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Happiness eludes many of us. Listen to this brief story of how Dr. Martin Seligman determined to become a happy person. His research has shaped what we know about happiness and how we have the power to increase our feelings of positivity and happiness.

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

High School Dating

High school dating poses challenges for every teen. Photo credit: stockimages and

High school dating poses challenges for every teen.
Photo credit: stockimages and

Dear teenagers,

Dating in high school is a challenge no matter who you are.  You might be the captain of the cheer team, and have more dating opportunities than you want.  You might be the guy who is so shy you can’t talk to a girl even if it’s just to ask what the homework assignment was.  You might be the serial dater who always has a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend.  In every single situation there is heartache, struggle, excitement, hope, and everything in between.

Here’s some things I’ve heard from clients along the way that they wish someone would’ve told them about high school dating.  First of all, it’s not as big of a deal as it seems like it is.  We’ve all watched movies where there is this perfect high school love full of firsts.  There’s a first kiss, first high school dance, first time in love, etc.  It makes it all sound very romantic.  What my clients who are older than you would want you to know though is that your firsts happen when they happen.  There is no set timeline to life that really makes something more special if it happens earlier than later.  In fact, oftentimes it is more special if it does happen later because you will be mature enough to handle and appreciate it.

Another thing they would want to make sure you know is not to invest too much into your high school crush.  I have sat with many, many girls and boys who end up disgusted because they had sex with someone they thought they loved, but can no longer stand.  I have sat with many others who chose to wait and ended up glad because the relationship didn’t last.  I have sat with lots of other clients who wished desperately to have the opportunity to date that one person they’ve liked school year after school year, but then they met the right person later on and were totally content.

A third piece of wisdom I’ve heard from my clients who are now finished with high school is that “hooking up” without commitment is a sure way to end up upset.  Despite what you might think, it cannot be done without emotional involvement.  Maybe you’re not the one with the emotions, but the other person certainly will be.  There is no such thing as casual intimacy.  That causes jealously, self-loathing, anger and almost always ends a friendship.  There is a high level of respect you gain from others and from yourself if you simply don’t engage in this behavior without some type of commitment.

Finally, for those of you who don’t seem to have a handle on how to talk to the opposite sex yet, please don’t be down on yourself about it.  We all mature in different ways at different times.  There are tons of people out there who only date once, because that person is their future spouse.  Maybe that’s you.  If it is, I envy you.  From the perspective of someone who is happily married, if I could’ve avoided all the heartbreaks and mistakes along the way to meeting him, that would have been just fine by me.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Successful Back to School

I had a client who was a mediocre student. Her parents worked really hard to help her improve her academics. They studied with her. They paid for tutors, and even obtained a 504 plan from the school district. Things got a little bit better for her, but not significantly relative to the extra time and money spent on better study habits. When she started counseling the VERY FIRST thing we had her do is start giving herself the opportunity to sleep 8.5 hours per night. Of course she might not actually be asleep that long, but if she’d go to bed lights and electronics off 8.5 hours before she had to get up, at least she had the opportunity to sleep enough. Within two weeks her mood and academic performance improved far more than anything else she’d tried.

A couple months later she had a musical theater performance through her high school. Anyone involved in high school theater knows the week before and the week of the show a student cannot even consider coming home before 10pm. For those two weeks she got inadequate sleep. For the next while her academics suffered again until she was sleeping more.

Why do I share this girl’s story with you? Getting enough sleep is a HUGE part of your child’s success in school. Please make sure their time to rest is carefully guarded. For that matter, please make sure you also have good habits around sleep. You’ll be a better parent, employee, spouse, etc.

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

It’s Back to School We Go

One of the things that will make this a better school year is limiting time on devices. Photo credit: Stoonn and

One of the things that will make this a better school year is limiting time on devices.
Photo credit: Stoonn and

How did summer go by so quickly?  It seems like 5 minutes ago that all my teenage clients were ecstatic because June had finally arrived.  It was only going to be a few more days and a few more projects, and then they were home free.  Now school has either already started, or will be within a few days depending on which district you’re in.

Let’s make this year a great year for your teen!  Here are some things I’ve observed other teenagers doing that help them sincerely enjoy their school experience.

1.  Get involved at the school.  Teenagers who play a sport for their school, are in ASB, actively partake in a school club, go to the football games, attend school dances, join the yearbook staff, write for the newspaper, or some other extracurricular activity that is part of their school like it much better.  This has been true every single time I’ve worked with a client who is involved at school.  The ones who don’t really feel like they contribute somehow are just passing time.

2.  Take classes at the appropriate level.  There are a great number of you who push your teenagers to take honors or AP classes whenever possible.  The homework load and pressure in these classes is immense.  Know your child well enough to see which subjects they really enjoy, and which ones they hate.  Push where they have natural interests and talents, and back-off where they don’t.  It is much better for your teenager to enjoy being a student than hate school and constantly feel overwhelmed.  Even if this means your son or daughter won’t get into as good of a college as they otherwise might have, they are more likely to have a healthy overall balance in their life; this is good practice for an enjoyable life, which seems more important than the most prestigious university.

3.  Manage the screen time.  Teens really want their privacy, and these days a huge part of that is having their own electronic devices.  They generally believe you as a parent have no right to look at their devices or set limits on when and how they’re used.  After working with more teens than I can count, I would say it seems about 90% of them mismanage technology.  They use it too often, and it uninhibits their social interactions.  Technology can help complete homework faster, but is often a distraction for your teenager.  They are texting while they do their math, reading a website about their favorite band while studying, or just falling down the rabbit-hole of internet searches and Youtube videos.  It really makes completing homework assignments take forever.  It also allows them to say things to people they would never say in person.  Teenagers who are limited by their parents on how often, and what they can do with their devices are actually happier (even if they argue about it).

I strongly encourage you to try these three things with your adolescent as they return to school this Fall.  Getting involved at school, taking classes that are a fit for their interests and abilities, and managing screen time are all simple changes to make that can really help the quality of the school-year.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Abusive Teen Relationships

Relationship abuse is more common than we like to think. Violence between partners is about control, separation from all other sources of support, a confused sense of what love is. For victims leaving these relationships can be nearly impossible. Please listen to this little story to understand how this starts so you don’t miss the signs.

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