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Why Your Teen Daughter Should Play Sports

According to research, girls who play sports make better life-choices.  Image courtesy of stockimages /

According to research, girls who play sports make better life-choices.
Image courtesy of stockimages /

Teen girls who play organized sports get into a lot less trouble.  According to a large body of research ( conducted in the last ten years, girls who play sports have substantially lower rates of risky behavior.  Girls involved in athletics are less likely to try drugs or alcohol, have fewer sexual partners, and become sexually active later.  There are increases in positive behaviors as well.  Girls who play sports have higher GPAs, and higher rates of graduation.  They have a more positive body image and higher self-esteem.


Athletics provide a sense of structure, accountability, and a group of friends.  Exercise is very good for the mind and body, and it decreases rates of depression.  Girls who play on their high school sports teams have a sense of belonging to the school.  They tend to have more school pride, which leads to an increase in caring about their community.


Playing sports also reduces overall anxiety.  There are instances where anxiety arises because of the pressure in sports, but for the most part it is helpful for the anxious teenager.  Getting exercise, going outside, being with friends, and focusing on something intensely all helps lower anxiety.  Besides that, sports are fun!


If your daughter has been struggling with self-esteem or is tempted by risky behavior, consider signing her up for a sport.  It can make a huge difference.  It gives you both something to talk about too.  If you’re discussing the most recent track meet, you’re communicating.  For many parents, communicating with their teenager is difficult.  Sports provide an avenue for relationship.


Be careful not to put too much pressure on your child when they are playing their sport.  There are very few high school athletes good enough to compete at the collegiate level.  There are very few collegiate level athletes good enough to compete at the professional level.  It is okay if your 13 year old daughter isn’t on the top team.  It is much more important that she is having fun and making friends.  Your top priority needs to be her character development, not her athletic career. 

The bottom line is, getting her involved in a sport is good for her mental health, physical health, and social health.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

PTSD/ Trauma in Teens

Hypervigilance is a common symptom after a trumatic event.
Credit: Mouse

I’ve been a therapist for a decade now.  I’ve worked with teens in private practice for that entire duration.  I’ve heard a lot of different stories, many of which involve trauma.  I’ve noticed with trauma there is a natural tendency to incorrectly predict its effects on teens.  Some parents overreact, and others are so overwhelmed that they downplay the significance of the traumatic event.  For parents it’s a very helpless feeling when something horrific has happened to your child.


In 1926 a sweet baby girl was born to a young mother who was divorced with very few financial prospects in life.  While this girl’s early life was pleasant and full of love from her mother, eventually things began to unravel.  Her mother did not have enough money to care for her and she was placed into foster care.  Finally her mother was able to get her back, but when the young girl was 7.5 years old, her mother had a psychotic break from reality.  Her mother ended up diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.  What was a young girl with no father and now no mother to do in the 1930’s?  She was moved through foster cares and orphanages where she either felt alone and abandoned, or was sexually abused.  Eventually she married the first guy she could find simply to put some stability in her life.  Do you know whose story this is?  It’s Marilyn Monroe.  We all know the tragic ending her life took after three divorces and drug abuse struggles.  By the age of 36 she had overdosed, and it was called a likely suicide.


This isn’t to say that if you’re child has experienced a trauma they will end up like Marilyn Monroe.  What I am hoping to point out from her really sad story is that recurring trauma absolutely wears a person down.  We all have some amount of resilience build into us, but if we come to the point that we expect to be battered by life again and again, we will look to whatever escape we can find.  The tragic irony of this is that many of those escapes ultimately cause further trauma.  An example of this is using drugs to escape the deep anxiety, sadness, shame and hopelessness caused by trauma.  Over time though, being around people who use drugs means being exposed to people who resort to all means to obtain more drugs.  Now there is increased risk for more traumatic exposure.


To heal from deep trauma there are many components.  I will talk about only a couple of them here.  One is having something reliable and unchanging.  People die and places change, but God never changes.  A deep, meaningful faith is really helpful to healing from trauma.  Knowing there is still hope, still love, and still something to lean on is important.  But, this is complicated because a lot of trauma survivors feels abandoned by God as they question how He could have let something awful occur in the first place.  While there are good answers to these very important questions, it’s outside a therapist’s purview to answer them.  I strongly encourage you to have this discussion with your own religious leaders as you try to seek answers.


Another extremely important element to healing from trauma is addressing and uncovering shame.  Shame says, “I am bad,” for whatever happened.  This is different from regret or some other similar emotion which says, “That event was bad.”  Many trauma survivors feel the event was somehow their own fault.  It takes some deep work to change this belief.


Overcoming trauma is extremely important.  During a lifetime each and every one of us will experience deeply disturbing and upsetting circumstances.  Some of us will be unlucky enough to witness death, have our own lives threatened, or see our own children hurt in unimaginable ways.  Resilience is built into our psyches and our hearts, but it can be really hard to find it sometimes.  If you worry about your teen’s reaction to trauma, please seek a professional opinion.  Sometimes just one event can continue to traumatize its victim over and over again.  At Teen Therapy OC we desperately want your adolescent to have a joy-filled life, not one full of fear, anxiety, shame and hypervigilance.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Approval-Seeking Teens

Wanting approval isn't a bad thing unless it goes too far. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Wanting approval isn’t a bad thing unless it goes too far.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

This post will not apply to every parent.  Some of you have kids who are very comfortable with who they are.  They seem relaxed and self-assured.  What a blessing!


There are a large number of you though who have teens that really want approval.  This can take on multiple forms.  Some teens long for the approval of their peers.  Others desperately want to hear “well done” from their parents.  Wanting approval is not actually as bad as it sounds.  It is part of what motivates teens to do their homework and chores, and to comb their hair.  Sometimes though the desire for approval becomes excessive, and leads to anxiety or depression.


I have seen teens in counseling who wanted approval so badly that they developed eating disorders, tried drugs or alcohol, or became sexually active before they were ready.  It is really important to recognize a teen who is trying too hard to be liked because sometimes it means they are making unhealthy choices.  A lot of these teens actually do get a substantial amount of approval, but they do not feel it.  Even when there is a lot of evidence to the contrary, these teens feel disliked or negatively judged.  As a parent, what are you supposed to do in this situation?


One of the most important things you can do is to help your teen realize the meaning of that famous first line from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, “It is not about you.”  Help your child gain some perspective.  It is very hard for teens to remember that there is a world beyond their school and social group; expose your teen to it.  Get them out into the community to serve someone else.  Usually once a person dedicates some time and energy to others they stop focusing on themselves.


A second thing to try is not allowing your teen to voice the things they dislike about themselves if those things are unreasonable.  Do not let your 3.5 GPA student tell you they are stupid, and do not let your normally sized daughter tell you she is fat.  Learn to respond only when your child is honest about themselves.  One thing we do in therapy is stop believing everything we feel.  What I mean by this is that a teen will tell me, “I feel like nobody likes me.”  Once we establish that there are in fact people who like the teen, we no longer allow that to be said.  Instead the teen has to tell the truth, which is, “I feel disliked by some people.”


Try these two tips for approval-seeking teens.  If your teen’s desire to be liked is overwhelming your teen, and you for that matter, call for help.  There is often a way to change their focus.  Sometimes you need help to help them too.  Most parents, even the very best parents, have tried a number of different ways to encourage their adolescent without success.  Sometimes a little tune-up makes a big difference.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Using Exercise to Manage Your Teen’s Stress

Exercise is a critical factor in managing your anxiety. Image courtesy of stockimages /

Exercise is a critical factor in managing your anxiety.
Image courtesy of stockimages /

It is very, very important to take good care of yourself physically.  You already know this though.  What you probably also already know, but maybe haven’t been thinking about, is how critical it is to exercise.  As a whole, we Americans like to procrastinate exercise.  We generally don’t do it often enough, or with enough intensity.


Did you know that if you set aside 30-60 minutes to exercise, you will actually get more done during your day?  That seems odd because by time you exercise and then shower, 2 hours are used up.  It’s true though.  Your ability to focus and stay on task is greatly increased with exercise.  Your ability to push through a work-out you don’t feel like doing also increases the mental toughness needed to get other things done.  When you exercise regularly you aren’t just flexing your physical muscles.  You learn to have more will power.  It takes will power to jog up the hill that is seemingly never going to end.  It even takes will power to get up off the couch and get your running shoes on.  Forcing yourself to do so when it’s not really what you want to do is a form of discipline.  It teaches self-denial.


Self-denial (in a healthy dose) is extremely important for anxiety management.  When you learn to do more of what you should do instead of what you feel like doing, your life is usually headed in a direction that you choose.  This means you have more control.  The antidote to anxiety is a sense of control.


Consistent exercise not only releases chemicals into the brain that are calming and pleasant, it also teaches discipline and self-control.  It is a critical factor in the alleviation of anxiety.  It is also an important part of time management.  So, to help get your anxiety under wraps, hop on your bike, jump in a pool, or go for a stroll.  Do this several times a week and watch what happens.  Oh, and you also just might find you end up enjoying yourself.


When you think about how to specifically apply this to your teenagers, think social.  Teens (as a generalization) love to be around their friends.  Help them figure out a way to get in a work-out with a couple friends.  Maybe they can join the same gym as their best friend, or organize a common goal with their friends.  When I was in college a couple of friends and I set-up a work-out plan.  We were only able to exercise together a couple times per week, but we held each other accountable for the rest of the time.  It made a big difference in our ability to stick with it.  I still think this is because we enjoyed the social aspect of doing it together more than anything else.


Exercise is a great, healthy coping skill for anxiety and stress.  You can model this for your teenager and invite them to join you.  You may or may not get a yes, but they are definitely paying attention to how you handle your stress.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Physical Affection Helps Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Help your teen combat depression and anxiety with physical touch. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Help your teen combat depression and anxiety with physical touch.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

It has been said that you need affectionate physical contact approximately ten times per day for your well-being.  Does your teenager get that?  If you’ve noticed your teen feeling anxious or depressed lately, you might ask yourself this question.  Some teens hug their parents, siblings, and friends multiple times per day.  They seek you out on the couch and sit right next to you.  They are naturally very affectionate.  However, these are not usually the kids who feel depressed or anxious.


It’s ironic that for the depressed or anxiety-ridden teenager, the thing that can help them to feel better is something they might hesitate to seek.  Mom and Dad, this is where you come in.  You can be conscious about giving your teenager affection.  This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to wrap them in a big hug.  It can be a pat on the back or a quick rub of the head.  Just making the extra effort to have contact with your children can really help them thrive.


You now might be thinking one of two things.  One possibility is that you are thinking it is inappropriate to touch your teenager.  While you are probably not going to have the same sort of physical affection with your teen that you had when they were two, it is acceptable to show physical affection towards your children, irregardless of their age.  Yes, now you should knock on their bedroom door before you enter and probably won’t be wandering into the bathroom while they are taking a shower.  However, while they’re doing their homework it can be of tremendous benefit to their attitude and mood if you give them a quick squeeze of the shoulders.  It also softens whatever you were about to say to them.  For example, if you were going to say, “I’m glad to see you working hard on homework,” think about how that could be perceived sarcastically.  Now think about how it’s likely to be perceived if it includes a quick affectionate touch- probably as a positive comment.


The second thing you might be thinking is, “My teenager won’t let me touch him.”  You’re one of those parents who would love to hug your son or daughter, but they’ll have none of it.  Just start where you can comfortably start.  Maybe for a few weeks you’ll ask if you can help carry something they are holding.  They will probably have incidental contact with you when they hand it to you.  Perhaps you will offer to fix an out-of-place strand of hair, or help your teen into his jacket.  You also might consider simply changing the rules around the house to require a hug before leaving and before going to bed.  While it will be met with disgust and complaint, know that it is benefiting your teenager tremendously and that they secretly like it.


Physical affection toward your adolescent helps you too.  Remember when your child was really young and sometimes screamed or threw tantrums?  For a parent those moments are very frustrating.  Picking your child up and holding her helped you reconnect the bond that was slightly damaged with the tantrum.  Things are no different with your teen.  They still throw tantrums (although they look a little different).  You still need to work at reconnecting the bond.  For a parent, physical affection is one of the best ways to do so.


Have fun being more affectionate to your teenager this week!  It’s good for you; it’s good for them; it helps everyone’s mood.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Tip for Getting “Unstuck”

Do you ever feel like you can’t find a good solution for a problem?  You’ve tried and you’ve tried to fix something but it continues to challenge you.  One example of this might be losing weight.  You’ve tried a lot of diets and exercise plans, but you simply cannot lose the weight, or you cannot keep it off.  Here’s a tip for getting “unstuck” wherever you are.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT