We all know raising kids today can be challenging. We live in a culture that is more materialistic, more sexualized; more violent and more competitive than we grew up with.
Most kids don’t turn to their parents when they need help. They turn to their peers who may be as confused as they are. Yet who cares more than you, their parents? Who else is an alternative voice to the consumer culture/ or media? Who will help them resist the pull to conform to peer pressure?
As parents it’s easy to polarize your teen. Conversations can suddenly turn into power struggles and arguments. It is important to provide a safe supportive environment so that your teen will feel comfortable talking to you. It’s not easy. Sometimes it seems like, overnight, your child has turned from a sweet confiding kid who loved nothing more than to hang out with you, to a rude teenager who acts embarrassed to be part of your family. (And yes, even though we know it is just a stage, parents get their feelings hurt too!)
Your child might respond to simple questions by acting as if their space is being invaded. They might give monosyllabic answers or downright lie to avoid telling you what is going on. Being secretive can be a way of separating and beginning to form their own identity. Yet your job as a parent is to keep them safe and help them navigate the sometimes dangerous waters of the adolescent years.
Sometimes your teenager may tell you what is going on with a friend as a way to check out your response. Talking to teenagers can require a lot of skill. They can be sensitive to anything that smacks of control, criticism or too much advice. Having a psychologist to serve as a mediator can help. These are not easy skills to learn, especially if you are worried or frustrated when talking to your child. It can be hard to stop the reactive, parenting response.
Tools you can learn and practice in therapy:
1) Active Listening. Take a deep breath and really listen to your child. Don’t tell her what to do—this shuts anyone down from further sharing. Accept her feelings. Accurately paraphrase what she has said so your teen knows that you have heard her.
2) Mirroring. Identify and reflect the feelings that your teen may not verbalize.
3) State values. Instead of criticizing, arguing or defending, simply state your values of expectations. Do not tell her what to do. By this age, your child knows what you think, and they may be positioned to rebel if you state an opinion. Instead, let them reason it through on their own. If you can, stick with listening to them and reflecting their feelings. This way, they are much more likely to share their thoughts with you.
Other challenges that can occur during adolescence:
- Eating Disorders
- Identity and body issues
- Acting out
- Relationship Issues
For many of us, the most conflicting relationship we have is with our own bodies. We diet from the time we are teens, trying to will them into shape so we can look like the models and actresses on magazine covers. Or we eat too much and stuff ourselves as we try to stuff our feelings, and then hate ourselves afterwards.
Eating disorders like Bulimia, Anorexia. and Binge-purge Disorder are common. Girls swallow the message that how they look is more important than being healthy and strong, or they rebel and comfort themselves with food and go into denial about the long term negative effects. Both of these behaviors are adaptions of the same confusion around food, control, comfort, and body image.
Working with a psychologist to get support and treatment you need can help the sufferer get their life back–and on track. I can help if you contact me at 818-519-8297.
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