Posts Tagged ‘parenting advice’

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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I have heard so many parents say that they do not understand how their teenager can behave for teachers, with their friend’s parents, with relatives but not with them.  This often causes parents to question their parenting abilities and can create a lot of negative feelings between parent and teenager.  What is likely happening if you are in this situation, is that you are receiving the biggest backhanded compliment from your teenager.  It feels more just like a backhand period…but it many ways, it really is a compliment.

What happens is that teenagers walk around confused, unsure and often feeling out of control much of the time.  You, as their parent, are their “safe person”.  This means that they know (whether consciously or unconsciously) that despite their behaviors, you are still there every day and they know you will take care of them.  They know that you will still love them and that you will not “cut them off” like friends may do if they acted out with them or “kick them out” like schools may do if they were to act out too much there.  When teenagers act out with their parents, they typically don’t even understand what is going on.  They just feel a wave of strong emotion and it all gets released towards parents who are the safest.  With this said, it is not okay for your teen to continue to do this.  Understanding it can help you reshape their behavior, but this is not behavior you should tolerate ongoing from your teenager.

Below are some suggestions for addressing this with your teen so that you do not continue to be on the receiving end of all their difficult emotions:

1.  Be realistic about changes:  if your teenager has been yelling, screaming and swearing at you – understand that this will not change overnight.  Be clear about what you need to change first and focus on that (i.e not screaming and slamming doors, not swearing at you, etc).

2. Be clear:  during a period of calm, talk to your teen in a non-blaming way.  Let them know that you have been thinking about things and that you want both of you to work on making changes.  Then be clear about what needs to change, what you will do to work on it and then try to allow them to come up with a plan for what they will do.  If you avoid blaming them, they will be more likely to engage with you and will be more likely to feel understood and cared about.

3. Let them know the consequences:  come up with a clear consequence if they continue to engage in the problem behavior and make sure they understand it.  You will need to be committed to enforcing this each and every time as needed or else none of this will be effective.

4.  Don’t escalate the behavior:  if your teen begins to escalate themselves, don’t allow yourself to escalate to their level (easier said than done!).  This is really important – try speaking calmly, in a soft voice and let them know you should both take some space if they continue to escalate.  Then you can come back to the situation when you are both feeling calmer.

This is a process and will take committment and work, however, you should not be subjected to all your teenager’s challenging emotions.  Instead, you want to teach them self-control and how to express themselves appropriately which is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

For more parenting tips, go to the How To Parent A Teen website at www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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As heightened concerns remain following the school shooting and death of three students with two others wounded in Chardon, OH, many are asking – how do you know if someone is going to do something like this.  As I talked about in my previous blog post, there are no clear-cut answers and there is not one specific thing that would indicate that someone is going to behave in a violent manner, however, there are what we call Risk Factors, that may increase one’s propensity for violence.  I have listed some of these risk factors below.  These are not the only risk factors (for example, certainly females can be violent at well) and anyone with concerns about a child should seek a professional evaluation and support regardless of if they can be characterized by any specific risk factors. These are meant to be used as a tool to help identify those who may be at risk for violence.  It is always better to seek support and a professional opinion even if you are not sure and warning signs should not be minimized or ignored.

  • Male
  • Minority (for overall violence, however, Caucasian for school shootings in particular – see below)
  • Substance use (teens are more likely to lose their inhibitions when using drugs or alcohol)
  • Unhealthy home life (abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc)
  • Having adults / older peers in their lives who role model violence
  • Living in a gang involved area with prevalent threats of violence
  • Little attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Little or no attachment to community and school environment
  • Adult attitudes that support or condone violence
  • Behavioral issues at a young age
  • Too harsh or too lenient discipline
  • Poverty and few economic opportunities
  • Academic failure
  • Untreated Mental Health issues that may increase impulsivity or irrational thinking
  • Access to weapons

Factors that many believe have been common for those individuals who have been accused of school shootings:

  • Male
  • Caucasian
  • From a troubled  home (broken, drugs or alcohol, abuse, domestic violence, etc)
  • Withdrawn (not engaged in their communities or in school social activities, sits alone at meals, does not engage with others in class)
  • Outcast – rejected and/or bullied by peers over time
  • Living in a rural community (thus far, these shootings have not taken place in cities)
  • Having access to a gun (as troubling as thoughts of violent in children are, these violent acts remain a fantasy until a teen has actual access to a gun at which time this fantasy can become an actual event)

If you see these risk factors in a teen you know – you should not ignore them.  Of course having certain risk factors does not mean that a teen will act violently or that something is wrong with them, however, these risk factors could place a teen at increased risk to behave in a violent manner and may indicate that they need support and help so it is always best to further explore what may be going on inside for individuals at risk.

For additional parenting advice go to How To Parent A Teen where you can download a free audio program designed specifically for parents of teenagers.  Click HERE now for your free audio program.

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As divorce is a reality for many families these days, an important question for parents  who are considering divorce is “How will our teen deal handle our divorce”?  Unfortunately there is not a simple answer to this question.  As with any difficult life situation, each person responds differently in their own, very individual way to challenging life circumstances.  Some teenagers are able to mange the divorce of their parents without much apparent difficulty while others noticeably struggle for a lengthy period of time.  If your adolescent appears to be struggling significantly (becomes significantly withdrawn, begins using alcohol and drugs, becomes aggressive and violent, starts running away or engaging in other potentially dangerous behavior) you should consult a professional for advice regarding their behaviors.  Regardless of how it “seems” your teenager is dealing with the divorce, it is likely impacting them in some way since it is a major life change for the entire family.

This blog post will offer advice to parents whose teenagers are not engaging in dangerous behaviors but who are still struggling with the loss and many changes that come with divorce.  One thing that frequently happens when parents divorce is that the children blame themselves.  It is critical that parents tell their children that they are not the cause of the divorce in any way.  If at all possible, it is helpful for parents to relay this message to their children together in a supportive way so that the children are hearing a consistent message about this from both parents.  If it is not possible for both parents to meet together (which is not a good idea if there is tension, arguing or strong negative emotions between the two), then each parent should relay this message to their children separately.  Teens may still question whether their arguing, yelling, missing curfew, dropping grades, etc. contributed to the divorce, however, hearing that it was not their fault, directly from their parents in a sincere manner, will help.

A parent who speaks negatively about the other parent to their children or in the presence of their children can cause significant and lasting emotional damage.  Putting children in the middle of a divorce is never okay.  Of course parents can have very strong emotions when going through a divorce and may feel betrayed, rejected, angry or bitter towards the other parent.  A parent may also hear that the other parent is speaking negatively about them and feel the need to defend themselves while sharing some of the negative things the other parent has done.  This is never helpful for the children.  Teens are more aware than we give them credit for and they will begin to resent the parent who does the “bad mouthing” and will see through a parent’s attempts to put them in the middle of their own battles.  As I already stated, putting children in the middle is extremely unhealthy for them and can result in damage that will follow them for years.  Teens (or any children) should never hear parents saying things like, “all men are no good”, “all women are lazy and try to live off men”, etc.  Every parent should want their children to grow up and have healthy, adult relationships without bringing ideas like this into these relationships.   Hearing such statements from parents could significantly impact a child’s ability to form healthy, happy relationships in their adult years.  (Of course, if there are ever concerns that your child’s other parent is harming them in any way physically or emotionally, you should seek professional help immediately)

If moving is part of the divorce process, it is important for parents to know how disruptive this can be for a teenager.  Teens are already very insecure and uncomfortable with themselves.  Asking them to uproot their lives, lose a parent in the home and change schools is a lot of change and will likely result in some strong emotions.  Of course there are times when moving is necessary, however, it is important for parents to appreciate how disruptive this can be for their teenager and they should make every effort to help them adjust to their new community and school setting.

When parents are going through a divorce, they often feel very alone and feel an increase in their parenting responsibility since they no longer have a spouse in the home.  One of the significant things that parents feel is that they are alone in making decisions without the other parent to fall back on or reach out to for support.  If a divorce is amicable, it is ideal for the two parents to continue to parent their teenager closely together (kids are good, they will look for the holes and inconsistencies and go for them!).  If this is not possible, it is extremely important and helpful for parents to get the support of others (friends, relatives, etc) who can help them or who can simply offer an ear when their teenager’s behaviors become challenging.

Finally, any parent who is going through the process of divorce is experiencing significant stress and changes themselves.  It is important to practice good self-care during this time and to not give up this practice due to feelings of guilt about the divorce or because of feeling overwhelmed.  Taking care of oneself allows us to be able to take care of others so remember, regardless of how busy, stressful, emotional or uncertain things become – take care of yourself!!!

For additional parenting tips, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/KarenParentTeen or go to our website and sign up for our weekly ezine at www.HowToParentATeen.com

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While being the single parent of a teenager can be very challenging, there are some fairly simple steps you can take to help reduce the overall stress you may be experiencing on a daily or weekly basis.

1. Make sure you take time for yourself.
It is very easy to get caught up in all the demands of work, family, appointments, etc. but it is critical that you take time EACH week for yourself. Whether taking walks, a warm bath, having a favorite hobby or going out for dinner with a friend, you need some time for yourself where you are not responsible for the needs of others.

2. Schedule a time to discuss bigger issues / decisions with your teenager.
This can help the “on the fly” demands that your teenager may place on you. I have worked with parents who have found it helpful to schedule one or two times per week where they are available to just focus on talking with their teens. This could be over dinner, while going for a walk or while driving to a schedule appointment. I have also had parents tell me they have their teenager email or text message them if they need to talk so that they can set up a time later in the day that is convenient for both (this is a sign of the times!). This allows for the conversation to take place when they can be fully focused on their teenager’s needs and reduces the instances when their teen badgers them about something while they are in the middle of doing something else.

3. Allow other adults into your teenager’s life.
All parents, but particularly single parents, should welcome appropriate adults into their teenager’s lives. This should not been seen as a weakness or as a sign that a parent cannot do “their job” effectively. Teens benefit from different perspectives and from learning from different adults. Allowing other adults (a coach, neighbor, Aunt, Uncle, older cousin, etc) to play a role in your teenagers life not only takes some of the burden off you but also allows them to have a richer experience in general. You will always still be the parent and make the final decisions!

4. Have your own support network.
Nobody can do everything on their own. As a single parent, it is important that you have your own support network. As a parent, you don’t want to burden your children with your fears or worries but you do need some outlet for yourself. Using extended family, friends or other single parents for support and advice is invaluable and can really help reduce your overall stress. Being socially connected to others has many positive benefits for all adults and can be especially helpful during the unpredictable teenager years.

Go to the How To Parent A Teen website for additional parenting resources, to access our FREE audio program and to sign up for our newsletter and to get information on our coaching packages and specials!

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A normal part of adolescent development is the shift from thinking in a very concrete manner to being able to think abstractly. Because there is significant development going on in the adolescent brain, it is a critical time to help shape behavior patterns and overall brain wiring. This change in thinking is one of the reasons why parents begin to notice that their teenagers start to question or resist things that were never questioned by them before.

Consultant Parents ask questions and offer choices to their teenagers whenever possible. The goal is to have teens engage in the decision-making process when possible and in a safe manner so that they can learn and build upon decision-making skills. Parents who are in a consultant role use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. For example, “I am wondering what you would think would be a reasonable curfew on a school night when there is an exam tomorrow” instead of “You will stay in and study since you are not getting good enough grades”. In addition to using “I” statements, consultants ask a lot of questions (not accusatory questions but rather curious questions) which foster thinking more than lectures will ever do.

Consultant Parents hold their teenagers accountable to the consequences of their decisions.  Whether positive or negative, it is critical that teenagers experience the consequences of their decision-making.  This is an important life lesson that they will need as they transition into adulthood.  Despite wanting to, it is important that as a parent, you do not “rescue’ your teen from the more difficult consequences of poor decision-making.  If you do this, they will never learn and will expect this to occur for the res of their lives.

Go to the How To Parent A Teen website for additional parenting resources, to access our FREE audio program and to sign up for our newsletter and to get information on our coaching packages and specials!

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Wondering if your teenager needs medication is something that can weigh heavily on the minds of parents.  Parents often wonder about medication if their teenager begins behaving differently, is struggling with being able to pay attention in school, has significant mood swings or seems to have a very low mood much of the time.  The idea of having your child on medication can be very scary for parents and there are so many conflicting opinions out there – how do you know what the “right” one is.  Placing children on medication is a big decision and one which deserves both information gathering and a lot of thought.

Since every situation is different and there are no clear lines that dictate when a teenager should or should not be placed on medication, I cannot give specific advice about which types of behaviors warrant medication.   I am also not a doctor so knowing which medications are most effective and when they should be prescribed is not my role.  However, I can give some guidance about how to make sure you are making an informed decision about medication.

  1. Clearly outline the reasons you are thinking medication may be helpful.  It is often helpful to keep a log of your child’s moods or behaviors that will help clarify what the concerns are, how long they have been occurring, how long they last each time they are present, how often they are occurring, what the response is, etc.
  2. Look online to gather preliminary information.  The internet is a great resource for information gathering and to begin to inform you about what your child may be experiencing, however, remember that each situation and child is different so don’t use this as your only source of information.  In addition, when locating information on the internet, make sure you are clear about who the author of the information is to make sure they are giving truly objective and factual information.
  3. Speak with a professional.  Many parents will use their teenager’s Primary Care Physician as the first professional they speak with.  These individuals can be great resources for general information about what your child may be experiencing and can begin to educate you about what medications may be available if they feel they may be warranted.  They may also refer you to have your child meet with a therapist (you should look for a licensed therapist who has experience working with children and teenagers) and / or  a psychiatrist.
  4. Therapist or Psychiatrist?  Many times people are confused about these two roles.  A very simple explanation is this –  Therapists provide therapy or counseling and cannot prescribe medication,  however, they are usually knowledgeable to some degree about medications as they relate to symptoms in general.  Psychiatrists are extremely knowledgeable about medications but may not also do therapy which can be very helpful in addressing many issues with teenagers.  Often times therapists and psychiatrists work as a pair to best meet the needs of individuals who may benefit from both therapy and medication.  It is often recommended that families start with a therapist first and see if this will address whatever concerns they may be having and if not, then also have a medication consultation with a psychiatrist.
  5. Get more than one opinion.  It is perfectly reasonable to get more than one opinion about the decision to have your teenager use medication.  If something does not make sense, you should not hesitate to ask for clarification.  It is okay to question professionals about why they are doing something or ask if there are other options for your teenager.  You are the parents and should make sure you are remaining in the driver’s seat at all times when it comes to your teen’s care.
  6. Make sure your teenager is informed.  It is really important that your teenager understand what is taking place if you do decide to move forward with therapy and / or  medication.  This can be very scary for them or may make them feel “abnormal” which can result in resistance, sadness or anger.  Being able to  work with professionals who are sensitive to this will be critical for your teenager.

A book that I have found useful and which I have recommended to parents with whom I have worked is Straight Talk About Psychiatric Medications For Kids by Dr. Wilens.  Being well-informed is critical if you are in this situation so that you make the best decision you can for your teenager.

For additional information related to parenting teenagers, please go to How To Parent A Teen and  Follow us on Twitter at KarenParentTeen.

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