Anxious and Avoiding Teen? The Anxiety Cycle

Teens today feel pressure in a way that many parents have a hard time understanding. Social media has created a whole new world, a world in which teens feel monitored, judged, worried, anxious about their peers. Add parental fears and expectations to the mix and kids today are struggling more than ever with school, social pressures, and consequently with self-esteem, confusion, and isolation. Their response is often to shut down, to give up, to avoid. The anxiety of having to cope is often just too much and they retreat more and more into their own world, a world made more comfortable through video games, socializing without leaving their rooms, and other avenues that enable them to isolate even more.

How Can You Help Your Teen?
DBT:

At Mindful Healing, we adapt different therapeutic tools to move your kids forward. One of them is DBT. What is DBT?  Well, the acronym sounds intimidating, Dialectical Behavior Therapy. What it really is, is a set of over 100 skills to help others cope with life, with the tasks of living that for parents seem easy, but for teens today, can be overwhelming -such as making phone calls for appointments, driving, getting up on time and actually doing their homework.

 Exposure Therapy:

Not all teen problems are treated only with DBT. At Mindful Healing we also utilize exposure therapy. In exposure therapy, say fear of driving is the problem, a teen may be encouraged just to drive down the block and back. Day after day, just for a short time, until they are so comfortable, they are bored and itching to go a little further. As exposure and task time is increased, their confidence grows, and their anxiety lessens. In addition, they may also begin with a DBT skill such as square breathing, a skill that will help them when they first get in the car and feel panicky, paralyzed. By grounding themselves with this breathing technique, breathing deeply to a count of 4 (or 8), holding for the same count, breathing out to the same count, and then breathing into that count, they can calm themselves and be ready to drive down the block. The more they realize they CAN, the more they will be motivated to WANT to do it!

Walking the Middle Path: Helping Parents and Teens Connect

Let’s face it, raising teens is challenging! At times, you feel as if you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It is difficult to find the balance between being strict and being lenient, between being secure in what you know works and taking a chance on change. Probably the worst approach is the authoritarian, “I know what is best” or head-on style

One final thing: How can you achieve a balance between being strict and being lenient? Often when one parent is lenient, the other, in reaction is strict. It is hard to find that balance! DBT skill Walking the Middle Path, teaching parents how to find this balance.

Middle Path skills

Authoritarian parents focus on discipline and honoring the rules. The upside is that they are consistent, provide structure and predictability. If not too extreme, they help teens avoid getting into trouble and foster success at school. If more extreme, they create perfectionism, a harsh inner critic and low self- esteem or feelings of being in trouble or not good enough. They tend to not give as much emotional support or warmth.

A lenient parent is either permissive or uninvolved. Rules that exist tend to be inconsistent, nonexistent, or unenforced. On the upside, teens have lots of room to explore and build independence which can lead to creativity and new skills. The downside is that teens don’t have limitations or guidance which can lead to problem behaviors. On the downside, teens with parents who are too lenient can expect others, such as school authorities, to also make exceptions for their tendency not to follow the rules or in relationships, expect others to cater to their freedom to do what they want. They also may feel unimportant and the lack expectations that can lead them to feel not cared about.

Balance

Finding the balance is referred to as authoritative (not authoritarian). These parents have reasonable rules, expectations and limits and also have flexibility and some leniency. In other words, parents who find this balance are mindful of the battles they pick, have clear predictable consequences which they follow through on, and allow their teens to make mistakes and some freedom to make their own choices. They have learned to manage their own fears and anxieties and can separate who they are from who their kids are. They have learned to accept that their kids are not necessarily going to follow the path they had mapped out for their lives and are willing to go on that journey with them!

If you want to learn more DBT for parents, click here. 

Parenting Teens During Quarantine

This is tough! Teens are struggling with their own losses, loss of graduation, loss if summer camps, loss of connection with their friends etc. On top of that being stuck all day with siblings and parents at a time in life when they are supposed to experimenting with independence, preparing for launching into young adulthood. Add to that stressed parents with “real life” worries such as finances, job security, health, family management, especially with everyone at home at once…ALL the time (or most of the time as we are opening up slowly)!

What can you do?

Our families at Mindful Healing who have been successful at this are those who are creative in how to meet each other’s needs. Drive-by birthday celebrations, a specially decorated basement, prom dress, and music experienced with close friends on Zoom, etc.

Parents who step can away from their own stresses and understand how real the losses and anxiety-creating uncertainty are to their teens, parents, in other words who can validate their teens’ feelings, help them understand they have loving support and are not alone. Validation is a key in all of this: reflecting not what is said, but what is meant; acknowledging how real that feeling if for your teen, not giving unsolicited advice or in any way, trying to “fix’ their feelings, learning to sit with your own discomfort in order for you to be patient and to allow your teen to be okay to sit with their pain and to tolerate it.

The best way parents can be in the frame of mind to help their teen is to develop routines for their own self-care. Learn meditation techniques- find an app that you like that can guide you; set time aside to be alone and regenerate, learn to tolerate your own feelings and find a place to compartmentalize your own fears and anxieties and any guilt you may feel over your teen’s suffering.

If you are struggling with how to best support your teen, click here to schedule a FREE parent consultation.

Are You An Enabler?

What is enabling? When we help or rescue our children we are reinforcing their belief that they cannot do it themselves. This increases their own self-contempt and sense of powerlessness.
When we help them we also take away their ability to learn to be independent.

A  poll by the New York Times revealed that many parents are doing things FOR their adult children in ways that are actually UNHELPFUL to learning and living a independent life.

Here are some stats:

☑️ 76 percent reminded their adult children of deadlines they need to meet, including for schoolwork

☑️ 74 percent made appointments for them, including doctor’s appointments

☑️ 15 percent of parents with children in college had texted or called them to wake them up so they didn’t sleep through a class or test.

When your role as a parent includes fostering a reliance on you in order to complete daily tasks and responsibilities, your teen doesn’t learn the skills necessary to successfully navigate life.

So what leads to these behaviors by parents?

There is a vicious cycle:

The parent cannot tolerate to see their teen struggling and in pain. This leads to parental feeling of guilt, anxiety, fear, worry, etc. To alleviate these feelings they need to fix their teen and save them from emotional distress. They step in to rescue and save. The teen takes advantage because it is easier. The parent then feels anger and resentment. And ultimately, the teen believes they cannot do what their parent feels they cannot do.
What can you do?

  1. Name your limits
  2. Be clear and direct
  3. Be consistent
  4. Give yourself permission
    1. To feel
    2. To struggle
    3. To say no
  5. Never set a boundary you won’t keep

Encourage positive behavior by focusing on the positives no matter how small; ask encouraging questions, don’t make assumptions, ask questions rather than accuse.

Make a family agreement that you are committed to following through.
Break the cycle of enabling: Moving out of that cycle of rescuing, disappointment, anger, resentment and blame is one of the best things we can do for our child.
The way out is knowing how to set boundaries and believing in them! Know your limits, be consistent and direct; feel free to say NO!- it may be a lifesaver! And never set a boundary or do a family agreement that you cannot keep.
Never underestimate the power of positivity. Your child is so used to feeling shame. Telling themselves what they do wrong. Having someone notice what they do right and believing in them can be a game changer (just don’t over do it)

Strong Fathers Strong Daughters

With Father’s Day approaching, it is important to understand how significant a father (or male role model) is in their daughter’s life. A father’s love and approval, his admiration for his daughter’s qualities such as her independence, maturity, integrity, beauty (all daughter’s should be made to feel beautiful by their dads!), intelligence, character, are important.

Every teen should have moments where they feel like “daddy’s princess,” that their father loves them and even more importantly, believes in them. Believes what? Believes they can manage their lives. Believes they have the capacity to solve their own problems but at the same time, knows they can count on dad to be there if they need help, solicited (note the adjective) advice, need comfort, support and encouragement. A strong loving, compassionate father can make all the difference in creating a strong, loving, compassionate capable young woman!

Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers, Dads, and Men playing an important role in raising ALL children today!

Happy Pride Month

Here are some tips on how you can be an ally and support the LGBTQI+ community and youth pride month. As teen and DBT specialists, this is an important topic as statistically the LGBTQI+ community has higher rates of suicide. As we become allies we can help reduce depression related to discrimination.

Tip #1 remember that pride events are not about you as an ally. Pride is about celebrating identity and the history of LGBTQI+ activism.

Tip #2 Be sure to check in with your friends and family who are a part of the LGBTIQ+ community as pride can be a triggering for some due to there being a heightened visibility. Ask your friends, family, co-works, peers etc. how you can help to support them.

Tip #3 use this time to educate yourselves. Remember it is not the job of the LGBTQI+ community to educate you.

Tip #4 lead with your ally ship. As an ally you can advocate for others. Take this time not only to educate yourselves but educate others by having conversations about LGBTQI+ related issues.

Tip #5 be willing to make mistakes (we are all human). Be willing to take feedback and admit when you are wrong. Tip #6 do not focus on getting praise. The focus is on supporting the LGBQI+ people in your life.

LGBTQI+ Youths 

Research shows that LGBTQI+ students have historically faced higher levels of discrimination than their straight peers. These numbers tend to be higher during middle and high school years. Here are some helpful websites for Allies and for LGBTQI+ youths. (https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/)

Helpful resources/websites:

https://thesafezoneproject.com/resources/ Lists multiple resources and trainings for allies

http://www.imatyfa.org/ TransYouth Family Allies

https://pflag.org/ Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

https://gsanetwork.org/ Gay Straight Alliance Networks

https://itgetsbetter.org/ It Gets Better Project

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ The Trevor Project

Definition of Advocate: One who pleads the cause of another, who defends or maintains a cause or proposal, one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group. (merrian-webster.com)

Definition of Ally: A person who is not LGBTQI+ but shows support for LGBTQI+ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways. (hrc.org)

Teen Around Too Much

Looking for balance between family time and alone time?  Is your teen around too much?! Are you struggling to find time alone? We all know the feeling. Normally, we have a routine that gives us space and a natural balance between family time and alone time. 

This routine allows families to have time together, it allows parents to have time as individuals and couples, and it allows teens to have time with friends. It makes family time more important. 

Now what happens when that family time becomes SO frequent that work, school, meals, recreation, and alone time merge together?

Many of the parents we work with at Mindful Healing are finding this time rather interesting (or difficult) to navigate.

Your home may be feeling very crowded now that everyone is in the same space 24/7. You may find yourself irritable, anxious, and frustrated. Your boundaries may be blurring and you may find it difficult to have a schedule or routine. 

Parents: let’s take a look at what you can do to help ensure family time doesn’t become TOO much! 
Be intentional with your time and space

Prior to this pandemic your life may have had a routine with clear, outlined daily tasks. Parents had work, teens went to school, dinner was at the dining room table, and family time in the living room. Now, everyone is sharing space more frequently. The dining room table has become work, school, and dinner space. Be intentional about how you spend your time and where you spend it. Try to dedicate rooms to certain activities at certain times.

Decide as a family how to work in shared spaces, and make a plan to cope ahead of time.

During this time, it is common for families to be arguing over shared space. One teen may want to eat lunch when their sibling is doing “school” at a shared table, or someone else may want quiet when trying to work in the family room. To avoid these conflicts, talk about shared rooms. Have a family discussion and make a plan to “cope ahead” to avoid these conflicts. 

Plan “alone time” into everyone’s day, including yours

Prior to COVID teens and parents had time to themselves. You may not have realized how important your commute was to decompressing until now! Or evening running errands like grocery shopping. So…don’t forget to plan alone time for everyone! Be creative and create ways to get it within the new limits. Maybe, plan time for everyone to be in different places in the house or to go into nature alone. 

Allow your kids to help out with work or chores.

It may sound corny, but allowing your children to help you around the house will bring your teen purpose and structure. It allows your teen to have a sense of accomplishment and to feel productive during the day (something they are currently lacking). 

Plan a family outing

Yes, stores are closed, but nature isn’t. Get outside, get some sun, exercise, and quality family time. It’s important to change the scenery and just engage in something different. Not to mention, exercise causes the brain to release the “happy hormone” dopamine, which elevates mood and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression! 

Family time is crucial in finding unity, strength, and forming long lasting bonds with the people we love.

Family time has been redefined, but we don’t have to let this pandemic taint our definition of family time. 

Especially since, family time is pretty much most of our time right now.

Need support? Click here to contact us today

Improve Your Teen’s Mood With Pleasant Activities

In a world of uncertainty and many unknowns, how we spend our free time is essential to our mental health. While we are at home it is important for us and our teens to find enjoyable activities to support our happiness.

Currently there are so many things outside of our control due to COVID-19, one thing we do have control over is how we spend our time at home. Focusing on what we can control can decrease stress and overwhelm. You can balance our day-to-day responsibilities with pleasant activities. One thing you can do to improve your mood during stressful time is to increase pleasant activities that promote positive emotions.

HOW TO INCREASE POSITIVE ACTIVITIES?

Make a plan to do one thing you enjoy each day. If you are feeling unmotivated, start small. One way to increase motivation is by engaging in pleasant activities. Maybe setting a reminder on your phone to do something you enjoy everyday. This could be:

Walking the dog

Connecting with friends online

Creating funny memes

Playing a video game

Going for a hike

As teens begin to incorporate these enjoyable activities into their day, it will improve their mood both in the short and long-term.

You can help your teen come up with ideas for pleasant activities by thinking about what is important to them. What do they enjoy and value? This will give the experience meaning and have a larger impact on their mood.

Help your teen plan for long-term success by adding positive experiences into their daily routine.

Worried Because Your Teen Is Too Calm During Our Pandemic?

Many teens are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the shutdown BUT many are not. Some teens with intense social anxiety or who are bullied are feeling relief. Relief from being consumed with a fear of being judged…from being picked on…or from having to face their social fears. 

One parent described her teen as being “happy as a clam.” Another told us that her teen “hasn’t been this calm in years.” 

WHY ARE THERE THESE PARENTS WORRIED? 

You are probably wondering what the problem is? Happy as a clam seems great. What’s the problem?? Well, though not planned avoidance, the very act of avoiding discomfort is what actually creates more discomfort!! The more we avoid our distress, the more we experience intense problematic behaviors as the cycle of avoidance continues. 

Anxiety naturally limits interactions and healthy risk taking that develops our confidence. Parents are worried about the long-term effects of social distancing because this forced avoidance actually increases anxiety. 

What will happen when school shutdown ends? 

* “How will I get her back to school whenever this is over?”

* “How do I get him to socialize and make friends after this if he already struggles?”

* “Will he lose all the progress he was making in therapy because of social distancing?”

These concerns are valid and real. Exposure therapy helps treat anxiety because it is the opposite of avoidance. 

As teen specialists, we are seeing two types of teens right now. 
  1. For some teens it is torture not being able to socialize and see their friends. They never thought they would miss school and structure, but they do. 
  2. For others, it is heaven. No more constant worrying, exhaustion, stomach aches, and more. They are relaxed. BUT this will end. 

If your teen is socially anxious and suddenly thrilled to be home, it is time to REFRAME social distancing. Rather than looking at this time as avoidance, help your teen to view this as a time to reset. 

If your teen needs additional support to reframe or reset their thinking, online therapy can help your teen develop skills to expose themselves to their anxieties and experience managing them successfully!

How to Get Teens Motivated to Work from Home

Anyone else having a hard time getting motivated to work at home during our national stay home advisories? How about your teen? While today’s current events stemming from COVID-19 are no doubt stressful for everyone, teens and young adults who deal with anxiety and depression can find coping with the added stressors of society to be even more difficult… especially now that most of them are having to be home away from their normal routine.

One quick tip that I’ve found to help my own transition with having to get work done at home is to create a comfortable space where I can be productive. Yes, this meant creating a space away from my couch where I could dedicate certain times of the day to do work. Teens especially need a space of their own to do their school work, reading, etc. to help them prepare for coping with what could be a new normal for the next few weeks or so. In fact, studies have shown that organization can help those with anxiety reduce stress, improve sleep, improve relationships, make better food choices, and more.

I encourage all parents to work with your teens on creating a comfortable space where they can be focused, creative, and productive.

Here is a list of ideas that can help jumpstart your teen’s productivity and keep them motivated in a chaotic time.

  1. Get organized
  2. Get dressed in the morning
  3. Create checklists
  4. Create daily routines
  5. Designate a clean space for schoolwork
  6. Make time to get outdoors for fresh air
  7. Don’t forget to make time for meals and snacks
  8. Stay hydrated
  9. Unplug after working and take time to reflect on positive things
  10. Try to get to sleep and wake up during the same time each day

Does your teen need additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic? Sign up for our FREE online meet-up for teens hosted via video conference.

This group is for teens who are anxious, isolated, out of routine, and are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 shut down.

Join us to talk, to do artwork, stay connected to others, or simply just to share the space silently while being with others.

We are here for you. This is a space for you! No expectations. No judgements. Just a place to connect and belong.

Stay well!

Alanna