Monthly Archives: April 2015

I don’t understand my teenager!

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If you’re the parent of a teen, you may feel like one day they went to bed and woke up with a totally different personality.

Whereas before they were sweet, helpful and easy-to-handle, now they are suddenly uncommunicative, messy, rebellious and rude.

Don’t panic! While many parents are surprised and often stressed out by the changes that teens go through upon hitting puberty, it’s important to recognise that most of this behaviour is totally normal.

  • There’s a whole host of behaviours that your teen may begin to exhibit.
  • They may stop listening to you or refuse to comply with simple requests.
  • They may take more – or less interest – in their appearance.
  • They may become less interested in school and achieving.
  • They’re likely to start taking an interest in sex.
  • They may even begin to dabble in smoking, drugs or alcohol.

None of this is any reflection on you as parent. Your teen is beginning to express themself as an independent person. They are pushing boundaries and wanting to try out new and different things.

So what can you do?

  • Reassure them about what they are going through and acknowledge how difficult this time is for them.
  • Negotiate boundaries ‘with’ them, as opposed to ‘telling’ them what to do. Teens tend to be much more responsive to discussions including them, rather than rules that dictate to them.
  • Many parents try stopping their teen making valuable mistakes that are healthy to their development. It’s important you don’t constrict their freedom so much that they can’t learn lessons for themselves.
  • Try to talk to your teen about sex. You may both find this awkward, but it’s crucial they know how to avoid making silly mistakes.
  • Check they aren’t being bullied, and keep communication open with them.
  • Try to understand what they might be going through… and try to remember what it was like for you at this age.

 When should you start to worry?

Of course, it’s also important to be able to notice the real signs of trouble. Some behaviour is unacceptable – even if your teen is going through a period of change. If they are acting in the following ways, it may be time to intervene.

  • If your teen becomes violent towards you, or other family members, this is not OK.
  • If your teen is getting into trouble and committing illegal offences talk to them about the consequences of their actions.
  • Regular truancy from school can mean your teen is experiencing problems.

What can you do if you think your teenager might be going down a bad path? 

Talk to your teen about risks and consequences. Make sure they understand that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable, and that now they’re growing up, they need to start taking responsibility for their actions.

  • Offer your support. Find out if something is troubling them. Bad behaviour is often the symptom of a problem they’re struggling to deal with.
  • Be a good role model. After all, one of the biggest influences on your teen’s development is you.
  • Discuss boundaries and rules.  If they feel they’re unfair, ask what they feel is reasonable and fair, and try negotiating these with them.
  • Get support for yourself. It’s important that you make sure that you have all the help you need too. Ask family and friends for help if you’re struggling to cope – or talk to a life coach.

How long will this go on for?

Because the rate of growth in teens is so variable, it’s impossible to know how long this period will last. It could be months, or it could be years.

And while that may be frustrating, remember they will come out of the other side – and that’s when you’ll see the benefits of the support, reassurance and boundaries that you provided.

How can I help?

If you need more information or advice on dealing with changes in your teen visit my website or email me on


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Self-Improvement is a common-place term you likely hear on a daily basis. Walk into any bookstore and you will most likely find a substantial section entitled “Self-Help” that provides you with information on topics ranging from how to improve your relationship, manage your mood, communicate more effectively, lose weight, feel happier, reach your goals, eat healthier, improve your self-esteem, find love, and change bad habits (to name a few!). We are also bombarded with media that provide endless tips about how to fix every possible problem of being human – physical, emotional, mental, and social.

Our culture is full of messages that tell us we can be better and do better as human beings.  An underlying assumption in this is that we are inherently flawed or under-developed as beings and that we need to strive for constant self-improvement, self-growth, or evolvement. It involves an assumption that we are not good enough or adequate as we are, and that we should constantly be “working on ourselves” to be better people.  No pressure, right?

And what does “better” even mean? What exactly is that perfect ideal that we should all be working towards? Should there be an ideal? Or is it different for every individual? How exactly do we measure self-improvement?

As a life coach, these questions are particularly interesting to me. Often within the coaching, the primary focus is change. Changing how one feels, how one thinks, or how one behaves. It could also include resolving a problem that causes discomfort or distress. However, some other important goals of coaching could also include self-growth and development, increasing self-awareness, or improving self-understanding. This could involve simply (or not-so-simply) clarifying one’s feelings, thoughts, or behavior without the goal of modifying, altering, or making these “better” in some way. Gaining self-awareness and clarity are themselves processes of change.

This is an interesting concept – being aware of oneself without trying to change or be different from who you already are. Developing an awareness of your current experience as it is, your thoughts and feelings as they currently are, and observing your own choices and behavior.  Self-awareness can be the goal itself (versus self-improvement). Above, I spoke of the inherent assumptions embedded in the notion of “self-improvement”.  Primarily that we are not good enough as we are, and that we should strive to be better in some way.  Alternatively, self-awareness does not share these assumptions. In fact, there is no judgment about what is good or bad, what needs fixing or what doesn’t, what is flawed and what isn’t. It is about recognition and acknowledgement of oneself.

Now, I want to clarify – I am not saying that self-improvement is a bad concept. Practicing habits that improve your mental and physical health are important. Taking action to promote your sense of well-being is also important. It is logical to make choices such as eating nutritious food, getting sleep and rest, being physically active, or socially connecting with others. It is also logical that if you have a medical condition that requires ongoing management through healthy lifestyle, that you would take the steps required. All of these things promote health and well-being. I am not suggesting that, for example, simply being aware that you have diabetes but not taking steps to manage this through diet and exercise is the best option.  Rather, when it comes to the psychological aspects of ourselves, I am suggesting to take a moment and reflect on what you feel needs improving and why. What is the need behind the desire to improve yourself in some aspect or another.  Does it come from feelings of inadequacy, self-criticism, perfectionism, shame, or guilt? Or from a desire to be strong, healthy, and well-balanced? And what impact does this have on your self-concept (ie. how you view yourself as a person)?  How you perceive yourself, understand yourself, and relate to yourself is key to your psychological functioning. Your relationship with yourself is the most important and long-lasting relationship in your life.

Becoming aware of one’s own inner world (thoughts and emotions), and recognising one’s own behavior without trying to change anything, encompasses a degree of acceptance. It is not always easy to accept things which we perceive to be undesirable or uncomfortable, including aspects of ourselves that we may not like so much. But think for a moment about how life might be different if you were to befriend yourself exactly where you’re at right now, as an alternative to striving for improvement? If you were to accept all aspects of yourself, including what you judge to be negative or unwanted. If you were to experience self-appreciation before trying to change into a new, improved version of your being. How would this change your relationship with yourself? And how would that change the way you experience life?

My hope is that this article does not leave you with the impression that self-improvement is a negative notion. My intention is to encourage reflective thought about self-improvement as a current movement in our society, and where its place is in our lives. I encourage you to set personal goals from a place of self-acceptance, appreciation, and respect. Before joining in this culture of self-improvement, reflect on your motivations for doing so.

Relationships, What has love got to do with it?

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It’s February 2008 and yet another 7-year relationship bites the dust. Of course, it is absolutely not my fault! It’s just that, once again, I’ve picked the wrong woman to invest in.

One day soon, I really will find that special someone who will truly love me. And I’ll know this because she’ll do what I want when I want, and will automatically know all of this without me telling her. What I’m looking for, in fact, is a selfless mind-reader. I can say this now with tongue-in-cheek, but this was how I actually thought about my relationships; ‘Real love’ is this way. It just isn’t fair I’m on my own. I’m unlucky in love. Poor me.

And I would have continued to be oblivious to this state of affairs, but for the fact I finally took up a friend’s long-standing suggestion to get some coaching. Wow, did things start to move! I noticed the constant commentary in my mind about how life was going – FYI it rarely came up with a positive conclusion! I realised that I usually heard a lover’s happy
recollections as criticism of me because I just wasn’t good enough. And perhaps most importantly of all, I started to see the strategies I used to get love and prove how much I was loved.

A new relationship would always be amazing. We were ‘together’, life was great and the world was a wonderful place to be. And then the doubts and negative thoughts would creep in. Is this too good to be true? Could this fantastic woman, really love me?

To test it out. I’d throw little hand grenades into the relationship. If she learned to deal with my minor over reactions, I just threw in bigger and more volatile love bombs! When my ex mentioned how much she missed her annual two-week holiday to the Caribbean – the one she used to take with her ex-husband – I would hear this as why can’t you afford to take me? I’d get upset, we’d argue and then I’d throw in my hand grenade – I’m leaving! When she cried and begged me to stay, I knew she cared and all was good. Eventually, of course,
she had enough of the histrionics and the relationship exploded – as had all the others before. I was upset, but I was right – There you are you see, I knew she didn’t love me!

My insecurity and a constant need to feel loved meant I had found a sure fire way to get my partners to prove it. The people around me knew it, but I genuinely had no idea that my failed relationships were largely down to me.

This insight changed my world. I started to notice when I was about to drop in an incendiary comment and found that I could stop myself from pulling out the proverbial pin. It wasn’t easy at first, but the more I held back, the more I saw my partner’s genuine affection for me. And I learned to be with her simply because she added something wonderful to my already satisfying life, not just because of my need to feel loved.

With my hand grenades all but deactivated, I soon found what I was looking for and in August 2013, I married my amazing wife. I don’t need to test her love and she doesn’t have to do anything to prove it to me. I just know it’s there – and she does too.

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