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Coping with COVID Restrictions- For Teens

This is hard. This is even harder on you if you’re a teenager in some ways. You feel constricted. You are missing things that gave your life value and meaning. For many of you this means you feel symptoms of depressed moods.

As hard as it may be, it’s important that you don’t get stuck in the “waiting place,” because that won’t help you feel any better.

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

Clarifying Morals for your Teenager

“So I totally think it’s fine to steal from Target because they’re a big corporation. I mean, who is it really hurting? They make tons of profits and they’re just greedy anyways.” This is something I heard straight from the mouth of a teenage client a few weeks ago. The parents don’t believe stealing is appropriate in any circumstance. They definitely aren’t training their kids to be envious, which is the sinful character flaw that leads to the belief, “You have too much so I deserve to take it from you.” Envy is much more destructive than jealousy.

The problem is this child’s parents aren’t paying any attention. Their teenager is learning from Tik Tok videos, Instagram, and whatever other corner of the internet they’ve found. The kid didn’t even realize what she was saying because she has not been provided enough moral training to recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was a big wake-up call for the family that they have to put more time and effort into moral training.

We grew up in a time when not stealing was a given. Society did a lot of the moral training for us. It’s not the case anymore. Your child can wind up in the company of people (via the internet) who continue to perpetuate bad ideas because social media helps us find like-minded people. We no longer have to rub shoulders with people who think differently than we do. While we may be more comfortable this way, we definitely don’t grow as humans. Like it or not, it’s just the way it is now.

This means you as parents have to be EXTREMELY intentional about training your kids up in what is right and wrong. You cannot let the current trends or dictates of society make that determination for them. History shows us how incredibly wrong many trends end up being. Of course this means some of what is popular to believe today will not pan out to be good.

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

Teen Girls and Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders include rules like only eating salads.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parents of teenagers call me for a number of varying concerns, one of which is that their daughter has an eating disorder.  Once in counseling for any reason, girls frequently reveal they believe they are fat.  Of the girls who believe they are fat, a significant number are actively trying to lose weight.  If their efforts are dangerous enough, they qualify for an eating disorder.  Lately I have been seeing a lot of girls with eating disorders, so it seems like a good time to address this.

 

The first thing that might have struck you as odd is that I wrote, “If their efforts are dangerous enough, they qualify for an eating disorder.”  You might be wondering what I mean by “dangerous.”  Girls (and less often boys) that are trying to lose weight are usually doing so in unhealthy ways.  For example, there are numerous risks associated with frequent self-induced vomiting.  It rots teeth, has the potential to burn a hole in the esophagus, and can cause electrolyte imbalances; sometimes these electrolyte imbalances have caused death.

 

Other dangerous things adolescents do to lose weight is crash diet, work out too hard (causing sickness and injury), take laxatives, fast, cut out certain food groups, and use drugs.  All of these things can be dangerous. Nutrition is an essential part of our health.  Girls who are struggling with an eating disorder are nutrition obsessed, but often eat very unhealthily.

 

One example comes from a girl I know who has an eating disorder.  She has numerous misconceptions about food based on the current cultural fads.  She believes carbohydrates are like putting poison into her body.  If she eats salads for lunch and dinner then she assumes she has eaten a very healthy diet for that day.  In fact, all she has done is eat a low calorie diet while missing out on essentials like carbohydrates and proteins.

 

Therapists are by no means nutritionists, but we are often required to address nutritional issues.  For this reason, in most cases, eating disorders are treated in conjunction with a registered dietician.  The dietician helps the teen plan appropriate eating.  The therapist then helps the teenage girl with the emotions surrounding staying on a food plan; this can be extremely challenging.

 

Eating disorders are primarily emotional.  Girls with anorexia are in tight control over their diet.  They control their food in what appears to be an unemotional manner.  However, anorexic teens live with constant feelings of self-disgust, shame, and fear.  This differs slightly from teenagers with bulimia, who also feel the self-disgust, shame and fear plus a numbing during a binge.

 

If you are concerned your daughter has an eating disorder, here are a few questions you can ask.  First, ask your daughter if she feels comfortable with her body.  You can directly ask if she’s ever trying to diet.  Find out from her how much she is concerned with her daily diet.  Nearly all girls are conscious of these things, but many still eat normally and exercise moderately.  You want to determine if it seems a bit extreme.  If your daughter is very defensive when you ask these questions, that can also be a sign of trouble.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Your Teen Still Needs to Socialize Despite COVID

“I’m so lonely and depressed,” are words I’ve started to hear on a regular basis. Our reduced social calendars due to COVID precautions have been positive in some ways, but for our teenagers this is hard. Teens need to socialize. I have more to say on the relationship between feeling depressed and our socially distant life right now in the short video below. I want us all to be extremely responsible, but we have to balance mental health and physical health. I’m sure that you, like me, are constantly considering how to balance these two things. Mental health is also extremely important, so what are we to do? I don’t have a perfect answer. My only goal for today is to gently remind you that your teenager has to see friends in some capacity to feel right.

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

Why Teens Need Their Sleep

Too much screen time leads to exhausted teens. Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Exhausted teens are less social, and more disrespectful to their parents.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Why Teens Need Their Sleep:
1. It helps them concentrate in school.
2. It keeps their moods more even.
3. It keeps the immune system strong.
4. They have more energy.
5. It reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.
6. Teens who are sleep-deprived eat more junk food.
7. It leads to better judgement.
8. It helps your teen with memory.
9. Teens who get enough sleep are more social.
10. Teens who sleep enough are more respectful.

The health benefits of sleep cannot be overstated. For your teenager’s psychological and physical well-being, make this a top priority. You are on your child about homework, hygiene, chores, etc. Make sleep even more important than these things.  As a therapist for adolescents, assessing how much sleep a teenager is getting is one of the most important things I screen for at the first counseling session.

Teenagers need approximately 9.5 hours of sleep a night! Can you believe that? They are still growing. While they look like young men and women, their brains are far from finished developing.

Unfortunately most teenagers get about 6 hours of sleep on school nights. They are bogged down with homework, sports, and social media. There is so much pressure for them to excel in academics, sports, socially, and still be a good kid. Usually the easiest thing to forego is sleep. However, this is a mistake.

So for this next year, consider a New Year’s Resolution of everyone in the house getting enough sleep. Your whole family will benefit.

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