Monday, August 29, 2011

Everyday Tips to Strengthen Your Parent-Child Bond

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

A parent-child bond is perhaps one of most precious things in life. While a part of it is a natural phenomenon (work of biology), this bond also needs to be built, nourished, and maintained.

A child’s development, happiness, and his/her ability to form healthy relationships as an adult are dependent on the bond with mom and dad. Moms typically play the role of the nurturer and caregiver and dads are the authoritarians/ disciplinarians and play buddies at home. Because moms and dads play such a different role it is important that each parent is continually involved in the child’s life.

Everyday busyness and everyday situations often get in the way of nurturing and maintaining a strong parent-child bond. Parents find themselves busy working to provide the basic necessities of life and luxuries for their kids and they find themselves swamped with other responsibilities making it difficult to spend regular family time together.

Of course, if parents are divorced, it makes it a little harder for the parent with limited custody to spend the quality time with the child. If parents are divorced, separated, or not with the parent of the child, it is highly encouraged to speak to the child daily on the phone and let him/her share his life with you day by day.

Just like with anything else you wish to change or improve in your life, building your parent-child relationship must be something you want and something you are willing to make time for. The rewards will be enormous for your child and for you.

It is simple to nurture your parent-child bond with these everyday exercises:

1. Spend time together: Schedule some 1-on-1 time with each of your children. Mix it up. Sometimes you can stay at home and at other times you can plan an activity together. Make the time a regular part of your week (e.g. every Monday night 7PM to 8PM). When scheduled, both parties know to make themselves available in the evening. Most important, scheduled meetings are harder to brush off. This will show your child that s/he is important and can count on you being there.

2. Remember the good moments: Reminisce on the fun times you’ve spent together. Remember that moment at the cottage, remember the fun roller coaster ride, and remember the goofy times. These are the moments that will help strengthen your bond.

3. Communicate: Have an open door policy and an open line of communication. While this is easy to do when things are well, it also needs to occur during times of distress. This means no judging, no yelling, or storming off. Open communication also means speaking about those things you may normally avoid speaking to your child about (e.g., drinking, drugs, and sex and other age-appropriate topics).

4. Family values, traditions, and words of wisdom: Be sure to share your traditions and values with your kids and similar experiences you went through as a child. Family traditions and values will give your kids a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, and good memories with happy feelings.

5. Respect: Respect must go both ways. Respect sometimes gets lost when a parent and child have different viewpoints and neither can see the other’s perspective. With stubbornness and an inability to effectively communicate, disrespect enters the picture leading to a gap in your relationship with your child.

6. Appreciate: Tell your kids how much you appreciate them. Parents often find times to let their kids know about their mistakes. Make an effort to let them know about the good stuff too. It takes about 7 compliments to make up for a single criticism.

7. Family meals: Regular family meals (this includes preparation and clean up time) go a long way to build a bond. [According to research, the more often a family shares meals together, the less likelihood of criminal activity, low self-esteem, and body image issues]. Family meals is a good time to communicate, discuss every day things, inquire about your kids lives and just show you care.

8. I love you: Hearing “I love you” during the good days and the bad days keeps your child knowing s/he is lovable unconditionally. This can be as simple as poking your head in through your child’s bedroom door every night to say “Thanks for being mine. I love you.”

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Monday, August 15, 2011

Applying to College or University: Checklist

Picking a university can be a stressful event for the applicant and the family. Much of the stress and fear can be reduced, however, if you prepare and gather timely and accurate information. Here are some considerations to keep in mind to help your application process go a little smoother.

1. University or College: Where do you really want to go, university or college? What is your intuition telling you? Is there parental pressure to attend one over the other? Consider your goals and learning style. What do you hope to gain from post-secondary institution? Be honest with yourself, otherwise you may find yourself wasting time money and losing a bit of your confidence and self-esteem.

2. Research potential institutions: Do some research on the school’s geographical location, campus, programs offered. International or outside of province students may need to fill out additional paperwork. Get familiar with each of the institutions you are seriously considering.

3. Research the offered programs: Not all schools offer the same programs. If you know you want to go into sciences, research which schools offer strong programs in that area. This is finally your time to choose your area of study. Make an informed decision.

4. Find out admission requirements: Some school may have different admission requirements. Before you apply and set your heart on a particular school be sure you meet admission requirements otherwise you may be wasting your time, money, and letting yourself unnecessarily down.

5. Research tuition fees and loan options: If money is an important factor to you, research the tuition fees at each school. Be sure to do research on where you can get a loan. In Ontario, Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP), is a popular choice because there are no interest fees until the student graduates from the postsecondary institution. Inquire if your province or state offers a similar service.

6. Further guidance: Talk to your school counsellor or better yet go speak to someone at the admissions office at the potential school for more info (if it is within your driving range...if not, than call them up). No one can offer better info than the people who work there.

7. Speak to your family: Share your fears, concerns, and excitement with your family. They would love for you to communicate with them and let them know what is going on in your mind. Support is an important part of decision making.

8. Be proactive: Do not procrastinate with the application process—don’t leave anything to the last minute. Attend all post-secondary information presentations. Be aware of deadlines. Talk to people who are currently at university. Take their advice into consideration but don’t let it sway your opinion.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tips to Succeed at University and College

As students prepare to enter university, many are unsure of what to expect. For some students this is a scary transition while others are excited and ready for the change.

University is a great time to develop and improve academic, social, and life skills. This is students’ opportunity to meet new friends, network with future business partners, learn how to be organized and how to manage their time, and learn the significance of responsibility and the power of self-discipline.

Here are a few tips to help students in their transition from high school to post-secondary education.

Responsibility: For many students, university is a good opportunity to learn the significance of responsibility. Understanding responsibility means understanding that every outcome in your life is a result of your actions or lack of action. This means that if you are looking for specific outcomes, it us your responsibility to keep your actions in line with your goals. This means that if things don’t go right, you are not a victim of circumstance (e.g., wrong university, unreasonable professors, and too many social activities) but a victim of your poor decisions. Likewise, all great outcomes are a result of your right decisions and your right action.

Self-empowering beliefs: Do you believe you are capable of taking care of yourself and making the right decisions on your own? What you believe about yourself will have an impact on how things turn out. You can succeed, but it is a matter of believing in yourself and following up with what needs to be done. University is an experience to be approached with enthusiasm and a positive outlook. Clean up any beliefs that make you doubt your abilities.

Time Management and Organization: As you approach the beginning of your first year of university, it is a great time to brush up on your organizational and time management skills. The workload gets heavier and life can get more complicated with assignments, labs, readings, social events, family, etc. How organized you are and how well you manage or plan your time will influence how well you perform. It is important to have all assignments, readings, and events scheduled. Even more important is to stick to the schedule you have made for yourself as closely as possible.

Self-discipline: Many students are moving out on their own for the first time. The sudden freedom from parents can be exciting and liberating. Unfortunately, this may leave some students struggling with certain areas such as academic performance or organization. It is up to you to create the type of life you want while at university. As much as freedom is fun, it also comes with responsibility and responsibility can be achieved through self-discipline. Remember that only your behaviour produces your outcomes so make choices that are in line with your goals.

Motivation: Always keep your eyes focused on the big picture. There will be times when things get tough, you’ll get tired, and you’ll be confused wondering if you are on the right path. If you concentrate on your long-term goals, it will make it easier to get through the tough times. A social support group can also help you stick to what matters. Be part of a group that has similar values as you with similar ambition. In the meantime, keep yourself interested by creating new academic and social challenges and always celebrate your successes.

Balance your life: University is a great time to learn how to live a balanced life. It offers various social, sports, cultural, and academic clubs and organizations. Here you can learn how much time you want to dedicate to various activities, yet still giving yourself a little of every experience. While it is impossible to be perfectly balanced in all areas (some things require more time and effort), it is important to expose yourself to a little of everything. A balanced life will give you inspiration and even increase your motivation to stay on track.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto