Tells Tall Tales

“Last week we went on this huge trip to Africa. It was great. I got to see a real live elephant. Oh, and I shook hands with a tribal leader!”

Children have amazing imaginations. They can come up with the most fantastic stories, with attention to even the smallest of details. But while storytelling is a skill to be admired, lying and spinning tales is not. Lying to friends can become so addictive an activity, that by the time children experience the negative consequences of their behavior, they might already have developed a strong bad habit.

It’s important for parents to try to understand their child’s  motivation for lying. Knowing the reasons behind the behavior can help parents find alternative, healthier ways for their child to get his or her needs met.

What are the reasons that children lie to their friends and what can parents do about it? Consider the following tips:

They Want to Make Themselves Appear More Interesting
Sometimes kids lie because it gives them attention that they enjoy from peers. An otherwise shy and boring lad can become an instant celebrity with a few embellishments to his tale. And the more lies “work,” the more tempting it is tell another make-believe story.

What can parents do? It’s important to communicate to a child that lying to get friends is actually counter-productive. At some point, other kids are going to discover that the stories are not true, and this could result in your child getting abandoned or socially ostracized. There are healthier ways of getting attention, such as starting a stimulating conversation about books read, movies seen, computer clips viewed, games played, etc. If a child’s social skills can be developed, there’ll be no need to lie to make and maintain friends. For instance, a child can be taught to share true stories or learn to respond with enthusiasm and interest to other people’s stories. A child can learn to tell the occasional joke (help your child to realize that this skill has to be limited to appropriate times and places and used only in moderation). Parents can find children’s social skills books in the library (or ask the children’s librarian for assistance). The books can be used to educate and stimulate both discussion and role-playing. In addition, there are special social skills groups for children and teens and there are also teachers and therapists who specialize in helping children develop better social skills.

They Want to Get Sympathy
Kids may also lie to friends in order to gain pity or assistance. For example, they may say that their experiencing a serious illness, or they are having difficulty in a particular task or subject. Sympathy is also a form of attention, and being able to get attention through lying makes spinning these kinds of tales very addictive.

What can parents do? Lying to get sympathy can be a sign of insecurity in a child. The sense of inferiority and helplessness may be real, requiring professional attention. A consultation with a mental health professional may be appropriate.

They Feel Ashamed
There are occasions when kids lie because they feel ashamed or embarrassed about an aspect of themselves or their family. For instance, a child who attends a school largely populated by affluent kids may feel compelled to lie about a parent’s blue collar job, the house he lives in, the car the parents drive or the so-called vacations his family takes.

What can parents do? Sometimes parents can work on building family pride in non-material ways. For instance, fostering a strong religious faith has given many families a strong identity, community membership and sense of confidence. Also, taking steps to help children feel self-confident in general will help combat feelings of inadequacy or shame. Follow the 80-20 Rule, giving your child 80% good-feeling communications like praise, affection, humor and empathy –  and strongly limiting criticism and anger. A home filled with laughter and love can certainly contribute to a child’s sense of wholeness and inner stability. Of course, some children are simply insecure by nature even though their parents are generous with positive feedback and affection. If children are suffering from intense feelings of inadequacy for any reason, professional treatment can help foster greater self-acceptance and personal confidence.

Learning Disabilities and Self-Esteem

Because they have more difficulty in school compared to other kids, children with learning disabilities (LDs) sometimes start to question their own intelligence and competence. Their self-esteem can suffer, despite the fact that they usually have normal or even very high intelligence as measured on standard instruments.  In fact, a learning disability is defined as a SPECIFIC deficit in one or two areas of functioning (i.e. math and reading) despite overall normal (or even higher)  intelligence. However, children typically experience a great deal of failure and frustration before they end up being officially diagnosed with a learning disability. It is often during this period of not knowing what the problem is that kids are particularly vulnerable to developing low self-esteem.

However, even after diagnosis there are many threats to the child’s self-concept: there’s the anger, self-pity and a sense of helplessness that comes from having to work harder than peers, or from needing to be isolated in special learning situations (remedial teachers, classrooms or schools), or having to endure after-school tutors and lessons. Despite all the interventions and efforts, many children with learning disabilities will never do as well as their peers in their weak areas. Moreover, some kids with severe learning disabilities will not be able to keep up with or join in certain activities because of their deficits and this exclusion, too, can contribute to low self-esteem.

In addition, not all people are sensitive or affirming when they relate to children with disabilities. Some kids can be downright cruel, teasing children with special needs or even bullying them. Parents and teachers may also unconsciously communicate low expectations, and may unintentionally send the message that they don’t see the child as capable.

A Predictor of Success
However, since healthy self-esteem is a key ingredient for attaining  success in life, it is important that parents do what they can to help their learning disabled child acquire a positive self-concept.

Studies have consistently shown that if kids with LDs consider themselves as capable and confident, they do better in all areas of life. Moreover, they are less likely to fall into mental health issues associated with LDs, such as depression or anxiety.

Define the Term “Learning Disability”
A learning disability is a condition, not a trait. In this way, it is similar to diabetes or asthma. Helping your child know that he or she is normal but has a condition, can go a long way to keeping that youngster’s self-esteem intact. There are books for children that explain learning disabilities; seeing the condition described in a book can also help kids realize that this is something outside of themselves that they must deal with, but it does not define all of who they are. Children often misunderstand the term “learning disabilities,” thinking that it means that they can’t learn! This erroneous idea can affect their performance across the board. Instead of just having difficulty in one or two areas, a child with this misconception can do poorly in every area simply because he believes he is intellectually handicapped. It is very important for parents to spell out the specific disability and to highlight the child’s learning strengths. For instance, a parent might say, “your brain has trouble recognizing and remembering letters (this is called ‘dyslexia’)and so you have to work harder to be a fast reader. But in every other way, your brain works perfectly and you are actually very smart. So this means that you should find it easy to do your arithmetic, art, gym, music, science and most of your other subjects. You can can also be awesome on the computer and in sports. And because you’re so smart, you will be able to figure out how to help your brain remember the letters and you will become a good reader – it will just take a bit of work. But we’re going to provide you with extra help so it will be even easier.”

In addition, parents should focus on their child’s areas of natural strength and competency. If the child is a talented musician, artist, cook, computer whiz or whatever, parents can highlight the child’s gift and smarts in these areas. Parents can try to expose their child to as many different activities as possible in order to help the child find areas of competency. For instance, if you don’t invite the child into the kitchen to prepare dessert for the family, neither you nor the child will ever know that cooking is his natural talent! In addition to skills, LD kids also have commendable traits such as determination, compassion or courtesy. Giving positive feedback to character and behavior is another way to boost the child’s self-esteem.

Let Them Contribute
Assume that the child is competent unless the child proves otherwise. Therefore, treat your learning disabled child as a full fledged member of the family with all “voting” privileges and responsibilities. Parents can help their child feel normal by holding them to normal expectations and standards. Offer compensation only when the child’s LD is actually affecting task performance. For instance, kids with learning disabilities can fold laundry as well as anyone else, so don’t let them off the task. However, a particular child with LD may have more trouble running errands due to the difficulty of handling money. This doesn’t mean that the child shouldn’t be allowed to go to the corner store. It might mean, however, that you help him with this task by explaining what to expect in the way of change, showing him what the financial transaction is going to look like or otherwise “tutoring” him through the task.

Use Emotional Coaching
By naming a child’s feelings, parents can help boost the child’s self-esteem and overall emotional intelligence. Naming a feeling lets the child know that he is O.K., his feelings are normal and acceptable and he has emotional support. Thus, when the child is struggling with a difficult task, a parent can acknowledge “It’s hard! It’s frustrating to try that again and again and still not get the answer!” It is hard to believe how powerful a simple acknowledgment of the child’s feelings can be. Moreover, a large body of research shows that just naming feelings helps the child do better academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally.

Bad Self-Image

Have you ever visited the “mirror room” in a circus? You know, the one where there are many different kinds of mirrors, each one reflecting an unreal and exaggerated version of the viewer, making the person look so much taller, smaller, fatter or skinnier than he or she really is?

For people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD, every day is like staring into a circus mirror. Except, people with the condition don’t realize that what they are seeing is a distortion – they believe their distorted reflection is real. They consider themselves physically flawed, although no one else would agree with this assessment. They preoccupy themselves about a perceived flaw in one or more of their features or body parts — their nose is too big, their eyes too small, their skin too light or too dark. They feel ugly — both from the inside and out.

While most people have some issues with their appearance — indeed, the beauty and fashion industry preys on our insecurities — the obsession about perceived physical flaws among those with BDD is excessive. In fact, most of their perceived flaws simply don’t exist, or if they do, they are barely noticeable. However, sufferers are absolutely convinced that they are deformed or ugly and feel shamed just by being in the presence of other people; they are often so anxious that they can’t work or enjoy life. Some are so intent on fixing their imperfections that they risk multiple surgeries and unproven treatments.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder often comes with other mental health conditions like clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, impulse control disorders like trichotillomania, anxiety disorders and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

What causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
BDD is more common than most people realize; it is believed to affect 2 in every 100 members of the population. It is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults, mainly because it is during these times that the pressure to present a “beautiful” front is most intense.

A family history of BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorders increases the likelihood of the condition developing in a person. This implies that BDD has an organic origin, such as chemical imbalance in the part of the brain that controls emotions and habits. Traumatic experiences, like physical and sexual abuse, can also trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder in those who have the genetic vulnerability for it.

What Are the Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
The following are some of the signs parents should look out for:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive pre-occupation with physical appearance
  • A pervasive belief that one is ugly or unattractive despite assurances and evidence to the contrary
  • A feeling of shame or self-loathing related to one’s body
  • Frequent examination of the body parts they consider as flawed
  • Eating disorders
  • Use of many cosmetic products or procedures, exercise regimens, with no pleasure at results
  • Social withdrawal or social anxiety
  • Inability to function because of preoccupation about appearance

What Can Parents Do?
If you see signs that a child or teen may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, it’s best to consult a mental health professional. The obsessive-compulsive nature of the illness, as well as the pervasiveness of the perceptual disturbance make simple assurances ineffective. Counseling, therapy and medication are known to help. If the illness is accompanied by dysfunctional eating and exercise habits, then the help of a medical doctor, eating disorders specialists or psychiatrist will also be helpful.

Anxious in Social Situations

Does the thought of giving a class presentation keep your child awake at night? How about the idea of introducing him or herself to strangers? Does your child obsessively worry about what others might say, and whether he or she will be liked? Or is he or she afraid to make social arrangements? If the answer to any of the above is yes, consider the possibility that your child has some level of social anxiety.

What is Social Anxiety?
As the term implies, social anxiety is the experience of discomfort, worry or fear when in the real or imagined presence of other people. Situations where one has to introduce and present one’s self, initiate and maintain conversation, or put oneself up for scrutiny and critique, trigger unease and concern in the person with social anxiety. Anxiety reactions can range from mild to severe – from just feeling nervous to deciding to avoid all social situations altogether.

Is Social Anxiety Normal?
Moderate social anxiety is a normal and common human condition. You yourself have probably worried at some point in your life about what others would think of you, or how strangers, friends and loved ones would react to you. In fact, social anxiety might be construed as a sign of a child’s growing appreciation of another person’s point of view and the natural stresses of relating with other people. After all, judgment is real and the consequences of rejection are also real. A bit of social anxiety can be considered healthy in that it is a realistic appreciation of the possible risks and costs of social interaction. It might even keep us in line, enhancing self-control and self-regulation (so as not to make fools of ourselves!) The trick is to manage moderate social anxiety so that it doesn’t get in our way or in the way of our children.

There are some self-help strategies that can help adults and children reduce normal levels of social anxiety. Practicing social skills can help. Parents can bring home some library books for their children on social skills and good manners. These can provide concrete strategies that will build confidence. Enrolling in drama class may increase social confidence as a child learns how to “act” social. Taking social skills classes from a professional social skills teacher can also be helpful.

There are also strategies geared to managing anxiety symptoms. For instance, before meeting new people, giving a presentation or attending a party, a person of any age can take “Rescue Remedy” (a Bach Flower Remedy available at health food stores and online). Rescue Remedy helps turn off “butterflies,” rapid heart-beat, sweaty palms and other symptoms caused by the release of adrenaline (the body’s panic and anxiety chemical). A few drops in a glass of water, sipped slowly, can restore a sense of calm. Similarly, preparing for the event by using EFT (emotional freedom technique – a self-help tool that turns off the adrenaline response) can be really helpful. There are lots of on-line resources for learning EFT. If a child or adult suffers from chronic social anxiety, he or she can use Bach Flower Remedies to heal the self-conscious tendency. Either visit a Bach Flower practitioner for a specially blended mixture of the remedies, look online for descriptions of each remedy, or simply experiment with a mixture of Rock Rose, Mimulus, Larch and Cerato (remedies that address common underlying reasons for the anxious feelings). If you choose to mix your own remedies, simply add 2 drops of each remedy to a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle (available where Bach Flower Remedies are sold) that has been filled with water. Add one teaspoon of brandy to preserve the mixture in the bottle. Take four drops four times a day until the anxiety is no longer an issue. If it returns, repeat the treatment. Repeat as often as necessary until the anxiety no longer returns.

Consider Social Anxiety Disorder
While feelings of social nervousness and self-consciousness can fall within the normal range, there are also social fears that are much more intense and problematic. When social anxiety causes severe distress or interferes with functioning at work, school or socially, then it may be a manifestation of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)  – a serious mental health disorder. The anxiety experienced by a person with SAD can be so extreme that the person has difficulty  working outside his own home environment or going to school and he or she may be unable to establish friendships or intimate partnerships.

Social Anxiety Disorder requires assessment and treatment by a mental health professional. A psychiatrist can prescribe anti-anxiety medication that may provide relief. Psychologists may set up cognitive-behavioral interventions or other interventions aimed at reducing and managing anxiety. A child with social anxiety should be seen by a child psychologist or pediatric psychiatrist. Parents who see that their child is overwhelmed by social anxiety can have the child’s pediatrician or doctor make a referral to a mental health professional for assessment.

Clothing and Fashion Issues in Teens

Fashion means a lot to teenagers – either in the sense that they desperately need to wear the latest and greatest styles that their peers are wearing, or in the sense that they just as desperately want to rebel against peer pressure and refuse to wear what everyone else is wearing. Either way, parents must take their teen’s feelings about fashion seriously. We adults have equally strong feelings about what we’ll wear or not wear in our own social settings; we certainly shouldn’t make light of our children’s issues about clothing. Moreover, it is likely that teens will want you to supply them with at least some of their clothes. You will be involved not only in paying for clothing but also in endorsing or veto-ing it as well. Fashion can be the subject of much parent-adolescent conflict or the venue for happy shopping sprees and positive bonding. Let’s take a look at how parents can help avoid the former and increase the frequency of the latter.

Consider the following:

Respect Your Teen’s Quest for Individuality
Has your teen been sporting purple hair, a nose ring and an all-black ensemble? Good! The get-up may be giving you the shakes, but remember that at this point in your teen’s life, experimenting with different “identities” is a healthy part of the journey towards individuality and autonomy. As long as your child’s safety and health are not compromised, opt to be supportive instead of critical. In most cases, kids do outgrow their teenage fashion taste and end up wearing sensible clothing in adulthood (remember what YOU used to wear?)

Teach Your Teen to be a Smart Shopper
Peer pressure is strong during the teenage years, and many marketers of teen clothing know this. They will package their wares as something that is ‘in”, “must have” and patronized by practically all other teenagers in the planet. Teach your teen to be a wary consumer, capable of independent research and independent thinking. Help your child learn the in’s and out’s of bargain hunting by giving him or her a set amount of money to spend on whatever clothing he or she needs for that season (“Here’s X dollars. Buy as many shirts and pants as you can with it.”). Your child will soon discover that it is fun to figure out how to get 3 outfits for the price of 1 or how to get brand-name products at bargain basement prices.

Take the Opportunity to Teach Your Child about Healthy Body Image
Eating disorders are gaining prevalence today, mostly because the media portrays thinness as the universal standard for beauty. If you can, shop for clothes with your teen. Teach your child how to pick clothing that flatters his or her body type. If you can make your teen feel attractive without having to succumb to a distorted standard of what is ideal, then you might help prevent him or her from succumbing to an eating disorder. You can also bring books home from your local library that offer fashion advice for different body types. Leave such materials around the house or in the bathroom and just let your adolescent pick them up and scan them. It’s great for kids to learn about fashion at this tender stage of life – to know what colors might flatter their own coloring, what styles might flatter their body type, what accessories can make all the difference and so on.

Present the Line Between Tasteful and Tawdry
Teens dress up to impress the opposite sex. You might notice your child wearing very tight or very skimpy clothing that you think is more appropriate for the bedroom than the classroom. Be careful as to how you convey this information! You want to maintain a positive parent-child relationship as you teach your youngster the basics of good taste. Start off with praise, as in “You really know how to pick the right colors!” Then ask for permission to give feedback, as in “Would it be O.K. if I shared some thoughts I have about this outfit?” This puts the child in a “yes” frame of mind. Then, cautiously and carefully offer feedback and advice, as in “I honestly think that showing that much skin gives the wrong message. I think it tells people to focus on your body parts instead of on you. I mean, I think you have a great body, but you’re so much more than that! And I know that this is just how kids like to dress nowadays and your friends wear this too. Still, I think that you can convey that you’re attractive and with it, but that you’re also a person and not just a body. For instance, if you cover this up here, the overall look is the same great look, but the message is quite different. What do you think about what I am saying?” Obviously, this kind of approach is very different from the yelling-at-the-top-of-your-lungs approach that “NO CHILD OF MINE IS LEAVING THE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE THAT!”  It is more respectful and it attempts to elicit understanding and cooperation on the child’s part. However, if your child just doesn’t get it, it’s certainly fine for you to set limits. However, you can still be respectful. If necessary, it might sound like, “Sweetheart, when you’re a grownup you can wear whatever you want, but while you’re a teenager in this house, I reserve the right to prohibit certain outfits that I think are just not appropriate. I can’t let you wear that. Now I understand that you are a free person and when you leave the house you can go borrow the same outfit from your friend and wear it out and there’s little I can do about that except appeal to your better judgment. I’m asking you not to wear it because I love you, not because I hate you! No matter what you decide to do, however, I cannot have you wearing it in this house at any time.” If you have a good relationship with your teen, chances are good that he or she will respect your wishes. That is why it is so important to always be respectful and maintain a good relationship. As soon as you lose the relationship, you lose your power to influence your child in the right direction.

Afraid to Wear Contact Lenses

The eye conditons that lead to a need for prescription lenses are hereditary; if you wear glasses or contacts, there’s a very good chance that your child will need to as well. While eyeglasses are not a bad option to correct sight problems, contact lenses are less obvious when worn and serve a cosmetic purpose. Contact lenses are also safer for people who play contact sports, and for those who engage in activities requiring an accurate side vision.

But What if Your Child is Afraid to Use Contacts?
As mentioned, eyeglasses work for most sight correction purposes. There are also those who think that eyeglasses are more practical; less effort to clean and maintain. However, some children and teens hate the idea of wearing glasses. Many kids feel they look more attractive wearing their “natural face,” un-bespeckled! When a child absolutely refuses to wear his or her glasses, the only alternative is contact lenses. However, some glass-hating children are fearful of using contact lenses.

Here are some tips for helping those with fears:

Encourage Patience
Contact lenses may feel strange for first-time users, even if they fit very well. Help your child to understand the concept of an adjustment period. Explain that putting the lenses in the eye for even a few minutes at a time will help the eye adjust slowly over some days.

Ask the Optometrist for Help
Your child may be afraid of scratching his or her eye. The eye doctor or optometrist can provide a contact lense tutorial. Internet resources can also be very helpful. Often, you or your child will know someone who has been successfully wearing contact lenses for years – ask that person for guidance as well! It is true, after all, that learning to put contact lenses on and taking them out can be tricky.  But there is a way of setting up the lenses so that one’s fingers would not even touch the eyeballs. A traditional method is to let the lens sit like a cup in one’s palm first, and then use the pad of the inserting finger to lift the lens by the “bottom of the cup” to one’s eye. If done properly, eye scratches will not be an issue. Keeping one’s fingernails short will also help.

Address Your Child’s Fears
Your child may be afraid that his or her eyes will dry out, and the lens will stick to the eye. Ouch! But that is an unreasonable worry. Our eyes are naturally wet, and capable of producing enough liquid to ward off irritation. However, saline solution is also available to wet the eyes in case they become irritated. As long as instructions on cleaning and wearing contact lenses are followed accurately, and the correct eye care solutions are used, having a contact lens stick to one’s eye should not be a concern.

Address the Practical Issues of Caring for Contacts
Your child might be afraid of losing contact lenses. Contact lenses may feel so fragile that it seems they can be blown off by the slightest rush of air. But only extreme situations, such a blow to the head or hurricane strength winds can knock a pair off. Wearing contact lenses past their expiration date can also loosen them. So if you buy a good brand, and you follow instructions for use, your pair will stay in place despite much stress.

Provide Pictures of the Eye and its Structure
Your child may be afraid that his or her pair will roll to the back of the eye. Loosing one’s contact lens to back of the eye is physically impossible; a thin membrane on the top of our eyes serves as barrier. While a lens may indeed roll underneath the eye lids, they can’t travel all the way to the back of one’s eye.

Teach Your Child How to Use and Care for Contact Lenses
The keys to a good contact lens experience is really buying good quality lenses, and following instructions as to how to properly wear and care for a pair. Problems often associated with contact lenses can be traced to the tendency to buy cheap brands that tear easily, not washing one’s hand before set-up, not using the right solution for cleaning and maintenance (tap water is not recommended!), and not disposing of expired lenses. As long as you and your child are conscientious about these things, there should be nothing to worry about.

Child Won’t Wear Glasses

Corrective eye wear – glasses or lenses – are often prescribed for children to help correct their vision problems. In some cases, a child needs eyeglasses because he or she is near-sighted; that is, the child has difficulty seeing objects that are far away. In other cases, the opposite is true. A child may be far-sighted (also called long-sighted); he or she has more difficulty clearly seeing objects that are close (like books). Nearsightedness is often accompanied by astigmatism, a condition that causes sometimes causes blurry vision, squinting and/or headaches.

If your child needs glasses but won’t wear them, what can you do about it? Consider the following tips:

Ask Them Why They Refuse to Wear Their Glasses
Different kids have different reasons for refusing to wear prescription eyeglasses, so don’t immediately assume defiance or misbehavior! Some kids just find it irritating to wear something on their face. Others think it makes them appear “nerdy” or “un-cool.” Some kids may be reacting to teasing by peers; being called “owl-face” or “four-eyes” can be very upsetting to sensitive souls. And some kids are experiencing physical side effects – they feel dizzy, suffer from headaches, or experience other symptoms. If you can surface your child’s specific concern regarding eyeglasses, you are in a better position to address the issue.

Check the Fit
If your child is physically uncomfortable with his or her glasses, consider a return trip to the optometrist for a re-fitting or even a return! Is your child’s pair too tight? Too heavy? Too loose? Are there any sharp or hard edges? Are the lens’ grades accurate? Well-fitting eyewear can be worn effortlessly, almost unnoticeably. 

Make it an Adventure
If your child is really young, consider making the wearing of eyeglasses exciting. Did you know that there are children’s story books specifically designed to help younger children adjust to having to wear eyeglasses? A quick search engine query will unearth some titles. You can also point out their favorite glasses-wearing TV and movie heroes (i.e. Harry Potter). And if you have a well-stocked family album (and a family history of wearing eyeglasses!), then identifying aunts, uncles and grandparents who wear a pair can be a fun exercise.

Educate Them About the Need to Wear Eyeglasses
If your child is old enough, arranging a friendly chat with their ophthalmologist or optometrist may be helpful. Knowing the actual health reason behind the prescriptive eyewear can make the wearing of them less of an imposition and more of a choice. The eye care professional may emphasize how common the need for eyeglasses is; it will make your child feel less alone. Identifying concrete benefits of an improved vision — no more waving to the wrong person across the playground, better grades, fewer headaches, more accurate dart games — can also help.

Consider Trendier Styles – even Contact Lenses
For older children (especially for teens and pre-teens), who are concerned mostly about what eyeglasses do to their appearance, try to let your child choose a more fashionable pair — or even contact lenses. As long as the eyeglasses are within your budget, and style doesn’t trump frame and lens quality, do encourage your child to express him or herself. Also keep in mind that even very young children like 5 or 6 year olds are quite self-conscious about their appearance. Make sure that your little child also really likes his or her glasses. Never decide for the youngster what glasses look good. As long as your child doesn’t pick something totally inappropriate or absolutely ugly or impractical, then let him or her have the choice. In other words, if your daughter wants pink frames on a normal looking pair of glasses, let her have them even though YOU think metal or clear frames will go with “everything.”

Make Eyeglasses a Normal and Expected Part of Life
Place your child’s eyeglass case alongside their school supplies and “expect” him or her to use them in a matter-of-fact way. “Please put your glasses when you’re doing your homework.” Don’t give up just because your child seems to be trying to avoid the issue. Persist, as if to say, “there’s no going back; you are wearing glasses now.” Of course, don’t use anger to get your point across. However, feel free to use positive reinforcement (“hey – you remembered to put your glasses on!”) or, if necessary, negative consequences (“if you don’t wear those glasses in school, I’m going to ask every teacher to place your seat in the front row so you can see the board.”)

Teen Peer Pressure

As kids grow up and reach their teen years their peer relationships are one of the most important aspects of their lives. The social groups that teens attach themselves to are signals to other peers of who they are and what their values are. Others judge them based on their social group. Teens form their own little worlds – small groups of like-minded friends. They have a specific dialect, distinct way of dressing and do similar activities. They think that adults, particularly parents, don’t know what’s going on and “don’t get them.” There is a lot of pressure for teens to fit in and be cool. Many times teens will do something that they know is wrong just to appear cool and be accepted by others. Teens who have low self esteem or lack confidence and those who lack real friendships and are therefore lonely and depressed, are more likely to give into peer pressure.

Peer pressure can sometimes be good. For example, a friend might be able to convince another friend not to get into a car when the person has been drinking. However, negative peer pressure is very common amongst teens because of the need to be part of a group and also because of their natural curiosity to try out new things.

What’s Your Teen Being Pressured Into?
Peers can pressure each other into all sorts of dangerous, unhealthy, immoral and/or illegal activities. Here are some of the more common pressure points:

  • Smoking can be tried as early as 13 years old
  • Having too much alcohol
  • Trying drugs
  • Having sex before they are ready
  • Shoplifting
  • Pushing off school work to have fun or to party
  • Giving up extracurricular activities
  • Allowing friends to cheat off them
  • Bullying others

How Parents can Help

  • Talk to your teen. Tell them that you respect their friends and understand that they can make mistakes just like you do. If you identify problems with the friends, explain your concerns clearly.
  • Talk to other parents and exchange ideas and work together to help keep your teens safe
  • Help your teen come up with strategies on how to say no and fight peer pressure using techniques such as blaming it on parents, say no and leaving, suggesting other “cool” ideas and so on. Brainstorm with your teen. Ask them if they’ve seen other kids resisting social pressure. How did they do it?
  • Teach your teen to be accountable for what he did wrong. Even though friends can sometimes be wrong also your teen must know that he is always responsible for his actions
  • Invite your teen’s friends over and get to know them. Your teen might not admit it but he/she feels good when parents show that they approve of their friends and that they can relate to them

Keep Calm
It is normal for teens to feel like they are being judged so when you speak to them make sure your tone is non-threatening but rather understanding and calm. If they see you getting upset then they will also. Try to relate to them by telling them issues you faced as a teen. An open line of communication is one of the most valuable things you can offer your teen. Do not force them to talk but let them know that you are always there when they need you. As teens grow up and explore who they are, this time period will be a positive experience for them. Your teen will probably be involved in some form of negative peer pressure at some point but with the help of your expert parenting skills, they’ll be just fine!

Anxious and Stressed Teens

Anxiety is an unsettled, restless, uncomfortable state of mind that can affect people of all ages. Anxious teens may feel worried, stressed or panicky and can experience anxious feelings occasionally or frequently, mildly or intensely. Teenagers who have a lot of anxiety – the kind that interrupts their sleep, interferes with their functioning or causes them intense stress – should be seen by a mental health professional for assessment. Anxious feelings range all the way from normal levels of stress and worry that most people experience, all the way to symptoms of bona fida anxiety disorders – it takes a professional to determine what is going on when anxious feelings are anything more than minor and occasional.

What Triggers Teen Anxiety?
The teenage years are times of high stress, hard decisions and strong emotions. Teen anxiety can be triggered by many events in the teen’s life such as a broken relationship, a parental divorce or academic pressure in school. In addition, teenagers are living in a fast-paced, constantly changing world which creates its own pressure – there is no time to be still and settle in. Social pressures are particularly intense for this age group: kids worry about fitting in, feeling accepted, developing relationships, handling peer pressure and more.

What Parents can Do to Help?
Parents can be part of the problem or part of the solution. For instance, parents can put excessive pressure on teenagers by being too disapproving, too critical or too punitive. On the other hand, they can help relieve stress by being both accepting and gently guiding. They can offer encouragement, praise and validation, keeping the parent-child relationship primarily positive in the ideal 90-10 ratio that is healthiest for this age group (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details about building a positive relationship with teenagers). Empathetic listening, ready humor and general acceptance go a long way to helping teens feel confident and emotionally secure.

Moreover, parents can guide teens toward activities that provide stress relief such as sports, drama clubs, volunteer work, and even part-time jobs. Parents can also encourage downtime, family fun (board games, outings, hobbies) and even cooking! A short vacation or even a few hours out of the house for some one-on-one quality time can often work wonders with an adolescent. Parents can even play some relaxing music in the house to help set a calm mood. Of course, reducing family stress (no yelling, fighting, marital battles, etc.) will also help reduce teen anxiety. If parents are experiencing stress of their own, they shouldn’t share it with their teens but rather with other supportive adults.

Warning Signs
There is a difference, however, between normal levels of worry and stress and levels that would be best treated with professional help. If a parent notices the following symptoms of anxiety, he or she should discuss them with a doctor and/or ask for a referral for to a  mental health professional (preferably and adolescent specialist) for assessment:

  • Inability to follow through with usual routines  (like getting to class on time, doing homework, doing one’s household chores, keeping one’s room cleaned, grooming oneself properly and so on)
  • Compulsive thoughts (inability to stop thinking about/worrying out loud about certain topics)
  • inability to make a decision without excessive input from others
  • Peculiar habits (i.e. arranging things, checking things, excessive washing, lengthy praying, repeating words or phrases, needing excessive rituals, refusing to touch certain things, wearing gloves inappropriately, and any other strange behavior
  • Agitated behavior (shaking, inability to settle down, stay still, sleep)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (insomnia, early waking, nightmares)
  • Strange or excessive fears or worries
  • Refusal to go certain places (like malls or parties) or be with certain people or engage in age-appropriate social activities due to anxious feelings
  • Chronic unhappy or irritable mood
  • Addictive behavior (may stem from anxiety)
  • Self-harm such as cutting oneself, picking at one’s skin (may stem from anxiety)
Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, all of which are thought to have biological roots. GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) is a state of chronic worry about everything and anything. Panic Disorder is a focused type of anxiety that may involve panic attacks with or without fear of leaving home unattended. Simple Phobia can involve any intense fear of any one thing like fear of needles or heights or flying. Social Phobia is a type of anxiety that involves fear of being judged negatively by others. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by experiencing or witnessed a life-threatening event. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) can occur spontaneously or after a strep infection and involves anxious thoughts and compulsive rituals. Often teens with anxiety have other disorders as well – depression, ADHD, eating disorders and addictive disorders among others. Fortunately, all anxiety disorders respond well to treatment. Today there are many treatments besides medication that are quite effective – therapies, stress-management training, meditation-based interventions, alternative treatments and more. The sooner you get help for your anxious teen, the sooner your teen will enjoy peace of mind.

Helping Teens Who Hurt Themselves

Self-injurious behavior is any action that is intended hurt one’s own body. Teens engage in all sorts of self-injurious behavior, vialis 40mg including cutting their body, vcialis 40mg hitting themselves, dosage burning themselves, pulling out their hair, picking at their skin, poking at themselves and so on.

Why Do Kids Do It?
A teenager may use self-injury after a devastating or stressful event. The young person doesn’t always know how to deal with deeply troubling feelings in a healthy way.  Physical injury acts as a visible representation of emotional (internal and invisible) pain. It can also show others, without the use of words, that nurturing and solace is needed. Unfortunately, the act of self injuring only provides temporary relief, and once the physical wound heals the emotional pain returns full force.

More Reasons for Self Injury
Self-injury is often used to end the painful sensation of emotional apathy or numbness. It “wakes” a person up and allows some sort of feelings to flow again. Emotional numbing is an automatic defense process that occurs to people who have been badly emotionally wounded. For instance, many victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse experience periods of numbing (sometimes alternating with periods of emotional flooding).

Moreover, the guilt and confusion that can occur from childhood abuse is often overwhelming. Sometimes adolescents “punish” themselves for being “bad” assuming that they must have deserved the abusive treatment they received. Self injury is then a form of self-abuse that is consistent with the youngster’s self-concept.

In addition, causing oneself pain can be a way of “taking control” of one’s situation. Sometimes a teenager feels very out of control, either due to abuse or due to other stresses. By initiating a physical injury, he or she has stopped being a helpless victim of circumstances. Instead of waiting for lightning to strike and burn them, these children strike the match themselves. In a superstitious sort of way, they might also think that the injury can prevent something worse from happening in their lives.

Teens also quickly discover that their behavior can control those around them. People react. Parents may stand up and take notice, seek therapy, feel guily. Friends may give extra attention or they may back off. The teen creates a tumult. It is a minor victory over helplessness.

Who Hurts Themselves?
Today, many kids hurt themselves. It is a social phenomenon. Once a teenager discovers a friend who engages in self-injury, she is more likely to try this form of communication herself. The most likely candidates for self injury include those whose expression of emotion (particularly anger) was discouraged during childhood, those who have a limited social support system, and those who have other mental health diagnoses such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.

What are the Most Common Ways that Teens Hurt Themselves?

  • Cutting – When one makes cuts or scratches on their body with sharp objects such as knives, needles, razor blades or fingernails. The most frequent parts of the body that are harmed are the arms, legs, and the front of the torso because they are easy to reach and can be concealed under clothing.
  • Branding – When one burns themselves with a hot object or, Friction burn which is rubbing a pencil eraser on one’s skin.
  • Picking at skin or reopening wounds (Dermatillomania) – This is an impulse control disorder which is recognized by the constant impulse for one to pick at their own skin. It is usually done to the point that injury is caused which acts as a source of gratification or stress reliever.
  • Hair Pulling (trichotillomania) – An impulsive control disorder which appears to be a habit, addiction, or an obsessive compulsive disorder. It involves pulling hair out from any part of the body. When hair is pulled from the scalp the results are patchy bald spots on their head. Usually they wear hats or scarves to cover up their baldness. Irregular levels of serotonin or dopamine play a possible role in hair pulling.
  • Bone breaking, punching, or head banging – Usually seen with autism or severe mental retardation.
  • Numerous piercings or tattoos – Can be a self injurious activity if it involves pain and/or stress relief.

Is Self-Injury a Suicide Attempt?
When a person causes injury upon themselves it is usually done without suicidal intentions, yet there have been cases where accidental deaths have happened. When a person self injures they do it as a means to reduce stress. People who self injure themselves usually possess a faulty sense of self value and these harsh feelings can whirlwind into a suicidal attempt. Often the intentions of self harm can go too far and it is at that point where professional intervention is necessary.

How to Help a Self Injurer:

  • Understand that self injurious behavior is a need to have control over oneself and it is a self comforting act
  • Show the person that you care about them and that you want to listen to them
  • Encourage them to express their emotions, especially anger
  • Spend quality time doing activities that are pleasurable
  • Help them seek out a therapist or support group
  • Avoid judgmental remarks

How Can Teens Help Themselves?

  • Realize that it is a problem and that there are probably issues that are hurting on the inside that need professional guidance
  • Realize that self harm is not about being a bad person, rather understanding that this behavior which is seemingly helping is becoming a significant issue
  • Seek out a mentor that can help. This could be a friend, Rabbi, minister, counselor, or relative or any other person you feel comfortable talking to about this issue
  • Seek help to understand what triggers these behaviors
  • Understand that self inuring behaviors are a way to self calm and learn better ways to calm yourself

Treatments for Self Injury
Psychotherapy is recommended for kids who hurt themselves. Sometimes medication will also be helpful. A psychological assessment by a qualified mental health practitioner can determine the most appropriate course of action in each case. Here are some of the common treatments for teens who self injure:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This helps a person understand why they hurt themselves in healthier ways.
  • Therapies that deal with post traumatic stress disorder such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • Hypnosis or self-relaxation
  • Group therapy which helps minimize shame, and helps express emotion in a healthy way
  • Family therapy which can trace back to history of family stress and helps families deal with their family member who self injures in a non judgmental way. It also teaches them how to communicate more effectively with each other and reduces parent-child conflicts and relationship difficulties.
  • Antidepressants or anti anxiety medications to reduce the impulsivity of the of the action while the self injurer is going for therapy
  • In critical situations, a self injurer needs to be hospitalized with various approaches along with a team of professionals

Do Teens Recover From Self-Injury?
Yes! With proper treatment, the prognosis is excellent. Self-injury can be the crisis that brings a family to therapy. This is often a turning point in the family’s life, helping not only the self-injuring teen, but also other members of the family to reach higher levels of emotional well-being than ever before.