When She Just Can’t Break Up With Him (Or He Can’t Break Up With Her)

Ending a toxic dating relationship might take more courage than she thinks she has.
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/photostock

What does a toxic teenage dating relationship look like?  The simple answer is when a couple should break up but for whatever reason they can’t.

 

This post uses pronouns that assume teen girls have more trouble breaking off relationships than teen boys do.  This isn’t really true.  Teen boys have a hard time with it sometimes too.  Feel free to imagine your son when reading this if that’s relevant to your situation.

 

What are you supposed to do when your normally sensible daughter is so wrapped up in an insensible relationship that she can’t extricate herself?

  1. Put a stone in her shoe:  I don’t mean literally.  Work hard at creating cognitive dissonance.  This is when someone points out something to you that makes you uneasy with your current situation.  While they don’t outright tell you what to do, the thing they tell you causes mental conflict.  Here’s an example of what I mean: I dated a guy for my senior year in college, the next year, and my first year of graduate school.  My parents consistently told me he was skiddish about marriage.  When I asked how they knew this they would tell me it is because he would never talk about our future as a “we.”  This quietly ate at me until it became a big enough problem that it was driving me crazy.  Eventually it’s the thing that did us in.  My parents never said, “You need to end it with this loser!  What are you thinking?”  They just put a VERY UNCOMFORTABLE stone in my shoe.
  2. Set appropriate limits:  If your daughter has a boyfriend who is truly detrimental to her health in some way, don’t support the relationship.  Parents rarely have enough control over a teen that they can expressly forbid their son or daughter to date someone.  When try to forbid a couple from seeing each other, teenagers end up lying and sneaking around.  Now there’s even more behavior to be upset with, and it causes you to lose influence because your teen stops listening to you.  What you can do though is refuse to support the relationship even though you don’t wholly outlaw it.  If you replace the word “relationship” with “drugs,” you’ll know what to do.  You wouldn’t allow your teenager to do drugs in your house.  You wouldn’t give your teen money to buy drugs.  You wouldn’t drop your teenager off somewhere to use drugs.  Now put the word “relationship” back in those sentences.  Don’t allow him in your house.  Don’t give your daughter money to go out with him on dates.  Don’t drop her off to see him.  In simple terms, don’t enable.
  3. Control your opinion-sharing:  “Stick with the facts, m’am.”  Just call things as you see them.  Don’t then go on to explain why what you see means your daughter’s boyfriend is Satan’s spawn.  She is more likely to listen to you and confide in you if you only say what you observe or hear.  It’s okay to tell her, “Samantha’s mom told me she saw your boyfriend kissing Jennifer after the football game.”  It’s not okay to then go on and on about what a rotten cheater he is.  The reason I say this is that your daughter is responsible for herself, and you’re only responsible for her.  The focus needs to be on her.  If Samantha’s mom really did see your daughter’s boyfriend kissing Jennifer after the football game and your daughter still wants to go out with him, have a gentle conversation with your daughter about why she’s struggling with self-respect.  There are all kids of people out there who aren’t right for her.  Your job as a parent is to help her have enough courage to pass on them.

I know this is hard.  It’s really frustrating to see your child in a toxic relationship.  Whether you’re a teen reading this, or you’re mom or dad, make sure you keep talking.  Run your feelings by someone who will be very honest with you, and then start taking the steps to make a positive change.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Good Article on Stress and Anxiety

https://www.healthline.com/health/stress-and-anxiety

 

This article gives a general overview of anxiety, its causes and some things to do about it.  A lot of these things are common knowledge, but it is really helpful to review.  For example, this article reminds you that caffeine increases anxiety.  It also helps you to remember that exercise is a great coping mechanism.  Finally, the article addresses when to seek professional help, which is hard to determine sometimes.  So, if you are struggling with anxiety, take some time and read this article.  You might find it helpful.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teens and Vaping

Sadly teens do seem to be vaping on an ever increasing basis.  From my observations based on working with teens in my therapy office, it appears more are getting hooked on nicotine and marijuana.

 

Are those commercials about teens vaping just being dramatic?

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Intentionally Raising Our Kids

Proverbs 29:18a (KJV) says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  In context this means God’s people need to know what they’re aim is and what plan God has for them.  Once they understand this, they’re more likely to follow the laws of God.

 

How do we apply this concept to parenting?  You must know your aim with your children.  It is easy to sit back and let them develop into whatever they become.  In fact, the current cultural standard is not to interfere whatsoever with your child’s development.  You’re told your job is to encourage them to become whatever their natural tendencies are.

 

However, if you do this, in metaphorical (and sometimes literal) ways, your child will perish.  Children (including teenagers) need guidance and discipline.  You as dad and mom have to know where you’re guiding them.  Zig Ziglar always liked to say, “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time.”

 

Here is a quick video on how to be intentional when raising your teenager.  This will help you reset your compass if you find you’re off course.

 

Have a vision for your child’s character.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Research on Depression and Anxiety in Teens Related to Social Media Use

There is a correlation between a teen’s social media use and lower moods.
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/nenetus

An article was just published in The Economist summarizing a very large scale study correlating teen social media use with “malaise,” depressed moods and hopelessness.  The study was conducted on about 500,000 American teens.  It showed a strong relationship between teens who regularly view social media and those who feel low about life.  This was not true for those who use social media to engage with friends, such as using it to text.  This was the most true for those who use it to passively browse others’ posts.

 

There is an inevitable comparing of lives that happens when looking at what other people post.  What your teen doesn’t see is all the moments that a person doesn’t put on social media.  There is no picture posted of your teen’s friend looking bored in math class.  There is no picture posted of blurred eye make-up after sobbing because of a break-up.  There is no post unveiling discord in the home.  There is no post detailing the misery other teens feel when they have shameful secrets like addiction to pornography.  Social media is a very, very brief snapshot of a moment in time that is doctored by premeditated attempts to make that moment sound or appear a certain way.  What I mean by this is that before you take a picture, you smile.  Were you actually in a smiley mood?  Who knows?  Before you click “post” you thought out the words you wanted to share with the world.  What happened to all the other simultaneous thoughts you filtered out and didn’t write?  These can range from the innocuous, ‘I feel a little hungry,’ to the embarrassing to the downright shameful.  Those are rarely posted.

 

So what happens to your teen?  After hours of counseling teens, my theory is your son or daughter is left wondering at all the ways he or she is inadequate.  Your son or daughter is also spending hours reading things that are counter to the values you have taught since the day your child was born.  Your child is consistently hit with a message that if his values aren’t changed to reflect what modern relativistic culture calls for, he is a racist, misogynist, anti-progressive, homophobic, xenophobic horror of a human being.  It is highly conflicting for an adolescent mind.  Your adolescent hasn’t yet developed the reasoning power to adequately research paradigms and come to her own conclusions.  She is still extremely impressionable.  She easily absorbs the unconscious psychological message that she needs to conform to the non-conformists if she is to be anything less than a complete wretch.

 

On the other hand, teens who spend face to face time with their friends and family appear to be happier.  These same teens who work a job, play sports, and engage in “real life” are often filled with a lot more hope.  This doesn’t mean every day is a happy day.  However, it does mean you as a parent have a responsibility to strongly consider what technology does and doesn’t do for your burgeoning adult.  It means you have to know the science behind what is happening to this generation, and teach your child to balance virtual life with real life.

 

Click here if you wish to read the original article from The Economist.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Treatment Models for Adolescent Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are one of the most difficult psychiatric disorders to treat.  While the success rates are modest, there are treatment options.  Here is a short run-down of some of the treatment plans for adolescents with an eating disorder.

 

Eating disorders part 3 of 3

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Happy Thanksgiving

I just wanted to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m not working much this week, so I’ll keep this post short.

 

Have a lovely holiday with your family and we’ll catch up next week.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

How to get along better with a teenager

how to get along with a teenager, adolescent, family, back talking, talking back, sass

Getting along better with teenagers
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week in my counseling office, a parent asked me, “How do I get along better with my kid?”  I thought this would be a good topic for the blog.

 

Of course there are a myriad of reasons why adolescents and parents argue.  I’ve heard the gamut of explanations ranging from hormones to how awful the teen’s friends are. A teen often suggests is that it is the parents.  Truthfully, there are always a number of factors contributing to disruption in the parent-child relationship so I don’t want you to read this and feel blamed if you are mom or dad.  Disclaimer aside, how might you be contributing to the problem?

 

Parents, might you be overly critical?  You give your child a compliment, but follow it with a criticism.  For example, “Kaylee, you look nice today, even if that skirt is a little short.”  How often are you doing this to your child?  Maybe you’re not saying it, but it’s in your actions.  For example, “John, thank you for cleaning up the kitchen so well.  You did a great job,” as you’re quickly giving the counter a wipe to get the excess crumbs.

 

Sometimes, we get so focused on helping our kids fix what isn’t going right that we forget to tell them the things they do well.  For example, your son brings home a report card with all As and Bs, but there is one C.  You feel very upset about the C because you know he could’ve earned at least a B in that class.  Your teenager senses your disappointment and then takes a defensive attitude.  Really though, he did well in 5 other classes and that needs to count for something.

 

So, if you’ve identified the ways you are too critical, what do you do now?  How can you give your child loving correction without accidentally demeaning them?  Just ask yourself how you’d want to receive correction if you were your child.  How would you best learn what is being taught?  Don’t forget that you are teaching your teenager how to function as an adult, and the individual situation is often less important than the overall big picture.  If you are the dad who is always criticizing the way your kid plays sports, remember the point of sports is to learn how to focus, give your best, keep a good attitude on the field, and respect authority.  The point is not to create the next Kobe Bryant; athletes of that caliber have a passion all their own and their parents did not have to force it.

 

Start serving your child more.  This is likely a shock because those of us with children know we are serving our child all day long.  We are driving carpool, writing a check for a yearbook, helping to fundraise for the softball team, etc.  When I say to serve your child, I am meaning in a more intimate and loving way.  One example I can think of comes from a former 15 year old client.  One time in session she told me how much she respects and listens to her mom’s opinion.  Since this is unusual for a 15 year old, I asked her what her mom does that makes her want to listen.  My client told me that her mom is always being thoughtful.  She said after track practice her mom picks her up with a plate of chilled salad sitting on the front seat because she knows my client will be both hot and hungry.  She knows my client cares about healthy eating and that this kind of snack will help my client avoid eating junk before dinner.  This mother is truly serving and considering her daughter.  As a result, her daughter feels more inclined to respect her mom’s opinions and beliefs.

 

So, this week, maybe try two things if you want to get along better with your teenager.  Firstly, pay attention to your critical comments.  Find a kinder, more empathetic way to say them.  Secondly, look for opportunities to serve that are a little above and beyond.  It might not work the first time you do it, but if you stick with it for a little while you will hopefully see some changes.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman

Eating Disorders Part 2

Bulimia, Anorexia, and Binge Eating Disorders are very difficult to treat.  They require a whole family effort in the case of adolescents.  From mom and dad right down to every sibling in the house, there’s a part each person can play to help everyone get better.

 

Here is a little bit of information about what Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder are.

Eating disorders part 2 of 3

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Put Down That Cell Phone

Some teens send hundreds or even thousands of texts per day. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some teens send hundreds or even thousands of texts per day.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tired of your teenager using the cell phone 24/7?  Are they answering texts at dinner, during homework, in the middle of the night, etc?

 

Getting a text message is rewarding in the brain.  It makes the teen feel good, and feel compelled to answer right away.  While it does build friendships and keep them bonded with their peers, it is extremely distracting!

 

For teens who are addicted to using their phone, their efficiency is terrible.  It takes extra hours to complete any task.  It only takes a few seconds to answer a text, but a lot of teens actually send/receive hundreds of texts each day, and some even over a thousand.  If you think about it, that’s a lot of time when it’s all added up.

 

When you require some downtime away from electronics, you are allowing your adolescent to develop an important skill.  It is essential that everyone has time for their mind to be quiet and calm.  Having the phone at all times means constant stimulation and entertainment.  It doesn’t force the brain to be creative.  It doesn’t allow time for contentment.   You will probably be the victim of a hellacious argument, but requiring the phone be given to you during homework time and at bedtime will do your teenager wonders.  They will probably find themselves able to complete assignments faster, and get better sleep.  They might also be surprised to realize they are happier.

 

Studies show that teens who are addicted to technology are actually somewhat miserable.  Teenagers who can wait awhile before answering a text because they want to finish their current activity experience a better sense of accomplishment.  They also don’t feel obsessive-compulsive.  The phone can become kind of like a leash if your adolescent isn’t careful.   You will get another added benefit: more quality time with your child.  Rather than everyone going out to dinner and sitting in the waiting area on their phones, you might actually talk.  You might find you can connect with your child and hear about their day.  Eventually they will even like it!  That takes time though so be patient.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Eating Disorders Are Stressful Around The Holidays

Teens who struggle with eating disorders always find the prospect of eating to be overwhelming.  For someone with an eating disorder, every meal means a lot to think about.  There is no “just eating” without worrying.  The Holidays are particularly difficult because they include all kinds of added stressors.

Eating disorders part 1 of 3

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Daddy-Daughter Dates/ Mommy-Son Dates

Spending good quality time with your daughter or son can be fun! Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spending good quality time with your daughter or son can be fun!
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My blog usually discusses topics that are difficult. Normally I’m writing to you about things that might be going wrong between you and your teenagers such as arguing, lying, cutting, suicidal thoughts, etc. We’re always talking about the darker parts of raising teens.

While the challenges you face are extremely important to consider, sometimes it’s nice to think about how to keep things on the good track too.

Today we’re going to discuss one of the tools I’ve seen be most effective in healing relationships between teenagers and their parents: the daddy-daughter or mommy-son date.

You’re well aware of how important it is to spend quality time with your children. You even know already that to spend alone time with each child has huge benefits to your adolescent’s development. What you might not have known is that this special time together can be something that teaches your teenager multiple lessons in a loving, indirect manner.

First let’s address the daddy-daughter date. Dads, when you take your daughter out, make it special. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, but be thoughtful. Take her to do something she wants to do. If you know there’s a certain movie she’d like to see, or a certain place she loves to hike, take her there. It’s nice to show her things you’re interested in, but this is about you teaching her to feel confident in her preferences. When you leave the house, tell her she looks pretty, and open the car door for her. She will learn how men should treat her from how you treat her. She will learn her self-value from how you prioritize these dates in your life. If you tell her you’ll take her the first Friday of each month, it’s extremely important to follow-through.

For moms: Your date goes a little bit differently. This is your chance to teach your sons how to respect women, and how to treat them kindly. I worked with a mom who would give her son $20 or $30 and then tell him to plan a date for them. She was able to teach him something about budgeting, planning, and being thoughtful as well as teach him all the rules of chivalry.

For both mom and dad: When you take your kids on a date, keep the conversation positive. This is not the time to talk to them about how disappointed you are in their chemistry grade. They should look forward to these times with you. If you treat them the same as every other day, they may dread this instead of look forward to it. This needs to be a time of safe, critical-free conversation.

Spend some time with your teenager and have fun! Teenagers are really humorous, but they can also talk on a deep level. They still need you and crave relationship with you.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Is My Teen’s Anxiety Bad Enough To Warrant Therapy

At what point do you call a counselor?  Therapy can be expensive and time consuming, so how do you know if you need it?

 

This short video addresses that question for teens who have anxiety.  Being occasionally nervous is totally normal.  There is no need for therapy in that situation.  Being consistently nervous, even when the situation shouldn’t cause anxiety, is problematic.

 

Check out this 60 second video and see if it helps answer your question:

Does my teen’s anxiety warrant therapy?

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Helping teen grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Cutting In Teenagers

Self-injury is a very loud cry for help. Photo courtesy of Marin from Freedigitalphotos.net

Self-injury is a very loud cry for help.
Photo courtesy of Marin from Freedigitalphotos.net

Janelle sat on her bed.  She was crying because her best friend told some girls that she thought Janelle was annoying.  She also told the girls she thinks Janelle is “all drama all the time.”

 

At first Janelle was in shock.  She couldn’t believe Sara would say those things about her.  Hadn’t she been there for Sara all last year when Sara was fighting with her mom?  Then Janelle turned inward.  Negative thoughts started running through Janelle’s head.  She began to think, ‘Nobody likes me,’ and ‘All my friends are fake.’  She also started thinking things like, ‘My own parents don’t even care that I’m hurting.’  With these negative thoughts came an even deeper surge of anxiety and hopelessness.  Janelle turned to the only coping skill she knew could make her feel numb.  She went into her desk drawer and took out a razor blade she had set aside specifically for this purpose.  She began to cut shallow lines across her left forearm until a little bit of blood showed.

 

I know this is awful to read.  I know it’s even worse if you are concerned your teenager is cutting.  While this story is made up, it’s based off the many, many teenagers I’ve sat across from in therapy who self-harm to cope with emotional pain.

 

Generally parents find self-injury really difficult to understand.  It’s hard to imagine how inducing physical pain can relieve emotional pain.

 

There are usually two reasons teenagers cut themselves.  The first is a cry for attention.  These teenagers are hurting inside, don’t know how to effectively express it, and so try cutting themselves for someone else to notice.  If they cut on their arm they might continue to wear short sleeves.  They wait and see how long it takes Mom or Dad to make a comment.  This is to be taken seriously and requires help from a professional counselor and/or a psychiatrist because it means the teenager isn’t able to communicate their emotions in a healthy and productive manner.

 

The second reason an adolescent might self-harm is to control their pain.  If they are a teenager who becomes flooded with emotional distress, then their pain feels unmanageable.  At least if they are cutting they control when they hurt, how deeply, where, how long, how much blood, whether or not the pain shows, and how much the wound scars.  These are teenagers who feels as though emotional pain happens to them at random and no matter what they try to do, they are helpless to stop it.  These teens are desperate to have control over something.  This second group doesn’t usually want their wounds to be noticed.  They do not want to be stopped from cutting because it’s their primary method of coping and they don’t trust anyone to love them through their hurt.  They will often cut in locations on their body that are difficult to see such as hips, stomach, inner thigh, or arms if they always wear sleeves.  In these situations professional help is a must.

 

If you have worried that your teenager is self-harming, please get them help right away.  This is a cry for help that is loud and clear.  It is also quite possibly beyond your ability to stop your child from this behavior without some guidance.  It is very dangerous to just hope your teenager stops this behavior.  I worked with one teenager who accidentally cut his wrist too deeply and he nearly severed an artery in his wrist, which could have killed him.  He wasn’t trying to commit suicide, but he almost did so by mistake.  Another problem with leaving the teenager to resolve this on their own is the risk of infection.  If they don’t treat the wounds properly and/or use unsanitary objects to self-harm it could cause them to become ill.  Finally, it is important to address self-injurious behavior because your child is in deep emotional pain and they are navigating it in an unhealthy manner.  They need your love and support, but not your tolerance of their self-harm.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

How to Deal with Teen Depression

When adolescents are depressed they exhibit symptoms of disinterest, irritability and sadness.  Here are two antidotes to depression in teenagers.

 

The two antidotes to depression: hope and gratitude.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen Driving

When you're teen starts driving make sure there are clear rules. Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you’re teen starts driving make sure there are clear rules.
Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How did it happen so fast?  How is your teenager already getting their learner’s permit, or ready to get their driver’s license.  This is a scary, exciting time for parents.  For your teen it’s a rite of passage.

 

As parents we worry about all the usual things: Is my teenager going to get into an accident?  Do I need to be concerned that they will drive after drinking?  Is my teenager going to get a ticket?  What happens to my insurance when they start driving?  What if they drive all their friends when they’re supposed to wait a year?

 

As a counselor who works with teenagers, I have seen parents handle driving in many different ways.  The most common way I’ve seen parents handle teen drivers is to buy them a car without restrictions and then let them drive.  The teenager may or may not be responsible for gas and insurance.  There is really no discussion about responsibility and expectations.  I don’t think this is a good way to go about something as important as driving a car, but it’s what the majority of parents do.

 

I’ve seen other parents lay out the ground rules ahead of time.  There is a lot of discussion, with the teenager’s input, into how driving will be handled in the family.  Some teens are told a few years in advance that they are responsible to pay for a portion of their car.  They are encouraged to start working and saving.  These teens tend to get less tickets, keep their car cleaner, and care more about the responsibility of driving in general because they put in a lot of hours at low pay to earn the right to drive.  Other teens are told they can use the “third family car” as long as it is kept clean, grades stay up, they pay for gas and don’t get tickets or accidents.  A third thing I’ve heard of, but never known parents to do, is require the teenager to put down a “deposit” with mom and dad for the amount of the insurance deductible in case of an accident.  They get the money back when they are off mom and dad’s insurance plan.  I actually really like this one, and am thinking of using it with my daughter when she starts driving.

 

The main point is that driving is a HUGE change in your teenager’s life.  They gain a lot of independence and autonomy.  It’s absolutely wonderful for the adolescents who are ready for it.  It can be tragic for those who don’t respect that driving comes with a lot of responsibility and is potentially dangerous.  Knowing your child as you do, think very carefully about how you want to deal with driving.  Every teenager, and I mean EVERY teenager, has areas where they need some personal growth.  Driving is an opportunity to encourage that growth.  If your child is irresponsible with money you can use driving to teach them budgeting and wise spending.  If your child is reckless with his or her belongings, you can use the car to teach them to take care of their things.

 

Driving is a wonderful opportunity for parenting.  It’s a chance for your teenager to show you how responsible they’ve become.  It’s nice for your teen to have independence, and it’s nice for you not to be driving all over the place.  When handled with care, your teenager starting to drive can be great for the whole family.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Treasure Your Teens

We’ve all been told to treasure the moment we’re in because it will be gone in a flash.  Have you noticed how true this is with your teenager?  Here’s a gentle reminder to be less frustrated by what’s happening right now, and more inclined to enjoy the moments you have with your teen.  You and I can both attest to how quickly our children have grown up.  Once you have a teenager in the house, time is really running short.  Don’t waste it being mad at them.

Treasure your teen

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Review of a Book About Bipolar and Mental Illness

Mental illness looks like you and me.
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/photostock

I just finished reading Resilience, by Jessie Close.  She is completely raw in her description of a lifelong battle with severe Bipolar Disorder.  As she takes you on her journey through years of unchecked, undiagnosed mayhem caused by her mental illness and alcoholism, you will cringe and cry.

 

The fact is though, mental illness without help is like a prison sentence.  It condemns its sufferer to broken relationships, broken dreams, continuous disruption, and continuous discomfort.  I still feel I’m phrasing it lightly.

 

She has many objectives in writing the story of her life.  Aside from the likely cathartic effects of viewing her life through a medicated, stable lens, she has things she wants from us as the readers.  She wants us to understand that the stigma associated with mental illness is excruciating.  She wants us to know she is not a leper.  She wants us to know she still needs compassion, love and friendship.  It’s our cultural norm to ignore and avoid “odd” people.  She wants us to realize someone with a mental illness is still a someone.  She wants us to know that that someone has a family, a history, hopes and trials just as you and I do.

 

During my interning years I worked at College Hospital in Costa Mesa.  It is a locked psychiatric facility.  During the first months I was afraid.  I didn’t understand how to interact with people who were not responding to normal social cues.  I didn’t know how to anticipate the next move of someone suffering from psychosis.  Eventually though I came to love that job.  The staff had a sincere affection for the patients that was contagious.  Once I settled down, I realized these are people who are scared and overwhelmed.  All they need is someone who can sit with them and treat them like they’re human.

 

The irony was never lost on me that the staff inside a locked mental hospital were more capable of treating the mentally ill like humans than was the outside world.  I suppose it’s just like Jessie Close writes in her book where she tells us how exposure and time spent with the mentally ill breaks down our incorrect suppositions.  Like any misguided prejudice we have (and like it or not, we all have some), they are stripped away when we spend time with the people we incorrectly judge.

 

In the outpatient counseling practice I now run, we have found we are often the first stopping point for a teenager trying to understand what is going on with him or her.  There have been countless cases where a parent has called because his son or daughter is acting differently, engaging in risky behaviors, or “just doesn’t feel right.”  It can be an enormous challenge to pinpoint a diagnosis quickly because as Jessie Close explains, mental illness is “like a stew.”  This means many symptoms and disorders overlap.

 

Recognizing an underlying mental illness for misguided behavior and thoughts is one of the most important things towards healing.  You almost always need a professional to help with this process.  Even for the professional it can be difficult since there are no clear medical tests to diagnose.

 

If you suspect your teen might be facing a burgeoning mental illness, don’t wait to seek help.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Help! My Teen Talks Back Too Much!

If you engage the argument with your teen, you're just going to get more of it. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you engage the argument with your teen, you’re just going to get more of it.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your teenager has a smart mouth, and you’re a little sick of it.  You don’t know how much more you can take if they keep talking back to you when you ask them to do something.  It’s plain rude and it’s really frustrating.  You don’t understand why you are the recipient of the nasty tone when you see them be perfectly nice and respectful to other adults.  What do you do?

 

One really important step to take is to check yourself.  Are you rude to them?  Do you get defensive easily?  Do you engage their arguing and get just as nasty?  Those things won’t help.  However, I know how incredibly hard it is not to get baited into an argument.  It’s almost impossible actually.

 

That is the next step though; do not get baited into the discussion.  At first just fail to respond when your teen has a rude tone with you.  They will probably comment on this.  You might make eye contact and then just walk away.  If you think you can say it evenly and calmly, you can gently tell them they are not speaking in a very nice tone and then walk away.  The main point is that you don’t want to escalate the situation.  Keep in mind once your teen gets into talking back mode, they’re not listening anyhow so getting louder won’t really make the point you’re trying to make.

 

Gently and quietly administer a consequence for their being rude to you.  This has to be done in such a way that they realize if they continue things will just get worse for them.  One time as a teenager I flipped my mom off in a conversation.  She very calmly told my my friends could no longer spend the night that night (it was a Friday), but instead had to leave by 9pm.  I protested loudly and rudely.  She told me that because I was continuing to be disrespectful they could now only come over until 7pm.  I tried one more time and she just said, “6:00.”  That was it.  I got quiet.  I tried to apologize a little later and she said she accepted my apology, but the friends still had to leave at 6.  She said she looked forward to Saturday night when I’d have the opportunity to try again.  She really only had to do things like this a few times before I knew I shouldn’t speak to her disrespectfully or I would lose things that mattered to me, quickly.

 

On the other hand, my dad was always willing to negotiate with my sister and me.  As a result, he got a lot more sass than my mom every did.  He would sometimes give into our whining and begging, which actually rewarded our bad behavior.  He would sometimes get worn out if we argued with him and then give in.  We knew this and so we pushed.  We talked back to him a lot.  My mom used to tell him not to negotiate, but I don’t think he knew how to just be calm, yet firm.

 

If you can quietly stand your ground, not engage when your teen is rude, set a limit and maybe continue to restrict if they carry on, you will probably make some headway on the talking back.  I know these techniques are easier said than done, but you can do it!  It will make your relationship with your teenager a lot more enjoyable.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic Disorder are all in the Bipolar Family.  Bipolar I is the most severe form of the illness.  Bipolar II is similar, with less intense periods of mania.  Cyclothymia is like Bipolar II, with less intense periods of mania and depression.

 

The presence of a manic episode denotes Bipolar Disorder.  This is when there is a greatly reduced need for sleep, the brain is overfiring on all cylinders, and the body is exploding with energy.  In these times very reckless behavior is often seen.  Also, this is typically when it is believed someone with Bipolar Disorder is at a high risk for committing suicide.

 

Depression fills the gaps between manic episodes.  Sometimes this depression is so deep that a person cannot garner the energy to shower, or even get out of bed.

 

Bipolar is a serious mental illness.  Here are a few thoughts on what it is, and what it isn’t.

 

What is bipolar disorder?

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Motivating a Teen

Motivation is an extremely tricky thing.  We often can get people to do something using threats, but in the long-run that fosters resentment.  As parents we have the daunting task of motivating our children without making them timid, apathetic, or so frustrated they want to give up.

 

Here is a quick thought on using positivity to motivate:

 

Using positivity to motivate your teen.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

What Gives A Teen Boy Good Self-Esteem?

Hard work gives self-worth to adolescent boys.
Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

What gives a boy good self-esteem?  The answer is simple.  It’s work. W-O-R-K.  Those four little letters strung together add up to big benefits for teen boys.

 

For the first eight years I practiced therapy, I believed all the books I’d read.  I thought teen boys needed a great home life.  I thought they needed to believe they were good enough on the inside and the outside.  I believed they had to be accepted by their peers.  While these things are certainly helpful, where does it leave the boys who don’t have this?

 

Two years ago I had an eighteen year old boy come in for therapy.  This kid had it all in terms of what we think should create high self-esteem in an adolescent.  He was a good-looking, popular kid.  He had a great family, was talented at sports, and really did believe he was good enough to win anyone’s approval.  Why was he unhappy then?  It was absolutely baffling to me.  We worked and worked.  Finally I told this kid he wouldn’t have a good self-esteem, or feel happier until he started taking responsibility for the things in his life.  I didn’t mean the emotional things.  I meant the really simple things.  I told him to start keeping his car clean, pay his cell bill, and buy his own gas.  He gave me a sideways look, but then decided he’d try it.  He quickly ran out of money though.  That’s when everything got better.  He got a little part-time job and began to pay his own way.  The more of his own things he paid for, the happier he felt.  His self-worth began to improve.  Then he found a full-time job and began to pay for all his own stuff.

 

The boy’s parents couldn’t figure out why he was doing this since they were willing to pay for everything.  He explained to them that when he paid his own way he felt like a man.  He said he felt he could look anyone in the eye and have dignity.

 

That’s when it dawned on me: Many teen boys today don’t have dignity.  For an adolescent male, being able to get up and go to work is defining.  It allows them to psychologically transition from a dependent boy to an independent man.  Manhood and independence are synonymous.  If you are trying to prevent your son from working so that he’ll have more time to focus on school, it’s an admirable thing to do.  However, though your intentions are really good, I think it might be a misguided way to help your son.

 

Your responsibility as a parent is to help your son become a man.  You and I agree wholeheartedly that education opens more doors for your son as he becomes an adult.  Don’t forget though, your son also needs to have his character shaped.  He craves hard work and the associated reward (a paycheck and the dignity of earning his own way).  Don’t stand in his way.  Even if this slightly slows his educational process down, by the time he graduates college he’ll be far better prepared for the working world.  He’ll be more likely to succeed if he’s had just a little bit of time in the trenches.  He’ll be more appreciative of his paycheck.  He’ll be less entitled out of college, and therefore more able to handle his money.  He’ll have a greatly improved understanding of how to get along with people of all stripes.  I could list many more benefits than this.

 

Ever since that epiphany two years ago, this has become a consistent recommendation I make to the parents of the teen boys I see in my counseling office.  So, all this to say, if you find your teenage son has low self-worth, consider having him work.  I believe it makes a big difference.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Why Teens Are Better Off Choosing Abstinence

There are a lot of reasons why waiting to have sex is a good idea for your teenager.  Here are three of the reasons:

Why abstinence is the best choice for your teen.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teenagers of Divorced Parents

Teens struggle when their divorced parents don't get along. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teens struggle when their divorced parents don’t get along.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This has come up a lot recently in the therapy office, so I thought I might address it here:

 

Lately I have worked with several teenagers whose parents are divorced, and their parents are not on good terms.  The teenagers really lose in this situation.  They find themselves triangulated between their parents.  They have to play both sides a little bit to avoid things getting worse.  It is extremely stressful for some of them, and others choose not to cope with it at all.

 

The teens who feel a lot of stress and anxiety because of their parents disliking one another are the ones who really wish everyone would get along.  It hurts them to hear how one parent is irresponsible or not paying child support on time, etc.  They tend to be powerless to resolve any of the argument, and yet are expected to listen to it.  Every action a parent takes is interpreted negatively by the other parent.  If dad begins to date again, mom tells the child it is because he doesn’t love his original family enough.  If mom goes on a trip with friends, dad tells the kids she is being selfish with her time and her money.  When the teenager wants to have money for a trip, one parent will say the other parent is the one responsible to pay for it.  When the other parent doesn’t pay they are made to look like they don’t care about the child (All these listed situations have come up in the last two weeks, by the way).

 

Teens who wish their family would get along end up holding a lot inside because they don’t want to upset the precarious balance in their families.  They are constantly maneuvering to try and keep the peace.  They omit information, tell small lies, and agree just to placate each parent.  They excuse a lot of bad behavior and internalize hurt feelings because they wind up believing they have to protect their parents from one another.  This is a role reversal from the natural order of things in life where parents are supposed to protect their kids.

 

Other teenagers refuse to cope with parents who don’t get along.  I see them do this in two ways.  One is that the teen acts out.  They create enough of a problem in their own life that their parents are forced to band together to address the teenager’s issue.  They might get into drugs, be promiscuous, do poorly in school, go through a major depression, etc.  It really can be anything that’s effective at getting mom and dad to be amicable towards one another.  Their struggle is then rewarded because their parents usually care enough about the teen to stop hating one another for the time it takes to get through the struggle.  Sometimes the teenager’s issue goes away all by itself once the parents resolve to get along with each other.

 

The second way adolescents cope with divorced parents who argue is to simply not cope with it at all.  They decide they cannot handle being in the middle and refuse to see one of the parents.  They stay at one house and get along with one parent.  This might look like choosing sides in the divorce, and maybe that is a piece of it, but it is often also related to a strong dislike of being in the middle.

 

If you and your spouse are divorced, try as hard as you can to be amicable.  I realize that one or both of you hurt the other deeply.  I know that things were probably said and/or done that are unforgivable.  I know you worry about the influence your ex will have on the children.  This is an extremely difficult situation no matter what way you look at it.  Keep in mind that in most cases (typically only barring abuse and addiction) it is positive for your kids to have a good relationship with both parents.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Simple Tip For A Better School Year

I’m guilty of peppering my daughter with questions the minute she comes home from school.  Don’t be that parent!

 

Your kids are tired and they need a break.  Here’s an easy tip to implement in order to have a better year with them in school.

A simple thing to remember for a better school year.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Briefly Anxious Episode of Near Panic

I’m stressed.  I’m freaked out.  I’m worried.  I’m feeling uncertain with the unpleasant sense of dread and trepidation that can only happen when something ugly from the past reappears out of nowhere.  Let me be real; this is an autobiographical post.

 

I have moments like this in life.  These are the times when the rubber hits the road for a therapist.  This is when I am faced with a dilemma: I can either give myself over to panic or I can use the myriad of tools I teach clients every week.  After a couple of deep breaths, I choose the latter.

 

Let me let you in on the problem first.  I’ll try and describe the magnitude of fear it evokes in me even though it will seem trivial to you.  Sometimes in this profession we get cases that turn out to be high stress for us as therapists.  After 10 years in practice I’ve gotten really good at screening during the initial phone call.  This is so that I refer out when I’m not the right fit.  However, because I’m human, sometimes one slips past me.  This was one of those instances.  While this case was transferred to another person’s care quite quickly, it caused a few weeks of intense stress and exhaustion.  Now I’ve received a phone call that I’ll need to revisit the case.  What’s worse is, I haven’t touched on this case in years so I can hardly remember it.  All I can recall is the sense of anxiety that was paired with it.  I remember knowing I’d need to refer, and knowing how sensitive it is to tell that to a client; it’s one of the most delicate conversations a therapist ever has to have with patients.

 

After receiving the phone call I find myself stepping out of a time machine straight back into those dreadful three weeks.  I give myself over to stress and angst for about five minutes.  Then I take some deep breaths and decide to think.  I realize this is the perfect opportunity to practice the good coping skills I preach.  Here’s what I do:

  1. I recognize there is time before one has to return a call from a voicemail.  I think through all the legal and ethical requirements to release information about a former client.  Then I plot out what steps to take so that confidentiality is protected while still honoring the request for information within legal and ethical bounds.
  2. I remind myself, “The past is the past, and it cannot be changed.”  You’d be surprised how powerful it is to meditate on that a little bit.  Do I wish I’d never taken this case in the first place?  Unequivocally yes.  However, that choice is far in the rear view mirror, so I all I can do now is the best I can.
  3. I do some calming breathing.
  4. I think through possible outcomes.  I see I am WAY overemphasizing the worst possible outcome.  Because of my focus on that, I hadn’t initially seen all the other possibilities.  This is a common error in thinking when anxious.  Anxiety is caused by fear of a possible future event.  Usually that event is pretty unlikely.  As it turns out, we’re not very good prophets.  This is especially the case when we’re feeling anxiety.
  5. I think about how I’ve seen a few hundred clients in the past decade.  I remember that most have been really enjoyable.  I tell myself one bad instance doesn’t taint everything unless I choose to give it that level of permission.
  6. I have a negative thought creep in even after working all my coping skills.  I disenfranchise the thought quickly though by seeing it for what it is (simply a negative thought) and what it isn’t (In other words, just because I think it doesn’t make it true).  Our own negative thoughts have the power to hijack our day into “Negativeland” if we permit them.  It’s our choice to stay on the hijacked train of thought though.  I actually envision myself hopping off the train.  I feel much lighter after that.

I go into great detail about ten minutes of my day because it happens to you too.  You too find yourself shrouded in negative thoughts of what could be.  You too feel panic or fear when triggered.  I want you to know two things from today’s post.  Firstly, even therapists fight with irrational thoughts, emotions, and reactions.  Secondly, you are not stuck in your uncomfortable feelings if you’ll just put in a little work.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Tip for Anxiety

If you or your teen struggles with anxiety it can be miserable.  It’s a feeling of dread that is often in excess of an event.  An example of anxiety is having a lot of worry that you will fail your next test even though you’ve never failed one this school year.  People who struggle with anxiety really wrestle with believing a severe consequence is coming.  Usually people with anxiety are overly confident of a bad result, and do not have enough confidence that a good result will occur.

 

A tip for this is to honestly assess the reality of a situation.  One thing I tell teens who have social fears is that nobody judges you as harshly as you do.  I ask the teen, “Even when you hear someone say something stupid, how long do you think about what they said?”  The normal answer is, “Not for very long.  Not more than 5 minutes.”  I tell them, “This is the same for others when you say something you feel is stupid.”  Assessing the reality of a feared situation helps reduce anxiety.

 

It’s difficult to be realistic about outcomes that make us nervous.  I worked with a boy who ran cross country at his high school.  He was consistently the last person to finish team workouts.  He had a lot of anxiety about his first race because he was afraid he would finish dead last in the whole race.  He felt certain his teammates would make fun of him.  He thought he might even need to give up the sport.  He kept saying if only he could even finish second to last it wouldn’t be as bad.  When he ran his first race his fear came true- he finished in last place.  What he had predicted incorrectly was the reaction of his teammates.  They were cheering him into the finish.  They gave him a pat on the back when he finished.  He felt more a part of the team than he ever had before.  He was shocked they cared so much.  He discovered that his predictions about the future were partially true, but largely untrue.

 

When we have anxiety we go through the same process.  We think something is impossible to work though.  Later we find out that somehow we survived whatever it was we dreaded.  It is rarely as unpleasant in reality as it is in our imaginations.  Even when it is as unpleasant as we imagine, we have more strength to survive than we thought.

 

Next time anxiety creeps up on you, you might try a simple exercise.  It helps me to write out all the possible outcomes.  I then try to put down what percentage chance each one has of occurring.  My emotions make me want to rate negative outcomes highly, but when I’m being honest I know I’m inflating the negative.  I am able to see that positive outcomes can happen.  It calms me down a little bit.  I then write down how I will cope with the worst outcome if it does happen.  For example, when I was a teenager I always worried that Allison would make fun of me at soccer practice when I messed up (She was not a very nice girl).  If I had done this exercise I would’ve recognized that 1) Allison might make fun of me (20%) 2) Allison won’t notice (40%) 3) Allison will notice but say nothing (15%) 4) Allison will notice but say something encouraging (25%).  I would then try to work through how I would cope if Allison did make fun of me: 1) I will look at her and say nothing or 2) I will tell her that’s not very nice or 3) I will look at one of my other friends and just shake my head.  This would’ve reduced my anxiety about soccer practice a lot.  Unfortunately I didn’t have these tools in high school so I just dreaded practice for the 3 years that we were on the same team.  How sad!

I hope this helps you or your teen next time anxiety takes over because it really is an awful feeling.  Nobody wants to dread something, and this is especially true when it’s wasted worry.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Don’t Enable Your Teen’s Bad Behavior

I write this post on the heels of a week of talking frankly to parents in my office about allowing their children to experience natural consequences.  In this era of everybody gets a trophy, we’ve all grown soft enough to believe that even a little pain can traumatize.  In actuality, pain leads to character growth.  One of the most painful experiences of my younger years was being told I would have to pay my own college tuition.  Out of that came hustle, work ethic, focus, determination, and an appreciation for my education.  If it had been handed to me I know I wouldn’t have developed the grit I have today.

Don’t enable your teen’s bad behavior.

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Sadly, it goes beyond not allowing kids to have natural consequences.  Many times I see teens who are obviously misbehaving, and their parents are enabling it!  It harms your kids more than it helps them, even though your intent is good.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Not a Perfect Parent? Join the Club

I’m not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s me admitting to one of my flaws. The important thing though is to recognize it and make a correction. Parenting is an endless stream of small corrections to stay on course.

Yah okay, so I’m not a perfect parent…

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Connecting Better With Your Teenager- Celebrate The Victories

Showing our teens we’re proud helps them connect with us.
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/ David Castillo Dominici

We all desperately want connection.  We don’t just want any connection though; we want a good connection.  When we’re on target in our relationship with our kids, it feels amazing.  They are listening to us and we’re enjoying watching them thrive.  They’re slowly stepping out into more and more independence.  However, this process is done respectfully.  How do we get more of this in our relationship with our teenagers?

 

One of the biggest things for the teens I see in my therapy practice is acknowledgement.  They feel like a million bucks when a parent points out something that was done well.  It means even more if there’s no constructive criticism attached.

 

Your teen has done something worthy of a compliment in the past week.  Even if he or she is behaving horribly, something was done well.  Perhaps your adolescent is a really loyal friend.  Maybe your teenager showed compassion to a sibling.  Did your teen show self-restraint when that is usually difficult for him or her?  Find something to celebrate.

 

Also, go big on the big moments.  It’s a nice thing to make a fuss over really big steps in your child’s life.  This doesn’t mean throwing some huge party because your teenager has finished the 10th grade.  It does means making a big deal when he or she finishes high school though.  Even if your teen finishes in a non-traditional way such as passing the GED, this is a milestone.

 

Many of the young men and women who come to therapy in my office will tell their parents something isn’t anything to fuss over.  Then they turn around and tell me they wish their parents had been present to celebrate it with them.  I’ve heard this from seemingly small events like your child’s first varsity game and your child’s best report card, to the really big things like eighth grade promotion, prom and college admission.

 

Mom and Dad, your teen wants to know you’re watching.  They want to know you’re proud.  Sometimes they want you to tell them without including what they also can improve on.  Every now and again, “Wow!  That was awesome!” is all you need to say.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Parents and Physical Affection with Teens

Teens need (and secretly want) affection from their parents. Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teens need (and secretly want) affection from their parents.
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A lot of parents wonder when their child has become too old to kiss and hug.  By time your teen graduates high school you probably don’t kiss them anymore, and might not hug them.  This seems to be particularly common between dads and their sons.  Dads also often express feeling uncomfortable holding their daughters.

 

Physical affection is a very important aspect of love.  Part of the reason it is really important is because you are building a framework for your child in their older life.  Your kid is developing a sense of what they perceive as “normal” for their adult life based on the way things work in your home.  If you and your spouse never make physical contact in front of your kids, they are less likely to be affectionate with their future spouse.  If you are a divorced parent, and you have your date come home to spend the night, your kids will learn that this is acceptable for them too.  You need to be very, very intentional about how, and to whom you show physical affection in front of your kids.

 

When your child was young, you likely hugged, kissed, held, wrestled with, and tickled them without a thought.  Once your child hit puberty, this might have felt awkward.  However, if you continue to hug them and kiss them before they leave for school, sit right next to them on the couch, or rub their shoulders from time to time, you will maintain more emotional closeness.

 

What do you do if you are already pretty far down the path of not touching your adolescent child?  What if it’s been two years since you last hugged your son or daughter?  How do you overcome this unspoken rule?  Start small.  Help your teen put their jacket on.  Help your teen take their backpack off when they get home.  Look for small opportunities where it would be acceptable to make contact.  When you feel you won’t be rejected, give a quick side hug, or a squeeze to the shoulders.  Even try a high five.  Basically, make a purposeful effort to slowly increase the frequency and duration of your physical contact with your teen.  At first they might give you a look that says, ‘Are you an alien from Mars, what are you doing?’  Eventually though, most teens warm to attention and affection from their parents.  In fact, as hard as this is to believe, most teens crave affection from their parents.

 

Remember, even if you think your teen no longer knows you exist, they are watching everything you do.  Physical touch is one area where you can make a quick impact on how they feel.  So, make it your goal today to give physical affection to your kid; they probably want and need it.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Going Back to School

For teenagers, getting back into the swing of school is a tough adjustment.  For many teens it really increases their level of stress.  Maintain perspective on what you’re there to learn.  That will help things be calmer this school year.

Keep perspective as you head back to school.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

When is it Time to Stop?

Knowing when to call something quits can be very challenging.  This becomes particularly true if it’s something we’ve done for a long time.  I see adolescents struggle with the decision of whether or not to end something when they’ve played sports for a long time, dated someone a lot time, or had a friendship that has lasted many years.  Eventually though, our lives change.  Sometimes it’s good to let certain things go so that we have more room to work at our goals.

 

Sometimes ending things we’ve done forever makes us healthier.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

“Triple C” or Coricidin Abuse

Coricidin, or "Triple C" is just an ordinary cold medicine unless it's taken in excess. Then it becomes a dangerous way to get high. Image courtesy of https://www.google.com/search?q=coricidin+images

Coricidin, or “Triple C” is just an ordinary cold medicine unless it’s taken in excess. Then it becomes a dangerous way to get high.
Image courtesy of https://www.google.com/search?q=coricidin+images

Lately there has been an upswing in teens abusing cough and cold medication.  As a parent you need to be very aware of this problem because an overdose has potentially lethal side-effects.  One of the most commonly abused cough and cold medications is Coricidin (The kids call it Triple C.)

 

The high comes from one of the chemicals in the drug, called dextromethorphan (DXM).  When taken in large quantities, it causes a euphoric feeling, sometimes hallucinations, and out of body sensations.  When taken as recommended, it is just a simple cold and cough medication for people with high blood pressure.  Teens will often take several doses of the pills at once until they feel high.

 

The side effects of Coricidin abuse are risky.  There can be mild side effects like vomiting, loss of motor control, dizziness, impaired judgement, etc.  However, there are also cases of extreme side effects like seizures, coma and death.  These side effects are often caused by an overdose of some of the other ingredients in Coricidin, such as the anithistamine.  (http://kidshealth.org/parent/h1n1_center/h1n1_center_treatment/cough_cold_medicine_abuse.html#)

 

One question a lot of parents have is, “How is my teen getting Coricidin?”  There are two main ways teens are able to get this drug.  The first is taking it right out of a medicine cabinet at home.  Many of my teenage therapy clients say they just took it from their parents or friends’ parents.  They say it was in the medicine cabinet.  The other way teens seem to be getting Coricidin is stealing from a local drug store.  Coricidin is not usually locked away behind plexiglass even though Coricidin abuse is a known problem.  The kids stick a box in their jacket, go buy a pack of gum, and just walk out.

 

It is really important to ask your teen if they have tried “Triple C” or if it has been offered to them.  It is also important to check through their stuff if you suspect it.  The risks associated with an overdose are very serious.  Please do not take it lightly if you find out they’ve tried it.

 

It’s scary because most teens really don’t know what they’re doing when they’re offered stuff like Coricidin.  They have absolutely no idea how dangerous it can be to overdose.  In fact, most teens don’t even realize you can overdose on it.  If they do, they think it can never happen to them.  Adolescents are notorious for thinking they are outside the consequences others have faced.

 

Keep having an open dialogue with your teenager.  Keep talking with them about the dangers of various drugs they might encounter.  Keep them educated on what certain drugs look like and what to watch out for.  Some parents worry if they educate their teens on certain, they are just inviting their teens to try it.  I suppose there are all kinds of kids, and in rare cases this might happen.  For most teenagers though, having knowledge helps keep them out of trouble.  You know your child best so use your judgement when deciding how much to tell them.

 

There are two good take-aways from today’s blog: 1) “Triple C” or Coricidin can be dangerous when taken in excess and 2) The most common place teenagers get things like Coricidin is their medicine cabinets at home- pay attention to what they can easily access.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

School Refusal in Teens

School refusal is often caused by anxiety about something particular. Photo courtesy of Marin from Freedigitalphotos.net

School refusal is often caused by anxiety about something particular.
Photo courtesy of Marin from Freedigitalphotos.net

As a therapist who works primarily with teenagers, it is not uncommon to see clients who have “school refusal.”  They might be willing to go to school on occasion, but it is a huge battle for parents to get them there.  School refusal has a variety of causes.  Some of these include drug use, general opposition, and anxiety.  Today I am going to focus on the anxiety component.  I believe this is the most common reason for school refusal.

 

Anxiety is an overwhelmingly unpleasant feeling usually associated with a fear of some future event.  Some teens are afraid of ridicule from peers, while others fear failing a test in class.  If your teen strongly does not want to attend school, try and find out what they are afraid of first.  There might be such a strong feeling of dread about school that a teen cannot stand the thought of attending.  Every single school day is torture and feels very scary.  I worked with one teen who was being pushed and cursed at by another boy each time he tried to get to his third period class.  He felt helpless to defend himself because when he had asked the bully to stop, he was made fun of even more.  He tried to seek help from school administrators, but then other kids started calling him a “tattle tale.”  This teen’s anxiety grew to levels that were unmanageable for him, and he began to refuse school.

 

What can you do about school refusal as a parent?  Firstly, you have to find out the reason for refusing school.  We all have days where we don’t feel like going to school or work, but we don’t adamantly refuse to go.  School refusal is normally caused by something much stronger than, “I don’t feel like it.”  Once you’ve identified the reason for school refusal, sit down with your teen and work out a plan.  If it is anxiety related, your teen needs to regain a sense of control over some situation; a plan can really help with this.

 

If you are unable to curtail the school refusal with talking and making a plan, it’s a good idea to call the school counselor and talk, and/or to seek outside help for your teen.  Usually they can’t overcome this on their own.  With anxiety, when something feels scary and then we avoid it, it feels bigger and more frightening.  Because your teenager is still relatively young, most don’t know to push through scary things in order to make them more manageable.  They tend to go with what feels most comforting in the moment, which is refusing to attend school.

 

You will face tension as you try and help your adolescent through their school refusal.  You will need to be both comforter and enforcer.  It’s a really challenging line to walk.  Your teenager needs compassion, but they also cannot be allowed to miss school.  It will really break your heart to send them to school when you know how awful it is for them, but if you continually allow them to miss, you’re doing them a disservice.

 

Sometimes loving our kids well means pushing them through emotional pain, but the good thing is we can walk beside them every step of the way.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Sassy, Irritable Teens

It’s hard to deal with irritable teens.  When they talk back to you it’s really easy to get caught up in an argument.  Here is a quick tip of something you can try.

Is your teen sassy and irritable? Here’s a quick tip.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Setting Boundaries With Teens

Good boundaries with teens leaves room for a good relationship. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Good boundaries with teens leaves room for a good relationship.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When your teenager is testing the limits of what they’re allowed to do, it can be a difficult process for you as a parent.  Suddenly your adolescent daughter has her first boyfriend and now she wants to stay out until midnight.  Or, maybe your thirteen year old son has tried pot for the first time.  What are you supposed to do?

 

1.  Be collaborative.  Teenagers have a mind of their own and it should be considered.  While they are not the final word, it’s important to include them in the discussion.  What do they think are appropriate boundaries and why?  Have your teen submit a draft of a contract to you outlining what they think they should have.  It’s tempting to believe they’ll write things like “no curfew” and “unlimited computer and phone time,” but they almost certainly won’t.  Usually they will write in things that push the limits of what you have allowed them so far, but won’t push the limits very far.

 

2.  Create a contract.  Once you have a proposal from your teenager, go over it with their other parent.  If you’re married to their other parent, this is easier of course.  If you aren’t married to their other parent, while this is a challenge, ideally the same rules will be enforced equally in both houses.  Together with their other parent, create a contract for your teen.  It should include boundaries for grades, electronics, socializing, dating, drugs and alcohol, disrespect, chores, and any other things you think are relevant to your child specifically.  Each item should have an upper and lower limit.  Here’s an example of what that means: You will earn a minimum of a 2.5.  If your GPA drops below a 2.5 you will be grounded from social activities until it’s back at a 2.5.  If you earn a 3.2 or higher GPA you will have demonstrated to us that you are working hard in school and can handle the responsibility of being social on weeknights as well.  In other words, your contract should have both positive and negative consequences for each item.

 

3.  Only set enforceable limits.  It doesn’t do any good to make up rules you have no ability to enforce.  Don’t tell your teen they cannot have a boyfriend or girlfriend when you can’t control who they talk to at school.  This will just cause them to sneak, and you to have to punish when you find out.  If you don’t want them dating it’s much better to set a limit in a way that is enforceable, such as “No dating one on one until you’re [insert age].”  This is something you can control much more easily than whether they have the title of boyfriend or girlfriend.

 

4.  Enforce your boundaries.  This is the most important of all the tips in this blog.  Once you set a rule you must enforce it, no matter what.  A lot of parents I work with come in complaining their teen doesn’t respect them.  When we dig into the reasons why, one thing that happens is they set a rule, but then negotiate with their child when it’s time to enforce the rule.  If you’ve told your teen that texting after 11pm results in their loss of the phone for 24 hours, then you need to take the phone for 24 hours.  This needs to be unemotional, no discussion, and quickly executed.  Excuses and tears cannot change how you approach boundary enforcement.  Also, your consequences should be very well known to your teen ahead of time because they will have signed the contract that says what you’re going to do.

 

Boundary setting sounds overwhelming with teens.  However, it’s actually quite simple if it’s done clearly and consistently.  They appreciate having a contract if they’re allowed to contribute to what’s in it.  If you randomly set rules, randomly enforce them and don’t let your teen have a say then they’ll hate it.  That’s when they’ll fight you on it and feel frustrated.  Having well set boundaries with your teenager leaves room for a fantastic relationship with them.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Is My Teen Lazy, Or Is There Something Else Going On?

Carrie Johnson is a therapist who works with teens, and particularly works well with teens who struggle with motivation.  Here she gives us some of her thoughts on other things she considers when a teenager is brought in to counseling for “laziness.”

Carrie has thoughts on other things to consider in teens who appear lazy.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS MFT

Uptick in Marijuana Dependence

There has been a steady increase in THC, which makes marijuana more addictive than in the past.

There has been a steady increase in THC, which makes marijuana more addictive than in the past.

Lately I have been receiving a lot of calls from parents about their teens using marijuana.  Teenagers have always experimented with marijuana, but recently something is different.  The teens who are coming in are complaining that they literally cannot quit using.  Marijuana has a reputation for being non-addictive, so why all of a sudden are there teens who feel addicted?

 

The addictive part of marijuana is called “THC.”  The potency of THC in marijuana in the US has more than doubled since the 1990s.  So, while marijuana possibly was not as addictive in the past, it is now.

 

The teens I have been working with say they have difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and a general feeling of discomfort if they stop using.  It is also so deeply ingrained psychologically that they have a hard time changing.  They have made friends around using marijuana, developed rituals and routines, and have become accustomed to lying.

 

Therapy is a good format to confront marijuana addiction.  It is really important for the teen to feel like someone understands how difficult it is to quit using.  A lot of people say things like, ‘Marijuana isn’t addictive, so just stop using it.’  Therapy is also always helpful to the teen’s parents in making changes at home that support sobriety.

 

If your teen is smoking marijuana, it is really important for you to confront them.  Don’t look the other way.  No matter what your teenager tells you, it is easy to graduate to more intense drugs.  Your teenager is also associating with people that you probably wouldn’t like.  Your teen is likely not being entirely honest with you about how frequently they use, or how much.  Marijuana is a deeper problem than people like to think.

 

When you talk with them about it, be gentle and loving.  However, if you set boundaries around drug use, make sure you stick with them.  Do something to hold your teenager accountable such as promising to randomly drug test, or take them to counseling.  Most importantly, do not be swayed by their logical arguments about why marijuana isn’t bad for them.  The newest scientific research coming out says otherwise.

 

Chances are if your teenager is using marijuana there are some noticeable signs.  Perhaps you’ve attributed these signs to them being older.  Your teen may be more argumentative, secretive, trying to have more independence, seems to lack money, is worried about money, often appears lazy, has bloodshot eyes more often than they used to, and eats a greatly increased amount of junk food in one sitting.  These symptoms don’t necessarily indicate marijuana use, but they certainly warrant you either asking or testing your child.  By the way, if your adolescent refuses a drug test, definitely be suspicious something is up.

 

It takes a lot of nerve, and love to confront your teenager on drug use.  It’s a hard thing to do because if they’re using, certainly part of you doesn’t want to know that.  They are very likely to be offended you are asking, whether they use or not.  It’s almost never an easy discussion, but it’s one of those things that has to be done from time to time.  Whoever said parenting is the best thing in life was generally right, but should have included the caveat that it’s also one of the most difficult things in life.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman MS, MFT

A Coping Tool For Anxiety In Teens

Coping is difficult for teenagers.  They don’t seem to have the ability to break a problem into small bites.  One of your jobs as a parent is to help them learn to do this.

A coping strategy for high anxiety.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Codependent Parenting of Teens

Codependency ends up hurting, not helping.
Credit: tuelekza via freedigitalphotos.net

I bring this up now because I have been seeing a lot of it lately. Before I became a therapist I didn’t really understand what codependency was. I thought maybe it was a good thing. I never could understand why two people being dependent on one another was a problem. Now I know that term is actually misleading.

Here’s what codependency really is: Bob has a problem. Jane thinks she can help Bob get over his problem. She starts to put a lot of time, money, effort, emotion and thought into helping Bob get over his problem. She becomes so wrapped up in Bob getting better that she becomes emotionally over-invested in Bob’s improving. Eventually she is totally immersed in Bob’s problem and it’s starting to cost her. She is getting worn out and burned out. However, she has also developed a dependency on Bob needing her to work on his problem. She gets self-worth out of feeling important to Bob. Jane has become codependent on Bob. As you can see this is a very unhealthy dynamic. Bob is stunted by his problem, and Jane is stunted by her over-focus on Bob fixing his problem.

I wish I could say that’s the end of the story, but there is more to Bob and Jane. When Bob finally does get better (on his own), Jane is left feeling empty. She has made her life’s purpose about Bob’s healing. Now that he’s better she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Unwittingly Jane will either drag Bob back into his problem so that she is needed again, or Jane will find a new person with a new problem to solve. Jane is never actually working on her own growth. Jane is blind to her problem.

As Dave Ramsey says, “Enablers [another word for codependent] are some of the nicest people in the world. They mean well, but they end up harming the person they love.”

What does Dave Ramsey mean by “they end up harming the person they love?” When you are codependent you often end up preventing the person you’re trying to help from experiencing natural consequences. Bob would have felt the pain of his misbehavior much sooner if Jane hadn’t have been there to mop up the mess. Perhaps Bob would have decided to change his situation earlier if he had experienced the results of his problem.

I have been seeing a lot of parents behaving codependently with their teenager in my counseling office recently. One of my clients has an addiction to marijuana. The parents are allowing that client to smoke at home, “because then he won’t get caught by the police.” The parents are meaning well in not wanting their son to get into trouble with the law, but that might be the very thing their son needs to quit using. Another client constantly complains of aches and pains. Mom takes her to every doctor, and nothing is ever found to be wrong. Instead of requiring her teenager to live a more healthy lifestyle, Mom’s codependent behavior is confirming that the child just needs to find the right diagnosis (While that might be true, over 20 doctors have said there is no problem other than lack of exercise and poor diet).

Codependency is always coming from a place of love and compassion. However, like anything, too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. Make sure your teens get to experience both the good and bad consequences of their choices.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen Cutting

Cutting is a serious problem and it is more frequent than you’d think.  Teens cut for various reasons.  In the short video below I cover some of the reasons adolescents self-harm.

Teen cutting…don’t take it lightly

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

How Social Media Creates Covetousness In Teens

Excessive social media use might lead to a weakness of character.
Credit: Ambro via freedigitalphotos.net

Teenagers use Instagram and Snapchat all the time.  Some of them use Facebook too, but I mostly hear about “Insta” and Snapchat.  These are good tools of communication.  They allow people to enjoy seeing what their friends are up to, which can be fun.  More often than not though, I am hearing about hurt feelings as a result of these apps.

 

Teens that are constantly on these apps covet what their friends have.  They covet the highlight reel of friends with boyfriends or girlfriends, friends with other friends, friends with good family relationships, friends doing fun things, and friends being recognized for achievements.  They also covet their friends’ bodies, clothes and other material possessions.  It’s an endless game of your teenager comparing himself or herself and thinking (s)he doesn’t measure up.

 

Covetousness is an ugly character trait.  It seems harmless at first.  Initially your teenager simply wishes (s)he had what “they” have.  Then (s)he feels discontented with what (s)he has.  Then (s)he begins to envy.  From there flows a desire to take short-cuts.  Short-cuts lead to lying, cheating, stealing and impatience.  This is the mark of someone who needs instant gratification to be happy.  People who live like that remind me of Esau from the Old Testament in the Bible.  Esau traded everything that came with the Ancient Israelite tradition of being a firstborn son for a meal; he was hungry so he chose instant gratification.  Your child wants to be loved, so (s)he becomes willing to be sexual with someone at a party instead of putting in all the work it takes to have a meaningful, loving relationship.  Yes, I know this is an extreme example, but a covetous character really does lead to short-cuts, which can ultimately lead to a very hard road.

 

I am not blaming social media for the poor character trait of covetousness.  That is something that comes from instant gratification.  I will tell you though that the teenage clients I see who don’t really struggle with this also don’t spend much time on social media.  While there isn’t causation, there does seem to be correlation.  Just like drinking soda every day i9s correlated to obesity, using social media appears to be correlated to an envious character.

 

There’s an old adage that if you want to be thin hang out with thin people, and if you want to be wealthy hang out with wealthy people.  Well, if you want a strong character, do what people with strong characters do.  They use social media a little bit, but they don’t live on it.  They don’t allow themselves to become so wrapped up in it that they start comparing what they see with their own lives.  People of strong character simply tend to be busy doing other things than wishing they had what someone else has.  I want this for your teenager too.  I want your teen to develop sound character so that he or she will be a positive contribution to this world instead of someone who whines because life has been “hard” and “unfair.”

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

When Your Teen Feels Discouraged

Changing your teen's outlook from discouraged to hopeful is hard, but rewarding. Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Changing your teen’s outlook from discouraged to hopeful is hard, but rewarding.
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t you hate the feeling that comes with trying as hard as you can to improve a situation, but you just feel like you’re running in place?  No matter what you do, it doesn’t seem like you can make it better.  It’s completely disheartening and frustrating.  Sometimes it shakes you to the core.  Oftentimes it bleeds into other areas of your life despite your best intentions.  This is called discouragement.

 

Teenagers get this feeling pretty frequently, and usually don’t quite have the maturity to know how to handle it.  Mom or Dad, you might notice your son or daughter becoming withdrawn and irritable.  You might observe them making negative comments and giving up much more easily than they used to.  They may resist activities they used to do in a heartbeat.  You’re left feeling perplexed as you wonder what has your teen feeling so down.

 

When adolescents don’t know how to lift themselves above a situation, it’s up to your parental instincts to help.  This can be tricky because your child may not necessarily share what has them feeling frustrated.  If it’s a certain class, they might fear telling you because they don’t want you to get upset with them.  If it’s that they can’t find a job, they may interpret your suggestions as criticisms.  If your teen is discouraged about making friends, they may find it impossible to implement things that are supposed to help.

 

My whole job consists of motivating discouraged teens and parents to make changes.  A lot of times the discouragement is about the parent/teen relationship, but it’s often about other things as well.  These things have ranged from addiction to anxiety to depression to trauma (rape, abuse, etc.) to other issues specific to each individual client.  One thing consistent across the board in helping a discouraged adolescent begin to make things better is to instill hope.

 

When you instill hope into your child it cannot be based on false premises.  You cannot tell your child they will become valedictorian of their high school if they failed during freshman year; that is literally not possible.  You CAN tell them they can still make it to a college they will truly enjoy and feel proud of if they decide to.  You cannot tell your daughter who has never done gymnastics, dance or anything else requiring grace and flexibility that she will make captain of the cheer team this year.  However, you CAN help her believe she is capable of participating in a sport, having camaraderie, getting into shape and feeling proud of it (especially no-cut sports like cross country).  It’s extremely important to help your teen set realistic expectations for him or herself, and be open to changing the picture of what they want just a little bit.  Help your teen realize it’s okay if they can’t be the most popular student in their middle school, and that having a solid group of friends makes lifelong joyful memories.

 

Fighting through discouragement with your adolescent is a challenge.  This is especially true when you feel as discouraged as they do.  I’ve sat with a lot of parents who have had to change their own expectations before they were able to help their teen instead of harp on their teen.  It’s not easy, but the rewards last a lifetime.  We’re all built a certain way, which means we have an individual purpose- starting to discover that purpose provides hope, which is the opposite of discouragement.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Giving A Teen Grace Versus Enabling

When we consider whether we’re giving our teenagers grace for a mistake compared to allowing them to get away with bad behavior, we have the opportunity to teach our children valuable lessons.

The fine line between giving a teen the right amount of grace versus enabling.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Insecure Teens

Teenagers are by their very nature insecure.  It’s difficult to feel secure in something if you’re still trying to learn about who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe.  Some insecurity is developmentally appropriate, but too much insecurity can be a problem. Here are some thoughts I have on this topic:

 

Is your teen too insecure?

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Don’t Be A Controlling Parent

Be a parent who guides and collaborates with your teen, not one who controls.
Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/photostock

Be a parent who guides, teaches and comes alongside.  Don’t be controlling.

 

What is the difference?

 

A controlling parent is one who uses guilt and other manipulations to get what he wants.  A controlling parent says things like, “After all I do for you, this is what you do?”  A controlling parent subtly derides his child’s choices.  Teens who have controlling parents often hear about how their choices in friends aren’t really the best, or their decision to stop playing a certain sport is “giving up,” or that taking every AP class is more important than exploring an interest via a certain elective class.

 

My cousin grew up with a controlling mother.  She pushed him incredibly hard and was extremely restrictive about how and with whom he spent his time.  She chose his university for him, even though she would say she didn’t.  Of course he’s the one who signed the letter of intent, but there was a quiet pressure that he dared not cross.  Even as a small child he wasn’t permitted to make a mess in the house.  There would be an angry flurry as things were picked up.  Shame and guilt were used liberally.  She honestly had his best intentions at heart, and loved him a lot.  However, she raised a boy who learned to have an extremely passive attitude in life because as he grew up it was never worth giving his own opinion.  When he went to college he came unhinged with all the new freedom.  Without someone micromanaging his life he drank, partied, and didn’t do homework.  He was the product of a controlling parent.

 

Clearly this isn’t the outcome in every situation.  The one thing I do notice though is that parents who are controlling have a parenting style driven by fear and anxiety.  They feel fearful the child they deeply love will make a costly mistake.  This fear becomes intense enough that it produces anxiety.  The anxiety is only kept at bay by controlling the child’s every move.  Unfortunately though, this isn’t very good for the child learning to recover after a mistake, learning to fail gracefully, learning to think independently, learning to self-motivate, or learning to be decisive.

 

Instead of controlling out of fear and anxiety, allow yourself to realize your child isn’t yours.  Your teenager was given to you for a short time by God’s good grace.  This means you have been entrusted with someone who will go on to live a life, possibly raise a family, have a career, make mistakes, suffer and succeed, and influence other people.  You aren’t fully responsible for this outcome.  All you can do is teach and guide.  Allow your child to fail, and then teach him how to recover.  Permit your teenager to make decisions and experience the good and bad consequences of those choices.  Be extremely patient because each day is only a snapshot, but your teen’s life is a long movie.  Realize you are a steward of your teen’s early years, and that’s it (Steward is an old fashioned word that refers to the person who managed a wealthy person’s estate and affairs.  You are a steward of your child’s early years because you aren’t their owner, just there to help your child manage properly for the first 20 or so years).  Don’t fix your errors through their life, meaning don’t force them in a direction you wish you’d taken in terms of career, sports, and dating.  Just listen, advise, discipline when necessary, reward when earned, and love always.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Help, my teen is having sex!

Your teen will learn about sex; will they learn from you or someone else? Image courtesy of stil333 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your teen will learn about sex; will they learn from you or someone else?
Image courtesy of stil333 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a parent, there are certain moments in our teenagers’ lives that we fear.  The first time they get behind the wheel of a car; the first time they come home from a party and you smell alcohol; the first time you find out they are having sex; all terrifying moments.  Some parents are not bothered by the idea of their teen having sex, as long as the teen uses protection from disease and pregnancy.  Through my years of working with teens though, I have found most parents are unprepared and definitely upset when their teen becomes sexually active.

 

Sexually active teens tend to have an intensity in their dating relationships that is less common to abstinent teens.  It is not surprising.  Sex is a very emotionally intimate process that moves a relationship to a completely different level.  To stand naked in front of someone is a metaphor for emotional vulnerability that just does not exist with clothes on.  Teens are very, very rarely mature enough to handle the emotional bonding and closeness that occurs with sex.

 

As a parent, what do you do if you discover your teen is sexually active?  Firstly, please do not be one of those parents who think that your teen’s business is private.  Please don’t be that mom who tells your daughter you’ll get her birth control and condoms, and then you won’t ask questions.  I’ve heard mom’s tell me, “As long as she’s not getting pregnant, I don’t want to know.”  This attitude leaves your child to chart very adult waters without any adult perspective.  This means the only advice your teen is getting is from his or her other inexperienced, adolescent friends.  Also, please do not be one of those parents that glorifies teenage sex.  You are not doing your child any favors by saying things like, “Way to go son, now you’re really a man.”

 

You most certainly need to sit down with your teen and have a conversation.  There need to be rules.  The teen needs to understand what comes along with the decision to be sexually active.  You are better off too old-fashioned than too permissive.  It’s okay if your teen gets mad at you.  Later, when they are no longer even speaking to their current sexual partner, they will thank you for setting limits.  It might not be for ten years, but they will thank you.  As a therapist, I have heard clients tell me they wished their parents had done more to forbid their sexual behavior in the past.  I have heard this more times than I can count from male and female clients.  This is always said after the fact, when the break-up has occurred.

 

If you can’t tell by now, I am coming from a perspective where waiting is best.  The longer your teen waits, the healthier their choices will be.  They will blossom into a person who can make mature decisions about a partner.  For all you Christian parents, talk gently with your teen about God’s design for sex.  Help them to know that God offers forgiveness for their choice, and please be graceful.  Telling them that they are a sinner who has ruined their future marriage will only engender sneaky behavior in your child.

 

No matter what, this is a difficult and delicate topic.  While you can’t avoid it, don’t be a bull in a china shop either.  Remember above all else to show love and care towards your teenager.  Don’t be afraid to inform the parents of your child’s sexual partner, but also handle this with a lot of care.  Love and respect are the first ingredients to this being a successful conversation.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Therapist’s Thoughts on Teen Driving

Should your teen be allowed to drive?  Should he get a car?  What should he pay for?  There isn’t a one size fits all answer to these questions, but they are asked often enough that I attempt to give some guidance here:

Teens and driving

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Faith Helps Anxiety

Surrounding yourself with supportive community reduces anxiety. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Surrounding yourself with supportive community reduces anxiety.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anxiety is a huge challenge for many people.  It is an obstacle that keeps them from moving forward with goals, keeps them from being close in relationships, and imprisons them.  The intense fear that something bad is going to happen feels overwhelming and upsetting.  Often, the things we worry about don’t even make sense to anyone else.  Someone might worry about something going wrong on a vacation to the point where the vacation isn’t even relaxing.  Another person might worry about being a failure in life, when she has earned A’s and B’s in school all along.  Some worry that nobody will like them, even when they have a lot of friends.  Anxiety is typically illogical, but still can be hard to control.

 

One of the best ways to help with anxiety is to rely on your faith.  Most major religions teach not to worry.  Some even call it a sin to worry.  They all want you to focus on something bigger than that thing you are concerned with right now.

 

Even if you do not have a faith in a god, there are really good lessons to learn from religion on how to deal with anxiety.  While you might not know to whom you are praying, pouring out your fears and believing something is out there that cares about you still is immensely helpful.  Getting yourself into a community of people who care about you and the struggles you are facing will strengthen you.  You might try a support group for starters.  I know there are beliefs and prejudices some of you have towards support groups; there is a stigma about people who go to support groups.  Those beliefs are generally wrong.  You will find some of the nicest, most normal people in these groups.  Going to a support group also gives you the opportunity to encourage someone else, which reduces anxiety as well.

 

Coming from a Christian perspective, God wants you to remember that he will shoulder your burdens.  Jesus already took on all the punishment you deserved for every wrongdoing you committed, so there is nothing to be afraid of.  You aren’t alone when you go through painful things because God doesn’t abandon you.  Remembering that helps you hold on to a sense of peace and joy even in your darkest of days.  Christianity also teaches us to go through things in community.  If we are suffering, we are to share the weight of our sorrows and fears with others.  When you have people supporting you and praying for you it makes a world of difference.  Things are a lot less scary when others walk through them with you.

 

Psalm 28:8-9 says: “God is all strength for his people, ample refuge for his chosen leader; Save your people and bless your heritage. Care for them; carry them like a good shepherd,” (The Message Translation).

 

Facing your worries and then moving beyond them is definitely difficult.  It is made even more difficult because we tend to walk through our anxieties by ourselves.  Going through your pain in community, and in prayer, relieves some of the stress anxiety causes.  Relying on God to guide you gives you strength and hope.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS

Co-parenting After A Divorce

I could go on about this topic for hours.  Instead I’m going to give you the one mistake I see over, and over, and over again.  Do whatever you can to avoid this one because it’s incredibly confusing for your children.

 

Don’t complain about your former spouse’s consequences to your child.  If your ex takes your child’s phone away, help your child figure out how to avoid that consequence in the future.  You can also talk privately to your ex if you think the consequence is inappropriate, but don’t tell your child something to the effect of, “Well your mom always was ridiculously harsh, so this doesn’t surprise me one bit.”  This just confuses your child and gives your teen permission to pit you and your ex against each other.

 

Here are a couple more thoughts on this:

 

Co-parenting after a divorce includes not complaining about the former spouse.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Why Dads Are Important

Teenager girls need their dads.  Period.  Unless dad is truly destructive, this is a nearly no-exception statement.

 

Why Dad’s are important

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teaching Teens About Money

Teaching teens about money is very important.
Image courtesy of sscreations at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The lessons you are able to teach your teenage child by teaching him about money are many.  As a parent you are able to use money metaphorically to build important character traits.

 

1. Work Ethic: If you reward your teen for hard work, then they learn working hard is a way to get paid.  As your teen puts in more effort and obtains more skill, the reward increases.  This is exactly what happens in life at a job.  As you become more skilled combined with working hard, you are paid more than someone with less skill who is lazy.

 

2. Contentment: We don’t want to teach complacency, but we do want to teach contentedness.  Your adolescent will appreciate what she has more if she is not gratified each time she wants something new.  She will be less inclined to use new things as a way of feeling good if she has to pay for them herself.  I’m not suggesting you require your child to pay for everything.  However, having your teen pay for many things is a really good idea because it teaches an invaluable character trait of contentment.

 

3. Patience: Adolescents who save for something are more patient by nature.  They understand good things come, but in time.  They recognize value in setting a goal and achieving it.  They see some of the joy comes in the earning and some comes in the having.

 

4. Responsibility: Responsible behavior includes living below your means.  Teens who earn their way are more responsible in general.  They have to choose between buying gas and buying marijuana.  Usually they will buy gas for their car.  Teens who have no financial responsibilities often spend their money in self-destructive ways.

 

5. Generosity: It feels good to give away someone else’s money.  It feels even better to give away your own hard earned money in order to help someone less fortunate.  Your adolescent benefits from you giving them money they can donate to charity.  Your son or daughter really feels the simultaneous pain and joy of giving their own money to church, a friend, or something that doesn’t benefit him or her directly.  It teaches generosity to start this before adulthood.  It becomes a feeling they won’t live without.  It increases awareness of the world.

 

6. Self-Control: When you give your teen $20 to see a movie and get a bite to eat, your teen spends it all.  When it’s your teen’s own money, they watch a movie on Netflix and eat at home.  Teens quickly learn how long it takes them to earn that $20, and they decide carefully how it is worth spending.  They don’t make this calculation if you give them money.

 

Defeating bad character traits like entitlement, greediness, selfishness and superficiality also are accomplished using money as a metaphor.  If you won’t give your teen everything you will help him learn work ethic, contentment, patience, responsibility, generosity, and self-control.  Who doesn’t want a kid like that?

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder can make things chaotic and overwhelming. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bipolar Disorder can make things chaotic and overwhelming.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are a few types of Bipolar Disorder.  They are labeled differently depending on their severity.  This post is about Bipolar I, the most intense form or Bipolar Disorder.

 

Bipolar Disorder (previous known as manic-depression) is a serious mental illness.  It is defined by the presence of a manic episode.  Mania isn’t just feeling happy.  Mania is a very intense, sometimes euphoric, chemical imbalance causing unusual psychological phenomena.  A manic episode means a greatly reduced need for sleep (about 0-2 hours per night).  It means coming up with grandiose ideas.  An example of a grandiose idea would be deciding, without research, to move to Alaska and drill for oil.  In some cases, mania means following through on those ideas.  The follow-through is done without forethought or planning.  It is done in a disorganized fashion.  Mania can include extreme behavior.  I once read of a man in the news who spent $50,000 at Walmart in a single afternoon; he was in the middle of a manic episode.  Someone in a manic episode might engage in dangerous behavior such as trying drugs, having sex, stealing a car, etc.  I’ve also sat with people in manic episodes who have flight of ideas and pressured speech (very rapid, ongoing speech with ideas that go from one to the next without a breath).  Not as commonly, people suffering from a manic episode can be psychotic.  Sometimes they are not sure what is real and their five senses can become confused.

 

The other piece of Bipolar Disorder is depressive episodes.  You only need a manic episode to receive a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, but usually depression is part of the picture as well.  This isn’t just your typical, ‘I feel sad because my friend is upset with me,’ kind of day.  This is can’t crawl out of bed, overwhelming anxiety, self-hating depression.  This is a major depressive episode.  It’s feeling like you can’t eat, or can’t stop eating, wish for death, nobody cares for me depression.  It’s extremely painful.  This is the place where some with bipolar feel suicidal.  Oftentimes their energy level is so greatly restricted by the depression that even if they are suicidal, they don’t have the energy to try it.  It’s a dark, terrifying place.

 

People living with bipolar didn’t choose it.  They aren’t just making “wrong choices.”  A lot of the times we lack compassion for people with mental illness.  They look fine on the outside, so we think, “Why don’t they just try harder in school?” or “Why don’t they pick better friends?” or “If they would just get organized, then they could do so much better.”  We’re so quick to judge.  We completely misunderstand how impairing mental illness can be.  If our brain isn’t functioning at capacity, things become immediately much more difficult.

 

Do you remember the last time you were really sleep-deprived?  Maybe you pulled an all-nighter with friends, or maybe you were a new parent with a 2-day old infant who needed to be fed every 2-3 hours.  A couple days of no sleep and you were no longer at your best.  Your memory became foggy, your processing speed slowed down, your energy level diminished, and your ability to be productive was gone.  This is all because your brain wasn’t at capacity.  While I’ve never heard someone with bipolar describe the struggles they face as being similar to sleep-deprivation, you can at least understand that mental illness isn’t something to just “get over.”

 

The families of people with bipolar disorder suffer greatly too.  A good place to read about what it’s like is ridingthebipolarcoaster.blogspot.com.  This blog is written by a mom who has watched a child go through bipolar disorder.  It’s scary and it causes feelings of helplessness; It’s unpredictable.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Tip For Helping Teens Open Up To You

Dear Parents,

Many of you call me asking how you can get your teenager to open up to you more than they do now.  You’d love to be one of those parents whose teenager trusts you so much that they tell you everything.  I want that for you too!

 

Here’s a short video where I cover what I think is the number one thing you can change to help your teen talk with you more openly about what’s happening in his or her life.

A tip for parents who want their teens to open up more.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Should My Teenager Have A Curfew

Maybe.  Is your teenager prone to lying about his location?  Does your teen hang out with a rough crowd?  Or, does your teen have really nice friends and demonstrate responsibility?  Different kids need different things.  This might even vary between siblings.  Parenting isn’t a one size fits all approach.  Here are some thoughts from this therapist on curfews:

Should teens have a curfew? Here’s my non-committal answer.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman MS, MFT

5 Surprising Things That Contribute to Anxiety

Stress is manageable, but we have to control the extra little things that add to it.
Credit: David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Here is a list of 5 things that raise anxiety that might surprise you:

  1. Watching a TV Series on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. It seems relaxing to sit down and watch a TV show, so why is this on the top of the list?  For your teenager, and probably for you too, having immediate access to a TV series causes stress.  This is because you get into the show and your brain finds pleasure in watching it.  When something interrupts you from watching it, you feel irritated.  This is where the stress comes in.  Homework becomes more annoying than usual for your teenager.  Chores aggravate, and so does really anything that gets in the way of finding out what happens next.  Consider watching things that have an end in each sitting like a movie or documentary.
  2. Reading/watching the news.  It is nice to know what’s going on in the world, but that’s only true to an extent.  Whatever is going on with national politics is likely to capture your attention and to cause you stress.  The thing about it is though, you can’t do anything about it.  You don’t have the time, money or influence to make much of a difference.  Beyond voting, donating a little to a cause, or calling your congressman, let it go.  Don’t get absorbed in every little crisis in the media each day.
  3. Checking emails/texts too often.  It’s okay not to check your phone more than once per hour.  It is disruptive, and it creates an anxiety that you must respond to whatever you’ve received immediately.  That also translates to an interruption in your present activity.  The more you allow interruptions, the less you can enjoy the present moment.
  4. Taking on too much activity.  For your teenager one or two social things a weekend is actually enough.  This is the same for you.  Don’t cram your day too full.  You actually can survive on less activity.  In fact, you might thrive on less.  If you’re constantly driving your teenagers to school, practices, friends’ houses and other activities, then maybe you’re saying yes too often.
  5. Commercials.  Commercials are designed to make you dissatisfied with what you have because dissatisfaction is a strong motivator to spend money.  If you look at magazines about fashion all the time, you’ll have anxiety that your wardrobe isn’t up to snuff.  If you constantly hear home improvement commercials on the radio, then you’ll think about that one project in your house you need to get done.  You probably won’t actually do it, but you will feel an increase in stress.  Your teenager is susceptible to this even more than you are.  Try to limit how much exposure they have to advertising.  I know we don’t live in caves, and so totally avoiding advertising is impossible.  However, we can try to maximize the amount of time we aren’t exposed to commercials.  When we’re reading, hiking, playing sports with friends, at the beach, swimming, etc., we’re not being fed messages of discontent.  The more screen time we have, the more we are told the way we do things isn’t good enough.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Am I Enabling My Teen’s Bad Behavior?

Coming alongside your teens instead of enabling them is a gift. Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Coming alongside your teens instead of enabling them is a gift.
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is to all the kind-hearted, well-intentioned parents who feel helpless, hopeless and frustrated:

 

Your teenager is acting up.  They might be choosing something they shouldn’t, like smoking something or drinking something.  They might seem to be suffering from something, i.e. depression or anxiety.  They might be playing endless hours of video games.  They might be doing  poorly in school or unwilling to get a job.  Pick any bad behavior that you’re sick of and add it to this paragraph; it probably applies.

 

You don’t understand how your child could be making these choices.  Why aren’t they motivated?  You’ve given them every opportunity.  How could they choose to do drugs when you’ve provided them with every alternative?  When you were their age you would’ve been thrilled if your parents had been willing to buy you a car-get you a tutor-pay your college tuition-pay for sports.  When you’ve give them all this, how come they aren’t responding the way you thought they should be?

 

Teenagers are at a crossroads where they need to have your guidance to get through difficult situations.  They still need you to point them in the right direction.  However, they are also desperately trying to figure out who they are.  They are trying to find their own way and have their own identity.  For that reason they will often reject the advice you give, or choose any direction but the one you’ve offered.  One thing is certain though, teens who earn their own way have better self-worth, more motivation, improved understanding of how the world works, and a more mature perspective.  These teens also don’t have time to make bad choices.

 

Without realizing it, you might be enabling your child’s acting out.  You might be making things too easy for them.  If you lovingly make things harder for them, they are less willing to squander it.  Teenagers who have to pay for part of their car tend to keep it cleaner.  Teens who have been cut from a sports team hustle more at practice when they do make the team.  Teens who have fought tooth and nail to get a C in a class study harder.

 

Be very intentional about teaching your child how to struggle.  I know we don’t like seeing our children struggle, especially in the cases where we can easily resolve it for them.  With your teenager it is helpful to put your name on their checking account and help them learn to manage their money.  The key word in the last sentence is THEIR.  If you put YOUR money into THEIR checking account, they are much more likely to mismanage the gift.  If they had to earn it, then they’ll be careful with it.  Your adolescent will behave better if you allow them to struggle, but help them to get through the struggle.

 

This is fine and dandy if your child is still ten, then you have time to course correct and prevent a lot of bad behaviors.  However, what do you do if your teen is fifteen, sixteen or seventeen?  Carefully inventory where you’re doing more than you should considering their age and abilities.  For example, if you’re providing a car to a 19 year old who is barely working and is smoking out all the time, it’s time to reign it in.  You might immediately think, ‘But they need the car to get to work.’  Actually, they don’t.  You’ll be amazed at how resourceful they can be.  They might learn to use the bus system.  When you take things back make sure you explain it’s to help the teenager build a sense of independence, self-sufficiency and personal pride; it’s character development.  Give them the chance to be proud of themselves.

 

Now for a quick story:

A couple years ago I had an 18 year old young woman brought to me by her parents after she got into minor trouble with the law for supplying marijuana to minors.  She was a good kid in her heart, but she was tempted by the easy way in life.  It was beginning to stunt her character development.

 

I called in dad and mom with the young woman.  We had a very frank conversation.  I told the parents (nicely of course) that they were enabling this bad behavior.  They could not believe it because they grounded her, took her phone, restricted the use of her car, etc.  I told them it was my belief that this young woman would flourish if she were forced, but wasn’t going to choose character development on her own.  I encouraged the parents to help the young woman purchase her own car in her name, have her pay off her speeding tickets, charge her a little bit of rent, let her pay her own spring semester tuition fees, get her own cell phone, and pay her own insurance.

 

They listened.  Within two months the young woman went from working 10 hours per week to thirty, worked hard in school, and most importantly very proud of herself.  She felt capable and confident for the first time in her life.  She stopped dealing drugs because she didn’t want to risk everything she’d worked for.

 

So, if your teen is acting out, check and see if you’re enabling.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell.  That’s where a really honest friend, family member, or therapist can be extremely helpful.  It’s difficult to stop, but it’s a gift to your teen if you let them learn how to struggle and win.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Stress Reduction Tip for Teens

After recently taking a vacation where there was no access to internet, and no good way to use a smart phone (other than as a camera and to play music), I realized my stress level was much lower.  When I got back from vacation I had to use the phone and internet of course, but I decided to still avoid the extras.  I haven’t been on social media, keeping up with the news, or even been checking the weather (I realize I was annoyed at the upcoming weather if it wasn’t a perfect 75 degrees).  All the information we can access is a blessing and a great tool, but not if we allow it to make us wish today were different.  We only have what’s right in front of us, and that is hard to enjoy if we’re constantly comparing to others on social media, angry about what’s in the news, or anticipating a less than temperate day.

 

Here’s a quick video of thoughts on taking a break from electronics:

 

A stress reducing tip for teens.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

“Mom, Dad, I’m so tired!”

Your teen is tired, but there is hope to help her change that.
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/frameangel

Parents, do you hear this ALL THE TIME?  Is your adolescent child constantly complaining of feeling exhausted?  Here are 5 reasons why teenagers in 2017 are just plain worn out:

 

1. They need more sleep.  Did you know an adolescent still should be getting a little over 9 hours of sleep per night?  Adults need about 8 or 8.5.  The difference here is that teenagers are still growing and developing.   You wouldn’t allow a 2 year old child to get only 7 hours of sleep per night, so why are you allowing your 15 year old to only get 5 or 6?  Sleep needs to be guarded and prioritized above friends, screen time (video games, phones, Netflix), sports and sometimes even homework.  It is the magic elixir that prevents illness, prevents depression, allows clarity of thought, elevates moods, improves memory, gives incredible amounts of energy, and restores breakdowns within the body.  Sleep is imperative.

 

2.  Their diet needs to be improved.  It is really easy to overlook diet in children because they’re children.  They are so active that they don’t look fat.  They seem to eat whatever and feel fine.  Honestly though, once you feed your teenager a truly healthy diet you’ll probably see a difference.  Teens go out to eat often.  This means they are possibly filling up on empty calories.  They aren’t getting enough vitamins through fruits and vegetables, and they are getting too much salt and sugar.  Teenagers also consume a pretty good amount of caffeine.  While caffeine is a band-aid, it isn’t part of the recipe to optimum health.  Help them eat right so their energy can improve.

 

3.  They don’t know how to be still.   Psalm 46:10 in the Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Our culture has lost the art of being still.  Oh sure, we know how to sit and not physically move, but we never still our minds.  I bet your teenager sleeps with his phone beside his bed, uses it as his alarm to wake up, checks texts and social media right away, and always has music playing.  We are never just quiet and still anymore.  It helps your teenager re-energize if he can learn to sit outside, enjoy the breeze, listen to the sounds and observe what is around…without an electronic device.

 

4. They are over-committed.  There are so many good things to do with our time.  However, saying yes to everything prevents any of us from doing one or two things well.  Believe me, if I said yes to every client who called, I never would have learned how to specialize in working with adolescents.  Your teenager can’t say yes to everything either.  Your child might already know she intends to major in engineering in college.  In that case it is probably better that she learns AP Physics well instead of halfway understanding AP Physics and AP US History.  Maybe, just maybe, AP US History isn’t useful for her particular goals.

 

5.  They need to shut off their phones.  Do you realize how much longer it takes to complete an assignment when you stop every one to two minutes to read and respond to a text message?  It will easily double the time needed.  Imagine driving in traffic.  It is much slower to start and stop constantly than to just cruise along to your destination.  Your adolescent is a master at keeping two or three threads of thought running at the same time: your daughter is engaged in two different text conversations and is concentrating on that paper she’s trying to write.  Help her see something very important: things that feel urgent aren’t always important.  Answering someone’s text feels like it needs to be done quickly, but usually it isn’t important.  Can you remember the text conversation you had with your friend from three weeks ago?  Your teen can’t either.  Help your child learn that while Americans constantly multi-task, all the research shows this is detrimental to performance and efficiency.  Can you imagine if your surgeon were multi-tasking!?!

 

Parents, I’m sure you noticed that these 5 things don’t just apply to kids.  They are also why you feel tired.  They are also why I get tired.  I find it’s a constant battle to sleep more, eat better, say no to good things, rest my body AND mind, and put down my phone.  However, it’s a battle I’ll keep fighting because I don’t want to be cranky and exhausted.  I know you don’t want to be either, and neither does your teen.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

 

 

Helping Teens Feel Less Pressure

Orange County teenagers are under a lot of pressure.  Period.

 

Our teenagers are expected to attend a prestigious university, keep up with social media, perform in a sport, actively attend church, and do well in school.  What is difficult is that all those things are really good things, and yet maybe it’s too much.  How do you say no to a good thing?  This is really challenging for parents too because we are given the doomsday speech if any of these things are dropped.  Yikes!  What a conundrum!

 

Here are my thoughts on that after spending thousands of hours counseling Orange County teenagers:

 

Helping teens feel less pressure

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen Use of Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic Cigarettes may be a gateway for teens to use other substances. Image courtesy of patrisyu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Electronic Cigarettes may be a gateway for teens to use other substances.
Image courtesy of patrisyu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parents, you may or may not be aware of a new trend among teens and young adults.  They are called electronic cigarettes.  They are also known as vapes, vapor cigarettes, e-cigarettes, mods, and e-cigs.  These are devices that create steam instead of smoke.  The steam is inhaled, and whatever chemicals are mixed in with the steam go into the body.  In general e-cigarettes are used to get nicotine into the body, but they are also used for many other things.

 

The main intent of electronic cigarettes is to help someone quit smoking.  The belief is that inhaling steam is far less damaging to the body than inhaling smoke.  Someone trying to end a cigarette addiction might buy an e-cig in order to use a plan that helps them quit smoking.  They would buy various levels of nicotine to put into their electronic cigarette.  They would start out at a higher dose, and then gradually drop down to a lower and lower dose.  At some point the dosage is so low they can completely quit needing nicotine.  This has been successful for a number of people.

 

However, as is true with all things, there is a way to abuse the vapor cigarettes.  One thing I have heard repeatedly from my teenage clients is that they would never try a traditional cigarette because they are disgusted by the smell, taste and health effects of smoke.  However, they do not see any problem with trying an electronic cigarette.  In fact, many of those who would not normally smoke, do use vapes.  This is exposing teens to nicotine who probably would never have otherwise tried it.  If they are exposed often enough to nicotine, they risk becoming hooked on one of the most addictive substances in the world.  The bottom line of what I am trying to say is that electronic cigarettes very well can be a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes for adolescents.

 

The other way e-cigarettes are commonly abused is through the use of “dabs.”  Dabs are little bits of wax that contain cannabinoids.  I’ve also heard of people buying oils for the electronic cigarettes that contain cannabinoids.  Dabs and these oils essentially allow a person to get high from marijuana using an electronic cigarette.  The problem with this for parents is that it doesn’t leave a smell, so it is very, very difficult to detect when your teenager is doing it.  Marijuana is an addictive substance, despite what you may have heard or read.  Numerous studies have shown there are deleterious effects to the developing adolescent’s brain when they abuse marijuana.  Vapor cigarettes have made it easier for teenagers to get high without being caught.  Also, teens seem generally more willing to try marijuana when it is in an electronic cigarette because teenagers perceive electronic cigarettes to be less unhealthy than traditional methods of smoking.

 

The reason I wanted to write about this is because a lot of parents are not yet aware of electronic cigarettes.  So, now that you know, include this on the list of things that you ask your teenager.  You probably already ask them if they ever drink with friends.  Now also ask if they ever use an electronic cigarette, or if any of their friends do.  I’m willing to bet at the least one of their friends uses one.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

How A Therapist Helps With Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are awful.  If you’ve ever had one, then you know you’d prefer to never experience it again.  People who are panicked feel so physically overwhelmed by their body’s reaction to adrenaline that many of them go to the emergency room.  I’ve heard it described as “feeling like I’m going to die.”  What’s even worse is that for some, the attacks are totally random.  Suddenly the body is in a state of fight or flight, but there seems to be no trigger for it.

 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is known to be very helpful for sufferers of Panic Disorder.  Here is just one of the ways a cognitive behavioral therapist helps:

 

How therapists help with panic attacks.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Do Eating Disorders Happen To Boys Too?

When males struggle with body image issues it can take over their life.
Credit: David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net

Yes, eating disorders happen to males too.  It’s not as commonly discussed, and it’s not quite as prevalent, but it definitely happens.

 

What are some signs your son might have an eating disorder?

Here are some things I screen for when I work with adolescent males who seem very body conscious:

1. Has he become obsessed with working out? Is your son going to the gym so often that you wonder whether it’s unhealthy for him? Do you feel concerned he’s lifting too much weight and might end up injured? This can be a sign of an eating disorder in a male.

2. Is your adolescent son highly concerned with his percentage of body fat? Girls talk in pounds. Boys talk in percentage of body fat. I hear of boys wanting to get their body fat percentage down to 4% or so. They think this way they’ll look “really cut.” This isn’t healthy though. Our bodies need a certain amount of fat to function.

3. Do you notice your son trying to diet a lot? Boys who have eating disorders often attempt to skip meals or only eat fruits and vegetables for a certain meal. They want to be thinner. Because their ideal body is different than a female, this can confuse us. They may not desire to look emaciated, but their ideal is probably as airbrushed and unrealistic as any female with an eating disorder.

4. Does your son refuse to eat certain food groups? Usually males want to bulk up on protein and cut down on carbs. They won’t eat bread, chips, and sweets. Your son might be doing this because he has become body obsessed.

There are other things I screen for when assessing for body image issues, but these four are always included. If you notice these things happening, it warrants a conversation. Your son might not be very likely to see his behavior as problematic. Remember to stay on track with what is actually healthy and don’t allow yourself to be convinced otherwise.

It’s important to help your son know what he is doing to himself by overly focusing on his body. First of all, starvation coupled with excessive exercise potentially has dangerous physical consequences.

The second potential problem with too much focus on the body is character development. Anytime we become obsessed with one area of development we neglect the other parts of our life. If your son only thinks about how to make his body look and feel a certain way, then he isn’t concerned enough with working on all the other things that will make him a good man. He may exclude himself from social situations because he doesn’t want to miss a workout. He might not be emotionally present on a date because he’s worried about what to do when she wants to order dessert. He might be unable to focus in class because his caloric intake is too low.

Body image issues in teenagers seem more prevalent than ever. Males are increasingly admitting to this pressure when we meet for therapy.  Some of them go so far as to diet and/or excessively exercise. It’s really important to bring this up with your son if you notice it.  Your interference will help your son get back on track to being a well-rounded young man.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Should I Help My Teen Who Isn’t Doing Homework?

Knowing when to help a teenager who isn’t getting homework done is tricky.  Some kids aren’t doing it because they don’t comprehend it, and they don’t know how to tell you that.  Those kids need your help.

 

Other adolescents aren’t getting their homework done just because they don’t feel like doing it.  As parents it’s our job to teach them how to complete tasks they don’t want to do.  An unfortunate part of life is that we all have to pay a price to win; we all have to do things we don’t enjoy in order to be successful.

 

As a therapist who works with teenagers, I hear the question about homework all the time.  My answer usually is something to the effect of,  “Allowing natural consequences is best.”  If your teen is someone who won’t enjoy getting a F or a 0 on as assignment, then let him or her fail.  It only takes one bad experience to learn a very valuable lesson.  If your teenager truly doesn’t care about school or success at all, then there are different issues and you might consider setting up a therapy appointment.

 

Here are some quick thoughts on allowing kids to experience small failures in school:

Should you help your teenager if they’re not doing their homework?

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Helping Teens to Think

We’ve become a passive culture.  We often absorb information but don’t think it through carefully.  Some of the adolescents I work with struggle with this.  They absorb from teachers, from you and from social media.  I was this way as a teen too.  Work with your kids on learning to think through things carefully.  This will always help them in life.

 

Don’t believe anything you hear!

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Meth Abuse

Crystal Meth, Ice, Glass, Speed, Methamphetamine, Meth...A dangerous and addictive substance that ruins lives.

Crystal Meth, Ice, Glass, Speed, Methamphetamine, Meth…A dangerous and addictive substance that ruins lives.

If you’re the parent of a child using methamphetamine, let me start by sitting with you in your fear for a moment.  Your heart hurts like you’ve never imagined.  Every parent’s worst nightmare is the death of their child.  When your kid is using hard drugs, that fear feels a lot closer to reality.  Knowing how little control you have over this situation is also devastating.  Feeling the shame of other people making sympathetic comments but still wondering if they secretly are judging you leaves you feeling lonely and disconnected.  This is a very hard journey you’re on.  My heart goes out to you, and you are included in my nightly prayers.

 

The abuse of methamphetamine is becoming rampant.  It is relatively inexpensive for a hard drug, and the first high is supposedly so wonderful that it is extremely difficult not to use again.  A lot of people report feeling hooked after their first use.  Some estimate there are 24.7 million abusers worldwide.  I think that is probably a conservative guess because meth abusers tend to be difficult to track.

 

Here are some of the signs you might see if your teenager is abusing meth:

  • rapid weight loss
  • periods of intense irritability and hyperactivity lasting several hours to even a few days
  • periods of long hours of sleep and exhaustion
  • dilated eyes
  • they are suddenly out of money
  • selling their things
  • paranoia or intense anxiety
  • paraphernalia in their room
  • inability to meet responsibilities like homework, chores and curfews
  • seems sneaky, like not going where they say they are
  • lying

These are also signs of other problems.  Don’t assume your teenager is doing meth if you see these signs.  Just be aware it’s one of the possibilities.

 

Meth has several names.  It is referred to as ice, glass, crystal, crystal meth, and speed.  The prescription drug form of methamphetamine is Desoxyn.  It is rarely prescribed anymore because of its addictive nature and dangerous side effects.

 

There are essentially five ways to get meth into the body.  The two less common ways are to swallow it, or to take it in a suppository.  More commonly meth is injected, smoked or snorted.  It is possible to overdose on meth.  An overdose can cause brain damage, heart damage or in extreme cases, death.

 

The high from methamphetamine is an intense burst of energy and euphoria.  Many abusers say it helps them think very clearly and to focus.  The high differs based on how and why the user is using it.  Some take it orally in small doses to focus on a long, tedious task such as studying or completing a project.  Most people who are abusing meth on a regular bases are looking for the longer, more intense high that comes from injecting or smoking.  This is usually what you think of when you think of someone who abuses meth.  They go on a “bender,” typically lasting from 1-3 days.  They are wired, hyper, feel invincible, and energetic.

 

After the high ends comes the “crash.”  This is the complete exhaustion that results from not taking care of the body’s needs such as sleep, hydration, eating, and hygiene.  The body can be so depleted that the person might sleep for a full day or even two.  After that the withdrawals include an extreme depression and sadness.  Unfortunately the only remedy for this depression is to either get high again, or to quit using.  Most people elect to get high again because the depression has been known to linger for up to six months.  It is a true colorless pit of depression.  A friend of mine who had been sober for three years once told me it took her about six months before she noticed the sky was blue, flowers had beauty and things stopped generally seeming dingy.  She said her perception of reality had been skewed.  She said the depression that came from the damage she had done to her brain was nearly unbearable and it took everything she had not to use again.

 

For users who become addicted, they rapidly develop tolerance.  This means they need more and more of the drug to achieve any effect.  It also means each and every high is less intense.  At some point all the drug does is stave off the withdrawals even though there is no longer a high.

 

If you are the parent of a child using, I strongly urge you to get into a community of parents who have kids struggling with drugs.  You will find the support you need for the days you feel like you can’t even breathe.  Three good options are CODA, Alanon and Celebrate Recovery.  They all have support groups that might help you walk though how to effectively help your teen.  If you’re not the support group type, another good option is therapy.  A therapist with a background in addiction recovery can help you understand options, point out ways that you might be accidentally enabling your child, and give you the safe space you need to work through your emotions around what has happened.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

 

Some of the information shared in this blog post was gathered from drugfreeworld.org, some was gathered from my own experiences when I worked on the detox ward of a psychiatric hospital, and some from the clients I’ve worked with over the years who have endured the painful battle with a methamphetamine addiction.

Anxiety- Fearing the Worst Case Scenario

We tend to overestimate the worst-case scenario. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We tend to overestimate the worst-case scenario.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever wondered what anxiety is?  We have all experienced it to an extent, some worse than others.  It often starts with overestimating the likelihood of a bad situation.

 

I will give an example from my personal life.  When I finished college I went out and got my first “career job.”  I put that in quotes because it was the first job related to my field of study, and I saw it as a place I could possibly work for years.  About four weeks after I began, my direct supervisor stepped down and an interim supervisor was put in place.  As management started to settle into place, it became clear that the department head was a micromanager; she was also condescending and cold.  As someone new to the staff, and as someone who has always confronted challenges in a personable manner, I struggled with the department head’s style.  It got to the point where I had intense anxiety and dread course through my body every time I saw her extension on my caller ID.  That progressed into me flinching whenever my phone rang because it might be her.  She kind of reminded me of Cruella Deville (a very stylish dresser, but self-serving).

 

At home I began to think about work all the time.  I started to hate my chosen profession.  I began to search for ways to avoid the situation that I found so untenable.  Worst of all were my beliefs about my future.  I felt certain “Cruella” would fire or suspend me for any minor infraction or patient complaint.  Given that I was working with drug addicts in their first days of detox, people whose physical misery means they do not tend to be a happy bunch), a complaint was inevitable.  The point is, my fear of the worst case scenario was causing intense anxiety.  Of course this fear never came to light.

 

If you find you or your teen is experiencing anxiety, then it is time to evaluate whether you are overestimating the likelihood of the worst case scenario.  Try to understand that people are not good at predicting the future, and neither are you.  While the worst case scenario could occur, whatever you are fearing will probably end up being just another mundane experience.  How many times have you assumed something would turn out so badly that you just couldn’t bear it?  And yet, you’re still here!  Now we even call those times “growing experiences.”

 

Try very hard to examine EVERY possible outcome.  While your teenage son might have intense anxiety that he will get an F on his next history exam, help him realize he also might get a D, C, B or even an A.  Help him know that somehow others have passed this teacher’s class.  You believe he will find a way to pass too.  Remind him of all the times he thought he’d earn a horrible grade, but didn’t.

 

I worked with a girl for a long time who was certain she would never get accepted into any college.  She thought her GPA was too low and her SAT scores were mediocre at best.  In fact, her grades were a little above average and her SAT score was a little bit above average too.  She was so surprised when she was accepted into 6 out of the 9 schools she applied to, and the one she chose even offered her a 75% tuition scholarship based on her grades.  She just couldn’t believe it!  Looking back she realizes she was terrible at predicting the future because her anxiety made her certain the worst-case scenario would come true.

 

Help your teenager look at the situation he is facing and be much more realistic about the possible outcomes; it will probably be better than he thinks.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Raising Your Teen In A Faith Community

Having your teenager involved in your faith community is extremely important for their development.  If you are a Christian, engage in a church.  I don’t just mean to attend on Sundays.  I mean to dive in and volunteer, join a bible study group, and participate in volunteer activities.  The same goes for synagogue, mosque, temple, and any other associated place of worship with your family’s faith.  Your teen will learn things that are hard to glean from school and social media.  Your son or daughter will learn his or her place in the scope of things, how to be obedient, self-control, positive coping skills through a relationship with God, and develop deep friendships.

 

Here are more thoughts on this:

 

Thoughts on having a faith community when raising teens.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Therapist’s Perspective On Teens Who Don’t Fit In

Bullying can devastate your teen. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bullying can devastate your teen.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The topic of bullying comes up a lot in my line of work.  It is brutally painful for tweens and teens to be picked on by their peers.  One 12 year old girl started counseling a few months ago because she can’t figure out how to fit in at school.  It turns out people clear the lunch tables when she sits down.  When I first met her, this was really difficult to understand.  She dressed appropriately, had normal hygiene, was friendly and altogether delightful.  What makes certain kids the outcasts?

 

After working with this issue for several years, it seems to me bullying occurs more frequently in middle school, and maybe the early high school years.  Middle school appears to be the worst time, especially for girls.  It also seems to me there are three types of kids.  There are the kids who are assertive (and sometimes aggressive), the kids who are neutral (and generally left alone), and the kids who are picked on.

 

In early adolescence, the children that are assertive tend to be popular.  These are the kids who don’t take crap from anyone.  If someone is talking behind their backs, these kids get mad.  They confront their accusers with attitude.  They sometimes pick on someone else a little bit and make the other kids slightly afraid of them.  On the surface they don’t seem to care what anyone else thinks.  They are a little bit louder, a little bit more socially advanced, and a little bit more willing to break the rules.  These teenagers do not necessarily make up the “bad crowd,” but they aren’t usually in the chess club or the 4.0 club either.

 

The neutral kids are the quieter ones.  They have their group of friends, and they are content with this.  They don’t have any ambition to move up to the next social group, or to be seen as popular.  They usually earn pretty good grades, and they don’t rock the boat.  These kids are probably what we’d think of as the “typical” middle school or high school student.  They are into their particular hobby, whether it be band, theater or sports, and they don’t cause a lot of trouble.  They also don’t get teased very much.

 

The third group of kids are the ones who get bullied.  These are teens who are naturally programmed to care what everyone thinks of them.  These teens cry when others gossip about them instead of getting angry.  They take it to heart when someone says they run funny, and then forever feel self-conscious in P.E. class.  They suck up to the more popular kids because they don’t want the popular kids to be mean to them.  These kids are easily taken advantage of because of their efforts to gain favor with everyone.  Sometimes they are naive.  These children are naturally non-assertive.  If they are assertive, they don’t do it in a way that earns the respect of their peers, only in a way that causes them to be mocked.

 

No matter which group your teenager is in, help them understand it is not their permanent position.  At some point we are differentiated from our peers in terms of our abilities and ambition.  Eventually it is no longer about certain personality traits that you were born with.  In general, middle school and high school years are years that can include a lot of insecurity.  Some of the more insecure teenagers I knew have grown up to be amazing adults.  Help your child know he or she is building character for the future.  Remind your teen that wisdom is born from suffering, and compassion is born from rejection.  Don’t let them lose sight of the big picture as tweens and teens are apt to do.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MFT, MS

When A Teen Dating Relationship Is Unhealthy

Teenagers often get serious with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  Sometimes this helps them learn about getting along with someone close, and about cooperation and compromise.  Other times though it is clear the relationship is toxic.  It would be best for the teenagers to go their separate ways.  Here are my thoughts on when it might be time to call it quits:

 

What does healthy teenage dating look like?

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Father’s Role With Teens

Dads, do you find you aren’t sure what your job is with your adolescent kids?  Are you sometimes confused on whether you’re simply the provider, or if you’re still making a big impact?

 

You are most certainly making a HUGE impact on your teen’s life.  You are your daughter’s visionary.  You are your son’s navigator.  Your teenage kids will choose much better with your positive input.

 

The role of dads with teenage kids

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Family is Very Important for Teenagers

Family is what creates a safe place for teens to grow into mature adults.
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/photostock

Family doesn’t always seem like a top priority to teenagers.  They certainly spend more time with their friends.  They are more concerned with what friends are up to on social media than what their mom posts (unless mom posts something a teenager’s friends might see).  It’s hard to go from having small kids who want nothing more than attention from a parent, to having older kids who want nothing less than attention from a parent.

 

Actually though, family is still the most important thing in a teenager’s life.  I know this is true because I listen to teen’s talk about what is in their hearts for hours each week.  For the most part teens want to talk about their family situation.  They bring up other topics too, but this is often at the top of their list.

 

By keeping the family situation as stable as possible, you are creating safety for your teen.  Your adolescent son or daughter wants to go out and explore the world.  However, knowing there is a safety net makes this process much easier.  It’s part of their developmental process.  Within the next few years they will internalize the safety you’ve always provided.  This enables your son or daughter to branch out as they leave the house.  For now though, they really want to feel independent without actually being independent.

 

The need to feel independent often puts you in a bind as a parent.  I usually encourage parents to allow their teens to do as much as the teenager can safely handle.  One teen I worked with drank every chance he got.  The result was that his parents had to keep him on a short leash because he couldn’t maturely deal with much freedom.  Another teenager I worked with was self-motivated with her homework and didn’t go where she wasn’t supposed to go.  Her parents didn’t even need to give her a curfew.  In both of these cases though, family played a very important role.

 

With the boy who was drinking too much alcohol, the love and structure of his family is what got him back on track.  With the girl who pretty much always made good choices, her family’s constant cheerleading meant everything to her.

 

Your child’s brothers and sisters will be lifelong relationships; their peers probably will not.  This doesn’t mean you need to artificially create closeness between them, but it does mean sometimes you need to not allow friends along on family outings (this includes boyfriends and girlfriends).  It’s okay for there to be a few hours a week that are only for your family.  It might be met with complaints, but it’s part of that secure base every teen needs in life.

 

Family is frequently pushed to the back-burner by a teenager.  As a parent you can’t allow this to happen.  It’s your job to help your child balance family with their social life, academic pressures, athletics, and whatever other obligations your teenager has.  Time with family will be their place of rest and refuge if you work to create a place of safety and love.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Even Therapists Have Had Eating Disorders

When I was a teenager I started to believe I could be “just a little more fit,” and “lose just a few pounds.”  I got into a cycle that didn’t really get under control until I was 22 years old.  I CONSTANTLY thought about my body.  I worried I was gaining weight.  I worried I had cellulite.  It didn’t take much to trigger this.  Hear more about my battle with bulimia, non-purging type in this quick video:

 

My 7 year battle with bulimia as a teen (yes, even therapists have had eating disorders).

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Is my teenager addicted to technology?

Technology addiction in teens is a growing problem. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Technology addiction in teens is a growing problem.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12 signs your teenager might be a technology addict:

1.  Cannot part with the smart phone: If you are at the dinner table, your teenager has their phone sitting beside their dinner plate.  You cannot get them to give it to you at night and you have caught them texting at 2 or 3 in the morning on more than one occasion.

2.  Is missing sleep to play games/check Snapchat/text:  Teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep to function at their optimum level.  If your teenager is getting fewer than that and yet spends multiple hours doing useless online tasks, they are losing sleep for online time.

3.  Has more online friendships than offline:  Teenagers who constantly text, Snapchat, Instagram, talk through Xbox Live, and other forms of online socializing might have this problem.  This is particularly true when you never actually see any friends in person, and when your teenager never seems to go out.

4.  Spends more than 3 hours a day in front of a screen:  They do need some screen time to complete homework.  That’s just the way it goes these days.  However, checking messages hundreds of times per day takes a lot of time, and is addictive.

5.  Is unhealthy in other areas of life as a direct result of screen time:  If your adolescent is not taking care of their spiritual, emotional, academic, family, social and physical health it’s because those things all require a little bit of time and effort.  When all available energy goes into online activity, there often isn’t much left over for the real world.

6.  You are fighting about technology use all the time:  Do you find yourself constantly irritated by how much time your teen is spending on their phone/computer/gaming console?  Are you asking them to stop all the time, or threatening to take away their electronics?  Maybe you wish you could have a conversation about something else for a change, or even a conversation at all.  This can be a sign of electronics addiction.

7.  Sneaks it when you say no:  You’ve turned off the wifi and told your teen they cannot use the internet for the rest of the day.  You catch them using their data plan on their phone, or sneaking to turn the internet back on.

8.  Won’t engage with family on account of using an electronic:  The family is getting together to go out to dinner, watch a movie, or play a game.  Your teenager has no interest in joining you because they’d rather watch Netflix or play video games.

9.  Is better at video gaming than anything else in life:  Your teen’s primary skill is video gaming.  They are extremely talented at playing video games, but cannot cook an egg, hammer in a nail or write an essay.  We are good at skills we spend time working to improve.  If your teenager only develops skills with a gaming remote, then they won’t have much to market to the real world later in life.

10.  Only requests technology related gifts for birthdays and holidays:  Your teenager isn’t asking for new clothes, to be taken to a certain restaurant, or for movie theater gift cards.  The only thing they want you to get for them is the new version of a game they like to play, the most recent version of the iPhone, a new tablet, etc.

11.  Is only motivated by access to electronics:  The only way you seem to be able to get your adolescent to complete tasks is to either bribe them with a new electronic gadget, or threaten to take away their current gadget.  They don’t want to work for money, pride of doing a good job, or to learn useful skills for their future.

12.  Chooses screen time over personal hygiene:  Your teenager really should shower more than they do.  However, shower time is procrastinated because they are watching Netflix, playing a game or can’t put down the phone.  Sometimes it gets so late they end up missing days of personal care.  You now feel like you’re on their back all the time like when they were 3 years old and didn’t like to take a bath.

 

Technology addiction in adolescents is a serious growing problem.  It is difficult for parents to understand because we didn’t grow up with nearly as many distractions.  There was one phone in the house and it was attached to the wall with a cord.  The family might have had a single computer and splurged for 10 hours per month of dial up internet access.  As a teen if we were bored we had to call a friend, read a book, go for a walk, etc.  Now there is an instant way to be entertained and feel good.  Once this turns into addiction, it becomes a huge battle in the home.  It is frustrating and overwhelming for parents.  Getting help to get life back on track is essential to everyone’s well being.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Therapist’s Thoughts on Stressed Out Teens

When your teenager is stressed out all the time, it’s time to take a look at their schedule.  Are they involved in too many activities?  Are they trying to take every hard class that exists?  Ask yourself what it’s all for and whether it’s worthwhile.  It’s important to remember they need to learn how to rest and care for themselves just as much as they need to learn drive.

 

 

Stressed out teen? Maybe they’re overcommitted.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Showing Love to Your Teens

Love your teens with grace, affection and rules. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Love your teens with grace, affection and rules.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teenagers are at an age where they are often more consumed with their friends than with their family.  Actually, this is just how it appears on the outside.  When they were little they liked to snuggle in your lap, and a Friday night with Mom and Dad was as good as anything.  Now they want to be with their friends on the weekends, and it doesn’t seem like they really care what you think or feel; this is all a facade.

 

In the counseling room the majority of clients I work with discuss their families, not their friends.  They want approval, love and attention from their parents.  When your children were really small, like toddler-small, you probably noticed they were more content to play when you were somewhere nearby.  If you were in the same room they were happier than if they couldn’t see you.  This is the same for teens, but their “room” is much bigger.

 

Teens don’t literally need you in the same room anymore, but they still need you to provide them security and safety.  When you kindly give a limit, like a 10:00 curfew, you’re saying, “I love you.”  They might protest and argue, but they are also secretly glad you care enough to keep tabs on them.  When you insist on being hugged before bed each night they might squirm or roll their eyes, but believe me, they secretly like it.  When you tell your daughter she’s beautiful, or your son that he’s a great catch, you might get a look of dismissal, but you’ve helped his or her self-image.

 

Showing love to teenagers is more complicated than it was when your kids were small.  You used to be able to pick them up and swing them around.  You’d be rewarded immediately with giggles and smiles.  Now you pick them up from soccer practice and swing them all over town depending on what extra-curricular activity is scheduled for the evening, and sometimes you don’t even get a thank you.  You’re rewarded months or years later when they make a good decision at a party, or when they have the fortitude to push through a hard course in college.

 

It’s really important to remember that teens are operating on a larger, more independent scale than they did just a few years ago.  Your job is to give them all the same things you always have: affection, praise, limits, rules, expectations, and grace.  You have to constantly evolve in how you give these things to your teen.  They are growing up and maturing very quickly.  Just when you think you’ve got it down, they change.  When you keep your eye on the end-goal, which is to raise a functional and healthy adult, you won’t fight all the tiny battles.  Keeping your eye on the end-goal also helps you to love your teen better.  When they go through a period of bad behavior, you’re not as panicked because you know you’re not at the end yet.

 

Keep on the course and love your teenager with compassion, firmness and affection.  Stay with it; the results will show later on.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Anxiety and Wanting to Quit

Anxiety is overwhelming and frustrating. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anxiety is overwhelming and frustrating.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you struggle with anxiety, it makes you want to quit.  Let’s take the example of Brandon, who has really bad test anxiety.  Perhaps he wants to go to college to become a teacher.  So, Brandon signs up for classes and starts going.  It is great at first because he is only listening to lectures and writing papers.  However, midterms start.  Brandon has such terrible test anxiety that he cannot sleep the night before, studies ineffectively, and feels as if his mind is blank during the exams.  His stomach aches the day of the test and he is too nervous to eat.  This becomes so unbearable that he starts to say to himself, “Maybe I don’t really want to teach after all.  I was much happier when I was working in retail.”  So, to avoid the horrible feelings of anxiety, Brandon quits.

 

Here is the problem Brandon now has: Because the test anxiety caused Brandon to quit, he now is more afraid of tests than before.  As miserable as it is, pushing through a fear is essential to overcoming it.  When things calm down again, Brandon then wishes he had pushed through because he really dreams of becoming a teacher.  Since Brandon quit though, school seems even bigger and more scary than it did the last time.  Each time Brandon repeats this pattern he is making his situation worse.

 

When your anxiety makes you want to quit or avoid a situation, just remember that if you give in, the situation will actually become more scary next time.  Sometimes this is really hard to do, so getting a little help is necessary.

 

One thing I have teenagers do who have anxiety about a situation is to make a list.  We write down the thing they fear most, then something slightly less scary, and something even less scary until we reach a level that isn’t scary at all.  For Brandon it might look like this:

  1. College Finals
  2. College Mid-terms
  3. An online mid-term or final
  4. A college quiz
  5. An online quiz
  6. A practice exam on the school campus
  7. A practice exam done at home

Brandon would then be instructed to start with a practice exam done at home.  He would repeat it until it was associated with absolutely no anxiety.  Next he would take a practice exam on the college campus.  He’d repeat this process until it no longer caused any anxiety.  He would continue to work his way up the list.

 

Let’s say Brandon successfully worked his way all the way to number 2, taking a college mid-term.  When he got to this one he was unable to complete it because of his fear.  If that happens it is important to break it down into a smaller step once again.  Brandon might need to visualize taking a successful college mid-term on a daily basis and then try again.

 

If your teenager is racked with anxiety about a specific situation, try to help them push through.  Do not let them quit unless the situation is dangerous to their health.  We build fortitude by pushing through emotionally challenging situations.  Adults who lack fortitude also lack success: don’t let this be your teen.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teens Need More Sleep

As a therapist who works with teenagers I see a lot of depression and anxiety cases.  In the majority of these situations my adolescent clients improves greatly with better sleep hygiene.  When they are careful about turning off their phones at night, going to bed at a decent time, cutting the caffeine off by mid-afternoon at latest, and keeping a sleep schedule that allows them to be in bed for about 9 hours per night, their other symptoms tend to improve in a big way.  Here are my thoughts on the importance of sleep for teens:

 

Never underestimate the importance of your teenager getting enough sleep!

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

The Power of Positive Thoughts

Positive thinking improves your whole life. Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Positive thinking improves your whole life.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Feeling a little bit negative today?  Worried you’re not going to do a good job on your project?  Concerned you will make your teenager mad when you get home?  Focusing on negative worries like this actually makes them more likely to happen.

 

Trying to see things with a positive outlook is essential to a better life.  It is not always easy though.  Sometimes the things that are worrying us or dragging us down seem to overtake our thoughts.  In my office, I often hear about parents feeling completely overwhelmed with a negative choice their teen has made.  It seems to pervade every aspect of their lives.

 

There is an interesting phenomenon shown to be true through research in social psychology.  It is called the self-fulfilling prophecy. This means if you to say something is going to happen in a certain way, you will inadvertently behave in a manner that increases the likelihood of this being true.  For example, Justin says, “I am going to play terribly in my soccer game.  I can just feel it.”  To get comfort from the negative feeling he might eat comforting foods such as candy, or warm up poorly for his game because he has less focus on playing well and more focus on how big the other team looks.  Then he actually will play worse than normal.  This increases his anxiety next time he plays.

 

Self-fulfilling prophecies work in the opposite direction too.  If you think positively, you are more likely to behave in a way that creates a positive outcome, thereby lowering anxiety.  Positive thinking in one area also spreads to other parts of your life.  Melissa decides to think positively about her upcoming math test.  As a result she studies with more confidence.  She is also nicer to her parents because she is not distracted by worry.  Since she is nicer to her parents, they take a more encouraging tone about her test instead of their usual warnings that she study harder.  Melissa’s positive thinking has an impact on her behavior, which causes others to behave better, which reduces her stress, which helps her perform better on her math test.

 

Do you remember that guy in high school who always said he was going to be the next big thing?  You’d look at him and think, ‘Uh huh, sure…’  Then he pulled it off!  He lived out a self-fulfilling prophecy.  He increased his overall motivation by predicting something about his future.  Your prediction about yourself has to be made with conviction to have an impact on how you behave.  We often predict the negative with conviction; why not start predicting the positive with conviction?

 

It is not natural to think positively.  It’s important to remember things will very rarely be perfect all at the same time, so stop waiting for that day when all your ducks are in a row.  Start living positively (and with less anxiety) today.  It’s a choice.  If you make positive predictions for yourself, you will get there.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Few Signs of Teen Drug Use

What are some signs my teenager is using drugs?  This is a questions I am asked fairly often.  Here’s a quick response:

 

A few signs of drug use in teens.

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Drug use in your adolescent child is heartbreaking.  It is a difficult struggle to overcome for the whole family.  As a therapist who works with teenagers who use drugs on a fairly regular basis, I encourage you to simply take this one step at a time.  It is incredibly overwhelming to try and plan for the whole picture at once.  While you want to keep the end goal in mind, you can only do today.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Strategy for an Argumentative Teenager

Teenagers argue.  They are trying to figure out their opinions, and they test their shifting convictions out with Mom and Dad.  Sometimes they get carried away though.  If you think you’re teenager has taken it too far, here’s a quick strategy to consider:

 

 

A strategy for an argumentative teen.

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Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Is My Teenager Having Sex?

Adolescents generally don’t have the emotional maturity to handle the fall-out of being sexually active.
Credit: stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

If you’re asking this question, then there’s a good chance the answer is yes.

 

Now for the follow-up question: Is this a problem for you?

 

Let me be very candid about where I stand on this.  I don’t want you to feel surprised if you call me or any of the members of our team here at Teen Therapy OC.  I think it’s a problem if your teenager is having sex.  The other therapists who work here, Carrie and Seth, also think it’s a problem.

 

There are some parents who feel fine about this.  There are other parents who are glad for their teenager.  They want their son or daughter to have this experience.  I actually do understand where you’re coming from.  I can see your side of it and I’m not here to condemn you for they way you’re looking at this situation.

 

Here’s why I see it differently.  Adolescents are all heart and no brain.  Of course I’m being facetious, but they really do feel a lot more than they think.  Their hearts are tender and vulnerable.  They become extremely idealistic when they think they are experiencing love.  Once they begin having sex this simply amplifies.

 

Your teenager is opening himself or herself up to a world of emotional pain once they are having sex with someone.  Their partner is probably going to change his or her mind about your child.  Right now they are lavishing compliments and all kinds of attention on your son or daughter.  Your son or daughter is doing the same in return.  As life progresses, drama unfolds, and teens are just teens, minds will be changed.  Most likely the person who “loves” your child now is going to becomes spiteful and hateful.  There simply isn’t the maturity to carry on as though nothing has happened when everything has happened.  Also, your teen’s partner is very likely in their social circle.  There won’t be the luxury of no longer seeing one another.  It is a train wreck waiting to happen.

 

Your teen is opening himself or herself up to physical danger too.  I’m not talking about being beaten or raped, although that is also a possibility.  I’m talking about venereal diseases.  These are absolutely real.  While many of them can be cured, many of them cannot.  Your daughter might contract a silent strain of HPV that she’s not aware of until she’s older and she keeps having miscarriages, or until she’s diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Your son might get HIV.  This is not some distant risk that wouldn’t ever happen to your kid.  These diseases are rampant among teens.  I have worked with hundreds of teenagers throughout my tenure as a therapist.  Of those who are having sex, many have had multiple partners.

 

Let me tell you a quick story: One sweet girl I saw at one point started seeing a boy.  Two weeks in she felt confident he was going to commit to her soon, so she started having sex with him.  Time went by and he refused to acknowledge her as his girlfriend, “but that’s okay because he’s not sleeping with anyone else.”  Her best friend was having sex with another boy who wouldn’t commit, and who told her he planned to continue “hooking up” with other people.  Their other friend was in a relationship, but had about eight previous partners.  Her boyfriend had never been with anyone but her, but he was exposed to the eight she’d been with plus all the other people they’d been with.  Their other friend never had sex of any kind and was very comfortable with herself remaining patient and abstinent.  The last member of this group of friends had sex with a different person every week.  This last girl’s mother got her a birth control implant and essentially said, “good enough.”  The risk with all these girls was that reportedly none of them used condoms.  They were all only 16 years old.  With the exception of the abstinent one, they all had self-esteem struggles.  Just as an interesting aside, the abstinent one was the only one whose father lived in the home.  You may think I’m making this up, but this is a real story from the trenches.

 

So, is your teen having sex?  I hope not.  If they are though, be gentle and kind.  Have a lot of discussion.  Teach them everything you can about their self-worth, love, and safety.  When I have a sexually active teenage client (which I do all the time), I am patient and non-judgmental.  I talk very openly with them about the risks, while trying my best to help them pick up the pieces when they get hurt (not if, but when).  I try to help them see life is a journey and we all have things to learn.  I know this first-hand because I was no saint as a teenager.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen Anxiety…Are Our Teens Too Busy?

Being too busy is overwhelming and causes anxiety. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being too busy is overwhelming and causes anxiety.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do you do if your teenager seems generally overwhelmed?

These days the pressures on many high school students are off the charts.  The honors students are expected to maintain above a 4.0 GPA, a job, a sport and a social life.  They are told in order to get into college they will need incredible grades and SAT scores as well as a slew of extra-cirricular activities.  First of all, weighting a GPA on something beyond a four-point scale is a lot of pressure; you’re child might have straight-A’s and still not feel good about it because they only have one AP class.  I’ve heard some high school students tell me, “I’m not getting very good grades,” and they have a 3.6 GPA!
On top of all this most of the teenagers have phones with more capabilities than computers did five years ago.  They are constantly texting, emailing and posting on Facebook or Instagram.  While it is nice to stay in contact with friends, this is more noise in their lives.  More noise means more stress.
It is important to help your teenager understand the benefits of taking a day a week to be phone, homework, job, sports and stress-free.  Teach your teen how to enjoy reading a book or walking the dog.  Teach them the benefit of slowing down.  If all you teach them is to hurry up and get ahead they will never learn satisfaction with what they have.  As a result, they will always feel overwhelmed and like they’re underperforming.
If you want your teen to stop feeling so overwhelmed then you have to model what is important in life.  Get your priorities in order, which has to include time for fun and rest.  This will greatly impact your children in a positive manner by setting a good example.  Besides that, you will spend more quality time with them.  There is nothing better for a teen than that (even if they protest).
If you’ve gone “offline” recently, you know it is hard at first.  The first few hours, and maybe even the first few days feel like something is missing.  Being aware of this feeling will help you relate to your teenager when you tell them to go offline too.  They will feel disconnected and a little bit disoriented.  It’s not going to help if you tell them that you never had a cell phone growing up and you were fine.  Things WERE different back then.  Nowadays teenagers mostly make their plans through Snapchat, group chats and anything else to do with their personal phones.  When you have your teenager take a day off, they will be missing out.  It’s your job to help them understand it’s good for us to “miss out” sometimes.
Try not to overbook your child.  Our Southern California culture teaches teens to be extremely busy and involved.  While there is value in accomplishing things, there is also value in learning to be content and peaceful.  Keep yourself fresh and keep your children fresh- don’t have them doing 20 things that may or may not actually benefit them.  Keep perspective on when their grades are good enough.  Teach your children how to be content without being complacent.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Signs of Depression In Teenagers

What are some signs your teenager is experiencing depression?  As therapists we look for several signs.  Some of them are included here:

 

A few signs of possible adolescent depression.

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Keep your eye out for a mention of suicidal thoughts, your teen telling you he or she feels depressed, changes in appetite and/or sleep, isolation and irritability.  If your teenager is exhibiting those symptoms, please feel free to call for a discussion.  The call is free.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

What Are Teens Anxious About?

Teenagers worry about how they will measure up.
Credit: tiniroma/ freedigitalphotos.net

You  might wonder what your teenager is worried about these days.  Of course it varies, but I’ll give you the run-down of the things I hear most often in my office when I’m doing therapy with teenagers.

1.  Do my parents approve of what I’m doing?  Your kid is concerned with what you think of them.  They may act as though they couldn’t care less, but that’s not actually true.

 

2.  What do my friends think of me?  Adolescents are consumed with concerns about being liked and being accepted.  While we know how little that will matter in the long run, their world begins and ends with Friday night.  It’s difficult for them to see that being popular isn’t the end all be all.

 

3.  How will I survive my schoolwork?  The specific concern about this varies from teen to teen.  Some worry about just passing a class.  Others worry about getting everything done.  Most of them do spend at least some amount of time telling me they are worried about how they will do in school.

 

4.  Is my family okay?  This is one of the most common concerns I hear about.  Teenagers whose parents aren’t getting along, whose parents express concerns over money or a job, whose parents talk about an illness, etc., worry.  Adolescents may act like you’re not their main concern, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  They worry about siblings and grandparents.  They love their family.  You give them security.  If they sense you aren’t doing well, they feel unsettled.

 

5.  Do I have a future?  Teenagers get existential angst.  We have told them their whole life how the world is their oyster.  Consequently they have spent a lifetime knowing they have a zillion choices of how to spend their life.  When it comes time to pick just one it feels very frightening.  Closing the door on all the others is closing the door on many other things they’ve thought about doing.  They also have to wrestle with how to overcome the challenges of “becoming” the thing they choose.  For example, if they decide to be a doctor they have calculus, organic chemistry, microbiology, physiology and other very difficult classes to get high grades in…and then they have medical school.

 

Your teenager has A LOT to think about.  We put tons of pressure on them to be successful.  This isn’t a bad thing.  We want them to know what they are capable of.  But, as with all things, there are two sides to this.  The first is that they have a better chance of doing well if they know what’s available.  The second is that they worry about what you think, if you’re okay and if they measure up.  They worry about measuring up with their peers too.  Adolescence is a tough time in life when it comes to managing lots of pressure.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Tip For Creating A Better Connection With Your Teen

Carrie Johnson has worked at Teen Therapy OC for four years.  She does incredible counseling work with teenagers and families.  Her quick tip on how to create a better connection with your teenager reminds you how important it is to acknowledge when your adolescent does something good.  It’s very easy for us parents to correct our kids more than we commend them.  Take a quick listen:

Carrie Johnson’s excellent tip for connecting better with your kids.

A video posted by Teen Therapy OC (@laurengoodmanmft) on

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Video Gaming Addiction In Teens

Gaming creates psychological addiction in teenagers.
Credit: Idea Go/freedigitalphotos.net

Something you might be struggling with is how to control much your teenager uses video games.  Teens completely lose track of time while they are playing engrossing and challenging video games.  This can become so severe that they become sleep deprived, stop exercising, do all their socializing with other people playing the games and watch their grades plummet.  You might feel like your relationship with your teenager has gone downhill.  You used to spend time together but now they are always itching to get back on the computer or back to the Xbox.  It’s driving you nuts!  It also has you very worried.

 

What do you do?

 

Before you do anything you have to remind yourself that you’re the parent.  This doesn’t mean you become rude or threatening, but it does mean you know it’s your house.  You’re paying the bills.  You most likely bought the Xbox.  Once you firmly believe this and have truly gathered the grit you’ll need to regain who is in charge, you’re ready.

 

Step 1:  You and your child’s other parent need to remember many times in the past when you set a boundary for your child out of love.  Go back to when they were really small because it’s very straight-forward when they’re young.  You used to make them hold your hand when they crossed the street.  Although they wanted to run into the street, you stopped them because you loved them enough to keep them from being hit by a car.  They might have protested and even tried to pull their hand away, but you held on tight.  When they got a little bit older you didn’t let them go swimming without an adult present.  You loved your child enough to tell them they had to wait until someone could sit and make sure they were safe at the pool.  You loved them too much to let them drown.  They might have protested then too, but you understood that children don’t necessarily see the danger in an activity they really want to do.  When they were even older you made them finish their homework assignments.  You understood that they didn’t want to do it, and you hated to see them struggle and be frustrated, but you loved them enough to ensure they could read, write and do some math.  You get the idea.  Come up with at least 10 examples of when you parented out of love even when your child didn’t appreciate the limits you set.

 

Step 2:  You and the child’s other parent need to define the consequences of what will happen if your child continues to be addicted to video games.  You don’t need to share this with your kid, you just need to know it for your own sake.  You need to know what the metaphorical cars are that might hit your child if he runs into the metaphorical street.  For example, “If my daughter continues to play 5 hours of video games per day, she will not develop the social skills she needs to have healthy friendships.”  Another example is, “If my son continues to spend his whole weekend playing video games, he will not get the exercise he needs to have a healthy body and live a long, pain-free life.”  Keep going with this until you have exhausted the list.  Again, this is essential because you have to know the dangers from which you’re protecting your child.  You have to see how addictive video gaming can lead to emotional death, physical ailment, stunted development, etc.  This has to become scary enough to YOU that you are ready for the fight you will probably have when you set limits.

 

Step 3:  Define the limits and consequences.  You and your child’s other parent still need to work together on this.  Decide together how often your teenager will have screen time, and what the consequences are if your teen sneaks more game time.  Make sure you are both on the same page with this.  If you truly think your child has an addiction then it is advisable to completely eliminate any form of computer and online gaming for at least 6 months.  Your child needs to “dry out.”

 

Step 4:  Present your plan to your teenager.  You will probably get an argument, comments about how you’re stupid, or a lot of tears.  Stay extremely calm and even show empathy (Remember, they’ve just lost their favorite activity and access to online friends).  Do not bend though.  This is not a compromise.  You run your house and you are the parent.

 

I know this is not easy.  Once you really walk through these steps you realize how much of an addiction your teenager has.  It is alarming to realize the dangers your teen is facing.  They are indirect dangers since your teenager is physically at home, in a chair.  They are dangers that come from an isolated, inactive lifestyle.  Stay the course and be patient.  Eventually your child will actually tell you he or she is glad you intervened.  This is once they re-engage in the real world.  Until then, remember that loving your kid well doesn’t mean always being liked.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

 

Your Adolescent Daughter and Her Phone

A question my clients’ parents ask me ALL THE TIME is something to the effect of, “How do we manage the cell phone?”

Managing your teen daughter's cell phone

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Is your teenage daughter always on her phone?  Do you wonder whether it’s too much?  Do you worry about whether it’s affecting her ability to get homework done?

 

Here are some thoughts on what to do about a teenage girl and her phone:

First Video Post

I’m really excited because new for 2017 will be a once a week video post.  Here’s the announcement!

 

Video blog announcement (1/16/17)

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A Poem About Addiction

Addiction to drugs is heartbreaking for the rest of the family.

I was browsing the internet today for poetry that captures how a family member feels who has an addicted sibling, child, parent, etc. I think this poem captured it beautifully. It is very sad.
The Battle
© Julie
The words that have yet been spoken
The things I need to say.
To voice what’s within my heart
I just can’t find a way.
I’ve fought with my emotions
I’ve held them deep inside.
I didn’t want to face what for so long
You’ve tried to hide.
I’ve been lost within the dark
for so long I’ve seen no light.
Holding on to the memory
of a time when things were right.
I’ve looked upon your face
and seen the sadness in your eyes.
The battle of addiction
you no longer can disguise.
I’ve prayed to find the answers
of what I myself must do.
And I’ve prayed for the strength to fight
through the hell that I go through.I’ve held on for so long
but I can no longer watch you die.
I cannot fight this for you
but Lord knows how I’ve tried.
It’s just so hard to watch the ones you love
slowly slip away.
That’s why I just blocked it out
and held onto yesterday.
I don’t have all the answers
or the power to save your soul.
You’re broken, lost and lonely
and I cannot make you whole.
This fight is yours and yours alone
no matter what I do.
For I cannot save you
the only one who can
is you.
Poem Source: The Battle Of Addiction, Addiction Poemshttp://www.familyfriendpoems.com/family/poetry.asp?poem=19622#ixzz13ayD0CeI

Wow! That is so powerful. This is a great poem though. It really helps us understand both the heartbreak family members feel, and the struggle they go through to stop trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.

Helping teens grow, and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

10 Tips for School-Related Anxiety

School causes so much anxiety for some teens. Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

School causes so much anxiety for some teens.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

School causes a lot of anxiety.  There seem to be two areas where this is most true: socially and with grades.  For some teenagers school is so overwhelming that they can hardly handle it.  Towards the end of every vacation they start to feel intensely stressed and irritable.  It becomes difficult for your teen to remember they are at school to learn; they begin to think school is a place where they will be socially and academically scrutinized.  What follows are 10 tips that help reduce some of the nervous feelings.

1.  Study regularly over the course of the whole week before an exam.  Cramming causes more exhaustion and anxiety.
2.  Do not lose perspective, pray instead.  Just because someone says something rude about you does not make it true.  It also does not mean everyone else will believe it is true.  What God and your family think of you matter much, much more.
3.  Remember to breathe.  It is very helpful to take deep breaths when taking a test, or at any time when feeling anxiety.
4.  Talk to someone.  Letting a friend know when you don’t feel your best can sincerely give you relief.
5.  Choose wisely.  Your friends have a lot to do with how you feel.  Unlike your family, you can choose your friends.
6.  Get to know your teachers.  If you take the time to talk to them a little bit you will feel better in their classes.
7.  Watch the caffeine intake.  Drinking soda or coffee contributes a lot to feelings of nervousness.  It is better to get a little exercise.  That wakes you up too.
8.  Stretch.  If you are standing in the halls between classes lean back and stretch a little.  This usually feels good and is almost always calming.
9.  Smile.  If you struggle socially it is very likely you keep your head down and forget to smile.  Just by walking around with a smile more people will talk with you.
10.  Get enough sleep.  If you are not sleeping enough then it is a big challenge to maintain your poise when you need it.  You probably have to get up early for school so just go to bed sooner.
If you remember to employ these techniques you will feel a little better on your bad days.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Faith and Adolescence

Teens with a faith often have very strong character development.
Credit: graur razvan ionut/freedigitalphotos.net

I counsel adolescents.  My clients range in age from 12 to 24.  Over the past 8.5 years of doing this, I have noticed some things about this age range:

  1. They search for an identity.
  2. They have a hard time realizing anything is more important than the self.  This doesn’t mean they are selfish, it just means they struggle to put great effort into causes beyond themselves.
  3. Peers seem to hold the most sway.
  4. Roots are put down in their character development that remain for the rest of their lives.
  5. You can tell A LOT about their ambition and dreams based on who surrounds them.  Show me a 15 year old’s friends, and I will make a fairly reliable prediction of their future trajectory.

For the reasons listed above, having your adolescent involved in a faith community is of immense importance.  So many of us want to say we’ll be open-minded and let our children choose their own path as adults.  That is really nice in theory, but the reality of such a choice doesn’t pan out as well as we might hope.  Our adolescents are greatly influenced by who is around them.  Let’s address this point by point.

  1. They search for an identity: An identity given by other teenagers is likely to include things we don’t really hope for our kids.  They might get into drugs, partying, sex, or on the opposite end they might think the college they attend is the end-all be-all.  They might be like I was and think how fit and thin I looked was everything.

On the other hand, if God is creating your child’s identity, what could be better than that?  God loves us, gives us purpose, requires us to think beyond ourselves, and causes us to look at the big picture.  Adolescents who have a God-given self-identity seem to look past Friday night.

  1. They have a hard time realizing anything is more important than the self: When your teenager is consistently in youth group and small groups, they are reminded regularly that they are not the center of the world.  Every single week they are asked to come up with ways they can care for others who are less fortunate.  Faith communities are rarely self-focused.
  2. Peers seem to hold the most sway: Do you prefer your teenager’s primary influence be their friends who use drugs and have sex, or do you prefer they be church-type kids?  I am not so naive to assume these two are mutually exclusive, but you do find more morally minded teens in faith-based functions than at parties.
  3. Roots are put down in their character development that remain for the rest of their lives: When teens self-direct their free time, they tend to sneak, lie and push the limits.  It’s not because they are trying to be evil, but because they don’t want their parents curtailing their fun.  These habits plant seeds that remain long past adolescence.  When teenagers are involved in upstanding activities, they are proud to tell you the truth.  They are encouraged to be honest and humble.  These qualities continue long into adulthood.
  4. You can tell A LOT about their ambitions and dreams based on who surrounds them: Adolescents drift one direction or another.  If their teenage friends are all smoking pot and will attend junior college, your teenager probably aims about that high as well.  If all their friends are thinking of how to serve the community, and how to go to university, your teenager is aiming there too.  A lot of the high aiming kids are also involved in their faith community.

Even though you don’t feel like it, taking the time to involve the family in church, synagogue, etc. is well worthwhile.  You will create lasting habits of discipline, humility, morality, and selflessness.  These qualities stave off self-imposed troubles in life that stem from greed, lust, immediate gratification, entitlement and a me-first mentality.  Parents, plant a seed; get your family into your faith in God.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

When Should I Send My Teen Away?

Teens dealing with depression feel very alone.
Credit: Jeanne Claire Maarbes via freedigitalphotos.net

When is it time for you to send your teenager away?  Where should you send them?  What do you do and where do you start?

 

It is time to send your teenager away when you no longer have any authority over him or her.  When you tell your daughter she isn’t going out tonight and she walks right out the front door, you have a problem.  When your teenager runs away on a regular basis, you’ve lost your authority.  When your adolescent continues to harm himself despite your best efforts, it’s beyond your ability as a parent.

 

In these situations you always call for help.  If your teenager runs away then you call the police.  If your child is self-harming then you take him or her to the emergency room if you are certain they won’t jump out of your car.  Otherwise you call 9-1-1 and let the paramedics and police provide the transport.

 

These scenarios are frightening and frustrating.  You have set limits repeatedly.  Your daughter or son has violated those limits repeatedly.  The more they do this, the more they realize ultimately you are powerless to stop him or her.  You can take his phone.  You can tell her she’s grounded for the next 6 months.  Most teenagers will obey you when you’re truly angry.  However, some kids just won’t.  It’s time for your teen to go to residential treatment because you no longer have authority.

 

How do you even do this?  How do you send your teen to residential treatment, and where?  There are hundreds of programs throughout the United States that claim to address these very issues.  They help with everything ranging from intensely bad attitudes to drug addiction.  The problem you face is that you’re about to spend thousands of dollars, and to send your own child into the care of strangers far away from home.  The thought is literally terrifying.  The thought of keeping your teenager at home is also terrifying.  It’s a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

 

In these situations everyone wants to sell you on why their program is the best.  You might talk to someone who claims to know all about several options, but they will only show you the facilities owned by their parent company.  Remember, this is a business.

 

There are really two options left.  You can either travel to several of the facilities you’re considering and take a tour, or you can hire an independent educational consultant.  If you travel to the facilities make sure to ask a thousand questions including how your child will receive emergency medical treatment if it’s needed (many of these locations are quite remote).  If you hire an independent educational consultant you pay a significant fee to gain access to discounts, scholarships, and someone who has toured a large number of programs.  A good educational consultant ends up saving you more than your fee because they negotiate a better price for you with the facility.  They also provide invaluable information when your child will transition back home.  They are in charge of connecting you with a good therapist, helping your child re-enroll in school, and decide whether to send your teenager to boarding school, a specialized private school, or back into public school.

 

I realize this process is incredibly overwhelming.  You’re not sure what you’re supposed to do anymore.  Your adolescent is out of control and you feel powerless to stop it.  You love this child with all your heart, but you’re tired of the constant fear and irritation.  When it’s time to send your teen away you’ll know because you’ll feel like there’s no other choice.  Sometimes doing the right thing is the most heartbreaking thing.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

How to Deal With Video Gaming Addiction

Video Gaming Addiction in teenagers can cause serious relational difficulties. Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Video Gaming Addiction in teenagers can cause serious relational difficulties.
Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Something you might be struggling with is how to control much your teenager uses video games.  Teens completely lose track of time while they are playing engrossing and challenging video games.  This can become so severe that they become sleep deprived, stop exercising, do all their socializing with other people playing the games and watch their grades plummet.  You might feel like your relationship with your teenager has gone downhill.  You used to spend time together but now they are always itching to get back on the computer or back to the Xbox.  It’s driving you nuts!  It also has you very worried.

 

What do you do?

 

Before you do anything you have to remind yourself that you’re the parent.  This doesn’t mean you become rude or threatening, but it does mean you know it’s your house.  You’re paying the bills.  You most likely bought the Xbox.  Once you firmly believe this and have truly gathered the grit you’ll need to regain who is in charge, you’re ready.

 

Step 1:  You and your child’s other parent need to remember many times in the past when you set a boundary for your child out of love.  Go back to when they were really small because it’s very straight-forward when they’re young.  You used to make them hold your hand when they crossed the street.  Although they wanted to run into the street, you stopped them because you loved them enough to keep them from being hit by a car.  They might have protested and even tried to pull their hand away, but you held on tight.  When they got a little bit older you didn’t let them go swimming without an adult present.  You loved your child enough to tell them they had to wait until someone could sit and make sure they were safe at the pool.  You loved them too much to let them drown.  They might have protested then too, but you understood that children don’t necessarily see the danger in an activity they really want to do.  When they were even older you made them finish their homework assignments.  You understood that they didn’t want to do it, and you hated to see them struggle and be frustrated, but you loved them enough to ensure they could read, write and do some math.  You get the idea.  Come up with at least 10 examples of when you parented out of love even when your child didn’t appreciate the limits you set.

 

Step 2:  You and the child’s other parent need to define the consequences of what will happen if your child continues to be addicted to video games.  You don’t need to share this with your kid, you just need to know it for your own sake.  You need to know what the metaphorical cars are that might hit your child if he runs into the metaphorical street.  For example, “If my daughter continues to play 5 hours of video games per day, she will not develop the social skills she needs to have healthy friendships.”  Another example is, “If my son continues to spend his whole weekend playing video games, he will not get the exercise he needs to have a healthy body and live a long, pain-free life.”  Keep going with this until you have exhausted the list.  Again, this is essential because you have to know the dangers from which you’re protecting your child.  You have to see how addictive video gaming can lead to emotional death, physical ailment, stunted development, etc.  This has to become scary enough to YOU that you are ready for the fight you will probably have when you set limits.

 

Step 3:  Define the limits and consequences.  You and your child’s other parent still need to work together on this.  Decide together how often your teenager will have screen time, and what the consequences are if your teen sneaks more game time.  Make sure you are both on the same page with this.  If you truly think your child has an addiction then it is advisable to completely eliminate any form of computer and online gaming for at least 6 months.  Your child needs to “dry out.”

 

Step 4:  Present your plan to your teenager.  You will probably get an argument, comments about how you’re stupid, or a lot of tears.  Stay extremely calm and even show empathy (Remember, they’ve just lost their favorite activity and access to online friends).  Do not bend though.  This is not a compromise.  You run your house and you are the parent.

 

I know this is not easy.  Once you really walk through these steps you realize how much of an addiction your teenager has.  It is alarming to realize the dangers your teen is facing.  They are indirect dangers since your teenager is physically at home, in a chair.  They are dangers that come from an isolated, inactive lifestyle.  Stay the course and be patient.  Eventually your child will actually tell you he or she is glad you intervened.  This is once they re-engage in the real world.  Until then, remember that loving your kid well doesn’t mean always being liked.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen Dating Relationships

Teens need your input when they start dating. Freedigitalphotos.net: photo stock

Teens need your input when they start dating.
Freedigitalphotos.net: photo stock

It’s bound to happen eventually.  Your son or daughter has a boy/girlfriend.  You’re happy for them, but you feel trepidation too.  What does it mean for them to have a boyfriend or girlfriend?

 

Answer: It really depends.

 

Some dating relationships are more like a special friendship.  It’s someone your adolescent texts more often than other friends.  They might sit near each other at lunch, and they have an automatic date to dances.  It’s pretty innocent.  This kind of dating is every parent’s dream!

 

For some teenagers having a boyfriend or girlfriend means becoming sexually active.  The best predictor of this is how their friends behave.  If you know your teenager’s friends “hook-up” [For teens these days this term implies anything ranging from kissing to having intercourse] with people at parties, and those that are in stable relationships are having sex, then your adolescent probably thinks that’s what’s expected of him or her too.  It is really difficult for teens to go against the grain of their friends, even in something that should be a personal decision.

 

I’ve been counseling teenagers now for a little over ten years.  The collective experience of Teen Therapy OC counselors is 28 years.  One thing we all readily agree on is that less is more when it comes to teen dating.  We feel convinced that once teenagers become sexually active with a boyfriend or girlfriend the relationship moves to an intensity an adolescent is rarely mature enough to handle.  We also believe adolescent relationships that include a lot of time with friends tend to keep teens happier.  In other words, if your teenager no longer spends time with his or her friend group, it’s a red flag that things are too serious.

 

Parents, be careful not to lose your authority when your teen is dating.  You’re still older, wiser and in charge.  Your job isn’t to be liked, but to guide and protect.  The more you embrace the person your teen is dating, the less your teenager has to be sneaky.  However, some basic rules can really help the situation:

  1.  Don’t let your teenager be in his or her bedroom with their boy/girlfriend, even with the door open.  They should be out in the family room.
  2. Hands out when they are sharing a blanket on the couch.
  3. Make sure their boyfriend/girlfriend always comes to the door if they are taking your teenager out.  YOU should be answering the door, not your adolescent.
  4. Include your teenager’s boy/girlfriend in your family activities sometimes.  You want to make sure you have a lot of conversations with this person too.  For a time they will be a big influence on your child’s character, so let’s know the person with the influence.
  5. Always take your child’s side.  Some parents aren’t supportive of their own teenager when there is an argument.  This is hurtful to your child.  If his or her behavior was wrong, it’s still best to tell your teen you’ll be here for him or her even though he/she messed up.
  6. Monitor the conversations occurring on text, Snapchat and Instagram.  These conversations can become too intense; it has become commonplace for one teen to ask another for naked photos.  While we know that’s wildly inappropriate, teens are used to it.  They aren’t even appalled by the question!

You’re navigating new waters as a parent.  It wasn’t too many years ago that you were an adolescent enjoying the attention of your first boy/girlfriend.  You were hoping for opportunities to be alone with that person, and trying to balance what you were comfortable with and where to draw the line.  If you were anything like me, you didn’t actually have the maturity to do this, and made some mistakes you’d take back if you could.  Your child doesn’t have the maturity yet either.  Though he/she might look like a young adult, an adolescent brain is still forming.  Your teenager needs your input as he/she dates!

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Dads, your teen daughters need you

Dads, this one is for you:

 

Your teenage daughter needs you.  I know you often feel irrelevant while she’s this age.  She is so busy.  She’s out with her friends, focused on school, starting to become independent, etc.  She still needs you.  It seems like she doesn’t care much about what you think anymore.  In fact, she might be rude to you or telling you off.  She still needs you.  She quite possibly needs you more than anyone else in her life right now.  I know she’s probably closer with her mom.  I know she probably shares secrets with mom and won’t tell you things, but it’s you she really needs.

 

Here’s why:

1.  She wants to know she’s valuable.  You can tell her how much she’s worth just in the way you look at her.  It’s pretty alarming when your little girl started to look like a woman.  It’s kind of intimidating to go hug her and tell her she’s beautiful.  As a society we’ve instilled a deep paranoia about adult males being creepy towards teenage girls.  This has created an invisible cultural barrier that may keep you from making physical contact with your daughter.  However, your valuing her means she doesn’t have to look for it elsewhere.  Your affection towards her affirms her importance to you.

2.  She needs to feel attractive.  Your daughter has just begun to realize there are certain people who make the grade, and certain ones who don’t.  Her deepest fear is that she won’t measure up.  She’s afraid when others look at her they will scoff and not want her.  A lot of this is in your control.  When you look at your daughter and genuinely see the beauty she possesses, it builds her up.  When you tell her what you see and why, you are giving her a gift for the rest of her life.

3.  She needs to feel safe.  When you put rules and limits in place, you’re creating a safety net for your daughter.  She might protest and argue, but we protect the things we care about.  You are showing her how deeply you treasure her when you tell her not to be alone with a boy, or not to put sexy pictures of herself online.  You are guarding her innocence while teaching her to keep her own heart and body safe.

4.  She needs to be cherished.  Your teenage daughter wants to be the center of somebody’s world.  Each girl is trying to carve out her space in the world where she is important.  Some do this with academics, some with friends, some with boys, etc.  When she is a very big part of your world, and she knows it, she will feel more content and cherished.

5.  She needs to feel successful.  Grades aren’t the only measure of success.  They are an extremely important measure of success.  However, if your daughter isn’t a natural student, try to find something else she is good at.  Develop it alongside encouraging her to try harder in school.  When girls think school is the only thing that matters to you, and they aren’t good at school, you can only imagine what a disappointment they think they are to you.

 

Dads, love your daughters well.  Teenage girls are desperate for your approval, love, touch, affirmation, protection and encouragement.  You can give your daughters a firm foundation they will stand on for the rest of their lives.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Alcohol- Teen Binge Drinking

Teen alcohol abuse is scary for any parent. Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Teen alcohol abuse is scary for any parent.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Depending in what type of parent you are, it may or may not scare you when your teenager binge drinks.  Some parents think it’s not a huge deal if their teen comes home drunk because “Kids experiment at this age.”  Some parents even go to the extent of allowing their adolescents to drink with friends at their own house while parents are home “because at least then none of them are driving and there’s an adult around.  They’re going to do it anyway.  Now I know they’re safe.”  Other parents are extremely upset if their teenager binge drinks, or drinks at all.  They take away everything and ground their child for 3 months.

 

While there is not a one size fits all way to handle it if and when your teenager tries alcohol, there has to be some combination of understanding and consequences.  However, if your teenager is frequently binge drinking, you might have a budding addiction on your hands; that needs to be dealt with in an entirely different manner than the teenager who gets drunk a couple times per year with friends.

 

One of the many jobs you have as a parent is to teach your child how to responsibly handle alcohol.  Like it or not, it’s a huge part of our society.  It seems like many teens think alcohol is something that exists to create a buzz or get drunk; this is a problem.  It’s important to talk with your children about how adults can have a social drink or two, plan carefully for who will drive, and to understand the risks associated with overuse of alcohol.  If you model appropriate use of alcohol in front of your teens, and keep the conversation open, you will have a lot to do with how they view alcohol.  If you say nothing, then their other adolescent friends will teach them about alcohol…  Some of you have a long family history of alcoholism.  It may make sense for you to teach your child to avoid alcohol completely.  In either case, adolescents need to know the why behind everything you’re teaching them, so explain, explain, explain.

 

A common definition of binge drinking is four or more drinks per sitting for females, and five or more for males.  Binge drinking is linked to much higher incidences of alcohol dependence, car accidents, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.

 

This is scary information.  Teens really don’t know what they’re getting into when they abuse alcohol.  They tend to think everything will be fine.  They also are not always likely to seek out help for someone who might have alcohol poisoning.  They worry about getting into trouble so they don’t call a parent or 9-1-1.  Please talk to your kids about this as well.  What do you think about giving them immunity in the situations where they seek out help for someone who might be alcohol poisoned?  Usually that means your teenager wasn’t where they said they’d be because it’s unlikely you’d have given them permission to be around other teens who are getting drunk.

 

Teen partying is here to stay.  It’s been around since our parents were kids, and it will be an issue when our grandkids are teenagers.  Keep the communication lines open with your teenager.  Walk the line between applying consequences for their bad behavior and being understanding very carefully so they feel emotionally safe to keep telling you the truth.  Teach them how to handle alcohol appropriately.  Get help from a family member, a friend or a counselor if you are struggling with alcohol yourself.  Approximately 10% of the American adult population struggles with alcohol in some way or the other.  Admitting this and seeking help will benefit your children who are watching everything you do in more ways than you can imagine.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen E-Cigarette Use

Electronic Cigarettes may be a gateway for teens to use other substances. Image courtesy of patrisyu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Electronic Cigarettes may be a gateway for teens to use other substances.
Image courtesy of patrisyu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Centers for Disease Control just released a study that says in just one year the number of teenagers using electronic cigarettes has tripled.  That’s astounding!

 

As someone who does therapy with adolescents on a regular basis I hear about teens using e-cigarettes quite often.  Usually this is in the context of a teen who already uses regular cigarettes and wants to quit.  Often they find quitting to be too difficult, but rationalize that if they switch to an e-cigarette at least it will be less harmful to their lungs.

 

The article about the CDC report expresses concern that the novelty of electronic cigarettes is causing more teens to try tobacco products.  There are a significant number of teenagers who won’t try cigarettes because they are bothered by the smell, smoke and stigma of cigarettes.  The CDC worries that this may not be true of e-cigs.

 

Based on countless hours of counseling with teens who use various mood-altering substances, including tobacco, I can definitely agree with the article that electronic cigarette use is on the rise.  And, of course, like anything out there, if there is a way to abuse it, adolescents will figure it out.  One thing I have heard consistently is that teens use e-cigs to get high off cannabis.  They either use oils, or “dabs” (wax) with cannabinoids in it.  It puts concentrated THC into the electronic cigarette, thereby creating an intense high.  Some teens tell me this has felt more like hard drug use than traditional marijuana use because the high is a lot stronger.

 

Like all things that have the potential to tempt your teenager, have a discussion with them.  Find out if they have used an e-cig, have friends who do, or if they have ever even seen one.

 

As a parent, I encourage you to take a little time to educate yourself.  E-cigs often just look like fancy writing pens so your teen could have had one hidden in plain sight.  You also can’t smell them because they are simply vapor (steam) so if you have a teen with a history of marijuana abuse, make sure they don’t use an e-cig in their bedroom unbeknownst to you.

 

For as long as any of us has been alive, teenagers have experimented with tobacco and marijuana.  Most of the time it’s only a short-lived phase.  It’s not something to just dismiss, but it might not be something to feel completely overwhelmed and scared by either.  However, for certain teenagers, tobacco products and marijuana are truly a gateway into much more frightening substances.  They also both can be addicting in their own rights, and have health consequences.  Regular marijuana use also has consequences that often look like laziness, lower grades, worsening attitude and a change in friends.

 

I know there’s already so many things to keep track of that weren’t around when we were young, but just keep asking the questions and be aware of who their friends are.  This parenting thing isn’t for the weak!

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT