos and argument. Teens are frustrated with parents and parents are frustrated with teens. In the end, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you feel your family situation could use some work, I suggest you look at the family habits first.

If you haven’t thought about what new habits you would like for your family to develop, I can get you started with my suggestions. Incorporate them into your family life one at a time. As time goes on, pay attention to what other positive habits your family would benefit from.

1. Gratitude: We all have so much to be thankful for, yet we often forget how fortunate we are. Make gratitude a regular practice in your home. When a great opportunity comes your way or when you avoid a near accident share with your child how thankful you are for what you have been given. It will change your perspective on your life, and it will change your teen’s view of what life is all about.

2. Positive thinking: We all know positive thinking is important, yet many don’t practice this habit. Why? It’s really hard to keep the habit going because most of us are used to thinking pessimistically. And at times it feels like you just can’t control how your child is thinking. That’s true. So, I encourage you not to try controlling how she’s thinking. Instead, control your thoughts, speech, and behaviour. You don’t even have to try correcting her speech. Just focus on you staying positive. Once you are able to consistently model positivity, she’ll adapt that. The best part? It’s difficult to continuously fight in a positive home.

3. Take turns speaking: When having family conversations, take turns speaking. The people with authority (parents) and oldest sibling can take over conversations and they tend to be the loudest. Allow all family members to have an equal amount of speaking time. All kids have ideas and nothing shows more love than backing off so your quietest child can speak up too. Create rules in the house for how this will work.

4. Listen: When your teen wants to talk, just listen. Don’t give your advice. Ask questions to keep conversation going and so you can really understand your teen’s perspective. Allow your teen the time to speak to you. If you cut her off to share your wonderful wisdom, she’s more likely to cut off her conversation with you. She just wants you to listen. If she’s not sure of what to do and is asking for your opinion, guide her to make a decision through a series of questions. Let her develop her decision-making skills.

5. Slow down: Have the family slow down so you can appreciate each other. Both your relationship with your children and with your partner will improve when you have time for each other. By making regular time for your teen, you reduce the likelihood she’ll distance herself from you and if she does, you give her reason to rebuild a relationship with you again.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Friday, February 17, 2012

How To Help Your Teen Deal With An Addiction

When a child has an addiction, it’s the parent’s concern as much as the child’s. Many parents are willing to do anything necessary to help their teen return to a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, they are usually left feeling helpless, confused, and scared.

Having a plan to help can lessen the feelings of hopelessness and fear. It’s when parents feel they aren’t doing enough for their teens that the bad feelings come out. Parents don’t have to feel helpless. There are a number of steps they can take to help their child.

6 steps to keep in mind when helping your teen overcome addiction:

1. Admit it: The first step is not yours, but your teens. She has to be able to admit there’s a problem. Admitting this can be difficult. Why? Because admitting to addictions is admitting that something is wrong, it’s admitting to a bad mistake, it’s admitting to having no control over her behaviour, and it can be like admitting that she isn’t good enough. Admitting to it may also mean listening to your disapproval. If your teen isn’t willing to admit she has an addiction, however, it's harder to move to the next step. How can you help your teen fix something that in her eyes isn't broken?

2. Get professional help: Dealing with addictions isn’t easy and having a professional on your side will give you a feeling of comfort and a peace of mind. You won’t have to second guess yourself and your approach to helping your teen. This can be a highly emotional journey for you and for her. If you’re worried about the stigma attached to getting professional help, then choose to focus on getting her the help she needs to resume a happy life. It’ll all be worth it at the end.

3. Stay positive, hopeful, trusting, and patient: Trust can be difficult to give when your teen has already broken it. Staying positive, patient, and hopeful can be even harder when you’re at the bottom of the hole. Your trust and hopeful attitude, however, might be what keeps her going in the positive direction. This may deter her from disappointing you. If you need to yell, scream, or to speak to someone then find a therapist, someone who is objective, will keep your information confidential, and can give you advice that works. Taking it out on your child for ruining the family order will not help anyone.

4. Stay a team: You are a family and a family should always be a team. Don’t break yourselves up into Team Parents (the right team) and Team Teen (the wrong team). Breaking an addiction is hard enough; it makes it even harder if your teen has to deal with constant criticism from you. Give your teen a reason to stay on track instead of a reason to fulfill your negative expectations of her inability to make good decisions.

5. Do your research: Understand what your teen is going through by doing the research BEFORE you try to help your teen. Parent’s typical response is to jump in and save the child. If you don't know much about addictions (who, what, where, when, why) you're more likely to push your child away than to help her. When you are knowledgeable you’ll be able to identify with your teen. The more she feels you know about her situation, the more she’ll feel you understand her.

6. Stay on top of things: Correct any faulty, negative, and hopeless thinking, keep all appointments, be available to talk, make a family plan that is fair to you and your teen that will help you stay on track. Explain to your teen she is your priority (perhaps up till now she felt she wasn’t even important to you?). By staying on top of things, without being invasive (showing distrust), you’re showing your teen you care and that she is your main concern.

Best Wishes To You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Why Teens Develop Addictions?

Parents, who have reasons to worry about their teens, breathe a big sigh of relief when they find out their teens aren’t involved with drugs and alcohol. Addictions, however, aren’t always drug and alcohol related. Other addictions include gambling, addiction to relationships, addiction to video games, addiction to sex, addiction to food, etc., some of which are really hard to detect in the early stages. While drug and alcohol may appear most dangerous to the physical body, all types of addictions are detrimental to the quality of a teen’s life.

It’s important to note that teens don’t start off with the intent of becoming an addict (and they usually aren’t aware of the precise moment they start to lose control). Repetitive engaging in particular behaviour to receive particular benefits does, however, lead to addiction.

This leads us to ask, why are teens repeatedly engaging in certain behaviours to the point of developing an addiction? What’s causing them to go back to use the same substance or behaviour?

If we know what leads teens to become addicted, it’s easy for parents to take preventative measures so their teens do not get caught in the trap.

Here are 4 reasons teens start engaging in and keep coming back to addictive behaviours:

1. It has rewards: Some teens feel that a particular behaviour or substance has certain rewards (e.g., feeling a temporary high, fitting in with peers, proving self-worth and courage, deliberate rebellion, etc.). The perceived reward tempts the teen into engaging in the particular behaviour again and again. While the reward is different for every teen, it’s the supposed benefit that keeps the teen coming back to the same behaviour.

2. Pain relief: Some people feel forming addictions is a sign of irresponsibility, bad friendships or hanging out with the wrong crowd, and bad choices. On the surface this is certainly how it appears, but many teens who go through therapy say the substance or behaviour was first used to help them deal with emotional pain. Teens that come from emotionally abusive or neglectful homes (whether they were abused or witnessed abuse) are more likely to develop an addiction. Over time, these teens start consuming larger doses while believing they’re in control.

3. Coping with stress: Life gets tough no matter what age you’re at. It’s even tougher if you don’t know how to deal with what life has to offer to you. In order to divert attention from stressful life circumstances some teens form addictive behaviours. Teens that experience anxiety or depression often find relief in using substances or engaging in certain behaviours. Addictions are particularly likely for teens that don’t see a way out, don’t believe help is possible, or are embarrassed to speak about it.

4. Modeling: Teens that are present in environments with substance abuse or other addictive behaviours are more likely to develop same behaviours. Many of these teens learn this as a way of life and unless someone comes along to show them an alternative way of living, they will adapt the destructive habits as their own.

Best Wishes To You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Letting Your Teen Make Choices: Wise or Irresponsible?

Some parents love to make choices for their kids. The intent, of course, is all good. They want their kids to have the best without making mistakes. The question is, is this healthy and realistic?

Parents need to practice relinquishing control at an early age...to make age-appropriate decisions only! When kids start going to school, it’s important they can choose their own backpack colour, particular clothing style (with guidance from parents), allowing them to have some choice on their lunches, and even letting them have food preferences.

By making these choices, kids start getting a feel for who they are, what is important to them, what colours they enjoy, and what it means to follow their desires. They also start learning their opinions matter, that you trust them, and that you respect their choices.

So why do parents get nervous when they have to relinquish some control to their teens?

Parents get nervous because teens start challenging them and thinking in a new way. This is a part of developing their identity. When teens start having different opinions, when they start talking back, when they no longer think parents are as important as friends and social activities, parents jump to the conclusion their teens will get off track.

Remember, that it is normal for your teen to challenge your beliefs, opinions, and values. More than anything they are testing their new found and much desired independence. This doesn’t mean they don’t want your input or advice, it means they want you to back off a bit more (alter your parenting to reflect your teen’s age) so they can make their choices. The more controlling you are the more rebellious your teen can become (of course, some kids are more rebellious/ submissive than others). This is natural.

When relinquishing control, however, it’s your job to teach your teen that freedom of choice comes with responsibility and potential consequences. Relinquishing control without these lessons is irresponsible. This means sitting down together to set fair rules that you must enforce. Any slips on your part means you’re not sticking to your end of the deal and not teaching your teen about responsibility.

Having rules and consequences in place, also gives you control over your teen’s behaviour. While he perceives freedom you still have control over what is going on in your home. When you don’t hold your end of the deal, you’ll start feeling out of control and you’ll take it out on your teen. This is unfair to him!

Stay consistent so your teen will know what to expect from you.

Consider these tips when allowing your teen to make choices:

1. Show respect for your teen’s decisions (even if it isn’t how you would do it)
2. Show and speak about the faith you have in your teen’s ability to make the right choice
3. Remember that mistakes are a step closer to success. Most mistakes and failures are not going to ruin your teen’s life (pick your battles)
4. Be a support not a stressor. When you’re willing to offer advice but know when to back off to let your teen think through the dilemma, you show trust and love.

Best Wishes To You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Drugs, Sex, and Alcohol: Can Teens Make Responsible Choices?

To do or not to do. That is the question teens are facing today.

Drugs, sex, and alcohol are among the scariest choices teens are making in our society. Many parents are scared senseless, not knowing if their teen will succumb to these bad decisions. Some are not even sure if teens, with their limited experience, are capable of making responsible choices.

But, are they?

Yes! Teens are capable of making responsible choices. This, however, only comes with support, trust, and respect from their parents, and practice and an understanding of their value system.

Parents often feel concerned about their teens for having to make so many life-path choices. Most teens that are given the opportunity to make age-appropriate choices in childhood however, are able to handle the more difficult decisions as they grow up. They learn from previous successes and failures and build self-confidence that they are able to take care of themselves. It’s a learning process that creates a feeling of empowerment.

Making choices are a part of life. And that’s a good thing! Choices give your teen freedom and the opportunity to fulfill personal desires (if they make responsible decisions of course).

4 Influencers of smart teen choices:

1. Quality of connection with parents: The quality of the relationship kids have with their parents plays a big role in the choices they make as teens and adults. The choices teens make reflect their psychological needs and wants. If parents meet the emotional and psychological needs of their kids, their kids are less likely to search for fillers outside the home by engaging in random sex, addictions, and negative relationships.

2. Ability to deal with stress: Stress exists in life. That is not the issue. The issue lies in whether or not teens can deal with it. Teens that don’t have the skills to deal with stress are more likely to avoid it by searching for any type of ‘fun’ distractions. When teens are looking for diversions they are more likely to make questionable choices.

3. Level of independence: Whether or not teens are allowed to make age-appropriate choices throughout their life (e.g., what colour of backpack, which shoes to wear, etc.) makes a big difference in how they approach decision-making. Teens that have parents who make all the decision feel lost when parents are no longer making choices for them. Good choice making is acquired through practice not through mindless observation. The more choices kids make throughout life the less they are to mindlessly follow the crowd. It’s important for teens to be encouraged to think through their choices as opposed to waiting for instructions on what to do next.

4. Values: Values are often spoken about, but for some reason taken lightly. There aren’t many people who would be able to list their values, especially teens. When values are known they have the ability to influence choices for the better. When they aren’t known, teen’s misaligned choices leave teens feeling unfulfilled and empty.
Best Wishes To You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, February 5, 2012

5 Common Stressors for Teens

As long as we are alive we have stress. Kids and teens are as likely to experience intense stress as are adults. Some parents falsely assume that if their child does not have bills to pay or chores and responsibilities that their child is living a stress-free life.

This assumption is incorrect. Teen stressors appear inconsequential to parents only because they’re looking at these problems with an adult mind. Teens, however, are getting a hang of handling life issues (these early life experiences are preparing them for future matters) and these topics are important to them. Naturally, uncertainties will lead to a certain amount of stress.

To help your teen deal with stress, it will be helpful if you know about the common causes of stress. For those teens that are unable to identify the cause, you can have a starting point for the investigation.

Five common stressors for teens include:

1. School: People have different learning styles, interests, and strengths. Unfortunately, school is a standard structure that doesn’t take these differences into consideration. When the school doesn’t embrace the teens’ strengths, values or creativity they tend to be more stressed out.

2. Parents: Parents and home environment can also add to teen stress.
a. High expectations are a big stress for children. Out of love, parents want teens to succeed in everything. While this idea is nice, it’s really an unrealistic expectation.
b. After school activities are important but become a stressor if parents expect their teens to be involved in too many (even if it’s of their choosing). It’s important for teens to have some free, unscheduled time each week where they can do whatever they want. During this time she has the opportunity to relax as well as learn she deserves to have some free time. It’s a good habit to develop.
c. Stressed parents can transfer their stress on to their teens. If you are frequently stressed, it’s reflected in how you treat your teen. Your unpredictable behaviour may leave her worried and anxious since she doesn’t know what to expect next. Likewise, if you are emotionally unavailable for her, she may feel neglected and worthless. These feelings increase stress levels as she tries to get your attention, only to fail each time.

3. Peer group: Peer pressure, not getting along with friends, and worrying about fitting in causes stress. The peer group is an important part of a teen’s life. If she senses the peer group is unreliable or disrespectful, it will increase her stress levels as she feels pressured to impress her social group.

4. Lack of life skills: Skills such as organization and time management are important stress preventers. Likewise, an absence of these valuable skills can make life more hectic and chaotic. Teen’s habits are normally a reflection of how things are done in the household. As such, it’s unrealistic for parents to expect teens to do better than them. Any other expectations are only a stress producer.

5. Personal thoughts: What kind of thinking does your teen engage in? It’s not too tough to find out. Pay attention to your teen’s actions and words as they’re a reflection of what’s going on inside her head. Instead of criticizing her, provide her with an alternative way of thinking.

Best Wishes To Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gender Differences in Teen Stress: Avoidance and Coping

We know that stress is a part of life. We also know this means that teens experience stress too.

The question is how do teens handle stress? Do they know how to handle stress? Do they have the right tools and skills to handle stress in a healthy way?

Research suggests important differences in how boys and girls cope with stress. According to a Baltimore study:

• 25% of boys and 19% avoid or refuse to deal with stress
• 23% of boys and 14% of girls will distract themselves away from their stress
• 17% of boys and 22% of girls seek support
• 35% and 45% of girls actively try to remove or reduce their stress

Based on these results, it appears boys are more likely to refuse to deal with stress and to distract themselves away from it where as girls are more likely to seek support and actively reduce the stress they experience.

Why the difference?

1. Hormones: During stressful situations, females produce more oxytocin than males. Oxytocin is released into the body to counter the production of cortisol. This hormone promotes bonding, nurturing, and relaxing emotions. As such, when females are stressed they’re physiologically inclined to bond with others. This leads them to speak about what is going on and get advice and support from others. Because males produce much less of this hormone they’re less inclined to speak about it and more likely to go off on their own until the stress passes away on its own or they’re able to come up with a solution.

2. Lack of communication and skills: Boys (and men in general) are less likely to talk about what is bothering them. If they don’t want to speak to anyone and they don’t know how to handle what is going on in life, they’re more likely to avoid dealing with it (the same is true of females who don’t speak about their problems and feel in over their head). As a result, they delay developing the skills to deal with stress.

3. Self-esteem: Female self-esteem is built around adequacy of relationships whereas male self-esteem is built based on adequacy of performance. Because males base their worth on how well they’re able to perform, they’re less likely to seek support than females. Females on the other hand are more likely to search for support and strengthen their relationships (this also explains why many females go out of their way to make others happy).

Here are 4 tips to help your teen (male or female) cope with stress:

1. Communication: Communication serves two purposes. One, it helps your teen identify what is stressing them out by speaking to a trusted adult. Two, it shows your teen he is not alone in dealing with stress. Although girls are more likely to speak about their stress, it does not mean boys remain completely mute. During brief communication, you can help him pinpoint stress and share advice. After that, let him come to a conclusion on his own if that is his preference.

2. Coping skills: Model healthy stress coping skills. These include journaling, time management skills, avoid extreme reactions & overgeneralizing, setting priorities, and setting realistic goals. When your teen is exposed to positive habits, he is more likely to adapt them as his own.

3. Saying ‘No.’: Teach your child (by modeling) to say no. Many times teens get themselves into stressful situations because they did not know how to say no to peers, coaches, teachers, and even to parents. By showing them it’s OK to say no and demonstrating how to do it, they’re more likely to respect their own boundaries.

4. Healthy lifestyle: Healthy diet, enough sleep, and regular exercise are important for a healthy body and to reduce stress. An unbalanced diet produces harmful chemicals in the body as does a sedentary lifestyle, and a lack of sleep.

Best Wishes To Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teen Attitude: What is normal? How does it affect behaviour?

Many parents of teens find themselves wondering if their teen’s attitude is ‘normal.’ Obviously they wonder how their teen compares to other teens and if their teen is on the right track.

So, what is a normal teen attitude? Is there such thing as a normal teen attitude? I am not sure there is, but there certainly is such thing as a positive and negative attitude. And it is well known that a positive attitude will get your teen a lot further than a negative one.

Every teen has unique experiences with a unique home environment. Her current attitude is a by-product of her life experiences and the people around her. My advice to you is stop worrying about whether your teen’s attitude measures up to other teens’ attitude but to encourage her to put her best attitude forward at all times.

Why? Because her attitude affects her behaviour. [Note. It has also been established that when your teen’s attitude is neutral, behaviour will shape her attitude toward a person or object. This helps her justify or explain her behaviour.]

Here are 4 areas how her attitude will affect her behaviour:

1. Persistence: A positive attitude will help your teen stay optimistic and keep going when it gets harder. Teens with a good attitude are willing to stay committed because it is easier for them to cope with everyday life challenges and see the bright side of life.

2. Social life: Teens with better attitude attract more people to them. They tend to see the good in other people and are more motivated to socialize. Remember, however, to take your teen’s natural disposition into account. If she’s an introvert she’ll never be as sociable as an extrovert and that’s OK. More importantly, with a great attitude, she’ll attract like-minded people.

3. Self-esteem: A positive attitude and a bright outlook raises self-esteem. Teens with a higher self-esteem are more likely to try new things and are more open to life experiences. Teens with a poor attitude find new experiences to be less enjoyable and tedious mainly because they don’t have the self-esteem to go for it.

4. Healthier lifestyle: Teens with a positive attitude are more likely to make better choices and live a healthier lifestyle because they think they deserve it. In addition, people with a more positive long-term attitude are physically and psychologically healthier.

Here are suggestions on how you can help your teen develop a more positive attitude.

1. Read inspiring quotes (or have some posted throughout the home...find new one’s each week)

2. Teach your teen to look at the bright side of life

3. Smile often (make this your own habit and watch your teen copy you)

4. Have short stories about inspiring people available around the home (you can also search for YouTube videos)

5. Teach your teen to expect and focus on positive outcomes

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Do Teens Have a Bad Attitude? How to deal with it?

Who cares? I don’t!

Why bother?

You’re not my boss! Leave me alone!

This stinks!

Do these words sound familiar? Teens more than anyone else in our society are stereotyped to have a bad attitude (though to be fair to them, consider the adult population and their attitude). The question is ‘why are teens prone to have a negative attitude?’

Here are 4 reasons:

1. Physiological changes. There are changes going on in your teen’s body that shift his mood and attitude from day to day. He is working on getting a hang of this new body (it’s similar to learning how to use motor skills).

2. Identity. Your teen is trying to figure out who he is, and while on some days it is OK with him to be a good kid who listens to his parents, on other days he would rather be independent from you. To do this, he’ll push you away with his attitude (especially if he feels you are babying him or trying to exert your control over him). Similarly, if you enter his room without knocking on one the days he wants to be independent, he is more likely to get upset.

3. Why not. Does your teen feel a bad attitude is expected of him just because he is a teen? Perhaps he has overheard you share your poor opinion of teens. If so, it gives him permission to be nasty. If he feels no one is expecting anything better of him, he won’t expect much of himself.

4. Manipulation. Does your teen know exactly the type of attitude that will have you back off? If he knows certain results will be guaranteed with a particular attitude, you can bet your lucky penny he’ll use this against you. Analyze certain patterns in your relationship with your teen.

Knowing these reasons we can now ask, what can you do to help your teen? I suggest 4 solutions:

1. Limits: Sometimes he needs you to back off, especially if you’re constantly lecturing (instead of just listening), giving orders (instead of support), comparing your life to his (instead of accepting his life is different). On the days his attitude is edgier, back off in order to respect your teen’s limits (as opposed to engaging him in a fight). He will come around when the mood wears off.

2. Your relationship: Many teens develop a poor attitude if they feel their family is ignoring them. This is not an attitude problem, it suggests relationship problems. Take an honest look at your relationship with your teen. Do you think there is room for improvement? If so, there is a chance you may need to prioritize your time and cut some things out of your life to make room for him (e.g., late evening office work).

3. Validation: From time to time a bad attitude will spring from the fact that your teen feels no one is listening. Listen to the words expressed by your teen and after he is finished speaking, first repeat what he said to you in your own words. Do not jump into giving life wisdom immediately. Acknowledge his feelings and then ask him what he thinks is the best way of dealing with the issue. Ask if you can add some of your own insights.

4. Model a good attitude: You may notice your teen has a very similar attitude to you or your partner. Why not start with modeling the type of behaviour you expect from your teen? Eliminate the belief “You have to but I don’t!” This attitude will never fly with your teen.

Best Wishes To You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Helping Your Teen Deal with Depression

While teens are going though many changes, teen depression is not a ‘normal’ part of growing up! If you suspect your teen may be going through depression, seek some form of coaching or counselling for your teen.

The symptoms of teen depression include:

1. Poor school performance
2. Showing lethargic behaviour and a lack of interest
3. Low energy, prolonged sadness, frequent crying
4. Avoiding family or friends in order to be alone, less willing to socialize
5. Anger, hostility, touchiness (it’s not always indicated by sadness)
6. Rebellion
7. Drug and alcohol abuse
8. Thoughts of death and suicide

Based on the symptoms listed above, you may have noticed there isn’t a particular pattern to look for when suspecting teen depression. Teen depression can be expressed through a number of inconsistent behaviours. Be alert to any unusual but prolonged changes in your teen.

Here are steps you can take to help your teen out with depression. These exercises require you to make time for your teen. If you don’t get the response you are looking for immediately, you need to stay patient and persist.

1. Communication: Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Many parents don’t realize they’ve stopped communicating with their teens until there is a problem. Communicate daily with your teen. If you suspect depression, it will be easier for you to get your teen to open up and see what is causing the depression. Many times depression starts with negative thoughts. Find out what your teen is thinking.

2. Meaning: Once you find out what your teen is thinking challenge the meaning s/he has attributed to the situation. Depressed individuals have a tendency to blame themselves for situations out of their control.

3. Perceived lack of control: Many teens don’t realize how much their own behaviour controls what events and outcomes occur. While it’s true they have no control over other people’s behaviour, they have complete control over their own. Individuals who feel hopeless and believe things just happen to them are more likely to experience depression.

4. Lifestyle: Poor eating habits, no exercise, setting unrealistic goals to prove to parents teen is worthy of their attention is physically and psychologically unhealthy. Model a frequent exercise routine and healthy eating habits. Give your teen healthy attention whether s/he achieves her goal or not. You can provide pointers later, but be sure to notice the effort and courage first. A healthier lifestyle will help eliminate many depressive symptoms.

5. Home experience: Mom and dad focus on the quality of the experience your teen receives at home. This includes the type of relationship you have with your teen and how much time you offer to him/her. Studies have shown that when the home is stable and teens have great interactions with caregivers, they are psychologically and physically healthier.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Teen Depression: 3 Causes and Contributors

Teen depression is on the rise. For many readers, this isn’t the first time they’ve heard this.

Despite the fact that now, more than ever before, teens have more sophisticated lifestyles, including traveling, bigger homes with all basic necessities, sports opportunities, educational opportunities, access to technology, and much more, an alarming number of teens are going through depression.

Why? What is missing?

It appears that experiences bought with money, though they temporarily increase life pleasure, don’t provide the nourishment necessary for a healthy psychological development. Research studies have supported this and even shown that more materialistic objects don’t increase long-term happiness.

Many teens whose behaviour is seen as problematic, when questioned, will recall not having enough time with parents, so they found their own diversion. Some teen’s rebel, some sink into depression, and some experience both. Rebellion or depression, however, are only symptoms of the bigger problem: a lack of connection with the caregiver.

Despite our advanced society, receiving the psychological basics of life (e.g., human connection, love, parent-child bond and interaction) remains important. As such, I discuss 3 contributors to depression. These 3 ideas are rooted in the necessity for caregivers to create a connection with their teens.

1. Poor relationships: Many teens who suffer from depression have very poor relationships with their parents. Poor relationships consist of frequent fighting, not enough interaction, abuse, etc. For healthy psychological development teens need to have interactive relationships with their parents. This sends the message that teens are cherished, worth the time, and that they’re important and they matter. It lets teens know they’re loved and they belong. In the absence of this, teens disconnect from the parents and seek to fill that gap by using friends as a substitute for parents. Peers, however, are a poor alternative as they’re unable to fill in what is missing from the parents. With the inability to find what they’re looking for some teens gradually sink into depression.

2. Dysfunction in the home: The home is meant to be a symbol of security and safety. When it’s a happy home, kids and teens look forward to coming home from school each day. When parents are absorbed by fights and verbally poking at each other, or are emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive towards teens, this home becomes as place of fear, sadness, and insecurity. Teens that associate their worth with a dysfunctional home are more likely to feel depressed.

3. Stress: As long as we live we have stress. Teens are just getting a hang of many life issues and require support at home along with advice on how to handle stressors. When teens are taught stress coping skills and have someone to speak to at home, the stress no longer is perceived as unmanageable. As such, it requires parents to have time for teens, to be in tune with what is going on in teens’ life, and to have robust relationships so teens will open up. Without a healthy way to cope with stress, teens can feel overwhelmed, inadequate and experience depression.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Media Literacy: Tips To Get Your Teen to Question Media Content

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

There is a TON of content available on TV, the internet, in print, and on the radio. Much of the messaging teens (and adults) are exposed to is absorbed into their minds. Once they absorb or internalize the information, they accept it as the truth. This information now becomes their guiding light on what to do and how to be.

The extent to which media will affect teens depends on how well they are taught to critically think about what they are exposed to. In fact, critical thinking is a powerful life skill and taking the time to guide your teen to be critical of what she is told will reduce others’ power over her.

Three important steps to reduce the impact of media:

1. Be picky. Demonstrate to your teen to be picky about what s/he is willing to watch. Just because there isn’t anything better to watch doesn't make it OK to watch what is on at that time. Instead, teach her to put her time to better use: read a book, use it for family time, etc. The best step for teens is to distance themselves from much of what they see, hear, and read. Remember, if they are exposed to it, they will be somewhat affected by the messages even if they are aware of media persuasion methods. When picking suitable content, teach your teen to follow the 2 rules below:

a. If I would not like what I see, hear, or read about to materialize in my life, than it is also not suitable for viewing or reading.

b. If it makes me doubt my worth or how good I am, it does not deserve my time.

2. Critical viewing and thinking. Many teens are just not taught to think critically. As such they accept what they hear and read as the truth. This means what they see, hear, and read soon becomes their benchmark for living. When viewing/ reading advertising, work with your teen to answer the following questions; it will help your teen think differently about what she sees.
a. Who created the media experience?
b. What are they hoping to gain?
c. What message are they sending (What are they implying...even if it isn’t said directly)? Are the messages true?
d. How does watching this commercial make me feel? Why do I feel this way?
e. Is this image/ video photoshopped? Why is it photoshopped? Will the product I purchase give me the same result as the photoshopped image?
f. Will this product enhance my life in the way they promise (teach her to pay attention to how many times she can actually answer with a confident “Yes”)?
g. Am I being told that I need this or want this? What is the truth?

3. Who makes it & why. This section is for your teen to think about who stands to gain what from sending out the message. The bottom line, of course, for almost all media is making money! To do this, the media creators entice the audience to purchase their product or service by convincing the viewers to believe their life is lacking if they do not have this particular product. Take the time to observe and talk about what your teen enjoys watching/ reading so she is aware of why she enjoys certain content.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

How does Media Affect Teens?

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

It’s no longer necessary to ask IF media affects teens. The question to ask now is ‘HOW does it affect them?’

Of course many experts have refuted the idea that media has an effect on teens saying the studies are correlational in nature thus making it difficult to know if kids with a predisposition to violence are more likely to watch violent shows or if watching violence leads them to become more violent.

While the experts are busy debating it is up to you as a parent who spends every day with your child to notice how his behavioural and attitude patterns change as a result of watching particular content. Mimicking is a good clue.

A survey revealed that 75% of adults would like to see tighter enforcement of government rules on broadcast content. In Britain 78% of 18 to 24-year-olds also believe tougher restrictions are necessary to discourage adolescent sex. Who’s best to tell us how media affects teens’ behaviour than teens themselves!

In my opinion, media does influence our behaviour. If it didn’t, marketers wouldn’t be investing millions (billions?) of dollars every year into advertising. They know that if they portray their product or service as desirable and cool teens and adults will want it.

According to a study conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation (2005) teens spend about 44 hours a week on various forms of media (more time than they spend in school!). They are bound to absorb some of what they are exposed to.

Most people and parents know it has a negative effect, but are unable to pinpoint the specific consequences.

Here are 4 ways:

1. Sexuality: The sexual content has become more explicit in nature and is targeting younger and younger kids. Even the ratings of movies have become less strict. Media (music videos, movies, and sexualized advertising) is portraying sex as something that everyone does (even to the 10 year olds who are watching!). Confused but curious teens and preteens who engage in sexual behaviour are left feeling used, worthless, and emotionally detached as they are not psychologically ready for these experiences (not to mention the increased risk of pregnancy).

2. Violence: The violent content we see today has increased in frequency as well as in vividness. Young kids and teens are exposed to heroes who are ever more violent with cooler than ever tricks and moves (most of which are done by stuntmen or are computerized). After their aggressive performance they are victorious, praised and awarded. With regular exposure to violence, teens (especially boys) are more likely to practice the moves and incorporate them into daily life when interacting with peers. Because peers are exposed to the same content, they respond in kind and the behaviour is considered acceptable in the youth culture.

3. Substance abuse: There aren’t many movies that do not include alcohol and drugs in at least one of the scenes, particularly when teens are partying. Alcohol and drugs are consistently paired with the idea that these substances help teens have more fun. More importantly, media portrays these scenes as reflection of reality leaving teens believing that everyone does it. As soon as teens feel singled out, they are more likely to conform to what they think is normal.

4. Unrealistic fitness and beauty stereotypes: The bodies we see today in media are hardly realistic human bodies. Photoshopped bodies aren't real! The standard of the ‘ideal body’ leaves many adults feeling inadequate, not to mention children and teens who are still using their appearance as clue to their identity. Unfortunately, media portrays these images as ideal and as something to be strived for, leaving teens to feel very dissatisfied with themselves when they fail to meet the standards. This unreachable goal leads to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and shame. These feelings and beliefs lead to unhealthy choices and behaviours.

Parents have the power to filter the content viewed and read about in the home. It takes times, patience, and communication with teens.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Teens: Positive and Negative Self-image

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Your teen’s self-image is his mental picture of who he is. His self-image is developed based on how he was taught to think about himself, based on his experiences, and on others’ opinion of him.

His self-image is one of the most important things in his life. It will determine his attitude and behaviour and will affect all of the variables below:
1. The friends he makes and has
2. His performance at school
3. His life choices
4. What he will achieve
5. His level of happiness
6. His level of life satisfaction

A healthy self-image gives your teen the confidence to stand up for himself. The confidence gives him the courage to say no to peer pressure. Teens with a positive self-image believe they are worthy individuals with great qualities. This positive perspective of themselves leads them to believe they deserve to make positive choices so they don’t hurt themselves and their future.

Teens who have a negative self-image usually don’t think they deserve much and they don’t expect much of themselves. They don’t see themselves to be worth all the work. Teens with a poor self-image are also more likely to participate in risky behaviour if they think it will gain them the approval of their peers.

Because a good self-image affects so many important areas of a teen’s life, it’s important for parents to help their teen build a positive view of themselves. Just like anything, this is a work in progress and the more your teen practices positive thinking about himself, the better he will feel.

What you as a parent can do to help your teen improve his self-image:

1. Watch your words: Sometimes teens can take well meant comments in the wrong way. The English language is ambiguous and can be interpreted in a number of ways, so speak clearly. Also, remember that your teen’s mood can affect what he thinks he hears. Be attentive to your teen’s mood so you minimize miscommunication.

2. Build a close connection to your teen: Parents who take the time to develop a strong relationship with their teen will raise a child with a positive self-image. When you spend time with your teen and participate in activities he enjoys you demonstrate your love for him. The more secure your teen feels in his relationship with you, his parent, the better self-image he will have.

3. Show your teen you value him: Spending time with your teen and taking actions to show him you value him will boost how he feels about himself. While forming his identity, your teen often looks to you to show him his value and worth. Kind, respectful words are important. Also, be sure to keep your commitments with your teen, attend his games and recitals, and stop what you are doing when he is speaking to you and just listen.

Guide your teen to learn the important things about himself. Work with him to discover the following:

1. Successes: Talk about your teen’s successes. As a society, we often focus on the bad stuff. Speaking about failures will not make them go away and they certainly won’t help your teen to form a good self-image. Talk about successes and speak about lessons learned when goals weren’t reached.

2. Strengths: After listing your teen’s successes, ask him to point out what strengths were required to reach each success. You and your teen will pick up on patterns and easily learn what his strong points are. Encourage him to get involved in activities where he can use his strengths as much as possible. It will positively influence his self-image.

3. Values: Values are often spoken about by coaches but are also overlooked at home. They are important and they do determine whether your teen feels proud of himself or not. Successes only evoke a feeling of pride if they are congruent to what is important to your teen. Even an award such as the Nobel Prize will not be enjoyed if the ‘success’ goes against your teen’s value system.

4. Personal interests: Your teen has interests and the more things he tries the wider those interests will be. Many young teens believe that video games are their major interest. While there is nothing wrong with video games, their range of interests will increase if they are able to experience more in life. Offer your teen the opportunity to grow his interests so he can learn about the wonderful person he is.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

How to Help Your Teen Overcome Self-image Issues

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Self-image is how your teen sees herself. It’s how she perceives her physical and psychological self. Her answers to questions such as the ones below, helps you get an idea of her self-image.

1. What are you capable of achieving?
2. How would you describe your abilities?
3. Are you deserving of all good things in life?
4. How would you describe yourself (good points and bad points)?
5. How would others describe you? (Ask for some negative points too, otherwise she’ll only give you the good ones).

The image your teen has of herself determines what she’ll try in life and what she’ll run away from. If you’re not sure whether your teen gave you an accurate description of herself using the questions above, your clue to her self-image is her behaviour and her desire to be involved in life activities—it’s a reflection of what she believes she’s capable of. Also, pay attention to the attitude she has about herself and about life. A negative attitude is usually reflected in perceived self-limitation.

Many teens (and adults) have a tough time seeing themselves in a positive perspective. Teens in our society have been conditioned to pay attention to their weaknesses, mistakes, and incapability so they can ‘fix’ them. Unfortunately, paying attention to the negative points usually leads teens to internalize a negative self-image.

Teens of parents who repeatedly bring up their negative points (no matter how good their intention) are more likely to struggle with a negative self-image even if they are excelling at everything. It’s not outer success that determines a good self-image; it’s how teens are taught to think about themselves! Don’t let your teen’s good performance fool you into thinking everything is ok with her self-image and self-esteem. Let her overall behaviour guide you.

If you’re certain your teen has a poor self-image, it’s best to nip it in the bud before it becomes habitual. The longer she has this negative opinion of herself, the more effect it will have on her life and the harder it will be to break it.

Here are some general ideas to help your teen overcome a negative self-image:

1. Media exposure: Unfortunately, one of the things teens are most exposed to is more likely to hurt their self-image than it is to help it. Since you can’t control everything your teen is exposed to, your job is to empower your teen to think critically about what she sees and hears on TV and to be aware of how it makes her feel about herself. Media literacy is very important in our society.

2. Your self-image: How you see yourself is usually reflected in how you speak about yourself and in your actions (low or high confidence). Your behaviour and self-talk is absorbed by your kids. If you think you may have some trouble seeing yourself in a positive light and you think it’s reflected in your everyday action you may want to consider getting some guidance on overcoming a negative self-image. It’s a simple enough process which requires self-awareness to help you understand why you see yourself as you do. The benefits will be seen in your entire family. Remember, healthy moms and dads = healthy sons and daughters.

3. Extracurricular activities: Encourage your teen to be involved in variety of activities. Teens who are involved in social activities tend to have a more positive image of themselves. These teens also have a higher confidence level and develop less social phobias or anxieties. Teens who are not a part of various activities tend to develop the “I can’t” attitude which is rooted in a negative self-image.

4. Self-esteem: A positive self-esteem will positively affect your teen’s self-image (or a positive self-image will positively affect your teen’s self-esteem...all depends on what causes what). To help increase your teen’s self-esteem work on the following activities: build your connection with your child, encourage a 'yes, I can attitude,' avoid social comparisons in the home (we are not others and we are not meant to measure up to them...encourage uniqueness and reaching personal potential), teach your teen to accept compliments, keep a list of her successes on the refrigerator, provide her with the opportunity to hang out with positive and inspiring people, teach her to take action to do the things she likes.

5. Physical appearance: Teen’s self-image is also very much connected to her appearance, particularly in our society. Although make-up and clothes are important to girls, it’s not the only thing to consider. After all, the makeup and clothes come off at night. Make a point of focusing on healthy eating and fitness. Taking these actions will help your teen feel better about herself. Spending a day on the couch is usually not as rewarding as spending the day on a bike, walking, hiking or participating is some other favourite activity. Make it a family lifestyle!

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto