Archive of ‘Teens’ category

The Practice of Gratitude

With December marking the end of the year, it is natural to reflect on what kind of a year you’ve had. I encourage having reflections that include gratitude’s and appreciations; it is imperative reflect on the positive things that have occurred over the past year. Having that perspective on how you have seen growth and change, or maintenance and consistency, in a positive light can reduce stress and anxiety and make it easier to reflect with a positive outlook in the future.

I’ve heard the different perspectives of positive and negative described as a cloudy lens and a sunshine lens. I love the simplicity that provides as a visual because looking at your past year in a cloudy lens could lead to feeling sad, conflicted, and unmotivated. This cloudy lens has the ability to reach in all areas of life and makes it hard to find those sunshine moments. Looking through a sunshine lens doesn’t mean negative and bad things don’t occur, rather a sunshine lens means choosing to find something that you are grateful for, no matter how big or significant that something is. Examples could be feeling grateful that you survived your day, you went to a concert, hanging out with close friends, or ending your day with a nice hot bath.

To start a gratitude practice, set yourself up for success. Choose a time during your day that you can have 5 minutes to reflect. Once you have your daily time scheduled, reflect on one thing of gratitude. Just one. If you think of more, that’s great! But only start with one, so that way you feel encouraged to continue this gratitude practice. Once you feel like your reflection time has become consistent, then move up to listing three to five items of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is like building strength in a muscle. It takes time and consistency to see growth and change in how your perspective shifts from a cloudy to sunshine. I hope with the reflection of this past year, you are able to find those moments that you truly appreciate and are grateful for!

Julie Smith MA, LMFT-A under the Supervision of Kirby Sandlin Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S Senior Clinician at Austin Family Counseling

3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Part 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

One of the biggest no-no’s that parents are regularly committing is making the car a place where they connect with their teen.  Your kiddos rely on you for regular transportation, and in the car, there is nowhere to hide! The car is the perfect place to talk, right?

Imagine your teen’s perspective: she’s been “on” all day at school, learning, working, and socializing.  She had to remember her homework in Algebra, her project from Spanish, and her orchestra instrument.  She took a test in Language Arts and a quiz in World Geography.  Her best friend cried at lunch because her boyfriend was being distant, her friend group had some drama about a SnapChat post gone wrong, and her favorite teacher is out for the rest of the year because her mom is sick. Her head and heart are full from an exhausting day.   She gets in the car at the end of the day and shuts the door, ready to relax. Finally, no one is needing her or asking her to do anything.  

Instead, there you are, eager to talk – “How was your day?” “Did you do well on your quiz?” “Is Sarah still mad at Craig?” “Did you remember your project?”  You may have been thinking about her all day and wondering how she is doing, so when you see her, it feels natural to want to check in about all of these things, to show her you care, and to connect.  

However, it is critical that you give her the time and space she needs to decompress first, and that is different for every teen.  Most of them need at least a few minutes to stare out the window or listen to their music, and many of them need much more than that.  Notice their body language and cues – do they seem eager to talk right now? If not, respect their boundary and wait.  Nothing is worse than feeling cornered, even if you have the best intentions.  

And if you do have something import you need to confront your teen about, say their lack of studying in the evenings or refusal to follow your rule of no food in bedrooms, ask them when a good time would be to talk.  Find them at a neutral time at home, such as after dinner or during breakfast, and say “Hey- I want to check in with you about studying.  Would tonight or tomorrow night be better for you? What time?” Give them choices and some power to say what works for them.  Just because the issue feels urgent to you doesn’t mean it actually IS urgent.  Take a few deep breaths and seek cooperation and connection with your teen, not conflict and control.  

For more insight, consider signing up for our Positive Discipline Workshop for parents of teens and tweens!  Click HERE for more info. To read part 1: Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?, click HERE.

10 Books for Kids Experiencing Divorce

Books can be quite valuable for helping children and teenagers better understand and cope with a variety of issues, including the subject of divorce. Reading about characters who are going through the same thing and experiencing the same reactions, can truly go a long way toward helping kids to identify their own feelings and beliefs in a non-threatening way.

Amanda edit 2

By: Amanda Robinson, LPC, RPT

Children’s books aren’t just beneficial for kids, however. Many parents struggle to put their thoughts and explanations about divorce into language that balances honesty with empathy. Books written for children can give parents the age-appropriate words they’re looking for when talking with their kids. Ideally, parents and children should read these books together, at least when looking at them for the first time.

The following book suggestions, which are divided by age group, include both fictional stories and “how-to” guides for children and teens. Both of these styles have their merit – fiction stories give children the chance to identify with and learn from a character who struggles with the same problem, and guides provide tips and define grown-up terms in kid-friendly language. Clicking on the title will take you to Amazon page for that book.

Preschool & Early Elementary

Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt (2011)  

51EeymR-SaL._SX443_BO1,204,203,200_A story about a little girl who sometimes lives with her mother, and sometimes with her father, but no matter what, always has her canine companion by her side. The text is gentle but clear, with charming illustrations.




It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children by Vicki Lansky (1997)


When Koko Bear’s parents get a divorce, the cub experiences anger, sadness, and guilt, and learns to manage these feelings. This book also includes advice for parents on how to help their children cope. The illustrations are a bit dated, but the information is useful at explaining what divorce means, normalizing feelings, and providing reassurance.  


Two Homes by Claire Masurel (2003)

5171425M4YL._SY457_BO1,204,203,200_A child named Alex discovers that there are good things about having two homes – including two special bedrooms and two sets of friends.  Alex also feels loved and safe at both homes. The gender of the child is not specified, making it easy for both girls and boys to identify with Alex.


Was it the Chocolate Pudding? A Story for Little Kids about Divorce by Sandra Levins and Brian Langdo (2005)

51YMTSHJ83L._SY398_BO1,204,203,200_A story about a boy who worries that his parents divorced because he made a big mess of his chocolate pudding. This one is great for examining and dissuading children’s feelings of mistaken guilt surrounding their parents’ divorce. In this book, the child stays full time with his father and sees his mother for visits, so it may be especially helpful for children experiencing a similar situation.  

Late Elementary

Don’t Fall Apart on Saturdays! The Children’s Divorce Survival Book by Adolph Moser (2000)

512XQFGWN4L._SX360_BO1,204,203,200_A guide that addresses common feelings and misunderstandings about divorce, and gives children tips for coping. Reading along with a parent is highly recommended.





On the Day His Daddy Left by Eric Adams and Kathleen Adams (2000)

51eiDAfY0RL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_When Danny’s parents get a divorce, his father moves out, and Danny wonders if the events are his fault. The book answers this question directly but sensitively, and also provides recommendations for parents in talking with their children about divorce. This one is appropriate for both younger and older children.



Through the Eyes of Children: Healing Stories for Children of Divorce by Janet Johnston, Carla Garrity, Mitchell Baris, and Karen Breunig (1997)

41S6jpgdjAL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A compilation of stories about animal families that are each dealing with different aspects of divorce. With the help of a caring adult, each animal “child” is able to come to a positive solution. This one is appropriate for younger as well as older children.




Middle & High School

Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor (2004)

51gEUIyyxuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A guide that answers teenagers’ tough questions about divorce with honesty and sensitivity. Suggestions for coping and communicating with parents are also provided. This one may read a little young for older teens, so it may be best for middle or early high schoolers.




Now What Do I Do? A Guide to Help Teenagers with their Parents’ Separation or Divorce by Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski (2006)

51aaY6GzKAL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_A workbook with exercises and activities to help teens work through their feelings surrounding their parents’ divorce. The language is relatable to adolescents without being condescending.




Split in Two: Keeping it Together When Your Parents Split Apart by Karen Buscemi (2009)

51mP9Nd5dsL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_A guide written in comic-book-style illustrations, which gives it a modern and accessible feel. It includes advice from other teenagers who are living in divorced households, and also provides tips for staying organized when traveling between two homes.

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