DO LESS and Teach More Responsibility

My kids play competitive sports, and I love to see them improve with every game! We work hours every week developing skills outside of team practices and games so that they might develop. Something I’ve had to develop over time is the ability to pull away from the figurative microscope that we look through when developing those skills when it is actually time to play the game!

When my daughter steps up to the plate in a softball game, it isn’t the time to critique, point out nuances of the swing, or challenge her form. It’s time to let her shine or fail!

Screen Shot 2015 09 16 at 1.44.29 PM 300x172 DO LESS and Teach More ResponsibilitySomething similar happens to us parents when it comes to monitoring our kids’ school performance. Over the past several years, many school systems have started utilizing online grade books so that parents can monitor their student’s grades. This can be a blessing and a curse to parents who want the best for their children.

I find myself checking my kids’ grades often. When I would notice an assignment missing, or a low quiz score, I often times am able to discuss it with my child that VERY night! What an awesome tool, right?

Something I noticed was that my kids became very guarded and stressed out that I was keeping such a close watch. Can you imagine if that happened at your job? This does indeed happen to adults, and it’s miserable! Instead of living life with your child and letting him take ownership of his academics, we become a micro manager. This doesn’t make for an easy relationship with your teen.

Recently I had a conversation with my teen about her grades after I noticed a couple of assignments missing in the online grade book. She let me know she had it handled, and that it stressed her out that I was watching things so closely. We came up with the agreement that I would only check the grades once a week, and would only mention something if I saw a trend developing over time. That’s still a very close watch on her progress, but I am committed to giving her some breathing room.

Give yourself permission to pull back from the microscope. You aren’t being neglectful; you are empowering your teen to grow and take responsibility!

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Give us a call and learn some other small steps you can take to teach responsibility in your home.

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Parenting without Tears

Is parenting without tears even healthy? Find out why it is important to have a soft heart.

Have you ever been told that becoming a Christian would make your life better? I have, and I am still waiting for that truth.  When my daughter was struggling with depression and anxiety, it was the most painful time in my life, filled with distress and lots and lots of tears.

praying dad copy 206x300 Parenting without TearsIn church this week, our pastor spoke about ‘lamenting’ and what it means to ‘sow your tears.’  In Psalms 126, David talks about reaping a harvest of joy after tears have been sown. It seems paradoxical, but the pastor gave such a meaningful explanation of grief and suffering that made it seem, well, much more positive and hopeful.  In the book of Ezekiel, God talks about taking hearts of stone from his people and replacing them with hearts of flesh. So, when we become followers of Jesus, our pain actually increases as our hearts are made softer than they were before.

Often our daughter would tell us, “Other parents don’t care if their kids drink, stay out, have sex… so why do you care?”  Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much, but my relationship with Jesus has actually softened my heart so much that I can’t help but notice and care.  The world tells us to “let go.”  Even counselors will sometimes suggest that your authority and power is limited and so if we can’t stop certain behaviors, we should just accept them.  After all, “they are just teens” and we should just “expect certain behaviors.”  This idea to care less is difficult for a soft heart that recognizes the eternal nature of our humanity.  I am not sure that what we are walking through with our teens as parents should just be endured or ignored.  Maybe instead we should open ourselves up and allow ourselves to feel this pain more deeply and sow our tears…let ourselves feel the full brunt of sorrow.  Throughout the Bible, grief and deep sorrow is one of the first steps in how believers grow and this might be key to how we become better leaders in our homes.

So, what are we supposed to do with all this pain? How do we plant our tears in order to reap joy?  Some of us are really good at trying to overcome our pain, or we minimize it, stuff it down and just hope it goes away. Our culture of individualism even teaches us to ignore pain, have a stiff upper lip, and resolve issues with our own strength. This is destructive because it is not in our nature to ‘hold’ pain and if we don’t recognize our pain we will transmit it to others.  The way to sow our tears is to bring our sorrow, suffering and pain to the God who knows what it feels like. No other god in this world was a sufferer…not one of them was ever weak, vulnerable or in pain. Jesus was. His heart of flesh was perfect, which is why we read that he cried so many times in the stories of His life. He is One who relates to pain, has felt sorrow in the deepest places of His heart and was able to pray and worship His way through those times. Don’t be afraid to lament…to lay down those ugly feelings and get real with Jesus. When we sow these tears, not only does He collect them, but He also plants them into our lives and then brings a harvest of joy out of the dry ground. Try reading through some of the Psalms of lament and use them as your prayers during difficult times. You might be surprised what you reap.

 

Mistakes Therapists Make

Four common errors that therapists make with teenagers, that Doré E. Frances has come across in her practice.

Mistake 3: Improving Family “Communication”

Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 12.50.45 PM 300x202 Mistakes Therapists MakeThe most pervasive idea in both individual and family therapy is that young people run a muck because the family doesn’t “communicate” well. Too many therapists, in my opinion, focus on discussing what each member of the family feels without acknowledging any difference in status between children and parents.

They seem to believe that children may comment on parents’ sex life or spending habits as freely as parents would address the same subject with their child. When a young person is out of control and drunk on power, this attention to open communication is like throwing gasoline on an open flame.

I once told a 14-year-old client who was insulting his parents in a coaching session to stop speaking that way. He jumped up, pointed at me and shouted, “You’re my advocate. You have to let me say whatever I want as long as it’s what I really feel!”

I realized that this is what he had been taught by his former therapist at home before he entered a wilderness therapeutic outdoor program..

Therapists commonly teach parents and children to speak in “I” messages, and when no power struggle is going on, this practice is perfectly reasonable. However, when adolescents are angry and explosive, there is typically a power struggle going on, and this level of communication inflames it by raising an out of control teenager’s status to that of an equal partner with their parents. In power struggles, teenagers challenge parents about the content of an issue, and parents respond in the same vein.

John then screamed at his mother, “This is just bullshit! You always pull this kind of controlling shit on me. Everyone else’s parents are letting them go to the party. We’re not doing anything wrong mom.”

She responded to the content, defending herself by saying, “this isn’t bullshit.” She insisted that she and her Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 12.50.09 PM 257x300 Mistakes Therapists Makehusband didn’t always control John and that she didn’t care what other parents allow. Some therapists might encourage this kind of interaction, thinking the teen and parents are communicating, when, in fact, the teenager is defining the issue and browbeating his parents. The communication approach I prefer simply acknowledges the process of the interaction and keeps parents from lapsing into a defensive position.

So with John’s mother, she might have said, “You know what, young man? As long as you’re talking to me that way, you aren’t going anywhere.” 

Often, I actually coach parents to be more mysterious and indirect by keeping their knowledge and plans to themselves. For instance, as a parent learns more about their teen’s friends, we encourage them to accumulate that knowledge until it can be used as part of a cohesive plan of action.

For instance, when parents learn about an illicit party this coming Friday night, instead of confronting the teen, it may be better to organize several parents to show up there together to break it up.

Difficult teenagers often work very hard so that parents don’t learn anything about their lives outside the home, while parents usually talk constantly, sharing all their plans and giving away whatever strategies they may be developing. Teenagers usually will resist their parents’ taking control of information by threatening further misbehavior or escalating the confrontation on the spot in an attempt to make parents capitulate.

By paying attention to process and not giving in to the temptation to explain and justify, parents can maintain their calm and gain greater authority.

Check out this interesting video on The Principle of Confusion

Errors that Therapists make

Taking back authority in the counseling office and in the home

Most therapists I know agree that teenagers can be among the most difficult clients they see in their practice.

iStock 000007761349Small 200x300 Errors that Therapists makeThey often refuse to attend sessions, refuse to speak when they do attend, swear at parents and therapist, and storm out of the room when they hear things they don’t like. Difficult teenagers often argue head-to-head with adults and professionals using arguments such as, “I’m not going to give them any respect if they don’t give me respect,” and “It’s my life.” At times such teenagers have thrown objects across the office. One particularly aggressive thirteen-year-old girl threw her high heel sandal directly at her therapist while hollering, “I’m glad I’m not one of your kids!”

Some teens are so direct that they come out and say, “There’s nothing you (the therapist) or them (their parents) can do about me.”

Any therapist treating domestic violence takes one look at a husband who is dominating and abusing his wife and recognizes that he exercises power over her. Yet, when a teenager threatens, dominates by shouting and imposing guilt and controls their parents by threatening to run away, most therapists fail to realize that abuse may be going on. Adolescent and preadolescent behavior begins at younger ages as our culture educates them more rapidly. Parents are walking the fine line between being authorities / parents and friends with their children. However, this tightrope is precarious and requires a lot more knowledge and patience than, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” As psychologist David Elkind pointed out decades ago, children are growing up more quickly and losing their childhoods too early in our fast-moving society.

As teenagers become adult-like at earlier ages, they see themselves as “equal” to the adults. Our society isn’t teaching them the distinction between being of equal value versus having equal authority as adults.

Teens are extremely vulnerable to believing that they can handle everything and don’t need adults.

They are struggling to take control of their lives as parents struggle to give them that control only as they’re ready to handle it. There’s a natural power struggle. So, how does an excellent therapist treat a struggle between a teenager and their parents?

Do they ignore the power issues and treat everyone as equals, or understand the need for order in a child’s life through support and leadership? Therapies that advocate support without leadership fail, giving teenagers too much control, in my opinion.

There are four common errors that therapists make with teenagers, that Doré E. Frances, has come across in her practice. They are surprisingly simple to grasp, and they always make matters worse:

Mistake 1: Courting the Teenage Client

Mistake 2: Falling Prey to Therapeutic Tunnel Vision

Mistake 3: Improving Family “Communication”

Mistake 4: Telling Parents to Back Off

We will discuss the first mistake that is often made by inexperienced counselors or weak therapeutic boarding schools. Courting the teenage client can often begin with the initial phone call from a parent.

The first words out of a parent’s mouth often are something like, “The counselor at the school said we need to bring Tammy in for family therapy, but Tammy says we’re the crazy ones and she won’t come in. She said she wouldn’t talk even if she did come in.” In the residential setting, a parent might be concerned that while their teen needs help, he or she would never allow it to happen and would possibly runaway or act out before they could get them to the facility.

This is the number one power tactic teenagers use to keep therapy from happening.

Weak therapists accept this story, suggesting that in order for someone to change they must be willing right from the beginning. They quickly empower the threat of the teen by saying, “oh well I guess there’s nothing to be done when their child won’t cooperate”. When this is the message to your family the therapist might as well say, “Sorry folks, you better get used to your daughter running your family.”

The best therapists, I have come across, when confronting this situation, tell parents on the phone that they treat kids who “won’t cooperate” all the time, and that they, the parents, must decide whether therapy is to happen.

Even in therapeutic boarding schools, teens try to avoid counseling. We recommend that our counselors tell the teen that the session is scheduled and they are expected to be there, and if they are not, the grown-ups will meet anyway. We also coach the parents, who are our clients, to point out to their teen that the adults will be talking about them and making decisions about their life. Most kids come to the first session after hearing this.

When they don’t attend, the therapist agrees with the parents in the first session to change something major at home, and when their adolescent gets angry about the change, to simply say, “Oh, we decided that at the therapy session.”

Teenagers almost always come to the second family session. As long as parents are reactive, and feel helpless and hopeless, the young person wields the power, dominates, controls, and simultaneously suffers. Another way that many therapists court teenage clients and make matters worse, in my opinion, is by according them the same treatment status as adult clients. The prevailing belief–not supported by law–that teenagers are entitled to a confidential relationship with their therapists leaves a teenager who is drunk on power thumbing their nose at the parents. A lot of therapists operate under the same standard of privacy with their teenage clients that they have with adult clients, which they feel requires them to withhold critical information from parents. Many angry parents come to our program with this complaint, stating that their teen’s therapist was withholding important facts, such as the teen’s sexual activity, smoking, drugs or criminal behavior, from them. Confidentiality in families is held within the family and not by individual members. Therefore, the therapist has latitude to share whatever needs to be shared.

The best therapists make it clear that they are closely involved with parents and they will use their judgment as to what they share with them.

After all, what’s the point of a teenager telling a therapist they are using drugs when the therapist can’t help the teen discuss it with the parents and find a solution? Creative therapists invite teens to withhold information from them until they decide they can be trusted. I find that teens then share sensitive information with their therapist even though they don’t give them a guarantee of confidentiality.

By Doré E. Frances, PhD

Education Consultant

Teachable Moments

Screen Shot 2015 03 24 at 7.12.13 PM 300x139 Teachable MomentsI’m a morning person and can’t wait to get the day going. In the morning I feel like a corvette peeling down the highway! However, my teenage son is NOT a morning person. Hence, we have found ourselves in consistent conflict when my cheerful, “Good morning!” is met with a grunt or mumbled, “Morning.” As soon as I feel his lack of energy I often think and occasionally say, “What’s your problem?” And the corvette goes crashing into the slow-moving VW bug.

It’s easy to get offended when your friendly overture to your teenager is met with ambivalence, if not passive hostility. It’s also easy to get frustrated when you are a schedule-oriented, goal-driven parent with a teenager who can’t seem to locate his schoolbooks because the floor is covered with clothes, and who comes within seconds from missing the bus every morning.

What I am learning, or trying to learn, is to breathe and then look for the teachable moments to instruct on matters of disagreement or frustration, rather than reacting at the moment of escalation. Knowing my child is not a morning person helps me make a wise mental “note to self” to discuss the matter later in the day when our discussion will be more effective.

Each summer we take Shelterwood students on hiking trips in Canada and sometimes run across bears. Of course, we encourage our students to literally never ‘poke the bear’ as it escalates the bear’s anger very quickly. And this is a good reminder for parents. Why poke your teenage bear in the morning? More research might need to be done, but I am sure there is significant science behind the idea that teens usually struggle in the morning for a number of developmental reasons. So why would I choose to poke my son in the morning before he’s ready to interact? So I am trying to tone down my morning ‘songbird routine’ when I am around him, and yes, he is still expected to respect me as his dad, but timing is critical when it comes to dealing with conflict.

It isn’t easy but I am really trying to be a proactive parent. It takes discipline, patience, and grace to not react to my son’s attitude and behaviors. Being observant enough to notice and patient enough to wait for the teachable moments takes practice.

Greg Stone
Long Time Shelterwood Staff & Father of Teens

Parent with Purpose

Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.01.18 PM Parent with PurposeIt is that time of year again, March Madness. It is full of excitement and is often an emotional roller coaster for players and fans around the country. It also reminds me of my own experiences playing college basketball many years ago. As I think back, I always feel like I could have had greater success if I had not been so distracted and had approached the game with a little more purpose. It might seem silly to feel some remorse or disappointment in myself after all of these years, but as I watch my kids leave home and go off to college, l can’t help but feel that same regret on some level.

As I think back to my basketball days or of my days parenting, I am reminded of how important it is to have a purpose. In college, I was probably more focused on dating and having fun. My lack of purpose led to less fulfilling accomplishments on the court. As a parent, it is also easy to lose sight of the higher purpose of our leadership in the home. It might be the work life, the carpool thing, or maybe the cultural noise (music, drugs, boyfriends, etc.) that keeps us distracted and disconnected from living out our core values.

At times parenting has felt like the days on the basketball court when all I was focused on was playing defense. There was an imbalance; I was not being assertive with offense because I wasn’t shooting the ball well. Parenting might feel that way to you sometimes as well – a very defensive focus. What with dating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, movies, dress…I mean, it can really come at you! And we certainly need to protect our kids; after all, it is one of our primary roles. But it is also easy to begin to feel desperate, lacking confidence and unsure of what to do. Of course, you can’t win many basketball games if you only play defense.

The problem is that most parents have never identified what is at the heart of their purpose in Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.08.50 PM 300x245 Parent with Purposeparenting. As a result, that core purpose doesn’t impact their normal day-to-day lives. It is like we don’t have an offensive game plan and aren’t running any plays. We are just throwing the ball at the hoop and quickly running back to defend.

The key to any core purpose is that it is authentic. Imagine asking our teens to run a certain play on the court while we run around doing something completely different. It will not make sense to our families and our kids might actually quit, throwing the ball up in the air out of frustration.

I once worked with a father that wanted me to help his son quit smoking marijuana, which seems like a reasonable goal. The problem was that his purpose was hypocritical. He wanted his son to quit because he kept stealing the pot from the father’s stash. Hypocrisy creates battles as teens have a real sense of justice and will almost always engage in a fight for their right to live the lives they see modeled.

Many of us struggle to see the hypocrisy in our own lives. We value faith and hope that our kids follow us in our beliefs. So we surround them with like-minded people. We enroll our kids in Sunday school, youth group, and seek out positive religious influences. And these activities are really good. But really they are intended to just be a net. It is not the core – the core is the family. The net around it is the supporting structures that help us build an environment around our family that helps us get where we want to be as healthy families.

Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.47.21 PM 150x150 Parent with PurposeStudies show that we do more harm than good when we go to church on a Sunday morning and live another way the rest of the week. Kids want authenticity. During adolescence, kids really step back from authority and evaluate the authenticity of the message. They want to see if our behavior matches our words and if it is really worth following these values into adulthood.

When you think about it really though, it’s not just that kids in this culture want authenticity. It’s God Himself that wants it. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart. He wants us to come to Him in honesty.

As parents we should stop and think about this. If somebody went to our kids, and asked, “What matters most to your mom and dad?” would our kids have to think? What would be on the list they’d come up with? What do you think they are seeing around the house?

Examine these answers and ask yourself what you might need to do differently. Am I just going to acknowledge it and feel ashamed, guilty, and like a failure as a parent? Or, am I going to examine my game plan, establish a fresh purpose with input from my spouse, and begin to practically work that out in my relationships with my children? This new game plan can be established around the values of my family, around my schedule, around how I order my life, and it can begin to reflect a heart that really does love God, and is passing that heart on to my children.

 

So watch March Madness, notice the focus and purpose with which they play and enjoy a few  bracket busting games.

Compassion Fatigue

iStock 000013332733Medium 300x200 Compassion FatigueRecently, I spent a few days at the NATSAP conference on behalf of Shelterwood. I was fortunate enough to hear John Townsend speak on boundaries. He shared about the cost of not keeping healthy boundaries for parents and care workers (compassion fatigue). Here are a few of the thoughts that I felt were particularly helpful.

Teens Need Boundaries

Adolescence is an important stage for kids to push against parents in an effort to build autonomy. Without boundaries, teens are more likely to become depressed, anxious, angry and detached. Of course, it is not easy to put boundaries in place and maintain them. Boundaries can feel like battle lines as teens love to say, ‘no,’ but often struggle hearing the word ‘no’ themselves. Yet we all know, as successful adults, that hearing the word no is a part of life. It is critical to be able to deal with our emotions when someone says no to us.

Boundaries will feel harsh if they are not built with love and empathy. But make no mistake; there still needs to be a line. Without boundaries, teens can become aggressive, believing that the world is their ‘property.’ Other teens that have experienced boundary violations may become depressed and allow others to trample on their boundaries sexually, emotionally, or physically because they have come to believe that they have no ‘property.’

If not creating boundaries leaves our kids or clients struggling into adulthood, then why is it so hard for us to maintain clear boundaries? Why might we so quickly give in to the demands of our teens, friends, co-workers or spouses?

  1. Afraid of losing the relationship

Relationships are critical to each of our lives and they are often what keep us going. It is easy for us as parents or counselors to build entitlement within our kids or clients because we are safe for them and we feel special when they seek us out. So we might give them extra time, money, or praise when what would actually be better for them is to hear the word ‘no.’ They need to hear no even when giving them a longer counseling session might seem useful, or when giving them their full allowance even though chores are undone in order for them to buy that special pair of pants that will generate a hug and a smile. Teens become entitled so quickly when boundaries are not kept. It is so easy to drift from compassion into co-dependency. When we are afraid of losing a relationship with a distant teen, friend, or spouse, he or she quickly has leverage on us and this is a dangerous power for anyone to have, especially teens. In order to combat the need for your teen’s approval, try to create a ‘life team,’ a group of adults that can support and encourage you outside of the home. Don’t rely on your kids to nurture you, lest you give them too much power.

  1. Conflict Avoidance

Each of us learned how to deal with conflict when we were nine years old. Take a moment to think back to those young years in your childhood home. Maybe you learned how to explode with anger, change the subject, or laugh. Each of these techniques does not really deal with the conflict. The inability to manage conflict leaves you weak in the face of opposition and trying to defend yourself when you actually do say ‘no’ in order to create a boundary around a behavior. Townsend encourages people to role-play in an effort to change the neurology in the brain. It is critical that we as parents and care givers learn to confront conflict and become able to embrace the emotions that come along with saying ‘no’ in order to win the long- term battle of autonomy.

  1. Fear of Failure

We create a fragile teen when we don’t think they can handle boundaries. They become more insecure when we fail to provide the security of rules and follow through. Teens need to learn how to adapt to the difficulties of the world and that failure is part of life. As parents and counselors, we often perceive struggling teens as weak and incapable of dealing with failure. We might unconsciously believe that their drug addiction, depression or anger is the result of difficulty in their lives, and that if we can just remove the difficulty, then they won’t need to self medicate by cutting their arms, getting high, or acting out sexually. When we see them as fragile, we tend to compensate for their weaknesses and enable them to maintain these behaviors. Trying to keep your teen happy and safe will wear you out and fail to teach them how to survive on their own. So often we tiptoe around our teens when they struggle with depression, anger, anxiety, and/or learning difficulties that we actually build greater insecurity in them and continue to perpetuate a dependence on us. While this might make us feel needed and important in the relationship, we are actually just enabling co-dependence.

If you struggle to create boundaries with your teen, ask yourself these four questions when they make a request for your help:

  1. Is this something that they can do for themselves?
  2. Do you have the resources to help?
  3. Will you feel cheerful or resentful after helping them?
  4. Is the outcome going to build autonomy or dependence?

Snow Plow Parenting

super mom med 300x199 Snow Plow ParentingThere is a new buzzword in parenting circles today…the ‘snow plow parent.’ These well intentioned moms and dads are closely related to their twins, the helicopters. Just like a snowplow, they go ahead of their kids and move any obstacles out the way so that the kids have a smooth path in which to move forward. The problem, as you can guess, is that it robs kids of the sense of accomplishment and value they receive from solving problems, learning to handle loss and forging their own paths.

As a parent who ‘snowplows’ at times, I can tell you that the tricky part is when your child battles with depression, anxiety, a learning disability, a physical limitation or handles stress by turning to substances. As a parent of a struggling teen, I naturally want to minimize obstacles out of fear that if our child struggles, he might turn even more towards his dangerous coping behavior and his problems will only deepen. This cycle of rescuing in order to protect our children from themselves can feel like a death spiral.  And I know I am not alone because many parents call each day, sharing a similar story of feeling out of control and seeing that their teen is “spiraling out of control.” It is so enticing for us as parents to get overly involved in the situation when we feel like our child is behaving out of control. Most parents have a hard time sitting back and watching their kids work through adversity on their own, but it’s often the only way for children to learn to trust themselves and gain the confidence needed to navigate through adolescence and adulthood. If we remove the obstacles for them, they feel paralyzed to handle any hardships that will inevitably come once they leave home.

Could it be that our attempts to help our kids have perhaps caused some of those issues in the first place because we have unwittingly given them the message that they are not capable people and must have our help with everything? There is no guilt here…our children know that we have good intentions. They do. But I have come to recognize my own need to show my kids that I trust them to be capable, strong, and creative in their problem solving. Even when I see them struggling and using dangerous coping mechanisms such as cutting, drugs, sex, etc., I am called to let go. My role as a parent is not to drive the snowplow but to simply pick up a shovel and work alongside my teen.

 

Call us and learn more about Snow Plow Parenting
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Emotional cycle of investing & parenting

Screen Shot 2014 12 10 at 12.41.59 PM Emotional cycle of investing & parentingAs I watched the price of oil plummet on the stock market today, it reminded me of some of the feelings I have had as a parent. For those who watch the stock market like I do, you might also be aware of the ’emotional cycle of investing.’ It is the wave of emotion that we feel as we follow the ebbs and flows of the stock market. When the market is going up we tend to be overly optimistic and can even become greedy, losing sight of the warning signs and the need to sell. At the height of our confidence, the market usually reverses and begins to head down. But we tend to be indifferent, believing that the market will right itself shortly. Of course, as we have seen lately in oil prices or with the banks in 2008, this sentiment can quickly turn from indifference to fear and despair. Many investors decide to sell at this very low point. Tired of losing money and angry with themselves for not selling sooner, they give up and get out of the market. At first, they are often relieved that they have taken action and are back in control. Of course, these feelings are short lived as the market capitulates and begins to head back up.

Life with teens can often feel like this emotional roller coaster. When things are going well, it is easy to become complacent and not notice new risky behaviors or to allow negative attitudes to slide. When things are hardest, it is easy to feel trapped and hopeless. This can be especially true for parents when their teen is away from home and in a therapeutic facility.  At first, there is great optimism. The placement of the teen feels like a major hurdle has been overcome and our hope as parents is sky high. This upward momentum lasts for various lengths of time, but I can guarantee after watching this cycle for the past twenty-four years, difficulty is coming. It’s impossible for stocks to only go up, just like it’s unrealistic to expect that people will grow in only one direction. Problems will occur in any setting, and while parents will often remain committed to the process at first and promise to be long-term investors, the crisis deepens and tests the resolve of even the strongest parents.

It is helpful to remember that your teen is also going through an emotional cycle. They are also working through emotions like denial, telling themselves that this is not going to happen to them. Proclaiming that this situation just can’t be true, and that they are not staying in a program. Maybe they are experiencing a need to bargain, or are confused, asking themselves, “Why did this happen to me? I am not so bad…my friends are worse.” This can lead to feelings of depression, being trapped, hopelessness or anger.

So, Mom and Dad, don’t sell your stock at its lowest price when things look the most desperate. Don’t panic and quit when the therapeutic program is reporting a lack of change in your teen. Markets take time to reverse and so do teens. When a teen is struggling the most and things seem the bleakest, this is often when they will finally capitulate and begin the process of positive growth. So try to be grateful in these moments of despair. Try to be calm when you might actually be very nervous. Lean more heavily into meditation and spiritual reflection to gain a proper perspective and peace.

Help your child understand their life purpose

Last week, the Believe Me movie was released in theaters. The premise of the movie is that the main character needs to find means to pay for his final year in college and does so by creating a fake Christian ministry and steals money through it. Along the way, the leaders of this fake ministry partner up with a Christian Youth Organization. The movie pokes at many of the Christian stereotypes.

While this movie has been labeled as unfair by some Christians, the directors (who are Christians) claim that they really are wanting to get down to the question of “why”. Why do Christians believe these things? Which beliefs are sincere, which are just part of being a “good Christian”?

While the themes in this movie are important considerations to make before watching, they bring up important conversations. This week, Barna Group released new statistics about teens who participate in church. According to the study:

  • Nearly three out of ten teens had an adult mentor at the church.
  • Teens who participate in church are nearly four times more likely to understand their purpose in life.
  • Teens who have remained active in their church attendance are three times as likely to say that they learned to view their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling.
  • Teens who remain active in their church attendance are much more likely to believe the Bible contains wisdom for living a meaningful life (65% versus 17%).

Often, culture picks and pulls at Christian culture. While the media may often insinuate that church and faith have a negative impact on teens, the current studies are showing that this is not the case. Actively participating in church are very positive steps in the life of a teen.

While Believe Me takes some liberties in conveying some of the stereotypes within the church- in the end, the heart behind it is to leave viewers considering what really is important in Christianity and in faith. It is important to note that Christian culture is different from Christian values and benefits. Challenging teens to take ownership of their faith rather than simply fitting in with Christian culture can be a great step for teens making strong foundations in life.