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Earlier this month, on March 2nd, we celebrated World Teen Mental Wellness Day. However, teen mental wellness is something that requires more attention and care than just one day. Taking care of our teen’s mental wellness means taking the extra effort to build a genuine, healthy relationship with your teen!
We all know that the teen years can be some of the toughest times in parenting. With changes in body, hormones, social relationships, and a desire for independence, it’s easy to let a wall be built between us and our teens. Though they may seem resistant, our teens need us the most during these years to ensure they have a trusted and supportive adult who can help them figure out such turbulent times.
Here are four ways to build a healthy relationship with your teen:
1. Be respectful of their growing independence.
During the teen years, your teen may give you attitude, argue with you more frequently, tell you that “you don’t get it”, and overall make it very difficult to do your job as a parent. You may be feeling like you’ve failed as a parent since your teen has changed from the child you knew before. This struggle is normal! Teens are simply exploring their independence and trying to establish themselves as their own person and it is not always a pretty transition.
As their parent, it helps to be mindful of this new chapter of self-discovery. Don’t make fun of your teen or discourage them when they are exploring different parts of themselves. Encourage them to be curious and confident! It may be anxiety-provoking to watch your child make mistakes, but sometimes that is the best way to learn. Your teen will develop good judgement by making mistakes and learning from them, so grant them the autonomy and privacy to do that. Of course, you don’t want your teen to be participating in unhealthy hobbies that can mentally or physically harm them (such as drugs and underaged drinking) which brings us to the next point.
2. Establish clear boundaries & values in the family
Although your teen is becoming a young adult, you still need to remain the main adult and point of guidance for your family. Without setting any boundaries or values for your teen, too much freedom can cause your teen to experience confusion about what to do with their independence. Instead, learn to balance giving your teen space to explore while calmly establishing boundaries. This can look like, during dinner saying, “I really want to spend time with you. Let’s both agree to keep our phones off and hang out as a family!” or “I want to make sure you’re safe, so let’s set a curfew for 10pm. If you need to go past that, you’ll need to talk to me ahead of time. Is that okay with you?”. When setting boundaries with your teen, make sure to explain why the boundary is needed and if it is value based, briefly explain why the value is important to you and your family (such as your need to know your teen is safe). Asking your teens to participate in boundary setting and rules is encouraged. You will find teens are more likely to follow the rules and boundaries if they have a part in setting them.
3. Be authentic and genuine.
At this age, teens appreciate and need to see when people are authentic and genuine. This means admitting when you are unsure of things or make a mistake. You can apologize to your teen when appropriate and show them that it is okay to not be perfect. It is even ok to “take a time out” if you are emotional about a topic or situation. It is ok to say, “I need to take a time out here. Give me 5 minutes and let’s get back to our conversation.” This allows your teen to know that we are all still growing and learning. When people fail or make a mistake, the right thing to do is to acknowledge it and then learn from it. Show your teen that you are proud of them and okay with the fact that we are all “works in progress”, and there is no shame about that!
4. Be engaged & interested in your teen's life.
More importantly than anything else, do not let the hardships of the teen years ruin the love between you and your teen. Continue to show them that you care with simple actions such as asking them about their day, looking for things to compliment them on, spending quality time together or, no matter how much you dislike it, listen to their music with them. Teens love coffee, boba, frozen yoghurt, video games, watching TikTok videos, etc. Find time to connect with your teen so they know you are a resource and someone available to talk to about anything! When you are talking with your teen, it can be easy to slip into unsolicited advice that may make them feel annoyed. If your teen does talk with you about a friend or themselves, listen and do not try to problem solve. LISTEN and do not give advice. If you want to give advice, ask if they want your advice before you share. Do not shame them if they approach you with an issue and respect the decisions that they choose to make. Offer guidance if they want it, otherwise, JUST LISTEN. It is important that parents are emotionally observant and present in a teen’s life. Make time to hang out with your teen and show them that you are always there to support not shame them!
Remember, as parents, we play a large role in getting our teens through the difficult transition from a being a child to a young adult. Without guidance, your teen can feel lost and confused which can lead to issues in their mental wellness. While parents can’t protect their children from everything that comes their way, we can make sure our teens know that they will always be loved and supported! Take the first step in building a lasting relationship with your teen today, and if you’re not sure where to start, Kids’ Turn San Diego is here for you!
Understanding ADHD: Walk in My Shoes and Gain Perspective on the Most Common Myths
October is known for Halloween festivities, but did you know that it is also the official month for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness? Many children and adults live with ADHD, as it is very common. This poem tells it all:
Take my hand and come with me,
I want to teach you about ADHD.
I need you to know, I want to explain,
I have a very different brain.
Sights, sounds, and thoughts collide.
What to do first? I can’t decide.
Please understand I’m not to blame,
I just can’t process things the same.
Take my hand and walk with me,
Let me show you about ADHD.
I try to behave, I want to be good,
But I sometimes forget to do as I should.
Walk with me and wear my shoes,
You’ll see it’s not the way I’d choose.
I do know what I’m supposed to do,
But my brain is slow getting the message through.
Take my hand and talk with me,
I want to tell you about ADHD.
I rarely think before I talk,
I often run when I should walk.
It’s hard to get my school work done,
My thoughts are outside having fun.
I never know just where to start,
I think with my feelings and see with my heart.
Take my hand and stand by me,
I need you to know about ADHD.
It’s hard to explain but I want you to know,
I can’t help letting my feelings show.
Sometimes I’m angry, jealous, or sad.
I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and mad.
I can’t concentrate and I lose all my stuff.
I try really hard but it’s never enough.
Take my hand and learn with me,
We need to know more about ADHD.
I worry a lot about getting things wrong,
Everything I do takes twice as long.
Everyday is exhausting for me…
Looking through the fog of ADHD.
I’m often so misunderstood,
I would change in a heartbeat if I could.
Take my hand and listen to me,
I want to share a secret about ADHD.
I want you to know there is more to me.
I’m not defined by it, you see.
I’m sensitive, kind and lots of fun.
I’m blamed for things I haven’t done.
I’m the loyalist friend you’ll ever know,
I just need a chance to let it show.
Take my hand and look at me,
Just forget about the ADHD.
I have real feelings just like you.
The love in my heart is just as true.
I may have a brain that can never rest,
But please understand I’m trying my best.
I want you to know, I need you to see,
I’m more than the label, I am still me!!!!
This poem speaks the truth about people living with ADHD. I hope you will always remember the last line of the poem, “I’m more than a label, I am still me!!!!” because ADHD does not define a person. Instead, ADHD is a behavioral condition that can make everyday routines and tasks more challenging for people who have ADHD. By the way, if you had it as a child, you probably still have it as an adult but hopefully you learned strategies over the years to manage your energy and have put systems in place to keep you focused and organized. Here are some tips for helping children manage ADHD challenges.
1. Provide clear, consistent expectations, directions, and limits. Children with ADHD are most successful when the adults in their lives are consistent. In divorced families, there are oftentimes different rules and structure at each home. For example, one parent may have bedtimes, homework time and dinner time, while the other parent may avoid rules and structure and go with the flow when their children are with them. Different rules in different houses can be challenging for all children in divorced families but most children easily adjust and transition from one set of rules to the other. However, for children with ADHD, the adjustment and transition may not be so easy. If your child has ADHD, we encourage you to read the poem again and take a walk in your child’s shoes. Children with ADHD respond well to structure, so rules and charts are a great tool for success. Break activities down and give one direction at a time. Praise your child and encourage them to be successful. Charts with stickers for success are fun for elementary age children and, believe it or not, even older children like to gain rewards, so be creative with your older children.
2. If a doctor has prescribed ADHD medications, follow the doctor’s order. Children who have been prescribed ADHD medications are most successful when their medications are taken as prescribed. In divorced families, oftentimes parents are not on the same page about ADHD medications. What does this look like? Here’s the visual. . .our child gets their medications during the first and third weeks of the month when they are with me but they do not take the medications on weeks two and four because their other parent doesn’t believe in giving medications, and probably doesn’t believe in the ADHD diagnosis. As with all other medications, ADHD medications need to be given consistently to work effectively and to avoid negative effects to the child. The medications are prescribed to help a child focus. If you don’t think your child needs the medications or you don’t believe in the diagnosis, we encourage you to read the poem again. Is this your child? If co-parents disagree, talk to the doctors and get on the same page. It is not fair, nor is it healthy, for your child to be on and off medications.
3. Boost your child’s confidence. Children with ADHD may receive lots of negative feedback from others in their lives, including teachers, parents, coaches, and peers. Every negative comment hurts their heart and may negatively impact their self-esteem. Read the poem again and share it with everyone in your child’s life. Your child deserves to be understood and treated with respect at all times. As your child’s parent, ensure your child has positive interactions and hears the word “yes” way more than they hear “no”. Spend time with your child and engage in activities that strengthen and build your child’s self-esteem. Schedule fun outings with your child, praise your child for big and small successes, acknowledge your child’s strengths, and tell your child how much you love them!
Here are some tips for parents:
- Don’t waste your emotional energy on self blame. You may have experienced negative experiences where people shame or blame you for your child’s behaviors. Remember, ADHD is not a result of poor parenting. ADHD is a behavioral condition that has to do with the structure of your child’s brain. When you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe and remember your child’s love at the center of it all. You can join a support group and seek professional help to ensure you are your best self for your child. There are also lots of social media sites that you may find helpful.
- Educate yourself and become your child’s best advocate. The best way to help your child is to take time to learn all you can about ADHD. Know how ADHD specifically affects your child, as every child is different, and be able to speak up for your child’s rights! Here are some common ADHD myths that you may find helpful:
As co-parents, the best thing you can do for your child is to communicate and cooperate because, at the end of the day, you love your child above all else and your child loves both of their parents. To learn more about October ADHD Awareness Month check out the official ADHD Awareness website!
This year, we are celebrating a BIG milestone! Kids’ Turn San Diego has been offering Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families for 25 years. We have listened to thousands of children share their experiences, and, for the most part, their needs have remained stable over time.
“I want to see both my parents.”
“I want my parents to stop fighting/arguing/yelling at each other.”
“I want my parents to pay attention to me.”
Prior to COVID-19, there were several common threads in the stories shared by the children attending our program. Children witnessed frequent fighting between their parents and were often brought into the fights. Children wanted to spend time with their parents, and they liked it when their parents got down on the floor and played with them. Some of the children felt like messengers passing information between their parents. A few of the children felt caught in the middle between their parents, an experience that was very stressful for them. Many of the children wanted their family to get along because it stressed them out.
One year ago, COVID-19 began to change everything. Most divorced parents came together and collaborated for the safety of their children, and children successfully transitioned from one home to their other home, week after week.
Sadly, not all children were so fortunate. Some children found themselves stuck between parents with different beliefs, different strategies for ensuring health and safety, and, saddest of all, some children had no contact with their other parent as one of their parents used COVID-19, probably unconsciously, as a tool to keep their kids away from their other parent.
Sadly, some children are still not seeing one of their parents to this day.
In every Workshop this past year, we have heard these stories over and over.
Regardless of your relationship with your co-parent or your history together, you must remember that your children are not just yours. They are half of you and half of their other parent. They deserve to have healthy relationships with both of their parents — and you have a big role to play in this. Their brains are constantly developing, and they are learning from what they see and hear every day. They will copy the behavior and words that are being modeled.
Your children deserve the best of you and we want you to be the best parent and co-parent possible. If you are engaging in blaming, name-calling, manipulating or controlling, we encourage you to take a look at yourself and the behaviors you are choosing. We invite you to think about your choices. Are they in your best interest, or are you hurt, angry or upset and need extra support to work through these feelings? Are they in the best interest of your children, or do your children deserve to have relationships with both their parents, regardless of how you may feel about their other parent? These are hard questions, but feelings are normal and okay when they are addressed in healthy ways and without involving your children and their relationship with their other parent. There are many resources available to support you, especially at Kids’ Turn San Diego!
If you are the parent who has not been able to see your children, here are some suggestions for making the most of your parent-child relationship, even if you are apart for now:
- Know that someday your child will realize what has occurred and they will come back and want a relationship. This may take 10 years, but with almost all children, as their brain develops, they begin to see through the name-calling and bad-mouthing so be ready for this day.
- Keep a journal for your child. Pick out a special notebook and write a note to your child whenever you see something that reminds you of them. For example, maybe you see a beautiful sunset and it reminds you of a day you spent together at the beach. Write a note in the journal to your child. “When I was walking the dog today, the sunset was amazing. Pink, purple and some orange. It made me think of you and reminded me of the time when we were at the beach and . . .”. Make sure to date each and every entry. Someday you will be able to present this journal to your child and they will realize that you thought of them often and wished you were together.
- Put together a parent-child picture memory album. Children love to see pictures of themselves when they were little and especially pictures with their parents. Purchase a photo album or a binder to create a parent-child memory album. Add special photos of you and your child and write in notes and details. Someday you will be able to present this memory album to your child. If you are seeing your children regularly, this is still a great idea!
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month and Parental Alienation Awareness Month. Parental alienation is any act by a parent that tries to destroy the relationship between a child and their other parent. Though not a syndrome or diagnosis, parental alienation can be considered a form of psychological abuse.
And childhood happiness most often does not include the word “abuse.”
Join us in the prevention of parental alienation and child abuse. Support your children’s happiness and encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with their other parent!
Many of us have been spending more time at home than ever — but are we truly connecting, engaging and sharing with each other, especially our children?
Parents are trying hard to keep up with work amid the distractions at home, but children are also struggling with this new arrangement. They need our attention and time.
Parents are busy, but intentionally carving out quality time together can help.
Quality time doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost money. Even small moments can be a source of connection with our children. Check out our ideas below for how we can spend more quality time with our kids while staying safer at home.
- Have a dance party
- Color together
- Play Hide and seek
- Play Candyland
- Play tic-tac-toe
- Do arts and crafts
- Decorate your home with pictures you draw together
- Read together
- Make cards for family and friends
- Create a scavenger hunt for things around the house
- Paint with watercolors
- Play “Go Fish”
- Play charades
- Play Pictionary
- Watch a movie together
- Play the Guess the Feeling game
- Make pizza or mac and cheese and eat together
- Play video games together (in moderation)
- Bake cookies together
- Make and enjoy smoothies together
- Ride bikes together
- Have a dance or sing-a-long party
- Watch their favorite show with them
- Play board games
- Cook a recipe and eat together
- Go for a walk together
- Go for a drive to pick up special takeout or a treat
- Give yourselves manicures or pedicures together
- Make tie-dye shirts together
- Listen to each other’s music
- Create a family picture album together
- Do something fun that your teen enjoyed when they were younger, like coloring hard-boiled eggs, cutting out snowflakes or drawing together
As parents, sometimes we get so caught up in being adults or parents that we forget how to get down on the floor and play, or that dance parties and sing-a-longs are fun. When it comes to spending time with our kids, the activity is less important than the quality of the time together! Find your inner child and make the most of being at home with your children. No one is watching, so let yourself have some fun. You deserve it!