New session – Parenting the Extreme Teen

Tara McGee and I are running another series of workshops in Collingwood in January.  These workshops are proving to be quite popular.  We were both amazed at the participation in the session we ran in November, and with the value that people were getting out of it.  We did the first session on “The Maturity Model” using the material from Dr. John McKinnon’s book An Unchanged Mind.  This session helps parent understand that their teen’s behavior is actually a flawed approach to solving their problems.  These kids are in over their head and are missing some critical skills to function in the world.  They don’t understand why, and they are in genuine pain about not succeeding.  Self-destructive behavior like not attending school, using drugs, cutting, and more, are solutions that their immature brains have come up with to provide immediate relief — without considering longer-term consequences.  We outline the 7 maturity factors that teens who have lost their way are lacking in:  Social Ethics, Lack of Narcissism, Empathy, Emotional Regulation, Future Orientation, Abstract versus Black-and-White Thinking, and Separateness in Relationships.

In the next session we focus on the building blocks for helping teens mature.  The first step is about attunement, which is the parents’ ability to see their child for who they are and to connect with them where they are at.  Without attunement it is impossible to set limits that a teen will respect, so we start with this topic.  We notice that parents often have unrealistic or “mis-attuned” expectations for their child, for example, everyone can relate to the concept of their child as a mini-me — and to a teenager whose behavior is screaming  “I AM NOT YOU!!”  As our teens fumble around and search for an identity that they feel comfortable with, it is critical that parents truly “see” them and learn to connect.  We teach you practical skills to listen and talk so that communication is not just an illusion, so that you are getting and giving the respect that everyone deserves.

Our third session focuses on setting limits.  We demonstrate the difference between a privilege, an expectation, and a limit, and we discuss how privileges are granted, and limits loosened only when the teen demonstrates that they are responsibly meeting expectations.  This is the big eye-opener for most participants, and all of the other stuff in the previous sessions start to make more sense.

The parents who have attended these sessions are invited to continue on with a bi-weekly group where they can continue to discuss how they are doing with implementing the strategies we are teaching.  If only it were as simple as just implementing the strategies!!  But it is not that simple, so some self-exploration  about the barriers we set up for ourselves is necessary.  As well, it takes time to really figure out what is going on for a particular child and what parts of the strategy need to be emphasized more for that child.  The ongoing support and education sessions help increase understanding abuot the problems and fine-tune the approach so that it is successful for the particular parent/child combination and the particular extenuating circumstances.

We had a great deal of fun and laughter in the workshops, even though some of the participants have very serious difficulties to contend with.  The atmosphere was accepting and supportive.  Our new sessions will start on January 24th.  My website has details and how to register:  Feel free to pass the info along to anyone who is struggling with a teen.


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