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Online Consideration: A Developing Art

With the advance of online chat, social media presence and virtual relationships, there seems to be an increase in discussion about the pros and cons our virtual interaction has on health and upon our social lives in general.

Are we giving up too much, lagging in social skill development, to gain the appearance of anonymity, a level of apparent safety as we hide behind firewalls and masked IP addresses? What cost to social health and wellness exists from online interactions and virtual relations which are all too often void of facial expression, tones and clarity of emotional context… no… emoticons don’t quite cut it 🙂 ? 

Are we exposing too much, “wink wink”, while revealing too little. What impact on our integrity and honesty does this relatively newer technology actually have? Imagine developing a relationship with someone with the following qualities. How well do you think it would go? You be the judge…

Potential Online Presentation of Self  (vs. Face-to-Face) 

Less inhibited – less restricted, freer to speak up?

Talk more, more open and opinionated online?

Revealing parts of self perhaps more impulsively?

Less protective or more protected?

Speech & tone absent or limited?

Harmful… risk factor?

Confused privacy boundaries?

Less or more accountability?

Can possibly be creeped, harassed, bothered more easily?

Cut out or cut off quickly, even immediately?

Hectic, rushed and more or less emotionally charged?

Missing much expression via face and tone?

Of course, many of us have heard stories of relationships developing online and those who have met one another, at least initially, with success. Steps can be taken to safeguard online activity beginning with limiting children to an hour or so per day. Additional time can be rewarded for additional involvement in other socially rewarding activities. These may include playing with friends, completion of homework, household chores or various hobbies such as sports, music, art etc..

Additional screen time may also be given in return for extracurricular reading and writing, math or whatever skill you feel your child requires extra effort in.  The formula may be one to two, so for fifteen more minutes of piano or English homework your child gets thirty more minutes online time whether gaming or accessing social media. This approach is best viewed as a “win-win”.

Getting children and adults involved in activities “offline” seems to require effort and I feel somewhat hypocritical as I sit here writing this blog post… lol 🙂 . Suffice it to say that attention to healthy child and family development requires a regular review of our online involvement, presentation and the development of integrity even in, perhaps especially in our “virtual world”.


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Are Our Phones Smarter Than We Are?

Smart phones are like our very own personal assistants (who we can even have a conversation with).  Appointments, dinner dates, meetings, and deadlines are recorded to keep us on track.  Email and Internet access are easy to use with the touch of a button.  We can even scan prices of items when we shop (who needs customer service?). We no longer even have to wait in bank lineups to manage our accounts.

Because of the accessibility that smart phones provide, we often feel a need to have them around us 24/7.  They wake us up in the morning (sometimes before) and even follow us to our bathroom.  Somehow, we have adopted the habit of our phones joining us at the dinner table or while eating in restaurants.  When do we consider our phones as intruders in our lives? Possibly when we can answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Do you have more conversations with your phone than with people around the dinner table?
  • Do you text members of your family within the same household when they are just in another room?
  • On vacation, is one of your first questions an inquiry about wi-fi?
  • Do you allow phone interruptions to take precedence over your current person-to-person conversation?
  • Does your phone accompany you to the bathroom?  (Really?)

Smartphones can have a significant impact on children’s social development.  An article from Dr. Michael Gabriel from GPM Pediatrics says that “children are missing out on how to learn language, learn about their emotions and how to regulate them, learn how to carry out a conversation and how to read each other’s facial expressions.”

Can we come to a consensus that we may be addicted to our phones and that, until now, we didn’t fully realize the impact they have on our lives, well being, and relationships with others?

There are easy ways to reduce the time with our phones.  Counselling isn’t likely to help you decrease dependency on your “smart” phones, however, short-term counselling can help rebuild relationships and develop the social skills required to maintain healthy relationships.  Contact us today!

 

 

Child Development Essentials


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When we start preschool, we are exposed to all these new faces. Some are flipping through picture books, driving trains along tracks, or playing house in the kitchen and dress-up center. We may join one cluster of kids and all of a sudden, due to a common interest, we have friends.

Children grow and thrive in the context of close social relationships. These relationships provide love, care, nurturing, and fosters cooperation. A positive preschool experience provides important protective factors for young children.

Learning to successfully interact with others is one of the most important aspects of a child’s development,” (Osman, National Centre for Learning Disabilities).

Children who begin kindergarten without adequate social and emotional development are often not successful in early years of school and can be plagued by behavioural, emotional, academic, and social problems that follow them into adulthood,” (Clawson, 2000, Stanford Report).

Some of these friends move up the education ladder with us, so the transition from one institution (preschool) to another (primary school) can make things easier. However, sometimes our path leads to new surroundings and we are left to discover new social bonds, while we are still growing and developing as individuals.

Children who are still in the process of developing a value system are more vulnerable to negative influences,” (Dr. Sylvia Rimm). Children are more prone to experimenting with different social groups as they venture into the world to see with whom they may find a suitable fit. As a result, with an indefinite value or belief system, children may behave in ways that can contribute negatively to their development (e.g., school performance problems, behavioural issues, substance abuse and/or disobedience at home).

The fact that children are naturally and easily influenced highlights the importance of consistent parental guidance and clarity around core values and beliefs along with imparting morals that will guide children well into adulthood. (Packer 2014)

Keeping an eye on children’s social and emotional development at a young age is crucial. Adult-child relationships that are loving and nurturing can foster open communication. It allows parents to take a positive, proactive approach to discuss friendships and help children make good decisions about friendships. Helping children learn some criteria for selection of friends can greatly impact their selection in future years.

Some parents may wonder what to do when they feel some friendships may be having a negative influence on their children. Start by setting limits, in which play with these children may be more supervised or even possibly temporarily discontinued.

For further information, call us today. We can help you and your child discuss the importance of positive relationships, help teach values about friendships, and help develop criteria for early social and emotional decision making.

 

Social Connections Reduce Stress


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Stress is an inevitable occurrence in our lives. Sometimes we can manage easily. We may remain focused with our daily tasks, take a couple extra work breaks, exercise, joke around or eat a few more snacks to help us through the day.

However stress can also be, at times, too overwhelming to push aside with our usual coping strategies. We may have so many stressors we may not see a way out or can’t find enough outlets so our stress levels can subside. We may feel like the walls of stress we are surrounded by are narrowing in on us.

Then we get a phone call from a friend who would love to spend some time together. We may, at first, want to respond; “No, now is not a good time.”, however, what better time than to escape this reality for an hour or two? So we agree to meet up with our friend, and after five minutes of small talk, we take in a breath of relief.

When we push aside relationships because we are “too stressed out,” we may feel more stress and even a little anxious. Thoughts of being unsupported can fuel feelings of loneliness and isolation leading to even less motivation to seek friendships.  Limited social support has been associated with depression and cognitive decline (Harvard Women’s Health Watch).

Social relationships:

  • Provide support, encouragement, empathy, and humour
  • Encourage our physical health. “Social connections help relieve harm to the heart’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system (Harvard Health Publications).
  • Help us feel a sense of belonging, that we can relate and share similar life stressors (work, school, family, spouses, and/or children).
  • Build opportunities to engage in the same activities of interests (sport, music, artistic, etc.)
  • Provide stress-relief, financial aid at times and helpful advice

Professional counselling can assist you to better manage stress and develop improved interpersonal skills.  We can also help strengthen existing social skills and strengths helping you overcome challenges with friends and build up satisfying social connections. Contact us today.


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Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

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.

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 .