Tag: Family

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

How To Use Boundaries and Effective Communications

Family relationships are key to growth and development, particularly during the teen years, not to mention the opportunities that family life offers for learning new skills that will not only support you as a teen but will also set you up for the future.

For example, though boundaries might feel like rules that only cramp your style, they are crucial to learning to be responsible.

Reflecting upon my own teen years, I do recall having loads of boundaries—some to do with going out and others to do with staying in. I had to be home at a certain time and visitors, particularly boyfriends, had to be in to visit me at a certain time and out at a certain time, too.  Fair enough, although I didn’t think it was fair at all when a boyfriend and a distant cousin of mine turned up about half hour later than was allowed and found themselves turned away at the door by my father.

How embarrassing? However, looking back, not only can I see that it was fair but it was necessary for me to understand the importance of honouring other people’s boundaries. First, I realised that the boundary was set set out of care and concern and for my own wellbeing. Next, it taught me discipline and responsibility. For example, somehow it helped me to value time and to respect other’s boundaries and expect them to respect mine.

I am sure having boundaries opened up opportunities for me to begin thinking of setting my own with friends, for example. The principle works in general. Knowing that you don’t feel comfortable doing a certain thing under peer pressure is one thing but having a boundary to avoid the consequences just might ease the pressure a bit. And thankfully you can take your boundaries right into adult life whether that is university or a job and then into your own family life.

The point is that boundaries are there to serve you, both mentally and physically.

Another skill to pick up from family life is learning how to communicate effectively. I know from my own personal life how difficult this can be even as adult, let alone as a teenager.  But it takes commitment and practice to become a good communicator and while there are many tips for communicating effectively–two key elements of practicing is listening and talking.

Easy peasy, right! Not necessarily, talking for example can be misunderstood if you don’t understand your own message and aren’t clear and concise about what it is you are trying to say.  So, the next time there is a misunderstanding with a parent or guardian, really think about what you would like to say and say it with clarity. But do make sure the timing and the tone are right. You’re speaking, not protesting.

And equally important is listening, actively, making sure you understand what is being said to you in response. That means not interrupting, not paying lip service to something and planning what you are going to say or do next.

The bottom line is that like setting boundaries, effective communications is there for you, as well, to make your experience the best possible scenario.  So why not tap into the opportunities to incorporate setting boundaries and communicating effectively into your own life at school, with friends and so on.  Check out our podcast: UIO: Your Family Inside Out with Helen Lewis for more hot tips on family life.

 

Keys To Good Family Relationships

Having spent a weekend with family, I was reminded of how dependent small children are on their parents and guardians for survival. Sure, they exercise a bit of independence, choosing their own outfits and making clear what they prefer to eat and so on but at this tender age, children are not mature enough to decide on their own bedtimes, for example, or how long they should stay glued to a television or an Ipad. Left with them, they would stay up indefinitely and pay the consequences later.

Very few would debate the importance of having a pragmatic relationship with small children but as we grow, the balance of power becomes unclear.  Maybe it is the word power that throws off teens and parents alike.  I know when I was a teenager, I dreamt a world of freedom and independence. It was only when I started working and paying my own bills that I realised how free I had been, of course, within the family unit.

Upon reflection, the world around me had a lot to do with my idea of freedom. For example, if Mary Jane (there was no Mary Jane in my graduating class) was driving at 15 and got a new car at 16, then I reasoned that I had a right to do the same.  My parents didn’t quite see it that way. And once they let me know their views, the story ended or did it.

It did as far as they were concerned but in my mind’s eye, I couldn’t wait to grow-up, so I could jolly well buy my own shiny new car as and when I pleased and have exclusive power over my own life.

Of course, as a young adult, I learned rather quickly that there is a complex line between desire and attainment, that reaching a certain age doesn’t make you all powerful so to speak or give you freedom.  Actually, it is quite the opposite. It was having healthy boundaries and good family relations that gave me the freedom to grow. 

Without those key elements, I feel certain that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to move to New York and then London.  But what makes good family relationships.  Helen Lewis, guest in our podcast, Your Family Inside Out, offers many hot tips.

One key is effective communications. That means sharing your views calmly and clearly.  And this doesn’t stop with young adulthood.  Even now as an adult, I find this advice sound.  Otherwise, the problem does not get resolved. It gets escalated.

Another key element in good family relationships is respecting boundaries.  All families have them, regardless of the age of the family members. Naturally, however, boundary lines change as we grow older.  As a little girl, I wouldn’t have been allowed to ride my bicycle to the store but as a teenager, I could.  No wonder I jumped to the idea of driving ever so quickly. Never mind!

The point is: each family is different and has a different rhythm that they harmonise to and no matter what our age , it is important to have open, honest and effective communications and to respect the boundaries that are often in place to protect us, afford us the freedom to grow not only physically but emotionally and mentally, as well. For more information, listen to UIO, the podcast for teen girls.

Teens and Parents Communicating For Better Relations

Our latest podcast, On Being A Teen Girl Now, is full of gems about life as a teen today. One particular topic that runs throughout the podcast is the importance of effective communications whether used to resolve conflict or to have a meaningful conversation.

Certainly, in my life, I try to rely on good communications. But let’s face it, even those of us who read the books (professional communicators) fall short during crunch time now and again.

Great advice from our guests, 16-year-old Leah and 15-year-old Divaina, to remember that communications is critical between parents and teens. Leah reminds that a conversation works two ways and Divaina suggests support and encouragement when a child has opened up instead of chastising them for perhaps a choice that might carry negative consequences.

This got me thinking back to last year when my teen niece visited London. I found myself in the parental position, doing all I could to protect her and keep her safe, yet admittedly, I found striking the balance between listening and advising a bit like tight rope walking sometimes. I suspect she did, too.

Upon reflection, however, some of the best moment we had were around me listening to her voice, her opinion on contemporary issues, and then having an open dialogue about seeking resolutions.

As both UIO guests touched upon, the relationships between teens and the adults in their lives are pivotal. The key is practicing effective communications and listening to each other is a good place to start. For more insight on how to communicate with your teens or your parents for that matter, listen to On Being A Teen Girl Now on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Stay tuned for our last podcast, On Personal Development, out in early December. In the meantime, check out this week’s blog with guest blogger, Elizabeth Ions, UIO’s new virtual assistant, as we reflect upon Rising Above Odds through sports and educational opportunities.

What Dating Has To Do With Self-Discovery?

When we talk about dating, we often hear about either the romanticised version of it—finding a happily ever after—or the complexities—not finding a happily ever with all the pitfalls in trying too.

There must be a somewhere in between, right! And as I think back to my teen years and consider the insightful information from relationships counsellor Cat Williams in our latest podcast, UIO: On Dating Inside Out, I’ve had a lightbulb moment.

This middle ground must have to do with self-discovery. Great, you might tell yourself. I think I know a bit about me. Of course, you do. But here is the thing: anytime we venture into something new, there are oodles of opportunities for growth and in this growth, we often have revelations, that we might not have otherwise discovered.

And with these revelations, if you don’t like them, you can use the experience to change. And if you do like what you learn, use it to get even better.

Thinking back to my teen years, I had a few experiences that fit the bill. It took me only once to discover that I didn’t like the idea of someone believing he had the right to touch me because we were dating. At a basketball game, my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to sit behind me, giving me little choice but to lean back on him and from there he proceeded to touch me completely inappropriately.

First of all, I felt humiliated and then mortified. I hadn’t had any physical closeness with him and had no intentions of doing so. Yet he assumed that he had the right to touch me. What gave him that idea? What does he think of me? Next, all I could think was if my mom and dad hear about this, there goes my cheerleading days and rightly so. Somehow, I wriggled out of the tortuous situation and broke off the relationship at the first opportunity, probably the next day. But what I didn’t do was tell him why I broke it off, at least I don’t remember telling him.

So, what did I learn? First, there was the bit about self-confidence. I didn’t have the confidence to speak out on the matter, then and there. This came as a shock to me because I had no problem speaking out at home. Next, I learned how important reputation was to me and still is. In addition, I learned about the importance of family. I felt that I had somehow violated a trust between me and my parents. And it suddenly dawned on me that I wanted to be a trustworthy person, not only with my parents but in general.

For years afterwards, I had a guilt about the experience with loads of questions. Why did I let it happen? Why didn’t I do something about it, then and there. Why did I think it was something I did that made him behave badly and so on? And later, as I was talking to an acquaintance who was in her teens about the experience, I recounted the positive lessons I had taken away, too. I remember how moving forward I escaped such situations by taking responsibility for where I sat and how I sat.

And I left school with my good name in-tact and with my family values in tow and a desire to go off to New York City someday. And I did with the lessons of confidence and much more close to my chest. Fast forward all these years later and I am still learning from the experience or re-learning, that is.

As Cat Williams points out in On Dating Inside Out, objectification has nothing to do with the person being objectified, nor does bullying. What has to do with you is how you handle it. It’s all about self-discovery. For more hot tips, check out the podcast on iTunes as well as Soundcloud or subscribe on this site to hear more about how to navigate dating for the best possible outcomes right in the space you are in. Oh and yeah, don’t forget to have fun. A lesson I stumbled upon, too.

The UIO New Look Is Out

UIO: You Inside Out announces a new look , emphasising the voice of teenage girls.

Created by Dominque Ozturk, an accomplished designer who has years of experience in working with girls of all ages, the new look will be featured across all platforms where the podcast is aired, including iTunes and the UIO dedicated podcast page.

Also you can see the new look and listen to the podcast via Libsyn   Stitcher, Tunein and on Google Play music.

Created as a versatile medium for teenage girls with their input, UIO relies on sound principles and values, and offers a safe and responsible platform to provide insight into topics relevant to teenage girls today.

The 2017 pilot series includes ten shows, featuring a range of talented women with special interest, experience and expertise on a particular topic:

Episode 1 – Your Confidence Inside Out with Cheryl Grace

Episode 2 – Your Body Inside Out with Judit Ressinka

Episode 3 – Your Skin Inside Out with Jenny Hawkins

Episode 4 – Your Body Image Inside Out with Laura Miles

Episode 5 – Your Hair Inside Out with Joy Miller

Episode 6 – Your Mind Inside Out with Jane and Molly Goldberg

Episode 7 – Your Values Inside Out with Jenny Garrett

Episode 8 – On Sex and Sexuality with Rachel Gardner

Episode 9 – Your Family Inside with Helen Lewis

Episode 10 – Peer Pressure Inside Out with Natalie Savvides

Stay tuned for more UIO announcements in the coming days and for new episodes in 2018.

‘I find the subjects and experts are good for parents to hear too, said one listening parent. ‘The podcast raises many points  for conversations with my daughter.’

For more info or enquiries about UIO, write to info@sonjalewis.com

 

 

Family Matters Now More Than Ever

UIO: Your Family Inside Out, the ninth in the podcast series, is out now. Offering  straightforward conversation with Helen Lewis, founder of Literally PR, this episode takes a closer look at why setting boundaries, for example, can be the difference in a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.

The thing is: if there are no boundaries, people are bound to rock the boat consistently. And even with boundaries, we do tend to push them. Looking back to my own teenage years, I can attest to that. But knowing that they exist and trying to live up to them offers discipline that feeds into self-governance. Boundaries matter. 

Having margins, if you will, also feed into a sense of belonging to a family unit.

Other key topics we cover are effective communications, how to manage social media and much more. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein, Soundcloud and right here sonjalewis.com.

The penultimate podcast in the series, UIO: Your Family Inside Out is a must listen for teenage girls and their guardians.

Tune in next week for UIO: Peer Pressure Inside Out – a wonderful conversation with Full Circle author Natalie Savvides.

 

New Survey Out: Feedback Invaluable To Improve Podcast

The feedback for the UIO: You Inside Out podcast for teenage girls continues to be invaluable for its development and improvement. Thanks to each and every girl who completed the UIO survey.

Overwhelmingly you confirmed that a podcast for teenage girls just might be a good thing. Phew! Thank you for that. And the topic that you most wanted to hear about was family. That’s great news, too.

To this end, the Your Family Inside Out episode will come out in June. More on that later and the other subjects coming up, including Body Image, Mind and Peer Pressure!

For now, I want to tell you about a new survey, designed for feedback on the episodes. Only ten questions long, the UIO survey for episodes is designed to get your feedback so that I can improve the podcast episodes as we go along.

How cool is that! So if you have listened to Your Confidence Inside Out, check out the survey on the podcast webpage and also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

In the meantime, wishing you a Happy (Healthy) Easter.

 

Is It Time To Redefine A Relationship?

We all need relationships, whether they are familiar or romantic. Without them, we feel unhappy and unhealthy. But even with them, specifically when they go wrong, we can feel deprived of a basic need, not to mention when a relationship breaks down altogether.

In my most recent Huff Post blog, I explore the question: Why Relationships Break Down, looking more at familiar relations. Of course, there are a number of reasons that parents and children stop speaking and so on. But could there be something at the crux of such fall outs, something as simple or as complicated as definition or lack thereof?

Read more in the Huffington Post.