10 Ways to Prevent Problems in a Blended Family

Most people grew up watching reruns of the hit family show “The Brady Bunch.” But, did you ever wonder whether it was really possible to balance a successful stepfamily? In the show, the mother and her three daughters live happily (and often hilariously) with the stepfather and his three sons. Is that possible in real life? Can a blended family work as successfully in comparison to the traditional nuclear family?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that it is going to take effort from both stepparents to make their blended family work. If you find yourself getting ready to take the plunge into remarriage, make sure you know the ways you can prevent problems in your new stepfamily.

Are Successful Blended Families Common?

According to statistics, 1300 stepfamilies form each day. This can take the form of a divorced parent remarrying, a single parent living with another adult who takes on the role of a stepparent, or a single/divorced adoptive parent cohabitating with a new partner and their children. Since 50% of U.S. families remarry, the likelihood of a blended family is high.

When we think about a blended family, we picture a single/divorced mother marrying/remarrying a single/divorced father with both people bringing their children into the family. The children can either live with the couple full-time or only for weekend visits, but they are still part of the newly formed family.

The issue, according to statistics, is that the more remarriages that occur, the higher the divorce rate. 67% of second marriages end in divorce, while a whopping 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Children stuck in this vicious cycle may begin to have problems as they are not sure what family support they have in their corner. It is difficult to ask a child to trust and love a stepparent and new siblings, and then end the marriage a few years later (and quite possibly introduce a new stepparent).

So, what can you do as a parent in this situation? Your new family doesn’t have to have a dreary outlook. There are things you can do to circumvent issues that may come up as you navigate this new role.

10 Ways to Prevent Problems in a Blended Family

There are things you (and your future spouse) can do to help make the transition into a blended family easier.

1. Don’t assume you know everything about marriage and parenting.

Although you may have been married before, creating a blended family is an entirely different type of family dynamic. You can’t assume that you will have the answers to every family problem that arises. However, you can find others in a similar circumstance that are navigating their stepfamily successfully and ask for advice.

2. Prioritize your marriage.

Your marriage needs to come first, so make sure you take time out for the two of you. A blended family will only work if the marriage continues to strengthen. Plus, the love you demonstrate towards each other acts as a future relationship goal for your children.

3. Make sure you and your future spouse are on the same page about parenting.

Discuss how you plan to raise the children, including discipline. Many experts recommend that each parent disciplines their own child, but you need to stay consistent.

If you have already created a plan, the two of you can discipline as a team. You never want to undermine your spouse or confuse the child. Stepchildren can become resentful towards an adult who is not their biological parent when they try to discipline them.

4. Get to know your new stepchildren and work to form emotional bonds.

Not only should you include your stepchildren on special occasions, but also in your daily life. Listen to what they have to say about their life, school, friends, and anything else that is important to them. They need to know that you are a safe person they can turn to when needed.

5. Create weekly routines or new traditions.

Healthy families maintain routines and traditions, and as a new blended family, you can do the same. Weekly dinners after church, Friday family movie nights, or Tuesday board game nights all count towards fun routines. Holidays may be a little trickier if you and an ex-spouse take turns covering the special occasion, but you can still create new traditions. Think along the lines of silly pajamas and pictures at Christmas or Easter egg hunts for everyone.

6. Allow individuality, but don’t label your children and stepchildren.

Just as your children are unique, so are your stepchildren. Avoid referring to them with labels. For example, if your stepson has ADHD or another condition, there is no reason for you to point that out and make him feel bad or somehow “less than” his new siblings. The same thing goes for gifted students. Praise their achievement, but never use it to create sibling rivalry. That is probably not your goal, but children may see it differently.

7. When it comes to the former spouses, try to form partnerships.

The marriage or relationship ended, but you still must work together in a partnership for the children and their best interests. One of the biggest issues in a blended family is the trouble with the ex-spouses. You certainly don’t have to be best friends with your ex and his new wife, but you do need to come to an agreement on how both sets of parents plan to parent the same children.

8. Be open about communication.

Let your children and stepchildren know that if they are having problems in the new family dynamic to tell you. Always be open to communication and suggest ways to problem solve. By listening to their concerns, you will show that you do  want a relationship with them. By the same token, if you are having trouble assimilating to the new family, be upfront with your spouse. Explain to them why you feel the way you do.

The answer may simply be a talk with one of the children, or your spouse assuming a responsibility like carpooling so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. Remember that your family cannot read your mind. Speak up and let the children do the same.

9. Consider Christian family counseling.

A faith-based counselor can help your family transition into a blended family a little more smoothly. The therapist can teach the children how to empathize with one another and resolve differences. Together as a family, you can alleviate any fears the children have about the new family dissolving at some point by showing them that you and your spouse rely on God.

10. Give yourself grace.

No one is perfect. You are going to mess up at times. Your daughter might say something mean to your stepdaughter. Your stepson might yell at you after he loses a basketball game. You might lose your mind on the whole family one night because no one is listening to you. Give yourself some grace. It’s going to happen. If your family knows that you are there for them and you love them, it will work out for your good.

If you are already in a blended family situation and it is not going the way you’d envisioned, it’s not too late. Christian family counseling can open lines of communication between you, your spouse, your children, and your stepchildren. It can help resolve differences and teach the children conflict resolution.

Maintaining a blended family is not for the faint of heart, but God placed you here with this family for a reason. You have a chance to make a lasting impact and leave a legacy for your new family that will one day include a generation of grandchildren. Be the role model for this future generation and show them that love and family are more than blood.

Whether your blended family is large or small, it is your family. God has blessed you with people to share your life and a new beginning. Embrace this new challenge.

Photos:
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Parenting Teens: 8 Tips for Talking to Your Teenagers about Social Media

Self-Injurious Behavior: What It Is and How to Help

If you have never participated in a form of self-injurious behavior, it can be confusing when you hear about someone cutting themselves. You might ask, “Why would someone have the desire to intentionally hurt themselves?” What you may not be aware of is that for some, self-harm can genuinely feel pleasurable.

As an example, young children hit their heads on walls when angry or overwhelmed. You may have witnessed this yourself with your own kids or a friend’s children. The initial pain sends a wave of “feel good” chemicals through the body. The child alleviates the pain through hitting their head on a surface. This behavior can be scary, but it’s typical in children up to four years old.

Teenagers might scratch themselves to escape their feelings of anger or frustration. This action is then tied to those “feel good” emotions and is also a way to punish themselves. It’s important to watch for signs of self-mutilation in adolescents and provide solutions to help them cope with the thoughts or emotions they are battling. There could be a variety of reasons why someone might resort to self-injurious behavior.

A Story about Self-Harm

As a young child, Maria would slam her head against the table or wall when frustrated. Maria’s mother’s first child never did this, so she was confused as to what caused Maria to lash out. She researched the reasons and decided to wait it out.

As Maria became a preteen, she continued to bang her head on the wall in her moments of rage. Over time, Maria learned to turn to karate as a way to release those unwelcome emotions. Maria’s mother was excited to see her daughter’s progress and that she had stopped banging her head on the wall.

One day, Maria’s mom entered Maria’s room to look for dirty laundry. Months had passed since she last entered Maria’s room. Maria’s mother was horrified to see Maria has stabbed her headboard repeatedly with a knife.

Instead of exploding, Maria’s mother ignored the issue and continued to keep an eye on Maria. In time, she quit her destructive patterns and became a thriving, productive woman in the world. Although she has times of frustration, she no longer escapes her feelings by destroying something.

How to React to Self-Harm Issues

If your child is banging their head or scratching, overreacting isn’t always the wisest way to solve the problem.

  • A kid may increase their head banging if they sense it’s the only way to get noticed.
  • Overreacting might terrify the child and cause more issues.
    Respond in a relaxed, casual tone that can help put your child at ease
  • Encourage the child to discuss their emotions and thoughts
  • Remind them you are always available to approach instead of resorting to self-infliction.
  • Research some options for enhancing self-confidence.
  • Come up with a plan on how to cope, along with practicing communication skills.

Your child may prefer to talk about their actions more than the reason why they are upset. Your child may not even understand what’s causing their anxiety. In cases like these, therapy is an excellent option. A therapist is professionally trained to uncover the root issues.

When a person performs an act of self-injury, immediate relief of pressure from “bad feelings” occurs. Naturally, these feelings are fleeting and are normally replaced by feelings or thoughts of condemnation. This is the vicious cycle of self-injurious behavior.

Children are increasingly exposed to self-injury more than years ago. As a result, self-infliction has become common in children as young as 11.

Once self-harm starts, it can be difficult to quit as the momentary “high” becomes addicting. That’s why it can take awareness, accountability, and support from a counselor to break the cycle of self-injury. Ultimately, the person has to want to stop causing harm to themselves.

An Example of Self-Injurious Behavior

Jacob had a habit of biting his cheek when he felt the urge to get upset and raise his voice. It would help calm him down and keep him composed. However, by the age of 13, the number of situations that set him off had escalated. Anytime he faced his rude brothers, angry father or school bullies he would bite down on his cheek. This caused him both pain and relief. The pain reminded him he was real.

Jacob was experiencing depression, but it was difficult for him to define it as depression since this was the norm for his life.

As situations and stress became more severe, Jacob began scratching himself until his skin was red and raw. Jacob would replay hurtful experiences in his mind and his scratching became more intense. He wished his family would care about him and express concern.

At school, he excelled in his studies and teachers were shocked to learn about his problem with coping. In his health class, self-harm was discussed. He couldn’t help but imagine what it must be like. As he poked his skin with a pin, it didn’t cause much pain. He became enthralled with watching the blood well up. Seeing the blood drip from his skin released the anger inside. He began to cut with blades to cope with his pain.

Jacob went to college where he had more freedom and responsibility. His need to see perfect grades created severe anxiety. Cutting was his only answer to the looming anxiety he felt.

Jacob met a girl on campus, fell in love and his depression seemed to fade, momentarily.

Unfortunately, positive thinking or love can’t remove depression completely. Jacob learned cutting himself did not help him relate emotionally and socially with his girlfriend. She broke up with him and he fell back into old patterns.

Overcome by shame, Jacob recognized his life had become unmanageable and he needed help. Although he had been to therapy before at his parents’ request, this time he walked through the doors on his own. He wanted to become well and learn why he couldn’t stop his destructive behavior.

Jacob allows himself to express emotions today and to dig deep into what is bothering him. He still occasionally bites his cheek, but he has eliminated cutting from his coping mechanisms. He knows how to vocalize when life becomes overwhelming for him. Jacob has learned what people and situations to try to avoid, so he isn’t triggered unnecessarily. Counseling has provided him with a safe place to share his feelings about his life experiences.

Forms of Self-Harm

Self-harm is normally done in private and in a controlled, planned manner.

Examples of self-injurious behavior include:

  • Cutting the skin
  • Scratching
  • Burning (with matches, cigarettes or even ice)
  • Carving words or designs on the skin
  • Hitting or punching
  • Piercing the skin
  • Pulling out hair
  • Persistently picking at a wound as it heals

The most common forms of self-harm are cutting which makes up 70% to 90% of all cases. Hitting oneself or banging the head happens in 21% to 44% of self-harm cases.

Reasons for self-injurious behavior:

  • Boredom
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • To calm down
  • Numbing of emotions
  • Addictive
  • A feeling of empowerment or control
  • To fit in with peers
  • To inflict punishment
  • To communicate in a nonverbal form
  • Fill an empty void
  • Lonely or misunderstood
  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Feel panic or frustration
  • A reminder of being alive

Many teenagers use social media to glorify cutting. Young, impressionable people can be drawn to these websites and social profiles. Cutting is portrayed as cool and encouraged. They share stories and display their scars from cutting. Glorifying self-harm is an indicator of a person’s state of mind. It’s important for parents to know what their kids are consuming online and who they are hanging around.

How Common is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is rare, despite how often certain communities and television shows are glorifying it. It is higher among teenagers, but most grow out of the self-harm habit. Still for the 17% to 35% who do practice self-harm getting professional help is an incredibly beneficial way to learn how to handle life’s challenges.

Self-Harm Risk Factors

Age

Teenagers are more likely to engage in self-harm. Parents need to be aware and active in their child’s life to notice if she is inflicting intentional wounds on herself.

Having Friends Who Self-Harm

Once I heard a story of a child who cut herself because her friend did and she didn’t want her to do it alone. The child didn’t even know the implications of cutting. Children are easily swayed and if cutting is acceptable in their circle of friends it could become normal for the child. Children don’t want to be left out or feel like an outsider.

Life Issues

If a person is isolated or ostracized, he might consider self-harm as a coping mechanism. A person’s mental state can be dramatically influenced by the toxic or unhealthy environment.

Mental Health Issues

A person battling depression, or another mental health issue like bipolar disorder, has a higher probability of turning to self-harm practices.

How to Diagnose Self-Injurious Behavior

Because self-harm is often hidden, it isn’t obvious until revealed. Now, the level of severity is something a doctor or therapist would need to determine. If someone has many tattoos or body piercing that doesn’t necessarily signify self-harm, but it can be a part of the behavior expressed by a cutter.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs alter the brain and significantly increase the risk of those prone to self-harm.

Self-Harm and Suicide

Self-harm is normally done in private and the scars are hidden under long sleeves. It doesn’t automatically mean someone is suicidal. However, if the person is depressed or battling other overwhelming emotions, it could be a way to gain confidence to commit suicide. Sometimes the person cuts too deep and accidentally commits suicide or ends up in the hospital.

If you, or someone you know, is contemplating ending their life please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Someone is waiting to speak with you 24/7.

Self-Harm Complications

Even after someone quits inflicting wounds on themselves, the scars are usually still evident. This can be a source of shame for the person. Also, infections can occur as a result of creating open wounds using random objects. Accidental death can happen if the person uses extremely sharp objects. It’s important to lovingly talk to your friend about self-harm if you notice any signs. Let them know that they are seen and heard.

If you are recovering from self-injurious behavior or need someone to talk to, please reach out to a counselor you can trust to help you navigate your experiences.

Photos:
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3 Reasons for Teen Eating Disorders

In many societies around the world, there are teens who are obsessed with their appearance. They are constantly searching for newer, more effective products to whiten their teeth, straighten their hair, or give them a flawless complexion.

A big portion of their conversations with one another revolves around looking good or catching the eye of someone they like, causing them to compare themselves against each other or even against those seen on the big and small screens.

Because of these, it is no small wonder why teen eating disorders are more prevalent now than ever before. In homes and schools, teenagers are either starving themselves or binge-eating and then throwing it all up. Such disorders, however, are very dangerous to the health which is why it is such a worrisome problem to parents and guardians.

Three Reasons for Teen Eating Disorders

Though there are may be many reasons why adolescents deal with teen eating disorders today, the following are most probably the top three:

1. There is too much societal focus on personal appearance

Shallow as it may seem to some, many teenagers develop eating disorders because they want to fit in with society’s standards of beauty, believing that anything less makes them substandard. Media now really bombards people with images of fitness, claiming such bodies to be the benchmark for healthy living.

This is then reinforced by people around – in social media posts, discussions amongst friends, and even preferences by people (such as their crushes!) around them, further cementing these wrong notions of “beauty” in the minds of the young.

Initially, it may begin with internal questions like “Why don’t I look like the other girls?” or “Am I buff enough to attract the girl I like?” But later on, this internal talk becomes even more negative in nature until they finally decide to do something about their weight.

2. Someone said they were not beautiful 

Words are very powerful. As stated in Proverbs 12:18, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

For some teenagers, it was not necessarily media that brought their eating disorder about, but the careless words of someone around them – be they a close family member or friend, or a complete stranger. Teens are still developing their self-identity which often makes them very fragile inside. As they are still not fully aware of who they truly are, spoken words can help build them up or shatter their idea of themselves.

Sadly, not all words may have been spoken because of spite or harsh criticism. It could have been stated matter-of-fact, such as “I think you are too big for that dress now” or “I think you look rounder than usual.” Though no harm was meant, the teen may have wrongly internalized the observation, further breaking down their confidence.

3. There is a lack of positive reinforcement in their life

The teenage years are a topsy-turvy time. At this time, bodily changes, the craving for acceptance from peers, and the new responsibilities and pressures from parents and school can really cause a teen to crumble inside. This is why positive reinforcement is necessary, most especially from parents and those closest to them.

Unfortunately, with the busy lives that many parents have today, such reinforcement is lacking. Many teens grow up believing that they are not loved or they are not “good enough.” This causes some to try and control a portion of their life – their eating habits – to become what the world expects them to be.

How to Help Others Overcome Teen Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a serious condition indeed; thankfully, there are three things that can be done to help them.

1. Love them

Eating disorders develop because the teen no longer loves themself; thus, love is what they need, particularly from those closest to them. This, however, will require much sensitivity and patience from the loved one as the teen will undergo many trials, big and small, during this trying time. But it is imperative that there is someone there to contradict the teen’s critical inner voice and show them that they are truly loved.

2. Educate them

Sometimes even if a teen feels loved, they may still be obsessed with becoming slim. In this case, it is important to educate them on how to lose weight in a safe way. Teach them about the correct eating habits, the need for rest, and commitment to regular exercise so that they can achieve their desired look without resorting to throwing up their food or starving themselves. When done successfully, it may become a permanent part of their lifestyle, helping them even when they are much older.

Educating them also includes redefining what “healthy” looks like and teaching them what “beautiful” really is. They must be informed that a skeletal physique is not healthy, which is why they should NOT strive to be what the supermodel TV shows portray. But more importantly, they need to know about true beauty – that if they are beautiful inside, then they are truly beautiful despite the many curves or lack of them.

3. Be careful with your language

For parents and guardians, careful guidance continues well beyond the elementary years. Sometimes, though, people forget, uttering the wrong words like “big boned,” “chubby,” or “fat” that cause a teen to lose confidence.

It may seem like an additional burden to always watch what one says around a teen; but if the bigger picture is taken into account, then the sacrifice will be well worth it.

Seek Help through Christian Counseling

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

In some situations, a teen’s eating disorder may be too much for parents or guardians to handle, despite attempts to change the teen’s mindset about how they look. When this occurs, professional help should be sought out before other complications (e.g. failing health, depression, substance abuse) set in. Sometimes teens choose to listen to a neutral party’s advice rather than the same sound advice from parents, which is why therapy is often quite useful for teens.

In Christian counseling, the latest counseling methods will be used to help the teen overcome their weight obsession issues. They will also be taught and encouraged to opt for the healthier methods of staying healthy.

But more importantly, the Christian counselor will help connect the teen to our Lord Jesus Christ, through prayer and meditation on His Word, so that they can view their life circumstance through His eyes. When the teen is able to see how much they are loved by God and how beautiful they are in God’s perspective, then it becomes easier to break the eating disorder’s hold on them.

God wants everyone to know that they are beautiful and loved by Him. If your teenager is dealing with an eating disorder, seek help soon so that they may know about His perfect love.

Photos:
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Anger Management for Kids: How You Can Help

School is a place where memories are made. The memories can be pleasant – made with great teachers and fun friends. Or, it can be a place of pain and struggles. When children display different behaviors than their peers do, they can be misunderstood which can ignite reactions that can be very hurtful.

Teachers and parents often try to make things better and to ensure that going to school is a good experience, but when concerning behavioral issues that center around a child’s anger, it is sometimes out of their control.

Anger Management for Kids: Therapeutic Techniques for Children

Below you will find a few of the top techniques used to treat anger management for children in the classroom which can be helpful to parents, teachers, and of course, to the children who are exhibiting the anger involved.

Getting to the Root Source

One method that can help children who are in need of managing their issues of anger is to actually understand their anger and anger in general. Oftentimes, where the anger is actually stemming from is a complete mystery to teachers, parents, the school staff, the child’s peers, and even to the child. It is extremely helpful to identify the source of it so change can begin.

Below you will find some questions to inquire of the parent and child or even for parents to ponder when figuring out which information they will ultimately share with the staff at the school in the even the child does have a behavioral change:

  • Does the parent/guardian or child acknowledge or recognize the angry behavior?
  • What do the child, parent/guardian, or therapist think is the root of the anger?
  • When the child is upset, what emotion do they express they are feeling?
  • How is the anger managed at home?
  • Is any help being sought from an outside situation such as therapy or a family doctor?
  • Is outside assistance being given by anyone in order to help manage the behavior and anger?

Information can be share in multiple ways so that the families and the school can keep open communication and are able to discuss ways the child’s problem can be properly managed.

It’s very helpful for a teacher to be aware of how the anger began in the child and to know if perhaps the issue started following a family loss in which case the teacher and staff can be sympathetic to the situation. Sometimes even being sleepy or medical condition may cause behaviors that manifest like anger. Some mental disorders (such as defiant conditions) give way to authority issues as well.

Diagnoses in Children

Moments in the lives of children can be completely confusing, overwhelming and unique. Listed below are some diagnoses that may be the source of anger in children:

  • Intellectual Disability (or, Development Disorder) It is common for the initial onset of this condition to occur when both intellectual devolopment and adaptive development is taking place. It affects practical domains, social functioning, and conceptual development and can cause problems in school, at home, and in the community as well.
  • Hyperactivity Disorder (Attention Deficit): This condition involves a constant and persistent pattern where hyperactivity and/or inattention interferes with the ability to properly function. It may lead to behavioral and learning issues and problems with peers, authority figures, and other social relationships.
  • Disruptive Mood and Dysregulation Disorder: To qualify for this disorder, the child must manifest the onset of symptoms prior to ten years of age. Severe, chronic irritability, aggression that is directed to other people, themselves, or objects are signs of the disorder. It is imperative to get help given the serious nature of the issue.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (females who are teen and pre-teen): Anger and irritability are two prevalent signs of this condition. The last week before menstruation often marks the peak time of emotional outbursts and exaggerated moods. The week after the period, symptoms usually disappear.
  • Social Phobia and Anxiety: When a situation of a social nature produces such intense anxiety the child clings, freezes up, cries, or won’t speak, it is quite possibly the sign of a social anxiety or phobia.
  • Reactive Attachment: When a child seldom seeks comfort at times he is distressed and has few affections that are positive yet displays frequent episodes where he has unexplained irritability, extreme sadness without cause, or exaggerated fearfulness, there is concern that he may have the disorder of reactive attachment.
  • Oppositional Defiance: A child who easily and often loses his temper and who is touchy and frequently and easily annoyed may have oppositional defiance issues, especially when it involves an adult or person of authority.
  • Intermittent Explosive: Initiating verbal or physical fights or aggression displays is a sign of Intermittent Explosiveness. Throwing temper tantrums, hurting animals, and/or destruction of property are other symptoms.
  • Conduct Disorder: A child who frequently bullies or threatens others or has tendencies to be mean or cruel to humans and/or animals very well may have this serious disorder.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress: Especially following an incident that traumatized him, a child may exhibit irritable behavior and/or outbursts of anger which apparently without cause.

Discovering and understanding what lies behind the behavior of a child can help pave the way for solutions. Management techniques can be set into place and followed through with by parents and family members, teachers and other school staff members, and the child himself.

Anger Management for Kids: Top Techniques

Here are a few top techniques that can be helpful in managing anger issues in children:

Redirecting

Taking the focus off the problem is one way young children can be taught to deal with things that tend to stem their negative behavior. If a troubled child is having problems with another child on the playground, inviting the child to play in a different area can discourage conflict and detour the child’s focus.

Redirection gives a child the opportunity to discover alternative options and to play with other people in other places. Some children do not yet possess the skills to redirect their own selves so the supporting adult can introduce the redirections instead.

Identifying, Expressing, and Sharing Feelings

It takes a good bit of awareness from the person who’s responsible for the redirection but involving the child when doing so will help the child learn to problem solve on his own eventually.

It is very important for the child to be able to pinpoint when they’re experiencing a certain emotion which could cause an anger outburst. Charts that measure and identify feelings are priceless tools to use for this cause. Encouraging the child to chart his feelings can lead to him better understanding them over time.

When confusion sets in, children may not be able to identify emotions and feelings on their own. The chart gives the child choices to identify with rather than having to think them up all on his own. Parents and teachers can choose what they are feeling too which adds to the chance of success and will make the child more comfortable in sharing his own feelings.

Expressing emotions is a difficult thing at times for anyone, especially when it is a child doing so. They are not always mature enough to distinguish fear from anger or to tell the difference between being hurt and being mad.

Children who are creative and like to draw or write can be prompted to express their feelings through their writings or through art. Not only will they be able to get their feelings out but they can also learn more about themselves and begin to explore positive solutions to negative feelings or emotions.

A child might draw a picture of how they are feeling which might involve something like a frown and hair that is haphazard. A teacher might study the picture and begin to note that the child feels out of control. This discovery can spur the teacher to implement measures that will help the child feel they are more in control again.

There are some children who possess verbal skills that can adequately express to others their feelings after they begin to recognize what’s going on. It is imperative to listen to a child who is speaking of their feelings without any form of judgement or even correction. Just allow the child to talk freely.

Self-expression is the key to identifying and dealing with emotions. It can help both the adult supporter and the child find where anger may be stemming from. The goal is to allow the child to share whether it is through art or by speaking. It is vital the child feels he can express his emotions safely.

Other helpful measures can be set into place like allowing the child to have snacks when he is hungry. There can be a designated time and place for snacks or the child can approach the adult in charge when he feels the need arise. Other children in the class may be allowed to partake in a snack too if the teacher feels such a thing would be of value.

There are many solutions that can be put into play that will be a great help for teachers, parents, and even the child. These things may take a little time to set up and to implement but they are well worth the extra effort.

Regulation of Self

Teaching children ways in which to regulate themselves is very powerful. Those who learn to can begin to take steps to identify, express and share. The child, school and even the parents can all work synergistically to create a plan that all are aware of in which the child can learn of new choices he has when feeling angry or upset. Some suggestions are listed below:

  • Encouraging the child to take some breaks during the day with a person who is safe or in an area that is safe is wise so emotions don’t just build up and fester.
  • Since hunger and blood sugar issues can aggravate behavioral problems, having healthy snacks available is a good idea.
  • The use of a behavioral chart which is created by the student is a tool that can assist in accountability and can be an opportunity for good behavior to be rewarded.
  • When the student is experiencing a feeling of emotion, encourage him to draw or write in his notebook. The notebook can be given to him by any supporting adult like his parent or teacher. He can even be allowed to create his own.

When children are first learning to regulate themselves, they require the diligent support of the adults who are around them. It is a good idea to have a list of plans that you and your child have created and studied over. These pre-planned actions and reactions are helpful so the child does not have to rely upon his own actions and impulses which may not be mature or conducive to the situation.

By incorporating a plan, children can experience the freedom to control and regulate by simply choosing one or more of the approved choices so they will ultimately be able to control more of the behavior and can more effectively manage their anger.

Support Systems

Finally, a prime technique for managing anger in class is having support from the staff and teachers at school, parents and other family members, and even those at church like Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders. The more support and love your child has, the better his chance of overcoming is.

When your child feels understood, supported, and unconditionally loved, it sets the scene for positive changes to take place. Having support from others is priceless. It helps the parent and the child know that they are not in

Being aware of what takes place in all the different arenas of the life of your child is a huge help. As you learn more, changes can begin to take place.

Are you searching for a child counselor to help support you for anger based issues? Our counselors are ready and able to help you learn to manage anger and get to the root. Call today for more information.

Photos:
“Shirtless Boy”, Courtesy of Vance Osterhout, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Smile,” courtesy of Andrik Langfield Petrides, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hug,” courtesy of markzfilter, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Jenga,” courtesy of Michel Parzuchowski, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Teen Drug Abuse: What’s the Big Deal?

It’s no secret that the society we live it has drastically changed its opinion on marijuana over the past twenty years or so. The shift is influencing how our teens view the drug as well. But, is smoking marijuana safe for teenagers?

As a counselor, it is not unusual to hear my teenage clients make statements such as, “Marijuana is alright to use because it’s organic.” Or to hear them say pot cures cancer.

It’s also no secret that telling a young person what not to do, often results in the opposite being accomplished, I attempt to counsel them in a manner that is conducive to them making their own good choice rather than giving them instructions outright.

Once, a teen told me research proved that marijuana wasn’t harmful to young people. So, I requested that he bring in the research article. He later admitted the source wasn’t an article. It was a friend of his.

I proceeded to give the young man research articles which pointed out the risks associated with marijuana use and teens. He was not on the defensive because I had used a different approach with him so he was more open to hearing what I had to say.

When the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) conducted a survey, about 1 teen in 14 had used marijuana the prior month. A good number of teenagers feel that it is alright to use marijuana because it is organic and natural. Some think it is okay, whether it is illegal or not. Four million people in the US who were 12 and over had an abuse issue with marijuana in 2016. Research proves that marijuana does have the ability to harm the still developing brain of young people.

It is also a fact that marijuana certainly can be a source of addiction. Of course, not all who use it will become addicted to it. Becoming dependent happens when an individual isn’t able to control their use of any given substance and still continues to do it. Consequences do not stop an addict when practicing their addiction.

While harder drugs, like cocaine, tend to lead to big blow outs, like the tires of a car running at 90 miles-per-hour, marijuana is similar to a small, slow leak. It can be barely noticed. Over time, however, the tire begins to wear down. Such is true with marijuana issues. They may not surface as hard and fast as those associated with hard drug use. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist though.

Clearly, adolescence is a time of great upheaval and can be traumatic, filled with psychological turmoil. It’s a period when identity is being formed and defined. Teens struggle to find their individuality.

Often times, a huge amount of anxiety consumes a teen as he figures out how to fit in with his peers and he may be stressed out trying to work his values into the equation. During this turbulent time, if teens experiment with marijuana, they very well may feel as if they have found the perfect solution to all their problems and think it is the answer to their anxiety.

Being unaware that it is a problem in itself leads to other possible complications like denial. It is hard to get help when one does not admit or realize there is a negative issue with using it. That is why it often takes a while for marijuana users to get help if they are not intercepted by a parent or loved one.

Marijuana appears to be good when it comes to binding anxiety, it offers the false promise of stress-free living for teens. One of the main problems is that youngsters need some stress and anxiety in their lives to help them grow, emotionally. Coping skills are birthed from problems that kids learn to solve.

Life will pile on pressures but if a teen has not learned how to effectively deal with the stress those pressures cause, he is likely to cave because there is no personality structure to help him work through it all. That is how dependency sets in. Problem after problem, the teenager resorts to the only coping mechanism he has – marijuana. It offers an escape from reality and can quickly become a cycle that runs rampant.

While it is typical to think that hard drugs, like heroin or cocaine, would be much larger problems for an individual who is addicted to them, that’s not always necessarily the case. Because marijuana can be used for such a long time without many noticeable effects and has the tendency to ease anxiety rather than to create it (like amphetamines do), it can cause just as much or possibly more problems.

Furthermore, it greatly inhibits the development of coping skills (as mentioned above) which is a huge issue for teens who will soon be entering into adulthood and will be required to cope with a myriad of things life will throw their way.

For those who are heavy users, anxiety can go on for up to a year, even when not using. Maturity is delayed during this time which is something most teens cannot afford. It is imperative that the stages of growth are completed on time. None can be skipped which is a real possibility when marijuana use is part of the picture.

A number of functions are inhibited by marijuana. Driving is one of them. Since during the teen years, youngsters are learning to drive, this can be a problem. Delayed reactions are an area of concern. The lack of experience and delay in motor functions that marijuana use brings to the table is a dangerous scenario for the impaired driver and others on the road and in the car.

Marijuana lowers an individual’s ability to correctly function in academics as well. Marijuana causes memory and attention loss which can linger on for days after use because one of the main active ingredients is THC which is known for lowering concentration and memory as well and it’s fat soluble, meaning it takes a while to leave the system.

The loss of motivation is notorious for users of marijuana. It lowers anxiety which is, within reasonable quantities, something that naturally drives individuals to accomplish goes and press forward. For instance, a teen is often driven to complete homework because he doesn’t want to get a bad grade or be in trouble with his parents or teacher. If his level of concern is decreased, he is less likely to complete the task of doing his homework.

In a 2017 report, the NIDA stated that in comparison with teenagers who do not use, those students who did take part in using marijuana were less likely to complete high school. They were also less likely to acquire a degree in college. Because marijuana affects coordination, movement, and timing, their athletic abilities were also hindered making it a hindrance for athletes too.

Mental illness is yet another area that plays a factor in teens who use. They are at a high risk of having issues since it unlocks the potential for issues in that realm. Marijuana is classified as a hallucinogenic drug and therefore has the potential to alter the brain’s electrical activity that regulates perception.

Marijuana might be described as a drug that is used in the present and paid for in the future, like a line of credit. All of the consequences may not be experienced for years down the road. Sadly, however, they do catch up.

Like debt, issues and problems just keep piling up like a stack of bills that haven’t been paid. You can only ignore them for so long. Generally, it is in a time of chronic stress when the effects begin to surface.

Such an episode may lead to huge problems where mental health is concerned. Some forms of mental illness don’t just fade away. Some remain for the rest of one’s life. That is a heavy load for a teen to have to live with.

The NIDA reports that the use of marijuana is associated with a raised risk for such conditions as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. While it is unsure if using marijuana actually is the cause of the conditions, there’s a definite connection. The user’s age, the genes he possesses, and the frequency and amount of marijuana used are all contributing factors to be considered.

NIDA also reported these results:

Effects of short-term use, immediately following introduction to the body:

  • attention, memory, and learning problems
  • perception distortions (sights, time, touch, sounds)
  • poor coordination
  • an increase in heart rate
  • paranoia and anxiety
  • psychosis (rare)

Longer lasting effects can include:

  • memory and learning issues
  • problems with sleep

Longer-term effects (associated with repeated use):

  • marijuana addiction risks
  • lasting memory and learning issues when used excessively
  • the risk of bronchitis and chronic coughing
  • schizophrenia risk in those who have a high genetic vulnerability
  • severe nausea and vomiting (rare)

Is marijuana a gateway drug? Because most teens tend to try out marijuana and even alcohol and tobacco before experimenting with harder drugs, it is difficult to determine if there is a direct association with harder drug use as a direct result.

It is, however, plain to see that marijuana is easier to acquire than the harder drugs so perhaps that is why it is usually experimented with first. One who is smoking marijuana is more likely to hang out with people who use and sell harder drugs though so the chance of using them is increased.

Teenagers who discover that they are not able to stop using, even when it is their desire, might have a disorder or an addiction. When continued use causes problems yet it is still continued, addiction is likely a factor. Another sign is when it takes more of the drug to achieve the same high.

Marijuana treatment generally requires several simultaneous treatments because the addict who is in recovery may have a number of needs. Psychological education, group treatment, and individual counseling are usually all incorporated into the approaches.

There may be mental health issues that need to be addressed as well. A skilled counselor in the area of marijuana treatment can assess and determined what is right for your teen. The best plan is one that is tailor made for the teen and his or her given circumstances and needs.

Treatment for addiction is able to help an individual stop their drug use, rebuild the relationships they once had with friends and family, and restore the productivity they once enjoyed in society, at school, and at work. Counseling is best when sought sooner and not later when more damage has been done.

Summing it all up, marijuana isn’t the harmless, natural, organic substance that can do no harm that many people think it is. Especially when it comes to teens, using it regularly can undermine psychological developments and cognitive functions as well. The teen years are full of change and are the time for sorting things out and learning how to cope with oppositions. Marijuana stunts this growth.

A multitude of problems will have to be revisited if your teen is not able to learn skills of coping during the time he or she should be. Using marijuana to escape from the stress is not the answer. It only heaps on more problems. Getting help for your teen is the best step you can take. Intervention can help make a huge difference.

Scheduling a therapy appointment for your teenager to get proper teaching and education concerning their marijuana use and emotional support to help deal with their life stress points they might be attempting to escape from is imperative. Don’t let a small problem turn into a much bigger one. Take action today! We are here to help.

Photos:
“What Ails You”, Courtesy of Wesley Gibbs, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Teen Smoker”, Courtesy of Ivandrei Pretorius, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Crazy High”, Courtesy of Ricardo Mancia, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Shooting Up”, Courtesy of VanveenJF, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Is Teen Counseling the Secret to Your Family’s Happiness?

Raising teens is not an easy task!

From crying toddlers to knee-scraped kids, suddenly they are asking for the car keys or trying to worm their way around missing the family dinner to hang out with friends. At times, you may feel like you are living with a stranger as their preferences may change on a monthly basis.

Or perhaps your teen is dealing with something more difficult. Instead of clear dreams, their future has become cloudier and full of doubt; instead of new friends at school, they have “enemies” in class; instead of broken toys, it is now a broken heart.

Fear not! While it is a tough task, you are not alone and you are not completely helpless. There are steps to help you help your teen. Consider the option of teen counseling as a way to help your son or daughter get professional help to work through whatever issues he or she may be facing.

What Does it Mean to be a Teen?

The standard definition of a teen for many years was someone between the ages of 13 to 19 years old – derived from the “teen” at the end of the number. But as the years have gone by, this range seems to have expanded in both directions.

Because of technology, particularly the internet and TV, younger children have begun to act like teenagers, copying the styles, mimicking the behavior, and generally trying to be older than their bodies suggest.

At the other end, the teenage years have grown to include the early 20’s. Due to financial constraints, many of these young adults still depend on their parents for the basics. And mentally, some still consider themselves teens, hence the term “tweens”, since they haven’t accepted the responsibility yet of being an adult.

Physically, teenagers are metamorphosing from a child to an adult. Voices are changing, hair is growing everywhere, muscles are strengthening, and curves are forming. At this time, they have become more conscious of their looks – either out of vanity, worry about acceptance, or both.

From another standpoint, teenagers have a distinct culture with rules and modes of interaction that differ greatly from kids and adults. Kids idolize them while adults think they are strange.

Moreover, though they are asked to behave like adults, they are also expected to respect parental and school authority like children. In this stage, they are beginning to define who they are, but family and societal expectations may put stress on that definition, causing them anxiety and doubt.

At the core of it all, teenagers are in the midst of discovering who they are on the outside, on the inside, and within their community.

Dealing with your Teen’s Problems

Because of all the complexities, these are delicate years for your child as they face issues that may help them grow or possibly scar them for life. Here are some ways to help:

1. Acknowledge the differences; Take note of the similarities

Today’s world is vastly different from before. Technology has made the world smaller. People have easy, unfiltered access to the beliefs, cultures, histories, and lives of people anywhere on the globe with the tap of their finger.

One can quickly connect with family, friends and new acquaintances from the comfort of home. And if the money is there, faster and more available transport can take people to the other side of the world in less than a day.

Furthermore, life now is less private than before. The allure of social media has people willingly sharing their beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and even actions for the world to see. And sometimes, even if we do NOT want such to be shared, camera phones and the social media of accounts of others may still subject our lives to public scrutiny.

Hence, it is no wonder why children seem to be “maturing” faster than before. They see what others are doing and envy their lives. They want to grow up and see the world NOW and not later on.

These changes, however, have also made things more confusing for them. They are comparing themselves to the ideals that mainstream media and social media are portraying and there is no one to tell them otherwise. So aside from envy, there is a lot more insecurity and doubt.

However, not everything is so different if we can just recall our personal past. Even before, being a teenager was a challenge. It was exciting yet frightening to experience the bodily changes.

Teens were as “cruel” in the past as they are now, ostracizing one another for being different. Conflict with parents was also there, regardless of how more hands-on our parents were before than we are now. And still, we had our own doubts about who we were and what we wanted to be, just like teens do now.

So we can help them now by revealing our personal struggles in the past and what we did to overcome them. This includes sharing the things we wanted to hear back then from our loved ones and why we might not have heard them.

2. Communicate with them

While technology has allowed us to get in touch a lot faster than before, it does not mean that such communication is authentic, especially when dealing with our complex teens.

Knowing where they are, who they are with, or their current emotional state online is still NOT the same as speaking to them directly about how they are inside. In fact, sometimes what is relayed to us through these devices might not exactly be what they are feeling because they know the world is watching them.

Sadly, many parents hesitate to take that step to bridge the communication gap. First, there is fear of either being rejected by our teens or driving them further away. Second, we might feel it is a waste of time and that eventually, they will just outgrow the stage in the same way we did in the past.

But if this is our mindset, then we are leaving our teens vulnerable to those who may give them wrong advice and possibly wrong emotional care. Just like us, most teens DO want to have true communication with their parents, they just don’t know how.

Rather than avoiding the issue, parents need to show them how. Start communicating but without expecting much in return. You cannot expect them to respond positively right away if your relationship is already strained.

It might seem awkward at times since only you are doing the talking, but know in your heart that they are listening. The hope, however, is that as you do share how you feel and who you are, your teen will eventually open up. Then the healing may begin.

But be careful not to reverse roles where your teen ends up being your personal therapist as you unload all your problems and fears. If that occurs, you might end up driving them further away as it is not the job of the child to fix their parents’ problems. Always check your personal motives for sharing and consider whether what you share is meant for the kids or someone else.

3. Be consistent

It is easy to say but quite difficult to do, yet it is something that people, especially teens, expect. Trust is built when the person we are dealing with is consistent in their actions and promises. In business, for example, we would not want to partner with someone who fails to deliver on time, provides shoddy services or products, or reneges on a deal. The same of course occurs in personal relationships.

As parents, we are to provide them boundaries to follow and to uphold them as necessary. We ought to be role models as well so that we can properly walk the talk. If we can do so, our teens will see the importance of it all.

But human as we are, it can be difficult at times. We too are burdened with issues of our own at work, at home, and even internally. Every time we say “yes” and then change our minds, we break their trust. Every time we increase their punishment arbitrarily based on our ever-changing mood, we break their trust again. Eventually, they will simply ignore us or rebel if we cannot be consistent.

4. Know their friends

When problems arise, teens often turn to their friends first as they believe their friends understand them more than their family. As parents, we may want this to change but if we just recall our own past experiences, we will realize that it is just part of the process of growing up and letting go.

However, to have some peace of mind, it is important to know their friends. This may be achieved by opening up your home so that you can get to know them better.

If this is not possible, then at least try to strike up a conversation every time you see them – just be careful not to be too intrusive nor share any embarrassing stories about your own teen. And in today’s times, befriending them on social media may also help to know them more.

If successful, you will find out what kind of advice and emotional support they are receiving. Additionally, it helps to know which of their friends is trustworthy and which to be wary of.

While you cannot force your teen to just drop their friend, if you have had good communication, you have been consistent, and you know the other friends well, then your teen may listen to you on important issues such as avoiding the wrong crowd.

5. Get some support

Despite all of the above, sometimes the problems might just be too much to handle. Severe depression, outright rebellion, illegal activities or addictions are things that most parents cannot solve on their own. In such a situation, professional support such as teen counseling is needed.

Teenagers are often able to open up more and respond to adults that are not their relatives. When coming from the mouth of another, teens feel that the advice has been validated by someone impartial to the situation.

Aside from individual teen counseling, family counseling also helps to clear the air between all parties involved. Hidden issues can be discussed in a neutral area with an educated arbitrator to guide everyone along. In this way, the problems have a better chance of being solved permanently.

Raising a teenager is a challenge but one that does not have to end in heartaches for all. Follow the tips and know that you are not the only one having difficulties. It will be hard at first but stick with it, knowing that it is for the benefit of your family.

Yet should you feel that you need more support, there is no shame in reaching out for help. It is better to address the situation quickly and properly before things become even worse. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for teen counseling. It might just make all the difference.

Photos
“Her own girl”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cyber”, Courtesy of Freestocks-org, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Daughter,” Courtesy of Mario Campello, flickr.com, (CC BY 2.0); “Teens Having Fun,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)