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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting Teenagers’

Overcoming Defiant Behavior: Keys to Parenting Defiant Teens

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Blog post by 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 ( 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

  • 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.

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 found in The Woodlands TX.


Launching Into College and Beyond

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

From colonial times until about 1940, young adults usually lived with parents or relatives. In fact, it was common to send unmarried children to relatives to become servants or apprentices. In some American colonies it was actually illegal for unmarried people to live alone. From 1940 to the present, things started to change. Unmarried children began living on their own and in the 1960s the term “Independent Life Stage” was coined. Expecting independence after age 18 has become the norm in the United States. In our practice we see both ends of the spectrum: young adults who are not ready for independence, and parents who are not ready to give up their jobs.

Parents with older teens resisting independence may worry their child is never going to mature enough to self-care and leave home. The fact is, many young people are not well suited to independence right after high school and are possibly more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Even now, in the second decade of the new millennium, parents are worried when an adult child ‘boomerangs’ home again from university even though the percentage of unmarrieds living at home is nowhere near the rate pre-1940. Launching a young adult with a history of anxiety, depression, or addiction may take more time, and require more attention to establishing support and counseling services.

On the other end of the spectrum, parents resisting their child’s independence may actually be resisting the launching process. A recent Washington Post article described how helicopter parents’ “Failure to Launch” is ruining their college students. Launching begins when the first child leaves and ends when the last child leaves. During this time marriages experience greater stress due to challenges developing adult relationships with children, refocusing the on the marriage, accepting new family members, and declining health and energy levels.

So how can you help you and your young adult prepare for this inevitable life transition? First, talk with them about their fears. Young adults wonder, “How do we become adults?” “What am I really afraid of?” What are the reasonable risks of growing up?” “(Mom and Dad), What was your own launching period like?” Next, realize that colleges do NOT prepare seniors for the transition from college to independence. Six months before graduation provide your own orientation and explain things like credit card debt. Finally, if your child needs to stay home a bit longer, discuss expectations on both sides. Resist the urge to do everything for your adult child at home and create a clear exit plan for leaving that you review every three months.

3 Step, No-Hassle Summer Schedule

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

If you are like me the first day of summer throws me off kilter a bit. My kids are home from school, my work schedule gets a little bit inconsistent, there’s more daylight (which means more stuff to do!), and, well, you get the picture. Here are some things that made the transition from Spring to Summer a little bit easier for me AND my family.
1. Summer Bucket List. Ask your family to list the most important things they want to accomplish or experience this summer. This exercise is a great way to give everyone in your family a voice. The list creates accountability and the process teaches problem solving. If an item doesn’t make the family list, encourage the family member to keep it on a personal list.
2. Family calendar or white board. Remember, if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t exist! Take the items from step 1 and write them down on a master list somewhere where everyone can see it, every day. Give everything an EDC – Estimated Date of Completion. Make a big deal about accomplishing things!
3. Limit kids’ technology while you are at work. I know. You’re thinking, “what does this have to do with a schedule?” and, “I thought you said this list was no hassle?” Ok I fibbed a little bit, but your kids are only human and over-using technology is like getting in a time machine. Once your kids start Netflix or X-Box, they can lose an entire day without realizing it. You may, no strike that; you will get a ton of pushback for this. Do your best anyway to find a way to limit technology to just a few hours a day.

Two Parenting Mistakes and Time Management

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Nobody’s perfect. In an age of two working parents, single parent homes, co-parenting, blended families, and just plain normal moms and dads doing the best they can, mistakes will be made.
Mistake number one: Too tired to parent.

This is probably our oldest parenting mistake. Back in ‘the day,’ parenting after a long day hunting and gathering probably looked more like an episode of ‘Survivor’ rather than ‘The Waltons.’ Older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings, children who could prepare food were put to work, while Mom and Dad protected the clan from predatory animals and neighbors. In true Darwinian fashion, children who did not conform to family norms probably did not survive.

Today, well-meaning, tired, parents know they should not ignore misbehavior, yet sometimes it’s just easier to allow the TV and the PlayStation to do their job. Tantrums are met with concessions. Children learn to act rather than ask permission because they know consequences from tired parents can be negotiated away through whining, manipulation, persistence, and even good behavior.

This leads us to mistake number two: I can’t keep up the consequence because now he’s being so good (washing my car, vacuuming, setting the table)! Time off for good behavior only works in prison. In the home, children are in charge of their behavior choices, and parents are in charge of the consequences. If children are permitted to choose the behavior AND manipulate the consequences by acting ‘good’, this can lead to power struggles, confusion, and more manipulation. Kids soon learn tired parents crave love and happiness (and a clean car) and they’ll do anything, including shorten a punishment, if their child rewards them with good behavior and attitudes.

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted and perfection is a myth. Always keep an eye out for good parenting tips and do your best!

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.


Compassion Fatigue: Seeking a Caregiver Support Group and PTSD Support

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

What does a caregiver have in common with a soldier, firefighter, and doctor? Compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue (CF) stems from the daily sustained amount of compassion and energy required when caring for an individual with special needs or a chronic health condition.

Symptoms of CF can be similar to the signs of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and may erupt as caregivers begin to absorb pain from the individuals they are caring for. Mental health symptoms such as anger, fatigue, depression, anxiety, loss of joy, and hopelessness are common. This is detrimental to both parties and ultimately deteriorates the quality of care being provided. Ultimately the caregivers may need the same kind of PTSD support.

We know self-care benefits caregivers but many times caregivers neglect their health and ignore the early warning signs of CF. As they push themselves to maintain the strength to forever care for their loved one, a superhuman mentality prevails and self care takes a backseat. This may lead not only to the symptoms of CF but also relationships issues.

As the mother of a young child with special needs, I know first-hand self care is critical in maintaining longevity as a caretaker. The first step is awareness. If you are uninformed about CF you may not understand the behaviors you must change and the ramifications if you do not. The second step is to re-train your thoughts about self-care. It is not selfish to refuel yourself as you care for your child. Think about the flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on first – if you are not OK you cannot help your child.

The third step is to retrain your behavior as you retrain your thoughts. Simply stated one must exercise, connect with other grown-ups, talk, cry, journal, meditate, dance, eat healthy, sing, take a warm bath, pick flowers, doodle, pray, and most importantly, laugh out loud. A caregiver support group may be a good outlet for sharing your experience with others. If you find you are doing these things and not gaining any pleasure or benefit, talking with a professional can help.

How Classroom Routines for Children Provide Security in their Daily Education

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

This is the first of a four-part series that examines the importance of rituals in our lives. This article will examine the daily rituals that we all take for granted, as we often fail to recognize their role in keeping us grounded. It is important to know “routine” definition. A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed, or a fixed program. These daily rituals are particularly significant as children start school, when parents adjust schedules to accommodate the changes from a more flexible summer routine to the more demanding requirements of a daily education program.

Our schools are very rich in the usage of rituals. The day begins with morning announcements, the children have certain times and routines for classes, recess, lunch, etc. Have you ever observed routines for children throughout their day at school, including the classroom routines? They know exactly what to anticipate the moment they walk in the door. There is a place for their backpacks, jackets, supplies. They know when they are supposed to take out materials from their desks, open books, etc. In order for rituals to be effective, they have to be meaningful, so the rituals in the schools and classrooms provide a security for the children as they become comfortable knowing what to expect. Have you ever listened to a child explain that they had a substitute teacher? You can tell from the child’s voice that the routine was different. Have you ever heard a child explain that they had music that day rather than PE? It is significant for them, because it is a change in what they expected.

As schools create daily rituals for children, it is also crucial for parents to use rituals in the home to provide that same sense of “grounding.’ Getting up at the same time, going to bed at the same time, reading books together, doing homework at specified times, etc. Children want and need that security that rituals provide them.
Surprise yourself and make a list of all the daily rituals that you have provided for your family.

Next month we will examine those rituals that families create for special occasions such as birthdays.

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 found in The Woodlands TX.

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