Archive for the ‘parent coaching’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Teen Boys, Sex, Alcohol

Teen  Boys, Sex, and Alcohol

by Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.

Image result for teen boy mom
Article Copyright © 2018 Center for the Challenging Child

This is a real exchange, published with names changed, and permission from the writer.

Hello Tina,

We met with you years ago when our kids were toddlers and bedtime nearly drove us crazy. They are all teenagers now and I would give anything to go back to those simpler times. My oldest is a 17-year-old boy. His grades are decent. He works a part time job around 20 hours a week. He is not doing a spring sport so he can work and save for college. I know that he and his friends sometime drink. There are two times that I am sure of. He has had the same girlfriend for 2 years now so I worry about sex also. I have tried to have many conversations and talk about what we believe and try to find out what the motive was to drink and where things are headed with the girlfriend and encouraged him to make a thoughtful decision when he is not “in the moment” so that he can fall back to that when the heat is on.

The main issue is in 6 months he is moving off to college and I worry about him making good decisions. I know a certain amount of college partying is very normal, but still worrisome. Any advice?

Thank you ~
Sharla
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Hi Sharla,

I’m happy to hear from you!  It sounds as if you have a wonderful 17-year-old who is going through the normal experiences of adolescence.  I hope that knowing this is very typical helps to relieve some of the stress you’re feeling.  And here are some ideas to help you navigate it:

  1. Let the positives of his life settle into your brain.  His grades are decent, he’s working and saving for school, he has a lasting relationship with his girlfriend.  He’s doing so many things right!
  2. Another huge plus: You have shared your values with him.  As I like to say, “Teens can’t let you know that they hear you, because they are busy individuating and becoming “not-mom.”  This is a necessary developmental step, and all healthy kids do it.  But once you’ve put your message about your values in him, they’re in there, rest assured.  He just can’t say, “Thanks, I got it,” at this point.  No need to repeat yourself about these now, as he knows how you feel, and repeating just becomes irritating.  I know, teens are very sensitive about this, but again, it’s normal.
  3. Your worry about drinking and sex are justified.  You don’t want him to become a father too young, and you don’t want him to break the law by drinking or become an alcoholic.  But reminding him repeatedly will not get you what you want, and he’s old enough now that you cannot control him.  It’s easy to think that a parent should control her son, but it’s just not possible, nor is it your job now that he’s 17. It’s your job to recognize the myriad ways in which he does control himself.
  4. You can help to reinforce his positive behaviors by letting him know how proud you are of him and the many good decisions he’s made so far.  He’s made a lot of good decisions, and he needs to hear that you see them, if he hasn’t already.  Writing them in a note is a powerful way to communicate, as writing weighs more than talking. Plus, guys at this age become “allergic” to their mothers’ voices – I raised three of them, and it’s just the way it is as they become men.
  5. The more you recognize his goodness, the more you will see.  You will also be drawing him toward you instead of pushing him away, which is huge.
  6. Does he have access to condoms? Tell him where to get them if you think he doesn’t.  This looks like condoning pre-marital sex, but if it’s already happening, it’s not going to end because you want it to.  The best solution is to be sure he’s having safe sex.
  7. The motive to drink is the same as it is for 17-year-olds world-wide. They are blossoming adults and this is an adult activity.  If you have seen him under the influence, but not overly drunk, you might want to say, “I’m glad you’re not overdoing it, and I’m glad you’re home safe.”  It’s the same as with sex; you don’t have the power to stop it because he’s growing up, but you do have the power to influence mindful use of it.  If he is overwhelmed by guilt from you, it may have the opposite effect from what you want, and give him a reason to drink more to suppress his feelings (the number one reason people drink.)

I hope this is helpful, Sharla.  Let me know if you’d like to talk more about this, and we can set up an appointment.  Place your trust in your son now, as he’s just learning to trust himself, and he can learn self-trust from your words and attitudes.

Best,
Tina

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for information on parent coaching. 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Want to Understand and Help Relieve Your Child’s Anxiety?

Want to Understand and Help Relieve Your Child’s Anxiety?

If you have a child, you’ve likely seen some moments, or even constant occurrences, of anxiety. And it may be causing you to feel anxious, as well, when your child is trying to control the situation, asking questions all the time, withdrawing, arguing, and feeling generally unsettled.
Here are some helpful ways to understand and help relieve your child’s anxiety:
1. What is anxiety?  It’s fear where there’s no present threat.  It comes from the brain’s threat alarm, the amygdala, which often can’t tell when the threat is real or not.  It’s not from children being oppositional; they are just trying to lower their own anxiety. It’s all driven by the brain, and it’s not willful or even conscious on their part.  The brain is saying, “See me!” to the parents or parental figures.  If the child is seen by the parents, the brain registers that the child is safe. If the child is not seen by the parents, the brain registers a threat to survival.
2. What are some of the causes of anxiety in children? The real cause is, as we’ve said, an overactive brain, but some of the events that can make it worse are past trauma, such as parents who abuse or neglect their children (often as a result of their own trauma), family change, such as separation, divorce, incarceration, moving to a new home/community, learning disabilities including ADHD, developmental delay, autism, attachment disorder (often a result of parents’ difficulty in attaching during the child’s infancy), drug use on the part of the parents, and/or a genetic predisposition to anxiety.
3. How does anxiety show up in small children, middle-schoolers, and teens?
In small children, a deep desire to control the situation is a normal aspect of development, but when it’s extreme, we can suspect anxiety. Little ones, who are establishing their sense of self for the first time, feel a deep need to make all the decisions.This is why we see the “terrible twos” and “threenagers” coming into the conversation often. In the case of an anxious little one, we also see clinginess that’s out of the range of typical.  Some parents misinterpret this as “just difficult”, but it’s truly only to lower their own anxiety, not disrespect or crankiness, as it’s often misinterpreted. Young children will also ask “what’s next?” a 1,000 times a day, which helps them feel less vulnerable. Often they talk incessantly, which is normal for some and anxiety for others. The constant talk is actually an avoidance of the uncomfortable feelings of fear. “If I keep talking, I can stave off that fear and I won’t have to feel it so strongly,” is the child’s inner message. Again, this is all unconscious on the child’s part.
Middle schoolers show their anxiety by being very worried about what others think, which is also normal at this stage, but can become extreme. If a child is paralyzed by not having a certain article of clothing, or showing an extreme need to have the same electronics capability as others, it’s time to wonder if it might be anxiety. Another cause of anxiety at this age is the comments on social media made by others about a pre-teen or even about their friends.  Social media is a Pandora’s box of potential harm, as communication  can occur without parental knowledge or guidance. This is a huge call for parents to be vigilant about what’s happening on their children’s phones and tablets.  The anxiety of both “perpetrators” and “victims” is rampant in today’s world. Social media in the hands of those who don’t possess impulse control can create great harm.
Teens are anxious for some of the same reasons as pre-teens, but they have more worldly awareness, which can increase their anxiety. They learn about political activity, world events, and the horrific possibilities for harm to our fellow humans. They may also have a more internal anxiety because of uncertainty about their personal status among peers, love interests, their sexual identity, grades, performing in front of others, post-high school education, future careers, and myriad other issues that come up for teens. So if they appear moody, it’s truly understandable.
4. What are the effects of anxiety on a child?  In addition to the ones we already discussed (controlling behavior, need to know what’s next, and incessant talking) moodiness, isolation, depression, acting out, and rage can all be signs of deep anxiety. These can occur in children of all ages, so don’t assume little ones don’t have strong reactions to anxiety. In older children, you might see them snapping at parents at the slightest request.  They may spend all their time in their room on their electronic devices.  They may act as if they don’t care about anything at all. They may do things, such as drive dangerously or use substances to express their deep feelings. They may fly into a rage whenever their deeply held beliefs are questioned. Again, this is not disrespect, but just the organism child trying to survive in an immature way, because they are immature.

5. What can parents do to help their children become less anxious? The first thing is to help them feel seen, feel felt. This can calm the threat alarm or amygdala, so that the child can function with less anxiety; in other words, think straight and be a contributing member of the family and community.  So we’re not about “getting a child to do what’s right.” We’re freeing the child to do what he or she knows is needed, by lowering anxiety. One way to see the child is to write an “I See You Letter.”  This bypasses the conversational aspect, as so many kids become allergic to their parents’ voices. When something is in writing, it weighs more, as we’ve all experienced. Saying “I see you,” can help parents focus on the issues that are alive for the child right now, and also increase their compassion for the child. It’s so important to give kids space to be immature, and the “I See You Letter” can simply acknowledge the child’s situation and help the amygdala calm down.  Parents don’t even have to solve problems, interestingly.  They can reflect the child’s situation, and then ask for a conversation about solving the problems that includes the child.  We find that self-efficacy, or control over one’s destiny, is the perfect antidote to anxiety.

Other ways to help the child are self-regulation techniques. Often just being told that when you have that yucky feeling, it’s just your brain going overboard is really helpful for the child.  They don’t have to “be” anxiety. They can just say, “Oh, that was my brain overdoing the worry again.” It really helps them to put the source of the problem on their brain instead of their being.  Self-regulation can also be through yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and square breathing (inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4).  When parents do this with their children, they are “co-regulating” – let’s face it, parents often need to lower their own anxiety, too.

For phone, Zoom, or in-person help with this or any other parenting issue, please click here.

PostHeaderIcon The Why, What, and How of Parent Coaching

The Why, What, and How of Parent Coaching

Read Tina’s latest article here, in “Fostering Families Today” magazine’s January, 2018 edition.

Feigal in Fostering Families Today 1.18

PostHeaderIcon What It’s Like Coaching Parents

What It’s Like Coaching Parents: Traveling Further Upstream

I often get the question, as do we all, “What do you do?”  I realize now that people are asking, “What difference do you make?” or “What can you do for me?”  So I thought I’d write about my life as a parent coach, to give you a window on what I can do for you, or those with whom you work.

It all started when my middle son proved to be a fabulous, smart, adorable boy who also gave me a run for my money. He asked a thousand questions each day, and often didn’t like being told what to do. I found my way with him, stumbling often, but he grew up to become a wonderful person. (There’s a ton of hope!)

I became a school psychologist, inspired to make school a pleasant, or at least not harmful, place for kids who struggle with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disturbance, ADHD, ODD, grief, autism, giftedness, and a variety of other situations.  I had had a less-than-nurturing school experience as a kid, and was determined to change that for others. I kept thinking about what it would be like to be in school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and feel like you were always failing and not fitting in.  It was that feeling that kept me going in behalf of kids, to make each day one where they were welcome and accepted.

Then it dawned on me: “If I could go upstream a bit more, and get to the adults who love and care for these kids, we wouldn’t have to have so many evaluations for emotional/behavioral disturbance.”  Who better to do this work of bringing out the best in children than their own parents, who love them, have the most invested in them, and are there when the children need them the most?  Inspired, I hung my shingle as a parent coach and prayed.

That was 2000, and now I have a story to tell!  Each year since the beginning , I have had the enormously gratifying experience of helping parents look further upstream for the reasons behind their children’s behavior, and help them understand how to create peace in their homes.

I went on to teach at my graduate school alma mater, UW-Stout, to train parent coaches through my own business, and then to certify coaches at Adler Graduate School, where I continued to develop more ideas for making parent coaching work the most effectively, to comfort the hearts of parents and children alike.

If your child is being defiant (usually it’s pain being expressed) we’ll explore the reasons, employ insight, adjust the interactions, and see the defiance melt away.  When your child is oppositional, we’ll uncovered the particulars (she needs more self-efficacy, and to be seen and heard) and watch as she blossoms into the loving kid she was meant to be.  When he’s acting depressed and withdrawn (often unexpressed grief), we’ll help him grieve his losses directly, and witness miraculous recovery.

Yes, I think this is the best job in the world.  There is simply nothing like helping parents to heal their own child.

To date, I’ve trained nearly 500 others to coach parents and have been privileged to watch them work their magic with families. I love my position as the Director of Family Engagement at Center for the Challenging Child/Anu Family Services, where the other coaches and I work with Treatment Foster Care parents, bio parents, and kin. These are the most hurt kids, who have been moved from home to home “because of their behavior” (read: unexpressed grief) and we’re finding the same amazing results.  Working with parents who are not in the child welfare realm has been profoundly satisfying, as well. How much job satisfaction can one person have, I ask you?

My heart is full, full, full as I reflect on this incredible journey from mom of an intense and wonderful kid, to a school psychologist, to college and grad school instructor, to parent coach and trainer.  I can share this great news with people, offer hope they never dreamed of, and watch them create miracles in their own homes.  Even thinking about the generational effect of coaching is fabulous … kids who grow up with Present Moment Parenting may just pass that legacy on to their children!

I’ve come to realize that it’s never too late for any child to benefit from their parents’ understanding of the upstream reasons for behavior, and ways to calm them.  Yes, 17, 18, and 19-year-olds can experience healing through their parents’ evolution.  In fact I’ve coached parents of children in their 20’s, 30’s and beyond!  The principles remain the same, the parent-child relationship continues to affect the child for years, and it can always be healed.  What a concept!

How can I help you with your child, or train your staff to do this powerful work?

For more information on healing hearts through parent coaching, click here.

For more information on parenting coach certification, click here.

For information on my speaking and training events, click here.

To check speaking availability, click here.

Thank you for the enormous privilege of serving your family or your staff in healing children’s and parents’ hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon How Can I Tell if My Child Has Trauma Effects?

How Can I Tell if My Child Has Trauma Effects?

You hear a great deal about trauma in the news these days, and you wonder if your child is showing the signs of having been traumatized.  It’s often hard to tell if the trauma is having ongoing effects on your child or if it was even traumatic to him at all!  Here are some examples of trauma and the signs of their effects:

The most traumatic event for a child is the death of, or removal from, a parent. Due to the internal imperative to survive, the child is biologically wired to connect with her parent, and if that connection is broken, even at birth, the signs of trauma can be seen.  But not in every single case. Some children are adopted at birth or later, and never show signs of trauma. Some who are adopted at birth feel the separation deeply.

If the connection to the parent is broken by physical abuse on the part of the parent or other adult, the effects are also significant, and trauma signs are likely to be evident.  Physical abuse is spanking, hitting, choking, restraining for long periods, burning, cutting, and more.  It’s hard to think that a parent would ever do such things to a child, but when a parent has mental illness or a chemical addiction, the urge to protect the child or avoid harming her is dampened or obliterated, and impulse control goes out the window. The child does nothing to provoke this, although the parent will insist that she does. It’s the parent’s lack of restraint that leads to physical abuse.

Similarly, sexual abuse will bring signs of trauma.  Again, it’s never the child’s doing that brings on the abuse, but the parent will insist that he or she caused it somehow.  It’s very likely that the adult has deep pain which is causing the sexual abuse, and also that the adult has been abused as a child. This is why sexual abuse is so horrific. It makes a criminal out of the victim. Sexual abuse profoundly confuses loyalty to the adult with sexual involvement, and can have lifelong effects on the child’s ability to form a healthy sexual relationship. There is no form of sexual interaction with a child that is OK.  Hugging, kissing, massaging, and washing are all part of normal child raising, but touching of genitals for pleasure – either the child touching the adult or the adult touching the child, is abuse. Showing pornography to children or photographing them in sexual positions or without clothing is also sexual abuse.

Emotional/psychological abuse is particularly damaging to a child. The reason this type of abuse (which is also often present with physical and sexual abuse) is so hard to identify and treat is that there are no outward signs of the abuse. In fact, the way systems operate, the abuser is often not stopped, as the law depends on physical findings to prosecute. Emotional abuse, in the form of  blaming children for everything that “goes wrong”, accusing them of things they didn’t do, playing mind games with them, calling them names such as stupid, filthy, unwanted (and worse) has more impact that physical abuse on the future mental health of the child.  It’s insidious, hidden where it cannot be healed, in far too many cases.

Neglect is also highly traumatizing for children. It conveys to the child that he or she is not worthy of parental care, which can go deep into the psychological landscape to create feelings of lack and low self-esteem. Physical neglect, emotional neglect, medical neglect, educational neglect, and exposure to violence are all types of trauma.

What are the signs that a child has had the trauma of abuse?
Children who have experienced trauma often have difficulty trusting others.  When they look to their caregivers as infants or at any age, really, and they don’t get their emotional and physical needs met, their brains undergo a change that involves not being able to trust.  This is not a choice, it’s a physiological response. Once the child touches that hot stove of connection that results in being abandoned, he or she is wired not to touch it again.

Other ways that trauma shows up are: decreased mental ability and memory, lack of “executive functioning” which means they have trouble remembering their homework, remembering to hand it in, organizing their rooms, backpacks or desks, and planning ahead. Constant anxiety is another sign of trauma, as are bed-wetting, lying, stealing, and emotional outbursts for no logical reason.  Sensory sensitivities are also frequently seen in children with traumatic histories. Visual, auditory, smell, touch, and taste input is felt as 1,000 times stronger than for those without trauma.  Another one is “interpersonal sensitivity” where a child is hyper-reactive to the presence of others.  Sensory seeking can also be a sign of trauma, particularly with sexual abuse. These children are absolutely compelled to replay the sexual scene, all on an unconscious level.

The purpose of this article is to highlight the signs of trauma, often also referred to as “stuck grief” for all the missed nurturing the child has experienced.  The next article will offer tips for helping the traumatized child overcome the effects of trauma.

For help with this or any other parenting issue: click here.

To order the book: “Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child” with chapters on help for parents of children with trauma, by Tina Feigal, Amelia Franck Meyer, and Mechele Pitt, click here.

To download the audio book of “Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child, click here.

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Am I a Helicopter Parent?

Am I a Helicopter Parent?

You may have wondered if you are too attentive to your child’s needs, or if you have been overly involved in his or her relationships or decisions.  And if you have, you wonder how to stop, to keep your child from becoming so dependent on you or your opinions, that he can’t make decisions for himself.

It can be hard to tell how much is too much.  You are caring, attentive, involved, and dedicated to your child’s success … all the things you hear make up good parenting.  And yet, sometimes you get sideways glances from your friends or relatives.  Other times they come right out and tell you that you shouldn’t be so involved in your child’s life.  Or worse, they avoid talking and withdraw from your friendship, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.

“I want the best for my child,” says a client who comes to me with this issue, “but I don’t know where the line is. Should I be checking his grades online every day or every week?  Should I try to find out who he’s texting, who he’s friends with on Instagram, and how the coach feels about his performance at practice? Should I contact the school counselor if he seems depressed or discouraged?”

What IS a parent’s job in this day of over exposure to media and pressure to perform?

First, realize that it’s a totally different world from the one we grew up in. The sheer number of ways that a child can now interact with the world without parental knowledge is mind-boggling.  The news carries stories of Amber Alerts and stranger abduction.  It’s very hard to know how to navigate this territory, and you are not alone.

Here are some tips for healthy monitoring of your child’s life, without overdoing it.

  1. Place parental controls on all your child’s devices. Don’t apologize for doing this. With the Internet’s reach, it’s simply good parenting to eliminate the vast array of potentially harmful sources.  Google your Internet provider + parental controls to get the info you need. Do this today.
  2. It’s not being too involved if your child is struggling in school, and you check the parent portal once every week or two. Your only response needs to be one of offering help if needed, not a lecture on grades. If your child is doing well, it’s his or her business what the grades look like.
  3. If you are paying for the phone, you have access to the texts and social media passwords. I’m sorry to say it’s important that your child not have privacy in this area, because cyber-bullying and inappropriate postings are too easy for developing humans.  They need our guidance, and having access to them, along with weekly checks, is just prudent practice. Keep in mind that some apps (get a good list here) are designed to have the messages disappear after only a few seconds.  If someone posts something inappropriate that features your child, it IS possible to preserve the image by screen-shot, and pass it on on other social media platforms, which means it’s on the Internet forever.  This needs to be explained to your child.
  4. “No screens an hour before bed” (to prevent sleep loss) and “the phone is charged in the kitchen” (to prevent constant availability) are two good rules.
  5. It’s not overly involved to talk about ways predators can pose as 15-year-olds online and ask teens to meet them in person. Be certain that your child’s whereabouts are always clear to you.  Apps on their phones that communicate with yours can locate them, and I think it’s a good idea. Ask your child to let you know where she is, and expect compliance. Be casual about it, but also be firm. The phone is a privilege, and its use depends on this rule being followed.
  6. Being friends on Facebook or Instagram with your child’s friends is usually over the line. Being friends with their parents is a good way to stay connected, so you know what’s happening in their world, too, and can be united for all your children.
  7. Encourage in-person socialization, so that children don’t forget how to relate one-on-one.  Allowing them to invite friends to your home is not overly involved.  Inviting them yourself, or asking their parents to send them over, is.
  8. Monitor sleep-overs just enough to discourage drinking or inviting unwanted guests. Do not “hang out” with your child’s friends in your home unless invited.
  9. Remember that some level of privacy is necessary for a child to develop normally. Invite sharing, but if you don’t get it, stay relaxed. Have an understanding with your child that if something seems really amiss with a friend, you will be in touch with his or her parents. Use compassion, not policing.
  10. As your child grows into young adulthood, take a stance of support and encouragement, while being there as a guide for the inevitable rough spots.If you have questions about this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.

 

PostHeaderIcon When Child Behavior is Scary

When Child Behavior is Scary

scary-girlWe have all had those moments when child behavior has frightened us as parents.  They sometimes have no impulse control and give us heart attacks with their unexpected aggression toward their siblings.  Or they may jump off a way-too-high surface, and cause us to react with loud warnings.  They may drive the car too far from home, or have a close call on the freeway, leading us to wonder where we went wrong.

On this Halloween, let’s acknowledge that being a parent can be scary for us at times.  When my son was able to go into the world on a large scale, I found myself saying, “Don’t tell me when you’re about to climb that 17,000-foot mountain.  Just tell me when you’re back down.” I felt like I had to protect my heart from his adventurousness.

Being afraid as a parent is normal. The world is so full of opportunities for our kids to “mess up” as my 4-year-old grandson says.  Life is full of mistakes, and if we keep perspective, mistakes are seen as great teachers.  Sometimes, yes, mistakes can have horrible outcomes, but if we stay focused there, we live a life of fear and anxiety.  For some children, this fear gets absorbed, and they are more cautious and anxious than they need to be.  Anxious children can act out, and become more scary to us as we worry over their next moves!

It’s a fine balance for a parent – enough warning vs. enough freedom to explore.

“How much freedom should my toddler/pre-schooler/ primary grade/middle schooler/ teen have?” is a frequently asked question in my work as a parent coach. Knowing what’s normal is not always natural, as we can have amnesia for being that age (and sometimes our normal was not so normal.)

Here are some tips for handling the typical fear that comes with parenting children:

  1. Practice mindfulness.  Check in with your thoughts and ask yourself, “Is there really a danger here and now?” If so, act on it. If not, say to yourself, “There’s no present danger, so I will let my child explore.”
  2. Remind yourself that as much as you’d like to control their every move to keep them safe, children are their own persons.  They have their natural, evolving urges as a normal part of child development, and you shouldn’t try to take that away.
  3. Read up on normal child development.  It’s so important to know what’s appropriate at every age so you can be on track with your expectations. Click here, and bookmark this site.
  4. Take a break from parenting whenever it seems reasonable.  Plan for time to yourself at least once a month, so you can rejuvenate and come back to parenting feeling refreshed.
  5. Call for coaching if you need help in determining what’s normal for your particular child, and how to respond.  We’re here to help!  Click here.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Parent Coaching in Madison, WI

We’ve opened up parent coaching in Madison, WI, and we invite anyone in the area to get in touch with Kim Flood, Certified Parent Coach.

For more information on how coaching works, click here.

In-person, phone, and Skype appointments are available.  Why wait for things to get worse?  Email Kim today!