Teen girl talk

The talented Selena Vujicic (a.k.a. Miss Teenage National Capital Region) and her mother chatted with Parenting Times Magazine about confidence, self-care and the pandemic

Selena Vujicic. Photo by Raventhorne Photography

If you haven’t heard her name, you have COVID-19 to thank for that.


As Miss Teenage National Capital Region 2020, 15-year-old Selena Vujicic had planned to organize many events for her community. After the pandemic hit, Vujicic took her fundraising efforts online. “It was a great experience,” said the Immaculata High School Grade 9 student about the competition. “I met so many friends that I still talk to and will hopefully visit once this is all over.” Vujicic and her mother, Sanja Pintar teamed up to talk about some important things we hope will serve as conversation starters for teens and their parents.



On the pandemic


Ottawa Parenting Times: Selena, how has this pandemic affected you as a teenager?


Selena Vujicic: I struggled with this pandemic. This is difficult for me to not be able to go out and see my friends as much as I used to. I didn’t realize how much social contact I had at school until the end of the first week of being cooped up at home and unable to leave. Things have changed drastically. This is a weird time for anyone; there is a lot of doubt about everything, but on the plus side, I have spent more time with my loved ones and have had more discussions with them about everything.


OPT: How about you, Sanja? How has this pandemic affected you as a mother and an employee?


Sanja Pintar: I started working from home in March last year. I miss social contact with my colleagues. We managed to do all our tasks and meet all our deadlines but not being able to talk to them in person is something I miss very much. I enjoyed downtown Ottawa before the pandemic, going out for walks, lunches with my colleagues. I truly hope that we will be able to do this again.


I try to keep work and home separate and to disconnect once my work hours are over but it is still hard. It was especially hard in the beginning when my girls were really upset that they couldn’t see their friends, couldn’t play sports, etc.


OPT: How do you think this pandemic affects young people the most, Selena? What are their biggest struggles? 


SV: This pandemic has affected everyone, but younger people have been hit the hardest. We can help one another by doing easy things like: messaging your friends every now and then to keep them in check and give them positive and constructive advice; calling your far away family to update on how you’re doing and make sure they’re doing OK as well. We’re all experiencing anxiety and stress about the unknown, and we have no choice but to go with the rhythm and wait it out. All we must do now is be ready, remain safe, and reach out to others.


On the tough stuff


OPT: Selena, in your opinion, what are the biggest issues, problems or struggles that teens face today?


SV: Depression, anxiety, drug/alcohol use, teen pregnancy, and peer pressure are all issues that teenagers face. Some children are unaware of the risks associated with some of these outcomes. Sometimes, kids can make poor choices and may be too afraid to seek help.


OPT: Any tips on handling peer pressure?


SV: Pay attention to your emotions. If anything about a situation doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Even if your mates appear unconcerned about what’s going on, the situation may not be ideal for you.


On self-confidence


OPT: Sanja, what is most important to you as you raise your daughters?


SP: My goal is to raise strong, independent and educated women. I constantly stress the importance of being hard working, educated and independent. I believe sports are very important for self-confidence in young girls—that’s why I always encouraged my girls to be active, to compete, to know what achievement feels like. I want both my girls to be educated above all.


I came to Canada at the age of 17 from a war-torn country with no English or French knowledge and managed to learn English in a year in order to attend university. I was the oldest of four kids and my parents relied on me to learn language first and to help them. I worked extremely hard… I’m very proud of what I achieved as I have struggled a lot though my life. I hope my girls never have to go though anything I did, but I want them to know that there are struggles out there and that hence the reason why hard work and being strong and determined are important.


OPT: Why is having a good self-image important?


SV: You should never be afraid to do anything because you are afraid of being judged. No one else’s opinion matters. It’s OK to not always feel good about yourself—it happens. There are many ways to get that confidence back by doing simple things like eating healthier, getting active or even going out somewhere. You should only be concerned with your own approval… Everyone looks different, we all have different features that make us unique which makes us beautiful in our own way.


Teens with high self-esteem are more likely to try new things, take healthy chances, and solve problems. As a result, their learning and growth will be successful, preparing them for a secure and healthy future.


OPT: How can teens feel more comfortable in their own bodies?

SV: When you don’t feel confident, taking control of your emotions, particularly when it comes to feelings about yourself, can be one of the most difficult things to do. When you can’t find ways to feel comfortable in your own skin, rather than enjoying yourself for who you are, you may criticize yourself and feel shy around others. Even if it’s difficult to feel beautiful in your own skin, there is a way to conquer negative feelings and embrace yourself for who you are. Everyone is beautiful in their own way.

OPT: What does self-care mean to you?


SV: Self-care encourages you to have a positive relationship with yourself so that you can share those positive emotions with others. What you don’t have yourself, you can’t give to others. While some may mistake self-care for selfishness, this is far from the case. Self-care allows you to de-stress and soothe your emotions. It improves your overall well-being.


SP: As a mom, self-care is very important to me. I struggled with anxiety in the past so I try to take time to relax when I can, and when I feel overwhelmed. I take time to read a book, go to the gym, meet my friends and occasionally have a spa day.



Selena’s tips for feeling better during a pandemic

  • Do something nice for yourself, such as baking a cake or reading a book.
  • Go for a walk to improve your mental health.
  • Prepare a meal for your family.
  • Listen to your favourite songs.
  • Don’t stare at a computer for too long.
  • Don’t go without sleep; you need it for everything. Getting a good night’s sleep improves your mood.