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

These past 18 months have been tough, Loss, uncertainty, anxiety, and the daily inconveniences wrought by COVID-19 have affected just about everyone. It is not surprising that parents of young children have been identified as one of the most stressed-out demographics. Lack of clarity about childcare, few good educational options, and questions about when to allow your child to socialize are just a few of the stressors parents face. Worries about keeping your family safe, supporting your child's emotional well-being, and the possibility of another lost school year add to the mix. 

With school starting up again, parents may question how to support their child's motivation and well-being. Will they adapt after a year of online or hybrid classes? Will they flounder socially, especially if they had limited contact with peers over the past year? Will they exert effort - even if classes seem different or revert to online instruction again? 

Parenting a gifted child poses additional challenges. While some gifted children are highly adaptable, others may struggle. Rigid expectations, perfectionism, heightened sensitivity, and difficulty relating to peers complicate adjustment to this new normal of 2021. And watered-down or hybrid instruction is likely even more frustrating for gifted children. 

How can you help your gifted child adapt to this new school year? Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Support their innate resilience

Remind your child that despite disappointments, they will thrive and adapt. Allow your child to feel discouraged - without shame - but then address how they can move forward. This is no different than how you might respond to their disappointment over losing a soccer tournament, failing a test, or friendship woes. Let them know you care and understand their upset, but reassure them that you know they will move past this. For younger children, you might invoke a superhero character they admire who rises to a challenge. For older children, point out the character-building aspects of enduring hardship (even if they roll their eyes), and that you have no doubt they will get through this. Point out that resilience is borne of struggle.

2. Challenge any tendency to obsess or intensify their anxiety

Many gifted children - with such highly active minds - have a tendency to overthink and obsess. Remind them that logic and strategic planning are quite different from obsessive thinking. Help them develop strategies for relaxing their body and mind by identifying calming techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mindfulness, and using their senses to relax through music, aromatherapy, or visual imagery of a peaceful scene (note that in addition to the links listed here, many additional strategies can be found online). Essentially, you are providing them a toolbox of strategies they can try. Point out that overthinking and overplanning only temporarily relieve anxiety, and instead, fuel further obsessive thinking. Help them identify a reasonable plan for whatever worries them, and agree to stick with it. Cognitive-behavioral techniques and resilience-building strategies, as mentioned here, can be used to challenge negative thinking.

3. Use this period in time to overcome perfectionism, rigidity, and unrealistic expectations. 

During the Pandemic, some activities once viewed as reliable outlets were curtailed or completely eliminated (e.g., sports, theater, music ensembles). Schools cut back on classroom instruction, and offered whatever they could as they limped through a difficult year. If your gifted child holds high standards or is perfectionistic, their efforts may have been stymied. This is a good time to revisit the downside of perfectionism, and support a healthier intrinsic drive to excel. The absence of typical feedback or competitions through school may allow them to engage their abilities without comparing themselves to others. If your gifted child holds inflexible expectations toward self or others, encourage them to work toward breaking free from these constraints. The Pandemic has been a great equalizer, and your child may be able to put some harsh, self-imposed expectations into perspective. Achieving perfection, for example, may no longer seem so important. 

4. Encourage motivation, despite limited opportunities

If your gifted child trends toward underachievement - especially when frustrated with the curriculum - remind them that hard work is still expected. They may feel discouraged and angry over rote assignments or an absence of extra-curriculars that provided contact with like-minded peers. Nevertheless, just as their household chores have not magically disappeared during the Pandemic, they still are expected to apply themselves at school. Remind your child that these are difficult times, and although their frustration is understandable, their job as a student requires active effort and participation. You might consider sharing examples of your own past motivational struggles. Again, acknowledge their distress, but remain consistent with your reasonable expectations.

5. Help your child envision new and different opportunities

For gifted children who already felt disconnected from school, online or hybrid classes or homeschooling may have provided relief from social stressors. A reduction in academic demands may have opened up new opportunties that previously were overlooked. Your child may have discovered new hobbies and interests over the past year, developed deeper friendships within their "social bubble," or felt free to be themselves without the peer pressure to conform. Help your child embrace some of this self-discovery and continue to incorporate it into their lives going forward. 

As we all stumble through this difficult period of time and wait patiently until life regains some normalcy, recognize that your loving, attentive, consistent, and forgivably imperfect parenting provides the foundation that allows your child to thrive. Your flexibility, endurance, and ability to regroup when situations go awry also serve as models for your child's learning. Wishing you all a healthy, engaging school year ahead.

(Note: if you or your child cannot rebound and feels depressed, anxious, or hopeless, it is critical to seek support through your local crisis intervention center or therapy with a licensed mental health professional.)

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