Blog Section

Creating Emotional Equality for Your Kids: From Your Threenager to your Teenager

 

Life seems to be getting busier and busier from soccer practice to choir rehearsals, school projects, and bedtime stories. I think we sometimes forget how intense life can be for a teenager or even for your three-year old learner. As an adult, we often get stuck in a mindset where we believe our adult problems are real and our teens problems are miniscule in comparison. Sometimes we forget how difficult life can be in high school. Maintaining friendships seem more difficult these days, with all the technology and social media barriers. Your little ones experience these difficulties as well. This could be with making friends at daycare and when family members are too busy to play or acknowledge their presence. When your child is experiencing all these stressors, they may come across as having a bad attitude, disrespectful, over-sensitive, or selfish. In reality, our kids are really just trying to figure out how to navigate life and may lack skills or verbiage to describe their stress and pain.

At the same time my daughter was experiencing her newfound emotions as a teen, I had the joy of also raising a three-year old who I deemed was like a threenager.

Threenager: A three-year-old child who has just as big of an attitude and overwhelming emotions as a teenager but with even less words or skills to regulate themselves.

I felt a little overwhelmed at times with all of their emotions as well as my own. Here are some tips and tricks I used to not only survive this time but also help my children thrive during these hard times.

  • Do not minimize your children’s emotional experience. Even if their problem seems small or easily solvable to you. They are having a hard time.

Instead, listen to their story, validate their feelings and offer your unconditional love and support.

  • Avoid Blame. There are times when your child is experiencing a natural consequence such as losing a friend because they wouldn’t share or added to a rumor about them.

What they really need is empathy and support. “It’s hard when you lose a friend.” Or “you seem to have had a bad day.”

  • They don’t need you to fix it. It may seem easier as a parent with life skills to solve problems for our kids but there is a bigger reward when they learn to solve the problem on their own.

You can sit with them and help them come up with their own solutions, “how do you think you can fix this?” or “what would you like to be different?” Also never underestimate the power of sitting and problem solving with your child over a glass of chocolate milk. It does wonders in my home.

  • Respect their boundaries. If your child is having a hard day and they do not want to talk about it or refuse a hug, do not personalize it, allow them time to work on the problem on their own.

Be there for them when they are ready for a hug or to talk. You can offer reassurance by telling them “I can see you want some space right now, I am here if you need me.”

These simple reframes as a parent have gone a long way to create a safe and equal relationship with my kids. It has eased some stress on my end and helped my children to gain emotional intelligence and gain life skills that are invaluable into adulthood.

If you would like to schedule a family session or session for your child, please call us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555

More

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.

More

Let’s Put the Phone Away and Talk!

canstockphoto121175
It seems that teens are tethered to their phones and they are reliant on them to help them navigate the world. As parents, we look back and wonder how in the world the kids of today would have survived without the buffer of social media. Would they be able to function if they had to speak face-to-face and have regular interpersonal communications without the crutch of a phone, ipad, or computer? Modern teens have grown up in a world where the technological advances of phones and other devices is constantly evolving. Phones and computers are made more intuitive to anticipate the user’s next move, and there seems to be an app for everything. The world is at our fingertips, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year. However, with all of these advances in communication, parents and teens still complain that they don’t communicate or understand one another. Why?

Parents say that kids today just don’t know how to carry on conversations or talk to one another without a phone in their hand, and even then, they don’t talk. Look around next time you are somewhere that has a mix of both teens and adults and observe what you see. Is it just the teens on their phones, or are the parents on theirs too? Guess what parents? We are part of the problem! We are using our electronic devices to avoid in-person communication, too. It’s a lot easier to sit and scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or watch a funny video or a Snap than it is to carry on a conversation with an acquaintance.We have become device dependent., and our kids are learning by watching us.

“But, I need to just check this email from work really quick!”

“But, I need to send off this text really quick before I forget.”

“But, I’m using social media to communicate with my kids.”

Obviously, these are all good reasons to use our devices. Life in our world relies on technology, but what is it costing us in our relationships? How can we strengthen relationships and communication with teens in the environment of social media?

Turn It Off

Actively unplug, take the devices off the table, literally, if even for just a few minutes. Eat a meal together, take a walk, hike your favorite trail, anything that enables conversations to happen organically. Giving your child your undivided attention lets them know that they are a priority to you.

Create Opportunities For Connection

Make space for a conversation to happen. Teens are faced with a lot of internal and external pressures, so they need a safe space, emotionally and physically, to vent their stress and frustrations. Teens are learning to self-regulate their feelings and parental support can bolster their efforts by validating what they are feeling.

Listen To Your Children

Don’t just hear them, but really listen to them. Sounds easy right? We are surrounded by sounds, but how often do we really listen? Listening takes practice; it is a skill. We often want to “fix” the problem, but often times advice isn’t the answer. They aren’t asking for the solution, they are asking for us to listen to their struggles. They are asking us to see them as capable of finding their own solutions and supporting them in trying.

So, let’s all put our phones away for a while and talk!

More

13 Reasons Why – How to Talk to Your Teen

13 Reasons Why

Clair Mellenthin, LCSW & Melanie Davis, CMHC visiting KUTV Fresh Living to discuss the show 13 Reasons Why.  Click on link below to see what they had to say!

KUTV.com Web Site Link: http://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/13-reasons-why-how-to-talk-to-your-teen

More

How to Best Help Your Junior Athlete

canstockphoto0704563

Competition can be extremely stressful, especially for children and teenagers. They can feel so much pressure that they will literally worry themselves sick. Kids will oftentimes try to prove their worth to themselves, their coaches, their peers, and their families through winning. Anxiety and the fear of failure affect their performance—which makes them even more fearful. It becomes a vicious cycle!

I recently wrote an article in conjunction with renowned PGA Tour Golf Instructor, Boyd Summerhays, on ways to best help Junior Golfers. After completing the article, it dawned on me that the information would be beneficial to all junior athletes and their families. Obviously, the intricate details about golf in the article are unique to golfers, but the same concepts (bolded section headings) can definitely be applied to any sport or competition that your child is engaging in:

The 8 Best Ways To Help Your Junior Golfer

Good luck to you and your family! I hope you can find joy, fulfillment, learning, and bonding through the competition (and not just stress!).

More

What To Do If Your Child Is Viewing Porn: Nightside Interview

What To Do If Your Child Is Viewing Porn: Nightside Interview

What to do when your child views pornI recently spoke with Ethan Millard and Alex Kirry of KSL’s NewsRadio Nightside Project about what parents can do if they discover that their child is viewing porn.

Pornography is a loaded topic: the easy accessibility of it combined with a curiosity about and interest in bodies and sexuality that children naturally have can lead to problems and questions. We’ve all heard the horror stories of how porn addiction can lead to broken families and destroyed lives. It’s quite a task to speak to your children about these issues and can be even more emotionally daunting if they’re already involved in it in some way. Here are some strategies for how to handle a situation in which your son or daughter is viewing pornography:

More

Five Real Life Skills for High Tech Kids: Dr. Julie Hanks Studio 5

We live in a technology-saturated world, and our kids are often more adept at the newest gadgets than we are! I’ve found that parents are sometimes weary about the newest developments in the tech world. But these are the times we live in, and the internet will never go away. The online world can improve our lives or it can distance us, so I invite adults to embrace the good it can bring. However, there are certain skills that our children may be (somewhat) lacking in how to function and have relationships in a non-virtual way. Here are 5 real life skills for high-tech kids.

More

What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friends: Julie Hanks interview LDS Living


unnamed-1
Have you ever gotten bad vibes from one of your children’s friends? Maybe you felt like he/she was a negative influence or was causing your son or daughter to be unhappy.  It can be hard to know when you as a parent should get involved and when it’s better to just let things be.

Julie Hanks recently offered her views to LDS Living Magazine on how to best handle these situations. Here are a few strategies for what to do when you don’t like your kids’ friends:

More