How to Help Your Teen Overcome Low Self-Esteem and Body Image Issues

how to help your teen overcome low self-esteem and body image issues

Self-esteem and body image issues can be a very difficult part of adolescence and young adulthood. Each generation has its own idea of “perfection” perpetuated through media, peer pressure, and societal prejudices, all have which take strong roots in our thinking.

Any kind of negative imaging in the formative years can lead to teens picking up a distorted view of what constitutes the “right” body image and self-concept.

Understanding Self-Esteem and Body Image

Body image is how one perceives oneself physically. Self-esteem on the other hand takes on a more holistic view of how one values and respects oneself as a person. Body image and self-esteem are closely linked in the sense that they have a spill-over effect on each other.

A positive body image allows you to appreciate your individual qualities and strengths both on the inside and the outside.

When you feel good inside and out, it has a positive influence on other areas of your life – you feel good about your life, the people in it, the work you do, and your accomplishments. Each of these in turn drive you towards a more positive future.

This is what a positive self-esteem constitutes – a qualitative and a quantitative appreciation of oneself.

In this context, consider the following statistics:

According to the National Institute of Health, unhealthy eating habits and addictions can lead to both health risks and mental disorders or conditions such as depression. Establishing these habits at a young age can result in a teen who continues presenting with these habits even into their adulthood.

Therefore, it is so important for parents to help their teens and young adults develop a healthy body image and positive self-esteem.

Concrete Steps You Can Take as Parents

Start by trying to understand what your teenager feels about their own body image. The following questions can help you understand what they are thinking;

  • What qualities do they like about their body?
  • Are they happy with their physical appearance (weight, height, features)?
  • Is there a specific celebrity or public personality with a body type they like?
  • Is there any part of their body they would want to change or replace?

Additionally, work on your own values about your body and the messages you give to your kids about health and body image:

Give Prominence to Human Values Over Physical Appearance

  • Focus on qualities of kindness, helping others, and honesty over physical attributes or appearances.
  • Don’t criticize your teen or young adult over their physical appearance; work with them to pick up healthy eating habits, good sleeping habits, and to exercise appropirately.
  • Appreciate any efforts they make in this regard.

Lead by Example

  • If you have a negative body image or have self-esteem issues, your kids will notice.
  • If you tend to obsess over food, appearance, and weight they will pick up on those habits.
  • When you speak negatively about others’ appearance, they will feel encouraged to do the same.

Help Your Teen Overcome Negative Perceptions About Their Body

  • Talk to your teen about appreciating their body and their physical and emotional strengths.
  • You can help highlight a strength to counter any negative feelings they have about a specific body part.
  • Impress upon them that even celebrities and public figures must deal with imperfections; the images they see on the Internet, TV, and social media are often airbrushed or manipulated.
  • Talk to them about how marvelous the human body is in terms of what it can achieve, and that everyday life is not so much about how one looks, but about what one does.
  • Talk to them about people who have overcome physical, emotional, gender, and community biases to achieve greatness in their lives; this can help them understand the above-mentioned point of focusing on achievements and everyday actions.
  • Listen to your teen when they speak; if they know you are paying attention and care about their feelings, they will feel encouraged to open up about struggles.

Poor Self-esteem and Negative Body Image Issues – How Doorways Can Help Your Teen

If your teen is struggling with poor body image or low self-esteem, there is every chance they can fall into the trap of unhealthy lifestyle choices, including bad dietary habits and addictions. Assistance by way of behavioral, family, group counseling, and psychiatric intervention can help your teen learn to respect, feed, and appreciate their body.

To learn more about how we can help, visit Doorways or give us a call at 602-997-2880.

Do You Have a Teen with OCD?

Do you have a teen with OCD?

Launched in 2009 by the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), OCD Awareness Week takes place annually during the second week in October. OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and OCD Week aims to raise awareness and understanding about this condition so that more sufferers can receive appropriate and effective treatment.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a common mental condition. An individual with OCD has constantly recurring thoughts (obsessions) that may lead to behaviors that they have no control over (compulsions). These behaviors will be repeated over and over and the sufferer will be unable to stop. It’s not just about a habit like biting your nails or sometimes thinking negative thoughts. OCD in teens can affect their lives to such an extent that they have trouble living a normal life at home or in school.

What are Examples of OCD Obsessions and Compulsions?

An obsessive individual might be someone who thinks they’ll be unlucky if they don’t put their clothes on in the exact same order every morning. A compulsive habit might be someone washing their hands exactly seven times after touching something dirty. A teen may try to involve family members in their obsessions. For instance, they may insist that their parents and siblings also wash their hands the way they do. Although teens might not want to think or do these things, and may even understand that they don’t make sense, they feel powerless to stop.

How Common is OCD Among Teens?

The International OCD Foundation (IOCD) estimates that approximately twenty teenagers in a large high school may have OCD. Compulsive rituals can be somewhat time-consuming, making teens late for school and activities. When parents try to “reason” a teen out of their compulsive behavior, this results in arguments and tension. Some teens may worry that they’re going crazy and work hard to hide their OCD from others. This prevents them from behaving naturally and causes a great deal of inner stress and exhaustion.

What Causes OCD?

Unfortunately, research has not been able to pinpoint the exact cause or causes of OCD. However, studies have suggested that differences in the brain and genes of those affected may play a role. OCD may result from problems in communication between the front part of the brain and the brain’s deeper structures. These brain structures use a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) called serotonin. What is known is that, in some sufferers, the brain circuitry involved in OCD becomes more normalized with medications that have an effect on serotonin levels (serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs). The same effect has been observed in OCD sufferers undergoing cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

  • Can OCD be Inherited? – It does seem that OCD can run in families. This backs up the contention that genes are likely playing a partial role in the development of the disorder.

Where can I get Help for my Teen with OCD in Phoenix?

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. If your teen (aged thirteen to seventeen) has been diagnosed with OCD, they may benefit from joining a Doorways Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for Anxiety Disorders/OCD. A Doorways IOP consists of a small group led by a trained counselor and operates on an open enrollment basis. This means that your teen can be enrolled at any time. We want to help your teen with OCD so contact us for more information.

8 Tips for Helping Your Teen Manage High School

8 tips for helping your teen manage high school

Has your adolescent moved on from middle school to high school? They may have looked forward to moving up a grade with their friends, but they may have also found the transition somewhat daunting and stressful. If some of your teen’s friends from middle school are attending the same high school, this will have made the move easier. However, there will still be a host of students they don’t know, a new school culture, more challenging classes and new social pressures – it’s a lot to cope with. So, here are eight tips on helping new high-schoolers navigate this milestone in their life.

  1. Establish a Consistent Homework Routine

Your teen needs a quiet spot without the distractions of phones, TV, loud music, and video games. While they may claim to be an expert multitasker, able to do homework while also checking their Facebook account, studies show that multitasking is not beneficial to studying. Setting up a regular time to do homework also helps. Encourage them to establish a daily homework agenda. Homework assignments, extracurricular activities and upcoming test dates may be available online so they can look ahead and plan more effectively.

  1. Teach Your Teen to Prioritize

If the high school workload is heavy, teach your teen to prioritize and do the most pressing or difficult homework first. This way, if everything doesn’t get finished, the most important assignments will have been completed. Many high schools post grades online, making it easy to go over grades and assignments every week. Praise should come first as your teen needs to know that you are proud of their successful efforts. After the praise, you can turn the discussion to any missing or late work and what can be done to improve.

  1. Encourage Your Teen to Learn Management Skills

Sometimes a large project may seem overwhelming especially if your teen is not organized and has trouble focusing. Teach them how to break the assignment down into more manageable pieces. You might begin with a brainstorming session one day, doing research the following day, writing a section the next day, and so on. The aim is to make the project seem much more doable. Your high schooler can keep an itemized list of the various steps and check each step off as it gets completed. Each time they put a tick next to a completed item, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and be less stressed about an impending deadline.

  1. Help Your Teen to Think Ahead

Forethought and focus aren’t always adolescent strong suits. Lack of preparation usually leads to disorganized mornings and rushing out the door to catch the school bus on time. More preparation the night before will mean less stress and more time for breakfast the following morning. Before going to bed, encourage thinking ahead. This could include laying out school clothes, packing up homework, and collecting musical instruments and sports equipment in one place. Remember that it can take many repetitions to turn actions into habits. It’s not helpful to nag or roll your eyes at their forgetfulness; it will just make them defensive.

  1. Focus on Ultimate Life Goals

Try to help your teen understand that the point of working hard in high school isn’t just to get good grades. It’s also about building towards a happy, fulfilling future. Encourage them to indulge in visions about their future and talk about the educational steps necessary to achieve their goals. Whatever you do, don’t discourage them by shooting down their dreams. Your student should also be encouraged to try different interests on for size.

  1. Listen to Your Teen’s Problems

Does your teen tell you that they hate school? Just as it’s not a good idea to do their homework for them, it’s best not to immediately supply solutions to any school problems they may be having. Instead, encourage them to think through the issues themselves by asking them what they think caused the problem, what they’ve done so far to deal with it, and what they plan to do next.

  1. Teach Your Teen to Deal with Failure

Failing at something is a necessary part of growing up. You can help your teen to handle failure by talking about your own past struggles and helping them to understand that even when things go badly, there are always other options and new opportunities to improve. Although your sympathy is important, don’t insulate them from all consequences. Teens who are protected from all the pain and anguish of failure are likely to react badly to misfortunes later in life.

  1. Address any Teen Problems Now

Many mental, emotional and physical challenges surface during the high school years. Addressing them when they first appear avoids being overwhelmed by them later when teens may not be able to fulfill educational goals. Many high schoolers with challenges can be helped and go on to become successful throughout high school, college and beyond. If you need professional guidance, Doorways is here for you. We want your teen to be successful, so make a no-cost, no-obligation appointment with us today.

6 Tips for Parenting Your College Freshman

It’s happening – You’ve done your best to equip your teen with the necessary skills to not only survive but also thrive after high school, and now the moment has finally arrived when your eighteen-year-old is off to college. It may be a moment you’ve been dreading – your child leaving home. Worse, if your teen is an only child or the youngest, you also have to deal with that empty nest syndrome. Neither you nor your college freshman knows exactly how well this transition from home to college is going to go, so here are six pieces of helpful advice for you as a parent.

tips for parenting a college freshman

  1. Do Your Best to Let Go

College is but one more step that your teen is taking in their life, and they should be allowed to make their own decisions as much as possible. It’s somewhat of a balancing act – you want to provide enough direction, so your college student doesn’t feel they’ve been cast adrift in a boat without a rudder, while you also want to steer them toward making intelligent choices on their own.

  1. Let Your Teen Make Mistakes

Your college student will make mistakes. They may need to fall on their face and learn from what went wrong and get back up. This may sound harsh, but it’s the best way to learn valuable life lessons. Your challenge is to be supportive yet resist the temptation to turn into a helicopter parent hovering over every decision in an attempt to protect your teen from risk or failure.

  1. Don’t Fight Changes in Your Teen

First-year college life can be an exciting time for your freshman to discover deeper meaning and purpose. Be excited for your teen instead of worrying over how they may be changing. Freshman year of college is a time when your student may begin to question the interests, beliefs, and values they’ve brought with them from home and begin to change. This is a necessary and natural process of growing up.

  1. Expect a Possible Change in Career Interest

Don’t be alarmed if your college freshman expresses interest in a different career path from the one you thought was already set. It’s normal for college students to develop new interests and change their major. Many colleges acknowledge this by not requiring students to declare a major until their junior year. Of course, encourage your teen to discuss their choices with you, but in the end, it’s best to allow them to navigate their career choices on their own.

  1. Accept More Limited Contact with Your Teen

You may find your teen is only providing you snippets of information, where once you received whole chapters. To overcome this, try defining expectations for how you will stay in touch with your student. For instance, establish a regular time to talk by phone – this will alleviate worries when you haven’t heard from your teen in a while. A care package every now and then doesn’t hurt either.

  1. Anticipate a Different Relationship

The most challenging time for you and your new college student may be the summer after the freshman year when your teen comes home and you are struck by how they’ve changed. Your teen has been gone for a year, has matured, and now has a sense of belonging to a new community. If your freshman is at a college nearby, don’t be upset if they don’t come home every weekend. Your student needs the time to make friends, explore what the college offers and fully experience campus living.

Finally – Expect to Still Be Needed

While your student needs independence during their college journey, there will also be times when they need your help, advice, and support. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with campus resources so that you can help direct your teen to the appropriate place if concerns arise. However, if your teenager or young adult is experiencing problems that you can’t cope with, you may need the help of a counselor who is trained to deal with college students. If you are in this situation, give Doorways a call. We want your student to enjoy their college life, and an initial consultation with us won’t cost you any extra tuition fees.

6 Tips for Getting Your Teen to Talk to You

Do you find that trying to have a conversation with your teen is heavy going and that you miss the chatty child they used to be? Do they respond to your questions with sighs, eye rolls, and not uncommonly, a door slam? Although it might seem your adolescent has transformed from their younger talkative self almost overnight, this change in behavior is actually quite normal.

Why do Teens Stop Talking?

Teens are trying to figure out who they are and become independent. They develop a strong desire to limit how much information they disclose about themselves. However, they do want to have conversations with their parents, but on their own terms. Not yours. If you understand this, you can improve the dialogue between you and your adolescent, but it does take patience, time and practice. Here are six suggestions to improve the conversational flow:

Tips for getting your teen to talk to you

  1. Ask Indirect Questions

Instead of jumping in feet first and demanding, “Were there drugs at the party?” Consider asking: “How many kids were at the party?” Your teen is much more likely to talk if you don’t make them feel they’re under an interrogation. So, if you start with an innocuous question to get the conversation going, you’re more likely to get the answer to the question that you really want answered.

  1. Listen, Listen, Listen

It’s important to control any impulse to interrupt because once you do, they’re likely to shut down. Just let them talk and vent if they want. Your teen will be so appreciative when you allow them to express themselves and they know you’re concentrating on what they’re saying.

  1. Stay Calm

Once you overreact and get angry or upset, they will clam up, because you’re giving them the impression that you can’t cope with what you hear. It’s quite possible you may get agitated at what you are being told but try to breathe deeply and present as calm a demeanor as possible so that they will continue to be open with you.

  1. Try Not to Judge

Teenagers care how they come across to their parents. If your teen gets the slightest hint of disapproval – even from nonverbal cues – they are likely to call a halt to the conversation. It’s much better to wait until your adolescent has completely filled you in. If you are alarmed at what you have heard, give yourself a chance to calm down before talking to them about your concerns.

  1. Be Available

Adolescents are very sensitive to what they perceive as a lack of interest and availability on the part of their parents. So, set aside some time in your busy schedule to be available so they have a chance to talk to you. When they’re in a room with you, consider turning off your computer or the TV so that you can give your full, undivided attention.

  1. Initiate One-on-one Talks

Conversations just between the two of you, with no other audience present (like siblings), will be much appreciated because teens are both private and self-conscious. Respect their desire for privacy and choose a time to talk when the two of you can be alone.

Why is Good Communication with My Teen Important?

Parents should not underestimate the value of good communication with their teen. An adolescent who can communicate well with their parents is more likely to make good decisions, is less susceptible to pressure from peers, and will tend to have better self-esteem.

If You Need Help with Your Teen

It could be that, despite your best efforts, you still aren’t communicating very well with your teen. You might be wondering if this is because they have a serious problem that you’ve been unable to discover. The teenage years can involve a whole host of issues – underage drinking, drug abuse, eating disorders, depression, and cyber-bullying, to name just a few. Doorways is here to give you some help. Our counselors are trained to get adolescents to open up about their problems, so set up an initial, no-charge consultation with us. We can help improve communication between you and your teen.

6 Ways for More Purposeful Parenting of Teens

6 Ways for More Purposeful Parenting of Teens

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has designated July as Purposeful Parenting Month, so let’s think about what this means when it comes to your teenager. Purposeful parenting is about being an active, engaged parent, and providing your adolescent with the best support to enable a meaningful future life. Here are six things you need to know or do to be a more purposeful parent.

  1. Adolescents Live in the Present

Teens in the early and middle years of high school are not usually spending a lot of time thinking about college and the future. They might just want to hang out with friends, listen to the latest music, or play video games. It’s important to understand that teens typically live in the here and now. To adolescents, the future seems way off in the distance. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to instill some sense of direction into your teen’s life as preparation for the years ahead.

  1. Teens May Be Afraid

One of the main reasons many teenagers seem to have little ambition about their future is because they are scared of it. Adolescents are reluctant to acknowledge and admit their fears, especially to their parents, but most are afraid of the responsibilities they’ll face when they are no long living at home. They also worry they won’t be able to get a good job. And, these days, going to college often means ending up with a huge debt. These concerns make looking ahead scary and uncertain.

  1. Keep an Open Mind

Adolescents can have interests that their parents don’t particularly like or think worthwhile. However, it’s hard to have a close relationship with your teen if you belittle their interests. Instead, engage your teenager in conversation. For instance, if your adolescent enjoys video games, ask them what aspects of gaming they find the most interesting – the technology, the story-line, the graphics, the competition between players? Offer your adolescent opportunities they will find appealing. For example, you might arrange to tour a studio that creates video games. A supportive approach can help create self-direction and motivation in your teen.

  1. Share Your Own Sense of Purpose

Talk to your teen about what you find purposeful and meaningful in your life and work. Don’t concentrate on how much money you make; rather, try making your teen understand how work serves essential social needs and can also fulfill a personal sense of purpose. If you have a job that you aren’t happy with, talk to your adolescent about how they have the opportunity to do something more purposeful with their lives.

  1. Find Mentors

Adolescents often look to people outside their homes for ideas and inspiration to help them find their own pathways. Be proactive in finding and introducing your teen to people who will inspire them. If your teen’s interest in something increases, give them encouragement to motivate them to learn even more.

  1. Encourage Adventure

If your teen has a deep interest in something, encourage them to dive in more deeply by:

  • Fostering a can-do, optimistic, attitude.
  • Helping to set clear goals and realistic attainment plans.
  • Brainstorming possible solutions to difficulties.
  • Encouraging persistence.
  • Supporting risk-taking to learn new skills.

A Purposeful Relationship with Your Teenager is Possible

Your job as a parent is to create an environment where self-motivation is most likely to flourish. Purposeful parenting is not easy. So, if you find you are having problems with your teen that are impeding your attempts to be a purposeful parent, talk to Doorways to find out how we can help. An initial consultation is free, so take a purposeful step towards solving your problem with your adolescent, by giving us a call.

My Teen is Always Online – What Can I Do?

Without parental guidance, most teens will spend almost all their time outside the classroom transfixed by a screen. They may be texting on their phones, connecting with their Facebook “friends,” or watching videos on their tablets. In addition, many adolescents are multi-tasking – for instance watching TV or doing homework while also scrolling through social media.

How Much Time Are Teens Spending on Line?

The answer is a lot! A recent study by Pew Research found that 50% of teens say they are online almost all the time. (This percentage has risen from 24% in Pew’s 2014-15 study.) 44% of the teens participating in the new study reported being online multiple times during the day. So, what can you as a concerned parent do to limit your adolescent’s screen time, especially when they say “everybody’s doing it”? Here are some helpful strategies.

Make Screen Time a Privilege

Your adolescent may feel that screen time is a right and should be available 24/7. It may be difficult to change this mindset, but try to get across the notion that digital time is a privilege. Teach your teenager that homework and chores come before logging in to Facebook or watching a YouTube video.

Talk About Multitasking

Your adolescent will think they’re an expert multitasker. Explain to your teen how multitasking disperses concentration and that you are sure your teen’s homework will get higher marks if they are not texting or talking on their phone at the same time they are trying to solve a math problem or write an essay.

Establish Clear Guidelines

Most families lead busy lives and time spent together is priceless, so banish smartphones from the dinner table. Many adolescents admit to staying up late to check their Facebook account and even to waking up during the night and logging in. So, set a curfew on your teen’s computer screen and banish your teen’s cell phone from their bedroom.

Be a Role Model

If your adolescent points out that while you expect them to limit their use of electronics, you stare at your own smartphone screen or computer just as much, you are sending the wrong message. You will only be a good role model if you limit your own screen time.

Encourage Time Away From Electronics

Do your best to encourage your adolescent to leave their smartphone behind and get some physical exercise during the week. Take the dog for a walk, shoot basketball hoops, do some yard work. On weekends do things as a family – hiking, sailing, playing tennis, visiting the local rock climbing gym. Take a break from the digital world every now and again with a completely screen-free half-day once a week. And, consider an extended digital detox like a seven-day vacation without electronics.

Include Your Adolescent in Screen Time Discussions

Before deciding on media limits with your teen, make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Once you have a strategy in place, hold informal family meetings on the subject of online time. Encourage input from your adolescent, and problem solve together. Make it clear that regulating screen time is not a punishment but that you want your teen to have a healthy relationship with electronics.

The Bottom Line

As reported in a previous article, it’s quite evident that excessive screen time can be harmful to adolescents. Interacting with digital technology is not going to disappear from your teen’s life, so it’s important to teach your adolescent how to use it in a sensible and responsible way. If you need help with any teen problem caused by your teenager’s online life, talk to Doorways to see how we can help. An initial discussion with one of our trained teen counselors won’t cost you anything except some offline time.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) aims to increase awareness of alcohol-related issues. For 2018, the NCADD’s theme is:

Changing Attitudes: It’s Not a ‘Rite of Passage

Because far too many parents do regard underage drinking as a rite of passage, this theme provides an excellent opportunity to talk about alcohol and teens.

The Dangers of Teen Drinking

Teen drinking is directly associated with failure in school, alcohol overdose, violence, unsafe sex, suicide, drowning, and traffic fatalities. The teenage brain encourages teens to take risks, and alcohol can only make these risks even riskier. Alcohol can have unpredictable effects, and teens don’t have the necessary judgment and coping skills to handle it wisely. Too many parents just sit back and hope their teen will “get through it.” A better way is for you to take an active role in talking to your teen about the dangers of alcohol.

What Research Shows

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2015 questioned high school students and found that during the prior 30 days:

  • 33% imbibed some amount of alcohol.
  • 18% indulged in binge drinking.
  • 8% drove a vehicle after drinking.
  • 20% were passengers in a car where the driver had been drinking.

Another survey found that more girls than boys in the 12-17 age group were drinking.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) believes that teens who have conversations with their parents about alcohol are more aware of its dangers and are less likely to start drinking.

Talking to Your Teen About Alcohol

You may find that your teen tries to dodge a conversation about drinking. It’s sound advice not to just jump in feet first. Before talking to your teen, think about what you want to discuss. Choose a time to have a conversation when both of you have some “down time” and are feeling relaxed. It’s not necessary to try to cover everything at once. And, most important, do your best to have a conversation, not give a lecture!

Find Out What Your Teen Thinks

A good way to begin is to ask your teen what they know about alcohol, teen drinking, and why teens drink. Listen without interrupting so that your teen feels heard and respected. This first step can serve as a natural “lead-in” to provide your teen with the following facts.

  • Alcohol is a potent drug. It slows reaction time, impairs coordination, and clouds clear thinking.  
  • Wine and beer are not “safer” than distilled spirits.  
  • One drink takes 2-3 hours to leave the body. There’s no way to speed this up – not taking a cold shower, drinking coffee, nor “walking it off.”  
  • Teens who drive after drinking are not in full control of their reactions.  
  • Teens can develop serious alcohol problems.

Set Boundaries for Your Teen

Most teens see adults drinking around them and don’t perceive that these adults have any problems. Explain that alcohol has a greater effect on the still maturing teen brain than on a fully-developed adult brain, and emphasize the following:

  • You don’t want your teen to drink. Your values count, even though your teen may not always acknowledge it.  
  • Drinking under age 21 is illegal. Emphasize that even if the police aren’t involved, the parents of a drinking teen’s friend may ban the friendship.  
  • You want your teen to have self-respect. Tell your teen that they are too smart and have too much going for them to need the crutch of alcohol.  
  • Tell your teen never to get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.  
  • Explain that drinking can lead to sexual assault and unprotected sex.  
  • If there is a family history of alcoholism, bring it into the open. Research shows that family history may play a part in alcohol dependency. 
  • Point out that imbibing alcohol while the brain is still maturing may lead to loss of IQ and may increase the likelihood of adult alcohol dependence.  
  • Talk about how to handle peer pressure. Offer to pick your teen up from a party where drinking has occurred and stress that you won’t scold.

If You Need Assistance

If you suspect that your teen has a drinking problem, consider getting advice from a professional counselor specializing in alcohol problems. Here at Doorways, our counselors are trained to deal with teen drinking issues. Set up a free consultation to find out how we can help your teen. Alcohol use is a risky business for teens, but parents can make a difference.

How to Develop a Good Relationship with Your Teenager

Ahh, Mother’s Day! Breakfast in bed, flowers, sweetly crayoned card, matching mother/daughter outfits, smiling kids posing for pictures? Mmm, probably not, if you have a teenager! Perhaps you’re lucky and your teen surprised you on May 13. In any event, even though Mother’s Day is over for this year, it provides a good opportunity to reflect on how to you relate to your teen. So, here’s a discussion of ways to keep and maintain a close relationship between the two of you.

Do Your Best to Listen

Once your child becomes a teenager, they think they know your views about everything under the sun. After all, you’ve been giving them your opinions on things for their entire lifetime. Now, it’s much more important that you listen to them. When you take the time to listen, it’s more likely that your teen will end up asking for your views and advice. Opinions, when asked for, are more likely to be taken to heart than opinions rendered before giving your teen a chance to say anything.

Use Criticism Sparingly

Although parenting involves sometimes offering criticism to a teen, the way you do it is crucial to staying on good terms. Use criticism sparingly and try to do it in as kindly a manner as possible. Even adults have trouble handling a barrage of disapproval, so don’t expect your teen to react well to it. A hail of constant criticism will likely be met with silence and a closed door to your teen’s room.

Learn the Best Way to Ask Questions

Don’t pepper your teen with questions without even waiting for answers – “Where were you?” “Who were you with?” “What were you doing?” Here’s a video which perfectly illustrates this. Ask a question, but then sit back and listen. If your teen doesn’t respond, try simply saying “I’m listening,” but not in a demanding tone of voice. A pause gives your teen permission to gather their thoughts and can lead to a worthwhile conversation.

Keep Your Thoughts About Your Teen Private

Many parents in social gatherings or online seem to think that it’s normal to talk about how their teens have ruined their lives. Even if your teen isn’t there, what you say may get back to them. And, if your teen is standing in a corner of the room hearing you, imagine how they must feel. The same goes for stories about your teen (either at the age they are now or when they were younger) which they will find embarrassing.

Choose What to Make a Stand Over

Teens face many significant issues, so does it really matter if they don’t make their bed every day. If you don’t engage in battles with your teen over small things, they will be more likely to listen to you on bigger issues. Base your rules on sensible guiding principles and let the non-important stuff slide. Most teenagers are doing their best to manage complicated lives, so cut them some slack when they forget to do the dishes.

Apologies Are Important

Every time you raise your voice to your teen or unjustifiably punish them, you’re erecting a brick wall between you and your teen. If you mess up, don’t just let things go. Apologize to your teen, and tell them that you’ll try to do better in future. Your teen will feel better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be setting a good example of a positive habit that your teen can follow with their friends.

Appearances Aren’t Everything

Teens are very sensitive about their appearance, so try to avoid pouring on the critiques and advice. If your teen adopts the latest teen fashion, gets a purple streak in their hair, or gets a nose stud, try regarding these things as fun (because they are!) and recognize that your teen will eventually outgrow them. Outright and persistent disapproval will only lead to more outrageous appearances.

Praise Your Teen’s Efforts

Don’t indulge in comparing your teen unfavorably to their siblings, their cousin, the teen of the neighbors next door, or their friends. If your teen plays sports, don’t scold and belittle your teen for not performing as well as the team star. If they didn’t receive the drama award or get on the spelling bee team, tell them it’s ok and you know they did their best.

Above All, Use Your Good Sense

Creating a happy, loving, open relationship with your teen is far more powerful than any form of discipline. You can maintain a good rapport with your teen and still expect them to get good grades, read books, not use swear words, wash the dishes, help the neighbors mow their lawn, etc. They may even take over the household chores on next year’s Mother’s Day! However, in spite of your best efforts, you may be having problems with your teen that you don’t know how to solve. At Doorways, our counselors are trained in how to relate to teens, so set up a free consultation with us to see how we can help you.

Why You Need to Get Inside Your Teen’s Brain

If you’re a parent concerned about the possibility that your teen may be becoming hooked on alcohol or drugs, one thing you must not do is treat them as a mini version of yourself. That’s because your teen’s brain is not a mini version of your own. Their brain is still developing and is different from an adult’s brain. The teenage brain can absorb new information and make neural connections much faster than you can. This makes your teen more inclined to try new things and take more risks than an adult with a settled brain. While this is a vital part of growing up, it does make teens more vulnerable to addictive behaviors than adults.

“The teenage brain is really in a unique developmental stage that is still very much under construction, and it has unique strengths … and weaknesses … Ironically, both play into this increased susceptibility to addiction.”

– Dr. Frances Jensen: Chair, Dept. of Neurology, Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine; Co‑Author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.

How the Brain Develops

The brain is the last bodily organ to fully mature. Brain maturation is not finished until the mid to late 20s. On average, this happens slightly faster in girls and young women than it does in boys and young men, though development varies for each individual. Among other things, what happens in this critical period may affect how intelligent a person eventually becomes. Research has shown that IQ can change during the teenage years.

Why Your Teen May be Drawn Towards Addictive Behaviors

Because your teen’s brain inspires experiential learning, your teen might experiment with behaviors that are undesirable. For instance, your teen may begin smoking cigarettes. The teen brain, as opposed to the adult brain, more rapidly generates circuits in the brain’s reward centers (such as the limbic system) as a response to the pleasure received from addictive substances. Because of this, it’s easier for teens to become addicted more quickly, and the addiction can take a stronger hold than it might with adults. It has been shown that adults who started smoking as teens find it much harder to quit than adults who began smoking later in life. The same is true for other kinds of drugs and for alcohol.

The Last Area of the Brain to Develop

When it comes to deciding to give in to the temptation of that first cigarette, joint, or drink, teens are at a neurological disadvantage. The frontal lobe of the brain includes an area called the prefrontal cortex, which deals with executive functioning – higher-order functions such as emotion, planning, reasoning, regulation, and self-control. The prefrontal cortex is the last area of the brain to develop fully and is still underdeveloped in teens.

Is My Teen Pre-Destined to Indulge in Addictive Behaviors?

What’s going on in your teen’s brain does not necessarily mean that they are preprogrammed to chase pleasure and always throw caution to the wind. Instead, you, as a parent, can help by understanding the brain differences between you and your teen. You need to sit down with your teen and explain the changes in neurological development they’re going through, and why this puts them at risk when it comes to alcohol and drugs. You need to tap into the full potential of your adult brain and speak clearly and accurately about the dangers of addiction, including the risks for overdosing and impaired driving. Be authoritative but also warm. While setting clear limits, boundaries and expectations, meet your teen where they’re at developmentally. Don’t just condemn them for doing things you don’t understand.

If You Need Help

Sometimes it’s challenging to handle teen problems on your own and your adult brain may feel greatly overtaxed. The trained counselors at Doorways understand the ways a teen’s brain development affects their behavior. If you would like to get a deep understanding of how we can help your teen, contact us to schedule a free consultation.