Below are several helpful writings, scroll down to find material:
Families, Stress and Health, By Dr. Greg Allen,
The mission of Freedom4U is to enrich the lives of teens and their parents. We fulfill this mission through creative arts, life skills, leadership and service. Part of our life skills focus is to provide healthy guidance to parents.
There are many teens today who are faced with the stress of busy schedules, striving to excel academically and participating in extracurricular activities such as sports, service and other hobbies.
Some symptoms of the psychological impact of stress for teens include: depression, loss of interest, isolation; anxiety, can’t relax or sleep, panic attacks; caffeine, alcohol and drug abuse; eating disorders and body image problems; unhealthy relationships; compulsions and addictions, acting out; poor school performance; communication problems; headaches and other health problems.
Many parents struggle to manage guiding their teens through the busy high school years. We sought to find some tips for parents of younger students. Our plan was to survey experts who work with teens daily in order to assist parents of middle school students as they prepare for the teen years. We surveyed administrators and counselors from several South Bay school districts.
The question we asked them to answer was “If you could give some recommendations to parents of middle school students as they look ahead to the high school years, what would they be?”
Following is a summary of their suggestions:
* Allow your kid to be independent and begin to start advocating for themselves, talking to counselors and teachers respectfully.
* Keep in contact with school counselors, and don’t let other parents stress you out.
* Help your son or daughter find what they are passionate about and do it versus doing things they don’t enjoy.
* Pick a realistic class schedule based upon accurate achievement versus pushing them into Honors and AP when they are not ready.
* Be a parent versus a friend — it’s OK to say “no.”
* Monitor the digital world, and review the parenting website www.connectsafely.org.
* There is a place for every kid at school, such as sports or clubs. They will fit in somewhere. Work with counselors to find what’s best.
* It would be more productive for parents to approach teachers in a nonconfrontational, nonaccusatory stance, such as “Help me understand what is going on in class.”
* Middle school is a time for kids to make mistakes and learn from them. Allow kids to experience the consequences of their behavior.
* Most middle school kids don’t know how to study. Practice and find a study strategy that works. Encourage feedback to teachers.
* Evaluate the balance of time spent on homework and extra-curricular activities.
* Help your child learn to de-stress and relax in healthy ways.
* Be a role model regarding your lifestyle and coping with stress.
* Be a listener, not a lecturer, to your child.
* Know your child’s friends and what they are doing.
* Don’t forget to tell and show your love to your child (just not in front of their friends!).
* Spend time together as a family and one on one.
* Consider aiming for a balanced lifestyle by incorporating play and fun, spiritual habits, reading for interest, writing for expression, listening or playing music, creating art.
By being intentional regarding our schedule and what we put into it, we can reduce our stress, eliminate the unhealthily consequences of stress, and enjoy our personal life and relationships more.
Greg Allen, LMFT, is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach (drgregallen.com). He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U (freedomcommunity.com), which offers the Changes Life Skills Groups for teens and their parents. Allen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Slow Down and Re-Connect
Technology has changes our lives in many ways. While there is more efficiency in terms of organizing information and social networking there are also some negative consequences of these technogical advances. As I was walking past a news stand on Jan. 1, 2011, I noticed the headline of the USA Today newspaper; ‘2010; The Year we stopped talking.’
I paused to try to figure out what it meant. I realized it meant we’ve moved most of our communication to texting, computers, websites, games and phones which draw and hold our attention.
Technological devices are amazing. However, there is a disconnect happenning between people. A function of this disconnect is that we communicate less in person and spend less time together in person.
There is surprising research results regarding families that eat a meal together even a few times per week. These families show a decrease in negative attributes in their children. This includes less risky behaviors, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse. It seems the more kids physically spend time with their parents, the greater the opportunity for healthier functioning. These children are then less vulnerable to harmful influences.
Our teens are faced with many challenges that their parents did not have to deal with.
There are academic, social, extra-curricular, lifestyle and technology influences that pull at them daily.
Psychology and psychiatry have increasingly incorporated strategies to help people based on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a combination of mental skills that seek to calm the mind and in turn our emotions. Another goal is to help us react differently to the things that happen to us.
The rise of the popularity of yoga is another example of our society feeling the need to relax, discharge stress and learn to manage ourselves in a more internally peaceful manner. Additionally, there are communities across the country which are focused on simplifying how they live their life. It seems we need to re-connect with ourselves and with each other.
A PV News teen panel a few years ago cited the high percentage of activities that teens have besides attending school and doing homework. The results indicated that over 50% of teens have 5-9 extra activities they are involved in. It’s no wonder that teens report their main challenge as struggling to cope with the stress they experience.
Fifteen years ago, teens reported that the #1 reason they abused alcohol and drugs was ‘to be cool and fit in’. Currently, the #1 reason is to cope with stress. Teens like adults need to find ways to manage stress, take a time out, relax and ‘have a mental break’. Unfortunately, when you are overscheduled you are not able to use healthy coping skills. The result often is the quick relief that comes from drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana or taking a pill, among many substance that might be used.
This need for safe, supervised activities for teens is a main reason we began Freedom4U, a youth non-profit organization. Teens need healthy ways to have fun, express themselves, be with their friends without using substances.
There are too many destructive and risky things happenning with teens every week. We need to be proactive in providing opportunities to improve the overall health, lifestyle and future of our young people.
However, it’s not just teens who need to adjust their lifestyle. Adults also may need to consider reducing the activity in our schedules with the goal of prioritizing what we are committing ourselves to daily. A healthy goal would be to have more of a balanced schedule that incorporates relaxation, fun and down time. Spending time together as a family would also be a priority. I realize this may seem impossible considering the current busy schedules of our teens, parents and families. However, it seems a significant solution to the increased activity and disconnect that is happening in our culture. Re-connecting, slowing down, having fun, remembering or learning how to healthily relax is imperative.
Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach (drgregallen.com). He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at email@example.com
Communication with Teens: Is anyone listening?
When an adult is asked about communicating with teens; they might say that teens don’t listen. Many parents report that teens have tuned them out and that teens no longer value their opinion anymore. [It’s true that many teens don’t listen to their parents as much as when they were children.] Teens seldom look to their parents as they did when they were were children. They probably talk with their friends more than with their own parents.
Have teens tuned out their parents? Do teens listen to parents? Are teens becoming independent and therefore don’t need to listen to their parents anymore? Have parents given up trying to reach their teens and share their opinions?
Teens across the country report that they would like to communicate with their parents more but don’t because their parents are either too busy, stressed or won’t listen.
In my experience, I have seen there is indeed a growing and vast divide between teens and their parents. Teens do communicate more with their friends/peers than with the adults in their life. However, it seems that BOTH adults and teens have tuned each other out.
As we know, real communication is a two-way process. Healthy communication involves listening as well as speaking. When is comes to communication between teens and parents, there doesn’t seem to be much listening – from either party.
Many parents are strongly focused on what they want to say, what their viewpoint is and how to express it so that it is heard. Many adults want to be listened to but in this desire have lost the art of two-way communicating. Specifically, for a variety of reasons, there isn’t real listening going on to what a teen may be saying or trying to say. Many teens report that they gave up trying to talk with their parents years ago.
Many parents feel there isn’t much value in their teens viewpoints or opinions. Many teens feel that their opinions don’t matter to their parents. A teen may also conclude that their parent isn’t someone they can talk with because their parents can’t handle teens being honest with them. Parents often react with anxiety and fear as they attempt to hear what their teen is speaking about. No one wants to talk with someone who is going to ‘freak out’ when they speak with them. And so, teens refuse to share their personal life, desires, decisions, struggles, challenges or plans. And, in turn, parents have given up trying to connect with their son and/or daughter.
This relational divide increases the lack of fulfillment for both parent and teen as they live in separate worlds. While it is true that adults and teens are in different stages in life, the divide that often exists is not helpful, healthy or necessary.
My recommendation is for parents to begin to learn to connect with their teen in a personal way by practicing the art of listening. Personally, I realized years ago that it was more important how my teen was thinking and feeling instead of getting my opinion across. I began to change my approach to being one of a listener seeking to understand the challenges, choices and decisions that my teens were experiencing.
We all need to be able to hear ourselves think, brainstorm ideas, suggest options and dig deeper into the meaning and consequences of our decisions. A parent can be a valuable resource if he/she seeks to allow a teen to go through this process of examination and discovery about everyday life experiences.
Parents can learn to keep their ‘alarmed’ reactions to themselves and not react fearfully during an interaction with their teen. Parents can later alone or with their co-parent, sort through their fears and worries. They can also strategize about their responses.
Learning to be a listener will allow the wisdom and value of the adult to be a positive motivator for the personal growth their child, through the teen years, and even more, beyond.
Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach (drgregallen.com). He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Allen and therapist Erin Foster, LMFT will be speaking on Communicating with Teens on Wed., May 30th, at 6:30pm at the Manhattan Beach Library Community Room
Tips for communicating with teens:
1. Listen to what is being said; that is, try to understand the teenager’s feelings and where she is coming from. Rather than thinking about arguments or retaliations, listen to her/him.
2. Stop what you are doing and look at the teenager. Listen when they speak to you. Be sure that you are giving them the proper attention and that they are not talking to a newspaper or to your back.
3. Be sure most of your communication is positive, not negative. Don’t dwell on mistakes, failures, misbehaviors, or something they forgot to do. Give them positive communication and talk about their successes, accomplishments, interests, and appropriate behavior.
4. Talk to them about their interests (e.g., music, sports, computers, dance-team practice, cars, and motorcycles). Talk to them just to talk and to have positive verbal interaction.
5. Avoid talking too much – giving long or too-detailed explanations, repeating lectures, questioning excessively, or using other forms of communication that will result in the teenager turning a deaf ear to you.
6. Try to understand the teen’s feelings. You do not have to agree or disagree with him; just make him aware that you understand how he feels. Do not try to explain away his emotions. There are times when you do not have to fix things or make the youngster feel better.
7. Do not overreact to what is said. Remember, sometimes teenagers say things that are designed to get a reaction from their parents. In addition, do not say “no” too fast. Sometimes it is better to think about the request and give a response later. In other words, think before you open your mouth.
8. Try to create situations in which communication can occur (driving your teen to the doctor’s appointment, having the teenager help you with household tasks). You have to be physically close to the teenager for communication to occur. A television, computer or video games in the teen’s room can be an additional barrier to family communication. Whenever possible, the parent should try to do things with the teenager, rather than separately. Although the teen may not frequently accept them, provide opportunities for him/her to do things with you.
- Try to avoid power struggles, confrontation, and arguing matches. Your goal should be to have the communication move toward a compromise situation, rather than a battle. When appropriate, involve the teenager in decision making and setting consequences for his or her behavior.
Families Spending Time Together
We have all heard the many research findings that address the amount of time that parents spend with their kids. What is interesting is that parental time with kids has increased over the past 20 years.
Today’s parents often spend time together with their kids. In previous generations the family roles were more divided along specific roles (mom with kids mainly, dad gone at work most of the time). Currently, both parents are more likely to join in together in ‘quality time’ with their kids.
However, as Angela Atkinson reports, far too many families are spending more time online or watching television than with one another. In addition to breaking down the family unit, there are plenty of other consequences to not spending time together.
In just one example, according to Dr. Healy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Research has shown that ‘mindless’ television or video games may idle and impoverish the development of the pre-frontal cortex, or that portion of the brain that is responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment and attention.”
The American Psychological Association affirms, “Children often behave differently after they’ve been watching violent programs on television. Children who watched violent shows were more likely to strike out at playmates, argue, disobey authority and were less willing to wait for things that children who watched nonviolent programs.”
The good news?
A few simple changes in a family’s routine can make all the difference in the world. So what can you do?
Limit TV and Internet Time
Simply reducing the amount of time your kids spend involved playing games and watching television can help. Parents should also monitor the content kids are consuming. Use the parental controls offered by your cable or satellite company, and there are kid-friendly (and free) browser to use like to keep your kids safe online.
Have Dinner Together
Eating dinner as a family makes a surprisingly good impact on parents’ relationships with their kids. Plus, kids who sit down to eat with their parents on a regular basis are less likely to have sex prematurely, do drugs, smoke or drink alcohol. There are also indications of less depression and anxiety in kids who eat meals with parents.
Involve your children in household chores with you. While chores seem like simple tasks and are often now outsourced; these basic household chores help to teach responsibility and have the added benefit of allowing them time to work with you side by side. Just think, a half hour together weeding the garden offers you the chance to have a half hour one on one conversation with your child. Remember, the important thing is doing something together.
Set up weekly or monthly “dates” with each one of your children. For example, if you have two kids, each parent could take one child separately one week, and then switch the next. Whatever the schedule, be sure take each child out individually to do something fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive–just spend time with one another having fun.
Share a Passion
Find a hobby or passion to share with your child. Maybe you can play tennis together or cook special dinners together. Some families might enjoy scrapbooking or puzzles, while others might prefer bike riding or fishing. Find a common interest that works for your family. It could be something as simple as watching the same television show together each week and discussing it over dinner. You may have to enter your kids world and do something they like for the sake of creating a better bond with them.
Common interests give you something to talk about–and kids who are comfortable talking to their parents are more likely to seek their parents’ advice when it matters most.
Spending time together also helps parents and kids realize what is most important in life; being together.
Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach. He is director of the Changes Substance Abuse Program and also the founder and director of Freedom4U (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at email@example.com
Changes Life Skills Discussion Groups
Every Thursday 5:30-7pm
Separate Groups for Teen & Parents
Annex Music Night
Fri, June 28th, 7pm
Jazz Camp Workshops
Aug. 2-24th, Tues, Th & Sat
Teen Annex, 5-6:30pm
Jazz Through The Generations Festival
Sun., Aug., 25th - 2pm
For more Event Information , visit the News & Events