Mental Health Services for Teenagers & Young Adults

This collection of articles provides advice and focuses on issues involving teenage and young adult mental health services at Malaty Therapy in Houston Texas. Contact us at 713 628-3966 for an appointment. Just one session can help!

Parents and teens can work together to prepare for the school year & covid- caused anxiety

Tammer Malaty, therapist and owner of Houston’s Malaty Therapy, believes many parents just don’t understand what their teenage students have been going through while trying to learn during the COVID19 pandemic. 

Malaty believes parents look at grades, attendance and other empirical facts, but sometimes forget to consider the mental shift that occurs when switching between virtual and in-person learning. He created Malaty Therapy, which has locations in Memorial and Kingwood, to help teens, young adults, and families deal with life challenging changes and behavioral problems.

Now, as students prepare for the upcoming in-person school year, some mental health professionals predict a rise in students seeking mental health-related services. Experts say that the global pandemic is a collective trauma that everybody in the world is experiencing. And children and teenagers are going through things nobody has experienced before.

Tammer Malaty, therapist and owner of Houston’s Malaty Therapy believes many parents just may not understand what their teenage students have been going through while trying to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember teens are dealing with continuous changes too

“From an academic standpoint, maybe kids viewpoints are in-line with their parents, as in ‘my grades are important to get into college but I don’t necessarily think what parents are worried about are the same things that the kids are worried about,” said Malaty.

After growing up around family members who have contracted COVID19, socializing entirely through video games and social media and navigating a world through continuously changing guidelines, some mental health professionals say they are treating teens with symptoms of anxiety and depression far more often than years prior. 

According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, 73 percent of parents report that COVID19 has had a very or somewhat negative impact on their teen’s ability to interact with their friends. While 46 percent of parents also say they have noticed a new or worsening mental health conditions for their teen since the start of the pandemic.

There are a variety of factors that influence a teen’s mental health. Experts agree it’s usually a combination of what they experience at home and online.

To understand teen anxiety, one should also consider it from an economic standpoint, said Malaty, who works primarily with teens from Katy and the the Memorial area of Houston. The teens Malaty works with are from higher socio-economic backgrounds. Therefore not part of groups that have been not been disproportionally affected by COVID19. Even though those teens are less likely to have parents lose jobs, or their lives, due to COVID19, they still had to deal with isolation from being constantly at home. 

“Kids lost their social lives. Plus many kids are spending way too much time in isolation at home. Kids who played video games a little bit started addictively playing video games or spending too much time online,” said Malaty. “So many things got exacerbated during COVID. I think to some extent we will continue to see that in this upcoming school year.”

This article excerpt is from the Houston Chronicle article written by Ryan Nickerson. Ryan Nickerson is a reporter for Houston Community Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle.

Read the full article on Chron.com: Experts: How Parents Can Help Their Teens Deal With COVID Caused Anxiety. 

Want to learn more about Teen Mental Health? Go to: Mental Health Services For Teens & Young Adults.

Checkout this article for tips on how to deal with school stress and anxiety. 

School Stress – 7 Hot Tips To Help You Deal With The Anxiety

Want to Dive Deeper? Watch The YouTube Video – 

Expert35 – Student Mental Health with Tammer Malaty

How to Deal with School Stress

Many students want to know how to deal with school stress.

High school and college students are faced with new schedules, routines, teachers, friends, classmates, plus new material to learn. Even more, it feels like anxiety and stress are waiting to meet you around every corner.

As a student, you know all too well what the stress of work overload feels like. Many unrealistic expectations are placed on you, leaving you rushing between classes carrying a burden that is heavier than your textbooks.

At some point you may have said to yourself “I’m so stressed about school I want to cry”.

The truth is that nothing can prepare you for the transition into high school and college, and so you jump right in and do the best you can. Yet, school expectations can have a way of making you feel like your best isn’t good enough.

What started as an unrealistic workload and schedule has now left you with the anxiety of feeling incapable of completing your work on time. And making time for work or extracurricular activities while taking care of your mental health in the process can be a challenge. So, how do you deal with stress at school? Implementing just one of these 6 self-care tips can help ease your anxiety. In addition, we hope adapting them will help you feel more in control of managing the challenges you face.

When stress becomes a problem, dive into these 6 hot tips on how to deal with school stress

Create an organized workspace so you can reduce your school stress

Create an organized workspace so you can reduce your school stress –

If you feel like you are always running low on time and trying to get things done in the windows available, you won’t want to continually waste spare time digging around for the things you need.

This includes electronic files as well – do you have hundreds of papers and projects saved to your desktop, waiting to be organized in a folder and back-up drive? It’s okay – this happens to everyone.

It might not seem like a priority at the time, but it will save you from taking an hour of your precious time down the road if you take two minutes to create a hard drive or Google Drive folder and drag over your work once it’s complete.

It feels good to stay on top of your organizing. Knowing that everything is there should you need to quickly reference something in the future. It’s better than digging through stacks of paper or a computer desktop with icons scattered everywhere.

To the best of your ability, keep your workspace and surrounding environment neat and tidy. Too much visual noise can make your mind feel scattered and distract you from the task at hand, which might further set you back and leave you feeling more stressed than when you started.

Malaty Therapy can help you manage school stress and leave the all nighters behind.

Avoid all-nighters –

It’s vital to establish monthly study plans to avoid all-nighters and school stress. Procrastination is a bad habit that will cause you more stress and anxiety. Working on your course work for a few hours everyday will help you avoid falling into the all-nighter trap.

When your having trouble with school stress, practice building study habits that work for you. Start slow and go with the 20-minute rule. It simple, so take action – begin studying for only 20 minutes.

You can do anything for 20 minutes. Right? If you feel like going longer keep at it. If you need to stop and try again later, it’s okay. The point is to keep building the habit of studying for 20 minutes to get your head in the subject matter.

This 20 minute rule is a life-long habit that can serve you to avoid study and work projects from piling up. Fear plays a part in the procrastination game and the 20-minute rule can break that fear up. Here’s more on how The 20 Minute Rule Can Help You Accomplish Any Task by writer, Grace Claman on Medium.

Another way to build productive study habits are to get a study buddy and hold each other accountable. It’s much easier and much more fun when you are working toward a goal together.

Take Mine Breaks To Avoid School Stress and Burnout

Build mini breaks into your schedule –

As busy and stressed as you already feel, the idea of adding more to your day might make you feel a bit anxious.

But if you bring your mental health to the forefront, everything else will fall into place and get accomplished with more ease. In this way, taking breaks is actually more productive than not taking any at all.

Rather than leaving your breaks up to chance or saying, I’ll do something I enjoy only if and when I get this done, go ahead and plan them now and then plan your work around it.

Plan some time to get outside with friends or exercise to relieve stress and tension and reset your mind.

If you create a work or study schedule this way – you have a higher chance of not avoiding a few things you enjoy that can provide a necessary distraction for a while from you from what causes you stress.

Once you’ve blocked off breaks in your schedule, you can set an alarm and time them too.

Even if you do not feel 100% like you need it when break time comes, take it anyway.

Malaty Therapy Helps With Students With School Anxiety, Self Care Like Taking A Yoga Class Can Help You Avoid Anxiety.

Yoga and meditation are proven to reduce school stress –

Much of our school stress and anxiety comes from how we perceive things or what we imagine.

This is not to say that your anxiety or stress as a student is not real – it is.

Yet, it is far too easy to add to our worries by stressing about grades that have already been finalized or saying things like, I will never finish this project in time or ace that exam.

There is underlying pressure in school for students to be perfect, whether it is pressure from parents or thinking their teachers prioritize perfection when much of the time, your teacher or professors only want to ensure you progress.

Whether or not you are in school by choice right now, this is an excellent opportunity to learn, not just what is in your books but also about the world around you and yourself.

You deserve to enjoy this process and not miss out on critical moments and opportunities because you were too busy feeling stressed out.

Yoga and meditation are excellent tools for students with anxiety as they are centered around the idea of mindfulness.

By learning how to work with the breath and stay present, these practices can help you cast some of your past or future worries aside.

They are also helpful tools for noticing when you begin to feel stressed or anxious (in other words, you are mindful of it). Recognize when you need a little break. Take some deep breaths, refocus, and tune into what you are working on.

Exercise helps to put you in a better frame of mind

Exercise the stress away –

Too much school stress can be terrifying.

Exercising and getting outdoors is essential to reducing anxiety.

You may have noticed or are currently dealing with some of the many undesirable symptoms of anxiety, including trouble sleeping, weight gain, headaches, and difficulty focusing, to name a few.

Stress puts the mind and body into something called fight or flight mode, during which time our body releases stress hormones that trigger an increase in our heart rate and alertness.

It can be tricky to get out of this stress response. Physical exercise is one of the best ways to do it. In the short-term, it will help you relieve tension and get your stress hormones under control. And when done regularly, it helps improve your overall mood and can lower your anxiety symptoms.

There are many ways to stay active and motivated –

It’s all about finding something that works for you, your schedule, and your environment and resources.

Whether it is running outside with a friend or biking in between classes, make sure you pencil it in. Find something you love to do. And if there is ever a day where your plans fall through, staying moving is the most critical part.

Cleaning your living space or taking quick 10-minute walks throughout the day counts too!

When experiencing anxiety always ask for help.

Always seek help when your struggling with school stress and anxiety –

If you are still having trouble managing your anxiety or stress, help is always available.

A therapist or school counselor can help you address your anxiety and stress. And recommend healthy strategies for dealing with it.

There are many tips available for managing stress, and many treatment types. Don’t worry if one does not work well for you. You can always modify to what does work for you.

A professional can help point you in the right direction to improve your stress level now. Plus help you reduce it in the long-term.

Want to Dive Deeper? Watch The YouTube Video –

Expert35 – Student Mental Health with Tammer Malaty

Read more about Malaty Therapy’s Young Adult & Teenage Anxiety Treatment

Compulsive Disorders Malaty Therapy

Compulsive disorders involve uncontrollable behaviors that lead to habitual habits for teens and young adults. There are many compulsive disorders parents need to be aware of more than ever during COVID-19 restrictions. It’s important to both recognize and  help your loved ones should they be experiencing uncontrollable self destructive behavior. If they are in recovery for compulsive behaviors you will want to help them to prevent relapses. 

Boredom Plays A Big Part In Risk Taking And Can Lead To Compulsive Behaviors

Young adults have a much lower threshold for boredom than an adult does. Their brain is constantly seeking stimulation and they are naturally more predisposed to risk taking behaviors and impulsivity than an adult. Since we are cooped up inside together for longer periods of time, young people might experiment with self destructive activities to make an otherwise mundane day a little more stimulating. Consequently these activities lead to compulsive behaviors they can’t seem to quit. Surprisingly they find themselves in a habitual loop they can’t seem to get out of.

Encourage and Engage Your Teen

Most importantly, you’ll want to encourage them to get out of their room and engage with the family or go outside for an hour or so each day. They may drag their feet and complain that they don’t “feel like it” and they “don’t want to,” but stay firm in your request. Moreover insist that they come out of their room and leave the phone behind for an hour or two a day. They don’t have to be happy about it, they just need to do it. 

Furthermore you need to also engage with them. So go outdoors for an hour with them. Take a walk around the neighborhood or visit a park together. Above all ask them what they want to do and enthusiastically participate in their interests. Perhaps it’s preparing a healthy meal together or making a TikTok video. 

Drug and Alcohol Cravings are Real

Cravings Are Real With Compulsive Disorders

Likewise your son or daughter may be experience a huge change in their daily routine of school, work , social or sports gatherings. They may have lost access to friends that also encouraged and participated in the same risk taking behaviors as your child. With these types of sudden changes in their living routine, more intense cravings are likely to occur. 

Common Signs of Compulsive Behaviors in Teens & Young Adults

When someone experiences uncontrollable urges they can seem preoccupied, irritable, short tempered, moody or lethargic. And it’s possible they will engage in “shady” behavior trying to seek something to relieve them of their habitual cravings. They may stress eat and consume more sugar than usual, as sugar releases dopamine which gives them a feel-good feeling. 

How To Relieve Compulsive Behaviors

If someone is trying to change their risky behavior and curb self destructive habits, exercise, even just a brisk walk helps stimulate dopamine production. Watching something funny and laughing also helps stimulate dopamine production this can help them better deal with habitual thoughts and cravings. 

Keep Your Teen Occupied 

Most important to note is that cravings typically last about 10-20 minutes then subside. If a young person can occupy themselves for that duration of time until the craving passes then they can lower their chance of a relapse. Cravings can and will happen throughout the day especially early in their recovery. So if they need to drop what they are doing to occupy themselves in a productive way, please support them.

The one thing young people want their loved ones to know is that when they tell you they are experiencing a compulsion, this does not mean you should panic. When they acknowledge these thoughts and feeling, it’s a good thing. They’re aware that it’s happening and telling you informs their support system. Ask your child how you can support them. If it’s simply lending an ear and letting them take care of themselves, then that is all that is needed. 

Remove Temptations

During restricted living requirements due to COVID-19 state regulations your child may have lost access to outside friends that influence them to engage in risk taking activities. In this case, they may turn to things inside the home that allow them to continue in their habitual behavior. Remove whatever temptations you can from the home environment. Be it food, digital games, devices, the internet etc., it’s truly best to remove them from sight. 

Prevent Compulsive Disorders By Reducing Access

If you have a young person in the house that you suspect might be dealing with an uncontrollable compulsive disorder. Put away anything that may tempt them to prevent them from indulging in self destructive habits. Have a conversation with them about what is triggering their compulsions. If you are struggling to get through to them, give us a call to have a conversation about the problems they are experiencing. 

Signs of PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)

Look Out for Signs of PAWS 

If your young person has recently stopped a habitual behavior they will experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS. PAWS is the second stage of a withdraw process sometimes following weeks or even months after a chronic compulsive behavior has stopped. This is the brain’s way of attempting to straighten itself out and return to normal functioning. 

Symptoms of PAWS include: 

  • Sleep disturbances (hypersomnia or insomnia, appetite disturbances 
  • Mood swings 
  • Irritability 
  • Anhedonia (lack of pleasure in things that used to bring enjoyment) 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Cravings  
  • Sensitivity to stress 
  • Lack of focus or initiative 
  • Trouble remembering things 

Don’t Jump To Conclusions When Your Loved One Is Recovering From A Compulsive Disorder

Unfortunately, a lot of these symptoms also look like regular teenage behavior at times. Be careful not to jump to conclusions. We always encourage parents to be sure and take their child the family doctor for a checkup during this time of change.

There are a lot of emotions flying around right now as so many people are experiencing uncertainty, stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, and disrupted schedules. Adolescents are predisposed to feeling their emotions intensely.  So we caution parents and guardians about labeling their young person’s moods and activities as habitual unless you have reasonable evidence that points you in that direction.  

Your teen has had their entire life turned upside down and now has no solid routine to fall back on. Teens with compulsive disorder issues may have more trouble than others with this. However, behaviors such as sleeping more than usual, or struggling to sleep, eating more than usual, or having appetite disruptions are normal reactions to this change in lifestyle. We are all coping with waves of emotions at different times as best we can. These behaviors alone do not point directly to your teen currently having a severe uncontrollable compulsive disorder. 

You’re Not Alone in the Battle Against Compulsive Disorders

If you think your young person might be experiencing PAWS, uncontrollable cravings or medical symptoms, please contact Malaty Therapy for a 20-minute phone consultation at 713-628-3966.

If you need more resources check out The Council on Recovery who can put you in contact with appropriate resources for you and your young person.

Blog Written By: Allie Haydon, LMFT, LPC, LCDC

This quarantine is rough, y’all. I know you already know that. It’s been a little over a month that I have been away from my career in family therapy and chosen to stay inside my home, isolated with just my dogs and my husband in Houston. (Let it be known, my husband is still alive.) This time inside has given me the wonderful opportunity to pour over all of my streaming devices’ libraries to find the best, most inspiring, and sometimes trashiest television and movies. While Netflix has typically been fairly good to me – I’m talkin to you “What’s New Scooby Doo?” and “Tiger King” – my daily go to streaming service is actually Disney+. I’ve watched all of my favorite Princess movies, all of the Marvel cinematic universe again, and peeked at the Mandalorian for a precious glimpse of Baby Yoda. I threw a party for the early release of Frozen 2 and Onward. It’s been a joy, honestly. As a family therapist, my time spent watching Disney + has opened my eyes to the opportunity we have for some truly valuable family time during this quarantine period. This unprecedented slow down from work, school, sports, and activities allows us to take a time out and focus on what’s important. We need to seize this opportunity to truly connect with our families. 

Movies Can Spark Important Conversations On Family Values 

Something hit me a little differently the other day when I was watching Coco. I’m not sure what it was because I was too blinded by my tears as Miguel sang to Mama Coco “Remember Me”, but I realized that if I had kids with me it would be such a great learning moment for them. I started to daydream about pausing the movie to sit and talk with them about the importance of family and how we can learn so much from our elders, even if it feels like they are a little distant. We could discuss the importance of family traditions, share family stories, and create these life long bonds together that would last even beyond this life. It made me hopeful for the end of this quarantine and the next chapter of my life as a mom one day. 

Into the Unknown: Movies Can Inspire Your Family 

Inspirational Words Written On White Stones

Cut to the next night when I was watching Frozen 2 with my dogs. I identify with Elsa feeling out of place and constantly wondering why. I get wanting to figure out where my place in this world is and constantly looking for external validation that I’m doing ok or I’m in the right spot. Her journey to Ahtohallan is so inspiring to me. She knows there’s something out there for her and she fights her way through the dangerous sea into the unknown (see what I did there?) to make it to this point where everything else is stripped away except for herself. She learns that she is the only person, the only thing, that can validate and encourage her to be all that she has the potential to be. She is the one she’s been waiting for. There I was again, crying, of course, imagining watching this with my own daughter someday telling her she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up. She doesn’t need to wait for someone to tell her she is enough. I pray my children will feel loved and confident in themselves to achieve whatever it is they feel called to do. 

Make Family Movie Time a Time to Connect

Family Watching Movie Together

And here’s my charge for you, quarantined friend. While watching movies seems pretty sloth-like and monotonous these days, I encourage you to take that family movie time and dig a little deeper. Maybe take some time to think of discussion questions for the movies you want to watch. Take time to pause and talk with your kids (or spouse) about what you could learn from Buzz and Woody, Moana, or Nemo. Use this precious free time away from the hustle and bustle of work to really dig into your core values as a family and build those connections we might have missed without this opportunity to slow down. It sounds cheesy, but honestly, most of the best things in life are! 

Watching movies together can be so therapeutic in a time like this. Being able to escape into a film can teach you how to express your fears, dreams, needs, and inspirations in ways you may not know otherwise. It lowers one’s defenses and allows new bonds to form. It can ease us into tough conversations and guide us towards a new appreciation of life. 

So, give it a go this week. Let everyone pick their own movie and think of some creative follow up, discussion questions. Good luck! Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your family time.  

During these days of isolation you don’t need to feel alone. Malaty Therapy can help you get through these strange times brought on by COVID19. If you’re worried, anxious, stressed we’re here for you! Call us now at (713) 628-3966 to set up a phone or video chat therapy session today!

Written By: Sarah Henry, MA, LPC, LMFT

I’m not a poet and I pretty much hate rhyming, but this poured out of me last week as I sat thinking about the young people I get the honor of meeting in sessions. I won’t say much about it, as I think it speaks for itself. My hope is that you know that you are seen and you are not alone.

I came across this post and it perfectly summed up an idea I have had about parenting in a way I could never quite put my finger on. Frankly, this quote makes me feel super powerless as a parent…but let’s explore it some more.

Think about it, thousands of years ago it made perfect sense to parent your offspring the same way you were parented, because not much had changed. There were stone tools that you needed to learn how to hunt and fight with, and generally the technology changed very little over the generations.

Today, technology changes at warp speed (pun intended) which means that the values our parents were raised with are applied in a drastically different way today. If we generally parent how we were parented, but in a very new world, then we are kind of always chasing our tail as it were. The world we were prepared for in our formative years looks very different today and I think it’s safe to say that the world we are preparing our children for may change just as rapidly.

Therefore, the most helpful way we can parent our children today is by helping them learn to adapt to change and think critically for themselves.

 

This is a much higher level of brain functioning than we have been used to handing down to our kiddos at such an early age, especially given that executive functioning skills are developed in the late teens to mid-twenties. If you think I’m full of it, I highly suggest listening to some podcasts or looking into some articles about the future of jobs and applying that information to what type of skills our young people will need to have in their generation. Below is a graphic that explains what executive functioning skills are:           

 

In the future, creativity will have a much higher place among the skills required in social situations and employment opportunities than in the past. I believe the reason for this is the rapidly changing technology and our fascination with discovering the newest, most efficient technology for the future. Our children will need to learn to think outside the box and “dream big” in order to bring to their employer the next “new thing.”

What got me thinking though is how can we really ever fully prepare our children for what is to come when it is changing all so fast? And the only answer I can seem to come up with is that our children often know what’s best for them better than we do at times. They have power and information in a way that we just simply do not. I’ve always been a fan of young people because honestly, their capacity for flexibility (in mind and body) greatly surpasses an adult’s. Their creativity and solution finding skills are at an all time high because their brain is still developing connections at a rapid pace, whereas ours has slowed dramatically by the time we reach our 30’s.

My suggestion is to formulate a partnership with your child as best you can while keeping an open mind and asking more questions rather than giving direction. This not only balances the power differential, but also encourages critical thinking and executive functioning.

For example, my teen comes home the other night complaining about an argument she and a friend got into. I let her spill and ask her “How can I support you right now?” This question is meant to get her to pause, check in with herself and her emotions, and think about what she might need from this interaction. She then says to me, “I just want you to tell me what I should do.” Now, this is a tempting trap. I mean, who doesn’t like having all the answers right? AND its been solicited by my young teen! What a grand moment for my ego! However, I do not know the whole situation, I only know what she has told me, and I am also not her…so what I would do that feels really natural, might be a stretch for her. So instead I ask, “Well, how would you like to handle the situation?” She says, “I just need a break from her right now, I can’t talk to her anymore about it tonight.” I say, “Ok so how do you tell her that? Or do you? What can you handle and what is considerate to your friend?” She answered, “I will text her and tell her that I’m going to bed and we can talk about it tomorrow.” I reply, “That sounds fair, and look, you figured this out all on your own!”

My point is, rather than “lazy parenting” and telling them what you think they should do, or lecturing them while their eyes glaze over, or getting burned out by repeating yourself over and over again…why not ask more questions? Make them do the work of THINKING about it! They will not only be using THEIR energy, rather than burning up YOURS, but they will also be finding a solution that is right for them (which they are more likely to do anyway).

This is certainly a practice. If you have not been in the habit of asking questions rather than directing orders then it will take some time to get your mind used to approaching your kid that way. You may also feel this overwhelming urge to fall back into old patterns and “just do it” for them because its “quicker,” “easier,” and it will release the urge. DON’T! THAT’S LAZY PARENTING! In the end, you will struggle with a clueless, helpless teen and young adult who has a hard time thinking things through. They will NOT do it right every time. They WILL mess up. It WILL be hard to watch. BUT LET THEM DO IT!

When parents lack the respect of their teen it is palpable. Parent’s experience frustration, anger, powerlessness, feeling out of control, offended, scared, and resentful towards their teen.

two woman faces


Respect is an interesting concept. It is not quite a feeling, but more of an idea. You know when you have it and you definitely know when you don’t. You don’t know how to put it into words, how to get it, or keep it. It’s an abstract idea to hold in your mind.

What is respect? When you think of someone your respect, you may think of someone you look up to, admire, and want to emulate. You may think of someone who regards the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others rather than trampling them or shutting them down.

Teenagers have a hard time understanding abstract ideas like respect because firstly, their frontal lobe development lacks ability to fully understand abstract thought and ideas. Teenagers are still more concrete thinkers, meaning, if they can see it and touch it, they know what it is and that it is there. Abstract thought happens in the frontal lobe of the brain which continues to develop until around the age of 25. The frontal lobe is what makes humans different from animals and gives us the ability to reflect on ourselves and understand abstract thought (an idea that is not seen or touched, but still understood). Secondly, research has shown that adolescents have a difficult time (as do some adults) with taking the perspective of another person (i.e. putting yourself in someone else’s shoes). This is a learned skill, not something you are born with. For more information on this research, enjoy the link to this TED Talk explaining adolescent brain development: https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_jayne_blakemore_the_mysterious_workings_of_the_adolescent_brain?language=en

Respect might be an abstract concept, but we can teach our young people what respect looks like by showing them respect. Here are some helpful thoughts about how to cultivate respect with your young person:

  • Have a discussion about respect.
    Ask your teen what respect means to them. Ask them who they respect and get curious about what they see in that person that they respect. Ask them to describe how they know they respect someone and how they know they do not respect someone. Ask them what character traits they respect in a person and what character traits they do not respect in someone. Ask them how they know when they are respected by others and what others might respect in them. (Remember that fear is not respect, so if they give an answer like “They know I can kick their ass” that is not respect, that is fear, and probably some ego on the teen’s part.) Share your answers to those questions too. Don’t grill them, have a casual conversation where you share your thoughts and allow them to share their’s. Be careful not to scold, judge, or shut them down. They don’t have all these ideas fully formed and chances are, they might not have ever thought about it before. The point is that you are trying to understand how they understand respect and you are sharing your thoughts on it. This is not the time to preach or teach. If their eyes glaze over or they start giving you one-word answers, you’ve lost them. Shut up and start over another time. “I don’t know” is an answer, let them say it because they probably don’t know. Ask them to think about it and assure them there are no wrong answers, you are just curious what they think. If they still say “I don’t know” then that’s ok (frustrating, I know, but ok). The point is, you asked the question and whether or not you heard the answer, they probably started thinking about it.
  • Take the information you gained from that conversation and use it.
    Listen to the characteristics of people they respect and do a quick moral inventory of yourself (This is sometimes hard as it requires us to be rigorously honest with ourselves and is difficult to do when we cannot see our own blind spots). Ask a friend, spouse, therapist, or even your teen for help seeing your blind spots! Remember, try not to react offensively when given feedback, you asked for help! Take the feedback! You have room to grow! If they tell you something you disagree with, you do not have to respond, simply take note of it and see where they might be right. Sleep on it for a few days. Let it sink in. They shared their experience of you, so whether or not you can see it, there is some reason why they said it.
  • Make amends.
    Enough cannot be said about an adult’s ability to own their mistakes with their children. This is a powerful tool to use with your teens and is widely underrated and under-utilized. An amends is different than an apology. An apology is saying “I’m sorry” which loses it’s meaning after being said over and over again for the same behavior. An amends has got more “oomph” to it. An amends is stating that a behavior was wrong and owning that you were wrong for saying or acting a certain way. It is asking what you can do to make it right (that is reasonable, I definitely understand that a teen may take advantage of this). Then, it is stating how you would like to handle that type of situation in the future. What about this process facilitates respect? Some thoughts are: your ability to acknowledge your wrongs and handling it in a graceful, respectful way. It teaches them how they can make an amends when they mess up. Humility is a building block of respect (a whole blog post can be written about humility as well). To be humble means to accept that you have more to learn, that you are not so ridged as to think that you could not possibly be wrong. That characteristic commands respect and others will typically follow its example when given.
  • Respect is about trust.
    A wise 15 year old client taught me this when they discovered they had a very difficult time being respectful to their parent when they felt they could not trust them. Trust is another one of those tricky, abstract ideas that is difficult to explain, but yet you know when you have it and you know when you don’t. Ask your teen “Do you trust me?” This is a vulnerable question that you may not like the answer to. However, this will open a world of conversation that you have never had before. You might even ask them if they can trust you with some things but not others and get curious about what those things are that they trust/distrust you with. Trust is not simply about being able to “keep secrets,” it is about being able to be vulnerable and not fear they will be invalidated, scolded, or shut down when being vulnerable. (Again, a whole other blog can be written about trust alone). Make sure to share your thoughts with them as well, what you trust them with and what you do not. If they react defensively, try not to talk them out of their feelings. Simply state that you are sharing with them how you feel and acknowledge that you both probably have some work to do in this area with each other.
  • The 5 to 1 ratio.
    The Gottman Institute has been studying marriage for years and they have found a very important secret to happiness in marriage: for every one negative interaction, there should be five positive interactions. (Take a look at this post for more information https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/ ). This ratio applies to more than just happy marriages, it also applies to all relationships! So, take a look at the negative to positive interactions you have with your teen. If you are only fighting, discussing grades, doling out consequences, and scolding them for choices they have made, then there will be less trust and less respect. One of the top 5 suggestions I give to parents in sessions is to go do something fun and light-hearted with your teen at least once a week. Ask them what they want to go do, go see a movie, a concert, hiking, riding a bike, fishing, an art class, go to a museum, art exhibit, skate park, Pokemon Go! Just go do something! Before you start your activity, preface to your teen that you will both stay off your phones and be present with each other and you both will keep the conversation light! Parents, you will not talk about school, grades, friends, sports, or any other controversial topic during the activity. If they mention it, great, nod your head and LISTEN only! Sometimes I suggest for a family to come up with a “code word” to quickly shift gears if someone starts to wander into emotionally triggering territory. Make it something neutral like “waffles” or “red light” then quickly change the subject. When you spend time with your teen having fun and just being a person with them, you will be surprised by what you learn about them and you will have added trust into your relationship.
  • Act with integrity.
    As an unruly teen myself, this was my biggest disrespect trigger. When adults said things like “Do what I say, not what I do” respect was lost completely. If they told me “because I said so” with no explanation, I lost respect. Imagine a co-worker, boss, or spouse saying this to you…condescending right? Well, teenagers are adults in the making and should be treated as such. If we are telling them to get off their phones and go be outside, we should be doing the same thing. If we are telling them to eat vegetables and not an entire bag of chips, we should be doing that too! So, if we want our teens to respect us, we must act respectfully towards them. That means taking the time to explain a decision. (If they “don’t get it” no matter how many times you explain, then its usually because there is no good enough reason for them to not get their way. Don’t waste your breath, state something like “I told you the reason, its ok if you don’t like it.”) Follow through with your word. When you set a boundary and a consequence and do not follow through with it, you have just lied to them. If you have done this repeatedly, then there is not trust there. They either react as if you are threatening them, or they don’t respect the boundary because you’ve taught them that it is not real. It means following our own advice and practicing what we preach. People watch what we do, not what we say. We teach people how to treat us by treating them the way we would like to be treated.
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  • Give them space to have their feelings.
    I feel like this comes up in sessions repeatedly. Parents often are appalled by their child’s reaction to a consequence or boundary (obviously there are some extreme cases, in which case you may want to seek family therapy for assistance). The parent either expects them to have some kind of reaction like “Thank you mother and father for your amazing boundary and your infinite wisdom. I appreciate you doing for me what I cannot do for myself right now.” Laughable right!? Most teens just are not going to respond that way. They will be angry, sad, shut down, irritable, etc. Then some parents want to keep talking to their kid to try to make them feel better about the consequence or boundary. This is called “talking someone out of their feelings,” and it usually doesn’t work and ends up in an argument. If you set a boundary like “You must pass all your classes to attend a concert at the end of the month” and they have not met that boundary and therefore cannot go to the concert, they are allowed to have their feelings about it. Set the boundary and follow through with the consequence then walk away. They are allowed to be disappointed and upset. This is learning that you really mean it. The boundary was real and so was the consequence. They may not like you right then, but they will respect it and you because you are being straight forward with them and letting them process it.

If you would like more information, learn how to apply these tips to your personal relationships, or need some assistance clearing out the resentment to get to a place to utilize these tips, then please give us a call! We have plenty of therapists that specialize in individual, couple, parent and co-parenting, and family sessions with adults, young adults, teens, tweens, and children of all ages. 713-628-3966. To learn more about us please visit https://malatytherapy.com

I hope my daughter knows struggle.

I hope she knows what defeat feels like.

I hope that she experiences striving for something she wants.

This may sound harsh or contrary to what many parents hope for their children, but if my daughter does not experience difficulty and failure at something, then she may never know the glorious feeling of triumph! She may never fully grasp the pride of finally accomplishing a goal. Of finishing a task. Of crossing the finish line. Of taking a bow at her play.

If she did not experience struggle, she may never know how to handle failure. A closed door. A missed opportunity. Or a chance to show good sportsmanship.

I want my daughter to have all the happiness in the world, but even if I could bottle it up and hand it to her, I would not rob her of the experience of striving for it.

I want to model grace and dignity when faced with defeat. I want the opportunity to guide her through the process of facing a loss, a failure, and delayed satisfaction. I want to teach her what acceptance looks like. I want to guide her in the process of picking herself back up and trying again. I want her to know how to persevere when presented with a challenge. And I want her to know how to problem solve when obstacles show up.

I will not shield her from these valuable experiences, for life is full of them. I will not cushion the blow, but allow her space to process and move forward. I will not find fault or blame, but ask what could be done next time if anything? I will encourage rather than do FOR her.

I TRUST in her ability to figure it out. I BELIEVE that she will overcome and grow from whatever experience she faces. I have FAITH in her ability to stand back up when she falls. Because I LOVE her.

I received such a nice call from a parent this morning calling me “The Teen Whisperer” and this is not the first time I’ve been given this honorable title! So firstly, I would like to say thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart for those kind words. Secondly, I want to say that I am nothing but honored and privileged to get to spend time hearing your teen’s and young adult’s stories!

With that said, here are some of the “prefaces” that I use with young people to establish a trusting relationship and give them room to open up. Hopefully, you can employ some of these in your own conversations with your young person:

  1. Let them know that you have no agenda other than your own personal wish for them to be happy and healthy, in whatever form that takes for them. When we show young people that we are letting go of expectations and we do not have “something we are getting at” then we can set them at ease. Most adults in teen’s lives are attempting to steer them a certain way and the teens know this! So they show up already armored and looking for “the angle.” We have to back those words up with action and make sure we are checking ourselves when we want to fall into “steering.” We can acknowledge falling into this by saying something like, “I find myself really wanting to tell you that I think that behavior is dangerous and it scares me” or “I must acknowledge the fact that when you talk about this relationship I can’t help but feel like you deserve more.” When we can openly tell them that we find our brain getting into “mom-mode” then we can still be honest with them while also acknowledging that we have an agenda peeking through. Image result for suspicious
  2. Go ahead an address some “unknowns.” Usually teens/young people are unsure what may come back later to “bite them in the ass” and will withhold information because they don’t want it to be used against them. When the adults in young people’s lives can go ahead and take the guess work out of future situations, they are much more comfortable (usually) with  proceeding honestly. Teens are still just kids in a lot of ways and they fear “getting into trouble.” When we can dispel HOW information is used and what will happen if/when something big does need to be discussed, then they have some clarity about the future of the relationship and can proceed in a more informed way. grayscale photo of man standing in front of stairs
  3. Do NOT ask questions you want a certain answer to. Ugh, even as an adult I find this so condescending when people do this! Let young people know right off the bat, when you ask a question it is SINCERELY because you are curious about THEIR answer. We need to let our young people know that we are not trying to trap them into a specific answer. This is where we get a whole bunch of “I don’t know’s” because they know they can’t give you the real answer because you’re poised ready to strike with a “HA! I told you so!” Or, they sit there terrified, searching their brain for the answer they think you want, but are so unsure of what it is and that you will be there ready and waiting with an eye roll and a condescending comment about how they should know the answer to this! Are you a mind reader? Well, they aren’t either. 
  4. We need to allow “I don’t know” to be the real answer. They simply may not know! They might not have ever thought about it before. Or, more than likely if it is a question about a bad judgement call “I don’t know” is code for, “I know that was dumb, I feel ashamed or guilty, I should have known better.” In the first case, we can help explore with them some thoughts by offering, “Ok well, let’s think about it. What are some possible thoughts about that?” THEN SHUT UP! Let them THINK! Don’t immediately offer them a multiple choice answer (i.e. “Well, was it because of ______, ________, or _______?) In the second circumstance, we can help them process through that “face palm” moment and talk about how they might have done it differently if given the chance. (If I am sitting with a young person whose response is “I don’t know” to everything, I jokingly tell them that they have three “I don’t knows” they can use for the session and the rest of the answers they have to think about and come up with something! We usually have a good laugh and they get the picture.)Image result for I don't know

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but perhaps “prefacing” your intentions can work both to help set you up for sticking to a new way to approach your young person, and open the door to a more honest conversation.

If you would like help with this, practice, or some mediated conversations, please contact me to schedule a session at allie@malatytherapy.com I would love to help! There is no greater joy than watching a family finally be able to communicate in an open, honest, loving way 🙂

This is a little piece of advice a dear friend gave me when I first started on my journey in recovery. She noticed that I would begin to “should” all over myself, “I should have a better job” “I should be living on my own” “I should know better” “ I should be making more money.” SHEESH! What a mess I just made!

 

Should means “ought to” or something that is expected. Should implies judgement. Y’all, we are all in the same race, but we have different starting points, different paths, different strengths, different abilities, and different obstacles and they come at different times. If you put a sprinter in a marathon race with mud and natural obstacles to climb over, chances are the sprinter won’t fair as well as the marathoner. However, if you put that same marathoner in a race with a sprinter, the sprinter is sure to whip past them! If someone is naturally inclined towards studying and school they will probably make decent grades. However, if you put that same person in a situation where they need to think on their feet and improvise, you might not get the same results. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Now, if you’re anything like me, you might be saying “Yeah, yeah, but what about those people who just seem to be good at everything?” Surely you don’t know everything about their life and have no idea what struggles they may have already been through or are to come in their future. Everyone has a struggle. For some, it comes during childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, or for others middle age or later in life. If I am “should’ing” on myself because my obstacle came up quicker than your’s or perhaps I just can’t see your obstacle because you’re on a different path than me, then I am not honoring my own journey.

 

If you are “should’ing” on yourself, I wonder, what (and perhaps who) is behind those judgements? Where are they coming from? Are they coming from your family of origin? Your culture? The media? Yourself? Probably a mixture of all of those things.

 

I ask you to take a minute to locate where those “shoulds” are coming from and what do they say exactly? Then ask yourself, do those really apply to you? Do they apply to you right now? Would it be rational (not to mention fair) to apply them to you right now? Do you even agree with them? The tendency that happens when one wallows in “should” is that they get stuck in this negative pattern and have a harder time seeing their way out.

 

Enter, positive and creative solutions along with some compassion for yourself (and others)!

 

Have you considered the thought that maybe you’re not doing (fill in the blank) because it’s just not right for you? Have you thought about perhaps the reason (fill in the blank) isn’t working out is because it’s not supposed to? Is there another option you’re having trouble seeing? The door shut…now where’s that open window!?

 

We fall back on “should’s” because it’s easier than self discovery. It’s funny, so many times we want to stand out and be different, yet when we do for any reason we immediately compare ourselves to whatever is going on around us and shrink back. Not “should’ing” ourselves takes being brave, bold, and standing our ground when those around us want to push us into their “should.”

 

That reminds me, don’t “should” on other people either! Life is a process and a journey. One that unfolds lessons at different times for everyone. While one person learned a deep rooted lesson about selflessness, someone else might not get that lesson until later on. While that person really understands patience, you might still need some work in that arena.

 

Being kind and compassionate to yourself and others is way underrated. Honor your journey and the journey of others. The next time you’re standing in a pile of your own “should,” ask yourself where it came from and if you even care? Then notice the things you are doing well.

Peace be with you friend.