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Dealing with “Starting-high-school” Worries

Every year, beginning around April or May, many of my young clients express worries and fears about starting high school in the following year.  This feeling can be described as a general worry, but can escalate to crippling fear and panic.

There are many reasons why this fear and worry is understandable.  It involves transitioning from the oldest in elementary school to the youngest in a larger, more intimidating school environment.  Socially, high school amalgamates several elementary and middle school classes into one gigantic grade 9 class, filled with unfamiliar people.  Some of my clients also worry about the perceived increase in difficulty level of school work and expectations.  And even though grade 9 is the beginning of high school, it sometimes symbolizes that need to confirm long-term goals, which can include university or college programs and future careers.

On a more personal level, I empathize with my young clients because the frame of reference that they have regarding high school is a lot more darker and surreal than what I was exposed to when I was transitioning.  I was bombarded by the bright colours and cheerful casts of shows like “Saved by the Bell”, “Boy Meets World”, “Full House”, and “Beverly Hills, 90210”.  Now, high school series show more mature themes, such as “Pretty Little Liars”, “Riverdale” and “13 Reasons Why”.  It is no wonder that some of our young ones are more nervous about this major life change!

When supporting youth through this time, I found the following things helpful and they may be helpful for you when talking to your teen:

  1. Normalize how they are feeling.  “I am sure that a large percentage of soon-to-be grade 9 students are experiencing similar fears and worries”.  Remind your teen that uncertainty and unfamiliar situations are always worrisome until they become more predictable and familiar.  This will take some time.  It is also okay to remind your teen that there are some experiences in life that cannot be avoided and this may be one of them.  Challenging our fears can teach us about our resiliency and our ability to adapt to new and different surroundings.
  2. Focus on balanced thinking.  “In addition to the things that worry you about high school, what are some of the things that you are excited about?”  This could include meeting new people, joining clubs and extra-curricular activities, having their own locker, etc.
  3. Process specific worries.  “What is the worst case scenario that you are worried about?  Let’s find some strategies that may be helpful if this happens.  What is the likelihood that this will happen anyways?”
  4. Connect your youth with appropriate supports.  Some schools are now hosting “orientation” weeks that allow grade 9 students to acclimate to their new surroundings and get used to the new routines and structures.  Participating in these programs may help in familiarizing themselves with their high school.
  5. Talk about it.  Even when your child says, “I don’t want to talk about it. It makes me nervous”, remind him or her that the more he or she talks about it, the less scary the topic may become.  Obviously, you don’t want to force your child to talk about it, but engaging in small dialogues about things that are exciting about high school may make it less daunting.
  6. Remind ourselves that of the social pressures that we may not understand, especially if we went to high school without social media, cell phones, the internet, and super-sized high schools.  High school is definitely a different experience now than when I was a teenager a very, VERY, long time ago, and I am okay with admitting that I may not fully understand the new pressures that our youth today have to face.  But I am also confident that with many of our youth, the passage of time and the support from others can make a positive difference when making this transition.

Here are some other helpful articles that may be of some use:

“Starting High School” – http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/starting-high-school.html

http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=243&np=295&id=2196

Helping Your Teen Adjust – http://www.drpaul.com/adolescent/highschool.php

 

Online Counselling Now Available!

I am very excited to announce a new service that I will be offering to current and new clients!  I have recently been approved to be an online therapist through Inkblot Therapy.  This is a very exciting opportunity for me to provide support to individuals in a more convenient manner.

Inkblot Therapy allows therapists and their clients to experience an online counselling session in a secure and confidential manner.  The user-friendly process is simple:

  1. Create a confidential user profile on the Inkblot Therapy website and use my personal ID Code to access my calendar.
  2. Purchase a specific amount of sessions and book them online.
  3. Log in to your account at the scheduled time of the booking for your 1 hour session with me.  All sessions are confidential and adhere to PHIPPA standards.
  4. Receive your receipt following the completion of the session that you can use for insurance claims.

Online counselling via video conferencing can be beneficial in so many ways.  It can address barriers such as geographical or time constraints.  It can also be used as a method of receiving support in between face-to-face sessions or as a “trial” to evaluate if counselling is a helpful tool for you.

For more information about online counselling with me through Inkblot Therapy, please contact me through email, phone call or text.

Find more information about online counselling using the following links below:

Online counselling: Pros and cons – http://au.professionals.reachout.com/online-counselling-pros-and-cons

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Counselling – https://www.verywell.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-online-therapy-2795225

Common Myths of Online Counselling Debunked – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/panic-life/201707/common-myths-about-online-counseling-debunked

Our Latest Newsletter is Ready!

Embracing the Powerful Mind is a newsletter that is developed by myself and a very talented colleague, Uresha Salgado.  The purpose of it is to share our knowledge on various issues and keep you updated on upcoming events, programs and services.

We are happy to share our latest edition, Volume 1, Issue 2, which focuses on upcoming groups that we are planning and developing for the new year.  We are very excited to be able to work with groups of parents, youth and families to help strengthen their knowledge and relationships.

For more information about Group Services, please click here.

To read our past newsletter, please click here.

To register for one of our groups, or to request to receive our newsletters regularly, please refer to my Contact page.

Happy Reading! 🙂

The Benefits and Dangers of New Year’s Resolution

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Happy New Year!  This is both an exciting and pressure-filled time of the year as some of us start to reflect on our past year and set goals for the upcoming one.  New Year’s Resolutions can be a significant part of this day for most people.  They can motivate us to address parts of our lives that we believe are in need of improvement.  However, New Year’s Resolutions are simply long-term goals, and with long-term goals can come feelings of pressure, guilt, and anxiety.  When we set long-term goals that are unrealistic or require a long period of time to measure, we can start to feel disappointed in ourselves, impatient, and resentful.

Typically, I will recommend that my clients make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).  SMART goals can allow us to observe change and strive for outcomes that are gradual.  They encourage us to see our long-term goal as a result of multiple, smaller goals that were achieved along the way.  And with each smaller goal that is achieved, we become more confident and motivated to keep on going.  The issue I have with New Year’s Resolutions is that they often focus on outcomes that are measurable after one year…a whole year…365 days.  That’s a long time to wait to measure our accomplishments.

In making New Year’s Resolutions that may not lead to feelings of anxiety and disappointment, it may be more helpful to set anchors or deadlines throughout the year in order to set smaller goals and to allow for evaluating our progress in shorter increments.  These timeframes can be monthly, quarterly, or based on significant times of the year (ex. birthdays, vacations, holidays).  With each deadline, you may find it helpful to set smaller goals to evaluate that move you closer and closer to your ultimate goal at the end of the year.  Regular review of your resolution can help address and prevent feelings of anxiety and guilt because you can modify the process at any time rather than letting things go for a prolonged period of time, recognizing that you are not moving forward “fast” enough, and giving up.  The idea of 30 day challenges are great ways to begin this process.  Setting several 30 day challenges for ourselves throughout the year can make a year long goal less daunting.  Doing a simple search on sites such as Pinterest can give you amazing ideas on how to start with these challenges.  30 day challenges also remind us that we don’t have to wait until the beginning or end of the year to bring positive changes in our lives.  We can start making these changes at any time.

In achieving any goal, I advise my clients that if you were to view your life as a road map, with your long-term goal as your ultimate destination, there are always more than one path to get you there.  It is often not the most direct and straight path either.  It is usually the long, windy road, with detours and cliffs and hurdles to jump over that will lead us to our destination.  However, when we follow this complicated and sometimes frustrating path, we appreciate our destination more when we finally arrive.  We learn about ourselves through our journey and value the hard work and determination that we had to endure in order to get to where we want to be.

I am by no means anti-New Year’s Resolution.  I believe that they can be motivating and encouraging.  They get us excited about our future.  I do, however, understand the dangers of setting unrealistic and untimely goals and the effects of these dangers on our mood and our thoughts.  Good luck to all who have already set your resolutions.  Believe in yourselves and if you find your path drifting in the wrong direction, find your way back but always remember to enjoy the journey to get there.

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Jimmy Dean

Anti-Bullying Week – Nov. 22 – 25

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Anti-bullying Week 2016 is starting in my community’s school boards.  This is a very important time and it reflects a cause that I am extremely passionate about.  So, as I prepare to educate the students at my children’s school for the second year in a row, I am dedicating time to share significant information for children, youth, parents, and educators about the severity of bullying and its implications on the victims, perpetrators, bystanders and communities.

The term “bullying” has gradually lost its true meaning and has been used to describe isolated incidents of abuse, violence and other inappropriate behaviours between peers.  “Bullying” refers to a chronic victimization that is based on a perceived power imbalance and is meant to make the victim feel hurt and pain, both physically and emotionally.  As much as we believe that bullies are confined to the schoolyard, it is a behaviour that presents itself across the lifespan, from children to the elderly.

Anti-bullying initiatives in the schools evolved from the research that focused on the long-term effects of bullying, such as increased anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, social isolation or withdrawal, and unhealthy relationships.

According to the statistics provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (For more information, click on the following link:  http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cycp-cpcj/bull-inti/index-eng.htm):

  • Canadian 13 year olds have the 9th highest rate of bullying compared to 35 other countries;
  • 47% of Canadian parents have a child who has been bullied;
  • Between 6 to 8% of victims avoid school due to bullying;
  • 49.5% of middle and high school students in Toronto reported being cyberbullied and most did not report it
  • 85% of bullying occurs in the presence of others

Similarly, in a study conducted by PrevNet.ca, 75% of university students reported being affected by bullying.  (For more information, download the following pdf: Bullying Statistics – Prevnet.ca.

What does this all mean?

Many adults can acknowledge that bullying is something that seems to have been around forever.  It is almost considered to be a normative rite of passage.  However, we are now seeing bullying behaviours that extend past the schoolyard and into our children’s bedrooms through technology.

In my practice with youth and families, I have counselled many victims, as well as, individuals who admitted to bullying others.  One thing I have learned about this experience is that everyone has a story.  While the victims can recall and describe experiences of trauma and ongoing issues with trust, social anxiety and depression (to name a few), those who bully have also reflected on feelings of anger, loneliness and trauma.  Throw in the dangers of social media and the result is a large population of young people who are experiencing an overwhelming amount of emotions but may not have the capacity or maturity to understand the permanency of their online and in-person behaviours.

However, since we have seen bullying and its many faces for so long, we focus on the same messages.  Punish the bullying behaviours.  Teach the victims about social skills and coping. Tell the victims to ignore the hurtful comments and actions of others.  Encourage them to hug and shake hands.  Yet, these messages are not being received.  We have young children who are retaliating or defending themselves, who are now being told that they will also be suspended or expelled from their schools due to zero tolerance policy.  Some are bullying other children in order to feel powerful or validated.  And most, but not all, do not feel comfortable telling an adult about what is happening to them because of fear that the bullying will continue and possibly escalate.

Other lessons that may be more beneficial should encompass providing valuable skills to bullies, victims and bystanders. Not only is it important to educate young ones about what bullying can do to people, but it is also essential to teach them valuable skills and lessons on empowerment, empathy, responsibility, respect, self-esteem, kindness, compassion, and leadership.  Teach them about friendship, acceptance, tolerance, recognizing their strengths, and resiliency.  Remind both those who are victimized and those who are victimizing of their worth and value.  Believe them when they say they are in pain instead of minimizing it by telling them that “it happens” and emphasizing the need to “get over it”.  Encourage them to care about one another and be role models.

Love them. Embrace them.  Tell them they matter.  All of them.

There shouldn’t just be one week in a year to teach our young ones these important life lessons.  We need to emphasize this at all times.  Yet here we are.  I am wishing everyone a successful and powerful Anti-Bullying Week.

 

My first article for Marriage.com

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I have officially been named an “expert” by marriage.com, a leading website providing resources and information about marriage and related topics.

Please check out my first article, “Differing communication styles can both fail and strengthen your relationship”, using the link below:

http://www.marriage.com/advice/communication/differing-communication-styles-can-both-fail-and-strengthen-your-relationship/

 

Upcoming Groups Coming to Orangeville

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My colleague, Uresha Salgado, and I are excited to announce that we are preparing for groups that we would like to have in the Orangeville area for parents and youth!  We are hoping to launch our first groups in January/February 2017 and are looking for topics that are suitable and needed in the Orangeville and surrounding area.

Please take some time to complete our survey at the link below to give us idea of your interests and needs:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QP2V9MM

We are looking forward to this extremely exciting opportunity!

Thanks in Advance,

Cindy

If you have any question, suggestions or ideas, please feel free to contact me by visiting my Contact page.