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.

Amanda Gunter Rujon Morrison 1024x512 Communication strategies for parents and teens
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.

Khouri family with Jim Subers Shelterwood 1024x501 “This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my son since he was born.”
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.

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.

866.585.8939

Time to Listen

Five Key Ways to Listening Well

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey

iStock 000003075992Medium 192x300 Time to ListenCommunication is something we engage in every day, and so many things hinge on it. Communication greatly influences our friendships, family relationships, dating and marriages, jobs, hobbies, etc. It’s how we communicate needs and emotions. Realizing that it plays such a huge role in life, it’s important that we strive to do it well. The following list points out a few brief suggestions on how to improve the way we communicate while in the role of the listener.

  1. Be present– It’s very tempting to rush to respond to text messages or check ESPN updates as soon as you hear them come in, but media can easily pull us out of any moment and cause us to seem detached and uninterested in whomever we’re conversing with. Do your best to let them wait until after your conversation is over. Also, avoid interrupting the other individual to interact with those around you. We often have people, devices, obligations, etc. vying for our attention, which makes being present very difficult. If necessary, turn off your phone and find a quiet place to sit and chat. The conversation will be much more productive that way, and people will remember that you made an effort to be as present as possible.
  1. Be okay with disagreeing- It’s no secret that we all have our own opinions. If we go into conversations knowing that ours might not match those of the person we’re chatting with, we’ll be less likely to let our own thoughts and beliefs interfere with listening well. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, but never let them override the importance of hearing others.
  1. Be inquisitive- Look for naturally occurring space in conversation for asking appropriate questions. Doing so shows the speaker that you’re paying attention, interested in what he or she is saying, and committed to learning more. They will leave feeling that you care about the topic, as well as them as a person.
  1. Be open- Soak in what you’re hearing. Know that you are capable of learning from others and gaining insight from their perspectives. If all we do is wait for the other person to stop speaking, we entirely miss what they’re saying as we prioritize our own thoughts and beliefs over theirs.
  1. Be empathetic- 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. From there, be intentional and make statements that clearly project empathy. Displaying genuine empathy is one of the best ways to open doors in relationships and creates a much deeper level of understanding for one another.

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