“My Teen Has No Friends”

Friendships are an important part of the teen years. They help teens develop into adulthood by learning invaluable emotional and social skills. According to the Raising Children Network, having a group of good friends can help build confidence, security and provide a support system for teens. Do you find that your teen has no friends? The damage that can be done by being unpopular at school can have lifelong consequences for one’s self-esteem. As a parent, there are ways that you can help your teen develop and maintain friendships.

Doorways Arizona Blog: "My Teen Has No Friends"

Talk to Your Teen

According to Healthy Children, the first thing to do is simply talk to your teen. Find out if the time they are spending alone is making them unhappy. Explain that others likely feel the same way. Also, provide an example of yourself being uneasy in a social situation as an adult or when you were a teen to show that you understand. Find out what is making it difficult for them to make friends. There are several reasons including low self-esteem, lack of social skills, or maybe they just don’t have the right opportunity to make friends.

However, if your teen doesn’t open up because they may be embarrassed, don’t give up. There are several ways that you can help. You can talk to others in your teens life like teachers or coaches for their observations of your teen’s behavior. You could do some role-play scenarios with your teen to show what actions are socially acceptable. Help your teen learn to talk to new people. Help build their self-esteem with positive encouragement.

Help Your Teen with Friendship Building Skills

Additionally, Raising Children Network suggests you can help your teen with their friendship skills by having a good relationship with them by being supportive, actively listening, and being connected. Also, be a good role model so they can see what positive friendship looks like.

Other ways to help your teen are to plan activities for them and a new friend that are pressure free, as opposed to just “hanging out.” That type of situation can be stressful. Examples of some pressure-free activities might be:

  • spectator sports
  • watching a movie
  • visiting a museum

That way your teen doesn’t feel the need to engage in constant conversation. Also, plan for the activity to be shorter rather than longer so your teen can build up to spending more time with new friends.

Encourage Your Teen to Participate in Activities They Are Good at and Enjoy

Help your teen think about what interests them and what they are good at. Encourage them to participate in an extracurricular activity, volunteer work or part-time job. This way they can meet people with common interests and provide a spring board for conversation. This is a great way for them to practice social skills.

If your teen is reluctant to try an extracurricular activity, maybe they just need a little push by you to help get them involved. Find out what interests them. It doesn’t have to be just sports. STEM classes have become really popular. Local libraries are even offering classes in coding.  Maybe they have an interest in dance or drama? Science or building? There are a variety of activities out there not just available at school, but in the community. Check with your local parks and recreation office, local library, local museums, and even local colleges and universities to find out their offerings. You are sure to find an activity that interests your teen.

If your teen is active and interested in fitness and sports, but maybe not competitively, check with local parks and recreation, local gyms, or the local YMCA for offerings.

Additionally, check with local churches for youth groups. A popular one is Young Life. Also, encourage your teen to explore clubs at school. Maybe they are interested in computers, chess, photography, helping with school events, or social issues. There are so many different options to help your teen explore and meet new people.

Still Having Trouble Getting Your Teen to Make New Friends?

Maybe there are some deeper rooted reasons behind it. Have you discussed with your teen what is making them apprehensive? Reasons why might be:

  • bullying
  • social anxiety
  • insecurity
  • unrealistic expectations
  • antisocial behavior

Remember that making new friends can be challenging, so don’t make it a constant topic of conversation with your teen. Continue to be encouraging. If your teen is isolating themselves, this is not healthy, it can lead to a negative self-esteem, feelings of loneliness and depression, and a fear of people. If you find that your teen is still struggling socially or is refusing to make friends, consider seeking the help of a professional who specializes in helping teens with social skills.

15 Safe and Fun Friday Night Plans for Teens

As children grow into teenagers, Friday nights at home as a family become less frequent. Teens would like to be out exploring the world and discovering themselves with their friends, rather than spending the evening in with their parents and siblings. As a parent, you don’t want to stifle your teen’s growth and independence, but you also worry about them encountering peer pressures that can lead towards reckless and potentially dangerous behavior. Like all parents, you want to make sure they are partaking in safe, yet enjoyable, activities.

Doorways Arizona Blog: 15 Safe and Fun Friday Night Plans for Teens

So you can be a little more comfortable with your teen putting more space between you and them, here is a list of 15 fun, yet safe, Friday night plans for teens:

  1. Have your teen invite some friends over for a make-your-own pizza party. Who doesn’t love pizza? Sit with your teen and have them help you make a list of the ingredients they think you should purchase beforehand.
  2. Teens, especially teen girls, love the mall. However, frequent mall trips can put quite a dent in your wallet. As an alternative, have your teen go through their closet and take out clothes that they no longer wear. Have them invite their friends to do the same, then host a clothes swapping party. They can trade clothes and put on a fashion show to model their new outfits when they are finished.
  3. Show some school spirit by attending a football game. Allow your teen to invite some friends over to have a quasi-tailgate at your house before the game. Have them help you prep the appetizers before they arrive so you get some time with them as well.
  4. Take your teen and friends to a trampoline park like Krazy Air in Mesa, or Jump City in Phoenix. Not only will they have fun, but they will get in some much needed exercise as well!
  5. Have them invite friends over for a mini movie marathon. Don’t forget the popcorn.
  6. If you have the space, send your teen and some friends out back for an urban camp out. Let them set up a tent, and hang out around a fire pit roasting marshmallows and telling stories.
  7. Host a karaoke night. Set out finger foods and soft drinks and let your teen and their friends sing the night away.
  8. Check with your local multi-gen center or parks and recreation office for teen nights and activities.
  9. Go miniature golfing! There are several indoor and outdoor miniature golf courses around so weather won’t have to be an issue.
  10. Instead of family game night, allow your teen to invite friends over to play games like Apples to Apples, Quelf, and Things.
  11. Send them off to bowl a frame or two. The bowling alley is a great space for your teen to be as loud as they wish and have some fun, without disturbing the whole house.
  12. Throw a fiesta! They are too young to spring break in Cancun, but who’s to say they can’t enjoy a delicious Mexican spread.
  13. Host a monthly book club for your teen and their friends.
  14. You’ve probably heard of the wine and design parties that adults are having, why not have a non-alcoholic art party for your teen?
  15. Life is stressful. Offer your teen and some of their friends a little R&R with an at home spa day. They can give each other facials, paint each other’s nails, etc. while enjoying fresh fruits and sipping on sparkling cider.

These are only a small number of ways your teen can enjoy some time with friends, while still staying safe and keeping your mind at ease. What are some fun activities you can think of for your teen to enjoy on a Friday night?

 

Does Back to School Mean Back to Bullying?

The long, lazy days of summer have come to an end and given way to the frenzy of back to school and all the activities that go along with it. While many teens look forward to going back to school and seeing their friends, it can also be a harrowing and stressful time for other teens who have been victims of bullying.

Doorways Arizona Blog: Does Back to School Mean Back to Bullying?

Bullying can be physically and emotionally damaging for teenagers and leave scars that take a long while to heal. Teens are especially susceptible to developing low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts or actions when they are being bullied at school.

To prepare for the upcoming school year, here are some answers to common questions about bullying, from experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine:

What is bullying?

Bullying is any form of physical, emotional, or psychological aggression that is imposed upon an individual repetitively. Bullying also involves demonstrating power over another person or exploiting imbalances in strength or power.

How prevalent is bullying?

Unfortunately, bullying has become more and more common each year, and usually begins to surface in schools in November or December each year. According to stopbullying.gov, 28 percent of students between grades six and twelve have experienced bullying. 15 percent have been cyberbullied. Additionally, over 70 percent of students admit to witnessing bullies at school.

With such strong statistics, it is hard to argue that bullying is not a major problem that teens today must face as they try to grow, develop, and learn.

What types of teens typically become victims of bullies?

Bullying can happen to any teenager. However, bullies more commonly select victims who they see as less powerful than they are, or as different from themselves. Teens demonstrating signs and symptoms of depression are often being bullied, but are afraid or ashamed to discuss it openly.

What does bullying really look like?

There are several ways that teens can be bullied, including:

  • Physical
  • Verbal
  • Reactive
  • Relational
  • Cyber

Physical bullying occurs when one teen uses physical actions to harm another teen, such as hitting, kicking, biting, fighting, etc.

Verbal bullying happens when one teen seeks to diminish another through cruel words, name-calling, or mocking.

Reactive bullying happens when a previously bullied teen takes on the behaviors of a bully, and begins mistreating others.

Relational bullying takes place when one teen harms another emotionally by excluding them from peer groups or activities.

Cyber bullying occurs when teens are regularly and purposely bullied through online interactions such as gaming, social media, and text messages. While conventional bullying has been present in teen’s lives for a very long time, cyber bullying is somewhat new. Due to the expansive power of the internet, cyber bullies can expound upon their damaging behavior by making it publicly visible online for many to see and share.

How does bullying make teens feel?

Bullied teens will quickly lose self-esteem and feel worthless and demoralized. Many teens are fearful about opening up to others in their life about being bullied, and will keep it to themselves rather than seek help. Sometimes a bullied teen will even reverse their own behavior and become a bully themselves to try and restore the power balance in their life.

What can parents and other trusted adults do to help bullied teens?

One of the most important things parents can do to help a bullied teen is to stay involved and in tune with their teen’s life, activities, and friends. If a parent notices any changes in interests, friend groups, or behavior, then they should begin an open, supportive dialogue with their teen to get to the root of the issue.

What advice should parents give to their teenagers about bullying?

Parents of teen bullying victims can use these tactics and ideas to help their teen cope and recover from bullies:

  • Remain calm and supportive
  • Assure your teen they are not to blame for being bullied
  • Teach your teen how to stand up for themselves in healthy, nonviolent ways
  • Give your teen coping and safety ideas to use when bullying occurs, such as walking away, seeking the help of a trusted adult, or finding a safe place
  • Teach your teen about the importance of friendship

How should a teen’s school react to bullying?

School should be a safe environment for learning, fun, and friendships. For these reasons, many schools are creating strict anti-bullying rules and enforcing a safe, healthy learning environment by implementing enforceable codes of ethics all students must abide by if they want to remain in attendance at the school.

 

Resource:

Does going back to school mean going back to bullying? (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2016, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/articles-and-answers/healthy-children/bullying-at-school)

 

11 Ideas to Make Back-to-School Fun for You and Your Teenager

The freedom, fun, and relaxation of summer vacation is over for most teens in Phoenix and a busy school year has just begun. While many teens are excited to see their friends, learn new things in their classes, and participate in extracurricular activities, your teenager might also be feeling anxious or even resistant about returning to school.

Doorways Arizona Blog: 11 Ideas to Make Back-to-School Fun for You and Your Teenager

Here is a list of things you can do with your teen to make the back-to-school season fun and exciting, while easing any tensions they might have about starting school again as Fall approaches:
  1. Treat your teen to a Back-to-School makeover complete with a haircut, a new outfit, and lunch out at a restaurant of their choice.
  2. Make school supply shopping fun by dividing your teen’s supply list in half, and have a race to see who can find all their items and come up to the checkout first.
  3. Make a breakfast menu and take turns making a quick, healthy breakfast in the morning.
  4. Talk with your teen about the classes they are taking and see which ones they are most looking forward to, and which they might be nervous about.
  5. Create a reward-based grading system you can use to celebrate good grades on each report card, such as treating your teen to dinner out or paying for them to go see a movie with a friend.
  6. Ask your teen to create a list of their goals for the school year, and have them hang it on their wall to keep track of how they are doing. Celebrate when any new goal is achieved.
  7. Have your teen write down the extracurricular activities or electives they want to take during the school year. Encourage them to try one new thing this year.
  8. Challenge your teen to practice kindness by doing or saying something nice at school. Talk about it over dinner each evening.
  9. If your teen is expressing interest in dating, have them make a list of the qualities they think make a good boyfriend/girlfriend, and use it to guide conversations about dating.
  10. Help your teen make a collage of their favorite pics of family, friends, and pets to hang up in their locker or in their room.
  11. Host a Back-to-School party and let your teen invite over a few friends for dinner and games to celebrate.

Back-to-School can be a very busy time adjusting to new schedules, classes, and activities each year. However, by using ideas like these, you can spend some time doing special things to prepare and help your teen feel confident, excited, and ready to successfully tackle the school year ahead.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Their Weight

During the adolescent years, teenagers become increasingly more aware of what shapes their identity, and they also begin to see and value how others view their appearance, skills, and achievements. For these reasons, teens are often much more susceptible to eating disorders and can easily develop an unhealthy relationship with food, which has the potential to severely impact their health and self-confidence.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Their Weight

As a guide in your teen’s healthy growth and development, it is especially important that you do not unintentionally do any harm while you are encouraging a healthy lifestyle for your teen. Here are four ways the National Eating Disorders Association recommends to positively reframe your conversations about weight and health with your teen:

When you talk about food, focus on health, strength, and nutrition rather than weight loss

The ways that you discuss food and exercise can definitely affect your teen’s eating habits and may also impact how they view their body. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, weight-related comments from parents or siblings were highly linked to disordered eating habits geared toward unhealthy, unsafe weight loss measures, particularly in teen girls.

Whether your teen is underweight, normal weight, or overweight, your words matter to them when speaking about their bodies. To ensure that you do not unintentionally harm your teen, you should focus on talking about health, strength, and nutrition rather than weight loss or diets. For example, saying, “Fresh fruits and vegetables help your body and mind stay healthy and strong.”, will be more helpful for your teen than saying, “You need to lose some weight, so eat all your vegetables”. The distinction of focusing on eating for health and strength will help your teen develop a better relationship with food and understand the importance it plays in a healthy lifestyle.

Ensure everyone in your family speaks the same way about health, food, and exercise

To make certain that your family practices healthy eating habits, and talks about food, weight, and exercise in positive ways, everyone needs to use the same language. You and your spouse, as well as any siblings in the household, need to all talk about these things in the same way.

Emphasize the importance of health over weight

When you want to talk about weight with your teen, pause and remember to speak about health instead. Speaking about the value of eating well for good health and energy to do all the things you enjoy, rather than the importance of being a particular weight will ultimately help your teen develop a more positive body image and relationship with healthy food.

Demonstrate your words in your body and life

Speaking positively about food, health, and exercise with your teen is very important. However, it is equally vital that you live the example of your words, and make sure you are not silently demonstrating unhealthy eating patterns or body image views to your teen.

If your teen is struggling with body image or an eating disorder, then speaking with a professional teen counselor can help you learn more ways to promote healthy eating and lifestyles in your home and your words.

3 Key Things Parents Should Know to Promote Good Mental Health During Puberty

The adolescent years can be challenging for parents no matter how strong and loving the intentions may be. As your teen begins to experience puberty, however, keep in mind that this time is ultimately much more confusing for them as their bodies and minds grow, develop, and change.

3 Key Things Parents Should Know to Promote Good Mental Health During Puberty

While the physical development brought about by puberty is much more evident on the surface, your teen is also experiencing very significant, drastic changes that you won’t be able to see so clearly if you don’t understand where to look. These seemingly invisible changes occur in the makeup and chemistry of your teen’s brain, and have a very dramatic impact on emotional and mental health.

Understanding how your teen’s body and mind are changing during puberty will help you guide their growth more effectively and keep them mentally and emotionally strong.

Understand the physical changes your teen is experiencing as they go through puberty.

During puberty, many things will develop and change in the way that your teen’s body looks and functions. During this vital phase of human development, teens begin the process of reaching full physical maturation, and will begin to notice their bodies changing as they grow.

This can be a confusing time for teens as their bodies change, so it is important as a parent to understand what changes are happening, and speak honestly and openly with your teen about them. Be sure to emphasize that this is a perfectly normal and natural process, and help your teen understand they should feel no shame in their changing body.

Additionally, during puberty your teen’s sleep cycle will most likely change as part of their growth. According to MentalHelp.net, this is due to a shift in the circadian rhythm that drives sleep patterns during puberty. This shift causes teens to feel highly alert in the nighttime hours, which can lead to lost sleep and daytime irritability. While it is important that your teen gets adequate rest, knowing that a physical change happening to their body is causing their late nights will help you be more patient and supportive.

Know about the drastic changes that occur in the adolescent brain during puberty.

During puberty, teenagers experience the largest brain growth spurt since infancy. This extreme season of change in your teen’s brain is what will cause your teen to begin acting with more independence, but it will also be responsible for irrational emotional periods as well.

According to Live Science, the adolescent brain changes in these key ways during puberty:

  • The teen brain becomes more connective and processes more information, more quickly due to growing brain matter.
  • Puberty triggers intense changes to the limbic system, which causes teens to act on emotions before logic.
  • Abstract thought capabilities develop during puberty, and teens begin to gain a view of themselves as perceived by others.
  • Development in the prefrontal cortex and limbic systems together make risk taking more prevalent during puberty.
  • Hormonal changes and surges in the brain during puberty cause teens to feel as though they are at the center of all the attention surrounding them.

Prepare for any changes in your teen’s emotions, and know what is normal and what should cause you concern.

Due to the changes in their brains and bodies during puberty, teens are much more likely to take risks and experience emotional and mental instability. While many behaviors are a normal part of the maturation of adolescence, it is important to understand the changes your teen is undergoing, and also be aware of what signals might point to potential issues in your teen’s mental or emotional health.

If your teen has been suffering consistent bouts of emotional turmoil, depression, or has lost interest in family, school, or friends, then speaking with a trained teen counselor can help you sort through what behaviors are a natural result of puberty, and which may point to the development of mental health issues.

4 Ways You Can Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Teen Athlete

By the time your son or daughter reaches the teenage years, they will inevitably be involved and immersed in many interests as they explore their developing skills, talents, and passions. One of the most common pass times that teens typically enjoy at various degrees during adolescence and beyond is athletics.

Participating in athletics is a fantastic way for your teen to stay healthy and fit, while learning the value of teamwork, respect, and hard work. Playing sports can also build self-esteem and help your teen form healthy bonds of friendship as they learn how to handle success and defeat.

However, as you teen begins to develop athletic skills and pursuits, they will also become more aware of their bodies and how they compare to their peers and any athletic icons they look up to as role models and motivation.

Unfortunately, this heightened body scrutiny and comparison can give way to unhealthy body image issues and evolve into eating disorders very quickly if your teen is not equipped with a strong sense of what it means to be healthy, strong, and athletic. In fact, according to the National Mental Health Institute, 2.7 percent of teens age thirteen to eighteen have struggled with some type of eating disorder.

4 Ways You Can Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Teen Athlete

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, here are four ways that you can help support a healthy body image in your teen athlete to protect them from developing dangerous, unhealthy eating or training habits:

Understand eating disorders and other body image issues your teen may face.

It is important to understand that eating disorders do not stem solely from eating or not eating in unhealthy manners. Eating disorders are a symptom of a much deeper mental, emotional, or psychological issue that may be plaguing the happiness and well-being of your teen. Make sure that you do the research on what different body image issues and eating disorders exist, and fully understand how they may impact your teen as they strive to excel in athletics.

Know how to identify if your teen is struggling with their body image or suffering from an eating disorder.

To keep your teen healthy and safe, know the warning signs and symptoms to look for that may provide you early warning into a potential problem. Most teenagers will not come forward openly with their body image or eating disorder problems, so you will need to begin the open, honest, supportive conversation if you witness the warnings. According to the Mayo Clinic, warnings of an eating disorder may include:

  • Abnormally low body weight
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Distorted body image
  • Expressions of self-hatred or loathing
  • Excessively limiting calories or food intake
  • Escaping to the rest room immediately after a meal
  • Refusing to eat
  • Vomiting after meals
  • Use of weight loss pills or laxatives

Talk to your teen about their athletic role models, and help them identify healthy bodies and training regimes.

As the Summer Olympics quickly approaches, your teens will be watching with added excitement and attention as the very best competitors in their favorite sports compete for medals. This is a great opportunity to point out healthy, strong bodies and talk to your teen about the best ways to accomplish their fitness goals in a safe manner.

Additionally, there are many athletes who have overcome eating disorders. Sharing these stories of triumph and success can help encourage your teen to open up and seek help if they have been experiencing issues with their body or are developing an unhealthy relationship with eating.

Intervene with support, positivity, and straightforward help when you suspect body image issues or eating disorders in your teen.

If your teen exhibits the warning signals of poor body image or a potential struggle with an eating disorder, you should intervene immediately. When you bring up this topic with your teen, do not speak in judgmental or negative terms. Be open, positive, and straightforward as you encourage your teen to speak openly while you listen. If your teen continues to display unhealthy behaviors after you’ve intervened, it can be immensely helpful to consult the advice of a professional teen counselor to help you reach your teen with tools for an active and healthy approach to athletics and life.

5 Tips for Parenting Tweens and Teens During Junior High

The junior high years can be a perplexing and difficult time for both teens and parents alike. As your teen develops academically and socially, they will be experiencing significant changes to their hormonal makeup and brain chemistry as well.

5 Tips for Parenting Tweens and Teens During Junior High

Due to these physiological and mental developments and changes happening in your teen’s body and mind, they may experience times of confusion and outburst during their growth. As you parent your teen or tween through their junior high experiences, you can rely on these five tips to ensure that you are offering solid support and guidance that build up your teen’s character and personality as they undergo drastic changes in their mind, body, and life.

Consider the adolescent years as a period of growth and learning for your teen, and yourself.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the human brain goes through a period of rapid transition during the adolescent years. These changes account for many of the typical teenage behaviors such as seeking independence, developing strong social bonds, and increasing their capacity to learn. However, many of the connections in the brain are not fully formed until a person reaches their 20s. This may explain why teens tend to behave erratically and irrationally during the junior high years, and understanding these natural, normal behaviors can help you more quickly identify if your teen is progressing normally or if they may be at risk for mental health issues.

Play an active role in your teen’s education.

According to School Family, an important way to stay involved as a trusted guide in your teen’s life is to play an active role in their schooling. You can become more involved in your teen’s education in numerous ways, including:

  • Find a way to help out at your teen’s school
  • Get to know your teen’s teachers and school administrators
  • Attend school meetings and events
  • Chaperone dances, field trips, or school events
  • Know your teen’s assignment and test schedules
  • Designate a home work spot in your home, and help if needed
  • Talk to your teen about their schooling

Encourage and practice open communication on all aspects of your teen’s life.

Your teen will be experiencing many changes during their adolescent growth and development, and it is important for them to understand that they can come to you and speak about everything that is going on in their life. Communicate openly with your teen, and make sure they know that you are always available to listen and advise them when they need you.

Don’t avoid having the more difficult conversations about sex, alcohol, and drugs.

Family Life encourages parents of middle school teens to be bold and brave in speaking to teens about difficult or awkward topics such as sex, drugs, and alcohol. Your teen will be experiencing many changes during junior high, along with a growing independence, so it is vital that you have all the hard conversations to keep them informed, safe, and healthy as they grow.

Monitor mobile activity and social media interactions.

Most teenagers will have a cell phone and a social media presence by the time they are in junior high, so it is really important that you monitor the interactions that take place through texts or online social channels. While these pass times can be a great source of communication, bonding, and entertainment for your teen, they can also be dangerous due to bullies and predators. Keep close tabs on all of your teen’s online and mobile conversations, and also make sure they understand how to stay safe when they are having fun online.

As a parent it is important to understand that the natural changes that come along with adolescence can act as underlying causes for your teen’s perception of their world, and shape how they react and experience it as well.  Always treat your teen with respect, and consistently guide and enforce the development of strong morals and virtues. If you begin to consistently notice concerning changes to your teen’s behaviors, and struggle with reaching them and helping them through them, you can rely on the help of a professional teen counselor to help you.