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Seeing The Benefits Of A Blended Family

Until I married more than 20 years ago, I had only known a traditional family first hand, even if three of my siblings lived out their teenage years before I made it to high school. Still, we moved through life to the same rhythm, albeit it in different generations. Still, we knew one set of parents, one household.

Nowadays, however, my immediate family navigates several households if you will. Our grandchildren will reap the benefits of belonging to a blended family.

Yes, you read that right—benefits, though a blended family, sometimes referred to as a stepfamily gets a bad rap, particularly the stepmother.  Remember, the Cinderella story? Who can forget it. Anyhow, I divert.

The point is blended families don’t have to be difficult or distort one character to make a happy ending for another. Furthermore, to belong to a blended family does not necessarily put a person at a disadvantage.

In some ways there can be advantages. For example, a blended family can in many ways broaden the horizons of its members and can also increase emotional intelligence, according to Understanding Stepfamilies author Dr Lisa Doodson, guest of Your Family Matters podcast (out tomorrow).

That I can vouch for.  Planning where and how to spend a traditional holiday, for example, can be challenging for most families with different schedules, interests and so on and once you consider an added component such as a stepparent and a step sibling, the task can feel even more overwhelming, as it did for Cinderella.

But it need not be this way. If we rely on sensitivity and effective communications, for instance, we bring an openness to the table rather than the closed mindedness that can squash opportunities.

No one needs to be marginalised or feel snubbed. But everyone must bring willingness to the table. In Your Family Matters, Dr Doodson and I have a great chat about situations that can cause stumbling blocks such as the acceptance of a new partner, new siblings, understanding roles and the use of social media and how it impacts family life.

It is a must listen podcast for everyone who wants to improve their family relationships and particularly those who are navigating new territory—the blended family.

When it is all said and done, whether traditional or blended, your family matters. Check out the podcast from September 27 on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, sonjalewis.com and wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to Coping With Bullying

I can’t tell you how many times I have said under my breath, I cannot believe that this is happening to me. And for a split second, I’m tempted to ignore the situation, not even entertain it. Fair enough since a key thing to do when dealing with bullying is not to let the brutal words in.

Still, it is important to acknowledge what is actually happening–call a spade, a spade, accept that it is unhealthy and then talk about it.

Check out this snippet from Your Wellbeing Matters, offering great advice on how to cope with bullying.  And do listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify and a host of other great podcast platforms. And when you are there leave a review to spread the word.

No matter how you look at it, bullying is unacceptable because the thing is, your wellbeing really matters.

Don’t Let It In

I love Cat Williams’ advice ‘Don’t Let It In’ in our latest podcast Your Wellbeing Matters. The UIO two-time guest, a seasoned rapid transformational therapist, is, of course, talking about the unhealthy words of a bully.

Shame I didn’t fully understand this as a teenage girl all those years ago but to be honest, I don’t remember any consistent episodes of being bullied. There were the people who picked me out to pick on me, sure, but I managed to shake them off rather quickly somehow.

I would be fully ensconced in business–well sort of, it was my first real job–before I experienced real bullying, which can be self-esteem eroding at the very least. And because I didn’t understand the important concept of not letting other people’s misconstrued perceptions get into my head, I fled as fast as I could.

This would mean a different career path for me. My hopes and dreams of becoming a seasoned journalist who would walk straight into a writing or publishing career took a rather crooked path and frankly never arrived at its originally intended destination.

To this end, I have come to understand that tremendous emotional and mental unrest comes with taking responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy behaviour or words, no matter how powerful that person is or seems. Don’t believe them.

In my case, the person held all power at the place where I worked so it wasn’t a bad idea to pack my bags and leave. My mistake was taking the unnecessary baggage with me.

No wonder I can’t get Cat’s advice out of my head. Of course, there will be missteps–that is part of personal growth. But lessons needn’t take years to grasp, thanks to varied  resources such as UIO podcast.  So, if you haven’t listened to Your Wellbeing Matters yet, now is the time to check it out.

And whether you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, or even stumbling into a place where you are the bully, share the podcast for more advice on how to cope with bullying and keep life moving in a forward-facing direction.

When all is said and done, remember the words that serve you and the rest, don’t let it in.

Why It is Important to Study

When I was in school, granted that was a long time ago, I didn’t always think studying was about me, but rather about what someone else wanted me to do–the teachers and my parents mainly.

In hindsight, my thinking was flawed because studying is about seizing the moment and living your best life in the moment. In this snippet from Your Education Matters, expert counsellor Donna Morgan explains why studying is important, particularly for girls. Watch here. 

Of course, boys need to study, too, but the point made in the podcast focuses on historical facts–opportunities exist for girls now that simply did not exist, even a few generations ago, perhaps in informal education as well, as mentioned in our podcast, Your Voice Matters.

And though you don’t have to study for life lessons (you only have to heed them), studying or formal education really matters.  Check out the full podcast here.

 

Seize The Moment: It Matters

I still carry my first grade ‘Straight A’ report card around mentally.  Really, I do and over the years have come to understand the indelible mark it has made on me about the importance of education.

Even if I wasn’t career prepping at age six/seven, and let’s hope I wasn’t, I was learning a lifelong lesson about education—it matters on so many levels.

But it would be a long time before I understood that not only does it matter for the future, but it also matters right where you are.

Fair enough! I have no regular use for the trigonometry that knocked me off my ‘A’ perch, but trig taught me a thing or two about myself–the importance of perseverance, for example, and learning to become who I wanted to be and not who others wanted me to be.

I must say there was something about seizing the moment, too. Ok, so I am not going to get an ‘A’ out if this, I remember thinking, though not verbatim, but I can get an ‘A’ out of that and that would be English and writing and anything akin to them.

You get the point, which counsellor Donna Morgan, makes beautifully in UIO’S Your Education Matters podcast, out tomorrow. She emphasises that there are more opportunities for girls now than ever before. If Math is your thing, go for it!

Although it truly was not mine but who’s to know how much the lack of opportunity and support influenced my disinterest in the subject.

Anyhow, Your Education Matters is the second podcast to be released in the U Matter Series, and also looks at the importance of finding a healthy balance to studying and avoiding burnout.  In addition, the podcast offers tips for parents and guardians on how to offer necessary support during the school years.

Your education matters on so many levels, both formally and informally, and has a huge impact on emotional and mental wellbeing.  The podcast is out September 13. Listen here and wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.

How To Voice Your Opinion

Sometimes voicing your opinion can be downright tricky, especially when the situation is intense.  Our latest podcast, Your Voice Matters, offers great advice on how to get your point across.

Bestselling author Cai Graham says in a nutshell, it is about getting people to listen to you.  Check out this snippet from Your Voice Matters, offering succinct yet spot on advice on how to voice your opinion. 

Listen to the full podcast where ever you check out your favorite podcasts or subscribe to the show from this website.

 

Having Your Say In the Right Way

Not speaking up has a negative impact on your emotional and mental well-being—at least it does mine.  It’s a bit like carrying around dead weight, weight that pulls me down in the dumps but as soon as I have my say, I feel uplifted.

Let’s be clear about what having your say means and what it does not mean.  First, things first! It does not mean blowing off steam or telling someone off at the top of your voice or engaging in a futile argument with someone about politics, religion, or morality for that matter.

It’s more about saying and doing what is healthy and right for you. And how you say it matters too, according to bestselling author Cai Graham, guest on UIO’s podcast, Your Voice Matters.

In our chat the author of The Teen Toolbox and I agree that having your say is not always as easy as it sounds. It can be tricky when there is looming peer pressure, for example. That’s why it is important to understand the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence and use them both effectively to get your point across, particularly when it matters the most.

In a nutshell, self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself in a particular situation and self-confidence is believing in your ability to do something.

Makes a whole lot of sense to me, which takes me back to my first point. Often when I am feeling low about myself or a situation, upon review I will conclude that I didn’t have the confidence to have my say. Owning and understanding this gives me the confidence to put it right and it often gives me a segue to the right words.

For example, I might say, you know I was thinking about our recent conversation and, I prefer we agree to disagree about women’s rights, political beliefs, whatever it is that has caused the upset. I need you to respect my views but as and when this is not possible, let’s not talk about it. Otherwise, it is a strain on our friendship, whatever the relationship is, and because I value it, it is imperative that we avoid these explosive conversations.

Now that’s confidence.  No screaming, yelling and naming calling, just putting your point across, remembering that your voice matters.  The namesake podcast is out September 6. Listen here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

UIO Announces U Matter Campaign

With so many crises about, admittedly sometimes I feel like who I am and what I think doesn’t really matter much anymore.

Of course, some of our problems are eerily mysterious and seemingly beyond our control to find a permanent solution. Case in point: Covid 19. But even if it is not within our gift to eradicate it, effective governance of such a problem throws up questions about what matters most.

But this vlog is not about the management of Covid 19 or any other world crisis; we could debate such topics for hours, which many do.  So, I will refrain from that and rather focus on what really matters amid all the controversy, whatever the topic is.

The answer is ‘you’. That is why UIO is launching a new campaign, U Matter, with a new podcast series in early September.  Unfortunately, this will be our final podcast series as far as I know but more on that later.

What is key is that I continue to have a firm belief that teenage girls matter. Of course, all teenagers do but UIO has always been for and about teenage girls, tackling issues that disproportionately affect girls and women.

Thus, the U Matter campaign will feature four podcasts—Your Voice Matters with Cai Graham, Your Education Matters with Donna Morgan, Your Wellbeing Matters with Cat Williams, and Your Family Matters with Lisa Doodson.

I can tell you without a doubt that each podcast is packed with oodles of great information—all slated to rise to the top of the most listened to UIO podcasts. I say this because Voice, for example, is one of those topics that is always relevant, but some current trends tend to attempt to squash the voice of girls and women. And the fight for equal opportunity in Education continues throughout the world.

In addition, Wellbeing is a topic at the core of each of us. It is so important to remember that not only does physical wellbeing matter but emotional and mental health does, too.  So in this podcast, we focus on bullying.

And while it might feel clear at times that Family really matters, at others it does not.  Great societies are built on healthy families; there is plenty of research out there to back this up. But perhaps less research is available on the diversity and complexity of family structures nowadays.  Our podcast looks at the matter inside out.

Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming series. And rest assured that while the podcast aspect of UIO will wind down after this series, my commitment to teenage girls will step up.

It is my hope to work directly with as many girls as possible through organisations such as Compassion UK and schools, for example, throughout the world.  It is a matter of reallocating UIO’s resources to ensure that you the teenage girl continues to understand that: U Matter.

To this end, if you know of an issue that affects teenage girls and you think that UIO can help , contact me here.

The Power of Change in Relationships

Healthy Relationships are key to healthy living. No matter how independent we are, we simply cannot live in this world alone.  We thrive on interaction with our family members, peer groups and friends, especially the latter in our teenage years.

Upon reflection, I remember how important it was to have friends and the impact healthy friendships have had on my growth and development. Recently, I reminisced about athletic friends choosing me for their teams even though they knew I could not help them win.

How mature of them and forward thinking to look out for my emotional well-being, when the very system in place did not. But what about when they weren’t around. I was the last one selected. Never mind! I do hope picking teams has been scrapped for the sake of good self-esteem.

Anyhow, the point is relationships can reveal key information about who we are and our friends, too, not only when we are in the relationship but also after the relationship has passed.

I know, I know. Who said anything about passing? Don’t good friendships go on forever? Sometimes they do and other times, they do not.  In either case, one thing is for sure, people change.

And understanding this change is one of the basics of maintaining healthy friendships and another is knowing when the friendship has run its course, whether it is a love interest or simply a good friend.

So, what is a girl to do when her best friend changes right under her nose? Or a love interest, well, is no longer interested. Suddenly the activities that you shared are no longer exciting and the crowd that you have both worked hard to avoid have brought your friend or love interest into their inner circle.

I hear you. No one wants to feel left out, so it might be something to consider changing, too, for acceptance.  Not so fast; consider the tips below:

  • Recognise the past has passed. No point in hoping for a better past. It is gone. Let bygones be bygones! Grow from it!

  • Instil boundaries! When friendships are evolving, boundaries can come in quite handy. They can be the security you need to steady yourself.

  • Respect the boundaries of others. Give them their space, their new life. Take what you have learned and let the rest go!

  • Stay true to your values. Though we grow and evolve, we all have fundamental values deep within. Let them rise to the surface when they need to. They will never steer you wrong.

On my most recent long-haul flight, in one of the movies I watched, a teenage girl took up smoking because her friends were doing it. But her romance with smoking was short lived once she worked out that she didn’t value it and really didn’t enjoy it.

This revelation led her to realise that her friendships had become toxic. And that perhaps the friendships had run their course, and that it was time to make new friends.

On the other side of change, however, I know of two women who grew up together but took very different paths in life, yet they stayed in touch and continue to count each other as close friends. Congrats to them!

Undoubtedly, change continues to influence their relationship, as it does all relationships. It is just a matter of understanding its power and knowing how to manage it.

New Vlog Out: Breaking Bad Phone Habits

Since my February 17 blog on breaking bad phone habits, my eyes have popped wide open to my unhelpful routines, one in particular: I have just not been able to put the phone down at my cut off time at night–9.30 pm. For the past couple of nights, I have been sucked in to reading something or even listening to something at about 9.15. And though I know it is a risk, I’ve indulged myself and the result has been the same, a sleepless night.

Why? I’ve not yet embodied the experience of how it really makes me feel to engage with one of my devices fifteen minutes before I am supposed to be winding down. Frustrated and sleep deprived this morning, I am going to spend some time today dropping into the experience, reflecting on it, feeling it repeatedly. Looking forward to the the light bulb turning on and understanding that this  bad habit no longer serves me, if it ever did.

For more tips on breaking your own bad phone habits, check out my latest vlog.

And do see how ready you are to tackle the problem with our short quiz on the subject. Click launch button to play.

See you next time. Take care of you inside out and remember it is you I owe.