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dealing with difficult teens counsellingTeenagers are a unique and often self-contradictory breed. As a group, they strive for individuality yet crave peer acceptance. They act like they know everything and yet lack much experience. They feel invincible and yet are often insecure. Some teenagers thrive on testing and challenging authority. A few may be self-destructive.

It’s not easy when you have to deal with difficult teenagers in your life, whether they are your children, students, athletes, group members, or employees. What can you do in the face of a challenging adolescent? Below are seven keys to successfully handle teenagers.  Not all of the tips below may apply to your particular situation. Simply utilize what works and leave the rest.

1.  Avoid Giving Away Your Power

One of the most common characteristics of difficult teenagers is that they love to push your buttons and make you react negatively. This can be done in a variety of ways, including and not limited to teasing, disobeying, not listening, back-talking, temper throwing, rule-breaking, dismissing, haggling, and provoking. During these moments, the more reactive and upset you become, the more the teenager will think he or she has power over you – she has succeeded in pushing your buttons!

The first rule of thumb in the face of a difficult teenager is to keep your cool. The less reactive you are to provocations, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel upset or challenged by a teen, before you say or do something that may worsen the situation, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In many instances, by the time you reach ten, you would have regained composure, and figured out a better response to the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of exacerbate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

2. Establish Clear Boundaries

Since most teenagers want to experience greater independence and selfhood, some will inevitably challenge you in order to test the extent of their power. In these situations, it’s very important to set boundaries in order to maintain a workable and constructive relationship. The boundaries need to be articulated clearly and specifically.

The most effective boundaries (they can also be called ground rules, house rules, team rules, or codes of conduct) are those which are fair, reasonable, and can be applied consistently. If you’ve been dealing with a difficult teen for some time without communicating clear boundaries, state that from this point forward things will be different, and back up your statement with actions.

The first and foremost boundary in almost any situation is that you will be treated with respect. This means if the teen(s) is respectful towards you, then you will also accord her or him certain respect and privileges.

In addition to respect, and depending on the situation, there may also be a list of interpersonal, family, classroom, team, or employment ground rules. The list of boundaries should be relatively short but clear and indicated in writing whenever appropriate.

Of course, some teenagers may deliberately challenge your boundaries to see if you mean what you say and test how much they can get away with. Should this happen, apply the communication skills and strategies from points #3-7 below as you see fit.

3.  Utilize Assertive and Effective Communication

Author and former presidential speechwriter James Humes noted that: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” This statement is particularly applicable when it comes to working with and motivating teenagers. When you face a difficult young person, strengthen your position by utilizing assertive communication skills.

4.  When Dealing with a Group of Difficult Teens, Focus on the Leader

Many teachers know that when they face a group of disruptive students in class, it’s not necessary to deal with each offender individually. Often times, by being firm on the leader and having her fall in line, the rest of the group will follow. Another management technique is to separate the challenging persons physically (via assigned seating, different workgroups, etc.) so they’re less likely to form a clique and feed off of each other.

What works with students can also work with teenagers in other situations, whether they’re your children, athletes, employees, or group members. By focusing on the leader, and dividing and conquering unseemly behavior, a body of teenagers is more likely to behave appropriately.

5.  In Mild Situations, Maintain Humor and Show Empathy

In relatively mild situations when a teenager is being difficult, show empathy by not over-reacting. Respond with a smile rather than a frown. Say to yourself with some humor: “there she goes again,” and then get on with your business.

Stay above the din. Avoid telling a teenager what to do in trivial matters. Persistent unsolicited advice may be interpreted as picky at best, and a threat to the young person’s individuating selfhood. At worst this may make you the “enemy” or “other side”. Allow reasonable room for the teenager.

When a teenager upsets you, instead of feeling angry, irritated, or anxious, give yourself some distance, take a deep breath, and complete the sentence “it must not be easy…”

For example:

“My son is so testy. It must not be easy to crave independence while still living with his parents.”

“My daughter is so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with her school and peer pressures.”

“This student is very unmotivated. It must not be easy to struggle with assignments and know he’s falling behind.”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that many teenagers struggle within, and mindfulness of their experience can help you relate to them with more detachment and equanimity.

6.  Give Them a Chance to Help Solve Problems (If Appropriate)

Many difficult teenagers behave as they do because they don’t believe adults really listen. When you see a teenager upset or under some distress, offer the young person the option of talking with you. Say, for example, “I’m here to listen if you want to talk, okay?” Make yourself available and remind the teenager of this from time to time, but don’t insist on it. Use the “pull” strategy and let the young person come to you if and when he’s ready.

Inappropriate situations when you’re communicating with a teenager about her or his experience, listen without comment (at least for a while). Just be there and be a “friend”, no matter what your actual role is in relation to the young person. Allow the teenager to feel at ease disclosing with you.

Before offering any input, ask the teenager if she’s willing to hear it. For example, say “Do you want to hear what I think about this? If not, it’s okay. I’m still here to listen.” Again, use the “pull” strategy and let the teenager want to hear your feedback when she’s ready.

When talking over issues, including the young person in discussions on problems and solutions. Solicit input. Ask, for example, “Given the desired outcome, how would you handle this issue?” See if they come up with any constructive ideas. Whenever possible, avoid insisting on a single course of action. Examine several reasonable options with the teenager’s input, and arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement.

On the other hand, if what you hear are mostly blame, complaints, and criticisms don’t agree or disagree. Simply say you’ll keep what they said in mind, and get on with what you need to get done, including the deployment of consequence.

7.  In Serious Situations, Deploy Consequence(s) to Lower Resistance, and Compel Respect and Cooperation

When a teenager insists on violating reasonable rules and boundaries, and won’t take “no” for an answer, deploy consequence.

The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most powerful skills we can use to “stand down” a challenging person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual and compels her or him to shift from resistance to cooperation.

Although difficult teenagers are not pleasant to deal with, there are many effective skills and strategies you can employ to minimize their defiance and increase their cooperation. It’s one important aspect of leadership success.

Source: Psychology Today

building your self esteem counsellingLow self-esteem can trip you up just when you need your self-esteem is be at its best. These 7 tips will help you feel better about yourself quickly:

1) Think back to when you did something new for the first time.

Learning something new is often accompanied by feelings of nervousness, lack of self-belief and high-stress levels, all of which are necessary parts of the learning process. The next time you feel under-confident, remembering this will remind you that it’s perfectly normal – you’re just learning!

2) Do something you have been putting off.

Like writing or calling a friend, cleaning the house, tidying the garden, fixing the car, organizing the bills, making a tasty and healthy meal – anything that involved you making a decision, then following through!

3) Do something you are good at.

Examples? How about swimming, running, dancing, cooking, gardening, climbing, painting, writing… If possible, it should be something that holds your attention and requires enough focus to get you into that state of ‘flow’ where you forget about everything else. You will feel more competent, accomplished and capable afterward, great antidotes to low self-esteem!

And while you’re at it, seriously consider doing something like this at least once a week. People who experience ‘flow’ regularly seem to be happier and healthier.

4) Stop thinking about yourself!

I know this sounds strange, but low self-esteem is often accompanied by too much focus on the self. Doing something that absorbs you and holds your attention can quickly make you feel better.

5) Get seriously relaxed.

If you are feeling low, anxious or lacking in confidence, the first thing to do is to stop thinking and relax properly. Some people do this by exercising, others by involving themselves in something that occupies their mind. However, being able to relax when you want is a fantastic life skill and so practicing self-hypnosis, meditation, or a physically-based relaxation technique such as Tai Chi can be incredibly useful.

When you are properly relaxed, your brain is less emotional and your memory for good events works better. A great ‘rescue remedy’!

6) Remember all the things you have achieved.

This can be difficult at first, but after a while, you’ll develop a handy mental list of self-esteem boosting memories. And if you’re thinking “But I’ve never achieved anything”, I’m not talking about climbing Everest here.

Things like passing your driving test (despite being nervous), passing exams (despite doubting that you would), playing team sport, getting fit (even if you let it slip later), saving money for something, trying to help someone (even if it didn’t work) and so on.

7) Remember that you could be wrong!

If you are feeling bad about yourself, remember that you way you feel affects your thoughts, memory, and behavior. So when you feel bad, you will only remember the bad times and will tend to be pessimistic about yourself. This is where the tip ‘Get Seriously Relaxed’ comes in!


Once you have tried out a few of these, consider making them a permanent part of your life. For most people, good self-esteem is not just a happy accident, it’s a result of the way they think and the things they do from day- to- day. Good Luck!


grief counselling winnipegOne of the things that makes grief so difficult to experience is that there is no way of ‘fixing’ it. You can’t fast-forward through it. It won’t magically disappear overnight. For some people, although feelings of intense grief get less frequent, there will always be part of them that is grieving.

With this in mind, the best thing you can hope for is to find ways of coping with grief, small actions that make the pain more bearable. Here are 10 proactive, practical tips that could help give you some comfort.

1. Express your feelings

Psychologists have long talked about the benefits of expressing how you feel. Recently neuroscientists from UCLA have shown that talking about emotions has a noticeable effect on the brain and reduces the intensity of the emotion. In short, it’s important that you find a way to identify and accept how you are feeling. This doesn’t always have to be by talking to another person – try writing a journal instead if you’re uncomfortable talking about your grief.

2. Look after yourself

Grief often causes disrupted sleep patterns and a loss of appetite. This can have a major impact on your physical health, which will only make you feel worse. While you can’t make your grief disappear, keeping yourself physically healthy will give you the strength to deal with your emotions. Sleep when you can and try to eat well and regularly.

3. Join a support group

Support groups allow people going through similar experiences to come together and share their feelings. You may find that meeting people who understand you makes you feel less alone. You won’t be pressured to share your story if you are not ready.

4. Do volunteer work

There’s growing evidence from various studies that doing volunteer work has a positive mental impact. Apart from providing a distraction, doing something to help others can make you feel better about the world, boost your self-confidence and help you meet new people.

5. Take up a new hobby

Finding a new hobby to invest your time in can be a rewarding way to distract yourself occasionally and give you something to look forward to. Creative hobbies like arts and crafts will give you a sense of achievement, while physical activities like sports will boost the chemicals in your brain responsible for positive emotions and keep you healthy. Many people find that gardening does both of these things by providing moderate physical exercise and a creative outlet.

6. Or revisit an old one

After losing someone you love you may have put a lot of your life on hold. You may have lost enthusiasm for many things you once enjoyed. In time, when you feel ready to start healing, you should think about returning to hobbies and interests that you enjoyed before your loss. Discovering that you can find enjoyment in small things again can be an important part of healing.

7. Try to keep to a routine

Many people find that keeping to a routine gives a sense of structure and security during an otherwise uncertain time. Small things like going to bed at the same time or planning what you’ll do with your weekend can help. It will provide focus and clarity in at least one aspect of your life as you learn to cope with your grief.

8. Avoid alcohol and drugs

It can be very tempting to try anything that will numb the pain of losing a loved one. You might think that alcohol and drugs will make you feel better, but any relief will only be temporary and you will feel much worse in the long run. If you are drinking or taking drugs more frequently as a way of numbing your emotions, contact a bereavement support organisation for advice.

9. Socialize with friends

Grieving is an isolating experience. If you feel like you need to be alone, that is fine. You have to grieve in the way that seems right to you. But maintaining social relationships can be a way of getting the comfort and support you need. Try to schedule a few meetings with friends in an environment that you are comfortable in. And remember – if you have fun, this is okay. The small moments of laughter and happiness during grief are important and you do not need to feel guilty about them.

10. Find a token of remembrance

Dealing with grief does not mean forgetting your loved one. Many people find comfort in thinking of ways to keep their loved one’s memory alive. You could keep a few of their possessions in your home, or have a special photo album full of good memories. This way you can honour the memory of your loved one in a positive way and make sure they still have a place in your heart and your life.


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