How Crafting Can Help Your Teen

In 1994, the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) “crafted” the wonderful month called Craft Month. CHA has since changed its name to the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). AFCI is committed to an overarching vision of enriching people’s lives through crafting and other creative activities. Since its very humble beginnings, craft month (March) has grown into a joyous international celebration by millions of craft enthusiasts who love “getting their craft on.”

Benefits of Crafting for Teens

Little kids love getting messy and making something fun. But, there’s no reason to stop being creative at the age of thirteen. Teens and young adults benefit from crafting in the following ways.

  • Helps to Create a Positive Identity – The sense of self is enhanced by the personal process of creating something.
  • Soothes Teenage Angst – Crafts can serve as mental yoga and provide teens with an activity that is mindful and calming.
  • Brings Imagination to the Fore – Crafts encourage teens to explore different creative ideas.
  • Develops Focus – To succeed at a craft requires strong focus and attention to detail.
  • Builds Confidence – Seeing a craft through from beginning to end provides a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • Encourages Perseverance – A craft can be difficult to learn and delivers a healthy challenge to a teen.

Help Your Teen to Find Crafting Outlets

Unfortunately, arts and crafts programs are being eliminated or downsized in many schools. When young adults get to high school, they may only need one arts credit in order to graduate. Apart from pursuing a craft at home, students can often find interesting crafts programs at their local library. Take a look at what programs The American Library Association suggests libraries get involved with. Check out the libraries near you or talk to your library about setting up a crafts itinerary. Click here for a list of Arizona public libraries offering crafts programs. As well as your local library, there may be a summer camp with interesting arts and crafts programs.

Pottery Classes

Many teens enjoy pottery classes. Pottery involves more than just mixing clay, water, and other additives. It’s a craft that provides teens and young adults with a creative, relaxing outlet to make something unique. They can mold clay with just their hands, or learn to “throw” a pot or a bowl using a wheel. The resulting creation can be glazed and baked in a kiln. Check out the area where you live for pottery programs designed for teens and young adults. Here’s some help on finding pottery classes in the Phoenix area.

How do I Get My Teen Interested in a Craft?

Taking up a craft can enrich a teenager’s life. However, as I’m sure you know, it’s impossible to force a teen into a hobby. So, use some insight and gentle guidance to help your teen explore the idea of crafting and find the craft that most excites them. Asking a teen “what would you like to do?” is too vague and broad. Bring up the subject of crafting, ask your teen to think about it, and then bring the question up again later.

Don’t Turn Your Teen Off to the Idea of Crafting

Try not to go from being insightful and helpful to suffocating and nagging. Mention possible enjoyable activities, but don’t succumb to harping on them constantly. Most teens resent being pushed into things, so it may take some finesse to coax an adolescent into pursuing a craft you think they will enjoy. You could try passing along online suggestions like this one.

Be Supportive

Once a teen has expressed an interest in a craft, give them your full support and provide them with any necessary materials. If the teen needs space at home to pursue the craft, make sure there’s an area in your house where they can be creative. And, never chastise them for making a mess.

Do You Have a Teen with Issues?

We hope that your teen is involved in an engaging hobby of some sort. However, if your teen is suffering from a problem that you find difficult to cope with, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get them involved with a craft. Whatever the issue, Doorways is here to help you and your teen or young adult. We specialize in services for those aged 13-25 in the Phoenix area. Arrange a consultation with us to see how we can help you.

What Parents Can Do About Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence is a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse directed against teenaged dating partners. It can take several forms—physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological. In today’s digital age, cyberstalking and other forms of digital abuse represent the latest wave of teen dating violence. Teen dating violence is not limited to any one particular group or culture and can affect boys and girls of any race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.

How Prevalent is Teen Dating Violence?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that each year approximately 1.5 million students at the high school level experience physical abuse from a dating partner. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that, during one year, one in ten high school students were hurt physically by a romantic partner and 10 percent were victimized sexually. The most commonly affected group are girls aged between sixteen and twenty-four, but boys are not immune. The CDC estimates that 7 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys experience some form of dating abuse before the age of eighteen. Click here to read a detailed CDC report on teen dating violence.

How Do You Know if Your Teen is a Victim?

Sadly, many teens who are the victims of teen dating abuse suffer in silence. They are afraid, ashamed, or guilt-stricken. And, unfortunately, research conducted by Teen Research Unlimited found that many parents are unable to detect the signs of dating abuse. Although 82 percent of parents thought they were confident in their ability to recognize signs of abuse, only 42 percent knew how to identify the signs accurately. Here are some warning signs that parents should watch out for:

  • Bumps and bruises: If your teen is giving you reasons for injuries that don’t seem to add up, be suspicious. You need to keep probing to see if your teen is covering up dating abuse and trying to protect the abuser.
  • Changes in personality: Is your extroverted teen staying at home more and not socializing with friends? If this is the case, you have good reason to be concerned – the effects of isolation on an adolescent can be detrimental.
  • Drug use: Some instances of abuse follow drug use by the victim’s partner and often the victim has also been persuaded to take the drug. In other cases, a victim may turn to drugs and use them as a coping mechanism.
  • Lower grades: A decline in school performance may be an indication that something is wrong. According to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), a drop in grades often goes hand in hand with physical or sexual violence. Dating violence may also result in the student skipping school or even dropping out of school altogether.
  • Change in self-care: Have you noticed that your teen’s hygiene, sleep, and eating habits have changed? Poor self-care is another sign that something significant is going on in your teen’s life.
  • Secrecy: Have you caught your teen in lies about where they have been? If you feel your teen is hiding something from you, you’re probably right.

Talk to Your Teen

Many young people start dating in their teens, so it’s important to educate them about the possibility of ending up in an abusive relationship. Parents are less likely to talk to their teen about dating violence than other teen-related issues, such as academic performance, family finances, drugs, and sex. Parents, if you don’t speak to your teens about dating violence, who will?

Get Some Help

Teen dating violence can have a devastating impact on a teen’s emotional and social development. Teen dating violence may lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse. Whether the abuse is physical or emotional, it’s certain that the scars can last a lifetime. So, if you think your teen may be involved in an abusive dating relationship and you don’t know how to deal with it, seek the help of a professional counselor. Here at Doorways Arizona, we understand that, although teen dating violence shares some similarities with adult domestic violence, because of the young age involved, teen dating violence presents unique challenges. Arizona ranks in the second worst level for the number of students who experience dating violence, so make an appointment with Doorways today.

Help Your High-Schooler Manage Stress with these 4 Easy Tactics

High school is full of challenges, academic and otherwise, that can add up to some serious stress for your teen. They’re tackling homework and navigating complex social dynamics, all while balancing time spent with friends, family, and on activities. The demands and schedule might start to feel overwhelming. As the parent, helping your teenager navigate these rough waters is crucial.

Here are some tactics to keep your high schooler from feeling overly stressed when they’re swamped with school work and obligations:

1. Tackle tough homework incrementally.
A large project can sometimes feel like an impossible hurdle, especially if your teen struggles with organization or focus. Instead of jumping straight in, encourage your teenager to break the assignment down into more manageable pieces. Start with a brainstorming session one day, research the next, and so on. This will help the project seem much more achievable. Then, your high schooler can keep a To-Do list of the various steps and check things off as they get completed. Each time he or she gets to tick a box they will feel less stressed about the impending deadline.

2. Familiarize before diving in.
The unknown or unfamiliar can leave teens feeling uneasy. If your high schooler is diving into a new opportunity – a part-time job, an internship, a new club or group — help them to familiarize themselves with what is to come. Check out websites, visit the location, or meet with someone already involved. If their new venture feels familiar it can cut back on your teenager’s nerves about the unknown.

3. Keep things organized at home.
Returning home to a disorganized environment with little structure can have a snowball effect on a teen already stressed after a jam-packed day of high school. Help your teen to create order in his or her room and the rest of the house as well. Make sure your high schooler has a neat and tidy space to work on assignments. Display a calendar with activities and obligations in the kitchen. Establish a predictable framework for after school hours and weekends, too. Disorganization and lack of a clear plan can cause many teenagers to feel apprehensive and distressed.

4. Offer stress relief opportunities.
If your teen needs to relieve some stress, give them the space to do so. Encourage them to tap into activities that make them feel better when school and responsibilities become overwhelming. They might love playing an instrument or writing poetry or riding horses. Whatever gives them a release and brings them joy is worth exploring. And while your teen may not be a varsity athlete, consistent exercise is a wonderful antidote to stress. Help them find an exercise outlet they enjoy. If team sports aren’t their thing, they could always try swimming, dance, or long walks around the neighborhood.

If your high schooler needs additional help with stress management, we encourage you to speak to the staff at Doorways to find out if our services might be the right fit for your family. We provide counseling and psychiatric services exclusively for teens, young adults, and their families in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Each of our staff is dedicated to the specialized needs of high schoolers and committed to the compassionate understanding of their struggles.

National Compliment Day: 10 Ways to Compliment Teens

Compliments are a superb way to bring cheer to someone’s day or commend a good job. Today, give an extra compliment (or two!) in honor of National Compliment Day, observed each year on January 24th.

Debby Hoffman and Kathy Chamberlin created National Compliment Day in 1998. They wanted a special day to honor the simple act of letting those in our lives know that we love and appreciate them. With this in mind, we thought we’d share a few ways to share praise, grace, and love with your teenagers.

10 Ways to Compliment Teens

  1. Compliment character. Sometimes it appears sincerity and morality are characteristics not often taught in our world. And not always commended when showcased. When your teenager displays integrity, consideration, trustworthiness, and reliability, offer them a sincere compliment.

  2. Compliment their friends. When you feel as though your teen has made a connection with someone you deem laudable or a great influence, let them know.
    Your friends are so wonderful!”
    Jennifer is so thoughtful.”
    It makes me so happy to know that you choose your friends well.”

  1. Compliment respect. It is easy to make disapproval second nature, to only notice your teen’s behavior when they go wrong. However, we would encourage you to stop waiting for disrespectful behavior and try acknowledging respectful behavior.
    I don’t tell you this enough, but you are a wonderful person, and I value the way you respect your father and me.”

  1. Compliment a step in the right direction. Holding out for the end goal before we offer up a compliment isn’t good enough, might cause your teenager to lose sight of a positive outcome, and doesn’t reward growth.
    “Stephanie, the steps you’ve made toward your goal are great. Thank you for all your hard work!”

  2. Appreciate their place in your family. Sometimes teens, with all their fluctuating emotions, need to know how much they are valued for simply existing.
    “Whenever I see you, I’m grateful that I get to be your parent.”

  3. Compliment their style. You can offer a compliment about your teenager’s style even if their taste is vastly different from your own. Your child is his or her own person and you wouldn’t want them to be a carbon copy of their mom or dad. Try not to limit your compliments to the restricted scope of your own taste.
    “You sure have a gift for styling hair!”
    “I can tell that you put a lot of creativity into your outfit.”
    “I love how imaginative your room decor looks.”

  4. Compliment household chores. Your teenager needs to understand that when they chip in with household chores they make a difference and their parents notice the extra effort.
    “Vacuuming the living room/mowing the lawn/doing the dishes really makes a difference. I am so grateful for your hard work around our house!”

  5. Compliment new achievements. A well-timed compliment can keep a teen’s trajectory moving forward. It’s important to compliment your child’s progress, as discussed above, but don’t forget to pay them some credit when they achieve something they’ve never been able to do before.
    “Great job! Although I’m not surprised after all your hard work. I knew you could do it, Derrick!”
    “You got your social studies grade up to an A! I’m beyond proud of you.”

  6. Compliment effort. What about when your teenager’s best efforts come up short? Compliment their effort and remind them there’s still work to be done–and you know they’re up to the task.
    “All the studying you’ve done for your social studies class makes me so happy! If you keep it up I know you can bring your grade up.”

  7. Compliment a job well done. When your teen exceeds expectations and goes out of their way to do a great job it is always worth noting. Compliment the quality of your child’s work so they know the extra effort didn’t go unnoticed.
    “This is the cleanest I’ve ever seen your room, Shelby!”
    “I was so proud of you at your dance recital. Awesome job! I’m so glad you are so passionate about dance, it really shows.”

Are you having trouble balancing criticism and compliments when communicating with your teenager? If so, meeting with the expert staff at Doorways may be a positive step for you and your family. If you have questions, feel free to contact us HERE or give us a call at 602-997-2880.

Is Your Teen Using Drugs? Learn the Early Warning Signs

Many parents ask us how to tell if their teen has begun drinking or doing drugs. By taking careful note of your teen’s behavior and paying attention to a few key red flags, you can spot issues with drug use sooner rather than later. While you may not find drug paraphernalia in their room or catch them drinking when they think no one is home, you should always trust your instincts. If you start to take note of some of the warning signs we’ve listed below, we encourage you to take action. Talk to your teen and get help from a professional if needed.

How to Spot Early Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Use in Teens

Utilize your sense of smell.

Have a conversation when your teenage child comes home after spending time out with friends. Address them face-to-face and ask if they had a nice time, what they did, or who they were with. If they’ve been using drugs or alcohol, the smell could be lingering on their clothes, hair, or breath.

Make eye contact.

Similar to the tip above, when your teen gets home, be sure to pay attention to their eyes during that face-to-face conversation. If your child has used marijuana – their eyes will be bloodshot, the lids may look droopy, and their pupils small. Drinking leaves pupils dilated and leads to trouble focusing. And, there may be other clues nearby. Is your teen’s face or cheeks flushed? This can also be a sign of drug or alcohol use.

Pay attention to sudden changes in behavior.

If your teen acts one way after school and completely different after a night out with friends, this could be a red flag. Upon their return: Does their volume or vocal register change? Do they crack up for no reason at all? Or, maybe they appear abnormally uncoordinated and you notice they’re bumping into things and knocking things over. Are they acting surly and introverted when they’re usually a chatterbox? Are they sleepy even though it’s early in the evening? Are they complaining of nausea? These could all be clues that they were drinking or using drugs before they came home.

Do they drive?

If your teen drives or has a car make sure to observe this aspect as well. Are they driving less carefully when they come home than when they left? Does their car have dents and dings with no explanation? Check the inside of the car, too. Does it smell? Are there items on the floorboard or in the glovebox that might provide hints that drug or alcohol use is taking place?

Take note of deception and secrets.

Are your teen’s plans starting to sound a little far-fetched? Are they vague about the who, what, when, where, and why? If they went out to a restaurant or to see a band, can they tell you what they ordered or what songs were their favorite? Do they insist a chaperone will be present but can’t produce a contact number? Are they showing up past curfew with a never-ending series of excuses? If you press them on these excuses, do they become erratic and angry? If these scenarios sound familiar, it could be time to act.

If you believe your teen is using drugs, contact our team at Doorways for additional support. We specialize in helping families with teens and young adults ages 13-25. We teach families how to deal with conflict, demonstrate love, improve communication and more. There is help for your family!

Talking to Your Teen About Responsible Social Media Use

Teens today love social media. They can use social media to connect with their social group and share their perspective with the world. However, responsible social media use might be furthest from a teen’s mind when that new iPhone hits their hand. As such, parents have a responsibility to discuss the ins and outs of social media with their teenage children.

Below, we’ve outlined a few subjects that are worthy of conversation in any home with a teen logging on to a social media account:

Privacy Settings

Social media accounts come with privacy settings for a reason. You don’t want just anyone to have access to all your information. Although your teen might think it’s harmless to share a password with their BFF, this could pave the way for anything from an innocuous joke to a serious violation of trust. Make sure your teen understands that the only way for their social media accounts to remain secure is to keep them totally private. Let those privacy settings do the job they were created for!

Cyber Predators

A cyber predator is someone who is looking to take advantage of another person online. Cyber predators utilize social media platforms to create and foster relationships with their victims. Whether they’re looking to obtain financial or personal information, like a PIN or Social Security number, or they are in search of a relationship, talk to your teen about the type of tactics predator’s use online.

Posts are Permanent…

Social media is all about instant gratification. They allow teens to share their thoughts as they experience them and connect with others with the click of a mouse. However, this shields teens from the reality that information on the internet tends to stick around…whether we want it to or not. Remind your teen that if they don’t want someone to see or read a certain post, they should think twice about clicking share.

…and Monitored by Many

Along with the permanence of their posts, teens should recognize that many use the internet to gain extra information, and this includes social media. Law enforcement frequently checks the social media accounts of people in their area to gain insight into the who, what, when, and where of illegal or illicit activities. They can cull feeds for photos and descriptions that can help create timelines of events or prove an alibi. Your teen’s school may also monitor accounts to keep track of behavior they deem inappropriate for their students. And it doesn’t stop there. College admission departments might peruse a few posts to learn a bit more about a student before sending off that acceptance letter. While a prospective employer may consider clicking through social media accounts to be a key component of the hiring process.

As a parent, you want to trust your child to responsibly use social media platforms without your guidance. So, take the time to talk to them about the significant issues and dangers of logging on. Help them to understand the ways they can responsibly use their favorite social media accounts.

Doorways LLC is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, AZ focused on adolescents, young adults, and their families. We urge parents everywhere to talk to their teens about responsible social media use. If you or your teen are having trouble talking about this, or any issue, contact Doorways to find out how our services may benefit your family. Our counselors help families learn to communicate in a caring, nonjudgmental environment.

How to Help Your Teen Manage Depression in the Winter

If the short days and weather changes are zapping your teen’s energy and making them feel a bit blue this winter, these may be signs of a seasonal mood disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or S.A.D.) is a type of depression precipitated by the change of season, usually occurring in winter, and it doesn’t just happen in adults. So, why might your teen be experiencing S.A.D.? Experts aren’t entirely sure, but many believe that the change of season affects circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms control how our bodies function when we’re awake and asleep, and changes can make us feel extra energized at some points and super drowsy at others. Other theories contend that the seasonal changes disrupt hormones, like melatonin and serotonin, that control our sleep and mood.

Whatever the cause, according to a report by Dr. Steven Targum and Dr. Norman Rosenthal, six percent of the US population is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, and another 14 percent suffer from seasonal mood changes. As parents, it is important to note that young people, especially those living furthest from the equator, are most likely to experience S.A.D. While teens with a diagnosis or family history of depression or bipolar disorder are particularly susceptible.

As such, we’ve compiled a few treatment options to help your teen manage depression in the winter:

  1. Sit by a sunlight lamp. Sunlight lamps produce light which imitates the sun’s rays and can provide a lovely antidote to winter’s blues. Encourage your teen to sit beside their sunlight lamp for half an hour each day. The light will energize circadian rhythms and subdue the natural release of melatonin.

  2. Use alarm clocks that wake with light instead of sound. Find an alarm clock that will wake your teen up with a gradually increasing light, instead of an abrupt beep or a blast of loud music. This will simulate rising with dawn, which, with Daylight Savings and early morning school schedules, your teen might normally miss.

  3. Essential oils can have a calming effect. Aromatherapy can influence the part of your teen’s brain that controls mood as well as their internal clock that sends them alerts about sleepiness and hunger. Adding oil to their nighttime routine, a few drops in the bath or through a diffuser in their room could help them relax and encourage a restful night’s sleep. Try lavender, bergamot, or ylang-ylang.

  4. Practice a regular exercise routine. As is the case for other types of depression, exercise can help your teen manage their depression in the winter, too. Outdoor exercise is a wonderful way to alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. However, with inclement winter weather, this isn’t always possible. Encourage your teen to engage in the next best thing — exercising near a window. Running on a treadmill with a view of the outdoors is a great exercise routine to implement in the winter. Your teen could also try a yoga practice, indoor swimming, or an intramural sports team.

  5. Talk to a professional. If your teen is experiencing symptoms of depression, whether seasonal or not, it is always best to get help from a professional. Screening questions can ascertain an official diagnosis as well as determine whether your teen is experiencing S.A.D. or another form of depression.

If your teen is suffering from the symptoms of depression this winter, contact our team at Doorways for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

5 Tips for Raising Strong Teen Girls

How do you raise a teen girl to be strong? What does that mean?

While physical strength is important, we’re talking about strength in character, self-worth, and spirit. Strong teen girls take action to make the right decisions when faced with difficult choices, they help others when called upon. Strong teen girls think about the world around them and acknowledge the feelings of others. Strong teen girls exhibit positive self-esteem and a positive attitude when faced with life’s tough tasks. As any teenager might, strong teen girls face moments of doubt and insecurity, but they know how to come out on top. Strong teen girls have the tools to enter adulthood and lead a wonderful, happy life.

Sounds ideal, right?

Here are our top tips for raising a strong teen:

  1. Allow her to make life choices when possible. When you see fit, allow your teen to make decisions about her life. This can be as simple as allowing her to choose what she wears or what she packs in her school lunches. What may seem like insignificant choices can go a long way in helping her develop skills for independence later in life. You can also offer choices to help her feel like she has a voice when it comes to her life and her future. Involve her when it comes to selecting extracurriculars. She may choose to abandon years of ballet classes to pursue French lessons, but trying new things will allow her to identify what she truly loves to do.

Resource: Help Your Children Become Good Decision Makers by Dr. Jim Taylor

  1. Guide her towards solutions instead of immediately fixing the problem. As parents, we may see situations where we want to take the reins and solve our teen’s problem for her. However, we would encourage you to take a different approach when you can. To help your teen develop the problem-solving skills necessary to approach these types of situations, instead offer her choices. Present three strategies or possible paths to solutions. Then, discuss with your daughter how she would implement each and what the result may be. Let her take it from there. She can carry out the solution she feels fits best. And because of your gentle guidance you know it’s one that will work for both of you.

  2. Encourage her to participate in activities with other strong teen girls. Girls who work cooperatively to reach a common goal report feelings of achievement, capability, and a huge boost in self-confidence. Offer your teen opportunities, through organizations or teams, to engage in teamwork with others. This will help her to learn important problem-solving skills, face challenges, and work well with others.

Resource: Fun Activites for Teenagers by Tara Kunesh, M.Ed.

  1. Talk to her about bullying. Talk with your teen about the negative side of friendships — gossip, spreading rumors, and exclusivity — as well as physical violence. When your teen encounters exclusion or cliques, refrain from brushing it off as “mean girls” or attempting to reassure her with the quip that “girls will be girls.” Instead, bring up the strong characteristics inherent of female friendship and use personal examples when possible. Discuss ways your teen girl can effect positive change in her relationships.

  2. Listen to her when she discusses her feelings. What we experience as a conversation with our child, they might experience as a lecture. When our teens feel as though we are talking at them, they could not only choose to stop listening, but also stop working through the issue themselves – shutting down completely. However, when we choose to listen more than we talk, our teens continue to reflect and think. This open dialogue is tantamount to raising strong teens. Dismissing their feelings on one issue and expecting them to open up about another won’t work. Keep the lines of communication flowing.

Resource: Talking With Teens – Tips for Better Communication by Neil Osterweil

If you are raising a teen girl, and feel your daughter is struggling or is expressing low self-worth, speaking to a teen counselor at Doorways could be the right step for your family. If you have questions, feel free to contact us HERE or give us a call at 602-997-2880.

5 Ways to Teach Your Middle Schooler How to Handle Their Emotions

Offering your child skills and strategies for handling emotions is a crucial undertaking for any parent. Verbalizing emotions can be tricky. Coping with the negative effects of emotions is hard. Especially for kids in middle school! Middle schoolers who struggle with these skills will often place blame on an outside source for how they feel, act out when emotions get the better of them, or find it difficult to self-soothe. And without learning how to manage emotions early in life, these issues can carry on into adulthood.

Luckily, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Child Development, these skills can be taught. The study reviewed research on social-emotional skills of over 200 thousand students from kindergarten to 12th grade and found learning social-emotional skills increased attitudes toward school, social behavior, and grades. Teaching the students emotion management also decreased their likelihood of getting in trouble and emotional problems.

Below, we explain 5 ways to help you practice the principles of emotion management with your children in middle school –

  1. Ask questions. When your pre-teen/adolescent is exhibiting negative or uncomfortable feelings, stay curious! Ask them to tell you about their feelings. Instead of saying, “You have nothing to be upset about,” ask “I notice you’re acting upset, want to tell me about it?” While your intentions for brushing off their emotions as inconsequential may be to make them feel better faster, to your child it might feel like they’ve received a scolding simply for feeling down.

  2. Teach that emotions come and go. Emotions come and go and it’s important for your middle schooler to understand the way they are feeling isn’t permanent. There are a ton of metaphors you can use when discussing the fleeting nature of negative emotions — weather, seasons, the rising of the sun and the waxing and waning of the moon. You can respect your child’s feelings in the present while also reminding them that it’s not forever.

  3. Talk about feelings every day. Every day, spend some time going over the good and bad feelings you both felt throughout your day. When did you feel “happy,” “grateful,” “proud”? When did your child feel “frustrated,” “angry,” “disappointed”? The focus here is less about the details of your days but more about the feelings themselves. This not only helps kids learn about verbalizing their emotions but helps to normalize the range of feelings we, as humans, experience every day. Mom and Dad feel frustrated sometimes, too.

  4. Create a list. Sit with your middle school student and help them make a list of all the things they could do when they’re feeling negative emotions. If they’re having trouble, bring up past conversations from the tip above! Ask, “Yesterday, you talked about being angry. What would make you feel better when you’re angry?” Their list could include writing in a journal, playing outside, listening to music, drawing, talking to a friend or family member, writing a letter, the possibilities are plenty. Now, post the list so they can access it next time they’re feeling negative emotions.

  5. Rate feelings. When your teen is expressing negative emotions, and they’re unable to self-soothe, spend some time with them. Ask them to rate their feeling on a scale from 1 to 10 and then hang out. Spend some time doing something positive that your child enjoys (see their list for ideas!) or just go outside and get some exercise. Then, after a little quality time, ask them to rate their emotion one more time. Congratulate them when their number has lowered.

If your pre-teen is struggling with emotion management, and you feel as though you are struggling to help them, offer yourself grace. There are always more chances to teach them. If you feel you approached the subject poorly in the past, apologize and show yourself forgiveness, too. After all, how you handle your own emotions will most likely be your children’s most important example.

For more strategies regarding your child’s emotion management, contact the licensed professionals at Doorways for information about family counseling. Our team can help families learn how to communicate with each other in a caring, nonjudgmental environment. We teach families how to resolve conflict, show love, improve communication and more.

Help Your Teen Stay Stress-Free During Exams

That dreaded time of year is fast approaching. You know the one. As the school semester winds down, your kids are in a whirlwind of never-ending projects and exams. As soon as one paper gets turned in, they are hard at work on the next. You start to worry about the amount of sleep they’re getting, if they’re feeling overwhelmed, and if other aspects of their lives are getting overtaken by the academic onslaught.

At the end of the day, you’re proud of your students’ successes. You recognize that to excel in school they have to put in some hard work. However, the last thing you want is for this hard work to jeopardize their happiness. After all, our culture rewards productivity and often sweeps discussions about mental well-being under the proverbial rug. So, how can you help your teens stay stress-free as they work towards that glowing report card?

According to a survey by USA Today, the number of students who experience “extreme stress” more than doubles during the school year, versus in the summer. As a parent, you can step in and make sure mental health is a priority this exam season. Here’s how —

Recognize your teen as more than a student.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adolescents spend an average of seven hours each weekday (and an hour each weekend day) on their education. It’s easy to see how they might define themselves as a student and little else. But your child is a complex human being with principles and goals. They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. They could be voracious readers, dancers, pizza aficionados, skilled soccer players, babysitters–the list of possibilities goes on and on. Whittling them down to a single facet of themselves places tremendous pressure on that one aspect. However, taking time to celebrate their strengths and roles outside of the classroom can go a long way.

Help them to understand the importance of well-being over grades.

It’s not that good grades don’t matter. But when a student’s mental health is floundering, their grades tend to follow. It can be tempting for students (and parents, too) to address one without the other. A student gets a bad grade so they study harder, stay up later, pile on extra work and extra tutoring. Without addressing the root cause, this added work (and added stress) could cause the student to slide even further. Instead, continue to remind your child that they’re worth isn’t dependent on their report card — even when they’re struggling. This reminder may be all it takes for your child to recognize their well-being matters…and the grades will follow.

Make time for your student’s self-care.

This is a busy time of year, not just in the classroom, but in all aspects of your family’s life. Which is why it’s important for you to assist your student in making time for their self-care. Talk with them about how to squeeze in a self-care ritual during the school week. Help them check their busy calendar for free pockets of time–whether that be an evening off from extracurriculars or a quiet 15-minute break to themselves each afternoon. Here are some extra self-care ideas for you to encourage:

  • Make time for activities they’re passionate about.

  • Write in a journal.

  • Spend time with animals. (If they have pets – great! If not, they could always volunteer at a local animal shelter.)

  • Get eight hours of sleep each night.

  • Talk to friends, counselors, teachers, etc. when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

  • No studying during meal time.

  • Go outside for walks.

  • Practice breathing exercises.

If stress is getting the best of your student,  our counselors can offer strategies that can help. If you have questions, feel free to contact us HERE or give us a call at 602-997-2880.

Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25-year olds and their families.