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Helping your Tween or Teen Navigate Social Conflict

In the article “How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict,” author Lisa Damour describes the difference between a conflict and what is defined as bullying. She suggests multiple ways parents can address these problems. Also in her book “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls,” she references how you as a parent can deal with stress and anxiety from experiencing a conflict with your child and another tween or teen. 

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To begin with, Damour illustrates that middle school and high school are the prime times for bullying and conflict to occur. In school, “social friction and hurt feelings often come with the territory, with the risk of causing intense emotional stress both for the tweens and teenagers themselves...” (Damour).

“Conflict is unavoidable and can be a point of growth,” says Andrea Shaffer, a teacher and coach for conflict cases at the private preschool-grade 12 Chicago Waldorf Schools. Although conflict can be very mentally draining, once teens work out their conflicts, it is very rewarding. With friendship comes conflict. Each friendship endures a hardship that tests their friendship. As a teenager conflict is very hard to deal with alone. It is in these situations when parents are recommended to step in. Not only will parents help diffuse the situation, but also through the process, children will learn how to communicate clearly and express how they are feeling about the situation in a calm, non-blaming tone of voice. 

Parents are most helpful to their children when they take conflict seriously and “have strategies to coach them along as they work to resolve things on their own” according to Damour.

Don’t Confuse Conflict With Bullying

Damour alludes that “when our [a] child suffers a social injury, it’s easy to conclude that he or she has been bullied.” However, experts suggest that this word is commonly misconceived. Bullying is a term that is used frequently when aggression is in the eye. 

Social discord “rarely involves bullying,” explains Phyllis Fagell, a counselor at the Sheridan School, in Washington, D.C., and the author of the forthcoming book “Middle School Matters.” “Most commonly, conflict stems from anything ranging from a misunderstood comment to a spilled secret, to a lopsided friendship.”

When this occurs, it is difficult for many to diagnose when to intervene. Sometimes teenagers just need to work it out, while other times require adult, teacher, coach or counselor supervision. In either of these situations, it is important to remember that each child is emotional. Although one may be the main cause of the problem (the bully), they should both be treated fairly. As a parent, Damour explains that “you’ll want to take a measured, evidence-based approach to the problem” if your child is being bullied. This way you can develop strategies to help manage the situation such as sitting down and having a conversation, separating the two who are in the conflict, or taking it up to a more authoritative figure at the school.

Teach Healthy Conflict

In order to diffuse conflict, parents should coach and practice what their teen should say and do. From there, teens and tweens can decide their next move based on how comfortable they feel with the whole thing. It is dire to measure how serious the situation is. Either way, it is important “to stand up for yourself while being respectful of others” (Damour).

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At any age, most people go directly to an unhealthy response and source of action when it comes to being upset with someone. Damour suggests that when “advising adolescents on how they might handle a disagreement, I first teach them about reactions to conflict and allow them to daydream their way through a bulldozer, doormat or doormat-with-spikes response.”

Most people want to get back at the person who caused them pain. Some people verbally rake someone while others post an unflattering image of the “friend” on social media and write a nasty comment about them. With this being done, the “friend” might respond. There is no telling how or in what tone they will respond in, but the whole goal of the picture on social media is to get a reaction out of the other person. By doing this, the two friends are forced to talk because one caused a commotion that needs to be dealt with. 

“Kids may need to be reminded,” says Ms. Fagell, “to keep arguments offline. Because once they’ve waged war in a group chat at one in the morning, it becomes much harder to achieve a peaceful resolution.”

Let Them Pick Their Battles

When it comes to two teens who are in an argument, it is best to either decide to guide your child in the right direction by diffusing the situation in a civil way or deciding not to engage at all. Although you may feel the urge to help your child or tell them what to do every step of the way, “conflict, even when handled well, takes time and tremendous mental energy” (Damour). In these types of situations, it is best to help your child weigh out the costs and benefits of engaging in conflict. Damour states that it is important to ask you and your child questions that will help them determine their next step: “Do they care about the relationship enough to want to work on it? Do they expect their pillar overture to meet with a similar response?”

“Contrary to conventional wisdom,” adds Ms. Fagell, “kids aren’t always looking to restore friendships. They may need permission to move on or need help creating a more comfortable, if distant, interpersonal dynamic.” They just need to find some closure.

Teaching your child to pick their battles is a risky step. In detail, they could go the easy way and just cut off their “friend” or they could do everything to hurt that “friend.” Either way, most tweens and teens will want to emotionally hurt the other person and make them feel the burden that they felt. But that’s not the goal. As Ms. Shaffer notes, “we don’t have emotional Bubble Wrap for children, but we do have ways to help them develop the emotional agility to navigate through difficult situations.”

For more information on friendships, teens, and tweens and conflict resolution, please contact us. To learn how we can help you or your child who may be struggling with being successful managing the social world, contact us or visit our website. For more information on therapy, visit Hilber Psychological Services.

- Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Damour, Lisa. (2019, Jan 16). How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict. The NY Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/16/well/family/how-to-help-tweens-and-teens-manage-social-conflict.html.

Damour, Lisa. (2017). Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Damout, Lisa. (2019). Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

What Change is like for Individuals with ADHD

In the article, “Lazy Days of Summer? For ADHD Moms, That’s Not a Thing,” author Tricia Arthur describes how her never-ending, changing weeks can take a toll on her mental health. She notes that ”changes in a routine are very difficult for a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD)” to juggle. Especially during the summer, one’s stress levels and self-doubt can increase because it is so hard to keep track of everything going on in not only your life but the rest of the family’s and still believe it is possible. 

Arthur’s life coach said, “that neurotypical people are a tad quicker and more intuitive than ADHD-brained people in making adjustments when changing circumstances require it.” Knowing this, it is understandable why you, who struggles with ADHD, has a harder time comprehending changing plans all the time. During this time, it is important to relax and give yourself a break and realize that everything will work out; you just have to take it step by step, day by day. 

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Summer is the hardest season for most parents to get used to. From a routine every day to different plans each week, and even every day, is a lot to think about. It takes a lot of time to pan every little detail out, which can be exhausting. Although it may seem like you have the appropriate med regiment to reduce ADHD symptoms and the right amount of help and brain rest and self-care to keep a clear, open mind, it may also seem like you can snap at any moment because all these things are on your mind (Arthur). Each day something probably increases your stress level which makes you more anxious, however, it does not have to always be like that. Touching base with your therapist can also assist with these big changes to help it become a little smoother. As long as you acknowledge your stresses and take a step back to see how you can counterbalance them, whether that is by delegating or taking breaks in between, it is okay to be stressed.

Unfortunately, even if you are doing everything right, or just simply getting through the day, you will have to do it all over again. Arthur suggests writing a motivational note to yourself that reminds you that you are doing great and that stress is okay that says something like this:

Dear Tricia, You have ADHD, and it’s for real. Know that everything it takes to run your family and your life is way more difficult for you than it is for others. This means you gotta take care of yourself more than others have to take care of themselves. This also means you gotta give yourself a crap ton of grace. You really are rocking it and you really are intelligent and when you don’t feel you are either, be patient. Also, layer on the self-care, consult with your ADHD-specialized psychiatrist, and did I say be patient? Breathe and be patient. Now is not forever. Healing, a better grip, and inner calm always return in time. Hang on. Remember: You rock! Love, Tricia”

For more information on ADHD and its symptoms, please contact us. To learn how we can help you or your child who may be struggling with being successful with ADHD, contact us or visit our website. For more information on therapy, visit Hilber Psychological Services.

To learn how Neurofeedback can help with ADHD symptoms, visit San Diego Center for Neurofeedback, APPC or contact SDCNF for for more information.

- Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References:

Arthur, Tricia. “Lazy Days of Summer? For ADHD Moms, That’s Not a Thing.” Attitude. Web. 7,  Aug. 2019. https://www.additudemag.com/i-hate-summer-adhd-mom

The Complicated Layers of ADHD

In the article “Your Child’s ADHD is and Iceberg,” author Penny Williams compares Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to an iceberg. In detail, an iceberg has many layers that are not visible to the human eye. Correspondingly, just like an iceberg, one that has ADHD do not have visible symptoms that are easily recognizable. Symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are very important to take notice of. Williams notes that “these traits are too often mistaken for character flaws, personality defects, or moral or ethical deficits. They’re not any of those things.” In this case, it is necessary for parents to pay close attention to their child and be consciously aware of their symptoms. 

Within each layer of ADHD there are the following:

1. Poor Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence Kids who struggle with ADHD may experience poor self-esteem. It is the parent’s job to help their child regain their self-confidence by creating opportunities such as calm environments and activities where your child can excel in.

2. Developmental Delays Williams states that “children with ADHD develop 2-3 years more slowly than their peers.” This can impact their maturity, social skills, executive functioning, emotional dysregulation, and self-regulation. 

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3. Inflexibility It is seen that kids with ADHD may be more stubborn than willing. Inflexibility prevents children from being able to manage their emotions: they do not have the skills to notice that their emotions can be changed rather than one way. 

4. Intensity When children's emotional awareness, self-regulation, frustration tolerance increase, it can lead to hypersensitivity that can make them have extreme emotions. When this happens, instead of trying to resolve this intensity and get to the bottom of it, ask your child, “How can I help you?” This will help your child understand that you are there for them and are trying to help them.

5. Emotional Dysregulation Children with ADHD may have a hard time regulating their emotions that’s appropriate for given situation and/or their age. They may have a difficult time with expressing and regulating their emotions at home, to the family, at school, and in social interactions with peers.

6. Co-Existing Conditions According to Penny Williams, “it’s estimated that 50 to 60 percent of individuals with ADHD also have one or more coexisting conditions.” These conditions include mood disorders, anxiety, autism, learning disabilities, functioning deficits, and more. As a parent, it is important to keep and eye out for signs of distress in order to fully understand and help your child effectively. 

7. Skill Deficits Skill deficits are very common for those who have ADHD. Because ADHD is a developmental disorder, kids with ADHD may not have fully developed skills on how to manage and regulate their time, frustrations, plans, emotions, problems, etc. However, these skills can be taught improved over time with a little bit of practice and help from the parents.

8. Executive Functioning Deficits Executive functioning skills such as learning how to manage one’s day, organizing, starting tasks, regulating one’s emotions, and managing one’s time may fall apart if one exhibits executive functioning deficits. As a parent it is dire to identify your child’s level of executive functioning and continue to be flexible when it comes to adapting for areas of weakness in the classroom and at home.

9. Time Blindness People with ADHD may have trouble with the concept of time. For example, 30 min. may feel like forever or just a quick second. People with ADHD may not have an innate sense of what it feels like. William notes that you can tell a child that ”you have until the end of class,” or, “You have one hour,” but that will mean virtually nothing to someone with time blindness. 

10. Meltdowns In order to get what they want, children may throw temper tantrums to get their parents attention. Generally, to get what they want, children may have a meltdown or a tantrum. However, a meltdown is different than a tantrum. In detail, during a meltdown your child is no longer in control of what they are saying or doing. Similarly, a meltdown can be triggered by a tantrum, which usually comes first, along with sensory overload, feeling misunderstood nor heard. During this time your child can not go through their actions and rationalize what they have done. At this time, it is important for you as parents to not give in to what they originally wanted: why they through the temper tantrum and had a meltdown in the person. If you give in, then your child will associate meltdowns as a way to achieve what they want every time, essentially reinforcing the tantrums and meltdowns.

11. School Incompatibility Students with ADHD may have a harder time in school because all assignments are not subjected for their needs. Furthermore, Williams states that in school “students must sit still, be quiet, and remain attentive for long periods of time.” However, kids with ADHD may not handle staying still for long periods of time nor does the teacher realize that it is very difficult for these students. These weaknesses and challenges are rarely considered by teachers and parents.  Your child may not be able to make all of your expectations and that is okay, this is when one needs to be flexible. 

12. Pills Don’t Teach Skills There is not one medication that solves everything: there is no magic pill.  Certain medications may affect one physically on the outside (hyper focus or hyperactivity), but on the contrary, the layers beneath one are yet to be cured with one pop of a pill. In order to get past this, as parents, it is essential to pay attention to your child’s self-esteem and work on building it up with them. To do that, you must focus on your child’s inflexibility, intensity, emotional dysregulation, skill deficits, time blindness, etc.

Focus on looking below the surface and deeper into your child’s everyday actions and emotions. This will not only contribute to the growth of you and your child’s relationship, but their well-being and mental health as well. Williams describes that “these hidden layers are all part of ADHD. Together, they form that beautiful but dangerous iceberg. Others might not see them; you must.” 

For more information on ADHD and its symptoms, please contact us. To learn how we can help you or your child who may be struggling with being successful with ADHD, contact us or visit our website. For more information on therapy, visit Hilber Psychological Services. 

To learn how Neurofeedback can help with the “white-knuckling” experience of ADHD, visit San Diego Center for Neurofeedback, APPC or contact us for for more information.

- Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References 

Williams, Penny. “Your Child’s ADHD is an Iceberg.” ADHD Symptoms in Children. ADDitude. Web. 28 Jan. 2019. https://www.additudemag.com/what-is-adhd-symptoms-hidden-parents-educators/

Anxiety and Resilience in Teenage Girls

In the article, “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience,” author Deborah Farmer Kris recounts how rates of anxiety-related disorders in teenage girls have risen. Furthermore, not only can girls get anxious and stressed out easily, but so can any other teenager or adult. This could be because of the environment they are in, denial of their stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, no validation of their emotions, etc. Damour, a psychologist and author of the new book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls," states “some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth.”

Through decades of research and working with adolescent girls and their families, Damour observed that “the anxiety that teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary.” She notes that adults can make a difference by reassuring their child and have an honest conversation with them about their emotions and what is going on in their life that may make them stressed.

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Keep in mind that teenagers brains and bodies are still developing and that change can spur stress. Not only physical or emotional change but also the act of continually switching schools, academic workload is increasing, or social relationships are constantly evolving. With this information, parents should continue to support their child but also let them figure it out on their own. “Teenage girls are particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers –  from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot,” said Damour. The growth that they experience on their own will allow them to develop as a person who can withstand these types of stresses in the future and know how to handle them.

It is best not to avoid the anxiety as a whole, but to call it out and realize that one needs help. In this case, parents should stick to the two words that Damour has found helpful: “stinks” and “handle:”

“‘That really stinks’ is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great.”

Validation and empathy go a long way when it comes to the exact thing that a child wants to hear, that they are being heard and that someone understands what they are going through. If teens realize that some level of stress is inevitable then they can accept it and move on to focus on how they can build in recovery time whether that is by having some downtime or getting more sleep.

Sleep deprivation is one of the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns, Damour said. If your child is getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep then a change needs to be made. Most of the time, teenagers may not be getting enough sleep because they are on their electronics. With the change of turning off social media for the night by putting their device on do not disturb or putting their phone in another room can make all the difference.

Stress and anxiety is part of life. It is not a parents job to get rid of it completely but to help their child get through it by sitting down with them and discussing their feelings. Stress and anxiety do not go away overnight, but with some extra sleep, reflection time, and downtime, teenagers can develop a sense of self on their own and figure it out with some guidance from a parent if needed.

For more information on stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation or how Hilber Psychological Services can help, please contact us and check out Lisa Damour’s book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.”

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Kris, Deborah Farmer. “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience.” Mindshift. Web. 12 Feb. 2019. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/52994/how-to-help-teenage-girls-reframe-anxiety-and-strengthen-resilience

Damour, Lisa. Under Pressure Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0399180052?pf_rd_p=f3acc539-5d5f-49a3-89ea-768a917d5900&pf_rd_r=R1KSEQT2AT89FSXWG6K1