I come home from school every day and cry.

I don’t think I’m bossy.

I am a little shy.

The kids at school won’t play with me.

I think I’m nice and caring.

I don’t feel comfortable around the kids at my school.

I like going to the playground, but I don’t play with anyone there.

Kids do not talk to me very much.

I hate my life.

I am 8 years old… “my life sucks!”

It is very difficult for any parent to find out that their young child is not happy with his or her life. Our hearts are broken when we hear comments like those above. We just want our kids to be happy. We also understand the importance of developing healthy relationships, so how can we help our children grow and establish healthy and appropriate social skills?

It is important to identify what may be contributing to or fueling your child’s discontent. There are numerous reasons why children may have difficulty developing friendships. Let’s first remember that friendship skills are acquired, learned over time. These can be taught, practiced and fine tuned. Of course, each child is different. Some children’s personalities are highly introspective and even somewhat introverted. It may seem easy for some to make friends, however, for this personality type, it can often be a daunting task to reach out to and communicate with their peers.

Teen TroublesOthers may be more outgoing or extroverted, yet still may struggle with relationships for a variety of reasons. Studies suggest that a child without siblings may have a more difficult time making friends than a child who has siblings. Social relationships are pretty much developed from birth and can be fostered when siblings are involved.  These children may, yet not always, have an easier time meeting, playing and getting along with other children.

Even different parenting styles can contribute to how children develop social relationships. The level of parent cooperation, flexibility, structure and discipline all play an important role. How parents themselves get along with each other and socially interact strongly influences how their children approach others. In addition, stressors in the family such as health concerns, death and loss, moving, employment issues, family conflict and separation can significantly interrupt social development.

There is hope! Fortunately many resources, materials and yes… manuals are available. We often hear; “These kids don’t come with a manual”, yet this is simply not true. Most bookstores and libraries carry thousands.

Many parents seeking help will come across many “easy-to-do” steps from these books and internet sources yet find the advice difficult to put into practice. For instance, some “experts” suggest the following:

  • Be yourself
  • Relax – “Don’t sweat the small stuff”
  • Be a good listener
  • Give compliments and encouragement
  • Join a team/social club

Seeking help from therapists, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors and books are effective ways to help both parents and children learn about social relationships. In counselling, parents and children can explore current relationships, understand themselves and others better (in the social context), and develop a plan to reach the goals they wish to accomplish (e.g. improving confidence, learning communication, problem-solving and assertiveness skills).

Parents can also receive coaching to help them develop strategies to increase self esteem, competence and confidence at home.

If you find your child struggling to get along with others and are uncertain how to help, remember this is common as we tend to get very little formal training in parenting. While many find books and other media resources helpful, these may not be sufficient for the specific issues you have. Don’t wait. Get proactive and find the right solutions that work for you and your child.

Research counsellors experience, expertise and qualifications.  Then find one that you and your child feel comfortable with. To book a consultation and assessment with professional relationship coach call 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


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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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Many of the resources available for Autism and other developmental disabilities focus on children to the age of eighteen. Very few social service programs are geared to support people over the age of eighteen. So what about these young adults?

What career development assistance is available? What are the goals of formal career or vocational development planning? When should career planning begin? What are the life choices that an individual with Autism should explore?

Person-centered planning  (PCP) can help answer these questions.  PCP “takes a longer-term perspective, exploring how the individual, family, community, and funded supports can work together to achieve the individual’s goals,” (Northeast Alberta Community Board for Persons with Development Disabilities, 2006).

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This sets a plan of action in place. It is very important to plan ahead and be prepared for the transition into early adulthood to foster the best chance of a satisfying and productive life for young adults with autism.

Here are some strategies that may be set in place to prepare your young adult for his/her future (Autism Calgary Association, 2009):

  • A personal inventory/profile clarifies the strengths, challenges, and necessary supports that the individual requires. It also provides the individual’s unique characteristics and attributes.
  • A career profile lists the individual’s personal strengths, skills, abilities, and interests. It may also include: evaluation reports (IEPs), cognitive testing results, additional assessments (e.g. neuropsychological), functional vocational assessments, and resume and work samples.
  • A psycho-educational assessment is a standardized test (like an I.Q. test), of the individual’s cognitive ability. It provides further information of the person’s intellectual strengths and areas of weakness.

The key to remember is to plan ahead and to use available resources and people to develop the best plan possible. When this is done, possibilities and opportunities are increased for the young adult.


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“My brother stays home Sunday to Wednesday, and parties the remaining days of the week. Sounds like fun, right? Sometimes he’s attending multiple parties per night. He stumbles into the house. On occasions, I find him passed out in the car in our driveway. He came to me once, the morning after a night out, shaking his head saying, ‘My tolerance has gone waaay down.’ ‘Really, bro? How much did you drink last night?’ Six shots, four beers, and five cocktails later, he doesn’t come to the realization that that amount is not normal drinking behavior. ‘Face it brother, you’re a binge drinker!’”

Like this person’s brother, many of us may justify the alcohol intake because it evens out the days that we don’t drink. Nonetheless, binge drinking is a serious problem and has become a socially obsessed phenomenon. The death toll in the UK has been rising due to a growing culture of self-filming binge-drinking activities (Misstear, 2014, walesonline.co.uk). Several deaths have been linked to drinkers binging on large quantities of alcohol while filming themselves and daring others to do the same. This social media game “encourages people to accept dares from friends to drink alcohol before nominating someone else to follow suit,” (Misstear, 2014). The term peer pressure has now gone to new heights via social media. As well, a strong culture of alcohol over-use has developed. People may now feel a huge sense of urgency to play out these activities because their name has gone viral or perhaps they would like it to. The repercussions of not abiding to the dare are unknown.

According to Statistics Canada:

  • Males were about 2.5 times more likely than females to report having engaged in heavy drinking (5 or more drinks on one occasion).

  • Including both sexes, people aged 18 to 34 were more likely to engage in heavy drinking.

Dealing with the pressure from friends, family, and social media can cause stress and difficulty to cope. The risks and costs involved with heavy drinking may seem obvious, yet rarely appear to deter habitual substance misuse. Financial, interpersonal, social, cognitive and physical impact my develop quite slowly, over time, initially being denied as “not a big deal”. At first this is probably true, however, as the body requires more and more alcohol, and becomes addicted, the costs rise. Social connections begin to decline, bills pile up, family becomes increasingly concerned and the person’s ability to change themselves deteriorates. Defensiveness toward those who request change is common. Resources with local hospitals, Alcoholics Anonymous groups and addictions counselors are essential components, along with family, to support recovery. Our professional counsellors in Durham Region are trained to assist family and loved ones find and utilize effective resources to support the person struggling with binge-drinking and other types of substance misuse. In addition, the person can discover ways to effectively change and regain control and efficacy in their lives. To have an objective assessment of current substance misuse levels and to determine next steps toward health Call us today .


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When a mother holds her daughter for the first time, a number of overwhelming thoughts and feelings accumulate. We love our daughter so deeply and unconditionally.

As our princesses grow, we watch our daughters blossom. We observe them in their playgroups, we watch them play pretend housewives or have tea parties with their stuffed animals. Then they grow out of pretend play and school hours and then peers occupy the majority of their time. We may feel a sense of loss. We now learn more from our daughters and begin to realize that many other sources now influence their lives and choices.

As mothers, we might struggle with how to protect our daughters, concerned with exactly how to help them make it in this world. Becoming too lenient or too strict is easy and can quite quickly negatively impact parenting. Increased confrontations between mothers and daughters can stem from having fewer and fewer open, calm and honest conversations.

Common assumptions made by both can include:

  • Mom: “She doesn’t know what she’s doing!”
  • Daughter: “She doesn’t understand me!”
  • Mom: “I just don’t want her to make the same mistakes that I made.”
  • Daughter: “When is she going to realize that I can take care of myself?”
  • Daughter: “She should stay out of my business.”
  • Mom: “Maybe I should just leave her alone?”

With these assumptions, many miscommunications can form. This can lead to increased confusion, uncertainty and even hostility toward one another. Hurtful things can be said and done making it more difficult to mend an already tenuous relationship.

Relationship coaching for mothers and daughters who are having difficulty communicating can be very helpful. Boundaries may be adjusted, roles clarified and relationships reconciled in the counselling process. Counselling helps family members voice concerns, relate to one another differently, resolve problems effectively and listen to each other’s needs in the relationship.

Book an appointment with us today to improve your relationships.

What a Puzzle

One of the most difficult puzzles to put together is how to best help a loved one suffering from an eating disorder. As their family, we want to support them, love them, and even help “cure” them. We watch them struggle and we too will struggle right along with them. We observe their weakness, their apparent helplessness, thus we often feel weak and helpless too.

“Snap out of it!” “You’re perfect the way you are!” “Why don’t you just stop?”

There are so many phrases that we might say to them to try to reach them, however it just doesn’t seem to be registering. One way to understand why is to sincerely believe that the “eating disorder” can take great power over an individual, their willpower and even their cognitive capacity. Just because it appears as though the person is giving in, this is not actually a realistic nor helpful perception for onlookers to adopt. They’re just not thinking clearly…

Anorexia’s spoken rules are those of self-denial. Anorexia promises to reward you for denying yourself anything and everything you need and desire. Anorexia tells you that denying all your needs and desires will make you strong, happy and free of pain. If you are tired, anorexia forbids you to sleep. If you are hungry, anorexia forbids you to eat. If you are cold, anorexia forbids you to turn up the heater or put on a sweater. Anorexia forbids you from enjoying your sexuality. The most important of Anorexia’s rules is that you must follow all the rules perfectly at all times” (Maisel, Epston, & Borden, 2004).

This description speaks to the dominance that the “voice” of an eating disorder can have over a person. Agreed, a supportive and loving family can help an individual in treatment, however, professional help is essential. With a structured treatment plan, training and clarity of roles, the dominance of an eating disorder may be tackled and overcome effectively. It takes much courage and intentional effort from all team members: family, friends, the individual with disordered eating and selected health care professionals to successfully implement the treatment plan.

For professional and confidential support to help you fight your battle with disordered eating, call us today.