“My husband and I decided to move to be closer to our parents. Our 11-year-old son is having a tough time. He is more argumentative, seems to be withdrawing and more. It’s too late to get him into summer camps because everything is full. What can we do to help him feel make some friends and feel like this is home?”
No matter what age you are, moving has it’s challenges. Imagine, though, that you are 11, and you have just left all your friends behind. You would likely be feeling sad, left out, angry, isolated, bored, confused, curious, anxious, scared, and maybe even a little excited. Here are four ways to help ease him into his new town.
1. Don’t dismiss his feelings. Your son is overflowing with emotions right now. He needs to feel heard. Rather than say things like, “There’s no reason to be sad,” or “If you just make some effort,” let him know that it is hard. You might just say, “I know this is difficult. I miss my friends too. What do you think will help this feel more like home?” And, then listen to what he says. It will provide him with a chance to validate what he is feeling while also giving him an opportunity to problem solve. Also, kids sometimes just need to cry. As an 11-year-old boy, he may not feel like he can because he might feel embarrassed. If you notice he is holding back emotions, let him know that sometimes a good cry can help get all that “stuff” out.
2. Check to see if their is a social media page for the school. Many grades have private Facebook groups to set up summer get-togethers (Please, don’t call it a playdate anymore. As many tweens have shared with me, “Playdates are for babies. We just hang out.) Also, at this point of the summer, many schools start planning back-to-school orientations or ice cream socials, so be sure to give them a ring.
3. Step away from the moving boxes and do something fun. Go on a scavenger hunt to explore your town. Pretend you are tourists and stay in a hotel so you can swim. Join the rec center. Do something – anything – that your son enjoys. Sitting at home and unpacking memories of what was may prompt him to withdrawal further.
4. Keep him connected. Provide your son with opportunities to keep connected with his old friends. Let them Skype with one another, or play videos games over the interwebs for an hour or so a week. It will help him bridge his past home to his new one.
As I said, moving has it’s challenges. Most kids weather the moving storm, but some are affected on a deeper level. If you notice increased isolation or aggression, self-destructive behavior, don’t hesitate to find an adolescent counselor to support him. Until then, give your son time and love, which is what he needs most.
**What tips do you have to share to make moves a little easier? Please add them in the comments below!**
“We are getting ready to go on summer vacation with our 13- and 15-year old, and all I’ve heard about is how awful it will be. How can I make this a trip they – all of us – will enjoy?”
Raise your hand if you would love to be whisked away to a dream destination on someone else’s. I see plenty of hands in the air but you know who’s hands are down low? Teens!
For many teens, a week or two away means a lot of no’s … no friends, no sleeping in, no computers, no privacy … you get the drift. Their unhappiness can make the whole trip miserable. Here a few tips to make the trip enjoyable for everyone.
Have your tween-to-teen(s) help with the planning. Among the top five complaints I hear from kids is that they have no choice in what they get to do. Their lives feel scripted and directed, so give your kids some say. Ask them to help you choose the hotel or sights to see.
Encourage unplugging. We lived in a very wired (wireless!) world. We are constantly plugged into our phones, our computers, TV and more. Taking a break from electronics can provide your family with a opportunities to reacquaint and make memories.
Help them stay connected. Yes, this may seem like the opposite of the above point. However, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real. Allow you child some time to text or chat with their friends. On a recent road trip with my own teens, we set up designated times for unabashed tech use. The surprising result was that all of us realized we weren’t really missing out on much at all.
Give them space away from you. Constant togetherness can fray nerves, including your own. When possible, provide opportunities for your tween-to-teens time to explore on their own. Give them a map and a time to meet up at the museum. Let them explore the hotel grounds. Offer an evening in the hotel room without you where they can order in and watch TV. If you aren’t certain they can head off solo, consider looking for a class or other teen activities they can do.
Stay positive. It can be difficult to travel when you feel like nothing is appreciated. A gentle reminder to your kids that travel is a luxury – not a punishment. Encourage them to look at the trip in a different lens by pointing out the trip’s relevance to their own lives. For example, asking open-ended questions like “Have you ever thought about studying abroad in college?” and “What’s something you could do on this trip that would you’d be excited to share with your friends / teachers / coaches?” may give the trip more personal significance to your teens.
Now it’s your turn. What ideas have worked for you? Please share them in the comments section below.
“My 12YO daughter seems so down. What should I do?”
You are drawn in by the playful personality, the mischievous gleam in the eye, the witty and sometimes warped sense of humor humor and the smile …oh, that spirited smile.
These are the characteristics of a happy-go-lucky person, right? Not always. For many, this entertaining persona hides something darker and becomes the mask of depression.
Depression is more than just feeling down; it is a serious illness that doesn’t discriminate. Men, women, girls and boys of every age, educational level, and social and economic background suffer from depression. Three-hundred-fifty (350) million people worldwide are caught in it’s grip. Left untreated, it can lead to eating disorders, self-harm, relationship conflict, substance abuse, even suicide.
An estimated 1 in 30 tween-to-teens suffer from depression. It can be triggered by specific situations or traumas (i.e. bullying, breakups, death, family conflict, friendship troubles, etc), genetics, or a developmental milestones (i.e. being one of the only kids without a cell phone, boyfriend, etc). Your child may also have a fewer happy-inducing neurochemicals. That’s the downside. The upside is that a child suffering from depression has a very good chance of overcoming the disease; and, it begins at home.
Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to a child’s well-being. Things to support your child include:
Check in with your tween-to-teen: Your child’s “job” is to separate from you and form his or her own identify. This can make communication challenging even on the best days. Don’t let that deter you; make the effort to talk to your child. Ask about classes, friends, … anything. If your child can’t talk to you about the little things, they will never come to you with the big stuff.
Know potential red flags. Depression in tweens and teens often goes unrecognized. The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Possible signs to look for include:
- personality changes and behavior outside of your child’s norm.
- fatigue or loss of energy.
- increased frustration and anger.
- being uncharacteristically “down” or irritable for several weeks.
- lack of interest / withdrawal from friends.
- reluctance to participate in activities, and hobbies that they once enjoyed.
- changes in appetite (eating too much or not enough) and sleep (sleeping too much, not sleeping well, sleep avoidance).
- obsessing over body image.
- overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, guilt or a significant decrease in self-esteem.
- stomaches, headaches or other body aches that can’t be explained and don’t respond to treatment.
- Difficulties concentrating or completing simple tasks.
- Declining grades.
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting or burning.
Know where to turn for help. Many tweens and teens will cycle through symptoms routinely. That doesn’t always mean they’re suffering from depression. When those symptoms last more than two weeks, though, it is time to enlist support. Visit the family doctor, an adolescent counselor or a psychologist for an evaluation. Consider connecting with teachers, coaches, school counselors, and other adults who have regular contact with your child.
Keep them healthy. The mantra of “be healthy” feels a bit cliche at times, I know. However, the cold and hard fact is that good physical health can contribute to positive mental health. Eat well, get rest, exercise.
Love them. Always. Your role as a parent is to be an advocate, support system and a supplier of love. When your child speaks, listen without judgement. Tell them, better yet, show them that you are always there no matter what. Repeat the message even when they say “I got it.” Tween-to-teens – especially those experiencing depression – need to know you will be there for them and that you love them fully and always.
If you like this post, join me for a *FREE* webinar on April 1, 2015 to Meet Today’s Tween-to-Teen. To register, click here.
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“Ever since school let out, my 14 year-old has been moody, down, grumpy, isn’t sleeping and doesn’t seem to want to do anything. I don’t understand. It’s like this ever year. Isn’t summer supposed to be a time of fun and happiness? Is there something wrong with her?”
School’s out, the sun is shining, the pools are packed with friends… it’s the carefree summer dream, right? Not for everyone. While much of the population can barely contain their excitement for summer’s arrival, a small percentage long for cooler temps and shorter days. If you have noticed that your teen has feelings of depression, sleeplessness and irritability that come at the same time each year, she may have a form of seasonal affective disorder.
Summer depression, also called summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that commonly shows up in fall and winter. For one percent of the population, the warmer seasons bring on summer SADness.
As the days heat up, those with summer SAD may become extremely irritable, sleep less, and eat less. They may withdraw from friends and activities and isolate indoors. In its most severe form, people with summer seasonal depression may be more at risk for suicide than cold-weather SAD. A person with summer SAD may remain indoors, darken the room, and turn up the air conditioning to feel a sense of “normalcy.” However, one step into the heat can take them right back to those feelings of depression.
It’s sometimes easy for parents to overlook symptoms of SAD, or dismiss them as normal mood swings. The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Additionally, summer SAD is often not thought about because there is a sense that everyone should feel happy when days and nights are homework-free, swimsuit-clad and YOLO-infused.
For those affected (including myself), summer sadness is much more than a Lana del Rey song. Please consult a family physician or a licensed mental health professional to determine the right treatment.
Case Study: Communication Disconnect with 13-Year-Old Boy
“I can’t get through to my son. All he does is ignore me, roll his eyes and say “okay.”
This parent called to ask for solutions in how to get her 13-year-old son to open up. She missed the child he had always been and couldn’t understand what happened. She was worried that he may be headed down, what she coined, “a bad path” and that she was making mistakes.
After an initial meeting with both mom and son together, I began working individually with mom to help her understand the developmental changes her son was experiencing. Together, we worked on specific communication patterns, the language to tweens and teens, when to step back and when to step and much more. We created strategies that worked for her and her son to do more than just talk but to reconnect and engage. Additionally, we looked at how she was experiencing a developmental shift alongside her son. Because of that awareness, mom was able to start distinguishing between her needs and her son’s needs.
After a handful of sessions, mom noticed that her son wasn’t ignoring her and he was actually coming to her to talk. Both mom and son were accepting of each other’s need for connection and privacy. Mom also felt less suspicious and worried about her son’s behavior and moods. In her words, “I know when to worry and when not to now.” At a six-month check-in, mom and son were still talking and spending one-on-one time together. Mom had also begun spending time pursuing her own dreams by going back to school to become a preschool teacher.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical
about getting parent coaching. I mean, really,
I should know how to raise my son.
However, working with you has completely changed my mind.
This has nothing to do with me raising my son the right way,
and everything to do with understanding where he and I are
in our lives. I was most surprised to learn that
my son wasn’t the only one changing, I was too.
Julie helped me figure out what I need to be both
a great mom and a happy woman.
The best thing about Julie is that she never once made me feel bad or inferior – actually, it was just the opposite.
I felt so good about my choices and confident in myself and my relationship with my son!”