No matter the age of your child you have probably had occasion to navigate challenging behaviors. Parents often struggle to find the balance between offering compassion and defining limits. Furthermore, in the exhaustion of daily life parents can take children’s misbehavior personally.
“Why can’t Sally just do her homework?”
“Why does Charlie always fight us about bedtime?”
“Why can’t he just pick up after himself?”
“Why is she always in her room?”
Why is this happening?
Sound familiar? Rest assured, in most cases, your child’s behavior is not an act of malice towards you but a method of communicating with you. All behavior has meaning and very often the meaning has nothing to do with the behavior. Acting out is a form of indirect communication. Children very often act out before they acquire the language and emotional awareness required to communicate what they need. Even after that language is acquired, people of all ages act out when they haven’t had their needs met (adults included!).
Think about one of your own difficult days. You are met with needs and demands from your family. Given that you aren’t at your best, you may snap at them, seek isolation or even cry. As adults, you know what your behavior means, you know what you need. But even still, adults can find themselves “misbehaving” and being indirect about those needs.
Being an investigator of your child
It seems that a piece of the job of parenting is being a part time investigator. From childhood tantrums to adolescent silence, parents can reflect and search to identify what the behavior means. What does their child need?
- Are they hungry or tired?
- Are they stressed or worried?
- Are they refusing to do homework because school is hard?
- Are they avoiding bedtime because they are having trouble sleeping?
- Are they throwing tantrums because they need attention?
- Are they breaking the rules because they don’t believe the consequences will be enforced?
- Are they staying up all night on their phone because they are eager for rules and limits?
- Are they making demands because they believe they are in charge of the house?
- Does the behavior work for your child? Are they getting what they want?
- Are they calling out for help?
Replacing our words
Parents should look at misbehavior as an opportunity to explore what is going on with their child. We can replace “Why did you do that?” with “What do you need?” In identifying needs, parents can equip their children with language that will help them articulate how they are feeling and what they need (even if that’s just space from us!). In addition, understanding the meaning of behavior allows for addressing the root cause of the problem and not just the side effects. For example, addressing sleeplessness as opposed to punishing avoidant behavior related to bedtime.
What is the goal?
Remember…when deciding how to deal with behavior first consider what is the goal of the misbehavior? What is your child getting out of it? Having this information will allow you to make an informed decision about the best next step.
If you are struggling with understanding your child’s behavior or knowing how to respond, we are here for you in Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh, or Wake Forest. Please reach out if you need help!
Believe it or not, many of our school aged clients actually report worsening mental health over their summer break. That is consistent all over the country. That may seem a little backwards at first, I mean what’s better than going on vacation, sleeping in and spending the days by the pool? But, the main thing that most summers lack is routine and social outlets! Routine is so important for children (and adults alike!). While we are not recommending that you structure every moment of every day, it can be beneficial for parents and children to have a basic outline of a “normal summer day”.
As a mother myself, it can seem overwhelming to think about a whole summer with my children at home all the time. I need routine for myself too. There are different types of time that we recommend scheduling into your days to help you and your children thrive over summer. Based on the ages of your children, it could look different but the ideas are the same.
We recommend spending as much time outside being active as possible during summer. This could include playing outside, swimming, exploring a nearby creek, having picnics, playing on the playground, pretending with friends, etc.
This means time where they do something that builds their brains or grows a skill. This could include reading, reviewing some topics that interest the child, playing a musical instrument, learning a new skill. This gives a sense of mastery that is often missing during summer and crucial for mental health.
At my house we call this the “art station”. This could include painting, drawing, pretending, play-doh, whatever it is that your child does that is creative.
While older kids might balk at the idea of a “rest time”, it is so crucial. This does not mean they have to take a nap but does mean “down time” or quiet time. This is crucial for parents and children! Set a timer, start with a small increment if you need to, and tell your child they need to do something quietly in their room until the timer goes off. This can be playing independently, reading in their room, or napping.
Personal Responsibility/Sacrificial Time
This is time dedicated to helping others or taking care of home responsibilities. Summer is a great time to volunteer, visit shut-ins, clean out closets and give away unneeded items, etc. This is when our children refocus on others and fill their cup by filling other’s cups. This can also include home chores.
This just means committing to eating meals. That may sound silly, but think about how often we are rushing during the school year all around time. Meals are either skipped, unhealthy, or eaten separately. Take summer to try new recipes, commit to eating the rainbow, or just commit to eating regularly as a family.
No pressure, we can help!
While it may not always be possible to hit every category every day, it can be helpful to have a basic outline to each day. This not only helps children, but helps parents too! It also limits the never-ending “I’m bored!” “What can I do?!” If your child or teen is struggling with mental health, summer can be a great time to get started seeing a therapist. You are not competing with homework or other schedules. We would love to help if you need us!
How parents can help teens “Filter through the Filters”
We are living in a media saturated world. Media tells us what is “normal” and in some ways, shapes who we “want to be”. The greater our media exposure, the greater the impact. Problems can come when people forget that social media is filtered. What we see is not reality. No where is this more apparent than social media filters.
How Filters Change Us
Filters are designed only show what we want, how we want, while keeping the rest hidden. Usually what is being filtered out is what the user considers “messy” or “unwanted” or “imperfect” in another’s eyes. We forget that what we see is a “highlight reel”. Be careful not to compare someone else’s “highlight reel” to your “behind the scenes”. We are often quick to portray ourselves through filters to fit a mold and be what other people want. This means that we are less likely to show the variety that makes up life. Mass and social media will never give us or our teens the validation we crave.
Focus on Teens
Teens are especially susceptible to falling for the filter trap. Why? For one thing, brain development. Teen brain development shifts focus outward towards peer groups as a way of establishing independence. Parental validation is often replaced by peer validation. Teens are also more susceptible due to the world they have grown up in. Many teenagers have always had exposure to media, screens, and social media comparison their whole lives. Social media is always present. Without parent support, teens can spiral and end up in an unhealthy place.
A Parent’s Role
Parents are essential to helping teens navigate a potentially unlimited world of access and exposure.
Limit setting is an important part of parenting. Parents who help teens set their own limits will help set them up for success as they grow into young adults. One of a parent’s primary responsibility is not to be a friend to their child but help shape them as a person. Limits are an important part of creating a secure, healthy connection. We often think about boundaries as a restraint on a roller coaster. The restraints on the roller coaster hold us down but when we are upside down, we are grateful! Many things in a teens’ life feel “upside down” and your limits help them stay safe and healthy. As much as a teen may push against a boundary, it is a test and they need and crave boundaries.
Providing a Secure Base
Another essential parenting role is to help provide a secure base for teens. What is a secure base? This just means your child knows knows you are always present, love them unconditionally and are predictable. A teen should know their parent is always there for them and their love is not conditional. The boundaries remain steady and love is not dependent on performance. So how do we do this with media?
Offering Safe Space
Everyone is bombarded with confusing and critical messages that can create insecurity instead of inspiring confidence. Instead, provide a safe space where media messages can be discussed and challenged.
Low self-esteem develops when external messages become internalized. Talking about comparative thoughts can help keep them from turning into unhealthy beliefs. This means adults need to examine their relationship with these comparative messages as well. We may have internalized some of the same messages. It is best to praise and point out your teens’s strengths rather than surface level praise. This can help encourage them and give them validation they are craving through media.
A Need for Boundaries
Children need boundaries to protect self-esteem and promote healthy self and body image. Setting boundaries is a way to say “no” in order to say “yes” to what we care about the most. Here are a few signs boundaries need to be increased with media:
- Often feeling significantly pressured to be what other people want you to be, not who you were made to be?
- Give too much time to media?
- Do you or your teen follow people, images, organizations that perpetuate self-comparison?
- Can you and your teen take time to see past the surface of media?
- Do you or your teen accept media as standard?
Boundaries Continued – Supporting Holistic Awareness
Media is not necessarily all bad, but how we use media matters. What do we do? Here are some ways to create healthy boundaries with media:
“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt. First, instead of comparing, encourage your teen to look inward towards gratitude. Gratitude invites us to notice and enjoy the here and now, instead of saying “not enough.”
Give them permission to be different. Do not assume different is “bad.” In fact, our differences and diversity are very much needed to support life. “Be who you are meant to be, and you will set the world on fire” – St. Catherine of Siena
Say “no” to what is unhealthy
Helping your teen learn to limit mass and social media will help them become healthy, confident individuals.
Support When you Need it
Navigating media with your teen can feel overwhelming and uncertain. Many times, media itself cannot be fully controlled. There is control over how we can help ourselves and teens respond in healthy ways. If you feel you and/or your teen need more support with “filtering the filters” and increasing self-esteem, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health counselor!
The 2020-21 school year is well underway and “classrooms” look a lot different this year. With split schedules and virtual learning as the new norm, parents have been having a particularly difficult time dealing with all of these uncharted waters. With flex schedules, you might have
noticed that your child has more unstructured time than usual – but this isn’t always a bad thing! Unstructured time for children can actually provide some benefits to help your child’s growth.
Incorporate Self-Directed Play
Self-directed play is a wonderful skill for children to develop. It sparks their creativity and imagination. Self-directed play doesn’t have to have any structure. It’s an open-ended form of play that encourages children to become independent and creative. It’s also is a great way to use unscheduled time because your child is still learning (in a less obvious way). Being creative can also help your child destress from whatever school work they still have to complete via e-learning.
It’s OK To Be Bored Sometimes
There are millions of activities that your child can partake in when they are not completing school work. It’s important to teach your child to not only embrace this time but also leave it up to them to entertain themselves. By doing this, they will be able to discover the activities they truly enjoy. Your child will never know how to handle boredom if you are always providing a structured solution. Teaching them at a young age to find ways to entertain themselves with activities they enjoy is an excellent way to make sure they have a strong foundation.
Encourage ‘Out Of The Box” Thinking
Lastly, remember that a little bit of daydreaming is okay! Research actually shows that daydreaming can lead to creativity and “out of the box” thinking. This is another great benefit of having more unstructured time in an e-learning environment. Daydreaming can also help improve your child’s memory. Provide structure during blocks of learning but know when it’s time to take a break to enhance their focus.
While we might not have all the answers for some time, it’s important to do the best you can with what you have. Let go of perfectionism! Remember that you don’t have to have a plan for every minute of the day. Children are naturally creative and allowing them to harness this creativity can be one of the silver linings found in these challenging times. We can help!
Successful people often have a few common characteristics that have helped them move past their mental roadblocks and into a thriving mindset. There are hundreds of videos and self-help books out there that share success tips and tricks but success boils down to self-improvement and personal growth.
Here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you move forward in success…
Develop A Growth Mindset
Successful people are not afraid of making mistakes and taking on challenges. They leave their fixed mindset behind…the one telling them they’ll never change and their environment will always stay the same… to move into a growth mindset.
People who have a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. They always take away lessons from the negative things that have happened in order to build resilience.
While setbacks happen to everyone, you can keep moving forward in positivity even after a few steps back. That’s what resilience is all about!
For example, instead of thinking, “I really don’t understand this new program at work. I’ll never understand it so I give up!,” try thinking with personal growth in mind, “I don’t know it yet, but I will learn.”
Don’t let the fear of failure be the voice that stands in the way of your success in life.
Create a Plan
Personal development plans help you stay on track and meet your goals. They are a good way to attain more self-awareness and figure out what aspects of personal development have been working and which aspects you need to improve.
Not sure where to start? Grab a notebook or journal and make a commitment to write each day. Evaluate your vision and your values. What does success look like and feel like to you? Create small and measurable steps to get there.
Include periodic check-ins with questions like…
Am I taking care of my mental and physical health?
Am I coping with stress effectively?
Are my goals aligned with my life vision?
Coping with Stress
Coping with stress in a healthy way is an important part of the journey to success. Stress can blur your clarity and focus. It can have an effect on how you eat, sleep, or think. Stress can dampen your productivity and create problems in meaningful relationships.
Managing stress is an important part of your overall health and wellness. Try incorporating some common stress-relieving habits like meditation, exercise, socializing, reading, or simply changing up your environment.
It is also important to know your triggers when you feel extremely overwhelmed and need a break. We understand. You’re tired of just surviving each day. You want something different. You’re ready to take your life back, to gain control over your thoughts and feelings, to repair your relationships. You were made for more than just surviving; you were made to thrive.
Our team of licensed therapists in Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh help struggling individuals, couples, and families gain hope, reclaim their foundation, and move from surviving to thriving.
Schools are closed.
Ballet, soccer, and baseball seasons are canceled.
There are no playdates or trips to the museum. This is our new normal.
The reality is that we’re living in unprecedented times. With state and nationwide closures and restrictions, many people are left feeling anxious and uneasy- especially children.
And, if you’re a parent, you might find yourself struggling with how to explain the situation to your children without causing fear. Here are some times that can help you talk to your children about the Coronavirus as the outbreak continues.
Help Them Feel Safe
The real enemy is the anxiety surrounding COVID-19 that can be especially difficult for children to deal with. From their perspective, it seems like the world is shutting down around them. Disrupted routines and isolation can really start to take a toll. Help your children adapt to their new normal by creating a safe and healthy environment at home.
Watch your tone when you speak. Keep them from viewing sensationalized
media stories. Find ways for them to safely connect with loved ones and friends through video chat and phone calls. Above all, continue to reassure them that this is just a temporary situation.
Even though we can’t predict the future or know what to expect in the coming weeks, remember that children thrive on routines. Help them create some reliability and consistency in these uncertain times by putting together a schedule for the day.
Let your children know what to expect. Be honest about the time you’ll spend at home and come up with creative ways to not only pass the time, but to enjoy the togetherness!
Lead With Empathy
Children have a lot of emotional needs and it’s important to let them continue to express the way they are feeling. For example, it can be very frustrating that they will miss an upcoming field trip to the zoo. Acknowledge their feelings and frustrations and help them work through these big emotions. In the end, you’re really helping to build their mental resilience.
The days ahead will likely continue to be a challenge for us all as we adjust to our new normal.
The good news is that there’s never been a better time to slow down and focus on what you have. Now is the time to create positive change and celebrate the beauty of togetherness within your family.
Use this time to connect with your family and shower your children with love!
Children have a different way of looking at the world.
They’re learning to communicate, process emotions, and develop new coping skills. We know how hard adolescence and young adulthood can be. There are so many life changes happening at the same time as physiological changes that are normal for this developmental stage.
But oftentimes, the combination creates confusion, fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness. Therapy can help worried adolescents and young adults manage their fears and increase their confidence. Finding the right therapist for your family can also help address these issues and work through any trauma that may be contributing to their feelings and behaviors.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind when looking for a children’s therapist in Raleigh, NC…
A good therapist understands the importance of trust between both the child and the parents. During therapy, families must share information that’s personal and sometimes sensitive making trust an important pillar of your relationship. It’s also important for a therapist to respect the confidentiality and privacy of the family at all times- this includes connecting and coordinating with coaches, educators, and others outside of the office.
Successful therapy requires a teamwork approach. Your therapist should understand you are ally’s working together to help your child thrive. It’s also important that family members work under the recommendations and guidance of their therapist. By working together, you can create a nurturing environment for your child to work through issues and move forward with new communication and coping skills.
As we said before, children view the world differently. They think differently….communicate differently… and act differently than adults. This is why it’s essential to find a therapist who understands the specific issues that a child may face.
Our Family Therapists help families learn to communicate better and reconnect. We treat the entire family as a unit to help each individual feel heard and valued within the family system. Through family counseling, you can move through a difficult time and come out on the other side even stronger as a family.
Teen depression and anxiety are on the rise.
In fact, The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 3.2 million 12- to 17-year-olds have had at least one major depressive episode within the past 12 months. Many of these teens don’t get the help they need which can cause even more problems.
So how do you talk to your teen about counseling and mental health in a world full of stigma, peer pressure, and judgment?
Discuss Normal Emotions
The teen years are a time of great transition. You might find your son or
daughter exploring their independence and developing a framework for how they view the world. Teens begin to “try on” different values and question why they believe the things they believe. This is a time of great potential but also a time of great stress.
Talk to your children about changes. From hormones to social pressures, teens can experience a wide range of emotions each day. Talk to them to help normalize the conversation around how they’re feeling. Setting up an open plan for communication can provide the support and guidance they need.
Talk About Depression Symptoms
Did you know that about 20% of adolescents will experience depression by the time they are an adult? It’s important to seek treatment for depression as quickly as possible if you are concerned about your teenager. Your teen may feel more overwhelmed than they ever have before. In fact, they may begin to feel hopeless.
As teen counselors, our staff has seen the healing impact of depression treatment. We know your teenager can get better. Therefore, we can communicate this to your child and help them on their path to feeling better.
*It’s important to note that any reference to suicide should be taken seriously. If a teenager has referenced suicide, it is important to seek professional assistance. If you are worried about your child’s safety, please error on the side of taking them to the nearest Emergency Room for an evaluation. The National Suicide Hotline also offers a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Respect Their Privacy
As parents, you want to know that your teenager is OK. On the other hand, teens might have a lot they don’t want you to know about. In fact, most teenagers have some secrets from their parents.
If your teen thinks that their therapist is going to report everything they say in counseling back to their parents, counseling will be ineffective. While our counselors understand your desire to know what’s going on, we also know that the best way to help your teen is to hold their secrets in confidence. Establishing trust is a solid foundation for any relationship.
Foundations Family Therapy offers a variety of mental health services at our Raleigh office. We want to help your entire family thrive.
Adolescence is a beautiful yet challenging time of change.
As a result, if you think about all of the social and academic pressures topped with hormonal shifts, it’s no wonder why it can be difficult for teens to adjust!
The good news is that if they seem emotionally unstable, irritable or moody, it’s likely this is all part of normal behavior.
School and Change
As we enter this transitional time of the year with new beginnings at school, it’s important to have a care plan in place to help things go smoothly. Careful organization and planning can help eliminate uncertainty and let your teen know she has a support system in place.
Start by establishing communication. It’s essential to keep communication channels open in order to build a positive relationship with your teen. Even if you don’t always agree, you want them to know that you are interested and that you care.
Another important part of healthy communication is teaching them about mindfulness. It’s easy to get lost in all of the fears, anxieties and “what ifs” that surround the teenage years. Help them learn ways to stay focused and stay present.
Teen Depression and Anxiety are on the rise.
Most importantly, in the rise of teenage depression and anxiety, it’s important to talk about personal safety. Have an open and mature conversation about all of the new issues and challenges your teen might face. Be sure to include topics like sex, drugs, and alcohol use. Talk about all of the new freedoms, responsibilities, and expectations associated with the teenage years and make sure they feel safe.
All parents want to give their teens the tools they need to not only survive but thrive. Family therapy can help with complicated issues and conversations. This is why our team of compassionate therapists- many parents themselves- are here to help your family grow together through adolescence and beyond.
Warm days, roller coaster rides, family vacations, and ice cream cones all conjure up images of sweet summer days. As the school year winds down, summer is a great opportunity for families to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
The truth is, we’re all imperfect individuals coming together trying to connect, engage, and balance multiple personalities, goals, dreams, demands, and constant changes. What we really crave is connection through support, love, calm and acceptance. This year, make your health and happiness a priority with these family wellness tips.
Create A Family Routine
Even though your kids might be able to say goodbye to the 6 am school alarm, it’s still important to maintain routine and structure. A daily routine can also help children beat boredom.
Encourage healthy hobbies and activities that help spark creativity like Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, and painting projects. Go for a family walk or plan a picnic lunch. Try to come up with one small activity you can do each day that will create lasting memories.
From smartphones to iPads and video games, it seems like there’s no escaping technology these days. Come up with a responsibility chart that will keep everyone busy. For those long road trips, pack some books or play car bingo or to keep them entertained without technology. You don’t have to completely eliminate technology from your household, but it’s important to unplug so you can connect.
Create A Work/Life Balance
Parents don’t always get a Summer Break. With 40-hour work weeks and demanding careers, it’s sometimes hard to strike that work/life balance now that the children aren’t in school. Don’t let guilt get the best of you!
Take a look at your schedule and find ways to incorporate some family time even if you have to get creative. Above all, remember that it’s the little things in life that mean the most. You don’t have to take expensive vacations or join a country club to make wonderful memories with your family.
Being part of a family is all about connection.
At Foundations Family Therapy, we can help families identify patterns that aren’t working and develop new ones that work better. We help you reconnect and feel supported, we help you fight fair and parent more efficiently so you can enjoy life with your children and not be exhausted trying to train them.