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Difficulty with Your Teenager? Here’s the Scoop!

Are you having a hard time connecting with and understanding your teenager? While research shows that adolescent turmoil is NOT a universal phenomenon, it does show that emotional stress and turmoil are more common during adolescence than at other ages. As you may already know, adolescents are prone to greater extremes in mood, as well as more frequent shifts in mood than younger or older people. Here are the 3 common errors that occur when we don’t fully understand adolescent development:

  1. Ignoring serious problems.

Misinterpreting problematic behavior as developmentally normal can cause parents to underestimate the severity of their teen’s problem. “If parents believe that it is typical for an adolescent to be moody, irritable, and sullen, they can aggravate the problem by ignoring it” (Micucci, 2009).

  1. Overreacting.

Parents might overreact by assuming that a specific behavior signals pathology. For example, a teen may show signs of being depressed when in fact; they may just be having a hard week. This causes the parent to prematurely diagnose and treat them as if they have depression. Sometimes this inaccurate perception of the adolescent can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy, which may push the adolescent to exhibit more of that behavior in an effort to assert independence.

  1. Preventing growth by restricting freedom.

Adolescent stereotypes such as rebellious, wild, and hatred of authority may lead parents to overreact when challenged by their teenager. Also, believing that teenagers aren’t interested in having a relationship with them can cause parents to back off too early, which deprives the teen of the guidance and nurturing they continue to need. “Adolescents need parents who allow them ample room to experience the consequences of their own decisions, but who also provide reasonable limits that mirror those the adolescent is likely to encounter in the adult world” (Micucci, 2009).

As you can see, parenting adolescents can be a difficult balancing act. It is important to understand that the human brain is not fully developed until the early 20’s. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is still undergoing considerable development during adolescence. These functions include decision-making, planning, and impulse control. As fully developed adults, we have the capacity to consider options before responding, reflect on our “gut” reactions, and put situations into context. This is not the case for adolescents, because the brain regions that assist emotional regulation and consequences of actions are not fully developed yet. This can be frustrating and annoying to adults, which can cause them to respond in ways that increase the intensity of the interaction and make it even more likely that the adolescent will respond in an impulsive way. “In contrast, adults who remain calm in their interactions with adolescents not only model appropriate behavior, but also keep the level of affect within range that the adolescent’s maturing brain can manage” (Micucci, 2009). If you are experiencing difficulty connecting with and understanding your teen, schedule an appointment with us as Wasatch Family Therapy today!

Micucci, J. A. (2009). The Adolescent in Family Therapy: Harnessing the Power of Relationships (2nd Ed). NY: Guilford Press.

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How to Help Your Anxious Daughter: Studio 5

How to Help Your Anxious Daughter: Studio 5


All parents want to raise strong, confident, happy daughters, but there’s evidence showing that female adolescents are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. A recent article in the Deseret News suggests that young women are having a rough time; researchers are seeing anxiety, self-harm, and even suicide in girls as young as 10. In recent years, I have witnessed an increase in the number of referrals of young people (girls and boys) to my therapy practice who are experiencing these same sorts of issues. Clearly, we have a real cultural problem to address, and there’s certainly reason to be concerned.

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Is Talking About Race Just a Phase?

Family 2

As parents, the ability to talk with our kids about race can be very challenging. Over the summer,  I had a chance to talk with KSL Radio about the term “transracial” as it related to a popular story of the fallout and national conversation about race, when a white woman chose to identify as a black woman for professional and personal reasons.  In the radio interview I addressed the term transracial as an adoption term only and I discussed the history of “Passing” in a America. What I didn’t get a chance to talk about (because we only had 2 minutes) was how to help parents of children who may hear about being transracial and feel that they, too, identify with another cultural or ethnic group outside of their own.

Click the link below to listen to LaShawn Schultz talk with KSL Radio
https://audioboom.com/boos/3288288-the-term-transracial-new-focus-in-the-rachel-dolezal-race-debate

Parents may wonder how to address it or whether to ignore it and hope it passes like a rebellious taste in music. You don’t have to be a scholar about race relations in America in order to talk to your child about racial identity. What you do have to be aware of is the relationship you have with your child and the reality of identity development in the life of an adolescent.  Adolescence can be a trying time both for the tweenager, the teenager, and their parents and caregivers. This is because identity and the ability to explore it is in a full fledged developmental process. Identity itself is a lifelong process that only begins in adolescence. Our goal in parenting through change is to help our kids navigate the questions that arise from their crises.

While racial identity development is a separate experience reserved for the lived experience from birth of a specific racial or ethnic identity, the discussion of feeling a connection and kinship to a racial group that is not part of your own and only experienced in a social interactions is different.  The ability of parents to remember and do the following 3 things will help keep your connection to your child as durable as it is flexible.

  1. Recognize that a “crisis” is not a bad thing, it is simply an unanswered question or series of questions. It’s okay to explore questions with your child because this builds critical thinking skills.
  2. Realize that your child bringing the unanswered question to you is as much a compliment as it is a hearing test. Your child wants to know if you’ll hear them and listen when they talk.
  3. While your child cannot change their racial identity, the relationship you have with them is what will change as you use your ability to talk with them as an emotional connection point.  Connection is what allows you to talk with them about race as a social construct and get underneath their questions to reach the desire for emotion and validation that is fueling the questions about their identity in the first place.

The three things are the foundation of your relational connection to your child and will make a big difference in your relationship with them all because of your willingness to understand them.

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Ask A Therapist: Is This Depression, Personality Disorder, or Bipolar?

Well I’m 19, but I don’t feel 19. I have so many things going on in my life that it’s hard to keep up with everything. I’m a full time worker, a full time student and a part time gym rat. I’m also in a relationship. There is no time in the day for me to do anything and everything I do always feels rushed. Even though I’m interacting with my coworkers, friends, or girlfriend during the day, I feel empty and numb to it all, like everything is just an act. As far as feelings go, like I said, I’m numb. I feel as if my best friend or mother could die and I wouldn’t care, and I feel as though to a certain extent that I don’t care even for my girlfriend. But on the flip side, I don’t want to be alone. It scares me to think that me and my girlfriend would breakup. I laugh and joke but don’t know why I do.
I really want to know what’s wrong with me because I was never like this before. Or if I was, it was deep down and is now just surfacing and I can’t handle it. I WANT TO BE HAPPY AGAIN.

A: There are normal ups and downs that come along with adolescence, such as mood swings and hormonal changes. But what you’re describing sounds like a lot more than that. Please watch the video below for my complete response.

Take Good Care of Yourself,

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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