UNDERSTANDING NORMAL VS. ADNORMAL TEENAGER BEHAVIOR

With the school year starting I have been getting a lot of calls from parents worried about their teens. School anxiety is spiking, teens are beginning to feel overwhelmed and their dread of the new year is sinking in.

Parents ask me: “Lianna, how do I know if what my daughter’s is doing is a ‘normal teenager thing’ or if it’s something more serious? How do I know when I’m at the point where I should get my teenager some help?”

One of the hardest aspects for parents raising teenagers is understanding the difference between normal teenager behavior and unhealthy, abnormal teenage behavior. It’s normal for teens to become cranky, withdrawn, and — let’s be honest — irritating at times. But how can you tell if a teen is being moody or showing the warning signs of anxiety and depression? How can you distinguish typical teenage behavior from dangerous red flags?

WHAT’S NORMAL AND WHAT’S REASON FOR CONCERN?

I put together this list to help you get an idea of some of the differences to keep an eye out for. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but hopefully will help give you an idea of the basics.

WHAT CAN PARENT’S DO TO HELP?

Teen’s are always communicating with us, verbally and non-verbally. Sometimes we are just too distracted to notice all the signs. Listen to what they are saying and what concerns are on the minds. Ask questions for clarification, if you are a nag. Just own up to it, admit to being annoying and ask what they mean. Pay attention to their body language or any changes in behavior.

If you think your teen is in need of additional support contact me today!

3 Tips To Help Your Teen Cope With Back To School Anxiety

As you know school is starting and you know what happens next feelings of overwhelm, stress, and anxiety. I am going to address some of things you can do as a parent to help your kids be successful this year despite feeling anxious.

Many of us believe that by the time our kids reach high school they have back-to-school anxiety under control. Nope. Many of the teens I work with talk consistently about worrying about returning to school. They worry about a number of issues including classes, being liked, fitting in, finding their way around, what to say, managing their schedule and work load, etc.

Something I see a lot of with the teens I work with and I am sure many of you parents are familiar with too as that when teens get this anxious and uncomfortable they beg and plead to stay home. They actually can make themselves sick.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP…

So bearing in mind that your teens are nervous not only about the first day, but the first few weeks or months here are some tips you can use to help your teen adjust to returning to school:

  1. Look At the Basics

Have a routine. Start about 1-2 weeks before school starts. Get their sleeping back on track for a school schedule. Eat breakfast! No one copes well when they are hungry. Pack your book bag the night before, decide on your outfit, etc.

  1. Avoid reassuring instead focus on problem solving

Parents this doesn’t mean solve the problem for them. However, try to avoid statements like everything will be fine. Your teen doesn’t believe this and it can feel invalidating. Instead try to ask them problem solving questions, such as, If (worst thing) happened what would you do? Use things they identified as being anxious about (try not to come up with your own things, this may increase fears).

3. Encourage them to breathe

Practicing their coping skills will help them feel more confident when school starts. Try making this part of your house-hold routine. Role model using this as a skill or practice it as a family before or after dinner.

If your teen needs support with coping skills for returning to school contact me here  to learn more.

RAISING A CONFIDENT DAUGHTER IN TODAY’S WORLD

According to researchers this is the unhappiest, loneliest and most stressed out generation on record — and its girls who are struggling the most. By adolescence girls are twice as likely as boys to develop a mood disorder. Depressive symptoms in teen girls increased by 50% between 2012 and 2015, at more than twice the rate of boys. The results of one study in 2017 showed the number of girls who described themselves as “confident” declines more than 25% throughout middle school.

Despite girls excelling academically, they still don’t believe they are smart enough. 30% of girls with the highest grade point averages don’t believe they are intelligent enough to get into a good college.

WHY IS THERE SUCH A DISPARITY?

We know from looking at brain scans that there are differences in the way girls and boys process emotional stimuli. Girls mature, in terms of their emotional recognition, faster than boys—and that sensitivity could make them more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and social acceptance.

WE KNOW THAT THE WORLD IS COMPLICATED FOR GIRLS

Fitting in, body image, pressure, academics, friendships and relationships are all challenging to navigate. Add to this, the potential challenges of technology and social media, and it is not surprising that girls are reporting high levels of pressure alongside declining levels of self-confidence. Girls

For too many girls today, motivation to be successful is fueled by intense self-criticism and fear that they will fail. Our girls may look exceptional on paper but they are often anxious and overwhelmed in life. Many feel that no matter how hard they try, they will never be smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, thin enough, well liked enough, etc.  And it starts young.

AVOID FAT TALK

Between 40% and 60% of elementary school girls monitor their weight. This is partially responsible for the gender disparity of depression.

Many parents believe that their girls in elementary school are too young to have body image issues. Nope. Body acceptance starts early. Kids are sponges and absorb everything around them. Your daughters are influenced by media and by family socialization, this can begin as early as preschool.

Monitor your “Fat Talk” at home. negative comments about your body, how much you’ve eaten or exercised, or comments about others’ bodies. This is body bashing, a kind of ritual self-hatred girls begin practicing early, and many of them learn it from adult women.

Focus your body comments on the ways her body serves her, not others. When your daughter achieves a physical goal, point out how her strong or agile body helped her do it. Talk about eating to be healthy so we can do the things we love with our bodies.

PRAISE THE PROCESS NOT THE RESULT

Well intended efforts to praise your daughter can often backfire. As a parent when you focus on the result this can be heard by your daughter as pressure or an expectation. For example, one study showed that praising intelligence could undermine a child’s confidence.  Two groups of fifth graders received two different kinds of praise after taking an IQ test. Kids in one group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must be really smart at this.” Kids in the other group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must have worked really hard.”

Kids in both groups then had the opportunity to try a challenging task, with the promise they could learn from it. The kids in the “smart” group weren’t interested. The kids praised for their effort took it on. Not only that, the kids in the second group performed better over time, outpacing their “smart” peers on follow-up IQ tests. It appears that seeing intelligence as a fixed trait instills fear of failure that makes kids less able to handle setbacks.

DON’T BE A PERFECT PARENT

Role model messing up and making mistakes! Girls learn from media, adults, and peers to please others in order to remain likeable. The desire to please has a large impact on the loss of confidence for girls in the first place. Not surprisingly, many girls grow to fear failure. They think the more they succeed, the more liked they will be.

Whenever you can, show her that you can fail, mess up, make mistakes and still be okay; The world doesn’t end. Your worth didn’t change; your relationships didn’t change. The ability to handle disappointment and failure is the cornerstone for building confidence. She will learn from watching you.

USE SELF-COMPASSION NOT SELF-CRITISCM

This means that when you do make a mistake, feel bad, or embarrassed you role model saying “I feel really bad about this. It is okay to feel this way.” Rather than “I can’t believe this happened. I really messed up.”

Self-compassion is about being kinder to yourself when you are stressed or upset. Research shows that people who practice self-compassion have lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Next time you are running late and your daughter is with you rather than beating yourself up for being late try verbalizing kindness to yourself. Say out loud “I feel nervous because I am running late. It makes sense that I am late because I am busy and get behind. Lots of people run late. It won’t be the end of the world.”

Just remember to be in it for the long haul. Raising confident daughter’s is a process. Some days will seem easier than others. If your daughter needs help learning to fully accept herself, I am now enrolling for my fall Teen Girls Confidence Group. Contact Me  to apply.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF YOUR EMOTIONS

Does your teen feel overwhelmed by emotions, hide from them or shove them down? Facing distress is difficult and a common reaction for teenagers is to shove those feelings away. Sometimes the emotions we are having feel so overwhelming we don’t want to feel them or deal with them so we shove them away, we are not even interest in going close to them because we are afraid to of what might happen if we connect to them.

It’s normal to have a range of emotions and every day is not going to be perfect. It’s okay to experience them.

How To Face Difficult Emotions

We have discovered that if you acknowledge them and label them the intensity with decrease and you will get through it quicker. In DBT we use the skill “riding the wave” to help teenagers learn to experience their emotions in the moment without their emotions being in control.

A surfer doesn’t fight the powerful ocean wave; he moves with the wave riding its natural tide. “Riding the wave” is also a practice of surfing your own powerful and negative emotions. Rather than fighting sadness, anger and other negative emotions, it’s about allowing your emotions to wash over you like a tidal wave, riding them out until they pass so that you can make wise decisions from a place of calm rather than a place of emotional turmoil that can often lead to destructive or ineffective behavior that doesn’t serve your goals.

When your teen is in distress it can be challenging to control or manage intense emotions. They may be flooded and inundated with negative emotions and harmful urges. There may be a feeling of hopelessness as the emotions are too overwhelming to deal with.  This is when riding the wave comes in handy.

Also known as Urge surfing, riding the wave involves observing and coping with the experience without trying to change it. As the more frequent tendency is to avoid, escape, or shove the feeling away, so riding the wave may seem unnatural. Riding the wave will give your teen a sense of personal control over uncomfortable feelings. Riding the wave allows one to sit with his or her discomfort, sorrow, and pain, instead of fighting the feeling by acting impulsively and engaging in harmful and self-destructive behaviors.  Although it can seem counterintuitive, accepting painful emotions allows for freedom from suffering.

It’s challenging to accept our thoughts and manage our emotions, but if we can learn how to “ride the wave” of our feelings we can prevent our urges from dictating our behavior. Your Teen will be more secure in knowing they have more control over their behavior and be able to respond rather than react!

This can be a difficult skill to learn. If you think your teen might benefit from riding the wave or other coping skills contact me here to learn more about Teen DBT Skills Group!