5 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

You’re finally free from the pain of disappearing date nights. Free from the exhaustion of climbing into bed after an argument. Free from the ex who weighed you down more than they lifted you up.

While you can enjoy the weightlessness of no longer loving them, you still have a responsibility to co-parent with them. Co-parenting isn’t a new concept, as the US has a 50% divorce rate. (41% for first-time marriages.)

Do it well by learning five tips from a therapist on successful co-parenting.

1. Treat your partner with respect.

Whether you’re speaking directly to them or speaking about them to your child, show your partner respect. (And ask that they do the same for you!)

Avoid bad-mouthing each other in front of your child, and teach your child that you don’t want to hear it, either. It might be funny when they first roast your ex, but encouraging them will only hurt your child in the long run. It deters them from building a healthy relationship with half of the most important support system they have.

Instead, speak on your partner’s strengths whenever you have the opportunity. Studies show that exhibiting gratitude daily improves our overall wellbeing, and it can help you have more positive interactions together.

For example, if you can’t help your child with their homework, admit to them, “I know, I’m not the best at explaining things. Mommy’s great at this stuff!”

2. Work to agree on a consistent routine.

Establishing a predictable routine for ourselves is one of the biggest things we can do for our mental health. For kids, it’s imperative as they’re still developing their sense of self-esteem. Knowing what the “next move” is makes kids feel safe and secure at home.

Work to agree with your partner on things like meal times, bed times, household responsibilities, and behavioral expectations. That way, both houses can feel like one consistent home.

3. Keep your child in focus, not your ex.

By focusing on the healthy development of your child, you should naturally want to stick to routine and rules decided by both parents. If you’re trying to stick it to your ex or “win” at being the favorite parent, you may ease up on these rules.

If you enter the day feeling insecure about your parent-child relationship, you may choose to see a new movie instead of working on homework together. This threatens your child’s routine and adds friction to an already stressful relationship with your ex.

Exposing children to parental conflict introduces feelings of vulnerability, as if their whole family system will break down and leave them behind. Don’t be the reason your child struggles to feel confident in their own skin.

4. Deal with parental guilt and frustration outside of the home.

Feeling like you’re missing out on your child’s life is disheartening, but try not to act on feelings of guilt. Children already struggle with impulse control, so if you overspend to give them quick spurts of excitement, it will bite back as an overgrown ego in your child and a lack of empathy for others.

Instead, allow yourself to be boring around your kid. Let them have perfectly ordinary days at home with their perfectly ordinary parents.

5. Keep an open dialogue.

Whether it’s face-to-face, over text, or through an online scheduling service, keep your ex updated about what’s going on. (Don’t make your child “pass notes” to the other parent.)

If it helps, start viewing your ex as a coworker. Communicate with them in professional and emotionally neutral or pleasant ways.

Instead of pointing fingers, stick to “I” statements when your ex’s behavior becomes bothersome. “I noticed Jack was more aggressive than usual when he came home this week. What kinds of stress-relieving activities should we teach him?”

Still, communicating regularly with someone who has broken your trust can be stressful. Instead of taking it out on them—or worse, you kid—work with a therapist.

Schedule your first appointment today.

Are There Benefits if Teens Wait to Make College Decisions?

As parents, we want to set our kids up for a lifetime of success. The job gets tricky when they turn 18, become independent, and start making decisions that have long-term consequences for the first time.

Even though they are legally adults, their prefrontal cortex will not fully develop until age 25. This means teens are more likely to make emotionally backed decisions instead of rationally backed ones. They may only decide to go to college because “everyone else is doing it”, or they may push back because the idea of sitting in a classroom for another four years feels torturous.

While college can be a life-changing experience for many, those changes are not always good. That is why it is important to consider the benefits of waiting before you push your child down the college route.

The Argument for a Gap Year

Taking a gap year between high school and college gives students the chance to recover from burnout and learn who they are outside of the classroom. (Especially for students who took AP and honors courses.) For non-academically motivated students, a year of work allows them to build confidence and better reputations with their supervisors than they did with their teachers.

Many educators agree that students who take a year off come back feeling refreshed and matured, with a clearer vision of their future than before. Of course, this all depends on how valuable their gap year was.

To gain critical “real world” experience, young adults should travel, work a job that interests them, or volunteer somewhere inspiring.

How to Know If It Is a Good Idea to Wait

If your child’s SAT/ACT score is significantly higher than their grades, that could be a sign they are intellectually capable enough, but not disciplined enough, to take college seriously. That is okay! Some people are simply not classroom-motivated.

Let them have a year off to find work that inspires them. That way, when they go to college, they go to develop the skills they are genuinely passionate about.

Just like how someone can underutilize a gap year, they can also underutilize one year in college. (And college costs significantly more than taking a year off.) Building your GPA back up after one year is tough, especially if you are looking to transfer or apply to a program that requires a good GPA.

For some people, it is better to lower the stakes as you go—work, go to community college, then transfer to a four-year university. For some students, starting with a four-year university provides a lot of unnecessary pressure and anxiety that can affect their performance and confidence.

If all they face in school is disappointment, they may not make the best use of their newfound independence. This can lead to serious depression, coping with alcohol and drugs, skipping classes, or flunking out.

The Risks of Waiting to Go to College

If your child chooses to work after graduation, they risk the chance of putting off college so long that they never actually go.

Studies show they could miss out on as much as $800,000 over the course of their lives compared to the salaries of college grads. (However, some 18-year-olds might prefer avoiding student loan debt while they are young and still learning financial literacy.)

College today has become sort of a cultural expectation for young adults. As parents, you want to help your child decide what is best for their individual future. That means making yourself a safe space for them to open up, discuss long-term consequences of their actions, and move forward with confidence.

What is the best way to do this? Therapy! I am happy to work with you and your child so they have the tools they need to make big decisions like these with confidence. Ready to get started? Schedule an appointment with us today.

4 Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling with Their Mental Health

It can be scary to see your kid turn into someone quieter or more agitated than they used to be. You can do all the right things as a parent and your child can still struggle with their mental health. (Especially when living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.)

According to Mental Health America, in March 2020, a whopping 83% of teens aged 11 to 17 years old tested positive or at-risk for anxiety. Even more—91%—tested positive or at-risk for depression.

While these stats are from when the pandemic started, it’s safe to assume a lot of these students are still facing the same issues. Here are 4 signs your teen may be struggling with their mental health.

1. Their mood is frequently agitated, angry, or somber.

Depression shows in different ways for different people. For some, it appears as excessive crying because of intense feelings of hopelessness. For others, it appears as a hot temper or constant irritability.

Remember that depression pairs with feelings of worthlessness, so be gentle with advice and criticism for your teen at this time. Depressed teens can be extremely sensitive to being told they failed in some way, especially those who tend to overachieve in school.

Your teen may also make comments ridiculing their own intelligence or appearance, signaling their struggle with low self-esteem, a common symptom of depression.

2. They lost interest in previously adored activities.

If your teen plays sports or practices a skill, pay attention to how much enjoyment they’re deriving from it now. Maybe they used to jog lightly on the field before, but now they can only manage to stand and stare, waiting for the ball. Or the sound of music would constantly drift from their bedroom, but now the house has become eerily silent.

If your teen is withdrawing from activities and friends to spend more time alone than they were before, they could be struggling with depression. When isolated, the easiest way for them to worsen their depression is becoming addicted to their phone.

While the online world may feel like an escape from their problems, research shows that excessive smartphone and internet use increases feelings of isolation, leading to more depression.

3. Their sleeping and eating patterns have suddenly changed.

Has your teen been more difficult to wake up in the mornings than usual? Do you hear them running downstairs for a snack at 2 a.m.? Feeling a desire to sleep significantly more or less is a symptom of depression, as it warps our levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

They may also experience changes in diet, choosing to binge eat high-fat foods or losing their appetite completely. This could relate to their loss of interest in things that used to bring them joy, or it could be because unexplained nausea or stomach pain is deterring them from eating.

4. They engage in risky behaviors.

High-risk behaviors are heavily correlated with depression for a couple reasons. One, people with depression tend to value their lives less, and two, they’re desperate to cope with the pain.

Some people prefer to numb out thoughts of anger and shame with drugs and alcohol. Others feel they aren’t worthy of happiness or good health, so they choose to self-harm as a cry for help. Some turn to unprotected sex as a means of distraction, neglecting to consider STDs or possible pregnancies before jumping into it. And if your teen is old enough to drive, they might consider racing down side roads recklessly for an adrenaline boost.

It’s important to have open, empathetic conversations with your children about their mental health.

If you’ve been noticing any of these symptoms or cries for help, call our office to schedule an appointment today. Because no one is too young to prioritize their mental health.

4 Tips to Help Teens Adjust as They Return to School

The past year and some change has been difficult for people worldwide. For many teens, it was the first time in their lives they didn’t have to wake up and take the bus to school.

While you might think they’d be happy about that, the change was marked with fear and uncertainty. They were unable to see their friends everyday like before. Their extracurriculars took a hit. They may have experienced a spike in anxiety or depression.

However, humans are remarkably adaptable. And as it’s time to return to onsite learning, there are ways you can help ease the transition for your teen.

1. Establish Routine

One of the most important aspects of getting back into the old swing of things is establishing a routine. Get into this routine as soon as possible.

For instance, your teen may have been staying up late or sleeping in with remote learning. For many teens, this is a hard pattern to break. So, encourage them to go to bed at a regular time. You can also encourage them to eat breakfast. Not only is it fuel for their body, but it can be a positive start to their day.

You can also help them get into a better routine of doing their homework in the afternoon or evening so they have time to relax before bed. Other aspects of this routine can include chores or family time.

2. Empathize and Reassure

Your teen may be anxious to return to onsite learning with COVID-19 still looming. One way you can help ease their anxiety is by providing reassurance and confidence in the decision for in-person classes. After all, you’re living through the pandemic as well and this shared experience allows you to empathize with them.

Although they may be in a life stage where they’re discovering their independence, your teen still looks to you for comfort and support. If they are worried about seeing their peers again, remind them they haven’t lost their social skills overnight.

Emotional validation is key. Be sure to listen to them without interrupting when they express their fears or struggles.

3. Highlight Self Care

While it’s important to encourage your teen to get into a routine and reassure them, it’s also important to remember that this won’t be a magic fix. There will still likely be some anxiety about it all.

That’s why it’s also important to encourage self care as a part of your teen’s routine. Taking care of their emotional and physical needs during a stressful time will go a long way in helping them cope. You can:

  • Encourage them to take walks outside or try a new activity like yoga.
  • Encourage them to keep up with favorite hobbies.
  • Make sure they’re eating and sleeping well.
  • Allow them time to connect with others socially, either on the phone or socially distanced.
  • Take breaks from watching the news or scrolling through social media.

4. Celebrate the Positives

During stressful times, it helps to celebrate the positive things happening in life. Is there anything your teen is looking forward to about the return to school? Perhaps they’re excited to see a favorite teacher or a good friend. Maybe they did well on a quiz they were nervous about. Or it might excite them to partake in extracurriculars again.

Ask them what the best part of their day was when they get home. Even if it’s something small, celebrating it creates a positive track for the next day.

A teenager’s life is full of change and transition, pandemic excluded. With the health crisis on top of it, it’s understandable that they might be anxious about returning to school. For many, it has been a stressful and traumatic year. But you can help your teen make the most of returning to onsite learning and set them up for success.

Need extra support? Reach out today so we can help get you on a positive path and create healthy coping skills.

Teen Depression: The What’s, Why’s, and How’s

Teen Depression information

Every year, the number of teenagers suffering from mild to severe cases of depression continues to escalate. Statistics reveal that 20% of teenagers experience depression before adulthood, and only 30% of the total number of depressed teens get proper treatment. After a significant decline during the 1990s, many psychologists believe that the primary factors that lead to teen depression are pressures from school or home environment, lifestyle, as well as drugs and alcohol.

 

What Is Teen Depression?

It is crucial to understand that teen depression is more than the ordinary moodiness that your child manifests every now and then. Teen depression is considered a serious health condition that influences and impacts every aspect of his or her young life, such as:

  • personal life
  • school life
  • family life
  • social life
  • Work (if applicable)

Depression among teenagers is similar to adult depression as it involves emotional and mental disorders. However, the signs and symptoms in teenagers manifest differently due to the level of hormonal changes, physical body changes, and peer pressure.
Depressed people, including teens, tend to view the world and environment in a negative light. They often feel unloved, worthless, and highly critical of themselves. Most often, minor problems can overwhelm them. The condition will interfere with their regular routine, change their behavior, and lead to suicidal thoughts.
When depression sets in, teenagers tend to isolate themselves from friends, family, and society. It also results in chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, irritability, mood swings, and loss of appetite.
As a parent, it is essential to remember that teenage depression is not a growth phase. It is real and can be fatal in the absence of professional treatment, proper management, and support of loved ones. If not treated immediately, it can affect their adult lives.

 

What Causes Teen Depression?

While there is no single knowledge about the real reason why young people experience depression, multiple factors can trigger it. It can be caused by a mix of psychological, biological, and social factors that range from growth hormones to identity crisis.
Now, more than ever, young people are more pressured and stressed compared to previous generations. While modern technology brings convenience, it weakens the face-to-face interactions and activities of the family. It results in getting less physical exercise, less sunshine, and less social or community involvement.
Other factors contributing to chronic stress are an unhealthy diet, environmental toxins, a busy lifestyle, and too much exposure to electronic gadgets. A stressful home or neighborhood environment, violence, and poverty also lead to depressive behavior.

Emotionally unprepared

By nature, teens are not emotionally ready to handle the circumstances surrounding significant changes or challenges. When faced with emotionally draining situations like abuse, divorce of parents, or learning disabilities that affect school performance, a lot of teens tend to withdraw themselves or become rebellious. While a lot of teens can survive the ordeal of the situations, the effects impact their views in life.

Brain differences

Several studies show that the structural component of the adolescent brain differs from the brain of an adult. The level of neurotransmitters in the teens’ brains and the hormonal differences contribute to the development of depression. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine play a pivotal role in moods and behavior regulation. Reducing levels of neurotransmitters can trigger depressive behavior and can lead to depression.

Inherited traits

Depression can be hereditary because of its biological component. If your family has a history of depression, there is a great possibility that your child may suffer from this disorder when triggered by a situation or circumstance.

Early childhood trauma

Any type of traumatic life event can leave the child emotionally scarred, causing a long-lasting impression that leads to fear, insecurity, restlessness, and hopelessness. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuses are the most common reasons that develop teen depression.

Learned patterns of pessimistic views

Teens with parents who are negative thinkers are more likely to develop depression. The lack of positive role models to teach them to face problems squarely and think positively to overcome the situations make them incapable of handling them well.

 

Why Your Teenage Child Is at Risk

Certain factors contribute to teen depression. As a parent, you need to be more observant and knowledgeable about this medical disorder to ensure that your child is not at risk.
Here are some of the known facts and factors that contribute to the development of depression among teens:

  • Neglected and abused teens
  • More female teens suffer from depression than male teens
  • Teens who went through traumatic experiences or disruptions at home like family crisis, death, or divorce of parents
  • Adolescents with chronic physical condition or illnesses
  • Anxiety, ADHD, learning disorder, anxiety, and other mental health issues
  • Teens with substance abuse or mental problems that are not treated properly
  • Young people whose family has a history of mental illness or depression
  • Having difficulty in acknowledging their sexual orientation (whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual)
  • Lack of emotional and social support
  • Living in an unsafe, impoverished, or violent household/environment
  • Bullied by peers
  • Trouble in adjusting socially
  • Academic problems
  • Too much exposure on social media
  • Smartphone or game addiction to escape problems

 

How Would You Know if Your Teenage Child Is Experiencing Depression?

During the adolescence period, it is normal for teens to experience intermittent changes of moods and emotions. These happen because of hormonal changes, causing them to be sad or moody. The emotional episodes can last up to several days, affecting their normal sleep and eating routine, concentration, and productivity level.
While moodiness or sadness can be part of the early manifestation of teenage depression, knowing how to tell the difference is vital. Depression is far beyond the usual swings of emotions, blues, or acting out. It is a strong feeling of despair, melancholy, hopelessness, anger, or discouragement that can destroy the essence of the youngster’s personality. Rebelliousness and unhealthy attitudes can be indications of this disorder. Some ‘act out’ in their attempt to manage or cope with the pain or emptiness that they are experiencing.
As a parent, differentiating the normal growing pains from symptoms of depression can be difficult. During this journey of awareness and seeking enlightenment, your unconditional love, support, and guidance can help your teenage child get back their lives on track.
You need to start observing and taking notes of the following:

  • How long the behavior or emotion lasts? If your child’s sadness or overly-tired behavior lasts for over two weeks, it can be depression.
  • How strong are the emotions? It is crucial to observe if the overwhelming emotions come and go or present all the time for as long you or your child remember.
  • How big is the impact? You need to gauge the effects of the behavior or emotion on his/her physical health and wellbeing, relationships, school works, and daily activities.

Taking these factors into consideration will help you intervene and help your teenage child fight depression and prevent long-term consequences. Early intervention and treatment of the symptoms of teenage depression are important to help his/her handle challenges and problems.

 

What Are the Warning Signs and Symptoms of Teenage Depression?

Knowing how to spot the early signs of depression is important. Here are some of the most common physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental symptoms to watch out for:

Physical symptoms

  • low energy
  • lethargy
  • unmotivated
  • sluggishness or less active in physical activities
  • sudden change in weight and eating appetite
  • sleeping troubles which include oversleeping, insomnia, or staying in bed longer
  • unexplained or vague headaches or stomach aches
  • not caring about his/her physical appearance

Behavioral and emotional symptoms

  • disinterest in activities that he/she enjoyed doing in the past (hobbies, sports, parties)
  • irritability, moodiness, sadness, or tearful episodes while saying she/he feels numb or empty
  • persistent thinking of negative things, including suicidal thoughts, death, or hurting oneself, so watch out when your child start saying ‘I can’t do it anymore’ or ‘I want to die’
  • sudden decision to stop going to social events or seeing friends
  • angry outbursts that are uncalled for
  • low self-esteem
  • spending more time alone
  • running away from home
  • panic and anxiety
  • persistent restlessness that leads to acting out or fidgeting
  • self-mutilation
  • feeling guilty and worthless
  • sensitivity to criticism
  • nothing gives him/her true pleasure or fun
  • everything and anything can make him/her cry all of a sudden
  • exhibiting criminal behaviors like shoplifting or DUI
  • apathy
  • irresponsible behaviors
  • compulsive overeating or loss of interest in eating
  • promiscuous sexual engagement

Thinking (mental) symptoms

  • trouble in concentrating, focusing, or organizing
  • forgetfulness and trouble in remembering details or information
  • difficulty in making sound decisions
  • problems in school (not paying attention during classes, low grades, getting into trouble)
  • pessimistic views about life and the world

 

Why Is it Important to Recognize the Early Symptoms of Teenage Depression?

Often, teens do not realize that they are depressed. What they know is that self-criticism is a normal reaction when they see themselves as a loser, a quitter, a failure, or a bad student.
Their misbehavior can be seen as just having a bad attitude or a bad day. Sometimes, people around the teen think that she/he is not putting enough effort or not trying hard to succeed. Because of this impression, your child tends to keep his/her distance and stop communicating. The thought of ‘Why should I bother?’ leads to skipping classes or running away.
Underlying problems can intensify the teen’s inner pain or feeling of not being worthy. Those who are suffering from eating disorders, harming themselves, or going through extreme mood changes are attempting to cope with unresolved emotional problems that trigger their depression. The only way to treat the other issues is to treat the symptoms of teen depression.

 

How to Help Your Teenage Child Overcome Depression?

Teen depression does not go away on its own but requires the professional intervention of a health professional. It is vital to show your child that you are with him/her every step away. It is also best to seek guidance to help you deal with the problem effectively. Knowing what to do is essential to the resolution of teenage depression.
You may consider visiting the following people/institutions to enlighten you about mental health issues.

  • Your family doctor or GP
  • School counselor
  • Psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Local mental health services
  • Local community health centers

Armed with knowledge and awareness of teen depression, it is crucial to act immediately. Teen depression can be very damaging, so don’t wait until the symptoms are worse. Addressing the problem is the key to helping your child manage depression.
Your teenage child will not seek help by their own volition but needs your help to get treatment. However, it is not easy to talk about your concerns. Expect at some point that she/he will deny that something is wrong and refuse to get treatment. During this crucial moment, it is necessary to be firm about your decision and show some tough love.

  • Encourage your teen to talk about his/her feelings and thoughts or share what he/she is going through.
  • Avoid asking a lot of questions because some teens do not like being patronized or cornered.
  • Listen with empathy, resisting the urge to lecture, pass judgment, or criticize.
  • Make him/her feel that you are there to listen and support unconditionally.
  • When your child shuts you up or avoids discussion, do not give up easily. You need to understand that sharing emotions can be very tough and painful. It is not easy to express what he/he is feeling, so respect his/her comfort level but gently encourage the child to open up when he/she is ready.·
  • Acknowledge the validity of your child’s feelings, fears, and thoughts. Avoid downplaying the emotions, no matter how irrational or silly they are. Let your teenage child knows that you are taking his/her emotions seriously and giving the assurance and support he/she needs to overcome the condition.

 

How Will You Know if it Is Time to Seek Professional Help?

If you suspect that your child is suffering from teen depression, seeking the help of a therapist or health professional is the next step. It is also a must-do when the depressive behavior is getting worse.
Finding the right people and the right treatment is vital to the alleviation of symptoms of teenage depression. For proper diagnosis of the problem, a psychologist or psychiatrist will perform the evaluation, taking into account the family history, relationships with peers, and school performance. The evaluation may involve asking a series of questions about their moods, thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

Psychological and behavioral evaluation

To qualify for major depressive disorder (MDD), there should be at least two major displays of depressive episodes within two weeks. The episodes should include 5 of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day
  • Psychomotor retardation or visible agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sleepiness or insomnia
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Diminished interest in a lot of activities
  • Reduced ability to concentrate or think
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide or death
  • Feelings of excessive guilt and worthlessness

Physical evaluation

A thorough medical checkup is also necessary to rule out underlying medical conditions or diseases that contribute to teen depression. Conditions like hypothyroidism can cause tiredness, low energy level, or depressed mood.

 

How to Treat Teen Depression?

After determining the severity of teen depression, the health expert will recommend treatment to help your child. It may involve psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two. For severe depression, it may require confinement in a psychiatric unit to manage the symptoms.

  • Talk therapy. Talk therapy is a type of intervention to overcome depression. It is conducted by a licensed therapist or counselor to help your teenage child change his/her thinking patterns, boost self-esteem and self-acceptance, build confidence to handle stressors and life’s struggles, and adopt more positive emotions. This is best for managing mild to moderate cases of teen depression.
  • Psychotherapy. It is a more advanced intervention to treat depression in youths. It may include the ‘three T’s for depression’- interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
  • Medications. Administering antidepressants to alleviate the symptoms can be helpful, but monitoring is important. Several studies link these types of medication to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

 

How to Support Your Teenage Child Through Treatment?

Love and support are two factors that make a whole world of difference for teenagers during the low points of their lives. As a parent, it is essential to be your child’s rock and strength during the depression treatment. As much as possible, involve him/her in exploring the treatment options. Get your teen’s input about his/her preferred option and discuss the pros and cons before making a decision.
Be understanding and patient, remembering that your teenage child is not acting out on purpose but seeking help to overcome the negative emotions and thoughts helps you put everything in proper perspective.
Stay involved during the treatment by making sure that all instructions are followed, proper dosage of prescribed medication is given on schedule, and all therapy sessions are attended. Keep track of the changes in your child’s physical, emotional, social, and behavioral engagement.
Celebrate small victories and always be prepared for possible setbacks. The road to recovery can be difficult and bumpy, but going through the rough road is the only key to help your child overcome teenage depression with flying colors.

What Happens if You Stay After They’ve Cheated?

There are many different paths the betrayed partner can take.  In my experience, I see a few different outcomes for the betrayed spouse.  There are always outliers, but these are some common patterns.

First, occasionally is the spouse who stays in the marriage and also stays angry, resentful, and continues to punish their partner. This happens less often and the true outcome is two miserable people staying in a marriage out of fear or obligation.  These relationships can survive, but the betrayed partner may become highly controlling, short with their partner, and very unhappy.  

Or the betrayed partner will stay in the relationship but keep their emotional distance from their partner as a way to protect themselves. This is a relationship that looks great on the outside and even pretty good if you look a little closer. But there’s distance and a lack of true intimacy. With this path of recovery, I see two happy-ish people who are together in being lonely on the inside.  In these relationships, there is the potential for the betrayed partner to shift back into a connected relationship, but the willingness to open themselves back up the risk of trusting has to be present.  

These two outcomes happen less common and take intensive treatment to change.  The betrayed partner must have some willingness to accept this unwanted addition to their life story.  They don’t have to like it, but there must be an acknowledgment and acceptance that it is.  

And here’s the best, most common outcome I see. A couple will decide to be vulnerable, take risks, and stay in the discomfort that comes with recovery together. They realize the old marriage is gone and a new marriage has to be intentionally created. With these couples, I see the betrayed partner gradually become more themselves, more confident in their ability to survive very-bad-things, and proud of the work they’ve done to create a new relationship.

This partner uses the trauma of infidelity and changes the energy of the destruction to the energy of growth and creation. 

Oftentimes, the betrayed will exhibit many symptoms of PTSD after the discovery of betrayal.  They may experience:

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • No appetite

  • Nightmares

  • Clumsiness

  • Forgetfulness

  • Emotions that swing from one extreme to another

In the early stages of recovery, these are all normal.  

However, what I sometimes see in the end stages of recovery for the betrayed partner is:

  • A person more authentically engaged in their relationship

  • A person who knows they will survive if this happens again

  • A person who knows they have the strength to recover

  • A person who knows they have the drive to take charge of their life

These betrayed partners feel joy, contentment, and are glad they made the decision to attempt the repair.  

With therapy, talking with others, reading books, listening to podcasts, they learn to see the infidelity as something that belongs to their partner.  The cheat was something that did not have anything to do with them.  They see the infidelity not as demeaning or humiliating to them but saying speaking solely about their partner.  

Infidelity can demolish relationships and also be something that can be more than just survived.  For both partners.  

I don’t like to use ‘always’ or ‘never’ statements, but I will here.  No couple ever gets through recovery with complete grace.  There is always at least one moment that people look back on and think “yeah, I wish I had done that differently”.  Give yourself the gift of accepting your imperfections and accept, this process does not exist without a few moments you may wish you could take back.  

If you have this type of moment in your recovery, I find they become neutralized with apologies.  Owning your behavior and words, showing you are remorseful, and explaining how you’ll handle things going forward works to rebuild.  

If you’re on the fence about whether to stay or go, let’s talk. You don’t have to figure this out alone.

5 Signs Your Teenager is Asking for Help

The teenage years can perhaps be best described as a time of physical, emotional, and social tumult. Changes happen so rapidly in adolescence, that neither child nor parent really knows how to cope.

Teenagers often become more detached from their families during this time. In fact, parents become less important in their teenager’s eyes, as their life outside the family develops.

While this is a normal and healthy part of development, it is not an easy place for parents to be. They must be able to let go of their children while still recognizing the warning signs of adolescent depression. This can be difficult because some moodiness is normal during the teenage years.

Here are 5 signs that your teen may be suffering from atypical depression and asking for help.

1. Mood Swings

As I just mentioned, thanks to the cocktail of hormones suddenly surging through a teenager’s body, it is quite normal for them to have mood swings. So how can you tell what’s normal and what is a sign of mental illness? You have to trust your parental instincts here. You know your child better than anyone and should be able to recognize any significant shift in mood. Particularly look for mood shifts that seem to have no root cause.

2. A Change in Behavior

It is normal for a teenager to have a certain kind of behavioral change. Normal changes include challenging authority a bit more and claiming their independence. What’s not normal is for your child to suddenly start presenting as a different person to you. This can be a sign of depression.

3. Substance Abuse

Most teens experiment a bit with drugs and alcohol. But you should see red flags if your teenager is chronically abusing substances and coming home drunk or high on a fairly regular basis. It is especially important to act immediately if your family has a history of substance abuse.

4. Self-Harm

Those teens who are experiencing significant emotional turmoil may choose to take their emotions out on themselves by cutting, hitting, or hurting themselves in some other manner.

5. Talk of Suicide

While teenagers can definitely be prone to drama and overreacting to events, no parent should ever ignore talk of suicide. With teen suicide rates on the rise, particularly among girls, any mention or attempt should immediately result in professional help.

If you or someone you know has a teenager who is showing one or more of these signs and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help.

6 Signs Your Teen May Be Depressed

As teens struggle through the tough transition period of childhood into young adulthood, it can be difficult to decipher a teen’s behavior. Are their out-of-control emotions and conduct a result of the natural process of adolescence, or is it something more serious?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 approximately 3.1 million adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 experienced at least one episode of major depression. Depression is a serious mood disorder that, if left untreated, can cause serious short and long-term mental and even physical health problems. Moreover, depression carries a high risk of suicide.

Below are six signs you can look for to determine if your teen could be experiencing depression.

1. Excessive Crying and Sadness

While emotions tend to run high in most teenagers, excessive crying and sadness that persist for more than two weeks could be a sign of depression.

2. Loss of Interest and Motivation

When a teen is depressed, they may have trouble concentrating. This will cause them to lose motivation and interest in activities they once enjoyed.

3. Problems at School

The loss of concentration and motivation could also result in problems at school. Skipping school, plunging grades and a lack of participation in school and extracurricular activities are all signs that could be pointing to teen depression.

4. Changes in Weight or Eating Habits

Has your teen’s eating habits changed? Are they skipping meals or eating larger portions more frequently? Eating more or less, as well as dramatic changes in weight (either gained or lost) is one of the signs of depression.

5. Withdrawal

Depression causes people to isolate themselves. It’s not uncommon for a depressed teen to begin to withdraw from friends and family, choosing instead to spend time alone or locked in their room. If your teen is depressed, you may notice them begin to avoid spending time with friends and loved ones.

6. Suicidal Ideation

Thoughts or expressions of death or suicide should never be taken lightly. Threats or even jokes about suicide are a cry for help from your teen. If your teen expresses thoughts of suicide, react calmly, and then seek immediate help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you suspect that your teen is experiencing depression, it’s important that you seek professional help from an experienced mental health professional that specializes in treating teens. Call me today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

Co-Parenting Strategies for Divorced Parents

Going through a divorce can bring the worst out of a couple that once promised each other forever. Your world might feel like it’s falling apart, and trying to co-parent when you’re struggling to simply keep going can be overwhelming. Learning to co-parent won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Use the five strategies below to start co-parenting with your ex.

1. Focus on the Children

By maintaining the focus on what’s best for your children, you can work toward providing as peaceful a home as possible for them. Providing them loving stability and structure will help ease them through this time of transition.

2. Communication is Essential

As you go through your divorce, your communication with your ex will inevitably suffer. It may be difficult to communicate with them; you may not want to talk to, or hear from, your ex. However, it’s important that communication regarding the children is maintained, and that your children are not used as messengers (i.e., “Tell your father you have a recital on Friday.”) Communicate directly with your spouse, finding creative ways to communicate to avoid conflict if necessary (text, email, letters, etc.)

3. Just the Facts

If you’re harboring resentment or have unfinished emotional business with your ex, the desire to express your emotional needs can feel overwhelming. Make a commitment to yourself that for the sake of your children’s well being, you’ll keep conversations focused on the issues.

4. Embrace Change

As you go through your divorce, there will be a great deal of change for yourself, your ex, and your children. By expecting and embracing change, you’ll reduce the stress you feel when the unexpected presents itself.

5. Prioritize Your Health

Maintaining your health is important not only for you but for your children as well. As they learn to cope with the changes in their family, having a healthy, happy, rested parent will help them adjust. Your children depend on you, and you owe it to them to give them your absolute best as a parent. Additionally, taking time to exercise and eat healthily will help you take the focus off of your divorce, and shift the focus back on to you moving forward, and making positive changes in your life.

As we go through a divorce, we mourn the relationship lost, and the dreams we had of the future. Although your ex is no longer your partner, your ex is still your child’s parent, and you will always be co-parents of the children you have together. Learning to get along and communicate will bring comfort to your children as they learn to cope with their parents’ divorce.

If you’re going through a divorce and struggling to co-parent effectively, call me today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

Mass Shootings: How to Talk to Your Kids

After the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, certainly, no one could imagine that over the next 20 years, 200 more school shootings would occur. In the first 79 days of 2018 alone, there were 12 school shootings, compared to 9 over the entire year of 2017. Sadly, school shootings are becoming an epidemic in the United States. As the nation struggles to find a solution to the violence, our kids’ safety and security hang in the balance.

How you talk to your kids about these tragedies varies by age and per individual child, but it’s important to take note that both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children under 8. Kids under 8 have difficulty telling if the violence they’re watching at the movies or on TV is real or fantasy, which can cause great fear and anxiety. For this same reason, experts also recommend that children under 11 avoid watching the news entirely. At this young age, children’s brains have not yet developed enough to cope with violent tragedies, and exposure to these realities can be damaging psychologically.

For children over the age of 8, or if you believe your child might hear about the incident from others, first summarize the event in a single sentence. Keep in mind that your child will use your words to tell the story to themselves in their head, so choose your words carefully. What you say should also reflect your family’s beliefs and values. Speak in a calm and matter-of-fact tone of voice, as your emotional reaction will have a long-lasting impact on your child, more so than your words. Children will have a lot of questions so try to stay focused on positives, such as the people that helped and the support of the community.

For pre-teens and teens, start by asking what they know. Ask how they feel, and listen carefully to what they say. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too.

Your child may want to do something to help. Discuss what you can do together to help the victims’ families, the school, or the community. Volunteering can help us cope with tragedy as we feel the positive effects of contributing and doing good for people in need.

 

If you or your child are struggling to cope emotionally because of an incident of mass violence, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today so we can schedule an appointment to talk.