|Counseling and Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Young Adults
Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’
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
Monday, December 17th, 2012
It is easy to make these parenting mistakes (Photo credit: beX out loud)
As most parents can tell you, about the time you start feeling like you have things under control and you know what to do and how to be the best parent to your child is about the time they morph into someone completely different and become teenagers. This means that parents may need to make some changes to what tools they have in their parenting toolbox in order to keep up. This transition can be as difficult for parents as it is for their teens and invariably, all of them will make some mistakes. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see parents of teenagers make.
1. Looking for the Bad Rather than the Good
The teenage years can be tumultuous and trying. However, it is important that parents don’t fixate on any negative expectations. The old saying goes, “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” When it comes to parenting teenagers, that should say “whether you think they are good or think they are bad, you are right.” Oftentimes, when parents spend all their energy waiting and watching for the worst, they miss out on all the best things about their teens. In fact, all these negative expectations can actually bring about the bad behavior the parent is hoping to avoid.
2. Failing to Use their Own Instincts
One of the most obvious examples of this is people who read too many parenting books. This is actually a mistake parents can make at every stage of their child’s life. Parents who turn to other sources and who rely on other people’s advice about how to raise their teenagers are disregarding the most effective parenting tool they have at their disposal, their instincts.
3. Being Overly Controlling
Some parents feel that the best way to make sure their teens avoid problems with alcohol, drugs, sex, pregnancy, and all other teenage dangers is to keep them on a short leash, micromanaging and controlling everything they do. This may mean that they restrict access to social media sites, have veto power over any wardrobe decisions, and can decide who their teen can and cannot be friends with. While this may seem like a surefire way to keep them out of trouble, it can actually create two different problems. First, teens whose parents exert this much control are likely to rebel and to rebel in serious and significant ways. Part of being a teenager is taking some steps out into the world on your own and when parents prohibit that kind of exploration, it can backfire. Second, this type of parenting makes it very difficult for teens to learn how to make decisions by themselves.
4. Not Being Controlling Enough
On the flipside of the parents above, these parents take a laid back approach to parenting and fail to set boundaries, expectations, or standards of behavior. These are the parents that excuse inappropriate teen behaviors like smoking pot or having casual sex as “teens being teens.” By allowing their teens to behave however they want, these parents are failing to provide the solid foundation and sound moral compass that will help guide them through adulthood.
Parents of teenagers have a big role to play and have much more influence than they might think. The teen years may require parents to develop different tools and strategies. At times, it may feel like nothing they do or say is making a difference. However, parents are the ones who help teens build that foundation and formulate their own internal compass.
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Follow Chase’s parenting tips to enhance your relationship with your teenager. (Photo credit: Virginia Guard Public Affairs)
by: Chase Kerrey, MA LAC
1. Be Relational
By the time parents usually come in for counseling with concerns about their son or daughter the relationship is strained, with the parent oftentimes in a mindset that is attempting to “fix” the child and the child rebelling against this attempt at control. One of the best things parents can do, even during times of stress or strain, is look at their son or daughters behavior as a window into what it’s like to be them. In my experience the healthier families I work with all have something in common: at the end of the day, there is always an undercurrent of interest in relating to and empathizing with other family member’s experiences. In a phrase, they are listening with curiosity.
2. Be Mindful
Being mindful is the capacity to take a step back from an experience rather than simply reacting to it. In families the message intended is not always the message received, so the importance is for families to be able to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a way that limits misunderstanding. Children, adolescents, and teenagers are more prone to feelings of shame, worthlessness, incompetence, and failure as they develop physically, psychologically, and neurologically, which means emphasis needs to be placed on behavior when correction is warranted, rather than making generalized statements in the heat of the moment that could be interpreted as a reflection of their worth and value.
3. Be Purposeful
After seminars and in family sessions, parents oftentimes come up to me and ask what I believe to be the goal of parenting. The single greatest response that I’ve picked up and subsequently pass on to others is that a parent’s job is to train their child into becoming a functional adult. The profession of parenting in this regard is similar to that of a therapist or long lasting gum manufacturer; the goal is to work oneself out of a job. In every circumstance that you or your spouse come to on the parenting front, ask yourself, “am I preparing my son or daughter to be a contributing member of society, either physically, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, or spiritually? And if not, what can I do in this situation to point them in that direction, even if it means exposing my child to the natural consequences of his/her behavior? The goal is for your child to graduate from your direct care ready for what the world has to offer and the newfound responsibilities that will undoubtedly come.
4. Be Teachable
As a father of a four year old boy and two year old girl, I seem to be reminded daily of the fact that I am a perfectly imperfect parent. Stated bluntly, I believe that we as human beings are destined to mess up, it just depends when and to what extent. With that in mind, the goal for parents is not to spare your child from seeing you make a mistake, but rather in allowing them to see you accept responsibility, pursue reconciliation when warranted, and pick yourself back up without blaming, shaming, or judging yourself or others in the process.
5. Be Moderate
This topic centers on the topic of control. Oftentimes we as parents or as individuals handle stress by swinging to one of two extremes: we attempt to control our environment and the people in it, or we do something in the moment that brings pleasure but fails to address the origins of the stress. Both are what therapists call avoidant behaviors, and both ironically cause increases of stress and/or anxiety over time. The goal here is balance or moderation, understanding that to be an adult means to deal with higher and higher levels of ambiguity and to release those things we cannot control, but also to make strides in making positive change in those things we do have some say in.
6. Be Balanced
To be a parent means learning to do more with less: less time, less money, more responsibility, more crises that demand our attention. But finding yourself burning the candle at both ends is not the solution, and in fact over time this “white knuckling it” approach will drill you into the ground physically and emotionally. Parents usually tell me in our introductory session, “but Chase, we don’t have time / can’t afford to have balance”, but the reality is that your family cannot afford to have you experience a complete physical or mental breakdown either. The single most important relationship within a family systems perspective is the parent/spousal relationship, and this is due I believe largely to the fact that parents set the emotional tone of the family by how well they are taking care of themselves and each other. Plan regular and predictable quiet times, reading hours, date nights, exercise groups or any other form of self care needed to keep yourself physically and emotionally afloat. It’s not being selfish; it’s being responsible to yourself and your family.
7. Be Content
Chances are incredibly good that not every child will grow to have an IQ comparable to Steven Hawking (over 200) or become the next Michael Jordan, but that does not mean that your child will live a life lacking significance or worth if he/she does not attain these goals. Each child has unique giftedness, abilities, and insight to make a mark in this life and in the lives of others. The goal is to identify these gifts and abilities in our kids and cultivate them when they arise, not attempt to manufacture skills and abilities where parents might want them to be. Talking to those who have worked with individuals experiencing end of life scenarios frequently report the most significant variable in those who’ve experienced fulfillment facing death verses despair is the quality of relationships one had and the vulnerability experienced in those relationships, rather than past achievements.
8. Be Aware
One of the most difficult things for a parent to do with a child or adolescent struggling psychologically is to pick up the phone and admit that there is a problem outside of their capacity to fix. Many parents do not seek outside advice or support when their child’s symptoms first arise, either due to not seeing the symptoms as significant as they actually are or simply not seeing the symptoms at all. If your child is displaying behavior outside what you would consider to be “normal”, you notice a sudden change or mood swings, your adolescent becomes increasingly isolative or angry, or you simply have that motherly or fatherly “gut” feeling that tells you something’s up, chances are good outside help is warranted.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
Are you overwhelmed by the types of Psychotherapy? Read this article to better understand.(Image via Marquette La on Flicker)
For parents new to the world of mental health, the different types of practitioners and the different therapeutic techniques can seem overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to know all the answers in order to find a mental health professional that can help your child. However, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the most common types of psychotherapy in use today so that you can feel like you are making an informed decision. To help you with that understanding, here are the basic definitions of the most common types of psychotherapy.
One of the most common types of psychotherapy in use today, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often combined with other techniques and methodologies to provide the most comprehensive treatment for a client. In essence, the cognitive-behavioral approach to mental health rests on the idea that children learn what they live. The environment a person is raised in, the circumstances of their upbringing, and the major events of their childhood and adolescence play a large role in who they become. If a child is raised by parents that don’t express their emotions in a healthy manner, the child will mimic this dysfunctional response and may struggle to identify and express their own emotions. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT) works to replace those dysfunctional thought patterns, responses, and behaviors by introducing healthy alternatives and reinforcing the change through positive experiences. As the problems each client is facing are different, the techniques, tools, and strategies used in CBT can vary and are generally specific to the needs of the individual client.
Behavioral therapy is also based around behavior but differs in that it seeks to use changes in behavior to change thought patterns and emotional responses. This approach to psychotherapy is very structured and includes techniques like self-monitoring, role playing, and behavior modification.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
This type of psychotherapy combines cognitive-behavioral techniques geared at learning to regulate emotions and learn to identify reality versus perceptions with practices like mindfulness, acceptance, and distress tolerance. It was primarily developed as a way to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and is the first therapy to prove effective in helping those with BPD. It also shows promise in helping those with spectrum mood disorders like self injury and can an effective approach for treating teens who exhibit cutting behaviors.
The Humanistic Therapy method of treating those with mental health concerns takes a very different approach than the behavior-based methodologies. It centers on the concept of self-actualization and the idea that people are responsible for their own choices. This means that childhood experiences, learned behaviors, and any resulting dysfunction are irrelevant, what matters is taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors experienced. Therapy may focus on major internal conflicts like acceptance, authenticity, and individualism.
This is one of the oldest schools of thought around treating mental health concerns and centers on how someone’s childhood, upbringing, and parental relationships are impacting their current lives. Although psychodynamic analysis may be part of a mental health professionals approach to treatment, it is not generally the only tool in their toolbox.
It is important to remember that these are not the only types or techniques used by mental health practitioners. There are many other approaches and methods that are valid and proven to help those in need. The most important factor in getting your child the help they need is to find a mental health professional that your child is comfortable with and partner with them to find the right approach for your child’s needs.
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
The pressure to be thin in order to fit in is more extreme for today’s teenagers than it was for their parents and grandparents, often resulting in the development of eating disorder and the need for teen counseling. The obsession with weight that so often contributes to the development of eating disorders like bulimia is starting younger and younger. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) found that almost half of girls in 1st-3rd grade wish they were thinner and by age 10, 80% of those girls will be afraid of getting fat. By the time they reach college, more than 90% of them will have been on a diet at some point in their lives and 25% of them will be using the binge and purge cycle associated with bulimia as a way to manage their weight.
Statistics show that more than 80% of eating disorders start before age 20. As many as 4% of women will struggle with bulimic behaviors at some point in their lifetime and since people with bulimia can be any weight, this eating disorder can be harder to spot than others like anorexia. It is common, however, for people who are anorexic to also use bulimic behavior to control their weight.
What Bulimia Looks Like
People with bulimia can be any weight- from the kind of underweight associated with anorexia to obese. Like other eating disorders, those with bulimia are often afraid of being overweight, obsessed with weight management, and always trying to lose weight so that they will be happier with their body. However, the behaviors people with this disorder use to address those fears don’t generally result in weight loss by themselves. Bulimic behaviors follow a cycle that starts with the binge. During a binge, people will eat excessive amounts of high-calorie food in a short period of time and feel like they have no real control over their eating. After bingeing, the person feels ashamed, disgusted, afraid, or guilty for consuming so many calories and purging feels like a way to rewind the clock and undo the damage. Purging, which can occur through vomiting, abuse of laxatives, excessive exercise, or starvation, often relieves the anxiety and helps alleviate the negative emotions caused by bingeing.
The shame associated with bulimia often results in secretive behavior and people with the disorder may go to great lengths to hide their abnormal eating habits and purging behavior. There are however, some signs that can point to a problem with bulimia, if you know what to look for. People with this disorder are often preoccupied with food, may exercise compulsively for hours each day, frequently go to the bathroom directly after eating, and may take an excessive number of diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives. There are physical signs as well, but they can be more difficult to spot. They may have broken blood vessels in their eyes and swollen salivary glands at the corners of their mouths caused by vomiting, small calluses or cuts across their knuckles from inducing vomiting, and problems with their teeth like excessive decay, gingivitis, or loss of tooth enamel.
The Real Dangers of Being Bulimic
Like other eating disorders, bulimia can be dangerous and even life-threatening. People with bulimia may experience problems with constipation, dehydration, hemorrhoids, and even pancreatitis. Excessive vomiting can lead to serious damage to the esophagus including tearing and rupture in addition to permanent damage to teeth and gums. Overuse of laxatives or diuretics can result in electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration.
How You Can Help
People who have eating disorders need the support of those around them. If someone you know has an eating disorder, the best way to help is to educate yourself about the disorder and provide the support they need throughout their recovery.