Connection Conniption ~ Understanding Adjustment Disorders in Teenagers, by Aaron Welch, LMHC

What are some ways I can know that my teenager is having a hard time with adjustment?

* A noticeable change in grades
* When teens isolate themselves (headphones all the time, hide in their room, avoid family time)
* Attempts to "escape" (video games, books, pornography, etc...) instead of connect.
* Behavior changes: getting into trouble at home or school
* Outbursts of anger or frustration
* Depression: decreased interest in activities they usually like, low motivation, etc.
* Self-mutilation: "cutting", excessive piercings,
* Substance abuse
* Sexual activity
* Suicide attempts

Watch closely for signs that your teenager is completely pulling away from family relationships. All teenagers long for independence from family to some extent, but if the isolation becomes excessive then you need to reach out to them in a loving and direct way. Teenagers will resist these advances but don't take that personally. They truly need this time of connection with you.
Remember that the pressure to fit in socially is high for teenagers. At the same time, self-esteem and confidence is often low for many teens. The combination of these two factors makes many teenagers vulnerable to bad choices and lifestyles.

Why is Central Florida such a difficult place to adjust to for teenagers?

* Cultural differences: there are so many races and cultures represented here in Central Florida. There are hundreds and thousands of people that move here every month from diverse cultures. Because of differences in values, religions, and traditions it takes time to really "connect" with others. Remember, many people feel a sense of security based upon the three factors mentioned above and connecting to people who are different in these areas can feel emotionally "risky".

* Lack of roots: People move in and out of Central Florida at an amazing rate. Because of this, the sense of stability that people long for is difficult to find.

* Cost of living: Because it is expensive to live here, it forces people to compensate. Often, both spouses have to work and many people have to work at more than one job just to survive. This dynamic can lead to emotional consequences.

Look at it this way:
We are busier than ever: we don't have TIME to connect.

We are more tired than ever: we don't have the ENERGY to connect.

We are out of our comfort zone: we don't know WHERE to connect.

* This tendency to work more also affects how quickly or easily your teenager connects. If a parent is tired from working, it is more difficult for them to maintain strong relationships with their teenagers. What can parents do to help their teenagers adjust in a healthy way?

* Persistent Love: I use that word because teenagers often act as if they don't want to be close to parents or they act as if they do not need them. This could not be farther from the truth. Teenagers need the love and guidance that only parents can offer. So don't give up!

* Healthy and consistent boundaries: Of course, teenagers resist this strongly. The key for parents is to establish reasonable boundaries and then ALWAYS enforce them. Parents must be the stable force in the lives of their children. If boundaries change based on how tired or upset the parent is, teenagers do not have a sense of security that they need.

* Time: Teenagers need for parents to take the time to spend with them. Even if it is 30 minutes a day, teens will not feel "forgotten" or lost in the shuffle.

* Honest Listening: Oftentimes, teenagers feel that parents do not understand them nor do they WANT to understand them. Teenagers are facing some of the most difficult challenges in their lives. They also are changing and growing into adulthood. They need parents who truly LISTEN as much (or more) than LECTURE.

* Relationship with Christ: Parents need to model this kind of spiritual growth. Teens need Christ so much, especially when they are struggling to adjust. Parents can also help their teens to plug into a church youth group where they can gain a support system.

Aaron Welch Bio: He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together.

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