|Counseling and Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Young Adults
Posts Tagged ‘Family’
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, 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, December 5th, 2012
The holidays we celebrate this time of year are very family centric. Unlike the 4th of July or Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Christmas are as much about families and their traditions as they are about anything else. For children and teenagers with divorced parents, this means that the holiday season can cause more than just a longing for the latest gadget or toy.
As every TV commercial shows some version of a happy family sharing time together, this time of year can highlight the feelings of loneliness and abandonment your child is already experiencing. While the first holiday season after a divorce is usually the hardest, the pain and sadness of being apart at this time of family togetherness is common long after the dust of that first year settles.
Here are some tips and strategies for helping your family navigate the holiday season with less stress and more joy.
1. Plan Ahead
Make a plan with your ex-spouse that provides the best holiday experience for your children. As part of the planning, ask your children how they would like to spend their holidays. For some, it may be very important to spend time with both parents on special days like Christmas Day. For others, spending time with both parents is important, but which days or times matters less. Make sure that the children will have an open line of communication with both parents throughout the season regardless of where they are on any given day. Talk to your ex-spouse about gift giving and agree to joint gift giving, spending limits, or whatever arrangements works best for your circumstances.
2. Talk to Your Children
Talk through the plans for each holiday with your children so that they know what to expect and can voice any concerns or frustrations. Let them know that you want to hear their opinions and welcome their input as you all work together to have the happiest holiday season possible. Discuss where you will be spending each of the major holidays, how transitions will take place, and what choices the children can make themselves.
3. Discuss Traditions
For many families, the holidays are full of family traditions and losing these treasured activities can be hard on children. However, it is not always a good idea to try and replicate cherished memories when one of the key participants is no longer part of the household. For some families, these traditions can be comforting to the children as a reminder that some things haven’t changed. For others, it is too painful to participate because it reminds them of how much better things were before the divorce. Take time out before the holidays to talk through your family traditions with the kids and decide which to keep, which to retire, and what new ones you want to start this year. The most important thing is to get them involved in the decision.
4. Focus on the Spirit of the Season
Although it may be hard to see sometimes, traditionally, the holidays are about gratitude, sharing, and giving to others. Take time each day as your family prepares for the holidays to talk about all the good things in your lives and seek out opportunities to help others. Volunteering and giving back to those who have less than us is not only a wonderful way to celebrate this season, it can also help bring joy into our own lives.
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
It is possible for parents to help their teen navigate through the difficult time of divorce.
No one likes to think about it and yet 50% of us will end up going through a divorce. It is hard enough to deal with the loss of a marriage, but for parents, the loss is made even greater because our actions are directly impacting our children. As a parent, going through one of the hardest times of our lives, it is our job to make sure it isn’t any harder on our teenagers than it has to be, and that they have the love, support, and guidance to get through the experience undamaged. This can feel like a tall order, especially if the divorce has left you devastated.
There is good news however, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It is possible to deal with divorce in a constructive way and create a wonderful new life for you and your family. Divorce, for children, shows up like an unwanted, unwelcome house guest. It unpacks its bags and settles in, spreading uncertainty and anger. Divorce brings uncertainty and anger into our lives. The key to helping adolescents and teens navigate through this time is to actively manage the baggage this unwelcome guest brought with them.
The first bit of baggage to deal with is uncertainty. Divorce can upend everything in your family’s lives. Schedules change, childhood homes get sold, responsibilities increase, and time together often decreases. Everything your family relied on for stability and comfort may be gone and it may be hard to find anything that feels solid enough to stand on. This is an unwelcome feeling for anyone, but for teens who are already going through a significant time in their own lives, this guest can throw them completely off balance and leave them wondering which way is up.
While we cannot eliminate every uncertainty during this tumultuous time, there are some things you can do to give your teen some stable ground to stand on.
- Help them understand that the divorce was not their fault.
- In an age-appropriate way, talk to them about the reasons for the divorce together. It is important to remember that blaming and/or shaming each other in front of your children only hurts them more.
- Do not lie to them or withhold information.
- Encourage them to ask questions and provide an age appropriate answer.
The other bit of baggage you need to manage is anger. It isn’t unusual for teens to be angry about the divorce. They may be angry at one parent, both parents, or simply the world. If you can put yourself in their shoes, you will see that they have every right to be angry. Everything in their lives is changing, they feel like their family will never be the same, and there is nothing they can do about it. There are two important things parents can do to help teens who are angry. The first is to let them know its ok. The second is to help them find healthy ways to handle that anger. Simply sweeping it under the rug or pretending that it isn’t there can make it worse. Help your teenager by modeling healthy behavior, giving them time and space to deal with the divorce and their feelings at their own pace, and reaffirming that the divorce doesn’t change how you or the other parent feels about them. If you have questions about how to navigate this journey effectively with your teen, Doorways can help. Give us a call today!
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Did you know having your teen argue with you as a parent might just be a good thing? (image via flickr)
Many parents come to counseling with the goal of having a peaceful, calm household. They feel like their teenager argues with every request, treats all demands as unreasonable, and believes they know best about everything in their life. They worry that their relationship seems to center only on conflict and seems to be lacking the closeness that was there when their teenager was still a child. These parents want help understanding how to make their child stop arguing and how to find that magical conflict-free place they are dreaming about. But new research shows that a conflict-free household with teenagers that never challenge their parents may not be the nirvana parents are looking for and that some conflict between parents and teens may actually be a good thing.
Researchers at the University of Virginia recently published the findings from a new study in the Journal Child Development. The goal of the study was to look for key factors or traits that made some adolescents more susceptible to peer pressure, especially peer pressure related to the use of drugs and alcohol. The research team found that one of the key factors that made some teens more able to stand up to their peers was being able to argue effectively. Those adolescents who were able to use this skill to combat peer pressure learned it by practicing with their parents.
The study was based on two separate sets of interviews with 157 teens. The participants were first interviewed when they were 13 and each interview was videotaped and then played back for both the teen and the parent. The most common things the teens argued about with their parents were chores, money, grades, and friends. The researchers observed how the parents reacted to viewing the video tape and any subsequent interaction between the parent and the child.
Upon viewing the initial videotape of their teen’s interview, parents in the study had a variety of reactions. Some parents seemed uncomfortable; others seemed annoyed at their child or defensive about their parenting skills. But there was one group of parents who used the video as a launching point to delve into the issues raised by the teen and began a discussion immediately to try and resolve the conflict or work through the problem.
The second round of interviews was conducted when the teens were 15 or 16. The results of these interviews showed that those teenagers whose parents modeled calm conflict resolution and encouraged their teens to argue appropriately, were 40% more likely to stand up to peer pressure effectively. In essence, learning to argue in a constructive way with their parents provided these teens with skills they then used when interacting with the world outside their family, including their peers.
In order for parents to help their teens acquire these all important skills, they need to create space for teens to argue in a constructive and appropriate way, model the behaviors they want to promote, and listen. All arguing isn’t going to give teens what they need which is why this modeling is so critical. Teens need to learn how to argue their point persuasively and calmly without resorting to anger, yelling, whining, throwing insults, or making threats. The goal is to help teenagers become confident in their ability to express their opinion and stand up for that opinion even when others disagree.
Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Boundaries Within The Family
Who: For parents of Brophy Prep or Xavier Prep students.
What: In this presentation Chase Kerrey outlines how families can find balance
between relational intimacy and structured limitation in parenting their
child, adolescent, and/or young adult.
When: Monday, September 24 from 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Led By: Chase Kerrey, LAC
Where: Brophy College Preparatory, 4701 North Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85012
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
One of the most important things parents can do is validate their tween’s emotions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Teenagers are moody. The ups and downs of teen hormones are so commonplace and expected that parents are more likely to be concerned if their teenager doesn’t experience the massive mood swings associated with transitioning from child to adult. For some parents, however, this behavior comes a little early and is entirely unexpected. Parents who prepared themselves to deal with the rebellious/belligerent/infatuated/best-day-of-my-life moments typical to teenagers often find themselves ill-equipped to handle the ball of emotions inhabiting their tween’s body. Children in this age-group can seem just like the child they know and love one minute and a sullen stranger or angry alien the next.
What Makes Them Moody?
Tweens are moody for the same reason teenagers are moody; they are changing into a new person which brings a host of factors into play. They are in the midst of building a whole new identity, trying to figure out who they are, what they like, and where they fit in. They are establishing and stabilizing friendships, forming cliques, and creating new communities all the while the elementary school days when everyone was friends with everyone fades further into their past. Peer pressure begins to play a real role in their lives and the need to fit in becomes one of the most important things in their lives. Their bodies are starting to change which means hormones are wreaking havoc and often leaving them as bewildered as their parents at their ever shifting behavior.
In short, they have a lot going on!
Now, if there are any additional factors like dysfunction in the family, divorce, or instability at home, these extreme moods can feel like a rollercoaster ride that is all terror and no fun.
What Can Parents Do?
One of the most important things parents can do to help their tweens through this stage is to validate their emotions, take time to talk to them often about what is happening in their lives and what they are going through, and discussing how they are feeling. As tweens struggle in this limbo between child and teenager, they are looking to assert their independence but still need support, direction and reassurance from their parents and the other adults in their lives. While they need to start learning to make decisions for themselves, they need guidance and assistance to learn how to make the right decisions that are healthy and appropriate. Setting appropriate boundaries and providing natural consequences for when those boundaries are pushed is also necessary.
Parents often struggle with communication when their tween seems to be trying on new and different personalities on for size on a daily basis. However, this is one time that remaining connected and maintaining communication channels is vitally important. Talk to your tween directly about the changes you are seeing and the behavior you are observing. Check in regularly to see what challenges they are facing, changes they are going through, or feelings that are experiencing. It is common for tweens to keep these issues to themselves which is why it is so important for parents to ask, discuss, and guide.
Do’s and Don’ts of Keeping a Close Relationship with Your Tween
- Do – Use an authoritative parenting style. This means that parents need to have realistic expectations for their tween and be responsive to their needs.
- Do – Model healthy emotional expression/emotional regulation skills and effective communication skills.
- Do – Support your tween by assisting with difficult decisions and providing support for their struggles
- Do – Spend quality time with your tween. Make it a point to tell them how much they are loved and valued for who they are (not what they do or their appearance) as often as you can.
- Don’t – Avoid setting appropriate boundaries and allowing for natural consequences.
- Don’t – Put unrealistic expectations and pressure on them.
- Don’t – Try to fix their problems. Instead, assist them in solving their own problems.
- Don’t – Hesitate to get support from a professional counselor if your tween is struggling to identify, express, or regulate their emotions.