Teens Stress and Self-Harm

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Teenage years are a very volatile and unpredictable time in a child’s life. They are too old to be considered children but still too young and lacking frontal lobe development to be considered adults. Frankly many parents are not fundamentally aware of the inherent distinction between the two stages, nor do they realize that they progression from child to adulthood is gradual. At this stage of life their hormones begin to go haywire as they prepare to cruise into adulthood. Often things such as peer pressure, bullying, disagreements, abuse and just plain ignorance can derail this tenuous progression for teens.

At this stage of the life teens require lots of understanding and patience. Teen counseling can be very helpful to ensure that the chosen path into adulthood is navigated effectively. So many things can derail their progress that it’s a constant battle to make sure your words don’t fall on deaf ears. When teens find themselves in untenable situations sometimes they resort to self-harming.

Self-harming may include taking legal and illegal drugs, cutting themselves or engaging in high-risk activities. Self-harming is a coping mechanism for dealing with pain, disappointment, neglect or abuse. When a teen is self-harming it is very seldom that they will share this information with parents or guardians. This is when you know the situation has become untenable and has really pushed your teen to this extreme. Teens usually cut themselves in places that will not be easily visible like the arm and upper thighs that can be covered by long sleeves and pants.

It is paramount these at-risk teens get counseling before their self-harming behaviors lead to a more serious situation like them seriously or permanently hurting themselves or others. Listening is the most important step when undertaking counseling of teens. Most often teens will continue self-harming when they feel that parents are judgmental and hypocritical towards them or lay blame on the teen for situations beyond their emotional capacity.

Tips for parents include being supportive in a nonjudgmental way and take your teen seriously. Never trivialize the situation although you may become frustrated with your teenager. Teens need to know someone is listening and that they have an outlet to air their frustrations and disappointment.

We recommend seeking counseling anytime self-harm becomes evident to have a professional assess the level of support needed to help your teen overcome their difficulty managing the emotions of the teen years.

10 Tips For Parenting Through Divorce

Parenting does not come with a handbook and divorce can make parenting even more difficult. Here are my favorite 10 tips to help parents co-parent and support children while separating or divorcing:

          Things To Do:

  1. Think of the co-parenting relationship as something brand new to be built from the ground up.  It’s not the marriage.
  2. Repeatedly assure children that both parents will always love them. Do not assume they know. Tell them again and again.Talk to kids face to face about their feelings about the situation. “Tell me how you’re feeling about our arrangement.  Is anything bothering you?”Let your child talk to you about their positive and negative emotions.
  3. Continue to assure children that they are not the cause of the divorce. Very young children, and sometimes teenagers, believe the world revolves around them and might think they had the power to break up the marriage.
  4. Don’t let guilt motivate parenting.
  5. Maintain as much consistency between homes as possible. (Rules, routines, etc.)Things To Avoid:
  6. Do not say negative comments about the other parent. Do not burden your child with your anger or frustrations.
  7. Don’t have your child send messages to your ex. Anything you need to coordinate or discuss should be done with your ex and not through your child. This will put them in the middle and is stressful for a child.
  8. Never make your child feel like they can not love their other parent. Tuck aside your own feelings and support your child in their relationship with the other parent.
  9. Don’t become overly rigid with parenting time. Be flexible and remember that your child has friends and interests outside of spending time with you and the other parent.
  10. Don’t over-interpret your child’s complaints about the other parent. It is important to listen to your child and to also support them in having a relationship with both you and the other parent.

Adapted by information from Shannon Himango, MA, LMFT ~ Mt. Olivet Counseling Service. Resources: Support Through Divorce by Erickson Mediation Institute and The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons.

 

Parenting: Setting Rules and Expectations

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences. At the same time parenting can also be one of the greatest challenges too. Often parents struggle in figuring out how to set boundaries and rules for their children.This article provides you with some basic skills to get you started in setting rules and expectations for your children.

Here are some of our guidelines for what to do and what not to do.

What to NOT Say or Do (Ineffective verbal messages or actions):

  • “It’s time to take a bath, ok?”
  • “Would you just try to be nice once in a while?”
  • “It would be nice to see your homework done a little earlier.”
  • Allowing children to walk away from a mess.
  • Cleaning up children’s messes for them.
  • Dressing children when they can dress themselves.
  • Ignoring misbehavior in the hope it will go away.
  • Ignoring misbehavior when you’re in a good mood.

What to DO (Firm Limits: When No Really Means No)

  • Keep your words and actions consistent.
  • Send clear signals about rules and expectations.

Keep the focus of your message on behavior

  • (Goal is to reject unacceptable behavior, not the child.)
  • Example: “Stop teasing your brother” rather than “You’re  such a pest!”

Be direct, clear and specific

  • Example: “Be home by 6:00 for supper” rather than “Don’t stay out too late.”

Use a normal, matter-of-fact, voice as much as possible

  • “Non-emotional parenting.”
  • A raised voice conveys loss of control; highly entertaining.

Tell Your Child the Consequences of Not Obeying

  • Natural consequences: “Video game off with no arguing when time is up; or you lose your time tomorrow.”
  • ‘You’re not arguing, are you?”
    • “You choose to _argue, you choose to lose ____”
  • Whatever carries weight currently; technology, sleepovers, Verizon, etc.
  • These are privileges to be earned.

 Follow through on your words with action

  • If a child does decide to test, calmly follow through and take the toy/privilege away.
    • “We’ll try again tomorrow.
    • I know you can do it!”

Children trained with these signals understand what parents mean. They learn to take their parents’ words  seriously and cooperate when asked. The result is better communication, less testing, and less fighting and conflict.

Talking To Kids About School Violence

With the recent school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut both adults and children are aware and thinking about violence at schools. We have heard many parents say they don’t want to send their child to school and kids are worried about it too.

When significant acts of violence occur, it is important to be aware that some children may react strongly to these types of events. For parents, teachers and therapists it is important to be able to talk to children about their thoughts and feelings.

Here are some tips and guidelines to help be prepared to talk to children about school violence:

  • Be honest. Give children information they can understand in their own level. Help them to understand that while bad things happen to children sometimes, most children will not get harmed while at school.
  • Limit exposure your child has to violent video games, movie, TV, computer and books. Research shows the violent information has a cumulative effect in children. Also do not describe scenarios that may further frighten your child.
  • Monitor what information your child is getting or already has about the recent events. If they are hearing rumors or have wrong information, help them to understand the facts.
  • Be there for your child. Listen to what they have to say. Reassure your child is safe and that you and their school is working hard to keep them safe.
  • Work to manage your own fear and anxiety. Avoid letting your child take on your worries.
  • Give your child information on how to maintain safety through their actions. Provide them with information on how their school works to keep them safe.
  • Try to maintain normal activities and routines.

When difficult situations such as these occur, it can be hard to manage our own worries and those of our children. It is important to remember that school shootings and other acts of violence are very rare.

Increase your child’s confidence.

Many parents ask “how can I make sure my children are confident and successful?”. At the core of a confident person is the belief that “I am able”, “I can do this” or “I am good”. One of the keys to raising confident children is to help children to develop a sense of self-efficacy.

In simple terms, you build self-efficacy through accomplishing things and doing things on your own. To help build this, never do for a child what they can do for themselves. Never is a strong word but if you err closer to never than always you are teaching your child that they can do for themselves, they are capable and they can figure their own problems out.

Children are always making decisions that shape their personality. Decisions become beliefs. Children are making decisions about:

  • Who they are (good or bad, capable or not capable)
  • What the world is like (safe or threatening)
  • What they need to do to survive or to thrive (based on decisions above)

My challenge to you: Try to draw out children’s own sense of resourcefulness. Encourage them to take risks and try things on their own so they can build up a reserve of confidence from all of their successes!

If you have concerns about your child’s self esteem play therapy with a trained professional can help you and your child learn to foster positive self esteem.

Discipline your children from a place of love and care.

Where did we get the crazy idea that to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Apply this to yourself – if I make you feel bad, then you will do better. Is this really when we tend to do better? From my experience these conditions lead people to rebel, give up, argue, etc…

Children do better when they feel better. Just like with all people, children can only access their rational brain when they are feeling positive. And so comes the idea of positive discipline.

To use the ideas of positive discipline you need to work to bring the message of love first. Often children need to have a sense of belonging and significance before they can learn what we want them to learn. If we can get clear on our intent of teaching our child lessons out of love instead of anger, they will be much more inclined to hear us.

Why is it so hard to do this? Because we all have buttons and triggers and our kids now how to push them!! We often know better but we don’t do better. When our buttons are pushed we go into the reptilian brain.

The reptilian brain is where our emotions take over and we can no longer access the more logical parts of our brains. When you feel your reptilian brain kicking in take a timeout, reconnect with your positive emotion and go back to your child in a positive frame of mind. In this act, we teach our children a lesson in and of itself.

My challenge to you: When disciplining your children, practice coming from a place of love and caring.

Learn more at: http://collaborativemn.com/family-therapy/

Plant a seed.

You might be wondering – what does that have to do with counseling?! I would argue it is at the core of psychotherapy.

Seeds can be a recommendation, a challenging question or something we notice within another person. Sometimes seeds take root and grow right away and sometimes they stay dormant for years before getting what they need to grow. Be patient and remember to be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – you can plant the seed but you can’t force it to grow.

If you are a parent, you may at times think your kids aren’t listening to a thing you say. I recommend you to keep talking anyway because when you least expect it your kids will start to catch your bits of wisdom.

If you notice someone struggling in life, offer him or her a kind act or caring words. Sometimes the kindness of one person can change the life of another. It’s worth a few minutes of going out of your way.

My challenge to you: plant a seed everyday.

If you like what you see here check out our website at: www.collaborativemn.com