A Resource for your Procrastinating Teen

How to help your teen overcome procrastination... 

One of the most frustrating concepts we hear from parents for their teens is completing work that seems overwhelming, attending to chores when they have an "I'll do it later" attitude.

Just ONE more episode of Netflix, they say.
Just ONE more scroll of the Insta feed, they say.
Just ONE more snap to friends, they say.

But it never ends at one and then the work never gets done.

Which leads to MORE stress and overwhelm as the workload piles up and then your teen asks to go in late to school (or avoid it altogether) since they haven't completed the work they stayed up until after midnight trying to complete. >> Then skipping class stresses them out MORE because they're missing more work.

It's an endless cycle. And we have an end.

When teens don't learn the tools to manage procrastination in high school, they take these poor habits into college and beyond and life becomes an overwhelming collection of tasks that makes you feel like you're constantly at the bottom of a hole trying to climb your way upward.

This comes with physical illness, emotional distress, snapping at friends and family when you're on overload and more.

And that's no way to live.

What can you do?

* Learn the REAL reasons you procrastinate (What's behind it all and what's at the root of it?) Here's a hint... a lot of times it's connected to perfectionism and self-worth.

* Create structure and routine so that you can learn how to organize and use your time more effectively and prioritize the tasks that need to get done NOW.

* Develop a world-class support and accountability team of family, friends and professionals to keep you on track. We're all counting on you FOR you until you learn the skills to be self-sufficient in meeting your expectations.

Our goal for your teen...

+ Get organized

+ Stay focused

+ Reduce stress

+ Feel GOOD about yourself and your accomplishments

Check out this great resource on overcoming procrastination for teen:

Click the image for more information

If your teen needs more than a book to get going, we're here... 

If your teen needs support in breaking free of procrastination and beginning to meet life's challenges effectively so that they can be fully prepared for college and beyond, we've got you covered.

Complete an application form to speak to one of our counselors about the next best steps to support your teen: 
www.creativehealingphilly.com/free-parent-call

7 Reasons Depression is Like the Common Cold

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In our sessions at the teen support center, we often will use metaphor to talk about depression because when we can put a mental illness in physical terms, it helps teens to look at their situation in a whole new way and helps them to take action and effectively change their behaviors and routines so that they positively impact their mood at its core (and not just mask the symptoms.)

Here are our 7 Reasons Depression is Like the Common Cold:

  1. Some days it’s just a nagging tickle in your throat and a stuffy nose and life can proceed as usual -- even though it’s always there as a dull reminder.

  2. Some days your head hurts so badly and your nose is so clogged that moving or getting out of bed feels next to impossible.  You feel like bed is the only option and that you “just can’t do life” today.

  3. Sleeping all day helps you to cope with it but it’s still totally there when you wake up.

  4. You can laugh with your friends and still have a cold.  The awesomeness of friends does not negate the suckiness of a cold.

  5. You try not to complain about it to others, especially when you’re up and completing daily tasks because you don’t want people to judge you, tell you it’s not that bad, relate to you by telling you about their most recent sniffles, or worse… tell you it’s mind over matter and you’ll get through it.

  6. You’d love to be tucked in by a loved one, brought chicken soup and nurtured but you don’t want to feel like a burden on others.

  7. Cold medications may work to mask some of the symptoms, but they don’t make it go away and you hate that you have a cold.  You wonder how you got it, why you have it and when it will go away… and in the deepest midst of it, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever feel any other way again.

Just like with any physical illness, when you don’t acknowledge and effectively treat the problem, it tends to get worse.  Or at the very least, it sticks around a LOT longer than is comfortable or helpful.

And, what starts as a dull sadness or a tearful night or two over homework can quickly lead to overwhelm, hopelessness, loss of motivation or isolation.  When an emotion isn’t validated by parents, the behaviors that come with that emotion will escalate until your teen feels heard and understood.

Having a safe space to explore, express, communicate and cope with emotions BEFORE they become overwhelm is an effective way to manage a “cold” and not just treat or dull the symptoms.

What’s more, when you can communicate to your teen that you truly understand how they feel (either by validating them with your words and with listening wholeheartedly or by connecting them with a therapist for more support) it allows your teen to FEEL understood by you and opens up communication and an opportunity for a closer bond with them.

If you have a teen who is experiencing:

  • A low mood, feeling “blah” or numb and lacks enjoyment in everyday activities

  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelesssness

  • Isolation or withdraw from friends

  • Fatigue, exhaustiion, difficulty getting out of bed or getting motivated

  • Thoughst or urges to harm themselves

Complete an interest form here and let’s connect to explore the next best steps for how to support your teen.

We’re currently enrolling for our DBT Group for Depressed Teens.  This group will teach your teen how to…

  • Actually implement effective skills to manage their mood on a day-to-day basis
  • Understand and “catch” how they feel in any given moment so that they can make positive choices in how to respond, rather than acting impulsively or destructively and making the situation worse
  • Learn how to handle overwhelm in healthy ways now so that stress-masking habits don’t become a way of life
  • Learn how to appropriately ask for support and not use manipulation tactics or fall apart so that others take care of them

But, group is certainly not for everyone :)

Your teen MUST:

  • Be open and excited about connecting with peers who “get” them and who will help them understand that they are not alone
  • Be willing to learn new skills to help them manage their mood
  • Be ready to let go of the excuses and negative thinking that have been keeping them stuck

If this sounds like your teen, I’d love to personally connect.  

Click here to complete an application form and I’ll reach out soon to explore the next best steps.

 

 

Have a Plan in Place When Life Overwhelms Your Teen

Help your teen learn to give themselves a break 

When an activity or event is overwhelming for your teen, best practice is to encourage them to take a break to calm down, then return to the activity when they are feeling more equipped and ready to tackle it.

It's important to note that breaks like this should be PLANNED and TEMPORARY and that too long of a break results in straight avoiding a stressful situation and that will only serve to make it more difficult in the end!

Help your teen come up with a list of activities or events that stress them out or overwhelm them. Knowing in advance what is going to be difficult will help you partner together to devise a "Cope Ahead Plan." Maybe you teen has difficulty with math homework, or maybe it's getting to school in the morning. Identify the trigger situations that cause distress so you can put a solid coping plan in place.

Be Mindful 

Help your teen identify what thoughts, emotions and body sensations arise when they feel overwhelmed.

You may ask them...

"What goes through your head when this happens?"

"What differences do you notice in your body when you're feeling stressed?" (This could be tension, changes in heart rate or breathing patterns.)

"What emotions come up for you? Do you feel sad? Angry? Anxious?"

When you can identify the warning signs of stress you can head it off before it gets to the point of crisis and it gives your teen a clear indicator of when to actually use coping skills.

Come up with a solid list of ways to cope 

Help your teen choose at least 5 activities to engage in when stress hits. This could be ways to distract them from the difficult feelings until they lessen, such as...

+ Journaling
+Drawing
+Listening to music
+Talking to a friend about something else
+Taking a walk

It's important to have these activities chosen in advance and for your teen to have a list of them somewhere they can easily access so that when they are upset, they know exactly what to do. It can be difficult to make decisions or come up with a plan when emotions are swirling, so it's important to BE PROACTIVE.

Here's a list of just some of the coping skills our teens have come up with in past groups.  (This is part of a list of fifty!)

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Make a plan to return to the situation 

Remember, coping skills are planned and temporary, so you need to decide when your teen feels ready to return to the situation too. This again should be something that is planned in advance when your teen is calm.

Ask them...

"What would let you know you were calm enough to return to the situation again?"

"How would your thoughts/feelings/body sensations be better or different?"

"What are the signs that you would notice that would let you know you were feeling calm enough to try again?" 

Find a language for talking about mood intensity 

Sometimes using a number system of 0 being completely calm and 10 being the most upset can help you and your teen decide on a good time to return to the activity as well as when it's time to take a break.

Some helpful ways to track moods include using a family journal, having your teen record a number daily on the calendar, or doing a daily text or spoken check in at the same time each day.

The Fuel to Your Emotional Fire

Many times, you and your teen are experiencing feelings you don’t recognize well enough in the moment and then react to that stress with self-judgments that often lead to decisions and behaviors that make the situation ultimately worse.

This “full mind” allows you to live life on autopilot and prevents you from being intentional in your interactions and choices.

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You can CHOOSE to be mindful! 

Mindfulness creates a space between feeling and reacting so that you have a choice in how to respond in the moment.

See the breakdown of the six components of an emotion here.

Mindfulness means having an awareness of and describing your experience in the moment without judgment so that you can make a choice in how to effectively proceed.

 

Here’s an example of unmindful reaction that includes judgment... 

Lisa gets her test back and school and sees a big red F at the top of the page and immediately feels disappointed.  She thinks, “I’m such an idiot!  Of course I failed again!” This judgment increases her emotion from disappointment to anger and self-hatred.  The bell rings and she leaves class feeling tense and dizzy and beginning to hyperventilate.  She began to have swirling thoughts about never being good enough and never getting into college.  She texted her parent saying, “I can’t be here right now” and leaves school to walk home.

Lisa arrived home where her father (who had worked from home that day) greeted her at the door.  He immediately thought, “Here we go again.  She’s so lazy.  She’s just not trying hard enough!”  This was followed by a hot rush of anger spreading from tension in his chest through his body.  He reacted by yelling, “Why aren’t you at school?  Enough of this already!” His tone was angry which made Lisa feel invalidated when she was experiencing sadness and disappointment.  She thought, “He never understands!” and ran to her room where she then engaged in self-harm behaviors that led to even more consequences and undesirable outcomes for the whole family.

Notice the bold-faced judgements in the story that fueled the emotional fire and led to each person’s emotional experience escalating.  

Let’s look at how the situation could have played out differently using the mindfulness skill of describing without judgment:

Lisa gets her test back and school and sees a big red F at the top of the page and immediately feels disappointed.  She noticed a pit in her stomach and said to herself, “I feel really disappointed about this” and texted her mom to say, “I feel like crying right now.  I just got my test back and I got an F on it..”  Her mom acknowledges that this disappointment makes sense and that it stinks to get an F.  (A validating response that helps Lisa feel heard.)

She leaves class feeling sad and connects with a friend in the hallway where she shares that she’s frustrated about her grade.  The friend relates to her experience by saying she took the same class last semester and it was really hard.  (Another validating comment that makes Lisa feel heard and accepted.)  They begin then talking about the upcoming formal together and Lisa’s mood slowly returns to balance while she enters her next class.

Having an awareness of your thoughts and feelings and being able to acknowledge them, or describe them to others is critical.  

Be like a sports announcer and narrate your thoughts and feelings to create a cushion of time between urges and behaviors.

Track your judgments and notice how they fuel your emotions! 

In our Teen Groups and DBT Groups, we have a “Judgment Jar” where group members will recognize theirs and others’ judgments by putting a marble in the jar.  It’s a kind way of being mindful of judgments in the moment and reminding others to practice nonjudgmental stance too.

 

When you can bring an awareness to your experience and slow it down, you can then make choices that are effective in how to proceed, rather than reacting quickly which often makes the situation worse.  In next week’s email, I’ll review the 3-part model for skillfully coping with stressful situations in the DBT model.

Parenting Priorities + Changing Teen Behavior

When your teen has a history of hard times, setting effective limits can feel daunting. 

You may fear triggering a safety concern or starting and argument with your teen, or you may just not know where to start given the host of concerns at hand including:

  • Not completing school assignments
  • Arguments at home
  • Isolation, depression or self-harm
  • Anxiety that shows up as avoidance and shutting down

Prioritizing parenting goals... 

When your teen is making unsafe choices or engaging in self-destructive behaviors, this take priority over all other concerns (yes, even grades.)  The #1 priority to reinforce for teens who are experiencing safety concerns is getting them into treatment and ensuring that they engage in it (even if this makes them angry with you.)

When your teen is safe, prioritizing goals and tackling issues comes down to a few things:

  1. What is the most challenging concern that your teen or family faces?
  2. What values do you have as a family and how does this impact the decisions and goals you develop within the family system?

The goal or challenge you choose to address first matters less than being clear and staying consistent in communicating expectations and consequences to your teen.  This is how they learn what to expect and where limits lie... limits that create consistency and security for your teen.

Increase Positive Behaviors by Reinforcing Them 

When you respond to your teen with attention and/or reward, it increases the likelihood that whatever behavior they are exhibiting will continue to occur.  Some examples of reinforcers include:

  • Smiles
  • Hugs
  • Praise
  • Compliments
  • Extra privileges
  • High fives
  • Gratitude
  • Attention

There are lots of ways to say or show that you appreciate your teen's behavior and that you want more of it.  

Your interactions with your teen (whether they'd like to admit it or not) can be a POWERFUL way to reshape their behavior.  

Be very mindful of what you may be accidentally reinforcing with your time, attention, or strong emotion (and also aware that giving too much focus to an unhealthy behavior can reinforce that behavior too.)

Punishing your teen sucks (and it doesn't even really work) 

Taking something away from your teen, like the car or phone (or even having them do chores or other tasks) has been proven to be LESS effective at getting them to stop problematic behaviors.  AND, it often leads to sneakiness and dishonesty as your teen will just continue to do the same thing but try harder to make sure they don't get caught.

Punishing your teen doesn't tell them what they should do either and ends up creating a divide in the parent-child relationship.

What works?

Notice and reward healthy behaviors.  << Years of psychological research back this up.

What if it doesn't work? 

Help your teen learn natural consequences by not fixing mistakes for them.  As long as they are safe, let forgotten homework, embarrassing social judgment and failed tests have real world responses.

When you protect your teen from what would naturally happen in these situations, your teen doesn't learn that their behavior has consequences and you give them permission to shift blame to others when life doesn't work in their favor.

It's hard and scary to watch your teen "fail' but it's a necessary life lesson so that they can learn from these experiences and adjust their behavior accordingly.

It definitely gets worse before it gets better 

It's called the behavioral burst.  As you're making changes (which take time), you're shaking things up and your pulling your teen out of their comfort zone.  Expect that your teens emotions and behaviors will increase in intensity as they try to maintain the status quo.

Trust the process.  Stay the course.  It makes sense that you'd want to give in, but doing so will only strengthen your teen's unhealthy patterns.  

You're about to make the changes that will set your teen up for success today, tomorrow, in college and beyond. You got this!

Finsta, Rinsta or SnapChat Story... You Decide

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This just in... 

A “Finsta” (fake instagram account) is for posting photos of dogs and connecting with friends.  Your teen’s “Real” Instagram account is reserved for…

  • “Hot pictures of myself.”
  • “Me and my boyfriend”
  • “Only the best version of myself but if no one likes it fast enough I’ll take it down.”

 

Social media is a STRESSOR and the struggle is REAL!

Our teens are immersed in putting their best face forward at the expense of real and genuine connections that would actually give them the self-esteem boost they want and need.

Use the following tips to guide your teen in creating genuine peer connections and improving their overall happiness social media style...

Use Social to BE Social

Instead of surfing the scroll, send messages, comment and engage on others posts to create a shared experience and look for ways to genuinely connect with others.  This starts with a willingness to be authentically you and not some screen persona that’s aiming for likes and comments.

Use Comparisons to Find Your Personal Best Self

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself.  Think of it as a before and after photo for a fitness ad.  Where have you been and where are you now?  What’s improved?  How is your life better or different and what have you done to get to this point?

If They Have It, You Can Too

Jealousy can be used as a motivator when you reframe it.  Instead of, “She has lots of followers and I don’t,” look for traits and lifestyles on social media that are a step or two beyond where you are currently.  It gives you something to strive for without that feeling that it’s unfair because they have something that feels unattainable for you.

Focus on the Good

What you focus on expands.  Instead of focusing on what you lack in your life, begin working on highlighting what’s good.  It’s the most important www you’ll ever type:  what went well.  Share what’s working in your life, share what brings you joy.  Use your social media as your gratitude journal to highlight the favorite parts of your life.

Follow People Who Inspire You

Who are some people you admire who inspire personal growth for you?  Let others lift you up by following those who model a life of mindful joy and kindness so that you can do the same.

Validate to Make your Relationships GREAT!

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When you validate others, it means that you express and understanding of them and share how their thoughts and feelings make sense in the situation.  It does not mean that you agree with them, just that you understand.    Validation is one of the building blocks of engaging in effective relationships.  

Use the following guidelines to validate others.

Value Others
Seeking the inherent value in others is essential to validation. Adopt an attitude of acceptance toward others. Demonstrate your caring and concern, and let others know they are important to you.

Ask Questions
We ask questions to help clarify others’ experience. Ask specific questions about what others are feeling. Ask about thoughts and beliefs. Be genuinely curious about what is behind behaviors. Use questions to draw out others’ experience.

Listen and Reflect
Listen to others’ answers to your questions and reflect back the major themes. Invite others to confirm your understanding (or lack of understanding). Continue to question, listen, and reflect for clarity.

Identify with Others
Work to see the world through the eyes of others. How do relationships and the world make sense to them? Seek to understand others, identifying when you can and accepting differences when you cannot.
 

Discuss Emotions
Talk about others’ feelings and how they affect them from their perspective (not how it affects you). Acknowledging the impact of others’ experience on them demonstrates understanding.

Attend to Nonverbals
Notice others’ nonverbal communication to give you information about their experience. Do they look open or closed? Are they making eye contact? Read facial expressions and body language to identify feelings, and then check out your observations with others for accuracy.

You don't have to agree to validate! 

Some parents hesitate to validate because they don't want to condone or agree with an unhealthy teen behavior.  But, validation is actually about communicating that you understand WHY your teen FELT a certain way so that you can open the door for communication and problem-solve HOW to respond in a more healthy way to a difficult situation next time.

Validation is the #1 key to communication success!