Family Solutions Teen Help

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Archive for the category “Behaviors”

Is there a way to avoid sacrificing passion for professionalism?


It’s a very important question ……

When I started as an Educational Consultant nearly 20 years ago, most people working in direct care programs were also in recovery themselves. In fact, it was not uncommon to find that their own long-term recovery constituted the primary quantifiable qualification they brought to the table. They brought charisma, and counseling skills, and they could satisfy the rudimentary paperwork requirements of the times. But the main thing they brought to the job was their passion.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was barely 35 years old, President Nixon had just “declared war” on drugs, therapeutic communities were starting to gain traction, and methadone programs had been around for just under a decade.

Most programs (except methadone) were residential. Many had administrators who weren’t in recovery. But members of the front-line staff believed in their work, mostly because they lived it. Today it much more difficult for people in recovery to enter the recovery field. First off, there are now regulations that demand a certain level of qualification—either a higher education degree or licensure that has a significant education component.

People entering recovery often do so in middle age, and with responsibilities they had avoided in their period of insanity, such as families and jobs. Going back to school, particularly full-time, proves difficult. In addition, we’ve excluded many people from eligibility as a result of past behavior. Many of the pioneers in our field would be barred from working in it under today’s rules. Expectations and qualifications for this field changed. Why? Well, mistakes certainly have been made.

Some people went right from treatment to working in treatment, and there were instances of insufficient supervision, client abuse, questionable tactics and counselor instability. Like we do in response to so many problems, we addressed those issues with more regulations, supposedly to prevent them from recurring. Your credentials don’t legitimize you—your clients do. It’s not about how many books you write or how much you earn in speaking fees.

It’s about how many people credit you for positively influencing their recovery.

I’m not one to believe that you need to be in recovery to provide high-quality recovery services. But it does strike me that those who are in recovery believe much more in the efficacy of what they are doing. For them it’s not abstract.

I haven’t done the research, but I’m guessing that the degree to which we are adapting to the ideas and whims of those outside our field directly correlates to the reduction of recovering people in it. It is much easier to buy into the concept of “harm reduction” if you’ve never experienced the varying levels of harm and come out the other side.

It is much easier to buy into the efficacy of medication-assisted recovery if you’ve never experienced it and later achieved abstinence. It is much easier to see dual diagnosis less as an anomaly and more of the norm if you’ve never seen addiction and/or mental illness, either individually or together from the inside. And it is much easier to rely on the quantitative aspects of the research, if you’ve never experienced the qualitative. When we professionalize the field to the point where the passion is gone, we’re in trouble. I don’t support a return to days gone by, but I do think we are dangerously close to moving too far in the other direction.

Do you know why you are doing everything that you are doing in your professional life? 

Why you are living where you are living, why you are doing the work that you are doing, why you are the person that you are and the reason that you want the things that you want out of life?

Do your clients know how passionate you are?

Reference

Dan Cain is President of RS Eden, a Minneapolis-based agency that operates chemical dependency treatment programs, correctional halfway houses and a drug testing lab among its services.

Relationship Between Adolescence and High-Risk Behaviors – Part 2


Adolescence is a time of rapid change. In a span of just a few short years, teens transition dramatically in almost all realms of their lives. Physically, they grow in leaps and bounds and start to appear like mature adults.

Cognitively, their thinking becomes more sophisticated.

Socially, relationships are renegotiated, and teens develop the capacity to form deep intimate relationships with others. At the same time, the roles that they occupy in society also change.

Partly because teens start to look more mature, people surrounding them sometimes begin to treat them like adults — giving them mature responsibilities and adult expectations. While significant development occurs during the teen years, full maturity is by no means complete. Studies show that neurological development is not complete until the early 20s.

Decision-making and future-oriented thinking are not fully developed. Thus, while teens are entering into adult roles and while they may physically appear to be mature, teens might not be fully equipped to deal with these new tasks and challenges. For these various reasons, the teen years can be an especially stressful and fragile time, making adolescents more susceptible to engaging in risky behaviors and be unable to weigh their risks and benefits. At the individual level, youth who have low self-esteem, who have negative peer groups, and low school engagement or educational aspirations are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Family factors include poor parent-child communication, low parental monitoring (e.g., parents are unaware of youth’s whereabouts), and a lack of family support.

Not surprisingly, when parents themselves engage in risky behaviors, teens also are more likely to do so.

Finally, extra-family variables also play a role in the risk behaviors of youth.

Negative school climate, and poor (or no) relationships with non-parental adults also are at more risk for negative behaviors. For many, what actually happens during adolescence is that relationships are renegotiated rather than broken. This means that while changes occur in the relationship, most parents and teens continue to maintain a close relationship during these years.

This renegotiation and transition in the parent-child relationship is only natural as the teen is growing up and is having an increased capacity for reasoning, self-discipline and independence. As parents start to experience this ‘renegotiation,’ it is important to remember that parents continue to be the most important relationship in their teens’ lives. And while conflict and resistance might arise when parents show concern or discipline their teens, parents need to know that this is all part of the natural progression of relationships as their children grow. Here are several parenting strategies that parents might find helpful:

1. Act on teachable moments. Talking with teens does not always have to happen on planned one-on-one serious talks. Teachable moments, which are the best times during the day to talk, can emerge at various times of the day, often in the context of doing shared tasks or activities like cooking, driving home or dinner. Issues such as death, sexual behavior or substance abuse can come up anytime. Take advantage of these windows of opportunity, even when they are only 45 seconds long.

Parents who are aware and sense that youth need to talk will look toward these teachable moments.

They are more important over the long run than giving a long lecture.

2. Avoid useless arguing. This does not mean that parents have to avoid confrontation. Useless arguments are those that simply fuel hostility yet have no real purpose. It is important for parents to remember the following:

  • Avoid reasoning with someone who is upset, as it is futile. It is better to wait until tempers have cooled off before sorting out disagreements.
  • Do not feel obliged to judge everything their teen says. Parents and teens need to be able to agree or disagree.
  • Parents need not spend time talking teens out of their feelings. Teens have the right to be angry, confused, disappointed, hurt and insecure. Parents can acknowledge their teen’s reaction without condoning it. This type of response often defuses anger.
  • All this said, parents need not let disagreements dissuade them from talking to their teens. Studies show that parents who talk to their teens (and even disagree) still are closer to their children than those who avoid these types of conversations.

3. Be respectful. Parents get offended when children treat them discourteously.

Yet they need to be careful that they do not do the same to them.

Example: A parent would be very angry and offended if their teen used offensive and hurtful language. Parents also need to make sure that they are not verbally assaulting their teens.

4. Be willing to be unpopular. Parents need to accept that there will be times when adolescents will disagree with them and possibly even act as if they stop ‘liking’ them.

It is essential to remember that parenting (and not being a ‘buddy’) is a parent’s primary role. It is important to resist the urge to win their favor or spend too much time pleasing them.

5. Clearly communicate expectations. It is essential that parents pass along a strong sense of values. This is one of the fundamental tasks of being a parent. Teens cannot read their parents’ minds so it is important that parents clearly communicate what their expectations are in terms of behaviors and values. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, parents need to talk to their children about what’s right and wrong — about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Again, look for those ‘teachable moments.’ For instance, a good time for these discussions might be while parents are driving with their teen. Not only does the parent have a captive audience, but they can also avoid the need for eye contact. This can help teens feel more comfortable.

6. Encourage participation in positive activities. One effective way of discouraging engagement in negative behaviors is to encourage participation in positive activities. Today, there are many activities that teens can be involved in which encourage the development of various competencies and are enjoyable. When teens develop a sense of competency in acceptable activities, they will feel worthy and accepted. In feeling competent, teens likely will have fun and reduce stress.

Parents need to assist youth in finding these opportunities. For instance, finding volunteer opportunities and developing a supportive network of family and friends will help buffer high-risk behaviors.

7. Focus on what is important. Adolescence is a time of identity seeking and experimentation of different roles. This can be irritating and bewildering to parents.

But as painful as it may be to watch, it is one way that teens learn to function on their own without having to consult their parents about every decision.

Guiding principle: Do not make a fuss about issues that are reversible or do not directly threaten your child’s or another person’s safety.

These issues include unwashed hair, a messy room, torn jeans and so on.

Parents need to save their concern and action for safety. Safety is a non-negotiable issue. Safety rules need to be stated clearly and enforced consistently.

Example: Drinking is not acceptable. If you have a party here, no beer or hard liquor is allowed … and an adult must be present at any party you attend.

8. Help teens learn from experience. No matter how hard parents want to protect their teens from risky behaviors, they cannot watch their teens 24 hours every day or protect them from every risk. When negative consequences arise, parents need to use those situations to help teens learn from experience. Sometimes, dealing with the consequences of their own actions inspires sensible behavior more effectively than any lecture or discussion.

Example: A father went away for the weekend and without permission, his son invited a few friends for a party with no adults present. Several other teens crashed the party, drank heavily and threatened to get violent. The boy felt he had lost control in his own house. After his father calmly talks to him about what happened, the son realizes his father was right in insisting that adults be there

9. Help youth make healthy decisions. Parents cannot be there all the time to help their children make healthy choices; thus, it is important to equip teens with the skills needed to make decisions on their own. An important skill in decision-making is assessing benefits and costs. In helping youth do this, one needs to be honest in helping teens look at the benefits and the costs of various behaviors. For instance, in talking to teens about smoking, parents need to be honest about both sides. Positive consequences might be that some people find it enjoyable or even “cool.”

Negative consequences include adverse health conditions, financial cost and the fact that it can give unpleasant odors.

Similarly, in talking about engaging in sexual behaviors, teens might consider the benefits (e.g., they feel close to someone and want to take the next step), but also consider the risks (e.g., STDs, emotional consequences).

10. Listen to your teen. The most important thing parents can do for their adolescents is to listen to them. Parents must recognize and respect the value of what they say. Too often parents dismiss or underestimate the significance of the pressure their children feel and the problems they face. Listening and valuing teens’ ideas is what promotes the ability of parents to effectively communicate with them.

Listening to a teen does not mean giving advice and attempting to correct or control the situation.

Sometimes all a teen might need is for parents to listen or be there for them. It is essential that teens understand that they are being heard.

Adolescence is a unique period of the lifespan. It is full of changes and challenges, but also of growth and opportunities. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to high-risk behaviors so parents and other concerned adults need to support youth as they go through this period. The process surrounding high-risk behaviors can be complex, and often it is not enough just to tell a child to ‘say no’ to engaging in these behaviors. Risk-behavior prevention must cover a wide range of issues that adolescents face in order to be most effective. Parents and community organizations must address issues such as family violence, psychiatric illness, poor interpersonal skills, learning deficits and the dysfunctional development that might be associated with such behaviors. Parents must clearly express their expectations, and must help equip youth to assess risks, to be assertive, and to have the self-esteem and forbearance to withstand external pressures that might push them toward behaviors that lead to negative outcomes.

High-Risk Behaviors Among Youth – Part 1


What Are Risk Behaviors?

High-risk behaviors are those that can have adverse effects on the overall development and well-being of youth, or that might prevent them from future successes and development.

This includes behaviors that cause immediate physical injury (e.g., fighting), as well as behaviors with cumulative negative effects (e.g., substance use). Risk behaviors also can affect youth by disrupting their normal development or prevent them from participating in ‘typical’ experiences for their age group. For example, teen pregnancy can prevent youth from experiencing typical adolescent events such as graduating from school or from developing close friendships with peers.

Because high-risk behaviors can significantly impact the lives of youth and those around them, it is essential that parents, educators and other concerned adults become aware of the prevalence of these behaviors, the factors that increase their likelihood, and what can be done to abate or prevent those risks.

Types And Prevalence Of High-Risk Behaviors

Several high-risk behaviors have been of particular interest to professionals because of their prevalence in youth today.

Many of these behaviors cause a large number of deaths and injury among teens, or have negative impacts on society.

Behaviors Related To Obesity And Unhealthy Dieting

In recent years, the rate of obesity in the U.S. has reached epidemic levels. For this reason, many professionals have started to consider behaviors leading to being overweight and obesity as risky. Nationally, only 66 percent of youth report engaging in vigorous physical activity at least three times during the past week. While an increasing number of youth are overweight or obese, a large number of youth also are engaging in unhealthy dietary behaviors to lose weight.

Teens use unhealthy methods including vomiting, laxatives, unsupervised/non-prescribed diet pills and fasting.

Risky Sexual Behaviors

Engagement in sexual behavior is considered to be another group of high-risk behaviors for youth because of the potential physical (e.g., STDs or sexually transmitted diseases) and socioemotional risks they present. Youth may or may not be ready for the social and emotional implications of sexual activity, and many sexually active youth do not use safe sexual practices. Teens engage in sexual intercourse at a young age – 47 percent of youth nationwide.

Among those who report engaging in sex, only 63 percent report having used a condom during their last intercourse and 17 percent report using alternative methods of birth control. Unprotected sex exacerbates risks because of the potential for developing STDs and the potential for unwanted pregnancy.

Approximately half of the 19 million new STD cases diagnosed per year are of youth ages 15-19; and 13 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses are of youth ages 13-24. Teen pregnancy is both a possible effect of risky behaviors as well as a risk factor in itself. Teen pregnancy has been linked to higher rates of school dropout, as well as other socio-emotional risks. Rates of U.S. teen pregnancy have declined over the last few years. To date, the rate of teen pregnancy is about 7.5 percent for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, which is 36 percent lower than in 1990.

Nonetheless, this rate remains the highest in all the other developed countries (e.g., compared to Canada, Germany, Japan) (Gutmacher Institute, 2006).

Self-injurious Behaviors, Violence And Suicide

Among teens, many of the most self-injurious behaviors are related to driving.

Obtaining a driver’s license is considered as one of the most exciting milestones of the teen years but unfortunately, car accidents make up the leading cause of death among teens. Many injuries are exacerbated (and deaths are caused) by the failure to wear seat belts, being distracted by others in the car, talking on their cell phones, and texting. Approximately 30 percent of youth nationwide report that they rarely or never wear seat belts. The combination of alcohol use and driving also contributes to deaths among teens from car crashes. About 10 percent of teens report driving after drinking, and 36 percent admit riding in a car where the driver had been drinking. Driving-related risk behaviors continue to be a serious problem during the teen years.

Fighting and aggression include another group of self-injurious behaviors. It is second to vehicular accidents as the leading cause of death among those 15-34 years of age.

Nationally, 36 percent of teens report having been involved in physical fighting over the last year with males (43 percent) outnumbering females (28 percent) dramatically. Similarly, both males and females reported carrying a weapon or a gun (19 percent nationally), however males (29 percent) outnumbered females (7 percent) significantly. Finally, suicide is one of the highest risk behaviors among youth today. Close to 17 percent (almost one out of every five) of youth report having considered suicide within the past year and 13 percent actually planned it (national and state numbers are similar). Among teens, 8.4 percent attempt suicide every year. Suicide now is the third leading cause of death among those ages 15-24, with 86 percent of those deaths from males, and 14 percent from females.

Substance Use

Substance use is another group of behaviors that contribute to immediate as well as long-term damage. Drinking and drug use have been linked to motor vehicle accidents, fighting/violence, problematic relationships and social interactions, and various diseases. Drinking and cigarette smoking are among the most common in this group of behaviors.

Over 43 percent of youth nationwide report that they drink alcohol, and 26 percent of youth nationwide admit to heavy drinking (five or more drinks in a row).

Approximately 23 percent of teens admit to being cigarette smokers with 9.4 percent being frequent cigarette users (smoked on 20 of last 30 days). Like self-injurious behaviors, the prevalence of alcohol and cigarette use has decreased over the last few years, but nonetheless continues to be serious risks to adolescent health. Illicit drug use is both a health and public concern because of the obvious negative physical effects it has on users. Effects of illicit drug use include, but are not limited to, brain damage and damage to major physical organs. It also has been linked to a host of other health compromising behaviors such as risky driving, engagement in high-risk sexual behaviors, and violence. Recent estimates suggest that 22 percent of teens use marijuana and that 10 percent of teens used marijuana before the age of 13. Approximately 3 percent use cocaine.

In recent years, methamphetamine use has become a serious concern in the United States. The low-cost of the drug and the ease at which many youth are able to access this substance have contributed significantly to its rapid spread.

The serious, immediate and long-term effects of methamphetamine have made it a top concern for many professionals and policy-makers. Today, about 3 percent of eighth graders, and over 4 percent of 10th and 12th graders report having tried or used methamphetamine nationally.

Par 2 – Relationship Between Adolescence and High-Risk Behaviors

Does my child need a therapist?


George, age fifteen, rebellious teen, only eats white foods-macaroni, milk, rice, sugar.

Sarah, age sixteen, has cuts on her arms and bruises on her back, and says smoking pot once in a while is okay. Claudia, age thirteen, has nightmares, and has probably started being sexually active.

Barbara, age seventeen can’t seem to make or keep a friend and is losing more weight than normal.

Robin, age fourteen, loses something almost every day, like friends phone number, homework, library card, and even money. Which of these children needs professional help?

When it comes to knowing if a child (say, your child) needs therapeutic help for mood or behavioral disorders, professionals agree on one answer: “It all depends.” And there’s agreement that dealing with childhood psychological disorders is a risky business.

If you take action, you risk harm; and if you do nothing, you risk harm.

What a choice!

Keeping in mind the specific complexities of any human being, the range of possible diagnoses, the ever-increasing knowledge about interconnections between biology, chemistry and mental health, and the myriad treatment options available, the only sane thing to do is to bone up on the When-Where-What-Who-How’s of child-specific therapy, and make the best decisions you can. Herewith is some brief notes and assistance  of what to expect and do when you enter the world of children’s special needs.

  • When. It’s time to seek help when you’ve engaged in everything that common sense, parenting books, and trusted friends and family recommend. Understandably, parents are loath to admit that their offspring could be anything less than perfection incarnate.

There’s an active self-protective mechanism that allows parents to chalk difficulties up to “it’s a stage (he’s) she’s going through” or “boys will be boys” or “the system needs to adjust to the kids, not the other way around.”

Given that hesitancy, the truism, “when parents think the child needs help, then the child does need help,” is probably true. That day may come only after a teacher suggests that an evaluation is in order, the child hurts him or herself, or a doctor sees something that raises a red flag. Red flags tend to go up more readily for boys than girls, and that makes it appear as though boys have more psychological difficulties than girls. This is not necessarily so. Girls often present psychological problems in quiet ways, such as avoiding friends, falling grades and new fears.

Boys, on the other hand, tend to “act out” which gets everyone’s attention. One set of problems is no better or worse than other; both can be helped by professionals.

If you’re thinking of waiting, envision doing nothing until David enters adolescence with the same problems, newly compounded with hormones and semi-independence from home. Sooner is better.

  • Where. When parents have a general idea that something isn’t right, the next step is to seek a diagnosis. Often, public institutions are the first line of defense. Any parent with any concerns can have their child screened for academic, learning disabilities, mental, physical, emotional and any other issues imaginable. The outcome might be reassurance that the child is on the appropriate trajectory, or that the child does have a problem, and can be connected to appropriate services. Babies born prematurely are particularly at risk for behavioral, learning, and emotional problems, even after the child has caught up physically. So care has to be taken from the onset to protect the fragile child

Past the preschool years, public schools are mandated to offer screenings for a variety of learning and developmental problems. These are free to the parents and will provide lots of information and a proposed plan to deal with any issues that surface. When you don’t like or trust the outcomes of such a screening, seek a second opinion. Call a clinical psychologist who specializes in children for an evaluation; this person should be able to recognize what signs and symptoms point to which kind of therapy. Especially when the issue is anxiety or depression, a clinical evaluation may be enough and treatment can begin promptly. Such an assessment might also lead to a whole battery of quantitative tests that include academic, mental and emotional health, and speech, language, sensory, and neurological testing. These are usually offered at large institutions, such as a Children’s Hospital. You may find that your child has a very high IQ but also very high distractibility and mild dyslexia, for example. Oftentimes learning difficulties go hand in hand with emotional and behavioral issues. This kind of detailed, quantitative information can save time in treatment by getting the child to the right professional’s office immediately, although it comes with a hefty price tag that insurance may or may not cover.

  • What. Now that you’ve had an assessment, evaluation or battery of screening tests for Theresa, does she have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Obsessive-compulsive disorder? Attachment disorder?

Sensory integration disorder? Something on the autism spectrum?

Dyslexia? Oppositional disorder? Perhaps a hearing deficit? A mood disorder?

Post traumatic stress?

Some of these are psychological issues, and some are learning differences or deficits. More to the point, they often come in two’s or three’s, not singly.

  • Who. With overlapping diagnoses, parents may be on a long and winding road through many professionals’ offices. Don’t be surprised to end up with a team of professionals that might include a psychiatrist, a therapist for the parents, another for the child, and perhaps an occupational or speech therapist as well.  Ideally, parents are part of that team. Some say that when the child has a problem, it’s the parents who need the work. And yet, research is uncovering the biological bases of more and more disorders every year. Parents are, at the very least, almost certain to play a part in their child’s treatment. When parents are facing battles of their own with grief, mental illness, substance abuse, severe financial stress or other problems, they may not be as active as they’d like on behalf of their children. In these cases, it may fall to child care providers, teachers, or others in the family to work with and for that child. As for the lead therapist of a working team, what should a parent look for? Compassion, a broad-based view of children’s psychological needs, and someone who “clicks” with your Steven. Of those, compassion comes first.

Seek someone who is kind and understanding about the difficult path your child has been on. When the therapist approaches you as if your child is a bundle of pathologies, think twice. Instead, look for a “first, do no harm” approach, with a person who sees the excellent qualities Jeremy brings, as well as the struggles he faces. Then make sure he or she has a broad set of skills, and the flexibility to recognize that when one approach isn’t working it’s time to move to plan B, C or D.

There is no one right road, regardless of how many parenting gurus suggest otherwise. As for “clicking,” a therapist has to have a relationship with the child.

Chemistry counts, and if after a handful of sessions your child is still uncommunicative, don’t lose time before trying a new therapist.

(Consider that it is the parents’ job to get the child to the first appointment; after that, it’s the therapist’s job to create a bond.)

  • How. After getting a diagnosis and choosing a therapeutic team, you’ll be offered a bushel of ways to treat childhood behavioral, emotional, and learning disorders.

Step one in almost all cases is pretty basic: consistency, diet, rest, and regulation.

In fact, some say that the best things you can do for a child with depression is give him or her a protein-rich breakfast, an hour of aerobic exercise daily and fish oil, which has a palliative effect on mood disorders. In general, though, when a child leads a chaotic life with questionable nutrition and inadequate sleep, disorders are hard to treat. And the therapy itself? Young children will play with puppets, dolls, other toys or games, and from this play the therapist learns about their world.

When difficult issues surface in play (Mom and Dad fighting, for instance) the therapist will guide the play to a resolution more satisfactory than having the child get pummeled in the process. The play becomes the conduit for offering new perspectives, coping strategies, and even concrete techniques such as deep breathing to ward off anxiety. If your Dawn won’t go alone, Mom and Dad may go along, too. If that doesn’t work, then the parents might go without Dawn, and receive coaching on how to set up a consistent household, schedule and expectations that work.

Another option: family therapy. Here, the idea is that the child who presents “problems” in the family constellation isn’t operating in a vacuum. Instead, Donald is performing his role, as are all the other family members. Perhaps a sibling has the role of “good child,” the mother has the role of the family’s emotional barometer, and the father has the role of playmate. With family therapy, all (or at least most) of the family attend sessions together, and it’s the interactions between them that are the focus, and breaking out of those roles may be the goal. Family therapy takes the pressure off Donald, a potentially huge relief.

Yet another option: group therapy. If it’s a group of 12-year-olds who tell Brian that they don’t like him because he argues all the time, grabs and interrupts, he may hear it more clearly than if a caring adult gives the same message.

And, the group provides an opportunity to practice budding social skills.

Still more: there is a surprising body of research indicating that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help, especially with children who are suffering from past traumas. In practice, this looks like the child following an object that the therapist moves rapidly before his or her eyes. Any form of activity that bounces attention quickly back and forth from the right to the left side of the brain helps “unstick” traumatic memories that are impeding daily life or growth.

  • And finally, there are psychotropic medications to treat many conditions: anxiety, compulsiveness, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression or impulsiveness. Many parents are reluctant to use them for understandable reasons: they believe using psychotropic drugs may set up a pattern of medicating problems away, they fear dulling little Angelo’s personality, or they may cause metabolic changes that effect growth. Recent news about a link between antidepressants and higher rates of suicide, the abuse of ADHD drugs among older teens, and the overuse of sleeping medications for children all scare parents away. So, choosing to medicate isn’t always straightforward, and probably the child’s pediatrician isn’t the right person to make that call. Ask for a referral to a child psychiatrist. While thinking about whether to medicate or not to medicate, note that there is risk if you choose not to. If you don’t medicate, the child suffers from the presenting problem and very likely social problems that are an outgrowth, and which can become ingrained patterns that are hard to shift later.

Parent after parent says, “I wanted to do everything I could to avoid using medications, but once we finally went that route, life was bearable for Tara for the very first time. Medication has been a lifesaver.” Expect that it will take time to get the right drug and dosage, and that when the child grows, your doctor will need to reformulate the prescription again, and again. Note, too, that medication is rarely a solution all on its own; it works best in conjunction with some kind of “talk” therapy and consistent modifications to the home and school expectations and environment.

Whatever treatment is pursued, you’ll want to know when recovery has begun.

“Recovery” can be a tricky word; when parents hold on to the glowing expectations they’ve carried since Rob’s birth, recovery may be hard to achieve. If, on the other hand, recovery means that life gets easier for him, then recovery is eminently achievable. The best sign that you’re on the right track? Friendships improve.

When your child brings home friends who represent the best, not the worst, in him or herself, you’re on the road forward.

Red Flags
When you see these behaviors in your child, consider seeking help:

  • attachment difficulties
  • changes from your child’s usual behavior
  • cruelty to animals
  • difficulty making and keeping friends
  • difficulty sleeping
  • excessive shyness
  • explosive behavior
  • lack of empathy and/or remorse
  • missing medication from parents or siblings
  • newly developed fears
  • nightmares
  • repetitive behaviors such as hand washing
  • self-abuse (burning, hitting, biting, hair pulling, cutting) – Self-harm consists of behaviors that people intentionally engage in that cause physical bodily harm to themselves
  • substance abuse – Teen substance abuse is both a frightening and frustrating experience that affects the entire family
  • unexplained behavioral problems
  • unreasonable defiance
  • violence against others
  • withdrawal

Say “no” to stigmas

Even when parents recognize that their child is experiencing problems in school, with friends, or at home, parents may want to avoid screening and say, “I don’t want my kid labeled.”

(There may be a subtext of “I don’t want myself labeled as the parent of a problem child” underlying this viewpoint, too.)

There’s good reason to worry for the children; lots of research indicates that teachers and others treat children according to their expectations; when they’ve been told that the child has “oppositional disorder,” they may take a geared-for-struggle stance, for instance. And children tend to live up (or down) to those expectations. As for relationships with peers, you don’t have to go far to find stories of children who have been embarrassed by being labeled a “special education student,” a broad category that includes children with anything from mild dyslexia to severe developmental disabilities. Classmates do notice who goes to the office to receive medication, who gets pulled out of class for “special” help, who gets to have an extended time for test taking, all common (and appropriate) ways that children are accommodated. They notice, and they may be unkind about it. In other words, stigma is alive and well in relation to mental illness and every form of special needs. Having agreed that stigma is a persistent hindrance to seeking treatment, experts say parents simply have to face it and proceed to treatment anyway.

That begins with accepting for themselves and their children that mental disorders are no different than diabetes or any other disorder: unpleasant and long-term, but treatable. Then parents (and children as they grow older) may find themselves becoming advocates for people with mental or emotional disorders, spreading the word that stigma is perhaps the most treatable part of a child’s special needs.

“Just Say No to Stigma” could be the rallying cry.

Here are some tips that will help you become your child’s best advocate!


Remember:

  1. Believe and trust in your own insight and intuition
  2. Believe in your child.
  3. Believing in your child is essential. No doctor, therapist, teacher, or anyone knows your child better than you do. You have lived with your child with a disability longer and more intimately than anyone else. Only you have the long perspective. The big picture. Trust that knowledge.
  4. Believing in your intuition is being able to trust yourself and those feelings you have. A hunch is usually a sign, follow your hunches.
  5. Information is power.
  6. The squeaky wheel gets greased.
  7. You are the change agent. You can do it

Educating yourself is critical. It is very important to learn what your child’s rights are before you can fight for them.

There are many sources of education and support in each state. There are advocates in your state. You can find them here:

  1. Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities
  2. Education.com
  3. Parents Helping Parents
  4. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA)

They are your allies and will prepare and support you. The more skills and information you learn the better you can advocate.

Other Tips:

1. Documentation — Keep a notebook

You must write down all the facts and keep ‘a paper trail.’ There are two different kinds of facts. One is objective and the other is subjective. Objective facts are the name, telephone number and title or position of the person you talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Say “Just a minute, please, I need your name and title. I’m writing this down.” Facts are listing the questions you ask and writing down the given answers.

Put quotes around answers. Ask the person to repeat themselves or say “I heard you say that you do not think Ken can be in your day care center because he has a wheelchair.

Is that what you said?” Write it down. It is okay to say that you are writing the response into a notebook. If you get an answer you don’t agree with, don’t understand or you know is wrong, say so.

Always ask for the statement to be sent to you in writing.

Say, “Please send me a copy of that in writing.” You make this request when you are talking with educators, insurance companies, Medicaid, a community agency, hospitals, landlords, restaurant owners and others. Keep a file folder or box or drawer for the written replies and paperwork you will receive. When you have time, organize it either chronologically or by subject. Subjective facts are your thoughts about either a person or an event that occurred. Did the person act friendly? Ignorant? Were they willing to talk with you?

Were they evasive? Just jot down a couple of words or sentences to remind you what kind of conversation you had. Remember, keep your notes on facts and opinions in one place, either on a computer or in an organized notebook. This is a quick and easy way to make sure that your notes are not here and there, but easy to find. Over the years, you’ll see why having your notes together is a time-saver. Date your notes and thoughts.

2. Letter Writing

After the phone call, sit down and write a short letter which states that you just talked and this is what transpired on the phone. Keep it as objective as possible by stating the facts.

At the top of the letter reference the subject, e.g., “Re: Occupational Therapist Still Not Hired,” or “Re: Second Request For Payment of Physical Therapy Sessions.” To give your letter real muscle though, there’s a simple technique called “cc” or “carbon copy.” This is at the end of the letter and it’s to let the recipient know that you mean business. You “cc” your letter to their boss, or the agency head that administers the program.

Using two or more cc’s can be useful: you can “cc” an advocacy organization such as the national UCP office or the affiliate, or the parent training center, and your state legislators or U.S. Senator or Representative. Don’t worry about whether or not your Congressperson cares or not.

They do. This is one “cc” that will do more good in the long run than any other. The people who amend, authorize the funding or change the laws of the land need information from you. When there is no law or regulation, they can make new ones.

Your voice is very important. They need you to keep them informed.

3. Legal Representation Or Alternate Dispute Resolution

You can hire a lawyer later if you need to or if you opt to utilize a formal Alternate Dispute Resolution process when it’s available or offered. Your state has a Protection & Advocacy agency and your county has a legal services office. With your documentation and knowledge of the facts and a feeling about what is going on you will save time and attorney’s fees, and personal aggravation, by having your records straight. You will also know a great deal and be able to figure out if the mediator or lawyer is competent and knowledgeable about disability issues.

You cannot assume that the Domestic Relations lawyer, that you used for your divorce, for instance, also understands how Special Education law works or that an appointed mediator, for instance, knows what a Personal Assistance Services caregiver is. Like all professionals you will be involved with, they are paid for their expertise and services and it is you who hires or consults them.

Always get several referrals first and then “interview” the professional when possible, to see if you can work with them. Again, trust your intuition and observations.

You can say “I’m shopping for an (attorney) (doctor) (dentist) who understands disability. I’ll get back to you when I decide what to do.”

4. Meetings

When a meeting is scheduled at a time you can’t attend, ask for it to be postponed. Propose an alternative time. When you know you are going to be late, call and let them know. Be sure you know the purpose of the meeting. This will establish what your role is and will help you focus on what your child needs to have happen. Be prepared.

If you are going to change the IEP, have your suggestions in writing, preferably typed, with extra copies. Take a moment at the start of the meeting to write the name of everyone in the room and their title.

Don’t hesitate to ask “Just a minute, how do you spell your name?” Bring a tape recorder if you want to. Bring a friend or advocate for support. Introduce the person. If you don’t understand something that is happening in the meeting, or emotions flare, ask for a break. Say “I think I need a break. I’m going into the hall for ten minutes.” Use the time to collect your thoughts.

Avoid being in a position where you swear or will regret later words you used. Take notes during the meeting when you can. When the meeting is “going nowhere” say so. Propose another meeting.

When substantial gain is made during the meeting, write a follow-up letter clarifying what you think was decided or happened. “CC” all the attendees or others who are interested in the outcome.

5. Phone calls

Write the date, time, name and title, and telephone number of the person you are talking with in the notebook. Write ahead of time the questions you will ask leaving space for the answers you get.

Realize that a phone call can be forgotten — or denied. Talk to the ‘power’ person or the person who has the critical information you want. It may take a while to get to the person who has the authority to state policy so persist in trying to reach a person of authority.

Call an agency and say, “Who is the person responsible for putting together the IEP team?” “May I speak with the policy expert on the Medicaid state plan?” “Who is it who determines the transportation schedule for school buses?” “Who is the expert on assistive technology funding in our school district?” If you don’t know what an IEP is or if you don’t know if your child is eligible for Medicaid, that is the call you need to make tomorrow.

When you make a call, leave pleading and begging behind. Simply say, “Hello. This is Matt All calling for Mrs. Andersen.” Period.

You can say, “My son can’t see very well and has cerebral palsy.

What are the steps I must take to get him enrolled in an extended school year program?” or “How and where do I apply for Social Security for my disabled son?” Be as direct as you can with your initial request. You do not need to explain your story or request in detail to everyone. You don’t have to give the medical terminology for your child’s disability. Just keep it simple and straightforward.

And keep it to the facts. It is easy to begin to explain the ins and outs of what you’ve been through: however, save that for your friends, family and support groups. Deal with administrators and service delivery people in a businesslike manner.

When the person is not available, simply say, “Please ask Mr. Apple, Supervisor to return my call. My number is –.”

When a message is requested, and you may volunteer to leave one as well, make it strong and to the point. “I am calling about the bus picking the kids up an hour early each day” or “I’m calling about the teacher who called my daughter ‘retarded’,” or “I’m calling about my son’s application into the summer recreation program.” Ask when you can expect a return call. Write that down.

When you don’t get a return call when you should have, call back.

Call back if you don’t succeed in reaching the right person the first time. Ask, “Who should I be talking to, then?” When they seem unhelpful or to be avoiding you, write it down. Keep a record of these referrals and if they are passing the buck, say so: “Look, I’m getting annoyed. Mrs. Barnes referred me to Mr. Bath who referred me to you and now you’re referring me to Mrs. Barnes!”

When you are given approval over the phone, be sure to say thank you and ask for written confirmation to be sent to you the next day.

File this with your other documentation.

6. Use of Anecdotes

Anecdotes are stories to make a point. They are used to give examples. This is a particularly useful tool if you meet face-to-face with an elected representative or are asked to testify at a public hearing or public meeting or are writing a Letter To The Editor of a newspaper. People remember anecdotes. For example, if you want to complain about unresponsiveness or insensitivity of the school system to your child, you could talk about your child’s IEP goals and explain how they are not being implemented. OR, you could say:

“My son Michael is in regular kindergarten. He can’t talk. He uses sign language and a machine which talks for him when he pushes buttons. The teacher asked the children to bring in a favorite stuffed animal at story sharing time. Michael brought in his Snoopy, who he carries with him all the time. When it was his turn, the teacher wouldn’t let him use his voice machine. She said it was disruptive and distracting to the other children. She has not learned his signs, so no one understood what he was doing with his hands. Michael stood in front of the class, silent. The teacher and children stared at him for a while and then she instructed him to sit down. He threw himself to the floor and had a temper tantrum. The teacher told the aide to take him out of the room for “time out.” She then reported that Michael was becoming a problem child in her class and asked the principal to work out a behavior modification program.”

A story in short declarative sentences is easier to understand than going into a lot of detail and opinion.

Find a powerful story to make your point, and use it. Advocacy is its own reward and there will always be something to advocate for in this imperfect world. Accept that you cannot win all the time and that many goals may take months or years to reach. Give yourself a break now and again! Pick your battles!

You’ll have ample opportunity over the years to fight many, so choose them and space out your energy. And be creative — there is no limit on the tactics parents can choose as they advocate for what it is right for their child with a disability.

One parent may leaflet all the teachers’ mailboxes to argue for inclusion of their child with Down Syndrome into a regular education classroom and win; another parent may launch a full-scale litigation effort to win.

Different circumstances require different actions and strategy on your part. With each achievement, no matter how small, take a moment to congratulate yourself for a job well done. Have a party with your family or friends when you finally get Medicaid to pay for the specially adapted toilet seat, when you secure SSI for your child, or you get the “okay for payment” for extended school year over the summer.

Share the gladness of the moment when your child gets on the bus with his sister to go to the neighborhood school, or your young adult daughter with disability gets a job after a year of searching.

You’ll know you are an advocate when you feel like you have had to decide between being popular or being respected. In the long run, being respected will do more for your child than trying to keep everyone pleased. This might sound like I am suggesting you have to fight for everything and be combative. I am not saying exactly that.

I am saying, however, that as you work to make sure your child’s legal and social rights are won — because, unfortunately, they are not automatically provided or extended to your child — you will feel and act differently.

And it will be worth it!

It is your right, your responsibility and your duty to speak up and out!

Disclaimer:  This article is designed to increase public awareness. Its content is presented for informational and educational purposes only, and is not to be construed as professional advice on medical, legal, technical or therapeutic matters.  By accessing and using the information, you agree to waive any rights to hold the Horizon Family Solutions, or any individual and/or group associated with this site, liable for any damage that may result from the use of the information presented.

Teen autism is a spectrum disorder that has a variety of severities


At the low-end of the autism disorder spectrum is a disorder called Asperger syndrome. Teen asperger syndrome gets its name from an Austrian pediatrician who first noticed that this particular form of autism was mild, but capable of stymieing academic and social progress. Teenagers with Asperger syndrome disorder do not demonstrate the same language delay skills that others with more severe forms of autism develop. However, there are some definite limitations associated with teenage Asperger syndrome.

Defining characteristics of teen Asperger syndrome disorder

Teenagers with Asperger syndrome disorder are mainly identified by their obsessive interest in one subject or another. While the subject varies from teen to teen, the connecting thread is that the teenager wants to know everything about one subject or object when affected by teenage Asperger syndrome disorder. The desired topic is discussed almost exclusively by teens affected by Asperger syndrome disorder.

In conversations with others, and in pursuit of knowledge, one topic is almost entirely all an Apserger teen might know about. This can lead to neglecting schoolwork that is not related to the topic of interest, and can make for difficulty in carrying on social interaction. However, regarding the topic of interest, Asperger teens are remarkably knowledgeable and have a high level of expertise and good vocabulary (including formal language patterns), making them similar to encyclopedias about the topic.

Other characteristics of teen Asperger syndrome disorder

Teen Asperger syndrome disorder and intelligence

Most teens with Asperger syndrome are actually quite intelligent. They have average to above-average IQs, and many of them perform well on standardized tests. However, their homework skills are often lacking, leading them to perform poorly in subjects that do not fall within the scope of topics of interest.

Asperger syndrome teens often need help remembering to do and hand in their homework and they need help learning appropriate communication skills.

While there is no cure for Asperger syndrome, teens can learn to cope with the symptoms by practicing gross motor skills to overcome clumsiness, learn how to better read non-verbal cues and by working to expand areas of interest.

Teen Asperger syndrome disorder and social interaction

Because Asperger syndrome is on the milder end of the autism spectrum, teenagers affected by Asperger syndrome disorder are not as shy as others with more severe forms of autism. Many teens with Asperger syndrome attempt to approach other people. However, because they may have problems recognizing social and emotional cues, and may be fixated on a particular subject, actual interaction is often unsuccessful. So, while they may not wish to be isolated and may seek social interaction, teens with Asperger syndrome disorder become isolated by others because of their lack of social skills and because of their especially narrow interests.

Even though Asperger teens will probably need some measure of help throughout high school, it is often possible to help them equip themselves to prepare for college, and college can be used as a training ground to further prepare teenagers with Asperger syndrome disorder for successful careers.

Asperger Syndrome Source:

Dore E. Frances, Ph.D.

Families can at times face special and unique circumstances.

Horizon Family Solutions, LLC

What are Therapeutic Wilderness Programs?


Many social critics argue that today’s youth face more serious and critical risks than any previous generation. Parents are convinced that their children face a major crisis. Most experts will agree that violence in schools, deteriorating family structure, substance abuse, alarming media images, and gang activity put teens at risk. Wilderness programs use physical activity, exposure to the wilderness, and therapy to help participants through what might be considered “a rough patch” in their lives. Unlike juvenile detention centers, most wilderness programs, at least all the ones I recommend, do not use behavior modification strategies. Instead, they are non-confrontational and rely on exposure to nature to teach students about responsibility, reliability and resourcefulness.

Format

In most therapeutic wilderness programs, students join a group and stay in the field for a period of 42 to 74 days. At times it may be longer depending n the needs of the teen. Groups, which typically vary in size from four to 12 members, cook, engage  in activities that match their surroundings and time of year (weather), help with local community needs (when applicable for the student), gather kindling, engage in academics, learn new skills, meet with their therapist, participate in groups, write in their journal and write letters home.  Some programs focus on survival skills, such as making fires, cooking, first aid, minimal impact camping, hiking, route-finding and primitive living. Each participant has a responsibility to the group and themselves. Safety is ensured by expert trained field staff.

Although these programs do not work directly with insurance companies many parents have been successful in getting a portion, if not all, of the costs reimbursed through their insurance company. Upon completion, the program  can break down all therapeutic costs, which include (on the average) individual therapy weekly, group therapy twice weekly, and group processing daily. In addition, they will break down admissions fees, gear fees and residential fees when requested


Participants

Participants in wilderness therapy programs usually fall in the “at-risk youth” category. At-risk teens are in danger of making poor life decisions because of environmental, social, family and behavioral issues. Students are usually between 13 and 17; after that age, parents are no longer legally able to make decisions for their child. There are therapeutic wilderness programs for pre-teens as well as young adults, so everyone can benefit from this experience when needed.

The reasons a child is sent to a therapeutic wilderness program vary, but common issues include adoption struggles, clinical needs, drug and alcohol abuse, family challenges, gang involvement, low self-esteem, prescription drug abuse, running away, stealing, violence, depression, promiscuity, antisocial behavior and poor academic performance.

Theory

By removing children from their comfortable environment and bad influences, a therapeutic wilderness program removes distractions that can hinder insight while in therapy. Students do not have access to cell phones, cars, computers, televisions, their usual friends, family, drugs, or alcohol. They focus on things such as: admitting to what was and has really been going on at hem and in school; behaviors that have caused troubles; academic failure; feelings of depression; eating healthy; making amends with their family; new coping skills; open communication; responsibility for themselves and how their actions affect others. Therapeutic wilderness programs use a “no-resistance” approach, meaning force and confrontation are not used and children must improve based on the natural consequences of their actions.

Students quickly see and feel the impact of their actions.

Therapy

Therapeutic wilderness programs involve several forms of direct and indirect therapy. The experience of being in the wilderness — exposure to unfamiliar settings, learning new skills, and deprivation of normal everyday comfortable items — is itself a major component of therapy. Students work with licensed therapists to finish assignments and work through their problems; therapists do not usually stay with groups, but visit once or twice a week. Many wilderness programs also use less formal forms of group therapy to process lessons, improve communication and air grievances. Therapeutic wilderness programs are clinically driven treatment models.


Wilderness Programs

The Family Solutions Teen Help website has some of the best therapeutic wilderness programs listed.

Many are located in the West, where the expanses of wilderness are used as field areas for groups. Many are located in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Utah.

About the Author

Dore Frances, Ph.D .began her small independent therapeutic consulting practice as an Advocate for children with learning disabilities in Pacific Grove, California in 1988. In her work as a Child Advocate, she became familiar with the processes and strategies families develop to find appropriate educational matches for their children. He written work has appeared in Monterey County Herald, Seventeen Magazine, and numerous other journals. A frequent traveler to all programs and schools she recommends, she also has penned articles about different types of programs. Dr. Frances has a Master’s Degree in Child & Family Studies and a Doctorate of Applied Human Development in Child and Family Development with an emphasis in Diverse Families and a minor in Child Advocacy.

Horizon Family Solutions, LLC commitment to clients.

10 WAYS TO DEAL WITH YOUR DIFFICULT OR NEGATIVE TEEN


10 WAYS TO DEAL WITH YOUR DIFFICULT OR NEGATIVE TEEN

“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.” ~Sri Chinmoy

I love him to death, but it’s draining to talk to him. Every time I talk with my son, I know what I’m in for: a half-hour rant about everything that’s difficult, miserable or unfair. Sometimes he focuses on the people he feels have wronged him (like his mother and I) and other times he explores the general hopelessness of his high school life. He never asks how I am doing, and he rarely listens to what’s going on in our family life for more than two minutes before shifting the focus back to himself. I tell myself I keep making the attempt to connect because I care, but sometimes I wonder if I have ulterior motives–to pump up my ego offering good parental advice, or even to feel better about my own reality of being the head of this family.

I’m no saint, and if there’s one thing I know well, we only do things repeatedly if we believe there’s something in it for us. Even if that something is just to feel needed. Is that what my son is feeling?

I thought about this the other day when a client asked me an interesting question: “How do I offer compassion to my son when he doesn’t seem to deserve it?”

While I believe everyone deserves compassion, I understand this feeling.

One mother spoke to me about her daughter saying she is offensive and emotionally exhausts everyone around her in the family. Is she hateful of her life already at age 16, or is she just terribly depressed? Some teens seem to have boundless negative energy that ends up affecting everyone around them.

How do you interact with negative or difficult teens?

Teens who seem chronically angry, belligerent, indignant, critical, or just plain rude.

When your teen repeatedly drains everyone around them, how do you maintain a sense of compassion without getting sucked into their doom?

And how do you act in a way that doesn’t reinforce their negativity–and maybe even helps them? Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Act instead of just reacting.

Oftentimes we wait until our teen gets angry or depressed before we attempt to buoy their spirits. When you know your teen is dealing with difficult feelings or thoughts (as demonstrated in their behavior) don’t wait for a situation to help them create positive feelings. Give them a compliment for something they did well.

Remind them of a moment when they were happy–as in “Remember when you scored that touchdown? That was awesome!” You’re more apt to want to boost them up when they haven’t brought you down. This may help give them a little relief from their pain.

2. Dig deeper, but stay out of the hole.

It’s always easier to offer your teen compassion when you understand where they’re coming from.

However, that can’t completely justify their bad behavior.

When you show negative people you support their choice to behave badly, you give them no real incentive to make a change (which they may actually want deep down).

It may help to repeat this in your head when you deal with them: “I understand your pain. However, I’m most helpful if I don’t feed into it.”

This might help you approach your teen with both firmness and kindness so they don’t bring you or the rest of the family down with them.

3. Disarm their negativity, even if just for now.

You know your angry and depressed teen will rant about life’s injustices as long as you let them. Part of you may feel tempted to play amateur counselor or therapist –get them talking, and then help them reframe situations into a more positive light.

Then remind yourself you can’t change their whole way of being in one minute or perhaps even in one day. They have to want that. You also can’t listen for hours on end, as you’ve done in the past. However, you can listen compassionately for a short while and then help them focus on something positive right now, in this moment. You can ask about any upcoming activities or school events. You can remind them it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride or walk.

Don’t think you can fix your teen.

Just aim to help them now.

4. Don’t take it personally–but know sometimes it is personal.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should never take things personally when you deal with your angry and negative teen. And yes, I do think it’s a little more complicated than that. You can’t write off everything your teen says about you just because they are being insensitive or tactless.

Even an abrasive teen may have a valid point. Weigh their comments with a willingness to learn. Accept that you don’t deserve the excessive emotions in their condensing tone, but weigh their ideas with a willingness to learn.

Some of the most useful lessons I’ve learned came from caring friends I wished weren’t right.

5. Maintain a positive boundary.

Some people might tell you to visualize a bright white light around you to maintain a positive space when other people enter it with negativity.

This doesn’t actually work for parents and their teens because most parents and teens respond better to ideas in words than visualizations. So tell yourself this, “I can only control the positive space I create around myself.”

Then when you interact with your teen, do two things, in this order of importance:

~ Protect the positive space around yourself. When their negativity is too strong, you need to walk away.

~ Help your teen feel more positive, not act more positive–which is more likely to create the desired result.

6. Maintain the right relationship based on reality as it is.

With your teen you may always be wishing they could be more accepting and more positive. Do you consistently put yourself in situations where you feel bad because you want to help, because you want them to be happy?

Please realize the best you can do is accept them as they are, let them know you believe in their ability to be happy, and then give them space to make the choice. That means gently bringing your conversations to a close after you’ve made an effort to help.

Or cutting short a night and going to your room when you’ve done all you can and it’s draining you. Hopefully your teen will want to change some day. Until then, all you can do is love them, while loving yourself enough to take care of your needs.

7. Question what you’re getting out of it.

We often get something out of relationship, even with our negative teens.

Get real honest with yourself: have you fallen into a caretaker role because it makes you feel needed by your child? Do you have some sort of stake in keeping the things the way they are?

Questioning yourself helps you change the way you respond–which is really all you can control.

You can’t make your teen act, feel, or behave differently.

You can be as kind as possible or as combative as possible, and still not change reality for them. All you can control is what you think and do–and then do your best to help them without hurting yourself.

8. Remember the numbers.

Research shows that all people with negative attitudes have significantly higher rates of disease and stress. Someone’s mental state plays a huge role in their physical health. When your teen is making life difficult for their family and other people around them, you can be sure they’re doing worse for themselves. What a sad reality. That your teen has so much pain inside them they have to act out just to feel some sense of relief–even when that relief comes from getting a rise out of people. When you remember how much your teen is suffering, it’s easier to stay focused on minimizing negativity, as opposed to always defending yourself.

9. Resist the urge to judge or assume.

It’s hard to offer your teen compassion when you assume you have them pegged. He’s a jerk. She’s dissatisfied. He’s rebellious. Even if it seems unlikely they will wake up one day and act differently you need to remember it is possible.

When you think negative thoughts, it comes out in your body language.

Someone prone to negativity may feel all too tempted to mirror that.

Come at them with the positive mindset you wish they had.

Expect the best in them.

You never know when you might be pleasantly surprised.

10. Temper your emotional response.

Negative teens often gravitate toward others who react strongly–people who easily get angered, outraged, or offended. I suspect this gives them a little light in the darkness of their inner world–a sense that they’re not floating alone in their own anger, bewilderment or sadness. Your teen will remember and learn from what you do more than what you say. When you feed into the situation with emotions, you’ll teach them they can depend on you for a reaction. It’s tough not to react because we’re human, but it’s worth practicing. Once you’ve offered a compassionate ear for as long as you can, respond as calmly as possible with a simple line of fact.

When you’re dealing with an angry, confused and rude teen, you may want to change the subject to something unrelated: “Your favorite TV show is on tonight. Planning to watch it?”

You can’t always save your teen.

But you can make their world a better place by working on yourself–by becoming self-aware, tapping into your compassion, and protecting your teen from self-destructing or self-harming.

Dore E. Frances, Ph.D.

Horizon Family Solutions, LLC

Sunrise


Residential Treatment Program and Boarding School for Teen Girls

At Sunrise, we know that every girl is different. Because your daughter possesses a unique constellation of experiences, talents, relationships, and struggles, Sunrise offers a teen residential treatment program that is customized to meet her special needs. Sunrise works to uncover the academic, social, and emotional potential of girls who have been held back by emotional or behavioral struggles. Our staff knows that in school and treatment one size does not fit all, so we meet your daughter right where she is and design a program that changes with her as she grows confident, secure, and healthy during treatment. All aspects of our program are designed to form a healing milieu that combines the warmth of a home, the safety and clinical expertise of a residential treatment program, and the community access of a transition program. As a result, many students who would otherwise need two or three programs can move through their entire healing process – from treatment to their transition back home or off to college – all at Sunrise, quickly, effectively, and affordably.

New Haven


RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAM AND BOARDING SCHOOL FOR TEEN GIRLS, AGES 12-18

At New Haven, we base our treatment decisions on a simple question: What would I want for my daughter?

We know that underneath her struggles – whether with an eating disorder, substance abuse, trauma, or another challenging emotional issue – your daughter is still there, waiting to be discovered, loved back to wholeness, and reunited with her family. After fifteen years working together, our treatment team is one of the most experienced in the field of girls’ adolescent treatment. We know from experience that girls struggling with complex emotional and behavioral issues need access to a variety of proven therapies. Experience has also taught us that even the most clinically sophisticated approaches to treatment are only effective if those delivering them come from a place of connection, compassion, and hope.

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