Visit Us on Facebook! Marriage and Family Counseling The Woodlands - Call 936-697-2822 Now. The Woodlands, TX, Serving the Greater Houston area.
AchieveBalance.org, a complete counseling center, Professional Counselors, Counseling, Individual, Family, Therapists, Marriage Counseling, Premarital, Houston area, The Woodlands, Conroe, Spring Texas. Continuing Education Provider for Licensed Professional Counselors, Therapists, Social Workers.

Archive for the ‘Parenting Teenagers’ Category

Overcoming Defiant Behavior: Keys to Parenting Defiant Teens

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Blog post by Achievebalance.org therapist Jason Davis MA, LPC (read post on Jason’s website here)

After a long day at work or running errands, you finally are able to come home. Is your teen an expert at pressing your buttons? Do you feel like each day is a battle? It doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, it is possible for you and your adolescent child to coexist peacefully.

Developmentally, your adolescent’s brain development is not complete. They are very egocentric. Don’t worry, this is normal. Their thoughts are still in the phase of concrete thinking; they see the world in black and white, a strong and idealistic sense of what is right and what is wrong. “How does the world apply to me?” or “How do I fit in this world?” These are the questions that your adolescent has which guides their behavior each and every day.

As a part of this development, their friends and peers will become a significant part of your teenager’s life for the next few years. Do not take this personally. This is part of the process of their development, socially. Unfortunately, defiance can become part of this process of development. So what can a parent do?

  1. Create a Parenting Manifesto. What is your family about? What does your family stand for? Let this family philosophy guide your expectations for your children, and especially your teenager. When defiance comes, this Parenting Manifesto helps reduce conflict and arguing.
  2. Have effective Communication with your Teenager. Do not argue with your adolescent. This includes, yelling, making threats, and blame. Remember, they are learning from your examples. Arguing with your teen will only creates more conflict and resistance. When resistance comes, give them a choice for the outcome. Offer choice A or Choice B and let them make the choice. The more a parent argues with a teenager, the more frustrating it becomes, and the greater the chance that your teen will get their way.
  3. Set boundaries and stick with them. Children and Teens like structure. It gives them a foundation to grow and act upon. Setting boundaries helps them understand that their decisions have consequences.
  4. Spend time quality time with them. Have fun. Have casual conversations with them. Ask their opinions about topics that interest them. Have lunch with them or a cup of coffee. Your chats can be about school, life, social media, spirituality, games etc. The better relationship you have with your teenager, the less resistance you will experience.

Take Your ADD/ADHD to College

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

 

Off to college

Sending a child with ADD/ADHD off to college can be challenging. For the last eighteen years you have been responsible for finding the services she needed to manage ADHD and succeed in school.  If she took medication or had additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan in high school, you’re probably wondering if she will be able to access similar help or accommodations at her college or university. How can you help your child find the services she may need to be successful?  How can you ‘pass the baton’ so she becomes responsible for her own self-care and success when she goes away to college?

First, if you have the time, start early. It may be too late for this advice (if you are like me, the car is packed and you are heading out tomorrow) but many universities have programs that cater to students with learning differences. For example, The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. West Virginia Wesleyan College campus has The Learning Center which helps students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs find a wide range of support options (http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2011/09/21/20-incredible-colleges-for-special-needs-students/). If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous resource to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child already her acceptance letter, then take some time with her to locate resources on her campus. Be sure to explore services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). If your child’s mother or father is a veteran, then she may qualify for additional help and financial aid. Here in Texas, children of Texas veterans qualify for housing and tuition help through the Hazelwood Act.

Most importantly, locate your campus ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) officer. Even if your child wants to try it on her own at first, she may realize later she needs some accommodations and resources. Every public/federally funded college campus will have an ADA office and she can go there any time. Her ADA officer can help her locate counselors and psychiatrists, and help her design accommodations that work for her.

Here are a few tips from http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/B6B71A43/College-Advice-For-Students-With-A-504-Plan/

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

What is a Boundary Anyway?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

 

 

 

cowbigeyes

Good boundaries are a part of any good relationship. In fact, a relationship without boundaries will almost always have other symptoms: violence, emotional arguments, infidelity, addiction, emotional cutoffs, or debilitating enabling. The problem with boundaries? They can be hard on a relationship. The boundary-setter finds it hard because he dreads retaliation from the boundary-receiver. The boundary-receiver finds it hard because, well, no one really LIKES to receive a boundary. Here are three things everyone in a relationship needs to know about boundaries:

  1. Boundaries are designed to protect the boundary-setter, not the boundary receiver. Let’s say you love your neighbor, you love your neighbor’s cows, and you love your yard. You do not, however, love your neighbor’s cows IN your yard. In fact, you are starting to lose your serenity because of it. Since you value your yard and your serenity, you decide to build a fence. The cows are a little miffed because they can’t get to your grass and your neighbor is a little miffed because his view is now marred by your fence. You, on the other hand, feel pretty good because you have your serenity and your yard. Maybe your neighbor will realize your serenity helps the relationship and grow to appreciate your fence. Maybe he will harbor hurt feelings over your fence and never speak to you again.

Lesson: You built a fence because you started valuing your peace more than your neighbor’s peace. There is a possibility the relationship with your neighbor will suffer because of this shift. There is also a possibility the relationship will become better than ever.

  1. Boundaries are not the same as telling someone what to do. Let’s say you have the same neighbor, the same cows, the same yard, and the same budding resentment. You realize that a fence might hurt your neighbor’s feelings so you are going to try some things that are ‘less offending’ than a fence. Here’s what you try:
    1. You try to talk to your neighbor and tell him that if he cared about you he’d keep his cows on his own side.
    2. You tell your neighbor that it’s just common sense to keep his cows under control and if had any common sense, he would do that.
    3. You repeat 1. and 2. at all social gatherings, barbecues, and kids’ birthday parties until eventually he goes the other way when he sees you coming.
    4. You file a restraining order against your neighbor and his cows.
    5. You shoot the cows when they come in your yard.

Lesson: Nagging, guilt trips, threats, and acts of violence are attempts to change or control another person. Unlike boundaries they rarely protect your yard or your serenity and they always damage relationships.

  1. Boundaries will always require a change in your behavior, not your neighbor’s. Did the neighbor have a right to graze his cows on your grass? No. Did you have a right to be angry? Sure. Is it fair that you had to spend money and time and energy to build the fence when his cows are the problem? Yes. After all, you care more about your serenity (and your yard) than your neighbor does. Lesson: If you value it, then it’s up to you to protect it.

So the next time you are considering action because of a partner (or a neighbor) remember the difference between boundary setting and controlling. Boundaries are uncomfortable, sometimes costly, strategies designed to protect you. Controlling strategies are designed to change someone else’s behavior so you are more comfortable. Boundaries have the added benefit of improving a relationship. Controlling almost always results in relationship damage.

Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC, LMFT

Adjusting to a New School: Anxiety and Making Friends

Monday, August 31st, 2015

In this uncertain economy, relocating is usually accepted by the grateful job hunter as just a part of the job description. The impact on the children cannot be minimized, however, and children will process the event in their own way depending on their age, the number of past moves they can recall, and the distance that will be traveled. Important questions are: Will there be an acculturation issue?  Will there be a language barrier?  Has your child ever visited the area in which you intend to relocate? Guarding against new school anxiety is all about learning the landscape.

Here are some things the experts recommend when adjusting to a new school and town:

1. Make choosing a school a team effort.  If you’re choosing between a few schools, talk with your child about what each one has to offer. After you choose the school, allow your child to visit and take a tour. This will greatly reduce new school anxiety.

2. Take time to say goodbye to the old school. Make a scrapbook, or ask all the kids in the class sign a T-shirt, picture frame, or an autograph book. Make sure you also give old friends and teachers information about how to stay in touch with your child.

3. Keep a positive focus! Present the new school as a place where they will learn new things and make friends.

4. Encourage school involvement. Your child is more likely to engage academically if he/she feels connected through a school activity, club or sport. Ask:

  • What are your goals for the school year?
  • How are you going to get involved in school outside of the classroom?
  • What is your favorite thing to do right now and how might you find others like you?

5. If you are moving your family to a location where a different language is spoken, think about learning the language and culture together. Conversing at the dinner table only in the new language can lead to lots of laughs.

Some good resources are:

For younger children:

The Berenstain Bears Go to School, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1978)
Arthur’s Teacher Trouble, by Marc Brown (Trumpet, 1986)

This was originally published in 2012 but it is still a great resource!

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of achievebalance.org found in The Woodlands TX.

 

Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College Part 2

Monday, August 17th, 2015

When a child has struggled with issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse, it’s important to think ahead before they go off to college. Last week I wrote about the services that are available at most colleges and universities. This week I will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Your child may not like it, but there are ways to maintain clear communication without crossing that boundary into becoming a helicopter parent. In fact, if you have a history of helicopter parenting, you may struggle with these tactics. Here is how I explain the difference to parents: Helicopter parenting implies that you are actively trying to impact outcomes and control your child’s behavior. Instead I want you to observe, and when you discover immanent danger, intervene with natural logical consequences.

How do you observe your adult child away at school and have clear communication without controlling? First, before your child goes away, as parents you must clearly define priorities and expectations. Let your child know coping with his or her struggle or learning difference takes precedence over academics and social life. Encourage your child to suggest strategies to cope with her struggle or difference and then discuss the natural logical consequences for ignoring those healthy strategies. Let your child know you will be observing her purchasing behavior. Form a relationship with your child’s resident advisor or other student advocate on campus let your child know you will be asking them to report any concerns. Finally, let your child know you will be dropping in unannounced on occasion to see how she is doing.

Natural logical consequences are the keys to intervening without controlling. Here is an example: John and Joan are parents and they discover their daughter Jan, who is a recovering alcoholic, has been skipping classes and she stopped going to the student alcohol recovery group. Before Jan went away the family agreed her recovery was the most important priority and Jan even picked out the recovery group on her own. Now, Jan tells Joan that the recovery group is full of people she doesn’t know and she doesn’t really have time for it because her studies are so intense. She tells her mom she’ll go, “if you want me to fail all my classes.” If Joan and John were still helicopter parents they might tell Jan she doesn’t need to go to her recovery group and just focus on her studies. They might lecture Jan or try to guilt or bribe her into going to the recovery group. They might worry that setting limits with Jan would stress her further and even make her start drinking again.

John and Joan are not helicopter parents, however, and they discuss their observations. First they notice their daughter is not taking care of her addiction. Because that could mean life or death for their daughter, they decide to address that first. Second, they acknowledge their sadness that their daughter may not be ready for college. It was Joan’s alma mater and they both must grieve their dream for now. Finally, together they call Jan and remind her that as a family they decided that Jan’s recovery was more important than school and if she can’t do both then she is choosing to come home to finish her education. If Jan chooses to stay away at her current school, they let her know they love her and they honor her decision, but they will not support that decision financially.

Jan may feel like her parents are trying to control her, but in fact, Joan and John are setting a boundary. The boundary is unpleasant for Jan but it is teaching her than Joan and John will not enable her unhealthy coping. It also lets Jan know Joan and John will not lecture or shame her and they will love her no matter what she decides to do.

 

 

 

Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College

Monday, August 10th, 2015

This month is all about ways you can help your child transition successfully to higher education and independence. My last article discussed helping your child make the transition, and this week I’m going over the services that are available at most colleges and universities. My next article will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Sending a child off to college who has experienced emotional and behavioral struggles can be hard. Issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse require the help of outside therapists and medical experts. Similarly, mood and behavior difficulties like depression, anxiety, or ADHD, may require additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan. Educational differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia may also require special education interventions. By the time a child turns eighteen, most parents have become experts at accessing services that help their child feel better, stay healthy, and succeed in school. The question becomes, then, how do you help your adult child maintain the same level of interest in self-care and success when they go to college?

Depending on your child, you can start by looking at colleges that address his or her need. The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options (http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2011/09/21/20-incredible-colleges-for-special-needs-students/). If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous source of information to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child has his or her heart set on a particular university, then be sure to tour services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). Your child’s campus will always have an ADA office so include that in your visit when you take your college tour.

Here are some tips from http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/B6B71A43/College-Advice-For-Students-With-A-504-Plan/

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

Bullying: What Parents Can Do

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Bullying has changed. It is not the same type of bullying when we, adults, were in school. Remember when we were in school? You may have seen or been exposed to bullying or seen someone bullied. It was horrible, I am sure. Children can say and do horrible things that will stay with a bullying victim for a lifetime. Today it has changed. Today, children are not only bullied at school, face to face, but also through social media. If you see a dramatic change in behavior such as refusing to go to school, low grades, a lack of self-confidence or self worth, then your child my be a victim of bullying. Social Media has become a tool for bullies to use. If you discover that your child is threatened with physical aggression, threatened or called names repeatedly, then your child is being bullied. If a group of children are pressuring your child to make unwanted choices, then your child is being bullied.Bully’s make threats on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or simply through text messaging. What’s worse is that your child will be extremely reluctant to tell you what is happening. A child’s social life means everything to them. They want to be accepted by their peers and deeply care about what their friends and enemies think of them.

There is something you can do. Spend time with your children on a weekly basis. Take them out to dinner or for coffee and talk about their day and share your day with them too. Find something your child loves to do and do it with them. Contact your child’s school and share your concerns over possible bullying. Most schools have extensive procedures to investigate and stop bullying. Finally, monitor your child’s social media through their electronic devices. If bullying is happening, contact your phone company and have the alleged bully blocked from your child’s accounts. Remember, your child will not share this info with you. They will want to solve this themselves. Help them work through this.

by Jason Davis, LPC
Visit Blog

Parenting the Age of Texting: What are the Rules?

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Helping your child navigate the world of texting and appropriate messaging means only one thing; you’re going to have to learn about the world of texting and appropriate messaging. You have your own rules about your personal style of texting and phone use, but how does that translate to behavior you expect from your kids? Do this experiment to find out.

For one week, notice the number of times you reach for your phone. No judging, just noticing. Do you check facebook at a stoplight? When you are with your kids at the park are you taking the opportunity to continue a texting conversation with a friend? Are you able to put your phone out of reach at the dinner table? After one week taking note of your own phone patterns, you should be ready to put some reasonable rules in place for your kids.

In case you’re not up to that, or you just need something right now, here are a few ideas (along with the explanations behind them) to get you started.

  1. Mom and dad have the password to your phone. They may choose never to use it, but they must have it. Why? Kids are compulsive and that is normal. Texting as a means of shooting off communication that is not well thought out is tempting for adults and teens alike. Sharing the password with mom or dad gives the message that parents will keep you safe, even if it makes you mad.
  2. If you must answer a text around other people or family members, announce in a normal speaking voice, “I have a text; do you mind if I answer this?” Why? Breaking eye contact to answer a text during a conversation with a person physically present gives the message “you don’t matter” to the physically present person. Even if conversation is not directed at the teen (for example at the dinner table) the teen is expected to be a potential part of the conversation, not partially present.
  3. Of course no texting and driving! But don’t forget:
    1. No texting and walking
    2. No texting and walking in a crosswalk
    3. No texting and walking down stairs
    4. You get the picture

Why?  The potential for injury and victimization. Subjects asked to walk across a crowded plaza while texting stopped noticing their surroundings. How bad was it? They missed a clown on a unicycle and a person dressed in a gorilla suit. Imagine how a mugger or rapist might get missed by a distracted texter.

Drug Use Among Teenagers

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ are alternated for brevity.

When parents are struggling with their teen using drugs or alcohol, they may choose therapy as an option. After the initial relief, however, comes the surprise at the amount of work placed squarely on their shoulders.

When a therapist specially trained to work with teens who are using initially meets with parents, he has one goal in mind: learn the family rules. This may take several sessions, but it is vital for the therapist to learn what is permitted in the home (respect, compensation for chores, doors locked/unlocked) and what is not permitted (eye-rolling, substance use, failing grades). If the therapist is confused by the rules, it is likely the teen is also.

Next the therapist will ask the parents to identify and prioritize two or three behaviors they wish to change. Of course using drugs or alcohol is the primary symptom, but typically grades, curfew, and respectful behaviors are identified as well. The list is kept short to maximize effort and success.

Finally, the therapist will need to know how the parents plan to ‘parent’ the identified behaviors (design and enforce consequences). This is important because not only must parents have a plan for the other six days their child is not in therapy, their influence must increase while the therapist’s decreases. Failure to do this could lead to the therapist becoming the ‘influential figure’ in the family (“didn’t the therapist tell you drinking was wrong?”) and this will lead to therapy becoming the consequence rather than the place for help and healing.

Leaving a session with a therapist trained to help teens who are using may leave parents confused. The hard work will pay off, though, and parents will have tools to help them help their child be successful, and drug and alcohol free.

 

Help Your Child Succeed in College with Independence Skills Needed in the Transition to College

Monday, August 20th, 2012

I remember when I was a teacher in the public schools one of my colleagues created a bulletin board that displayed in large letters ‘Life Skills.’ Soon enough the first ‘s’ disappeared and students were entering my classroom snickering because my neighbor’s bulletin board now proclaimed ‘Life kills.’ Yikes! While it’s true everyone’s life has an expiration date (that’s a topic for another article) I believe your teen can navigate adult life successfully with the acquisition of certain life skills. I’ve collected a few your teen might want to practice before they leave the nest or transition to college.

First, your teen should know how to cook five complete meals. This could mean something as simple as operating a microwave and heating up a frozen entre, or creating a complete shopping list and navigating the grocery store. Contrary to popular thought Ramen is not a complete meal.

Second, your teen should know how to use the bank. Most colleges utilize a debit card system for meal plans so allowing your teen the opportunity to use a debit card would be great practice. Teens should also know about the advantages of good credit and the long-term effects of bad credit.

Finally, and most importantly, your teen should know how to stay safe and healthy. Talk with her about safe sex, the importance of staying with a group when she goes out, and what to do if she gets sick. Walk her through the pharmacy and make sure she knows how to use medicine properly, especially if she has special needs like psychotropic medication or insulin.

While this list is not exhaustive, it will help your child succeed in college and independent living with  some important life skills needed when she is out on her own. Have fun with it, listen to your teen, and practice what you preach.
Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of achievebalance.org found in The Woodlands TX.

Main Menu