What’s Your Real Problem?

I get calls from concerned parents all time. They are worried about the behaviors their kids are engaging in. What parent wouldn’t be concerned if they see their child struggling? Maybe your teen is avoiding school because they are anxious. Maybe your child is in college and drinking and partying too much led to them not returning for second semester. Maybe your teen is isolating or self-harming. Regardless of the behavior, I have to tell you, the behavior is NOT the problem, it is the SOLUTION.

I know, you probably think I am crazy at this point, but just keep reading. The problem is that they lack coping skills! Your kids don’t know how to feel intense or difficult emotions and they don’t have any real coping skills to manage them in the moment.

So, what do they do? They find another way. The “solution.” For each child, teen, or young adult (and let’s be real some of us as well), this might look different, but the concept is the same. They are all managing their feelings or essentially avoiding their feelings because they don’t know what else to do!

GOOD NEWS, There is a better way! 

There are coping skills that very effectively help teens learn to manage their feelings in the moment! Your teen can learn them today! You can learn them too and how to help your teen put them into practice on a regular basis. Any day now you can be on your way to having a happier healthier teen.

We help your teen envision a life worth living and imagine that they can be in control of their emotions. We help them to identify what their current behaviors are doing for them and teach them how coping skills can help them reach their same goals without the negative consequences (such as shame).

Sound good? Schedule your free 15-min phone strategy session to learn more about how coping skills to help you and/or your teen start the year off right!

Tis’ The Season To Be Stressed…Tips To Support Your Teen During The Holidays

The holidays aren’t Merry and Bright for everyone, especially teens with depression, anxiety, or overwhelming feelings. Teens often experience more stress than adults. NO, really they do! The holidays can be a stressful time for teens. Preparing for the end of the school quarter (which means pressure for grades), managing family events, change in schedule, etc.

Many people feel that they are supposed to be happy and smiling during the holidays. This adds an additional pressure for individuals that suffer from depression. Often these teens worry that they will “ruin” the holidays or be a burden to the family so they put on a fake smile which is exhausting for them.

Here are some tips to help you support your teen this holiday season:

1) Focus on only 1 or 2 events rather than trying to make every celebration. Focus on time with your teens and family, celebrating the holiday, rather than having to make it to a specific location. There is always next year!

2) Remember that no holiday is perfect. Try not to worry about making every tradition perfect or having the perfect meal or cleanest house. Enjoy the celebration.

3) Try to be a host to your teens friends. As your teen is getting older it is stressful to spend all of school break doing family events. Try to create time where your teen can just have peers over to the house. Maybe they can have a” friends-giving.” It is nice for them to feel like your house is a place that is safe and has good feelings.

4) Try to focus less on traditions and more on shared activities. It is easy to get caught up in holiday rituals and family traditions. This may take away from actually spending quality time with your teens. Try to focus on having shared time together. Maybe they have traditions they would like to add.

No matter how you celebrate or if you celebrate spending quality time with your teen and giving them time to relax is important.

If your teen needs additional support this holiday season we are here to help. Contact us today for your free 15-min phone consultation.

GROUP THERAPY: IT’S NOT JUST “SOCIAL HOUR”

Sometimes I hear from parents that they don’t think group is right for their teen because they don’t believe that a “social hour” will help their depression or anxiety. Or that “social hour” would create too much anxiety or comparison for their teen.

But Here’s The Deal:

Support has been scientifically proven to be the #1 indicator of overall wellbeing. It leads to improved symptoms of anxiety and depression, and better physical health.

3 REASONS GROUP CAN BE THE BEST FOR YOUR TEEN:

Group helps your teen experience and learn that they are not alone

Being in a group with others who have similar struggles lets your teen know they are not the only one who feels this way and that they aren’t broken, bad, wrong or different for having the feelings that they do. It allows them to feel heard and understood and this experience is the first step towards healing.

Group hold your teen accountable their goals

Group members support each other in making healthy decisions and actionable changes. I’ve had group members commit to end toxic relationships, finish school work on time, work on angry outburst, and more… and they actually follow through because they have PEERS holding them accountable weekly and cheering them on. Peers accountability is more effective adults checking in on teens!

Group helps your teen learn to love and accept themselves the way they are

The experience of showing up week after week, sharing with teens who have similar struggles allows them to start to feel emotionally safe and be their authentic self. They begin to stop hiding behind emotional walls and allow themselves to be seen, known, and accepted for who they really are. This is a priceless experience and will rocket their self-esteem!

There are other ways to find social support for your teen. Whether you decide on group as a way to help your teen find support, or you seek connection for your teen elsewhere, our mission is to help your teen understand that they are not alone.

If you think group might be right for your teen contact us here for your free consultation.

What Teens Really Want!

It is hard to be the parent of a teenager. It is even harder to be the parent of a teenager that is struggling with depression, anxiety, anger, or suicidal thoughts. The worry, the desire to take their pain away, the sleepless nights and more…

Parents of teens that are struggling often say that they don’t know how to help them and feel that their teen is often isolating, angry, or pulling away. However, teens have a different perspective.

Watch this video to learn what teens really want and what you can do?

To learn more about how to connect with your teen click here to schedule your free consultation!

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.

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!

SHIFT OUT OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS (GOAL IS NOT TO CHANGE THEM)

If your teen struggles with negative self-talk the DBT mindfulness skill “Fact or Judgement” may be the solution. They can enjoy the moment without negative thinking.

Thoughts and Feelings aren’t Facts

Anybody who has worked with teens or has teens know that negative self-talk teens are very hard on themselves and this impacts their behavior. Using “Fact or Judgement” can help teens notice what’s happening in their mind and have more control over their emotions and reactions.

For example, if a teen fails a test in school they may think “I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. I’m never going to succeed in school.” Thoughts like this just keeps going and going in their head and by the time they get home they may not be willing to talk or have an angry outburst and as the parent you have no idea why. They may even not want to do their homework, or not want to go to school anymore.

When using “Fact or Judgment” helps teens observe their negative self-talk and ask themselves is this a fact, or is this a judgment? This will help to give emotional distance from the thought.

Teens can say: “I’m having the that I am stupid because I failed this test and this is a judgement. The fact is that I didn’t study. I am passing the class.”

This will in turn impact their behavior: If your teen is no longer feeling like a failure or stupid and has stopped the negative-self talk wheel, they may be more open to studying, going to school, talking to you, etc.

Don’t Let Your Thoughts Drive You

Remember don’t let your thoughts take control. Thoughts are not facts. Practice noticing your thoughts and letting them go. Remind yourself of what the facts of the situation are. Ask yourself what is true here? What amI reacting to?

Some teens have even mentioned that it is helpful gain distance from their thoughts by saying them out loud or talking to them in third person (ex. Lianna this negative thought is just a thought, your facts are…).

This doesn’t mean to invalidate our feelings, just to acknowledge that the thought is just a thought and a fact is fact.

Need more support or tricks for your teen? Book your free parent consultation here.

YOUR TEEN CAN ACCEPT THE WORD “NO” (AND HERE IS HOW)

Does your teen get angry when told no or things don’t go their way? Accepting things that are uncomfortable is difficult for anyone, especially for teenagers. Teenagers are still developing their frontal lobes where decision making and patience reside.

Life can be messy. We experience pain, we are wronged, and sometimes life is simply unfair. When faced with a problem we can start by asking ourselves these questions:

1) Is there anything I can do about this? If so, do it. Change your situation.

2) Can I change how I feel about this situation? If so, change your feelings.

3) Can I tolerate this situation? This is where today’s blog comes in.

Many of the teens I work with at Mindful Healing struggle with accepting when things aren’t the they want them to be. This leads to anger, frustration, resentment, which in turn result in outburst at school or arguments at home. This can be related to parents having to set limits or it can be related to facing challenging situations in their life such as being justifiable wronged.

Teens often feel more in control when trying to change things they actually cannot control. There is an illusion of control for them. They are often trying to change their parents’ minds, trying to change the past, trying to change or control what other people think about them. This leads to increased suffering.

ACCEPTANCE

One skill I teach to help teens manage being told no, not getting their way or dealing with a painful experience from their past is Radical acceptance. We all have those moments we wish would could change but can’t. The first step to acceptance is realizing what it is not. Teens often feel like if they accept a situation they are giving up or saying that something wrong or unfair was okay.

ACCEPTANCE IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF PAIN

Acceptance is about accepting the moment as it is and a willingness to be present in our lives without attachment to the past or future. In DBT we often use the mantra “I don’t like, I Can’t Change it, but I Can Accept it” to help shift us to an open state of mind.

If you have a teen who is struggling is experiencing anger, frustration, sadness or low self-esteem over things out of their control go ahead and reach out to me at hereand I will connect with you help explore the next best steps to helping your teen find happiness.

FIND YOUR TRUE SELF

If your teen struggles with not knowing who they are or feeling lost negative core beliefs may be part of the problem.

Many teens are filled with these negative core belief systems. Core beliefs are belief systems that impact how we see ourselves, others, our future, and the world. They develop over time, usually from childhood and from significant life events and circumstances. They are strongly-held and ridged belief systems that are reinforced by the tendency to focus on facts that support the belief and ignore evidence that contradicts the belief system.

Many of the teenagers I work with at Mindful Healing believe that “They will never get better,” “They aren’t worth helping,” “They are hurting the people around them,” or “They don’t deserve to be loved.”

These beliefs are distress intolerant and can be activated by certain circumstances. When they are triggered they create such a pain response and such large emotional reactions teens cannot tolerate distress.

Core-Beliefs Are Attached to Values

One of the skills I teach at Mindful Healing is the DBT skill: Finding Meaning

This skill helps teens take a look at their distress intolerant beliefs and identify the value and meaning that it is triggering. If they say “I hurt the people around me,” they may value relationships. If they say “I will never get better,” they may value hope.

When teens are able to identify their values and begin to stripe away their self-doubt they are better able to tolerate distress. Adding meaning to life can help create a sense of purpose, life, and hope for the future.

It can help them begin to change their distress intolerant beliefs and find their authentic self!