Archive of ‘Family’ category

3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me? (Part 1 of 3)

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

I often hear from parents that they wish their teen would open up to them more. Things like…
“Why won’t she talk to me?”
“I try to ask her about her day and she just says ‘fine.”
“My teen would rather put her earbuds in than talk with me.”
“We end up arguing more often than not – help!”

Believe it or not, your teen does want to talk with you! Many times, however, parents are trying too hard to force communication with their teen by giving unsolicited advice, cornering their kids, or blowing up. Let’s talk about a few ways you can change your behavior today to help encourage more open and honest communication with your teen.

“When we give children advice or instant solutions, we deprive them of the experience that comes from wrestling with their own problems.”

― Adele Faber, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

1.) Listen more and talk less with your teen. Avoid all lecturing and advice-giving.

The teenage brain is constantly growing and changing. It is literally wired to take more risk and push away from caregivers. Their brain is actively pruning away unnecessary parts in order to make room for independent thinking and acting.
See this video by Dr. Daniel Siegel for more on the teenage brain

Why, then, would it make sense for us to expect our teens to want our unsolicited advice? Here’s an example of what I often hear in my work with teens and their parents.

Mom: Well, yesterday Jane was crying again about her friends being mean to her. I told her that she should just get some new friends because real friends don’t treat each other that way. She needs friends who are kind and who don’t act so ugly. Then Jane just blew up at me! She told me to get out of her room and leave her alone. Can you believe that?

Does this sound familiar? Are you often giving advice about what your teen should or shouldn’t do to solve problems? Are you consistently feeling frustrated that they don’t do what you suggest? STOP GIVING ADVICE!! Instead, consider these possible responses to open up dialogue:

Reflect what you see: “Jane, something has made you sad.” (then shhhhhh…..don’t talk.)

Act without talking: Rub Jane’s back or knee. Nod sympathetically. Give an encouraging smile.

Use one word responses: “OH!” or “Really?” or “Hmmm…” (and then hush!)

Ask open ended questions: “Then what happened?” or “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think your options are?”

Be available: If you teen wants to talk, she or he will often let you know nonverbally first (stomping around, crying, heavy sighs). Put down whatever you are doing and turn to face your teen. Pull the car over if you need to. Use your body to show that you are available if they want to talk. A kind smile without words goes a long way.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series –- “Step 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

  1. Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?
  2. Make the car a “Safe Zone.”
  3. QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally

Domestic Violence Affects Children

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in light of that I would like to take time today to talk about the red flags of abuse in regards to children. Research has shown that children who grow up in homes in which domestic violence takes place experience the effects of the violence, even if they don’t always see it or experience any direct abuse themselves. Today I’m going to discuss the ways in which domestic violence affects children and how these are often expressed in children.

Violence Affects Children Emotionally

  • Guilt
    – Children may feel responsible for the violence.
  • Shame – Children often believe that it does not happen anywhere else.
  • Fear – of expressing feelings, of divorce or separation, of injury.
  • Confusion – Children feel confused as to whether to love or hate the abuser, and often vacillate between the two.
  • Anger – about the violence, about the lack of safety in the home.
  • Grief – over family loss issues.
  • Burdened – over appropriate role as caretaker. With this role reversal, often an older child is forced to accept responsibility for the care of younger siblings and of the household due to the parents’ inability to fulfill these functions. The child may never have the opportunity to participate in normal childhood activities.

Violence Affects Children Behaviorally

  • Children may act out or withdraw and isolate.When it comes to isolation and withdrawal, this behavior seldom attracts attention, so these children may not be identified as troubled.
  • Children may overcompensate by overachieving or underachieving.
  • Children may refuse to go to school – They may believe that if they stay home their presence will keep the fighting under control, or that peers will recognize the physical abuse, emotional deprivation, or sexual abuse.
  • Children may exhibit care taking behaviors – they worry about the needs of others more than their own needs.
  • Children may become aggressive or overly passive.
  • Children may have rigid defenses – being aloof, sarcastic, blaming, or defensive.
  • Children may engage in attention seeking behaviors.
  • Children may start wetting the bed or have nightmares.
  • Children may appear chaotic and it may be hard to set limits with them. This is often because their emotional state is so chaotic and disregulated due to not knowing what is happening at home or when the violence will occur.
  • Children may run away, viewing this as their only alternative for escaping an unbearable home situation.
  • Older children from violent families may engage in excessive use of alcohol or drugs. This behavior is often, but not always, modeled after their parents’ behavior and is viewed as a psychological escape from their problems.
  • When these children become adolescents or adults, they may turn on their parents and become aggressive towards them. Also, when they are adults, they may abuse their own children or spouses.

Violence Affects Children Physically

  • Children will often exhibit somatic complaints, such as headaches, stomach aches, and asthma.
  • Children may appear nervous, anxious, and have a short attention span.
  • Children may be lethargic and this may appear as laziness.
  • Children may get sick often with colds, flu, etc.
  • Children may neglect their personal hygiene.
  • Children may regress in developmental tasks – bed wetting, thumb sucking, clinging, etc.

Violence Affects Children Socially

  • Children may isolate, either having no friends or they may be distant in their friendships.
  • Relationships with friends may start intensely and end abruptly.
  • Children may have difficulty trusting others.
  • Children may exhibit poor conflict resolution skills.
  • Children may be excessively socially involved (to stay away from the home).
  • Children may be passive with others and/or seek power to be the aggressor.

Violence Affects Children Cognitively

  • Children may learn to blame others for their behaviors.
  • Children may believe it is okay to hit others to get what you want, to express anger, to feel powerful, to get their needs met.
  • Children may have a low self-concept.
  • Children may learn not to ask for what they need.
  • Again, children may learn not to trust (because of unkept promises to change).
  • Children may believe that to feel angry is bad.
  • Children may come to believe in rigid gender roles.

Domestic Violence Affects Children

It is not necessary for all of these to be present, but these are certainly some of the red flags to look out for if you suspect a child may be in a violent home environment. It is important to be on the child’s side. More often than not when many of these behaviors are exhibited, especially those that are viewed as unacceptable and disruptive at school, the child gets punished and their parents are called. It is important to be there for the child and to talk to them about how sometimes when there is trouble at home, children respond in this way. This may give you an opening for the child to be vulnerable enough to trust you that these behaviors are not necessarily their fault – that they are reacting to chaos and danger at home. This can also help them let go of some shame they might have about how they are behaving and interacting with the world, giving them understanding as to why they are responding so.

If you believe that a child might be in danger or might be witnessing or experiencing violence at home, do not hesitate to contact the following resources:

9-1-1 – your local police department.

Lifeworks –

Safe Place –

The Center for Child Protection –

Child Protective Services –

The Power of the Present Moment

Courtesy of Upslash by petradr

Courtesy of Upslash by petradr

It had been a particularly long day and I was feeling the weight of things. I came home and felt rushed to prepare dinner and do the usual bedtime routine with my son. I so badly wanted to hurry up and get it all done so that I could scratch off the rest of my to-do list and get to sleep. I hurried up the stairs, son in tow, and plopped him into the bath. I was hoping it would be one of those “quick” bath nights – the drain-the-water-as-soon-as-it-fills-up bath nights. But something shifted as soon as I took a moment to sit down. My back against the bathroom wall, I observed my son as he, wide-eyed, picked up the water-soaked bath sponge in his hand and lifted it above his head. He watched in sheer amazement as the water dripped off the sponge and splashed into the water below. You would have thought a miracle was happening right in front of his eyes. It occurred to me that he was discovering, for the first time, what this sponge could do. And, in this present moment, he was discovering this with the full capacity of his senses. His ears heard the water droplets hit the bath water below. His eyes watched the water release from the sponge as gravity let it fall. He used his hands to feel the full sponge drain to his grip.

By: Christel Gilbreath, LCSW

By: Christel Gilbreath, LCSW

I realized, while watching him, how beautiful and rare these fully present moments can be for us adults. We get so busy with all of the “stuff” we have to do and all the “stuff” we have planned that we forget to be present for any of it. For me, this bath was a simple, yet profound reminder to slow down. Slow down enough to be amazed by seemingly mundane moments and see things as little miracles – the power of the present moment.  My hope – and my hope for you – is that we would be the kind of people who don’t miss the little moments and that we would be fully present and engaged with what is happening right in front of us.

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