Understanding and talking to teenagers.

P1000798Is your teenage child moody, secretive and morose? Spending more time with friends, or on their own in their room, refusing to talk to you, and finding you a complete embarrassment?

This is quite normal! As children develop and reach their teens, huge developmental changes occur – physical, mental and emotional. As they grow up, children will begin to separate from us in order to ‘fledge’ as an independent adult.

Therefore it’s only natural that your teenager will want to be more independent and more private, and to spend more time with friends who become a significant presence and influence in their lives.

However, whilst they are living in your home and as part of your family, keeping the channels of communication open is crucial to a healthy parent-child relationship.

So how can you communicate with a reluctant teenager?

  • Choose the right moment – your child will be more receptive during the good moments. Avoid times of high emotion, such as after an argument. Wait until you are both feeling calmer, and arrange and agree on a good time to talk. Talking on a car journey or walk can be very effective.
  • Plan what you would like to say and what you would like to achieve from the conversation. And be realistic.
  • Listen – a really good tip for speaking with teens is not to ask ‘what is the matter with you?’ This can imply that they have done something wrong and you are making a judgement that something is wrong with them. Instead, ask them ‘what has happened?’ This is judgement free and opens the gate for them to talk – and you to listen.
  • Don’t interrupt – to make this easier you could agree that you take it in turns to speak and you aren’t allowed to speak until the other has completed what they want to say.
  • Respect what they tell you – don’t laugh off or belittle what they tell you. Something that seems insignificant or trivial to an adult can be really important in a teen’s life. And if they tell you something in confidence, then respect their trust in you and don’t pass those confidences on. If you want to share with the child’s other parent, ask permission to do this.
  • Don’t go off on one! Stay calm, no matter how you feel. If you feel your emotions rising, ask for a time-out and do something to calm you down before you resume your dialogue.
  • Accept when you are wrong. Sorry is not the hardest word!

For more information on teenage behaviour try this book- Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed. Nicola Morgan.

A Canadian organisation has published a handy downloadable leaflet ‘Straight Talk About Teens’ – it’s full of really useful information and advice. Although some of the information is specific to Canada (for instance on education), it is definitely worth a look.

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The fifth & final 5-a-day: GIVE

giveThere are a number of benefits to mental health from the act of giving. These include building a sense of belonging, improving our sense of competence and providing a distraction from our own problems.

So how could you GIVE…….

  • Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger.
  • Thank someone.
  • Smile.
  • Volunteer your time.
  • Join a community group.

Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and will create connections with the people around you. 

New Economic Foundation 5 steps to wellbeing.

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Fourth out of your 5-a-day: KEEP LEARNING

learnStudies have shown that learning throughout life is linked to greater satisfaction and optimism, and increased self-esteem and interaction with other people (see CONNECT).

Learning gives you a new goal to work towards and reaching this target can create a positive feeling of accomplishment.

So how can you KEEP LEARNING……

  • Try something new.
  • Rediscover an old interest or hobby.
  • Sign up for that course.
  • Take on a different responsibility at work.
  • Fix a bike.
  • Learn to play an instrument.
  • Cook a new recipe.

Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving and feel the benefits.

New Economics Foundation 5 steps to wellbeing

(Photo ‘learn’ by Mark Brennan at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/heycoach/1197947341/)


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It’s part three of your 5-a-day: TAKE NOTICE

take notice 2There is increasing evidence of the benefits of taking notice – of being mindful. It can lead to lower stress and worry, peace of mind and a greater feeling of well-being.

Here’s how you can TAKE NOTICE…

  • Be curious.
  • Catch sight of the beautiful.
  • Remark on the unusual.
  • Notice the changing seasons.
  • Savour the moment, whether you are on a train, eating lunch or talking to friends.

Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

New Economics Foundation 5 steps to well-being.

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BE ACTIVE: your second helping of your 5-a-day

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-image32182038BE ACTVE….

Exercise is an excellent way to boost your mood. It triggers the release of the stress-busting chemicals endorphins which produce a positive feeling in the body.

  • Go for a walk or run.
  • Step outside.
  • Cycle.
  • Play a game.
  • Garden.
  • Dance.

Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy; one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

New Economics Foundation 5 steps to wellbeing.

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The first of your 5-a-day for mental wellbeing: CONNECT

holding handsThe New Economics Foundation identified 5 actions that are linked to mental wellbeing.

They are all things that we can do for the first time, do differently, or do more of.

They could be thought of as your 5-a-day for your mood and wellbeing.

The first one is CONNECT…….

  • With the people around you.
  • With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.
  • At home, work, school or in your local community.

Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.


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Controlled breathing exercise – the path to relaxation in 10 minutes or less.

004Controlled breathing can help reduce blood pressure, promote relaxation and calm, and help us to de-stress.

Here is an easy introductory breathing exercise to try. All you need is a chair and 10 minutes.

  • Choose a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Remind anyone who shares your home, car, office, not to interrupt!
  • Sit in a comfortable chair. Place your arms on the chair arms or place your hands gently on your lap, palms facing up or down, whichever feels comfortable. Place both feet flat on the floor.
  • Drop your head slightly if you wish and close your eyes if you want to.
  • Start to focus on your breathing. Start to breathe in and out slowly and in a regular rhythm.
  • Breathe in through your nose and fill up the whole of your lungs with air. You can place your hand on your abdomen to feel your diaphragm inflate.
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth letting the breath escape slowly.
  • Count up from 1 to 5 as you breathe in and from 1 to 5 as you breathe out.
  • Keep doing this and check in to your feelings – do you notice yourself feeling calmer?

Do this for 5-10 minutes every day. Keep practising – it’ll get easier each time and you’ll start to feel the benefits.

If you would like to go further and try meditation here is a great introductory guide.

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Steps to success for your New Year’s resolution.

New-Years-Resolutions-Quotes-Images-1011It’s 2015 – time to lose weight, get fit, get a new job, spend less money, master meditation and learn Russian.

Oh yes, and hold onto my current job, keep my relationship working, manage the house, raise the kids and walk the dog.

Daunting isn’t it?

It’s easy to expect that because it’s a new year, it’ll be easy to change/learn/do. But too often, resolutions are more like a wish list for a magic genie who doesn’t live the reality of your life.

So how can you increase the chances of achieving your goal for 2015? Follow these 3 simple steps…..

  • Be focused – You would like to “get fit”. What does this mean to you? How about resolving to “go to the gym once a week”? If you want to “lose weight”, what about “I’ll lose 1lb a week for 8 weeks” or “I’ll cut out the 4 Cs (cakes, chocolate, crisps & carry-outs) for January”?
  • Be realistic – Is your goal actually too big and far too ambitious? Think about making smaller, more manageable changes. And prioritise the change you really want to make.  Maybe mastering meditation is too much at the moment. Instead decide to put 10 minutes aside each day to take time out to relax and practice relaxation breathing.
  • Set a timescale – Not everything has to be done and dusted by January 31st. What about spreading your goals throughout the year. You could aim to run 3k by March,  or save £300 for your summer holiday or start a Russian evening class in September.

Remember you have all of 2015 to achieve your goals – and a year is a long time. Good luck.

For more tips on managing weight loss, see my December blog.




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CBT increases the chances of successful weight loss – two tips to try today

rsz_2resized_diary_postit 2Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you keep to a healthy eating regime, stick to a diet and achieve long-term weight loss. This is because it focuses on how you think and feel about yourself, and how you behave around food and in food situations.

It’s a psychological programme and not a food plan. And here’s how it works:

  1. You choose any nutritious diet.
  2. Then CBT will help you learn how to talk back to the voice in your head that stops you succeeding.
  3. Say goodbye to all those “I don’t want tos”, “I don’t have tos” and “I can’ts” in your head.

You and your CBT counsellor plan some good ways to resist temptation so that you don’t give up and abandon your good intentions. CBT also addresses the feelings of guilt and looks at how to stop beating yourself up every time you eat something extra.

You can even start some small steps today. Here are a couple to try:

  1. The “if….. then……” rule

If you find it really hard to resist food, work out what you can do when you are about to eat those chocolates or scoff that cheese, or you are tempted by another slice of cake or a portion of chips.

If I sit down with the Christmas tin of chocolates, then I’ll get up and make myself a hot drink/low-calorie drink/healthy snack.

If everyone orders a pudding at the night out, then I will order a coffee.

If I open the fridge to raid the cheese/leftover pud/hummous, then I will close the door, leave the kitchen and the craving will pass.

  1. Body confidence

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, focus on one part of your body that you like.

For example, do you have great shoulders, lovely feet, beautiful eyes, shapely calves, strong hands? Then tell yourself what you like and why. You can even say this out loud – that’s even more effective.

Consider a programme of CBT to back-up your motivation and achieve the goal you want. Together we will change how you think about food so that you lose weight and keep it off successfully.

Sessions will cover:

  • Negative thinking
  • Bingeing
  • Bargaining
  • Emotional eating
  • Cravings & hunger
  • Staying motivated
  • Feeling deprived
  • Body confidence
  • Self-esteem
  • Rewards without food
  • For more information on CBT and weight management, please contact westend counselling on 07758 111499 or info@westendcounselling.co.uk.
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How saying “I don’t” increases your resistance to temptation.

resized cakes 2New Year resolutions are being formulated, planned…… and dreaded!

A piece of research shows that a simple change in the way you talk to yourself (your self-talk) when trying to stick to a new routine or behaviour can increase your chances of success.

The study found that using “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” increases your chances of achieving your goal.

For example, if you are planning to start a healthy eating regime in January, try saying –

“I don’t eat cake”, rather than “I can’t eat that cupcake”, or “I don’t eat chocolate” instead of “I can’t have those last few Quality Streets”.

Or, if you are sitting feeling guilty about not going out for a run, tell yourself “I don’t miss my run on Wednesday evenings”  rather than “I can’t miss my run on Wednesday”.

Or even…. “I don’t check facebook at work until lunchtime” and not “I can’t check facebook at work in the morning”.

Why does something so simple work?

Saying “I can’t” implies that some rule has been imposed on you, you are depriving yourself of something and if you don’t obey this rule, you should feel guilty. “I can’t” can even make you more tempted to do something that is forbidden.

Whereas, saying “I don’t” suggests that you have made the decision and choice yourself. It is just something that you don’t do, simple as that.

Isn’t it better to be the one in control who chooses not to have an extra slice of cake/another pint/another evening on the sofa, rather than the one who can’t because of an oppressive boring rule?



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