Teenagers get stressed too…

I’m sure there are many parents out there who are worried about their teenage son or daughter.  Maybe they seem depressed, or angry and frustrated, or are rebelling to extremes. However, no matter how concerned you are, there are some very important points to remember before you approach your teen.

  1. You may not be the right person to help. Teenagers are starting the process of separating themselves from their parents, and they have a lot of history (good and bad) with you. Their peer groups are where they look for support, but someone they respect outside the family unit may make a difference as well. Sometimes teens and parents need a proper break from each other in order to get along. If things get very bad it might be better for them to stay with another trusted adult for a while. If this happens you have not failed, in fact you are protecting your future relationship with them.
  2. Never forget that their brain is being ‘renovated’ over this time. If a teenager is not making sense with what decisions they make or what they say, remember that they are dealing with huge physiological changes internally. Be prepared to ride this out with out taking it personally! Hard I know.
  3. You must let them have some independence. I’m not meaning letting them go to every wild party that comes around – but in day to day decisions about their lives. If a teenager feels they have some control over their life they are less likely to go off the rails.
  4. Doing drugs, drinking to excess, being highly promiscuous and generally getting in trouble are not necessary ‘just what teenagers do’, they usually do these things to cope with hurt and frustration. If your teen is headed in this direction then try your best to get them some help. Their brains are so vulnerable to damage while they are still developing.
  5. Lead by example. If you are concerned about your teenager’s behavior then you need to model behavior that is stable and reliable. If you cannot do this it might be time to get some support for yourself. You are the adult here, they are still learning and will make mistakes.


To be fair, I write these things acknowledging that I am not an expert, or perfect with my own children – but I do have experience with helping families survive these stages. Please add any advice you may have in comments. I think every parent needs as much help as they can get through the teen years!



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Having Meaningful Conversations with Children

Its safe to say that I was not keen on doing therapy with children. It did not attract me in the same way that other areas did. It could be that having my own children was enough of a challenge (by the way therapists are not perfect parents – if they tell you they are they are lying).

So coming to work at a family therapy centre meant that I had to start working with children. I love working with adults, I think I get a lot of satisfaction on an intellectual level in this work – and seeing changes in someone who has been trapped in their life for many years is amazing.

Children often don’t sit still, they get distracted and bored easily. Most of all, most have not got the words to describe what their life is like, on a deeper level. A lot of the work in therapy with children is teaching them how to think deeply and speak about themselves. This kind of work has the added benefit of building their identity, as they figure out who they are in themselves, their family and in the world at large.

Finding ways to start these conversations is not as easy as you think. Some children don’t actually want to talk to you anyway! So one has to get creative, play games, do crafts and draw etc.

If any of you work with children I have put together a booklet of helpful questions to get children engaged and thinking. It has helped me SO much to have this on hand for a nervous or restless client. Even if you start with a weird question (i.e. what is the worst thing you have ever smelled?) you would be amazed at the flow on conversations. This benefits anyone who works or cares for children.

You can buy my booklet ‘Quirky Questions and Conversation Starters’ on Amazon below – I purposely keep prices low to make them accessible to anyone. If you like it I would love you to review it on Amazon 🙂

‘Quirky Questions’ – UK/Aust/NZ Version 

‘Quirky Questions’ – U.S. Version

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What is preventing you from asking for help?

What is going on in your life?

Stressful relationships, anxiety, depression, work problems, mental health concerns and many more situations can become too overwhelming for us to even think about clearly, let alone change effectively.

There are so many reasons why people avoid or put off asking for help. Maybe they are self-conscious, embarrassed, scared of the consequences or of looking weak. I am currently doing some writing on this topic because I too used to be someone who avoiding asking for help – almost at all costs. In fact I still find it hard, but I’m better at it.

Unfortunately when something serious is going on, the chances of it getting better on its own is low. So what is stopping you?

Do you really want the current situation to be the same tomorrow, next week or next year?

Are other people getting hurt as well?

Maybe it’s time to take a good hard look at things – consider all your options. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who is outside the situation, as friends and family can be too emotionally involved themselves, and not able to give balanced advice.

Don’t forget that you do not have to tell people everything – only what you are comfortable disclosing at that time.

Most importantly, if you do not feel safe in your situation please tell someone soon. 

Don’t forget to check out my therapy e-books

Unpacking Your Baggage 

Before making big changes in life you often have to deal with the baggage you already carry. You probably know what I’m talking about. We all have a history of some sort, with hurt, disappointment and even trauma.

Does your past haunt you, affect your self-esteem and life choices, or cause you ongoing anxiety? Well, there is one big thing you can do to help, to get the hard stuff out of your head… and it means telling your story in detail.

There are a couple of ways of doing this.

  1. Write it out. You can start from the beginning work your way up to the present, or pick particular events that you need to deal with. No-one else has to read it, you can destroy it afterwards if you prefer. Or you may be inspired to write a book – who knows? If you tell your story from the beginning it can be amazing what comes out, things you may not have thought about for years.
  2. Tell someone trustworthy. There may be an anonymous support line you could call if there is no-one good in your circle of relationships. Or a therapist if you have access to one.  If you feel safe, talk about your experiences with someone who was there too.
  3. Record yourself telling the story (privately). Again, you don’t have to keep it afterwards.

The reason why this is helpful is that often we have never really spoken the truth of our experience out loud. Just doing this can be a relief. Sometimes hearing ourselves tell our own story can even change our perspective on the circumstances, or make us realize new things about ourselves or others. Maybe you will discover strengths you did not know you had.

Don’t forget, it’s ok to say – ‘that really hurt’. There is no point pretending it didn’t. We often fall into the trap of minimizing our experiences to protect the feelings of others or to not look ‘weak’.

Some of us carry deeper wounds than others, and may suffer from post-traumatic stress for years afterwards. I will address this topic soon.

**Safety Point** – There may be things that you know you are not ready to open up about. That is ok. There may be a point in the future where you are safe to go there. In the meantime, try addressing other things that you are ready to talk about.


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