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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 meanslatigo-fence 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 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
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.