Archive of ‘Teens’ category

Creating Healthy Boundaries

Growing up in collectivistic culture at home, boundaries were not a celebrated tool in my family. They were perceived to be selfish at times – unhelpful to the entire family unit. As I grew older, I came to realize just how important healthy boundaries are – with family members, friends, coworkers – to maintain my overall well-being. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior. Healthy boundaries are those created to maintain physical, emotional, and mental well-being. 

How To Create Healthy Boundaries 

I do want to preface this section by saying that the examples are for educational purposes only – some of them may not apply to your experience or situation. If you are in an abusive relationship whether with a romantic partner, family member, or friend, setting a boundary can be dangerous – please seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Please consult with a mental health professional to discuss what options may be most applicable or helpful for you! 

  1. Identify your boundaries: one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is recognize how we feel during certain situations. If you find yourself feeling:
  • Anxious when your mother is complaining about your father to you 
  • Annoyed when your partner invites friends over without consulting with you 
  • Angry when your child plays with the soccer ball indoors  

it may be time to set some healthy boundaries in place. Sometimes utilizing a feelings wheel can help us gain better insight into our feelings and needs.

  1. Communicate your boundaries: follow the “I-statements” method. Starting your statements with “I feel…” versus “You did…” takes judgement away, preventing the person you are speaking with from getting defensive or feeling attacked. Depending on who you are speaking with, it may be helpful to validate the other person’s feelings (can be an especially helpful tool when talking to your parents to show respect).  You do NOT need to “over explain” the reason for your boundary – your healthy boundaries are your right. 
  • “It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”
  • “I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, and I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”
  • “I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”
  1. Communicate consequences: if you find your boundaries have been crossed multiple times – it may be helpful to associate a consequence while communicating the boundary. A consequence is NOT a threat, but at times can look like an ultimatum – especially if you find yourself being mistreated constantly in a relationship, the consequence of breaking your boundary could be ending the relationship for your overall well-being.

Healthy Boundaries With Parents

“It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”

Boundaries with parents can be the most difficult sometimes – depending on your parents’ culture and your relationship with them. For myself, the example above brought up feelings of anxiety and fear of disappointment. Due to my parents’ collectivistic culture, when setting boundaries I found that it was helpful at times to avoid being in certain situations as to avoid offending them. For example, if following the scenario above, saying something like, “I can’t talk now I have to do some work that is due tonight!” 

Another important factor to name when setting boundaries with parents is the idea that we may feel guilty for not helping them. It is important to recognize and differentiate our role as a child and what responsibilities that entails and does not entail.

Healthy Boundaries With Partners

“I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, but I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”

Boundaries with romantic partners are important to cultivate a strong, positive relationship versus cultivating contempt and resentment. With the couples I work with and even in my own relationship with my husband, I have found that it is easy to attack our partners by blaming them for their actions as opposed to understanding and communicating  how we feel as a result of their action. As shown in the example, I started it with “I feel” versus “Why did you invite them over?” Starting a question or statement with “you” or “why” immediately puts the other on the defensive.

Healthy Boundaries With Children

“I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”

Setting boundaries with children may look like setting limits – validating what they are wanting to do, but being firm AND kind in establishing the limit and consequence of their behavior. To learn more about setting limits and boundaries read our posts about Positive Discipline or attend one of our workshops

It takes practice and time to create healthy boundaries. If you find that identifying your boundary, communicating it and the consequence of not following it are not working in your relationships, it may be beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and decide if it is healthy for you. Wishing you all healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationships!

By: Sarah Shah, LPC-Intern supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S
Follow Sarah on Instagram!

Supporting Your Child During Test-Taking Season

With the upcoming STAR tests, AP exams, SATs, ACTs, and more— it’s no secret that school test-taking season is upon us. This time of year can be extremely stressful for the test taker (and the whole family!). Below, we’ll discuss some helpful tips for supporting your child during this busy testing season. 

Encourage Confidence

These tests can be challenging, but it’s nothing your kid or teen can’t handle! Encourage your test taker by helping them know their strengths and remaining confident in their abilities. Help them create an encouraging mantra they can say to themselves as a reminder when things get tough in the testing room. Send an encouraging note in their lunch, or give them a small trinket the morning of the test. Let your child know that you’re thinking of them and that you believe in them. 

Create a Routine 

Weeks before the test, brainstorm a realistic routine that will create consistency. Help your child figure out the best time to study, the best time to take a break, and the best time to ask for some support. Get as specific as possible, and get your child’s input when planning for bed time, snack breaks, and everything else that comes along with studying for a big test. 

Promote Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene becomes even more important during times of high stress or anxiety. Help your child create a realistic bedtime routine that will help them feel rested, calm, and capable on test day. Limit screen time before bed, and lead your child through a calming activity instead. You can even try some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or reading as a family. 

Help Ease Feelings of Anxiety 

Help your kiddo manage their test anxiety with mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. These are tools we often use in therapy, and are even more effective when they are practiced with family members at home.  Validate that it’s completely normal to be anxious before a test and get their input on how you can help support them as they prepare. 

Celebrate!

Don’t forget to celebrate with your child or teen after the testing is complete! Congratulate your child on their accomplishment, and try to limit your questions about the actual test material. Trust that they did their best and that they will bring the test up if they want to talk about it more. Plan to go to their favorite restaurant or hang out with friends to celebrate.  Giving your child something to look forward to can give them the motivation they need to do their absolute best on the test.  

I hope these tips prove to be helpful for your family as we enter a potentially stressful season in their academic careers. With consistency, encouragement, and preparation, we can support our kiddos as they continue reaching their scholastic goals. 


Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S

Follow Morgan & Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com


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

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