How to Deal – Q & A with Dr. Karyn

Dr. Karyn Gordon is an indispensable resource for Canadian teens (that’s YOU) who want to understand the world around them (the mark of a true vervegirl). She’s an author, motivational speaker, radio and TV host, and now contributor in each and every issue of vervegirl magazine.
    Having spoken to more than 185,000 teens, parents, counsellors and marketers across North America, Dr. Karyn knows the issues inside and out. From how to handle a bully to how to get a job, she’ll answer your questions.

Sick with fear or frustration?
Dr. Karyn’s got the antidote

Q: My girlfriends constantly compare who’s thinner, prettier and more stylish. I’m average when it comes to size and looks, and I’m OK with that. how do I challenge the other girls to stop standing in front of the mirror?
A: Too many females, young and old, are consumed with looks. Comparing ourselves to others, not to mention putting others down, is usually a way to elevate our own fragile self-esteem. Understand that when your friends are doing this it’s more a sign of their insecurities than anything else. We need more people to think the way you do! The reality is that you can’t control what your friends think, but you can challenge what they think. Why not share with them exactly what you wrote me?

Q: There are a bunch of people saying really mean things about me online. I don’t want to be seen as a rat, but what they’re saying isn’t true and makes me feel really bad. What should I do?
A: Last year I did a speaking tour encouraging teens to speak out against cyber-bullying. What I heard most was: “I want to tell someone but I don’t want to be seen as a rat!” What’s more important is putting an end to the bullying by people who aren’t your real friends anyway. When we keep quiet, we allow the cycle of abuse to continue. I would definitely, without hesitation, tell your parents.

Q: My sister came home from school with a drawing on her forearm. We don’t think she did it herself and she won’t tell us who did. We’re worried she’s being bullied at school. Who should we talk to about it?
A: Let the principal or the vice-principal know what you saw so they can be on the lookout. But before you do that, there are a few things to consider. First, what kind of drawing was on her arm? Was it a nasty picture or mean name? Second, when you pointed out the drawing, did she get defensive or change the topic? If not, it’s possible (I’ve seen many teens do this) she got bored and started drawing on herself. Do a little investigating and, in the meantime, spend more time talking with your sister. Only when a victim feels supported will she even consider saying what really happened.

Q: Someone at school asked me out, but I have a problem. I’m 15 years old and my culture, not to mention my parents, doesn’t condone dating at this age. I really want to go out with him, but I don’t know what to tell him or how to get my parents to change their minds.
A: Call me old-fashioned, but I like the rule of honesty: simply tell him your parents won’t allow it. From his perspective, that’s likely to be the best kind of ‘rejection’ because it truly has nothing to do with him. Lines like “It’s not you, it’s me” and “I like you as a friend” sound far worse. As for talking to your parents, I would try to make them understand where you’re coming from. But if they stick to their rule, I highly suggest you abide by it. It would be different if you were 18, but for many parents (even today) anything under 16 is just too young.

How to Deal – Q & A with Dr. Karyn

Dr. Karyn Gordon is an indispensable resource for Canadian teens (that’s YOU) who want to understand the world around them (the mark of a true vervegirl). She’s an author, motivational speaker, radio and TV host, and contributor in each and every issue of vervegirl magazine.
    Having spoken to more than 185,000 teens, parents, counsellors and marketers across North America, Dr. Karyn knows the issues inside and out. From how to handle a bully to how to get a job, she’ll answer your questions.

Parentspeak 101: Learn the root of their language

Q: I’m failing at school, fighting with my parents, and getting into trouble all the time. My parents don’t understand me and my mother says she’s fed up with me. I don’t know who to turn to. Please help.
A: Start by separating what you can control from what you can’t. You can’t control how hard certain subjects at school are, but you can definitely control how hard you’re trying. Is it possible that your problems at school are causing the conflict with your parents? If parents think their teens aren’t trying, they get frustrated, start nagging (which doesn’t help anyone), and cause more turmoil. The good news is that there are things you can do to help yourself. First, I would start putting more effort (notice how I’m not focused on marks) into school. You’ll start to feel better by taking action. Second, I would write your mom a letter and ask what she expects from you. Until you understand her expectations it will be difficult to meet them

Q: I want to go to university but my parents want me to work on our farm. They refuse to help me financially or support me in any way. I think what my parents do is great for them, but it isn’t what I want for my life. How can I talk to them to make them understand?
A: Unfortunately, parents sometimes project their own dreams onto their kids. They often mean well but don’t understand how unfair this is. First, try to explain your goals to your parents. Practice what you want to say and how you want to say it. The more prepared you are, the better it will come across. If they still don’t get it, have a relative you all respect talk to them on your behalf. If parents hear the same message from another adult, they might be a little more open to it. If they still don’t approve, then you’ve got a tough decision to make. You can either work at the farm and please your parents—which in my opinion is not healthy for many reasons—or you can pursue your dream on your own. Many people pay their entire education by themselves (including myself). It is possible!

Q: My brother loves to do stuff at school that takes him out of class – sports teams, the band, the school play—and his grades are OK, but he’s always complaining about all the catching up he has to do. I’m worried my parents will pull him out of doing the stuff he loves as a result. How can I help?
A: The first step is for your brother to take a serious look at whether he really is doing too much. So many of us pack our schedules to the max and end up exhausted and irritable. Although I’m a huge fan of extra-curricular activities, I think it’s important to make sure there’s a balance! He might want to write a list of all his activities and assign them each a score from 1 to 10. That way he can take a serious look at letting go of activities he’s not as excited about. 

Q:
Even though I’m getting lots of sleep, I always seem to be tired and can’t focus on my homework. My family thinks I’m just being lazy and I don’t know what to do.
A: The moment a teen has a ‘physical’ issue I refer them to their doctor. If it turns out nothing’s physically wrong, it might be more of an emotional issue. Exhaustion is often a symptom of depression. If you think you might be depressed, tell your doctor. On the other hand, many teens simply have bad sleep routines. They stay up really late, barely make it to school, have a hard time concentrating, and nap as soon as they get home, which makes it difficult to sleep that night. We all need sleep—teens need between 8 and 10 hours—so my advice is to set a simple and realistic sleep routine (your medical doctor or a professional counsellor can help) and stick to it!