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Five Myths About Communicating with Your Teen

TalkingWTeen5Teens are mysterious creatures.  They seem to move from child to young adult almost overnight.  Parents of teens frequently find themselves irritated by the things they say and the way they act.  You may be trying to make sense of the chaos of adolescence, but it can be a mistake to judge them too quickly.

Here are a few myths about teenagers and how to be sure you dispel them.

My teen doesn’t care about my feelings.  The words your teen uses might lead you to feel unloved by him, however, the truth is that he does care about you a great deal.  Children from around age 11 and up are going through many changes.  Some are physical in nature, but there are also many emotional shifts.  Your child is growing up, learning a lot and realizing that at some point he is going to have to live a life apart from you.  He is attempting to assert his independence from you and is at times unsure of how to do this appropriately.  He will attempt many things, including talking back and disregarding your feelings.  Your teen actually cares a great deal about your feelings and is looking for reassurance that it is ok for him to separate from you in some ways.  While it may not be acceptable for him to talk to you in a disrespectful way, it’s important to talk to and treat your teen like an adult as much as you can.  How do you respond to other adults when they say hurtful things to you?

My teenager is lazy. While some teens have better work ethic than others, the adjective “lazy” is not an accurate description of most teens.  When motivated, a teen can do amazing things; even a teen who plays video games for too many hours a day can be inspired to do amazing things.  The key term here is motivation.  Finding what motivates your teen is important, and may be the only way to get him to get off the couch and help around the house.  The best way to motivate a teen is to give him ownership of the project.  If you expect him to help keep the house clean, then he needs to feel that he has a vested interest in the home.  Letting him have input on where furniture goes, what carpet is picked out or what color the walls are can go further in investing your child in the home than you think.  There is nothing wrong with offering incentives for your child to complete tasks, whether monetary or relationship based.  However, nagging and hounding your teen will NOT create motivation.

My teen never listens to my advice.  Teenagers are going though many changes and are trying to find their identity outside of their parents view.  Your teen is most likely listening to you, but greatly wants to gain an independent life. He is afraid that following your advice will lead him to being dependent on you for a long time.  Parents of teens have to walk a very thin line between giving advice and telling the child what to do.  If your teen is still coming to you for advice, count yourself lucky, because that often stops at some point in the adolescent years too.  When your child tells you a story or shares an issue he is facing, do not jump in and tell him how to fix the problem.  Step back and just listen, ask questions to clarify and then validate the feelings he might be having about the situation.  Once he has finished the story, you can ask him if he wants your advice.  He may say no, in which case you thank him for telling you and let him know you are there if he wants to talk about it further.  If he says he wants your advice, give it with caution, understanding the best way for him to learn is if he helps to come up with the solution.  Because of this, aiding your child through questions can be the most helpful.  Once the advice is given, it is his hands.  He needs to be given the freedom to choose what he will do with your suggestions.

My teen does not want to spend time with me anymore.  While it is very true that as your child gets older he will spend less and less time with you, it is far from the truth that your teen does not want to spend time with you.  Most teens have more activities outside of the home as they get older and their interests change drastically, sometimes from one day to the next.  The way they talk might even change.  All these adjustments mean that you will understand him less and less each day.  It is not that he wants to spend less time with you; it is that he perceives there are fewer things he has in common with you.  Making an effort to understand the culture and how it changes from day to day can greatly improve the time you spend together because you will have more in common with him.  The truth is that he still craves the time he gets to spend with his mom or dad, but realizes often unconsciously that he needs to pull away from you too.

It is too late to build good communication habits in my teen. It is never too late to teach and model healthy communication habits.  You may feel that the habits both you and your child have are already ingrained in your mind and will never change, but that simply is not true.  It takes small but measurable changes in your behavior to effectively help your teen communicate better.  Your teen is likely looking for someone to work to understand him, even if that person never fully can.

Raising a teenager can be a maddening adventure, but it can also be touching.  To see the child that was once so little and helpless becoming an adult can be overwhelming.  Sometimes parents want to hold onto the little child they once knew.  Unfortunately, attempting to hold on by treating the young adult like you did when he was little can cause a great deal of friction between you both.  It is a difficult process to communicate with a teenager, but when done with respect and understanding it can be a less frustrating phase.

Source:  Go Nannies

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Getting Your Teenager to Talk: Tips To Open the Lines of Communication

TalkingwTeenAt some point, every parent will start to get grunts and nods when asking their kids simple questions, like “How was school today?” or “What would you like to do this afternoon?”

Separating from parents and keeping more and more of their thoughts and feelings to themselves is a natural stage kids go through, but that doesn’t make any less difficult for parents to endure. It also doesn’t have to be the natural progression of the parent/child relationship.

It takes some extra time and effort, but you can stay close to your child. Here are some ways to keep the lines of communication open.

Avoid questions that start with why. It’s often surprising how regularly we question rather than converse with kids. Kids often get defensive as soon as they hear the word “why.” Instead of opening up the lines of communication, asking questions like “Why did you do that?” can make the child feel like there’s a right and wrong answer, even when it’s asked with a genuine interest. Instead, ask questions that will encourage your child to share his thoughts, feelings and motivations.

Ask open ended questions. We often ask questions looking for specific information. Wonderful things can happen when we don’t have a specific agenda and instead welcome wherever the conversation may lead. Questions like “What was the best part of your day?” or “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” make kids think outside the box and often gives you a great jumping off place for a deeper conversation.

Resist the urge to offer advice or solutions. Whenever a parent learns that her child is struggling with a problem, even a small one, her first instinct is to jump in and offer advice and a solution. Even when you offer your child great suggestions, jumping into a problem solving mode often turns the conversation into what feels like a lecture. When your child is facing a problem or struggling with how to handle a tough situation, use that opportunity to connect. Ask her about how she sees things, how she feels about what’s happening, what she sees as her choices, and what she thinks the results of those choices would be. By creating a safe space for your child to work through her thoughts and feelings, you’re strengthening your relationship and helping your child develop valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Talk on their timetable. Sometimes it seems that kids want to talk at the worst possible moments. Your daughter wants to give you all the details of an argument she had with her best friend when you’re trying to finish a big presentation for work. Your son wants to ask you about joining the hockey team when you’re rushing to help your 6th grader finish a science project that’s due the next day. You only have so much time and energy, and often there is just not enough of it to go around. Unfortunately, as children get older the times when they initiate a meaningful conversation get fewer and fewer, so take advantage of the opportunities you’re given whenever possible. If you have to postpone a conversation, let your child know why and pick a specific time to finish the conversation.

Plan time to connect. Your child is much more likely to open up to you when connection and conversation are an integrated part of your relationship. From an early age, spend one on one time with your child on a regular basis. This is a great way to get to know your child outside the hustle and bustle of family life and it gives you the chance to create special memories together. That regular one on one time early on can make it much easier to continue to connect as they get older.

Take advantage of small windows of time. Not every conversation needs to be a sit down, face to face talk. In fact, many of the best conversations won’t be. Take advantage of the time you and your child spend in the car driving to and from activities, getting ready for bed, cooking dinner over the weekend, or shopping for school clothes. Talking while involved in another activity creates a no pressure environment to talk with each other. Of course it’s important to carve out time when you’re focused on each other as well, however, in between those times try to take advantage of the many chances you have every day to connect and talk.

It’s important to both you and your child to connect and talk with each other. Although the parent/child relationship naturally changes as your child gets older, you can still have a close connection through the years.

Source: Babysitting Jobs

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High School to College: Transitional Blues

High School to College, can be an emotional time.

Mental illness continues to mystify the mainstream, and students already stressed and anxious about classes, relationships, jobs and activities end up suffering from the stigmas just as much as the conditions themselves. But they don’t have to nurture their pain in quiet. More and more individuals (students or not), their loved ones and organizations are speaking up in favor of psychological help in all its forms.

The following list represents some of the most common conditions occurring on campuses globally, though by no means should it be considered a comprehensive glimpse at an issue far more broad and complex.

  1. Clinical Depression: At least 44% of college students have reported suffering from some degree of clinical depression — and the number only escalates from there as years tick past. Thanks to prevailing social stigmas regarding psychiatric help, only 23% of victims reported that they’d be comfortable discussing their treatment. Considering the amount of stress, anxiety, sleeplessness and inter- and intrapersonal issues characterizing the college experience, it makes sense that an overwhelming number of students succumb to the symptoms. And, unfortunately, many of the common comorbid conditions and illnesses as well.
  2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Statistics from 2000 reveal that roughly 10% of college students received a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, but in all likelihood the numbers have jumped over the past 11 years. Females suffer from such conditions at a rate of five times more than their male peers, though the numbers may be skewed due to unfair social perspectives regarding men and mental illness. Panic attacks inextricably tie into GAD and related disorders, and the afflicted — regardless of whether or not they attend college — can experience them either spontaneously or based on an external or internal cue. Do keep in mind that not all anxiety disorders manifest themselves via panic attacks, nor are all panic attacks inherently indicative of an anxiety disorder.
  3. Anorexia Nervosa: At least 91% of female college students have attempted to control their weight via extreme dieting, though not all of these cases can be considered anorexia, of course. Bulimia is actually more prevalent on campus, although anorexia kills more of its victims. Between 10% and 25% of total individuals with this tragic eating disorder die either from the disease itself or complications stemming directly from it. As with other diagnoses of its type, anorexia rarely ravages alone. Not only can it exist side-by-side with bulimia, EDNOS or binge eating disorder, it oftentimes settles in as a result of depression, compulsions or severe anxiety. Lifetime statistics show that between 0.5% and 3.6% of American women suffer from this condition at some point in their lives. With eating disorders on the whole, one of the major associated tragedies is the recovery rate. Only around 60% of victims make a full recovery, with 20% making some headway and the remaining 20% not really coming around.
  4. Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia nervosa can either exist as comorbid with anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder or EDNOS or on its own, though almost always stems from a mood, anxiety or compulsive disorder rather than flying entirely solo. Roughly 19% of female college students suffer beneath the destructive diagnosis, although males do suffer from it as well. This compares with the 1.1% to 4.2% of women who struggle with bulimia at any point in their lifetime — not just the college years.
  5. Substance Abuse: College males admit to past-year drug abuse at a rate of 40%, compared to the 43% of their un-enrolled peers. Females represent an inverse, with 35% of students abusing drugs versus 33% for those outside of college. A total of 37.5% of full-time students and 38.5% of part-timers admitted to illicit substance abuse. Roughly half of the college demographic engages in destructive alcohol consumption, with 1,700 dying, 599,000 injured, 696,000 assaulted and 97,000 raped or sexually assaulted yearly as a direct result. The reasons for these behaviors are as many and varied as there are individuals to display them, although a desire to fit in, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are frequently to blame.
  6. Suicidal Thoughts and Actions: 7.5 out of every 100,000 college students commit suicide, with males between the ages of 20 and 24 standing as the most at-risk demographic. Graduate students are also more vulnerable, claiming 32% of these tragedies. At least 10.1% of total college kids admitted to seriously contemplating suicide, and 1.4% said they attempted it within the past year. The myriad emotional, mental and physical challenges of college life leave so many overwhelmed by hopelessness, stress and despair. Suicide often — but, of course, not always — represents the extreme end of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, compulsive disorders and other mental health conditions. And the general stigma surrounding the seeking of professional help, particularly amongst men, certainly doesn’t quell the problem any.
  7. Self-Injury: A 2006 study by Princeton and Cornell researchers revealed that 14% of male and 20% of female students repeatedly engaged in some sort of compulsive self-injury. Cutting, burning, and other dangerous releases provide a similar temporary comfort as drug and alcohol abuse. And, understandably, tend to correlate directly with anxiety, mood disorders, eating disorders, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors, although single or repeated instances of physical, mental, and emotional abuse as well as lowered self-esteem can factor in at any time as well. 41% of college-aged self-injurers began hurting themselves between the ages of 17 and 22, although the national average is between 14 and 15. Unfortunately, only around 7% of these individuals seek psychological assistance for their torment.
  8. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: OCD afflicts one out of every 40 adults, one out of every 100 children and 250 out of every 10,000 college students. Considering higher education already severely taxes kids without any preexisting mental health conditions, it might prove hellacious to those suffering from the compulsive disorder. If left untreated, sufferers run the risk of succumbing to depression and anxiety (both of which are oftentimes co-morbid with OCD), substance abuse, self-injury or even suicide.
  9. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: It’s difficult to really gauge just how many college students truly suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as its symptoms almost always overlap with depressive and anxiety issues — not to mention the fact that both often grow from it. The condition settles in after any number of triggering incidents, but military service and sexual assault (up to and including rape) tend to garner the most attention. Both also impact college students and college-aged as well. An estimated 11% to 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are expected to return home with PTSD. At least 20% of college females reported being victimized by rape at some point in their life, and on a national level only 18% actually take it to the authorities. Women under the age of 30.8 (specifically, those in the 16 to 19 range) are the most vulnerable demographic to sexual assault and rape, comprising 80% of reported cases.
  10. Phobias: Whether mild and largely harmless or in need of professional intervention, specific phobias are incredibly common both on and off college campuses. Arachnophobia appears to be the most prevalent, afflicting a staggering 34% of the student populace. The only one with any real relevance or influence on college life was public speaking, which terrified 31%. Surprisingly enough, 18% of respondents said they thought they might greatly benefit from pursuing counseling or other form of psychological assistance.

Source:  Accredited Online Colleges

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier teens.

Parent Stress – Troubled Teens – It’s More than just Pot

The first semester of school is over, now we are on to the final few months – and your teen is debating whether they “want” to finish school?  Excuse me – you mean teens have options?

Believe it or not, yes they do!  In Florida, at the age of 16 your teen can sign themselves out of school – of course they need your consent, however if you don’t, truancy charges will linger.

Now what?  Virtual school? Homeschooling? GED?  Who would have thought – generations prior graduating high school was  never an option.  Today is a new world.

Let’s compound this and you suspect or know your teen is using drugs, drinking and seriously mom, it’s no big deal?!  Really?

Now they develop an attitude of defiance, start sneaking out, completely disrespectful to your home and your boundaries…..

You find this is getting out-of-control and you realize that you have a limited time to get them help since at the age of 18 you no longer have control.

After exhausting all your local resources, therapy, outpatient programs, support groups – and some even send their teen to a relatives to live, you soon realize you need to take that big step – residential therapy.

You jump online after the sticker shock you find all these disturbing websites about all these so-called teen help programs, you find former students, disgruntled parents (which I was one at one time), as well as enough negative information you stop in your tracks.

I get it – I have been there -I fell for the fraud online – I won a major jury trial proving our experiences were true – even with our horrific experiences,  I still believe parents need  options.

Some of the wealthier ones will  hire an Educational Consultant, believing they are safe with these professionals.  Well, chances are good – you are safe, but are you being spun in the EC Shuffle?  Yes, that is a name some of us call it – they seem to have a cookie-cutter program design – Most clients start in Wilderness (and I can name the top 3 most EC’s give out) then they go on to a longer term program.

Hmmm…. why not start and finish at the same place?  Why not find a solid 6-9-12 month program that offers consistency?

Most EC’s or programs associated with Wilderness Programs will tell you that the time in the wilderness will break your child down?  Really, I am sure it will – but isn’t our teen already broken if we are seeking this help?  Isn’t  it time to start working towards building them back up by working through their issues?

My best advice to parents is to know this decision to find residential therapy is one of the most difficult many parents need to make.  You should take it lightly or make the decision when you are in crisis.  If you see the road getting bumpy – do your  homework early – so when that urgency hits, you are ready.

Also know this is not about “shipping off” your teen – it is about giving them a second opportunity at a bright future – after all, if you let things continue to escalate – what will be the ending?

My next post will have some hints to finding safe and quality programs.  My experiences and sound opinions – they may be criticized by some – but at the end of the day, I am a parent that has been right where you are, at your wit’s end.

For more information visit www.helpyourteens.com and checkout the hints and tips there!

Need to learn more about transport services (yes, another step you will hear about) – click here.

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Parent Stress: Does it ever end?

Opening the year with my favorite Parenting Expert and good friend, Dr. Michele Borba.  2010 left us on Friday night and if we could leave our stress behind that easily too, life would be so much easier!  Michele Borba posted a fantastic article on STRESS! According to a recent study:  Kids pick up parent’s stress more than we know! Parenting advice to help you keep a lid on your stress–and your family’s–in time for the holidays.

Kids Pick Up Parent Stress

Sure parenting is wonderful. But let’s face it, parenting can be also stressful. You may think that you’re shielding your children from your worries, but a new report released by the American Psychological Association shows we’re not doing such a good job of trying to cover up stress. The report found that 91 percent of 1,136 young people ages 8-17 surveyed cite ways they know parents are stressed, largely by their behavior.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive online in August,reveals that our kids are watching and what they are see and hear in our behavior isn’t all for their best:

34 percent of kids say parents yell
30 percent say parents argue with other people in the household
18 percent say parents are too busy or “don’t have time for me”

Ouch!

How Our Stress Makes Our Kids Feel

But here is the real clincher. The survey revealed how our kids feel when their parent is stressed:

  • Sad (39%)
  • Worried (39%)
  • Frustrated (31%)
  • Annoyed (24%)
  • Helpless (21%)
  • It does not bother me (14%)
  • Angry (13%)
  • Scared (13%)
  • Alone (8%)
  • Other (2%)

Source: American Psychological Association by Frank Pompa, USA TODAY

Our stress is impacting our kids. Two additional reports about that stress buildup are troubling. If you need a little bit more motivation that it’s time to change, read on. Here are just two (of many) that show “happy days” on the home front may be taking a backslide.

Drinking and taking drugs–marijuana and cold and cough syrup–is up amongst teen girls. The top reason girls say they are getting high? (Not good). It’s to reduce stress at home.
An APA report showed teen stress increasing to epidemic levels and call it a “medical health hazard.” Teens say the top reason for the stress: Pressures from home.

The recession, job uncertainty, house foreclosures are just three reasons stress is rising. But the holiday season doesn’t help reduce those heightened levels. More lists. More to do. More cooking.  More pressure. More concern about getting “everything just right.” More worries about money. These next few weeks are also the perfect time to find healthy ways to stop that tension from building in our homes and put a lid on our stress.


7 Tips to Help Put a Lid on Your Stress

Here are seven secrets that help you remain calmer, and keep your household more peaceful. The trick is discovering which one (there’s a hint – just do one)..works best for you, and then practice it until it becomes a habit. Doing it as a family will help everyone learn how to put a lid on a hot temper. Remember: stress comes before anger. The trick is to reduce that stress so it doesn’t escalate.

Secret 1: Give Yourself a Time-Out. Stress comes right before anger and we usually have only seconds to stop that pressure buildup. So tune into your stress signals (a pounding heart, your clenched fists, the grinding teeth, your raised voice), and then act. “Mommy needs a time-out.” Then turn and walk, sip water slowly, or take deep breaths. Do whatever it takes to get back in control even if you need to lock yourself in your bathroom a few minutes. Then teach your kids to do the same.

A big secret on this one: Create a nonverbal signal (like an umpire uses that signals “Time Out”) and use the hand gesture to show you — or another member — needs a time out. When we’re in stress mode our voice tone goes up a notch (or two) and we’re more likely to do that thing kids hate: y-e-l-l. So try a hand signal. It can be a goldmine with a teen.

Secret 2: Use “Calm Talk.” Lean to say a simple message to yourself to control your temper. “Stop and calm down.” “Stay in control.” Or: “I can handle this.” Choose a phrase, and then rehearse it a few times each day until you can use it. One mom wrote her calm down phrase on a card and stuck it in her diaper bag. (Her baby was a real “mover and shaker” and changing him was a “challenge”). As soon as she opened the bag, she’d see her card. It reminded her to calm down, and so she did.

Secret 3: Take Five (or a 100). My girlfriend reduces her motherhood stress by listening to a soothing CD of rain sounds. Whenever she feels her “Wicked Witch of the North” mode coming on, Sharon quickly retreats to her bedroom, closes the door, turns on the tape, plops on her bed, and zones out—that is, for five minutes. She says those few minutes help her regain control so she feels calmer. Another friend has her mother phone her preschooler at four o’clock each afternoon and keep her daughter occupied, so she can “Take Five” (or ten, twenty? Or whatever it takes!)

Secret 4: Teach: “Stop and Breathe.” The very second you feel you’re losing control, take a deep, slow breath (or two or three). Getting oxygen into your brain is one of the fastest ways to relax. I used this strategy with my kids, they’d remind me when my patience-level was on a nose-dive. “Mom, ‘Stop and breathe’, they’d chime. (Such sweet little helpers. Now if they could only recognize their own stress signs).

Secret 5: Imagine Something Calming. Think of a person or place that helps you feel calm and peaceful—your Honey, that special romantic spot, the beach, your bed. The second you feel your stress building, close your eyes and think of the person or your calm place while breathing slowly. My girlfriend loads her ipod with soothing music and plugs it in when the going gets tough. Find what works!

Secret 6: Do Elevator Breathing. Close your eyes, slowly breath out three times, then imagine you’re in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. Press the button for the first floor and watch the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, your stress fades away. Just remember to do it the minute you feel that stress start to mount.

Secret 7: Try Stress Melting. Find the spot in your body where you feel the most tension; perhaps your neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. Gently close your eyes, concentrate on the spot, tense it up for three or four seconds, and then let it go. While doing so, imagine the stress slowly melting away. Or let those yoga deep breathing exercises you may have practiced kick in.

Anger management isn’t just for moms and dads. Why not get your whole family involved in learning one of these secrets to help them cope with stress and quick tempers? Just choose one strategy, announce your intentions, and show everyone how it works. If you practice it as a family you’ll have not only a calmer you, but a more peaceful household. (Sigh! — and it’s back to Happy Days!) Stress is mounting–for parents and kids. Let’s get serious and find ways to reduce it.

All the best!

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

Order her book today – Big Book of Parenting Solutions.  It is the one and only book you will need for many years to come!  I often refer to it as the Big Book of Parenting Recipes!  Michele Borba is our Julia Child  – Number one when it comes to parenting as Julia Child was to cooking!