Saturday, September 24, 2011

Communication in Your Relationship

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Communication is key to success in all relationships. From romantic relationships to professional relationships to parent-child relationships, it is important individuals learn to and are able to effectively communicate with each other.

Why is communication important? Good communication can and will increase the satisfaction of your life just as bad communication can and will reduce it. How so?

Well, we all have something to say and we all wish to relate our needs, desires, thoughts, and emotions to our romantic partners, co-workers, children, friends, and loved ones. Sharing our thoughts allows us to express our feelings, it relieves stress, and it is important for building a bond and strengthening the relationship. More importantly, if you communicate well you’re more likely to be well-liked and respected.

Communication is always important, but particularly important during time of conflicts and stress. It will prevent (or minimize) misunderstandings which can lead to unnecessary arguments. These are the times when our personal feelings and biases come into play and what we say is often reflected in our feelings, insecurities, and limiting beliefs. If you practice good communication skills, however, it will help you resolve conflicts at a faster rate.

Tips to Enhance Your Communication and Your Relationships

Listen: Listen to what you are being told. A person’s words are a good give away of what they want from you. Try not to add your own interpretation of their words. Repeat what they say in different words and see if your partner agrees with you.

Attention: When someone is trying to communicate with you, place your full attention on that person. Sometimes it’s tempting to split your attention between your partner and the television/ work/ other activity. It can even be tempting to just tune your partner out. This is hurtful and can cause your partner to feel insignificant to you.

Body language: A picture tells 1000 words. So does your body language. What is your body language saying? Through your body language you can convey annoyance, boredom, love, disinterest, etc. It is best when body language matches what you are trying to say.

Be direct & concise: Often times we speak in code (especially women) and just want our loved one to guess what we want. Sometimes we say one thing hoping s/he will know we mean another thing. Of course this leads to confusion, fights, frustration, and disappointment. Be honest and direct (get to the point) when communicating.

Think ahead: Most of us (if not all of us) can recall saying something only to regret it as its coming out of our mouths. Words can be wounding. When communicating with your partner stay in the present moment and think about how your words will affect your partner and impact your relationship. Remember, once you say it you can’t take it back.

Need to be right: While it’s great to be right, we are seldom right ALL the time. Many times your discussion has nothing to do with who is right and everything to do with understanding where each of you is coming from. If there is a right or wrong, it’s important both parties accept responsibility for their own mistakes. Do not make your argument about whose mistake is bigger, or different, or stupider, or worse. Concentrate on solving the issue at hand and not on who is more right.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Effects of and Solutions to Bullying

According to research, 1 in 7 Canadian children between the ages of 11 and 16 have at one time been bullied (Journal of Pediatrics). Researchers at the University of Guelph found that 50% of local school children reported being bullied in the last month. Forty-five percent of these same children said they did not feel safe at school.

Bullying is a repeated form of harassment where the bully typically has more power than his or her target (e.g., physical power, social power). Bullying includes, physical forms of harassment (e.g. punching kicking), social harassment (e.g., excluding from social groups), emotional harassment (e.g., teasing, putdowns), and verbal harassment (e.g., name calling). A newer type of bullying is cyber-bullying where victims are targeted online, by cell phones, and other technological devices.

Physical and Psychological Effects

Long-term bullying has negative effects on all parties involved. Targets of bullying are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness, isolation and a concern for their physical safety. Targets of repeated bullying also experience increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress and reduced self-esteem. Due to this they are more likely to experience symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, loss of appetite, troubles sleeping, bad dreams, sadness, and moodiness.

Studies have also shown that long-term bullying negatively affects bullies and the effects can worsen over the life cycle. Their antisocial behaviour often interferes with learning, creating genuine friends, work, building intimate relationships, and their mental health. Bullies can turn into antisocial adults and are more likely to engage in crime and become emotionally and physically abusing husbands and parents.

Solutions to End Bullying

Evidence suggests that bullying is more likely to occur when parents, teachers, or other authority figures are absent from the scene. Thus, adding more authority figures (even video cameras) could help solve immediate problems of bullying (at least for the traditional face-to-face bullying).

Considering the negative effects of bullying on both targets and bullies, however what can be done to eliminate (or at least minimize) bullying from our society so we may bring up well functioning children and create adults with a healthy well-being.

Here are a few tips:

1. Educational programs at school (raising awareness): Educational programs are effective and continue to raise awareness regarding what consists of bullying and how to deal with it. They also teach youth about respect and how bullying hurts.

2. Model positive behaviour for solving conflicts: Teaching kids how to behave and how to solve social conflicts starts at home. Parents are extremely influential and have the power to teach children the importance of solving disputes in a way where no one is hurt.

3. Speak about bullying at home: Parents can share values about respect and kindness for others. This is a chance for parents to promote positive life and human interaction skills. Also, parents can share some personal stories of bullying or situations they have witnessed as kids. They can share how everyone’s life has turned out and how bullying affected all parties involved (including bystanders).

4. Provide love and support to kids at home: Kids who receive love and support from parents tend to treat others positively. These kids are more likely to have higher self-esteem and advanced social skills. They also model their parents’ behaviour and treat their peers thoughtfully.

5. Understand the bully: Find out the underlying cause of why the bully is bullying and work with bully to overcome the issue. Sometimes educational programs are not enough and individual intervention is needed in order to have the bully become aware of his/her thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Compassion is very powerful.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Monday, September 5, 2011

6 Steps to Building Trust in Your Parent-Child Relationship

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

A lack of trust in a parent-child relationship is manifested through various behaviours. Whether it is stealing money, sneaking out at night, punching holes through walls, or not keeping promises, it is all a sign the level of trust in your relationship with your child can be improved.

Trust, of course, is a 2-way road and it’s difficult for one person to trust another if the other person is not behaviourally or verbally reliable. While your teen may trust that you will provide food, a home, and clothes the story does not end there. Teens also need to trust that mom and dad will be there and react compassionately when they make a mistake, they need mom and dad to spend quality time with them and not pass them over for work or other responsibilities, they need mom and dad to ask about what is going on in life and be genuinely interested, they need mom and dad to keep their word, they need to have family dinners together regularly where positive talk takes place and good stories are exchanged, they need mom and dad to provide a safe home without constant hostility or arguments, and they need mom and dad to discipline behaviour that is out of hand. All these things demonstrate care and as a result build trust.

Many times, when teens do not get adequate attention from one or both parents, they misinterpret the behaviour as a lack of care. In order to regain some of that attention they will then engage in questionable behaviour that often elicits a response from mom or dad (or both). After all, any kind of attention can be better than no attention.

Tips to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Teen

Having a trust is important; it is the major building block to any relationship. It solidifies the attachment between you and your child and it promotes compliance and reduces rebellion.

Recognizing this, here are simple tips to help improve the trust between you and your teen.

1. Make the initial move: When re-building trust, it is usually the job of the parent to make the first move. Some parents wait for teens to make the first move, thinking their teens have to show they are interested in change. As a parent you need to set the example first. When unsure of how to deal with the situation, teens may behave in a way that will worsen the situation.

2. Open lines of communication: Communication is an important step to many things and this includes building trust. It is difficult to enhance your trust if you are not communicating your perspectives and what is going on in each other’s lives.

3. Keep your promises: Many times both parents and teens will make promises and then cancel due to lack of time, misbehaviour, other more appealing social activities, etc. This is the easiest way to reduce trust in each other. Just as teens need to keep their promises to their parents, parents need to keep their promises to their teens.

4. Respect: Treating each other and speaking to each other (and about each other) with respect is important to building trust. It is difficult to develop a trusting relationship if you’re spoken to disrespectfully or if you overhear your parent (or your child) badmouthing you.

5. Patience: Building a trusting relationship happens over time. It is easy for wrong action to cancel out the last 7 good actions. At times you may feel like your relationship is progressing and at other times you may feel it is disintegrating. During these times, it is important you keep your positive and hopeful mentality and continue with your plan of building a trusting relationship. Your effort overtime will bring good results.

6. Consistency: For a trusting relationship to develop there must be consistency (or reliability) in the relationship. The more often each of you demonstrates that you can be trusted, the more likely you will be trusted. Consistency strengthens every relationship.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto