Friday, March 29, 2013
They seem to move from child to young adult almost overnight. Parents of teens frequently find themselves irritated by the things they say and the way they act. You may be trying to make sense of the chaos of adolescence, but it can be a mistake to judge them too quickly.
Here are a few myths about teenagers and how to be sure you dispel them.
My teen doesn’t care about my feelings. The words your teen uses might lead you to feel unloved by him, however, the truth is that he does care about you a great deal. Children from around age 11 and up are going through many changes. Some are physical in nature, but there are also many emotional shifts. Your child is growing up, learning a lot and realizing that at some point he is going to have to live a life apart from you. He is attempting to assert his independence from you and is at times unsure of how to do this appropriately. He will attempt many things, including talking back and disregarding your feelings. Your teen actually cares a great deal about your feelings and is looking for reassurance that it is ok for him to separate from you in some ways. While it may not be acceptable for him to talk to you in a disrespectful way, it’s important to talk to and treat your teen like an adult as much as you can. How do you respond to other adults when they say hurtful things to you?
My teenager is lazy. While some teens have better work ethic than others, the adjective “lazy” is not an accurate description of most teens. When motivated, a teen can do amazing things; even a teen who plays video games for too many hours a day can be inspired to do amazing things. The key term here is motivation. Finding what motivates your teen is important, and may be the only way to get him to get off the couch and help around the house. The best way to motivate a teen is to give him ownership of the project. If you expect him to help keep the house clean, then he needs to feel that he has a vested interest in the home. Letting him have input on where furniture goes, what carpet is picked out or what color the walls are can go further in investing your child in the home than you think. There is nothing wrong with offering incentives for your child to complete tasks, whether monetary or relationship based. However, nagging and hounding your teen will NOT create motivation.
My teen never listens to my advice. Teenagers are going though many changes and are trying to find their identity outside of their parents view. Your teen is most likely listening to you, but greatly wants to gain an independent life. He is afraid that following your advice will lead him to being dependent on you for a long time. Parents of teens have to walk a very thin line between giving advice and telling the child what to do. If your teen is still coming to you for advice, count yourself lucky, because that often stops at some point in the adolescent years too. When your child tells you a story or shares an issue he is facing, do not jump in and tell him how to fix the problem. Step back and just listen, ask questions to clarify and then validate the feelings he might be having about the situation. Once he has finished the story, you can ask him if he wants your advice. He may say no, in which case you thank him for telling you and let him know you are there if he wants to talk about it further. If he says he wants your advice, give it with caution, understanding the best way for him to learn is if he helps to come up with the solution. Because of this, aiding your child through questions can be the most helpful. Once the advice is given, it is his hands. He needs to be given the freedom to choose what he will do with your suggestions.
My teen does not want to spend time with me anymore. While it is very true that as your child gets older he will spend less and less time with you, it is far from the truth that your teen does not want to spend time with you. Most teens have more activities outside of the home as they get older and their interests change drastically, sometimes from one day to the next. The way they talk might even change. All these adjustments mean that you will understand him less and less each day. It is not that he wants to spend less time with you; it is that he perceives there are fewer things he has in common with you. Making an effort to understand the culture and how it changes from day to day can greatly improve the time you spend together because you will have more in common with him. The truth is that he still craves the time he gets to spend with his mom or dad, but realizes often unconsciously that he needs to pull away from you too.
It is too late to build good communication habits in my teen. It is never too late to teach and model healthy communication habits. You may feel that the habits both you and your child have are already ingrained in your mind and will never change, but that simply is not true. It takes small but measurable changes in your behavior to effectively help your teen communicate better. Your teen is likely looking for someone to work to understand him, even if that person never fully can.
Raising a teenager can be a maddening adventure, but it can also be touching. To see the child that was once so little and helpless becoming an adult can be overwhelming. Sometimes parents want to hold onto the little child they once knew. Unfortunately, attempting to hold on by treating the young adult like you did when he was little can cause a great deal of friction between you both. It is a difficult process to communicate with a teenager, but when done with respect and understanding it can be a less frustrating phase.
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Friday, March 22, 2013
Once the initial sticker shock wore off, the cost was reasonable in comparison with other programs, or so I thought until I enrolled my child. The hidden costs added up like a grocery bill. I was totally misled by the sales rep and made a rash decision. Mistake number one: being clueless as to whom you are speaking with when reaching out to these toll-free numbers. This is a common mistake for parents in a desperate situation. A swift sales rep is there waiting for you; meeting questions with the answers you want to hear and making promises that convince you they can help your child.
My true nightmare was just beginning.
Impressed by the fancy words and glossy brochures, I enrolled my child with the understanding that they were qualified to help. I am ashamed to say I never did a background check on these programs. I had called their parent references that they gave me (and later found out they were paid to talk to me, some actually receiving a free month’s tuition). I know many of you are thinking I must have been nuts, and you are right. In this stage of my life, I was at my wit’s end and just wanted help for my child.
Long story short, my frenzy and desperation led to my biggest mistake. I was looking for therapy and internalization through the help of professionals, but what I inadvertently ended up with was more of a teen warehousing program. This was not what they had sold me.
In retrospect, red flags went up shortly after I dropped my child off and I asked who the psychologist would be. Guess what? There was none, unless I wanted to pay extra! So who led the group therapy they raved about? There was no group therapy, there was a person, usually another student, who sat in a circle with them as they reflected. Their psychologist was available for another $100 per visit. But their sales reps had told me that there was a licensed therapist “on staff and on site.” I should have pulled my child then, but I thought I was over-reacting since I was in such a state of confusion and frenzy. The staff was very good at convincing me to “trust the program” instead of addressing my concerns.
My child wrote me letters: some good, some bad. According to the program, the good ones were considered manipulation; the bad ones were considered proof that she needed to stay longer. I couldn’t win and neither could my child.
During my child’s entire stay of almost six months, I was never allowed to speak with her. I only spoke with an employee once a week for 15 minutes (in further research, I discovered these employees had no credentials and many weren’t educated beyond High School, including the President of the organization). I later found out it usually takes up to six months to speak with your child, and in most cases up to a year to see them.
It took me months to realize that I had made a big mistake. In order to visit my child it was mandatory to attend some very bizarre seminars; I wrote my withdrawal letter immediately after the second seminar.
I brought my child home suffering from depression and nightmares from her time in a WWASPS program, and fear of being sent back had created suicidal thoughts. My child went immediately into real counseling where, after almost two years, an excellent psychologist helped us recover from this horrible, traumatic post-WWASP experience. When my child felt confident that I wouldn’t send her back, I heard some unspeakable stories. I have also heard similar stories from many other post-WWASP aka WWASPS students and families suffering from the same post traumatic symptoms. Through this experience I have developed the opinion that fraud and misrepresentation, combined with a vulnerable parent, can lead to danger for a child. I believe in sharing my knowledge of this (very political) industry with as many families as possible.
So who am I? I am a parent that refused to be silenced. In 2001 I posted my story of what we endured. How my child was abused, how I was duped, and how they (in my opinion) continue to dupe others. WWASPS decided to sue me to have my story removed from the Internet. It went to a jury trial, and I won with truth as my defense. My story is here and is also published in Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (Health Communications, Inc). I have continued to help families through my organization founded from our experiences, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc (P.U.R.E.)
As of March 2013, it is believed that WWASP aka WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems has affiliations with the following, click here.
If you are one of the many parents struggling with their teenagers — good kids making bad choices — you are not alone. If you are in need of teen help, residential therapy is an excellent resource. In reality there are many more good programs than there are not so good; the key is to do your homework. I created a list of tips and questions to ask schools and programs before enrolling your child, as well as other valuable information. Be an educated parent and you will have safer and healthier teens. So ditch your denial and get proactive! Your child deserves a chance at a bright future.
Learn from my mistakes, gain from my knowledge…..
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
While teens may initially balk at the idea of agreeing to implement a contract with their parents, getting all of your mutual rights, responsibilities and expectations on paper can make a big difference in the way that you communicate with one another.
The effectiveness of a well-written contract is one of the many reasons why written agreements dictate so much in terms of professional behavior, a concept that can be applied directly to you and your teen.
These are 10 of the things that you should include in your own parent-teen contract, so that there are no disputes borne of misunderstanding or miscommunication.
- Driving Privileges – Driving is a rite of passage, an undeniable sign to both your teen and yourself that she’s starting to grow up. Handing over those keys doesn’t mean that you’re giving her free reign to do as she pleases, though. Making sure that your teen understands driving her car is a privilege that can be taken away, rather than an unassailable right, can motivate her to behave accordingly. Outlining things like curfew, safe driving responsibilities and the financial responsibilities of driving can help your teen understand just how big of a step driving really is.
- Cell Phone Use – Today’s cell phone plans are a bit more flexible than the exorbitant fee charges for any calls made during peak times a decade ago, but they can still be quite expensive. In an era that sees every teen with a cell phone, laying a strong foundation regarding the proper etiquette of cell phone use, the importance of never using a cell phone as a tool for bullying and the repercussions of texting and driving is important.
- Staying Home Alone – Your teen will inevitably decide that she’s too old for childcare or babysitters during the period between her return from school and your arrival from work. Covering what is and is not considered acceptable behavior when she’s home alone in a section of the parent-teen contract clearly communicates these things to her.
- Unsupervised Visits with Friends – No matter how much you’d like to be watching over your teen every moment of the day, the truth is that you just can’t. When it’s time to trust her with unsupervised outings with her friends, knowing that you’ve discussed the matter at length and covered it in your contract can help give you some peace of mind.
- Dating – Few things strike fear in the heart of a parent like the idea of their teen dating. Unfortunately, it’s also an unavoidable fact of life as a parent. Making sure that your child knows what’s expected of her when she’s dating in terms of curfew, supervision and the likes can make the transition a bit easier for everyone involved.
- Computer and Internet Usage – The Internet is a powerful learning and research tool for teens, but it can also be a very dangerous place for them. Making sure that your teen knows how to avoid online predators, bullies and other dangers is important, but so is limiting the amount of time she spends connected to a screen. Working out a reasonable Internet and computer usage policy can help to maintain peace in your home, as well as discourage constant connectivity.
- Television Use – Limiting screen time is as important for teens as it is for younger children, even if it is more challenging to enforce. Encouraging active pursuits and hobbies that get your teen moving will not only impact her physical wellbeing, but also help instill good habits in terms of television use as an adult.
- Earning and Spending – Teens have expensive taste, a fact that parents know all too well. Outlining how your teen will earn spending money, how much of her income should be set aside for expenses and different saving methods are all important parts of teaching financial responsibility.
- Chores – Making your teen responsible for helping with the daily running of the household can give her an idea of just how much work goes into keeping up a home and the importance of contributing fairly. Covering those chores in the parenting contract can also prevent arguments later, as it serves as a black-and-white reference when disputes arise.
- House Rules – Every household has its own rules to follow, and they should be spelled out clearly for your teen in her contract. When she knows exactly what’s expected of her and what isn’t allowed, she’ll be better able to navigate the area between them with confidence.
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