Beware: Alcoholism and substance abuse is not an adult problem. Teens can also fall victim to the lure of alcohol. In fact, teens may be particularly vulnerable, since the teenage years is a trying and confusing time. There is the added pressure from peers and the need to be accepted and to “look cool”.
Alcohol is a teenager’s substance of choice. Teenagers often have the misconception that being able to handle one’s alcohol makes one more “grown up”. Alcohol is also attractive since teens like the way alcohol makes them feel – invincible, fearless and happy. According to statistics, 14% of teenagers have experienced being drunk at least once in a given year. In addition, around 8% of adolescents have tried binge drinking, or drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a row.
Parents should not disregard signs of alcohol abuse, thinking that this is just a phase where the teenage child is experimenting. Rather, there are strong indications that early experimentation of alcohol can result in adverse consequences for the child’s future.
According to a study made by Dr. Avshalom Caspi and Terri Moffitt of Duke University, preteens who regularly indulged in substance abuse, especially alcohol and drugs, are more likely to experience:
– Unwanted pregnancies (with a high probability of getting pregnant before a teenage girl reaches 21 years of age).
– Failing grades and behavioral issues in school
– Contracting a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV
– Conviction of a criminal act
– Drug dependency
This is regardless of whether the teen comes from a home where members also indulged in substance abuse or not. In addition, teens may be addicted to alcohol and other substances more easily than adults. The younger a person starts drinking, the higher the possibility they will develop alcohol abuse problems.
Aside from the possibility of alcohol addition, the use of alcohol during the teenage years may result in:
– Problems with concentrating and remembering
– The propensity of abusing other substances (i.e. marijuana) along with alcohol
– Indulging in risky behavior that may put the teen and others in danger. Statistics indicate that more than 2,000 people ages 21 and below die annually in car crashes caused by underage drinking and driving.
– Higher probability of suicide attempts
– Higher risk of indulging in risky sexual behavior (.e. having sex with multiple partners, having unprotected sex, having sex with strangers)
Challenge for the Parents
The challenge is for the parents to act accordingly to prevent their teen from being addicted to alcohol. The family setup and environment can do a lot to keep a child on track (such as going for Utah counseling) or to enable the child to veer off towards alcoholism. Preventing alcoholism or recovering from teenage alcoholism will require efforts not just from the teen but from the whole family as well.
Here are some things you can do:
– Preventing alcohol use. Parents can help minimize the harmful effects of alcoholism by:
o Having close communications with the teen. This includes discussing how alcohol can negatively affect him and how he can deal with the pressure peers may exert for him to try drinking. Parents should also discuss expectations with regards to alcohol use. If your child has the sense that you will tolerate alcohol use, chances are, he will be more likely to give it a try.
o Supervision. Parents should supervise the teen and be aware of his activities and whereabouts. Parents should also do well to get to know their child’s friends.
o Keep the teen occupied. Simply saying “don’t” is not enough. Parents should also give alternative activities to keep the child busy. This can include being involved in sports, the arts, or programs in church.
– Recognize the red flags. There are some warning signs that point towards alcohol abuse in your teen and it will be useful to recognize these signs early on so that you can take appropriate action. Here are some signs:
o Problems at school. This includes truancy, discipline problems and falling grades.
o Changes in peer group and hang-outs. The teen may shift to a peer group that shares this propensity to abuse alcohol and other substances.
o Changes in activities. The teen may give up activities that he used to enjoy and that used to be important to him.
o Problems with the law
o Physical symptoms, including dilated pupils, slurred speech, red, bloodshot eyes, rapid weight loss, memory lapses and lack of physical coordination. The teen may also complain of headaches in the morning. Other symptoms include lethargy and pasty, dull skin.
o Changes in habits and behaviors. The teen may become more careless with his hygiene and may disregard his appearance. Other symptoms also include breaking house rules, such as the curfew, borrowing (or stealing) money from you or from friends, lying and having alcohol-related paraphernalia. The teen may also prefer to spend more time inside his room, rather than socializing with the rest of the family. He may also have mood swings, appear sullen, or even verbally or physically abusive.
– Admit that there is a problem.Acknowledging that there is a substance abuse issue is a big and difficult step for parents to make. This is especially true if the parents’ behavior may have also contributed to and sustained the problem. However, recognizing the problem will lead towards helpful and productive steps, such as going to a Utah substance abuse counselor.
– Going for Family Therapy. Since the problem will need the cooperation of all the family members, it will be helpful to seek family counseling in Utah. This will help the teen make the necessary steps towards recovering. In addition, the family will also be able to recognize enabling and denying behaviors that may actually have made the problem worse.
Indeed, the help of an experienced Provo substance abuse counselor will first assess the family dynamic and help each member cope and deal with the problem appropriately. You see, even after a teen recovers from his substance abuse problem and has made the necessary changes for the better, the family may not be equipped to act and react in a way that will support the teen’s recovery. Family counseling in Provo provides the tools needed for the entire family to make healthy changes.
Do you often hear this in your home?
Parent 1: “Why did you allow Matt to go out with his friends when his homework is not yet finished?”
Parent 2: “He’ll finish it when he comes back. Why are you always so strict? Give the kid a break!”
Parent 1: “What were you thinking? Why did you give our child such as expensive gift?”
Parent 2: “Well, I want our child to enjoy the finer things in life.”
Parent 1: “Sharon broke a friend’s mobile phone. She’s grounded.”
Parent 2: “I think we should let Sharon earn the money to replace her friend’s phone.”
Different Strokes for Different Folks
More often than not, parents have different parenting styles and this difference creates conflict, not just between the two spouses, but in their children as well. We must remember that parenting styles are an extension of your personality and upbringing. And because we are each our own person with our distinct personalities, we also handle situations with our kids differently. When one is cool-headed and relaxed, the other may all too quickly fly off the handle. When one is more permissive (“enjoy yourself, do what you feel is fine”), the other parent may be more authoritarian (“Do it because I said so.”) When one yearns for structures and schedules, the other tends to go with the flow and be more laidback.
It is important for parents to remember that the overall goal is to be able to raise children to be strong, happy and responsible adults. Parenting, after all, is a partnership between the father and mother. However, this is often not the case. When parents disagree about how the children will be raised, this can result to:
– Giving the children a weakness to exploit. Children, seeing the conflict between you, can pit you against each other. Did the mother say “no” with regards to a certain rule? Why not ask dad and see if he says “yes”?
– Confusing the children. If there are different parenting styles, children tend to end up confused with regards to rules and standards of behavior. How do we behave when mom thinks it’s okay but dad gets angry if we act a certain way?
– Forcing children to take sides. This is a responsibility that is too heavy for a child to bear. A child should not be made to take sides (and subsequently feel guilty) because of the parents’ conflicting parenting styles. Also, constant conflicts with parenting styles result in the child choosing one parent over the other, based on the parenting style they feel works in their best interest at the moment. Utilizing the “good cop/bad cop” routine in parenting only creates confusion and guilt in the child.
– Contributing to a child’s depression. A child may feel depressed and stressed out due to the child’s guilt feelings or confusion. The child may need to have family counseling in Provo to help him deal with these feelings of depression
Thus, it is important for two parents to come together and discuss how they will parent their child.
Here are some things that parents can do to help unify their parenting styles:
– Explore your own parenting style. It helps to be more self-aware about how we parent. Start by looking at these key areas:
o How you express your love and affection. Do you do it using words? Or do you tend to lavish your kids with hugs and kisses? Or, do you say how you feel through extravagant gifts?
o How you play your role as caretaker and nurturer. Are you uninvolved? Or are you too involved?
o How you make decisions.
o How you exercise discipline.
Being more aware of your parenting style will help you adjust this style when adjustments are warranted.
– Agree on strategies and core values. Discuss with your spouse the set of values you want your child to have. Ask yourself and your spouse:”What is my child’s best interest and what is the best parenting style to achieve that?”
– Recognize the best in each other. Each parent has his or her own areas of strength. And this area of strength can benefit your child. Recognizing what each parent can bring to the table can help create a spirit of cooperation between you and your spouse.
– Point out areas of conflict in parenting. Identify the areas in which your parenting styles clash and decide on what the best style and strategy would apply for that situation.
– Don’t undermine each other’s authority. Argue and discuss if you must, but do this out of child’s sight and out of earshot. Arguing in front of your child is costly, as your child ends up devaluing one parent over another. Also, avoid countermanding or going against your spouse’s decision. Rather than telling your child that you’re canceling your spouse’s decision to ground your child, you can discuss between yourselves and again come up with a unified decision you can apply when the same situation comes up. By presenting a united front for your child, you avoid confusing your child and make your standards of behavior clearer for your child.
– Ask for help. Sometimes it takes Utah counseling to help thresh things out between you and your spouse with regards to developing a unified parenting style. It is good to get seasoned Utah counselors, as their experience will help provide you with valuable insights.
Provo counselors will help provide you and your spouse with parenting and communicating tools that can help you establish your unified parenting style. Therapists in Provo can help you become more self-aware of your own parenting style and help you as a couple to draft your own strategies with regards to parenting styles.
“I’m so fat. I hate myself.”
“I want to be taller. What can I do to improve my height.”
“I look too puny. How will I develop my muscles?”
“I hate my freckles.”
“I need a tan.”
Teenagers face a lot of pressure with regards to their appearance. Coupled with the desire to fit in with one’s peer group, to look “hot”, there is added pressure coming from the media, which has perpetuated a certain body image. Pop stars and models sport form-fitting clothes. Sports figures and Hollywood hunks with six-pack abs and big muscles. Your teen looks at these images and then looks at himself in the mirror and does not like what he sees. There is a tendency to be more self-critical, to see something as less than everyone else sees.
Studies indicates that around 90% of female teens are dissatisfied with their bodies and that their physical appearance ranks high among their major concerns in life. And issues on body image start early – girls as young as 9 years old said that they didn’t like how their bodies are shaped. And as teens become more dissatisfied with their bodies, teens may resort to dangerous dieting practices and develop bulimia, compulsive eating or anorexia. This may give rise to a whole list of other problems – physically, emotionally and psychologically. It may need some kind of intervention such as Utah substance abuse counselor.
As parents, how can we help our children love who they are and glory in their own unique personality and appearance? The key is to help your child build a healthy sense of self-esteem, to help him see his worth as he is. Here are some ways concerned parents can help:
– Teach your child to love who she is. If you make your child feel valued and loved, she will also value and love herself.
– Create a haven for your child. Peers, friends and even other people may, consciously or unconsciously, give hostile messages to our children. There may be comments not just about one’s body shape, but also one’s face, complexion and weight. Make your home a place where your child will feel safe from criticism with regards to his appearance. Recognize your child’s strengths and find opportunities to provide positive comments about these.
– Provide role models. Find examples of men and women who have achieved success because of what they did, not how they looked like.
– Eat together. Make it a point to have meals together at least once a day, where there are no distractions such as TV. Rather, make family dinner times a pleasant time where you can talk about how your day went. Don’t make dinner time your platform to discuss body image issues, either.
– Set a good example. Sometimes, we may not be aware that we ourselves are contributing to their poor body image by having poor body image ourselves. When we constantly complain about our appearance and our weight, this pre-occupation will also be our teen’s pre-occupation. Eat healthy meals and exercise regularly (not mainly to look thin but to stay healthy).
– Be conscious of statements and actions. Again, we can do a lot to encourage or discourage our child and how he sees himself. Be aware of statements such as “You shouldn’t have that dessert, dear. It could go straight to your already bulging stomach.” Also, there may be different messages we send to boys and girls. To boys, we say that it’s okay and even healthy for them to eat more while with girls, we unconsciously send the message that they should eat less. Being more aware of your statements will help you hold your tongue when you know that what you are about to say can be taken as criticism against how they look.
– Supervise his meals. Make sure that there are a lot of healthy meals and snacks available in your home.
– Teach your teen to be more critical about what he sees in the media. Help your teen see that the images presented on TV and magazines are not true reflections of reality. It will be beneficial to realize that most images are part of a marketing strategy to encourage people to buy products.
– Get help. Your teen may need Utah counseling to help him cope with poor body image issues and peer pressure. Utah therapists can help the teen become more self-aware and see his or her special abilities and talents.
Sometimes, it takes the whole family to go for family counseling in Utah to help the family be more proactive and each have healthy self-images. With the help of Utah counseling, your family can learn have wholesome attitudes about their bodies.
Every kid is a “rad” kid. By rad, we mean special and precious. From the first time that a parent sees his or her child, a special attachment is formed, a bond of love. This bond is important as it also defines how a child builds bonds and relationships with the rest of the world. However, there are some instances when a child is unable to form these bonds – the child may have RAD or reactive attachment disorder.
Attachment disorder: An Overview
An attachment disorder is marked by an inability to form meaningful and lasting relationships or even express affection towards others. It may be rooted in events during a person’s early childhood. This may include:
– Being a child of an unwanted pregnancy
– Experiencing chronic pain resulting from medical problems
– Neglect from a caregiver (when a parent is chronically depressed, the child is moved from one caregiver to another, when a child’s cries and needs are ignored)
– Being a victim of child abuse
As a result, a child with attachment disorder exhibits a lack of trust on others. There is also a need to be in control since the child learns that there is no one to depend on but him. The child may also have issues with anger and demonstrations of affection.
Admittedly, it is hard to parent or take care of a child with attachment disorder when your efforts are met with indifference or resistance. But with love, patience and some family counseling in Provo, you are able to manage this condition. And the earlier you start with your efforts, the better. Dealing with a child with attachment disorder will prevent more serious problems in the future.
Here are some tips to help you parent a child with attachment disorder:
– Be patient, calm and firm with your child. This indicates to the child that you can be trusted and that he is safe in the care of his parents. This is particularly true when the child starts misbehaving. Be calm and matter of fact to demonstrate that emotions and feelings can be managed and controlled.
– Be realistic. Managing (and overcoming) the problems brought about by an attachment disorder will take time and much patience. Thus, it is helpful that you have realistic expectations. You can’t rush the journey towards wholeness for your child and the rest of the family.
– Build a family environment that feels safe, relaxed and joyful.
– Manage your stress. Parenting a child with attachment disorder is especially challenging. That is why you need to learn how to manage and cope with stress. This can be done by getting enough rest, feeding yourself with the right kinds of food and taking some time away to recharge and unwind.
– Lean on family and friends for support. Don’t go through the ordeal alone. There are family members and friends who can help you build the ideal family environment for your child.
– Get professional help, when necessary. You may need to go into Utah family therapy to help all the family members to know what to do to provide your child with the care and love he needs.
– Set up rules, expectations and boundaries. A child with attachment disorder has issues about feelings of safety. This can be done by providing clear and reasonable expectations for the child to fulfill. These rules of behavior help to make a child feel more secure and safe since he, too, also knows what to expect. It is important to note that you must be consistent in your dealings with the child to help him feel more in control.
The bottom line is that the child needs to feel that he is accepted and loved. Over time and with consistency and patience, the child can learn to develop trust, as well as accept love and physical expressions and demonstrations of it.
Family Therapy for treatment of attachment disorder
For more help, you can turn to individual therapy and family therapy in Provo. This will not just help the individual but also the other family members who need to cope with the situation as well as come to an understanding of the disorder and how they can properly respond.
In the rapidly changing world of parenting, children seem to be growing up more rapidly than ever before. The world of teens and tweens is saturated with ever-increasing peer pressure and social anxiety. Children learn limits by testing them and it is vital for parents to enforce these limits. However, there are five considerable mistakes, or blunders that parents may be guilty of, which include:
- Worst Case Scenario Survival – Parents that expect the worst from their teens often sets teens up for disappointing disapproval. Giving children the message that they are only “good” if they are not being “bad” sets them up for a disastrous outcome. Parents who teach children that they have negative expectations can often expect this to backfire, causing a child to act out this negativity and make parents’ worst fears a reality. Connecting with children creates an environment where open communication receives positive enforcement.
- “But I read in a parenting book …” – Often this statement is enough to make someone cringe. The over abuse of reading every parenting book available is actually detrimental to the parent-child relationship. Parents who read every book available on child rearing are often stressed, brimming with worry and negativity. Parents who do not rely on their own internal instincts and parenting skills and try to replace them with every child-rearing theory in existence, typically end up far worse than those that trust their guts. While parenting books can be helpful, limiting the number, and only using the articles to gain perspective is a more positive approach to childrearing.
- Focus on the big picture, not the small picture – If a parent does not care for a child’s self-expressionism, haircut or clothes, it is also important to understand when to draw the line and when to let miniscule things go. As long as a child’s choice of clothing is not provocative, parents may decide it is better to allow their child to experiment with self-expression than alienate him/her. Children have to experience life – to a degree – by themselves. Parents are not able to shelter children forever and childhood unfortunately involves experiencing disappointment, hurt, failure and pain.
- Ignoring the Big Picture – Many parents would rather ignore suspicions that their child is using drugs or abusing alcohol. In fact, parents need to address these problems immediately otherwise they could rapidly escalate. Today there are more drugs available to children, posing major health risks and concerns. A popular choice trend between teens includes huffing, abusing cough medicine and mistreatment of over the counter medications.
- Iron Fist vs. Kid Gloves: Finding the Middle Ground – Some parents employ harsh iron fist parenting tactics that can push children away, making them feel disciplined for every minor mistake and error. Other parents pursue the angle that they want their teen to be their friend and stray away from enforcing discipline. In reality, parents need to find a happy medium between these two extremes. Overly strict parents may stunt their child’s development by not allowing him/her to grow and become his/her own person. Parents who do not discipline do not provide the structure and foundation a child needs for sufficient self-discovery. Parents need to establish values and communicate these effectively to their children.
No one ever claimed that parenting was an easy task. In fact, it is not only an 18-year commitment, but also a lifetime commitment. Therapists in Provo are available to help parents build their parenting skills, including improving communication with their teen or tween. Family counseling in Utah is also a good option for parents that need a third party counselor to help initiate communication and healthy interaction with their child. Provo counselors receive special training that helps families focus on therapy in a safe environment, helping strengthen relationships and create healthy family bonds.
Nothing can fully prepare someone for becoming a parent. The responsibility, early morning feedings and tasks involved in being a parent can be daunting and overwhelming. So, too, is adolescence.
Adolescence marks a transition in a child’s life from depending solely on the parents to becoming more individualistic and peer-driven. While this may be a difficult time for Mom and Dad, all parents should want their child’s transition to be as seamless as possible.
The following are key issues that family’s can work on to forge a solid bond that extends from infancy, to adolescence and well into adulthood.
- Parents should always provide a safe environment and evoke the reassurance of unconditional love.
- Create an atmosphere that revolves around mutual trust, honesty and respect.
- Parents should establish age appropriate limits on assertiveness and independence. Too little or too much independence can damage a child.
- Forge a close-knit bond that encourages a child to talk openly with the parents, while still maintaining a parent relationship (vs. a parent being a peer or friend).
- Children need to learn responsibility.
- The importance of establishing and accepting limits.
- The consequence of impulsiveness and not thinking about his/her actions.
Having this strong, cohesive foundation built between parents and children, helps make the transition into adolescence smoother. Having a relationship between parent and child where honesty is of utmost importance forges a sturdy bond.
If a parent and child experience adolescent tension, it may be appropriate to seek family counseling in Utah. Therapists in Provo can help parents and adolescents communicate more effectively. Therapists also provide valuable insight into why a child is experiencing a difficult time during this teenage transition. Family counseling in Provo may focus on tasks for the parents and/or children; including helping establish the aforementioned key bonding tasks. A therapist can reassure parents if a teen’s behavior is acting within the normal guidelines of an adolescent seeking independence, or if the exhibited behavior is cause for alarm.
Concerning behaviors should be addressed immediately with a counselor and include: alcohol and drug abuse (not experimentation but an abusive addiction), steady academic decline, social isolation, repeated truancy, negative self-esteem issues, repeatedly deifying parental authority, suicidal or physically threatening to others. Rest assured that licensed therapists specialize in focusing on these areas and are readily available to assist families.
“All my life I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me. Something missing or damaged.”
“Every teenager in the world feels like that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants.” So says Cassandra Clare in her book City of Bones.
The teenage years are fraught with drama, pressures and challenges. It is a time of confusion – where the child transitions into adulthood and is coming into terms with it. There is pressure from inside (as a teen tries to discover his identity and adjusts to changes in his body), from peers (as a teen desires to be accepted by friends) and from parents.
The teen starts to learn more about himself and his environment. The teen may to discover boundaries and new ideas and try to test them. The pressures may further be compounded by events that are beyond the teen’s or his family’s control.
This time may also be a time of growth, where the teen learns to deal with these pressures constructively. When he does this successfully, he is able to emerge from the adolescent years stronger and ready to face the challenges of adulthood. However, there may be instances where a teen meets with challenges and is unable to cope with these in a healthy manner. There may be a need for some outside help, such as individual or family counseling in Utah to help the teen through the issues the face him.
It is important for parents and care givers to know if a teen needs some form of counseling – Utah substance abuse counseling, individual or family counseling or anger management therapy.
A teen may be particularly vulnerable when he has experienced or is experiencing the following:
– The development of an illness or a disability due to an accident
– The death or sickness of a loved one
– Major changes in his life – the breakdown of his parents’ marriage that ends in divorce, moving to another location or school, the loss of a boyfriend/girlfriend, drastic changes in his family’s financial situation.
– He is a witness to a traumatic incident
– He is a victim of abuse or bullying
– She has or has had a teen pregnancy
Also, a teen’s behavior may be his cry for help. If parents are aware and alert, they will be able to see that there is possibly a serious problem that requires Provo counseling. Here are some signs a parent should watch out for:
– Signs of depression: Extended periods where the teen feels despair, sadness and anger. These may also be times when a teen is overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Depression may also be manifested in a lack of energy or appetite, changes in sleep and eating patterns, withdrawing from family and friends, as well as a neglect of personal appearance and hygiene. Please note that teens may exhibit signs of sadness or distress and this can be perfectly normal. However, if these feelings persist, they may indicate depression.
– Pre-occupation with death/suicide: A serious red flag may be a teen’s constant inferences towards death or suicide through jokes, letters, or choice of music. The teen may also discuss this fascination through everyday conversation. Some behavior that also point towards suicidal tendencies would be the sudden giving away of personal possessions that you know they consider valuable or saying “I love you.” or asking, “Will you miss me?” out of the blue.
– Violent or risky behavior. Bouts of temper, where the teen may start harmful behaviors towards self or others. For instance, he makes use of behavior that intimidates or bullies others or he may try to start a fight. He may also mistreat or hurt animals, damage other people’s property or may try starting fires. The teen may also exhibit behavior that is considered risky, such as being sexually promiscuous, being involved in illegal activity or carrying a dangerous weapon. The teen may also try to run away from home.
– Physical signs. Unexplained weight loss of gain, frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after meals, refusal to join in family meals or a lack of appetite may hint at an eating disorder.
– Signs of substance abuse. Your child may start experimenting with alcohol, tobacco and drugs. This may be indicated by “strange” behavior, such as brushing his teeth the moment he comes home, his smelling of smoke, beer and alcohol beverages becoming missing.
– Deteriorating performance in school. There may be a drop in grades, disciplinary problems with persons in authority and truancy.
– Other behaviors. These negative behaviors include bed-wetting shoplifting, lying, refusing to submit to authorities and at times, breaking curfew or staying out all night.
It is important to understand that there may be an inherent cause as to why a teen behaves in the above manner. This is where therapy and counseling can help. Therapy can help the teen trace the cause of their negative behavior, why their behaviors is negative and how they can make use of tools to change thoughts and behaviors towards the positive. Therapy can also help teens come to terms with the stresses they are experiencing and discover constructive ways by which they can deal with these stressors and problems.
A teenage is especially vulnerable and as parents, we are tasked to safeguard their physical and emotional help as we try to prepare him to face the demands of being an adult. With early intervention and counseling, you can help lead him out through the maze of adolescence, towards a successful future as an adult.
Dr. Triston Morgan, whose practice is based in Provo, Utah, is a licensed therapist with a wealth of experience in dealing with troubled teens. If you are looking for someone to help your teenager deal with the stresses and issues he is going through and you are based in Utah, feel free to contact Dr. Morgan for an initial consultation.