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