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!

————–

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

Parenting Relationships

thoughtful med 300x200 Parenting RelationshipsMost of our Shelterwood parents are exemplary. They are, by and large, good, kind, compassionate and loving people. They have tried everything they can at home to deal with the behavioral and emotional issues of their teenager, and yet it hasn’t worked. They have most often also placed their child in counseling.   However, by the time they begin considering residential care, they are often exasperated, troubled and even fearful about the trajectory of their teen’s decisions and life, and they find themselves at a complete loss about what to do.

So, you might be asking, “What is happening?” Why are so many “good” families struggling with their teenagers today?” There is much discussion about this issue today.   However, in my personal opinion, I don’t see the answer as being any one thing, but as a combination of many factors.

Perhaps you remember the movie, The Perfect Storm. In this movie, several weather related phenomena converged together at the same time to create a monster storm. In a real sense, I believe this is a picture of what is happening with today’s teens.   There has been a convergence of several “storms” on this generation of teens that has created a monster storm.   These storms include the cultural impact that media, social media, and electronic media have had on our teens.

This storm includes the shift in cultural values to moral relativism over the past few decades.  No matter what the kids have heard at home, the culture has told our kids that there are no moral absolutes.   In fact, study after study reveals that most teens today think sex outside of marriage, cheating in school, lying, etc., are all acceptable under certain circumstances. We shouldn’t really be surprised, because these are the values that the culture has been promoting.

The storm also includes the impact of Freudian thought on parenting which really began to take hold in the 1960’s. This brought real confusion to parents on effective child rearing, and challenged time-honored beliefs concerning child rearing and family development.

And I believe this storm also includes the lowering of expectations we have for kids during their teen years.  The teen years have become, for many teens, an extended period of leisure, which has helped create a sense of misguided entitlement among them and also led many of them into depression and confusion.

These issues, along with others, has created a “perfect storm,” impacting the healthy development of teenagers, and the parents’ ability to help their children navigate the teen years effectively.

I cannot overstate the influence of the media, social media and the Internet on this generation.   The competing voices for the attention of our kids has never been louder and more divisive. As Moms and Dads, we are each selective regarding the folks that we will allow into our home. And we are even more selective regarding the people that we will allow to spend “one-on-one” time with our kids.   We want to protect our kids from those who don’t share our values and whose influence we believe would be damaging to our children.

Yet, through the electronic media, parents by the millions are daily allowing people into their homes to influence their children whom they would otherwise never allow to even darken the door of their homes. These destructive influences are entering our homes through the Internet, the television, and the phone. And even if we monitor the electronic media in our homes well, and keep these people out of our homes, our kids are still often exposed to them on their friends’ phones or computers.

It is not simply the “content” that is a concern (porn for example). It is the values behind the content that is equally insidious and yet often less apparent.

An interesting UCLA study done a number of years ago showed that the top five values emphasized in popular children’s television shows were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. Our kids today have been brought up in a media culture that has told them that “being famous” is the most important value. Morality, godliness, self-respect and service for others have been replaced by the desire to be famous.

So, in this “Social Media Age” when kids want to be “known” more than ever, kids are actually lonelier than ever.   They live in a culture where wearing masks is the norm, and appearance and image is everything.

At Shelterwood, we begin to address this, and teens are disconnected from “the matrix” and electronic media for the first few months they are with us. Their phones, computers, iPads, etc. are all taken from them.   The only access they have to a computer is in their classroom at school.

%name Parenting RelationshipsOur teens then learn one another’s stories at Shelterwood. They learn to take off their masks, and to communicate. Very quickly, our teens learn that everyone at Shelterwood is dealing with something, so our teens learn to get very honest very quickly. They also have to learn to work through conflict with one another. Because they are living together, they can’t just avoid issues.

Kids that have been raised over the past twenty years are the first generation of kids to have been raised under this avalanche of electronic media. Their parents were raised with only a television in the home and a limited number of channels. However, our kids have been raised with a electronic media all around them: in their hands, their pockets, and by their bedsides 24/7. Studies are just now beginning to try to understand the influence of electronic media on brain development, and emotional and relational development.

It has been my observation that most teenagers come to us with relationships that are an inch deep and a mile wide. Most teens have not learned how to really develop deep, healthy, and accountable friendships.   They have become experts at texting and Twitter, at promoting an “image,” but they are often stunted in their ability to really communicate, and build honest relationships of trust and depth. Yet this is one of their greatest desires, to be really known and loved.

Screen Shot 2015 03 19 at 12.57.23 PM 300x227 Parenting RelationshipsAnd at Shelterwood, we believe in the value of neurological development as well.   Clearly many kids today are struggling with neurological and developmental issues. While all the reasons for this are still being debated, including the potential negative influence of “screen time” on neurological development, what cannot be debated is that there is a growing problem. We have seen tremendous results from our neurological therapy, called Brain Balance. About half the teens in our program are also enrolled in this therapy. My own son, diagnosed with autism at the age of five, has made tremendous strides through this therapy.   He is now twenty-two years old, and we have had him in Brain Balance therapy for two years.

Clearly, each teen comes to us with his or her own unique set of behavioral, emotional, educational, relational, spiritual, physical, chemical and neurological challenges. No teens are exactly alike. Therefore our treatment strategy with each teen is unique as well.

%name Parenting RelationshipsNevertheless, perhaps the most important thing we do at Shelterwood is the tremendous emphasis we place on our young adult staff and their roles as mentors for our teen residents.   Teenagers are going to follow someone that they think is “cool.” So, as parents, one of our primary responsibilities is to expose our kids to young adult role models that share our values, who our teens will think are “cool.” You cannot put a price on the value of the positive influence that a healthy young adult can have on the development of a teenager.

When our teens stand up at graduation, they typically thank three groups of people. They thank bigs 300x245 Parenting Relationshipstheir parents for making the tough decision to send them to Shelterwood, and for staying the course. They thank the other residents in the program, for they have often developed some very deep friendships. And they thank the young adult staff for their love, service and sacrifice. There are some deep and lasting bonds that are often built between our young adult staff and our teens.  The counselors and teachers have a huge supportive role in the development of these teens as well; however, the value of the relationships between our young adult staff and these teens seems to be central in their minds. They do such a fantastic job!

Jim Subers
Shelterwood CEO

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.

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

Are your Expectations too High?

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 3.35.12 PM 300x49 Are your Expectations too High?The theme of this week’s blog is Schechter’s Equation for Life: S=R-E, or Satisfaction equals Reality minus Expectations. It tells us that for you to be satisfied, reality has to exceed your expectations. Simply put…when expectations are high, reality has to be higher still for you to be satisfied.

This leads us to discuss therapy and the idea of getting help. When crisis hits, people look to others for help: a church, a friend, a school program, or even a counselor. Even though many participants attend unwillingly, parents are still hopeful that these experts can and will help. After all, it is hard not to hold out high levels of hope for our children. We so desperately want to see growth and change that we are often willing to make great sacrifices to ensure the best care that we can find.

With these high investments, it is almost impossible not to have high expectations and believe that change is inevitable. Subtract those very high expectations from the reality that unmotivated teens struggle to create change in their lives, and Schechter’s Equation for Life tells us that, barring big changes, the intervention will result in negative satisfaction. So what might change? How can a counseling experience produce positive satisfaction?

The key is recognizing that, in Schechter’s Equation, satisfaction is affected by both reality and expectations. In this case, the teen is struggling with something real and tangible. So let’s focus on properly aligning expectations with what has the potential to be a difficult reality.

How do we do this? Start by acknowledging that the problem is a long-term issue. Say up front, “Attendance in this program alone is not going to fix the problem.” Go on to say, “Instead, this program is going to kick off a strategic planning process by addressing a fundamental question: Where are we?

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 3.39.03 PM1 300x207 Are your Expectations too High?The core of any strategic plan explores three basic questions: Where am I? Where do I want to be? How will I get there? Sounds simple, but it’s often not. Too often the strategic planning process gets derailed when we skip ahead to questions two and three without first truly understanding where we are.

It sure is easy to get lost when you don’t know where you are to begin with. When you visit a mall and look at the display map that highlights all the stores, the first thing you look for is the little sticker that says, “You Are Here.” Even if you know your destination beforehand, it’s hard to move forward in any logical way until you make this determination. Sadly, many parents simply want a counselor to get their teen to the exit of adulthood on the other side of the building. Without understanding the reality of their teen, the expectation of growth and health are almost unreasonable. Making assumptions about their current location and the destination will always lead to a teen becoming more lost, which leads to unsatisfied parents.

Unfortunately, as much as we might talk about our kids and believe we know them, most teens are not very open and maintain many secrets. With a lack of knowledge we tend to rely on assumptions and predictions from our own past, but these memories rarely provide much insight. As weird as it sounds, we might not know that much about them. Their reality and our understanding of their reality might be completely different. Without first addressing these knowledge gaps, any plans we might make will be doomed to fail.

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 3.38.44 PM 300x119 Are your Expectations too High?So as a first step, the primary focus of this year with your teen should be considering what information you need to know about them and develop a plan to collect it on a regular basis. Do this, and reality and expectations will be aligned, thus creating satisfaction.

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
800 584 5005

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.

Validating does not have to equal Agreement

Screen Shot 2014 12 15 at 3.56.41 PM 300x133 Validating does not have to equal AgreementHave you ever shared something that weighed heavily on your heart and had your partner respond with, “You shouldn’t feel that way”? How frustrating! We all want to be understood and having someone tell us they think we are wrong for feeling the way we do does not make us feel understood.  The skill I encourage in couples the most is validating one another.  In my last email, I explained how important it was to listen to understand.  Once you believe you understand how your partner feels, then it’s time to validate them.

Validation is an action completed by the listener with the goal of informing the speaker that he or she has been heard and understood.  If your partner has communicated that they are frustrated with how you treated them last night at the dinner party, validation would sound like this: “I understand that you feel hurt by how I treated you last night.”  After you say this you’ll need to wait a little bit.  Don’t go into your side of the story.  Goal #1 is for your partner to feel understood – now that has been achieved.  Going into the facts or your defense will only undermine your goal.  If you really want to explain what you were thinking or intending, you’ll have to wait until the dust has settled.

I often tell couples that after validating they need to wait until the concrete sets up.  After concrete is poured you don’t go stomping around on it unless you want to mess it up.  Let your validation setup before you go and present your side of the story.  You might not even need to tell your side of the story.  You could just say, “I am sorry I hurt you. I will make an effort to be more conscientious of how I treat you in that setting next time.” Don’t worry about the facts – be more concerned with resolution and moving forward.
Validating doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with or accept your partner’s point of view. When you validate them, you are simply letting the speaker know that what he or she has shared makes sense and that you understand them. It only has to be a few sentences (sometimes even less), but validation is a vital part of healthy communication.

Validating equals Understanding
Validating does not have to equal Agreement

Do you feel validated by your partner? If not, then lead by example.

When our partner does not validate us, we often feel misunderstood or rejected. Validation is the bridge that brings two people together. You might be track­ing your partner’s message in your head, but if you don’t give them some indication that you understand him or her, they will most likely feel distant, invalidated or unimportant.

When two people are engaged in a heated conversation, validation can be a difficult skill to keep in mind. How­ever, validation is one of the most important, if not the most important, skill to develop for healthy communica­tion within your relationship.

I encourage you to listen to understand your partner today and then validate them by letting them know that you understand what they are saying and feeling.  Connecting is as simple as that.

If you and your partner want more skills and want to make your marriage the best it can be I encourage you to invest in The Marriage Program.

You can do this!

Grace & Peace,

Joshua Emery (Former Shelterwood Therapist)
Program Director at Relationship Architecture