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  • Arguing every day about the smallest things.
  • Telling me that my dad is selfish and doesn’t care about anything but himself.
  •  Complaining that mom is an annoying nag, who can’t get a grip.
  • I don’t know whether having both of them at my soccer game shows love and support or shows that our house is like a world war right now.
  • I mean, what are they trying to teach me here? That being married sucks?

Unfortunately, for most children exposed to high-conflict parents, divorce usually does not end the conflict, nor does it end parents’ relationship. Although a romantic relationship is over in divorce, parents remain in a relationship of some sort. Divorce proceedings raise intensity of emotion. Subsequently, can actually heighten conflict between parents, therefore damaging behaviour can be increased in the family and impact all members, especially the children.

It takes intentional, consistent and persistent effort for parents to work together and overcome conflict and establish more appropriate and healthier conflict resolution strategies. A professionally trained mediator or counsellor can help high conflict relationships by coaching to find a common ground and new ways to structure their communication process. When there is much hurt, anger, confusion, frustration and heartbreak, a trained relationship specialist may be just what the doctor orders.

Parents who can put down verbal conflict fairly quickly and put hurt feelings aside can more quickly overcome the grieving component of separation and divorce. It is then more possible for parents to learn the skills required to effectively cooperate. This obviously provides many benefits for healthy child and family development.

Cooperative parenting:

  • Helps reduce the child’s symptoms of stress as parental conflict decreases
  • Creates a more relaxed home environment allowing for children to adjust effectively
  • Enhances the child’s confidence and self-esteem by creating an environment for growth
  • Removes children from the middle letting them relax and be kids
  • Models how to get along with others even though you may not be happy with them

Cooperative parenting also helps parents to;

  • Conserve energy at a stressful and draining time in their life
  • Lower argumentative conversations and increase respectful exchanges
  • Reduce the number of litigated cases
  • Learn better anger management, communication, and conflict resolution skills
  • Work in developing a detailed parenting plan

To create a cooperative, positive parenting plan for your family, book an appointment today.

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A relationship does not have to be romantic to be considered toxic. A toxic relationship may occur in friendships, parent-child relationships, between siblings and in work relationships. When toxicity in relationships can be identified early, we prevent ourselves from enduring excessive negativity and improve our ability to develop better relationships.

Toxic relationships may appear different from different people. Usually a relationship that is not serving us well will have these characteristics:

  • Abuse: emotional, financial, physical, or sexual
  • Consistent and draining arguments (blame and finger pointing)
  • Feelings of worthlessness, disrespect, hurt and sadness
  • Withdrawal from personal goals, family events, and social gatherings
  • “coping” behaviours that go against personal values (drugs, violence, etc.).
  • Decrease in academic/work performance and
  • Increasing feelings of anxiety, grief and depression

Identification of destructive relationship qualities tends to be easier when we are looking in from the outside. Some level of objectivity allows us to more easily identify the relationship as problematic. This is not as easy when we are the one in the relationship, especially in romantic relationships. A few signs or “red flags” may provide subtle hints that the relationship is unhealthy, however, we seem quite able to minimize, justify and even full out deny these signals. We may take blame, hope better will arrive soon and/or magically believe that this “icky” time will simply go away on “its” own.

It becomes common to push away from friends and family who advise us to get out of the relationship. We assume these people do not understand us nor do they try to relate/accept those we choose to spend our time with. They also, most times, don’t really know the whole situation or how to solve it anyway.

So how do we get out?

An important first step is accepting that this toxic relationship does exist and we are part of the equation. Then we establish that we want better for ourselves and increase our openness to work for it and get help. These initial steps display caring for ourselves, a willingness to seek assistance to change and move forward in our interpersonal lives.

Allow us to help you with the next steps. To improve relationship skills or maybe to just assess the relationship that you have questioned for so long, contact us today.

 

 

What is peer pressure?


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Some may define it as when friends or peers attempt to influence how you think or act, however, it may also include how we perceive peer influences. While peer pressure can be helpful at times, it can definitely affect our decisions or make them slightly more difficult. During adolescence, developing healthy relationships is a new, fresh experience, like an adventure someone takes without much of a map or with little pre-planning or direction.

Some teens may not realize they are being “pressured” or influenced in any sort of way.  For instance, we may hear these statements like these from our teens: “They’re my friends, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”… “They care about me more than you do!”… “You’re too old to understand.”… “My friends really care and have my back”.

What are the negative effects of peer pressure?

When a peer or friend behaves in a way that has a teen questioning right from wrong, most likely that teen is being exposed to peer pressure. This may not always be negative, yet we usually think of peer pressure as leading another into something harmful or wrong. Friends may persuade teens to do things they may not want to do, such as: defying parents, staying out past agreed upon times, engaging in sexual activity, drinking alcohol prematurely or “experimenting” with drugs, stealing or other crime-related behaviours, poor school performance (e.g., skipping classes or homework assignments).

Choices and decisions may not always stem from peer pressure though. Some teens may admit to willingly making the choice to engage in destructive behaviour. Nonetheless, teens might experience an increased pressure from others to make certain choices in their lives, often without getting much advice from an adult. They may ask themselves any or all of these:

  • If I say no, will I be called a loser?
  • What if they don’t like me anymore?
  • Isn’t this my chance to be a part of the group?
  • Is this what having a real friendship is like?
  • They will have my back if I get in trouble….right?

There are positive effects to peer pressure?

There are positive effects to peer pressure. Some peers influence others to join school activities, play sports, and help reach goals. With this kind of support, the growth and development at adolescence is beneficial. It can go a long way to boost self-confidence and improve self-esteem. When peers influence each other toward positive behaviours, teens are better able to socialize, engaging in activities, sports and talents, improve academic performance and have a generally more relaxed, confident and positive outlook on life.

Counselling can be a great resource for teenagers, parents, and friends to find a balance with peer and family influences. With professional counselling, individuals are able to build the self awareness to more clearly consider the consequences of behaviours before acting impulsively. Strategies are available to help teens understand thoughts, related feelings and how these influence behaviour patterns. Counselling also helps people create action plans to recover and move away from difficult situations that may cause or increase chances of danger or harm.

Remember that you are not alone, and talking to an un-biased, non-judgmental counsellor can help.  Book an appointment with us today.


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Boundaries: What Does It Mean?

BBeing honest and

Oopen. Having

Uunderstanding conversations that

Nnurture positive feelings and thoughts.

Ddetermining your wants and values and

Aassertively helping others become aware of these.

Rrespecting yourself and others by making

I –  intentional efforts to improve your relationships.

Eempathetic and effective communication so all involved feel

Ssafe and secure.

For many couples after separation or a break up, or even those underneath consistent conflict, deciding to reconcile can be difficult to visualize. Sometimes reconciliation does not mean re-establishing a romantic relationship. Some couples choose, after separation, to establish a new relationship for cooperative and positive parenting to take place.

Without a doubt, it is quite difficult for most couples to reach an amicable closure of the romantic part of their relationship. This, however, is an essential step toward effectively developing a positive co-parenting relationship. For some, this may indeed seem almost impossible; moving from a couple once in love to negotiating and implementing a mutually respectful cooperative parenting agreement. Parents interested in the healthiest environment for raising children can benefit from professional coaching to reach this goal as soon as possible after their separation.

Feelings of grief, betrayal, hurt, confusion and disappointment can cloud perceptions, potential for forgiveness and severely limit healthy and clear communication. The identification and development of healthy communication and negotiation processes are central to building an effective co-parenting relationship. This is where boundaries come in to play. While emotions are high, and pools of uncertainty exist, boundaries establish clarity and safe measures to begin the process; deconstructing one part of the relationship while reconstructing another.

Examples of cooperative parenting agreements include guidelines for how and when to talk, what to discuss and with who (e.g. with children, family, friends), when to have flexibility and how to negotiate or renegotiate changes. Additional topics to be worked out include ways to stay child focussed, shared parenting time, drop offs and pick ups, extracurricular activities, holidays and the pre-planned calendar of events.  Boundaries that are firm, with modest flexibility, greatly reduce the chance for disagreements, enhancing the likelihood parents and families will have caring, calm and relaxed “post-separation” relationships. 

For experienced, professional guidance in this area, book your appointment today.

 

Ice Coated Trees – Dec. 2013

Job Fair

How can I pursue my dreams if I’m stuck doing this job instead?

“Do you dread running into acquaintances from your past, like I do, because of the questions they may ask about your life successes? You know they are really looking to dive into your failures, right?  At family gatherings, relatives may inquire if you’ve put any your academic credentials to any good use, in hopes you are doing something ‘worthwhile’; asking “Have you found a job in your field yet?”

The ugly truth is that life has been difficult. We have credentials that make us qualified. We have personalities to blow our future employers away. However the calls aren’t coming in and interviews aren’t taking place. The phrase “looking for a job is like having a full time job” just doesn’t cut it for us. Sometimes we have to put those “dream career aspirations” on hold because we have other responsibilities to take care of: family, bills, mortgage/rent payments, and OSAP/line of credit loans to name a few. As much as we are thankful to be able to meet our basic needs at the temporary job, we are not happy, and it is difficult to view our dream career as remotely within our reach.

So what do we do?

The first thing is to shift our thoughts in order to believe in our full potential pushing away from thoughts like; “I’m not good enough!”, ” I can’t do this”, I’ll never get there or amount to anything”… Sound familiar? Where did these negative sayings come from?  How did it get into our minds? At what point was it whispered or even yelled at us (by strangers, our peers, from media or even by members of our family)?

Counselling helps us discover thoughts and thinking patterns (schemata) that have contributed to feelings of low self-worth, incompetence and insecurity. Further, professional counsellors can assist with developing an understanding about the events and life situations that may have contributed to negative self perceptions. Of course, discovering how we got into a particular problem can both help us avoid it in the future and help us find solutions to get “unstuck”.

Gaining insight into ourselves helps develop more positive and affirming attitudes that fuel increased energy and productivity. When we adopt new, more optimistic thought patterns, self-worth and confidence rise, positive emotional states emerge and then behaviours change positively as well. These proactive behaviour changes are necessary to keep our dreams alive and to takes the steps required to achieve them.

Get started today? Call our registered, confidential counsellors to book your appointment!


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Many families will come to counselling as a sign of support to help a loved one through a difficult time (e.g. addiction, cooperative parenting, disordered eating, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.). Sometimes families will provide financial support for a treatment program while others may attend sessions to improve overall teamwork. Still, other family members will change habits in the household to reduce the chance of addictive behaviours reoccurring.

How much family support is too much or not enough? This question is difficult to answer. As parents, we want to help our children (even if they are adults) to the best of our ability. However, sometimes this means we may be doing too much for them. Doing too much can often prevent individual growth and development. Parents may also want to take responsibility for the child/adult’s behaviour.

This is where family therapy helps, drawing upon family systems research and practice. It helps families clarify when to take responsibility or ownership and when not to, how to set clear boundaries and opportunities for change. Families can also establish new roles and expectations along with accountability measures for noncompliance and strategies for encouraging and increasing the behaviours desired.

Insufficient family support can be very debilitating for a person with mental health concerns and, thus, for the family as a whole. Strained and inconsistent communication is very common when there have been hurt feelings and years of promises broken.  As the support of loved ones grows thin, the person with mental health concerns can become even more distant and make even more harmful decisions. Balancing relationships within the family and keeping supportive connections while in treatment is a very important topic to discuss with a professional counsellor.

There are many ways in which a family can support one another through the difficult times. Start with this LISTEN acronym:

L: Learn to hear each other out more, increasing understanding and Love for one another.

I:  Inspire one another by having Integrity with your word and authenticity in your actions.

S: Solution-oriented state of mind helps focus on positive steps forward, finding solutions.

T: Treat others with respect, Teach caringly, Talk calmly and with Teamwork language.

E: Establish family goals together, Empower action and Encourage achievement.

N: Never give up on each other.


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What is Going Through Your Mind?

How am I going to pay the bills this month?

Am I spending enough time with my family?

What do I really want to do with my life?

Sometimes our daily routine can gradually appear redundant, unpleasant, and lacking excitement. But we’re in the real world, aren’t we? We have to go to work to make ends meet. We’re supposed to get along with others, build relationships, reproduce and have offspring. Right?

At times, we make choices that, at other times, we think are not what we really wanted to do. We may later think we went to college to please our parents or we did. We might attain a “good standing” job so that we don’t have to feel embarrassed when people ask us what we’re up to. We could possibly even fill our wallets and office walls with photos of a “picture-perfect” family fostering the appearance we have it all together? Are we genuine? Are we “for real”?

Is this what we worry about? Why do questions like those above flood our minds day in and day out? Should we not be happy with the choices we’ve made? How is it that after making decisions of the heart we can so readily abandon them?

What if those questions causing doubt are nothing more than thoughts floating around in our minds… like data on a computer hard drive? Increased focus on negative thinking quickly leads to more negative emotional and behavioural experiences. Of course, many of us will choose to just ignore these negatives, pushing them to the back of our minds, and go on with our daily routine. This can, however, leave us with little to moderate satisfaction.

Others may dwell on these negative thoughts, fueling feelings of dissatisfaction, disappointment and doubt. Eventually these feelings can seem to consume hope and joy, at which point many push away and leave behind the lives and people previously chosen. Still, there are other people who chose ways to manage their thoughts in a mindful and intentional way, finding information to help them develop a positive action plan. Taking the first step acknowledges the desire to change. Finding ways to improve our mental health by changing our thoughts goes a long way to boost confidence, integrity and authenticity.

Steps forward often require us to go back, waaaaaaay back, to discover what led us to make certain decisions and historical strategies that can help prevent problems. Unsure how far back to go? Counselling gives us that safe, confidential space to sort through our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Trained counselors ask questions to help guide us through both historical and current events, related thoughts and experiences in order to develop behaviours, relationships and goals fitting with our innermost desires.

Rather than harboring thoughts that lead to giving up on our families and our responsibilities, we can become agents of healthier change by making positive cognitive adjustments. Healthier constructs, precepts and schemata can then become foremost in our minds, fostering improved mental health and improving relationships with everyone in our lives. Counselling helps coach skills to think, feel and behave in a more satisfying and happy way. Call us today !