February - it’s the month of love and hugs, right? When you have a teen in your life, hugs may feel in short supply.
"Why doesn’t my teenager want to hug me anymore? What changed? All I want to do is give her a hug so she knows just how loved she is."
Sil, mom of three, ages 8-14
Aw, yes, I remember clearly when I leaned into to give my oldest kiddo, who was 12 years old at the time, a hug, and he put his hand up to say, “Not now, mom.” Ouch. I kept thinking that there must be something wrong because, here I was, an adolescent specialist, and my son was resisting my hug. It didn’t help any that the article sitting atop my desk stated, “Teens Need More Hugs.”
To be clear, we all need more hugs. Research has shown that hugs are incredibly effective at healing illness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress. They not only relax our muscles but they lift our serotonin levels, elevate our mood,...
A few decades ago, the “like” culture consisted of a handwritten note read, “If you like me, check yes or no”. Today, it is much different. Chloe, 15, shared that she knows she is “good” based on the number of likes she will receive from a selfie. “If I get 50 likes then I know that I am a good person and that I have friends. If I get less than that, I feel awful. I usually end up deleting the post and then I won’t talk to anyone for awhile.”
From Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to Twitter (and every app in-between), social media has become a powerful and primary form of communication. It has also created a culture, a like culture.
So what exactly is the “Like” Culture?
Culture is a set of adopted and shared values that a group can hold. Those values can affect how someone thinks, feels, and behaves. It sets the criteria by which you judge situations, others, and oneself.
The like culture is the...
My daughter came home the other day and told me she has never felt comfortable in her body and doesn’t really feel like a girl or a boy. She said she has been using they pronoun “they” with friends and also has chosen a gender-neutral name. I want to support her - err, them - but I don’t think I understand. Is this a phase? Is she/they transgender? Can you offer any insight?
As a psychotherapist who works with my gender non-conforming kiddos and as a parent of a non-binary child, I am so thrilled to see this question. For the first several years of your child’s life, you were certain you understood your child’s gender. When your child comes out as non-binary, it can be confusing. Even now, I am constantly learning, making mistakes, apologizing, and learning more. This is what an ally does. So, I have put together a list of the most common questions I have been asked as a psychotherapist and as a parent.
My daughter came home last week and said she thinks she is gay, or rather she said she is bi-sexual. I like to think I’m a fairly aware and open person, and if this is how she identifies then I want to support her. However, I’m at a complete and total loss of what to do. Right now, I left it at, “Okay, thanks for telling me. Can I have some time to think about it?” What do I say? What do I need to do?
One out of four families has someone in it who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Even more may have kids who question their sexuality at various points.
I have worked with many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning kids and their parents to come out and transition. I’ve witnessed the feelings parents experience and their responses when a child says, “Mom. Dad. I have something to tell you.” I’ve seen shock, denial, guilt, blame, grief, suspicion, religious...
My daughter was diagnosed with anxiety over the school year. She’s done a pretty good job of managing it, and I really thought that having a break from school would make her feel even better - especially after having some time to sleep and rest. However, now that school is out, she seems more tired and more anxious than ever. What can I do?
Anxiety is a universal emotion, and, on some level, everyone experiences anxiety. Many teens experience heightened levels of anxiety when there is a transition or change in their life. Anxiety is a normal stress reaction to perceived danger. The end of the school year marks a change for your daughter, so her anxiety may rise because change may feel like perceived danger. There are some ways that you can help her manage her anxiety and settle into summer break.
Validating your teen’s feelings can help them to feel understood. Let her know that you empathize with the feeling of anxiety. (“I hear that...
“Hey Julie, My kiddo is graduating from high school soon, and, as much as I want to be happy, I’m also incredibly sad. I’ve been so wrapped up in my life as a parent that I feel like now that my kids are getting older, I’m losing my happiness.”
This question certainly hits home as my oldest is graduating from high school in a few days, and for some reason, I started thinking about a game, Mad Libs, I played as a child and then I played it with my kids when they were growing up. Mad Libs was one of my absolute favorite things to do. If you aren’t familiar, Mad Libs is a word template game that prompts you to substitute words in the story resulting in a humorous and very silly tale, like this:
“One day, a __________ went to ________ and __________ a ______.”
name of animal...
Yesterday the news struck. Another school shooting. I can’t handle it. I don’t know how to help my daughter when we hear about one. She is starting high school in the fall, and I don’t know if I can handle four more years of this fear. Help!
There are few events that strike fear in our hearts, our homes, and our communities like the senseless act of a school shooting. With images and snippets flashed on television and streamed over social media, it is natural to feel fearful about the safety of your child and their school. Beyond limiting exposure to media, it’s critical to know exactly what to do when tragedy strikes so you can support your teen and yourself.
[Continued from Part I. This is Part 2 in a 3-part series)
In part one of this series, we discussed that it is imperative for adults to do three things when speaking with teens:
(1) Know that listening is an investment.
(2) Be willing + open to listen
(3) Pay attention to what they are saying AND doing.
I want to pause on that last point.
You must LISTEN to what they are doing.
Say wha? You must listen to what they aren’t saying, and you do that by paying attention to what they are doing, aka tuning into the non-verbal cues. Often an invitation to connect with your child doesn’t come with words, it comes through their actions and behavior, their body language and their facial expressions. Let’s break this down.
Actions and Behaviors: It isn’t what your teen says that always makes the impression; it’s what he does. Withdrawing, slamming doors, rolling eyes are all specific ways to send you a...
Do you ever notice that your teen’s eyes glaze over while you’re talking to them? This is a surefire sign you are talking too much and listening too little.
Solid, healthy communication is essential in any relationship, right? When we talk and share our feelings, we feel closer to one another. However, talking is only part of the equation. The other portion - the much larger portion - is listening.
Sadly, this often gets reversed because it is easy to talk and way harder to listen. When communicating with teens, most parents and adults talk 50% more than what’s necessary. If you’re verbose, you may even say 70% or 80% more than necessary.
Yikes! And, when you are busy doing all that talking, it, again, can be tough, really tough to listen. Anyone can talk, but not everyone listens.
*You* need to be part of the group that listens.
Without the capacity for effective listening, communication becomes irrelevant. This is often what happens with your...
She chose a therapist who was also a teacher at my high school I was reluctant, but I knew enough about her to feel that she didn’t see me as a pain-in-the-butt teen.
Despite my initial reluctance, I liked her. It seemed like we were a good fit – even though the selection process seemed to be based on complete convenience since she was right next to the school. (My mom says it was that she just “felt right”.)
Since that time, I have worked with many counselors – either doing my own work (yes, counselors need to do their work) or professionally. Over the years, I have learned two critical things when it comes to choosing a therapist: choose good over convenient and always trust your gut.
Good and convenient do not often go hand in hand. You want a therapist...