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)

The #1 Skill To Help Your Teen Cope Long Term

Of all the different techniques that we, at Mindful Healing, can help teens learn, Belly Breathing is the most important. Why? Because it can be applied to just about every distressing situation your teen may encounter from being bullied to having to do homework they would rather avoid. 

Belly Breathing-The goal of belly breathing is to help your teen learn to be calm and non-judgmental. Simply allowing thoughts to come and go without being attached to them. 

Simply, ironic isn’t it? It is simple AND it isn’t. Belly breathing takes practice both physically and mentally. Learning to belly breath has more benefits that I can possibly list here, but I will give some of my favorites. 

Benefits

  • We learn to become an observer of our-self creating space between thought, feeling and behavior.
  • We learn to have more control of our thoughts and increase focus.
  • We calm our central nervous system and its reaction, we connect our feeling brain and thinking brain. This one is crucial. This is the only way to connect our feeling brain and thinking brain. Want your teen to be able to think when upset? Belly breathing is the #1 skill!

How to practice: (Belly breathing) Sit comfortably, imagine a balloon in your belly…allow thoughts to come and go…just notice sounds, physical sensations, emotions, be non-judgmental.

Just remember that the use of mindful breathing is the basic brick in the foundation of all the other techniques that can help your teen cope with life events!

If your teen needs additional support with learning actionable coping skills contact us today to learn more!

Parents Stop Doing This One Thing to Improve Your Teens Resilience!

Worry! Worry! Worry! That seems to be every teen parent’s companion. Did they do their homework? Are they in with the wrong crowd? Will they get into the right school? Why did they get a B instead of an A? How can I help them make friends? Why won’t my teen talk to me? What can I do to help their teacher understand… understand my child suffers from… understand they are overloaded… understand, understand, understand. Why do they stay in their room all day on social media when the sun is shining and they can go out and have fun? And these are just the “normal” worries. 

Parents are often so busy trying to prevent their worst fears from coming true, or trying to fix situations out of their fear that if their child has to endure the natural consequences of their behavior, they will never recover and will get worse; they will never speak to you again; they will hate you; they will lose what little confidence they have… name the fear, whatever it is and you have a parent rushing around trying to fix or prevent situations concerning their child. 

Does your teen feel protected and safe as a result of these efforts? No! Even if they seem relieved at first, parental resolution of their problems reinforces their own fears about themselves: What they feel is incompetent, unable to resolve their own problems, helpless and ever more anxious. What they lose is the opportunity to build resilience, to realize that they are capable of resolving the left curves that life will throw their way. They lose the ability to be proactive in their own life and lose the confidence that will drive them to face difficulties head on and find a way to figure things out. 

What can you do? 

  • Make a list of your worries
  • Make a list of potential consequences if you don’t intervene .
  • Evaluate your worries in terms of life and death issues, literally and if the issue is not something that will lead to death… how bad can it be? For you? Or for your child?
  • Make a list of the positive outcomes that will happen if they do resolve their situation on their own  and if not,
  • What can they learn from their mistakes? 

Need parenting support? Contact us today.

(860) 387-5689

My Child Needs Therapy but Doesn’t Want to Go

I completely understand your hesitancy to force your child to do something she does not want to do, and so does your child! Very often teens do not want to admit to themselves that they cannot manage their own lives. Developmentally they are struggling with that dependence/independence battle: they want to be independent and resent their dependency. Moreover, the last thing they want to do is admit to a parent that their concerns may be valid. In fact, as a therapist, I have had teens say to me, “Don’t tell my mother I said that I don’t want her to know she is right.” 

As for the threats of never sharing again, or hating you, well, it’s working, isn’t it? The fact that you are thinking of caving in to her gives her a false sense of power, that in reality, actually makes her feel more insecure. Why? Because deep down she knows she needs help; she does not want to admit it and therefore cannot ask for help but needs you to be the adult, to create the security that a firm stance will create so that yes, she can blame you, save face and not feel as damaged as she believes she is. Your role as a parent is to take it on the chin for the team! She doesn’t need a friend. She needs an adult who will help her despite herself.

What happens then when she comes to therapy, against her will? Will she really hate therapists and therapy for the rest of her life? Will she even benefit if there is no buy in for her? It may take a while for her to fully engage with the therapist and a good therapist will let her know that that is okay, that she is more than the sum total of any problems her parents thinks she may have, and that maybe just by coming to therapy, her parents’ concerns will start to be alleviated and she can feel less pressure. A good therapist will also help normalize some of her struggles so she feels less self-condemning and more self-compassionate. She will have a chance to show the therapist what are her strengths and coping skills. Therapy is about identifying and nurturing strengths as well as helping them learn to develop the ability to cope with situations that are overwhelming for them. This process then leads to her discovering areas she actually needs help in and learn about the skills that will move her forward, all the while, telling you she hates it! 

If your teen needs support contact us today. 

A Guide to Progress

When your emotions are flooded and overwhelmed but you can’t solve the problem right away, Crisis Survival Skills help you get through the moment without acting on impulses that may make the situation worse.
However, we want to save our Crisis Survival Skills for actual Crisis. One thing I love about DBT is it teaches a very concrete way to know when to use what skills.

As a basic guideline:
On a scale from 1-10 (10 being the highest) when your emotions are a 6 or below and you’re able to feel them without engaging in unsafe behaviors, then letting yourself fully experience your emotions is best.

These skills for example include:

  • Talking to a friend or family member
  • Drawing or Journaling
  • Crying

BUT…

If you’re feeling a level 7 or above intensity it’s time to use your distress tolerance and crisis management skills until you can more calmly manage the situation at a later time.

These skills for example include:

  • Intense Exercise
  • Distraction: Watching a funny show
  • Self-Soothing

In DBT our teens learn over 100 different coping skills with a proven formula when and how to use them.

Teen need support? Contact us today.

(860) 387-5689

Therapy During The Summer: Optional yet Necessary?

Let’s face it, kids don’t realize how much parents do for their kids: run them to sports events, to doctors, to friends’ houses, etc., Not to mention parents organize family vacations around their schedules, research schools, careers, monitor homework, so many activities all to give our children a fulfilled and happy life and to provide every opportunity we can for them. Sooo, holiday breaks occur or summer vacation, we hope we can also have a breather, a break from driving them to doctors, therapists, school functions, etc. Not only that, but as responsible parents we want our kids to have a breather too so when they say they don’t feel like “having to go to therapy when I have off” what’s a parent to do? How can they refuse them?

This is the therapeutic dilemma: we don’t want to take our kids out of school to attend therapy sessions, but then on snow days or vacation days, summer break, when they don’t have school, we don’t want them to miss out on any fun. How do we resolve this? 

When we step back for a moment and look at the big picture we are looking at one hour a week plus the drive which will not interfere with anyone’s life style.

The Good News

On the plus side that continuity of therapy is going to help your kids reach their goals much faster. Weekly therapy is most beneficial for fast and consistent results. Coming to therapy even when on break and summer vacation helps to teach your teens about commitment, and responsibility; Most importantly therapy is much more than a crisis management system. The school year can be filled with stress and overwhelming emotions. Therefore, therapy sessions can often be focused on how to manage in the moment crisis. But when things calm down during the summer, this is a time when your teens can dive deep and truly heal. They have the opportunity to explore feelings and heal distress on an in depth level because they are not dealing with weekly peer or academic stressors.

The Facts

If we give in to our kids, the negative side of losing that continuity is that our kids begin to take therapy less seriously. The progress they were making can be disrupted. It will negatively impact the generalization and maintaining of their coping skills and behavior changes. Summer has less structure and it is easy to stop practicing our skills.

I know what you are thinking…Does missing one week of therapy really make that much of a difference. Well, the answer is both yes and no. In the big picture one week doesn’t necessarily make a huge difference for some.

It is easy for one cancellation to turn into two, and so forth and so on. Before you know it your teen will only attending therapy monthly or less. Then come fall  when the stress of the school year hits, and crisis breaks out, you will be saying to yourself, “I don’t understand, you have been in therapy all summer, why don’t you have the skills to manage this by now.”

We have all been there, things get busy, and something gets put on the back burner.

#Truthbomb

The reality is if you decrease sessions, your teen hasn’t been in therapy learning to manage distress. This is a pattern I see year after year and it is an easy trap to fall into. Life gets busy, summer appears to have less stress, and everyone deserves time to themselves.

As much as any of us, if not all of us, want a breather, a break, from the hectic and chaotic life of raising of teenager, it is helpful to look at what is most important to help to resolve this dilemma. Not everyone will need the same things and same therapy, but if your teen needs continued support this summer, remember it is only 1 hr a week and the results will be worth it: A teen who has the skills to live a life they love!

If you have a teen that is in need of support as this school year is coming to an end. Click here to learn more about how Mindful Healing can help.

 

How To Help Perfectionistic Girls Learn To Love Themselves

  • Between age 8-14 girls confidence drops by 30%
  • Girls are 27 % less confident than boys in their ability to make new friends in high school
  • 90% of eating disorders are diagnosed in females
  • 98% of girls say they would change something about the way they look
  • 1 in 4 girls struggle with a clinical diagnosis, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders being the most common

In a world where opportunity is abundant and girls are excelling academically, why are girls struggling with confidence? Why do girls feel they need to be perfect to love themselves?

To start, she is socialized this way. In today’s world, with the technology boom, everywhere girls go they are bombarded with artfully crafted, photoshopped, posed, images of women. Between Netflix, YouTube, mainstream media, and their own social media there is a constant stream of comparison to a “perfect”, but fake standard of beauty that girls grow up believing is realistic, attainable, and “ideal.”

Girls are also socialized to be the “good girl.” Girls are encouraged from an early age to be “good.” They receive praise and encouragement when being behaved, especially when better behaved than others. Young girls interpret this “good girl” as needing to be a “perfect” girl get praise and approval.

How to Help The Perfectionist In Your Life

Burst the Bubble

There is no such thing as perfect. I don’t know about you, but I have never met a perfect person. I sure am not perfect. We all have strengths, we all make mistakes.

Teach Her How To Fail

No more participation trophies. Stop buffering her sadness. It is okay to fail. Feeling sad and disappointed when we fail are appropriate responses. #Truthbomb…It sucks to fail. It’s a crappy feeling AND it happens to all of us. Teach her how to feel disappointment without attaching it to her sense of self-worth.

Happily Imperfect

Help your daughter see how it is her imperfections that make her unique. Help her to see how if perfectionism existed that everyone would essentially be the same and that would boring. Embrace her imperfections as part of her and help her to reframe them as unique qualities that are solely hers! Teach her to understand that there is a freedom in not having to be perfect (it is way too much work trying to accomplish that goal).

Role Model Imperfection

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in front of your daughter. There is no perfect parent either. Be willing to own your mistakes and role model that your self-worth isn’t attached to your mistakes.

No Body Shaming Talk

Since we are not perfect either, you may struggle with your own self-doubts or imperfections from time to time. Avoid any self-criticisms or body shaming talk in front of your daughter.

It’s okay for your daughter to have goals and strive for excellence. To truly accomplish all she can your daughter will need to take risks and be willing to fail on her journey to excellence. Helping her learn overcome her perfectionism and love herself is an important step to getting there.

If your daughter struggles with self-doubt or perfectionism and needs to learn to fully accept herself the way she is click here to learn more about our #GirlConfident Summer Intensive.

Where is Frodo? Not another blog promising the magic fix once you find Mount Doom

Frodo, Where is Frodo?-Boromir

I let him go-Aragorn

Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the ring from him-Boromir

The ring is beyond our reach now-Aragorn

Fellowship of The Ring, Lord of The Rings- J.R. Tolkien

Even if you are not familiar with the scene (though unfathomable to me), many of you may still be able to relate. An anxious Boromir, wondering where Frodo is after trying to control a situation and take something away from him that he didn’t think he should have. Aragorn was able to accept that it wasn’t his choice to control Frodo’s decision, despite disagreeing and allowed Frodo to leave regardless of the dangers ahead.

Parents and family members of loved ones who have had a recent suicidal crisis or recent addiction crisis often find themselves in the same position; torn between trying to control and trying to accept. I know my family and I did. When faced with watching a loved one’s life hang in the balance, the life-shattering fear that overwhelms you, that incapacitates you, can be unbearable; it is indescribable. What can you possibly do?

When you see a loved one struggling with a chronic and life threatening mental illness, all you want to do is help them. There are many things you can do to help, but in the end you didn’t cause it, you can’t control, and you can’t cure it. I have found that there is nothing more challenging than trying to find that fine line between support and enabling; boundaries and rejection; or accountability and blame.

Each person in your house probably has a different perspective as to the “correct” way to “help” your loved one. This often causes even more tension and blame in the home.  Remember you are all impacted and the path isn’t clear. Don’t underestimate the value of taking care of yourself. Try to devote small amounts of time each week to doing something that rejuvenates you. Try focusing on the present moment and enjoy the good times when they are present.

If you or someone you know have a family member with acute/chronic crises and need support click here to learn more.