Working With Teens and Parents

The bulk of my clinical work and experience has been with teens. From leading retreats, to sitting with incarcerated youth in court ordered family therapy sessions, to teaching high school students about leadership and character development, I have a special place in my heart for teens and their unique struggles.

Dear Teens—do you ever find yourself sad or angry for no apparent reason? Do you have negative thoughts about yourself or others that you find hard to control? Do you sometimes “act out” with your parents or other adults? Do you ever feel hopeless about your life? Do you feel intense pressure to succeed and stay ahead of your peers by keeping a perfect GPA, being the stand out athlete, and participating in a million extracurricular activities? Are you sleep-deprived and exhausted all the time? Are you quietly struggling with depression or anxiety?

Dear Parents—the teenage years can be a truly turbulent time. More than ever teens are being asked to grow up very quickly by the world around them, often before they are emotionally mature and ready. Add to this the internal and external pressure teens experience to be the best and exceed at a multitude of extracurricular activities in order to get ahead of their peers—most especially true here in Silicon Valley—and you have a pressure cooker, even a recipe for disaster. Teens can’t navigate these difficulties by themselves and shouldn’t have to.

Many parents are also unaware of what’s happening with their teen because so much of their lives are spent online and away from the eyes of parents. Your teen could be experiencing something very difficult, without you even knowing about it. To add to that, teens don’t always know how to ask for the support that they so need and crave, so their needs often show up as behaviors and attitudes. Talking back, yelling, name calling, negativity, defiance, moodiness, arguing, withdrawing, lying, pushing limits, getting in trouble at school, hanging out with friends you don’t approve of—do any of these sound familiar? Your teen could also be struggling with depression or anxiety. Many teens I’ve worked with over the years have shared with me that they’ve become very adept at hiding what’s really going on with them internally, for fear of being judged by their peers or due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.

It’s important that adults look for the clues and cues that their teens are giving. This can be very difficult for parents and hard to understand. However, teens truly appreciate it when parents reach out for more connection with them. In other words, your teen actually wants to connect with you. And even if they may be driving you nuts right now, I’m sure deep down you want to feel more connected to them as well.

My work can help teens and parents bridge the gaps of disconnection and learn more effective, fun ways to communicate and strengthen the parent-child relationship.