Adolescence Answers

How to cope dealing with a narcissistic ex that share a child?

I don't know where you live,  but I am certain that  NO child should be around him--per the law.  Your daughter is going to be manipulative--she's 15, and you should have a lovely discipline plan for her--like washing all the baseboards in the house (just a suggestion) or making her pick up trash by the roadside with you there watching her of course. I think the 50% custody issue could be resolved easily with a restraining order.  She is still a child and he should not be around her--maybe he could talk to her on the phone, but NO way would I allow her to see him alone. YOUR DAUGHTER IS A CHILD.  I don't care what your ex thinks--until she is 18 or emancipated (unlikely) she is under your control and he has given up his right to be around her by looking at child porn, a heinous thing to do.  Sorry, I just feel very strongly about the safety of kids. Also, I and research, bares out that just because a kid wants something, does not mean that they get it,  She needs to work for what she gets and learn to accept her place in your home. She is not the boss, you are.  On another note, you might want to get your daughter into therapy.  She is acting out, but I am thinking that it is what is going on with her dad.  She most likely does not believe that he would ever do anything like that, and I am sure he told her he is innocent.  She will defend him, so try my professional advice is to have one talk with her about it, present with all the evidence against him, and tell your daughter that you can't take a chance like that letting her see him, besides it being--I would think--illegal. In any event, when it is all settled, and if he is found innocent, then, have a plan for re-integrating him back into her life.  If he is guilty, he will be in jail so you won't have to worry about it for a few years.  Thank you.--Kerrie
(Master’s, of, Science, in, Psychology, and, Counseling, Licensed, Mental, Health, Counselor, LMHC)
Answered on 01/20/2022

How can I stop constantly worrying/obsessing over teen son social interaction at school?

This is a really relevant question for a lot of parents.  I actually see it it as two questions: A) managing your parental worrying/obsessing and B) keeping communication open so you can then guide your child when they are making decisions that you are concerned about. Answers: A) Consider what you have control over and what you do not.  Where do you have the most opportunity for impact? Focus on those things only and let go of the other things.  Really-Let them go!  If it is helpful, make a list and refer back to it as you find yourself obsessing.  Ask yourself am I obsessing over something I have no control over? If it is on your list, say to yourself some version of "This is not an effective way to spend my worry energy." Remember to use typical de-escalation strategies: Breathing, progressive relaxation, meditation etc. Those strategies work well for parenting. Sometimes if it is hard to de-escalate yourself tune into a podcast, or youtube video that can walk you through it.  Even interrupting in the middle of a conversation with your child to let them know you are getting upset and want to employ some strategies to calm down and communicate better. That is good modeling for your teenager. B) When your child is making concerning decisions, or behaving in concerning ways, try to remember that the goal is to keep communication open.  To do that, it is important to be a good listener, validate their experience and not be judgemental in your approach.  You are not concerned about the character of your child's friends. That is a concern for their parents.  Any whiff that you judge them or their friends creates an us against you scenario that is not productive.  A different approach is curiosity.  Wonder with your child what happened to the previous friend group-was it lost in the break up? Is it lack of access? Are these kids more fun? Does he feel more part of this group and why?   Then, validate.  Once you understand what they are contending with, be empathic and let them know that you get it. Finally, let him communicate in his style.  One word responses-OK. Shoulder shrugs or I don't know,- Allright.  Then ask a follow up question.  The idea is frame questions so they are open ended.  Ask your child what they want you to do to keep communciation open and listen to what they say. Then, when you understand what is going on, and they are open to you, you can guide them.  First listen and validate and finally guide them.
Answered on 01/20/2022

I am looking for a therapist

"I am dealing with stress and anxiety and aggravated and frustrating and depressed," is not a question, but a statement that you are making about the way you are feeling and I want you to know those feelings are real and I would love to help you discover where they originate. I want you to know that these feelings are probably origionating from your statement "I been dealing with my Mommy am she been beating on me and stuff like that." This tells me you are going to continue feeling like this and that your what your mom is doing is not working for you or her. If you are an adult, you are continuing to suffer with the trauma of childhood abuse and if you are still allowing your mom to beat on you that is assault, and no one deserves to be assaulted. I am not sure your age and I do not have the total picture, so I am going to reserve the right to make a clinical decision about you being a victim or suffering with the trauma of being a victim. I will say this, whoever you are you have too much value and worth to continue to remain in this environment, and I would like to help you to get out of this situation. I want you to know there is a way out, let me help you. If you are a child, or teenager, I would like to ask a question of your parent to clarify where these statements are coming from and why they think it is necessary to cause you this hurt. I might need to work with your parent and you, or if your parent lets, we (you and I) can just work together to get you to a better place. If you are a teenager, I would like to say to you that I am on you side, and that I would like to work with you to help you to get the help you need to become the person you want to be. To your parent, I would beg you to let me work with your child, who you have for a very short period of time, to help him or her become the young man or lady you can be proud to call your child. Martin
Answered on 01/20/2022

Can I set this up for my 20 year old daughter?

Thank you for your question. You can absolutely set this up for her. She will need to complete the intake process and questionnaire. Since she is 20, I would say you should sign her up as an individual from the main Better Help page as opposed to signing up a teen. Then you and she can together explore what she is seeking. As long as she is there with you, you can sign her up as an individual as the option.  I think the other part is regarding her fit for this type of counseling. Telehealth is the way of the future for young adults. With someone with more significant mental health concerns, they may struggle with this set-up in that they receive one 30 to 45-minute live session per week, but they can contact the therapist via the chat feature at any time. When you mention she is suicidal, the therapist she selects or is assigned from this site will assess, although if she has a plan or intent of harm to herself, she may be referred for a higher level of mental health care. I would also encourage you to ensure she has a strong investment in the program. The reason for this is that with it being online, once she sets up an appointment, she needs to hold herself accountable to attending, as challenges may arise with two or more no-shows. She is old enough to consent to treatment, etc, so it would just be you paying financially for the service. There is the possibility that once matched you could also speak with the therapist and the client together if your daughter may have a hard time independently articulating her difficulties so that the provider has an understanding of how to best support the client. Otherwise, the process is simple if you follow the steps, beginning with signing her up as an individual on the initial home page and following the steps following that. It is a great introductory service and is not hard to set up by following the home screen instructions. I hope this helps. You have a head start by knowing what her challenges are so that they can be articulated so she receives the support she needs and desires. 
Answered on 01/20/2022

how hard do I push my 11 year old daughter to interact with my new partner?

Hello there, This sounds like quite the complex situation that you are finding yourself in. I applaud you for reaching out for some guidance and assistance. It sounds like your youngest daughter is really struggling with these changes. I think divorce can be hard on children and, while they are very resilient, the change can take them a while to process and work through. Have you had the opportunity to sit down with your daughters and talk to them about how they feel about the divorce as well as you being in a new relationship? This may be helpful. Allowing your daughters to talk openly and honestly with you may help them further process their emotions related to this change. It will also show them that you are invested in their thoughts and in their feelings and that you care. If you have tried this already and feel it did not go well, or believe you could use some assistance in navigating the conversation, a therapist could definitely help you with that.  I think a big focus as a parent in this situation is to validate what your daughter is feeling. This is hard. This is probably confusing. And it makes a lot of sense why she might be feeling mad or angry. Spending time on her difficult feelings will help her feel heard and listened to. As she is feeling heard and listened to on a more consistent basis, this may help alleviate some of her anger and her avoidance. I do not believe you should allow your daughter to dictate your life's choices, however. So when she demands that you not see your new partner, this is not something I would give in to unless that is something YOU want. While your daughter's emotions are valid, the truth of the matter is that divorces do happen and people do find new partners. This may be difficult for your daughter to comprehend right now, but catering your life to what she wants will not be helpful or healthy for anyone. I hope all of this makes sense. Good luck working through this with your girls.
Answered on 01/20/2022

What should I do regarding stepkids

Hi Juls,  I'm glad you reached out - you ARE in a tough spot.  Blended family dynamics are challenging more often than not.    It's a little hard for me to give much specific response or direction as I am not aware of if your SS wants to be in the home with you and your husband or if living with biomom would be his preference.  The relationship your husband had with his son prior to you coming into the picture, whether or not your SS was an "only child" due to his sibling being older or if biomom has any other children is another dynamic that can often times create conflict between homes, you say "it has been hell since day one" so that suggests that your SS had some learned behaviors already in place before you entered the picture that helped him to get what he wanted and all of these are factors that affect the adjustment of kids in blended families.  In families, it's not uncommon to have parents display different parenting styles so if the step parent is doing more of the active parenting than the bio parent is doing then it can throw the home/relational balance off.    Keep in mind that your husbands parenting style is what your SS is familiar with.  Right or wrong/healthy or not.  For now, in this limited space, I would encourage you to remember that your role with your SS is going to change (possibly many times) between now and when he arrives into full adulthood.  One thing to remember in all situations is that we can only control ourselves.  It could help you to consider what it might look like for you to take a step back, let his father lead in how he will, or will not, handle the actions and choices of his son, and ultimately keep your eyes focused on your long term relationship/marital goal with your husband.  This can help you avoid getting too caught up in something that was already in motion before you came along (SS's ODD) and keep perspective on the long game.
Answered on 01/20/2022

I don’t know what to do I feel like I’m losing my son

Dear Gracie,   Thank you so much for writing to Better Help to  share about your concerns surrounding your 17 year old son. How has your son been doing lately? How has he been feeling, etc?    You shared that you really just want your son to feel comfortable and be able to open up with you more. The teenager years can certainly be very tough (not only for the teen, but also for the parents)! Teenagers want to branch off on their own and start to form their own identities. They also have a tendency to think that they know what is best, and they often listen more to their peer groups as opposed to their parents or family. Sometimes teens can be extremely susceptible to peer pressure as well. Have you found that is the case for your son.   In terms of encouraging him to open up more to you, it is important to recognize that teens have concerns about opening up to their parents because they fear that there will be some sort of judgement, or event that they could possibly be "punished" for sharing about something that they did wrong. Teens may not want to tell their parents everything because they are concerned that they might get grounded or get in trouble.   I think that it is important to let your son know that you are there for him, and that you are there to help him and not be judgemental. Keep an open door policy so to speak, and maybe try not to "pry" so much, but instead just inform your son that you are there if he ever needs to talk.    In addition, you may also want to allow for other outlets for him to talk. Sometimes teens simply do not feel comfortable talking to their parents. You could, for example, give an opportunity for your teenager to receive counseling services so that he could talk to someone confidentially without worrying about any judgement. You can also offer teen crisis hotline number(s) or crisis text line for your teen to reach out to if he needs anything.   Also, recognize that with time your teen may likely start to open up more with you. This could possibly just be a phase, and it is a pretty normal part of the teen years. You might also want to engage in an empathy building exercise by butting yourself back into your shoes as a teenager. What was it like for you being 17? Were you comfortable talking to your own family at 17 years old? Why or why not?   Hopefully you found this information helpful, and thank you again for writing in to Better Help with your question. 
(Ed.S., M.C., L.P.C.)
Answered on 01/20/2022

My eldest daughter has Estranged herself from me, she is 28 this year.

Dear Bee,   Thank you for your message and I can hear how much you miss your daughter, and the grief of losing the intimacy you once had with her. I can hear that you have been working very hard to change some of your thinking patterns that result in this anxiety, this process takes time but as you have experienced, you're on the right track with some significant and positive changes happening.   I understand to change our relationships does take willingness and practice. Nothing can be changed overnight yet I also sense that you are here because you actually do want to change. Your courage and motivation is what would bring you success. :)    We can give ourselves the credit for wanting to change while giving ourselves the space and time to go through this process. Meanwhile, we also need to acknowlegde that it does take two to work on a relationship, which means we also need to hope that your daughter will be ready to engage and we probably cannot force this process on her.   It is especially during these times where we feel intense feelings of stress and anxiety where we be kind to ourselves and make choices that are nourishing, without demanding ourselves or putting pressure onto ourselves.   These times will pass, they always have, they always will. Keep breathing, keep floating. Time is on our side, the clock is ticking and it is carrying us. We don't have to have all the answers in order to breathe and be kind to ourselves, these answers will come at the right place and at the right time.   It is wise of you to be aware that you are constantly filling your mind with what you miss from the past, and in other words we are really not sure of our value and identify if we are not doing something / going somewhere. That is something we struggle a lot especially living in such a competitive society. We often compare ourselves with others and fear that we are behind / we are not doing enough.   The root of it could be loneliness, fear, past experiences and our upbringing. I am sensing that unless we deal with these roots, putting more things on our plate would only make things worse.   When we choose to let go of our anxiety, our fear and our need to be control, in return we would obtain calmness, acceptance and peace.   Sometimes we think that in order to achieve peace we must do something extra, something more, yet recently I am becoming a believer of learning to do less and simply let go of our attachments to fix, to control, to heal.   Healing comes when we let go.   In simple words, what we need is not trying harder, but letting go. Letting go of our demand of ourselves, letting go of our desire to want more, letting go of our need to be in control, letting go of our constant drive to fill up our loneliness, letting go of our habits of comparing ourselves with others.   Only when we let go then we truly become who we are, with more peace, happiness and confidence.   I would ask if you can create a time and space where you are quiet, not distracted by tasks and not in need to take care of anything.   Then focus on reading some of these following words below until you have allowed them to be part of you and absorb them like when you digest food. Don't rush, read them over and again, digest them, think of what they are trying to say and what these words mean. Alright?   1.  You don't have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.   Research has shown that attempting to control unwanted thoughts, typically results in increased intrusions of those thoughts.    2. The perfect is the enemy of the good.   Do the right thing - the thing that is most consistent with your personal values in a particular moment, even if it's not the perfect thing.   For example, say a friendly hello rather than avoid someone because you've forgotten their name.   3. Don't believe everything you think.   If you're feeling anxious or ashamed, ask yourself what thought or assumption is driving that feeling. Frequently, the thought will be flawed.   4. The only way out is through.   The best way out of anxiety is often to expose yourself to the things you are afraid of.    5. Act the way that you want to feel.   If you want to feel confident, act confident. For example, stand up straight.   If you want to feel calm, act calm. For example, don't do excessive reassurance seeking or excessive checking.   6. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.   This anxiety quote encapsulates the principle that becoming less anxious involves acting differently. If you change your behavior, your thoughts and feelings will change. You can't wait for your thoughts and feelings to change, you need to change your behavior first.   7. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.    8. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.   9. If you aren't willing to have it, you will.    The majority of things people with anxiety do to try to escape from it, generate further stress and anxiety.   For example, avoidance coping, or trying to block out thoughts, which as mentioned in #1 tends to increase intrusions of those thoughts.    10. (Slow breathing) is like an anchor in the midst of an emotional storm: the anchor won't make the storm goes away, but it will hold you steady until it passes.    Meanwhile, breathe...and breathe. You will be alright.   I do hope that you will be able to connect with your daughter soon, yet at the same time please do take good care of yourself so that you will be more ready to engage when she is ready.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
Answered on 01/20/2022

Struggling with both my sons coming out as gay. Did I do something wrong as a parent?

Dear 6Foot, Good morning and thank you for sharing a bit about your sons and situation regarding their sexual orientations. I appreciate that you are looking at this situation with a critical lens toward self, as it is demonstrating that you care a lot about parenting well and effectively. Before we get too much further with your question, I would wonder about other aspects of your sons' lives. I would encourage a consideration of full picture of who they are--their skills, abilities, interests, positive attributes, etc. It can be helpful to look at individuals with a holistic lens. I imagine that there are so many things that you love about both young men, and that there are many, many areas in which you likely have tremendous pride in them. Next, it would be helpful to consider your own thoughts and perspectives about sexual orientation, not just for your sons, but in general. For some people, sexual orientation is merely an aspect of who someone is that is neutral. For other folks, sexuality can have underlying connotations that are steeped in moral or religious convictions (both positively and/ or negatively). I wonder if spending some time here in critical self-reflection may be helpful. You might consider what you have been taught, thought, or believed throughout your lifespan on this issue. Early experiences can be very shaping of later perspectives. Further, perspectives continue to be shaped by lived experiences. I also imagine that it may have taken some degree or courage or bravery for both sons to reveal their orientation to you. That is commendable for many reasons--that they desperately want you to fully know them and not just a version of them that they think you would approve of, that they love and care about you and themselves enough to be authentic and vulnerable, and that they trust you with this important information about their identities. Next, I wonder what "wrong" means to you. You questioned if you have done something "wrong." It seems that human beings are incredibly complex and nuanced creatures! How human beings grow and develop is a complicated process with many influencing factors, such as genetics, biological differences, social environments, and of course, cultural influences. All that to say, sexuality too is influenced by all of these things, potentially some more than others. There are so many things that we do not have causal answers for in the world of psychology. That means that there is a great deal of grey area. Rather than thinking of situations as right or wrong, black or white, there can sometimes be tremendous value in thinking of things as grey. I imagine that there are many parenting moments and experiences that you are quite proud of! I wonder if you might spend some time in reflection of these and see these too as formative for your sons. Ultimately, both of your sons (and you!) will thrive with a loving, supportive relationship. My hope is that this can continue for you as their parent. I am sure that you desire the very best for both boys and want to see them healthy, happy, and safe. Thank you for your thoughtful question. Sincerely, Dr. Lora Erickson
Answered on 01/20/2022

Will I be doing more harm than good if I tell an 11 year old child who doesn't know me, that I am her dad? She believes her step dad is her father.

I cannot state definitively that there will be no damage either way as there will be some hurt whether you hide it now or share it now. The real issue is that if she is indeed your daughter and you can prove that through a test your daughter could view it either way. She may feel her life is irreparably damaged whether you tell her now or wait to tell her later. The fact of the matter is that if you hide it at all she is likely to feel she didn't matter and wonder why you delayed once you knew. The issue here though is that you need to be prepared to be her father. A real "Dad" who takes her for all her good traits and bad traits whatever they may be and is honestly there for her. Part of being there for her is allowing the man she thinks is her father to be a part of her life as well. After all, he accepted her and the role of father at or about when he married her mother. I believe that counseling is essential to her smooth transition. Counseling will also help you to manage and accept the difference before and after the transition yourself. If you are not taking this step to help your daughter as you state this may be the worst thing possible. You are tearing apart what appears to be an intact family which may irreparably harm her. What she has and what is stable at this time may crumble at a pertinent point in her growth from childhood to pre-teen and teen years. Remember, she has already experienced some transition points in her life and we don't know what may have occurred emotionally when these transitions happened. Just because it seems she believes her current "father" has always been her father according to your information, doesn't mean that she emotionally believes that and has no other memories. The worst possible outcome is that you are doing this because you may be mad at your ex. In that case, I wonder if you would be a good father to this child or merely use coming into her life as a way to hurt your ex when it may actually only hurt your daughter. Be careful and think deeply about your motivation here please.
Answered on 01/20/2022