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