Posted on March 24th, 2015
One of the most common themes and guidelines I share with parents is to be consistent with their parenting. This is, indeed, a challenge, given that teenagers are all over the place emotionally and behaviorally, and parents also (for the most part), happen to be human as well! Consider the following example:
Sarah had been grounded for coming home late over the weekend. “You’re not allowed to use the car until next Monday, and that is final,” her mother told her. Sarah sulked and complained, but didn’t argue as she typically did. “Over the next three days, she was a perfect angel,” her mother shared. “She did all her chores, caught up on her homework, she even paid her dad for gas she put in the car. I wanted to reward her good behavior, so I let her use the car on Saturday. Well, she came back three hours after her curfew! She had just lost her car privileges two days ago and then she did the same thing!”
Sarah’s mother forgot to be consistent with the consequence she imposed. She allowed the more recent behavior to negate the earlier poor behavior. When I pointed this out to her, she protested, “But I was trying to reward her and give her attention for doing the right thing! What was I supposed to do, not give her the car?” My answer was a resounding, “Yes, you should not have given her the car!” […]
Posted on March 19th, 2015
Adolescents today are finding the ability to alter or impair their normal functions through the use of drugs that are readily accessible to them in their own homes. Unfortunately, this is an all too common, overlooked and potentially deadly problem among youth, beginning at much younger ages than ever. Movies, social media, and the large media focus on general drug trade have showcased that the primary drugs affecting our youth are heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. As the youth of our community realize the crackdown, negative stigma, health risks, and potential criminal ramifications of using these publicized drugs, they have begun to turn to “household” drugs that are more readily available, accepted, and legal to possess. However, they may not realize that the repercussions of using these drugs can be just as severe.
These household drugs are available to our teens by “huffing” gasoline or ingesting nutmeg, paints, nitrous oxide cylinders, cold medicines, and keyboard cleansers, to name a few. Many other drugs are readily available at their fingertips in the medicine cabinets of family and friends, through various prescriptions or over the counter medicines. Since abuse of these drugs is usually unknown, when the youth needs immediate medical attention due to an overdose or adverse reaction the responding emergency services struggle to determine the cause and source of the negative reaction the patient is experiencing. As a result, much needed immediate medical treatment is delayed […]
Posted on March 17th, 2015
What I am about to claim is somewhat radical. If you are having trouble with your teenager and you are very upset as a result, the problem is not their grades or their sleep, their video game playing, or even their partying. Ninety-nine percent of your suffering is due to “should” statements. You might have thoughts like “my son should be studying more” or “my daughter should be more respectful.” “My child shouldn’t smoke pot” or “he/she shouldn’t be out with so and so.” Your suffering comes not from the actual events but from your belief that things “should” be other than they actually are.
Now, two important disclaimers: first, I didn’t make any of this up. Philosophers (Epictetus), Buddhist scholars, and cognitive therapists (Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, David Burns) have advanced these ideas for many years. Second, if your son is smoking crack or driving drunk or your daughter is suicidal or has multiple pregnancies, these are REAL problems and not just in your mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for you to let your fourteen year old stay up until three in the morning or your twelve year old smoke marijuana daily. You have the right and responsibility as a parent to set limits and encourage skillful behaviors. Furthermore, you can get help […]
Posted on March 12th, 2015
“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.”
Anger is a normal emotion and we all feel it sometimes. However, the way we express it is what can be problematic. Most teenagers occasionally grow angry and rebellious and express these emotions in various fashions. When you as a parent have an angry teen on your hands, you may feel frustrated and confused. You might be close to anger yourself. You may sometimes be afraid of your teen’s anger, and may even be afraid of your teen. It is important to keep in mind that teens can learn anything an adult can about coping with anger. Learning to manage anger is an important part of growing up, and you are in the best position to help your teen manage it!
Anger and feelings of disapproval can build up, and then are released through different methods. We can better understand this situation by imagining an “anger” balloon. Each time something happens that we do not like, air is forced into the balloon and it starts to expand. Eventually, air has to be let out of the balloon. How anger is expressed is different for different people. Some people let anger build up until their balloon pops, and when this happens there may be an explosive outburst of anger over something big or just a minor annoyance. After this display of anger, there is usually a period of control until the balloon blows up again. Some individuals release air through passive-aggressive maneuvers, displacement, or physical complaints. Others release air from the balloon every time it starts to fill by appropriately expressing their feelings at the time they occur.
You can help reduce your teen’s accumulation of anger by dealing appropriately with aggressive and rebellious behaviors when they occur. Here are some techniques that can help […]
Posted on March 10th, 2015
In October I received the call no one wants to receive. It was an area code I immediately recognized: Palo Alto, CA. I tested positive for a rare hereditary genetic mutation linked to an aggressive form of stomach cancer. With only a 1 in 500,000 chance of receiving the genetic mutation and 350 confirmed diagnoses world wide (at the time), I had won the lottery no one wants to win. By March I was in the operating room to have my entire stomach as well as 18 lymph nodes removed and begin the rocky road back to recovery. It has been the most difficult season my young family and I have encountered to date.
My story is not unique. No one is immune to storms in life, not even pastors like myself. In my role, I have the honor of walking alongside families through difficult times. While each person’s circumstances are nuanced, there are a couple notes I have taken as my family navigates our stormy season.
Be brave. One of the comments I have received through my recovery has been, “You are brave.” To be honest, I don’t feel brave. I imagine brave people to be those who jump into burning buildings, or who have survived chemotherapy. This comment incited a personal quest to discover “bravery.” […]
Posted on March 5th, 2015
Mindful parenting is a concept that includes forethought, awareness in the moment and careful reflection. When one considers the role of parenting, key ingredients of love, change and compassion should be embraced. Parents typically have little difficulty assuming the teacher role in reference to their teen, though assuming the role of student can be a bit more challenging. Mindfulness is a way of being which encourages a beginners mind. When preparing for parenthood and the trials and tribulations along its path, we ought to continuously drink the waters of reflection, emptying one’s proverbial glass in preparation for our teen to refill it again. Just at the moment we feel we have grasped the applicable parenting strategies, we find the waters of the river beneath our feet have changed. In order to address each new challenge we have to be compassionate with our teen as well as ourselves, conscious of the old adage “this is gonna hurt me more than it does you.”
Circumstances don’t always allow for two parents to be in the home; however, the same foundational pillars apply to a more complex dynamic. Regardless of how many parents are involved, mindfulness in consistency, communication, structure and routine should be considered with a certain degree of flexibility […]
Posted on March 3rd, 2015
It is common for children to become more focused on their appearance as they transition from childhood to “teen-hood.” Our culture and social media communicate powerful messages about what an ideal body should look like. Traditionally, teenage girls and young women have been targets of these messages, but increasingly, teenage boys and young men are also becoming targets.
A decrease in our culture’s daily physical activity levels has resulted in an increased focus by healthcare professionals guiding teens to make “healthier lifestyle choices.” This has led to an increasing focus on body weight and physical activity by educators: Teens are getting weighed annually (and publicly) at their school and required to participate in school sanctioned conditioning programs. This is placing additional pressure on teens and their perceived appearance of their body.
Dieting behaviors are becoming increasingly prevalent in younger age groups, and the types of dieting behaviors utilized by younger age groups (severe food restriction, vomiting, dieting pills, and laxatives) are posing greater health risks to teens. Many parents are surprised to learn that sometimes these behaviors can become life-threatening and require immediate hospitalization due to cardiac or electrolyte abnormalities […]
Posted on February 26th, 2015
There is a growing empathy gap among youth.
Earlier this year, Harvard University’s Making Caring Common (MCC) Project released a report, The Children We Mean To Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values. The study of 10,000 middle school students was revealing about their level of caring, respect, and responsibility toward others and their communities.
Only 20 percent said caring for others is most important to them. However, 80 percent said high achievement or happiness is most important to them. In other words, they are “looking out for Number 1,” as my dad would say.
We see the downside of this mindset every day at The Respect Institute.
Of course, teens didn’t create this hierarchy of values on their own. We as influencers play an important role in nurturing empathy and leadership capacity in our children. And not leadership as in “I’m the winner, follow me.” But leadership as in: “I see someone who needs help or an injustice, follow me in being of service” […]
Posted on February 24th, 2015
Teens often complain that their parents don’t understand them. Teens don’t make this easy for their parents, though, as they are frequently pushing away and asking for more independence. During adolescence, some struggles that teens go through are suitable to face without parental assistance, since this prepares them for adulthood. However, there are some heavy struggles that no one should face without support. One difficult topic that many teens feel shy to discuss with their parents (or vice versa) is the subject of self-injury. Common types of self-injury are when teens cut or burn themselves or intentionally take risks that put themselves in harm’s way. For a parent, it can be frightening to hear about teen self-harm behaviors in the news or media, to notice that some of your teen’s peers have been purposefully harming themselves, or to even have the experience of one day seeing the signs in your own teen. How can a parent positively influence their teen around this sensitive issue?
Knowledge is Power. The first step is to have an accurate understanding. There are so many misconceptions about self-injury that we hear from others and the media. If you would like to talk to your teen about a heavy topic, make sure to read up on it first. Here are some common myths that you may have heard about self-harm […]
Posted on February 19th, 2015
Is your teen experiencing normal teenage angst, or is there something to worry about? For some teens, genetics may be the underlying culprit to their mood issues.
Depression is one of the top health issues among teens. Individual variability in depression from teen to teen comes from the complex interaction between genetics and our environment. A growing amount of research suggests that methylation gene defects (MTHFR) can play an important role in the susceptibility to depression.
MTHFR stands for methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme that is responsible for the process of methylation in every cell in your body. MTHFR is a genetic variance that causes this key enzyme in the body to function at a lower than normal rate. This can lead to a variety of medical problems […]
Posted on February 17th, 2015
When tackling life’s tougher topics with your teen, especially regarding drugs and alcohol, just figuring out what to say can be a challenge. While this is true for many parents, conversation alone has been suggested to be one of the most preventative measures to risky behavior. The goal of this article is to provide you with tips in making this difficult task enriching for both parent and teen.
1. Talk to your teen, not at them.
Common complaints I hear from youth when asked why they are hesitant to talk about drugs and alcohol with their parents are: They think they know everything. They are too judgmental. They don’t understand. They don’t listen. What this boils down to is if we are the ultimate experts on everything then there is no room for conversation or differing opinions. Thus, my recommendations are […]
Posted on February 12th, 2015
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyber-bullying is “when teens use the internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”
In the age of social media, cyber-bullying has become all too common. It can cause teens to feel hurt, ashamed, embarrassed, depressed, alone, misunderstood and/or angry. In more extreme cases, it can and has led to suicide, when the teen feels there is no other way to escape.
With the prevalence of technology, bullying is no longer confined to face-to-face interactions – it can occur twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, making it a far more invasive problem. The only way to completely avoid cyber-bullying is to […]
Posted on February 10th, 2015
It’s organic. It’s medicinal. It’s not as bad as alcohol. It’s not addictive. I study better high.
These are a few of the arguments we hear routinely from the marijuana “evangelists” who comprise a sizable and growing slice of the teen patients that comprise our clientele. Even a few years ago, kids who smoked a lot of pot could allow for the negative effects of the drug. Today, it’s not a drug, it’s a lifestyle. And this lifestyle can be a flashpoint in families, even when the parents themselves smoked some pot in their own youth and would tolerate mild to moderate recreational marijuana use today.
Just as Sigmund Freud was an early evangelist and self-experimenter with cocaine (uber coca), kids and other evangelists today are pushing the limits ever higher with strains and derivatives of THC. Concentrations of THC in leaf or flower marijuana are approaching 25 percent, while concentrates and other derivatives like wax or dabs is pushing 80 to 90 percent purity. Typically, parents report in their child decreased motivation, lack of ambition, deteriorating executive functioning, increased emotional instability, and a reversal of maturation among other negative effects. And the kids themselves will often report a very similar set of facts but typically attribute none of it to chronic marijuana use […]
Posted on February 5th, 2015
Do you ever look at your teen and know that they are struggling in school, but you have no idea how to help? You want to get the support that they need, but you may not know where to start. Here are 10 places to get help for your teen:
1. Parents. Plenty of other parents have been in your situation, and they can provide practical, compassionate advice. They may know local professionals, schools and other resources to help. Be sure that they respect your teen’s privacy if it is a sensitive topic.
2. eBooks. There are eBooks out now regarding learning disabilities, attention problems, depression, anxiety and a range of other issues. Thousands of eBooks are available on www.amazon.com. I recommend searching for the words “practical” or “workbook” to find advice you can use now. Parents can email us at email@example.com for books to meet specific needs […]
Posted on February 3rd, 2015
In 2013, a Texas judge sentenced a teenager to probation instead of prison for killing 4 and injuring 11 while driving drunk in a stolen car with seven passengers. Surveillance showed him shoplifting alcohol prior to the accident and his speed was at least 70 MPH in a 40 MPH zone. The defense successfully argued that the boy suffered from affluenza – his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege – and therefore he was unable to link his bad behavior with consequences.
While this nightmarish scenario may seem extreme, I hope it brings a pause to all parents, especially to those in affluent communities. You want to give your children the “best” tools to succeed; but in doing so do you risk spoiling them and fostering dependence, or worse, entitlement? […]
Posted on January 29th, 2015
I recently discovered a YouTube video titled I Had A Black Dog, His Name Was Depression. As a therapist, I encourage parents and teens to watch the video. I experienced it as the best description I have seen of depression. This video can help parents better recognize when their teen is depressed, versus normal teenage moodiness. Below is a summary of the video, my professional take on depression from this video, and how depression effects teens […]
Posted on January 27th, 2015
When I was first starting my career in psychology, I was certain I would be a therapist. I jumped into graduate school hopeful that I would change the lives of people with empathy and experience. As a therapy intern I worked in a multitude of settings, but most often worked with children and adolescents. I listened, advised, and practiced my craft for thousands of hours (literally), but at my core was a sense of frustration. For many of my clients, change was slow coming and unsatisfying. Therapy sessions were a chore and squeezed between sports, homework and all the business of family life. Therapy with teens was sometimes, although beneficial, not fast enough when the clock seemed to be ticking towards launching an adult. I wanted to discover a tool that could potentially fast forward some of the therapeutic process and more rapidly get to the heart of issues, needs, and concerns. For me, that tool is assessment […]
Posted on January 22nd, 2015
As all parents of teenagers know, it is incredibly challenging to navigate the perils of setting boundaries, and successfully following through, during one of the toughest times to be a parent – the dreaded teenage years. Many times the relationships we struggle to maintain with our teenagers are tenuous at best as we long to find ways to connect and stay in tune with the space aliens who have taken over the bodies of what used to be our sweet loving children.
As I have taught many teenage parenting classes, I have found some really handy tips for surviving this period of time with your teenager, and have even used these skills for parenting my own teenagers as I too struggle to stay connected and engaged in my home […]
Posted on January 20th, 2015
I know that your kid is probably going to Stanford. So, this blog is for the rest of you parents. Or, maybe it is for you as well on the very slim chance that your teen doesn’t get accepted on the Farm.
I founded TeenForce, a social enterprise focused on helping youth gain work experience, out of a basic “grumpy old man” observation: Why aren’t kids working like they used to? I originally started the company based on a gut feeling, but, as I researched the business plan and then launched TeenForce, I discovered data and research that supported my inclination […]
Posted on January 15th, 2015
My daughter treasured the trophy she received at a youth soccer league awards ceremony. She declared it was the best thing she had ever accomplished in her life. It was an impressive piece of recognition, but was it really necessary to give them out for simply participating in the league? In my youth I remember going out for pizza after the final game of a season to celebrate, but never did I receive such a prize for simply signing up for a league.
It’s easy to look at the awards kids get these days and say “when I was young all I got was…”. At the same time it’s easy to drift into this “expectation of awards” game as adults. We see the look in the eyes of our kids when they are recognized for participating in an activity and it exhilarates us. We become so proud of them, and it just makes us so happy when they are happy. We want that experience to multiply itself, so we become driven based on our kids achieving the reward, and we forget the values of the journey along the way […]
Posted on January 13th, 2015
“Mom, I think I want to not go back to high school, like, um, ever.”
This has to be on the top five list of things that parents of teenagers dread hearing. It would be easy to understand my mother going into a tailspin, mentally chronicling a series of dead-end jobs and poverty, but somehow she maintained a zen-like calm that most parents could only have hoped to emulate.
I had just dropped a bombshell, something that teenagers love to do to their parents and when parents hear these things it’s easy to understand why they get anxious – after all, a parent has invested years trying to give their child the opportunities and guidance that will help their child make the right sort of choices. When a teen proposes that they take an alternative route or that somehow they are going to need to take a detour to a finish line many parents can’t help but see failure, but the road less traveled doesn’t have to mean doom. How a parent reacts to their teen’s revelation that they are taking their own path can greatly impact how a teen will relate to their parents’ in their final years of their childhood […]
Posted on January 8th, 2015
Jill’s parents noticed she seemed extremely distracted. Schoolwork reports showed that she hadn’t been turning in work regularly, and had missed a few major assignments. Prior to this, Jill hadn’t been the most motivated student, but relatively consistent. On top of that, Jill was spending an increasing amount of time in her room. Getting her to participate with the rest of the family at meals or around the house was nearly impossible. Lately, she seemed to be glued to her computer and social media.
Was this just a teenage phase? Or was it time to get help? […]
Posted on January 6th, 2015
Go Big, Or Go Home
We live in a culture that glorifies wealth, beauty, physical and material accomplishments above all else. Perfectionism is often seen as something to strive for. Our young girls visit pro-anorexia websites to learn how to best starve themselves into perfection. Our young boys are exposed to media that sends the message that their worth lies in the kind of car they drive, or how good their abs look when they are shirtless. As parents, we are often torn between wanting our children to be happy, well-balanced individuals, and trying to give them all the mental, emotional and material resources they need to succeed in life.
All parents want their children to be successful. We generally believe that success breeds confidence, self-esteem, and a willingness to try new things, all of which feed back into more success. While this is true in theory, the unfortunate reality is that many people confuse success and achievement with being perfect […]
Posted on January 1st, 2015
According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the average teenager needs around 10 hours of sleep per night, yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of only 7.5 hours a night. We all know that teens can be a bit crabby, short tempered and unreasonable. But add chronic sleep deprivation and your ornery teenager can be down right unbearable. In addition, sleep deprivation in teens has been linked to poor school performance, depression and poor weight control. So it is as important as ever that your teen get a reasonable amount of sleep on a daily basis. This can be hard to achieve given their busy social schedule, heavy homework load, and after school activities. Mom and Dad: this is why it is important that you take an active role in your teenagers’ sleep habits […]
Posted on December 30th, 2014
Raising a teenager can be a challenging and exciting time for parents. Adolescence comprises a significant period of growth and identity development unlike any other. Teenagers are known to push limits and boundaries, which can be frustrating at times, but serves the essential function of developing their own values, beliefs, and sense of self. But how do you know when they have gone too far? Here we will explore 10 things to consider when setting appropriate boundaries with your teen […]
Posted on December 23rd, 2014
When it comes to performance anxiety – whether for public speaking, tests, sports events, or dance / musical recitals – few are truly immune from its stomach-churning, sweaty-palm-making effects. As a parent, it can be especially difficult to watch your teen experience these unpleasant feelings, particularly if her symptoms are intense and involve headaches, stomach aches, or full-blown panic attacks.
It is important to understand that these fears can translate into genuine physiological symptoms, including rapid heart rate; fast, shallow breathing; increased blood pressure; stomachache; dry mouth; and tightened muscles. Your teen’s body may respond in any of these ways, so when he complains of any anxiety-related symptoms, you can know they are, in fact, real and not “just in his head.”
The good news is that help is available and it doesn’t have to involve medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and clinical hypnosis are both highly effective yet simple skills that empower teens to gain control over and conquer life’s many challenges. The best results occur when CBT and hypnosis are used together […]
Posted on December 20th, 2014
Teens in modern society have a lot more to combat than those of yesteryear. With the world of social media growing at an insane rate, today’s teens are spending more and more time comparing themselves to reality television stars than to political leaders, educators, and similar inspiring community figures. This has resulted in increased distorted views of what our teens think they should identify with, including “celebrities” who base their self-worth on superficial concepts such as image and popularity. For some teens it has almost become an obsession, basing their self-worth on how many “likes” they receive on Instagram or Facebook. It seems that the days of basing our sense of worth on our own morals and values have long passed.
Here are some facts: The majority of teens who experience depression also express self-dislike. As a mental health provider, this fact is alarming because this correlation can have the tendency to create a “snowball reaction” that is more difficult to move once it finally arrives at the bottom of the figurative hill. Along the same lines, if your teen is experiencing self-esteem difficulties, he or she is also likely experiencing symptoms of depression. However, there are tools available to begin to steer your teen in the right direction while therapy is put into place […]
Posted on December 18th, 2014
Teens are inundated with unhealthy messages from the media, friends, and family about body image. It is almost expected behavior for teenage girls to criticize their bodies, talk ad nauseam about the latest diet fad, and even comment on others’ appearances. “You look great…have you lost weight?” The message that adolescents receive is that beauty, acceptance, and status depend upon being thin.
And it’s not just teen girls. The rate of adolescent boys dissatisfied with their bodies continues to rise. Whether receiving pressure from coaches, peers, or the media, males are being told that muscular physiques or lanky builds are superior. Just because teenage boys are talking about it less does not mean the pressure they feel to conform to society’s ideal body is any lower. Unfortunately this body dissatisfaction is more difficult to detect as a parent. Due to stereotypical gender roles, teenage boys often feel ashamed to voice body image struggles compared to their female peers.
Why is it important to cultivate a healthy body image now?
First of all, we know that body image is often shaped in late childhood and adolescence. In addition, research shows that negative body image is correlated with lower self-esteem and increased rates of depression and anxiety […]
Posted on December 16th, 2014
Let’s be realistic: Modern life is busy and stressful. We’re busy. Our teenagers are busy. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult for families to get quality time with each other, and this often results in health and wellness taking a back seat when things get hectic.
Creating opportunities for yourself and your teen to nurture your body, mind or soul by incorporating wellness into your daily lives can help you cope with the stressors of every-day life, develop healthy lifelong behaviors and bring about further connection and closeness.
Let’s be honest: we all know lots of healthy activities. That’s not the hard part. What’s hard is getting your teenager excited about doing these activities with Mom and Dad. Here are some ideas that might increase your adolescent’s interest in doing healthy activities with you […]
Posted on December 11th, 2014
To parents of teens: Welcome to evolving parenthood. As your child evolves into their teen years and beyond, you must also evolve. No longer can you micromanage their every move by choosing their friends, their clothes, or activities, let alone what or how they should think. No, these are the years parents must allow their teen to take more control of their own life in order to develop self-esteem, responsibilities and resiliency.
So how do we evolve? Start by listening more to your teen rather than hearing yourself talk at them. This one change provides opportunities so he can express himself more often. Imagine how respected he will feel as you listen to his thoughts and opinions. Continue asking curious questions without the need to express your own opinions or judgments […]