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 .

 


Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com

“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 .

Travelling to a foreign country can be rather exciting and stressful at the same time. You don’t know the customs, the people, the geographic area etc.. Even going to the USA from Canada, when you don’t travel much, can elevate stress levels. Thoughts that lean toward negativity, whether they are about airport check-in, customs and security, the type of plane, people or otherwise, can disrupt, worsen and even ruin a perfectly fine holiday away.

It is important to plan ahead, not just with practical things like packing, cars and sights to see, with who you are going to meet, but also planning how we are going to handle changes in plans, monkey wrenches and even attitudes about spending money.  Keeping positive, despite the normal unexpected challenges, is not an easy skill. We are, therefore, prudent to set some internal guidelines to keep our spirits up and to have a fun time. Discovering new ways to interpret the actions and motivations of others can help us stay in a positive frame of mind. Training our mind means shifting thoughts that fuel negative emotions and actions toward the intentional selection of  thoughts that fuel positive emotional and behavioural states.

Viewing all people as generally good, kind and caring can go a long way as can the thought; “I am to be polite, kind and courteous no matter the situation”. On our trip this past weekend, to Washington DC and the Baltimore area, we had plenty of opportunity to get flustered or “out-of-sorts” and that negative voice in the back of my head offered numerous reasons to do so.  Some of the situations that could easily have turned into awful experiences, based upon my potential handling of the moment, actually turned out quite well because I did not listen to my “stinkin thinkin” … for very long anyway.  “Take a few really deep breaths” was the message to myself as the girl at the check-in counter became… well let’s just say… a little disconcerting and a whole lot unfriendly!

For some time now, I have repeatedly discovered that being gracious begets a similar response. Being good, kind, understanding, patient etc. mostly leads to receiving similar responses from others. This may not be right at the moment, yet it seems to be a very consistent phenomenon provided we wait for it. In a hurried and rushed world we may often want results right away, expecting people to be nice immediately just because we have been. Is there a time limit or expiry date on goodness and graciousness? Can we ever really give too much of this.

Make any trip, experience or journey out of your comfort zone more positive by being mindful of your own thought selection. We can increasingly search for, reach for and develop more thoughts that portray a “goodness to gracious” view, thereby improving our journey along this road of life.

 

“How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”

Sound too good to be true, impossible or unlikley? I’m here as a witness that the “Truly, Madly Deeply” lyrics can come true. Is that just too many trues in one paragraph already? In a world where we hear of so many tragic endings in relationships, sooooo much drama and innumerable breakups, what can be so wrong about hearing about a relationship soooooo right?

I finally regained the courage to go out again after a few years of not really bothering; just going to work, seeing family and maybe having the odd “not-amounting-to-much” date or two. I set a goal to meet “Miss Right” only to realize a short while later, I required much renovation and repair to become the “Mr Right” that might have a chance of attracting such a young lady. One wonderful night I, along with the neighbour guy (didn’t really know him), went off to the Warehouse; a local bar.

Within minutes, as the Beatles say, I saw her standing there. From a glance to the request to dance took only a moment. She and I set out to dance the night away (Van Halen), exchanging humourous quips, flirtatious eyes and stimulating conversation… yes conversation. Three splendid hours later, having barely stood in the presence of the friends we arrived with, we danced out to “New York, New York”.1383267644h2fym

As she “left the building“, not unlike Elvis, I revealed puppy dog eyes politely requesting her number. She, ever so apprehensively, called it out from across the room and I immediately began repeating it over and over (no cell phones back then eh!). As I sit here on the eve of what will be our thirtieth Valentines Day, I shudder to think a few “what ifs”. You know, those negative thoughts we sometimes call the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” or “Stinkin Thinkin”.

No… I’d rather dwell on the positives. True romance is possible! It begins with a spark that you carefully build into a flame. It can then, with regular tending, develop into an all-encompassing bonfire. A magnificent romantic relationship truly does require consistent care, work and a great deal of support and learning (kind of like adding new logs to the fire). Romance, like a great bonfire, requires tending so it neither burns out nor burns so out of control that it burns those involved. Happy Valentine’s Day!Flames

 

Obsessive Thoughts Can Float Away

For more than ten years, all I’ve known or been accustomed to is my routine of counting everything in sight. It has impacted my life greatly. I’m usually late for appointments or dates with friends because my routine had become so extensive. My relationships with my parents became difficult to cope with as I tested their patience daily with my obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Needless to say, counting became a priority in my life and it was so hurtful.

When my parents suggested I attend counselling, I was very hesitant. All of my reservations about a therapist made me more paranoid and wanting to count even more often. “He’ll think I’m crazy!” “I can’t share my thoughts with a stranger!” “He’ll turn my parents against me!” These thoughts created a lot of anxiety; however, to please my parents, I thought I’d attend at least one session.

To my pleasant surprise, none of my fears about therapy and my counsellor came to be.  I now had someone who would listen to me, help me uncover and recognize the thoughts contributing to the repeated counting behaviour and then help me change my life for the better. My burden became lighter, with my effort, gradually floating away like a balloon.

I am finally on track to having the life I want and I am rebuilding relationships in my life. By learning to creatively shift my thoughts, I am able to replace my counting with activities that allow me to grow and develop into the person I want to be. I’m also now better able to embrace experiences with my families and friends.

If there’s anything that I can share with others who suffer with obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours, it is this: YOU can control your life with help. Cognitive-behaviour therapy helps shift thoughts, feelings and then also the behavior!

Get Help!  For further information and resources to overcome OCD, call us today!

 

 

Actually… It’s Not a Competition

Research indicates depression occurs twice as often in women as in men. There are additional risk factors that account for the increased likelihood that females will suffer from depression over males. Some of these added risk factors for females include: variance in hormone changes, puberty and premenstrual problems (e.g. bloating, breast tenderness, cramping, headaches and irritability). Another factor which is quite different for adolescent girls and women over boys and men, at least in developed countries, is females experience significantly higher levels of dysphoria and vulnerability related to physical appearance and body image.

These gender differences do not appear in pre-adolescent children. Risk factors become more apparent when they interact with the challenges of adolescence (e.g., physical appearance, dating, sexual experience and expression, and academic performance).

Why the gender difference?

Some may attribute the difference to the different stressors that males and females experience (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002):

  • Single, teenaged mothers report higher levels of depression than married ones.
  • Women suffering from obesity tend to show more depressive symptoms.
  • Females have been statistically shown to be exposed to various forms of victimization than males.
  • Societal conditions can create more stressors on women than males, making feelings of empowerment more difficult for women to achieve.

Does Gender Difference Matter?

Although research may present the differences of mental health among males and females rather than gender, our attention should focus on adolescent healthy development.

How are we rearing and “coaching” both males and females as they approach adolescence? Are we preparing our children for this new phase in their lives? Do we parents and caregivers know what these conversations should look like? Is the communication within the family open, engaging, and supportive? How aware are we about their social, intellectual, emotional, sexual, spiritual and physical developmental changes and the impact upon their confidence and performance?

When we consider these questions, we become in tune to helping our children through difficult times and new phases in their lives. A strong, consistent and caring family supportive system:

  • increases the chance adolescents can effectively cope with their stressors and crisis points,
  • helps teens focus on more positive thoughts about themselves, their family members and friends,
  • promotes healthier behavioural choices related to daily challenges and experiences teens face.

Male? Female? We all have “issues” and challenges! For further resources on how to help your family through different stages of development and your young people with depression, anxiety or other common mental health issues, call us today!

Heads are leaning on heads. Bodies are squished together in small seats. Eyes are closed and heads are nodding forward. When eyes are open, we see angry faces and hear people in pissed off moods… and it’s only 7am. What is the rest of our day going to look like?

There’s no doubt about it, we live in a world of hustle. Some of us work 8-12 hour days and still have to “work” on daily family tasks when we get home. When our heads hit the pillow and we finally attain a moment of silence, we begin to process all that needs to be done for the day to come). We ask ourselves; “Where did this day go?”

So I have to ask: “Is the hustle and bustle of our lives really worth it?” We are begging for a vacation because we need that escape. We are looking for new jobs and opportunities to make our lives better (or easier). We are asking ourselves; “Does life have to be this hard?”

Stressful events and life’s hiccups are inevitable; however, how we perceive and cope with these experiences make a world of difference. Balance is an essential component to consider when we make decisions in our lives. Of course, once we make these decisions (e.g. to work here or there, to commute or not, etc.), it is important to “own them”, take responsibility for the results of our decisions and be accountable for our actions.

To attain a balanced lifestyle, we must shift our thoughts from stress and worry, to positivity and action. Staying positive is difficult to do on our own; however, building a strong connection to our higher power and with friends and family can provide us with the support we need. Action may sound tiring; however, staying active prevents doubt, builds confidence, distracts us from stressful thoughts and releases endorphins or what we like to call the “happy hormones”.

Solution-focused counselling can help us train our mind into being more positive and action focused. This form of brief-therapy is future focused, goal-directed, and centers on solutions rather than problems. To attain your goals without having to feel burdened or stressed each morning, call us today!