Kristin's Comfy Couch Family Counseling Kristin Perry, LMFT
Kristin's Comfy Couch Family CounselingKristin Perry, LMFT
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Top Ten Signs Your Teen is in Trouble It can be terrifying when you see a sudden change in your teen and don't know what to make of it. Sometimes, you may wonder: "What's normal?" "Am I making too much of this?" "Does she just want attention?" "Am I really the only parent who has a problem with this?" "Am I too hard on him?"The fact that you're asking these questions shows excellent parenting radar and a real concern for your child. While this list is not exhaustive, it's a solid start. It captures many of the problems I see come up in teen therapy. If any of the things listed below are happening with your kid, you're not making too much of it. It isn't about attention. You're right to be worried. Your child needs help, right away!Top Ten Signs Your Teen is in Trouble:1. Sudden negative change in peer group, friends they are not willing to introduce2. Social Isolation3. Bullying: either being the perpetrator or the victim of abuse is a concern and requires help.4. Self-harm: cutting, picking, burning, self-starvation, or high risk sexual behavior. If you notice a sudden dramatic weight loss, see any unexplained marks or scars, or if your child suddenly starts wearing long sleeves or more concealing clothing, look more closely. Ask questions. Get help!5. Any break-up with a best friend or first love that is being taken particularly hard: excessive crying, expressing feelings of hopelessness, or obsessive thinking, talking, or social media mentions about the loss are significant signs there's a problem.6. Substance abuse7. Falling or failing grades8. Dramatic change in appearance or lack of interest in basic grooming, extreme irritability or aggression, crying, expressing feelings of numbness and disconnection, change in appetite, or sleep pattern are all signs of DEPRESSION, and should be taken seriously.9. Lying or secretive behavior10. Expressing ANY thoughts of suicide: verbally, by gesture, or in writing The need for help is URGENT: if your teenager has a specific plan for how to commit suicide, access to the means of self-harm they describe, or an expression of intent to actually do it.If your kid starts giving away emotionally significant items, seem to be trying to tie up loose ends, or say "goodbye" to anyone, these are also RED FLAGS. If you see this behavior. or you have any doubts, get help immediately. Go to your nearest emergency room, call 911, or call the police Psychological Emergency Response Team (PERT). It's okay to err on the side of caution. In fact, it's a really good idea to call, if you have any doubt at all.Teenagers can get in over their heads really fast. It's alarming how quickly they can get into real trouble. They are more impulsive, while being less able to think long-range and problem solve, than adults. Teens can suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, addiction and serious anger management problems, just like adults. When this happens, teens really need help. If you're a parent and this is happening with your child, you probably need some help, too. These are complicated scary problems. It's important to have a person with professional psychological training assist you. There's a lot at stake. Things can get better, with the right guidance.Please, act quickly, if you notice any of the Top Ten Signs Your Teen is in Trouble. If you aren't sure, or have any questions, you can call me: Kristin Perry, MFT at: 760-978-6071. If you can't reach me and think it might be serious, please, call 911.A little rebellion is normal teenage stuff. A little moodiness is normal teen emotion. Being kinda bratty is normal teenager behavior. Raising a teen is tricky. An adolescent's process of becoming independent can be quite hard on everyone concerned. They're a little bit prickly, sometimes. Counseling can help with these normal developmental issues, too. Teen therapy can improve family relationships, communication and coping skills. Counseling can help get things back on the right track. It can also save your kid's life.Whatever your particular situation, I wish you much luck, love and peace as you care for your family.Take care!Kristin Perry, MFTKristin's Comfy Couch Family Counseling760-978-6071
It is heartbreaking to witness a gifted or twice-exceptional child's exclusion from peers. You watch helplessly from the sidelines as other children easily connect on the playground, receive party invitations, and effortlessly attract friends. Your child's attempts to socialize are more frequently declined - sometimes with aloof avoidance and other times with blatant rejection. You can't play with us! You're not invited!  From an early age, gifted and twice-exceptional children recognize their differences. They notice how they grasp information more quickly than their same-age peers. They feel frustrated when other children don't get their jokes or don't understand their "rules" for a complicated game. Yet, they also feel the sting of rejection when excluded or teased. Some internalize the mocking comments lobbed toward them. Geek. Weirdo. Nerd. Or much worse...  Gifted children thrive when surrounded by like-minded peers, where they can converse freely, share similar interests, engage in healthy competition, and where they no longer feel compelled to hide their talents. Whether at the local playground, in their neighborhood, or on the soccer field, few gifted children find friends who truly "get them." Their sense of isolation and "differentness" intensifies within most typical classroom settings; when schools refuse to implement ability grouping - an option that might engender a sense of belonging and connection - gifted students remain isolated and misunderstood. What can you do when your child does not fit in?How can you help your child find like-minded peers, and navigate the social climate while still remaining true to themselves? What will guide them toward developing the necessary social skills - without requiring excessive conformity and compromise? And how do you address these concerns without conveying your own feelings of anxiety, disappointment, or frustration? The following are a few suggestions: 1. First, help your child understand giftedness Parents sometimes avoid explaining giftedness to their children - concerned that understanding their giftedness might place too much pressure on them or instill an arrogant sense of self. However, your child already recognizes that they differ from their peers and view themselves and the world differently. A clear, no-frills explanation conveys the facts without implying that they are better than other children, and provides a context for what they already know to be true about themselves. It helps them understand why finding friends might seem elusive. You can tailor your language to fit your child's developmental level and capacity to understand what it means to be gifted. It is essential for you as a parent to take on this task before someone else does and mishandles it. For more about how to share information about giftedness with your child, see this link. 2. Help them appreciate that it is "normal" to feel they are different.Many gifted and twice-exceptional children are accustomed to seeing themselves as outliers and out of sync with children their age. This awareness of their "differentness" and separateness is valid; they are different. Pretending they are neurotypical, denying their giftedness, or assuming they should easily fit in discounts their reality. Your empathy and support - along with a clear acknowledgment that they are different - will help them feel understood. Their reactions are "normal" and understandable. 3. Help your child understand their resistance - or anxiety - about navigating social interactionsRemind your child that it is understandable and normal to feel uncomfortable in new social situations. (You might also, briefly, share a few stories of your own!) Help them discover what negative thoughts, fears, and frustrations interfere. Ask them what thoughts (e.g., I just know they will laugh at me if I try to dance at the party) contribute to their worries. Find out if frustrations with their peers' interests (e.g., I hate it when they talk about popular songs when I want to discuss politics) leave them on the sidelines. Some of their concerns may be realistic; they might be less mature than their same-age peers or have little interest in popular culture. Recognizing their own struggles can be particularly painful for a gifted child who typically excels in most other situations. Once they appreciate that their resistance and difficulties are normal - and manageable - they may be more open to taking on the challenge of addressing these situations.4. Help your child develop resilience in the face of challenging social situationsYou can help your child counteract feelings of hopelessness when challenging social interactions loom. Brainstorming, for example, is a useful tool for recognizing a full range of possibilities that explain others' actions and for curtailing any tendency to quickly form conclusions without evaluating all of the facts. For example, your child may assume that a friend is not responding to texts because they don't want to be friends anymore. Ask your child to write a list of at least ten other reasons why their friend might be avoiding them. Then, ask your child to identify several strategies for approaching the problem. These could include sometimes changing the situation or removing the offending agent (e.g., making a decision to find friends whom they can trust), taking action (e.g., telling their friend what is upsetting them), or changing their attitude (e.g., recognizing that five years from now, the friend's rejection will no longer sting). Encourage them to sort out the benefits and drawbacks of each strategy and to come up with a plan of action, as well as a backup plan. (See some of the articles about resilience listed below.)5. Help them find social connections related to their interests. Gifted and twice-exceptional children crave a place where they can belong and where it feels "safe" to be smart. They long for both intellectual and social connection with peers who understand their view of the world, who appreciate their perspective, and who just “get them.” Some gifted children may find a group of like-minded peers in school, particularly when gifted programs or ability grouping are available. More often, though, they must turn to extra-curricular activities to feel a sense of belonging. Help your child identify interests where they are likely to find similar peers. This could range from activities in the creative arts to STEM fields. Examples might include theater, visual arts, music, creative writing, film production, robotics, chess, coding, or a paleontology class at a local museum. Some activities may be low-cost or offer financial scholarships when needed.6. Encourage social skills developmentSome gifted kids lag behind their peers in their social development. They might be viewed as bossy and impatient, or socially clueless. It is painful when they experience rejection or even bullying. And while you might help them embrace their differentness, it is nevertheless a daunting and upsetting experience when they don't fit in with their peers. Once your child appreciates that it is normal and understandable for them to feel different, though, you can encourage them to both embrace their uniqueness and also learn tools for navigating social interactions. This requires an expectation that they can choose (or not) to adapt when they find themselves in challenging social situations. They don't have to be the life of the party or the most popular kid in their class. But they can find other children to play with or talk to - even if they don't feel entirely comfortable. Taking on social challenges builds resilience and will engender confidence. And when your encouragement is not enough, sometimes searching for additional support is helpful. Some schools and mental health professionals offer social skills groups that can boost their confidence and improve their ability to handle these tough challenges.Additional strategies for helping your gifted or twice-exceptional child with social interactions: Where do I belong? The gifted person's lamentTips for helping your socially isolated gifted teenWhere can I find a friend? How asynchronous development affects relationshipsWhat your gifted child won't learn from academicsHow to help your gifted child build resilience: Reframing failureBuilding resilience: Strategies to support your gifted childWhen gifted students feel disconnected from school** For more insights about parenting gifted children, please see my new book, The Gifted Parenting Journey. Available through the publisher and the usual bookseller sites, this book addresses a previously neglected topic in the literature: the needs and emotional life of parents of gifted children. For more information about this book, snippets from editorial reviews, and upcoming workshops and book events, please see this link.**
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