How to Connect with Your Teenager

How to Connect with Your Teenager

Yes, the teenage years are collectively a cringe-worthy and uniquely challenging time for many parents. How vividly do you remember the chaos and stress that you bestowed upon your own parents many years ago? It is a point in your child’s life that can be fulfilling, as they are developing their own interests, trying new hobbies, making new friends, and slowly learning how to become an adult. However, it is also a point when the paradigm shifts and your child will want to become more independent and try to make their own decisions. They will ask for more freedoms, your car keys, if they can spend more time with friends, and about dating, which means, uh-oh, sexual activity. Teenagers, as we all remember so well, are also newly exposed to a plethora of different stressors from school and their peers and there are many biological changes occurring within their bodies that they do not understand, which can result in them being temperamental. The important thing to remember during this time is that you should connect with your child before you correct them because they need you. The teenage years are critical molding years and connecting with them is vital, as it will make these turbulent times easier for you both. Below are some pieces of advice on how to connect with your teen.

  • Keep an Open Door Policy – As mentioned above, once a child becomes a teenager and enters high school, they are exposed to a monumental amount of new stressors: grades, preparing for college, bullies, rejection, rumors, working, peer pressure; the list goes on and on. Your child may not fully understand how to deal with many of these issues, so it is important that you, the parent, be an open source of guidance and comfort that they can come to when they need help or someone to talk to. This will help you and your teen develop a healthy, trustworthy, and open relationship and stronger emotional bond.
  • Show Them Love – Despite the fact that many teenagers think they are “cool”, grown up, and independent, they still want love and affection. You can easily display this to your teen by regularly saying “I love you,” giving them hugs and kisses, surprising them with their favorite snack or breakfast, greeting them when they come home, and saying “goodbye” when they leave. Simple gestures will show them how much you care about them and are always appreciated.
  • Take an Interest in Their Interests – Even you may not like the kinds of activities that your teen does, it is important to support your child’s interests and get involved with them. If your child is into sports, you can offer to play with them outside or watch a game together. Do they like art? You can take some time to paint with them or even take a pottery course together. This will be a perfect way to strengthen your emotional bond and spend time together. Hey, you may also develop some new interests of your own.
  • Talk to Them – This one is simple and straightforward. Ask how their day at school was, how they are feeling, do they need help with anything, how their friends are doing, etc. A good way to keep this consistent is to have dinner as a family every night. That will always serve as an ample opportunity to talk with your teen about their day or anything else. On days that you are both super busy, still try to converse with them, whether it be during a car ride or even on the phone. This is a great way to connect on a daily basis and show that you have an interest in their lives.
  • Develop Rituals – Taking part in traditions as a family can be a great way to have fun, create lasting memories, and bond. Rituals can involve biweekly trips to see a new movie, dining out at your favorite restaurant on the weekends, taking them shopping when they receive good grades, going on a yearly vacation together, and anything unique that your family can think of and that everyone enjoys. Pick something unique and remember to stick with it.
  • Do Work Together – Ew. Chores. One of the dreaded parts of weekends or breaks for both parents and their children, but, unfortunately, they need to get done. Instead of commanding your teen to perform all of the cleaning or mowing by themselves, offer to help them with it, making the experience more tolerable and quicker for everybody. You can also make it more enjoyable by playing music or listening to a podcast together. This can also serve as a good opportunity to teach them new things and life skills for when they finally reach adulthood and move out. Two examples of this are: cooking together and teaching them how to change the oil in a car.
  • Be Affirming – During these years, many teenagers are always judging their self-worth and seeking affirmation from their peers, teachers, and others around them. It is important to remember that they are also mostly seeking affirmation from YOU, their parents. They want to know: Are you proud of them? Are they doing a good job? Are they pretty? Smart? Capable? Saying affirming things to your teen can have an amazing effect on their lives. And, if you are in a situation when you do not want to embarrass them, as sometimes teens get embarrassed when you say these things in front of their friends, send them a text or leave them a note for later reading.

We at Just Mind hope that this article will help you build a relationship with your teenager. If you are interested in other blog posts related to teens, you can read Five Ideas for Supporting Teens in a Tough Moment. If you feel that you need additional help regarding your teen, you can read about teen counseling or contact us to make a counseling appointment. We have several counselors that work with teens and parents that can help you. Even if we are not the right fit, we are tied to an expansive network of counselors and will help you find the right match.

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How to Control Your Anger

How to Control Your Anger

Anger: everybody knows the feeling. It is the feeling of white, hot rage that causes your blood pressure to skyrocket and makes you feel like you are about to boil over. Anger is one of the most basic emotions, along with sadness, fear, happiness, and others. It is a useful emotion which serves a protective purpose by preparing us to fight when our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. It can also serve as a mechanism to mobilize us to complete a goal or make changes in our personal lives and communities when we feel that things are not up to snuff. However, too much anger can be detrimental to our health and can hurt, or even destroy, relationships with our loved ones. If you feel that anger controls and dominates your life and you have trouble handling it, below we have some helpful tips on how to control your anger.

  • Develop and Practice Relaxation Techniques – When you feel that you are about to lose your temper, put relaxation skills to the test. These may be individual for everyone, so find something that works for you. Some examples of relaxation techniques are: deep breathing exercises, mentally or verbally reciting calming phrases, imagining pleasant and relaxing scenarios, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation, and doing yoga poses. If none of these seem appealing, you can explore and find what helps you cool your temper down.
  • Monitor Your Thoughts and Speak Carefully – It is easy to say something hurtful or destructive when you are angry, which you will probably regret once the feeling subsides. Before you say anything, take some time to collect your thoughts and allow other individuals who are involved to do the same. This is a good practice as saying something hurtful to someone else or someone saying something hurtful to you can result in even more anger, which can spiral out of control into an anger storm.
  • Use Humor  – Using humor can help lighten the situation and relieve pressure. You can use humor to identify and face what is making you upset and even calm you down, as a good laugh will usually help with that. Remember to keep it playful and light, as using put-down jokes, sarcasm, mimicking, or other negative humor can cause more hurt.
  • Exercise – Any type of physical activity, whether it be lifting weights, running, power walking, yoga, and others can help reduce the stress which causes us to become angry and upset. If you feel tensions rising, go exercise!
  • Use “I” Statements and Avoid “You” Statements – Use “I” statements, such as “I feel…”, “I think…”, rather than “You” statements, such as “You did…”, “You are…”. These are good and useful for avoiding criticism, placing blame, and taking ownership of the problem. Remember, when doing this, be respectful. Using “I” statements as a chance to be mean usually does not work and can continue to escalate the situation. A good example is saying “I’m upset because you did take out the trash when I asked you” rather than “You never do anything.”
  • Temporarily Remove Yourself From the Situation – Take a moment to calm down with a method of your choice and then return to the situation once you are thinking clearly and some of the tension has diffused. Once you return, you can tend to the situation by allowing everyone to state their feelings and concerns, which can ultimately help identify possible solutions to the problem and solve it without corrosive and destructive behavior.
  • Take Mental Breaks – It is a good idea to take breaks during stressful points of the day to help you wind down and relieve pressure. This will prevent and reduce the amount of stress that builds up inside of you, which will help you be prepared for emotionally hazardous situations. Coming home from a long, stressful day of work where you did not take any mental breaks is an excellent primer for anger about insignificant events that can be solved calmly, without the use of anger.
  • Come Up With Solutions – Rather than focusing on your anger and what is making you mad, thus amplifying and intensifying your anger, focus on coming up with solutions to the problem.  Using anger in most situations will not prove useful, won’t fix the problem, and make things worse. Try shifting your attention from anger to solution. You can also come up with solutions to common events in the future that cause your temperature to flare so you can either be prepared or avoid them all together.
  • Forgive Yourself and Others – We are human, we all make mistakes. Forgiving yourself for being angry and others who either intentionally or unintentionally made you angry can prevent you from harboring bitterness, anger, and resentment. Holding onto these feelings for an extended period of time can make you volatile and keep you angry when you see and interact with that individual, resulting in a never-ending anger loop. When you forgive and ultimately get over this anger, you can come back to the situation and resolve it.
  • Seek Professional Help – If all else fails and anger is still getting the best of you, seek out professional help. There are many trained therapists which can help you learn how to manage and control your anger. Therapy will help you identify triggers, explore underlying mechanisms for what is behind your anger, look at past issues, and teach your relaxation techniques. If you are a loved one need help with anger, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read about personal growth counseling. If we are not a good fit for you, we will help you find a good match, as we are tied to a very large network of mental health professionals in the Austin area.

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Tips for Coming Out

Tips for Coming Out

By Kyla Winlow, LCSW

Coming out is a journey. I definitely experienced the rainbows and joys of living my truth by coming out. But there were also some cloudy days and stormy weather along that path. Here are some tips I have picked through my journey:

  • First, I want to take away the pressure of needing a name or label for this part of you. You don’t need to identify as gay, lesbian, queer, pan, bi, asexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, or any other term. Sexuality exists beyond labels for it. You can decide what language to use or not use—maybe coming out is introducing your partner as your partner with no need/desire to label it.
  • Have support! Maybe you have a close friend or family member who you know will accept this part of you with open arms, or you might find support via an online community. You need to know that you are not alone and that someone has your back.
  • Before coming out, consider if you are dependent on anyone who you are going to come out to, such as family members, a spouse/partner, or a boss. Coming out could impact your finances, employment, health insurance, housing, or tuition. If coming out might affect these parts of your life, create a backup plan.
  • Be prepared for an array of reactions. Just as our sexuality is a journey for us, it can be a process for our loved ones, as well. Sometimes, a friend or family member grieves the loss of what they expected our lives to look like. Though this can be painful for us, this is not about us—this is about them and their process. Unfortunately, people may respond worse than needing time to grieve. Some of us will lose family, friends, or communities. One of the scariest reactions can be violence—we cannot ignore the statistics of hate crimes against the LGBTQIA community.
  • Consider safety. Does this situation feel safe? I’m talking about that gut feeling in your stomach. Listen to that vibe or those hairs that are standing up on the back of your neck. It might not be the time to hold your partner’s hand as you walk down the street in a place that does not feel safe. THIS IS YOUR CHOICE. You get to decide in what situations you want to share this piece of you and in what circumstances you think that it is best that you don’t.
  • If it’s not just a matter of your safety; if you don’t know if you want to be outed or seen as different, I’d encourage you to consider the other side of this coin. Imagine if you saw more queer people showing each other affection when you were younger. How might that have felt for you? I think it would have helped me feel less alone and different. Unknowingly, you may be offering support to someone who needs it by outing yourself or by letting yourself be seen.

In closing, coming out is as unique as our individuality. People often ask me if their experience or journey is typical, and the answer is yes! Whether you came out when you were a young child, if you came out later in life, or if you are still contemplating the decision to come out, you are normal. That was and is your journey. Honor it because it brought you to where you are today.

If you liked this post and want additional advice on coming out, you can read Tips On Coming Out at Work.  If you or a loved one need any assistance with this process, you can check out our fantastic LGBT therapists, read more about LGBT counseling, or contact us to make a counseling appointment.

Need some more resources? Looking for ways to connect with the LGBTQ community? Check out some of these links:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/resource-guide-to-coming-out

https://diversity.utexas.edu/genderandsexuality/publications-and-resources/

https://www.genderbread.org/

https://www.glaad.org/

https://www.equalitytexas.org/

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How to Become a Morning Person

How to Become a Morning Person

Waking up early in the morning can difficult. The bed is warm, you are comfortable, turning off the alarm clock is easy, and an additional 5 minutes (which is shorthand for no less than 30 minutes) of sleep is an alluring idea. I’m sure that all of us have encountered this exact scenario many times throughout our lives, myself included. This is why I can absolutely identify with the challenge of switching gears and waking up early. I have never been a morning person until I traveled to Asia and came back from the trip and found myself waking up before sunrise. Let’s just say that this tickled my fancy enough to want to get back in this groove multiple times and I have had clients with this same desire as well.

If you want to become a morning person, below are some practical tips and pieces of advice that may help you get to sleep earlier and become an early bird (who gets the worm).

  • Identify why it’s essential. This may sound basic, but if you don’t know why you are doing it, then you aren’t going to keep it up.
  • No napping during the day. This may sound simple, but it’s imperative and a common mistake, as you will not be able to fall asleep later in the evening. You can take a power nap of 10-15 minutes, but nothing more than that if you do. My general advice for those that have a tricky time with napping is to avoid it.
  • Personally, I am a fan of taking melatonin and getting into bed a little early with a book that has nothing to do with your daily world. It helps to close the browser tabs of your mind. This varies by person as some people can’t put down a good book and it may keep them up later. Know your vices on this one.
  • Remove anything stimulating like cell phones and tablets. These devices are slippery slopes and allow work or play to encroach on your beauty sleep. Cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices also negatively affect your rest in many different ways.
  • I think it helps not to have an alarm clock close to your bed.
  • Try different things like having an alarm clock that makes you solve a puzzle or that wakes you with the news. See what works. The goal is to have it in your head you are doing something different and that you are being woken up to some sort of activity. This will help prevent you from merely shutting it off and going back to sleep.
  • If you use an Alexa Spot, you can have Alexa do sleep meditations from places like Headspace or wind down to music before falling asleep.
  • I have had clients use animals as their alarm clocks as the dogs will follow up where the alarm clock falls off.
  • Use a sleep calculator to see when you should go to bed for your goal time of waking up.
  • I knew of several clients that developed unique ways to wake themselves up: one used a Christmas tree timer connected to a hairdryer. Odd, yes, but it worked. Another used an alarm clock for those with hearing impairment. It would vibrate and flash a light.
  • I had a client who used a more zen approach and had a light that would gradually turn on and a bell that would ding and slowly become more frequent.
  • Some people suggest eating a banana and having milk, turkey, and carbohydrates as they have natural sedative effects due to tryptophan. Similarly, a hot shower or bath 60-90 minutes before bed can be calming and relaxing; it can also assist in dropping your body temperature, which is a natural signal in your body that it is time to rest.
  • Part of what makes waking up at a different time so tough is breaking a sleep cycle. Another thing can is sleep deprivation in general, as sleep is shown to affect mental health. Working as a counselor, I absolutely see the role of reduced sleep attributed to many diagnoses that can easily be treated through good sleep hygiene (ADHD, mindless eating, anxiety, depression, stress).
  • For going to bed, I think it helps to think of yourself lying in a place with everything you associate with relaxing. For me, that’s a lake with nothing else around it and laying on a raft. Find the visualization that works for you and allow yourself to steep in it. This helps your brain let go of control.
  • If you wake up, try counting and focusing on your breath. Slowly counting as you breathe in and slowly as you breathe out. This helps to turn off that logical part of your brain that sometimes kicks on “What time is it? Do I have to pee? How long was I out?” These thoughts never help and don’t check the clock.
  • Visualize what you want to do with your new routine and know that the first few days will likely be the toughest. Build in a morning reward for your new behavior. If you get tired during the day, try to walk or get some exercise. This helps you to get the most of out of the day so you can crash later.
  • Oh, a note on caffeine. Mileage varies on this advice, but I first ask people how sensitive they are. I then have them cut back their caffeine intake, so nothing is after 3 pm and then try to cut it back even further. It can easily mess up the best-laid plans.
  • Ambien and other sleep medications can be a slippery slope in my experience and research points it this way too. It’s not suitable for long-term use, and it’s not that much more effective than trying to sleep without it.

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