Help For Parents Of Teens

Watercolor paper with quote about parenting a teen and what to do when feeling challenged

As a teen parent, we can get wrapped up in our teen’s words and find ourselves angry, hurt, yelling, and vengeful. But remember, so much of what others say isn’t about us, including our own family members. Maybe your teen is feeling left out, bored, or angry at the state of the world. Nothing you have control over. I mean, what parent wouldn’t wedge us out of this pandemic to offer their teen a summer of a lifetime if they could?

So keep quiet and breathe. Not obnoxious breathing but calming breaths. Listen to your teen, holding onto the notion this isn’t about you. And if they invite you to speak, use reflective listening. Meaning reflect back what you heard them say. You could start with something like, “Let me see if I’ve heard you right?” Or end with, “ Am I hearing you correctly?” And watch that tone parents. Don’t go picking a fight.

Lastly, if there is a point needing to be made, wait until later and go back to it. “Remember when we were taking about X earlier?…..”. Timing is important.

Yes parenting is an art in need of constant refinement. We don’t need to get it perfect. We just need to try our best. Sometimes our best is absolutely beautiful, and sometimes it’s not. That’s ok. Take a breath. Try again.

To All Class of 2020 Graduates and Parents

girl at graduation with cap and gown facing peers

A note to all graduates (8th, high school, college, and beyond) and their parents:


I can’t imagine. Working so hard, spending so many years, and then bam, nothing. I got to have an 8th grade promotion, a high school graduation, a college graduation, and opted out of my graduate school ceremony. I had all those events that tag along with it. Senior skip day, prom, dressing in a cap and gown, spring sports and banquets, senior fun night. I also had a choice about whether I participated or stayed home. I am so deeply sorry for those of you who don’t.


I still remember both my high school and college ceremonies. The event itself, the family parties, and even better, the parties with friends after. These memories are stored for life, and I want to tell you again, I am so deeply sorry if you have to miss these major life milestones.


I write this apology to you as an adult who who can recognize on a profound level just what this loss might be like for you.


I know my apology, my sorry might not mean much because there is nothing myself or the other adults in your life can do to save you from the heart ache of missing out. What I want you to hear though is that we see you, we feel you, and we know a lot about grief and loss and what it feels like.


I hate to be the bearer of this news, but grief and loss will come throughout your life. It may stay longer than you’d like. It comes in the stages of denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and acceptance. You might think grief and loss only shows up when someone dies, but I hope you learn early that this process will come in many forms. Not because I want you to experience it, but because it will in fact come. Loss of friendships, loss of intimate relationships, change of jobs, change of schools, death of animals and people, climate change, change in leadership, and loss of graduation to name a few. There is so much that can evoke the strong winds of grief and loss.


Yours is a generation focused on being happy, and I am so thankful for the joy it brings. But I caution you not to overlook or push away the feelings of grief and loss that may be knocking at your door. Because the catch with grief and loss is, it comes at its own time and stays for however long it decides. It’s a feeling we can’t control. No matter how much you try and bury it, it finds ways to emerge. So welcome your sadness, your anger, and your hurt. Tend to those feelings with the great love you possess. Treat yourself the way you would a friend. Be kind, understanding, and patient with your feelings and yourself.


And when you can, check in and be real with your feelings and share them with your friends. One of you needs to step up and say something. You don’t have to pretend it’s all ok, and you don’t have to go it alone.


Us adults, we may not walk in your shoes, but we’ll do our best to be there for you. We all know about grief and loss and the pain it comes with. We will hold your hand and heart, offer you love and support, sit quietly with you because no words can undue what’s been done, and get through this time.

Happy New Year!

To all those seeking to climb, move, or shake mountains.

To all those who have overcome mountains and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

To all those who are looking forward and not going to let any mountain stand in their way.

To all those who need to just kick back and think about what the mountain in their life means or appreciate the mountain they are on.

Wishing you all a New Year full of just what you need. Many blessings. ❤️

Tough Times At The Holidays

People often feel puzzled as to why “the happiest time of year” leaves one feeling sad, depressed, overwhelmed, angry, and lonely, especially if you are someone who has a “good life.” It doesn’t seem to make sense.

I want to pose the idea that for some people trauma gets kicked up over the holiday season. Holidays are full of memories, smells, sights, tastes, and sounds. If you had a childhood that was problematic, especially around the holidays, it is quite possible you are feeling either consciously or unconsciously activated by the holidays.


In the writings of trauma specialist Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., he reflects on how the body holds sensory memory even though our thinking memories of the past may be suppressed. For some, the smell of a pie baking in the oven evokes a warm feeling of yumminess. For others, the smell can be repulsive. Why is this? The body holds memory in all forms and even though we may not know the conscious memory of why we feel a particular way, it is stored inside of us. If there was an incident where an angry parent smashed a pie against the wall and flew into a rage, this may haven gotten wired into the brain and body. Pie might not invite warm feelings any longer. Especially if something like this happened repeatedly.

Grief and loss is another feeling stored in the body and is often triggered around holiday time, no matter how long ago the loss was.

We are products of our past. Be kind to yourself this holiday time and reach out to those who love you if you are having a tough time. Share your stories with someone you trust and take really good care of yourself. Remember, this is a season, and seasons always change.

Holidays Are Hard

Don’t mean to be a downer here, just a realist trying to provide support for those of you who don’t have a picturesque family.

Even if you do have a picturesque family, it doesn’t mean perfection lies there either.

If you have a less than ideal Thanksgiving, you aren’t alone. Kick the fantasy about what you think everyone else has and know in every social media post there will be a story you haven’t heard. You won’t see the tension, the looks, the alcohol consumption, the tears, the absent folks, the loss, or the feelings stuffed inside. Sure, some people might have it all this holiday, and I hope you do too. But if you don’t, I get you. Be kind to yourself.

Smartphones, Loneliness, and Depression

Girl with white fingernail polish and silver watch holding a gold covered cell phone

“Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or loneliness and depression?” Take a guess and then read this article from the latest research coming out of the University of Arizona in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Review of study

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?

Actual study

Short-Term Longitudinal Relationships Between Smartphone Use/Dependency and Psychological Well-Being Among Late Adolescents

Back To School Social Struggles

Many kids right now are struggling to find where they fit. Maybe they started a new school or new classroom. Maybe the social scene has changed with the addition of a new kid to the grade.

Whatever it is, some kids are unsure of how to find their place.

What can you do if this is your child? I am so glad you asked.

  1. Talk to them. Ask them to share about their day. Who they ate lunch with. Who they played with at recess or hung out with at break. Understand what their social landscape looks like.
  2. Help them gain another view of the social scene. Listen for who might be a good fit for them and point it out.
  3. Empower them by pointing out their strengths.
  4. Dialogue about how to make new friends or get closer with others. Give them language to try on.
  5. Normalize that many kids are struggling with the same issue. Even though kids may look to be a part of a group doesn’t mean they actually feel it or want to be a part of it. They may be open to making a new friend, but may hang with an unfit group because they don’t see any alternative.
  6. Limit your judgement about your kid or someone else’s. Parents can get awfully triggered by social dynamics and start to point fingers and put kids down. Be sure to understand what is your own stuff getting kicked up. Try to remain in a supportive place for your kid and get out of the judgement zone.

The #1 Don’t of Handling Back to School Anxiety

The end of summer comes with a mixed bag of emotions.  Happy to see our kids head back to school to get some structure and rhythm to their days.  Ecstatic siblings get a break from one another and the bickering has a natural hiatus.  Sad the fun is over.  Dreading no more sleeping in.  Reluctance to go back to the rigid schedule.  Hopeful this year will be good for them as they learn, grow, and connect with others.  For some families, anxiety is also an emotion in the bag.  For some families, anxiety takes up the whole bag!

Some children have gotten a healthy dose of anxiety mixed into their DNA so they tend to lean that way.  Other children have had experiences causing anxiety.  Some children have a bit of both.

No matter how anxiety developed, there is one major Don’t when it comes to handling back to school anxiety:

#1  DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD STAY HOME FROM SCHOOL!  I know, I know.  You think I am yelling at you with all those capital letters in your face.  If you can imagine we are talking in person, I am looking at you directly in the eyes, with a slightly serious head tilt, and assertively telling you to not let you child stay home from school.  Then I am going to gently, kindly, and directly discuss with you why this statement is my #1 Don’t.

Parents often let their kids stay home with the best of intentions.  Promises get made about how they will go the next day.  I am telling you now, letting your child avoid what they are fearing is only feeding the anxiety monster more.  It creates anxiety by giving it more time to develop and get bigger and bigger.  It may appear the anxiety quiets down when you give your child the thumbs up to stay home, but this ease is temporary.  If you are planning on them going to school tomorrow, the one day buffer put a bandaid on a broken leg.  As we all know, bandaids don’t fix broken legs.

Anxiety has a way of making people believe something really bad is going to happen.  It tricks our brains into creating fantastic stories.  Like last night when I feared for my life because I was home alone for the night….Here I am this morning, alive and well creating this post.

Yes bad things do happen at school.  Kids can be cruel, teachers move too fast on a lesson, there is no room at the lunch table, being the last one picked, getting blamed for something you didn’t do.  Those things, among others, can make school feel terrible.  

Let’s talk about a few ways to support an anxious child who doesn’t want to go to school.

  1. Assess what is really going on.  Are they really in danger?  Is there a peer who is hitting them with sticks when the yard duty isn’t looking?  Is there someone on social media who has threatened to beat them up after school when they walk home?  Is someone threatening to post inappropriate pictures and say it was them

If we are going to help our child, we need to know what is really happening.  Sometimes anxiety is warranted.  Like if someone via social media this summer told a girl she better watch it or she is going to smash her face in if she sees her at school.  Or if last year a child was a target of someone’s constant teasing, then we can see how anxiety is present.

Your job is to learn the most you can about what actually has happened.  See if your child will show you the messages sent to her.  Find out how many times this has happened, who was involved, and all the details you can so you can move onto how to help them navigate the situation.

2. If the anxiety is due to something truly threatening their safety, reach out for help.  Talk to the teacher, school counselor, and/or administrators to help get the problem solved at school early before it has time to grow this year.  Giving your child a person to connect with over this situation can help them feel supported at school.

A second option would be to talk with the other parent of the child involved.  Whatever you do, make sure to come across in a respectful way.  These calls can go well or terrible.  Sometimes parents can become quite defensive.  If you get a call like this, do your best to hear all the information being presented and communicate back in a respectful way.

A third option is to develop a plan with your child on how to handle the situation, but if the situation truly involves their safety, we don’t want to put off keeping them safe in the spirit of keeping their cool.  If it feels like a situation you/your child want to try and manage on your own for a bit, role play what to say and do given the situation.  Discuss safe places to be and safe people to be with.  Continue to assess how the days go and if things are escalating, it may be time to go with the first two options above.

A fourth option: If none of this works, it may be worthwhile to look at whether this school is a good fit for your child.  I would encourage you to talk to the school first.  Find out if the school is willing to work with you.

I believe every child has a right to feel safe at school.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t always come easy for every child.  We need to help our children have access to this inherent right.  Going it alone or asking for help, it is important we work to address these issues with and for our children.

  1. In true anxiety fashion, if the worry is about something that hasn’t ever happened, it is time to help your child move into the present moment.  So often anxiety helps us write a horrible story in our head that probably isn’t going to take place.  We can bring our child into the present moment by looking around to what is happening right now versus what we imagine is going to happen into the future.  Be there with them in the here and now by coaching them on taking some deep breaths.  Have them tune into your voice and just breathe.  There are also some pretty amazing apps and kids/teen meditations out there if you need some help.  You tube is filled with them.  

A second tool is to help your child write a story of infinite possibilities using the facts.  Example: The fact is I can go into the office and eat lunch if I don’t find someone to sit with.  The fact is I can ask Kelly to eat lunch with me; she is nice to everyone.  The fact is I can bring my book out to lunch and read today.  The fact is I don’t know what today will look like but I am open to having a good day and I am not going to let lunch time bring me down.

I have a ton of other tools in my bag to support kids with anxiety, too much for a blog.  Please feel free to reach out to me to talk more.  Other great resources include the websites Anxiety BC and Worry Wise Kids.

Wishing each family and child a great start to the school year!