Let’s Get Intentional This Holiday Season!

No matter what you are going through this holiday season, and no matter where you fall on the spectrum of stress and ease, setting intentions can be a powerful practice.

Join me in setting intentions for a peaceful, joyful, and loving holiday season!

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It’s mid-November, and Thanksgiving is almost here! The end of the semester is quickly descending upon our tweens and teens, and winter holidays and the New Year are just around the corner.

 

This time of year can bring up a great deal of stress, overwhelm, overcommitment, and exhaustion. Yet, it can also be a time of deep connection, presence, love, and joy.

 

While talking with a client last week, she shared that this time of year is typically a race to the finish line for her. She described that there’s a constant need to DO, and that being able to relax into the present moment feels challenging, and often inaccessible. This mother rattled off her running to-do list. While sharing this, my client acknowledged that the list helps her stay organized, but it also weighs on her and stresses her out.

 

This experience is not unfamiliar to me. As an organizer, planner, and initiator in my family life and personal life, I know to-do lists and future-planning well. I’m also privy to the impulse to DO, DO, DO, which makes it challenging to just BE. This is an aspect of my life that I nurture with meditation, writing, and boundaries on a daily basis.

 

Can you relate?

 

I certainly don’t want to diminish the ways that this time of year can be sacred, special, and moving. I know that despite the perceived or created busyness of it all, the holiday season can be a time of tradition, coming together, joy, and connection.

 

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In fact, this is what I want more of! This is what I hear parents needing to create for themselves and their families! This is where we can put more of our energy.

 

No matter what you are going through this holiday season, and no matter where you fall on the spectrum of stress and ease, setting intentions can be a powerful practice.

 

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Yesterday was Day 1 in my Intention-Setting for the Holidays challenge! While planning this challenge, I felt really in flow with life, with what parents are asking for, and with what I personally need.

 

It’s not too late to hop into the challenge, so please join me!

 

This 5-day challenge is a guided process that supports parents in visualizing and naming their ideal– peaceful, joyful, and loving– holiday season. It incorporates powerful meditations that can be used daily throughout the next few months (and beyond). You will also have access to self-reflection tools that support you in balancing your energy, especially when it comes to giving and receiving.

 

By days 4 and 5 you will develop clear intentions that will anchor and ground you. These will guide and support you in the coming months, as you manifest the peace, joy, and love you want and need in your family life. As the challenge facilitator, I offer one-on-one support and feedback as you engage in this reflection and manifestation process.

 

Are you in?

 

Here’s a preview of the Day 1 content to get you started:

Congratulations on giving yourself the time and space to reflect, imagine, and manifest the holiday season you need and deserve. This 5-day intention-setting process is a gentle commitment to yourself– a commitment to growing peace and ease in your life.

Today we will start with self-reflection and curiosity. This exploration becomes the foundation of what we visualize, what we intend, and ultimately what we create. So, I invite you to slow down and take your time on today’s activity.

Print the attached document. Using words and/or doodles and drawings, get curious about what a peaceful, joyful, and loving holiday season means to you. (If one of these words resonates most strongly with you, consider focusing strictly on that one.)

What does a peaceful, joyful, and loving holiday LOOK like, SOUND like, and FEEL like?

Join us in the group to share and process in community.

 

Talking Sticks and Sharing Circles

“I decided to bring the idea of the Sharing Circle into our family – as a way to share what is on our minds, to solve problems and to come to decisions.

In order for everyone to have equal opportunity in being heard, I felt we would all need representation on our Talking Stick.”

Guest contributor Alana Chernecki helps busy moms and educators create inspiring spaces for kids to live, learn, play and grow. As a former elementary school teacher and now mom of three young girls, she designs from an educator’s perspective, in order to foster creativity, independence, responsibility and joyful play. You can find out more about her work here: https://brillantedesign.ca/ and https://www.facebook.com/brillante.design/

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Does your family have meetings?

When I was a teacher, we began every Monday morning with a class meeting.

The format was a Sharing Circle.

Each child had the opportunity to share their voice in the circle, without interruption, anything that was on their mind.

They shared stories about their weekend, stories of adventure, friendships and heartache. It was an opportunity for me – and their friends – to know these children more deeply, and what was happening in their lives.

A sharing circle is considered traditional practice in some Indigenous communities, and are designed to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to share their opinions and ideas.

Each child had the opportunity to have a voice and express their feelings – without judgement or interruption – when it is their turn.

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In a Sharing Circle, only the child holding the talking stick (a special tool that gives us the “courage to speak the truth and the power to speak from the heart”) is allowed to speak.  

I decided to bring the idea of the Sharing Circle into our family – as a way to share what is on our minds, to solve problems and to come to decisions.

In order for everyone to have equal opportunity in being heard, I felt we would all need representation on our Talking Stick.  

 

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Each member of the family chose a specific colour of yarn, and we took turns wrapping our yarn around the stick.

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In this way, each of us felt a sense of contribution, responsibility and ownership within the Circle.

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We use the Sharing Circle as a way to talk about family values, problems and disagreements, and as a way to work through these to come up with collaborative solutions.

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The girls had been struggling with getting along. There was fighting, hitting, hurtful words… I decided it was time to talk about how we show kindness as a family.

This is an example of the “Y Chart” we created on kindness. I asked the girls – “What is kindness? What does it look like? Feel like? Sound like?”

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They took turns sharing:

“Tickling”

“Gentle hands”

“Hugs

“Kisses”

“Playing”

After our sharing circle, the girls wrote {and illustrated} their ideas about kindness. We practiced kindness. For the next few days, I made a solid effort to notice kindness. We shared acts of kindness at dinner time, and I did a happy dance every time I witnessed kindness at home.

 

How do YOU have discussions as a family? What are your favourite ways to hear about what is on your child’s mind? How do you work through problems together? Please share your strategies below, I would LOVE to hear!

Reinvigorate Communication in Your Family with “Circles!”

Families are dynamic, ever-changing, and encompass a wide range of perspectives and preferences. Restorative Practices, a co-created system for family-community-building and conflict management, can be powerful, healing tools for appreciating family dynamics.

Today, I share the “Family-Building Circle 101” with you!

As November rapidly approaches, opportunities for connecting with family, practicing gratitude, and gathering abound. During the holiday season, both parents and children may be prone to overwhelm and stress. There’s so much going on! In today’s article, I share a truly transformational tool for communicating within your family. Not only can it be used as a way of having fun family conversation or processing tensions, it can also be used during extended family reunions or at holiday events. I’m also excited to share this tool after all the work you’ve been doing to support your tween/teen through the tough stuff! This will be another way to support the relationship-building work you’ve been focused on. ❤

 

Have you ever had a miscommunication between family members that evolved into a yelling match? Have you said something that another family member was hurt by?  Have you ever walked away from a family conversation with tears in your eyes because you didn’t feel heard?

Families are dynamic, ever-changing, and encompass a wide range of perspectives and preferences. Restorative Practices, a co-created system for family-community-building and conflict management, can be powerful, healing tools for families.

 

The fundamental unifying hypothesis of restorative practices is disarmingly simple: that human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”

International Institute for Restorative Practices

 

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Restorative Practices are tangible and recyclable tools that families can use to create open communication and increase bonds. They can be used to build upon and renew a strong, loving foundation of community within the home.

When “harms” or “hurts” come up (like the ones in the first paragraph, which we’ve likely all experienced at one time or another), the family has a go-to, comfortable method to turn to for conflict management. As a Child-Centered Coach for Teens and Parents, I share Restorative Practices, a.k.a. “Circles,” with families of school-aged children; I guide them in building and facilitating productive family circles.

Today, I share the “Family-Building Circle 101” with you:

 

Core Elements Circle + The Philosophy of the Circle:

Circle- A circle quite literally promotes connectedness, as there is no end and no beginning. In a circle, we can see everyone equally. If we all sit in chairs, or all sit on the floor, we sit at the same level, which is symbolic of shared and equal power. Children and teens are most often seated while adults or authority figures (at home, school, or in the community) stand, asserting authority. Thus, sitting at the same level represents that all family members are worthy of the same respect and have the same opportunity to express themselves. “Circle” is also the name of the intentional conversation-based activity we engage in while sitting in a circle. i.e. “We had a circle about our favorite hobbies.”

 

Talking Piece- One object (that can be handled safely and easily) is designated as the talking piece for each circle. This object indicates that only one person will talk at a time, and, equally importantly, everyone else will actively listen. Everyone in the circle has the right to pass, but the talking piece will always travel the circle in order. Thus, if you have a response to the first person that spoke, you wait until the talking piece is passed to you. Talking pieces may be symbolic of the family and their unique interests; for example, a family that plays tennis may use a tennis ball. A talking piece may also align with the topic of a specific circle; for example, a circle about hobbies might incorporate a beautiful rock that was collected on a family hike. Child-selected (or created!) talking pieces are also a great opportunity for promoting your child’s sense of agency, or power to contribute, in the family. They might like to select a favorite toy, a comfort item, or a favorite book to share with the family. The options are endless and open to your creativity!

 

Rounds This is the name of one pass around the circle. Family building circles are often pre-planned and centered on one topic; in this case, all “rounds” will be centered on the topic. In the instance of a conflict resolution circle, a series of reparative questions guide the family through naming the “harm” that has been felt and, most importantly, making a plan for repairing or rebuilding. (E-mail me for examples of these questions.) The talking piece helps regulate the round, offering each person equal opportunity to listen and speak.

 

Values-  It is important to understand what each member of the family circle values. We use these values to guide and inform how we will engage with one another during the circle process (and moving forward from the circle). Values allow each family member to identify what they hold dear, what they need, and what is important to them in order to feel safe.

 

Facilitator- While all members of the family will be participants in the circle, one member may be the facilitator of a particular circle. This person will read the prompt or question for each round. They may also be the person that planned the circle ahead of time. Facilitation opens the opportunity for children to lead their family into important conversation.

 

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As you begin using circles often, perhaps even on a weekly basis on a designated day, with the intention of building family community, you and your family will develop a strong sense of trust, communication, and openness. Thus, when conflict arises, and you want to come to circle to resolve it, you already have a strong foundation and positive emotional history to build from. E-mail me for a free template and model for a family building circle to get started today!

 

STAY TUNED to the blog because next week, I have an incredible guest for you.

She’ll be sharing all about talking sticks, special, intentional talking pieces you can create and use in circles.

Talking to Teenagers… About Having Fun!

This week, we make space for some of the lighter things in life. It’s time to talk about being playful and having fun!

In my work with parents, I use a three-pronged focus on self-care, communication, and child-centered action. Each of these elements deserves, in fact, depends on, joy… YOU and your teenager deserve to have fun and to play.

It’s been six intense weeks of processing some of the tough topics we are responsible for talking to teenagers about. This series has been a journey so far! And while there are no exact answers, no “right” ways to have these conversations, there are strategies that help cultivate connection and trust.

You are doing great! Wherever you are in this process, you are growing, learning, and practicing. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for this. ❤

 

This week, we make space for some of the lighter things in life. It’s time to talk about being playful and having fun!

 

In my work with parents, I use a three-pronged focus on self-care, communication, and child-centered action. Each of these elements deserves, in fact, depends on, joy… YOU and your teenager deserve to have fun and to play. Laughing and smiling are self-care; literally, laughter is good for your health! Laughing and smiling bring connection, which increases communication. Keeping your child at the center of your life in a sustainable way requires playfulness and lightheartedness.

All of the dialogue you are having with your teen… it can’t be just about the heavy, potentially more stressful stuff. Making time to talk about fun is valuable and important. Between the various stresses our teens face– standardized tests, chores, part-time jobs, social media, extracurriculars, friends, etc.– play and freedom can get lost.

 

This is an invitation to slow down, chill out, and laugh a little (or a lot!).

 

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Parents, you come to me wanting to work on the uncomfortable and scary stuff, but it’s also my job to remind you of the silly, light-hearted stuff… As you positive energy and joy into your lives, I witness you growing the transformations you want and need. Thus, my 4 Go-To Tips for Talking to Your Teenager About Fun:

1. Have fun of your own, and talk about it! Self-care and modeling are crucial to sustaining your work as a parent. Schedule and commit to at least 1-2 outings a week. These can be individual or social depending on your needs and energy. I suggest coffee dates, phone calls, exercise meetups, book clubs, or anything else that brings you JOY. Focus on quality, not quantity. Beware of overbooking yourself or stretching yourself thin by saying yes to opportunities that don’t align with your needs. Instead, discern… ask yourself: Which opportunities for connection feel the most healing, fun, and life-giving? Prioritize these.

2. Explore what fun looks like, sounds like, and feels like with your teenager. Naming is powerful! Identify and name how you experience fun. With this awareness, you can acknowledge the ways you are already experiencing fun AND intentionally make space for more of it. I recommend exploring this topic with your teen. You and your teen can create your own representation– in words and/or images—of what fun is. (Ask me for the chart I use for this practice.) As you work, or at the end, share and compare. Give your teen compliments such as, “I love how you describe that fun feels like freedom. I agree!” Dig a little deeper with statements such as, “I’m interested in hearing more about freedom. When have you felt this sense of freedom? Can you describe this experience for me?” This activity creates a foundation for your teen to turn to when their desire to take risks or act impulsively is firing; they have already done critical thinking and reflection that can set them up for making healthy, safe, AND fun choices, especially when followed up by tip #3.

3. Invite your teen to create their own outlets for fun. Teens constantly explore their place and power in the world. They want to have a say in their lives. To support this process, encourage them to craft the fun and excitement they want in their life. Once you’ve created the chart together, you have this language to use as leverage. Ask, “What can you plan this week to add laughter to your life?” or “What are you doing this week that incorporates the friends you mentioned spending time with?” When you can, open your home or energy to your teen; help them bring this fun to fruition. Say “yes” when your teen has an ask or request for creating joy (unless it’s way out of range in regards to practicality or safety).

4. Create opportunities to laugh together. Make time and space to be silly, playful, or curious with your teen. This helps them understand that you, too, value fun, which translates to a level of support for your teen. Moreover, this creates opportunities for connection, and this is the space in which trust is built. Check out my list of 25 ways to connect with your tween/teen. Pick a few opportunities to create fun together, and put the dates on your calendar. Make this exercise a ritual that you return to as a family.

 
I’m so proud of you for being on this journey of parenting with intention. You are doing a wonderful job, and you are not alone. I invite you to have some serious fun in your lives this week, and let me know how it goes! What shifts do you notice after making time to play? How does this fun impact the more serious moments of connection between you and your teen?

Talking to Teenagers… About Mental Health

The stories of my students and clients often mirror my own experiences as a teenager, and I’m confident that continued conversation is crucial to healing and the end of stigmatization on an individual and societal level. Dialogue about mental health deserves space, awareness, and safety. Use these strategies to support conversation about mental health with your teen.

While working with teens, and digging deep into personal development, I’ve spent many hours reflecting upon my own mental health during my teenage years. It was at 15 that I started to notice my need for alone time, my struggle to be in large groups or crowded spaces. At 16, I started seeing a therapist and worked closely with teachers that I trusted. Still, I had a difficult time being honest with my parents, and I secretly stayed up until the wee hours of the morning obsessing about homework or talking on the phone with my boyfriend. The cycle of achievement and anxiety became my MO, and asking for help didn’t feel like an option.

During high school and into college, I faced intermittent depression, anxiety, and loneliness on and off. While I had a foundation of support from family, friends, and professionals, I didn’t feel empowered to talk about my challenges, needs, or preferences until my mid-20s.

 

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As a high school teacher during the last decade, I observed an escalation in the number of students who described themselves as “anxious,” “depressed,” “alone,” and “socially anxious.” I’m grateful that students are finding– perhaps through the internet– resources to name their experiences and sensations, but I’m still concerned about the stigmas they face because of these labels. Furthermore, teenagers might be facing more pressure to perform than ever before.

 

This is my inspiration for leaving the classroom; I left in pursuit of providing the support I heard my students asking for, the same support I needed as a teen.

 

The stories of my students and clients often mirror my own experiences as a teenager, and I’m confident that continued conversation is crucial to healing and the end of stigmatization on an individual and societal level.

 

Many parents come to me with concerns about their teens’ mental and emotional well-being. Dialogue about mental health deserves space, awareness, and safety. Use these strategies to support conversation about mental health with your teen:

 

  1. Teach your teen how to ask for help. Encourage your child to ask for help when they notice that there is a problem they can’t solve alone. Teach them that they never have to be “stuck” solving something alone. Remind them of the many layers of support they can access– family, school, professional, friends. Self-advocacy is a great superpower, and this skill is a pathway to empowerment. Teach that asking for help can be as simple as writing a note to a teacher, “I need to talk after class,” or texting you on tough days, “I need extra love and relaxation at home tonight.”

 

  1. Use compassionate, supportive language. Do your best not to label people in the media (real or fictional) as “crazy” or “insane.” It’s important to steer clear of dehumanizing language and vocabulary that adds judgment to mental illness. Speak with compassion and kindness about others in the face of their challenges, limitations, and illnesses.

 

  1. Look for signs, but not with a magnifying glass. Familiarize yourself with “red flags” or signs to be aware of. Read up on teen mental health, especially anxiety and depression. Yet, stay calm and don’t hunt for signs or signals.

 

  1. Give attention and love to the “gems” too! Be sure to affirm that aspects of your child’s life that are strong, steady, and life-giving. The “gems” are the gifts, unique skills, and strengths that your child possesses.

 

  1. If signs emerge, approach your teen with curiosity. Just as it’s important to avoid judging others in our modeling, it’s important to approach your teen gently, kindly, and with a sense of openness. Use questions, rather than statements. Ask open-ended questions like the following: “How are you managing the pressure of high school?” “What is feeling impossible about being a teenager right now?” “What parts of being in middle school feel peaceful and supportive?” Give your teen space to share their experience, rather than labeling it for them. Remember, this kind of conversation may take several attempts and invitations before your teen opens up You may also consider using “I statements” to own your feelings and concerns. Consider the following: “I feel worried about the number of hours you are spending at your computer. How is that feeling for you?”

 

  1. Listen to your child’s needs AND validate them. As your child shares or asks for help, remember to listen. Take deep breaths, let them take up space, and refrain from immediately giving advice or jumping to conclusions.

 

  1. Address personal limits and preferences. Give your teen/tween the opportunity to explore and name their needs, likes, and dislikes. Consider taking a Myers Briggs-type personality test with them; make conversation about how this self-knowledge can help your child make choices and set limits that serve their needs.

 

  1. Create a rich support network and review it regularly. Surround yourself, as the adult, with a support system of friends, family, professionals, coaches, etc. Likewise, encourage your teen to build relationships with their school counselor, teachers, coaches, friends, etc. Consider creating a support system map together. E-mail me for a printable PDF.

 

  1. Talk about emotions regularly. Address the full range of emotions that we all face as humans– from great joy to deep sadness to enraged anger. Ask your teen where they notice anxiety in their body. Ask them what signals they feel in their body when they feel depression take over. Use this language with more temporary emotions, such as surprise or excitement as well, encouraging awareness of the body-mind connection.

 

  1. Address being a support and resource for others. Let your teen know that they can be a part of others’ support networks. They can also be aware of “red flags” in their friends’ behavior, and they can help friends ask for help.

 

Stigmatization of challenges such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness contribute to isolation, which only grows illness. Huge numbers of teenagers face mental health challenges, and as parents and supporters, we have the capacity to treat mental health “challenges” with greater acceptance, love, and compassion! Through intentional dialogue, teens and tweens will have a deeper understanding that health includes mental, emotional, and social aspects, not just physical. With recognition and acceptance, healing will come.

 

As always, the goal is continued communication–dialogue. Revisit this topic often, keep communication open, remind your teen that you are there when they need help, and research together as new challenges or developments come up. Please reach out to me for support for having these conversations and ensuring that your teen’s needs are being met.

Talking to Teenagers… About Substance Use

As teens navigate this impressionable time, it’s important that parents provide boundaries, especially surrounding substance use. This is an invitation to help your teen/tween establish a container that allows exploration within healthy, empowered bounds.

Drugs, nicotine, and alcohol often come into the awareness of children as they hit the tween and teen years. For parents, a great deal of fear and a desire to grasp tighter and keep your teen safe (under lock and key) might emerge. A vision of your own teenage years might flash before your eyes, bringing discomfort, guilt, or regret.

 

Just sit with this. Do your best to accept yourself– your present self and your inner child. Let whatever sensations come up be. And breathe.

 

When I think back to my teenage years, there are moments that make me cringe. The first one that comes to mind is a drunken night at a high school party. I had lied to my parents about where I was going and ended up drinking. Next thing I knew, I was crying over my on-again, off-again boyfriend… and hiding in the backyard. I knew that driving home and escaping the relationship drama wasn’t an option, but I was too embarrassed to ask friends for support. I ended up calling my dad, sobbing, asking for help. Can you relate? Embarrassment or shame over a similar experience from your own life experience or your life as a parent might come up as your reading. Remember to breathe, be, accept.

Building upon last week’s conversation about boundaries (LINK), we will explore the power of clear expectations and structure, especially in the context of substance use.

I often refer to the “teenage brain;” this developmental stage comes with the intense desire to fit in with peers, establish independent identity, and a tendency towards testing limits. Substances are a common way that young people experiment with risks.

As youth navigate this impressionable time, it’s important that parents provide boundaries. This is not to suggest micro-management, rather, it’s an invitation to help your teen/tween establish a container that allows for empowered exploration.

 

The ultimate goal is for your teens to regulate their own behavior, but as they develop these skills, they need your guidance:

“The purpose of parental discipline during adolescence is not for parents to manage the teenager’s life; rather, it is to teach the teenager sufficient self-discipline to ultimately be able to independently and responsibly manage themselves.” Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D., Psychology Today

 

Keeping this long-term goal of self-discipline in mind, parents can create intentional dialogue about expectations, structure, and substance using these strategies:

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1. Create a safe environment for authenticity. Be clear and state that the conversation will be about substances, but explain to your teen that they are not in trouble. Prepare yourself for this conversation. Acknowledge that it will likely bring up emotions and possibly differences in opinion. Consider how you will express and manage your feelings– and your teen’s! Know that when you build safety and trust, your teen might share something that catches you off guard or stirs up emotions, and you might go through another layer of processing your own history. Keep faith in the process, knowing that the goal of the conversation is to help your children learn boundaries as they continue to grow.

 

2. Focus on safety. Let your child’s well-being be the foundation for conversations about substances. State that this is your goal! (And your job, as a parent.) You might say, “This topic feels really important to me because I care about you being happy, healthy, and safe.” Also use this idea of safety to help yourself stay grounded and compassionate during the conversation.

 

3. By now, your adolescent children already know your opinion. But… they might not know your philosophy! After more than a decade of growing up with you, your children likely know your preferences, judgments, and opinions about most things. It can be meaningful to briefly share your emotions and worries, but you leave your opinions aside. You might ask, “What do you believe my opinions about drug and alcohol use are?” Furthermore, consider sharing your philosophy for this conversation. For example, it might be “to help you have all the information you need in order to make decisions that help you grow and bring you joy.” Express this.

 

4. Be direct, yet open, in sharing your expectations. Share your expectations surrounding drugs, nicotine, and alcohol in direct, concise language. What boundaries do you expect them to hold? Encourage your teen to check in with their inner voice as they navigate their journey toward independence– to stay true to themselves. Explore the importance of practicing self-monitoring and behaving with intention.

 

5. Self-disclose what feels relevant and right. If your teen asks about your experiences with substances, choose to share what feels authentic and comfortable to you. There is no pressure to share every detail. If you share some of your process (without glamorizing it), you provide a model for your teen to think through their own actions. You also put yourself in the position of relating and understanding, which contributes to trust and connection in the relationship.

 

6. Encourage your teen to ask for help. Address instances in which your teen struggles to meet the expectation of avoiding substances. What do they do now? Create a plan together– one that focuses on safety, not punishment. For example, “If you or a friend end up intoxicated, call me for a ride, rather than getting behind the wheel.” This is also a great time to talk about how your child can support a friend who is experimenting with drugs or alcohol. When I called my dad sobbing and clearly intoxicated, he came to pick me up, heard me out about my heartbreak on the drive home, and took me to get my car the next day– which also entailed a conversation about boundaries. I’m grateful that instead of testing my limits even further and getting behind the wheel, I knew that I could call my dad for support.

 

7. Research and learn together. Explore the positive aspects of not using drugs or alcohol as you engage in this dialogue. Spend time researching the potential harms (including addiction), but also give weight to the benefits of living substance-free.

 

8. If you suspect that your teen has a problem with substance use, focus on behavior. Describe what you’re observing, without labeling or accusing. For example, “I’ve noticed that you are more irritable on the weekends, and you’re missing curfew more regularly. I’d like to talk about this.” Allow your teen the time and space to respond. Consider asking, “What kind of support do you need right now?” Additionally, seek resources through a counselor, drug-treatment center, or specialist if you suspect regular use or addiction.

 

9. Keep the dialogue running. This topic will be recirculated, reconsidered, and reevaluated regularly. Keep the communication lines open. Assure your teen that they can come to you anytime, but also that you will check in with them regularly (and do that– set reminders for every few months on your calendar now).

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This topic, like most of the big, tough ones, doesn’t come with straightforward answers, but trust yourself and the process of dialogue. Clear expectations and structures will help you provide your child with all the love, support, and guidance they need to thrive.

 

Talking to Teenagers… About Romantic Relationships

Uh oh, did this title cause you to tense up a bit in your chest? Did your shoulders creep up towards your ears? And… did you have a strong desire to keep reading?

You are not alone. Keep reading for 7 ways to talk to teenagers about boundaries and romantic relationships.

Uh oh, did this title cause you to tense up a bit in your chest? Did your shoulders creep up towards your ears? And… did you have a strong desire to keep reading?

You are not alone.

This is a tough topic! Parents often share that it is difficult to find the balance between being overly protective and lackadaisical when it comes to responding to their teen’s romantic lives. They are worried sick about the harm their child might face.

There is actual data that may elevate fear– abuse, pregnancy, and STDs– but open, honest, and supportive dialogue can help you get out of fear and into trust.

In this article, part four in my “Talking to Teenagers” series, I use BOUNDARIES as my focal point. I like to think about boundaries as a safe container for oneself– emotionally, physically, psychically and so on. Another metaphor I have heard is that boundaries are like the banks of a river; they meander and change, but they hold the flowing water.

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I invite you to create open, honest dialogue with your teens and tweens about their romantic lives. Consider using boundaries as a point of entry. Please know that you might receive a shoulder shrug in response to your efforts for the first several attempts, but keep gently engaging. Here are 7 ways to talk to teenagers about boundaries and romantic relationships:

1. Help your teen observe sensations. Talk about the ways that everyone experiences sensations in body mind, and spirit when we are with other people, or even when we are alone. There is great power in this deep self-awareness. It’s through emotional intelligence that teens will be able to determine their boundaries in relation to romantic interests and opportunities. Ask, “How do you feel in your body when you are with _____” (Ask about family and friends first, and after the foundation is built, ask about love interests too.) Likewise, ask about their minds and spirits, if that resonates with you. It’s helpful to use lists of sensations/emotions/feelings to ]aid this exploration.

2. From the foundation of sensation, ask “What next?” Given the sensations or feelings your teens name, you might ask, “What do you think this means you need?” or “What do you think this means about the relationship?” This is where the boundaries and shaping of the river bed begin to come in. Do your best not to coach your child, but to let them take up space. Even if their answer isn’t your favorite, give them time to explore, figure out their preferences and needs, and take initiative in setting their own limits. (As always, if there is danger or abuse involved, that is a time to intervene.) Teach your teen to check in with their love interest and their sensations too; it’s important to explicitly address consent for both parties.

3. Discuss the philosophy “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Remind your teen to constantly check in with themselves. When their interest is peaked by a new crush, when they are asked on a date, when they decide they want to kiss someone, when they are asked to be someone’s partner, when they consider sexting someone, when they are asked to have sex, etc…. they will make the most empowered choice when they pause to ask, “What does my truest self need?” Acknowledging sensations and getting in touch with their inner voice is a strong defense against external pressure. Plainly talking about the importance of feeling safe, secure, peaceful, and trusting (self and other) in a relationship builds healthy boundaries as well. Are there experiences you can share with your child? What did your truest self need, and what actions did you take in response? Your teen will also come to realize that their romantic partner also has to be true to themselves, so keep that as part of the dialogue too.

4. Always keep your child’s WHOLE life a part of the conversation. Because the teenage brain is so impressionable, they can become overly enthusiastic about a new love interest. It’s helpful to give your child perspective, to remind them of everything they hold near and dear– their futures, their friends, their academics, their extracurriculars, etc.– while not minimizing the intensity of their feelings. Consider using heart maps (e-mail mee for this activity) as a foundation for this dialogue about the many important parts of their identity.

5. Encourage curiosity about what a quality romantic relationship looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Whether or not your child is in a relationship or has a love interest, invite them to explore what a safe, healthy, comfortable, and fun relationship would be like for them. (This can also be done with friends, too!) Curiosity is powerful; imagining possibility is freeing and helps teens name their needs, desires, and boundaries. This is also an opportunity to normalize the imperfect nature of relationships (i.e. it’s not always love-at-first-sight, relationships can come and go, conflicts or disagreements are normal– within reason). Click here for a free chart to anchor this conversation!

6. Normalize direct communication. Through each of these steps, you are in dialogue with your teen. Likewise, they need to be in conversation with their love interest, constantly checking in with boundaries. For example, when conflicts or disagreements come up, it’s your teen’s right to communicate: “My feelings were hurt when you______. I need you to ______.” Likewise, they may need to check in with their interest, “What caused you hurt? What are your needs?”

7. Educate about abuse and resources. Share trusted resources for support with your child. Let them know that in addition to talking to you, they can go to resources you have explored and feel comfortable with. Also, be willing to research resources together; this will increase your teen’s engagement, as well as eliminate a power dynamic of parent as expert, teen as novice. Be direct in naming the range of abusive behaviors that are red flags. These are where firm boundaries should be drawn, and it’s helpful to be direct, yet open, when approaching these topics.

Remember, a shoulder shrug today, might be an open conversation tomorrow, so keep showing your teen that you accept and receive them. This topic may be tough, but so is your love for your teen! ❤