5 Tips for Being a Healthy Role Model

teen role model

Follow these tips to help ensure you’re being a good role model for your teen (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When it comes to parenting, especially parenting teenagers, it is important to practice what you preach.  Our children learn how to act, how to react, how to treat others, and how to treat themselves by watching us.  If we, as parents, don’t show our children how to act as often as we tell them, we aren’t likely to see the kind of behavior we desire.  So, if you are struggling with your teen’s behavior and you feel like all the shouting in the world isn’t getting you anywhere, it may be time to take a step back and make sure you are providing a healthy model for them to follow.

1.     Live the Golden Rule

You may not have thought much about the golden rule since you left the playground but it is one of the best ways to teach your teen how to treat others.  If you are disrespectful to authority figures, other family members, or your teenager, you are showing them that it is ok for them to treat others that way too, including you.  Treat them the way you want them to treat you so that they have a healthy model to follow.

2.     Be Polite

There isn’t any reason you can’t say “please” and “thank you” to your teenagers just like you would to any stranger on the street.  If you want a child who is polite to others, show them how to do it in your interactions with others.

3.     Fight Fair

There will always be times when parents and teenagers will clash and when that happens the thing that will matters most is how you fight with them.  Name calling, cursing, and shaming are all things adults do when they fight with others but these tactics are never the right way to resolve conflict.  Show your teenager how to deal with differences of opinion and disagreements by using healthy conflict resolution strategies rather than going toe to toe and matching blow with blow.  If you don’t know how to do this, get help from a conflict resolution expert or mental health provider.

4.     Say You Are Sorry

No matter how hard we try, we parents are still fallible humans and there will be times we mess up, make the wrong decision, or say something we don’t mean.  The most important thing you can do during these times is to acknowledge your mistake, say you are sorry if it is appropriate, and allow your teenager to see that screwing up is ok.  You are letting them know that you don’t expect perfection while also showing them the importance of being responsible for your actions.

5.     Consistency is Key

While no one is perfect all the time, it is important to strive toward a level of consistency that provides your child with a good map of expected behavior.  If today you are polite and apologetic and tomorrow you are screaming and calling names, the good behavior can get muddled up with the bad leaving your teen to determine the right way.

 

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4 Ways to Support Your OCD Teen

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If your teen has OCD, here are some ways you can help support them. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Before a mental health disorder is diagnosed, everyone in the family can feel helpless and out of control to the point that finding a name for what is happening can start to feel like the answer.  Unfortunately, knowing what is causing the problem isn’t enough to solve it.  The real work of dealing with many disorders, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) comes after the diagnosis.  When your initial relief at knowing what is causing the problem begins to fade you will need to start the real work of helping your teenager learn to manage this condition and of changing your own behavior to best support them.  Here are some of the things you can do, now that you have the “what” to help define how to move forward.

1.     Educate Yourself

The most supportive thing you can do for your teen is to learn everything you can about their disorder.  This helps you better understand the struggles they are facing while also helping you understand what is the disorder and what is not.  It can be easy in the time period directly following diagnosis to blame the disorder for everything that isn’t “right” but in so doing you may miss other problems that need treatment or become frustrated when management strategies don’t “fix” everything.

2.     Identify Accommodations You are Making

More so than many other mental health disorders, OCD can become a family problem because other family members often do things to accommodate the person with the condition.  In the moment, these things can seem to be the best thing because they are helpful, supportive, and even participative.  Accommodating behaviors can include washing your hands whenever the person requests it, helping them to avoid uncomfortable tasks like cleaning the bathroom by doing it for them, providing unlimited access to cleaning supplies, or performing rituals to ease their anxiety and feed their compulsions.   For parents, identifying how they are enabling their teens OCD in these ways can be challenging.  Most parents only want the best for their child.  This generally means providing an environment that promotes happiness, comfort, and safety.  It can be difficult to follow-thru on what is “best” for them when it feels like that action is making them feel unhappy, uncomfortable, or insecure.

3.     Reducing Accommodations

Once you have identified what you and other members of the family are doing that is enabling the OCD the next step is to try and reduce or minimize those actions as your teen learns new ways to manage their condition.  This will take time and will be unpleasant for everyone at different times.  Remind yourself that all you are seeking to do is to treat this member of your family the same way you treat everyone else while supporting their recovery.  It can be very beneficial to seek the advice of a mental health provider as part of this process.

4.     Get Help

Learning to manage OCD and how to provide a healthy, supportive environment for that person is difficult to do without assistance.  Finding a provider that can work with your teen individually and with your family as a whole should be at the top of your list.  Building this kind of relationship is one of the most important things you can do to support your child.  This provider can help your teen learn new strategies for managing their thoughts and behaviors while also guiding your family unit through the first part of your journey to wellness.

What Is “Normal Teenage Behavior” Anyway?

Normal Teenager Behavior

If you’ve ever wondered if the things your teen does is normal, read more to find out. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

One of the things we strive to help the parents in our community to understand is the signs and symptoms that their teenager is struggling so that they know when it is time to get help.  But one of the challenges every parent faces is to know when their teenager’s behavior is “normal” and when it is a red flag.  To help, let’s look at what constitutes normal behavior in teens.

1.     Normal = Typical

At a general level, the first step to determining if the behavior of your teenager is normal is to look at their friends and at other teenagers their age.  Is their behavior comparable?  Does your teen act moodier or more defiant?  Ask the other parents you know with similarly aged children about their experiences to help you form a baseline of how typical teenagers today act.

2.     My Normal May Not Be Your Normal

With a better idea of how other teenagers are behaving, you can now take an objective look at your own teen.  At this point, you need to factor in things like their individual personality.  For example, if your child has always been more on the shy and quiet side it wouldn’t be abnormal for them to be quieter and more shy than others in their peer group or social circle.  If your child has always been a bit of a risk taker, it isn’t necessarily a red flag that he is participating in risky activities like skateboarding.  You can use your knowledge of your child at the different stages of their life to get a feel for what normal would be for them.

3.     Normal Exists to a Certain Degree

Another challenge parents face in determining if their child’s behavior or attitude is normal is that normal to not normal exists on a sliding scale.  Being moody or defiant one day a week might be normal whereas being moody and defiant all the time is usually a red flag.  Understand that even a small amount of acting out generally falls within the range of normal, especially for teenagers.

4.     Being Bad Isn’t Normal

One of the things you can always consider when trying to determine if your teen’s behavior is normal or not is the degree to which what they are doing is interfering with their lives.  Skipping a single day of school isn’t good but it isn’t going to jeopardize their education.  Skipping school all the time interferes with their ability to learn and will lead to serious consequences.  Getting pulled over for going a few miles above the speed limit isn’t good but it isn’t inherently dangerous or destructive like driving 100 miles an hour or racing against other cars.  Every teenager tests rules and steps over lines, but if this is the norm rather than the exception, you are outside the range of normal.

The key to making sure your child has whatever support they need to succeed is to seek out the opinion of a professional if you are concerned.  A mental health practitioner, tutor, pediatrician, or coach can offer their advice on what your child needs to excel and how you can help them.

How Can I Help My Self-harming Teenager?

self harm teenager

Do you know the warning signs that your teen is causing harm to themselves? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is no question that parents often struggle to understand their teenagers but when it comes to things like cutting and self-harm, many parents are simply at a loss.  Although teenagers of every generation have struggled to deal with the onslaught of emotional, physical, and mental changes that are a part of the teen years, this way of dealing with that overwhelm is not something most parents today did or heard about when they were teens.  This inability to understand or relate to this type of behavior can make it very difficult for parents to provide the support and assistance their teens need in order to learn healthier ways to cope.  The first step toward helping a teen that is participating in self-harm is to understand what this behavior looks like and why it is happening.

Self-harming behavior is categorized as any behavior that results in deliberately inflicted injury on your body.  This can include things like cutting, scratching, hitting, head banging, skin piercing, biting, and intentional burning.  In most cases, teenagers are participating in self-harm as a way to cope with intense emotional distress that they don’t know how to handle.  Most teens who self-harm participate in more than one type of self-injury and most injuries occur on the arms, legs, and other parts of the front of the body.

Self- harm often offers an outlet for extreme emotions that cannot be expressed in another way.  It can also be a way to impose control on an otherwise out of control world.  It can be a cry for help or a tool for manipulation.  For some teens, self-harm is calming because it allows for the release of tension or pent up emotions.

Unlike some other mental health conditions, self-harm has no real cause although it can co-exist with other mental health problems like depression and eating disorders.  Although most people who engage in this type of activity are teenagers, people of all ages can use self-injury as a coping strategy for handling intense emotions.  Although there is no specific cause, there are some risk factors that can increase the likelihood that someone will use self-harm as a coping strategy.  Those factors include age as most people who self-harm are teenagers, mental health, and life experiences.  Teens who have been abused or neglected during their childhood or who have experienced a significant loss, like the death of a parent, are more likely than their peers to participate in self-harm.

If you suspect that a teenager in your life is participating in self-harming behavior, don’t wait to get them help.  Start by contacting their medical doctor or a mental health provider to discuss your concerns.  Ask that your teen be evaluated for self-harm and other potential mental health conditions.  Listen to your provider’s advice about next steps for diagnosis, treatment options, and other things you need to do to get your teen the help and support they need.

How Do I Know if My Teen has OCD?

Do you know the warning signs to know if your teen has OCD? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Do you know the warning signs to know if your teen has OCD? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is an anxiety disorder that can affect people of all ages, even teenagers.  People with OCD experience excessive worry about specific things, called obsessions, which they cannot control and in an effort to manage their anxiety, they feel compelled to perform certain ritualistic behaviors.  Teenagers with OCD may develop obsessions related to normal teenage worries like school or friends but their obsessions can be related to almost anything.  Since it is normal for teenagers to experience anxiety, parents often wonder how to differentiate between normal anxiety and worry and OCD.  The following information can help parents determine if their teen’s behavior is indicative of OCD so that they can seek diagnosis and treatment from a provider.

1.     OCD takes up time and energy.

Normal anxiety may seem to occupy much of your teenagers time but when this anxiety is caused by OCD it takes up a significant amount of time and energy.  Teenagers with OCD may struggle to accomplish normal activities like chores and homework because of the time spent on OCD behaviors.

2.     OCD can leave teens feeling frustrated and embarrassed.

Because teenagers with OCD cannot control the compulsions, these behaviors can cause significant frustration and even embarrassment.  Teens may not want to participate in normal activities because they don’t want others to witness these behaviors.

3.     OCD causes irrational fears.

One of the most important things for parents to understand is that normal teen anxiety is generally related to realistic situations and challenges like doing poorly on a test or not having a date for the prom.  OCD teens often experience obsessions that are not realistic like extreme fear of dirt, germs, contamination, or illness.  Obsessions can center on preoccupations with symmetry, order, numbers, sexual thoughts, household items, and specific words or sounds.

4.     OCD compulsions take many forms.

While the compulsions that accompany OCD develop as a way to ease the anxiety caused by the obsession, the actual behavior may or may not relate to the obsession.  Common compulsions experienced by OCD teens are excessive hand washing, repetitive actions like locking and unlocking doors, counting, and checking rituals like checking homework assignments again and again.

5.     Teens often hide OCD behaviors.

Because of the shame and embarrassment often experienced by OCD teens, they can become very good at hiding these behaviors, even from those closest to them.  This can make it difficult for parents to recognize OCD in their own teens.

6.     Teens may incorporate others into their compulsive behaviors.

Teens may draw parents, friends, or other family members into their OCD behaviors.  This can take the form of a question/answer that is repeated again and again.  For example, a teen with OCD who is struggling with an obsession about being late may ask their parent for reassurance relating to being on time again and again.

If you suspect your teenager is struggling with OCD, seek professional help from a mental health provider.

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Top 4 Things Parents Can Do to Support Their ADHD Teen

Do you know how to help your child with ADHD? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Do you know how to help your teen with ADHD? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Teenagers with ADHD have a lot on their plate.  The teen years are hard enough without also having to deal with the challenges and obstacles that can come along with an ADHD diagnosis.  One of the most important things that parents of ADHD teens can do is to be as supportive as possible of their child as they navigate through these years.  A supportive parent is one who works to increase their understanding of the condition, their understanding of how the condition impacts their child, and to assist their child in finding resources and strategies for managing the disorder.  Being a supportive parent does not mean making excuses for bad behavior, allowing teens to blame their condition for their problems, or failing to hold teens accountable because they have ADHD.  You can support your ADHD teen by focusing your energy and following these tips.

1.     Be Positive

You child’s feelings and thoughts about their ADHD are likely to mirror your own.  This means that if you look at this condition as a disability that will keep your child from achieving the things you want for them; they will look at it that way too.  Adolescents with ADHD are constantly being bombarded by negative messages from the world around them and what they need from their parents is positive input to help counteract all the negativity.

2.     Focus on Strengths

Your teen will spend a lot of time focused on all the reasons that ADHD makes their life difficult and challenging, they don’t need their parents to be focused on those aspects of the condition too.  One of the most supportive things you can do is to focus on the strengths and gifts ADHD gives your child.

3.     Listen, then Talk

Unless you have ADHD as well, you and your child are living in different worlds.  You cannot possibly understand what it is like to live in your child’s world which means listening to them is critically important.  One of the things ADHD teens, regardless of their symptoms, struggle with is that others don’t see the world through their eyes and don’t get things the way they do.  This can be very alienating, especially when the most consistent message they get is that they are thinking, seeing, or doing everything wrong.  Rather than trying to get your child to see the world your way, be supportive by acknowledging that they come at things from a different direction and listen so that they feel heard and know that they are not alone.

4.     Know What is ADHD and What is Not

One of the things many parents of ADHD teens struggle with is remembering that some of their behavior issues are not their fault.  ADHD symptoms and the struggles they cause for teenagers can look a lot like regular teenage acting out.  Parents can do their teens a great disservice if they are unable to differentiate between unacceptable teenage behavior that their teen can easily control and behavior resulting from ADHD symptoms.  Understanding that these are different and dealing with them as different issues is one of the most important ways parents can be supportive of their ADHD teens.

 

What Your Teen isn’t Telling You about Bullying

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...

Teenagers are often bullied in silence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bullying happens everyday. But, what many parents don’t realize is that most of it is never reported to an adult.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, only one third of bullying incidents are reported to adults.  This often means that parents are unaware of the torment, humiliation, and abuse their children are suffering at the hands of their peers.  It also means that the parents of the bullies are also unaware of their child’s behavior and therefore unable to intervene.

One of the questions we get asked a lot is why kids who are being bullied don’t ask for help.  While there are many different reasons a specific teen would choose not to report an incident of bullying, there are several common reasons we have seen in our clients.  Bullying can make teens feel powerless which includes feeling powerless to stop the abuse.  Sometimes, they don’t report it simply because they don’t believe it will make a difference.  Teens may also choose not to report bullying because they feel like handling it on their own gives them back a little of the power and control they feel they have lost.  Others may be afraid of retribution or of being bullied more for being a snitch.

Another reason teens don’t report bullying behavior is because it would expose something they don’t want to share with their parents.  Humiliation and nasty gossip are often a part of bullying and may be an exaggeration or an exposure of something that is true but secret – like experiencing some sexual confusion.  The teenager may feel that in order to report the bullying, they would have to divulge and discuss their secret which they are not ready to do.

These are just some of the reasons that teenagers who are being bullied suffer in silence.  The problem for parents is that being bullied and being a bully, and even being a witness to bullying behavior can have real, long-lasting repercussions.

Teens who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, suffer from anxiety disorders, feel sad and alone, lose interest in hobbies, sports, and interests, and struggle with sleep or food.  Being a victim of bullying can also impact school performance and school attendance and may decrease the likelihood of graduating from high school which compromises their future opportunities. These problems can last well into adulthood impacting every aspect of their adult life.

Teens who bully others are more likely to struggle with substance abuse problems both as teens and as adults.   They are also more likely to get in frequent fights, participate in violent behavior, be violent towards others including partners, spouses, and children, be convicted of crimes, and be sexually active at an early age.  These problems, which can also last into adulthood, can have very serious life-long ramifications even if they do not persist past the teen years.

Teens who are neither bullied themselves nor bullying others but who witness bullying behavior can also be impacted.  These teens are more likely to drink, smoke, or try drugs and to skip school.  Witnessing acts of bullying can also increase the likelihood of suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.

The bottom line for parents is that when it comes to bullying, no one gets off without damage and those scars can last a lifetime.  Talk to your child about bullying, encourage them to be open about their experiences with it, and if you suspect they are being impacted by bullying, get them help.

Lonely or Alone? Teens and Solitary Time – Part 1

Teenagers of various backgrounds in Oslo, Norw...

Do you know the warning signs to look for if your teen is lonely or depressed? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents face many challenges as they guide and usher their teenagers through the final years of adolescence on their way to becoming young adults.  One of the most common is knowing when their teen’s behavior is normal and a sign of healthy adaptation and when it is abnormal and requires attention.  It is normal for teenagers to spend time away from their families, often secluded in their rooms.  For many parents this change in behavior can feel like their child is pulling away, like there is some problem or tension within the family.  This can lead to concern about whether or not this alone time is healthy or if it is a sign that their child needs help.

Like most parenting challenges, there is no easy answer or fail-safe guideline that can be used to know the difference.  In part, it depends on your child.  Some people are more introverted than others, which means that some teens will seek more solitary time than their peers.  Other teens may find the demands of socializing and school draining and seek alone time as a way to re-energize and rejuvenate themselves.  A teenagers desire to spend time alone is not a cause for concern.  In fact, this kind of separation is an important part of their development.  But in order to provide for and protect their children, parents need to be able to tell between solitude that signifies healthy development and solitude that signifies danger ahead.

To help understand if your teenager is lonely or just spending time alone, here are the most common healthy reasons teens seek solitude.

Shyness

Even teenagers who were outgoing as children can experience periods of shyness as teenagers.  The teen years bring changes to almost every aspect of life and it is perfectly normal for teens to become fearful of things like saying the wrong thing, looking silly or strange, being rejected by others, or not fitting in with their peers.  These types of fears can result in periods of shyness when your teen withdraws and seeks the comfort and safety of solitude.   While feeling and acting shy is not cause for parental concern, parents can help their teen through these phases by offering encouragement and support.

Spending Time Alone

Sometimes, we all just need to spend some time by ourselves.  Being with other people requires a lot of energy no matter what age you are because you have to consider the other people’s needs, opinions, and feelings while moderating what you say and how you act.  This can be draining even if you aren’t a teenager trying to navigate a constantly shifting and completely unforgiving social network while also building the skills to do so.  Sometimes, your teenager just needs to not have to worry about anyone else for awhile so they can recharge their own batteries.  This is healthy behavior and no cause for concern.

Being an Introvert

As mentioned above, some people, including teenagers, are simply more introverted than others.  Introverted teens thrive when they get to spend enough time on their own.  They benefit from honoring this side of themselves and the best thing parents can do is be understanding and supportive of their need for this solitary space.  However, even introverted teens need social interaction.  Creating relationships, connecting with others, and establishing solid communication skills are as essential for introverts as they are for extroverts and teens that isolate themselves in order to avoid these situations may need encouragement in these areas.

Regardless of what may be leading your teen or adolescent to spend time alone, be aware of any signs of depression that may be causing this behavior. Be on the lookout for any of the following signs of depression. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give one of our counselors at Doorways a call.

  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities, socializing, and pastimes
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes in eating habits that includes craving high sugar foods

 

Common Mistakes Many Parents Make

As most parents can tell you, about the time you start feeling like you have things under control and you know what to do and how to be the best parent to your child is about the time they morph into someone completely different and become teenagers.  This means that parents may need to make some changes to what tools they have in their parenting toolbox in order to keep up.  This transition can be as difficult for parents as it is for their teens and invariably, all of them will make some mistakes.   Here are some of the most common mistakes we see parents of teenagers make.

1.     Looking for the Bad Rather than the Good

The teenage years can be tumultuous and trying.  However, it is important that parents don’t fixate on any negative expectations.  The old saying goes, “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.”  When it comes to parenting teenagers, that should say “whether you think they are good or think they are bad, you are right.”  Oftentimes, when parents spend all their energy waiting and watching for the worst, they miss out on all the best things about their teens.  In fact, all these negative expectations can actually bring about the bad behavior the parent is hoping to avoid.

2.     Failing to Use their Own Instincts

One of the most obvious examples of this is people who read too many parenting books.  This is actually a mistake parents can make at every stage of their child’s life.  Parents who turn to other sources and who rely on other people’s advice about how to raise their teenagers are disregarding the most effective parenting tool they have at their disposal, their instincts.

3.     Being Overly Controlling

Some parents feel that the best way to make sure their teens avoid problems with alcohol, drugs, sex, pregnancy, and all other teenage dangers is to keep them on a short leash, micromanaging and controlling everything they do.  This may mean that they restrict access to social media sites, have veto power over any wardrobe decisions, and can decide who their teen can and cannot be friends with.  While this may seem like a surefire way to keep them out of trouble, it can actually create two different problems.  First, teens whose parents exert this much control are likely to rebel and to rebel in serious and significant ways.  Part of being a teenager is taking some steps out into the world on your own and when parents prohibit that kind of exploration, it can backfire.  Second, this type of parenting makes it very difficult for teens to learn how to make decisions by themselves.

4.     Not Being Controlling Enough

On the flipside of the parents above, these parents take a laid back approach to parenting and fail to set boundaries, expectations, or standards of behavior.  These are the parents that excuse inappropriate teen behaviors like smoking pot or having casual sex as “teens being teens.”  By allowing their teens to behave however they want, these parents are failing to provide the solid foundation and sound moral compass that will help guide them through adulthood.

Parents of teenagers have a big role to play and have much more influence than they might think.  The teen years may require parents to develop different tools and strategies.  At times, it may feel like nothing they do or say is making a difference.  However, parents are the ones who help teens build that foundation and formulate their own internal compass.

 

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8 Parenting Tips by Chase Kerrey

by: Chase Kerrey, MA LAC

 

1. Be Relational

By the time parents usually come in for counseling with concerns about their son or daughter the relationship is strained, with the parent oftentimes in a mindset that is attempting to “fix” the child and the child rebelling against this attempt at control. One of the best things parents can do, even during times of stress or strain, is look at their son or daughters behavior as a window into what it’s like to be them. In my experience the healthier families I work with all have something in common: at the end of the day, there is always an undercurrent of interest in relating to and empathizing with other family member’s experiences. In a phrase, they are listening with curiosity.

 

2. Be Mindful

Being mindful is the capacity to take a step back from an experience rather than simply reacting to it. In families the message intended is not always the message received, so the importance is for families to be able to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a way that limits misunderstanding. Children, adolescents, and teenagers are more prone to feelings of shame, worthlessness, incompetence, and failure as they develop physically, psychologically, and neurologically, which means emphasis needs to be placed on behavior when correction is warranted, rather than making generalized statements in the heat of the moment that could be interpreted as a reflection of their worth and value.

 

3. Be Purposeful

After seminars and in family sessions, parents oftentimes come up to me and ask what I believe to be the goal of parenting. The single greatest response that I’ve picked up and subsequently pass on to others is that a parent’s job is to train their child into becoming a functional adult. The profession of parenting in this regard is similar to that of a therapist or long lasting gum manufacturer; the goal is to work oneself out of a job. In every circumstance that you or your spouse come to on the parenting front, ask yourself, “am I preparing my son or daughter to be a contributing member of society, either physically, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, or spiritually? And if not, what can I do in this situation to point them in that direction, even if it means exposing my child to the natural consequences of his/her behavior? The goal is for your child to graduate from your direct care ready for what the world has to offer and the newfound responsibilities that will undoubtedly come.

 

4. Be Teachable

As a father of a four year old boy and two year old girl, I seem to be reminded daily of the fact that I am a perfectly imperfect parent. Stated bluntly, I believe that we as human beings are destined to mess up, it just depends when and to what extent. With that in mind, the goal for parents is not to spare your child from seeing you make a mistake, but rather in allowing them to see you accept responsibility, pursue reconciliation when warranted, and pick yourself back up without blaming, shaming, or judging yourself or others in the process.

 

5. Be Moderate

This topic centers on the topic of control. Oftentimes we as parents or as individuals handle stress by swinging to one of two extremes: we attempt to control our environment and the people in it, or we do something in the moment that brings pleasure but fails to address the origins of the stress. Both are what therapists call avoidant behaviors, and both ironically cause increases of stress and/or anxiety over time. The goal here is balance or moderation, understanding that to be an adult means to deal with higher and higher levels of ambiguity and to release those things we cannot control, but also to make strides in making positive change in those things we do have some say in.

 

6. Be Balanced

To be a parent means learning to do more with less: less time, less money, more responsibility, more crises that demand our attention. But finding yourself burning the candle at both ends is not the solution, and in fact over time this “white knuckling it” approach will drill you into the ground physically and emotionally. Parents usually tell me in our introductory session, “but Chase, we don’t have time / can’t afford to have balance”, but the reality is that your family cannot afford to have you experience a complete physical or mental breakdown either. The single most important relationship within a family systems perspective is the parent/spousal relationship, and this is due I believe largely to the fact that parents set the emotional tone of the family by how well they are taking care of themselves and each other. Plan regular and predictable quiet times, reading hours, date nights, exercise groups or any other form of self care needed to keep yourself physically and emotionally afloat. It’s not being selfish; it’s being responsible to yourself and your family.

 

7. Be Content

Chances are incredibly good that not every child will grow to have an IQ comparable to Steven Hawking (over 200) or become the next Michael Jordan, but that does not mean that your child will live a life lacking significance or worth if he/she does not attain these goals. Each child has unique giftedness, abilities, and insight to make a mark in this life and in the lives of others. The goal is to identify these gifts and abilities in our kids and cultivate them when they arise, not attempt to manufacture skills and abilities where parents might want them to be. Talking to those who have worked with individuals experiencing end of life scenarios frequently report the most significant variable in those who’ve experienced fulfillment facing death verses despair is the quality of relationships one had and the vulnerability experienced in those relationships, rather than past achievements.

 

8. Be Aware

One of the most difficult things for a parent to do with a child or adolescent struggling psychologically is to pick up the phone and admit that there is a problem outside of their capacity to fix. Many parents do not seek outside advice or support when their child’s symptoms first arise, either due to not seeing the symptoms as significant as they actually are or simply not seeing the symptoms at all. If your child is displaying behavior outside what you would consider to be “normal”, you notice a sudden change or mood swings, your adolescent becomes increasingly isolative or angry, or you simply have that motherly or fatherly “gut” feeling that tells you something’s up, chances are good outside help is warranted.