A BLOG FOR PARENTS WHO WANT TO LEARN HOW TO NAVIGATE THE TEEN YEARS AND NOT JUST SURVIVE BUT THRIVE!
Hey guess what? There really isn’t a pandemic!….If only this was just an April fools joke gone wrong!
So many of us expected to be going about our normal daily lives, engaging in our usual routines on a day like today. We were busy making plans and building our lives, setting even more expectations for ourselves and those around us.
The Reality is we are actually in the middle of a Pandemic. With this new wave of information came a whole new set of expectations. Thoughts about how long we would be out of work or school, how long we wouldn’t be able to see friends or family, when we could travel again, when life would return to “normal.”
Maybe you are finding yourself feeling frustrated, tired, and maybe even little bit scared (all totally normal experiences and feelings by the way!). Every time you start to feel a sense of normalcy returning, you're catapulted to the present chaos as some new restriction, projected date, or plan gets pushed into your reality.
During these chaotic and uncertain times there is one skill/strength that will get help keep you through it; being flexible. Expectations need to shift as the information shifts. The tighter you hang on to your old definition of “normal”, the more disappointed you are going to feel. Flexibility in this context means being able to shift those expectations to something more realistic and more in line with the current available information. Flexibility means taking a deep breath and taking it one step at a time.
Here’s the thing about coping skills, what might have worked initially or in certain situations doesn’t mean it will work every single time and across all situations. The healthiest coping skill is one which gives us the space and opportunity to be flexible and change it.
For now the best we can do is focus on today. What do we know, what resources do we have, what can we control? Taking it one day at a time ensures we are living in the present and minimizes the risk of disappointment and frustration.
As Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh once said, “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
Stay safe and be well.
I don’t know about you, but am I the only one officially exhausted and drained by all the media coverage about the Coronavirus and struggling to find a new “normal” these days?
Chances are if you are reading this you’re trying to adjust to kids being out of school, working from home, trying to get all the usual chores and errands done with the some new obstacles and restrictions thrown in. Sleep schedules, work schedules, and routines you had grown to rely on since at least the fall of 2019 are no longer viable.
You got restless kids, blurred lines between work and home life, and what feels like limited social support. How are we supposed to function like this? Quick let’s take a look at the parent handbook! Oh wait where is it? Ah right…we didn’t get one!
I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to not know exactly how to handle all of this.
It’s OK to “wing it” and figure it out as you go. It is perfectly OK to take it ONE DAY AT A TIME. Every day is going to look different because the circumstances are constantly changing as we learn more and adjust to our “new normal.”
Think about your priorities and those of the family. For some families a well defined structure and routine is key, for others it might be a little more flexible with a general “this needs to get done but in no particular order,” kind of feel, and yet for others the idea of structure only means more stress in an already stressful situation. Each person and family is unique.
Have a conversation with your partner and your family. Try out a family meeting where you check in with everyone on how they are handling things, ask if they have any questions or concerns, and if there is anything they need. A family meeting might help everyone feel heard, understood, and taken seriously when it comes to deciding the family’s new “normal.” This provides everyone with a little sense of control in a situation that can feel out of control.
Hope this post brings you some peace and ideas for finding your new “normal.”
Looking for some help figuring out what self-care can look like amid COVID-19? Click on the button below for my FREE Top 6 Self-Care Resources.
As COVID-19 precautions and management continue, there is a lot of adjusting happening for just about everyone I can think of. Parenting is taking on a whole new life with kids staying home from school, but still having to go online for their education, and parents working from home. While it might feel like nothing is in your control I am here to remind you there are still a lot of things we have control over.
Here are 5 tips to help you survive the “staying home” part of this whole experience.
I hope these tips help you and your loved ones find a little more peace during these unique times!
Right now it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the topic of conversation that is COVID-19. I am here not to add to this stress. I decided to make this extra blog post this week in order to provide you with ways to cope and manage any difficult feelings that might be coming up for you or your teens.
As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, teens are definitely paying attention to you during moments of stress or crisis. They are paying extra attention to your nonverbal reactions and how you are coping with and managing your emotions. So in an effort to help them, and yourself of course, lets look at a few ways to keep calm and take care of yourself amid the COVID-19 stress.
First lets do a quick check-in. If you notice your stress and anxiety levels rising I would like you to ask yourself, “Is what I’m feeling genuinely my reaction, or is it that of those around me?” Noticing this allows you to create some mental distance and decide how to proceed next in a way that feels right to you.
Take a Deep Breathe
When our bodies believe there is a threat it activates our internal alarm system (sympathetic system), think fight or flight. This then causes our bodies and mind to react in a way that is primarily focused on self-preservation and isn’t the most rational way to think or behave. Deep breathing (as cheesy as it might sound to you) for even 2-4 seconds on the inhale and 4-6 seconds on the exhale activates our calming system (parasympathetic system). This helps us regain control and have a clearer mind. There are lots of videos and apps like Calm that guide you through the process too.
Observe, Name, Accept, CREATE
Taking a moment to observe your thoughts and feelings is the first crucial step towards getting a handle on them. Doing this has the potential to diminish their intensity, redirect them, and find healthier ways to cope and think moving forward. Taking it one step further and creating some art is a great way to process, express, and release thoughts and emotions about what is going on and your experiences.
What are the facts? And what can I control?
Finding reputable sources and facts can help you focus on something that is not based in emotion. This can help counter any cognitive distortions that might be coming up for you and keeping you in the negative loop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other local health agencies are credible. Once you have the facts then you can move to thinking about what you have control over, like the choices you make to travel, attend large gatherings, wash your hands, or disinfect high traffic areas in your home or office. This also helps you know where to turn to in case of questions from your teen.
Limit media consumption.
You have ultimate control over your social media feed and what channels you put on your TV. If you notice you become more anxious, stressed and/or scared after being on social media or watching a news clip, then maybe reduce how often you turn to these. Staying informed is one thing, but constantly being bombarded with information is another.
Engage in Mindfulness activities.
Remember that mindfulness is all about focusing on the present and tapping into your 5 senses to do this. Engage in activities that require you to be in the moment instead of projecting yourself into the future and finding yourself worrying. Try making some art, listening to music, dancing, cooking a meal, taking a bubble bath, and lighting scented candles to name a few. One activity I recommend to my clients when feeling really stressed and needing some grounding it to try something I call 5,4,3,2,1. Name 5 things you can see in the room around you, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. The order of these might change depending on where you are, for example if you are in the kitchen you might do 5 things you can taste instead.
Make a plan and discuss concerns.
One way that helps us manage our anxiety and stress about the unknown is to create a plan. Spend some time together as a family discussing what to do if you do find yourself being impacted. Things like contact information for doctors, local emergency lines, social support, etc. This not only helps you feel some control but also helps your teens feel included and like they have some control too. Be open and honest to addressing any questions your teen may have (this is where having good credible sources can be helpful), keep the answers simple, avoid telling them not to worry, and make sure the conversation isn’t before bedtime.
Everything shared here is meant for you to keep calm as the parent, but it is also meant to be shared with your teen too! Talking to your teen can help reduce stress and anxiety in the house and keep everyone a little calmer which means less tension and arguments at home.
For more on how to help your teen and any little ones you might also have at home, follow the links below:
How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus
Helping Children and Teens Cope with Anxiety About COVID-19
Since parenting technically doesn't come with an owners manual and a handy trouble shooting section this means there are bound to be mistakes. Here are a few common mistakes I have seen, and heard, through my work with teens. I hope reading these here might help you avoid them or maybe just find new ways to interact with your teen that is more likely to help you connect on a deeper level.
1. Oversharing/Over Identifying
One of the most common things I hear from teens is how they feel their parents overshare or over identify in an effort to empathize with their teen. The desire to share and empathize with your teen is strong because it brings up your own past and the pain/success that you experienced. The issue here is teens often need to feel unique and have their experiences validated. Feeling heard by those whom they choose to share with is necessary before they will be open to hearing what wisdom you might have to share or before they are willing to ask for your experiences/advice.
Teens often talk about feeling like their parents don’t believe in their abilities and that they don’t trust their judgement. It’s hard to give them a little space and freedom because we have the wisdom and foresight to see where things can go horribly wrong, but this is also a great opportunity to for both of you to learn and grow. This does not mean allowing your teen to make very big, life changing mistakes, but it does mean allowing them to learn things with the help of some natural consequences. Giving them this space to make choices also gives them the message that you trust them, that they can come to you if the have any issues along the way, and therefore increases their self-esteem and confidence.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
Teens often discuss feeling overwhelmed by parental expectations, whether spoken outright or unspoken. This is where knowing what is developmentally appropriate for a teen comes in handy and keeps you from becoming frustrated with your teen. Knowing what your teen is capable of regarding social skills, mental capacity, and decision making skills allows you to be more realistic with your expectations. Realistic expectations of your teen then leads to more opportunities for success which then leads to higher self-esteem and confidence in their abilities.
4. Not Meeting your teen where they are.
Sometimes we get caught up in where we want a teen to be or where we see them in the future that we forget to pay attention to where they are right now. Meeting your teen where they are is about taking into account where they are based on their development and what their interests are. Knowing this before engaging with them then leads to more positive and meaningful interactions which in turn strengthen your relationship and increase the possibility of turning to you when they need it most.
Click on the button below to grab my FREE Tip Sheet for Active Listening and Deeper Understanding when communicating with your teens!
While there are lots of myths out there about parenting, some specifically about parenting teens, here are my top 3 myths:
1. It’s always a battle!
This is often what you hear from other parents before or as you are entering the teen years. Information like this, while coming from a good place, doesn’t allow you to have an open mind or experience with your teen. Every kid is different and so are their parents. It doesn’t have to be a battle, it’s all about your mindset! What would happen if you came to your teen with curiosity instead of predicting the start of a fight? I wonder what might happen if asked more questions about what’s motivating them or inspiring them instead of just asking why they did something?
2. Teens hate limits and structure.
While we often think teens only want or think of freedom, the reality is they thrive when there are limits and structure. Think about all the chaos in a teens life today: body changes, social challenges, romantic interests, increase in responsibilities, advanced school work, and societal pressures. A little structure reduces stress because it gives them more predictability in an increasingly unpredictable world. Knowing their limits and boundaries leaves less room for guessing, risk taking, and arguments because the consequences are clear.
3. Teens want nothing to do with you.
Most teens are working on developing deeper social relationships outside of their family connections in order to develop stronger social skills which will help them once they move into adulthood. This does not mean they don’t want attention and connection with their parents. It does mean a little creativity on the parent’s part to meet the teen where they are developmentally and engage in a way that is authentic. Parental approval and connection are still important to teens and a common theme of therapy.
Want to learn some new ways of getting through to your teen? Then download my FREE handout with the 5 Communication Tips and Tricks below!
Do you remember all the silly shows you would watch, and the games/toys you would play with for hours just for the sake of your growing baby/toddler? It may not always have been the most fun way to spend your day, but you knew you had to get on their level to connect and help them learn and grow.
So why is it that this concept is thrown out the window once kids start to become teens? Suddenly we have “better things to do” with our time than listen to our teens talk about their day, friends, favorite shows, sports, or hobbies. Is it because our kids can now think and behave in more complex ways, so we expect them to do more “adult” things with their new capabilities?
How can we forget teens are still growing and learning, and need us to meet them where they are? It’s been my experience that parents of teens who engage in activities meeting the teens where they are developmentally, tend to have better relationships and know more about what is happening in their teen’s life.
How can a parent reengage with their teen? Here are 3 easy ways:
1. Meet them where they are.
Pay attention to what they are into. Learn more about it on your own. Ask them questions about their interests. Human beings love to talk about themselves and their passions. Teens are no different, but they do want to see you GENUINELY care. This means put down the phone, turn off the tv, and ignore other distractions (within reason of course). Learn how you can participate in their interests and meet them in the middle where necessary.
2. Actively Listen.
We all can tell when someone is listening and when someone is distracted. Ask questions. Reflect back what they are talking about to make sure you’re understanding. Validate their experiences and emotions. Remember don’t label their feelings. While labeling their feelings was helpful when they were younger because you needed them to be able to express themselves clearly, now it just makes them feel like you’re telling them “what to do/feel.” Let’s be honest no one likes being told how they feel by someone who is not experiencing their thoughts and feelings.
3. Fight the urge to fix it.
As an adult, do you like it when others don’t listen to you when you have a concern or want to voice an experience? Do you appreciate it when someone begins criticizing or judging you based on your choices, behaviors, style, friends, partner, etc.? I’m going to guess the answer is no. Guess what? Your teen doesn’t like it either. Your role as a parent is to guide, protect, nurture, support, and teach not to judge or criticize. There will be enough people in your teens life who already occupy that space, they don’t need that at home too. Remember why you like to come home? Maybe it’s because you feel safe, loved, understood and supported. That’s what your teen should feel too, so check in and see if you are doing what you can to make this a reality for them.
Reconnecting with teens is easier than at first glance, but it does require effort and focus just like when they were younger. You need to be genuinely interested in connecting. If you are not, your teen can tell a mile away and will shut down almost instantly.
Want some practical ideas on how to reengage with your teen? Then be sure to download my FREE Ideas List for more ways to actively and authentically connect with your teen.
During stressful times we may find our relationships take a hit too. Parenting during the teen years can put a strain on your marriage/relationship with your partner. Between struggling to keep your emotions in check and learning to handle your teen’s experiences, you may find relationships get neglected or you have trouble bringing your best self to the relationship.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way though! There is hope! I’d like to share with you a few ways to continue nurturing your relationships, in addition to the one with your teen.
One thing you may have heard is that relationships take work and nurturance. So, it only makes sense that you would need to dedicate time, energy, and love to those who hold a special place in your life. What does this really look like in daily life though?
A good way to show you care is to make time to reconnect. This means setting aside time for one another despite all the stuff that might be dividing your attention right now. Pencil it in, get a sitter, and show up. Make sure when you are dedicating time to your relationship that you are as present as you can be. This means putting down the phone, which I know might be tough, but I promise you will thank me later.
It’s not so much about the price tag or how big the actual thing is that you are doing for someone you care about. More times than not, we just want to know that someone else thinks of us when we are not around or that someone is actually paying attention to the things we say. A thinking of you text or call can truly turn someone’s day around and put a smile on their face, and yours! Get creative!
When it comes to marriage/partnership and parenting, remember that you are in this together. Revisit your roles in parenting, chances are they need to be reevaluated, you do have a teen on your hands now! Revisiting roles, discussing individual values and parenting styles can help ensure you are on the same page. This way you won’t be divided or manipulated by your teen who is all about that freedom and independence, no matter the cost.
It can be a struggle to find the time or energy to focus on something other than your teen, but it is possible and necessary. If you keep the foundation of your relationship intact then you won’t be alone in your frustrations or in trying to figure out healthy solutions.
Need help figuring out some fun ways to reconnect or make some of those small gestures? Be sure to download my FREE Reconnecting Ideas List for ways to be creative and breathe new life into your relationships.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term self-care by now. It basically means taking time to care for your needs. These needs include physical ones like sleep, water and food, as well as emotional, psychological, social, and intellectual needs.
As parents we often feel our needs come last. We are expected to focus on the needs of our kids, partners, friends, and family. It is becoming increasingly evident that we ALL have needs and that self-care is a NECESSARY part of our well-being.
There are three huge benefits to engaging in a regular self-care practice as the parent of a teen:
So what exactly does self-care look like, practically speaking?
Download my FREE Self-Care List of ideas to get you started!
Emotions run high during the teen years. Most of the things that happen are felt at a ten instead of the five or six they really are. It becomes fairly easy to get sucked into that highly emotional phase in development with your teen. You might find yourself feeling overly empathetic and powerless, becoming anxious or frustrated all the time, and struggling to manage your own complicated feelings about your teen years.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you respond to your teen’s comments, experiences, and behaviors:
While emotions are great, they can get in the way of effective parenting. Considering these questions, and responding versus reacting, can help you get through some tough situations with minimal power struggles.
Check out my FREE cheat-sheet to learn ways you can help build more self-esteem and confidence in your teen!