Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rushing in Russia

At the end of June, I flew out to Russia - Sam and I had been invited to present to the Academy of Science's Institute in Kazan about Social Media, as well as get involved with the International Universiade that's taking place there.

However before we get there, we decided to take a stop over in Moscow and St Petersburg to see the sights.

It's fantastic to be back home, and although the aim of the trip is around Social Media, everywhere I go, I cannot not notice the differences in the relationships between people - especially teens and parents. So here's some of my insights I'd love to share that I've come to over the last week or so. After all, this is the country who's culture has influenced how my parents have parented me, and the culture I was brought up with that isn't necessarily present in New Zealand, or even Australia from what I've seen. These difference in culture is the reason why I wrote my books in the first place - to make a hybrid of the East and West cultures to give timely advice for parents about the best ways of parenting, which is applicable to any nation in the world.

So here we go...

Below you'll see one of the 'main' marks of Moscow - the Metro. The Stations themselves underground are amazing - the Moscow Metro has been compared to London's Tube and New York's Subway, but Moscow really prides themselves in what they achieved with the decor of the different stations, and with reason. But this shot below is not of a station, but rather one of the escalators that takes commuters underground. It's massive in most stations, and although the photo doesn't give it justice, you're travelling on it for a good few minutes. Why this relates to teenagers and parents: these little times of 'peace' you can catch in the bustling city mean extra time for people to strike conversation. As you travel up or down on the escalators, you'll see people of different ages talking to each other, engaged in conversation (Sam noticed there were a lot of 'cougars' around - women with younger men until he found out these were in fact Mums and their sons holding hands - even when their sons are teenagers! How's that for love!). I believe this time, that the city makes possible for people to talk can help strengthen relationships - in the western world, I think we find it hard to find those precious few minutes to catch up on what's happening - even if I compare the Moscow Metro to New Zealand's Wellington public bus system, once you get on a bus, there isn't as much time to talk - it's noisy, you may need to stand up to make room for someone to sit down, and very rarely do you travel on public transport between home and work with your kids. I guess the lesson to learn from here is to take any opportunity you can - even if it's just a few minutes to just chat with your teen - you never know what might come up, and you won't regret those lost minutes.

The next photo is of one of the rooms inside the St Basil's Cathedral. Russia has the advantage of having many large, beautiful churches and even if you are not religious, kids are brought up to appreciate the beauty these monuments possess and their importance and place in Russian history. I guess comparing this to New Zealand which is a relatively young country, I can't just tell New Zealand parents to take their kids to church to see the artwork, but what I would suggest is giving your children and teens more inclination to understand and respect history; history of your family, history of their country; one big thing for Russian kids is that they are taught to know and appreciate the country's history, whether they like it or hate it, it's history - it's worth knowing about, and thinking about. Take time out to dig up old photos of your ancestors or relatives and go through them with your teens, take time in the weekends to go and visit any museums, or even sit down with a history book - knowing their roots, teenagers are more likely to appreciate what they have now, and respect what has come before their time.

In terms of places to visit to catch up with your teen, or for some down time, Russia is only just starting to get into the 'coffee culture' that's so prominent in New Zealand already (you're lucky if your small coffee costs you around NZD$5-NZD$10). It's almost impossible to find a Flat White in Russian cafes (unless you're lucky to come across a Starbucks) and because the country is full of tea drinkers, but the Russian baked goods are popular with all - most of the time, a cake or some sort of pastry will cost only a couple of dollars. This creates a culture of people coming back to cafes, or going around different ones in search for an interesting sweet thing of some sort which keeps downtime spent together interesting. Sure, you may think Russia is a large place and you won't be able to visit every single cafe in your lifetime, but you don't always have to go somewhere new wherever you live - it's the experience of trying something new, with your teen who you love, and just spending some time just to talk.

Ever thought your kids weren't doing enough work at school? Russian parents think this is always the case! They even have government buildings dedicated to extra curricular activities outside of school! Get your teen engaged in extra curricular activities as much as you can - this gives them less free time to get into trouble, but also a valuable extra skill, extra friends, and knowledge.

And lastly, just a thought about the difference in tagging and graffiti - in Russia, it seems it's more people's voices and opinions, rather than hooliganing for the sake of it. Below you'll see some poor soul lamenting how expensive iPhones are! Guess they don't feel they need to mark their territory but rather tell everyone about...I guess...stuff....

More insights, observations and other stories to come - until then, Dosvidaniya!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Taking a Holiday with Your Teens this Christmas

It's been a while since my last post on here - 2012 turned into a pretty exciting year, and many things ended up getting put on hold. Thank you to everyone who sent e-mails asking about my blog posts...and if the blog was still alive. My new years resolution will be to try and keep this site updated more regularly. Fingers crossed! :)

Last year, I had a very successful campaign when I set out to help give parents advice about taking a holiday with their teens over the Christmas break. What started with some Facebook Posts, ended up with magazine and newspaper articles, and finally a spot on national TV. To say the least, many people heard about it, and what's more is many took on, challenged my advice, put it into practice, perfected it, and for the most part (or at least the stories I heard), it helped!

So coming up to Christmas this year, I'm revisiting the topic.

Here's a link to one of last year's publicized articles:

Reading it now, there's not much I would change, and that is what's relevant; inter-generational relationships and ways to minimize conflict between generations is always relevant, because it's inevitable.

But I'd love to hear your thoughts about the article - do you agree? Have you taken on any of this advice in the past? How did it pan out?

Until 2013 dear readers. Merry Christmas, and have a great entrance into the New Year!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Eradicating Teenage Binge Drinking from Our Culture

This week, I spoke on Breakfast about what parents can do to help support their teens and minimize the binge drinking culture. We’ve had a great conversation that sparked up on my Facebook Page and Profile – many young people and organisations had 2 cent to put in as to why teen binge drinking is such a problem, so here’s a few of my ideas…

Alcohol Consumption needs to stop being Glamourized by Adults

Every week on my Facebook News Feed, I see at least a couple of adults post up something about having a drink as soon as they leave work, or something along the lines of ‘It’s wine-o’clock, bring out the drinks!’. What kind of message is that supposed to be sending kids? It’s no secret that kids and teenagers want to grow up as fast as possible, and if drinking alcohol may make them look older, why wouldn’t they want to do it? Whatever kind of family you have, whether you enjoy some alcohol with your dinner or not, the idea of drinking in the home can cause negative effects, especially if done to excess.

Having said that, the way you parent your teens is totally up to you. If you think it’s smart to give your teens a glass of wine with dinner, or tell them that alcohol is the devil is totally up to you, because it won’t affect the next point…

Every Teenager will almost inevitably come across alcohol
The greatest test for parents is not how their teens act when they’re around, but how they act when the parents aren’t around. It all comes down to the way you parented your teen, and whether they can withstand peer pressure, want to try alcohol for the heck of it, or whatever, but at the end of the day it does come down to personal preferences. A teen might go out and get so wasted that they will decide to never touch the stuff again. It happens, but very rarely. The parenting part of this is to let your teens know about the dangers of alcohol, but also give them the unconditional support if they end up in trouble. If they call you at 3am in the morning, needing you to pick them up, it’s not the time to play it cool – help them out, because next time, it might be a matter of life or death, and they may be too scared to ask you for help. As long as you have stated your opinions around alcohol, and have warned them about the effects, when they give you that phone call, they will already be feeling they are letting you down, and trust me, it’s a horrible feeling.

Do Not Buy Alcohol for Your Teens
Even if they are of age, why buy it for them if they should be the ones with the job, to afford these life luxuries? By buying them alcohol, you’re basically saying you’re OK with them getting wasted, no matter how much of it you buy. Terrible, terrible idea, and really, not a very smart way to parent. Seriously.

How do you tackle the issue of teenage binge drinking in your home?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Encouraging Positive Self-Esteem in Pre-Teens

As posted & published in Voxy

The pre-teen years, is arguably one of the most hardest times in a child’s life. Their age says they are expected to start acting like adults, but still have many child-like restrictions.

Although a lot of my work is based on the teen years, over the last decade, we’ve seen a great rise in pre-teens trying to copy-cat teenage behaviour. Revealing clothing, experimental phases, and conflicts with parents are all teenage-inspired actions, that pre-teens are starting to show, which have never existed before.

Let’s dissect what healthy self-esteem looks like. Healthy self-esteem shows a person is in their comfort zone as a human being. It means they take care of themselves – whether through clothing choices, a healthy diet, or how they compare themselves to their peers.

The obvious self-esteem issue for girls, and one that is starting to affect boys too is inevitably their weight, which often stems on into teenage-hood and their adult lives. Looking at the glass half-empty, I must mention things like obesity, bulimia and anorexia. These seem to be common household terms these days, which shows the need to teach girls about the value of their temple of a body is greater than ever. Of course, looking at all the Photoshopped photos of beautiful Size Minus-10 models in magazines cannot be healthy, so there’s two approaches I’ve heard of and practice when speaking to girls about weight issues.

Pamela Marker was the New Zealand Girlfriend Magazine Editor a few years back. I was never fond of girly magazines growing up, because just like any other girl, I would fall into depression after seeing the skinny models showing off what I didn’t have (i.e. a stick figure), which would motivate me enough to do a massive two hour workout, after which celebratory pizza was always in order. Obviously it was not a healthy option.
What made me look twice at Girlfriend magazine after Pamela came onto the team was her strive to help girls gain better self esteem – not destroy it. They would have the occasional model in there, but always tried to keep Photoshop to a minimum. The technique Pamela often used when speaking to girls was showing them the ‘before’ and ‘after’ Photoshop photos. No girl could feel bad after seeing how much graphical work goes into making one photo of a model. Think the famous Dove Video that went viral, which showed how a normal-looking woman was transformed into an intensified photo, to the point where if you saw the actual person on the street, you wouldn’t recognize them in a million years.

Paula Abdul, after admitting her bulimia issues in her youth suggests every girl should lie down on a large piece of paper and have a friend outline her. When you stand up, basically, you see that you’re actually not fat like you think, in fact, it gives you a newly found confidence.

Although having a healthy self-esteem is not only about weight, but it’s definitely a starting point. The hype of gym memberships (yes, pre-teens are starting to go to the gym now!!), whether you look fat in a top, whether you haven’t been kissed because you’re ‘fat’…all these first world problems derive from a healthy outlook on your physical appearance.

Eva-Maria's recently published second book 'Shush, You!' features more quick tips about, among other things, how to help your preteens and teens understand the importance of a healthy self-esteem, so make sure you check it out here.

What are some of the ways you’ve found to help your pre-teen see their physical beauty?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Erasing Boredom for Teens This Christmas

Many times during my years as a family coach, I’ve been asked about how parents can make sure teens aren’t falling into a ‘bored rut’ during the school holidays when one or both parents are still hard at work, and it’s especially important to ask this question at a time and age like this when buying them the latest Xbox game and plonking them down in front of the TV for the holidays seems like the easiest option.

The key aspect of boredom is being unproductive, and many young people get very impatient when there’s ‘nothing to do’ – after all, they’re in their element when there’s something going on all the time – think the instant gratification of a world they’ve grown up in.

So here are a few tips I’ve picked up on, and have found actually work as win-win solutions for pre-teens & teens and their parents

Tip 1: Give Them Their Own Time
With the end of the school year, teens feel like they’ve finally got some sense of freedom, and with the exams having just passed, they need to relax. Give them the time to sleep in, or even laze around the TV sometimes.

Tip 2: Decide on the Rules of Having Friends Over
Do you have to know their friends who are coming over? Are you even happy for them to have their friends over? Whatever decision you make around this, make the rules clear – rules are easier to bypass for teens when they haven’t been verbally communicated by you, the parent.

Tip 3: Get Them To Plan Out Their Week
I thought this was the most lame thing I had ever heard when a colleague told me about this, but it works. When you pose the challenge to your teens to plan out their week, it gives them time to search online to see what’s going on in the local area, and actually realize there is a world outside of their house!

Tip 4: Give Them the Task of Making Dinner
With all the cooking shows going around, many younger people are getting into cooking (think Junior MasterChef). When you’re leaving for work, leave them a budget and the challenge to surprise you with dinner.

Tip 5: Busy Business
Plant an idea in their head about starting up a business. Or perhaps start with getting them to list some of your household’s unwanted items on eBay – it could be their pocket money! With the internet, anything is possible

Tip 6: Hand them a Camera or Art Supplies, and watch…
Young people have a wild imagination, so help harness and unleash this through art – this will give them hours of time to spend on something that will help them express their creativity.

Tip 7: Endorse Sport
Suggest some sports they can go play with their friends – if you have the equipment for it, just hand it to them – they may have forgotten you still have that set of tennis racquets in the garage!

Tip 8: Writing Christmas Cards
If they are totally bored, give them the Christmas Cards you need to write to family and friends, and get them to write messages in each card, and sign for the whole family. Not only is it a lovely gesture to get a Christmas Card from a family friend that was written by one of their kids, but it’ll tick one more thing off your list AND give your teen something useful to spend their time on.

Tip 9: Decorate the Christmas Tree
Same as above – great fun for teens, and a task that ‘just needs to be done’ for you, that actually gets done!

What are some of the ways you get your teenagers out of the ‘boredom rut’?

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Think Religion is Great, but.... it possible that it's good nature is being taken advantage of? Not the, they're fine - I mean the people out there with no faith that go out, screw up lives for themselves and their kids, and then turn to Religion for answers, in turn giving God, or whoever else half of the responsibility they should really be carrying 100% of.

I've noticed a trend lately...out of the goodwill of their hearts, people go out, and with a 'no returns expected' attitude set up programmes, camps, and even boarding houses for youth, who for family reasons end up homeless, helpless, or alone. Right, OK, for the extreme cases, it's lucky that these outfits exist, because sometimes government funded services aren't the easiest to find, but especially having the boarding homes put up, does this not give terrible parents a 'get out of jail free' card? Why would parents need to try to support their kids, when there's people out there who have goodwill with nothing expected in return, ready to take your child into their own care, while you continue living in a wine cask?

I'm really angry. Angry because as these boarding homes become more mainstream, parents can hand off their responsibility (i.e. child) onto someone else. I know this is not the majority of parents, and reading this you might think 'what kind of parent would ever want to voluntarily hand off their kids into someone else's care' but trust me, it happens. It happens WAY too much. It may not have been the parents' intention, but as kids grow up, economy goes up and down, people find it hard to fend for themselves, let alone care for their kids. But if you don't feel like trying to build a better life for yourself, surely you'd want to do it for the sake of your kids? And if you 'can't be bothered', why have kids in the first place??

Maybe people are having kids because there was no other option for them - I understand that. But do these parents really have to not care, 'give' their kids away, and just go back to whatever they'd rather be doing in the bar?

At least they're doing one good thing - fueling the economy, because the last time I checked, prices of the bad vices of the world have enough mark up to keep the economy going.

Oh Lord, what a world we live in.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taking a Holiday with your Teens

Christmas can become one of the most stressful times of year very quickly – with work commitments, as well as the worry of where to go on holiday, can all become too much very quickly. So if you’re thinking of taking a holiday this festive season with the family, here are a few quick tips about how you can make the holiday time as stress-free as possible.

In sync with my newly released second book ‘Shush, You!’ I stand by the belief that you can improve relationships with your kids through small actions in 5 minutes a day or less, so this article is in hope that you can achieve that on holiday!

1. If you don’t know where to go, ask your kids!

2. Give your teen a time frame and budget, and let them come up with a travel itinerary.

3. Don’t ban iPods or cell phones – simply dedicate some time to when you can discuss something as a family during the trip.

4. If you’re taking your work on holiday, make sure you dedicate your time to it for an X amount of time every day.

5. Make a rule that if it’s a family trip, the whole family goes. No exceptions. That also narrows your chances of coming back to an un-supervised party house.

6. When conflicts arise, cut them on the spot. Take them for a walk and have a good chat to them.

7. Most of all, remember to have fun! Without banning anything, or starting up arguments, remember why you went on holiday, and that was to bond, and have fun!

What other tips would you recommend when going away on holiday?

Happy Holidaying!