|Counseling and Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Young Adults
Posts Tagged ‘Adolescence’
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.
Monday, February 25th, 2013
This week, February 24 – March 2 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. KPHO CBS 5 AZ talks with Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, Rachel Brogan from Doorways Arizona about the prevalence of eating disorders amongst today’s teens and adolescents. 62% of teen girls in Arizona are on a diet when less than 30% are overweight.
Monday, February 18th, 2013
Do you know how much your teen should be eating? (Photo credit: USDAgov)
In today’s world, it can be difficult for parents to know what healthy eating looks like in teenagers. On one hand, conventional wisdom says that growing teenagers will eat you out of house and home. On the other hand, the news is packed with stories about the obesity epidemic and how so many of our teens are overweight and facing life-long health problems. With conflicting messages coming from the media, many parents are looking for guidance or a frame of reference of what a healthy teenage diet looks like and when it may be time to seek the help of a professional.
As with most things, the real answer is that the amount of calories your teen needs each day really depends on your teen. Student athletes likely need more calories than their more sedentary peers. Boys generally need more than girls. Teens in the midst of a growth spurt may need more calories than those who are not. However, there are some basic guidelines that can give parents an idea of how much is too much, how much is not enough, and what really makes up a healthy balanced diet for today’s teen.
There are three factors that you need to take into account when determining how many calories your child needs each day. The first is whether or not they are male or female. The guidelines recommended by the National Institutes of Health indicate that the number of calories needed by males and females is different beginning around age 9. The second factor is age. Specific guidelines for each age range are provided below. The third factor is activity level. Of the three, this is the only factor that is subjective. The NIH guidelines use three different activity level classifications:
- Not Active – Teens who fit in this box don’t play sports and are not very active. They participate in the kind of light activity that comes from living their lives like walking to class or doing chores around the house.
- Somewhat Active – Teens who are considered somewhat active expend more energy than the first group, participating in 30-40 minutes of physical activity over the course of a day like participating in gym class or playing basketball with friends after school.
- Very Active - Teens that should be classified as very active get more than 40 minutes of physical activity each day and participate in activities like organized sports teams with daily practices and dance training.
Once you have determined your teen’s activity level, you can use the NIH’s recommended calorie range below to estimate how many calories your teenager needs to eat each day to be healthy.
- Boys age 9-13
- 1,600-2,000 calories if they are not active
- 1,800-2,200 calories if they are somewhat active
- 2,000-2,600 calories if they are very active
- Girls age 9-13
- 1,400-1,600 calories if they are not active
- 1,600-2,000 calories if they are somewhat active
- 1,800-2,200 calories if they are very active
- Boys age 14-18
- 2,000-2,400 calories if they are not active
- 2,400-2,800 calories if they are somewhat active
- 2,800-3,200 calories if they are very active
- Girls age 14-18
- 1,800 calories if they are not active
- 2,000 calories if they are somewhat active
- 2,400 calories if they are very active
Unless parents are concerned that their teen’s health is being impacted by how they are eating, it isn’t necessary or advisable for parents to track daily calorie intake or strictly monitor everything a teenager eats. Modeling healthy eating habits and providing healthy balanced meals are the best things parents can do to help teens eat healthily in general. However, if you are concerned about your child’s weight or how much/little they are eating, schedule an appointment with a medical practitioner, licensed nutritionist, or dietitian.
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Rachel Brogan MS, RD, Registered Dietitian
Doorways is now offering weight loss and nutrition services
- Weekly one-on-one with our dietician
- Personal eating plan
- Get help with eating issues
- Get the accountability, support and resources you need
Rachel is also available to speak to groups and organizations about healthy eating.
Rachel received her Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Nebraska in 2003. She worked at Remuda Ranch for over five years treating adult women, girls, and boys with anxiety and eating disorders. She specializes in adolescent eating disorder treatment, weight management, and family education. She is excited about leading adolescents and young adults into a more positive relationship between their bodies and food.
For more information call Doorways at 602-997-2880.
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.
Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Half of teenage girls and a quarter of teenage boys have used dieting in an attempt to change their body. (Photo credit: justonlysteve)
There is a lot of pressure on today’s teens to go on a diet. Some feel this pressure because they are overweight or struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Others are at a healthy weight but feel pressure to be thinner or to look a certain way. These pressures encourage teens to “go on a diet” and to try the latest “thing” for losing weight. According to the National Institute of Health, half of teenage girls and a quarter of teenage boys have used dieting in an attempt to change their body. Teens of all sizes believe that dieting will help them get the body they believe will make them beautiful, popular, and happy.
Unfortunately, this is simply untrue. In fact, research has shown that teens who diet have lower self esteem, feel less connected to their families and friends, and don’t feel like they have control of their lives. In some cases, dieting, especially when it is done over and over, can actually lead to weight gain and weight problems later in life. No matter how popular a diet is or what kind of claims are made about how successful it is, the simple fact is that dieting doesn’t work almost all the time.
Here is the thing. Dieting, as we think of it in our culture, is something temporary. It may mean eating healthier foods, restricting calories, following strict rules, skipping certain meals, or only eating or not eating specific foods, but it is always a temporary change. This is the most important reason that dieting doesn’t work. Even if the changes being made lead to a healthier diet, the temporary nature of dieting means that once you achieve your goal, you will go back to your regular, potentially less healthy, eating habits. For many people, a return to their regular eating habits often means a return to their previous weight. This is how the rollercoaster of dieting begins.
The temporary nature of dieting is the foundation of this rollercoaster. Cutting calories drastically, skipping anything with carbs, and other dieting tactics can have unexpected effects. Dieting can decrease a person’s metabolism which can actually lead to gaining more weight than they lost once they stop following the diet. Restricting calories, cutting out certain types of foods, and being hungry can also make people moodier and make it harder to concentrate. In fact dieting, in the long-run, can actually result in an increase in overall body weight. This can mean lifelong issues with weight – even for those teens that were not overweight to start with!
So, what is the answer? Stop dieting. Maintaining a healthy weight should be a lifelong goal which means you need a long term solution. Rather than turning to dieting, try these healthy eating tips instead.
- Eat small meals such as 1/2 sandwich, some fruit, or some vegetables 4 or 5 times a day.
- Drink enough water. Teens need 64-80 ounces of water each day. Staying hydrated helps stabilize appetite and eliminate cravings.
- Eat a variety of foods and participate in fun physical activity on a regular basis.
- When eating out, assess how much you may want to eat ahead of time and then stop when you are full.
- If you find that you are eating when you are emotional, choose something besides food to help you cope.
If you have any questions about how your adolescent or teen can maintain a healthy body weight, a certified nutritionist at Doorways can help. Please give us a call and we would love to talk more with you.