Category: Teens

Explore ways to turn teen anxiety into resilience at Brentwood Counseling Associates.

Teen Anxiety: Why It Can Be Necessary and What Can Be Gained

Every living creature experiences anxiety. Anxiety is necessary for survival and adaptation. Normal teen anxiety is common, and generally short-lived. In today’s fast paced world, however, we live in a culture that suggests any anxiety is bad and a person who struggles with it, including adolescents, is weak or faulty. Society is so eager to diagnose a person with an official disorder.

Teenagers have been taught the need to be perfect. They have received participation trophies for their whole lives. Social media is used as a tool to present an edited/photoshopped sense of perfection. Many students get to retake their test in school to increase their GPA. We have created people who have never experienced failure. When one has been protected and has never struggled to achieve, they are often unequipped to handle the smallest mistakes later in life. These first failures can be crippling and can lead to catastrophic feelings once the safety nest of parental protection is removed.

Yet there are many positives once you learn to embrace your anxiety or face your nervousness. Studies have shown how the power of facing adversity can create resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges of any kind. The mastery of resiliency takes time and training. It is especially important for teenagers to have safe places where they can experiment with failing and facing their fears/anxieties.

3 Proven Ways to Deal with Teen Anxiety

SHARE INTENTIONALLY – Create a space for teenagers to share both successes and failures as well as opportunities to see others (more importantly adults) talk about their ups and downs. This expands a teen’s view of normal anxiety and overcoming failure, and can take place at the dinner table, a small group setting, or during prayer time.

HIGHLIGHT STRENGTHS – Find ways to highlight a teenager’s gifts. Too often, teenagers can overly magnify their smallest perceived flaws. Highlighting strengths over weaknesses, teens learn how to overcome anxiety and stress brought on by a hyper focus on the negative. We all have many different talents that are unique to each of us. Helping a teenager name their gift(s) allows them to see more than the negatives. The second part of this step is to brainstorm with them ways for the teenager to use these gifts in their everyday lives. Be specific. Challenge them to find ways to engage with their gifts daily and celebrate them when they do use them, even if it does not work out as planned.

NORMALIZE & FOSTER MENTAL TOUGHNESS – Remind teenagers that it is okay to have bad days and being mental strong is not about having it together all the time. Help them see past our society’s unhealthy need for perfection to learn that anxiety can be seen as an opportunity to grow rather than a threat or personal flaw. Mental toughness and resiliency are strengthened by learning to embrace anxiety/uncomfortableness and take action anyway. The more often a person steps into their challenges, the stronger and more confident they can become.

Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

What are the signs your child may need counseling?

Signs Your Child May Need Counseling

So, you’re wondering if your child needs a therapist and are asking yourself, “Is this (fill in the blank) normal?” I completely understand. There are a lot of worries surrounding parenting and wanting the best for your child. I want to start by saying, parents, you are the expert of your child, no one knows them better than you. Often times, parents will come into my office saying that they can sense that there is something going on with their child but they just aren’t sure if it’s normal or if it’s something they should be concerned about. I will acknowledge that sometimes it is hard to say because there can be a fine line between normal and “let’s get some help with this.” Let’s briefly talk about the definition of a “normal” child and some signs your child may need counseling from a professional therapist.

So, what’s normal?

There’s no perfect child or parent and there is some normalcy in having fluctuations in mood and behavior that are part of normal child development. Children do break the rules sometimes. I know how frustrating it can be to have your child not follow directions but testing limits is how they learn who they are and how the world works. This also creates the opportunity for you to teach them valuable lessons while they are still within your safety net and can receive your guidance and support. Sometimes, however, persistent behavior problems can be a sign of something more serious. Another thing that can be normal is changes in appetite and sleep. Have they been on a school break recently? Are they off their routine? Sometimes changes in routine can affect things like sleep and appetite. However, these changes should be monitored and if they persist beyond a couple of weeks it could be an indication that something is up.

Here are some common experiences that may trigger signs your child may need counseling with a professional therapist:

  1. Life Transitions – Sometimes change is inevitable and not all change is bad. However, sometimes kids struggle when they experience too many life changes all at once. What could be a small change for you could be having a more difficult impact on your child. Did you and your child recently move? Or did they have a change in school? It can be normal to see a brief change in your child’s behavior when they are going through life transitions. As adults, even for us we need time to adjust and get our bearings after a recent move or change in job. However, if changes in sleep, appetite or mood persist for more than a couple of weeks it could be an indication they are having difficulty handling things.
  2. Household chaos – Every family has some sort of dysfunction. Parents are people too and sometimes may have disagreements with one another, other adults, or even their children. These disagreements don’t always have a negative effect on children, but they can. Problems arise when children witness highly emotional arguments between parents, or between parents and other individuals, physical violence (pushing, hitting, shoving, etc.), someone important to them leaves the household.
  3. Separation from parent – Separations from your child can occur for many reasons (divorce, changes in custody, parents traveling for work), some reasons aren’t controllable, it doesn’t always mean it’s going negatively impact your child. There may be times in which you are not always able to be with your child. As children get older and are gaining autonomy, this is quite normal and appropriate. However, until they reach middle school children are heavily reliant on parents to meet their emotional, physical, and basic needs. I believe what is important is that children are able to maintain healthy access to parents as much as possible. It’s important to keep a close watch on how your child is handling separations from you. Problems can easily arise if a child feels their ‘safe place’ is being threatened.
  4. Death of a family member or friend – Loss is a normal part of life, and grief is not pathology. Children are able to process the death of a loved one effectively if it’s talked about and handled appropriately. Problems arise when they don’t understand what they’re feelings, have been given untruthful information or they feel its unsafe to share their feelings. Regardless, it can always be helpful to have assistance from a counselor to foster a healthy grieving process.
  5. A frightening life event – When most people think of traumatic experiences, they immediately think of things such as abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) or neglect. In these instances, counseling is always recommended regardless the presence of symptoms.
    But what if it’s not abuse or neglect? Can other things be traumatic for children? The quick answer is yes. Again, it’s important to hold in mind the perspective of a child. Something could be scary to your child that isn’t scary to you: a traumatic doctor visit, a car accident (even minor), sickness of a parent, experiencing a major natural disaster, experience with death like attending a funeral, to name a few. Young children are highly susceptible to the ‘emotion in the room’. Were other people stressed, upset or crying? If so, this could have been a traumatic experience for a young child who doesn’t understand or isn’t able to express the event’s impact.
  6. Bullying – Parents, you are unable to protect their children from everything and unfortunately, most people will have experienced some form of bullying within their life. Most of us are able to overcome this experience with support. It’s important to engage in regular check-ins about peer relationships to create the opportunity for healthy conversation with your child. This also creates the opportunity for your child to gain skills from you on how to handle stressful situations. However, sometimes, bullying is persistent. Persistent experiencing of threats to physical safety or criticism can lead to feelings of low self-esteem or worthlessness. In these cases, if can be helpful to have support from a counselor to work on healthy ways to problem solve and cope.

If your child has experienced one or more of the above it doesn’t necessarily mean they will need additional support. However, it is always a good idea to monitor your child when they are going through these experiences so you can identify warning signs your child may need counseling. Some of these signals can be:

  • Difficulty managing emotional outbursts
  • Behavior that does not respond to discipline
  • Persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Persistent increase or decrease in appetite
  • Behavior that interferes with school
  • Behavior that interferes with social interactions
  • Self-injury or talk about suicide

How can a therapist help?

Therapy can look different depending on the age of the client. With young children its often a misconception they cannot benefit from therapy because they aren’t able to understand or articulate their feelings. Research search tells us that children are able to express themselves through ways other than verbal expression. A common way is through play or other expressive activities like drawing. Children communicate their perception of the world through play and its therapeutic for them to share their feelings in this manner. It is necessary for parents to participate in therapeutic process. This creates opportunity for therapists or parents to assist the child in labeling his or her own feelings and experiences. Incorporating emotional identification and healthy coping strategies can be extremely effective in supporting children who have had stressful experiences. Being understood and having support increases the efficacy for behavior changes and overall positive functioning. As children get older, therapists are able to incorporate more verbal processing and problem solving. However, regardless the age a therapist can be an integral part of aiding in healthy development and overcoming difficult experiences.

Armed with a little more knowledge, the signs that your child may need counseling might be a little more evident. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

 

 

adhd testing

ADHD Testing

Testing for ADHD can be as brief as a school or pediatric screening; or, if a learning disability is suspected, it may be as comprehensive as a full psychoeducational evaluation or neuropsychological assessment. Typically, the protocol is somewhere in-between. At Brentwood Counseling, experienced psychologists and educational consultants help evaluate Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, adolescents and adults using the following protocol:

  • Parent Interview and Review of History
  • Parent Rating Scales (ADHD, Developmental History, Behavior/Psychological)
  • Teacher Rating Scales
  • Self-Rating Scales (older students and adults)
  • Consultation with referring therapist or physician (when appropriate)
  • Extensive Clinical Interview with child, adolescent, or adult (typically requires two sessions)
  • Observation of child in classroom (when appropriate)
  • Psychological Screening to help rule out other concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression, behavior disorder)
  • Written report
  • Feedback session with parents to review results and recommendations for treatment, etc.

It is important to remember that ADHD is not a binary (yes/no) diagnosis that a certain score on a specific test can identify.  Rather it is a continuum disorder that presents in varying degrees as a deficit in some aspect of self-regulation (attention, focus, hyperactivity, impulsivity).  An ADHD diagnosis requires concerns in childhood that continue to have a negative impact over time in more than one setting (e.g., school, relationships, family, work).  Even well-trained professionals can disagree as to causes of these problems with self-regulation, but basic symptoms are outlined in the Diagnostic of Statistical Manual (D.S.M.-5) and provide helpful guidelines for clinicians with the evaluation process. If a diagnosis is made, treatment options include behavioral/psychological interventions, environmental changes, parenting modifications, school accommodations, neurofeedback and, at times, medication.

 

If you are in need of ADHD testing, contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

 

 

Father and son on a hike can be a way to connect when parenting an ADHD adolescent.

Parenting ADHD Adolescents

Parenting teenagers is challenging enough, but when parenting ADHD adolescents is part of the equation, that challenge is almost always greater. As a psychologist who has tested, consulted and counseled for many years with ADHD teenagers and their parents, here are some thoughts, tips and encouragements (some light-hearted, some not so much). A general principal that runs through these suggestions is that neither adolescence nor ADHD are to be “fixed” or cured, but more to be experienced, processed and managed with understanding, support…and a healthy sense of humor.

General Survival Tips for Parenting ADHD Adolescent

  • Buy more liability insurance
  • Invest in the stock of your teen’s ADHD medication
  • Recommit to a life of prayer and regular church attendance
  • Have brochures of military schools on coffee table
  • Build your airline miles for parent trips only
  • Get over ethical concerns about bribing teachers

What To Expect from an ADHD Adolescent

  • Hormones and ADHD create confusing mix
  • Hyperactivity will likely diminish; inattention and impulsivity…not so much
  • Likely twists and turns on medications
  • Even more academic inconsistency
  • Higher risk for acting out behaviors including alcohol, drugs, sex
  • Lots of “knucklehead”moments
  • Entertainment, creativity, surprises
  • ADHD “spillovers” (emotional, social)

What To Try

  • Let go of control/power
  • Focus on influence that comes from relationship
  • Insist on physical activity
  • Pick fewer battles but hold forth on the few
  • Seriously reduce lecture, nagging, debating
  • Set clear expectations, limits and predictable consequences
  • Lose the emotional drama (yours, not theirs!)
  • Shorten list of things worth the battle
  • Work on your marriage
  • Don’t lose your own life/identity
  • Break negative cycle of behavior/response
  • Be open to creative options (with school, sports, activities)
  • Be intentional about finding “good news”
  • Help them find their gifts and talents

What To Remember

  • This is a season of life, not the rest of life
  • Adolescence for our kids recycles our teenage years
  • Goal is for them to leave home
  • Often parent/teen conflict is a good thing
  • Bridge to adulthood requires many travelers
  • Most likely, all will survive

If you’re parenting an ADHD adolescent, and you’d like to explore the ways you can better prepare for the associated challenges, contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

Resources

ADHD in Adolescence, Robin and Barkley

Driven to Distraction & Delivered from Distraction, Hallowell, Ratey

Surviving Your Adolescent, Phelan;

Smart but Scattered Teens, Guare et al

Taking Charge of ADHD, Barkley

Anxiety and Depression in Teens

Anxiety and Depression in Teens and Young Adults: When is it Time to Talk to a Professional?

by Stephanie Insko

You may have heard about the alarming increase in anxiety and depression among college students. I have seen this concerning trend firsthand in the couple of decades since my first job in a university counseling center. Sure, I worked with a lot of students who were dealing with depression and anxiety back then. But the majority of the students seeking counseling were simply struggling to adjust to the newfound responsibilities, decisions, and relationship dynamics that came with college life. In other words, they were in the thick of the learning curve of becoming adults.

The challenges of adjusting to adulthood have not gone away in those nearly 20 years. But they are inherently more difficult for the average young person to navigate while also struggling with untreated anxiety and depression. Therefore, it’s more crucial than ever that young folks address any mental health concerns before they’re on their own, trying to perform in college or on the job. But how do you know when it’s time to seek the help of a mental health professional?

Clinical anxiety and depression can sneak up on us, and may go unnoticed until functioning is affected. In teens and young adults, this often shows up as a decline in school or work performance. There might be a lack of interest or motivation to improve, and problems concentrating might make it nearly impossible to do so. Social functioning might change, too, with increased isolation from friends. A loss of interest in previously-loved activities is another warning sign. Other signals that this is more than a “rough patch” include changes in appetite, sleep, and overall energy levels.

If you’ve noticed any of these signs, it might be time to consult a therapist. Anxiety and depression in teens are manageable concerns, and therapy is a collaborative effort to develop a plan to do so. Maybe you’re a parent noticing some signs that worry you as you send your child off to college. Or maybe you’re a young adult struggling to balance depression or anxiety with the demands of school or a job. Whatever the age or stage, a good relationship with a therapist can help you figure out how to manage it all.

parenting adhd kids

Parenting ADHD Kids and Teens

by David Elkins

To Understand

ADHD is not just an immature, overly active child; a passive, defiant middle schooler; or an unmotivated, lazy teenager.  ADHD is a neurobiological condition that presents with deficits in self-regulation (attention, focus, over-activity, or impulsivity) starting in early childhood and at times may create impairment in school, relationships, or daily activities.

ADHD is a continuum disorder, not yes/no or black/white.  The Executive Functioning area of the brain (prefrontal cortex) is not fully developed until mid 20’s.  The “ADHD brain” often lags several years behind.

ADHD often co-exists with other behavioral, learning, and psychological concerns (e.g., learning disability, cognitive processing deficit, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem).

ADHD is a lifelong challenge with Age/Stage Implications.  ADHD kids and teens often

  • Take the scenic route
  • Display “quick twitch”
  • Act like “knuckleheads”
  • Act clueless and don’t make connections
  • Are high maintenance, high risk, and high reward

…and where do you think this comes from?  (Whose family tree gets “credit”?)

To Remember

  1. The system is the solution (develop a program-e.g., points for positive behavior)
  2. Surprise is not your friend (plan ahead and tell them about the plan)
  3. Kiss the third request goodbye (one or two is enough)
  4. Being right is highly over-rated (power struggles miss the point and will not work)
  5. Keep your mental illness to yourself (control your emotions and language)
  6. If it is not written, down, it doesn’t exist (lists, notes, charts, technology)

To Try

Behavioral/Psychological – Environmental/Life Style

While there is no magical parenting formula, parenting ADHD kids and teens needs to be more proactive, more intentional, and more thoughtful in their approaches.  These strategies apply to parenting all children; however, they are especially helpful with children who have issues of inattention, impulsivity, and over-activity.

  1. First, get their attention (eye contact, prompts)
  2. Structure, structure, and more structure (routines, consistency)
  3. Catch them being good #1 (to reinforce positive behaviors)
  4. Talk and fuss less, behave more (clear expectations, clear consequences)
  5. Run for your life! (or walk, swim, kick, jump, climb, move, exercise)
  6. Teach “executive functioning” skills (study strategies, organization)
  7. Catch them being good #2 (to build confidence, self-esteem)
  8. Find the best school fit, then advocate (504, IEP, Learning Services)
  9. Offer academic tutoring (to build basic skills)
  10. Seek counseling or coaching (for you and your child)
  11. Catch them being good #3 (to shape your behavior)
  12. Teach emotional self-control (don’t assume it)
  13. Don’t over-schedule (to provide down time, rest, and sleep)
  14. Catch them being good #4 (to help break the negative cycle of behavior, punishment, anger, avoidance, loss in self-esteem, depression, acting out)

And finally…

  1. CELEBRATE THE GOOD NEWS OF ADHD (intelligence, creativity, independence, out-of-the-box thinking, “quick twitch” athleticism, sense of humor, energy, enthusiasm)

Books

  • Taking Charge of ADHD, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, 3rd Edition, Barkley
  • ADHD Workbook for Parents, Parker
  • Spark, Ratey
  • The Gift of ADHD, Honos-Webb
  • ADHD in Adolescence, Robin & Barkley
  • Smart But Scattered, Dawson & Guare, and Smart But Scattered Teens, Guare, Dawson & Guare
  • Give your ADD Teen a Chance, Weiss

Websites

Explore ways to turn teen anxiety into resilience at Brentwood Counseling Associates.

Teen Anxiety: Why It Can Be Necessary and What Can Be Gained

Every living creature experiences anxiety. Anxiety is necessary for survival and adaptation. Normal teen anxiety is common, …

What are the signs your child may need counseling?

Signs Your Child May Need Counseling

So, you’re wondering if your child needs a therapist and are asking yourself, “Is this (fill in the blank) normal?” …

adhd testing

ADHD Testing

Testing for ADHD can be as brief as a school or pediatric screening; or, if a learning disability is suspected, it may be …