Working Towards a Win-Win

When it comes to the relationship between parents and teenagers, there are few skills that can make things better, faster, than mastering the art of compromise.  Many of the families we work with are stuck in a never-ending battle of wills.  On one side are the parents who believe that they know what is best for their teen and on the other is the teenager who doesn’t necessarily agree.  This dynamic, which is present in all families with teenagers, is not a sign of trouble but rather a sign that the teenager is developing their own sense of self and individual identity.  However, unless families have the skills they need to effectively manage this battleground, this healthy dynamic can turn toxic.  If both sides insist on standing their ground, these small battles and minor skirmishes can morph into a full-scale war where no one wins, everyone is unhappy, and the parent-child relationship is left in tatters.

In order to understand why compromise is so important, it helps to take a step back and re-examine our role as parents.  Many parents feel like it is our job to control every aspect of our children’s lives and sometimes control, discipline, and a “do what I say” mentality is what is needed, even with teenagers.  Unfortunately, it can be easy for parents who are tired of their teen arguing with everything they say to dig in their heels and fortify this position.  The answer to every question, request, or argument becomes some version of “because I said so.” When parents choose this place to stand their ground, most teenagers will take up an opposite position, assuming that the only way to make their voice heard is to shout louder and rebel more.  When no one is willing to stand down, everyone loses.

However, if our job as parents is to teach our children what they need to know in order to successfully navigate the world on their own, we make room for flexibility as well as “do what I say” moments.  We make it possible to find a middle ground when it makes sense without relinquishing our right to exert control when it matters.  We create space to teach our teens how to compromise, how to negotiate, and how to stand their ground when the situation warrants it rather than feeling like the only way to win is for someone else to lose.

Working towards a win-win situation starts with a discussion where everyone feels heard and understood.  It is important that this discussion is centered on communicating each side’s position and doesn’t include judgment, criticism, or demands.  The key concept parents need to keep in mind is that sometimes it is better to lose a few battles in order to win the war.  If winning the war means producing a self-sufficient, self-confident young adult that willing contributes to society, it can be easier to let go of battles that aren’t likely to affect the overall outcome.  For example, your daughter’s desire to dye her hair purple may offend your parental sensibilities. But if allowing her to win this battle makes her feel heard, supports her search for her own identity, and allows you to stand firm on something that is more important without being seen as a dictator, it may be better for her in the long run if you back down.

Drunkorexia (Eating Disorders & Alcohol): What Parents Should Know

Most people have heard of anorexia, but have you heard of “Drunkorexia”?  Though not an official diagnosis, this term refers to food restriction and alcohol consumption.  It has become more prevalent among young adults.  It is especially common in college students that are trying to keep themselves thin.  Parents should be aware of this issue so that they can help their adolescents overcome it so that it does not take over their life.  Catching this early is the key to making a full recovery before it begins to get out of hand.

 

What Is” Drunkorexia”?

“Drunkorexia” is a combination of excessive alcohol consumption and eating disorder behaviors. Generally, college age students will skip meals during the day in order to keep their weight down and the calories that they save is spent on alcohol.  A new study conducted by the University of Missouri that found girls are much more susceptible to this combination than guys.

People that are “Drunkorexic” will purge the alcohol they consume in the attempt to not gain weight

Double Downsides

The problem that teens and young adults are facing is that “Drunkorexia” causes double downsides.  While inadequate nutrition is something that can cause many health issues, the over consumption of alcohol poses many risks as well.  They will not only reap the physical repercussions of anorexia or bulimia, they will also have issues with alcohol abuse including alcohol poisoning and malnutrition.  While intoxicated, teens and college students are also much more likely to fall victim to physical or sexual abuse.

What to Look For

It is a good idea to educate yourself about this disorder, especially if your college student has a history of eating disorders or drinking.  There are a few signs that you can look for that will help you to recognize Drunkorexia in your adolescent.  Here are a few of these signs:

  • Frequently skipping meals
  • Spending a lot of money but having nothing to show for it
  • Poor grades
  • Poor class attendance
  • Rapid weight loss

The Good News

Most college campuses have recognized that eating disorder behaviors are a wide spread issue and they offer classes on nutrition and healthy living.  They offer many counseling services to students to educate them on the risks involved with both eating disorders and alcohol abuse.

Also, there are counseling programs that will offer help to adolescents that are already sunk into the “Drunkorexic” trap.  Whether you have issues with binge drinking, anorexia, bulimia, or a combination, help is available.  Most adolescents will not admit to themselves that they have a problem.  It often takes the help of a friend or parent to get them the help they need.

Doorways offers many treatment options for those who are dealing with eating and alcohol disorders.  Counseling is typically needed to overcome these disorders and when you choose Doorways as your treatment provider, you will be able to get the help that you need in a faith-based setting.  This is definitely great news for those that are dealing with “Drunkorexia.  “

 

How Social Media is Affecting our Teens

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Since computers starting coming into the home and video games left the arcade, parents have expressed concerns about how much is too much and how these virtual interfaces will impact the lives of our children over the long term. For years, the main concerns around overuse of electronic media have centered on physical activity levels, studying, and the effect of violent, sexist, and racist themes on young minds. Recently I was asked my thoughts on the impact things like Facebook, Twitter, and video games are having on today’s youth. My answers might surprise you.

One of the main problems that I see is an increase in teens and young adults with significant social anxiety problems that seem to stem from spending too much time interacting with a computer and not enough time interacting with actual people. I call this “Social Phobia.” This is especially pertinent for teens that are in the 12 to 15 year old range that are actively developing and refining the social skills that will help them throughout their lives. The more time a child spends in isolation posting on Facebook, playing Xbox, chatting online, texting, and watching YouTube videos, the less time they spend interacting with their peers and families. These real-world interactions are necessary for developing social skills, understanding social protocols, and building interpersonal relationships.

What Parents Should Look For

  • Parents should trust their instincts and if they are concerned there might be a problem, seek the opinion of a professional.
  • Parents also need to make the distinction between what is normal behavior and what is healthy behavior. Your son might spend 12 hours a day playing video games which seems normal when compared to his friends, but most health professionals would agree that even if it is normal, 12 hours of video game play in a day is definitely not healthy.
  • Watch for resistance to social situations and avoidance of social interactions. If your child is having a significant emotional response to a situation that requires social interaction, there may be a social problem that needs to be addressed.

What Parents Can Do

  • The most important step parents can take is to start young. Set expectations and ground rules about media use early in childhood which will help your child develop good habits as they grow into teenagers.
  • Provide multiple social outlet opportunities for your children through church, community, sports, and educational activities. But, beware of over-scheduling, children need downtime too.
  • Don’t accommodate their anxiety; it’s ok for them to be uncomfortable in social situations because they are learning how to manage those types of interactions. Giving in and allowing them to avoid socializing only reinforces the avoidance behaviors.
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