Five ways to help your teen release stress and relieve anger

Of all the emotions your teen faces, anger can pose a unique challenge. Releasing anger in heated moments is no small feat. Anger is a difficult emotion, particularly when coupled with stress. Show your teen how much you care by coming alongside them, helping them to relieve anger and release stress. Here are five ways to guide your teen towards a healthy response to relieving anger and releasing stress:

1.) Model healthy habits for your teen when you are angry.

Even when we may not realize it, teens are watching how we respond to challenges. So, in moments of frustration and anger, seize the opportunity. When you take responsibility for your own emotions, you show your teen what a good response in a tough moment can look like. Anger can be a healthy reaction to an injustice, and personally, anger can be good when it’s expressed in a focused way instead of using it to harm or punish others. Take a break from the situation to cool down, or channel your anger into something productive, like exercise. If you do overreact — after all, we are only human! — own your emotions and use the moment as a springboard for discussion.

2.) Table the conversation for the moment.

We all know the feeling: sometimes, when all we feel is outrage, we simply need to cool down. Give your teen space in a moment of anger. This shows your teen that you respect their emotions enough to wait until they are ready to share. A few minutes of quiet can deescalate the situation. Particularly if the anger is in response to a conflict between you and your teen, taking time to cool off can turn the tide. Once the tension has lifted, maintain an open mind as you enter into conversation.

3.) Acknowledge the root of how your teen is feeling.

More often than not, there is something deeper beneath your teen’s anger. Chances are, something stressful has happened and this angry moment is a delayed reaction, or the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” so to speak. Particularly if your teen is rebelling, the key is in getting to the root of the cause. Parent from a place of love, engage a support system when you need it and communicate with consistency. If you worry that your teen may be in the middle of a difficult season, here are some signs.

4.) Truly listen to what your teen has to share.

Listening can be a difficult aspect of communication, especially with a struggling teen. When your teen does share, take the time to be present and listen well. Reserve your own opinions for the moment; simply showing your teen that you can be a trusted sounding board can help your teen calm down and relieve anger.

5.) Be aware of patterns in anger, because it could be a symptom of something bigger.

The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that a staggering one in five children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition. Although your teen may appear angry on the surface, this emotion could indicate a serious problem, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse or alcohol abuse. If you suspect this could be the case, expand the conversation past the moment at hand and start the conversation about mental health.

If you are worried about your teen’s anger, it may be time to get help. Consider Shelterwood, a  residential treatment agency. We combine boarding school excellence with the best in therapeutic care for real transformation. At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. Today can be a turning point for your teen and your family. Take the first step towards real restoration. Contact us now: 866.585.8939.

When parenting feels overwhelming

Even on our best days, parenting a teen can seem overwhelming. Navigating how best to care for your child in the transition to independence is a challenging balance. If you are feeling drained, know that you are not alone. These tips can help you stay the course.

You are okay.

It is normal to feel overwhelmed. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect teenager, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Strive for good, not perfect. If your teen is acting out, do not internalize his or her behavior towards you. Your teen is going through a developmental stage. Even teen rebellion can be part of growth. It’s normal and okay to feel anxious and worried about your teen’s stage. Try to be objective about the stage and realize it is not your fault. It’s simply the journey that they are on.

Do not compare.

When you look around at families of teens like yours, it can seem like everyone has it easy. Yet, in reality, other families with teens are wrestling with conflict, struggling with boundaries and facing other challenges just like yours. Falling into the trap of comparison is not helpful for you or your family. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt said. Instead of comparing, shift your mindset to gratefulness and positivity.

Utilize community resources.

You are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed with parenting, leverage resources available to you. Your church or school may have a parent networking group that meets regularly either online or in person. Additionally, there are many reputable resources online to equip parents like you.   

Schedule self-care.

When your life is focused on your teen, you can easily forget about your own care. It is important to stay healthy. Get rest and regular exercise. Schedule time to see your friends. Give yourself permission to say “no.” To best serve your teen, you need to be emotionally, spiritually and physically well. When you prioritize yourself, you model a healthy lifestyle for your child, showcasing the value of self-care.

Reach out for help.

If you have reached the point where you are constantly burnt out, your family may need additional support. A residential treatment agency like Shelterwood can offer your family true restoration. Check out this blog if you’re debating whether it’s time for residential treatment.

At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. Teens arrive at Shelterwood when they are at their worst, and often leave with a transformed heart and a life restored. To learn more about how Shelterwood can help on your teen’s journey to restoration, call 866-585-8939.

Ideas to earn influence with your teen

When your child was young, connecting was easy. They relied on you for even the simple things, like getting dressed and eating meals. Now that your child is a teenager, however, your help is not as needed. In fact, they may want to distance themselves from you as much as possible (especially in front of their peers!).

As your teen establishes their own identity, remember that they still need you, just in a different way. Your unconditional love as their parent is invaluable and irreplaceable. As they shift, you can shift how you connect with them. Here are four tips to earn trust and earn influence with your teen:

1) Schedule one-on-one time

One-on-one time with your teen is a valuable way to connect. Be curious about their interests. Ask your teen what they want to do. You might plan a nice meal at their favorite restaurant or a day trip to a museum. Whatever the activity, make sure it is meaningful to your teen. Also, follow up. Make your time together a routine. For example, if your teen loves movies, make it monthly movie time.

2) Cook together

Homework, chores and other expectations may drive your teen to isolate themselves while they are home. To get them more involved with the family, ask your teen if they would like to cook or bake together. Teach them how to make that recipe they always devour. Or, perhaps they have a sweet tooth and you can try a new cookie recipe together. Let your teen own the cooking; let them select what they want to make.

3) Get to know your teen’s friends

Friendships are vital to teenagers. Take the time to get to know your teen’s friends. Care about their friends’ families and their activities. Make your home a space where your teen and their friends want to be. Let your teen host movie night or a game tournament at your house. Buy pizza for them. Give them breathing room to have fun together.

4) Listen to your teen

Your teen has a lot going on. Take the time to listen to their needs and frustrations. Ask questions at appropriate times. Avoid jumping to solutions. Give them space to come to you and navigate their own thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, your teen wants to be known. Listening to them allows you to get to the root of the issue and love them in meaningful ways.

If you are still struggling to connect with your teen, consider Shelterwood. At Shelterwood, we are driven to see the lives of teens transformed. We surround teens with a community of people committed to their growth, including dozens of dynamic young adult staff. Contact us to begin your journey to family restoration.

How to help your teen build a support system

“It takes a village to raise a child” is a familiar saying, and with good reason. As your teen grows, it is important for them to get to know other adults who are here to help. A support system equips teens to solve problems independently. Relationships with people besides Mom and Dad show them that they are so well loved, even beyond their immediate family. Plus, a network of trusted adults teaches teens to seek out resources when they face a challenge. Here are some ways to help your teen build a support system, fostering strong relationships among other important adults in their life.

Show your teen what it looks like to ask for — and accept — help.

Helping your teen build a support system starts with you. When you accept help, you teach your child an important lesson: everyone needs help sometimes, and it is okay to ask for it. Start with something small at home. Ask your teen for assistance putting away the groceries. Ask a friend to water the plants while you are out of town. Your teen can also benefit from seeing you support someone else. If a neighbor just had a baby, for example, invite your teen to join you in preparing and delivering a meal. This demonstrates how a community of people come together to help each other.

Invite other influential adults into your family’s life.

One way for your teen to begin building a support network is by strengthening relationships that already exist. Create opportunities for your teen to engage further with people who could be a positive influence in your teen’s life. Informal interactions set the stage. Invite the new youth pastor over for a casual weeknight dinner. Join your teen in volunteering locally, where he can meet other adults driven to help a good cause. Do not overlook those in your family, like grandparents, cousins or aunts and uncles. Help your teen foster these relationships in an informal setting.

Help your teen expand the circle.

The next time your teen asks for help, resist offering a solution right away. Instead, consider how your teen might reach out to another trusted adult. Point your teen in the right direction with ideas of people who can reinforce the same kind of positive behavior you hope to model. For example, if your teen is worried about his class schedule for the next semester, suggest his guidance counselor. If your teen is struggling with peer pressure, you might suggest her older cousin who faced a similar challenge when she was younger.

Nurture your teen’s passions.

Help your teen build bridges to adults who are pursuing paths that mirror your teen’s passion. For example, if your teen loves animals, help him set up volunteer opportunities at an animal shelter. Your softball player daughter might volunteer at a clinic for kids playing t-ball. These situations introduce your teen to people who have turned their passion into a career.

At Shelterwood, we believe in the power a community can have to restore a child. In fact, our young adult mentors are central to our program at Shelterwood. If you are curious about how Shelterwood can help your struggling teen, reach out to our admissions team. We are here to help.


Screen time and teens: How you can help

Is your teen spending too much time using technology? If you worry about your teen’s use of devices, you are not alone. A report by Common Sense Media indicates half of all young people feel they are addicted to their devices. Almost 60 percent of adults think their kids are addicted too, and a third of parents and teens say that they argue daily about screen time.

With today’s teenagers never knowing a world without the Internet, many struggle to use technology in a way that is healthy. “Our society is moving so quickly with technology that kids now have access to a very large social world that they may not have the maturity to navigate,” explains Ken DeBlock, Shelterwood Academy’s Director of Substance Abuse and Recovery. Learn more about technology addiction, why there is such a rise in the “screen time” challenge and how you can help your teen.

Technology addiction, defined

Ken characterizes addiction as someone engaging in behavior that is repetitive, and the person has lost control over that repetitive behavior. “So a teen might say, ‘I am just going to play games for one hour today,’ and then end up playing five hours every day of the week,” he explains. “It is okay to have a routine, but when you try to change that routine and find yourself unable to do so, that trends more toward an addiction than a routine.”

Technology addiction includes a wide range of behaviors and devices — video games, social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, television and video streaming and so much more. “We only have so many resources — including time, money and energy — and as something becomes addictive in your life, you put more time, money and energy into that thing,” Ken says. “For example, a teen may have been a straight A student and is now receiving Ds because they do not have the time or energy to invest in their schoolwork anymore.”

Why is technology addiction a growing problem for teens?

Not only are video games and online platforms marketed well to teens, Ken points to how they have evolved. Video games used to be designed around completing levels to win the game — think about games like Mario Cart — with the option to pause, save the game and come back to it another day.

“Over time, games and platforms have become more about rewards based on length of time you play. You build an online profile or online world, and your character gains access to bigger and better things based on how long you play . . . it is a cycle: the more someone plays or participates, the more they earn.”

Another feature in today’s games and social platforms is the focus on community. “It is a fundamental principle that people need connection,” Ken says. “Yet these devices provide a very different type of connection. Connection to other people is not through personal experiences, but through this online resource. This makes it easier for teens to project who they want to be and how they want to feel. There are many more opportunities to be inauthentic. These platforms center on a controlled environment that is easier to dictate than actual life.”

Another contributing factor to the rise of technology addiction is how ubiquitous technology is today. “This technology is just so prevalent in society. You can’t walk down the street and not see someone on their cell phone,” Ken says. “We have been constantly conditioned to look at these phones that we all carry in our pockets. Even if you take a day to turn off your own phone, you still hear other people’s chimes and buzzers. Even during class, if a teen has a phone in their pocket, the buzzer goes off. This is classic conditioning.”

How to tell if your teen is addicted — and how to help

One key sign that your teen may have an unhealthy relationship with technology is withdrawal from people and activities that used to bring joy. “Your teen does not hang out with friends anymore, does not go to church anymore, no longer enjoys extracurricular activities,” Ken says.

“When you talk about limiting technology and social media, how does your teen respond? Are they open to the conversation, or do they respond in a way that is argumentative?”

Another sign your teen may be struggling is secrecy surrounding technology use. It is important to differentiate privacy and secrecy, Ken says. “Privacy is healthy as a teenager grows up and matures, but secrecy is different. Do they hide their technology use from you?”

Helping your teen starts with healthy communication. Share your concerns openly, but with lots of empathy. “We’ve all fallen into the technology trap at some point. Your teen is not alone in this.” Guide your teen in setting up a structured plan for technology use, including a break from technology before bed to ensure healthy sleep. Make sure your teen has pathways for healthy recreational activities as well. Encourage your teen to participate in extracurricular activities and facilitate those options at home as well.

At Shelterwood, teens learn healthy social skills with no cell phones allowed on campus. They practice living a healthy lifestyle, including classes, counseling and fun technology-free activities. “We allow teens to practice healthy recreation with opportunities to swim in the pool, go for hikes, play in our soccer and basketball leagues and just enjoy being in community with others.”

Are you worried about your teen’s use of technology and the Internet? Take the first step toward restoration for your teen. Reach out to our admissions team today: 866.585.8939.

Three tips to help your teen set goals

With the new year around the corner, now is a great time to talk with your teen about goal-setting. Here are three strategies to facilitate your teen’s goals.   

1.) Guide your teen in identifying personal goals.

It is important to distinguish what it looks like to set goals for your teen and set goals with your teen. Aim for a collaborative approach: your teen’s goals should not be your goals for them. Rather, guide your son or daughter through the goal-setting process. Encourage them to start with goals they find exciting. Academic goals are a good place to begin, but goals can also stretch beyond the classroom. For example, if your teen is involved in a club, their goal can be to take on leadership roles in the activity.

Focus on realistic goals that are just out of reach. Good goals are also specific. Work together with your teen to break down their goal into practical, actionable steps. Use our downloadable goal worksheet goal sheet to help set them up for success. This sheet will help your teen commit to the process of following through and seeing their goals to fruition.Goal worksheet Shelterwood Help your teen set goals 791x1024 Three tips to help your teen set goals

2.) Cheerlead your teen en route to meeting goals

Show your teen that you are in their corner with consistent check-ins and encouragement. You want your teen to stay on track with their goals, but understand that we all have to adjust along the way. Affirm your teen’s efforts even if things do not go exactly as planned. Be respectful of their timeline, even if it doesn’t align with what you had in mind. This is their goal, and their progress depends on their commitment. Ask how you can help support them in achieving their goal. This shows you care and are always there for them.

3.) Follow up

Celebrate your teen’s wins. When they achieve certain milestones, encourage them to keep going. If they achieve a really big goal, gather your family to celebrate. Recognize all of the hard work they put into their success. This helps to build your teen’s confidence: having accomplished this goal, they will feel equipped to tackle even bigger goals.

If they do not achieve a goal, help your teen identify external factors and barriers that influenced the outcome. Motivate them to adjust their current goal or make a new one. It is okay to move forward; we all experience setbacks.

At Shelterwood, we know that encouraging your struggling teen can be difficult. We hope these tips can help you connect with your teen. If you feel frustrated and at a dead end, Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency might be a good fit for your family. Call us today for a confidential assessment: (866) 585-8939.

World Mental Health Day: How to talk to your teen about mental health

Is talking with your teen about mental health daunting? World Mental Health Day, October 10, is an opportunity to engage with your teen in a meaningful way. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, a staggering one in five children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition. Even if your teen never struggles with mental health, chances are strong that one of their friends may. This is a conversation parents cannot overlook. Explore these five tips to start the conversation about mental health.

1) Choose the right time.

Select an appropriate time to talk with your teen about mental health. Bringing it up right after an argument will not be fruitful. Rather, choose a time when you are both well-rested and calm. Some parents might find it helpful to begin the conversation while you are doing an activity together like driving in the car or cooking dinner. Think of opportunities that will work for you, and then choose your timing wisely. Choosing the right time and setting will help both you and your teen feel comfortable discussing this sensitive subject.

2)  Be genuine.

Before you even begin the conversation with your teen, remember empathy. The adolescent years are a challenging time for teens, as they build their own identities. Be genuine in your concern and love for them as you begin the conversation. Let go of your frustrations and start with an open mind and heart. Feel free to share your own experiences with them, too. When you include yourself in the conversation, it shifts from lecture to discussion.

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3) Ask questions and listen.

Ask your teen how they have been doing lately. Give them space to speak. Be quick to listen as they share their emotions with you. Be careful not to trivialize their feelings or experiences. Your teen opening up is an important first step in the journey to healing.

4) Share concern for your teen.

If you have noticed signs that your son or daughter may be struggling with a mental health problem, share observations that you’ve seen in your teen’s behavior. Frame these as “I” observations rather than “you” statements. For example, you might share, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling very stressed about school lately. How have you been feeling?” For a list of mental health signs and symptoms, learn more here.

5) Continue the conversation.

Do not let the discussion begin and end on October 10. Make mental health an ongoing conversation with your teen. The more normal the conversations become, the easier it is for your teen to get help. Remind your teen that even when they struggle, you are there to support them — no matter what. Your teen has an advocate in you, and they are not alone. This builds trust between you and your teen.

If you observe mental health issues in your teen including depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse, alcohol use or others, reach out for help. Consider Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency while you explore options that will be best for your family. Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency recognizes that every teen’s needs are unique. Our relationship-based approach to treatment wraps teens in love when they are at their worst. At Shelterwood, we see the decision to enroll your child in a residential treatment agency as a new beginning and a chance for lasting change. Give us a call. We would love to answer all of your questions: (866) 585-8939.

Five Strategies for Listening Well

Listening is a challenging aspect of communication, particularly when parenting a struggling teen. When you listen well, you show your teen that their opinions, thoughts, feelings and perspective are valuable. You demonstrate that your child is worth your time — and you encourage and empower your teen too. Here are five strategies that you can put into action today to improve your own listening skills — and, at the same time, model for your teen what it looks like to listen well:

Be present.

With our smartphones always within reach, it is very tempting to rush to respond to text messages or check app updates as soon as you hear that telltale notification. Unfortunately, media can easily pull us out of the moment, both distracting us from the conversation and making us seem uninterested in the person we are with. Strive to set your phone aside until after the conversation is over, and ask your teen to do the same. The conversation will be much more productive that way, and people will remember that you made an effort to be as present as possible.

Expect disagreements.

Adolescence is the time when teens naturally establish their own opinions and preferences, and building this independence can be healthy! Walk into conversations knowing that you and your teen may not share the same perspective. This helps our minds remain open, and helps us stay focused on listening rather than reacting. We will be less likely to let our own thoughts and beliefs interfere with listening well. Do not be afraid to share your thoughts, but never let them override the importance of hearing others.

5 strategies for listening well Five Strategies for Listening Well

Be intentionally inquisitive.

Look for naturally occurring space in conversation for asking appropriate questions. When you do, you show your teen that you are paying attention, you are interested in what he or she is saying and you are committed to learning more. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, your teen will leave knowing you care.

Keep an open mind.

Soak in what you are hearing. Just as you expect your teen to learn from you, you can also learn more about your teen through this conversation. Jumping in with our own response is tempting, particularly when the topic is volatile or challenging; but, if all we do is wait for the other person to stop speaking, we entirely miss what they are saying as we prioritize our own thoughts and beliefs over theirs.

Listen between the lines.

When you listen well, you can get to know your teen’s heart. As you hear their words, try and step into their shoes and imagine how they’re feeling in the moment. Once you think you have a handle to on what emotions are being represented, ask questions to make sure you understand correctly. This is a pivotal step in showing empathy for your teen.

Listening well is one of the best ways to open doors in relationships and creates a much deeper level of understanding — both for you and for your teen.

Conflict resolution: Four tips to diffuse conflict with your teen

The clock says 11 pm when you hear the front door unlock. Your teen is finally home — an hour past curfew, and for the third time this week. When you and your teen are at odds with each other, a conflict can get out of control rapidly. In this moment of worry, panic and anger, you both raise your voices.

What started as a calm conversation escalated quickly: you are no longer having a discussion, but a shouting match. Sound familiar? Here are some tips to diffuse conflict and get back to healthy conversation with your child:

1.) Take time to cool off.

Conflict cannot be solved in the face of strong emotions. If the conflict has escalated to a point where you or your teen cannot stay calm, take a step back. Whether in ten minutes or even the next morning after a good night’s sleep, be specific with your teen about when you will resume the conversation. When you take time to breathe and regain your focus, you give your teen the gift of opportunity: both of you can choose your responses logically, rather than behaving in a way you may regret.

How to say it: “We are both feeling angry right now, and we need to cool off. We can both take half an hour to catch our breath and calm down, and then I will see you back here for a healthy conversation.”

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2.) State the problem using “I” messages.

If things are starting to sound less like cooperative, productive conversation and more like the blame game, shift the tone toward one of personal responsibility by using “I” messages. Conflict can easily put us on the defense. Speaking with “I” as the subject instead of “you”  takes conflict in a positive direction.

How to say it: “I felt worried when curfew came and you were not home yet. We agreed as a family to a 10:00 curfew on weeknights. I was expecting you on time. What happened?”

3.) Use reflective listening to restate what you heard your teen say.

Reflective listening demonstrates that we care enough to hear the other person’s side of the story. Rather than focusing on yourself exclusively, it fosters empathy. To show your teen that you are listening, restate what you hear your teen saying.

How to say it: “So when you are out with friends whose curfews are later than yours, you feel that 10:00 is not a fair time to come home. You feel that you do not have the freedom you want.”

4.) Affirm your son or daughter with a simple reminder that they are loved, valued and important.

In times of conflict, heart rates increase, our logic gets distorted and we often think in simple, black-and-white terms: I am good, you are bad. Stop the emotional flood by simply affirming your teen. This quick, effective exchange reminds your teen that you do not love her any less, and she is just as cherished now as she was before the conflict.

How to say it: “I am feeling frustrated about the problem we are having with your curfew, but you are more important than this conflict. I love you no matter what, and you are priceless. We are on the same team and it is us against the problem, not us against each other.”

Conflicts with your teen do not need to be volatile and negative, and how we deal with conflict determines the outcome. If conflicts are becoming the norm with you and your teen, Shelterwood can help. Contact us to start the admissions process.

Emotional Decisions

Don’t let emotions screw up your decisions

Think about a time when you were weighing an important decision at work or at home. Such decisions are inherently complex, and no matter how much experience you have making them – working through the pros and cons of each choice can be overwhelming.

Your emotional reactions to these choices may help direct your attention and energy toward what you feel are the most important aspects of the decision. Yet intense emotions may lead you to make misguided or out-right disasters decisions.

Imagine, for instance, that you hit heavy traffic while driving home from work and are forced to miss dinner and your son’s basketball game. Frustrated and tired from work, you sit down on the couch only to be confronted with an important decision. Your daughter is asking to stay out late with her irresponsible boyfriend.

Even though the request is a separate issue and we all assume we have pushed our earlier frustration aside, Francesca Gino (Harvard Business Professor) has found that we are often unable to separate our emotions. His research emphasizes that emotions triggered by an event completely unrelated to a new situation often influence our thinking and decisions in that situation. In related research, Scott Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California, and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University, found that anger triggered by something unrelated to the decision also affects how we evaluate the ideas of others.

They found that those who were induced to feel angry were less interested in evaluating others’ high-quality ideas. Anger appears to increase the appeal of criticizing others and their ideas. Our feelings can offer relevant and important feedback about the decision, but irrelevant emotions triggered by a completely unrelated event can take us off track.

The next time you get slammed with an unexpected workload or have an argument at work, consider how your emotional reactions could linger as you enter into the important task of parenting. Fortunately, we often can choose when to perform each of the many tasks required of us at home. This should allow us to evaluate ideas from others when we believe we are most capable of doing so objectively and thoroughly.