Teenagers in Counseling

More and more teenagers are asking to go to counseling! It makes a huge difference when a teen is ready to go to counseling. It can be a challenge to make a teen do something they don’t want to- let alone go talk to a stranger about their feelings!

So when a teen is asking to go see a counselor, it may be a good idea to listen. Teenagers have to face a huge amount of stress these days. Managing self-esteem, healthy friends, to online drama or even bullying. It’s overwhelming. So by having a neutral place to come process through their day, you can find that teens are less likely to act out.

The biggest topic of conversation seems to be boundary setting. Teens are notoriously either pushing boundaries or dealing with struggling to set boundaries with peers that are pushing boundaries. (Did your head spin around?) It’s one of the first times in their lives that they get to make decisions for themselves. It can be difficult to say they are uncomfortable with doing something if everyone in their peer group is doing it. If we can learn to set boundaries early in life, imagine the strength and confidence that will follow.

Of course, depression and anxiety are a major issues for this age. While it may be easy to see a teenager as “being dramatic”, if your teen is dealing with self-harm or depression it’s important to reach out to a therapist as soon as possible. These are serious concerns and need to be helped out by a professional.

Think back to when you were a teenager. Wouldn’t have been nice to talk to someone neutral and unbiased?

Counseling Kids with Asperger’s

So, yes, technically Asperger’s doesn’t exist anymore. The latest DSM now classifies this under the Autism spectrum as high functioning autism. However, parents of this awesome group of kids still often refer to it as Asperger’s.

Why these kids are great:

Working with this group of kids is delightful for about a billion reasons. They are crazy smart, often passionate about something so interesting, and can be extremely witty More often than not, they will often give a non-nonsense, “tell it how it is”, kind of perspective. Generally, they see the world a bit differently which is refreshing and honest.

The challenges:

Like all of us, we want to be accepted. However, often times, kids with Asperger’s struggle socially. Many teens have described it as though they were “missing something” when with a group of people. Sarcasm is hard to understand and this leave these kids feeling left out. Similarly, kids with Asperger’s are subject to bullying. This, in return, can put their defenses up high. When over-stimulated by sounds, pressure or bullying, these kids can be quick to lash out- screaming, fighting, name-calling. The behavioral issues that can come up are extremely difficult for parents to manage.

When the stress of social pressure gets to be too much, this kids often retreat and isolate themselves. They can spend hours on the computer and it can even be difficult to get these kids out of their room. They often choose to stay in their comfort zone, making it difficult to family and school to motivate them into doing anything else.

How Counseling Helps:

Typically, parents bring their kids with Asperger’s to counseling hoping for behavioral management. They are hoping for less melt-downs or outbursts, better control of their anger and to be more respectful when ask to do chores or homework. Counseling can help with that. First, however, there must be a connection piece where a therapeutic relationship is built. Until the kids can feel like they can trust their counselor, very little behavior change will happen. It’s absolutely critical to look at the loneliness and isolation that is happening that makes them act with certain behaviors. Then we can start discussed different pieces that may be holding them back socially. Counselors can gently point out when a story is going on for too long- in a way that peers (or even family) may react cruelly. Counselors can give immediate feedback on social cues these kids may miss. Therapists can also walk through ways to manage anxiety or anger, and give them tangible coping skills.

There is so much incredible counseling work that can be done with this population. Finding the right counselor- one with patience, kindness and knowledge on autism is absolutely critical. Once you find the right fit, the change can be meaningful and help the entire family.

How Domestic Violence Impacts Kids

How Does Domestic Violence Impact Kids?

In Domestic Violence (DV), there are four main types of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual and financial. We can get into what each of those mean at a later date because I do think it’s important. However, I really want to focus on how DV impacts kids.

If there is one thing I know FOR SURE it is that children hear EVERYTHING. I cannot stress this enough. Everything single time I have met with a family, they typically say something along the lines of, “Oh, but they were asleep when it happened, so they don’t really know.” or “Thankfully, they are too young to know what’s going on.” NOPE! A week later when I’d meet with the kid, they knew everything and more. Way more. It’s heart-breaking too because since no one has thought they knew, these kids are trying to understand everything alone.

Here are some basic facts about DV’s impact on kids.

1. Their brains work differently. Children exposed to yelling, screaming, hitting, etc. are working in a place of fight, flight or freeze. They are constantly scanning and assessing their environment for safety. This, in return, makes simple tasks a lot harder. It makes focusing at school extremely hard. Can you imagine listening to your people fight all night, terrified that something bad is going to happen, and then try to go take a test in a few hours? Check out this video by Dr. Bruce Perry.
2. They have major meltdowns. Since their brains are in fight or flight, the part of the brain working to regulate emotions isn’t working well (or at all). For example, if you ask them to do a simple task and then all of the sudden, they are in full on meltdown mode: crying, screaming, kicking.
3. They can stonewall you. Kids exposed to DV are great at shutting down. You cannot reason, talk or find out any information. This is a learned skill, done for protection. In the past, it was probably not safe to talk. However, it can be really frustrating for parents.
4. They need extra love and support. They need to talk about the domestic violence incidents. They need to process their feelings and know that it is safe to do so. Don’t make these kids try to make sense of traumatic events on their own. They need help- just like adults do. So, don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about what happened. At the very least, the kids will know that it is safe to talk to you in the future. Secret keeping is what keeps the cycle of domestic violence going. End it today by modeling healthy communication and safety.

If you recognize any of these behaviors in your kids, if important to find a counselor to help them process their emotions. It’s important to find a counselor that specializes in DV because it is a highly misunderstood topic.

If you yourself are in a domestic violence relationship, here is the contact for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.