Part 2 of an article about combating teen suicide. Includes information about the shortage of mental health clinicians, as well as looking at systemic issues which can help combat the rate of teen death. Thanks for listening!
First Part of an article titled Winning When We Do Not Want to Play: Combating Teen Suicide. Discusses signs and symptoms of depression, as well as the current epidemic of teens thinking about or acting on thoughts of suicide. Discusses suicidal ideation and begins to discuss the shortage of mental health therapists. thanks for listening
A Podcast about believing in others in establish trust in leadership. Listen to hear about how these traits can be helpful in leadership situations, including a couple of stories from Europe in 1990 and Graduate school in 1995
When my kids were about 12, I was in a meeting with a woman with adult children.
She said something wise, which has stuck with me since then and proven true time and time again.
Backing up a little, that day I was at a meeting with providers (which means people who work as professionals with families) discussing how to help encourage a family with a teenager to provide a safe environment where the child could either continue to live or that they could return back to living.
At the time, I was providing Home Based Therapy in Marion County, Indiana.
My role as a therapist was to work with the children and adults in a family to help the adults provide a safe, stable environment to the teens or children which had not been provided one at some point.
The families in this program had experience abused or neglect in some way.
Her words of wisdom went something like this:
‘Toddlers and Teen are just the same. A two year old and a four year old are bursting with the independence that they are trying to obtain. We expect it, and we allow for it.
They are small people, so they can be relatively easy to contain in general.
Teenagers are bigger versions. A 12 year old is like a 2 year old, and a 14 year old is like a 4 year old.
They are much bigger in size, are not nearly as easy to control physically, and are also generally bursting with ideas for their own independence as well’
One of my favorite things about this supervisor was her ability to get her team to provide quality work.
At that time, I was providing direct service (therapy) for 18 months, which was a break from supervising staff. I have supervised staff for the majority of my career, so this experience allowed me to learn from her a little differently than if we were peers.
She supervised her staff in a way which encouraged reliability, communication, and caring for the families they worked with.
She supervised people who worked for the Department of Child Services, which is a very difficult role to be in.
We know that anyone who has gone through their adolescent years, or early twenties, or whenever we ‘broke’ away from our parents in some ways, that it is part of adolescence.
Adolescents have the job of establishing independence. They are more interesting in their peers and their friends, developmentally. Their parents are trying to advise and guide them to making safe decisions.
One of the norms that i have noticed changing a bit in the last few years is about perceived safety and how do we deal with teens and those computers in their hands.
When I was a teen, back in the 80’s, I had some pretty emphatic boundaries. My parents were stricter than many of my friends’ parents in some ways, so if I went on a date in high school we stayed in Tipton.
Keeping my location local helped my parents with a sense of safety, while also extremely limiting our movie and dinner options.
We had one movie theatre with one screen, and a few places to eat but not many of them involved sitting down and ordering.
We were beginning to learn about typing on computers at school, but personal computers would come out a few years later.
How does this apply to you?
Think about how you parent your child, particularly if they are a teen.
I was able to hear Dawn Crossman speak on Saturday at an event called ‘SHIFT’, which was put on by the Peyton Reikoff Foundation.
She discussed some things about parenting intense teens that I have found in my experiences as well.
As teens work to establish that sense of self and figure out who they are, we need to protect them when we can and allow some mistakes, just like we do with our 2 and 4 year olds.
If a two year old is still struggling to walk well, we don’t tell them to stop walking.
We encourage them to figure out how to walk better through those falls where they plop down. I love to watch early walkers run, and just lead with those giant heads.
The same is true for 12 year olds and 14 year olds.
Let them make mistakes they can learn from, while staying aware of their own tendency to, as my husband coined ‘run with the bad ideas’.
He was talking with my son at dinner one night at during those pre-teens years and mentioned ‘you get a ‘bad’ idea, you think it is good, and then you run with it. You just run faster and faster with the idea’.
I tend to avoid using the terms good and bad, but think about this how it relates to you.
My son loves people, loves to have fun, and loves to spend time with friends. We worked, in high school, to encourage him to complete his home work at a pace possibly slower than 100 mph, but we did not monitor it.
Having academically strong children comes with its own sets of perks and balances, and for us one reality was that we never monitored their homework closely.
We did look at their power school, or the school website where grades were listed, and my guess is this conversation either had something to do with hanging out with friends longer than allowed him to have sleep, or it had something to do with turning in an assignment he had missed.
Either way, the example was used that day, and for years to come. Eventually it got shortened to ‘just keep running! Keep running with those ideas’, with a smile and some arm motions imitating running.
As we parent our children, we want to establish a sense of trust when we can.
We want to hold our children, pre-teens, and teens accountable to help motivate them to make decisions that will ultimately help them grow into accountable adults who are productive citizens.
Making it work:
Think about who you want to motivate, who might be acting like a temper tantruming toddler.
How do you encourage them, as they are demonstrating that independence so willfully, to continue to be persistent in ways that help them and to give-in in ways that are holding them back?
I encourage you to think of a way to use that accountability and knowledge of their developmental age as you make rules, consequences, and motivate those in your care.
I hope you enjoy your weekend! Basketball is everywhere if you enjoy watching it.
One of my favorite roles as a professional has been teaching a class for first-time substance users who were teenagers.
The program occured in Clinton County, Indiana and was funded through the Probation Department to help educate youth about substance use and abuse in order to help prevent future under-age/illegal use.
One of the phrases I used in that role was ‘raise the bottom’.
I have found, as a therapist working primarly with teens and youth, that encouraging the adults who are helping to provide teens with structure and consequences to ‘raise the bottom’ to be somewhat of an ambiguous term that at times needs an explanation.
When I think of this term, I also think of ‘failing small’.
Failing small is when we allow those in our lives, or in our care, to fail so that they experience some failure which can help motivate them to make some changes based on the consequences they receive.
For my own children, one of the tactics we used as parents was to state ‘That’s one consequence’ in the middle of a 4 year old’s temper tantrum.
Continue with the tantrum? That’s two consequences.
The actual consequences were discussed and determined later, when both the child and the parents had a clearer head.
I know, for myself, if I had followed the urge to hand out a consequence at the time it would have sounded something like ‘you are never going to leave your room again!!’ or ‘time out, no movie, no gameboy, and no television for the rest of the night!’
For children in the heat of anger and tantruming, this can sound very much like a challenge they will try to win.
During my sons’ middle school years, I supervised a Pregnant and Parenting Teen program. The program was staffed in 8 hour shifts.
The staff frequently became very frustrated with the residents in our care. At the time I supervised this program, my own children were in middle school.
In addition, I have quite a stubborn streak, which can help me in guiding those who are dealing with people who like to be persistent. Those working to connect and motivate frequently experience an amount of frustration.
“If you decide to go toe-to-toe with a teenager, they will win”
“They are better and more locked into winning this battle, so as stubborn and persistant as you feel you may be, they are still going to get the better of you due to their super-power ability in this area”
Those are some phrases I said consistently when supervising staff who were having some frustrations.
We then worked together to problem solve some trauma-informed, natural consequences to attempt to motivate our teens who were pregnant or parenting.
Now let’s think of this area in terms of parenting your own children:
When we raise the bottom, we allow our children to experience a natural consequence to their choice.
An example of this could be wearing shorts on a cold day. The child/teen will be cold if they do not dress appropriately for the temperature. That is a consequence of dressing for summer in the winter.
If you do not turn in your homework, your grade will reflect that. A ‘0’ score brings down a percentage much more quickly than a score of even 50%, so turning in your homework will help your grades if you are motivated by grades.
These get tricky, because we as parents tend to remember all of the things we wish we would have known when we were teenagers, and can recognize that lecturing and informing our child about this will certainly motivate them.
Which it probably will, it just may not motivate them in the way you are seeking.
If they are self motivated, they may not need much guidance in terms of completing their homework. If they are high achievers, the grades or feedback themselves generally motivate them.
As we think about what areas we want to work on as parents or employers, I encourge you to think of 1-2 things you’d really like to focus on.
I encourage parents to tackle one area at a time with a child in their life who is generating some frustration.
When I am meeting with teens or pre-teens, I encourage them to learn to recognize what the consequences are for their choices before they do the act of whatever thing they may be choosing to do at that time.
Learning to recognize their feelings about conseuqneces and whether or not they are motivated to change their behaviors based on the potential consequences is another area for teens and parents to think about as they make choices and consequences to them.
Utilizing In Your Life.
I would like you to think about something you’d like to focus on with someone who is in your life at this time.
What behavior would you like to spend less time focusing on talking about or dealing with, and how would you like to allow your child to spend more time allowing your child to experience that natural or prescribed consequence?
Some sources of frustration might be related to spending money on meals, movies, etc; working on grades/homework; or anything that is causing you frustration as you and your child interact.
Now I encourage you to set aside a time to meet with the person who you are having some frustrations with, and talk about some ways to handle this differently.
Maybe you check their grades less often, or you monitor their spending a little bit less, or maybe you give them less access to funds.
Now that you have thought of what to talk about, and thought of a time that might work for a conversation, I encourage you to talk during a peaceful time.
This time could be in the car on the way to somewhere, it could be during a meal, or it could be a scheduled time where you take into consideration their schedule and how they will respond at that time of day.
It could be at a time that just ‘pops up’. We call these teachable moments, and you as the adult or other participant in the relationship can work look for opportunities as they arise naturally.
One time that I will discourage you from choosing, when dealing with teens, is right when they wake up. Clearly, though, that is up to you.
‘Raising the Bottom’ means letting the person in your life experience real consequences to their behavior to help motivate them to make change vs. saving them/protecting them from all consequences.
I hope you can experience a little less frustration in an area that has been frustrating for you.