Archive of ‘Parenting’ category

Talking With Your Teens and Tweens about Weed

Recently, I have noticed a sharp increase in weed use in my teen clients.  Why are teens so likely to smoke? Here are 3 reasons and how you can use these reasons to connect with them more closely about the dangers of weed. 

IMPORTANT NOTE to parents: These talking points are suggested for you to use from a place of curiosity.  Ask the questions in a gentle and open way when your teen wants to talk.  Don’t force them to talk about it and don’t use this time as a lecture opportunity or get them in trouble. 

Teens are Wired to Seek Novelty and Risk.

Daniel Siegel, M.D. has studied the teenage brain extensively, and reports that American adolescent brains start to “prune” around the age of 12 years old; adolescence is a period of “remodeling the brain.” It is nature’s way of preparing adolescents to leave the home by removing the stuff they no longer need (say the ability to play the piano proficiently) and strengthening the stuff they do need or want to retain.  Novelty or “new stuff” stimulates the release of dopamine (rewards circuitry) more strongly in adolescents and therefore increases the teen’s desire to seek risk and danger.  AND the adolescent brain is also focused more on the reward often than on the potential consequences, causing teens to experiment with high risk behaviors at a much higher rate than at any time in life.  (Check on this video to hear Dr. Siegel talk more about this phenomenon).

Talking points:

What types of activities do teens and teens do that are novelty and risk seeking in your world/school/community? Have you heard stories or do you know someone who engages in high risk activities? Are there any that you are curious to try or have tried? (You won’t get in trouble – we are having a discussion) What do you know about the brain during adolescents and the “pruning” process?

Weed is Everywhere and Easy to Get.

Marijuana is increasingly accessible to teenagers, and it is much easier to obtain than alcohol for most minors.  For many teens, it has become the go-to activity for hanging out with friends.  Simply Snap Chat a dealer and get a supply within minutes, paying with cash or Venmo so nothing is trackable. 

Talking points:

Have you been around weed? If you wanted to buy some, do you know how? Do you know about or have your experienced being “high”? What is it like? Do you ever feel or worry you might feel pressure to try weed? What are your plans for handling those situations? What do you think our expectations are of you in those situations?

Weed can Decrease Worry, Anxiety, and Stress in the Moment. 

Short-term benefits to smoking weed do exist.  Teens are more stressed in this day and age than ever before, with soaring rates of anxiety and depression.  The attraction to weed is often based on the short term relief they may feel when high – worry-free, relaxed, and chill.  The long-term risks of weed, including psychological dependency, long term memory loss, increased need, and exacerbation of symptoms are often not on their radar because they seek immediate relief from their symptoms.

Talking points:

Do you often feel stressed or overwhelmed? What are the sources of stress in your life? What strategies have you used that help you cope? What strategies do your friends use? Would you find it helpful to talk to a family friend, spiritual mentor, or a therapist for more support in coping?

At Austin Family Counseling, we have a team of therapists who specialize in counseling tweens and teens during this vulnerable and ever-changing time of development. Please call us or email us for more information about how you can get support for your child or yourself!

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

Teaching Kids to be Strong Problem Solvers

It started with just a few questions. “Why do I have to go to preschool? Why do you have to go to work? Why can’t I have a babysitter stay home with me?” To these, as I was bustling about the kitchen getting dinner pulled together, I answered in a matter of fact and validating way. “Preschool gets you ready for kindergarten and allows you to play with friends and grow your brain. I also miss you and wish I could be home with you. And, I love teaching my students and I feel passionate about the work I am doing.”

She wasn’t buying it.

The insisting got more intense until she was so worked up I started to wonder (and worry) especially when she said she did NOT want to go… at all. For a child that generally loved her school, this was the final sign so I asked, 

“Did something happen?” From there it spilled out: during the quiet nap time, the teachers didn’t allow students to use the bathroom, and if they asked, the whole classroom was punished.

Um.  What?????

In her four year old way, she described this rule, and how conflicted and uncomfortable she was with a) not being able to go to the bathroom and b) the social repercussions of any action on her part during this time. Obvi. So, clearly the solution was just to never go back.

At this point I had a few options. First, I could tell her I am SURE that is not the rule, and that with a swift (curt) email to the teacher I would have it cleared up by tomorrow and her bladder would be free. Or…

I could use this as an empowering learning opportunity.

Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott, from Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way, give this definition of empowering: “Turning control over to young people as soon as possible so they have power over their own lives.”

We all want our kids to grow up to have a long list of life skills that will help them be successful as adults. We make this list together in my Positive Discipline classes and each time, the list looks so similar. Skills like responsible, independent, passionate, assertive, happy…these help to guide our teaching when we are trying to solve challenges with our kids. So in this moment, if I used the  magic wand to make it all go away, I would have missed an opportunity to add to that skill building.

Enabling = “getting between young people and life experiences to minimize the consequences of their actions.”  – Lott, Nelsen

Rescuing, fixing, bailing them out, doing too much for them, it all falls under that enabling category. The 10pm email to the teacher also falls in that category. You know the one, where you are so exhausted by how upset your child was and what a nightmare evening you had dealing with whatever issue happened at school that day (per your kiddo), so you take it all out on the teacher in an email to feel like you have some control.

By choosing instead to empower, I wasn’t going to abandon her, but I was going to show up with confidence in her capability. It was also going to take a little more time.

We discussed it as a family more at dinner, using curiosity questions to dig deeper. I still could not believe that it was actually the rule, (what preschool teacher does NOT want kids to use the bathroom?)  yet I knew in HER mind it was her perspective and interpretation, so there really was no arguing that point. We were going to have to really play it out.

“Can’t you just talk to the teacher?” she begged me. “It’s not my problem,” I replied, “I can go to the bathroom whenever I want.” She looked at me horrified. I went on, “This feels like such a big problem to you. It feels unfair. It would feel unfair to me too! We are here to help you. Let’s practice what you can say to your teacher tomorrow.”

We called all hands on deck and she started to relax surrounded by her cheering section. She took turns being the teacher and herself in the role play, practicing how to start with a greeting and request to discuss the problem and then how to assertively state “I feel confused by this rule and it feels unfair.” Her confidence grew and by tuck in time I thought we were really in the clear. Then the panic set in.

“Mama, what if this problem is never solved? What if it doesn’t work?”

Here, too, I wanted to just ease her mind, ensure her that everything would be ok. I also wanted to make all that time we had spent building up capability worth it. So instead I took her hand and said, “Here’s the deal. It might not be solved tomorrow. It might not work right away. And that is ok. Because when you come home, we will brainstorm another solution and practice and try something else until it is solved. I won’t give up and neither will you.”

Fortunately, I did not do the drop off in the morning. I might have caved. Instead, I watched the clock and winced right around naptime, then braced myself when I went into the classroom to pick her up after work.

Unexpectedly, she came running around the corner. Her face was beaming. “Mama mama! I solved my problem!” It was THAT moment that made it allllll worth it. The pride, independence, confidence and capability shone. Priceless. Her teacher immediately joined her, falling over herself to tell me that OF COURSE they are allowed to go to the bathroom and what a misunderstanding, but how brave of my daughter to bring it up. The teachers hadn’t realized the confusion from all the students. This led to a class meeting and greater discussion. She ended with explicitly thanking me for allowing this learning opportunity. 

Six years later,  I think of that day often. It gave me the courage and mindset to put in the intention and energy on days I didn’t think I had it. When it would have been easier to overprotect or rescue. When I see the payoff, in my responsible, independent, happy, confident ten year old, I know it is worth it.

It takes courage to teach courage.

Empowering can and should look different in families, depending on the age, stage of development and your own values. What makes YOUR little one beam with confidence? And what kind of practice do they need to get there? Is there a small step they need to learn first?

Lott and Nelsen describe these empowering responses:

  • Listening and giving emotional support and validation without fixing or discounting. 
  • Teaching life skills. 
  • Working on agreements through family meetings or the joint problem-solving process. 
  • Letting go (without abandoning). 
  • Deciding what you will do with dignity and respect
  • Sharing what you think, how you feel, and what you want (without lecturing, moralizing, insisting on agreement, or demanding that anyone give you what you want). 
  • Sticking to the issues with dignity and respect.

 Learn how to be solution focused, teach important life skills and find the joy in everyday moments.  Purchase your How To Grow Remarkable Kids online series today, and experience Positive Discipline through videos of real families practicing the tools.

Julietta is a Certified Positive Discipline Advanced Trainer with an Ed.S Degree in School Psychology and a Masters Degree in School Counseling from Seattle University. She is the co-founder of Sproutable, science backed online parenting insights for pregnancy to preschool, helping multitasking and sleep deprived parents everywhere. 

Her trauma informed expertise includes early child development, autism, learning disabilities, anxiety, behavior disorders, Positive Discipline, Social Thinking and mindfulness.  Her popular keynote speeches, classes and workshops in Seattle have been described as rejuvenating, motivating and inspiring. Julietta has learned the most from her own three daughters.


The World of Co-Parenting

In a recent conversation with someone, a single parent, she talked about the importance of having yin & yang regarding interactions and discipline.  While all parenting should have that type of balance, it is especially important to have that when you are co-parenting.  Co-parenting is the experience of raising children as a single parent when separation or divorce occurs.  Successful co-parenting requires reciprocal interactions of each parent and relies on healthy, open communication, empathy, and patience; this can be especially difficult for people who experienced marital issues (resulting in a separation or divorce), but it’s imperative for your children.

While this process is certainly easier said than done, check out the Do’s & Don’ts of co-parenting.

Do’s:

  • Prepare for change. This is going to be a huge transition!  Nothing is more certain in life than change.  You need to willingly accept that most aspects of your life will radically change.
  • Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. Co-parent as a team and aim for co-parenting consistency! Having similar schedules, rules, and discipline between both parents will make transitions easy for all people involved and will reduce confusion for the children.  Things won’t ever be EXACTLY the same and that’s okay.
  • Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you. You may need to make accommodations in your parenting style based on the needs of your children.  Don’t let frustrations from being challenged impact your relationship with your kids.
  • Embrace the fact that you don’t have to ALWAYS be doing something.Parents often feel the urge to be “the cool parent” or “the fun one”.  That’s not needed.  Spend quality time with your children and adjust to the new normal.
  • Update often. For co-parents who had tumultuous relationships, it may be emotionally painful to be in constant contact with your former partner about all changes in your life, but it is important to be in-the-know about these things.  Share information about grades, sleep-overs, camps, etc.  Your child should never be the primary source of information.
  • Acknowledge each other’s strengths. Each co-parent has valuable strengths as a parent.  Remember to recognize each other’s traits and reinforce this awareness with your children.  Speaking positively about one another teachers your children that despite your differences, you can still acknowledge and appreciate each other’s strengths.
  • Practice empathy. This is a huge change for everyone.  Try putting yourself in your former partner’s shoes and treat them the way you would like to be treated.  It seems like an elementary thing to say, but it’s easily forgotten.  Have empathy for your children, too.  Allow them to voice their feelings and validate their experience.  
  • Enjoy your time off. When it’s not your time to be with the kids, do something that is for YOUR benefit and yours alone!  Some may call this selfish, but I call it self-care.  Everyone needs to recharge their batteries.

Don’ts

  • Don’t burden your child. Children should not be exposed to emotionally charged issues surrounding your former partner.  Putting children in the middle of intense conflict and issues regarding your relationship can promote feelings of helplessness and insecurity.
  • Don’t put your child in the middle. This means don’t use kids as messengers!  When children are used to convey messages between co-parents, it puts them in the center of conflict.  Similarly, don’t say negative things about your former partner to your children.  Your child has a right to have a relationship with both parents free of any bias.
  • Don’t be an unbalanced parent. It may seem like a good idea to be the cool parent, but doing so generally fuels resentment as your children will be more reluctant to follow set rules and routines.  Children develop best with a united front.
  • Don’t give into guilt.Parent’s often experience an abundance of emotions when a separation or divorce happens and they are no longer in their children’s lives on a full-time basis.  Many parents experience guilt–which they convert into overindulgence in an effort to “make it up” to their child.
  • Don’t accuse. Discuss. Communication about co-parenting is VITAL. Discuss issues that arise appropriately and assertively.  Don’t fall back on passive-aggressive tones or finger-pointing.

Co-parenting is not an easy task.  Being a parent and a partner is already difficult enough, but when you add heightened emotion that is often experienced as a result of being in a co-parenting relationship, it makes everything that much more difficult.  At the end of the day, it’s important to push your feelings about your former partner aside and focus on what is best for the kids.  Doing this will allow you to work with your co-parent as a teammate.  It’s not only doable, but is beneficial for the children involved.  Successful co-parenting is a win-win for all.

Benefits of co-parenting

  • When children feel security and consistency from both parents, they adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations.
  • Children are mentally and emotionally stronger. After all, if children are exposed to conflict between co-parents, they can have lower self esteem and develop depression or anxiety.
  • Children better understand problem solving. Kids learn how to manage life by watching their parents–set a good example for them.
  • When co-parenting becomes the new normal, children need to know that they aren’t abnormal and this is something that will work for them and their family members.

For additional parenting tips & tricks, check out Positive Discipline!

By: Julie Burke, LPC
See what she’s up to on Instagram!

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