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California Sex Ed

Dear Parents, 

At Teen Therapy OC, we know how important it is to strive toward having open and honest conversations with your teens about uncomfortable topics like sex. We know that in the adolescent development stage, teens are often exposed to information about human sexuality at different rates. This means that some children are exposed to sexual material and information earlier than others and this discrepancy can lead to misinformation spread by their peers. Because of this, we hope parents have conversations with their children about human sexuality and how to set healthy boundaries for themselves.

The “California Healthy Youth Act” is the sex education curriculum for public schools. We thought it would be helpful to provide the information to you so that you can educate yourself of what your 8th graders will be learning to prepare you to have conversations about the things they may not understand or may not be aligned with your family’s beliefs. Depending on your own beliefs and your evaluation of your child’s readiness for this level of information, you may choose to opt out of this program. If after reading the material, you are concerned, call your child’s school for more information about this curriculum and your options as a parent.
 
Here are some tips for talking to your kids about sex: 
-Understand that they aren’t going to be thrilled to have this conversation with you. If you give them choices about when and where they have this conversation with you, they will feel they have some amount of control.
-Choose a time when there aren’t siblings or other people around to help foster a safe environment for sharing about what is likely embarrassing for them to talk about.
-Ask questions about what THEY think about what they learned. 
-Try to avoid talking more than they do in order to help them develop their own critical thinking skills. 
-Ask the teen what they think are healthy sexual boundaries for teens.
-Ask what reasons they have for choosing those particular boundaries around sex. 
-Be sure to stay calm and breathe slowly if their answers aren’t what you hoped they would be. This is a sign that their child brain is developing critical thinking skills, which is a sign of a maturing brain. You can still share what you think and why without making them “wrong or bad” for thinking what they think. 
-If your teen’s answers don’t align with what your boundaries are for them as their parent, try not to react negatively to their answer. Instead, validate that sexual desire is normal, but needs to be treated thoughtfully like any of our other human desires so that we behave responsibly.
– It is important to clearly define your expectations for their boundaries until they become an adult and have the freedom to choose their own boundaries. 
-If your family has particular beliefs that don’t align with something taught in the curriculum, try not to pass judgment on the curriculum itself as being “bad” or “wrong”, but instead calmly and thoughtfully explore the differences with your teen. 

Thank you for having the hard conversations. Being a parent isn’t for wimps!

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

Absolute Truth in an Emotional World

“What is truth?” Pilate’s famous words echo in today’s culture in a way that is devastating our teenagers. Each teen is now subtly learning they get to define their own truth. They are being told they are so incredibly entitled to their own view that the world needs to adjust to and accept their version of truth.

Is it any wonder I see so many teenagers confused and upset about the world? They are being taught they are whatever they think they are; then they are hit with the harsh reality that the world is not inclining itself to their every belief. They end up feeling frustrated and more confused than ever.

Parents, you can’t immediately change what the world is doing or the messages it gives your children. However, you can help what culture you create at home. Allow absolute truth to exist in the home. Have rules, limits, boundaries, and discussions about what is what. As a counselor to this generation’s adolescents, my heart aches with the desire to see your kids thrive and be self-assured. You can help them on their way to this by sticking to what is right and true.

If you create a world with boundaries, unalterable truth, and rules, your teenagers can push against these walls. This is a vital part of adolescent development. It is like a butterfly fighting its way out of a cocoon. If you open a cocoon for a butterfly, it will die because it cannot develop the wing strength it needs. If you let your teenager pass easily through adolescence allowing their emotional state of the day to dictate their version of truth, they will die in their spirit because their intellect will be too weak to survive in this world. They will never have to wrestle with learning to accept or change things they don’t like. Instead your teenager will become one of those adults who expects the world to adjust to them. People who think that way flounder and have very little grit.

So please, while I am not asking you to be rigid and stubborn, do not take on the current cultural trend of cowing to every emotional identity your adolescent says is their current truth. Help them stay grounded in what is actually real. You will strengthen them by allowing them to struggle through.

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

Does My Teenager Actually Need Therapy?

I want to call a therapist and ask about what’s going on with my kid, but I’m not sure my kid really needs therapy. I don’t want to get talked into bringing them in if it isn’t necessary. I don’t want to start spending a lot of money and having my child get attached to a therapist if they don’t actually need to be there.

This is the thought process many parents go through when deciding if they should call. I understand it. I feel like that when I call the pediatrician’s office to see if one of my kids needs to come in. I wish they’d just tell me if it’s not necessary.

I’m writing all this because I want you to feel at ease to call. I personally return almost every phone call about counseling that comes our way. I do this because I don’t want you to bring your teenager in unless it’s necessary. Of course I can’t always tell that on the phone, but I do regularly tell people it’s not yet time to start counseling. I promise you the same courtesy.

I had a call last week from a couple of concerned parents. It was hard for them to witness their daughter struggling with friends at school. She was feeling isolated and left out. Once we talked for a little while on the phone, it seemed to me this problem might resolve itself if given a little bit of time. I asked the parents to wait a few weeks and see whether things improved for their daughter. If not, there might be something worth digging through in therapy. For many though, a little bit of time salves a lot of wounds.

This is not an uncommon story when you call to talk to us. You also might hear from me that nobody on our team is the right fit for your situation. It doesn’t help your teen if he or she is paired with a therapist who doesn’t have the right training/experience for your issue. We usually have good outcomes for our clients because we are very picky on the front end about who we see. That is why people in the community trust us and trust is the MOST important ingredient in a successful counseling experience.

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

3 Signs of Depression in Teens

Depression can be devastating to those who suffer its insidious greed for life, engagement, and joy. Teens who are depressed feel lackluster about their world, their future, and themselves. Often slogging through each day without hope, depressed teens contemplate suicide as a means of relief from the relentless blandness of a life without color.

Watch this short video for three signs your teenager may be afflicted with depression:

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

What Do I Do With A Sneaky Kid?

Teens who sneak are often unhappy about the mistrust their parents have for them. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teens who sneak are often unhappy about the mistrust their parents have for them.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do you do if you’re one of the unlucky parents who has a sneaky teen?  You put very clear rules in place, but your teenager continues to do the wrong thing?  A lot of the time you’d even say yes if they’d simply ask, but they sneak anyhow.  This is incredibly frustrating for a parent.  It’s not that you want to control your teenager- you don’t.  You just want a trusting relationship between the two of you.  You want them to trust that you will say yes when it’s appropriate, and you want to trust they are doing what they tell you they’re doing.

 

The first thing you need to ask yourself is why they are sneaking.  You may or may not be able to answer this question.  If you believe they are sneaking because they are using drugs, having sex, or doing something otherwise dangerous they know you’d put a stop to, address this immediately.  For those of you that are pretty certain your adolescent isn’t doing anything dangerous, but is sneaking for some other reason, read on.

 

Perhaps one reason your teenager is sneaking is because you say no too often.  They feel confident you won’t give them any space if they ask for it.  They think the only way to have a little room to explore who they are is to go without permission.  I once worked with a teen boy who kept saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than ask permission.”  In his case, he was right.  He learned this very quickly and realized it was the only way he was ever going to date, try going to a party, or even get into minor mischief like toilet papering a friend’s house.

 

Another reason an adolescent could be sneaking is they are engaging in certain activities you wouldn’t approve of.  One way that many, many teenagers sneak is with their phones.  A lot of teens have smart phones now, and a great number of them download apps you would not like if you only knew they were there.  They know you’d make them take the apps off, and they don’t want to.

 

Whatever the reason(s) your teenager is being sneaky, here are a few ideas you can try to minimize this behavior.  The first thing to try is a heartfelt heart to heart chat.  This isn’t the situation where you punish them or get angry with them for what they’ve been doing.  Instead you talk about how it hurts you not to feel like you can trust your own child.  You ask them how they’ve been feeling when you keep getting frustrated with them as you catch them in their lies.  You and the teenager put your heads together to come up with a plan that will change this.

 

If this doesn’t work, you may have to try a less collaborative approach.  Warn your teenager this is coming if they don’t start being much, much more honest.  Then, outline very clear consequences that will occur if they are caught lying/sneaking.  Do this with a lot of love.  You don’t need to yell or even have a stern voice.  The only thing that is very important is you follow through on whatever consequence you’ve promised to give.  Be extremely consistent.  Reward them for honesty too.

 

Your final option is to make their world really small so it’s hard to sneak anything.  However, if you do this take care to make sure they don’t start resenting you.  You want all consequences you administer to children to make them think about how their action caused this result.  You don’t want them thinking, “My parents are such unfair jerks.”  They won’t learn anything that way.

 

Sneakiness is a really challenging character struggle to contend with and correct.  You are not alone in your aggravation.  Any parent who has dealt with a sneaky teenager feels angry, sometimes scared, and occasionally hopeless.  Just try your best to work on what you need to work on, keep loving them well, and be patient as you help them course correct.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT