Archive for: Teens

How NOT to Raise a People-Pleaser: Foster Healthy Assertiveness with Kindness

How often do we confuse assertiveness and disrespect? Often, when children are assertive, adults mistake the behavior for disrespect. Assertiveness is expressing needs, thoughts, and feelings without steamrolling over others and allowing others to assert themselves as well. Research has found a link between a lack of assertiveness in adolescence and increased social anxiety and low self-esteem. Additionally, research has linked higher levels of assertiveness to reduced tendencies toward depressive symptoms. While counseling can help, you can foster healthy assertiveness in your children. Here’s how.

Understanding Assertiveness: Balancing Respect and Authenticity

How often do we confuse niceness and kindness? Many women, when asked, “What core value can you recall your family emphasizing growing up?” are likely to respond: “Be nice.” This message is conveyed to many children growing up, though it is especially conveyed to females. Children interpret “be nice” as not making others uncomfortable. Others might not like what they hear when you share your needs, thoughts, and feelings with them – that leads to discomfort.

“Be nice” shapes individuals into people-pleasers. Chronic people-pleasers prioritize the needs of others while minimizing their own needs. They learn to be reluctant to express their thoughts and feelings, creating a mask of agreeableness while suppressing their authenticity. Setting healthy boundaries becomes difficult for people-pleasers due to their fear of disappointing and angering others and, ultimately, their fear of appearing “selfish.” People-pleasers frequently find themselves in problematic relationships, particularly attracting narcissists who thrive on being the recipient of most of the attention.

Children should be encouraged to assert with kindness, not niceness. Kindness rarely requires sacrificing your own needs and wants or your authentic voice. Kindness is about respecting and being sensitive towards others. Ways to assert yourself and foster your child’s assertiveness with kindness include:

  • Encouraging to seek ways to identify and respectfully express feelings, thoughts, and preferences.
  • Allowing for age-appropriate choices and decision-making processes to build a sense of autonomy and confidence.
  • Modeling appropriate assertiveness and boundary-setting in and out of the home. Respectfully and sensitively express your needs, feelings, and opinions while saying “no” in a firm, nonaggressive manner.
  • Staying open when your child respectfully challenges you and appreciating them for their growth.

Understanding the distinction between assertiveness, disrespect, niceness, and kindness fosters healthy relationships and self-esteem. Encouraging assertiveness with kindness empowers children and adolescents to express themselves authentically while respecting others.

At Pinnacle Counseling in Arkansas, we promote this approach through our individual, family, and child counseling services, helping clients build resilience and confidence in navigating life’s challenges with grace and authenticity.

If you or your child is suffering from low self-esteem, depression, or social anxiety, contact Pinnacle Counseling today.

Talking to Your Children About Violence

Violence – our children are bombarded with it every day, both real and fictional media violence. A mass shooting in a school or local shopping area, a police shooting, bullying, tv, movies and video games – violence surrounds them. It is important to address the issue of violence in our
society with our children.

For parents of children in school, there is no way to prevent them from hearing about the violence that is happening in our country and world. It is important to take the initiative in talking to your children about violence. When preparing for this conversation, learn as much as possible about the impact of violence in our society. You will want to tailor your conversation to the age of your children and to what they already know is happening. Teachers may be discussing current events in school. Your teenagers may be hearing about violent incidents on social media. They may be listening while you listen to the news. As a parent, you need to be asking your children about what they have been hearing in the news, in the classroom or from their friends. Then you may direct the conversation to what concerns or fears your children may be experiencing.

We want our children to feel their world is safe, but they know there is violence everywhere around them. Balance your discussion of the dangers in society with the ways in which they can reduce their chances of experiencing violence. Discuss actions you have taken to keep them safe in your home. What are steps their school has taken to ensure their safety? How can they protect themselves if something happens at home or school?

Media violence has become more graphic. You have several options for dealing with it. Consider limiting the amount of media exposure your children have. Perhaps you may want to
set limits on what and/or how much your children can watch on tv or the video games they can play. Make sure they are age appropriate. Take time to watch programs and movies with your children so you know what they are seeing and hearing. Discuss the subject matter with them. Young children especially have a hard time understanding the difference between reality and the fantasy they see on the screen. Help them understand the difference. Explain why there are things they see on tv, in movies, and in video games that wouldn’t or shouldn’t happen in real life.

These are tough subjects to discuss. It is easy to become overly emotional and angry about the violence that seems to be impacting so much of our lives. But your children need to see you being able to stay calm and in control. This will help your children feel more secure, less anxious, and learn how they too can keep control over their feelings when facing difficult situations.

If violence is affecting your child’s peace of mind despite your discussions, don’t be afraid to seek help for them. Are they showing signs of anxiety, grief, or fear about their safety that isn’t letting up? Perhaps they are experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches. Have they displayed a reluctance to go to school or take part in their usual activities? If so, don’t put off seeking professional help.

FAMILIES, COMMUNICATION AND TECHNOLOGY: DANGERS AND CHALLENGES

Family communication has been forever changed with technology, in both positive and negative ways. Previously, I shared ideas on how to use the technology already in your daily lives to increase and improve communication in your family. This article focuses more on some danger zones and challenges parents are faced with through our children’s access to technology.

Readily available information 24/7 online: This can be a very positive thing if a school report is due tomorrow morning and it is 8:45 pm. However, it can also be dangerous at times. Kid have ready access to lots of information, such as depression symptoms, but when searching for depression symptoms or ways to decrease it they are also likely to come across sites discussing suicide and possibly even ways to commit suicide. Some of the teens I have worked with have regular conversations with other teens across the country who they have never met in person to discuss their depression. If one of the internet friends decides suicide is their best option this could negatively impact your child or lead them in that direction also. If you have no idea what sites your children or teens are accessing, this could be a discussion you want to have to avoid future problems or surprises. On a positive note, you will probably also learn of some interesting websites you might also enjoy on hobbies or interests your child is engaged in.

Increased intimacy of relationships: Teen romantic relationships are getting significantly more intense and intimate than in the past due to technology. If a teenage girl or boy is constantly in contact with their boyfriend/girlfriend all day and all night they feel they know that person well very quickly. Some teens actually use certain apps such as Skype or Facetime to “sleep together.” They fall asleep and wake up with each other and this can quickly lead to sexual intimacy which they wouldn’t jump into as quickly if they only talked to each other at school and after school events. Controlling behavior patterns emerge quickly as well since one partner in the relationship may demand instant response to texts or calls or use these to track where the other person is at all times.

Access to inappropriate material: Everyone is aware that pornography is readily available online. What you may not know is that even kids in elementary school are hearing about this and learn what words to google or what sites to go to through conversations at school or on the bus. I actually worked with a 5th grader who had been watching 5-6 porn videos a day in the afternoons before the parents got home from work. The parents learned of it about 4 months after it started. That is a scary amount of exposure to that type of material. Parents need to be ready to have conversations with your kids about sexual activity and porn earlier than in the past due to this open access to the information online. It is a good idea to randomly ask about conversations at school or on the bus that may have confused or embarrassed them. If you ask them, they will tell you, but be prepared to respond in a calm way with age appropriate answers instead of getting upset or agitated, which they will interpret as getting in trouble. Make sure you have parental controls set to block inappropriate content on any device your child has access to in order to minimize their exposure to these types of websites.

Camera access 24/7: Most parents believe that sexting and inappropriate pictures only happens when kids get to be teenagers. However, on school buses and playgrounds some kids have cell phones and will ask girls to take pictures of themselves in the bathroom or boys will be trying to get pictures under girls’ skirts or dresses with their device. Most of the young teens I have worked with who are coming in after parents learned they are sexting or sending inappropriate pictures have never had a conversation with an adult about that issue. In each situation the parent(s) said “Well, I didn’t think I had to tell her/him not to do that” or “they should have known better.” This leads to huge conflicts and hurt feelings on both sides. If we don’t tell them it is not appropriate and all of their friends seem to think it is normal, why do we think they will know it is wrong? I recommend that parents have discussions with any child who will be independently using a cell phone or device that connects to the internet about appropriate sites; regularly check their history online; and have a technology curfew. The curfew means no phones or devices in the bedrooms after a certain time, usually close to bedtime. For obvious reasons, this is the most common time these types of activities are occurring. (It might be a good idea to implement a technology curfew even in parents’ bedrooms. Think of the increase in communication with your spouse or partner if the phones and iPads were not in the bedroom. Just a thought.)

Perpetrators have ready access to our kids: My daughter is 10 years old and last year during a winter storm I took her to my office since school was closed for the day. She was playing Minecraft online with her cousin and suddenly gasped and said, “I can’t believe he said that to me.” Evidently, when you play Minecraft and have the chat feature turned on, other people online can chat with you. Someone had asked her, “Do you want to have sex?” She was literally 2 feet from me at the time! My niece was totally not surprised and her statement back to my daughter was, “Oh yeah, if you don’t turn off chat they do that all the time.” She was not at all shocked or surprised. I didn’t even know there was a chat feature in Minecraft! Other apps and video games have similar features, such as Xbox online games. Some kids I worked with in the past had gotten in trouble with their parents after gifts started arriving in the mail that were not appropriate and parents’ learned they had given out their address to people they were talking to while playing video games online. If your child is going to have access to these games and apps, you need to be prepared to have a discussion with them about safety, not sharing personal information, and when to seek you out if someone approaches them about inappropriate things such as sex or meeting in person somewhere. It would not be a bad idea to occasionally hang out in the room they are playing in and listen to some of the conversations they are having to make sure they are safe.

Dangerous websites: Some of the websites that teens locally find funny or interesting are treasure troves for sexual perpetrators. Kids go online to look at sexual pictures and content and a lot of them see it as funny or gross rather than inappropriate. I have worked with young teen girls who met people on these websites pretending to be teen boys and asking for inappropriate pictures. This escalates into threats against the girl’s family if they don’t continue the behaviors and follow the offenders directions, only to get into serious trouble with their parents when it is discovered. When the parents have gone to the police to try to press charges on the perpetrator in those instances, they have been told there is no guarantee the girl will not also be charged with distribution of porn so none of the families have moved forward with prosecution because of that. This is emboldening the offenders to reach out even more because there are rarely consequences for them.

In short, technology is advancing quickly and is very useful and make parts of our lives much easier. However, it can also be a dangerous tool in the hands of the wrong people. To protect your kids, you need to be aware of the dangers and prepared to have open conversations with your children about internet safety on a regular basis. There are some programs in the area that go to schools or churches to teach kids about internet safety, such as the Morgan Nick Foundation. Check with your school counselor or google internet safety for kids to find programs to use with your child or just so you can learn the information and then educate your children yourself.

I hope this information is helpful and starts some meaningful discussions in your family that will open communication and keep everyone safely connected to one another at home and online. Please feel free to contact us about an appointment if you learn your child has been involved in some of these activities or even if you just aren’t sure about how to approach the subject with your kids and need some pointers.

By Paula Coleman, LCSW – Pinnacle Counseling NWA
Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

Monitoring the Future 2011 Results

The Monitoring the Future Survey has been administered to 8th, 10th, 12th grade students annually since 1975. The purpose of the anonymous survey is to establish baseline attitudes and behaviors concerning legal and illegal drugs. The survey seeks to determine how frequently (if at all) young people are using particular drugs and the attitudes about drugs, their perceived ill health impacts, for example, that accompany that use. 46,000 students participated in this year’s survey. Here are a few of the takeaways:

  • 1 in 15 young people smoke marijuana on a near daily basis (a 30-year high)
  • More 10th graders smoke marijuana than cigarettes
  • 1 in 9 students reported using synthetic marijuana in the last year
  • Poison control centers received 5,741 calls about synthetic marijuana last year
  • Teen drinking – including heavy drinking – are now at historically low levels

Bipolar Disorder in Teens Frequently Misdiagnosed

Teens with disruptive or aggressive behaviors are increasingly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed psychotropic medications. These young people, according to recent Minneapolis Star Tribune article, are frequently misdiagnosed. Medication seems like an easy answer to a complex set of behavior problems. But the easy solution is not always the best. The root cause of the behaviors needs to be understood and addressed. Aggressive outbursts could be driven by trauma, stress, or other environmental factors.

If trauma is the root of the problem for some children, psychiatrists say, they would be better served by therapy and identifying what’s wrong in their lives, rather than with powerful medications.

“Most of the time there is something that has happened in a child’s life, something that got them stuck developmentally,” said Sue Sexton, a St. Paul psychologist who treats kids with stress-related disorders. If Troubled Kids Aren’t Bipolar, What is Troubling Them?

Online Gaming Addiction

Online gaming addiction is an emerging area of  concern for parents, teachers, and mental health counselors. It is real. And it can have serious mental and physical health consequences for children as young as nine. What can parents do? Parents should know how much time their children spend per day gaming. What games are they playing? They should talk to their children about their experiences gaming. Is it fun? Why is it fun?

Children addicted to computer games show several classic signs of addiction:

1). Intense preoccupation with gaming

2). Lies about amount of time spent gaming

3). Loss of interest in other activities due to gaming

4). Withdrawal from family and friends due to gaming

5). Over use of gaming as a means of psychological escape

 

The holiday “blahs”

With the holiday season and winter months fast approaching, feelings and symptoms of depression will often surface or increase. Feeling “down in the dumps” or “blah”, sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, cranky, or easily frustrated are typical symptoms of depression. Also feeling withdrawn, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, sleep, energy, difficulty concentrating, and making decisions are commonly reported. A sense of feeling worthless or excessive guilt may be experienced. Some of these feelings may actually interfere with our relationships, school, job, social activities, and even day to day functioning. If you experience a few or most of these symptoms it is wise to pay attention to what your body is telling you and to take care of yourself.

Often people minimize or don’t understand depression and the possible effects of going untreated. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand depression and learn multiple ways to manage its symptoms. Regardless of the season, feeling better means living better!

 

Erika McCaghren

Video Game Addiction: Scope of the Problem

It is difficult to estimate the number of U.S. children impacted by gaming addiction. It is an emerging area of concern for public health researchers. According to the American Medical Association, up to 90% of U.S. children regularly play video games. Most of these children are not addicted. But as many as 15% of them may be. That means that as many as 5 million U.S. children may be addicted to video games.

“Video games may look innocent, but they can be as addictive as gambling or drugs and just as hard to kick.” — Keith Bakker, founder of the  Detox Center for Video Game Addiction

 

 

More info: Online Gaming Addiction

Internet Gaming Addiction: Warning Signs

The following signs are indicators that a child may be addicted to video games. Behavioral addictions begin with enjoyable activities. Games are fun. They offer entertainment and escape, often meaningful social interactions. But when behaviors become compulsions, when games become something a child must do  rather than something that they simply enjoy doing, parents need to take action. Here are signs to look for:

PREOCCUPATION WITH GAMING

Young gamers invest a significant amount of attention on gaming, even when they are not playing. They think about playing when they are not. Feel intense anticipation for their next opportunity to play. Gamers miss school assignments or social engagements due to time spent gaming.

 

LYING OR HIDING GAMING USE

Gaming addicts can spend as much as ten to fifteen hours a day immersed in the gaming world. Most parents would rightly forbid this type of time investment. Addicted gamers may lie to parents or friends about what they are doing online. They may say they are working on assignments for school, for example, when they are actually playing World of Warcraft or Guildwars.

 

SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL

Personality changes due to game play. Outgoing, sports-oriented types may become reclusive, introverted. Gamers may become withdrawn, have feelings of alienation in “normal” social environments: school, family, church.

 

DEFENSIVENESS & ANGER

Gamers may become defensive about their need to play the game. They may react to game-play limits and rules as if they were threats to their very lives. May become angry, irrational, even violent.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL WITHDRAWAL

Gamers experience a very real sense of loss when they are unable to play their games. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for them to shake this sense of loss. Gamers may become anxious, irritable, or depressed if they lose access to a game.

 

CONTINUED GAMING DESPITE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES

This is a classic symptom of both behavioral and substance addictions. Gamers who experience negative consequences directly related to their gaming, for example, missing an important test because they were playing video games all night, but are unable to change their behaviors to avoid these negative consequences may be addicted to gaming.

Parents who are concerned that their children may be addicted to video games may want to consult with an addiction expert.

 

 

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