Why does my kid shoplift?

Screen Shot 2015 12 30 at 12.52.29 PM 300x173 Why does my kid shoplift?Most people like to get something for nothing – a bargain, a discount, or a freebie. But those people who actually resort to stealing are often “crying for help.” According to Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery (2002), people who resort to stealing are actually trying to resolve one of the following ten emotional motivations.

  1. Anger – to try to take back, to make life fair
  2. Grief – to fill the void due to a loss
  3. Depression – to distract from sadness, to get a lift
  4. Anxiety – to calm fears, to comfort
  5. Acceptance & Competition – to fit in
  6. Power & Control – to counteract feeling lost or powerless
  7. Boredom & Excitement – to live life on the edge
  8. Entitlement & Reward – to compensate oneself for over-giving
  9. Shame & Low Self-Esteem – to create a reason to feel successful at something, even if it is a negative action like stealing
  10. Rebellion & Initiation – to break into one’s authentic identity

For parents raising teenagers, when stealing behavior occurs, two strategies do not tend to work well: “under kill” and “overkill.” Rather, I would suggest that stealing behavior is an invitation for a conversation with your child. Engage your teen in discussion about these deeper motivations as opposed to letting the behavior slide or overreacting to it with guilt and shame. We all like to learn about ourselves and uncover unrealized motivations – teens are no different. Addressing the behavior at this deeper level limits the wrestling match of deception and investigation. Instead, join your child in answering their cry for help by locating the emotional hurt within them, find them help to deal with the causal issues, and help set them free for a lifetime.

You are not alone

When parents have teenagers that are struggling, many times we feel alone and very often contend with feelings of failure and shame.

First, let me assure you that you are not alone. We have 5,000 families that call us each year, looking for hope and help for their teenagers. And we have over 80,000 people who visit our website for the same reason.

DSC 9302 300x200 You are not alonePerhaps, never at any time in history, has parenting been more challenging than it is today. It used to be that a teen with serious behavioral and emotional problems came from an obviously troubled family with serious dysfunction and brokenness, or the teen themselves had suffered some significant trauma or abuse. However, this is not always the case any longer.   Many of the teens in our program come from stable, loving, two-parent homes. Teens in our program often come from great families, with parents who have been active in their lives, taken them to church on Sunday, and worked hard at being good parents.

In fact, I think that most of the parents that place their children in our program are exemplary. They don’t have their heads in the sand regarding their teens’ behavioral and emotional condition.   On the contrary, they have been actively trying to address their concerns for their teens’ issues for months.   And by the time they get to the place of considering residential treatment for their teen, they have typically already spent countless hours in prayer, discussion, worry, and counseling.

IMG 4242 300x200 You are not aloneParents consistently tell us that leaving their teen at a residential program is the most difficult thing they have ever done.   They often feel like they have failed as parents and that they have failed their child.   However, this decision is actually one of the most courageous things that parents can do for their child.   It takes deep humility for a mom or dad to acknowledge when they need help in dealing with the behavioral and emotional development of their teen.

I find it interesting that none of us has difficulty going to a medical doctor for help when we need treatment for the physical development of our child. If our teen has something wrong physically, there is no shame in taking them to the doctor. Yet, when there is something wrong in the emotional or behavioral development of our children, many of us find it very difficult to ask for help.

For this reason, those parents who make the decision to place their child at Shelterwood are heroes in my estimation. They have been wise enough to know they need help. They have been humble enough to ask for help. And they have been courageous enough to take the steps necessary to get help.

Jim Subers
Shelterwood CEO

Good Intentions

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 11.53.18 AM Good IntentionsWell here I sit in the airport of Jackson Hole on my way home after a week long vacation. Sadly, instead of spending the week on the world-class slopes of the Jackson Hole ski hill, I spent the week in bed, watching television in tremendous pain from gout. Even a doctor’s visit to my room and a steroid shot in the arm was not enough to mitigate the pain and swelling. Depressed, frustrated and feeling like a failure, I am committed to whatever changes are necessary so that I never experience this pain again.

My motivation is sky high and with study I have learned some really useful tips that will help eliminate my risk of gout attacks in the future. I am going to take control of my life; I am going to get healthy, eat right and get my life in order. My confidence in myself is high until I remember that I said the same things to myself last year when I had the last attack.

My own experience with gout is sadly very similar to what I see in myself as a parent. So full of promise, I think through all of the things I want to do with my son and daughter that will deepen our relationships, but never seem to get on the calendar. As a counselor, I find that parents want all the information on how to end the arguments, cutting, or drug use, but rarely put it into action. Is that you? You, me, and almost everyone else on the planet has the same stupid way of doing this. We want to be done with the pain, so we run out there and learn everything we can about what to do, and then we actually do nothing!

My biggest challenge as a counselor and a gout sufferer is motivation and putting the knowledge that is readily available into action. Sadly, we all have such locked-in ways that our good intentions are never acted upon. That is why I still suffer from gout and maybe you continue to repeat old destructive patterns in your home, only to watch the symptoms of such behaviors come out in your kids.

I know you don’t want to watch your kids struggle just as I don’t want to keep experiencing the pain of gout. And as I sit in my hotel room watching happy people board the chair lift for another run it is hard not to feel like a victim…like this gout attack is happening to me and I have no control of my current situation. In families, this type of self-pity leads us toward even greater fractures in our relationships with our kids and or spouses.

I know I am not a victim of gout, but that I have actually unwittingly been giving myself to gout. Living a gout lifestyle. So what keeps me from changing those wicked gout-giving ways? Maybe the same thing that keeps your family in a bind: Inertia, momentum, misplaced intentions, and maybe a dash of good old-fashioned laziness. So let’s get off our butts and own our issues. Let’s take back control of our lives and make some changes before the intensity of the pain begins to fade into memory and we are tempted to fall back into old habits. I know that if I go back to drinking beer and eating beef I will be right back next year on the floor writhing in pain, crying for Mommy, and swearing that I would do anything to make the pain stop.

School Distress Signals

images 8 School Distress SignalsWhat distress signal might your teen be sending?

You child’s school is a different world: relationships, victories, disappointments, troubles, tests, clubs, sports, bullies, and teachers. Sometimes it’s hard for adults to remember that the day-to-day world our kids face is a complex one.

How can we know that all is OK in their world? Our kids depend on us to support and protect them, even when we can’t be with them. Here are some school distress signals our kids might be sending to alert us when things are not alright:

  1. Evasion: Is your child evasive when asked about homework, grades or relationships? They could be hiding problems. Breaking eye contact, changing the subject and defensiveness are all evasive tactics kids can use to pull the spotlight off of trouble areas. Our job as parents is to compassionately press in during these times and seek to help. Lock in empathy, ask a lot of questions, and plan for follow up (letting them know you’ll be following up with teachers, etc.).
  1. Change in daily homework rhythms: Does it seem like your student is spending less time on homework? Does he give a consistent “no” when asked if he has any studying to do? This could be an indication that he is behind in a class. A quick check of online grade books, and/or an email to teachers can be easy ways to get to the bottom of things.
  1. Frequent “sick” days, or late to school: This could be an indication of social/peer issues. Navigating the complex social structure of school is difficult enough for students when there aren’t problems, but if a child is faced with bullying or hurtful gossip, it can overwhelm them. Don’t accept frequent sick days at face value. School attendance is important, and missing school will cause issues to compound (such as missing assignments, tests, coursework). Once again, engage in conversation, speak with teachers, and communicate with school counselors.
  1. Poor attitude at home: Kids tend to bring their problems home with them. If your child seems to have developed a terrible attitude, there might be something behind it. Conflicts at school often manifest themselves through talking back, using language that isn’t normal for your household, or sarcasm. This problem can be tough, as parents will many times address the symptom instead of the problem. Next time your child displays a poor attitude, try to respond by asking questions. “Is everything alright?” can open the door to a great conversation with your child. It may take work to get through the initial behavior, but keep at it!

Open and frequent communication is the common ingredient to not only picking up on school distress, but also to help your child in his or her time of need.

Chad Smith
ELA Teacher/Academic Dean

Hope for Teens with Anxiety Disorders

thoughtful med 300x200 Hope for Teens with Anxiety DisordersEveryone has times of feeling anxious, scared or fearful. In fact, our bodies have an innate ability to sense and respond to pending danger that helps us survive. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders can feel like a car alarm repeatedly sounding when there’s no real threat. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern for teens in North America, affecting an estimated 4% of all children, impacting their day-to-day life, friendships, school performance, physical health and their sense of well being. My colleagues and I at Shelterwood are concerned that in this modern, fast-paced, plugged-in world, anxiety disorders in teens are greatly increasing. We are seeing more teens than ever before that are constrained and made miserable by their fears when they should be feeling safe, secure, confident and happy.

Symptoms of anxiety include a rapid heartbeat, difficulty catching one’s breath, a sense of doom, sweaty palms, an upset stomach, and even nausea and vomiting. Focusing on the feelings can cause them to intensify, a vicious cycle. Anxious symptoms become a true anxiety disorder when anxiety leads to avoidance of the situation that is causing the anxiety and causes significant physical distress and disruption of daily life and functioning. An unresolved anxiety disorder can often lead to depression or substance use problems in future years.

Anxiety, however, exists on a spectrum. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and beneficial. It keeps our teens safe and conscientious; it motivates them to perform well. Teens who tend to be anxious are often model students: high achieving, diligent, analytical, sensitive, alert, creative and imaginative. Two little anxiety and a teen may take foolish risks or lack motivation to succeed. But too much anxiety and children become so paralyzed by fear that they may be unable to leave their parent’s side, leave the house, go to school, make friends or participate in normal life.

The good news is that anxiety can be very successfully managed or treated when required. Regular exercise and reliable routines in teens are often all it takes to quell mild cases. Mild and moderate anxiety is very responsive to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a process of addressing in the unhelpful thoughts and actions that underlie anxiety. Other examples of types of therapy include stopping thoughts, talking back to negative thoughts, not believing everything you think, relaxation techniques such as breathing, mindfulness meditation, and gradual safe exposure to the things which one fears.

Teens and adults alike could benefit from learning simple techniques to turn off their body alarms that are sounding unnecessarily. In more long-term or severe cases of anxiety – such as panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder – treatment may include a period of anti-anxiety medication in addition to teaching the teen age-appropriate techniques.

If you’re worried about your teen’s anxiety, we would also love to visit with you and provide support.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder might be the official mental health title, but many of us simply know it as the winter blues.  While the medical classification of this seasonal pattern has changed over the years, the recognition of this depressed mood has become more common.  It appears that its prevalence ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.

As Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years have all passed, winter is beginning to hit hard and maybe you have begun to recognize some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

– Difficulty waking up in the morning
– Nausea
– Tendency to oversleep and overeat, especially having a craving for carbohydrates
– A lack of energy
– Difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks
– Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
– Decreased sex drive

snow med 300x199 Seasonal Affective DisorderAs we struggle with the change in sleep patterns, inactivity due to the weather, and hormonal fluctuation due to less sunlight, it becomes much more appealing to stay indoors rather than drive through the cold to meet up with friends. Emotionally, it can become difficult when our schedules are controlled by the weather. So, how do we break out of the pattern of winter hibernation and isolation when it is so appealing? Here are a few ways for us to intentionally combat the emotional struggles that come along with the winter season.

  • Exercise! Exercise increases serotonin levels, helping us to feel excited and motivated. While it’s hard to get up the energy to go out to the gym on a cold night, families can unite during these times. Put in a game on the Wii or do a fun workout video in your living room, together. This approach is good for a few laughs as well.
  • Engage together at home. While it may feel like a chore to go out, bring the activities home. Playing board games together, baking, reading, watching a movie, or playing charades can be fun to do together without having to make the commitment to go out.
  • Build in time to relax too. Celebrate reading a book and having hot chocolate. Light a candle and listen to relaxing music. Take a bubble bath. Intentionally planning relaxing time rather than just isolating yourself can be a healthy way to combat the negative feelings associated with winter.
  • Be productive. When it is not appealing to be outdoors, take advantage of getting household tasks done. Celebrate completing goals, even completing household chores.
  • Intentionally plan outings. Winter introduces many activities such as sledding, skiing, etc. Go out to the movies, to a museum, or a play. Then, reward yourself later with some relaxation time.

The winter months can be long. They can feel exhausting. But, there are some practical things to boost our mood during these times. What are some ways you have found to combat with winter blahs or seasonal humbugs?

Teaching kids how to deal with their feelings

Well, the holidays are coming to a close and what we looked so forward to a few weeks ago flew by too quickly. Of course, vacations are like that. We plan and get excited, then we snap our fingers and it’s over. Suddenly we’re all planning to go back to work and school. We call it “going back to reality,” but it’s really just going back to life. Teaching our kids how to handle the “Disney Land to work” transition is a valuable life-long lesson.

I read a study once that 80% of people go through some level of depression after the holidays. No wonder. We plan and look forward to the lack of responsibility for weeks, even months. Then the break begins. We sleep late, have meals prepared for us, see movies and get hundreds of dollars of gifts. Then, the clock strikes midnight and we’re back to being responsible again. We have to get up early, fix our own breakfast and pay off the bills for the money we spent.

As a kid, I still remember that fun, exciting drive every summer heading east on I-20, driving from Fort Worth to Georgia for summer vacation with family. I also remember that long, boring drive heading back west on I-20 to Fort Worth after the vacation. It reminds me of the Norman Rockwell print “Going and Coming.” It’s two pictures, one headed out to vacation and one headed home. I love the detailed contrast between the excitement of heading out and the exhaustion of driving back.

It’s important that we process through these emotions and teach our kids how to talk about their feelings. These four suggestions might help:

1. Remember that vacations are not reality. It’s so easy to compare the holiday to the day-to-day. But that’s comparing apples with onions. Not having responsibility is always fun for a while. But in the end, we all find true fulfillment in having a goal. Though we complain about our work and about school, deep down we need that purpose.

2. Keep up with those you love. We all spend extra time with family we normally aren’t around during the week. Don’t let too much time pass before you re-connect with those brothers and sisters you were sad to leave. These days, with twitter, Facebook, and texting, keeping up with each other is easier. Keeping the lines of communication open helps keep relationships healthy.

3. Count your blessings “one by one.” I love that old Baptist hymn. It reminds us to count our blessings so that we can “see what God has done.” That is so important to do during and after the holidays. Everyone secretly compares to the relatives and we usually come away feeling inadequate. “Their kids are better behaved than ours; they make more money than we do; they seem happier than we are.” It’s okay to learn and grow from others, but comparison usually leads to envy and envy leads to jealousy and on and on. Realize the blessings you do have instead of what you don’t possess.

4. Live like there’s no tomorrow. A good friend reminded me of that challenge this week. Too often I fret and worry about what might be. Too often I worry and fret about what was. The Bible challenges us repeatedly to set my sights on today. When I correctly focus on today, it’s awesome whether I’m working or vacationing.

Ward off those post-holiday blues and embrace the excitement of another day of life. Live life to the fullest, whether you’re at Disney world or at the desk.