Struggling with your Teen? Try This

Child angry at parentsIt seems like it happened all at once.  One moment you were praising your kid for being so good and the next thing you know he/she is a completely different child in a foreign looking body.  Not only are the clothing choices a bit different but the shoe size is rapidly increasing, the attitude is becoming disturbing, the vocabulary adds new shock value, the interests are unusual, and your once sweet child became a hormonal teenager with mood swings so high and low you need a score card to keep up.  To make matters worse, parenting is stressful as you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on what is normal teenage behavior and abnormal teenage behavior.

Beginning at age twelve, your child develops critical thinking skills which literally transforms your child’s mind from being receptive to your opinion into questioning your opinion.  The goal of this age is to help your child develop strong critical thinking skills not to impair them during the process.  You can impair them by demanding that everything be done your way without questioning and without explanation.  While this is practical at a younger age, it is not during the teenage years where peers begin to have a greater influence than before.  Think about it for a second, which would you rather have: a teen who questions what others tell them or a teen who believes everything others tell them?

Hormones.  Imagine PMS times 10 for a teenage girl or a mid-life crisis times 20 for a teenage boy, now you have a better understanding of the intensity of hormones running through their body.  No, this does not give justification to poor behavior but this does explain the origin of the mood swings.  It is hard to remember that these hormones are new to your child and while it took you many years to become use to your own emotional mood swings, it will take many years for your child to adjust as well.  This is a process, not a one-time event and expecting anything less or more immediate will only intensify your frustration.

Respect.  Your once respectful child is likely to become disrespectful with you lately for unknown reasons.  With such repeatedly poor behavior it is easy to make your child’s disrespectful attitude the subject of nearly every conversation but this is unproductive.  If you instead begin with the end goal in mind of having a good relationship with your child, then paying attention to what your child is really saying rather than how they say it becomes the priority.  Once you have really listened to your child by finding some area of common agreement however small, then you can address the disrespect.  Your child will be more likely to positively respond to your requests after you have heard theirs.

Love.  I Corinthians 13:4a says that love is first patient and then kind.  As your child’s parent, you must first be patient with them and then kind.  This means that no matter how long it takes for your child to demonstrate a loving attitude towards you, you must continue to patiently wait for them with kindness in your voice.  This is loving behavior that is fitting for a parent.  It does not mean that your child can walk all over you and be repeatedly rude, it does however mean that when your child is rude, you don’t return the rudeness but act lovingly towards your child.

Discipline.  The days of time-outs are over now and if you don’t know your child really well, you will not be effective in disciplining them.  For instance, if video games are your child’s thing, then taking away the video games as punishment is effective.  But you can’t take it away all the time or the punishment will lose its’ effectiveness.  Basically you must have a variety of interests which you can draw from when needed.  Yet you must also have an absolute bottom line such as boarding school, reform school, or some alternative program always in your back pocket and ready to bring forward when needed.  If it comes to this, don’t back down, that is not loving behavior.

Teenagers are an interesting group of people and no matter how difficult you might struggle with them; they are well worth the effort.  One day you will look back fondly on these years and perhaps gain a couple of really good stories to share with their kids one day.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

ADHD Medication Not Working For Your Teen? It May Be a Sleep Disorder

Bedtimes-and-Adolescent-DepressionIt is yet another counseling appointment for Sam who is 13 years old and is struggling in school, home, and everywhere he goes.  He has been diagnosed with ADHD and depression in the past but all of the medications have failed to work and his is getting worse, not better.  He is a bright boy who can do well at school but he frequently falls asleep while doing homework saying that it is too boring.  Socially he struggles with his peers as he seems disconnected, detached, and distracted.  You are beyond frustrated, having tried numerous therapies and medications convinced that something is wrong but unable to identify it.  Finally you begin to believe that he is just lazy.

While laziness may play a factor in Sam’s teenage brain, there might be something else.  Frequently, lack of proper sleep can have waking symptoms of ADHD or even depression.  Without proper REM sleep, a still growing teenager will struggle to stay awake during the day, seem distracted, forgetful, moody, prone to anger, unable to focus for long periods of time, and sleep excessively.  A teenager should get approximately 9 hours of sleep with an additional hour of sleep if going through a growth spurt.  If you are concerned that your child may have a sleep disorder instead of ADHD or depression, ask your doctor to order a sleep study.  This is the best way to diagnose sleep disorders.

Narcolepsy.  The movie version of narcolepsy has a person walking in a mall and suddenly dropping to the floor and going to sleep.  This is not entirely accurate as there are many forms of narcolepsy all ranging from mild to severe.  In a teenager, narcolepsy looks like falling asleep while in class, doing homework, watching TV, or reading.  The teen may also be talking to you one minute, look away, seem to be somewhere else for a second and then return back to the conversation claiming an inability to follow the conversation.  This is likely to cause problems at school and home as it may seem disrespectful to you.  The good news is that once it is diagnosed, proper medication can mitigate the symptoms as well as a strict sleep schedule including a nap.

Sleep Apnea.  During the night, a person with sleep apnea is suddenly startled in the middle of a deep sleep because breathing has stopped.  This can happen many times during the course of the night leaving the waking person to feel exhausted in the morning.  In a teenager, falling asleep during class, jerking while asleep, and snoring are all commons symptoms.  The treatment varies for teens but common practices are to remove the tonsils and adenoids for relief of the symptoms.

Insomnia.  Having difficulty falling asleep at night, staying asleep or not feeling rested could be chronic insomnia.  Without regular sleep a teen seems distracted, depressed, struggles to concentrate at school, is moody, clumsy, and irritable.  Again, early diagnosis is the key as there are many medications which can be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of insomnia.  In addition, a regular sleep schedule is essential to condition your body when to rest and when to remain awake.

While there are more sleep disorders, these are the ones most commonly seen in teens.  Still there are other medical conditions that could be contributing to sleep problems such as Restless Leg Syndrome so it is important to speak with your doctor to rule out any other contributing factors.  However, the most important element in teaching your teen about good sleep patterns is by modeling them yourself.  Develop a relaxing nighttime routine such as reading, yoga, a bath, or a cup of chamomile tea to release the day’s stressors and allow your body to naturally relax.  In addition, do your best to go to bed at the same time every night waking up approximately 7 hours later around the same time every morning.  This routine will not only improve your sleep habits but can aid in weight loss, reduce anxiety, depression and stress all of which can be beneficial for you and your teen.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Are You Making Your Kid Angry?

Technically, no one can “make” you angry unless you give them that right.  While it may seem as though the actions of another person are “making you angry”, in actuality it is your set of experiences, emotions, beliefs, and ideals that cause you to get angry.  For instance, one person may become angry at being cut off while driving while another person may not even notice the action.  The difference between the two people is one person took the action as a personal offense while the other person did not.  The person cutting you off did not “make” you angry; rather you became angry because of how you perceived their action.

So while another person can’t “make” you angry, you can “make” your kid angry.  Why the double standard?  Because your kid is a child and you are an adult.  With maturity comes the ability to temper or control your responses which is the idea of having “self-control”.  But for a child, they have not reached this level of maturity and are unable to demonstrate self-control so they display immature behavior which is characterized by a lack of control over their responses.  Literally, you can “make” a kid feel a certain way because they are not fully in control of their responses.  Therefore, as the adult, you are responsible for “making” your kid angry.  Ephesians 6:4a warns, “Fathers (and mothers), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.”  But just how are you “making” them angry?

Not listening.  Easily hands down the number one complaint kids have about their parents is that they don’t listen to what they are saying.  Too often as a parent, you are trying to get your point across and don’t stop long enough to make sure you understand your child’s point of view.  Then, because they are a child, often they really don’t know what they are really thinking or how they are feeling, so they default to anger.  No, they are not able to speak clearly, they are a child.  No, they are not able to counteract you point by point, they are a child.  But give them some time and soon as teenagers they will become more and more like you, not listening and counteracting you point by point.

Assuming the worst.  Just to make things more complicated, kids don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say.  While this is a nice lesson to teach them, assuming the worst motive or attitude about your child sends a subtle message that they are not valued or their opinion is not valued.  This brings on anger in your child just as you get angry when someone assumes the worst about you.  When you assume the worst about your child, they interprets this as “I am no good”, “I can never do anything right”, or “I am to blame for everything”.  The negative consequences of a child learning this at a young age is that it will not leave them as an adult.  For the rest of their lives, they will struggle with a positive self-image which you helped to foster.

Seeing yourself in them.  When you see your child behaving and speaking just like you while making all the same mistakes you made, there is almost an immediate angry response on your part.  It seems to come out of nowhere, one moment you are able to speak calmly and the next you are flying off the handle.  There is no rhyme or reason except that you were triggered by a past event or mistake and watching your child suffer through the same mistakes you made is more than you can handle.  The problem is that your child doesn’t understand your anger and they instead internalize it.  They become angry with themselves for “making” you angry.  In the moment, you child is not likely to respond badly but give them a couple of years and the resentment will build and turn to intense anger.

Ok, so you have made a few mistakes or more likely, made more than a few mistakes in “making” your child angry but it is not too late.  You can stop “making” them angry by simply doing the opposite of what “made” them angry.  You could listen to what they are really saying, you could assume the best about your child, and you could divorce your behavior from your child’s behavior.  After all, they have their own journey to make based on their own decisions and it is not necessarily the same journey you have made in life.  The decisions they will need to make in the future are made best when not heavily influenced by anger from their parents.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.