For Teens Knee-Deep In Negativity, Reframing Thoughts Can Help


Teen Negativity art

Jenn Liv for NPR

“Why didn’t she text me back yet? She doesn’t like me anymore!”

“There’s no way I’m trying out for the team. I suck at basketball”

“It’s not fair that I have a curfew!”

Sound familiar? Parents of tweens and teens often shrug off such anxious and gloomy thinking as normal irritability and moodiness — because it is. Still, the beginning of a new school year, with all of the required adjustments, is a good time to consider just how closely the habit of negative, exaggerated “self-talk” can affect academic and social success, self-esteem and happiness.

Psychological research shows that what we think can have a powerful influence on how we feel emotionally and physically, and on how we behave. Research also shows that our harmful thinking patterns can be changed.

You may not be of much help when it comes to sharpening your son’s calculus skills. But during my 35-plus years of clinical practice it’s become clear to me that parents can play a huge role in helping their children to develop a critical life skill: the ability to take notice of their thoughts, to step back and view the bigger picture, and to decide how to act based on that more realistic perspective.

Taking heed of an alarmist or pessimistic inner voice is a universal experience. It has survival value; it often protects people from danger. And it’s often true that a worrying thought can act as a motivating force – to study, for example.

Still, the insecurities that adolescents feel as they undergo the multiple transitions necessary in growing up make them especially vulnerable to believing the worst. This tendency can lead to chronic anxiety, depression and anger, and can interfere with relationships and success in school.

Helping children grasp the importance of thinking more realistically may help protect them later when they make the huge transition to college. A 2016 survey by the American College Health Association of undergraduates at over 50 colleges and universities found that about 38 percent had felt so depressed at some time during the previous year that it was tough to function. Some 60 percent had experienced an episode of debilitating anxiety.

The power of thoughts to affect feelings and behavior is a foundational principle of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the form of therapy that I practice. CBT teaches people how to recognize faulty negative self-talk, to notice how it makes them feel and act, and to challenge it. Parents can practice this skill themselves, and act as models as they guide their kids to question a thought by looking at the evidence for and against it.

If your child often seems withdrawn, sad or angry, you may be able to identify a problematic thinking pattern by listening closely. Here are four key styles of negative self-talk to listen for:

Catastrophizing. One common thought habit is the tendency to jump to the worst-case scenario (“What if I fail the test? I’m never going to get into college!”) Scanning constantly for disaster ahead acts as a huge contributor to anxiety. And catastrophizing often leads teens to avoid people or become reluctant to try new things.

Zooming in on the negative. Ruminating on a disappointment without taking into account the many positive and neutral aspects of one’s experience is often associated with sadness and depression. A missed soccer goal might overshadow everything else that happens one day – the lunch with friends, the good grade on a test, the hilarious TV show – and consume your high-schooler for days.

It’s not fair! Interpreting every letdown as a grave injustice – the “it’s not fair!” habit – often underlies teens’ anger and can harm friendships and family relationships.

I can’t! Reacting habitually to difficult situations or to new opportunities with “I can’t,” rather than “I can try,” leads to helplessness. Changing the thought to “I can try!” encourages problem-solving and a willingness to be proactive, to take positive action — both keys to being successful and resilient.

For parents, the idea is not to squelch the negative thought. Research has found that attempted “thought stopping” can actually make the idea stickier. Rather, you want your child to face the thought, thoroughly examine it and replace it with a more realistic and helpful perspective.

Questions that you might pose to carefully weigh the evidence include: “You had a group of friends at your old school and at camp – realistically, what are the chances you can’t make friends now? What actions can you take to reach out? What would you say to somebody else who worries about this?”

A helpful replacement thought might be: “It probably will take a few weeks to get to know people, but I’ve made friends before and there are things I can try. I can sign up for the photography or robotics club and meet people that way.”

More realistic and balanced thinking leads to positive action, which, in turn, tends to bolster confidence, enhance self-esteem and result in greater happiness.

Mary K. Alvord, Ph.D., is a psychologist and director of Alvord, Baker & Associates, LLC, in Rockville, Md. She is the co-author of Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens: A Workbook to Break the Nine Thought Habits That Are Holding You Back, as well as the audio recording Relaxation and Self-Regulation Techniques for Children and Teens.

Anger at Teens (Or is it Worry?)

by Roni Cohen-Sandler, PhD
Remember when your toddler wandered off somewhere or ran into the street? Or your elementary school aged son jumped off the highest monkey bar or hid in a department store with no regard for his own safety—or your nerves? For however many seconds it took before you knew that your daughter or son was safe, you were probably terrified. But the moment you knew all was well, your fear probably turned to anger. If you’re like most parents, you may have felt a strong urge to throttle that precious child. You were unbelievably scared about what could have happened! Plus, she made you doubt your ability to keep her safe, which is typically one of the priorities of parenting.

More than likely, although your young child sensed how upset you were, you kept your fury in check. But now that kids are older, these scenarios often become far more complex and emotionally charged. When teens and tweens put themselves in danger or make bad choices, they provoke a whole different level of parental anxiety—which is quickly converted to anger that many mothers and fathers no longer contain. The result? Explosive confrontations, furious parents, indignant kids, and strained parent-teen relationships. With summer’s lack of structure and relaxed rules, many parents and teens are struggling even more. Fortunately, to turn things around all you might need is a better appreciation for what’s causing this dynamic—and some suggestions for responding more mindfully.

Why You’re So Worked Up

It may feel like a cruel trick of nature that just when teens are more mobile and face far greater temptations and dangers, we parents have much less knowledge of their whereabouts and hardly any control over them. It can be quite unnerving, for example, when a son goes off for the weekend with his friend’s family or a daughter is invited to a dance by an older boy. This anxiety probably skyrockets if you don’t hear from your teen or tween and can’t reach them when you try to call—whether cell service is spotty or they forget their cellphones or they can’t be bothered to answer your call.

It’s even worse when you find out about actual transgressions—say, if your son and his friend snuck out of their room and got up to no good or your daughter texted her date a grossly inappropriate photo. Then anxiety can transform instantly into rage. At these moments, you may feel disrespected by kids who seemingly ignore your basic rules, wise advice, and urgent admonitions. In an instant, your mind can go from the present situation to unimaginable tragedies. In the panicky parental mind, cheating on a test, accepting a ride from an underage driver, or skipping school are one step away from fatal auto accidents, teen pregnancy, and drug overdoses.

Why Teens Don’t Get It

You may think your son is purposely causing your constant agitation, sleepless nights, and graying hair. In reality, of course, this is unlikely. Probably your daughter thinks the situation is no big deal and has no idea why you’re so upset: “It’s not like anything happened!” “I’m fine, aren’t I?” In fact, your teen may truly wonder why you “flipped out” or “overreacted.” How could they not? They don’t have the perspective or judgment that come from fully matured brains and about 25 to 35 more years of life experience. In kids’ views, they’ve been unfairly criticized, misunderstood and blamed for circumstances they may view as insignificant or beyond their control. It wasn’t their fault! You just don’t understand them! Not only can teens feel hurt and indignant, but also they may become even more determined to demonstrate you can’t control them. That’s how parental anger can backfire and trigger unproductive, if not harmful, vicious cycles.

First Step: Empathy

Although this suggestion may seem counter-intuitive, your first step may be to muster up some empathy for your teen or tween. First of all, if you’re all worked up, you can’t think clearly enough to see the big picture, much less to have a productive discussion. Empathizing with how they’re thinking and feeling can quickly deflate your rage as well as deposit good will in the parent-teen relationship bank. These reminders may be helpful:

• Developmentally, teens figure out who they are by exploring, experimenting, and discovering. In fact, these pivotal tasks are all but synonymous with adolescence. Testing limits is practically teens’ job.

• Making mistakes is a necessary part of this process. That’s a primary way teens learn about themselves and the world, enabling them to make wiser decisions in the future. Your goal, of course, is to speak to them in ways that discourage minor risk-taking and mistakes from becoming truly dangerous behaviors.

• Your teen didn’t invent rule-bending and risk-taking. Try to recall your own desires for spontaneity, excitement, and freedom when you were that age. Chances are, your goal was to have fun—not to spite your parents or send them to an early grave. Your own teen is probably not so different.

More Strategies

Once you’re calmer, you can probably examine the situation more fairly and flexibly, which will lead to more constructive discussions and resolutions. Here are some ideas:

• Keep an open mind. It’s easy to jump to conclusions. When our brains are activated by fear or anger, the parts that help us think clearly and assess situations accurately are all but shut down. So when the initial anger subsides, consider that you may not have all the facts. Listen carefully to your teen’s explanation of the situation.

• Examine your anxiety. Decide if your reaction was reasonable for the situation. Perhaps it was exaggerated by what else you’re dealing with, such as financial, job-related, marital, or elderly parent issues. If so, the last thing you need is a teen who’s worsening your stress. Regardless, being aware of your anger makes it less likely you’ll be unhelpfully critical or unnecessarily punitive.

• Discuss constructively. Make a genuine effort to hear and understand each other’s positions. If you overreacted, own up to it. If you’re upset with your teen, convey your message in ways that lead to constructive resolutions of the problem. For example, “I’d sleep a whole lot better if you could text me that you arrived safely” usually works better than, “Because of your selfishness, I was up all night!”

• Agree upon solutions. Brainstorm specific, concrete ideas that could (a) significantly lower your anxiety, and (b) be tolerable to your teens. In most situations, as I learned when my own kids were teens, just hearing from them was reassuring. If your teens are too mortified to talk to you in front of their friends, would they agree to text (which is inconspicuous) or call but hang up so you see a missed call on your phone? Rather than waiting up, could you leave a light on in the hallway that they turn off when they come in? Or ask them to slide a piece of paper under your bedroom door? Definitely pre-arrange an SOS signal so you’ll know when they’re in trouble and need your help. When you talk about your apprehension without anger, they’ll be far more likely to negotiate these options with you.


Having said all this, it’s hard to imagine raising teens and tweens today without the occasional night of tossing and turning. No matter how smart and responsible your kids are, they still have immature judgment and hormone-infused impulses. It’s still your job to keep them safe by protecting them—even from themselves. Once in awhile, seeing you upset or worried or even angry conveys to them the depth of your love and concern. Plus, it comforts teens to know you are there to set limits and rein them in if they step over the line. But in general, expressing anger excessively or when you’re really feeling terribly anxious isn’t all that useful—to them or to you. Take a deep breath—it’s summer, after all—and enjoy the increasingly rare time you may have with your teen.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep, But Instagram Is To the Bone

From The Huffington Post: 04/04/2013 1:31 pm

If you are a parent of a tween, stop right now and take this pop quiz.

Don’t worry.

There’s only one question.

Are you ready for it?

Here goes:

Is your kid on Instagram?

a) No freaking way #inserteyeroll

b) Totes! #likeduh

If you answered (a), um… you’re wrong. And I’m sorry to hear about that rock you just crawled out from under.

If you answered (b), congrats! You just earned 10 Insta points! And I so just made that up! Go ahead and pat yourself on the back, but your job is far from over. Because letting your child have an Insta (you knew they called it that, right?) without teaching them how to use it properly is like buying your kid a car without teaching them how to drive.

Or some other metaphor that’s a little less lame. Still. The point I’m trying to make here is an important one so just bear with me, k?

So… Are you on Instagram? Do you follow your child to see what he or she is doing? Is their account set to “private” with geotagging turned off? Have you instructed your children not to accept follower invites from anyone they don’t know? And to never, ever, ever give out any personal information like address, location or phone number? Like, ever?

Well done. You just earned three more Insta points.

But those were only the starter questions. Now take this next set out for a spin:


Are you pissed because I said at the beginning that there would only be one question?

Well, guess what?

I lied.

You have a tween now. Get used to it.

So, have you told them yet how they should never post a picture that will hurt, embarrass or make someone feel left out? Explained to them — really sat down and explained — that any picture they post on Instagram is out there forever? And how that cute bikini pic they posted on vacay is just one screenshot away from landing in front of the wrong, creepy set of eyes?

Sad and hard to talk about, but true nonetheless.

So, did you tell them?

Did you?

If you’re anything like me, your answer falls somewhere between um, I think I did and well… kind of, sort of.

And that’s not enough.

Did you know that there are beauty pageants on Instagram?


Well then you may want to sit down.

Because you know who the participants in these pageants are?

Our children.

Wait. What?

See, right now, as I sit here typing this, there is a tween girl with an iPhone somewhere making a grid out of four pictures of her besties using Instacollage or Mixel or whatever cool new app is making the rounds this week (omg Juxtaposer is sooooo amaze!)

When she’s finished, she will post that grid on Instagram, and then write something along the lines of: BEAUTY CONTEST! VOTE SOMEONE OUT!

Did you just throw up in your mouth a little? I know I did when this whole thing blew up here on the Main Line over the weekend.

And I’ll get to that in a minute.

But wait. That’s not even the worst part. Because what happens next is this: People will actually vote for who they think is the least attractive in the comments, and whichever girl’s name is written the most will be awarded a big fat X drawn across her face.

Do you want me to repeat that last part?

Of course you don’t, but I’m going to anyway.

Whichever girl’s name is written the most will be awarded with a big fat X drawn across her face.

Then the question will be repeated two more times, until there is only one gorgeous X-free girl left standing, the fairest of them all!

And you thought you had it tough in middle school because no one had invented Japanese hair straightening yet.

But don’t hate the players. They’re just kids.

And don’t hate the game. Instagram was designed to be an online photo-sharing app that let users pimp-out their pics with cool filters and then share them.

So, who do we hate?

We hate the coaches.

Because we are the coaches.

And we are failing our children by not giving them the tools they need to properly navigate this scary new world, and by not monitoring their interactions in this world closely enough once we do.

I had heard about the beauty pageants from a friend in New York a few months ago. But I didn’t realize it was going on in my own town until late Saturday night, when, after five days of being on vacay in Mexico, I finally got in bed with my iPhone and signed onto my daughter’s account to see what was going on.

Because part of the deal I have with my daughter is that until she turns 13, I can access her account any time. And if there are any followers, posts, comments or people she is following that I think are inappropriate, she will delete them, no questions asked. True story, except for the “no questions asked” part. Because she usually does have questions and/or arguments, but I am her mom and I said so.

So I started scrolling down her news feed.

And that’s when I saw them.

The beauty contest grids.

About a half dozen of them.

And there, smiling out from one of the squares, was my kid.

Holy freaking @!*&!

But when I asked her about it the next day, she said she knew someone had put her picture in a contest, but that she didn’t really care.

Impressive, I guess.

Then again, she hadn’t been voted out yet.

There were other girls who weren’t so lucky. And they were devastated, which is a ridiculous understatement, to say the least.

My first instinct was to block all the girls who had posted the grids from my daughter’s account.

But here’s the thing.

These girls were friends of my daughter’s who had been in my car, at my parties, in my house. They liked to dance, and sing camp songs and bake brownies. They weren’t Heathers. Or Reginas. Or even Monas. And if you don’t know who Mona is, you need to go watch an ep of PLL like, now.

These were good, sweet, funny girls who I knew and who I liked.

Yes, what they were doing was wrong.

But how could I blame them when they were playing a game they had never been given the rules to? My own daughter waved the grids off as all in good fun until I actually explained to her what made them so offensive and vile. In the wake of events like what took place in Steubenville, it’s becoming more important than ever for us to empower our kids with the tools they need to decipher right from wrong — both online and IRL.

And so instead of banishing the girls, I did this:

At first, nothing much happened.

But then I noticed that the beauty grids were slowly starting to disappear from my daughter’s news feed. And in their place were things like this:

And this:

And this:

Slowly but surely, this little posse of fourth and fifth grade girls — who had just spent hours feeling bad about themselves — picked themselves up and took to Instagram to post inspirational messages of their own.

Did you just get chills?

I know I did. Because if this is not just the most amazing show of tween girl power, then I don’t know what is.

Clearly, when it comes to social media, a little guidance goes a long way.

Which is why it’s time for us to take our collective blinders off and really pay attention. Because the minute we give our kids an iPhone or iPod or any other gadget that puts technology quite literally in the palms of their hands, we become responsible for whatever happens next.

So, when my kids get home tonight — they are 7 and 10 and yes, they are both on Instagram — I’m going to take a few moments before all the after-school craziness begins to really sit down and talk to them about what it means to use social media correctly and responsibly.

This is something we should ALL be doing. We potty train our kids, teach them good table manners and spend 10 minutes deciphering the food label on a candy bar. And yet, we set our kids up on social media, and then for all intents and purposes, we hang them out to dry.

Checking our kids’ news feeds to see what they are viewing, scrolling through their profiles to see what they’re posting, investigating the people who want to follow them, finding out who they’ve given their password to and monitoring all of their accounts (because most kids have more than one Instagram account, in case you didn’t know) doesn’t make us helicopter parents.

It makes us smart parents.

And there is nothing more beautiful than being smart.

Six Ways to Help the Stressed-Out Teen in Your Life


The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Feb. 06 2013, 5:36 PM EST

To many a frazzled Canadian parent, the days seem shorter and the expectations higher. Our teens have hopped on the racing treadmill, facing a bleak job market and doubling down on university degrees, juggling the insatiable, and intrusive, demands of social media. The result: Nearly 7 per cent of Canadian teens suffer from serious anxiety, with symptoms that cause them to miss school or avoid peers – and behind them is a whole cohort of stressed-out adolescents, trying to juggle all their obligations. (In a 2008, Statistics Canada study, four of 10 teenagers reported being under “constant pressure to accomplish accomplish more than they could handle.”) But if anxiety thrives in the conditions confronting the modern teen, there are some steps that parents can take. The good news is that mom and dad might feel the load lighten too.

1. Keep them busy (but bite your tongue): A common refrain of modern parenting is that young teens are being overscheduled. And while downtime is important, research suggests that it’s not the extracurricular activities themselves that are anxiety-inducing – in fact, pursuing a favourite hobby or sport by choice is mentally sustaining. What heightens stress are the achievement goals parents attach to the activities, says Suniya Luthar, a psychology professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, who conducted the study in 2006 with Grade 8 students, and replicated the same findings with older students last year. “It’s not the number of hours, it’s the pressure they feel” to be MVP or star of the school play, she says. What’s more, this pressure may spill over into their friendships: If you are being taught, even unconsciously, to see teammates, or co-stars, as rivals for the big scholarship, Luthar asks, how does that impact your relationships? “We have to to be hypervigilant about our kids being drawn into this [attitude of] ‘achieve more, and excel more at all costs,’” says Luthar, “The message in that is so overpowering, that parents need to work extra hard to show our kids the importance of kindness, connectedness and integrity.” That’s an easier endeavour when parents aren’t counting goals in the stands, or plotting the next résumé-building endeavour. “It’s about who’s calling the shots,” says Carl Honoré, author of The Slow Fix and the parenting book Under Pressure. His advice: Drop your teen at hockey practice and go relax over a latte.

2. Find your teen an “auntie”: Modern families are shrinking, more mobile and time-crunched – and that means teens, distancing themselves from parents, who might otherwise have spent time with adult relatives in the past, may turn to peers to fill the gap. But Steve Biddulph, an Australian psychologist and the author of the new bookRaising Girls, says that girls, especially, who are more susceptible than boys to media messages about their appearance and sexuality, can benefit from time with an older woman, who can impart important life lessons that focus on character, not fashion sense. That person doesn’t need to be a relative. In Britain, Biddulph notes, there’s a trend of groups of moms intentionally creating relationships with each other’s daughters, to serve as a sounding board beyond their own moms. A wise auntie can pass on advice in a way a parent might not be able to, especially in the crucial early teen years. And they are also another adult to watch for warning signs when the stress of adolescence becomes more serious.

3. Encourage them to face their fears (even if they fail): “Life is the rough and the smooth; and part of the problem now is we just want the smooth,” says Honoré. “This is a Photoshop culture we live in. We want to edit out the bad stuff.” But teens need to understand that feeling anxious is a normal human reaction to stress – a physiological response designed to warn of danger, and, in healthy measure, improve performance and focus. Avoiding or postponing an activity, such as the dreaded science test, actually enhances anxiety the next time around. A key component of therapy for anxious teens (and adults) is forcing them outside their comfort zone. In one of her group sessions, Dr. Alexa Bagnell, a child psychiatrist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, directs her young patients to stand in front of the sign for the Halifax Public Gardens – and ask for directions to the public gardens. “People will laugh at them and they have to process that and realize the world didn’t end.” Missing school, says Bagnell, can be especially problematic – because teens become increasingly anxious about falling behind, or how their peers might be judging their absences. Better to encourage a nervous teen to prep for the stress-inducing event – practise party small talk for instance – than skip it altogether.

4. Sleep, eat, sweat and be merry: In adolescence, melatonin, the hormone in the brain that initiates sleep, is released later at night, so teenagers “are already fighting their biology” to get good rest, explains Bagnell. Add in the constant white noise of electronics, energy drinks and homework, and the average high-school student, who needs between nine and 10 hours of sleep, is only getting about seven hours. “Sleep deprivation makes it more difficult to manage our emotions and make decisions, and increases our stress level.” A good night’s sleep, Bagnell says, in a dark room – along with eating well and exercising – is a proactive de-stresser, and it’s important for parents to monitor bedtime, including when their teen actually falls asleep. Research also shows that students who get good rest before a test perform better overall than those who cut into their mental rest with a few more hours of cramming.

5. Tune out the (media and Internet) message: This week, a new Ipsos Reid survey found that 84 per cent of Canadian families feel technology keeps them better connected. But teenagers may be too connected. Another online Ipsos Reid survey last year found that 21 per cent of Canadian teens between the ages of 12 and 17 had witnessed someone they knew being bullied through a social-networking site. Half reported a negative experience themselves, including an embarrassing photo or someone hacking their site and pretending to be them. What’s more, teenagers, and girls in particular, are inundated with media that set an impossible standard for beauty and success. Biddulph says that, particularly in the early teens when social time on the Internet increases, parents need to monitor their child’s activity, discuss the ethics of social behaviour online, and educate them about marketing tricks such as airbrushing.

6. Reduce your own anxiety: Anxious parents are more likely to pass on the trait to their kids, both genetically and with their own behaviour – a link supported in a study published by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center last fall. “You can only help your kids if you are significantly less anxious than they are,” says Biddulph. Positive mental health develops when active and even stressful periods are followed by an opportunity to relax. Make sure your teen has a quiet space to escape, and spend time as a family that isn’t goal oriented – a weekend meal, for instance, minus the scheduling flowcharts. “Ideally, your home should be a haven because the outside world has gotten faster, and probably nastier,” says Biddulph.

Mature-Rated Video Games May Lead Teens to Reckless Behavior

Risk-Glorifying Video Games May Lead Teens to Drive Recklessly, New Research Shows

Certain games may increase rebelliousness, sensation seeking among adolescents, study finds

September 11, 2012

WASHINGTON—Teens who play mature-rated, risk-glorifying video games may be more likely than those who don’t to become reckless drivers who experience increases in automobile accidents, police stops and willingness to drink and drive, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Most parents would probably be disturbed to learn that we observed that this type of game play was more strongly associated with teen drivers being pulled over by the police than their parenting practices,” said study lead author Jay G. Hull, PhD, of Dartmouth College. “With motor vehicle accidents the No. 1 cause of adolescent deaths, popular games that increase reckless driving may constitute even more of a public health issue than the widely touted association of video games and aggression.”

Researchers conducted a longitudinal study involving more than 5,000 U.S. teenagers who answered a series of questions over four years in four waves of telephone interviews. The findings were published online in APA’s journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture®.

Fifty percent of the teens reported in the first interview that their parents allowed them to play mature-rated games and among those, 32 percent said they had played Spiderman II, 12 percent had played Manhunt and 58 percent had played Grand Theft Auto III. Playing video games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Manhunt and Spiderman II was associated with increases in sensation seeking, rebelliousness and self-reported risky driving, the study said. Higher rankings in sensation seeking and rebelliousness were directly linked to risky driving habits, automobile accidents, being stopped by police and a willingness to drink and drive, according to the analysis.

Between the second and third interviews, teens who said they had been pulled over by the police increased from 11 percent to 21 percent; those who said they had a car accident went from 8 percent to 14 percent. In the third interview, when the teens were about 16 years old, 25 percent said “yes” when asked if they engaged in any unsafe driving habits. In the final interview when the teens were about 18, 90 percent said “yes” to at least one of the same risky driving habits: 78 percent admitted to speeding; 26 percent to tailgating; 23 percent to failure to yield; 25 percent to weaving in and out of traffic; 20 percent to running red lights; 19 percent to ignoring stop signs; 13 percent to crossing a double line; 71 percent to speeding through yellow lights; and 27 percent to not using a seatbelt.

The researchers determined the teens’ levels of sensation seeking and rebelliousness by asking them to rate themselves on a four-point scale following questions such as “I like to do dangerous things” and “I get in trouble at school.” The study controlled for variables such as gender, age, race, parent income and education and parenting styles described as warm and responsive or demanding.

“Playing these kinds of video games could also result in these adolescents developing personalities that reflect the risk-taking, rebellious characters they enact in the games and that could have broader consequences that apply to other risky behaviors such as drinking and smoking,” Hull said.

The initial sample was 49 percent female, 11 percent black, 62 percent white, 19 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 6 percent multiple ethnicity. The surveys began when the average age of the participants was about 14; at the second survey, they were about 15; at the third, 16; and at the fourth, 18. Eight months separated the first and second interviews; one-and-a-half years separated the second and third interviews; and two years separated the third and fourth interviews. As is typical in longitudinal surveys, some participants dropped out. The number completing the questions for this study totaled 4,575 for the second interview, 3,653 for the third and 2,718 for the fourth.

The information regarding the teens’ driving habits was based on their own reports during the interviews, and therefore interpretation of the causes of their driving habits was speculative, the authors noted. “At the same time, because the study began when the participants were playing video games but were too young to drive, it is clear that the videogame exposure preceded the risky driving,” Hull said.

Article: “A Longitudinal Study of Risk-Glorifying Video Games and Reckless Driving;” Jay G. Hull, PhD, and Ana M. Draghici, BA, Dartmouth College; James D. Sargent, MD, Dartmouth Medical School, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, Vol. 1, No. 4.

Jay G. Hull, PhDcan be contacted byemail or by phone at (603) 646-2098.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

Original article

Struggling to Talk to Your Teenager? The Greatest Lesson I Ever Learned.

Struggling to Talk to Your Teenager? The Greatest Lesson I Ever Learned.


By Andy Braner, President/CEO of KIVU

So many of my friends with teenagers complain about the one-word answers they get when they attempt to communicate. They find it incredibly difficult to cultivate meaningful conversations with the very people who live under their roofs. I’ve heard hundreds of parent/teen conversations that sound something like this:

“Hey Honey, How was school?”
“Did you have a chance to do your homework?”
“What did you think about the movie you went to last night?”

And those of us with teenagers understand how complex it is to crack open a conversation with our teens. It seems like just yesterday they were running through the house longing for our attention, and then one day they woke up and turned into the one-word Zombie clan. I know several parents who ask themselves, “Why should I even try?”

Not long ago, I learned a valuable lesson about talking with my kids. I have to approach their world where they are.

So often, I counsel frustrated parents who feel “Well, he should do this,” or “she should do that.” We all quickly forget that NOBODY wants to have someone tell them what to do. Why should our teenagers feel any different?

A long-time mentor friend of mine said once, “if you want to talk to your kids, you have to meet them where they are.”

So… I started to work this out in real time.

When my youngest son was growing through elementary school, I noticed he had a gift for engineering. He loved building things. Blocks, Forts and especially LEGOS were his passion. He loved doing math, following instructions and watching his creation emerge from the box of 1,000 pieces.

Can you imagine?

What do you do when you have a 5-year-old who can sit for hours on the kitchen floor putting together the Death Star Lego set with 5,000 pieces? If you have a kid like this, let me be an encourager for a minute and say you have a kid with a gift.

I remember hearing my mentor’s words echo in the stillness of my own desire to connect with my son: “If you want to talk to your kids, you have to meet them where they are.”

Now, for a little background, I graduated with a degree in Theater Performance. I’m an artist. One thing you must know about artists — we don’t do Legos! Our brain functions differently. Sitting down to count the number of nipples on a block to make sure it fits in another is the farthest thing from what I think is a good time. But for the sake of my son, I started sitting amongst his piles of Legos with him.

For years, I forced myself to sit and learn to be interested in what he was interested in, and guess what? Today we have an incredible friendship. All those hours I spent meeting my son where he was and trying to be interested in the things he found valuable are paying off now. Sure, we have our fights. I have to correct, mentor and parent him. But for the most part, we’re good friends. He knows I love him and value his opinion. I know better how his mind functions and what makes him tick. He knows I’m in his corner and am his biggest cheerleader and I know he respects what I think. This is the bottom line of what it means to develop meaningful connections in families, with friends and certainly with people we work with.

If you’re having trouble connecting with your teen today, step back, take a deep breath, begin to notice the things they find valuable and start to engage.

You’re never going to understand the heart of your student by just letting them “figure life out.” After all, we’re parents, right? It’s our job, our duty and our incredible responsibility to teach, to train and to mentor our teens so they can go on to have long-term healthy relationships. If you can model for your teen what it means to connect, they will take this lesson with them wherever life unfolds.

Be encouraged today.

There are answers to helping parents connect with their kids, even when it seems like you don’t.

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