Prepare To Bloom welcomes parents of struggling teens and young adults to join us for our upcoming support group. Please make sure to contact Shayna for additional details and location. This support group occurs monthly on the 4th Tuesday from 6-8pm, so if you are unable to join in July, mark your calendar for August. We look forward to hearing from all interested parents.
Category Archives: Families
As people around me are celebrating their birthdays, I have had a moment to reflect on what birthdays really mean. Most of the celebrations I am attending at this point have shifted from large gatherings with large masses of friends and acquaintances cake and ice cream to smaller, more intimate groups. Groups where we carefully count out the appropriate number of candles to top the cake, and then hope the smoke detector doesn’t get set off. There are other shifts that have happened as my peers and I continue to age, namely we have realized that the morning after our special day we wake up and feel the same.
This doesn’t seem to be the case when the clients I am working with turn 18. There is a sense of entitlement that once they reach this age, they are allowed to treat their parents as peers. I realize the government has determined that turning 18 is significant and that is when one reaches adulthood. An adult by the government expectation means that one can now vote and purchase cigarettes. But, there doesn’t seem to be an understanding that with adulthood comes many more responsibilities and challenges.
There are also shifts for the parents of these young adults. The parents are unsure if they should accept their son or daughter as a new adult and therefore no longer have expectations and rules for them, or if things should be maintained as they were when their child was still a teen.
I often highlight for the parents that I am working with that their child turning 18 can be a turning point in their relationship, if the child is ready for it. For those families who are not ready to have their young adult launch for any number of reasons, then 18 is just another number. This can be a very challenging position for parents to be in when our society says otherwise.
The vast majority of the clients I am working with are not prepared to enter into young adulthood in a successful manner. These young adults have never thought twice about running their own lives and they don’t have the skills to take it on. This creates a lot of fear and uncertainty for parents by not knowing how, when, or where they will truly be able to launch their young adult.
This doesn’t have to be the path your family goes down. There are ways parents can begin preparing for this transition early.
- Give your child age appropriate responsibilities around the house.
- Allow your child to feel the consequences of their actions.
- Be clear and consistent in upholding the house rules and consequences.
- Provide a safe place to listen to problems but do not provide the answers.
- You are a role model for your child. They see how you handle struggles as well as successes.
- Don’t provide so much structure your child doesn’t have time for fun.
I’d like to write today about my first meeting with families, and how communication plays a vital role. The process generally goes something like this: After discussing the reason they have sought out help, we discuss how the family currently functions. We talk about the parents’ relationship with their children and with one another. We talk about how the kids relate to their siblings and how they relate to their parents. I then ask the parents something along the lines of “Tell me a little bit about your relationship with *Johnny*.” Some parents are confused by this question. Most parents answer with something like “Things go well when *Johnny* is in a good mood, but when he is in a bad mood, we all have to watch out.” There can be further details about the relationship and sometimes they will highlight all the fun activities that they enjoy doing with their child. All of this information is very helpful as I begin to understand the family’s struggles. What it does not always address is how communication is happening within the family.
I find that the families I work with frequently neither possess nor know how to acquire ways to communicate effectively with one another. Many of the families describe that they feel manipulated by the communication with their children. This pattern is one of the most difficult changes we ask families to make. We look to break the cycles of years of built-up patterns of communications.
There are lots of ways to work on changing these patterns. Finding the method that works for you and your family is key. Over the past weekend, I had the good fortune of attending the One Change Group’s Real Change workshop. This two day workshop focused on changing communication patterns as well as teaching additional communication and parenting skills. The two day workshop was filled with a mixture of moms, dads, children, single parents, families, and professionals. We shared our stories and asked lots of questions all in the hope of changing our patterns of communication.
In order to change the patterns, the pain of the way things are going has to be greater than the fear of changing. As with everything in life, changing communication patterns is difficult work and takes practice. We have to be forgiving of ourselves that we will get it right one hundred percent of the time. We also have to become aware of our patterns as a means to break them.
To change these patterns there are some simple changes that can make a huge impact on communication.
- Check yourself – During conversations that are highly emotional everyone involved needs to try and be aware of their emotional state. When we get highly emotional our brain shuts down and we can not be rational. So it is OK in those moments to take a timeout. The key to effectively using a timeout is to schedule a time when everyone is going to come back together in the next twenty-four hours to finish discussing the topic.
- You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak – What you and your child have to say is equally as important. Make sure that you listen and repeat back what you hear your child saying, and ask them to do the same before having them respond to the topic of the conversation.
- Share the love – we hear the negative far louder than the positive. In fact, for every negative comment we hear it takes forty positive ones to cancel it out. It is easy to point out all the things that others are not doing, but keep in mind that we all need positive reinforcement. This is true for ourselves and others. We need to continually give ourselves positive reinforcement as well.
Start with changing these pieces of your communication at home and you will see the ripple effect. These skills can be used in every aspect of your life, work, home, school, friendships and beyond. My suggestion is to try one skill for thirty days and see how it goes. If you are looking for more information about parenting skills and increasing the communication in your home, Prepare To Bloom may be able to help. Check us out at PrepareToBloom.com or call us at (925) 526-5685.
We live in an age of instant gratification. If we want something to eat we are surrounded with a multitude of options. If we want to watch a particular television program we can now stream the video online through Netflix or use On Demand. If we want to share exciting news all we have to do is get online. It is no wonder that kids are growing up expecting instant gratification for every wish they have. This sense of deserving every whim or wish creates this sense of entitlement.
Many of the parents that I work with are concerned about issues of entitlement. It may be that their child is asking for an increased allowance, the latest phone, or a new car for their birthday. Regardless of the request, the real problem lies in the fact that the child believes that they are owed these things just for being.
Parents can start early to help give their kids the skills to combat this problem. Parents have the responsibility to provide shelter, food, emotional support, education, play, fun, clothing, and fair treatment. In contrast they are not responsible for providing everything their child’s friends already have, extended curfews, new gadgets or additional money just because they are older.
The problem with this attitude is that the child has not made the connection between their efforts to achieve something and the internal sense of satisfaction once that goal is reached. The larger problem is that teens and young adults who grow up with indulgent parents struggle to learn how to handle their feeling, and delayed gratification.
Raising children who are entitlement-free is quite a challenge, but there are a few things that parents can begin to do now. The earlier that parents start the better –
- Allowance or no allowance – To give your child an allowance is a parenting choice. However, allowance should be earned. There are age appropriate tasks that kids can do such as taking out the trash, dusting, or vacuuming.
- Savings – Teaching kids to save their allowance to buy the toys they desire will help to instill a sense of accomplishment. It can also lead to teaching them about financial responsibility.
- Saying “Yes”- It is OK to say yes to requests your child makes that they are not able to achieve themselves. It is also understandable to indulge from time to time for special occasions.
- Don’t just say “no”- Help your child to understand your decision making process by explaining to them why their request in inappropriate. Then you have the opportunity to allow your child to earn what they are wanting on their own.
The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in the U.S., about 8 percent of adolescents (13-18 years old) are experiencing a diagnosable anxiety disorder. They further report that while most of these teens have been experiencing symptoms since the age of 6, only 18 percent of them have received treatment for their symptoms. Some anxiety is quite normal, for example becoming anxious prior to an important exam. In contrast to this rather short lived experience of anxiety, the symptoms for teens who are experiencing anxiety disorders typically last at least six months, and may increase without proper treatment and support.
While there are a range of psychotropic medications used to help those with anxiety disorders: “The Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (CAMS), in addition to other studies on treating childhood anxiety disorders, found that high-quality cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), given with or without medication, can effectively treat anxiety disorders in children. One small study even found that a behavioral therapy designed to treat social phobia in children was more effective than an antidepressant medication.”
Parents need to know what to look for to identify that their child or teen may be struggling with anxiety.
What to look for:
- Body Aches – Complaints of stomach aches, headaches, tooth aches or other body pains that do not have physical reasons. Always make sure you listen to your child and check out the possible physical reasons for the complaint.
- Changes at school – When the “A” student starts to get in trouble, or refuses to go to school, it is time to look into the issues further
- Attitude – Some moodiness is expected as children move into their teen years, but excessive mood swings or changes in attitude can signal a problem.
- New Habits – Be aware if all of a sudden your child begins to bite their nails, or shake their legs, all of these nervous twitches and habits are their way of letting you know that something more is going on.