August 22, 2010

Depression in Teenagers

Depression in teens is more common than you might imagine. Girls experience depression more often than boys and it is estimated that one in five teens suffer from depression. Symptoms of depression in teens can be different than in adults. Adolescents typically act out their feelings rather than talk about them. They have not developed the ability to contemplate and discuss what is happening inside themselves. Therefore, they may continue socializing with friends, yet can become more cranky, confusing parents with normal teenage behavior. Teens can be angry, oppositional and sleep more and they may experiment with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and sex. Well-adjusted teens do not seek out these risky behaviors as often as depressed teens do.

An effective way to prevent depression in teens is to get them involved in group activities at an early age. Sports, scouting and youth group activities are all great ways for teens to be socially involved. Depression in teens is treatable! Be sure to enlist the help of an experienced, highly trained counselor that is comfortable working with teens because success with  your teen is dependent on their relationship and a good fit with the therapist. If you know of a teen that needs help, contact

August 12, 2010

Discipline, Strong Willed Children & Temper Tantrums

There are so many behavior programs available in the market today. Most of them are very similar and work on reward and punishment principles. But what happens when you have a child that “marches to a different drummer?” What about the child that says they don’t care when everything is taken from them? This type of child operates on different principles than most other children and usually, will not do well with reward & punishment techniques.

One program that I have found extremely useful is “Smart Parenting” by Larry Koenig. The program is based on the child being in control of their own actions by using a simple chart with either a daily program or a weekly program. I recommend the weekly program for children over 10 years old and the daily program for the younger children and for those with Attention Deficit Disorder. The daily chart has nine boxes on it. The first three boxes are left blank and then the remaining boxes are filled with something that can be taken away from the child. This “something” must be something that will be able to follow through with.

You begin the program by identifying 3-5 rules you want your child to follow. Write these down in basic understandable words and post on the refrigerator. Review these rules with your child and explain to them that each time they break one of these rules, a “X” will be placed on their chart. There are three “free” boxes before the child has a consequence so there is ample warning for them. When the child breaks one of the rules, put an X on their chart in the first available box and tell them that they have just earned one X on their chart. Do the same with #2 and #3. Initially, your child will test you to see if you will follow through. Some children have been known to go through the entire chart losing all their privileges in one day. Persevere because you are sending a message that when you break the rules there is a consequence. Only work on 3-5 rules initially because you will be more successful but make sure that these are rules that you can be consistent with. The privileges that are lost are available the next day and the entire process is repeated. Be sure to rotate the privileges into different boxes each day so that different things will be lost each day. This process is similar with the weekly chart but has 7-10 boxes with privileges in them and these are lost until the beginning of the following week. The weekly plan also has three free boxes and there should be 5-10 rules that are clear, easily observed and ones that you can be consistent with.

This is an incredibly easy program. The most important things to remember are:

* be consistent, be consistent, be consistent!
* write clear, easily understandable & observable rules for behavior
* use privileges that mean something to the child
* don’t get discouraged if your child reacts to losing a privilege with “So, I don’t care about that anyway!” This is just a tactic and they really do care but are not going to let you know that.
* I recommend that you put all the children in the house on this program for consistency, even if you don’t think they need it. In the long run, it will be easier for you and those that don’t need it will succeed anyway.
* privileges do not have to be something physical…they can be a trip to the park that you were going to take and it was something you didn’t really want to do anyway, a play date, etc.
* Be careful about using privileges that affect other members in the household such as television time. Don’t use tv on your child’s chart unless you can enforce it completely!

The effects of this program on you and your child can be tremendous. You become empowered and the emotion is taken out of disciplining your child. In addition, your child is in complete control of keeping their privileges or losing them. Try this behavior program and then let me know how you are doing!

August 3, 2010

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