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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.

 

 


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It almost goes without saying that media has a major impact on our perspective on many issues: mental illness, love and relationships, as well as body image, health and wealth. Here is one way in which the media can do some good for young girls and teenagers who are coming into their own bodies, adapting to hormone changes, and who are exposed to peer pressure.

The following link shares Lupita Nyongo’s acceptance speech at the Essence Magazine awards.

We are too often exposed to extremely thin waistlines, airbrushed faces, flawless skin, and long and flowing hair.  Little girls are growing up watching cosmetic commercials and teenagers are reading fashion magazines. As a result, their perception of beauty can become easily skewed by the media’s “acceptable” ideologies and portrayals of beauty.

This can, unfortunately, create inner turmoil in a preteen or teenager who does not resemble the bodies and faces seen on screen. Females, and even some males, may excessively strive to adjust their behaviours in hopes to eventually become the “beauties” they idolize in magazines and on television. These behaviours may include: restrictive eating, binge eating, vomiting, disordered eating, excessive dieting, manipulating medications (e.g. lower insulin dosing) and excessive exercising. These behaviours, when prolonged, have a severe impact on overall health (social, psychological and biological).

Fortunately, once in a while, we are able to hear celebrities comment on real beauty like Lupita did in her speech. However, is everyone listening to this message? Sometimes family support, well-intentioned comments and repeated requests just don’t seem to be enough. In fact, many common statements and approaches can actually, unintentionally, add to the problem. And it takes much effort and professional help to change disordered eating behaviours. Contact us today to get professional help!

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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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.