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Archive for the ‘Teenage Feelings’ Category

Parents often face challenges, resistance and uncertainly from their children (especially teenagers) when blending two families together.  For information about why this happens check out my blog titled Blending A Family:  Why This Can Be Such A Challenge With Teens here:  http://bit.ly/N1xxjW.  When going through this process, there are some things that parents can do to help their teenager.  Below are 5 tips for parents facing challenges in this process:

  1. Be patient.  Remember that this process takes time and that there are bound to be some bumps along the way.  Despite your eagerness to having things work out so that everyone is comfortable and happy, there will be an adjustment period that will take time.
  2. Be clear.  Don’t give your teenager any false hope or idea that you will back down from your plan to blend your families unless you are prepared to actually do this.  It is better to be clear with them about what is happening than to give the false hope or information about what is taking place.
  3. Make time for your teenager.  Even though they may reject your offers to spend time with them, it is important that you are offering it so that they still feel special. If there are things you did that used to just be the two of you that now include several other people (i.e. dinner time, watching television at night) you should try to carve out time periodically to do these activities – just you and your teen.  It is normal that they may resent having to share this time with others so it is important that you validate them in their feelings and help to make sure they feel included and important at all times.
  4. Establish routines.  Although teens will tell you they hate routines, they benefit greatly from them and actually feel better with the predictability of having a routine.  All of your routines will likely require some adjustment as you blend your families.  Try to get input from everyone about what will work and promote that everyone make some compromises as needed.  It is good to think about structuring things like morning routines, chores, having friends over, television watching, meal times, etc.
  5. Establish clear rules and be consistent.  You and your new partner will need to make some decisions about rules and consequences.  As I have discussed in other articles, your teenager needs to see you as a united front so you should never have disagreements about rules in front of them.  In addition, once you are able to establish rules, it is important to share them with your teenager upfront so that they are aware of your expectations and the consequences for not following them.

For more parenting support designed specifically for parents of teenagers go to www.HowToParentATeen.com

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On top of the stress of being the parent of a teenager, you may also be dealing with the stress of creating a blended family.  This can be a challenge to say the least, however, it is certainly not impossible and many parents of teenagers are able to successfully blend two families.  As we all know, the Brady Bunch family is not reality and therefore we should never use such unrealistic families as our vision of how things will be.  Blending families means balancing the needs of your adult relationship with those of your children while you all go through a significant change.  It is important that during this process, you do not minimize the impact such a change can have on all of you.

Your teenager may be resentful of the many changes they are being asked to deal with.  Some of these changes may include:  having to share your time, changing their routines, having to share their personal space, television, computer or phone time, changing family roles, having to adjust to new rules and feeling a little less comfortable in their own home while adjusting to living with new family members.  It is important to acknowledge these changes and let them know you appreciate how difficult the changes may be for them.  If you are looking for support in how to do this go to www.HowToParentATeenn.com  and download the free audio program that walks you through the skill of validation which can make a huge difference in a situation where you are blending a family.   Any resentment from your teenager could take on many forms including acting out, isolating or a refusal to accept that you have a new significant other.

Since you, as the parent, are also experiencing a lot of change and may likely be feeling torn between your child and your new mate, it is important that you acknowledge and address any stress you are experiencing throughout this process.  You will be better able to help with the overall adjustment process if you are making sure that you are taking care of yourself.

For more parenting support go to www.HowToParentATeen.com or like us on facebook for a free parent guide at www.facebook.com/HowToParentATeen.

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A parent skill that is very powerful with teenagers is Listening.  I know…this can seem like a very basic and obvious skill, however, this is not necessarily the case and this can be a tricky skill with teens sometimes.  The reason for this is because it can be scary for teenagers to think about how much they need you and rely on you, as their parent or guardian.  Think about how much energy they spend on pushing you away in an effort to prove how much they DON’T need you (which FYI they are trying to prove to themselves more than to anyone else).  Because of this, it is important for parents to take advantage of the opportunities when their teenagers WANT to talk to them and to be able to really listen fully when these opportunities arise.  When teens feel heard…they will be more likely to talk more.

Below are some tips and things to think about when listening to you teen:

  • Pay attention and be aware of when they want to talk – it is not always so obvious and they may not say, “do you have a minute to talk”.  They may be doing something else in an effort to get your attention, they may even be yelling or they may just make a point to be near you.  In such situations, you can simply say, “if there is anything you want to talk about I am here to listen”.  Keep is simple and don’t press them for information.
  • Be undistracted when they start talking – ignore the phone, TV or any other distractions around you as much as possible so that they feel they have your undivided attention and that what they are saying is important to you.
  • Make sure your body language gives the message you are listening – regardless of what they are saying, try to be relaxed, attentive and non-threatening while they are talking (if they are sitting, sit with them and don’t stand over them, etc).
  • Make conversations feel less threatening – sometimes sitting face to face is too much for teenagers.  Maybe talk while doing dishes, shooting a basketball, riding in the car, or doing some other activity.  This may take the pressure off them and make it easier for them to say what they really want to say.
  • Stay calm.  Being judgmental or having a strong emotional reaction will shut them down. If they feel like you are judging them or that they really upset you they will likely shut down and not come to you in the future.  This can be difficult to do since your teen may be talking about something that you disapprove of, something that scares you or even something that shocks you.  Trying to keep your emotions in control will allow the conversation to continue so that you can get all the information and let your teenager know that they can come to you, even in difficult situations.
  • Remember there is power in silence – sometimes just listening and hearing what they are saying without judging them is more effective than trying to offer advice.  If they feel they can really tell you what they want to say, they will be more likely to come to you again.
  • Respond in a way that keeps them talking – if you do respond to them, ask a non-threatening question or ask for clarification rather than just giving them your opinion or telling them what you think they should do.  Say something like, “that sounds difficult, what you do think you might want to do to make it better?”  You are not lecturing, advising or judging – you are being curious and letting them know you are interested in their thoughts.

I want to be clear that if your teenager has done something really wrong or if they are unsafe that you should not just sit and listen to them – in those situations you will need to step in with consequences or an intervention that is in the best interest of your child.  I am talking about all the other situations that arise where your teenager is working on being independent, trying to figure things out on their own and dealing with the difficult things that come up in the life of a teenager.  If they know you will listen – they will come to you and often times it matters less what you say and more that you are just there as a support to listen to them.

Go to www.HowToParentATeen to get more FREE parenting tips, to check out our parenting coaching programs and to sign up to get tips like this FREE every single week.

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I feel that talking about and planning for summer is an important topic each year.   Teenagers look forward to their summer break and usually start the countdown right after April vacation.  Whether you have a teenager home from college or a teenager out of high school (or middle school) for the summer, you are potentially less thrilled than they are about the summer “break”.  Parents often struggle with the summer breaks because they feel like their teen may have too much unstructured time or that they may “sleep their days away”.  In addition to this, they generally also want their teens to be able to have some time to relax, have fun and enjoy their time off from school.

I have found that when teenagers do not have any plans or expectations for the summer that it does not go well.  It is generally not healthy to have teenagers sleeping all day or not having any sort of responsibility for the entire summer.  Of course there are some teenagers who will work all summer full-time and there are some who will fight the idea of working or committing to any schedule as long as they possibly can.  It is my experience that doing some planning for the summer and giving teens choices produces the best results that are agreeable to both teens and their parents.

Below are some suggestions I have given to my private clients that I have seen work out well for teenagers during their summer breaks:

  1. Have a discussion with your teen prior to the summer where you set some expectations.  (For Example:  “I know that you want to have time to spend with your friends and relax this summer but three days per week you will need to be up and ready to leave the house by 10am –  the other days you can relax and sleep in more if you want”)  Such discussions both set the expectation and offer your teen some choice.
  2. Let your teen know that they will have household chores to do – outline them clearly (maybe make a chart) and negotiate any allowance they will receive (if this is something you have for them but it is certainly not necessary) if successfully completing their chores.  Hold them accountable to doing their chore before you give them any allowance.
  3. Let your teen know that they will be expected to work (if age appropriate) or volunteer for a certain number of hours per week.  I have had families who have had their teens volunteer at the following places, however, there are many, many more based on your teens interests and your location:  animal shelter, nursing home, hospital, library, daycare center, in a work setting that is of interest to them similar to an internship or apprenticeship, soup kitchen.  I once worked with a girl who volunteered to help clean in a gym in exchange for a summer gym membership which worked out really well.
  4. If your teenager is old enough to work, have them start filling out applications now – the earlier the better rather than waiting for everyone else who is finishing up school to begin doing the same thing.
  5. If your teen is not old enough to work you may encourage them to offer to mow lawns, walk dogs, baby sit locally, etc.  These are great ways to begin to teach responsibility and to help them earn a little extra money.
  6. Explore any appropriate summer sports leagues / camps.  This is a great way to help structure your teens days if this is an area of interest for them.
  7. Explore other enrichment activities:  art classes, music lessons, sewing classes, computer classes, photography classes, sailing classes, dance classes, etc.  Many of the local community colleges have programs for students during the summer months which offer a wide range of classes.

It is always best to find something that helps build both responsibility and competency in your teenager which will benefit them as they grow into young adults.

For more Parenting Tips designed specifically for parents of teenagers, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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Does your teen have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or do you suspect they do?  If so, they will respond differently than most teens when you try to set limits or implement consequences.  They will often rebel and will challenge you more, disregard rules more and sometimes even thrive on conflict and pushing your buttons because it gives them a sense of power and control.  Having a teenager who is ODD does not make them a bad person by any means.  Teens with ODD are often very bright, creative, determined and have many of the same strengths other teenagers have.  With that said, they can be very challenging and tiring for parents because of their determination and willfulness.  Below I offer a brief clinical description of ODD and then some tips for parents of teenagers with ODD who are struggling with managing their challenging behaviors.

Criteria for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD):

At least 4 of the following behaviors must have been present for 6 months or more for a child to meet the formal clinical diagnosis for ODD

  • Often loses temper
  • Often argues with adults
  • Often purposefully defies rules
  • Often purposefully annoys others
  • Often blames others for their mistakes or bad behavior
  • Often is easily annoyed by others
  • Often is angry or resentful
  • Often is spiteful or vindictive

(All of these are behaviors that most parents see to some level in teenagers, however, teenagers may meet the criteria for this diagnosis if the behaviors are frequent and more severe than the average teen)

In addition, these behaviors:

  • Cause significant problems at home or at school
  • Are not due to another Mental Health diagnosis
  • Do not meet the level of Conduct Disorder (teens with conduct disorder are more likely to be violent, steal and become involved in criminal activity)

If you believe your teenager has ODD, you can certainly explore getting professional support for them as well as for you since parenting can be increasingly challenging and frustrating.  There are formal evaluations that can be done by a therapist or even at school if you feel these would be helpful.  The good news is that many teenagers grow out of this diagnosis and the challenging and rebel behaviors go away as they enter adulthood.  One of the biggest frustrations for parent with teens with ODD, as I mentioned above, is getting them to follow the rules and to care about the consequences.  Below are some suggestions for parents who are struggling with this issue:

  1. Be really clear about the rules and keep them as consistent as possible:  I often suggest that parents write the rules down and both parent and teen sign them which makes it harder for teens to challenge them, manipulate them or say they did not know about them in the moment.
  2. Do not give chances:  the rules need to be the rules ALL the time and need to be enforced consistently.  If a teen with ODD thinks they have any wiggle room or that they can bully or badger you into changing the rules, you will be challenged over and over which will result in your feeling completely drained.
  3.  Only issue consequences you can enforce 100%:  this is the biggest and most important part of all of this.  Teens with ODD are those who, when grounded from the phone, will still sneak on it when you are sleeping.  Or when they are grounded from going out, they will sneak out the window.  If you issue a consequence you cannot fully enforce, you will lose powerSome examples of ways I have helped parents with this issue are:  completely turning off the cell phone service or blocking the internet service in the house, taking away a laptop or unplugging the keyboard from the computer and locking it in the trunk of the car where it cannot be accessed, restricting providing rides for teens to do fun things or restricting spending money given to them.  They will still try to get around these things and will likely have some level of success.  If you restrict them from the phone, they will use friend’s cell phone, so what is important when issuing these consequences is to say something to your teenager like, “Because you did not come home again on time for your curfew, I have taken your cell phone and you will not be allowed to use it for one week”.  (you are not saying that they are not able to talk on the phone at all for a week because you know they can use a friend’s phone – you are saying they will not be able to talk on THEIR phone for a week which is something you CAN control 100%).

This can be tiring to say the least and parents often feel like they are being punished too by having to turn off the internet or dealing with their teenager’s constant badgering when consequences are issues and enforced.  This is all very true and is the reason why many parents throw in the towel and give full control over to their teenager.  But it does not have to be that way – get the support you need and if you are consistent, you will see progress.

For more tips on staying consistent, go to the How To Parent A Teen website at www.HowToParentATeen.com and download the free audio program for parents of teenagers.

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I have worked with so many parents who talk about the frustration and sadness they feel about how rude, disrespectful and entitled their children can be at times and with the amount of arguing that goes on in their homes.  I think what can be so difficult is that as adults, many of us could never imagine speaking to our parents or doing the things that we see some children doing today.  Let’s face it, we are living in a different time with kids being exposed to things that make them want to grow up faster, with kids being exposed to other kids doing bad things more often and with increased challenges in supervising children (more parents working, social media, more controversial content on TV, etc).  These are certainly not excuses for bad behavior, however, it helps to remember that kids today are living in a different world and navigating through different challenges.

What these behaviors can do for many families is create unbelievable conflicts where parents are accused of being old-fashioned, not understanding, unfair, ridiculous…and worse.  This leaves children extremely frustrated with their parents and leaves parents extremely frustrated, hurt and disappointed with their children.  The dynamic that then plays out is one where children and their parents are on opposite sides of the battle field, both fighting for the “win” they so desperately want.

The problem is, it should not be about a win/lose situation.  It should be about what is best for the family and what is in the best interest of the children.  When parents are able to shift their mindset to this, situations can be easier to manage and responses can be more thoughtful and proactive rather than only reactive.  When parents remain calm, they are more in control and children understand this.

Let’s face it though, it is not easy to stay calm when your child is challenging you, questioning you, nagging you and telling you how awful you are, right?  What is important though, is that you DO stay calm during these times.  When anyone yells and repeats themselves over and over, it is generally coming from a place where they feel out of control (kids do the same – the less they feel heard, the louder they yell).  When parents yell and make harsh decisions in the moment based on strong emotions, children sense this and they know that they are in the driver’s seat.  If you are a parent who has done this, you are far from alone – most, if not all parents, do this because it is a natural reaction to a strong emotional state.  However, it typically results in either an unrealistic, excessive punishment, in saying things that shouldn’t be said or in having a completely ineffective conversation.

If you are a parent who wants to reduce your arguing with your teenager, try implementing the tips below:

  1. Control your behavior, don’t try to control theirs:  you have 100% control over your reactions and if you remain respectful and calm, it will make a difference.  When we change our behaviors, the behaviors of those around us usually change.  Don’t spend all your energy trying to make your teen stop yelling or swearing…just control what you do.
  2. Give your teen a quota:  expect that your teen will make some mistakes and will become emotional and remember that they have many lessons to learn during this time in their lives.  If you give yourself a quota (for example…your teenager will yell about a rule at least once per week), then you are going to be better prepared for this when it occurs and will not respond in a reactive way.  Over time, you will be able to help them better manage their emotions if your emotions remain under control.
  3. Don’t feel the need to rescue them all the time:  your teen will make mistakes and may have to tolerate some uncomfortable consequences for these mistakes.  This is healthy and will help them learn to be good decision makers.  Don’t feel like you need to control or prevent them from making all bad decisions.  They will end up resenting you for trying to “control them” and will never fully understand the consequences of bad decision-making.
  4.  When they are talking…listen:  when your teen is talking (even if you feel that the arguments they are making are not legitimate), listen to them.  Let them know that you are hearing them so that they don’t have to keep raising their voice.
  5. Walk away:  don’t continue to engage in an unproductive conversation that keeps going back and forth.  If you are on one side of a tennis court and walk away, the other person can no longer hit the ball back and forth – the same is true with interpersonal interactions.  If you disengage from the fight, there is no longer a fight to be had.  Simply say something like, “I don’t think this conversation is helpful to either one of us so I am going to leave until we are both calm enough to talk about this in a better way”.  Then leave (walk off the court)…if they want to get in the last word or comment as a means of re-engaging you…resist and urge to respond and maintain your control.

This is not always an easy thing to do but when done consistently it really makes a difference.  For some great tips on additional techniques that will improve your communication, relationship and overall parenting confidence with your teen – go to www.HowToParentATeen.com  and  gain instant access to the free audio program titled 3 Power Strategies for Parents of Teenagers.

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I truly love this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  This is so very, very true.  Our emotions will always carry more weight and stick with us more than words alone.  When someone says something important to us, it becomes important because of how we feel when we hear it – not because of the words alone.  The emotional response we have to something is what pulls us to it or makes us want to push it away. 

This is important to think about in all of the relationships in our lives – how we make others feel when they are around us will draw them towards us or make them want to push us away.  Teenagers have not figured this all out yet and often will say or do things that are hurtful, insulting, and frustrating without giving it a second thought.  In these situations, it is important for parents to let their teenager know how what they did or what they said made THEM feel.  This will help raise their awareness to the fact that what they do impacts others emotionally in addition to allowing parents to express their dissatisfaction about a situation in a way that won’t necessarily turn into a big argument (if you tell your teenager how what they did made you feel, they cannot argue that you did not feel the way you are saying you did – it makes what you are saying less difficult to challenge).  This role modeling ongoing will make an impact over time.

On the other side, this quote is true for your teenagers also.  They will often forget the content of lectures, the details of the conversations and the explanation of why you have certain rules in place, however, they will not forget how you made them feel during these moments and in your general day-to-day interactions with them.  Do you make them feel like everything single thing they do is wrong, do you make them feel like their ideas and visions are stupid or unrealistic, do you make them feel like they are nothing but a pain in your household, do you make them feel like all they do is disappoint you, do you make them feel like they are the cause of all of your problems, do you make them feel like you wish you had another child instead of them OR do you make them feel important, special, valuable and worthy of having love on a daily basis?  Remember – one way of making them feel will cause them to pull away or push you away and the other will draw them to you.

I am not suggesting that you will never be angry, frustrated, annoyed and fed up with your teenager.  All of these feelings are normal for parents of teenagers and are in response to the challenges faced when raising a teenager. When you do have them, it is okay to acknowledge them, understand why you are having them and communicate them appropriately to your teenager in terms of how what they said or did made you feel and why.  But…what you also need to be communicating to them on an ongoing basis is that they are important to you, that they matter and that no matter what, you care about them and want what is best for them.  Remember, how they feel will stick with them in a more powerful way than just words being spoken to them.

Children who feel good about themselves and who feel important have more confidence and courage to be out there in the world, doing important things and passing along their value to others.  Children who feel awful about themselves, who feel like inconveniences and who do not feel important get lost in the world and don’t rise to their full potential.  Or…even worse…they “live down” to the negative feelings and expectations that have been instilled in them.

A great skill for all parents who want to better connect with their teenagers and who want to make sure they are creating those positive feelings is Validation.  If you download this free audio program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers, you can have instant access to an audio tutorial where I will walk you though this skill and give you examples of how to start using it with your teenager immediately.  It transforms relationships.

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