Tips to help your teen relieve stress

Today, more than a quarter of teens say they experience extreme stress, and more than a third say they expect their stress levels to increase in the year to come. Parents agree: nearly 40% of parents say their teen is experiencing high levels of stress from school.

Often parents respond to the stress levels of children by wanting to manage or alleviate their stress. In reality, not all stress is negative. A healthy level of stress can motivate students to learn to manage tasks, prioritize, and get things done. However, chronic stress during difficult seasons can pose long-term challenges for teens. Experiencing stress for extended periods of time can lead to depressive thoughts and behaviors, and teens may turn to unhealthy coping methods. Here is how you can help.

1.) Identify the root of the stress: Is this short-term stress, or a long-term problem?

Short-term stress — like finals week, for example — is temporary, and the stress levels will go back to normal shortly. A little bit of stress occasionally is to be expected, as teens take on more responsibilities and prepare for their next steps after high school.

Long-term stress, in contrast, is not sustainable and points to the need for change. Is your teen’s course load unreasonably demanding? Has your teen taken on too many extracurricular endeavors? Or, is the root of the stress time management? Does your teen tend to procrastinate? Maybe your teen has too much screen time and is not spending enough time on homework? For other teens, stress is unrelated to school work and connected instead to peer pressure or social worries. Getting to the root of the stress is the first step in creating a plan to relieve it.

2.) Look at how you respond to stress in your own life.

Teens pick up on our cues. How do you react to stress? Do you make lifestyle changes to alleviate it, or is your response to your own stress unhealthy? Your teen may respond similarly.

Use your own stress as a platform to begin the conversation with your teen. Be honest about how you handle it, and acknowledge where you could approach stress differently. This opens the door to authentic connection, and lets your teen know you are here as an ally when stress feels unmanageable. When your teen responds, offer undivided attention and really listen.

3.) Partner with your teen to develop a stress relief game plan.

Come alongside your teen to navigate the root of the stress. Resist the urge to micromanage; instead, be present for your child as a resource. If the stress is part of a larger theme, like problems with time management, struggling with perfectionism or taking on too much, discuss the needed changes. Consider helping your teen make a schedule for studying, or plan a lighter course load for the next semester.

Then, get tactical. What are some small ways that your teen can relieve stress in the moment? How can your teen draw on a support system for help? What brings your teen joy? How can your teen use physical activity to relieve stress? This could be as simple as taking the family dog for a walk, playing a favorite game, sport or aerobic activity. Plan activities that you and your teen can do together, too.

For some teens, stress may be a symptom of a larger problem. If you are in the middle of a challenging season with your teen, it can be tough to determine what to do next. Consider Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency. Shelterwood combines 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.

Take the first step for hope, real heart change and real restoration for your teen. Reach out today: 866.585.8939.

Homework struggles? How to coach your teen

With Spring Break in the rearview mirror and summer vacation around the corner, this time of year marks the home stretch for academics. Yet it can also spell challenges for your teen. It is easy to lose momentum, and your teen may be feeling discouraged.

Has homework become a daily struggle at your home? Our tips for coaching your teen:

1.) Approach homework as a team sport.

Although you and your teen may be at odds when it comes to getting homework done, remember that success is a team sport. You are not rivals, but teammates. Butting heads will happen occasionally, but an attitude of teamwork can work wonders. Remind your teen that you are on their side and that you are ready to work together to make a game plan for success.

2.) Talk openly to pinpoint struggles.

Choose a time when both you and your teen are calm and not distracted. Ask specific questions to identify the specific struggles your student faces. For example, if your teen says, “Math is too hard,” dig deeper. What aspects of class are most challenging? Is the subject matter confusing? Could your teen need tutoring? Or perhaps your teen feels insecure about low grades compared to peers. When you get to the core of the problem, you and your teen can create a solution.

3.) Understand what kind of student your teen is.

To be a good coach, it can help to identify what kind of student your teen is. At Shelterwood, we have found that most students fall into one of four kinds of students:

  • The Motivated Student: This student is driven to achieve and independently pursues excellence in school. The Motivated Student is passionate about academic success.
  • The Motivated, Accommodated Student: This student wants to do well academically, but may struggle in one or more classes. This teen receives help in school and, even with limitations, still strives for success.
  • The Procrastinating Student: This student waits until the last minute to complete homework. It can be difficult to tell that the Procrastinating Student is falling behind until progress reports are sent home. The student may not struggle with the material, but with the timeline. This struggle may be confusing for parents and frustrating for the family.
  • The Combative and Resisting Student: This student becomes agitated and upset by simply mentioning homework. There may be many reasons that a student is combative, including struggles with the subject matter, frustration over lack of study skills, power struggles, undiagnosed learning disabilities or emotional struggles.

4.) Encourage your teen in a way that connects best.

As with any good team, it helps to understand what motivates your teammates. Understanding how your teen approaches homework can reveal big clues in how to encourage them and draw out their best performance. Support your teen based on what motivates them:

  • The Motivated Student: Support this student by providing the time and space to make decisions. This student can often be critical, so be a constant cheerleader. Regular encouragement can help this student maximize full potential.
  • The Motivated, Accommodated Student: When this student falls into the trap of simply looking at the day-to-day successes and failures, frustration can set in. Coach your teen with frequent reminders of the full arc of his or her improvements. It is important not to do this in an empty, vague way, but to truly celebrate success with specific affirmations. Tutoring and peer study groups can also be valuable.
  • The Procrastinating Student: Issues arise when parents are unaware that their student has been procrastinating, and this can erode trust. It can help to ask this student homework-related questions daily, communicate with teachers and support your teen in scheduling. At the same time, be cautious of taking on too much. Rather than allowing your teen to defer responsibility to you, start the conversation about what lies beneath the procrastination. Maybe fear and self-doubt, not laziness, is paralyzing progress.
  • The Combative and Resisting Student: Instead of engaging in the battle, empathy and loving engagement are how you can best coach your teen. Set aside the homework and focus on your teen as a person. This can help get to the bottom of things and uncover the right solution. Consider professional therapy to diagnose and treat underlying issues. Resistant teens can sometimes push parents into expressing their own anger. Rather than taking your teen’s opposition personally, recognize that this teen is in a critical place and in serious need of help.

Homework doesn’t have to be a battle, and parents can come alongside their teen as a coach by knowing their student’s strengths and weaknesses. Are homework struggles becoming a daily problem for you and your teen? Is your student stumbling academically because of anxiety, depression or other concerns? Shelterwood offers real hope and real restoration for struggling teens. Contact us to see if Shelterwood is right for your teen. We are here to help.

Warning signs and triggers: Helping your teen to be aware

Parenting teens is no small feat, and it is natural to be mystified by your teen’s behavior sometimes. It may seem like anything and everything can set your teen off. Yet, the situations that seem to push your teen’s buttons, often called “triggers,” can have patterns. A “trigger” can be thought of as an event, a feeling or a situation that precedes an emotional response. Helping your teen become more aware of those triggers is central to stopping the out of control behavior. Here are some steps to guide your teen towards greater awareness:

Observe your teen’s behavior to notice patterns

We often discuss a trigger as a precursor to an angry outburst, but triggers can be precursors to many responses. Common situations and feelings that may “push your teen’s buttons” and trigger an outburst include:

    • Being told “no”
    • Bad news
    • Being left out
    • Being bullied
    • Being criticized
    • Not knowing what to do
    • Being ignored
    • Overstimulation

Of course, just as every teen is unique, your teen’s triggers will be unique as well.

The first step to helping your teen be aware of triggers is observing and being familiar with the situations that make your child restless, frustrated or upset. Pay attention and be aware of warning signs of triggers, and look for patterns and connections.

Think backwards

When your teen does have an outburst, consider what happened beforehand. For example, perhaps your teen may act angry and restless when it’s time for them to study for a test. This could indicate a trigger — maybe your child is struggling in the class and doubts his abilities as a student. The trigger could be a feeling of inferiority or worrying about getting a bad grade.

Consider your teen’s perspective

You may assume that you know what happened, but your child may have experienced the situation differently. Give your teen some space to cool off, and when things are calm again, ask your teen to explain what occurred. Truly listen. How your teen articulates what took place could reveal some important clues about triggers.

Start the conversation

Feelings and triggers are directly connected. The trigger itself is not the root of the problem; how your teen thinks and feels about that situation is. Choose a time when both you and your teen are calm and relaxed, not in the middle of an outburst, so you can both communicate authentically and clearly. Share with your teen what you have noticed about their triggers and related behaviors. For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed that when you’re studying for a test, you get upset and lose your temper.” Ask questions about how your teen felt before, during and after the situation. Allow your teen to share freely. This conversation opens the door to awareness about triggers.

Stay patient

Ultimately, make sure your teen knows that you are here to be a resource. You are your teen’s greatest advocate and central to their support system. As life changes, triggers can change too. Identifying and managing triggers is not easy, but helping your teen become aware of their own triggers can be a turning point for your family. With time, your teen can learn how to anticipate their triggers and develop a plan for a healthy response.

If your teen is struggling, consider Shelterwood. We combine clinical excellence with a faith-based approach for real restoration. Contact us to explore how Shelterwood can help your child.

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.

How to teach your child responsibility

All parents want to raise responsible, caring children — but teaching your child the value of responsibility takes time. Sometimes, doing less in your child’s life can spur greater responsibility. Explore five tips to help you along the way.

1.) Lead with action.

Teaching your child responsibility begins with you. Be a trustworthy role model for your child: set a strong example by following through on your commitments to your family and children. Be dependable and accountable, and your child will see responsibility in action every day.

2.) Give your teen a role.

Give your child a role in the family and set expectations. Whether the role is preparing a dinner or helping a younger sibling with homework, your teen needs opportunities to learn and demonstrate responsibility. Be there to encourage and guide, but let them take the lead. If you see opportunities for improvement, point them out; at the same time, remember to commend your teen for taking steps in the right direction.

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3.) Do less.

As your child grows older, you want them to succeed while knowing they are loved. Doing less for your child is difficult, but it teaches responsibility. Instead of micromanaging, give your teen the freedom to take ownership of actions and consequences, both good and bad. This shows your teen that their contributions are valuable and that you trust them to make smart decisions and follow through on their commitments. Ultimately, doing less teaches your teen to be responsible so they can thrive in adulthood.

4.) Broaden their responsibility.

Give your children opportunities to learn responsibility beyond themselves. This includes responsibility to siblings, neighbors, community and more. Let them demonstrate responsibility in new ways they will enjoy. For example, your teen can participate in a community service with your family or become a volunteer for a local animal shelter with friends. Your teen also gains a sense of perspective through these activities, learning that they are part of a larger community.

5.) Be patient.

Every child is unique and grows to value responsibility in his or her own way. Be patient as he or she learns. Share expectations for your teen with both confidence and compassion. Also, remember to be patient with yourself as you learn the best way to teach responsibility effectively.

Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency is committed to bringing heart change to teenagers and restoration to families. At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. To learn more ways to teach responsibility in your home, contact Shelterwood.

Communication strategies for parents and teens

Recently, Shelterwood Program Director Rujon Morrison and Brain Balance Program Director Amanda Gunter joined forces to share communication strategies with parents. Their presentation “New Connections: Empowering Communication” walks through many facets of how parents and teens connect with each other.

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Rujon Morrison and Amanda Gunter discuss communication strategies for parents and teens.

During their conversation, Rujon and Amanda explore:

  • Various methods of communication, from loved-based vs. fear-based to healthy vs. unhealthy
  • How our unique temperaments influence the way we communicate — and the way we prefer to be communicated with
  • The components of emotional intelligence
  • Communication styles and attachment styles
  • How a teenager’s brain age and developmental stage impacts their communication
  • The relationship between IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) — and how this impacts our ability to share our thoughts or share our emotions

Amanda and Rujon offer actionable ideas and tangible strategies to communicate while navigating the often turbulent teenage years, as well as how Shelterwood works with teens on communication and restoration. Listen below:

“This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my son since he was born.”

Joe and Katya Khouri’s son Kevin was still in the hospital when they began their search for a therapeutic boarding school. After exploring hundreds of options, the family decided on Shelterwood — 6,500 miles away from home in Lebanon. Today, with Kevin now a Shelterwood graduate, parents Joe and Katya are celebrating: “This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my son since he was born,” Katya says.

“Back home in Lebanon, we don’t have therapeutic boarding schools,” Katya explains. Kevin faces both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. “It’s either the hospital, or regular school and regular life. We knew Kevin needed something more than that, but couldn’t provide that at home.”

So Joe began the search for his son with the NATSAP directory. NATSAP, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, was founded in 1999 as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people. From residential and wilderness programs to long-term care and transitional living, all NATSAP organizations are dedicated to serving children, adolescents or young adults. Katya and Joe explored programs across the United States.

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Parents Joe and Katya Khouri visit with Shelterwood CEO Jim Subers to share their son’s story of transformation.

“We went through every page of it and looked at 250 schools. We really had to do our research,” Joe says about their rigorous search process. Together with Kevin, Katya and Joe gradually narrowed down the search to 20 schools. They assembled a questionnaire to make their final decision, evaluating everything from the staff-to-student ratio to the financial investment.

“There are so many programs out there and it’s easy to get lost,” Katya says. “At Shelterwood, we knew he would be living a normal life, but within a community that would help him. The program was therapeutic, but Kevin would be living alongside people his age. It’s the only program we found that’s like this.”

Also important to Joe and Katya was Shelterwood’s faith-based approach. “We are Christians, and so we know we have to fight evil with love,” Joe says. “The staff is amazing — everyone has been.”

Katya also smiles as she recalls the impact the mentors had on her son. “The mentors really are like big brothers to Kevin!”

The Khouri family looks forward to Kevin’s future with so much joy. “I’m so happy to see Kevin, the way he is today. I am very confident that he’ll do well.”

As Joe and Katya reflect on the great strides Kevin made while at Shelterwood, they both notice the transformation in their son. “He was so broken when he came here,” Katya says. “There’s a big difference. Now when I look at Kevin, I see a man in this kid.”

How we Manage By Strengths at Shelterwood

Mercedes Benz, Delta Airlines, The American Red Cross, Garmin, Hallmark . . . and Shelterwood. What we share with these leading organizations is our commitment to Management by Strengths, a transformational tool in fostering better communication than ever.

Management by Strengths (MBS) is similar to other temperament protocols, like the Myers-Briggs and the DISC assessments. Its focus on strengths, however, sets it apart from others. The extensive list of MBS clients includes national nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies.

“MBS is different from personality tests and assessments because it is based on the simple idea that people are biologically wired with a communication style they prefer,” explains Jeremy Lotz, Director of Training and Leadership at Shelterwood. MBS features four temperament traits — directness, extroversion, pace and structure — but limitless combinations. “Personality can be informed by your faith, education and integrity, but temperament is hard-wired.”

Jim Subers, Shelterwood CEO, was introduced to Management by Strengths creator and owner Mike Postlewait through a friend. “Mike was overcome with conviction about what Shelterwood does and our vision for restoring families through Christian relationships,” Jeremy says. “Mike felt such a conviction that he decided to make MBS services and consultation available to Shelterwood for free, forever.” This act of generosity has paid dividends for Shelterwood staff, teens and parents.

Girls house 2 1024x683 How we Manage By Strengths at Shelterwood

Jeremy points to a clear example of how MBS has changed interactions with Shelterwood students. “It’s common for adults to face power struggles with teenagers. If you know that student’s temperament, however, you can quickly develop a disarming approach with that teenager,” he explains.

“We have found through MBS that many of our students who seem oppositional and volatile are actually results-driven and independent. These are real strengths, and understanding them influences how we communicate,” Jeremy says. “Teens who are very direct in their temperament want choice, freedom and autonomy,” he says. For example, those teens can be empowered by tying responsibility to results and offering choices.

MBS has been equally significant in enhancing how Shelterwood staff work with each other. “This has given us many revelations regarding how people want to be engaged with, and it has allowed us to get the best out of ourselves and others,” Jeremy says. “When we are working well as a team, then we are serving our students better than ever.”

Furthermore, when Shelterwood parents take the MBS assessment, the results can influence how teens and parents interact. “We tend to have quite a few students with the directness and extroversion temperaments, and quite a few parents with pace and structure temperaments,” Jeremy says. “One of the ways I’ve seen MBS help teenagers the most is that they develop an understanding of their parents’ temperaments. This increases the harmony in their relationships.”

Jeremy shares a recent example of how a teen’s understanding of her parents’ temperaments helped her better interact with her parents. “She is high in extroversion and her parents were high in structure. They experienced her as being intense and pressuring. So when she was planning a recent visit home, she presented her parents with a prioritized list of the top three things she wanted to do back home. This showcased so much maturity.”

MBS is one more Shelterwood distinctive, influencing how we help transform teens and restore families. “There are quite a few theoretical foundations, philosophies and behavioral techniques we employ at Shelterwood, but nothing has revolutionized how we work on a daily basis like MBS,” he says.

Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

Everyone on the Shelterwood team is committed to serving our students with excellence. That’s why we’re especially humbled and thankful to receive the NATSAP Gold Seal Award For Evidence-Based Outcomes. This designation is just the latest in our ongoing commitment to measure our success.

As one of the first recipients of this award, this designation demonstrates the positive outcomes taking place every day at Shelterwood, says Rujon Morrison, Program Director. “The bottom line is, what we’re doing here at Shelterwood is working, and the Gold Seal Award says we have the evidence to prove it.”

DSC 3214 Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

NATSAP, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, was founded in 1999 as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people. From residential and wilderness programs to long-term care and transitional living, all NATSAP organizations are dedicated to serving children, adolescents or young adults.

One of NATSAP’s key endeavors is helping their member organizations conduct outcome studies. From this effort comes the Gold Seal program. To receive this designation, a minimum of 70% of Shelterwood students and parents must participate in and complete the outcome study on an annual basis. 

The outcome study provides important scientific evidence to back up the Shelterwood program, Rujon adds. “It’s so important for us to know what we’re doing well and where our opportunities for growth are. We take what we’re doing here seriously, and there’s nothing quite like hard data to support our efforts.”

%name Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

Also driving the study is Stacy DeVries, our Shelterwood Research Coordinator. Having worked for our ministry for more than 17 years, Stacey is committed to seeing and tracking student progress. Furthermore, her efforts help our therapy team track clients and interpret the results of these important surveys.

At Shelterwood, we’re gathering data from parents and students several times along the way: within a week of enrollment, upon departure, six months after discharge and then a year after discharge. These parameters mean we’re gathering long-term data, and we’re seeing restoration and transformation that lasts long after a student’s departure from Shelterwood.

“We’re very proud of this award,” Rujon says. “The Gold Seal demonstrates that the Shelterwood program has evidence-based treatment that creates reliable change. The outcome study provides that important scientific evidence that promotes what we’re doing here.”

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.