Kids that are over parented can have poor Coping Skills.

th-2The best way to teach your teen good coping skills is by literally backing off and giving them some room.  Let your children think through solutions when they are dealing with a challenge or problem. I see coping skills as falling into the “street smarts” category.  They aren’t something that one will learn at school. Coping skills are something that one needs to practice and exercise often in order to acquire and master. Parents can practice (and guide) good coping skills with teens to see how they handle certain situations. Some ideas your teen has will be effective and other will not. But that’s ok… this is how they learn. They need to problem solve, become more resourceful and at the very core…. learn self-reliance.  Otherwise, they will look to you every time they deal with a challenge.  What will they do when you aren’t around?  How will they handle peer pressure, an emergency or a difficult conflict?

I was working with a teen client the other week, who became unraveled over a particular conflict she was dealing with that day.  Now, her reaction to the situation seemed a bit over the top, but that’s ok…..she’s a teen and her feelings are valid. I was sympathetic and there to listen. However, I found myself falling into the trap of “problem solving” for this teen because she seemed so distraught. I thought I needed to “fix it” for her. As expected, she kept telling me why every solution I had wouldn’t work and so I kept coming up with more ideas, only to have each new one rejected by her again and again.  Finally I stopped, looked at her and said: “You are very upset about this and I understand. I’m happy to help, but it’s up to you to figure out what that best solution should be. I’m here as a resource and a sounding board.” She actually stopped playing the “victim” and started to think through some solutions herself when I gave her the “green light” to take the lead.

Remember, teens need encouragement and space to think through the pros and cons associated with different outcomes.  It’s not up to you (as a parent) to provide them with all the solutions.  We need more quick thinkers; people who can resolve their own issues without chaos and drama. Parents who allow their children to take the lead on their own issues (within reason) tend to have less anxious children  And the opposite is true as well. Kids that are over parented tend to have poor coping skills.

How to Always be “Authentic” with Teens

When working with teens, always be authentic.

[Authenitic— of undisputed origin; genuine.Unknown-1

Whenever I’m asked about my work with teens, I remind people that the key to success with this age group is being authentic.  I always say: “Teens can stiff out an inauthentic adult in seconds.” ….but what does being “authentic” really mean?

  1. Do not be judgmental.  Meaning…. just listen to them. Don’t be shocked or surprised by what they say.  Sometimes, they will tell you things for the shock value alone to see how you will respond. The key is…..DON’T!
  2. You don’t always need to lend advice. Just listen to them.  As easy as it can be to lend them guidance at this age, hold back sometimes.
  3. Don’t ask soooo many questions.  This will easily annoy or frustrate them.
  4. Don’t cut them off or redirect the conversation.  Let them take the conversation where they want.
  5. Maintain eye contect and show other visual signs of confirmation (such as, head nodding, smiling, etc.)
  6. Last, but not least, be present and engaged. Regardless if they are talking about a minor issue from school or a serious struggle with a friend, it’s important to them. And if it’s important to them, then it should be important to you as well.

Don’t Fall for the Belly Button Challenge! (#bellybuttonchallenge)

thFirst there was #thighgap…now we have the #bellybuttonchallenge to look forward to.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the “belly button challenge” all over social media. Apparently, it began in China, but has exploded online.  So…what is the belly button challenge you ask?

Reach behind your back and around your waist and see if your hand can cover/touch your belly button.  For the sake of this blog post, go ahead and try.  Can’t do it? Well, then you are considered “too heavy” according to Chinese social media. But really, it could also mean that your arms are really muscular-right?  When you come down to it… it’s actually a test of shoulder flexibility, and not fitness. (I learned that the shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body.)  The belly button challenge has become a way for teens, mostly girls – to seek approval online with their body while shaming others.  It also says a lot about China’s obsession (really everyone’s obsession) with being thin. Teens are snapping #selfies of them-self while doing the challenge and posting them online.

A successful belly button challenge attempt is met with praise, “likes” and affirmations that YOU are thin enough.  If deemed thin enough, then you are accepted by the online “belly button” police.

And if you can’t do the challenge, there is a double standard.  For a boy posting a photo of himself failing the challenge, he still receives “likes.”  Many of those photos will show the boy desperately struggling to reach his belly button while making funny faces, contorting his body and laughing. However, for girls posting their failed attempts online for all the world to see, isn’t met with praise or “likes.”  She is telling the world that she is unhealthy…. unworthy, and shameful. This can do a number on anyones body image and self-esteem.

So if you are a teen, don’t fall for this challenge or take it too seriously. Remember, it has nothing to do with health. It’s just another silly social media game to laugh about… and nothing more.