Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tips on Setting and Obtaining Goals for Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Does your teen have goals? What are these goals? Would you know how to help set her up for success?

Just like anything in life, teens must learn how to set goals in order to obtain them. This isn’t a process we naturally know (and that is one reason why we hear about people who don’t achieve their objective...they never learned how to). Teens must actively learn and practice how to set ourselves up for success.

When teens (and adults) decide they want to achieve something, they tend to jump right into it without thinking about the logical steps to complete it, exploring the many opportunities available, and what to do when obstacles come up.

Most teens don’t understand that the planning process is as important as taking physical action toward completing the goal. When they have a plan of action in mind along with a plan to overcome obstacles, they gain confidence, motivation, and the will to complete it so they can benefit from the results.

When teens don’t create a plan (especially for the larger goals), they’re more likely to feel confused, without a direction, and the end result becomes hopeless. They have an overall idea of what to do, but are not sure of the immediate steps to take (sometimes the steps that appear logical will take them to a dead end). This is when it’s easy for them to start losing the excitement to get the goal done.

If your teen is setting New Year resolutions, help her through the process. Do the research together and offer a goal of your own so you have something you can work on together.

Here are steps to help you out with the plan to obtain the goal. As an illustration, I will use the goal “To make some money” as an example. We will use my modified SMARTER approach to goals to guide us.


Specific. The first thing you may have noticed is the goal to ‘make some money’ isn’t specific. According to this goal, even if your teen makes $10 she has succeeded because she has made some money. The question is, is she happy with that? My guess isn’t as this isn’t what she had in mind. Guide her to pick an amount that is feasible but will make her happy. Ask her, how much money she would like to earn during a certain period. Set the bar high enough so she’s challenged but not overwhelmed. This way she’ll feel satisfied once her goal is achieved.

Measurable: How will your teen measure her progress to ensure she’s staying on track? It can be overwhelming to think about the big picture all the time, so it’s important your teen has little targets to work through. These little milestones need to add up to the full amount at the end of the defined period. If they don’t add up, she’ll not reach her expected amount. Guide her to break up the segments into appropriate amounts. For seasonal jobs she may expect to earn better during some months, and not so much during other months.

Attainable: The goal must be attainable. How will you and your teen know if it’s attainable or not? One way is to look at the amount of hours she can work given school and other commitments. It’s important to get the desired amount right. If it’s too low, it won’t be satisfying, if it’s too high it’ll be overwhelming and she may give up without giving herself a fair chance to earn a feasible amount. More important, she may consider it a failure. [Note. Successful goal setting and obtaining should not cut into other responsibilities.]

Realistic: This is the section where she defines HOW she’ll earn this money. She needs to create the steps that will get her to the endpoint and provide the chronological order of steps to be taken. For example, will she be working one job or several? If it’s several, ask her to write down how much she expects to earn from each position. What does she need to do to attain this goal? Get her to list the steps. Is she willing to do these steps no matter what or are there conditions attached? This all needs to be figured out at this stage so she doesn’t have to deal with it last minute. Make the plan doable and realistic.

Timely: Ask her to set a deadline. By when does she hope to earn this money? It’s best to set a specific month, day, and year when possible. Keep the deadline proportionate to the amount of money she hopes to earn. [Note. For some goals the due date will be chosen for her and she won’t have much say as to when she wants to finish e.g., submitting university/ college applications.]

Empowerment: Working towards goals can be challenging. When it gets really tough or your teen feels unmotivated and is tempted to quit, what will she use to get herself back in goal achieving mood? What will she do to regain control? What thoughts will she need to think? What will she need to focus on (e.g., results, outcomes)? Challenges and setbacks can be expected, so guide her not only to be prepared for them but to learn to empower herself. This can be her motivator when she’s feeling overwhelmed or is debating whether she should pick up an extra shift when she has the time.

Relevant: Why is this goal important to her at this stage in her life? What are the benefits of completing this goal? Ask her to create a list of what she’ll gain by completing this goal (think of the psychological benefits too, e.g., self-pride, self-confidence, feeling successful). This will help her weed out goals that are not of benefit to her and to choose wisely.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Vision Board: Helping Teens Stay Committed to Their Goals

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Perhaps the two most challenging things about goals is 1) staying motivated to complete them 2) remembering that we set them after a period of time passes. This holds true for adults as well as teens.

Without thinking about your goals from day to day it’s easy to forget you set them. You’ll think about them less and less until eventually a couple weeks go by before you remember you ever set them. Eventually it’ll be a month or more.

For those teens who take time to think regularly (daily) about their goals and who take regular action to complete them, it can get challenging to stay motivated. This is a normal part of life and goal setting. To overcome this, however, teens can create reminders for themselves.

The best method is to have visual reminders of the end product they hope to achieve and reminders of what it’ll feel like when they achieve the end product. My suggestion is a vision book (the same as a vision board except in book format).

A vision book is a book in which your teen can glue images that represent his desires and goals. Vision books are effective because when your teen surrounds himself with pictures of what he would like to have, what he would like to be, or of things he would like to do, his life is more likely to become what he wants it to be. It’s about having clarity of what he wants, focusing on it, and emotionally aligning himself with the things he hopes to achieve. These are all key components of staying motivated, committed, and achieving his goals.

Vision books have repeatedly been shown to be an integral part of many successful people’s lives.

Work with your teen to create a Vision Book (or vision board). It’ll strengthen his level of commitment.

1. Purchase or create (bind) a scrapbook. Purchased scrapbooks are convenient because they have the option of being easily refilled. Creating your own however, allows you to be as creative as you like and it allows you to customize it to your taste.

2. Grab a bunch of magazines with photographs. Consider magazines that are topic specific (e.g. travel magazines) and magazines that cover many different areas. You can also go online to search for specific pictures.

3. Collect inspiring words and phrases. Any words that make your teen feel great or that describe how he will feel when the goal is accomplished are essential for the vision book. Likewise, he can always print out the words he can’t find.

4. Get glue or tape to make the pictures stick to each page. It’s a good idea to organize the order of the images before they are firmly set.

5. Label each page with a positive and action oriented phrase. For example, “I am happily exercising 3 to 5 times on week.” (With the images he ought to include the days of the week he plans on working out. It’ll be a great reminder for him to go to the gym on those days.)

6. Review the vision board daily or every other day. Reviewing the book regularly will keep the goals fresh in your teen’s mind. The positive words and pictures will keep him motivated to keep going. It’ll also develop a level of commitment. If your teen does not think regularly about his goals, there will be little to stay committed to.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ringing in the New Year with Your teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Did you know New Year’s Day is a Global Family Day?

It is common now a days for parents to celebrate New Year’s separately from their teens. Even teens as young as 14, 15 or 16 years old make plans of their own as parents book their own festivities. After all, teens are clearly not interested in spending the time with mom and dad but prefer to spend it with peer’s their age or slightly older and cooler acquaintances.

Traditionally, families celebrated such holidays together. While youth and adults would separate into their respective groups, the entire family attended the same party. They arrived together, they celebrated together, and they left together. Such actions promoted family unity and family cohesiveness.

The benefits of spending New Years with your teens include:

1. You strengthen your bond with your kids
2. You let your teens know their company is important to you
3. You promote family togetherness as a value to be adopted by your teens
4. You spend happy and festive times with your kids (not just the regular days)
5. You create tradition
6. You create good memories you and your teens can recall
7. You can model a responsible way to ring in the New Year
8. You are able to supervise your child to ensure his safety (teens behave differently when parents are around)

Little by little families have adopted the belief that it is normal for teens who are seeking independence to spend celebrations with their peers as opposed to their ‘uncool’ parents. [This is often witnessed when teens go clubbing or to bars on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving night, during Hanukkah celebrations, Passover, Kwaanza, Good Friday and Easter holiday, and other valued cultural festivities.]

For many families (who unconsciously use families in the community or TV families as a guide), divided celebrations have become an acceptable way of ringing in the New Year. Do not worry about how other families are celebrating New Year’s, follow your own values and instincts about family togetherness. Following your intuition is a sign of a confident and in-control parent.

If your teens are used to spending time with their peers, you may be faced with a few challenges when you introduce the idea of family togetherness. After all, young teens have developed traditions of their own and you are not a part of them.

The toughest challenge you may face is your teens desire to be with friends. Teens see other teens ringing in the New Year with friends and as such want to be part of the group. In their minds, their lack of presence signifies separation from peers and losing their spot in the peer group. Let them know through action, they fit into the FAMILY group. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘all teens and families do it like this.’ Set your own standards and traditions and let your teen know you want his presence to enrich this occasion.

When planning the night, plan to bring your teens to a party where they recognize a few of their peers (it’s no fun if they are the only kids or if no one knows anyone). If there are no such options, why not stay in and create your own party? No one is ever too old for fun family games. Stay firm in your decision, however, your teens will thank you for it in years to come.

If the parents are divorced, alternate the years of where your teen will spend New Year’s (if spending it together is not possible). The idea is for teens to feel loved and wanted by their parents. Sometimes teens from divorced families may choose to spend the celebration with their friends because they have a hard time picking one parent over another. Help your teen with this decision by organizing the event with the other parent and presenting the idea to your child.

Many blessings to you and your family in the New Year!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

How to Guide Your Teens to Pick New Years Goals and Resolutions

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Setting the right New Year’s resolutions can change our lives for the better. Unfortunately, the word ‘failure’ has become synonymous with the word ‘resolution’. Many times we set random goals, or goals we think will bring us certain benefits only to find ourselves giving up soon after we begin.

The problem is not that we can’t complete goals; the problem is that we choose the wrong ones and we choose them for the wrong reasons. In the meantime, as parents and other adults mischoose and struggle to complete goals, the kids and teens are watching (and copying).

If teens learn to set proper goals at an early age, they won’t grow up only to repeat the typical mistakes they learned from adults. Their decisions will be based on who they are and on ideas that are important to them.

Here are some tips to guide you and your teen on how to pick personalized goals; goals that are based on her (and your) preferences, on what is important to her/you, and goals that will bring her/you fulfilment and joy.

1. Strengths: Parents often encourage teens to work on their weaknesses in an attempt to make them well balanced individuals. Although this sounds logical, I encourage you to allow your teen to focus on her strengths. This focus will allow her to build her strengths to full potential. No one is excellent at everything but everyone has the potential to be excellent at their unique strengths. Guide your teen to incorporate her strengths when picking a New Year’s resolution. [Note: being well-balanced is about setting goals is various life domains, not about being good at everything.]

2. Natural interest: Natural interest is a guide to what your teen is meant to do in life. It is a guide to her life passion. It ought to be nurtured and enjoyed and you and your teen ought to be proud of her innate interest. I encourage parents to praise this natural interest and provide activities where teens can enjoy it and explore it. New Year’s resolutions that contain a part of their natural interest are more likely to be continued when the going gets tough.

3. Values: What family values and personal values are important to your teen? Goals that ignore your teen’s value system will leave her feeling unfulfilled and without much success (even if the goal is achieved). Remember, that your teen’s unique values bring meaning her life. When values are not incorporated into her everyday living, it leaves your teen vulnerable to a less fulfilling life.

4. Psychological needs: Emotional and psychological needs are unique to every person and unmet needs lead to frustration and ‘acting out.’ As such, do not get trapped by the idea that all your children require same type of feedback. Allow your children to pick goals that are unique them. What type of feedback does your teen enjoy? What is she hoping to achieve by setting certain goal? If she hopes to capture people’s approval she may be setting herself up for a disappointment. Guide her to set goals that will fulfill her needs, not another’s. Example of psychological needs include to feel accepted, to feel free, to be admired, to be appreciated, to be forgiving, to be productive, etc.

Many blessings to you and your family in the New Year!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, December 18, 2011

6 Fun Ways to Celebrate Christmas with Your Teens

As with all holidays, Christmas is what YOU make of it. Your attitude, behaviour, and thoughts will determine the kind of time you will have.
To have the best time possible ask yourself “What do I want to experience with my family this year?” Make a detailed list if necessary.

Most people will agree that Christmas and other holidays are best when spent with the immediate (and extended) family. Add in amusing activities, a good attitude, and you will notice an improvement in the quality of the holidays.

The only way to teach your teens to value family is by showing them you value it too. This is done through the time you spend with each other and by the amount of effort you put in during important (and not so important) times of the year.

Consider including the following ideas to help make your Christmas more festive this season. The 2 common themes you will notice in each of the activities are: 1) Family togetherness and 2) Fun. Fun is the glue that keeps families coming back to celebrate traditions. Boring traditions get quickly dropped or become dreaded. Customize them in whatever way it will enhance your family experience.

1. Favourite recipes: We all have ‘em so why not make ‘em together? This is a perfect opportunity for parents to bond with kids through communication. Communication is always easier when enjoying a fun activity. This really is an activity that ought to include mom, dad, and the kids. Put aside traditional gender roles, put aside the need to be doing work, and instead make it a priority to spend time with your kids.

2. Secret Santa: Play secret Santa with a twist: No purchased gifts! Instead the gifts can be favours bestowed upon the selected recipient. They can consist of polite compliments, help with chores, a homemade gift, breakfast in bed, scheduled time to hang out, or whatever creative ideas your family can come up with.

3. Decorate with your family: Decorating ought to always be done together. If it’s hard to get everyone together at random times, then be sure to schedule in advance a time where everyone can be present. No options. When you are unwilling to exclude anyone it sends the message they are important and their company is essential. It gives your teens a place to belong, a place where their opinion counts, and a place where they are wanted.

4. Family Christmas party: This is not about hosting a formal sit down dinner. This is about inviting over the aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and just having fun. Turn on the Christmas music, wear fun clothes, take out the baked favourites, and create a fun and loving time. This is more about promoting the importance of family, having the adults and kids mingle, and creating fun tradition for your child, than it is about being the perfect host.

5. Create your own Christmas cards: Computer programs and application can do wonders today. It is possible for people to make their own Christmas cards. Why not create a card together with your family (e.g., decide on the theme, the written content, design on the outside and a design on the inside and ask each person to be responsible for one aspect of the card). Remember, handing out cards is more about the thought and effort than it is about the sophistication and price. A card that comes from the heart sends out more positive energy than a card bought in a rush and without feeling.

6. Attend a religious ceremony: Many religious ceremonies are festive, warm, and bring families together. Religious ceremonies speak of and remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. It gives everyone a chance to sing their favourite carols and it gives the entire family a feeling of belonging to a community. Make the feeling a part of your tradition each year.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas and the Holiday Season for Teens

Birthdays, Valentine’s, Christmas, and most gift-giving holidays have become commercialized. For many families Christmas has become about gifts (very expensive gifts!) and less about the meaning behind the day. It is about rushing here and there, feeling guilty for eating sweets, stressing about the holiday menu, and waiting for the busy period to pass so one can relax.

This is not what Christmas is about. This is only what we have made it into and it is a mentality we are passing onto children and teens.

What is the meaning of Christmas? Have you ever asked your child what in his (or her) mind is the meaning of Christmas? Why not ask him to share ideas of what he thinks. If you get an answer such as ‘for families to spend time together’ dig deeper and ask how families can do this. After he gives you his answer, ask if your family is meeting all these important points and where the family could improve.

If you find both you and your teen are running short on ideas, here are 4 suggestions to help you convert Christmas into a more meaningful holiday:

1.Giving back: Worried about what your child is asking for this Christmas season? Make this season less about money and more about giving back. It’s not about forcing the idea of giving onto your kids; it’s more about exposing them to different people with different life circumstances. It is about helping them develop an open mind and a kind heart by watching and modeling you.

2. Family time and togetherness: Yes, it is difficult to explain what Christmas is all about without using the word ‘togetherness.’ Remember, however, that it is not just about being together, it is about showing love and generosity to each other. There is no point to being together if the time is used to debate and argue about things that happened earlier in the year or years ago. Christmas is an excellent time to show your teens how families can respect each other.

3. Relaxation and fun: Believe it or not, the holiday season can be about relaxation and fun if you want it to be. Split up the chores (this will create a feeling a team) and watch how much more time you have to relax with your family. Christmas is not extremely busy because it is extremely busy; it is busy because we often chose to do more than we have time for. Let’s not pass on this bad habit to our teens. Pass on the habit of family fun and relaxation time.

4. Homemade gifts: Presents are great but they are not necessarily great because of the monetary value. It is the effort and the thought that counts. That is why homemade gifts are always more meaningful than any store bought gift (e.g., scrapbook of past Christmases, homemade calendar, a storybook with family members starring as the characters). They are also more likely to be treasured because they are irreplaceable. Technology is soon outdated and easy to get tired of. A homemade gift often gets saved for years to come. Teach your teens about sentimentality.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas: Teach Your Teen to Give Back During the Holiday Season

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Giving to others doesn’t have to be about giving money. It is about giving time, giving complements, giving a smile, giving attention, giving a helping hand, giving emotional support, or giving a kind word or gesture. While monetary donations have their place and time, Christmas spirit is about enriching another’s life through kind action and intention.

Giving and receiving are both habits. The more we receive the more we expect to receive and the more we demand to receive. The more we give, the more excited we are to recreate the experience, and the more enthusiastic we are to give again.

Sometimes parents wonder about their children’s expensive expectations at Christmas and other gift giving occasions. This usually happens when receiving is not balanced with giving. For many teens, giving is not as expected of them as receiving because they have little or no income. But giving is not about money; the spirit of the season is what you make of it. The traditions you create with your kids are the ones they often carry into adulthood and recreate when they start their families.

As you read about the ways your teen can give, you’ll notice, your child will receive 2 specific gifts each time he makes an offering. He will receive the gifts of gratitude and wisdom that can only be gained by being in service to others! These gifts build social responsibility, humility, a positive character, and a motivation to make a difference in the world.

Promote your family values during the Christmas season. Giving is better than receiving.

1. Volunteer: Donate time at food shelter (soup kitchen). This is one of the most common volunteer opportunities cited and also one of the most overlooked. The reason being is that volunteering takes a little more effort, time, and attention than giving money, or donating food and clothes. Expose your child to various forms of living (including the luxurious life) so he gains a sophisticated understanding of the world.

2. Donations: Food, money, clothing, toys, hygiene products. These are things we have and use daily, but often take for granted because we just expect them to be a part of our life each day. For many people these are precious items that may not be there from day-to-day. Being involved in community organizations is an excellent way for teens to be exposed to people who experience a lack in the areas they have plenty.

3. Acts of Kindness: Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than random acts of kindness (e.g., giving up your seat for someone, sending a handwritten notes saying thanks, picking up garbage, offering to help). Even the angriest people cannot resist receiving a gesture of kindness. Make this your family’s and teens’ habit.

4. Invitations: Is there anyone in the neighbourhood who doesn’t have a family or anyone to celebrate Christmas with? Why not teach your child to open his home and heart to individuals who have no one else to share the holidays with?

5. Community events: As a family, be a part of community events. There is usually a lot going on in most cities and towns. Call your city hall or visit their website for more information. Public libraries also seem to know about ongoing events. Being regularly involved with community events will train your teen to be open, generous, and active.

6. Say thanks: People often forget to express their appreciation for services rendered (think how often you feel underappreciated in a romantic relationship)--because we are usually not even aware we received. Many parents claim their children are often ungrateful. Teach your teen to stay in the moment and be conscious of gifts and services they receive and to show their appreciation.

7. Smile: One of the most generous gifts is the gift of a smile. It costs nothing and requires little effort, yet we are usually not in the habit of giving it. It is not just about giving it to family, friends, and neighbours. Many strangers and acquaintances cross our path during the day that could benefit from our smile. Model to your kids what happens when they share a smile. Help them build this wonderful habit.

Show your teen he CAN make a positive difference in the world. It all starts with simple actions.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Christmas and Holidays: Teaching Your Teen to Handle Her Money Well

Teaching teens how to handle money is one of the most valuable lessons you can give them in life.

You cannot teach your kids how to handle money by sitting them down at the kitchen table and handing them PowerPoint slides with the option of writing notes down by each slide. While the theoretical work in money management is important, you really teach with the example you set and letting them have personal experience handling money (with your guidance of course).

If your kids learn how to handle $100, $500, $1000, they will be more comfortable with handling even bigger amounts of money. The trick is to teach them how to work wisely with what they got. Handling money is all about organization, knowing the budget and knowing how much savings are wanted by the end of the period.

Christmas and the Holidays are an excellent time to practice. It is a time of the year where most of us end up spending more than we do on a regular basis while having to keep our regular financial commitments. It really puts us to the test!

With your guidance, let your teen practice how to handle money. The more she practices working with money, the more confident she will be with it later in life. As with other things in life, managing money well is a habit. Encourage her to develop this habit early in life.

Here are some tips to address with your child about handing money this Christmas:

1. Open a Bank Account: If your teen doesn’t have a bank account yet, consider getting her one. Having a formal place to keep her money, a place where she can see her money grow can motivate her to keep more in there. Open the bank account before Christmas and watch her hesitate to spend what she has deposited!

2. Firm budget: Guide her to start Christmas shopping with a firm budget in mind, not a flexible one. She can write down a range of what she wants to spend (e.g., lowest she thinks she can spend based on her commitments and the most she is willing to spend). Getting into the habit of keeping a budget will give her experience in learning to plan her spending, it will help her not to spend money on things not needed, and it will teach her to save money for bigger purchases (e.g., first car, first home).

3. Write a list: Asking her to keeping her budget in mind, het her to write down who to buy for and how much she would like to spend on each person. She must stay within her budget so she doesn’t go into her savings. The list will help her stay organized and within budget.

4. Look around: Teach your teen to look around a few stores before buying. With a little more effort it is possible to find an item for a bit cheaper elsewhere. Flyers and online research can help with this. No need to drive around to do the research. It can be done from home by phone or going online.

5. Coupons, coupons, price match?: Teach your teen it is cool to use coupons and it doesn’t represent cheapness. It represents cleverness! Look for coupons together and show her how much money she can save (there is a coupon for almost everything online). Also, many stores now offer price matching. Teach her how to take advantage of this opportunity without being shy about it.

6. Keep records: If your teen needs to buy for a few people, get her in the habit of keeping a record of how much she is spending (this is also good when keeping a monthly budget). Managing money successfully involves keeping a record of how much money goes where. This allows her to know where she is overspending. Help her create a spreadsheet that will automatically calculate her spending during the Christmas season.

7. Bank the rest: Let your teen know it is OK if she doesn’t end up spending as much as she thought she would need to. Awesome! To treat herself, teach her to put the rest in the bank so she can see her bank account grow. That’s more satisfying than any material reward she could buy herself and place in the corner 2 weeks later.

Happy and Safe Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How to Get Your Teen to Believe in Herself

Believing in oneself is the first step to success, happiness, and a feeling of control in life. It is also a learned behaviour that becomes a habit when practiced over time. Likewise, self-doubt and feelings of inferiority can also become a habit if practiced frequently.

If you find your teen has a low opinion of herself, telling her to be more positive isn’t going to change much. She has settled into a habitual way of thinking about herself and will need a little more work before she can change how she think of herself. You can help her change a step at a time. To get her to change, you’ll have to address her thoughts, emotions, and behaviour one at a time while understanding that all 3 work together in synchrony.

Here are steps to help you boost your teen’s belief in herself. Follow these steps in the order listed. Remember, this is a journey. These types of changes usually don’t happen instantly. Give yourself a month to 2 months before you start seeing behavioural changes.

1. Investigate what behaviour you are modeling: Change your behaviour before you attempt to help your child, lest you be called a hypocrite. Would you take a coach seriously if she asked you to stop smoking, start eating healthier, and exercise more when you know she did the exact opposite? Would this coach motivate you to change your life? Would you take her seriously? It works the same way in the parent-child relationship. So, stand back for a week to observe your life and get an idea of the behaviour and language you model to your kids. Ask yourself if you model confident and assertive behaviour. Do you often speak about how you are unsure of your skills and what you have to offer to the world?

2. Find out her thoughts: If you are worried about her low self-esteem, her lack of belief in herself, and suspect something is amiss, speak to her! Chose neutral words and a nonjudgmental attitude when speaking to her. Bring up examples you have witnessed to get to the root cause of why she doubts herself and her abilities. To find out where this feeling originated, ask her which events led her to start questioning her capability. Get her to list as many events as she can remember and line them up in chronological order. This way you can get an idea of how this thought originated and how it solidified her belief.

3. Share positivity: Show your teen you believe in her. Remind her of the many successes she has had and the hard work she put in to accomplish them. Ask her if she were to put in the same amount of effort in another activity, if that would lead to success? Ask her to list the lessons learned and how her newfound knowledge would influence her future decisions and behaviour. Ask her to provide a different interpretation of the same events when she concluded she wasn’t good enough (what are other reasons the event did not turn out?). Share some of your own stories where you wished you believed in yourself or where in hindsight you learned you are a lot smarter and courageous then you ever thought.

4. Challenge her: Challenge her to try new things and retry some old things. The reason this step comes last is because you need to do some cognitive work before her behaviour will change. By now you have started to demonstrate more uplifting behaviour (so you are not a hypocrite), you have addressed the root cause of why she stopped believing in herself, you have illustrated many of her successes, and let her know you believe in her even if things don’t work out the first time around. These changes add to her confidence and believing in herself becomes a tad easier.

Best Wishes to Your family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy With Your Child at Home

Ivana PejakovicB.Sc., MA

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of counselling that helps clients understand how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour. CBT has helped teens with various issues, including, anger, low opinion of oneself, stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence, and many other problems. For example, a teen who constantly thinks about being made fun of, his weaknesses, his failures and mistakes, his lack of fit in social groups, will very likely avoid social situations (because thoughts affect behaviour).

CBT works by helping teens change their thoughts regarding certain events. The negative thoughts are usually false interpretations of what happened. Once they change how they view the event, they change their feelings from negative to positive. Positive thinking (e.g., optimism, hope) and good feelings regarding encourage teens to try new experiences. Therefore a change in thoughts will provide a change in behaviour. These changes always help teens feel better and try again.

No matter what your situation at home is and what you are trying to help your teen with, address the following steps:

1. Thoughts: By speaking to your child you can get an idea of your child’s thinking pattern. Ask questions to get an idea of his logic, of his experiences, of his conclusions and lessons learned. You may feel you already know answers to the questions you ask, but you only know what he told you previously or what you observed. You don’t know his perspective of the situation and his feelings about it (if he never shared). And that is what matters more than reality. Ask questions to find out the perceived consequences of his mistakes and failures (e.g., public embarrassment, feelings of inferiority compared to peers, anger, and anxiety). Ask him to retell the story so you can see where his logic is biased. This is how to access the root cause of his thoughts. It is an essential first step to help your child.

2. Emotions: Thoughts always affect emotions. If your teen is thinking uplifting thoughts, he will demonstrate an uplifting mood and happy feelings. If he is thinking gloomy thoughts his mood and feelings will match. It is impossible to be inconsistent (positive thoughts, but negative mood). Emotions and mood are 1 indicator of what is going on inside your child’s head. By helping your teen clear up his thoughts you will help him change his mood. If you notice your child is down or angry, telling him to ‘brighten up’ or ‘get over it’ can lead him to think you just don’t get him (if this keeps up it can lead child to distance himself from parent). Ask him to help you understand by sharing feelings and emotions a given situation evoked. Communicating with your child in a clam manner regarding what is going on is the best approach. Sometimes it is better to back off for the time being, however, revisit the issue within 24 hours once his mood lightens. This way you show respect for his feelings and demonstrate caring by following up.

3. Behaviour: Thoughts influence emotions and thoughts and emotions together influence behaviour. Behaviour is the second indicator of what thoughts are being played in your teen’s head. If your child feels he is not good enough, it means he has negative thoughts running through his mind (remember it is impossible to think and feel positively and show the opposite behaviour). The thoughts can be translated into feelings of anger, frustration, or sadness. The thoughts and behaviour will usually translate into behaviours such as shyness, avoiding social activities, not signing up for teams, or avoiding challenges. If you want to address your child’s lack of initiative, ask why he passes on fun activities (and try not to jump to obvious conclusions such as laziness, irresponsible, or too coddled. Don’t accept the first answer such as “it’s dumb,” or “it’s boring.” While your child may feel like this for some activities, it is not true for all of them. Get your child to expand by sharing your opinion on it too. If you find you’re doing most of the talking, that’s OK. He’ll open up eventually.

Best Wishes to Your family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto