HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Teen S e x and Promiscuity

My 13 year old daughter is sexually promiscuous. I know she has had sex twice with one boy, one time being in a public toilet. She is not in a relationship with him. I know she has kissed three different boys this week. I cannot watch her 24 hours a day and I think that she will damage herself psychologically is she continues this destructive behavior. She doesn't know that I know all of this, but knows I found out about the sex. Any advice?

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Teen Sex and Promiscuity

Moms and dads dread the day that their youngster becomes sexually active. Girls in particular, seem to cause more concern because of the risk of teen pregnancy.

Understanding why adolescents have sex is one of the most important steps towards dealing with the situation.

Why Adolescents Decide to Have Sex—

No single factor can be blamed for all possible occurrences of teenage sex. However, some of the more common issues raised by adolescents include:
  • a belief that having sex will make them more adult
  • a negative self-image, believing that participating in sexual activity can increase their popularity
  • in girls more than boys, a belief that sex will keep their partner interested in them and will provide the love they crave
  • media influence such as television, music and the Internet
  • overly strict moms and dads, increasing the chances of promiscuity when the opportunity arises
  • peer pressure—a feeling that everyone else is having sex

[Twenty percent of all adolescents have had sex at least once before their fifteenth birthday.]

Sex in the Media—

Sex is everywhere. Teens simply cannot avoid the topic. Researchers discovered that 83 percent of episodes of adolescents' twenty favorite television programs contained some reference to sexual behavior.

[If you were to watch an hour of music videos, on average, you'd see ninety three sexual situations.]

Even apparently innocuous family sports events are not free from sexual exploits. During the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, over thirteen million kids under seventeen watched Justin Timberlake tear off items of Janet Jackson's clothing.

Try as we might—sex cannot be avoided.

Teenage Sex and the Internet—

Recently, the Internet has provided teens with an opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about sex. In the privacy of their bedrooms, adolescents can be exposed to an astonishing array of graphic pictures and video clips depicting erotic material.

Pornography is rife on the Internet, appearing as emails or pop-ups or even web sites designed to attract adolescents. While most adults simply ignore such intrusions, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to them. Pornographic material can give an impressionable teen a convoluted view of what is normal, healthy sexual behavior.

Dangers of Teenage Sex—

Teen pregnancy is by far the most publicized danger of underage sex. Statistics reveal that every year in the US, over 850,000 girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen become pregnant. Equally worrying are the figures that suggest 20,000 girls under fourteen become pregnant annually; of those 8,000 go on to give birth.

Promiscuity is an urgent issue. Adolescents are much more likely to engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners. Half of all people infected with the HIV virus annually are thought to be between the ages of 15 and 24.

About 25 percent of all sexually active teens contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) annually. Of those, eighty percent do not know they have a disease and run the risk of long-term health effects, such as infertility. Two percent of all girls between fifteen and nineteen have been diagnosed with Chlamydia.

What the Parent of a Teen Can Do—

Despite the prevalence of teenage sex, only about one third of moms and dads with sexually active fourteen-year-olds believe that their youngster had engaged in sex. However, of those kids, three-quarters used contraception the first time they had sex.

Signs that Your Teen is having Sex—

Adolescents who are dating someone who is at least two years older than they are twice as likely to engage in sexual activity. Furthermore, teens in a long-term relationship are considerably more likely to be having sex.

Teens with several social groups are less likely to be involved in intimate situations and are therefore less likely to be engaging in sex.

Tips for Moms and dads—

Experts have this advice:
  • Believe it or not, many teens feel that their moms and dads are the most influential source of information on sex.
  • Discuss sex with your youngster, from an early age, ideally pre-teen. Talking to your teen about sex encourages responsible behavior when it comes to sexual activity.
  • Keep in mind that your teen gains a lot of information from simply watching how adults behave.
  • Offer guidance, care and supervision. Adolescents are in need of parenting and feel more secure when boundaries are clear.

Sexuality is an important topic for your adolescent. Tackle it early, sensitively and in a matter-of-fact manner. Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. Help your adolescent understand normal sexual urges and strategies for managing them healthfully.

Motivating Your Child To Do Well In School

"My son was a excellent student in high school used to have awards in Science, Music, and Arts i was so proud as parent and also got high results at GCSE exams mostly A's & A* but since he start college he is under achieving student to the point he failed subjects last year, notice not doing his college work progress report are disappointing, noticed teachers are feed up as i feel the same and today he told me sorry that he is not doing his work my son said to me i do not want to do my work and said i do not know why? My question why my son is feeling this way?"


As young people today are confronted with new and unfamiliar issues when compared with young people in any recent or long-term past, many moms and dads struggle to identify the catalysts or strategies to stimulate and motivate their young people. Today's young people are faced with choices and circumstances their moms and dads didn't face. They live in a world where it requires a security badge to enter a high school…where they compete scholastically with 4.9 G.P.A.s…where classmates cheat using cell phone technology…where world events and economic issues make it scary to contemplate the future. Is it any wonder young people often lack motivation?

As many experts reveal, a loss or lack of motivation in young people is often symptomatic of far greater issues, such as a lack of self-confidence, a lack of esteem, and so forth. To boost young people’ feelings of enthusiasm and drive, moms and dads can consider some expert advice and strategies for support.

Most of the problems of education are problems of motivation...When a youngster is self-motivated, the teacher cannot keep him from learning. Students who lack motivation often display a gap between their abilities and their academic output and effort. While this can appear at a very young age, including many elementary grades and ages, the lack of motivation is most strongly evident as students transition from middle and high school.

As students lose motivation at a young age, their inability to perform and their desire to achieve becomes a learned behavior, as students are labeled as “underachievers,” resulting in a student’s loss of self-esteem and confidence. A highly intelligent teen may be denied entrance into honor classes and urged to take either general or vocational classes because of a lackluster middle school performance. Such a situation easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If students lose enthusiasm at a young age, it is imperative that school leaders and moms and dads step in to guide these younger students towards more positive performance early on, as early-intervention can help prevent long-term consequences.

When an adolescent lacks motivation, the end result is often a teen lacking self-confidence, a teen with a bad attitude, or perhaps even a teen with behavior problems. When moms and dads are confronted with issues relating to young people’ behavior and motivation, there are a variety of expert-suggested strategies to help boost students’ performance and attitudes.

Many experts assert that young people are most strongly encouraged and supported when they are forced to motivate themselves. Young people can learn how to motivate themselves by engaging in student clubs, groups, or organizations that foster positive peer influence solutions. For example, some clubs focus on interests that may connect with a teen’s desired future career. In this case, students can determine their interests and goals, and then can simultaneously encounter clearer catalysts that drive their motivation and focus. If a student realizes he/she needs to attend college in order to achieve his/her dream, then the teen may encounter a new self-motivation to strive and succeed in school.

In addition to young people engaging in clubs and activities that stimulate a self-motivation process, there are also many summer camps and teen-based courses (outside of most high school programs) that focus on teaching young people. During such camps, the basics of independent living, such as budgeting, handling a checkbook, obtaining a car loan, finding and maintaining an apartment, using credit wisely, and community participation are taught.

By teaching young people the more important and complex lessons of life after high school, many young people are able to realize how their current choices impact their long-term success. As a result, young people are again able to learn how to self-motivate with the guidance of expert sources and opportunities.

Many public high schools have implemented mentor programs for students, where high-achieving students volunteer to support students who are struggling. Oftentimes these mentors can help fellow young people with homework, or can just serve as a troubled teen’s friend and companion, as a mentor can help a teen to constructively work through problems, discuss issues and pressures that students encounter in and outside of school, and so forth. This avenue is a positive alternative to forcing students to deal with struggles on their own—especially when moms and dads are finding it difficult to connect with their teen.

Moms and dads can also support unmotivated young people by helping their child identify their strengths and abilities. In doing so, moms and dads should simultaneously encourage their teen’s achievements, while supporting their adolescent with enthusiasm and optimism. Adding to this approach, “If we are to motivate adolescents to learn what is in the curriculum, we must honor their learning styles, help them discover their unique abilities, and give them appropriate tools for successful achievement.

Tips for Single Fathers


Most single fathers I know struggle to know where to start in the beginning. What should be first on my list, and how do I even begin to get my arms around the rest? Having talked to a number of single fathers who have successfully negotiated this transition with their children, let me offer the following recommendations…

As adults, we have at least learned some coping mechanisms in our life to deal with change. Often, our children are totally unprepared for having a single father as their primary caregiver. So as you help your children adjust, consider the following suggestions:

• Accept help. Often, as others you love see you struggle, they will ask if they can help. Learn to be a gracious receiver of their offers. Swallow your pride, recognize that you can't do it all, and express gratitude for the help of others.

• Consider early mornings. Once the children are up and around, it’s harder to make time for you. And at night, there are lots of temptations like TV and the computer to distract you. Get up an hour earlier than the children and make time for exercise, reading, getting organized and maybe even some meditation. Investing one early morning hour in yourself can make a marked difference. One of the biggest challenges newly single fathers tell me about is the need to establish new routines when the other adult at home is not there anymore.

• Focus on health. Some fathers deal with the stress of this situation by holing up or binge eating. Make sure you don't go there. Make time for exercise, even if you have to do it with one or more of the children. Walk, run, hit the gym—just stay active. And make sure that you eat right. Resist the temptation to subsist on junk food. Keep lots of vegetables in your life.

• Get the children involved. A lot of routine chores are within the capability of the children. Chores like cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming and more are not beyond their skill level if you teach them what you expect. A chore chart can really help with reminding them and keeping them accountable.

• Have laundry days. Trying to get ahead of and keep up with the laundry can be a big task. One new single father I know tossed all of the children' socks and bought 12 matching pairs for each youngster so mating socks became easy. Consider setting aside a couple of days a week for laundry. If your children are a little older, they can do their own with a little training. And if you are not used to separating clothes for washing, ask an experienced laundry-doer for some help. There are not many things more discouraging than having a nice white shirt being suddenly pink because it was washed in the wrong temperature water with the wrong colors.

• Have your own chore chart. One father I know got one of those little binders that hold punched 3 x 5 index cards with dividers for different days of the week. Under the Monday and Thursday tabs, he put cards for vacuuming; under the Saturday tab was a card for cleaning the bathroom. Every day he opened the binder to the right tab and knew what he had to get done that day. Find a simple system and stick to it. It will take a lot of the stress out of these routine duties.

• Make and keep promises. For whatever reason their mom is no longer at home, your kid's trust is likely shaken. Whether mom betrayed them by leaving or whether she died, they will not be very trusting, and, in their mind, for good reason. The best way to build trust with the children is to make and keep promises. Do what you say you will do, and don't make a promise you are not committed to keep. Consistency and honesty will help them find the courage to trust again. Losing a spouse for whatever reason can create all kinds of feelings in a man. And while you now in a very real sense have to be the principle support for the children, you can't be all they need without a little self care.

• Make time for introspection. You will find a need to take a deep look inside and be ready for this new challenge. Get a grip on your feelings. Writing them down in a journal or in a password-protected computer file can really be a good way of looking objectively. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and find ways to compensate for the things you have a hard time with. Get comfortable with yourself and it will go a long way to your healing efforts for yourself and your family.

• Show confidence. Children need to see that their father is confident and optimistic about the future. Let them know that you are OK and that with time your family will reach a new level of comfort and routine. Your attitude will make a huge difference in how they feel and cope now and later.

• Talk a lot. Many children will open up and want to talk to father or others about what has happened. Others will clam up or get busy being supportive to suppress their feelings. Your job is to keep them talking and to be a good listener. Encourage them to talk with you—if not with you, create a situation where they can talk to a trusted adult. Sometimes relatives, clergy, adult friends or therapists can help if they won't talk with you. But it is important to help them deal with their feelings and frustrations. Of particular importance is helping them see that the loss of their mother is not their fault.


More single-father tips…

Emotional Issues—

As a new single father, the most important things for you to do are:

1. Get on with your life. Do not spend time trying to figure it out, look forward.

2. If you are in therapy, after you get through the initial panic stage, try to spend some time thinking about what attracted you to someone with personality defects similar to what your wife has, so that you don't make the same mistake again. Another friend said, "If new potential girlfriends don't attend church regularly and say a prayer before meals, you don't want to get involved."

3. Reassure the children that this was not their fault, and that there is nothing they can do to fix it (to get you back with mom).

4. Talk about what has happened, with the children and with your friends. Once you become open and comfortable talking about it, you become more approachable by others, and options to resolve your problems begin to present themselves more readily.

Clothes—

Mornings were real tough in the beginning; "Where's this?", "Where's that?", "This doesn't fit."

Here's what I did to make our clothes issues easier:

1. All the socks went into storage. We went to WalMart and bought twelve pairs of identical socks for each youngster, twelve pairs for the boy and twelve for the girl so no matter what they find, they will match.

2. Be sure to take stuff that wrinkles out of the dryer right AWAY and put it on a hanger. If you do this, you can get away without ironing pants, shirts, etc.

3. Clothes are washed every day. This keeps wash from becoming overwhelming, and reduces frustration when things they want to wear are not available. After a while, it becomes easy to fit it into the evening/morning schedule.

4. We pulled all the clothes out of their drawers and spent a few hours sorting them. "What will you wear?" "What won't you wear?" "Why?" Stuff they won't or can't wear goes out. Things they like to wear stays. I did the same thing as for socks for a few shorts, shirts, etc. that were favorites. I went out and bought three of each, so they will always find something that they perceive to be okay to wear. Then I work on variety as they seem open to it.

5. I discovered that the major issue with washing clothes is that they come out of the dryer. Putting them in the washer, then transferring to the dryer is no problem, but when they come out, you have to do something with them. Here is what I do:

o Everything on a hanger goes in a closet where it is easily spotted, not buried in a drawer somewhere.
o My wife used to fold the clothes. I stopped this because it was a lot of work and makes the clothes difficult to find. I put a bar up over the washer dryer, so now anything that comes out of the dryer that can be hung on a hanger gets put on a hanger, including my casual t-shirts, girls outfits bottoms and tops together on a hanger, etc. (I had to buy about 60 plastic hangers).
o The stuff that cannot be hung up (underwear, socks, etc.) goes into a plastic "sorter" box (WalMart again), and the children can put these away in the correct drawers. I labeled the drawers with masking tape so there is a bit of structure there too.

Housework—

My children are old enough to understand and follow a few basic rules. A few that we have that relate to housework are:

1. Don't do anything that creates more work for other people.
2. Don't put your hands on the walls.
3. No dirty dishes in the sink, they always go in the dishwasher.
4. No food or drink allowed in carpeted areas of the house.

The last one has been really successful for me, because you can analyze many actions and have the children think, "Does this create work for Father or someone else?"

Food—

I may be in better shape than some here, because I have always liked to cook and consider myself good at it, but my children are at a picky stage where they will not eat many things.

1. Go out when you just can't do anything else. I started to make a schedule and plan meals, but I found that for us, it was better just to come home and have multiple choices. Tuna Fish, Pizza, burgers on the grill, salad, all are easy, good and quick to make.
2. On days when there is just not enough time to make a full meal, we have frozen pizza or some such other quick food that they picked out.
3. Similar to what happened with the clothes, we sat down and made a list together of things that the children like to eat and will eat. Then, we go to the store and buy those things. When dinners are made, it is stuff they picked out and have already agreed to eat. We made sure to cover the major food groups, talked about the importance of balanced meals and agreed that they would each take a multi-vitamin every day.

Extra Time—

When do you find time to do these things? Well, I keep the children involved in scouting, church, etc. and use opportunities when they are on trips, visiting with friends, etc. to do major things like mowing the lawn, vacuuming, etc.

I now go to bed about 9-9:30PM, not long after the children go because I am so tired.

I have also started getting up at 5AM instead of 6:30 when the children get up. This gives me almost two hours of personal time when I am rested that I use to do personal things (read the paper, smoke a cigar, listen to music, etc.) and sometimes work (bills, cleaning, etc.) I find that the loss of sleep is compensated for by my feeling that things are done, and not hanging over my head. I am a much happier person all day having had some extra relaxation or work time in the morning.

Some of the themes so far that have helped make me more comfortable were:

1. Accept help from others when offered.
2. Forget about the wife, she is gone.
3. I rule the house, it does not rule me. I feel better and less stressed when things are under control and relatively clean. To me, this is worth losing sleep for.
4. Children like and need structure.
5. Simplify things that are difficult.
6. Take some time off to develop your new family "structure" for getting things done. It's unreasonable for anyone to expect you to continue working at the same performance level through an event like this.
7. Talk about what happened with your children and friends. Children, particularly need the emotional outlet and talking about it helps heal the hurt.
8. The children can pitch in.
9. You have to give up some sleep to get things done.

Finally, therapists, counselors, and others have told me that while it is unusual for a wife to leave her children, almost all of these cases are due to depression, alcoholism, or some other severe emotional disorder. In my case it was depression which led to alcohol abuse.

I was encouraged by many people to go to Al-Anon, which is a spin-off of Alcoholics Anonymous and is for people whose lives are affected by someone else's alcohol problem. Their big theme is to stop focusing on the person who is causing you the trouble and start improving your own situation.

David McLaughlin, MD (OPS Consultant: Psychiatry)
Online Parent Support

Helping Adolescents with Their Depression—

If you suspect that an adolescent in your life is suffering from depression, take action right away. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your adolescent are signs of a problem. Whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed - the sooner the better.

The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your adolescent about it. In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your adolescent. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.

Here are some important tips:

Avoid the blame game – It can be easy to blame yourself or another family member for your adolescent’s depression, but it only adds to an already stressful situation. Furthermore, depression is normally caused by a number of factors, so it’s unlikely—except in the case of abuse or neglect—that any loved one is “responsible”.

Be open with the family – Don’t tiptoe around the issue of teen depression in an attempt to “protect” the other children. Kids know when something is wrong. When left in the dark, their imaginations will often jump to far worse conclusions. Be open about what is going on and invite your children to ask questions and share their feelings.

Be understanding. Living with a depressed adolescent can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Your adolescent is suffering, so do your best to be patient and understanding.

Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for adolescents. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Don’t try to talk adolescents out of their depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling. If you don’t, they will feel like you don’t take their emotions seriously.

Encourage physical activity. Encourage your adolescent to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression, so find ways to incorporate it into your adolescent’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.

Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your adolescent to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your adolescent out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.

If your adolescent claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, adolescents may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your adolescent is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

Learn about depression. Just like you would if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed adolescent. Encourage your adolescent to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed adolescents realize that they’re not alone and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

Let depressed adolescents know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (adolescents don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

Reach out for support – Get the emotional support you need. Reach out to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist of your own. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. The important thing is to talk about how your adolescent’s depression is affecting you, rather than bottling up your emotions.

Remember the siblings – Depression in one child can cause stress or anxiety in other family members, so make sure “healthy” children are not ignored. Siblings may need special individual attention or professional help of their own to handle their feelings about the situation.

Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your adolescent begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your adolescent is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your adolescent’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.

Take care of yourself – In order to help a depressed adolescent, you need to stay healthy and positive yourself, so don’t ignore your own needs. The stress of the situation can affect your own moods and emotions, so cultivate your well–being by eating right, getting enough sleep, and making time for things you enjoy.

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