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Anxiety Management in the Midst of Coronavirus

Right now it feels like there is mild mass panic. Everyone seems on edge and some people are outright terrified. There is a run on essential supplies like toilet paper and on sanitization supplies. I’m all for being prepared, but I don’t want you or your children to feel truly panicked. The problem with panicking is that you are reacting emotionally as though the worst is already coming true, which ruins your day. I want you to have an amazing day today, not a scary one!

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

Violence in Teen Dating Relationships

Violence in teen dating relationships is more common than you might think. Image Credit: David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net

Violence in teen dating relationships is more common than you might think.
Image Credit: David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net

It’s scary, but true.  On occasion a teenager gets into a violent dating relationship.  We all tell our kids that if anyone ever lays a hand on them, the relationship should instantly be over.  However, teens are susceptible to the belief that someone can change.

 

Recently I worked with a client who consistently dealt with this very issue.  After a few instances of telling me that he promised he’d be different, and then breaking that promise, she finally ended it.  However, she continued to “protect” him even after things were over.  She felt so ashamed that she had let things go on like that, that she still didn’t want to tell her parents he had been hurting her.  She also didn’t want them to hate him.

 

It’s really easy to judge someone who gets into this situation.  It’s easy to assume your son or daughter would never fall prey to abuse in a dating relationship.  However, that’s a misunderstanding of how this situation arises.

 

Abuse doesn’t usually occur out of the blue.  It starts with your teenager dating someone who is intensely interested in him or her.  They want to spend tons and tons of time together.  After a little while it becomes apparent that your teen’s boy/girlfriend gets pouty or angry when your child wants to see their friends.  Before you know it, your teenager doesn’t see their friends anymore.  Then you notice your teen has a lot of arguments with their significant other.  The boy/girlfriend is quick to apologize, but has said some harsh things first.  Most of the time your teen seems happy in the relationship, but when they argue, it’s extremely intense.  That’s when the abuse starts.  Both the abuser and the victim seem surprised the first time it happens.  They both agree it will never, ever happen again.  Things are great afterward so your teenager actually believes this, despite everything you’ve ever mentioned to them about abuse in a relationship.  Besides, they’ve lost contact with all their friends, so they fall victim to the lie that they would be completely alone without this other person.

 

You and I both know without this other person they would re-establish their friendships, feel less anxiety, become social again, and overall feel a lot happier.  It’s pretty challenging to convince your teenager of this though.

 

As Mom or Dad you can help your teenager stay aware that relationship violence does occur in teen dating relationships.  You can stay very on top of their relationship.  Strongly encourage your child to maintain their friendships as well, and do a lot of their dating in groups.  Watch their moods.  If they are morose sometimes it’s worth checking to see if it’s related to their dating relationship.  If you see your teenager isolating from you, that is also cause for concern.  Also, if you notice bruises on your teenager, this is major cause for concern.  Adolescents do get bruises in sports, from running into things, etc., but consistent bruising is a huge red flag.

 

Being a parent is scary sometimes, and incredibly challenging.  I don’t mean to give you one other thing to worry about, but I do want you to have an awareness that abusive teen dating relationships exist.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Treating Panic Disorder

Your heart is racing. You’re sweating. Your hands are tingling. You’re struggling for breath. You feel dizzy and queasy. Your body is so out of control you feel certain you’re having a heart attack.

The number of visits to the emergency room because of a panic attack that feel like a major medical event is staggering. According to psychiatryonline.org there are approximately 1.3 million visits to the ER each year because of severe anxiety.

The good news is that Panic Disorder is treatable. Panic attacks can be reduced in frequency and severity with cognitive behavioral therapy (and sometimes an accompanying medication). One of the steps your cognitive behavioral therapist will take you through is a set of interoceptive exercises. I speak a little bit about this process here:

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

Should I Let My Teenager Struggle? When to Intervene

Raising happy, healthy adults can mean letting our teens "skin their knees." Image credit: stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Raising happy, healthy adults can mean letting our teens “skin their knees.”
Image credit: stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

About a month ago my elementary aged daughter kept forgetting to bring home her homework.  At first I drove her back to school.  I told her comforting things like, “No worries.  Everyone makes mistakes.”  Then it became a pattern.  I started to struggle with the question every parent faces, which is ‘When do I let my kid experience failure and when do I rescue?’  Finally I told her that starting the following week she’d have to just live with the consequences.  Interestingly she hasn’t forgotten her homework folder since then.

 

I’m guessing if you’re reading this, your child is older and you are facing some situation where you have to decide how to best help.  Is this a time where you let your teenager cope with their sadness/anger/stress/frustration?  Is this a situation where you step in because it is simply too much for a teenager to handle on their own?  These are two of the toughest questions we face as parents.

 

I have worked with a number of teens whose parents have always intervened for them.  I bet you can guess the result.  These teenagers are indecisive and scared of the world.  They do not know how to deal with anything uncomfortable.  If there is a class that is too difficult, their parents have called the school counselor to help them switch out.  If there is a job they don’t like, their parents have let them quit.  Unfortunately these teenagers have been taught they are completely unable to cope with discomfort.  Until they learn otherwise, they will have a very challenging adulthood.

 

On the other hand, there are parents that force their kids to stick through absolutely everything.  There is a time when it is appropriate to quit.  This refers to unhealthy dating relationships, unhealthy friendships, making a wrong choice and stopping the course, etc.  It’s not that parents ask their kids to continue these particular activities, but their kids have internalized the idea that it is never okay to quit anything.  These kids have to learn when to just let something go, which is often a challenge for them.

 

So, as a mom or dad, how do you deal with this dilemma?  As carefully as you can, you try and guide your children.  It’s important to always keep the big picture in mind.  What do I want my teenager to learn from this situation?  The big goal is to raise healthy, functional adults.  As a parent, what do I do in this scenario that helps my teen reach the big goal?  This is more important than them feeling good about something right now.  Do I call my kid out of school today because they aren’t ready for that math test, or do I let them get a failing grade because the painful lesson will make them more responsible in the future?  Every choice has its consequences.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Tips for teens after leaving rehab

Making new, sober friends after rehab is essential.  Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Making new, sober friends after rehab is essential.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leaving rehab is usually a celebratory time.  People discharge rehab feeling very strong and certain they will not relapse on drugs.  They have gone over and over what they need to do in order to stay sober.  Any good rehab will warn its clients how easy it is to lapse back into the old lifestyle.  Plans are set, barriers against using drugs or alcohol are put in place, and the person goes home.

Now what?

Here are some tips for staying sober:

1. Get plugged in.  Find a recovery group that has strong, consistent members.  Teenagers often feel awkward about walking into new situations.  However, this is truly life or death and it is worth overcoming the embarrassment.  Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery are two types of groups that can be very helpful.  There is a Celebrate Recovery just for teenagers called The Landing.

2. Find a new hobby.  Old habits and activities remind teens of when they used to use drugs or alcohol.  New hobbies don’t have the old associations.  If you used to get stoned and then listen to loud music, it’s time to hike instead.  If these are hobbies where a social group can be joined, even better.

3.  Recognize that it is easy to stay sober around sober people.  Your teenager no longer has a physical need for their drug because they overcame that in rehab.  There will be a psychological attraction to the drug for a long time after the physical need has disappeared.  Teenagers who come home and immediately get involved with wholesome kids have a much lower rate of relapse.  On the contrary, teens who come home and see old friends have a high rate of relapse.

4.  Be honest.  Parents, you need to allow your teenagers to tell you if they are having cravings.  They need to be able to tell you without you getting really upset.  If they can come to you, then you can help them through it.  Discuss your plan for this ahead of time.  Agree that if they are having a craving you will take them down to the beach and just walk with them, or something like that.

5.  Do not assume you are immune to relapse.  Teenagers comes out of rehab overconfident.  This means they call old friends and sit to the side while friends use.  Before long they just take a drag on a cigarette.  Then it’s, “I just used pot once.  That’s not really a serious drug though.”  Quickly they are all the way back into it whatever they went to rehab for in the first place.

Following these 5 tips will really help your teenager keep their sobriety after rehab.  It is a challenging thing to do.  With the right attitude and focus though, it’s entirely achievable.  Probably the most important two tips on this list are the ones discussing social groups.  Teenagers are heavily, heavily influenced by peers.  Being around clean and sober people makes recovery much easier.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT