Adolescence Answers

How do I parent two strong-willed boys without going crazy ;)

Parenting is so hard, isn't it? We often question ourselves, our children, and our partners in this journey. It sounds like you're questioning if your 13 year old son's behavior is abnormal and if your response to him is appropriate. You mentioned that he seems to have an oral fixation and a lack of social cues, which is making it difficult for him to make friends. Without knowing him or talking more about him, it's hard to say if he has something going on, but I can say that those can be characteristics of several neurodivergent conditions. This might be something to bring up with his doctor as they often can perform screeners. They make jewelry such as chewy necklaces, fidget rings and bracelets, etc, that you can find on Amazon that he might find to be useful. I wonder if he might have some sensory issues going on that is causing him some anxiety and the need to chew. I wonder if he is triggered by loud noises, tight or loose clothing, or being around people he doesn't know? A simple google search for sensory needs could be helpful in your research. Strong willed children have amazing qualities and blow you away with their independence, but you aren't alone in finding it difficult to parent. It requires an amazing amount of patience and understanding to be a parent of a strong willed child. Having firm boundaries is also helpful because it helps us be consistent in our responses to them. This can be very difficult to implement because children will often increase the unwanted behavior to try and get what they want because it has worked for them in the past. However, you will find that if you continue to be consistent with your boundaries that the unwanted behavior will decrease over time. We have to remember to meet our own needs so that we can meet the needs of our children. If we aren't filling our own cup it makes it extremely difficult to fill up the cup of others, especially our children. Are you taking time for yourself? Centering yourself?  
Answered on 10/24/2022

i don’t have a question, just need to get feelings out

Hi, and thanks for reaching out. I'm sorry you're going through a really challenging time right now. Being a Mom is hard enough on its own...Being a teen is hard enough on its own! When the two are combined, there are definitely challenges to work through. Add to that the everyday difficulties of life and of being human, and it can *feel* all-consuming sometimes. ...But you can do it. It just takes time, persistence, and patience. :-) The first step is reminding yourself that life will not *always* be like this. You and your baby are still very much growing and changing, and the way your life looks right now isn't what it will be like 5 years from now. Sometimes when life isn't going as planned, we feel suffocated and/or like it will never change...but if we keep our perspective and keep moving forward in *some* way -- no matter how small -- we'll eventually see the results of our efforts. The second step is to figure out what you want in life. Yes, whatever your goals are, they may be a little more challenging (okay, maybe a *lot* more challenging) because you're a Mom and your boyfriend is away in the military right now, but having a sense of direction (*some* sense of direction) will help a little bit to relieve your feelings of being trapped. Having something to work toward that's important to you and your new little family can give you that sense of purpose and orientation toward the future that will help you endure the circumstances of your current situation that are leading you to feel stuck. Another important piece would be to seek out sources of emotional support. I'm sorry to learn that your Mom is no longer a source of emotional support for you; I hope that will change in time and that the two of you will reunite. In the meantime, it's super important that you not feel alone during this particular phase of your life and your child's development. If you can join a Mom's support group (I'd provide links to resources, but I don't know where you're located, so a quick internet search should bring up some specific, local resources for you), a play group for kids that allows the moms to interact, or even a therapist that works with new and/or teen moms (whether here on BetterHelp or in-person at perhaps a local non-profit clinic). Often times, there are income limits that allow someone in your situation to even receive free counseling. The important thing is to stay connected (so as to reduce feelings of isolation) and keep your eye on the future (so you don't feel as trapped). In keeping with the knowledge that it won't always be this way, you might find it helpful to journal your feelings and what you're going through right now. You've been through a completely life-changing event over the past two years (and counting), and there's a lot to be learned from (and about) yourself as a result of having gone through this experience. It *will* make you stronger, and there's a pretty good chance your future self (and perhaps even your baby, years from now) will benefit from you having worked through these challenges in the form of journaling. Professionally-speaking, I've never had a client say they regretted working out their thoughts through journaling; they've always found a benefit to it. And it doesn't even matter so much *what* you write as it does the fact that you're spending time with yourself and allowing those thoughts in your head some breathing room by getting in touch with them consciously and getting them off your mind. Getting out of the house on a regular basis by going for walks (both by yourself and with baby) are great ways to shift your perspective and keep your eye on the future. The act of movement also keeps us from feeling stuck, keeps our mind and body functioning well, and from getting too emotionally low (there are actually "sciency" reasons behind that, which I won't get into here). It also helps with regulating our sleep/wake patterns (which may already be wonky, due to baby learning how to sleep independently, etc.). Focus on being present while you're out on walks with baby, and perhaps allow yourself the chance to dream about the future you'd like for yourself when you're out on walks alone. Both are important, and dreaming is the very first step towards a life that's different from the one you're experiencing now. If you catch yourself in a negative thought spiral (like thinking something's too hard, or you can't do it, or focusing excessively on perceived obstacles), tell yourself to "stop" and shift your attention to something happening in the moment that involves your five senses. Look for the evidence of your negative thoughts, and when you don't find it, develop a more reality-based, reasonable alternative thought. If you're having a really hard time doing this (as many people do), consider working with a therapist to teach you how to reframe your negative and/or self-defeating thoughts. In the long run, it will help both you and your baby -- trust me. Drink plenty of water, and eat a well-balanced, healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. I know you've probably heard this a million times, but it truly does make a difference to your emotional health (believe it or not) if you're fueling your body with nutrients instead of empty calories. You truly are what you eat.... And last (but definitnely not least), spend some time thinking about your own personal values -- not your Mom's values, not your family-of-origin's values, and certainly not society's values. Your own values -- what *you* believe is most important to *you* in life. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of people do you want in you and your child's life? What kind of Mom do you want to be? What values do you want to raise your child with? What's important to you in this world? What do you absolutely, positively need in your life in order to feel fulfilled? What brings you a sense of meaning and purpose? ...And then look at your life to see in what areas are you already living your values, and in what areas you might be able to make some adjustments in order to more closely align with your values. When you *know* what's important to you in this life and are actively living those important things, it can guide all of your decisions and even though it may not necessarily make those decisions "easy" all of the time, it pretty much ensures you'll be living a life without regrets that's fulfilling both in the present *and* the future. Best wishes to you and your little family!
(M.A., LMFT)
Answered on 10/21/2022

My 18 year old literally makes a fight out of everything I say.

Paloma: Thank you for reaching out with your question about a legally adult child and the change in your relationship.  The good news is that your daughter wants a good relationship with you.  That says a lot about your parenting.  It seems that the two of you have not gone through some of those normal mother-daughter blow-ups that begin to happen as a girl becomes a woman in her teenaged years.  They are delayed for her and are most likely stemming from the new experiences she is having in her six weeks of college.  She is not aware of how much college has changed her already.  She wants the connection to her family that has given her a sense of self, but she is not aware of how much she is being influenced by her new friends. When it comes to our adult children, it is a whole new way of experiencing them and being with them.  They demand freedom but they are still very dependent.  They are dependent financially and whether they like to admit it or not they are dependent emotionally. You are growing in your understanding of how to connect with her too.  It is not the same in teaching her how not to cuss, fight and smoke weed.  It seems that you have taught her not to do these things, but she is experimenting with them in her new freedom.  What you must realize is that you cannot control her decision to cuss, fight and smoke weed, but you can control what you can control.  You can control the boundaries you will accept when she is in your home.  You want her to come home, but you still have boundaries.  You can ask her not to cuss, fight, or smoke weed when she is in your home.  One of the best ways you can reconnect with her is to ask her questions and really listen to her answers and help her think through the person she wants to be.  She has told you that she wants a relationship with you.  Tell her that you would like a relationship with her too.  You have noticed that she is changing in many ways.  You can ask her: “Why do you find your siblings so irritating?”  Tell her that you want to help the family to get along better and ask for her ideas of how to stop the fighting and to help grow in self-respect and respect of others different points of view.  Did you ever cuss because your friends did and found the use of language as a fast way to communicate or shock others?  Maybe you could share your experiences with cussing and how it made you feel.  Ask her about the change in her use of language these days.  Is it something that makes her feel less anxious and helps her fit in with her new friends?  Since you know that she is smoking weed, ask her how it improves her life and whether it interferes or helps her in her college goals. It is hard to be the bigger person right now, but she does need your input and she really wants it.  She wants to be close to you, and she recognizes that.  It is the foundation of the relationship that you have built over the years.  She will always be connected to you, but in her unfamiliar environment she is learning how to be separate from you as well. Mother-daughter relationships evolve over time.  What is most impressive to me is that she wants to feel connected to you.  Maybe you have been so in shock over the way she is behaving that you have backed away from her without noticing it as well.  You can tell her that you want to stay close to her too.  You want to be there for her no matter what happens in her life.  You can be honest that you do not like this cussing, weed smoking, fighting woman but you know that she is growing and changing over time and that she can count on the fact that your love for her will not change even if you do not agree with her behaviors and cannot support them.  Even adult children are always asking two questions: one. Do you love me? And two. Can I get my own way?  The answers are different with an adult child.  The answer to the first is always yes but the second is you can smoke weed, cuss and fight if that is what you want but I will not tolerate it in these ways (control what you can control).  You have done a wonderful job in raising her and she will get through these changes with your love and support.  
(D., Phil., LPC, LMFT)
Answered on 10/04/2022

Is BH appropriate for a parent/child therapy? Would my 12 yo be able to speak with a therapist?

The journey as a parent can often prove as being lonely, exhausting, frustrating, overwhelming, and draining.  The emotion that is contained within your written question, is truly known and heartfully felt.  Respectively, the heart-break is also both palpable and tangible throughout the provided question.  Therapy invites individuals of various ages to seek healing, psychoeducation, peace, restoration, and congruency.  Accordingly, there are copious options to consider when pursuing counseling.  Due to the countless avenues in which one can pursue, the counseling endeavor may seem daunting or intimidating.  While mindful of your current experience, it may be preferable for both you and your son to seek individual counseling.  Although your son would pursue counseling with a therapist who is specifically trained to attend to an adolescent population, you would seek out the services of a clinician who specializes in the treatment of adults.  Additionally, the possibility of introducing a Family Therapist, who would be inclusive toward the needs of both you and your son, might also be beneficial in resolving the present circumstances.  Perhaps, the Family Therapist may be able to include your boyfriend into joint sessions with both you and your son, as well.  Certainly, the theme of loss, abandonment, fear, reactivity, and transition abound within your son's experience.  A degree of patience, honesty, transparency, and trust is required within any counseling dynamic.  With particular sensitivity toward ethics, the format of adolescent counseling requires for the parent to provide both consent and assent in order for information to be gathered by the attending clinician.  The parent can sometimes be invited to be an active part within the adolescent counseling dynamic.  The unique opportunity in which this provides, allows for the parent to recognize and learn of the internal world of their adolescent, while further collaborating in the adolescent's growth.  Often, certain information will be presented to the attention of the parent at the conclusion of the session, especially when it is pertinent to the overall health of the adolescent client.  In many ways, the saying, "There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from the experience" is especially applicable in conjunction with the pursuit of counseling.  Although counseling can be intimidating, once the appropriate therapist is discovered, the transformation that can potentially unfold is immeasurable.  
Answered on 09/29/2022

My boyfriend and son fight a lot could you help with this issue?

Hi Lita,  Thank you for writing this question here.  This is a very common issue, I'm sure.  About 50% of marriages end in divorce, and so it is very likely that kids will have to adjust to new parental dynamics.  In this case, your son is struggling adjusting to a new father figure right in the middle of his teenage years.  This is significant for many reasons.  First, the teen years are usually pretty emotional for most kids, as they are processing new and intense emotions, while lacking in impulse control.  The frontal lobe has not been developed yet, and won't be fully until adulthood around age 26.  But, until then, kids are driven by the pleasure senses of the brain, and lack that ability to reason and respond thoughtfully.  I don't have enough information about your son's father, your living situation at home, and others in the home, but what we know about this time in development, is that kids need stability in the home.  As your son's brain is developing, the structure, rules, and expectations of knowing what to expect is very important at this time.  How consistent are you and your boyfriend in setting and communicating expectations for him?  Are you both on the same page about how to raise him, what the house rules are, and how to set boundaries with him?  The more consistent and united you two are, the better for your son, as his foundation of comfort grows.   If his father is in the picture, and/or if he is also splitting custody and has him part of the time, are you co-parenting successfully?  In other words, are those rules similar as they are in your home?  The more consistent the two homes are for kids who's parents split custody, the better.  That means there needs to be some productive communication between you and his father as well.  There are a lot of factors involved in how the relationship between your boyfriend and your son grows.   Another thing we know about teenagers, is that they want to feel heard and respected just as much as adults do.  With some help, you can all learn healthier ways of listening and validating each other's feelings, and bridging the gap that is growing between you.  I would recommend the book, "I Hear You" by Michael Sorenson.      
Answered on 05/30/2022