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