Category Archives: 2016 Blog Series

Benefits Of Giving

Posted on November 29th, 2016


Every day, people make decisions about whether to act like givers or like takers. When we act like givers, we contribute to others without seeking anything in return. We might offer assistance, share knowledge, or make unexpectedly valuable contributions. When we act like takers, we try to get other people to serve our ends while carefully guarding our own time and resources.

The benefits of giving are far-reaching, while taking can be detrimental to our overall well-being and performance.

In case you missed it, some of the benefits of giving were recently outlined in a Los Gatos Teen Therapy newsletter entitled “How Volunteering Benefits Your Teen” (4/6/2016). Some of the benefits mentioned are that volunteering:

1.Is humbling
2. Keeps teens out of trouble
3. Gets teens out of the house
4. Develops skills and interests
5. Builds responsibility and accountability
6. Fosters critical thinking, inventiveness, and leadership
7. Enhances social skills and relationships
8. Gives college applications a boost
9. Elevates self-esteem and sense of purpose
10. Is good for mental and physical health

Both tangible and intangible benefits come from giving to others. The intangible benefits alone—pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment—are worthwhile reasons to help others, especially for teens. These are sentiments that many teens do not feel in any other area of their lives. Having the opportunity to experience a feeling of competence in a setting outside of school is invaluable. When we share our time and talents, we are improving the lives of others while simultaneously transforming our own lives in a more positive direction. When we do this selfless work and receive these benefits, it paves the way for long-lasting improved mood, and – dare I say – happiness.

Can doing something nice for someone else really help us feel better? Could it really be that simple? […]

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Pressure Cooker Culture: A Look Into Teen Suicide In The Bay Area

Posted on November 26th, 2016


Young people contemplating suicide look, on the outside, like beautiful, have-it-all-together, happy-go-lucky teens. But on the inside, face extraordinary pressure.

Bay Area teens are constantly disclosing to me the pressure they feel to perform, to get in to the right colleges, and to be successful. As they drive themselves closer to these goals, many realize they can’t compete, and come to believe that there is no life beyond the highest of stakes.

Suicide is a heavy topic. It can be unthinkable, especially when it involves teens, who are supposed to be happy-go-lucky, planning bright futures, and looking forward to prom dates. But in the Bay Area, suicide has been an epidemic over the last few years.

As a therapeutic and educational consultant working in Palo Alto and the Bay Area, I am often called in to help after a young person has attempted suicide.

I tend to ask the following question of these teens after a suicide attempt: Did you really want to die and not exist anymore, or was it hard to find a way for things to get better? The answer does not surprise me. Most of my suicidal clients tell me that what they most wanted was to stop feeling the pain and the pressure, and that they didn’t know how to make things better anymore.

So what are the reasons our teens are entertaining suicide as a possibility? […]

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Youth Sport Parenting

Posted on November 22nd, 2016


Expectations for Youth Sports have never been higher. These expectations are directly influenced and internalized by athletes, parents, and coaches. As parents, you can have a direct role in helping your young athlete manage these ever-expanding expectations. This article should be used as a basic framework to begin understanding how your actions can have a positive impact on your child’s athletic experience. We are going to look at three different components of your child’s athletic experience: preparation, competition and post competition. My hope is that, this is a starting point for your Youth Sport parenting development.


As the parent, you can have a great impact on your children’s athletic preparation. This is due to the fact that you are shuttling them around to practices and tournaments, providing them with the appropriate equipment, and fueling their bodies with proper nutrition. You are in control of the logistical components required to prepare them for practice and competition. In addition to these physical needs, you can have a strong influence on their mental preparation. Try to dedicate times during the week to explore an area in which your child is actively working to improve in his or her athletic performance. By creating an open dialogue around improvement areas, you make it more likely that your child will be prepared to actively work on these areas. Feel free to provide your opinion; however, ultimately decisions on how best to make improvements should come from your child. This will increase his or her motivation to take ownership over the improvement plan. On the car ride to training or competition, you can help by reminding your child of what he or she has identified as areas of focus for that week. Do your best to encourage and support these focus areas, even if they may not be directly in alignment with your parental views. This is a learning process that your child must go through in order to grow. The more your child can learn from both successes and challenges in training and preparing for competition, the better equipped he or she will be to manage goals and expectations in the future.

Finally, when you and your child are discussing the practice, emphasize the small improvements in both the physical and mental games […]

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Supporting Your Teen Through Grief And Loss

Posted on November 19th, 2016


Teens go through many challenges during their adolescence including physical changes, changes in friendships, first loves and heartbreak, preparing for college, and learning to be more independent. On top of these challenges, some teens may also experience a loss in their life. A loss isn’t solely categorized as the death or terminal illness of a loved one. It can also include the loss of a friend, the breakup of a romantic relationship, the loss of a pet, as well as many other things. It is important to remember that these other experiences are also considered a loss. Many of us, including teens, go through a similar grief process when faced with these different types of loss.

The five stages of grief that can be experienced when faced with a loss include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not linear and once a stage is experienced it does not mean that an individual or teen will not go through that stage again. It is crucial to remember that every individual’s grief process is unique. For some, grief takes longer to resolve than others and one person may stay in one stage of grief longer than another person. Additionally, people will express their grief differently. Some may cry openly and others may process their emotions internally.

It is not only important to be aware of how loss is different for teens, but also how expressions of grief can be different for any individual. Some of us are more outwardly expressive with our emotions while others of us turn inwards. Your teen may become more irritable, may retreat to his/her room, or could behave as if everything is fine in order to hide his/her emotions. Whether one expresses grief outwardly or inwardly is not important. What is important is being aware of your teen’s grief and how he/she is responding to those feelings so that you can be a better support to your teen.

How is loss different for teens? […]

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Teaching Your Teen To Value Mental And Physical Health

Posted on November 17th, 2016


The world holds a multitude of cross-cultural values that are weighted differently across nations, ethnicities, and religions. In the U.S., we value success, ambition and self-assertion, which is not surprising considering our competitive economic systems, confrontational legal systems, and achievement-oriented child rearing (1).

Were you raised to emerge from the nest wealthy, knowledgeable, aggressive, or benevolent? Are you raising children to be “happy,” motivated, or risk-averse?

As a pediatric acute/intensive care nurse closely wired into my local educational structure and raising a loving son, I gravitate toward introspection and long conversations about our place in the world. Recently, I started to contemplate a world in which we raise and are raised to a single tenant: to promote and achieve a maximal state of mental and physical health for ourselves and those we are closest to. To first and foremost make decisions within our means that nurture and protect body and soul.

This does not necessarily include a heated pilates membership. In practice, it is all-encompassing – healthy decisions construct an ethical and moral underpinning for society that re-shapes our reality.

Living up to this goal affects how we create, use, and dispose of day-to-day items. It ladders up to how we transport ourselves and our “stuff” and how we communicate. How much strain can we subject our eyes to? How does the way and where we live impact our lungs? Can behavior fluctuations stabilize in the presence of more responsible sugar consumption? […]

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Picking A Psychiatrist

Posted on November 15th, 2016


Rapport, rapport, rapport…Opening up to a stranger about incredibly intimate thoughts, requires a great deal of comfort. It can be easier to find that comfort when you choose a psychiatrist with whom you can truly connect. Of course, it may take some time to assess a connection, or lack thereof, but it is something that can be critical to your outcome.

Logistically, it can be difficult to find this elusive psychiatrist. The research involved in this endeavor is no different than finding that perfect restaurant for an intimate celebration of an anniversary or landmark birthday. You can start by asking people that you trust who have already gone through the process successfully or have great knowledge about it. Inquiring with close friends, family, trusted physicians and therapists, etc. for recommendations is a great starting point. Often times, the patients that I connect with best are those referred to me by current or former patients, parents of patients of mine, and therapists, physicians, or pediatricians who have worked with me and know me well. Ask these trusted individuals if the psychiatrist listens and explains, addresses decisions collaboratively, is respectful, and is a sound communicator and professional.

After conferring with those you trust, do your own research too, just like you would with the restaurant […]

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Building Connections Through Reading

Posted on November 12th, 2016


Did you read with your children when they were young? When our kids are little, we spend hours with them snuggled in our laps, reading (and rereading) their favorite stories. Goodnight Moon, The Berenstain Bears, Knuffle Bunny… you can probably still recite your child’s favorites. We seek out titles that reflect our children’s interests, bringing home stacks of books about trains or ballerinas. We use books to teach our young children new skills and life lessons. Was there a special book you read to introduce the idea of potty training? Maybe you chatted with a librarian and went home with a copy of “Hands are Not for Hitting?” Books help make abstract concepts tangible in a safe and approachable way. Stories ease the transition to bedtime, mealtime or potty time. When our kids are little, we celebrate reading for pleasure and the time we spend together when we read. Stories help us connect.

As our kids grow, we cheer all their reading milestones — the first whole book they read aloud, their Frog and Toad years, and their first big chapter book. Yet somewhere between Jack and Annie and Harry Potter, many families fall out of the habit of reading books together and talking about the stories. As kids become competent independent readers, we stop reading together. The opportunity to discuss the world using a fictional lens, to learn more together about a specific passion, to unwind with a compelling story, or to simply connect over a great book is lost.

If this is the case in your family, I’d like to invite you to take up the practice of reading with your teen or tween again. It won’t be quite the same as it was when your child was young […]

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How Do I Get My Teen To Go To Therapy?

Posted on November 10th, 2016


What is the common response heard when a teen is asked if they want to try therapy, or “talk with someone?” It is often something like “I don’t need help” or “I’m not crazy.” Many times there is immediate resistance or refusal to consider the benefits. As we all know, adolescents are at a stage in their life where they still need guidance and structure, yet desperately want the independence they feel they deserve. They want to make decisions on their own, and feel they do not need the support of their parents. Because of these factors, it can be difficult to encourage and engage our teens in understanding the benefits of therapy. Trying to convince them to attend that initial intake session can seem like the most difficult task. This is due in part to their developmental stage, but also because seeking therapeutic support can still create stigma. The most effective way to engage a teen in therapy is to meet them where they are – take a step back and approach them from their perspective.

When trying to engage teens in almost anything, adults often use an angle or perspective that appeals to the adult (e.g. “You need to attend school because it’s the law, and we will end up in court if you don’t.”). Identify what’s important to your teen, and use that as a way to connect your teen to the value of therapy (e.g. “I know you want to participate in basketball, and you have to attend school consistently to be eligible.”). Because therapy will be most effective if the teen chooses to participate, identifying what is meaningful to your teen will increase the chances of that engagement. Here are some benefits of therapy that you may want to talk with your teen about […]

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Parties And Parents’ Responsibilities

Posted on November 8th, 2016


Today’s adolescent community is looking for a sense of independence and places a significant value on their social life as a way to relax and socialize. Parental awareness, positive communication, and recognition of the roles of responsibility are vital in order to avoid legal ramifications for the juvenile and parent, as well as unwanted tragedies. Whether hosting a teen party or allowing your teen to attend one, there are parental responsibilities that have to be applied to keep both your teen and yourself safe and out of trouble.

It’s important for parents to realize that there is a generational difference between teens today and the youth community that the parent or guardian might recall from their teenage years. Parents should always be cautious about leaving their homes in the care and custody of teenagers for extended periods of time. Although your teens may be responsible, other youth can be attracted to the premises of an unsupervised house, which could result in a party where alcohol and drugs may be furnished. Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow for news to travel fast about an unsupervised house. A party that was meant to be small can quickly get out of hand as the news travels, and alcohol and drugs may arrive quickly in the hands of uninvited guests. Not to mention opening the potential for theft of personal property, damage to items in or around the residence, sexual assaults, bodily injuries, and many more unintended occurrences within that residence.

Some parents may believe that allowing the juveniles to consume alcohol and drugs while being supervised within their home is a much safer option […]

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Parenting For Healthy Identity Development

Posted on November 5th, 2016


The teen years can be a tricky period for both parents and teens alike. Teens are bombarded with a plethora of changes including undergoing puberty, navigating their social world, juggling an increasingly challenging academic life, and learning how to drive. One of the wondrous parts of this developmental stage is a movement toward self-discovery and finding their own identity.

Identity isn’t something that is shaped over night. It takes years of exploration, contemplation, boundary-pushing, and experimentation to make sense of a puzzle with some of its pieces missing. Poorly developed identities can lead to depression, anxiety, risky or defiant behaviors, and challenges making healthy life decisions.

During this time, parents are tasked with finding that delicate balance of holding boundaries and structure while providing the right amount of space and independence. The balance is different with each teen, meant to match their unique needs. The tips below will help parents in supporting their teens’ journey of identity development […]

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Distinguishing Between Normal Teenage Behavior And Mental Illness

Posted on November 3rd, 2016


As we all know, the typical teen years are rife with instability and struggle. Parents who worry aloud to others about their teens during this time period usually get the response, “don’t worry” or “it’s just a phase.” Yet it can be difficult to distinguish between “normal” teenage behavior and what goes beyond the norm into the realm of mental illness. I hope this article is helpful to parents who find themselves unsure of whether to be seriously concerned or not by their adolescents’ behaviors.

If your teen is showing the following behaviors, then you can be assured that these are common during adolescence: occasional mood swings, friend drama, mild rebelliousness, thrill-seeking behaviors that toe the line of safety, movement away from family beliefs/culture into their individual preference, difficulty accurately interpreting social cues, and phases of experimenting with new ideas and personas. What an adolescent with these typical concerns needs from his/her parents is guidance in good decision making, encouragement towards positive outlets, awareness of how to manage peer and societal pressures, and open communication with acceptance of the teen’s unique personality and identity.

The psychosocial goal of all teenagers is to develop their unique identity. In order to accomplish this, a teen has to practice trying out different identities before finding what works for him/her. Don’t be surprised if your teen tells you one opinion one week and then promotes the opposing opinion the next week. It is also normal for teens to try out varying beliefs, value systems and self-images that are different from that which their families raised them to believe.

The cognitive development of the teenage brain is geared towards launching into adulthood. This means that teens are hardwired to seek independence from their families, to find enjoyment in risk-taking, to prioritize friendships and communities external of the family, and to strongly feel the anguish of social embarrassment. Effective parenting during this coming of age phase is focused on finding balance between time spent outside of the home and quality time with the family. If your teen is resistant to spending time with the family, it is more productive to focus on creating quality time with your teen than prioritizing quantity of family time.

One important detail to keep in mind when it comes to teens and mental illness is […]

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Creating True Resiliency

Posted on November 1st, 2016


Answer this question honestly: Do you celebrate with more gusto your teens’ high achievements or their honest failures?

Most of us beam over their achievements. And there’s nothing wrong with that on the whole. Yet, to foster true healthy resiliency in our kids—and the fortifying self-respect that comes with it—we need to fall in love with their honest failure. I call it honest failure because I’m not talking about loving their clear acts of rebellion or knuckle-headed scheming. I’m talking about when they risk vulnerability, exposure and land on their faces.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the hardest on myself, focusing on my shortcomings more than my assets. I had an unhealed primary parent who did the same—toward herself and me. You could never really get it right in my house. I built my resilience to keep going, but it looked more like survival mode—I’m not talking about that either.

These steps can create the space for imperfection to boost your (and your teen’s) resiliency: […]

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Managing Sibling Rivalry

Posted on October 29th, 2016


Raising children is the most difficult job there is. Ensuring that your children get along is even more complicated: sibling rivalry is very common. After all, we are innately wired to survive and compete for our needs – love, time, and attention. No matter the love given, children are bound to get into conflicts – it is inevitable. So, how can parents help their children refrain from the rivalry and all its facets if it’s hardwired into them? Here are a few helpful tools to support parents in setting an example and working toward a household free from opposition.

Avoid comparison.

The challenge is to resist the urge to identify one child as unfavorable to another. It’s common to compare children to one another, but it sends the message that children are to be measured to their counterpart. Providing praise is important, but using comparisons can lead to more competition. There is a saying I have come to remember: “Never compare yourself to others, you’ll either become bitter or vain.” When attempting to correct an unfavorable behavior, describe what you see, speak to the child about the behavior that, and determine what needs to be done. Describe what you see and how you feel about it, in place of mentioning the other child at all. This can avoid invalidating the other sibling’s experience.

Share your enthusiasm and proud comments for the deserving child separately. When it comes to your children already comparing themselves to each other, it’s important that they know that mom and dad see them as separate individuals, and are not interested in their pleas of comparisons.

Life isn’t fair!

It’s useless to always try to make things equal for your children. Ultimately, can you as a parent ever really give enough? […]

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How To Know If Alternative Education Options Would Benefit Your Teen

Posted on October 27th, 2016

Melissa M

As a product of a traditional public school and a former public school educator myself, I am very quick to say that traditional school works very well for most students. There are, however, certain circumstances where alternative schools might be something to consider for your teen.

The term “alternative school” refers to any educational setting designed with non-traditional teaching practices – a unique learning environment or curriculum that seeks to meet unique learning profiles. In general, this means that alternative schools may have a more individualized approach to learning, focus on experiential or project-based learning, have a low student-teacher ratio, or perhaps evaluate students learning using non-traditional methods.

When students experience academic or cognitive difficulties, schools want to help. If your teen is struggling with any of the below-mentioned issues, your teen’s teachers likely want to partner with you to ensure your teen’s success and well-being. Families tend to pursue unique schools after various interventions in traditional settings have not been successful. The following issues are the most common reasons that families pursue alternative educational placements: […]

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How Your Relationship Impacts Your Teen’s Future Relationships

Posted on October 25th, 2016


“Teens are too young to really understand.”
“I don’t think my teen knows what’s really going on.”
“Our relationship doesn’t impact our teen.”

These statements are all too common when parents talk about what children and teens think, feel, and know about the parents’ relationship. However, they are all misconceptions. From birth, the relationship children observe the most is the relationship between their parents. They get years of experiences and information, and their parents’ relationship thus serves as a model for what a relationship should look like. A recent article by Ottaway (2010) complied data from multiple studies and reflected that:

Behavior between parents…(when offspring were young adolescents) predicted offspring’s interpersonal behavior with romantic partners…(when offspring were young adults). When parents were warm and supportive with one another, offspring acted warm and supportive toward their romantic partners. The offspring behaviors were then linked with greater relationship satisfaction in their intimate relationships. (p. 8)

Your relationship with your significant other will impact your teens and teach them what to expect in their own relationships.

Given how much of an impact your romantic relationship can have on your teens, it is important to model a healthy romantic relationship. Therefore, here are some important things to consider: […]

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The Wrong Crowd: How To Help Your Teen Navigate A Negative Influence

Posted on October 22nd, 2016


So your teenager is hanging with the wrong crowd. Maybe it’s those kids with ‘questionable’ appearances that hang out in front of the convenience store…or the kids who are known for skipping school to get “stoned.” Whatever the case may be, the teenagers of today live in a highly-influenced world charged by social media postings and hashtags. The easiest thing to do might be to sell the house and move to another community where everything is perfect. The problem with that is, unless that community is on another planet, your teen will find replacements for the peers you dread seeing them hang around with. There are no quick fixes to this concern; however, if you trust in following the process, your teen is more likely to take the “high road” on the pathway to their ultimate goals.

Be “In The Know”

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter…As parents of a teen in today’s climate, it is necessary to know what all of these are. Although some parents see these forums as a tool to connect with old friends and family members, it is also a portal to stay abreast of your teen’s development. Pay attention to the small things. Is your teen dressing differently, swearing more, spending time with new peers that you don’t know much about? Once we become disconnected with the changes in our teens, we become disconnected with who they are and what they identify with. Ask open-ended questions, show interest, and be nonjudgmental. If you have a strong suspicion that the new kid next door your teen is spending all his/her time with is bad news, invite this new kid over and get to know him/her. You’ll learn more about your teen and their peers when they are comfortable enough to be open and get to know you, rather than making judgmental statements that aren’t necessarily based on facts. Setting firm limits is good practice as a parent; however, transparency is also important. If teens changed their peer group every time a parent requested it, life would be a cake walk. Unfortunately, the reality is that when parents push, teens instinctively push back. Don’t pass judgment onto your teen’s friends until you have reason. If your teen suspects you are blowing hot air at them and he/she knows you are wrong, your credibility goes out the window. Their friends are their comfort zones and a form of their identity.

Reel Them In

If teens feel they (or their decisions) are being judged, they tend to pull back and close the door on the connection with their parents. Open the door and invite them in. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Make an effort to say hello and reach out to them. The ability of a parent to communicate is a strong indicator of their values. If a teen’s parents don’t want to communicate, don’t respond to inquiries, or simply don’t know their teens whereabouts, it’s likely a bad sign […]

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What Type Of Therapy Do I Choose?

Posted on October 20th, 2016


Life as a teen is by no means easy. In fact, even though adults endure a multitude of challenges, including career and financial issues, there is no period of your life that comes close to being as difficult as your teenage years. When teens and their families are going through rough times, support from a therapist can help! Once you decide that you would like to get help, how do you know what type of support you will need? This guide below can help:

Individual Therapy

The formative teen years in the journey towards adulthood can often bring challenges. Individual therapy gives teens a safe place to express themselves, learn about their emotional states, develop a strong sense of self, and learn how to cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way. It gives teens the opportunity to speak openly about their experiences in a nonjudgmental, confidential, and safe setting. Individual therapy can support teens in developing their communication skills which can facilitate improved relationships. Individual therapy can be a launching point for teens in developing the necessary skills to successfully navigate future challenges.

Family Therapy

When a teen is experiencing behavioral or emotional issues, it is important to be aware of how this impacts the entire family unit […]

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How To Help Your Teen Survive A Panic Attack

Posted on October 18th, 2016


What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is an overwhelming, sudden surge of intense anxiety or fear with high levels of physical discomfort that can reach its peak within minutes. Examples of some physical symptoms that accompany a panic attack include:

  • shortness of breath
  • heart palpitations
  • shaking
  • a sensation of choking
  • tightness of the chest
  • stomach pains or nausea
  • sweating
  • Panic attacks can often come on sporadically and unpredictably. Some people who experience panic attacks may not be able identify any reason for feeling fearful, while others may recognize that there are triggering events that prompt the attack. Panic attacks may be a part of a mental health disorder such as Panic Disorder, and attacks affect children, teens, and adults alike. Experiencing a panic attack first-hand can be extremely terrifying, but watching your teen experience it can feel just as unbearable. Parents may witness their teens appearing to have a full-blown medical emergency, such as a heart attack, or they may notice subtler signs such as frequent physical complaints like a stomach pain or chest pain. Teens may describe themselves as “going crazy” or feeling “weird.” They may begin to avoid situations or places without explanation, such as school or social interactions. Panic attacks can cause teens and their parents to feel helpless, but there is hope. There are strategies to effectively cope with the attacks. The key is educating and practicing these strategies before your teen is in the midst of an attack […]

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    Benefits Of Psychological Testing

    Posted on October 15th, 2016

    NicoleVersion 2

    Psychological and psycho-educational evaluations are increasingly being used to help serve diverse needs of children, teenagers, and adults. Many parents wonder what purpose an evaluation may serve and when one might be warranted. Needs certainly change throughout a student’s development and educational journey, and for the purpose of this article, evaluations in the context of adolescents will be highlighted. There are a number of reasons for which parents and their teens seek out an evaluation. Some of the most common reasons include defining a student’s learning profile, identifying a potential learning disability, or clarifying emotional, behavioral, social, and attentional functioning.

    An evaluation is typically conducted by a psychologist and includes a thorough developmental interview; parent, teacher, and self-report rating scales; and direct testing. Assessment measures typically address a wide range of domains of functioning, including cognitive or intellectual abilities, academic skills, learning, memory, attention, executive functioning, personality, and mental health well-being. Specific measures selected depend upon the individual’s age, grade in school, language development, and on the referral questions being targeted in the evaluation. Depending on the particular concerns raised by the teen, parents, or the referring provider, additional areas of focus for an evaluation can also include: social-cognitive abilities, language development, motor skills, adaptive behavior, and other aspects of an individual’s functioning. The testing itself can take up to 12 hours, and evaluations may take anywhere from a few days to a few months to complete, depending on how sessions are scheduled. Following the collection of the information and data, families meet with the psychologist to review the results and recommendations.

    The recommendations provided after an evaluation are typically broad and address modifications, strategies, and support services that may be appropriate within the home, at school, and through outside providers. One major benefit of psychological evaluations is […]

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    Promoting Positive Self-Esteem In Teens With Learning Disabilities

    Posted on October 13th, 2016


    High school is a place of high academic demand, social pressure, relationship management with peers and adults, self-exploration, and growth. It is a critical time for self-esteem development, and the experiences a teen has are reflected in his or her self-concept. With the pressure and popularity of social media, the emphasis for teens has become increasingly based on what things look like superficially. Social media and this superficiality is so easily accessible and important that it can quickly shape or break a teen’s self-image. Research shows that adolescents with learning disabilities are even more likely to suffer from low self-esteem than their peers. In my work with teens as a Licensed Educational Psychologist in both public school and clinical settings, I have had first hand experience with this phenomenon and have developed strategies to support both students and their families.

    Teens with learning disabilities are likely to have a different experience in school than their peers due to both social and academic difficulties. Depending on their experiences, they may be more or less prepared to deal effectively with the demands of high school. Research shows that those with higher self-esteem had found at least one adult who helped the teen feel special and appreciated. Many of the teens I worked with in the public high school setting struggled with connecting with a helpful and supportive adult on campus. As I came to know the students with learning challenges, I made an effort to be empathetic, sensitive, helpful, and supportive. I did my best to help teens navigate and find success in the academic setting. As parents, it is important to ask your teen who he or she has connected with on the school staff, and if that person has yet to be identified, make suggestions to your teen or reach out personally to the staff. It may be a counselor or psychologist, but it may also be a teacher or a coach. The important thing in promoting positive self-esteem is to ensure your teen has found a trustworthy and empathic adult who can provide support, appreciation, and guidance as necessary.

    In my private practice, I am able to listen to the experiences of teens and often find that they are misunderstood. For example, a student with organizational or time management challenges may have the experience of being called forgetful or messy, which are derogatory terms. Another student with learning challenges may be called lazy or unmotivated, when in reality he is struggling with learning, which can impact the speed of completion and engagement. What I have found helpful in my practice, as well as what research currently shows, is […]

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    Gender Fluidity

    Posted on October 11th, 2016


    Sexuality and gender topics have had an overwhelming presence in the media over the past few years. For many parents gender fluidity is difficult to understand, as concepts around gender and sexuality seem to change significantly from one generation to another. Many teenagers are identifying as being gender fluid or reclaiming who they are from a lens that is not clear for a lot of society. Behaviors typical for teens today include: distancing from family and focusing on friends, practicing and demanding independence, pushing the limits and boundaries set by parents, and for some, expressing themselves through their sexuality or gender. Many of us know that adolescence is a time of identity exploration and we expect some push-back or defiance, but many parents are not sure how to respond when their teen proclaims themselves as gender fluid.

    Gender fluid is defined as a person’s gender identity or expression that is not fixed (male or female) and may shift over time, depending on the situation (Booker, 2016). This means that a person may shift the gender they were assigned at birth to the opposite (for example, born female with gender expression or identity as masculine, or choose to remain androgynous in their gender expression) sometimes daily, even hourly, challenging the gender binary of male and female, which include preferred pronouns (she/he/they). It is important to note that gender fluidity does not equal sexual preference or define to whom they are attracted. Identifying as gender fluid is, simply put, how one identifies in their gender through their own mind/body experience.

    The topic of gender fluidity is not a novel concept. For centuries, cultures have celebrated genders outside of the Western beliefs of the male or female binary. Places such as Africa, former Yugoslavia, and India all have gender categories of transition, variance from one sex to the other, or in-between (Sell, 2004). Additionally, cultures outside of our Western civilization, including those in Australia, New Zealand, and Nepal, have been working toward equality for “third gender” identified people. These are individuals who identify outside of the male or female binary. In 2007, Nepal’s constitution was changed to include equality of third gender people.This was the first legal acknowledgement of this kind in the world (Bockenek & Knight, 2012).

    With the age of the internet allowing access to a myriad of sources that expose worlds of knowledge, it is no surprise that teens are exploring their gender. With the world at their fingertips, their curiosities are sparked and access to phenomena not common or readily discussed in the mainstream media are at the forefront of their minds. One hallmark of adolescence is identity, which is at the core of each individual during this stage in life.

    So what can parents do to support their teen who identifies as gender fluid? […]

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    The Teenage Brain

    Posted on October 8th, 2016


    If you are a parent of a teenager, you have likely been through various emotions as you observe your teenager’s behaviors. You have probably been amazed by your teen’s zest for life or his/her natural creativity, watching your teen becoming more independent before your very eyes. You have also probably been terrified at times. Maybe your teenager thought it was a brilliant idea to sneak out of the house at midnight on a school night to go to a party, or maybe he/she felt jumping off a friend’s roof into a swimming pool was the most appealing activity for a Friday night.

    As a parent, you may be wondering what kinds of connections your teenager’s brain is making to get from one decision to the next. Why are clearly bad ideas to the adult brain not processed in the same way? […]

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    Encouraging Healthy Social Media Use

    Posted on October 6th, 2016

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    Today’s teens are heavily connected to one another and the world through technology. More than fifty-five percent of teens go online several times a day, and nearly seventy-five percent of teens have or have access to a smartphone.* In addition, social networking is on the rise. Seventy-one percent of teens use more than one social network site, with Facebook being the most frequently used site.*

    There are many benefits of social media participation such as: building relationships, increasing awareness of current events/issues, developing a sense of self, and exercising creativity and critical thinking skills. However, since teens are still collecting life experiences and developing maturity, this easy online access can lead teens to troubling situations such as cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, and sexting.

    Just as we prepare our teens for the real world, we should also prepare them for the social media world. Here are some tips on how to keep your teen smart and safe in the online world […]

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    Making The Most Of Our Blog Series

    Posted on October 4th, 2016


    Teen Therapy Center of Silicon Valley (formerly Los Gatos Teen Therapy) is a private mental health clinic dedicated to providing help and support to teens and their families in the Bay Area community. We know that parenting teens can be challenging! This is our third annual Fall blog series called “How To Build A Better Life With Your Teen.” We have enlisted over 20 teen and family experts to participate by writing unique blog articles. Their expertise will help guide you through these tumultuous adolescent years.

    This year’s blog series will provide valuable information, tips, and strategies on a multitude of topics including:

  • Teen development
  • Gender fluidity
  • Positive relationships
  • Identifying mental illness
  • And many more!
  • By subscribing to this blog series, you have taken a monumental step in improving your relationship with your teen. You will be receiving a blog post via email three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you haven’t yet subscribed, it’s not too late! You can sign up here […]

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