SERVING CALIFORNIA TEENS & FAMILIES     |    

FIND US ON FACEBOOK

COUNSELING FOR TEENS     |    

(949) 394-0607

Back to School Anxiety

Heading back to school can be scary for some teens Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Heading back to school can be scary for some teens
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is a time of year when I suddenly get an upswing in calls from parents worried about their teenager’s anxiety level.  Right around the time kids have to go back to school, things start to stress them out.  It makes sense, they are about to have social and academic pressure again after three months of relaxation time.

 

Here are some things you can do to help your teenager reduce their stress as school starts back up:

1) Help them go into school with an academic plan.  Some teens are anxious about school because they work really hard in school, and they anticipate too much homework.  Other adolescents are anxious about starting school again because they don’t work hard enough, and they fear poor grades.  Some kids need help understanding how to work smarter instead of harder.  Other kids need help learning how to study effectively.

 

2) Talk about any social pressures they might feel.  For a great number of middle and high school students, there are intense worries about fitting in.  They really want to be liked.  Some even wish to be popular.  For other teenagers, there is anxiety around dating.  It’s different for each one, but it will increase as school gets started again.

 

3)  Some adolescents worry about how they’ll get along with you when school starts again.  All summer you’ve been letting them hang out with friends, go to bed late, and haven’t asked too much of them.  You might have asked them to do a couple chores, but that’s the extent of it.  Now you’ll be back to checking on them daily about if their homework is complete, telling them to get off their phone and get to sleep, and waking them up early every morning.  When you have to force a teenager to follow a schedule they don’t care for, it’s bound to create some battles.  In general, I encourage you to turn over as much of this to your child as is appropriate for their age and maturity.  If it’s up to your teen to wake up for school, your role changes from irritating parent to sympathetic parent.

 

4) Some teens get anxiety about how bored they will be sitting in class.  It’s tough to sit for 6-8 hours per day listening to someone talk about things that don’t interest you.  It’s easy to make it through some classes, but others are dreadful.  I used to feel this way about math.  It was complete torture to sit through two hour block classes of geometry.  I found it very dull.  I was definitely in a worse mood on days I had math.  While there isn’t much you can do about this, you can certainly let your teenager know you understand how they feel.  Sometimes that is enough to help them feel better.

 

I guess most of what I’m saying is to talk to your teen about the start of school.  Sometimes their anxiety shows up in other ways.  They might tell you they’re suddenly stressed about their sports team, friends, death, or you name it.  A lot of times though, underneath all this is a worry about going back to school again.  If you can help them recognize this, you can work together to take steps to help control it.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Do I call a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist prescribes medication to help with your psychological struggles.  There are some certified to work with teens and children.

A psychiatrist prescribes medication to help with your psychological struggles. There are some certified to work with teens and children.

First of all, a lot of people do not know the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor and therapist.  Let me start by clarifying what those terms mean.  Counselor is the most general term.  It can refer to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.  Counselor is also the term used for a person with an associate degree or certification in addiction counseling.  A therapist refers to either a psychologist or a master’s level person with a license.  A therapist is someone who will spend an hour with you on a regular basis talking about ways to work through your struggles, and can also do psychological testing.  A psychologist has a doctorate (either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.), can do psychological testing, and can do therapy.  A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, who completed medical school and a residency.  The psychiatrist can do therapy, but typically chooses to refer out for therapy.  The psychiatrist evaluates patients to determine whether medicine can help a psychological condition, and if so, prescribes that medication.

 

Sometimes people hesitate to take medicine for a psychological condition, preferring to address the problem in therapy.  Usually your therapist will let you know when it is time to seek a psychiatric evaluation.  It is also a good idea to see a psychiatrist if you feel extremely depressed, are considering suicide, have been hallucinating, or have extreme anxiety like panic attacks.  There are other conditions where seeing a psychiatrist is advisable as well.  For example, if you suspect your child has ADHD, then you can get a diagnosis and treatment from a psychiatrist.  Use your therapist or primary care doctor as a guide in terms of when to contact a psychiatrist, and often they will have good referrals to give you.

 

When you go to your psychiatry appointment, come prepared.  Keep a list of your symptoms, what caused them, and what time of day they occurred.  Be extremely honest about any drugs or alcohol you use.  Your psychiatrist is required to keep everything confidential, so don’t be afraid to tell him or her.  If you smoke marijuana every so often, your psychiatrist NEEDS to know this.  The reason it is so important to give your psychiatrist this information is that you are being given medication.  Alcohol and illegal drugs interact with legal medication, affecting how well the medicine works.  In some cases you actually are putting yourself in danger by mixing certain medications with certain drugs or with alcohol.  Your psychiatrist isn’t going to be judgmental of you, believe me.  Your psychiatrist has heard it all, and I mean ALL.  You will not shock your psychiatrist.  He or she has seen some of the seemingly most normal looking people take drugs, have an alcohol problem, lose touch with reality, make poor decisions, participate in extremely risky behavior, and anything else you can think of.  Just keep in mind that your psychiatrist can only help you to the extent that you share everything about what is going on with you.

 

Also come to your appointments with a list of any physical symptoms you might be dealing with.  Remember, this is a medical doctor.  Sometimes psychological problems are caused by a physical problem or a disease.  Your psychiatrist is trained to look for signs of physical disease and help you connect the dots.  They are also trained to look for the opposite (physical problems caused by psychological impairment).

 

So, is it time to call a psychiatrist?  Perhaps, and especially if you’re considering taking medication to deal with a psychological struggle.  Consult with your therapist or primary care doctor to find out.  If you don’t have a therapist or primary care doctor, you can call a psychiatrist directly for an evaluation in most cases.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Sports: Good for Teen Girls

Adolescent females have been shown to benefit from being athletes for a number of reasons. Some of my favorites include the development of fortitude, and work ethic. I also love the stat showing teen female athletes become sexually active later than their non-athletic peers.

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

Good morals or fitting in…A teenager’s dilemma

Are you the same person with your family and with your friends?  Consistency lowers anxiety.   Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Are you the same person with your family and with your friends? Consistency lowers anxiety.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

What do you do if your family is raising you to be a certain way, but your peers want you to be something else?  Your family has taught you to be responsible, kind, caring, respectful, avoid curse words, tell the truth, be honorable, try hard in school, etc.  Your peers are encouraging you to experiment with alcohol, marijuana, sex, and irresponsible behavior.  Your peers think it’s fine to lie to your parents, use the f-word in every sentence, and complain about school.  How do you reconcile these two very different environments when it’s no longer cool to stick with the morals your parents have instilled in you?

 

Living in this tension is a source of immense anxiety for some teens.  They kind of go with the flow at school and around their friends, but in their hearts they’d rather be the person they are around their families.  They feel guilt and sometimes shame.  It’s very difficult to keep up an appearance of being a great kid in front of certain people, and the appearance of being an edgy kid in front of other people.  After a while it is confusing and stressful.

 

It’s very normal for adolescents to try and discover their own identity until their mid-twenties.  A teenager may come home with blue hair or a piercing; parents, don’t make this the end of the world.  They’re trying on a new identity.  Usually, as they get older they settle more into what they’ve always been taught.

 

In the meanwhile though, teenagers please remember that “normal” isn’t that great.  Fitting in with kids who are going against what you believe is only going to cause internal angst.  It takes a lot of emotional strength and fortitude to remain grounded in what is right, even for adults.  As a teenager it is much more challenging.  Teens are quick to give their peers a dirty look or a few harsh words when one of their friends doesn’t go along with everyone else.  If you prefer not to drink at a party, you probably have to deal with a few condescending comments.  Keep on track and don’t worry about what some drunk kid says about you; conformity doesn’t breed greatness.

 

Your overall anxiety will be lower if you are the same person in every situation.  Here’s where parents can make a huge impact: model having integrity in every area of life, and stick with good morals.  Parents, be the same person at work, home, in the dark and in the light.  Your children will benefit immensely from watching your consistency.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT