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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.

Attention Staff – Who work at Addiction Treatment Centers, LD Schools, Residential Treatment Centers and Therapeutic Boarding Schools – Care giving vs. Care taking


Accept this gift, so I can see myself as giving. ~ Mark Nepo

Caregiving is, by nature, emotional.  I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the pain and wonder of .

If there is one emotion that nearly all dedicated caregivers have in common, its guilt.

We feel guilty for not giving enough when we’ve given all we can; we feel guilty for not being able to make someone “well”, when no one can do that; we feel guilty if the adolescents we are assisting are not happy all the time; we feel guilty when we do something fun for ourselves.

However, if we are there – right there all the time – we have a better chance of feeling that we are doing “”okay.”” When we take a vacation, we suffer more guilt, because we know our being gone will affect the teens we have left behind, and also bring on a type of separation anxiety in ourselves, and perhaps them.

Planning a vacation, and actually enjoying it, will mean coping with your own guilty feelings and coming to peace with the fact that there are others who can fill in while you are gone. If this is not the case – there is something terribly out of balance with the program or school.

The most refreshing piece of advice I have heard lately on raising children comes, curiously enough, from D.H. Lawrence, who wrote in 1918: ”How to begin to educate a child.

First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.” Could we be any more different today? Today’s moms and dads are twice as stressed as they were in the 1950s.

Part of this is our own fault: the intense parenting style chosen by the middle class has added to the burden, and misery – since 1965 the amount of time mothers spend on all child-care activities has risen even as more women have entered the workforce.

Caregivers make tremendous personal sacrifice. They have to fight for time alone, down time, peace, and sense of self.

In some way it seems as if the caregiver and the caregivee become one. And the emotional and psychological roller coaster that comes along with that is quite difficult. When you give care you give the person the ability to care for him or herself as much as possible. Caregivers are persons who “care for” themselves and others. Because they take care of themselves, they can choose to give care to another. Caregivers do not get caught up in results.

They do not need to “fix” another.

They can just “be” with another. They take their own actions and refrain from taking away the power of choice from others “for their own good.”

Caregivers empower others to make choices and take actions.

And they celebrate their successes. Caregivers, since they tend to be nonjudgmental, are unconditional in their acceptance of others. One of the things that wear down caregivers is when they become caretakers.

Do you feel inadequate, helpless, and selfish when you are concerned about your own needs?

Do you feel the need to prove yourself as a loving person? Do you feel “it’s me or no one?”

A caretaker places care for another above one’s own welfare.

A caretaker needs to “fix” people — in order to fill the void within. Caretakers burn out quickly.

Caretakers are codependent persons who need to care for another to feel alive.

Caretakers are the people whom others can rely on to be the stable rock, foundation, or support in the system when they get into trouble.

Caretakers bail others out from major problems. When you continue to be a caretaker in your relationships, then you most likely become frustrated over the amount of effort, energy, resources, support, time, and sacrifices you need to put out to help those people who look to you for help. You may take on the role of martyr expressing how awful it is to have so many people’s lives you are responsible for and yet do nothing to change the situation.

You might also encourage a number of people to become overly dependent on you, thus increasing your stress and anxiety with such responsibility solely on you.

You might enjoy the power and control. Are you working harder and harder to make things right and yet don’t seem to be succeeding since there are always new problems needing your attention and support? Do you perhaps see yourself as a generous, benevolent and philanthropic individual?

Do you become angry, outraged, and resent the “freeloading” of others on you and yet enjoy the sense of helping others?

Are you not able to let go of the “freeloaders” in your life?

It may become a never-ending cycle, where you sense that no matter how much you do for others it is never good enough to correct the situation and feel compelled to give more and more. Caretaking may cause you to become socially isolated when people are drawn to you not for who you are, but rather for what you can do for them. You may experience a grave depression when you realize that no matter how much you give others you are constantly in a struggle to gain their unconditional love.

Even worse, you question if they would love you if you had nothing to give them but you – the person.

You may also experience a worsening of your low self-esteem when you recognize that your worth is based conditionally on what you do for others rather than on what you are as a person. People, whom you take care of can become overly dependent on your nurturance, care and support so much so that they lose the inherent capability to control their own lives. You open yourself up to be manipulated to care for others who hide behind the mask of helplessness to hook you to do what they want you to do for them. It can often be a mask behind which you hide to avoid having to deal with the problems or issues that are out of control in your life. On the surface it looks so generous, giving and noble to be a caretaker when in reality you are a dependent person who needs needy people to give you identity and a reason for being.

By use of favors, gifts, loans, inheritance and other caretaker tactics you manipulate others to give you the affection, approval, honor, respect, admiration, and acceptance you need so badly.

Some examples of irrational care-taking thinking might include the belief that you have value only when people need you, or that the people in your life can’t survive without you.

That you care for them because they love you and you just can’t stand for them to fail or get into trouble. You might believe that when they’re unsuccessful, it’s your fault or that people expect you to care for them and you can’t let them down.

Or, you may believe that you’re the only stable person around.

Other irrational thinking might include believing that it’s easier to caretake than to clean up any mess afterward as well as the belief that people will no longer care for you if you stop. Or you might believe that you have more experience and are wiser than they are, so they need your resources, help and advice to get them through this problem. You may believe that it’s your responsibility to prevent other people from hurting and suffering pain.

Identify the people in your life for whom you currently feel the need to be a caretaker. Clarify what you do as a caretaker for these people / or this person or what you feel you need to do. Identify why you feel the need to do these things for this person. Analyze if these reasons are rational, healthy and based on reality.

Then develop healthier, more rational reasons not to be a caretaker for this person.

Identify what your feelings are concerning this person and how you would feel if you no longer felt a need to do caretaker actions for this person.

Acknowledge how rational, healthy and realistic these feelings are. Identify new, more healthy, realistic and rational feelings you can have after ceasing the need to be a caretaker for this person. Help yourself by using such statements as:

  • “By letting people take care of themselves, I am allowing them to grow self-confident, competent and self-sufficient.”
  • “I am a good person and do not need to do things for people for me to have worth or value.”
  • “I am not responsible for others’ failures, mistakes, losses, or lack of success. I am responsible only for me.”
  • “I am now living my life more fully for myself and feel more freedom from anxiety, stress, panic, and fear.”
  • “It is OK to let people be responsible for their own lives even when they fail, make a mistake, or do not succeed in the process.”

Answer the following questions to determine if you are a caretaker.

These questions focus primarily on your feelings regarding other people’s behavior.

  • How do you deal with a situation in which someone in your life is experiencing a problem, disaster, failure or loss?
  • How do you feel when you realize that other people need you for what you do for them?
  • How would you feel if people no longer turned to you to fix problems for them?
  • How do you feel when you are told that you are dependent on the people who are dependent on you to need and to be cared for by you?
  • How do you feel when you realize that others have become dependent on you?
  • How do you feel about altering your thinking, feelings and behaviors to cease your need to be a caretaker?
If you are a caretaker of a person, it is important that you switch to being a caregiver; one who gives the person as much responsibility as he/she can manage. The more responsibility they assume, the faster their attitude changes, and the faster they let themselves to be in a state of well-being. Here are some key differences between caretaking and caregiving:
  • Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises. Caregivers respectfully wait to be asked to help.
  • Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises for someone else. Caregivers empathize fully, letting the other person know they are not alone and lovingly asks, “What are you going to do about that?”
  • Caretakers tend to be dramatic in their caretaking and focus on the problem. Caregivers can create dramatic results by focusing on the solutions.
  • Caretakers worry. Caregivers take action and solve problems.
  • Caretaking creates anxiety and/or depression in the caretaker. Caregiving decreases anxiety and/or depression in the caregiver.
  • Caretaking feels stressful, exhausting and frustrating.  Caregiving feels right and feels like love. It re-energizes and inspires you.
  • Caretaking crosses boundaries. Caregiving honors them.
  • Caretaking takes from the person or gives with strings attached. Caregiving gives freely.
  • Caretakers tend to be judgmental. Caregivers don’t see the logic in judging others and practice a “live and let live attitude.”
  • Caretakers don’t practice self-care because they mistakenly believe it is a selfish act. Caregivers practice self-care unabashedly because they know that keeping themselves happy enables them to be of service to others.
  • Caretakers don’t trust others’ abilities to care for themselves. Caregivers trust others enough to allow them to activate their own inner guidance and problem solving capabilities.
  • Caretakers think they know what’s best for others. Caregivers only know what’s best for themselves.
  • Caretakers tend to attract needy people. Caregivers tend to attract healthy people. Caregivers tend to attract people who are slightly above their own level of education, knowledge and mental health.
  • Caretakers us the word “You” a lot. Caregivers say “I” more.

365 Day Gratitude Project – Is Your Program or School Interested in Joining?


As many of you know I just completed a 365 Day Adventure / Challenge on December 23, 2011.

I have been thinking about my next 365 Day Project and I believe I have found it.  It needs to be something fun and worthwhile and this morning it came to mind. And I hope you will join me. 

This could be a great project for a program or school. No real tricks here. Just fun for everyone!

This last year has brought many, many changes, challenges and what I had originally perceived as disappointments to my life and there have been days when I was feeling really down. I know I have had days where I have felt incredibly out of sorts with life.

I really wasn’t enjoying myself!

I have kept a gratitude journal, and that is nice, but I need more. Last night I was sitting on my steps out front and watching the sunset and I realized that the little moments are really special and if I do not take the time to notice them they will be lost forever. I don’t have a camera, so I am going to be using my iPhone, or perhaps I will buy a small digital camera. But anything can be used. This is not about photography. This is about gratitude and seeing it each and every day.

Whether I am alone or with someone, here or there, doing nothing or doing something special, healthy or not feeling well, no matter what the weather ….. I am grateful about something or someone each and every day!

I want to take one photo every day for 365 days of something or someone I am grateful for and really re-program my brain and my heart.

I have no doubt, just like with my last challenge, that at times it will seem difficult to keep going for such a long period of time.

However, I lost 60 pounds in a year with my last challenge and I am keeping up with a trainer, eating well, seeing a nutritionist and so forth. It has changed my life!

I can set up a blog or a page on Facebook where we can all share our daily gratitude pictures.

I want to cultivate the feeling of gratitude by practicing silently and by giving thanks for the good every moment I have. Please contact me and let me know your interest.

I have not picked a starting date as yet ….. but it will be soon!

d.frances@me.com

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.

Benchmark Transitions


A Transitional Living Program for the Emerging Adult

Sometimes the process of growing up extends beyond the teenage years, necessitating in a transitional living program.

Benchmark Transitions™ reaches beyond the typical angst-ridden youth, connecting with the twenty-something re-bounding generation of troubled young people who have yet to establish their self-sufficiency.

Benchmark Transitions™ is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, residential transitional living program for men and women, ages 18-28.

Our dual-diagnosis model combines clinical treatment, behavioral healthrecovery & aftercare,education & vocationtherapeutic services and life skills in a caring and nurturing environment that fosters self-discovery and autonomy.

Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy Program With an Academic and Clinical Approach


Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy is a premier Youth program for struggling and troubled teens ages 13-18.

Aspiro Group has three separate, licensed programs divided by age, clinical needs and gender – all utilizing the State of Utah’s beautiful countryside for their therapeutic expeditions. The Aspiro Group of programs utilize a hybrid of traditional clinical modalities including: wilderness therapy, adventure therapy, family systems, experiential therapy, and experiential education.

We are dedicated to helping struggling and troubled teens, young adults and their families make lasting, life-long changes in a compassionate, controlled and safe environment. When it comes to your children and their well being, we understand how important the decision is to send your child to a program like ours. We talk to dozens of caring parents just like you everyday. Call us today for a free, no obligation consultation so we can tell you more about our services and why there is HOPE.

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