Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

Composure Under Pressure

“After months of not hearing from my co-parent [trust me when I say it is difficult to use this term ‘co-parent’ rather than other names which easily come to mind… including “ex”], he makes contact with meet regarding the baby I am carrying. Our conversations when finding out about my pregnancy were difficult and created conflict. He repeatedly indicated that he did not want this child. I eventually took those words as not wanting me in his life either.

For sure as days went by I questioned whether I’d hear from him again. Sometimes I hoped I would hear that he just needed some time to sort things out and has come to the realization that he wants this family we have created.  Only in my dreams…

Although I did not know how this meeting would turn out or what exactly would be discussed, I prepared myself. I read articles and books on co-parenting. I took advice from these resources to help minimize conflict. My goal out of this first meeting was to prevent future meetings from requiring lawyers, judges, or mediators.

This goal was achieved because although my now co-parent could not indicate what his contribution or role as a parent would be, I guided the conversation with my plans as a co-parent. I had organized what expenses to consider. I asked questions about his considerations of being a part of our child’s life. I focused on specific questions regarding the baby, leaving out the previous romantic relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong. A tiny voice within me wanted to rage out of my body, questioning his disappearance act. I wanted to ask, ‘what about us?’ I wanted to receive a heartfelt, well-deserved apology for his behaviour and disrespect towards me. However I had to ask myself if it was worth it. Would it really make me feel better forcing an apology out of someone who didn’t care to give it in the first place?

Articles and books on co-parenting indicate the importance of letting break ups, divorce, or separation go. Take time to grieve but move past this part of your relationship. This may be the most difficult part of the co-parenting process, especially when we tend to seek closure from our ex-partners. If we keep chasing for answers, we are not accepting the relationship has ended. Thus, we tend to dwell in the hurt and pain of broken relationships even longer and risk even higher conflict.

This can result in a high-conflict co-parenting relationship as well and, subsequently, be detrimental to the innocent children. Overcoming a break up or divorce as well as coming to a mutual partnership between co-parents significantly strengthens the growth and development opportunities of children. For more information and coaching on how to develop the harmony to co-parent effectively contact us today .

   LIVE HARMONIOUSLY!

Photo credit: timatkins from morguefile.com

 Photo credit: gracey from morguefile.com

From Blame to Ownership

“I started working at sixteen. Wanting to make my own money and buy my own things. The only lessons on saving (if you’d like to call it that), came from my mom saying that I should put a little away and give some to the church. My young ignorant mind knew nothing about credit, debt, fees, or expenses. And that little bit that I was supposed to be putting away was rarely done. I’ll always be making money….right?

Well, after university with four credit cards and my line of credit maxed out, I was forced to wake up. My financial instability felt like walking with a heavy weighted ball chained to my leg. When pay day arrived, I felt a glimmer of sunshine beam down on my face, through this cloud of debt, only to have to contribute 90% of it to a credit card or bank debt.


Photo credit: cohdra from morguefile.com

Many young adults can relate to this scenario. We ask ourselves if we will ever get out of this cycle of debt. Will we ever be able to make more than minimal payments? When we experience days of frustration, we sometimes place or want to place the blame on others. We might blame parents for not teaching enough financial lessons or we may place blame on creditors for making it impossible to make larger payments due to interest fees.

The trouble with placing blame on others is that it does not provide a solution for financial strain. What can provide a ray of sunshine and power is to look within. Taking ownership for the decisions we have made helps increase optimism and opens up opportunities. We actually get energy from taking responsibility for our situation. We can even become more open to assistance from others, professionals and family. Counselling helps many individuals achieve their goals of financial freedom.

Financial counselling helps by assessing behaviour trends in our spending. For example, many of us may use the phrase, “I need this,” rather than “I want this.” We have grown accustomed to using the word ‘need’ to refer to a ‘want.’ When we look into how and why we are spending, great changes in our spending behaviours can be altered.

Counselling also helps us create a plan. A counsellor may hold us accountable to our plan, in a non-judgmental way, helping us chip away at debt with a consistent and calculated approach. Creating a plan to better manage our income, savings, and our debts is an approach to get us out of being in a stressful financial cycle. The plan shows us what we are moving towards. Money troubles??? … get help!

Photo credit: ainsliejoon from Morguefile.com
  • 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.

Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

Photo credit: GaborfromHungary from morguefile.com

Social Connections Reduce Stress


Photo credit: vahiju from Morguefile,com

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.


Photo credit: SDRandCo from morguefile.com

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

Some may read the title of this blog appalled by the assumption that everyone is an addict. So let’s consider this statement from Christopher Kennedy Lawford, author of “What Addicts Know.”

As a culture we’ve become addicted not only to gambling, drugs, alcohol, sex, and other suspects, but also technology and the acquisition of material possessions and every conceivable promise of instant gratification: More is better has become society’s mantra. We eat more, spend more, take more risks, abuse more substances…only to feel more depressed, unsatisfied, discontented, and unhappy. You may know these symptoms firsthand, or recognize them in the lives of people you care about,” (www.Today.com, January 16, 2014).

Given the statement above, we may all be able to identify that we have, or have had at some point, some addictive behaviours. Merriam-Webster’s definition states: Addiction: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). The key word is harmful. In this light, one could even postulate (and we have) people can be addicted to arguing and fighting, thus, also to the chemicals released from the adrenal gland?

Did you know the actual term “addiction” was originally used in the slave trade? (see Drugs, Morality and the Law). When a slave was sold to the “owner”, they were said to be addicted to their master which meant “tied to”. Well, if you and I can be tied to something… yes… we can also be untied! 

When asked in counselling; What is an addiction?, we often respond anything (thoughts, emotions and behaviours) that significantly interrupts or gets in the way of an important area of your life. Harmful may mean persistent thoughts and behaviours “threatening” to healthy functioning in our vocational (work/school), social, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, family, marital spheres. Of course, we may all have a different definition of what “threatening” is as well and the threat may not be immediately evident, recognized or acknowledged.


Photo credit: ingemann from morguefile.com

Admitting our personal areas that are unhealthy can be difficult enough to do and others generally see the problem before we do.  Owning hurtful behaviour exposes the “dark side” of being human, something few of us are comfortable letting out about ourselves. Many who do admit openly and acknowledge their addictive behaviour, report feeling liberated, relieved and energized with a renewed sense of hope and joy.

This is most evident for those with addictions who go through the recovery process (a clearly defined step-by-step program with accountability measures built in). Those who were once showing characteristics those around them would call deviant, deceptive, manipulative, self-absorbed, and disrespectful can come out of recovery having rediscovered long lost gifts of self-awareness, honesty, integrity, grace and forgiveness. In addition, when we overcome a particular challenge, we gain greater understanding into human behaviour and change processes, also gaining an acquired skill set to become the greatest role models and teachers.

So do we all need to be in recovery?

Consider these questions, also suggested from Lawford:

  • Am I generally content with the way things are?
  • Are my emotions mostly on an even keel?
  • Are my personal relationships strong and supportive?
  • Is there enough joy in my life?

Careful before you answer: Those in self-absorbed, manipulative and deceptive modes of functioning even “swindle” themselves to believe they are content and happy with their lives. So another question may also be considered when this is the case:

  • If there is content and joy in your life, why do you have feelings of being depressed, unsatisfied, and empty? (What is fueling this is not always “biochemistry”)

Instant gratification, the main ingredient and greatest influence of our addictive behaviours refuses to remind us of the fact that the satisfaction we experience is only temporary. Short-term gain, long-term pain! If we can consider those questions on a grand scheme of our lives, we may come to realize that we are not truly happy. We have lost sincere human connections with others through a series of poor thoughts and choices. We have been selfish and have neglected the true meaning of love, trust and support for others and for ourselves. We do need help.


Photo credit: mensatic from morguefile.com

Changing ourselves without input from others doesn’t work. This is the profession of counselling: assisting others to bring out their inherent skills and qualities and develop new ones to effectively improve their quality of life, overcome challenges faced and, thus, develop satisfying and caring relationships with others. We can also get good coaching advice from books and web resources to be used in concert with evidence-based therapeutic counselling.

We can all benefit from quality counselling to improve our lives. Contact us today.

 


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?


                                                            Photo credit: Oleander from morguefile.com

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.