|Counseling and Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Young Adults
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Here is a list of some fun and entertaining things your teen can do this summer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the challenges of summer vacation is that teenagers often find themselves with more time on their hands than sense in their heads. While getting a job and volunteering their time are both great ways for teens to make use of their summer vacation, those options aren’t always available.
Parents who are concerned that teens will get into trouble or go off seeking thrills if they don’t have anything interesting to do should try to address the issue proactively. Rather than waiting until your teen is in trouble or until you notice undesirable changes in their behavior, take the first step and help them come up with fun, interesting, entertaining, and even educational ways for them to spend their summer.
To get you started and give you some ideas, here are 50 of our favorite fun ways for teens to spend their summer vacation.
- Make a movie.
- Make a music video.
- Grow a garden.
- Build a fort for someone smaller.
- Go swimming.
- Plan a picnic.
- Make your own ice cream sandwiches.
- Learn how to cook.
- Learn how to bake.
- Host an all night movie marathon.
- Setup a Frisbee golf league.
- Go for a long bike ride.
- Have a pool party.
- Have a water balloon fight.
- Hold a carwash with your friends and donate the money to charity.
- Go to a museum.
- Teach yourself to draw.
- Go to the library.
- Read one book for each year of your age.
- Volunteer to mentor younger kids.
- Play basketball.
- Babysit for extra spending money.
- Go fishing.
- Learn how to kayak.
- Teach someone else how to swim or ride a bike.
- Learn how to do your own laundry.
- Start your own business.
- Camp out in the backyard.
- Go to a planetarium.
- Go hiking.
- Get some friends to go geocaching with you.
- Host the backyard Olympics for other kids on your block.
- Read to younger children at the library.
- Make your driveway into a drive-in movie theatre for bikes.
- Host a backyard board game championship tournament.
- Have a scavenger hunt.
- Learn a new sport.
- Play baseball.
- Play mini-golf.
- Go on a college visit.
- Have a yard sale.
- Go see a concert.
- Put on your own concert.
- Play tennis.
- Start a band.
- Go bowling.
- Learn how to drive a boat.
- Ride every rollercoaster at the local amusement park.
- Learn how to cook on the grill.
- Make new friends.
Thursday, June 6th, 2013
Having a healthy self esteem has an impact on our whole lives. (Photo credit: heraldpost)
No matter what age you are your self-esteem acts as a buffer between you and the rest of the world. You might even think of it as a kind of armor that protects you. In the simplest sense, self-esteem is our core belief about who we are and what we are capable of achieving. While it fluctuates across a scale from healthy to unhealthy over the course of our lifetime, its foundation is established by our parents and other factors during our adolescence.
Having a healthy self esteem has a significant impact on our whole lives. It can affect every area of our lives. It dictates what we believe is possible, the goals we set out to achieve, and the relationships we have with others. When people have low self-esteem, it limits them throughout their life. It limits their employment options, the relationships they build with others, and their overall level of happiness. It limits the opportunities available to them because their lack of belief in themselves and their abilities discourages them from trying to have more. It can contribute to the creation of unhealthy relationships as an adult because low self esteem can make people feel like they do not deserve a better relationship or a better partner.
For this reason, parents can have a significant impact on how their children see themselves. Parents can be instrumental in establishing the kind of foundation that can get them through the difficult times they will face throughout the teen years and into adulthood. Here are some things that parents can do to help build up this foundation for a healthy self-esteem:
- One of the most important factors in our self esteem comes from the way others react to us. This means that the way parents react to their teens behaviors, opinions, and actions has a lasting impact on their self esteem. The teen years can be very challenging for parents but praising twice as often as you criticize may be even more important with teens than with younger children.
- Healthy self-esteem also comes from feeling a sense of belonging. Parents can help children feel like they belong by showing through words and actions that they are loved, respected, and cared about.
- Healthy self-esteem is reinforced by good experiences. Parents who can create opportunities for their teens to do things on their own, to succeed, and even to stumble give them the environment they need to have these kind of experiences.
- Parents should work at including teens in family responsibilities and even age appropriate decisions. These activities foster healthy self-esteem.
- Supporting teens in their school efforts and helping them however they need to be helped to become successful learners also makes a real difference in forming this all important foundation.
- Developing healthy self-esteem comes from knowing that you are loved, that you are special, and that you are capable. It doesn’t come from empty praise, never being challenged, and never coming in second. It comes from genuine accomplishments and real expressions of love.
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Disagreeing with your teen doesn’t have to be win-lose with someone getting “tossed from the game.” Follow these tips towards finding a win-win solution. (Photo credit: sidehike)
When it comes to the relationship between parents and teenagers, there are few skills that can make things better, faster, than mastering the art of compromise. Many of the families we work with are stuck in a never-ending battle of wills. On one side are the parents who believe that they know what is best for their teen and on the other is the teenager who doesn’t necessarily agree. This dynamic, which is present in all families with teenagers, is not a sign of trouble but rather a sign that the teenager is developing their own sense of self and individual identity. However, unless families have the skills they need to effectively manage this battleground, this healthy dynamic can turn toxic. If both sides insist on standing their ground, these small battles and minor skirmishes can morph into a full-scale war where no one wins, everyone is unhappy, and the parent-child relationship is left in tatters.
In order to understand why compromise is so important, it helps to take a step back and re-examine our role as parents. Many parents feel like it is our job to control every aspect of our children’s lives and sometimes control, discipline, and a “do what I say” mentality is what is needed, even with teenagers. Unfortunately, it can be easy for parents who are tired of their teen arguing with everything they say to dig in their heels and fortify this position. The answer to every question, request, or argument becomes some version of “because I said so.” When parents choose this place to stand their ground, most teenagers will take up an opposite position, assuming that the only way to make their voice heard is to shout louder and rebel more. When no one is willing to stand down, everyone loses.
However, if our job as parents is to teach our children what they need to know in order to successfully navigate the world on their own, we make room for flexibility as well as “do what I say” moments. We make it possible to find a middle ground when it makes sense without relinquishing our right to exert control when it matters. We create space to teach our teens how to compromise, how to negotiate, and how to stand their ground when the situation warrants it rather than feeling like the only way to win is for someone else to lose.
Working towards a win-win situation starts with a discussion where everyone feels heard and understood. It is important that this discussion is centered on communicating each side’s position and doesn’t include judgment, criticism, or demands. The key concept parents need to keep in mind is that sometimes it is better to lose a few battles in order to win the war. If winning the war means producing a self-sufficient, self-confident young adult that willing contributes to society, it can be easier to let go of battles that aren’t likely to affect the overall outcome. For example, your daughter’s desire to dye her hair purple may offend your parental sensibilities. But if allowing her to win this battle makes her feel heard, supports her search for her own identity, and allows you to stand firm on something that is more important without being seen as a dictator, it may be better for her in the long run if you back down.
Monday, March 4th, 2013
Though technology affords teens the ability to interact without being together, teen violence and abuse still readily exists.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Times have changed since today’s parents were teenagers and the rules about almost everything seem to be different. Parents who used to spend hours hanging out with their friends at the arcade or the mall now wonder if their child is well-adjusted and socially engaged because they don’t seem to hang out with their friends much at all. What many parents don’t realize is that the way teenagers interact and engage with each other is completely different from their own experience. Teens used to need to be separate from their parents physically in order to interact with other teens without parental awareness or involvement. But now, all they need is an internet connection and a smart phone and they can get that separation without ever having to leave the living room.
These differences cross all the different types of relationships teenagers engage in, including dating. Where parents “went out” with each other, figuratively and literally, today’s teens may never go “out” on what their parents would recognize as a date. So much has changed in the span of a generation that it can be difficult for parents to understand their teen’s relationships or even recognize when they are involved in one. Even though technology affords teenagers the ability to interact with one another without leaving their own family’s living room, they may still meet up with each other outside of their home and possibly get involved in behavior that could be dangerous, even though it wouldn’t be recognized as a typical dating scenario. Unfortunately, there is one thing about teen relationships that hasn’t really changed in the face of technology, the possibility that a teenager’s relationship will become abusive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 9% of teenagers report that they have experienced some form of physical abuse in the past 12 months. If you factor in other forms of partner abuse including emotional, sexual, and psychological, 1 in 4 teens report some form of dating violence each year. The long term consequences of dating violence amongst teens are significant. Teenagers who experience or witness dating violence can find it difficult to excel academically and may be more likely to skip school or drop out. Victims of this kind of abuse are more likely to smoke, use illicit or illegal drugs, struggle with eating disorders, and consider suicide. The pregnancy rate amongst teen girls who have been victims of dating violence is 3 times higher than their peers.
What Parents Can Do
One of the most important things parents can do is to talk to their teenagers about dating violence. Teaching teens what is and is not a healthy relationship helps them see when a boyfriend or girlfriend’s behavior crosses the line. Teach teens these warning signs that their relationship is becoming or has become abusive:
- Being called names
- Being embarrassed, put down, or degraded in front of others
- Possessiveness including non-stop texting and calling, demanding to know whereabouts and who they are with
- Controlling behavior
- Any physical violence
- Pressure to have sex or forced sex
Additionally, parents need to know which warning signs to watch for so that they will know if their teen is in trouble but unable or unwilling to report it. Parents need to be alert for:
- Rapid drops in grades
- Changes in mood or personality
- Struggling to make decisions
- Hesitant to offer their opinion, even when asked
- Signs of physical abuse
- Negative attitude and talk towards themselves
If your child is being abused, contact the police department immediately.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
If there is one thing we as a society could do to decrease the incidence of bullying, combat domestic violence, and ensure today’s children will become upstanding compassionate adults, it would be to teach and foster empathy in our children and in each other.
Examples of what happens when empathy is absent are all around us. You need only tune into the news to hear about another senseless act of violence or about one teen doing something terrible to another. Parents, civil, leaders, and mental health practitioners alike are looking for answers to the near-epidemic level of bullying behavior that seems to touch every child’s life in one way or another. Experts struggle to understand why even the most popular, likable, well-adjusted adolescents seem open to participating in behavior previously seen primarily in those who struggled to adhere to social norms. Regardless of the other factors that cause and contribute to these challenges, at the root of each one is a lack of empathy.
What is Empathy?
When you feel empathy for another person, you understand the feelings they are having. By putting yourself in their place, by feeling what they are feeling, you are able to react and respond in ways that are comforting, helpful, and supportive.
For example, you are waiting in line at the grocery store with several other people. The cashier is currently helping a young mother with two small children who are acting out and behaving badly. The woman is struggling to finish her purchase while also keeping track of and trying to placate her two toddlers. How you respond to this situation will vary greatly on the amount of empathy you feel for the woman. If you can imagine what it is like to be her in that moment, to feel the things she is feeling, you are more likely to be patient, understanding, and possibly even offer to help. However, if you cannot empathize with her, you are more likely to be judgmental, more likely to assume she isn’t a good mother since she cannot control her children, and perhaps even tap your foot or make a rude comment aimed at letting her know how much she is inconveniencing you.
The difference in these two reactions shows why empathy and lack of empathy in our teens can be so problematic. If you know how to have empathy for others, you are less likely to participate in behaviors that hurt people because you understand how much that behavior hurts the other person and don’t want to subject them to that pain.
While it is never too late to help someone learn to feel empathy towards others, it is a skill that is best learned in small steps from toddlers to teens and beyond. Most people are born with the capacity to feel empathy, but it isn’t something that happens on its own; it must be taught, modeled, and reinforced throughout a child’s life. If your child seems to be lacking in empathy for others, start by examining your own family dynamics. Children, including teens, learn what they live. If we want them to be caring, understanding, empathetic members of society, we must model that behavior in our own lives.
If you have any questions about how best to foster empathy in your teen, or if we can address any other concerns you may have, please give one of our counselors at Doorways a call. We would love to talk with you and answer any questions you may have.
Monday, January 28th, 2013
Do you know how to tell if your teen is lonely or depressed? (Photo credit: Qfamily)
In our previous Lonely or Alone? post, we introduced the idea that when our teens seek solitude and spend time alone, it is not always something parents should be concerned about. There are both healthy and unhealthy reasons that teens separate themselves from their family. It is common for teens that are shy or introverted to seek more alone time then their more outgoing and extroverted peers and siblings. Teens also need time on their own just like adults do. Spending time with other people takes energy and everyone needs downtime to process their own thoughts and let down their emotional guards.
Unfortunately, there are as many unhealthy reasons for teens to separate themselves from others as there are healthy reasons. For parents, the key is to understand how these are different and when spending time alone can be a warning sign that something else is going on or that their teen is not okay. To help you understand if your teenager is lonely or just spending time alone, here are the most common unhealthy reasons teens shut other people out.
Outcast and Outsider
Unfortunately, the teen years revolve around social interaction with peers and popularity matters more during these years than at any other time in life. If your teen is feeling like an outsider, is treated like an outcast, is being bullied, or can’t find a place to fit in, they may be spending so much time alone because of these factors.
These feelings can easily spiral out of control because popularity during the teen years often comes down to who you hang out with. If you have seen any of those teen movies where the bookish girl becomes popular simply because the popular boy starts paying attention to her, you understand how this works. The problem is, it also works in the opposite direction. The more unpopular a teen becomes, the less people will be willing to be seen with them, hang out with them, or be willing to be their friend.
If your teen is lonely because they are a social outcast, you need to help them understand that there is nothing wrong with them and that there are places where they will fit in. You just need to work together to find the people who get them.
Withdrawing From Their Life
Another unhealthy reason teens seek solitary time is when they are extremely unhappy after being betrayed, violated, rejected, or disappointed. Circumstances may leave your teen feelings anxious, discouraged, guilty, shameful, or like they are a failure. These extreme feelings can be so overwhelming and intense that the teen withdraws, allowing depression to control their emotional state and seeing their world as a hopeless place. This creates an environment that has no room for other people and no energy for the kind of social interaction that could combat the negativity.
If your teen is withdrawn and seems to look at life through sad, hopeless glasses, it is time to seek professional help from a mental health professional. If you have any questions about behavior you see exhibited in your teen, give one of our certified counselors at Doorways a call today. We would love to help!
Monday, January 21st, 2013
Do you know the warning signs to look for if your teen is lonely or depressed? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Parents face many challenges as they guide and usher their teenagers through the final years of adolescence on their way to becoming young adults. One of the most common is knowing when their teen’s behavior is normal and a sign of healthy adaptation and when it is abnormal and requires attention. It is normal for teenagers to spend time away from their families, often secluded in their rooms. For many parents this change in behavior can feel like their child is pulling away, like there is some problem or tension within the family. This can lead to concern about whether or not this alone time is healthy or if it is a sign that their child needs help.
Like most parenting challenges, there is no easy answer or fail-safe guideline that can be used to know the difference. In part, it depends on your child. Some people are more introverted than others, which means that some teens will seek more solitary time than their peers. Other teens may find the demands of socializing and school draining and seek alone time as a way to re-energize and rejuvenate themselves. A teenagers desire to spend time alone is not a cause for concern. In fact, this kind of separation is an important part of their development. But in order to provide for and protect their children, parents need to be able to tell between solitude that signifies healthy development and solitude that signifies danger ahead.
To help understand if your teenager is lonely or just spending time alone, here are the most common healthy reasons teens seek solitude.
Even teenagers who were outgoing as children can experience periods of shyness as teenagers. The teen years bring changes to almost every aspect of life and it is perfectly normal for teens to become fearful of things like saying the wrong thing, looking silly or strange, being rejected by others, or not fitting in with their peers. These types of fears can result in periods of shyness when your teen withdraws and seeks the comfort and safety of solitude. While feeling and acting shy is not cause for parental concern, parents can help their teen through these phases by offering encouragement and support.
Spending Time Alone
Sometimes, we all just need to spend some time by ourselves. Being with other people requires a lot of energy no matter what age you are because you have to consider the other people’s needs, opinions, and feelings while moderating what you say and how you act. This can be draining even if you aren’t a teenager trying to navigate a constantly shifting and completely unforgiving social network while also building the skills to do so. Sometimes, your teenager just needs to not have to worry about anyone else for awhile so they can recharge their own batteries. This is healthy behavior and no cause for concern.
Being an Introvert
As mentioned above, some people, including teenagers, are simply more introverted than others. Introverted teens thrive when they get to spend enough time on their own. They benefit from honoring this side of themselves and the best thing parents can do is be understanding and supportive of their need for this solitary space. However, even introverted teens need social interaction. Creating relationships, connecting with others, and establishing solid communication skills are as essential for introverts as they are for extroverts and teens that isolate themselves in order to avoid these situations may need encouragement in these areas.
Regardless of what may be leading your teen or adolescent to spend time alone, be aware of any signs of depression that may be causing this behavior. Be on the lookout for any of the following signs of depression. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give one of our counselors at Doorways a call.
- Mood changes
- Loss of enjoyment in activities, socializing, and pastimes
- Lack of energy
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Problems with concentration
- Changes in eating habits that includes craving high sugar foods
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
How do you help your teen feel safe in today’s world of uncertainty? photo credit: Laura4Smith via photopin cc
The school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was a tragedy beyond measure. When events like this occur, it shakes the foundation on which all our lives are built. This is as true for our teenagers as it is for us parents. Everyone searches for some way to make sense of the awful events of that day, even those of us who live in different towns, cities, and states. We do this because we need to be able to explain what happened in order to be able to convince ourselves it can never happen to us. In these difficult times, being able to restore our own sense of safety and security is of the utmost importance and seeking these kinds of answers is one of the ways we do that. However, even as we seek these answers and explanations for ourselves, we need to be conscientious about how we are communicating about this tragedy with our children. Here are some tips for how you can help your children through this and other tragic events.
1. Consider How to Communicate
As we saw with the media coverage in the hours and days after the shooting, confusion, misinformation, and distress are common in the aftermath of tragedy. If the trained journalists reporting on TV can get things wrong, think of how hard it can be for your teen to decipher fact from fiction and determine truth from sensation. This is one reason that communicating effectively with your teen is even more important at these times. Make sure you use age appropriate language and don’t overwhelm your children with information they don’t need or may not know how to deal with. Stick to the facts, be clear, and keep things simple.
2. Answer Tough Questions
One of the things everyone wants to know when something terrible happens is why it happened. Children and teens are no exception. The search for reason in an unreasonable situation is how we try to make sense of senseless acts. The challenge for parents is to help their children understand that these things happen for a variety of reasons like mental illness, religious or political fanaticism, or simple hatred without turning any specific group into the “bad guy.” For example, while some of the people who have been responsible for mass shootings have suffered from mental illnesses, not everyone with a mental illness can or would hurt other people.
3. Stress Safety
Another of the most common questions we all ask at times like these “is will it happen again” or more importantly, “how can I make sure it never happens to me?” The truth is, random acts of violence will always happen and there is no way to protect ourselves from each and every eventuality. People do terrible things and there is no way to ensure it will never happen to you. Despite this, even teens need to re-establish a sense of security, to find a way to feel safe in their world. The best way to do this is to focus on ways to make ourselves safer rather than on our inability to control the random acts of others.