SERVING CALIFORNIA TEENS & FAMILIES     |    

FIND US ON FACEBOOK

COUNSELING FOR TEENS     |    

(949) 394-0607

Connecting With Teens Instead of Only Disciplining

I am enrolled in an 8 week class on how to help parents of adopted children connect better as they bring the new child into their home. While I don’t have any adopted children (hats off to those of you who do- what a loving and selfless act), I have gleaned some very helpful information. I tried one of the techniques on my obstinate 5 year old this week and it helped me feel compassion rather than frustration when he lashed out in anger. I will take compassion towards my children over frustration any day!

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

Having a Family Fun Holiday Season

Quality family time is hard to come by during the holidays. Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quality family time is hard to come by during the holidays.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s the time of year when we all talk about spending time with family.  While we do spend time with family on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, we spend a lot of the other days around this time of year being very busy.  There are parties to attend, presents to buy, things to bake, and errands to run.  It feels like a flurry trying to decorate, get a tree, participate in the church play, and the other million things you might have on the list for November and December.

 

Before you even realize what has happened, the holiday season really isn’t time with family at all.

 

This year can be different.  If you choose to, you can make it a great time of connection for you and your teenagers.  Here are 5 tips on how to involve them.

 

1.  Include them in your shopping.  While I realize they can’t come with you while you shop for their gift, they can certainly help you think of what to get everyone.  They can then sit with you while you order it online, or go with you from store to store.

 

2.  Make baking a family affair.  Teens (especially teen girls) love to bake.  They will actually have some fun if you make cookies together.  Let them put on some music they like, and have a good afternoon together.

 

3.  Don’t be afraid to say no.  It’s truly fine to have limits around how you spend your time this holiday season.  You don’t have to buy everyone a gift or decorate perfectly.  Connecting with family and remembering to focus on your faith for the next 6 weeks is paramount.

 

4.  Teach your children why Christmas really exists.  We’ve made it all about shopping and giving.  It is really nice to give presents.  However, it also is a religious holiday.  I know it can be hard to remember that based on what is shown on TV, where they will say things like, “Christmas is all about family,” or “Christmas is all about giving.”  That is not the basis of Christmas and you have a chance to teach them this year that it is about the birth of Christ.

 

5.  Prioritize some special family time.  Perhaps plan a day to just stay home together, or go up to the mountains together.  Pick a few days out of this busy season to just be “not busy” with your family.  A lot of times you get resistance from your teens when you do this, but they secretly like it.  Trust me, I know because I hear it in my office weekly.

 

Have a safe, love-filled, enjoyable holiday season.  It’s my hope that you get in some quality time with your teenager- for the most part they love getting positive attention from you!

 

Helping families grow and teens improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Overcoming Simple Phobias

I have dealt with two simple phobias in my lifetime, and both terrified me enough to significantly alter my behavior and well-being. One was a fear of sleeping at other people’s houses and one was a fear of vomiting. I will share about the fear of staying at other people’s houses because it’s a little bit more common for kids and teens.

When I was 8 I used to spend the night at Tracy Hall’s house. She was my best friend at the time. We spent hours imagining games, creating “newspapers,” and torturing our parents with plays we had written and acted in. One night I couldn’t fall asleep. Tracy always left Nickolodean on her TV throughout the night. I watched show after show. I saw reruns of all kinds of old programs where gak (sp?) was being dropped on families, Lucy and Desi were arguing, and whatever else you can think of. Eventually this not sleeping was making me anxious. I could’ve slept if the TV were off, but I was afraid to turn it off because Tracy (very bossy) had told me I wasn’t allowed to turn it off or she couldn’t sleep. When I went home the next morning I was an exhausted, emotional wreck.

The following weekend when I tried to sleep at Tracy’s I ended up calling my parents to go home. From then on it started happening no matter where I slept if they weren’t there too. It grew into an uncomfortable separation anxiety that was only quelled if I KNEW I could be home and in bed by 8:30pm.

There are two ways to overcome a simpe phobia. One is to rip off the band-aid, feel a flood of anxiety, and stick it out until the anxiety finally passes. The other is to face it gradually. I wish my parents had known about the gradual approach but after a few years of this fear, we went at it 100%. They told me when I decided to spend the night there would be no coming home no matter what. They made arrangements with a good family friend and sent me over. I cried, panicked, and had one of the worst nights of my life. Eventually morning dawned and I still remember how proud I was, “I’m over my fear of spending the night!”

How surprised I was when I went to stay at another friend’s house and I was afraid all over again. I couldn’t believe it! I was incredibly frustrated. My parents didn’t let me come home and I found it was a little easier to cope. It ultimately took 11 nights at other people’s houses before I didn’t experience anxiety any longer. If I went too long between sleep-overs the anxiety would start to creep in again. I had to inoculate myself by spending the night somewhere about once per month.

What I hope you can see from this post is that overcoming a simple phobia isn’t simple. I actually hate that term. It prevented me from staying at birthday sleepovers, sports team sleepovers, going to friends’ houses late in the evening, and prevented me from ever enjoying summer camp (although I still went).

When you or your child begins the process of facing a simple phobia you must be dogged about not backing down once you start the process. You have to be consistent and you have to do it many more times than you think. In this post I have given you the flooding approach, which is terrifying but effective. In the next post I will explain the gradual approach, which is much more gentle.

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

Teen Depression

Hi everyone, I have been receiving a lot of calls from parents worried their teenagers have depression. It is common during this pandemic and time of great uncertainty.

Teenagers who are facing depression can show it in a variety of ways. Your teenager might be irritable. While he used to like to come hang around you, now he only stays in his room. If you ask him to come out he expresses disgust and frustration that you would dare interrupt whatever he’s doing.

Your teenager might be sleeping poorly. Poor sleep can be too much sleep or too little sleep. Some depressed teens sleep all night and then take naps as well. Other depressed teens deal with insomnia or frequent waking at night.

You might notice your teen is no longer socially active. She used to see friends a lot and was always on her phone. Now your daughter is saying things like, “Nobody goes out because of COVID,” or “There’s nothing to do now because everything is closed.” Your teenager might be feeling as thought she doesn’t fit with anyone anymore. She also could be telling you that everyone is just shallow or stupid.

Of course one of the most glaring signs of teen depression is thoughts of suicide. If your teenager is texting about it to friends, writing about it in a journal, or talking about it then it’s serious. It’s tempting to assume it’s an attention grab; it very well might be but it’s the wrong way to get attention. If your teen is talking about suicide they need a professional evaluation imminently.

Our staff here at Teen Therapy OC has seen a huge increase in depression in teens since March. We believe the shut-down has been hard on them. While they might not have loved school, most of them miss the social aspects and having a clear purpose each day. Teenagers languish without direction. We adults also speak with so much uncertainty and negativity about everything happening right now that it leaves many of our teens extremely fearful for their future. They don’t have as much perspective as we do because they haven’t been through as many ups and downs in life. They’re too young to remember the Great Recession of 2008 so this feels like the first real crisis they’ve ever faced. It’s disheartening to them.

Please reach out and ask for help if you suspect your teenager is facing depression. We can help you sort out whether it’s clinical depression and in need of professional treatment.

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