Categories
Bullying Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Stopping Bullying and Supporting the Bullied

Bullying is the systematic maltreatment of an individual by another individual or group of road-to-recoveryindividuals as a means of exerting power to intimidate or harm someone that is perceived as weak. The innate powerlessness that is felt by the one being bullied is profound. Feelings of shame, anxiety, fear, depression, and loneliness are just a few emotional reactions to bullying. Often times, the shame and fear prevent these kids from speaking out, for fear of retaliation or not being believed.

 

In Hara Estroff Marano’s article “Bully Pulpit” in Psychology Today, she says: “Bullying is not garden-variety aggression: It is a deliberate attempt to cause harm to those of lesser power.”  Kids are beginning the long process of learning to stand up for themselves, understanding right from wrong, and developing accountability. However, by 8 years old, kids do begin to understand the power that they have, or the lack thereof. In truth, the social pecking order begins early. As kids find their way as individuals, some may realize they are different from some of the kids in their peer group. Being different or not like everyone else doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be accepted, though. Unfortunately, the bullies don’t always agree and are prone to viewing difference as a sign of weakness.

 

Children who are bullied don’t always tell teachers or parents that they are targets of bullying, and it’s not uncommon for someone being bullied to feel helpless in his or her endeavors to get help. From the bullied child’s perspective, it can feel like there is great risk in asking for help. The bully makes sure those they bully live in perpetual fear of retaliation. Sometimes, proving one is being bullied is often difficult, and the issues fall into a he-said-she-said cycle. As parents and teachers, we have to play the role of detective and investigate all facets of the situation, looking for key emotional and physical signs that our child is being bullied.

 

The following are some indications that your child may be a victim of bullying:

  • Becoming moody or short tempered.
  • Finding excuses for not wanting to go to school.
  • Claiming physical illnesses such as stomachaches and headaches that may have, in fact, actually evolved into such physical symptoms.
  • Returning to bedwetting.
  • Beginning to have nightmares.
  • Developing either a lack of appetite or increase of eating compulsively.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Deterioration in the quality of schoolwork.
  • Having insomnia, anxiety.
  • Starting to become quiet, withdrawn.
  • Exhibiting physical signs like bruises, torn clothing, scrapes, and so on.
  • Expressing sadness and/or violence in writing or drawings.
  • Displaying unusual acting out behaviors.

 

If you notice your child is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it’s important to honor your child by lending them your ear and your respect. It’s frightening to talk about being bullied, and if we as parents can sit and listen fully, without judgment, the likelihood of our child or children opening up is better. Second, parents must intervene on a larger scale in order to stop the bullying behavior in its tracks.

 

  • Contact school administration to ensure that they are aware that bullying is happening in their school. They need to take necessary steps to stop it.
  • Get informed!
  • Find out what anti-bullying programs are available in your area and contact them for support.
  • Does your school have an anti-bullying policy? If not, see if you can form a coalition of parents and administrators who are as concerned as you are and create some solid guidelines for addressing bullying

 

Please don’t punish or shame the child who is being bullied. It’s not their fault. Asking questions like that start with, “You should have,” or “Why didn’t you,” implies blame and judgment. A bullied child (all children, really) needs compassion and understanding, particularly from their parents. Home has to be a safe space for them to land. They need to be encouraged to be exactly who they are and they need to know that you, their parent, loves them and sees them and accepts them no matter what. They need to learn that walking away is far braver than engaging in negative interactions with a bully. And they need to know that walking away is not a sign of weakness but a sign of great courage.

 

“The common mistake that bullies make is assuming that because someone is nice that he or she is weak. Those traits have nothing to do with each other. In fact, it takes considerable strength and character to be a good person.” – Mary Elizabeth Williams

 

Bullies may seem like they prevail, but over time, their feigned popularity and social pull wavers as those in their peer groups tire of the bullying antics. The bully’s aggression “lowers their social desirability,” thrusting them toward other likeminded, deviant kids.

 

David Schwartz, associate professor of psychology at USC is quoted in the same article, “Bully Pulpit,” as saying, ” “Victimization is not about the child, it is about what the peer group is doing. The only promising interventions are based on activating the bystanders.” In other words, those on the sidelines need to speak up and out. If we are silent when bullying is going on, we are complicit in the bullying behavior. Bullying can be stopped and the sooner the behavior is recognized, the sooner an intervention can occur.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Why is it so Hard to Say “No”?

Adolescents look to adults for security, safety, and to be positive examples; this also means they tend to push buttons and test boundaries – “No” is often low on the list of a teen’s favorite words.  As adults, we have to make a concerted effort to create firm boundaries for our kids that are not only respectful, but geared toward creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. This means we have to say “no” even if it’s not a popular answer, and it means we have to hold the boundary surrounding that answer, regardless of the outcome. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s perfectly okay to say it, own it, and honor it.

 

It’s easier to back out of a “No” than a “Yes.”

 

Imagine this scenario: Your teen is relentlessly asking you if they can hang out at a friend’s house; you are engrossed in a project or conversation. Out of frustration, you hastily give permission. However, a bit later, you realize you had said, “yes,” in error – you actually want your teen home for dinner, and being at a friend’s house means he or she won’t be home in time. So you change your mind. All of a sudden, you have an angry teen on your hands – you’re unfair, mean, et cetera. Speaking out of haste or frustration has a negative impact – it illustrates an unstable boundary and creates an environment where kids don’t know what to expect. In the scenario above, no one wins:  your teen is disappointed and angry at you, and you’re frustrated and angry at your teen.

 

Why is it so hard to say “No”? And better yet, why is it so hard for us to hear “No”?

 

“No” is a boundary. It is a way of advocating for ourselves and ensuring we are meeting our needs. It allows us to set boundaries so we can take care of ourselves and create healthy boundaries with others. “No” is not mean; it’s not spiteful. “No” is honest and it represents self-respect and self-awareness. It also cultivates emotional safety and stability.

 

Sometimes, saying “No” can feel like we are letting someone down, or maybe like we are letting ourselves down. Maybe we want to say, “Yes” when what we really need to say is “No.”  This is a hard skill to learn, for teens and adults.

 

If/when you are faced with a difficult situation where there might be pressure to say “Yes,” or where you are uncomfortable saying “No,” ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the outcome be helpful or harmful to yourself or others?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Is this “Yes” to please someone else or to honor myself?

 

Hearing “No” can be difficult because often times, the truth is, we aren’t really asking; we are making a veiled demand that is presented in the form of a question. The politeness we assumed in the asking then comes crashing down because the reality is, we weren’t asking in the first place. When things are in a stasis, this is a great conversation to have with your teen. And it’s a great perspective to be aware of for yourself. Are you really asking your teen to take out the trash, or you demanding that they do it? If they said, “No,” how would you respond?

 

Hearing “No” also can breed a sense of disappointment.  We may feel like we aren’t getting what we want. We may feel rejected. There is an unfortunate comfort in being polite and saying what we think others want to hear. When we are inauthentic and we omit our truth, we evoke a passive anger later on. Bringing some awareness into cultivates authentic and honest communication.

 

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a lifetime practice. Some boundaries are easier set than others. Practicing saying “No” is a good start. In fact, it’s an empowering start.

Categories
Adolescence Family Feelings Mental Health Parenting Prevention Recovery

Why Listening to Your Adolescent is Invaluable

Do you know the difference between hearing someone and listening to what they are saying to you?

 

Hearing refers to the reception and perception of sound, whereas listening is an action: Listening refers to actively paying attention to what is being said. It also requires the listener’s full attention to the speaker, demonstrated by eye contact, and positive body language. In other words, you can’t listen fully to someone if you are also on your phone, your computer, or watching television. This is an important piece to understand as we positively shift the way we interact with adolescents.

 

One thing I often hear from teens is that they don’t feel like the adults in their lives are listening. The polarizing statement, “You never LISTEN to ME!” punctuated by a slammed door is not an unusual experience for parents of teens. In order to listen to our kids, we have to set aside our reactions and our need to direct or advise. Sometimes, kids need to vent and our best response can be something like, “It sounds frustrating when…” or maybe, “I hear how frustrated you are.” We have to remember that adolescents feel things far more intensely than we do as adults. An issue that is banal to us can FEEL like the end of times.

 

Adolescents have reduced dopamine and serotonin levels, making them more prone to high-risk activities and addiction. A child who feels listened to and heard, has a higher chance of making a healthy decision than the kid who is perpetually dismissed, talked over or ignored. When a child is saying, “I hate you,” or “This sucks!” there’s probably something else there. They don’t really hate you, but they may not be able to communicate that beyond the natural reactivity of their developing brain. What would happen if we listened instead of reacted? A statement like:  “When you are ready, I am available to listen to you” can go a long way with a teenager.

 

Our children mimic our reactions, our problem-solving methods, and our behavioral examples. If we are always nervous, they may be nervous. If we are angry all the time, they may be angry all the time. If we are overcautious, they may be overcautious. The list goes on but the outcome is the same.

 

I am prone to sarcasm. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and have my whole life. This has come back to bite me in the bum with my son, who’s 13 and…sarcastic. Instead of punishing him about the trouble this sarcasm often breeds, we looked at this and processed as a family. Our conclusion: We will curb our sarcasm as a family in an effort to shift the negative perspective others may have. My son felt listened to, we felt listened to, and in the end, a dedicated period of reflective listening proved to be an effective and positive way of dealing with a burgeoning family issue.  We have conversations like this often and as a result, we have a teenager who is willing to share his frustrations and difficulties with us more transparently than most. Conversely, I have observed some of his classmates spinning down the spiral of negative and harmful reactions: eating or starving to process their feelings, cutting themselves as a means of processing their feelings, smoking to process their feelings, et cetera. There isn’t an easy fix, silver bullet, or magic potion. Creating an environment where listening is part of an everyday process takes work and dedication. And sometimes, we may have to drop our parental need to “fix” things so we can listen.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care

Parenting Teenagers and Maintaining Our Self-Regulation

Teenagers are changeable creatures. Their moods shift rapidly, their bodies change non- stop, and it’s sometimes difficult to notice if something is really wrong or if the persistent eye-rolling, parental irritation is par for the course. In addition to the eye-rolling, teenagers are also not known for their critical thinking skills or wise decision-making. This might mean they will intentionally like/not like a person or situation you dislike, or they may do something just because you don’t approve. It’s frustrating for parents, but it may also be a subtle sign for us pause and look at the larger picture.

 

Sometimes, your child may align themselves with a friend or their family whom you view as undesirable. Perhaps you know something your teenager doesn’t know, but you have to keep it to yourself. Or perhaps you are relying on your parental intuition. Unfortunately, to a teenager, you’re just being annoying and reactive. This reactivity will only push your teen away from you and into the arms of that which you fear.

 

Parents are wise to take some steps to curb reactivity. As we encourage our teenagers to self-regulate, we have to self-regulate too! We have to mirror the behaviors we want.

 

Our reactions are often fueled by our experiences and the stories from the past. These stories inform our present, particularly when we are dysregulated. Bearing witness to our children’s difficulties is not easy when we haven’t been able to grapple with our own.

 

Understanding how to self-regulate allows us to tap into our internal resources so we can be less reactive.  The process of self-regulation requires us to tap into our mind and body connection. When a person is dysregulated, they are disconnected. A fundamental tool in learning to self-regulate is learning to connect with our physical sensations and our bodies. When we are dysregulated, we are reactive rather than responsive. Likewise, when we are self-regulated, we are responsive rather than reactive.

 

A dysregulated parent is an ineffective parent. Perpetual negative reactions propel our teens to become dysregulated as well. This is where parents need to take their own time out and get to a quiet space so they can begin to self-regulate.

 

1: Walk away from the situation so you can check in with yourself.

2: Bring your attention to your feet, and your hands and notice your surroundings.

3: Bring your attention to your belly and your heart: are you angry? Why? Are you scared? Why? What’s present for you?

4: Take 5-10 minutes to allow your breath to settle. Count to 10 slowly, paying close attention to your inhales and exhales.

5: SHAKE IT OUT! Literally: stand up and shake your legs and arms.

 

When we are regulated, we can come to wiser, more succinct means of communication. Perhaps we can even find a way to persuade our teenagers from doing something we don’t like, or perhaps this is an opportunity to revisit the difficult situation at hand with compassion, kindness and a willingness to listen. One thing that I know for a fact is this: Teenagers all want to be seen, heard, and respected.

Categories
Adolescence Parenting Recovery School

Teens Are Going Back to School

School is back in session! This means that the unstructured schedule of summer has ended and the wild teen energy requires a shift toward focus and effort.

 

It’s tough because you go from a veritable free-for-all (Summer) to a highly focused environment where there are higher expectations, firmer schedules, and of course, the dreaded homework. Kids who spent the summer in camp may have had some structure, but the truth is, it’s nowhere near as rigid as school. Bedtime has been later and waking up took on a leisurely state. School starting is a definite shift.

 

The positives about returning to school, according to one anonymous teen are, “You get to see your friends again and you get to learn.” In middle school and high school, friends hold a lot of power over each other. Often more important than classroom connection is the forming of social groups outside of class: in the halls, on the yard, et cetera. This is where the real influence, be it negative or positive occurs, and for kids more akin to following than leading, this can represent a shift toward bad decision making. Conversely, a child who is processing a lot of personal conflict (eg, family) may be drawn to kids who are acting out or whose behavior is outside of the norm. On the contrary, some kids are extremely skilled at creating the equivalent of work/life balance, both in maintaining good grades and in having a healthy social life.

 

Socialization can be tough, especially in adolescence. I often refer to teens as messy, and I say that because their emotional and physical terrain is rapidly changing and unpredictable. Even a kid with little to no conflict is still going to experience the messiness of adolescence. I find that one of the biggest things these kids need is validation: a confirmation that what they are going through is normal. I keenly remember how rough adolescence was. It was downright confusing and miserable at times. And at others, it was pure, unadulterated excitement! I remember thinking some kids “had it made” because they had all of the “stuff” I thought I needed, but later finding out they were suffering as much as I was.

 

Some teens can’t stop the summer fun, though. They want to carry on with late-night shenanigans far into September and October. It’s true: we do see an increase in clients during that time. Don’t wait until the first bad report card to do something; pay attention from day one to the way in which your teen is acclimating. Are they struggling? Is getting back to the “grind” harder than usual? Maintain an open, transparent place to have discussions with your teen.

 

  • Listen: Sometimes teens (and kids in general) just want to vent without receiving advice. “I hear how frustrating that is” or “That sounds difficult” can go a long way. Kids are actually skilled at coming to a healthy solution on their own if we allow them the opportunity.

 

  • Be present: Create a technology free period where you are together as a family and be willing to participate in each other’s lives.

 

  • Don’t take it personally:  Teens love to push buttons. If you can let the small stuff roll off your back, do. An eye roll can be ignored. Choose your battles.

 

 

Lastly, encourage your teen to avoid and/or ignore the kids whose choices are questionable, and to choose friends who are dedicated to their education and making positive choices.  Our teens look to us as parents to be their guide. We are their first teachers. If our attitudes about school and learning are positive and healthy, they will inadvertently adopt them (most of the time). If our attitudes about learning and school are mercurial, then guess what, our kids will adopt that same, fickle attitude toward learning.

 

 

 

“If you want your children to improve, then let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” Dr. Haim Ginott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Mental Health Parenting Prevention

Stability and Presence In Adolescence

Much of adolescence is change: physical change, emotional change, and academic change. The body changes right before our eyes. Our moods swing like swing-sets caught in a hurricane. Bodies begin to resemble adults, but the mind hasn’t caught up. The brain of an adolescent is, in essence, a developmental playground. This is the period when the Prefrontal Cortex is still developing. What is that prefrontal cortex responsible for? Oh, you know, it regulates decision-making, rationalization, problem solving, consciousness, and emotions. For adolescents, that roller coaster ride is very real.

 

Even though your kids may be experiencing mood swings, and mild irrational thought processes, parents have to become aware of when those things go awry. We have to essentially be our kids’ prefrontal lobe and help them make good decisions, and that may just mean we don the titles “meanest mom/dad in the world,” “unfair,” et cetera. I’m okay with that if it means my kid is safe.

 

Signs of trouble can manifest in many ways. For some kids, the mood swings become more exaggerated to the point of unmanageability. Parents need to look for cues. You know your child better than anyone; trust that. If you suspect trouble, investigate it. Some other indications of concern include:

 

  • Behavioral changes: If your child suddenly becomes a complete stranger, get curious  and scrutinize the situation further. This could indicate trouble.
  • Negative consequences at school or socially may indicate mental illness or substance abuse.
  • Physical symptoms: Changes in eating habits, excessive sleeping, excessive wakefulness, frequent health issues like headaches and stomachaches are some things to look for. They can be signs of stress, overwhelm, or depression and they need to be addressed.

 

Conversely, a child who has experienced trauma may act out in more extreme ways. For example, a child who has experienced sexual trauma may act out sexually. They may be exceedingly flirtatious, they may have loose boundaries or no boundaries at all, and some may seek inappropriate attention without realizing the negative consequences. Decision-making skills aren’t completely online at this time, and the addition of trauma can make for a more dire situation. In cases like this, it’s imperative for the family and child to be in active treatment.

 

Not all kids are the same. Some will have a relatively unaffected time in adolescence, while others may have a more difficult time of it. The most important thing we can do as parents is remember that it’s temporary, we were teens once, and we are not alone. Some days, you may need to make that a mantra: This is temporary; I was a teen once; I am not alone.

 

I love this age. I love the messiness of it, the curiosity, the courage, the vulnerability, and the openness. I occasionally teach yoga to this age group, and there is something truly wonderful about working with them during this time. Some days, kids come to class solemn and quiet; others, they show up wild and wily, almost mercurial in nature. My job (and I believe all of our jobs as the adults in their lives) is to remain consistent. We have to meet our adolescents’ unpredictability with compassion, kindness, and stability. Despite the natural resistance in adolescence, teens look to the adults in their lives for guidance. If we can mirror consistency and stability, the roller coaster of adolescence may not be as bumpy.

Categories
Adolescence Family Parenting Recovery

In Honor of Father’s Day: Celebrating Visions’ Dads

It’s Father’s Day weekend and we want to honor some of the fathers we have here at Visions. Stepping onto the path of recovery includes working with dysfunctional root systems, which includes parents that aren’t emotionally and in some cases, physically there for us. However, the recovery process also presents another opportunity: The chance to view others in a positive light, and to be able to look at some of the men in our lives who are good and present fathers with what the Buddha calls sympathetic joy.

 

Our founder, Chris Shumow is a great example of this. I often look toward Chris with great admiration and hope, excited to see a man who has not only turned his life around in terms of recovery, but who has taken the helm of parenting and gone to great lengths to be an amazing father. It’s a relationship he treats with deep respect, humor, love, and joy, and it’s an incredible thing to watch.

 

Our Director of Operations, John Lieberman, is another dad that has transcended that which we assume parenting should be. John is a wonderful example of what it means to be an engaged, supportive father. He’s also a grandfather, and I have to tell you, seeing him talk about and rave about his granddaughter is remarkable. He’s also playful in a way that makes anyone around him know that he is a kid at heart.

 

Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, is not only a seasoned father, having a burgeoning adult under his wing; he is also a new dad. There is something really beautiful and gentle about Daniel’s disposition. He’s accepting and kind.

 

There’s also Mason Rose, one of our Recovery Mentors and father of a young daughter. We were able to watch Mason’s metamorphosis from young man to father, and it’s been really inspiring. Vito Romani is another one of our amazing young dad’s! He and Mason both grace Visions with regular visits from their little ones. There really is nothing like seeing these young, proud papas with their daughters. And John Johnstone, one of our Recovery Mentors is one of the most dedicated dads I know. He is willing to talk about the tough stuff, show up, love unconditionally, and maintain a sense of humor. That’s inspiring!

Last, lets not forget the role of the step-father: Joseph Rogers, Education Coordinator stepped into the role of fatherhood over 6 years ago and has been able to navigate the treacherous waters of forming a partnership and taking on part of someone else’s role with great kindness and compassion. I can say from watching this one up close and personal that the role of step-parent is often the role of the real parent, and taking that on is a challenge. It’s been really inspiring to watch Joseph do this in the way that he has.

 

The role of a father is not always easy, but we are fortunate at Visions to have a group of men in our midst that consistently show up for their kids. These men show up in the same way to our clients, showing them that the father role has the potential of shifting toward love and acceptance. Father’s day can elicit a varied set of emotions for our kids and for us as parents. They can range from untended loss, or expectations, abandonment, and deep grief rising internally around parents that were never available for us, be it physically or emotionally. The recovery piece is finding our voice amidst that loss. Sometimes it wobbles. Sometimes it screams. But it’s there, waiting to come out. Knowing and working with good men in our recovery can help heal that wound and allow us to experience sympathetic joy instead of anger and resentment.

Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen. You are truly an inspiration.

Categories
Adolescence Parenting

The Rocky Ride of Adolescence

Entering adolescence is serious business; it evokes rapid change and confusion for parents and teens alike. From a parenting perspective, sometimes it seems your child is suddenly unrecognizable. From the teen perspective, the sudden physiological and emotional changes are confusing and perhaps even frightening at times. There can be an internalization of, “What is happening to me” but sharing that would be significantly “uncool,” or so it seems.

 

We know that adolescence is a time of great transformation. Teens are individuating, their hormones are raging, and things are moving faster than even they can grasp. Try and remember what it was like when YOU were a teenager. Do you remember how you felt?

 

This generation of teens is faced with even higher pressure. I have seen parents pressuring their elementary kids to perform better for the sake of college, or the perception of prestige. I have had a 13-year-old tell me they she was having an existential crisis – that she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life – all because of parental pressure to look toward college. Between parental pressures and the sheer nature of adolescent metamorphosis, the teen years can be intense.

 

But does adolescence have to be as disruptive?

 

Can we as parents take things less personally and develop a healthy way to show up for our teens? Yes, I believe we can. It requires that we educate ourselves in the ways of adolescence, and it also involves remembering and holding space for our own adolescent experience, without projecting it onto our teens.  This may mean getting involved in a support group, or seeing a therapist and beginning the transformative process of unraveling any traumatized roots within oneself. Allow your teen to have their own adolescent experience rather than interpreting it as your own. You are not your teen’s experience; you are a guide and a representative of safety and security.

 

If you find yourself in a situation where your adolescent is perpetuating harmful behavior via drugs and alcohol, or if they are displaying significant emotional dysregulatory behavior, it’s important that you seek help.  There’s adolescent angst and then there’s addiction and mental health issues. There’s help if you need it.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Addiction and Mental Health: Inspired by David Sheff

We recently had the opportunity to hear David Sheff, author of “Beautiful Boy” and “Clean“, speak about addiction and mental health at UCLA’s Friends of the Semel Institute’s Open Mind series.  Sheff is a journalist, and New York Times best-selling author who writes and speaks about addiction and recovery though the lens of a parent and as a well-researched journalist. Our family program is dedicated to approaching recovery from the eyes of the addict and those within the family system. David Sheff reminded me of the parental side of addiction and mental health that we don’t always hear.

 

Our kids are our babies: we see them as our innocent, silly, curious, innocent offspring. When it comes to addiction and mental health issues, parents often hang on to this ideology, telling themselves, “Not OUR kids. Addiction and mental health issues happen to other families.”  There is a natural contradiction that occurs, marking the innocence parents seek to hold on to and the utter despair and devastation that is actually taking place.  Addiction and mental health could care less about your financial status, race, religion, or gender, or age.  What David Sheff does is talk about it. He names the elephant in the room. He invites parents to face the shadow side of addiction and mental health and bring it into the fore. He challenges us as a culture to unabashedly squash the stigma associated with addiction and mental health.

 

This stigma I’m talking about increases the suffering families experience around addiction and mental health. It inhibits one’s ability to move through the processes required to heal. If worry and concern about what people migt say hangs over the head of a family, how willing will they be to do the work? How frequently will they suffer in silence? How long will they go before asking for help? Shame is the muzzle of addiction.

 

Sheff pointed out some staggering facts:

 

  • 80% of children will try drugs or alcohol before age 18.
  • Addiction is the #3 killer
  • The #1 reason teens use drugs: Stress
  • 90% of addictions begin before 21
  • Only 6% of pediatricians are able to recognize drug use
  • There are 3000 addiction informed physicians and over 3 million addicts

 

But he also reminds us of this: these kids who are suffering from addiction and mental health issues aren’t bad kids; they are our kids. The focus needs to be on what is causing the use of drugs and alcohol, not the drugs and alcohol themselves.  Kids are using because of stress, anxiety, social situations, trauma, et cetera. Our kids live in an environment that resembles a pressure cooker. I teach yoga to teens and tweens and I can tell you from my experiences with my students, the main reason they are there is because of stress and anxiety. And part of my work with them is teaching them tools for self-regulation.

These kids, our kids, need a reprieve from their overwhelm. Sure, drugs might offer a quick fix, but they don’t offer a solution. The solution has to come in the form of recovery, stress management and developing healthier means of self-regulation that allow for a better approach to being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out.  If there are addiction or issues of mental health, it becomes imperative to give them a voice. Shame keeps us silent. Shame keeps us sick. Shame increases our suffering.

 

Dr. Tim Fong, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA also had some salient things to say that evening, but one that really strikes home is this.  Families need the following 4 things for recovery:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

I encourage parents to seek help if they recognize that their child is in trouble. You are not alone in your fear, your suffering, or your need to be heard. Your child needs to be seen and heard as well, and the sooner you can get them the help they need, the sooner the recovery process can begin. Remember this: if your child has some hiccups in their recovery, YOUR recovery doesn’t have to hiccup as well.

 

I will leave you with this, a quote from Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides.”

Categories
Parenting Recovery

5 Challenging Teen Behaviors: Parenting With Awareness

Parenting a teenager is no walk in the park.

Embarrassing parents – swan duckling (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

They are hard-wired to defy, irritate, be irritated,rebel,question, and be dramatic; what better way for a human being to learn how to be authentically who they are, right? As a parent, however, those adolescent behaviors can be frustrating and overwhelming. A key component to working with this behavior is creating good boundaries. Setting really clear boundaries shows teens they are safe.

 

Here are 5 challenging teen behaviors and suggestions for healthy parenting responses:

 

1:  Oh the Drama! Everyone is horrible and out to get them, life is full of “he said,” “she said” problems and absolute statements like, “Mom! You just don’t UNDERSTAND!”

Parents, this is a great opportunity for mirroring. While you know that the world isn’t out to get your teen, learning how to respond to them kindly is important for their emotional safety. With mirroring, your job is not to analyze or sympathize but to reflect back what was said. In doing so, you are saying to your teen, “I see you,” something teens often don’t feel from adults but desperately need. Being “seen” is something vital to building self-awareness and confidence. They need to know they are being seen and heard without being judged. Here’s an example of mirroring:

Teen: “School was horrible, everyone’s a jerk,”

You: “I hear today was difficult at school.”

In this example, you are actively listening instead of analyzing the problem or trying to fix it. Sometimes, kids just need to vent.

 

2: “I hate you!” “You’re ruining my life!” “Why don’t you let me do ANYTHING?!”

In adolescence, teens are continuing to individuate. They are trying to find out who they are as individuals — separate from who their parents are. As a result, teens attempt to pull away from the familiarity and safety of their familial setting in order to find their own authenticity, and often times they do this harshly. This is not easy to watch and it is harder still not to take the behavior personally. However, this doesn’t mean parents become doormats for their kids or receptacles for abusive behavior. Create boundaries and disallow abusive language or violent behavior while continuing to support the process of discovering oneself. Your job as the parent is to remain calm amidst the storm: A:  adolescence is temporary, and B: your parents survived. Ensure you are getting time for yourself and for self-care. Remember, if you are an empty well for yourself, you are an empty well for your child.

 

3: Not THAT friend.

Rest assured, there will come a time where you will feel with absolute certainty that one of your teen’s friends is questionable. Before you toss this friend to the wolves, ask yourself why this kid is so triggering for you. Are you reminded of something? Do you see yourself in this child? Are the parents troublesome? Do you have information your child doesn’t have about the family? Understanding why we’re reacting the way we are can be profoundly helpful. It may prevent us from projecting our fears onto the innocent. This also presents an opportunity to open up a dialogue with your teen about safe friends, safe behaviors, as well as to talk about the red flags for dangerous behavior. After that discussion or series of discussions, if a friend is truly dangerous, you have to set firm boundaries. Sometimes arming your teen with knowledge will allow them to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing themselves. However, sometimes, it won’t and it will encourage a teen to rebel further. In this case, you may have to set firmer boundaries or take more drastic measures. You are at the helm of the parenting ship and it remains your responsibility to create and maintain safe boundaries for your teen and your family.

 

4: “You’re so embarrassing!”

It’s so tempting to hug and show affection to your teen, especially if you come from a family that is demonstrative with their expressions of love. But nothing is more embarrassing to a teen than having their overenthusiastic parent insist upon squishing their son or daughter in front of their friends. In fact, it’s mortifying. So, as much as you hate to do it, try and curb your enthusiasm, at least while you’re in public. The overarching message: love your teen but don’t show it. Ew.

 

5: “Put the phone DOWN!”

Oh, technology, what would we do without you? Everything has been made so much easier because of the advances in this area, and we are at a place in our culture where we depend upon it for efficiency. As I’ve mentioned in another post, we have unfortunately taken this tool for connection and unfortunately become terribly disconnected. To help families reconnect, I suggest setting some rules aka boundaries around phone use. Limit phone use (texting and calls) until homework is done and ask everyone to turn them off at dinner.  Make a commitment to connect in real time, it’s invaluable for opening the heart.

 

Our teens are growing up and becoming the best humans they can be. Our job as parents is to nurture them into the big shoes of adulthood. We have to do our best not to take their sharp twills to heart, to honor them as individuals, and to provide them with support, boundaries, and encouragement. Parenting teens can be extraordinarily challenging, especially if there is substance abuse or mental illness involved. If the latter is the case, please seek help. You don’t have to trudge the parenting path alone.